One of the things I’m getting used to as a foreigner in a land where everything looks unusual – from the fruit and veg to the billboards – is things not being what they at first appear to be. How many times have I been walking past what looks like a ramshackle mishmash of cardboard, metal sheeting and wood only to catch a glimpse of someone asleep on a mattress inside? Just about every shop sign in Westlake says it is either a Bia Hoi, Ca Fe or Deli. Just how many delis and coffee shops can there possibly be!?
Deciding to test the sign the other day I walked into what claims to be a butcher but looks nothing like one from the outside. Sure enough, inside there was a very small selection of meat cuts, products, sausages and the like. And, coffee makers. Why? Who would go into a butcher to buy a coffee maker? Am I missing something or did the owner of the shop just happen to have a job lot that he wants to get rid of?
Most of the cafes look very uninspiring from the street and it’s only when you venture inside that you can see what you’re dealing with. Right next to the apartment where I’m staying there’s a really unassuming place selling copious amounts of street food with a steady stream of customers. I couldn’t work out where they were all going though and decided the cafe must actually be like the wardrobe in Narnia with a secret door at the back. And pretty much that’s right. Out the back is a small seating area with tables and the ubiquitous tiny plastic seats but what makes this special (apart from the food of course!) is that the whole of the back of the building is built on stilts!
On my walk with Sally this morning I thought I’d stop and have a cool drink but then decided that actually, this is probably someone’s home!