Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Goodbye Bamboo

Bamboo Restaurant opened its doors circa 2006. Ever since its inception Pi Gan stood at the helm of a popular establishment that served up great Thai food and that became one of the meeting places of beach folk in Thong Nai Pan Noi. Sadly ‘Bamboo’, as it became affectionately known, closed in early 2015. Gan has left to pursue a new catering project in Koh Chang.

There was a time when I ate dinner at Bamboo 5 times a week. Pi Gan always ready to extend special hospitality to long stay visitors, offered us a small discount on all food. At that time in 2008, there was still a hippy and fun vibe to the beach. Lots of people came every year to hang out on the beach. There were cheap bungalows at Sandee Bungalow, Star Huts and Tapan Noi; the Jungle Bar and Hideaway had big party nights once a week; Rasta Baby was keeping it old skool; and Rasananda was yet to be built.

Pi Gan set up a typical Thai style restaurant - concrete floor, bamboo furniture, raised area with seating on cushions, lots of potted plants, lanterns on the tables, open front and pictures of the King. The restaurant was on the main village road just opposite Again and Again. Both these cheap eating places stood sentinel at the entrance to the beach road. Here people gathered to eat cheap Thai food as well as to have a few drinks.

Bamboo hosted birthday parties, leaving parties, a Thai reggae band as well other performances. Gan was always up for a party. It was never too late for another tasty Penang curry or cold Chang. No group too big.

She specialised in Thai food. She hailed from near the Laos border and bought this north east influence into the kitchen. She made a decent glass noodle salad, spicy laab and Penang curry. I loved her massaman curry. I also liked her burger and fries.

In 2008 Gan included a fruit bar onto the side of the restaurant. She added awesome shakes and smoothies to her repertoire of great food and drink. This was probably the peak of the restaurant. Rasananda opened in 2008, Santhiya and Panviman extended their room numbers in the next couple of years; and then, Buri Rasa opened its doors. At the same time Star Huts shut, Jungle Bar shut, Tapan Noi shut, Hideaway shut and Sandee Bungalow gave up the backpacker angle.

From 2008 Noi underwent gentrification of a sort. The number of backpackers on the beach went down, and the number of higher paying guests increased. These customers were more drawn to Luna and later Better Than Sex with their more ‘refined’ brand of cuisine. Old Skool style was out and ‘sophisticated’ was in. Bamboo was a victim of this change in demographic.

Many bars and restaurants not just in Thailand but elsewhere have a life span. Styles and trends change. Those places that re-invent themselves periodically keep going. For a while Bamboo represented the Zeitgeist of Thong Nai Pan Noi. That spirit has changed and Bamboo has been emptied.

It is not a sad goodbye as Pi Gan has already moved to a beach in Koh Chang and has set up a popular beachfront restaurant. It is sure to be a big success.

Respect goes out to Pi Gan for all those curries and to Sam for finding Pi Gan in Koh Chang.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Thong Nai Pan Trials and Tribulations

Life is a beach when you are living on a beach. However, there is no escaping your own flawed self. I can’t help having my smile dented by small irritations and minor gripes. Staying in Thong Nai Pan has produced 14 little bĂȘte noire that I could think name quickly.
  1. The ATM machine eating your card. It seems no matter how many times you tell your bank that you are travelling to Thailand they will take your card. You then have to phone the buggers at your own expense and somehow get another card.
  2. Having to go on a visa run. It takes you off the beach. It costs money; you have to get up early; and I always get car sick on the winding roads to Burma. Anyway what is the point of going to Burma for 5 minutes to get a visa renewed? A visa run often means the added expense of getting a hotel in Surat Thani.
  3. Eating a large piece of chili, and then going through a fiery torture much to the amusement of those you are eating with.
  4. Scratching a mosquito bite so much that it starts bleeding and then goes septic meaning a trip to the pharmacy or even the hospital.
  5. Having a power cut on a Saturday night when you are watching your team play.
  6. Being disappointed when you order Western food.
  7. Ordering a burger and not finding brown sauce on one of the tables.
  8. Paying more at a bar because there is some tour group going through.
  9. Writing a long email and then losing your internet connection before you can send it.
  10. Getting drunk and not being able to find your flip flops when you leave a bar.
  11. Getting another puncture.
  12. Getting a big bug hit your face when riding your bike.
  13. Waking up in a sandy bed with scratches on my body and no idea how I got back to my bungalow.
  14. Finding a snake in your bungalow.