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Better Days: Freedom Tasted Like Hearty Seaweed Soup

Strict quarantine rules have been lifted, so I went out to celebrate

By Karina ThyraPublished 4 years ago 6 min read

Back in March, when the world was thrown in a loop because of the pandemic, a friend and I spoke what we would do after lockdown/quarantine was over. I said, I'd go to a Korean BBQ.

When strict quarantine rules were lifted in my area in Thailand, I was determined to go out and celebrate. Although it was very hot outside, and the temperature alone (around 42 degrees Celsius, but in my hometown that would clock at around 55, and that's how it felt to me) would usually put me off from even thinking of exploring downtown. But, I was very determined to find cake, because it was also my birthday (May 5th).

The Plan

It's a big day so just in case I got lost, I had to document most of it on Twitter, so my homies would know how to retrace my steps.

When I was ready to step off the house, the first thing I did was to go to Big C Mini, the store at the corner to buy some supplies for my adventure. I bought two sandwiches, 2 liters of water, and some mint. Because there's a still a lack of public transport, I booked a Grab motorcycle to take me to a coffee shop near Thao Suranari monument, and explore from there. It took approximately 10 minutes to get to my destination. The traffic is what you would expect on a regular Tuesday at 9 am. It wasn't too bad. Many people have already gone to work. I, who had just finished the last of my online classes for this semester (I've been attending open university since 2016) breathed a sigh of relief when I finally arrived at my destination.

I was really going to explore what I could, on my own with just my phone to help me navigate. To be fair, I did ask my little brother (who has lived here for most of his life) if he wanted to join me, but he declined.

I spent the last 45 days confined at home with the farthest outing just at Big C Mini. So for that day, it would be exploring the 'outside world' until I've had enough. Although I did have an agenda, it's not a strict rule I had to follow. They are more like guidelines, and I really just winged it, so as I tell this "better days", don't expect me to know all the places, because of them, even Google Maps couldn't pin.

Sightseeing even in sweltering daytime heat

Thao Suranari monument

When I finally arrived, I prepared my camera to take a picture of the revered monument of Thao Suranari. Her story goes like this:

When her husband, the governor, was away, the prince of Vientiane invaded the town. When the town was seized by Lao troops, Thao Suranari devised a plan to attack. Biding her time until they reach Laos, she succeeded in defeating their captors who hadn't expected an attack. Her action was enough time for the King of Thailand to send troops to her aid. Thao Suranari's bravery and cleverness earned her title which means "the brave lady". Across the globe, the countries doing really well at handling the health crisis have women at the helm of control.

The whole time I was walking, I kept thinking that I was very fortunate and privileged to walk downtown even when it's too hot. Others could only dream of it as of now. There I was taking in all the sights, refusing to wear my red-tinted glasses even when the brightness is too much for my eyes. I thought, is this 'better days'? It must be. At least, for countries with an apt response to a global health crisis.

Thailand is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia to have had a swift and efficient plan to curb the pandemic. When I went out, there were no new cases of local transmissions, which was why some local establishments like restaurants, were permitted to open and allow dine-in guests. In a few days, malls (and not just their supermarkets) would gradually open, too. I savored the outside. It isn't nearly as polluted; sidewalks are clean; people are carrying on with their lives. Thailand, at least the non-touristy areas, didn't panic as some of the countries in the West, did. There was no hoarding (except for liquor, but that's understandable, really), and their healthcare system wasn't overwhelmed because the government did its job well and people obeyed quarantine rules because they were well taken care of by social safety nets.

This could have been a bar?

Walking helps me shake off anxieties regarding my home country or the rest world being thrown in a loop. The roads are wide here, but I was unafraid to cross (which I would have on different days), because there were less vehicles than on a typical Tuesday.

An alley brought me to this shortcut near a Korean restaurant.

Anyway, I walked some more, even passed markets selling beautiful flowers (because it was also Coronation Day), went to some shops to buy a notepad and a pen before I finally decided I must have lunch. I didn't know many Korean restaurants here, but fortunately, when I turned to an alley behind a temple, and walked a little bit more, my Maps pointed me to a direction near a Korean restaurant.

Finally, a restaurant where I could eat all I want

The restaurant opens at 11, but since it was in a corner it took me a while to find it. I guess I'm a bigger picture person and I miss details sometimes, particularly if they're in corners. I did eventually found it after going back to where I'm supposed to stop and crossed the street. I was confused and dizzy from the heat. When I finally found it, the sign read 'open' but it was locked from the inside. I waited until about 11:30 when the manager finally came back from errands and I asked her if I could eat inside.

I had to wait a while for the food, but it was oh so worth it.

Not pictured: side dishes, water, and sparkling apple juice

The first meal I had for the day (yes, I skipped breakfast), was Miyeok-guk (seaweed soup). In Korean culture, the seaweed soup is associated with birth, so it's 'birthday soup'. It's a really healthy meal, and it's amazing. It was my first time to have it so I don't really have a reference on how it's supposed to taste - but it was delightful. I'm very happy to say that I hummed in approval and told the manager (who was also the cook at the time) that it was absolutely delicious.

It was too hot outside, still, so after eating for about an 1.5 hr, I wanted to know if there was desert in the menu. They didn't have ice for the bingsu, so the manager gave me banana milk for free, as she posed for a picture handing it to me gleefully saying 'happy birthday', as her daughter snapped a pic. (Don't worry, it was a safe distance.)

The manager and I chatted a bit, like there is no pandemic going on in other parts of the world. Our worries have been lifted because we are where we are, and life is gradually having a semblance of routine and normalcy again. After we said our goodbyes, I went out again to try and find places to photograph.

I passed the railways..

Incredible street art...

... old bars decor from shops

Until... finally, I went back to the coffee shop right across Thao Suranari's monument. For cake.

everyone should have a cake on their birthday.

... The almond-mocha cake and mango smoothie was glorious.

After a substantial amount of time devoted on cake, I walked again and found some craft shops open so I bought some beads, too. The clouds were darkening, so I got a tuktuk to take me home.

I was home before 5 PM!

It was a mundane trip downtown, but it was a great reprieve from all the craziness plaguing the world. I switched off notifications for news and messages, and in turn I had very peaceful and pleasant day. I needn't worry because I was fortunate to be where I am, quarantining with my family.

I can only hope that everything will be alright soon with the rest of the world. There are things I realized while outside: it's a bit paradoxical that it took a pandemic for us to realize that our ways of living are truly unsustainable; we sacrifice our health and well-being for very little compensation; most of all, to clean up after ourselves. And unless we break free from the chain that caused us to take for granted our freedoms and the planet, then we all might go back to the "before", but the "after" could be worse.

Stay safe, y'all.


About the Creator

Karina Thyra

Fangirl of sorts.

Twitter: @ArianaGsparks

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