After coming back from the 10-day meditation retreat, one thing I was really looking forward to was a good cup of real coffee…no more instant coffee or powdered coffee creamer for me, thanks.
I am in Chiang Mai and staying by the riverside at the moment, though this will change soon. The closet place to my guest house is a modern coffee house and bakery and it has free wifi. The sign outside says Motto coffee, bakery, fine foods. In a sign underneath it says, “Where Coffee is a Friendships” maybe this is their actual motto.
Upon entering the cafe I was greeted with, and returned, a, “Sawadee khaa.” Despite the whole hot pink menu on the wall written in Romanized script and coffee lingo that has become more or less standardized Italo/English – Coffee, Espresso, Americano, etc., no one here really speaks English.
I order my Americano, which is something I always get even in the states, even though I’ve never felt there was anything particularly American about it (I suppose for Italians maybe it’s like diluted espresso?). Now I am somewhat self-conscious that I am an American ordering an Americano in Thailand. I momentarily feel pleased with myself for knowing the word for hot and saying rawn, until the next question comes in Thai and I don’t understand. After a moment of me looking bewildered, I think about what she could possibly be asking me at that moment, I take a guess she means ‘for here or to go’. I say, “thii nii” and do the automatic body language of pointing to the floor meaning ‘here’ Success! I am motioned to take a place to sit anywhere. I choose outside because it’s not hot yet and inside is a refrigerator of air conditioning. As I write this a woman came out and turned a fan on for me.
Outside is a little terra cotta tiled covered patio with teak (not plastic!) furniture and plenty of green plants around to make a pleasant atmosphere and perhaps to buffer a bit of the street noise of the motorbikes, tuk tuks, and pick up trucks whizzing by. Thai newspapers are hanging on a rack, and Thai magazines are neatly stacked on a shelf. One of the magazines is titled ‘coffee t & i’ with the rest of the cover written in Thai. Across the street, beyond the traffic, the olive green Ping River is slowly gliding by. But, the main reason I came outside is for a common sight I love about Asia – the little pond with the koi and other fish swimming around.
My Americano is presented to me by a smiling waiter with a tray full of: a small white cup and saucer, a variety of sugar and creamer packets, and some type of natural looking possibly cane sugar in a little glass jar. The best part is the demitasse spoon is actually a stainless steel baby spoon with the word ‘Gerber’ inscribed on it. I say, “Khap khun khaa,” then realize there is no little pitcher of milk. I look at the creamers and other packets that have all but the brand names written in Thai. I find a Nestle Coffee Mate that has the ingredients in both Thai and English. First on the list is glucose syrup 61%, second being my least favorite, Hydorgenated Vegetable Oil 34%. No, I’m not going to spoil this delicious smelling Americano with that artificial garbage.
They must have milk, they make cappuccinos. I go inside realizing I do not know the Thai word for milk. I look around seeing if there is something I can point to, and find nothing. “Milk?” I try. The barista repeats, “Milk,” and clearly has understood when she holds up the mini white porcelain pitcher. After asking, I have now learned the word for milk in Thai is nom. I doubt I will forget this as learning foreign language in a real context makes such a huge difference.
Back outside sipping on my fabulous Americano with real milk, I hear the wooden water fountain feature flowing into the pond, the buzz of traffic, but also the quintessentially Thai tourist area fixture of somewhat outdated English soft rock cheesiness:“I Believe I Can Fly” – R. Kelly, “All Out of Love” by Air Supply, and you might be able fill in some of the others in this category.
The only other people in this cafe are Thai. A Thai guy who looks in his 20s just walked in with a backpack on with a small bear stuffed animal attached to the back. Thai kitsch is alive and well.
Michael Bolton just came on, I think it’s time for me to leave.