The Panty Dropper, Mormons, and a Road Trip to Thailand

Even after living here for 4 years, sometimes I have to pinch myself. The other day while my mom was visiting, we decided to take a road trip…to Thailand…for lunch.

I never thought I’d live in a place where I could drive to Thailand for lunch. But let’s be honest, I never thought I’d be living in Southeast Asia! There are a lot of reasons I’m happy we chose Penang to reinvent ourselves. A road trip to Thailand is just one of them. If I took a road trip from Chicago it’d land me in Milwaukee, it’s just not the same.

So, lunch in Thailand? Why the hell not? We started the drive around 9ish knowing it would take us a couple of hours to hit the border. We drove along in our tiny local clown car that we’ve dubbed, the panty dropper, because of its sex appeal! It’s bright cobalt blue, boxy like a toaster, and lofty enough for even our tallest of friends, Jake, who is every bit of 6’7, can sit comfortably and knock back a beer in it.

Anyway, I digress, on the road in the panty dropper listening to an audiobook about Mormons killing Mormons in Utah-because we like to keep it interesting. We are a little slower in our boxy blue toaster because as soon as it gets up to the speed limit, she starts to convulse and wheeze. Apparently, the gerbils making the engine run are tired, so it’s a slower journey than planned, but no biggie-we’ve got Mormons and murder to listen to.

Around 12 we make it to the border and park at the Malaysian duty-free because we can’t just drive the beast into Thailand without the proper insurance and documents. After waiting in line at immigration for an hour, we are granted entry, and we walk into Thailand. As we cross the border, I couldn’t help but think how easy this is for me, how this is a choice, for a fun day out, not like the tons of refugees walking across borders daily to escape, looking for a better life.

We walk into a bit of a dumpy border town and get a taxi to the Water View Restaurant where we are greeted by massive black and white panda statues at the entrance. Weird-there are no pandas anywhere in Thailand, or Malaysia for that matter, and the nearest panda is more than a half days’ flight away.

As I begin to walk towards the restaurant through the long bamboo covered walkway, I pass a group of heads intricately carved out of coconuts. There’s Justin Bieber as well as a Viking with sunnies and a beard! As if it couldn’t get any stranger, we are greeted by Thai cowboys. Yep, that’s right. In full getup, big belt buckles, hats and all. Pandas, Bieber coconuts, and cowboys, where the hell am I? This does NOT feel like Thailand. I don’t even think a Rainforest Café is this bizarre.

Ploy, the Thai Cowboy, leads us to our very own straw hut overlooking the lake. It’s got a low table hovering over a deep red straw mat with some chartreuse pillows for lounging, and for the most part, I’ve forgotten the weird entrance. Our view is lovely; verdant rolling hills and straws huts lining the edge of the lake.

As we sit and wait for our food, I swear I catch a baby shark swim by! I stand up immediately to find hundreds of them, but they aren’t sharks, (clearly-this is a lake, duh), just enormous catfish. The kind that makes me think that if I dipped my toes into the lake, I might pull my foot back with only a bloody stump left. They are definitely man-eaters, how else could they get this big? And why aren’t they on the menu? You could feed a family of 7 on one of those babies. They are speeding straight for our neighbor’s hut, like a deer running from a cheetah, I’m horrified! Just as I’m about to scream “Look out, Jaws” to my neighbors, I see them hand feeding them shrimp!

But before I could shut my low-slung jaw, I heard it-what I’d been waiting for; a cooler than ice Thai Cowboy wearing mirrored Ray Bans, a straw hat, and a tightly fitted red plaid shirt put-putting our food over by boat. That’s right, delivery by boat. I’ve had delivery before but never like this.

We got our food, which was just ok, hung out for a while, drank some ice cold adult beverages and started our journey back home. Even though the food was just ok, it wasn’t about the food, it’s all about the experience. Next time I’d head out earlier and bring a book, it’s super relaxing there so why not take advantage of it. But there’ll be no swimming on my part, and we never did figure out about pandas or why all of these Mormons are killing each other.

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