Colorful Thai fashion
Khanom is a medium sized town. This is our first destination, also a place to visit Thai family of a Swedish friend. We wait for a bit and two young guys arrive on their scooters to give us a ride. After a few minutes we find ourselves in a modern hut on the beach. Soon I am convinced that scooters are omnipresent and most likely the only reasonable means of transportation. Just not to stand out, the next day we start exploring the area on a scooter as well. The rainy season continues and it can be felt that at the moment it is at its best. In general, the downpour is possible to predict with a few minutes’ advance, but sometimes these few minutes is not enough. Once we make most of it at a neck breaking full speed (meaning around 80 km/h) to literally miss it by two minutes. The two minutes would have been enough to find a shelter and save us from being completely soaked. Next we might be more lucky.
In our house there is a lot of people coming in, coming out and hanging around. Usually I do not know who these folks are as seldom anyone speaks any English. This applies also to our hosts. Alleged mother of the two young boys on scooters introduces herself as a ‘Mama‘ and this is the way we address her.
The other evening local police chief with his two subordinates is visiting us. The guests set few glasses, a bottle of Thai whiskey, ice and freshly cooked crabs on the table. Policemen on duty, even in uniform with a gun, can still have some fun. In the meantime, the subsequent Thai delicacies arrive onto the table.
Cooked leaves, cold prawns, spicy fish soup, smoked shark fins and boiled coconut salad. All of the meals are incredibly spicy, even a bit too spicy for my taste. More meals constantly appear on the table. Appetizers, grilled pork, peanuts and beer – the last one is being fetched by an already-drunk uniformed policeman.
A fisherman in Khanom, Southern Thailand
In the morning Mama takes us to the marketplace. The word "market” is one of the few words which enables us to communicate. Mama is not able to pass and ingore without shopping any stand in the marketplace. Vegetables, baked chicken, rice, spices, fruit or coffee. All of these. This is just the beginning and I am already helping to carry a few overloaded bags. At some point Mama buys half a kilo of hot chilli peppers. It’s enough for several years for an average European family. Here it would be enough for at most a week. Therefore I am eniterely surprised to see when a moment later Mama stops at the next stand to buy even more spicy pepper, this time dried ones.
The waves once in a while wash ashore a huge jellyfish. Some of these easily wiegh 5 or 6 kilograms. It’s good to see that humongous jellyfish in Khanom outnumber the beach bars and these in turn outnumber the total amount of tourists. More specifically – we are the only tourists not counting a few foreigners living here permanently. We move on to the north.
Buses in Thailand offer a high standard of travel. Almost like in an airplane, you get snacks, drinks and of course there is a television. It’s not the latest DVD generation, but rather an old-fashioned cassette playback displayed on the spherical picture tube. The hissing sounds are played at full volume and the only monospeaker in the coach is right above my seat. How sweet is that!
Bangkok is the place to which one returns repeatedly. It has endless suburbs, an impressive areas of skyscrapers and the very center as well. It is massive. Honestly speaking, Europe is lagging far behind the bustling Asian giant. At least when it comes to infrastructure and floor space designated for trade.
We manage to make an extremely fast bus transfer. We arrive at about 5.05 AM to make it and catch a bus departing at 5.00 AM. I leave Thailand for some time.
(a bit less than two months pass)
I almost forgot how spicy Thai food is. I soon realized that having tried a first bite of my fried rice with vegetables and chicken seasoned with chili peppers. Sometimes I think that if there was only one specific cuisine left in the world I would have chosen it to be Thai food, possibly hesitating a bit about choosing the Mediterranean cuisine as an alternative.
Rocks add some variety to sandy beaches of Thailand
Travelling on the train also has its charms. Especially if it is a third-class compartment, roughly three times cheaper than the second class. Besides hard seats upholstered with artificial leather and headrests made of metal, anything else I consider an advantage. Casual and interesting fellow travelers, a lot of space, fresh air, open windows and fans on the ceiling. I am the only tourist in our carriage. I sit among several Thais who are willing to talk. The train is full. (Thais, as I learn later, get their tickets in the third class for free).
I am impressed by vast range of topics you can talk about on a train.
– “We can not express disaproval about the king” – inevitably the conversation turns to the politics.
– “Then tell that you like him, if that’s true” – I try encourage Tao to express approval. A silence begins. – “And do you talk about with your family?“. – “Those who talk, they usually kill each other“.
– “Even with your wife, your beloved ones at home?”
– “Never and under no circumstances“. – this one sounds quite serious.
Tao describes the Mekong Delta and the surrounding area inhabited by the indigenous people. He talks about the political borders as artificial national boundaries. I interrupt him to ask if he means the Funan Kingdom. This is how I impressed Tao as he admits, “I have never met a foreigner who has ever heard anything about the existence of the Funan Kingdom“.
We start to talk about ethnical integration and disintegration. Tao mentions that the British in exchange for assistance in the construction of railways posed one condition for Thailand. Each train station has be marked and labelled in two langauges. In the event of war it would be easier for soldiers to know their location. China has become a unified state in similar way. Hundreds (maybe even thousands) of distinct languages and dialects at some point finally gained the universal naming scheme.
A hilarious karaoke musician is also on the train. Mo is about 40-year-old, a smiling light-heared guy with a clear parting of his long, straight hair and flowery unbuttoned shirt with a collar. In fact, he looks much more like a Peruvian rather than Thai. He uses all means to effectively communicate in English. This raises another topic. He complains about the lack of communication means with girls he meets in countries he visits – and as a well-known karaoke musician, he travels a lot. Just came up with an idea to invent a portable machine to translate anything from any language of the world to any other language. Once he got a grip he keeps on talking, giving examples of applications and how it would simplify your life. All night long, we are thinking of improvements of translating machine, until our train stops in Bangkok in the morning.