Last year our travel plans to Thailand were nearly dashed as the country was languishing in political turmoil. December 2008 saw the yellow shirt brigade blockade the airports and stranding thousands of tourists and preventing many from entering the country. Not to be deterred by these events we booked our trip with the confidence that like every thing in Thailand, it would be fixed soon. Our itinerary for this trip was straight forward:
Depart Melbourne 10/04/2009 then on to Khon Kaen and Nong Pai on April the 12th. We then spend two weeks with the family and friends celebrating Songkran. The 24th of April sees us going back to BK and then on to Phuket the following day. This trip will conclude on May the 3rd.
Departure time minus two hours – phone call from one the many nieces in BK, the red shirts (UDD) have set up a blockade near Victory Circle. Victory Circle includes the bus interchange so setting up a blockade there is like putting your heart in a vice. We decide to go as planned.
Having arrived in BK in a plane that was light-on for people (=comfortable flight) we were informed that all was well in BK. The red shirt brigade had relocated to Pattaya for the Asean conference. Lucky us.
The following day we went to check out Victory circle. The entire place was as normal. Victory circle has some of the most sensational food vendors so of course we stopped off to see my favourite soup lady. Having consumed a lovely soup I once again surprised by Thai ingenuity. Imagine if you will a mannequin dressed in police uniform propped up in the middle of one of the busiest round-abouts in BK. He doesn’t work alone, there’s another one on the opposite side of the circle. It was not possible to gauge the success of the two hardest working cops in the Thai police force as most of the BK Thais had already vacated BK to go home for Songkran. It is Songkran that will be the main area of interest for this trip.
Oh yeh, I forgot to mention that Nuch now has her Permanent Residency Visa. Acquired a few months ago and much appreciated.
People ask me, “How did you do it?”. It isn’t hard really – we just told the truth.
In Nuch’s first two years we met a lot of people who had been there and done that and told us to save everything for submission (photos birthday cards etc.). I’ve got to say that that was the antithesis of what we did. We sent in what was required. We recounted that we just went about our lives as any newly married couple would have.
All I can say on this point is that I definitely made the right call. Ed. 🙂
Isan is an area of north eastern Thailand. Interestingly most people that come from the region will tell you they come from Kalasin. My wife says the same. Last June was the first time that she was actually in Kalasin. But that’s another story. They have their own dialect in Isan as well as a different diet as compared to people from Bangkok.
So there we were in Springvale a couple of weeks ago…. OK, OK. Where is Springvale? You may well ask. I didn’t know either untill about 18 months ago when Nuch came over from Thailand. Springvale is the quintessential hub, the Mecca if you like, of anything Asian in Melbourne. It was there that Nuch spotted the essential equipment for making sticky rice. Pronounced kow ne-ow. Basically an aluminium pot and a bamboo basket for steaming.
Well….. now armed with the equipment we had to get the ingredients of course. What goes with kow ne-ow is of course the Isan style papaya salad named som tum. You really don’t have one without the other. That would be like an Aussie having a pie without sauce. “Salad” is probably not the right adjective to use in this case as it conjures up images of lettuce and dressing and the like. Som tum is a brew mixed with a mortar and pestle. Not unlike alchemists used in China to make gun powder. The only difference being that som tum is more potent. The secret ingredient being chili of course. Not to mention the smelly fish (Blah). OK enough said about the fish. Now you fry some chicken and there you have it, dinner, Isan style.
If you ever get the chance to go to Phuket this place has to be on your list of places to visit. Kok Chang is an elephant trekking establishment although with some unique features. Not only a great little bar (with no-one asking, “You buy me drink?”) where the prices are very reasonable. (Singha beer only 50B.) They also have two gibbons running around. These guys are just sensational. Charlie and Lamyai will put in an appearance on most days and will avail themselves of your sun glasses, cigarettes or just about anything else you leave laying on the bar. So don’t.
If you arrive by motorbike they will also have a look to see if you’ve brought anything for them. They’ll quite happily sit on the handle bars of your bike and see what goodies there are to be had in the basket. Lamyai has also been know to try and start the odd jeep.
What I love most about this place is that it’s a little out of the way from all the usual hustle and bussle of Kata and the rest of the tourist traps. The guys that run the place are very easy to get to know. Easy would have to be one of the most sensational locals I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with. Not only does he do a great job at serving drinks he’s also a great pool player. The latter I say somewhat tongue in cheek.
One night Easy and a friend of ours (Roger) were down in Kata (Non’s Bar). Roger and I didn’t feel like playing pool so we just sat back while Easy had a couple of games. Well it didn’t take long and Easy came and put two beers on the table. “Easy, did you buy those for us?” “No”, he said, “I won them.” Not some twenty minutes later and he comes and puts another two on the table. This I have to see I thought to myself. After all with the hours he puts in up at Kok Chang where does he find the time to become a pool player. It didn’t take me long to figure out what he was up to. He was playing a Farang who had possibly had a beer or two to many and while the guy wasn’t looking (which just happened to be most of the time), Easy would walk past the table and cassually fick one of his remaing balls into a pocket. This went on for two more games. Roger and I had a great night without having to pay for any beer. Thanks Easy….