The picture above is a common temple decoration in Thailand. The large green dragon creature is called a Makara, and the serpents coming out of his mouth are the Naga. It’s really quite amazing how religious mythology travels around Asia, borrowing and reinventing. The makara and the naga are both Hindu originally but like many items from Hindu mythology can be seen making guest appearances in Buddhist practices in other countries. It’s always a humbling experience standing at the steps of a temple looking up at the beasts. It is also a very empowering feeling standing at the top of a temple looking down on the twisting body of such a creature.
My first morning in Thailand I was still recovering from almost and entire day of flying and a twelve hour time zone change, suffice to say I needed an extra pick me up. So the first thing my father decided to teach me was the basics of ordering coffee. As it turns out that’s the first thing most exchange students learn in Thailand no matter what country they come from. My first new words learned in Thai were “gah-fae yen,” or “coffee, iced”. Personally I’m a bit more of a fancy coffee house girl though so I prefer latte’s. Lucky for me they stick with the same trusty Italian word for milk so to get an iced latte I simply order a, “gah-fae latte yen.”
Most coffee drinks in Thailand are made with sweetened condensed milk, and a generally quite a lot of it. That makes the drinks almost unbearably sweet. To request a less sweet drink you add “mai wan”, meaning “not sweet”, to the end of the order. So I learned to order “gah-fae latte yen, my wan.” Which would get me an iced latte, which is still sweeter than a non-flavored latte back home, but still very delicious. It’s the perfectly morning pick-me-up on 90-degree mornings.
It turns out that Thailand adds a ton of sugar to most of its milk in general; this is because milk is not a native product and is just recently being introduced there. Many people do not yet like the taste of it, but it is needed for so many of the Western recipes coming in to the rapidly growing country. It can be a challenge to find some less sweet drinks. I think all those boys back home who love their coffee black as mud wouldn’t know what do out here.
My dad was always that sort of guy, but he makes do the best he can with “mai wan.” I love that “gah-fae rown” means “coffee hot”, which turns out to be espresso most of the time. That is the way my dad likes his coffee, so I get to order “gah-fae rown for Dr. Ron” when I get his coffee, making it easy to remember. I don’t need to add in “mai wan” to his order because he gets it so often they already have his drink done by the time they see him walking down the road in the morning!