There are about thirteen hairdressers in Mae Nam alone, and I say about, because some of them look so shabby that I am not sure you can call these places hairdressers. I did not count them on purpose, but after Tessa told me she wanted to straighten her hair, I figured I’d go check out some places. For the both of us. My hair is already quite straight, yes I realise this as people tell me, but it can always be straighter. And Tessa! Her hair is so curly that she would completely change her look.
Now all we had to do was pick a day to go to one. That seemed to be harder than anything, because all we knew was that our hair would be straight, hopefully. Afterwards, we could probably have given it more thought, but you know, dwelling over these things never make much sense.
It was Thursday evening, the 3rd of April and after a long day of hard work, we decided (or Tessa actually did) to go find a hairdresser at 5.15 PM. Shops here don’t close before nine normally anyway, so the time seemed fine. By then we still had not figure out which one to go to, so we just walked from our resort to the main road, discovering a few more that we had not seen before.
We entered one shop, but it took ages to explain to them what we wanted and then they told us to come back tomorrow because it would take a long time. So we continued our walk when Tessa started laughing and pointed to a shop across the road.
“Look,” She smirked. “That shop’s called porn! Who would go and let their hair get cut at a shop that’s called something with porn?”
Guess where we ended up.
I must say, I cannot remember the full name of the hairdresser shop, except the fact that the word did not have anything to do with the work. I considered for a few second that it might be something Thai, but to be honest, I seriously doubt that.
Anyway, it didn’t matter that much. There were all sorts of stickers places on the window with all the specialties, including ‘straight permanent’ which was the real reason we went to check it out, honestly. This was an important fact, because we tried to explain once again what we wanted our hair to do and we had to make use of the sticker by pointing it out instead of saying it five times.
There was one woman in the shop, somewhere around the age between forty and fifty I would guess. She was tiny looking, like they all are in Thailand with short black/reddish hair, obviously painted. With the Thai smile it made the picture complete, except for the fact her English was amazingly poor.
Soon enough though, she called somebody who happened to pass by, but she knew the girl and she would be the translator in a way. I don’t think her English was much better, but it’s the thought that counts, not? Once again, we explained that we wanted our hair to be straight, but it seemed they already had understood that much and were ready to position us in the chairs.
Not so fast, lady. Tessa and I realised we had to ask a few more questions before we would give her the opportunity to attack our hair, but again the language barrier occurred. What would they put in our hair to keep it straight? How long would it be straight for? How much would it cost?
The first question we explained literally with our hands, as we pulled our hair up and asked just simply ‘what’? doing a rubbing motion. The older woman rushed over to a shelf in the corner of the shop and came back with an empty box that had written ‘Wellastrate’ on it. Turned out, it was a cream that she would put in our hair.
Now the answer to the second question nearly made us get up and leave the store because when we asked ‘how long?’ she answered with three days! Permanent straight should be more than three days, something like two months! So we asked again because surely she misunderstood us.
“How long will it be straight?” Just two pairs of eyes staring at me. “How long? One month, two months?”
“Ahh!” The younger one shrieked and started blabbing in Thai to the older woman. “No, no, not three days. For you,” She pointed to Tessa. “One year.”
We weren’t sure how to react, considering this was the exact opposite of three days in our minds. Imagine somebody with a head full of curls, then imagine her with straight hair for almost a year. In a way, it seemed a bit freaky. Then she pointed at me. “For you, two year.”
Okay, now they are just making this up. Two years of fully straight hair? Is it going to grow straight now too, or what? It seemed all a bit too promising, but the woman was trying so hard to give us all the information that we wanted to know, we couldn’t help but feel sucked in by her kindness and warmth.
So we managed to get to the point where we had to negotiate money. With Tessa being all curly and a lot harder to straighten than me, she started with 2000 baht, but Tessa ended up paying 1800 in the end because she could not possible go lower. The price for me would be the ‘same same’ as what the Thai people would pay (1500 baht) as the younger girl explained to me patiently.
Then there was only one question left and that was how long it would take her to do it. We were supposed to have a meeting with the rest of our group, but we had no clue whatsoever on how long it would take. The woman looked at us for a few second, most likely to make sure she got the question right, then touched Tessa’s hair and said “Three hour”. Looking at me, she added, “for you, two, maybe two and half hour.”
There was honestly no reason for us to say no, as we both wanted it and the woman was ever so nice trying to explain in her best English what her intentions were. It couldn’t possibly go wrong, could it?
So we sat down as the younger girl left us with the older woman and she ushered one of us to come with her behind the screen to wash the hair. Brave as I was, I let Tessa go first since she would take the most time.
As we talked in Dutch about how scary it really was, the woman just ignored our chatting and started washing Tessa her hair very professional (I think). Tessa had asked for a cut, and the woman literally cut her hair over the sink! I suppose that is one cultural difference in the world of hairdressers. Then she put Tessa in one of the chairs and started combing her hair with the supposedly Wellastrate cream.
While Tessa and I were giggling about the ways the woman was handling her hair, she herself just laughed along with us as if she understood what we were talking about. It probably was not hard to guess as you could see Tessa’s hair straighten magically and both of us staring at it in awe.
And then it was my turn. It was the same procedure as Tessa had, except for the hair-cutting in the washing sink because I figured that my hair was fine as it was. Back at the hairdresser’s chair, she put in the cream and smiled as if to say I had nothing to worry about.
The TV was on in the shop, and she put on some karaoke DVDs for us to enjoy. One Thai DVD with a woman that reappeared in every video on there, and Tessa and I happily tried to sing along with the ABC words written under it. Then she put in the karaoke DVD ‘Take Me Home’ (she pointed out with gesturing her arms around) and only seconds later we heard the familiar sounds of ‘Country Roads’ (which has indeed the line ‘take me home’ in there). For about an hour we had to listen to country music as she happily continued on doing our hair. Every now and then she would try and talk to us and we found out for example that she lived in Nathon and she worked during the week in her shop in Mae Nam.
The DVD finally came to an end and while she was busy drying my hair, straightening it and put the cream in again (all the effort!), she put on a Thai soap that she probably found and interesting to watch. Only naturally, Tessa and I joined her and watched it with much interest.
You can conclude from this, soaps have the exact same concept everywhere in the world and you do not need to speak the language because you can understand what is going on anyway: Drama. So much for cultural differences. It doesn’t matter where you come from, anyone can enjoy anywhere good drama soap series.
When it was already nine o’clock, we concluded that we weren’t even nearly finished, or at least Tessa wasn’t and we were both starving. When you’re in a country like Thailand, you have dinner between eight o’clock and nine (or at least, we did), but I could really do with a bit at this point. Luckily I wasn’t the only one because all of a sudden the woman opened the door and called something to the street, where a man stopped abruptly his motorbike with a food-cart attached and made us some rotiwhich tasted amazing and for the price of 20 Baht (which is about 40 cents in euro) .
We ended up sitting there for more than four hours (at six o’clock we started and we finished just past ten) and by that time her husband and son had join us because they finished working and were waiting for our hairdresser to finish too. While she was putting the finishing touches on Tessa, I was waiting because I was already done. We felt a bit bad for taking so long and that her family had to wait because we wanted our hair done, even thought it looked like they didn’t mind. After all, we were a good source of income and made a family hopefully very happy.
This was a one in a life time experience for me because I don’t like to go to the hairdressers in the Netherlands in the first place, and then going to one in a country where it is almost impossible to communicate with the people makes it even more special. Though there is a language barrier, she did everything she could to make us happy which I really appreciated. I wonder what it was like for her to have to foreigners that had no clue coming to her store...
That was the first time I heard a Thai person using that expression. I thought they just made that up!
 I assume they were taxi drivers because they were wearing shirts with the word Taxi on it and a number, but I wouldn’t know if they drove a cab, a pick-up truck or motorbikes. I didn’t ask.