Sawadee Ka (hello!)

Today´s the Fourth of July. We´re on the island of Phuket on Patong Beach. The Big Cheese and Enigma are off, shortly after sunrise, looking for shells while I savor the alone time and type this. The beach is beautiful, but the water´s dangerous now on the western side of the island because of the summer monsoon season. There are rip tides. The information´s out there, along with the red flags on the beach, but the Thais aren´t going to tell you not to go in the water and tourists drown on Patong beach fairly regularly.


We got our own taste of the rip tides yesterday. There have been multiple lectures from the Big Cheese regarding tides and water safety (the Big Cheese can be a little pedantic) along with eye-rolling and impatience. We have a tidal chart because it´s so complicated – two high and two low per day – and we hit the beach at slack tide so we could swim for a couple of hours, which entailed getting up early. I took a long walk. And Diva and I took one last swim as the tide started coming in.


We stayed in the water about five minutes too long. We weren’t that far from the shore, in water all churned up but still shallow enough I could put my feet down between the swells. Body surfing, laughing about imaginary “sea humpies,” the sun on the water… and then the wave ebbing fast past my legs and realizing …. shit shit shit … and looking over at Diva´s face as she realized how hard the tide was pulling us, how in the space of a few seconds she couldn´t touch the bottom any more. Then: talking to her, amping her down from mild panic. Holding her hand to keep her close, not fighting it, getting her to ride the swells, slowly, toward the beach. The whole drama lasted maybe three minutes until she could walk to shore. She was shaking. She´d been bugging us to go to the beach since we got here, chafing at the Cheese and his stupid rules and the red flags. But she didn´t ask to join them this morning. She´s downstairs with her iPod enjoying, for once, breakfast alone.


And I´m sitting here with the twins, Tom & Jerry on in the background, pondering the shape of the day. Fireworks? Today´s the fruit-tasting at the hotel, and I´m interested. This is fruit season, and it´s amazing, although some of the fruit I can´t even figure out. I like dragonfruit, and I can peel a rambutan (although unless I´m doing something wrong, I don´t really like the results), and I´ve had a couple of weird, nutlike things and a rose-apple, which is like eating crisp, juicy perfume (in a good way), and something called (I think) wawa, which is like eating a cork, only with less flavor. Maybe it wasn´t ripe?


I can pick out the smell of durian now. The shells (husks? rinds? carapaces?) are piled up in the trash cans everywhere, and I can smell them before I see them, even over all the smells around me. They don´t smell like a sewer (the sewer smells over here are pretty breathtaking). They smell more like a Western-style bathroom, with all that implies, including a blast of Tropical Fruit air freshener. It is, in its own way, a remarkably addictive smell. I think someone should work some durian into a fragrance; I mean, look at some of the other manky smells we like – indolic jasmine, leather, dirt. There´s room for durian in there somewhere.


Full disclosure: I crapped out on my durian tasting a few days ago because I was worried about embarrassing myself. It looks like an alien brain – curved and lumpy, yellow-white, maybe a little creamy/spongy. I was going to sample it in public, and I have weird textural issues about food (which I’ve passed on to two of our kids, and which drives the Cheese insane), and I decided if I bit into that durian and then lost my lunch in public in front of the Thai people (a small but distinct possibility) I´d die of shame.


UPDATE: 5 p.m. Kids off for special July 4 meal of McDonalds! I encouraged them to order the McTom Kha Gai with a side of lahb salad, but they´ll probably get chicken fingers or something equally disgusting. It´s hot. But not that much worse than Washington, really. I just drink all the time — I´ve fallen in love with the 11-baht canned and bottled refrigerated beverage section in The Big One, our next-door 7-11. I´ve been avoiding the Red Bull dupes and the drinks with visible chunks of colored glop in them, and thus far I´ve only had one total loss (something green and really bitter.) They have several kinds of canned coffees, all of which are wonderful, and I´m developing a pretty serious guava-watermelon juice habit.


At the fruit tasting I ate: a dragonfruit, which is so amazing we are really missing out in the U.S.; a rambutan, which looks like a hairy red chestnut on the outside and is actually quite good (ours must not have been ripe); a mangosteen, which is incredibly juicy and delicious and looks nothing like a mango; a mango, which served with sticky rice for dessert (thanks, Noy!) is, essentially, heaven on a plate; a litchi, which is even juicier than a mangosteen and I totally understand why they´re always sticking it in fragrance; and a longan, which – eeeew. It´s like popping a horror-movie eyeball in your mouth. And, although I´d requested it, no durian. After the longan, maybe that was a good thing.


PS Response time on your comments may be delayed by the 11-hour time difference. And too much Singha, possibly.  But I’ll get there!

images, top to bottom: Patong beach; dragonfruit; rambutan; mangosteen; durian

  • evilpeony says:

    ooohhh…. mangosteen!!! *mops up tidal wave of drool from the desk* is there a perfume out there that has this as a note?

    on to a more serious note… that you encountered a rip tide on your first trip is scary surprising. I’ve never encountered it in all the 20 years i went beach-hopping in SEA.

    • Tigs says:

      May not be to your taste at all, but Hilary Duff’s With Love is supposed to have a mangosteen note.

  • CH says:

    Love the dragonfruit and mangosteen – they make wonderful ice cream and drink flavors. Hmmm…perhaps CB could capture these?

    The swimming incident sounds a bit scary – I’m glad you guys made it back safely. I *love* the beach but those type of tides can be quite dangerous. I’d be the one sitting back and looking from a safe distance!

    • March says:

      I’d never encountered riptides before. Our nearby beaches have their own issues (broken glass and crap on the bottom, jellyfish, etc.) and the surf can pound you, but I’ve never been scared. For 10 or 15 seconds it was ugly. We’re being really, really careful about going in now.

  • Maria says:

    March, it’s so nice of you to keep communicating with us during your vacation. It makes me want to give you a big hug! Your posts are fascinating. I’m glad you and Diva made it out of the riptide okay. It’s wonderful that you were able to calm her down although you must have been scared yourself. You’re a good mom! I want to eat dragonfruit. It kind of looks like chocolate chip ice cream in a futuristic hot pink bowl.

    Glad the family had McD’s to celebrate the Fourth in. I want to share my Fourth of July fragrance combo, all CB: Russian Caravan Tea (for the tea thrown into the harbor), In the Library (for the leather, ’cause I like it), Faggot (for the barbecue), and a smidgen of Cedarwood Tea, which can easily be left out (for the casks the tea must have been in). Every time my DH went near me, he said, “Gosh, that smells nice!”

    • March says:

      I ate the dragonfruit for the first time on a bet from Diva in Bangkok (we thought it was sushi — some sort of rice with seeds in it.) It’s really tasty — like kiwi in texture.

      Your July 4 fragrance combo sounds perfect.

  • pitbull friend says:

    Hey, March: Thanks so much for the update! How smart that someone (your hotel?) is having tastings — seems like a lot of folks in tropical places wouldn’t think of their fruit as being anything special, like we wouldn’t necessarily think that having a dozen kinds of apples in the store was any big deal. I’ve got a pretty serious coconut water addiction in the summer, myself — once you get over the little gelatinous bits, it is soooo refreshing. Keep having fun, dear heart! –Ellen

    • March says:

      The tasting IS a good idea. I figured whatever fruit they picked would be the freshest, and they’d show me how to eat it (a lot of them have a single large seed in the middle, for instance.) For most of the farang it’s just too weird looking. I mean, if you’d never seen a freaking banana before, how the heck would you eat it?:-?

    • Tigs says:

      I am lucky enough to not suffer from any textural issues at all. I eat a number of Asian fruits and products from cans or suspended in drinks or whathaveyou. My close friend calls them “your snotball foodstuffs”. And I love coconut water, too, Ellen.

  • IrisLA says:

    I’m told by my durian-loving friends that scooping the fruit with a spoon is like eating a most delicious ice cream. I can’t get past the smell. It would like eating a bowl while in a public bathroom. Um, no thanks!

    • March says:

      I read the ice-cream-bowl-in-the-bathroom analogy several times before I came and thought: no way. And I now think that’s the closest description there is.

  • tmp00 says:

    Having spent summers at the shore, my desire for swimming is now exclusive to a nice heated pool. Or a large bathtub. Be careful out there, k?

    I’m so happy that you are having such a great time, and that you are able to tell us all about it so beautifully, and in real time! Ain’t the internets grand? 🙂

    • March says:

      That’s funny — I miss my bathtub!!! I’m a big bath-taker. We have a really lovely shower in the hotel, but it’s just not the same…

      the internets are grand. Although the entire US could disappear and you’d never know it on the news over here.

  • Dusan says:

    There is nothing weird in having textural issues with food. I wouldn’t go near that alien gunk even if it smelled *and* tasted heavenly as the texture alone would make me heave. That rambutan sounds mighty nice, though.
    One of my worst recurring nightmares (in dreams and reality) is losing my footing when pulled in by the riptide. Not only do I get seized by a panic attack and swallow huge amounts of murky seawater, I also spend the rest of the day feeling dizzy and as if being constantly slapped on the nape of the neck by heavy swells. Diva, sweetie, I can so understand you!
    So glad you’re taking time from your fun time to bring us a dash of Thai climate and culture!
    Hugs to you, Marchie!

    • March says:

      Well, then, you’re right — I should have brought you along!;) We could duck out of the riptides together. And eat all the OTHER fruit that isn’t gross.

  • Patty says: with the fruit descriptions. Is it bad that I now lust for a mangsteen, even though I have never tasted one before? Yum!

    Glad you two are safe, please do be careful out there. I’ve gotten in a couple of rips when I was in Hawaii, and after the initial freakout, it was okay. So it’s good that Diva had you there to keep her calm!

    Miss you!

    • March says:

      I miss you so much too!!! I need to get back to the perfume blogging. I have a random bag of samps I threw into the suitcase at the last minute, but I’ve been too busy goofing off to really work on it. It’s very, very easy to screw off for an entire day here. We did rent a car and drive around the island yesterday, but I couldn’t really relax — the people here drive completely insanely (although C says Vietnam and Cambodia are much worse). Nice lunch down by the bay, though. Veranda, pool table, grizzled ex-pats — like something out of a movie.

  • agritty says:

    The good news is you can actually get dragon fruit from time to time in the states (I live in NYC). Durian are also available at some Asian markets, as are rambutan. You can get frozen mangosteens but the best news is in the fall fresh mangosteens will be available! I can’t wait. In the meantime, eat a dozen or six for me!

    • March says:

      You can get dragonfruit?!?! In NYC of course …. dammit, you’d think in an allegedly international town like D.C., maybe, but I’ve NEVER seen them, even in the asian markets. I’ll have to look harder.

      I am pigging down so much fruit on a regular basis that … well, never mind. But no regrets.;) I could eat this stuff every day for the rest of my life:

      breakfast: coffee, fresh juice, fresh fruit
      lunch: green coconut curry with chicken and/or veggies
      dinner: point at random photo or thai writing on menu

  • ell says:

    Rip tides scare the hell out of me. Glad both of you made it out OK. Adore the ocean, but early childhood experiences w/ rip tides at beaches without lifeguards left me w/ a deep and enduring respect for what it can do.
    *Adore* mangosteen and am impatiently waiting for the time it can be imported to the US. Durian, on the other hand, is just scary. It shouldn’t be a fruit. I may be an adventurous traveler, but I’m afraid I’m not an adventurous eater. At all. Has to look good (durian would be ruled out right there), smell good (durian smells like stinky feet marinating in a barrel of rotting fish to me), taste good and be on a clean plate. Yep – awkward shades of Monk here when it comes to food. 🙂 My parents were *extremely* adventurous eaters and I just freaked out early in life about the food they’d make me eat. At 16 I became a vegetarian and have never looked back (seafood, in particular, horrifies me beyond words).
    If you do end up eating durian or anything made w/ durian, I think you should be awarded some sort of medal of bravery and treat yourself to several new ‘fumes.

    • March says:

      Now that is funny — do you think the extremely adventurous eaters may tend to produce the opposite? I feel all your pain — sensory overload issues even as a child; I didn’t walk until I was almost two because I hated for my feet to touch anything, I still have really weird feet issues. My parents have all these hysterical photos of me with my feet way up in the air, as far away from the ground as I could get them. And many textural issues with food — I hated kid foods like hamburger and hotdog (spongy!):-& I have outgrown most of that foolishness, but am empathetic to my kids with my affliction. The Cheese, raised by strict parents in the Euro food style, cannot abide the fussiness. One of the recurring petty marital arguments…

  • arhianrad says:

    Ohhh March, march, MARCH! How I wish I were there with you! As a kid I used to destroy huge swatches of rambutan, just eating it and eating it and eating it until I could eat anymore. My dad used to say it was why I was so damn hairy. Litchi, too–although once, when we visited the asian markets of Toronto, we found a ton that were quite decent. (sobs! OH FOR THE FRUIT OF SOUTHEAST ASIA!!!)

    Seriously, about the durian: How about a durian-based dessert? I’m sure they’d have something like a durian jelly or durian ice-cream or even durian-flavored ice pop. They have them in asian markets over in the States, so they’ve GOT to have something over there. It’ll be an introduction to the fruit without worries over the texture, you know?

    Anywho, stay safe with those tides…

    • March says:

      Hey, that is a GREAT idea. There is all sort of candy and desserts in the local markets here. Maybe I could ease myself into it, flavor-wise? Heh. Sort of dipping my toe in the water to see if it’s warm.

  • rosarita says:

    So sorry about the riptide experience, but I’m enjoying every word of your marvelous descriptions. Thanks so much for taking the time to write about your adventures!

  • Judith says:

    Oh, it sounds as if you’re having a wonderful time! I love fruit (though not in fragrances) and have been known to try pretty much anything edible at least once, so–I would eat that durian! You should, too!!

    • March says:

      Ack — LOOK at that thing! I saw another seller on the street. Lord. If it just even looked more appealing, but it looks like some sort of organ when you pop it out of the shell. Shudders.:-ss

  • Louise says:

    Thanks for staying in close touch. Beyond all the envy, you are missed!

    So scary about your and Diva’s surf episode. I have a healthy respecy (read: terror) of undertows, riptides, etc. after years of swimming on the Oregon coast. I hope that Diva will want to go back in the water soon.

    I love the fruit descriptions, though I have a texture thing about some fruits, too. No durian for me! But, mango, mangosteen, even rambutan sound great. Now, I am glad for lychee in my fragrance (I like Fresh Sake a lot in summer), but why oh why do I not know of a really nice mango scent? They’re all gaggy sweet, that I know. A dishonor to the fruit. Anyone know of a different, better sort?

    Have big fun!

    • March says:

      I agree about the mango scent. They seem to signify some sort of “tropical drink” generic note in fragrance. In the flesh their perfume is both rich and delicate. By the way, if I was understanding correctly, there are several kinds — in fact, I think that was true of most of the fruits, like apples in the U.S.A.

    • pitbull friend says:

      Hey, Louise: Going through my perfume notes, I see mango listed in Ambra di Venezia, Hermes Eau d’Orange Verte, Molinard Les Feminines Nirmala, Lauren Polo Double Black, and Sage Carnelian. So I think that mango is at its best when it is part of a chord of citrus (as in Carnelian & Orange Verte) or offset by something savory (the coffee & nutmeg in Double Black). I love the green mango in Hermes Jardin sur le Nil of L’Artisan Timbuktu, but that is a different fruit. There is apparently mangosteen in CSP Princesse Muscat (Coeur de Raisin)& With Love Hilary Duff, both of which I think are wretched. CSP Vanille Abricot has jackfruit in it but I believe I’ll need dental work if I wear it again. –Ellen

      • Louise says:

        Oh my goodness, Ellen!-that’s so nice. I’ll have to revisit some of those-I had no idea they even had a fruit in ’em. I like Ambra, double black, and orange vert, and really want to try carnelian (I like some of the other Sages alot)and Nirmala. Thanks!

      • March says:

        I definitely smell mango (in the best sense) in Double Black and Orange Verte — I think your assessment of the contrast with other scents is an excellent one!

  • Leopoldo says:

    I have also had experience of being caught out by rip tides – scary stuff. The fruit is more my thing – love a lot of that, rambutans, lychees, mangosteen, dragon fruit, yum yum. And sticky rice is my idea of heaven…

    • March says:

      Sticky rice and mango! It was sooo wonderful. I wasn’t expecting the fabulousness.