Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 341: : It’s a small and weird world …..

...... sorry for the delay .... but normal service and internet connections have been restored .....

…… This morning I resisted the urge to perform Si Baht. Not that I didn’t want to do it, it’s just that performing it yesterday had caused a smidgen of confusion and concern. I’m a guest in my friend Wisa’s family home, a house that her Dad only finished building a few months ago. It’s a very fine house for these parts of Thailand but it still has a few minor snagging problems. One of those problems is creaky doors, especially those doors on the three bedrooms. Magnify the sound of two early morning whining doors in a house with no soft furnishings and you can probably understand why an early rise had caused such concern ….. mai pen rai kap

…. With virtues firmly restored, after breakfast I dragged the Honda Click out of the kitchen ready for its day of underpowered torture. As an Englishman, I love the sun. Maybe that’s because back in Blighty we don’t get enough of it. Here in SE Asia there’s lots of sun, but the Thai’s absolutely hate it. It’s not just Thai’s, it seems that all Asian’s see pale skin as a sign of significant beauty and standing. Perhaps we all yearn for the things that are difficult to obtain, but because of this cultural difference, all thoughts of riding the little Honda were quickly abandoned. Motorbikes mean fresh air, and fresh air means the danger of darker skin for a certain young lady, so the bike had to rest. In it’s place was an Isuzu D-Max, the workhorse of Asia, the Thai equivalent to England’s Transit van or America’s Ford F150. I’m not sure who the D-Max belonged to, or from where it was stolen, but it was shiny new and amazingly cruel for the planet.

In Thai culture, people will never say exactly what they mean. Instead, they’ll talk in circles and hope that you understand. For a Thai this is second nature but for anybody else it’s amazingly confusing. As I started the engine to the gas-guzzling monster, I began to suspect that protection from the sun was merely an excuse for the sudden change of transportation. ’Thunk’ …. ’Thunk’ …. ’Thunk’ … Adjusting the rear view mirror I saw new heads appearing in the back of the pick-up truck. A cousin, three aunties, two uncles and a complete set of parents. It was clear that wherever today would take us, it would be a non-negotiable family adventure. A second thing quickly became clear …… the D-Max was far too bloody small.

The bright red Chevrolet SUV was next, but with its inflexible seating and a very flexible family, it was clearly still too small. The white Toyota Bus was the final hope and eventually everybody was shoehorned into it. I probably left a few people behind but that was neither my fault or my problem. I’d handed over the keys and all personal responsibility for the day ahead to somebody who claimed to know how to drive it …… mai pen rai

“Pee ja pai nai?” ("Where are we going") No answer. Maybe they didn’t know where we were going? Maybe they didn’t want to tell me? Probably both. It turned out to be a temple. A rather nice temple that had some special connection to Buddha. I never did discover exactly what that special connection was, but I’d always assumed that the whole point of Buddhist Temples was that they all had a ‘Connection’ to Buddha.

..... From the unknown temple, we drove along roads that seemed to take us south. A 42” plasma screen prevented me from seeing anything more than Alicia Key’s gyrating arse as Empire State of Mind played over and over again…. for their delight and my annoyance. I guessed that we were heading south because through the side windows of the bus, I could see familiar road signs. “ขอนแก่น” .... which roughly translated means ‘Khon Kaen’. Thankfully, before we reached the outer edges of the city, we turned left along a road that I’d ridden down before. I could only think of two reasons for taking that particular road. The first was the Kranuan Industrial & Community College where I’d spent time with the students discussing world travel and attending their graduation ceremony before accidentally inviting an entire year of students out to dinner at my expense. The second reason would be to visit the ‘King Cobra Club’ and I prayed to every God that it wasn’t that because I really don’t do snakes.

Of course, it did turn out to be the nightmare option. There’s nothing at all funny about snakes, or any other captive creature, but watching a group of Thai’s scare the crap out of themselves is quite frankly one of the funniest things that any man could ever hope to see. To be honest, the whole ‘King Cobra’ show was a little bit rubbish but far from being scared, I found the snakes to be amazingly majestic. Deadly yes, but when compared to the idiot ‘snake charmers’ who deserved every one of their many scars, they were actually quite beautiful.
....... You probably think that I was in a really arsey sort of mood today, but I wasn’t. At that point I was laughing my conkers off and having a ball. Then, we drove out of the “King Cobra Snake Club” with the kids sitting on the roof of the bus. Maybe because they were kids and therefore they could, or maybe they’d also had enough of Alicia bloody Keys. Anyway, we crossed over ‘Highway 2’ on the road to Ubon Rat, one of the most beautiful places in the world and a place that I’d promised never to visit again. Maybe there was something to the Thai’s firm belief in Destiny after all?

I had mixed feelings about returning there, but any worries soon dissolved as we turned left and headed towards the edge of the lake. She was there, waiting on her little blue motorbike just as she always did. She smiled and beckoned our bus to follow her down the dusty track to the restaurant at the edge of the lake. Once stopped, the bus evacuated and being at the very back, I was last out. ‘’Geoff’’ ….. ‘’Koy’’. The family looked on with astonishment as I greeted my old friend Koy, the head and only waitress at Thailand’s finest restaurant.

The restaurant is a series of small platforms built out on the lake and the food that it serves is absolutely fantastic. Lunch van last all day and a party of ten can get fed and hammered for less than £2 per person .. including the tip.

It was great to see Koy again, and to sample her mother’s food, but sadly my usual table was no more. The recent floods had taken their toll and most of her ‘platform tables’ were now little more than bamboo submarines. I offered my sincere condolences but she just laughed. A European restaurant owner would be crying into their consommé, but this isn’t Europe, this is Thailand and life has a very god habit of continuing ….. mai pen rai kap

Delay .....

Sorry for the delay in posting and continuing the events .... but travel and technical difficulties are to blame. At school, some kid's were said to have 'learning difficulties', well I was one of them kids, but I also suffer from recurrent 'technical difficulties' .. and as soon as my photographs can be recaptured from a failed laptop, and I figure out how to connect my new laptop to the internet ,.... we'll be good to go.

Thanks .... Blue88