Finding Coconut Milk in Thailand is Not as Easy as You’d Think


Communication has been a bit difficult here. Some might say, “Well duh, you don’t speak the language,” but that’s not normally a problem for English speakers. I assumed with so many people at least knowing a little English and this being a tourist-y area that I wouldn’t have much problems with communicating. I was wrong.

As I waited patiently at the first coffee stand I saw in the local market, it took 20 minutes or so for me to get a coffee that wasn’t what I ordered. About 4 different people who absolutely weren’t in front of me in the queue (newsflash: there isn’t one) got theirs before me. It was definitely some racial bias happening, but I didn’t mind it so much. I’ve been fortunate to not experience very much of that, so it’s cool. I was just a little annoyed.

After I got my iced cappuccino (I ordered it hot when she asked me), I then found out that they don’t take cards. OF COURSE! What was I thinking? I’m in Thailand. Luckily, everyone is so nice that she let me walk to an ATM to get money. Despite her serving people of her own ethnicity before me and giving me the wrong drink, I tipped her a small amount just because I felt like it was the nice thing to do.

I then went about my business and began my hunt for coconut milk. I figured it couldn’t be too hard to find coconuts, as Thailand is one of the biggest suppliers of them in the World. Once again, I was wrong. This market didn’t seem to have any coconut milk or coconuts in general! I just couldn’t find one. I saw another coffee bar and thought, “Well anything is probably better and more efficient than the last one,” so I ordered an americano (yes, I get the irony). Of course, what I got was not an americano, and once again it had sugar and milk in it. But hey, it tasted good! So, I thanked her and asked through Google Translate where I could find coconut milk. She pointed me to a direction because she couldn’t really give me step-by-step instructions, so I just said thanks and kept it moving.

I got to the general vicinity of where I was pointed to and asked a nice old lady where I could find coconut milk (at this point it should be implied I am using Google Translate). The lady pointed me to the convenient store within the market about 40 feet away. I replied with Kop Kun Kap, which means thank you in Thai. I then gave a slight bow and continued my epic journey.

When I got there, I realized it was boxed, as I expected. I asked the lady if she had any fresh, and after a few times of me assuring her that boxed kind was not fresh, a man (who I think was her husband) smiled and said he would take me to the good stuff. He literally walked me all the way over to this random garage just outside of the market like he was an employee at Whole Foods and said they could help me out. I graciously said the three magic thank you words, which he then replied with what I assume meant no problem, and went back to the market.

The garage was a desolate place. It had white walls, a lot of random objects, and was pretty minimalist, despite the aforementioned objects and the marks on the walls. It was sort of clean looking, though. If you’ve ever been to Thailand, there isn’t much clean except for the hotels. It’s just not too high on their priority list. This is not to say the country isn’t beautiful—they just don’t really have the capital to pay people to do pointless manual labor. I’m pretty sure this would either be home to a start-up, or some kind of coconut market/laser tag place—maybe that is what it was, I didn’t ask if they offered that service, but I was ecstatic about the coconut milk.

As I looked around, some guy was just posted against a wall, sitting down with his foot up like a Harlem thug drinking a forty (though he wasn’t any of those things). He didn’t even try talking to me. I don’t blame him though—most white people suck. Then, the second I started to think I was doomed to find my beloved coconut milk, some guy pulled up in an old pickup truck and asked me (in English) how I could be helped.

I told him I’m looking for fresh coconut milk. He smiled and said he could help me, then proceeded to say something in Thai to some ladies who were eating their breakfast in the garage next to us. One of them stopped eating rather urgently and began walking to the back of the garage. He then turned to me to ask me how much I wanted. At this point, I was tempted to say a gallon because the stuff was oddly so hard to find, but I just motioned him the shape of what I thought to be around a liter. “One kilo?” he asked. “Sure,” I replied, “I don’t fucking know (I thought to myself).” The man went over and said something else to the woman, then said, “She can help you,” and disappeared into the night like fucking batman. WTF. I just kind of stood there waiting like, “Alright. Coconut milk time. Just here . . . waiting for coconut milk, I guess.” I’m being dramatic—the wait wasn’t that long.

About 30 seconds or so had passed, and soon enough the lady came with a weird plastic bag (you know, the kind you get when you win a fish at the fair) full of a white liquid presumed to be coconut milk and said something to the effect of, “Here you go.”” Kop Kun Kap,” I said. Alas, my coconut milk adventure had finally come to an end, and I couldn’t have been more relieved.

In case you are wondering about the validity of this coconut milk claim, I am in fact drinking it off and on as I write this story. It is indeed coconut milk, and I will definitely update you if it is tampered in any way, though my bet is that it’s safe. The people here are all super nice and I definitely haven’t felt in bad vibes in Chiang Mai at all,—just a lot of bad English, ethnic preference, and slow food prep. Oh and pollution. Slash and burn agriculture is definitely for the birds (no disrespect to my homie Zazu).

That’s all I got for you today. I know stories aren’t really what this blog is intended for, but this could definitely be informative for anyone planning to visit Chiang Mai. Also, my frame of mind has shifted to: if I ever have something to say that’s not extremely personal, I may as well post it on my blog. So, I hope you enjoyed my slightly comical adventure in trying to find coconut milk, and I’d love to hear any and all experiences you may have had looking for something specific in a foreign land.

Stay Well
Adam Vincent


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