Trat was a nice town. A typical Thai provincial capital with a lively centre, an old heart of wooden Chinese shophouses and few concessions to foreigners.
Well, there are a few. It’s fairly well-visited by tourists coming in and out of Cambodia and it’s a necessary stop-over for people waiting for ferries to Koh Chang and the other Eastern islands. So there is a smattering of expats running odd businesses like secondhand bookshops, a bakery and guest houses. The guesthouses are a bit backpackery; it took us back paying £10pn for a small room with a padlock on the door. At least the walls were solid this time. The ground floor had the private rooms; large tiled floors, day beds and mosquito netting all presided over by an old lady with enough English to run the room and laundry business.
Similar ground floor rooms in the old wooden houses were laid open to the outside world through grilles or no doors at all. Private worlds of chairs and beds and house shrines and family pictures and Chinese-style wooden cupboards. But this is mixed with their commercial functions; a photographer’s shop, a hairdresser’s, a bottling plant.
We met an old German who spent half his year in a small village here and half in the Moselle. It turned out that he was passing through the town and had his bank card stolen by the ATM machine. He strode into the bank and ended up marrying the women who sorted out his complaint.
We bought a few seeds and wandered round the night market with an array of food stalls that makes Borough look uninventive. I liked the home-made fish paste being dropped into hot oil, and the stall where whole potatoes had been cut into spirals and deep fried and coated in a spicy powder. A shareable chip. The tempting curries though, were all cold and ladled into little plastic bags for taking away. Also, some strange stalls selling hors d’oeuvres that looked like sushi (but weren’t).
Also finally spotted the promised beer girls; young ladies kitted out by rival brewers to lure diners to their particular brand. The Beer Chang girl was demure in a white silky number with sash, while Heineken’s girl was in a branded tight green dress. I missed out on all of this in Cambodia. No English spoken in these large outdoor establishments; the manager looked hopefully to Kim to speak the language.