Living in Surat and Housing

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  • Night on the Town by David Modini 2013

    It’s the end of another long work day and you’ve got baht burning a hole in your pocket and an itching desire to do something other than just go home. Despite a lack of recognition in many popular guide books, going out for a night on the town in Surat is actually a fun experience. There is a wide selection of restaurants and bars in this lovely little town, enough to keep you busy for a long while.

    Going out in Surat consists of two things - eating and drinking.  Yes, it’s painfully obvious, but that’s a good place to start.  Most places combine the two but there are some that lean more one way or the other.  So it’s 7pm on Friday night and you want to enjoy the start of the weekend, what do you do? First thing’s first, you need some food.  Yeah, you could go to the night market, or a little chicken stall on the way home to pick up some food, but you just got paid.  While you’re at it, why don’t you invite some fellow teachers?  Not only are there some good restaurants, but they serve some cheap beer.  My personal favorite is Casa.  It’s a restaurant not too far from teacher housing and the schools, and they serve delicious food.  Not only that, but the owner is a friendly guy named Nung who sounds like he grew up in New York.  That’s because he did grow up in New York.  Sitting out in the beautiful back patio, sipping on a cold Leo draught as your Casa-style buffalo wings are served in front of you is a great way to start your weekend.  Another Super English favorite is  Earth Zone.  It’s located within walking distance from most teacher housing and the owners are extremely fun and friendly.  Ask Tristan where he prefers to eat and drink in Surat and before the words come out of your mouth, he will say, “Oy mate, Earth Zone is the best place in Surat.  Their food is bloody delicious.”  (Or some other stereotypical Australian jargon).  GM Bar (while I have little experience there) has some good food and drinks and also a nice big screen to watch Premiership soccer matches on.  There are so many small places around town that have friendly faces ready to serve you some food and alcohol.

    Now you’ve eaten, how about some drinks?  Yeah, those two go hand in hand but sometimes you just want to shake things up.  Coolin’ Out is a really welcoming place that actually hosts many of Super English’s impromptu get-togethers.  You order a Singha and it gets to your hand nice and cold and in a beer cozy (or stubbie holder).  The music is nice and relaxing even if the people are lively.  Big’s is another bar with a nice laid back scene.  It’s host to the bi-weekly Thursday quiz nights.  [Even though it doesn’t have much to do with going out in Surat, Big’s also has a really impressive used book collection that they will gladly lend out to you.]   If you’re feeling up for some dancing, head to Kortormor, the place that’ll make you wish you went there sooner (and more often).  Yes, Surat actually has a pretty lively club that’s a lot of fun.

    I could go on and on with recommendations of places to patronize, but maybe by this point you’re wondering about specifics of going out in Surat. What makes going out in Surat different from going out at home? The first thing I noticed was the sheer friendliness of every single staff member at every single place I went to. They will attend to your drinks and fill them up themselves once it gets to dangerously low levels. You are not expected to fill up your own drinks. “Why would you need to fill your own drinks at a bar or restaurant?” you’re probably asking yourself right now. Well, if you order a big bottle of beer, they will bring it out and serve you in a glass, sometimes with ice. Wipe that look of revulsion from your face, you will soon learn to appreciate cold, watery beer in a climate like Surat’s. Also, almost every place allows you to bring in your own bottle of liquor. It’s customary and polite to buy mixers and ice from them (yes, you have to buy ice).

    The local Thais who go out for a night on the town are also extremely friendly. You will be surrounded by smiles and “hello’s” as you make your way through the bar or restaurant. I can almost guarantee that you will be offered a sip of someone’s drink straight from their cup. As you walk by, a Thai person will see you and offer the drink in his hand to you. It’s hard to say for sure if they would be offended if you turned it down, because I’ve never done so. If you walk by with an empty glass in your hand, they will spot it and start filling it with their own bottle of beer or Thai whiskey before you can even say “Sangsom.” Everyone in your vicinity will be more than happy to test out their English, and it will usually surprise you how good it is.

    Sometimes, going out in Surat is a complete, but pleasant, surprise. The best times you will have are when you are not expecting them. Ask Tristan about the time he and Sak from Earth Zone went to O2. Or ask English Chris when he did the same. One day, I went to Pool Koff with my friend Scott and spent the day in the pool, drinking coffee, using the wireless internet, only to be invited by the owner to stay after closing time for his son’s birthday party. He pours us some whiskey and sodas and starts bringing out the food. Have some prawn chips. We dig into the prawn chips. Have some roast duck. We dig into the duck, a little more cautiously. Have some pig ear. Pig ear? Scott and I have a bit of a face-off, and we both try a piece. At least I can say I’ve tried it. The table is outside, next to the pool, under a beautiful night sky. The owner and his family eagerly try to engage us in conversation, and their lack of English combined with our lack of Thai doesn’t really stop us from having fun. We try the spiciest tom yum soup I’ve ever had, and wash it down with some more whiskey and soda. Our rudimentary language skills in each other’s language encourages quite a few laughs. Soon enough, the party is winding down, but some of the younger attendees invite us to Music Live. (As an aside, Music Live is a live music place that has a Thai band playing seemingly every night. It’s also right down the street from our house and we never even thought of visiting it.) As we head in with our Thai hosts, we feel as if we are the first foreigners to ever set foot in the place. It’s actually quite busy and the band that’s playing interrupt their set to welcome us. Then, they played for us what might very well have been the only song they knew in English - Happy Birthday. Sipping on our Heinekens with our new Thai friends we can barely speak to, listening to a thrilling rendition of the most commonly heard song in the world… It was a fun night.

    As for me, if you ask me what my ideal way to spend a night out in Surat would be, I’d have to say it would involve drinking with the neighbors. Well, they’re technically only your neighbors if you live on Chalokrat Rd. near Soi 7, but they are friendlier than any neighbors I’ve ever had. He refuses to let you pay for a beer, and the other neighbors are just as eager to fill you with a few drinks. English will get you far enough, but any effort to speak Thai will be greatly appreciated. To me, that’s the best night in Surat. Actually, the best nights in Surat are the ones you don’t say “no” to.