While I'm travelling through Thailand, I'm seeing these doll houses everywhere. They're different colors, and are either for sale by hundreds or are everywhere I lay my eyes on. Is there a doll invasion happening in Thailand?
(LP) House of the holy. Many homes or inhabited dwellings in Thailand have an associated "spirit house", built to provide a residence for the plot of land's guardian spirits. Based on animistic beliefs that predate Buddhism, guardian spirits are believed to reside in rivers, trees and other natural features and need to be honoured. The guardian spirit of a particular plot of land is the supernatural equivalent of a mother in law, an honoured but sometimes troublesome family member. To keep the spirits happily distracted, Thais erect elaborate dollhouse like structures on the property where the spirits can live comfortably separated from human affairs. To further cultivate good relations and good fortune, daily offerings of rice, fruit, flowers and water are made to the spirit house. If the human house is enlarged, the spirit house must also be enlarged, so that the spirits do not feel slighted.
On my way to Nong Khai, I read half on the lonely planet since now I'm on a strict schedule. This schedule doesn't give me any time to relax, and every day I feel tired and a bit anxious about my plan. I don't just read about the cities and sights, I also read a big section in the book dedicated to the history, food, manners, culture, way of life, to get a better sense of the country I'm in, and I guess to try not to be too ignorant. A bit more about sex tourism: The industry was there before, but it really exploded in the Vietnam war when the American soldiers were based in Thailand. There is a lot of money in sex tourisms and many people don't even mind doing the job. The salary that they make (about $600/month) is the salary that you would get through high education, a few years of experience and special connections. The families sometimes send their kids to the city to earn some money and just like in a lot of poor countries, most of the money is sent back home to the family. The family then buys more land, better houses, appliances, cars, thus teaching a new generation the value of such work.
& funny thing about rice: Thailand is the world leading exporter in rice, and in 2010 exported 9 million tones of the grain. Rice is so central to Thai food culture that the most common term for "eat" is gin kow (literally, "consume rice") and one of the most common greetings is Gin know reu yang? (Have you consumed rice yet?). To eat, is to eat rice, and for most of the country, a meal is not acceptable without this staple.
I arrived at the cutest guest house ever, overlooking the river with English speaking staff, a trust system where you write what you eat, or take out of the fridge and a floating restaurant. No wonder LP says that people who's intend to stay in Nong Khai for one day, end up staying much longer. They probably found this guest house :) While talking to Mike the manager, the subject of visa came up, and he told me that to renew it, I have to go to Laos, pay Laos entrance visa which is $42, return back to Thailand, and I will receive only 2 weeks extension. 2 weeks for $42??? And I'll have to do it twice or more! That's insane! I was lost there for a minute. My plan was to do northern Thailand, then go to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and re-enter Thailand to do the beaches and on to Malaysia and Indonesia. I'm seeing my plan getting shattered into pieces yet again. I came up with a new plan! If I'm crossing into Laos, might as well stay there, then I'll go to Vietnam, Cambodia, do a proper Thailand visa in Cambodia which will give me 90 days, and do Northern Thailand then, which is not too bad, because it would be the end of the rain season, and I could do trekking, which I wouldn't be able to do now. And hopefully it will be time for some awesome festival ... hopefully !! :)
What do you know, there is a festival in town! The festival of candles. It involves big 2m candles being paraded down the street on a track with a music playing and a dancing school dancing traditional Thai dance behind it in traditional costumes. It was very pretty, they all moved in unison, the movements were precise and sensual, with all the intricate hand movements. It started raining like crazy, but their smiles from their faces continued to radiate.
The 2 women who were leading the festival said some weird things like: Nong Khai is the best city in Thailand, it has the warmest, the best, the friendliest, and the most beautiful people in all of Thailand like us! And then one woman turned to another and said, why are you so happy lately, oh, I get it, you got yourself a white boyfriend! :/
When I moved into the room, there was a huge spider on the wall, about the size of my hand. I didn't want to kill it, so I asked the manager to shoo it out. Man it's fast! Thailand is a jungle, and the wildlife is everywhere ... too bad mostly insect wild life. Ants just attack anything that's edible, there are 100s of geckos who hide behind pictures as you walk by, there are huge centipedes, gigantic grasshoppers, and the spider has returned! Although he made his home on the door next to mine. First it sat near the lock, then it went under the lock so that only the legs were sticking out (didn't take a picture of that). I don't think that room was in use, otherwise someone would've had a heart attack! I looked at my room, and it seemed like the only way to get in is under the door. So I built a barricade out of chair pillow and my shoes to cover the crack :)
Next day I rented a bicycle to go to the sculpture garden. It was cool, but then again, nothing too exciting. There were mainly Buddhas and Indian gods. Buddhism, finally a religion that makes some sense as opposed to people walking on water, parting seas and flying cows, but even here Buddha is sitting in a protection of a Naga - a mystic creature that resembles a 5 headed snake. It was protecting Buddha when he was meditating. Why when something is a little bit believable, they had to ruin it with fairytales?
I enjoyed cycling around much more than the park. I went through lovely and quiet villages, overgrown with rice paddies as far as you can see. Friendly locals, but not too friendly dogs. 2 of them were barking and running beside my bike, while I was paddling as fast as I could. They didn't bite me thank god. On the way back, I stopped near a market, and went to take a look. I love speaking Thai, even though my conversations end up always being the same. Sa wa dee ka. Tao Rai? Kop cun ka!
Hello. How much is it? (Followed by a long pause to process the price) ... Thank you. I went through fish section, and my heart just stopped. There were dishes of small still live fish, which were jumping around the plate suffocating. There were big flogs sitting in the bucket, and then the guy picked it up, and skinned it, and put in on the plate with all its insides all over the place ... it's heart was still beating ... Why are people so cruel? Ok, if you eat animals, but have a decency to kill it first. I left the market with a heavy heavy heart :(
I'm still eating all the bizarre food. I have no idea what it is, I'm just pointing at things and eat/drink them. And!! I ate a cricket! It's actually not as bad as it sounds. It tastes just like a potato chip. The only problem is when you stop chewing, it still remains in your mouth, and oh, here is a leg, here is a whisker :) Then we went to another cricket station, but the guy who tried it first said that it has a "cream" filling ... ok ... I'm gonna skip that one then :)
Next day Mike only started work at 2, so we thought to go to a historical park together. I didn't sleep the whole night because I accidently drank green tea at 10pm, and got up at 6:30 only to find out that his bike didn't start. No problem. I went and rented my own bike, but at that time it was already too late for him to go and I went on my own. It was 70 kms one way, and after 140 kms, my butt hurt and my back hurt and I got a sun burn. But the ride was awesome. It went through green beautiful country side, with barely any traffic. The roads in the middle of this hell knows where location are in excellent condition, not something that I can say about Canadian roads. I got scared only twice on the ride. Once was when I drove through a big pothole. The road is silky smooth, and then out of nowhere there was a pothole, I slowed down in time, but still went right into it. The bike handled it fine, and after driving in Ko Samet, I know that the bike can handle much more than we think it can. It's very well suited for off the road roads, and all these advertisements about Hammers and Jeeps make me laugh, just give me a scooter and I'll go anywhere the fearless jeep would! :)
The park was very nice. It was big, signs on every road cross, nice trails, and seeing some cool rock formations on the way. It was my first time when I saw prehistoric paintings that date back 3000 years. You can crawl all around those rocks, and there would be just a sign saying "Please don't touch the paintings". If it were in Canada, there would be a barbed wire 10 meters around it with security guards patrolling the perimeter :) Things are sometimes so much better in 3rd world countries. Although I wouldn't call Thailand 3rd world at all.
On the way back I stopped at a noodle town. LP says that you can see people making noodles, drying noodles, cutting noodles, it's all about the noodles! When I got there, I was walking in circles, back and forth, but for the life on me, I couldn't find any noodles. All that I found were overpriced fruits. I was hungry and picked the only restaurant that I could find in the market. It had pork skin, cartilage, pate, pork balls and guess what they served with it?? Rice !!! Where the hell are the noodles??!! :))) This town was not touristic at all, and people were looking at me, but unlike "popping your eyes out" India, these were just polite curious looks, and I didn't feel the need to tell anybody to shove it! :)
I've been to Nong Khai for a week. Out of that week I only made 2 day trips. I'm too tired to go anywhere or do anything. I decided to catch up on the blogs since I'm way way behind - 4 months now! So I thought to write it on a daily basis, and since each blog takes about 10 hours, I have no time to sleep. I don't want to wake up, and keep telling myself excuses to stay in bed. Finally in Nong Khai I had some time to catch my breath. Also, Thailand so far didn't impress me much, I guess nothing would impress me after India, everything's too easy, relaxed, but at the same time not very interesting. Also, since it's summer time, the kindergarten is on the loose, and it bothers me. I'm waiting till September so they all go back to school.
There was one party at the guest house, and I met a guy from China. I asked him what he thinks about Chinese invasion of Tibet, he said that the government brainwashed everybody to think that Dalai Lama is evil and wants to split the country, until he made his own research and found no truth in it at all.
That's true. Everybody believes what their government tells them without doing any research on their own. Are we just a bunch of donkeys? Haven't we smartened up?
Fluoride is good for your teeth
Vaccines make your baby healthy
GMO has no adverse effects on you
Support the war in Iraq/Afghanistan against terrorism
Are we all living a lie, or we just don't want to find out the truth?
I was very sad to leave Nong Khai. I think it was more the guest house though than the town itself, although everybody I met, and everybody who moved to live there said that Nong Khai is the best city in Thailand. The social, beautiful guest house is one of the best guest houses that I've been in. Every evening, all the tables would be full with people talking, laughing, singing, playing. The owners/managers/staff make you feel like you're at home, and when travelling for a long time, sometimes it's all you need ... a warm feeling of home.