STORY AND VIDEO: Aroy is Thai for delicious
In the village where she was raised, at mealtime, family and friends sit together on a mat surrounding an array of colourful dishes
“I’m okay because at that time I have no boyfriend when I stay in Canada, just simple life: go to work, come home, for seven years,” she said.
There were only a couple families from Thailand then, and they were close. One of her friends asked why she hadn’t met any Canadian boys yet, and that she knew of a single man in Thailand who she might like.
They were introduced through letters and photographs. Sak decided that he wasn’t going to send a photo that only showed his best attributes, he wanted to show Noi the real deal.
“I sent a really bad picture to her. Before I think I’m going to send her the really handsome photo, but no, I want the real picture. I don’t have any hair. I’m getting old, 27-years-old and I thought I’d be a monk,” he said with a grin, pulling off his baseball cap and rubbing his head.
After a few correspondences, Noi decided to move back to Thailand — but not before getting her Canadian citizenship, just in case. She didn’t think she could only get to know the man through letters. She wanted to be with him in person to make sure they were right for each other.
When she returned, Noi, with finely tuned English skills, found a job as a receptionist dealing with foreigners. Sak worked as a manager at a supermarket in Bangkok, a change from growing up on a rice farm.
After two years, they married, and then Whitney was born in 2007. “After that, I find out that Thailand is not good when you have a kid. You have to have more money to support your kid. If you want a good life, you have to get a better job,” Noi said.
As a family, they moved back to Canada. Their daughter was able to get citizenship right away, but Sak had to come on a visitor visa and then apply as a landed immigrant. For the first year, Noi was the breadwinner for the family to show to immigration officials that she could support them.
Once again, she dove back into the food and beverage industry. At No. 1 catering, she assisted the chef with meal preparation, and after her husband received his immigration papers, he started working at Galaxy Gardens.
The couple had their second daughter, Sydney, in 2012 and has since taken the children back to Thailand to explore their roots. But despite the rain, and lack of beach access, they say the children prefer the North Coast to Thailand.
“Last summer we went back, and they said it’s too hot for them. They’re used to the weather here,” Noi said, adding that they were also annoyed with the insects that wouldn’t leave their little legs alone.
The city is home for them now. Noi wanted to be her own boss, and when the restaurant was opened in October last year, she got her wish, although it’s a lot more than she bargained for.
“Maybe they tie my leg in here. I can’t go nowhere now,” she said with a laugh.
Running the only Thai restaurant in the area, Noi wants to create an authentic experience for her guests. Her mother-in-law sewed the checkered tablecloths, the TV on the back wall flashes images of Thailand or cultural dances.
The ingredients come from special orders to Vancouver, or from Thailand. For patrons who find the dishes too spicy, Noi will make them a drink made from bael, a fruit from South East Asia that tames the heat.
Although, the restaurant doesn’t go as far as mats on the floor where people share multiple dishes, Noi finds more and more people opening their minds to try unfamiliar dishes.