Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in the Life of …

Khun Pak, one of the charming waitresses at Full Moon restaurant, Anantara Bophut Resort.

 

6Oh, the luxury of getting up late! Anyone who has known the dull grind of waking before it’s light and then having to spend an hour in a crowded train or a crawling car will know the joy of this. But this is Samui. And we’re not renowned for our commuter traffic (although there are a great many people travelling to work as the sun comes up, particularly to the hotels and breakfast shifts). But one of the people you won’t see at this time of day is Khun Duangduan Duangpim.


Better known by her nickname of Khun Pak, she has an enviable lie-in each day. Sometimes she begins work at 10:00 am. And if she’s working a different shift, then it’s as late as 2:00 pm. But not everything in life is rosebuds. The downside is that she ends up working the best part of ten hours each day, no matter what time she starts!


The vast majority of workers you’ll see on the island weren’t born here. But although she was born in the north-eastern city of Udon Thani, Khun Pak’s been living here since she was a small child. Her father, a carpenter, transported himself and his family here more than 20 years ago: even in those days there were more opportunities on Samui than in the rural north-east.


After she had finished school, Khun Pak headed to Bangkok where she studied for a Diploma in Communication Studies. But she’d already been working in her spare time and school holidays as a waitress at Chaweng’s popular The Deck restaurant. And when she returned to the island she resumed her work there again, this time on a permanent basis. “Even though I was taught English at school and university,” she told me, “it’s not like being with tourists all the time. My English became a lot better, but I still can’t speak it so well.


Let me say here that Khun Pak is modest: she’s just a little shy, but friendly and conscientious with it. Her English is actually very good. It would need to be for her to have landed her next job, working in a big pub full of Brits and Aussies (and Irish!), the well-known Tropical Murphys, in the middle of Chaweng. She stayed there for four years before moving to Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa.


Anantara Bophut is one of those up-market hotels that you’d guess had been around for a while. Although it was completed in 2004, the tropical greenery is awe-inspiring, with some of the most impressive mature trees and enormously-leaved climbers I’ve ever seen. The word ‘rampant’ barely describes it! The grounds are palatial, too, with a long wooden-decked runway between the foliage. And when you eventually emerge into the lofty reception area, just about the first thing you then come to is the refined and shady High Tide restaurant.


But you won’t see any sign of Khun Pak. The resort boasts two quality restaurants, the second being close to the beach and titled Full Moon. Everything here is elegant and understated and that goes for the restaurants, too. Full Moon is simple and bold in design, with lots of clean lines, muted teak and sturdy furniture. It’s open on all sides and split between two floors, the upper one commanding a breezy sea view. And this is where you’ll find our heroine, the very capable and multi-tasking Khun Pak.


And, yes, her tasks are varied and she is often performing several at the same time! The breakfast session is held at over at High Tide, and so the first thing that Khun Pak does when she arrives at 10:00 am is to open the restaurant and begin to set the tables in readiness for the lunchtime diners. The previous night she’d already helped the kitchen staff to clean and dry the cutlery and all it needs now is a final polish before being laid out. Table mats, napkins, flowers and water glasses follow, the mellow music is switched on and then everything – cushions, trolleys, menus and so on – is positioned, straightened and checked.


Even though the restaurant opens at 11:00 am, there are always hungry customers arriving; in the first instance those who have risen too late for breakfast! There’s a steady flow of ‘lunchers’, although most people eat only lightly during the day. Snacks eaten around the pool also come into the picture and, according to the staffing, Khun Pak quite often doubles-up by taking food to the people on sun-beds as well as to the tables.


Things begin to slow down by 4:00 pm and that gives her the chance of a break for something to eat. And then it’s a shower and a change of clothes, as the uniforms worn are more regal for the evening diners. The tables are all re-set, too, more elaborately and with candles and flowers, in keeping with the less-casual nature of the evening meal.


And then it’s a daily rotation-system of the three waitresses, each taking turns between the ‘chief’s station’, ‘run food’ and ‘run drinks’. This means just what it sounds like, with one waitress acting as the hostess and the others taking care of the diners’ meals and drinks. But when it’s busy they’ll compromise, switching roles and adapting, as and when the need arises.


Somewhere around 10:00 pm things slow down and then it’s time to clear away. The waitresses all join-in with the kitchen staff and the final thing is to collect together the washed cutlery, dry and polish it, and set out on an inside table exactly the right number of knives, forks, spoons and plates required to lay all the tables again the next morning. But this last bit only happens when she’s on the later shift; if she begins at 10:00 am then she’s off home on her motorbike by around 8:30 pm … unless it’s really busy … or high season …


Khun Pak’s an unassuming person and with gentle ambitions. Her aim? To transfer within the Anantara Group and spend time seeing, and working in, the Maldives, and with no rush to seek promotion (“I’m not good enough: I need more experience.”). Did I say ‘modest’? Several times already, I think. And I can’t see this trait ever fading, no matter how late she can sleep-in the morning!

 


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