My New Family In Isaan
Last month I went to LOS for my third and longest stay yet. It was to be twelve full days in the Magic Kingdom. The flight was a long one: from New York to Chicago to Tokyo and then finally on to Bangers. I arrived at 9 P.M. sharp on a Monday and was re-energized with a feel you can only get when landing in Thailand. The whole flight I was thinking about the next twelve days. I made many plans in my mind. Some I did achieve, some I did not. I guess thats the nature of the beast when on holiday in the Kingdom. Upon touchdown in BKK it was a taxi-meter to Nana Hotel and check in. Everything went smooth and by 10 P.M. I was at NEP. Having visited in March and July of this year there were many "friends" I had to say hello to. It was nice seeing their faces again and I felt the girls were genuinely happy to see me. Long story short, I barfined a lady that night and you all know the rest. I spent Tuesday drinking Heinekens at a beer bar very close to Nana Hotel and that evening ended up pretty much the same as the first.
Wednesday night the highlight of my holiday began. I ran into…lets call her Lek at a GoGo bar on the BOTTOM (hint hint) level of Nana Plaza. Lek was special to me. I had spent time with her on my previous two visits. She was actually the first BG I'd ever BF'D. No guys I am not in love here….but she does hold a special place in my heart. I was very happy to see her as she was to see me. After a few drinks and some chit chat I went ahead and paid the bar for her. She changed over and her and I sat there for a few more drinks. I am in great standing with everyone at the bar. The Owner, Manager, Mamasan, DJ…all the way down to the waiters. So staying there felt like partying with old friends you hadn't seen in a while. This also gained Lek much face. Sitting in the corner booth with this well liked Farang brought her much respect from all the other girls. She was loving it. As we sat there and talked I mentioned to her that I would love to see more of Thailand then NEP. I know a BG is probably not the best choice as a tour guide…but what the hell right? Anyway, I made the proposition of taking her up North to meet the folks and spend some time in the village. I don't think I have ever seen a girl smile so bright or get as excited as she did when I mentioned this. She was all for the idea. I also think she was ready for some R&R from the bright lights and big city atmosphere that is Bangkok. So I went ahead and paid her barfine for the next five nights. The good thing was they only charged me for three. I was surprised by this and when I asked Mamasan about it she just smiled and said "You want pay five?" My reply was a great smile and "kawp koon!".
So it was set. This would give us Wednesday night through Sunday night. Wednesday night Lek stayed with me at the Nana. Thursday morning she awoke early and said she would be back at 11 A.M. Sure enough at 11 on the dot she arrived with a small carry-on bag and we were ready to roll.
Lek recommended we take a bus up to Khon Kaen. Me being the stupid Farang that I am (at times) refused. I wanted to take a taxi-meter not knowing the quality of buses in Thailand. I also remember reading a Farangs story of going upcountry in an open air bus and it was a complete nightmare. So I insisted on taking the taxi. To this she gave me a confused look and said "Up to you". She worked out a deal with the taxi guy. It would cost 3000 baht ($65) one way. So, away we went. In retrospect I was an idiot for not taking the bus.
Six hours and 400 KM later we arrived in what seemed to be 200 years prior. It was as if the taxi-meter had become a time machine and landed us somewhere in the 1800's. To be honest I was thinking what have I got myself into. As always I kept a positive outlook and a smile on my face. I had brought the whiskey for Papa and the little gifts for Mama and the two brothers. How could I go wrong? Simply put, I could not.
I must say I did a lot of homework before attempting this trip. Thanks to web sights like this one and a few others I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. I wouldn't recommend attempting to go upcountry without doing at least some research. You might have a rough go of it otherwise.
Once in Khon Kaen I booked a room at the local hotel (Wan Chai Hotel) just in case I needed a back up plan. Next it was off to buy food for the family (village). She bought so much food..enough to feed a Division of Marines I thought. I was amazed by how much we got for the price. Now I know food is cheap in LOS but this was ridiculous. I think it was cheeper in Khon Kaen then Bangkok. How can it be any cheaper then Bangkok??? I don't know. Lets just say we had everything you could imagine and some things I don't even know.
At this point we are on the last leg of the journey. Next stop Mama & Papa's and the village. I must say I was nervous and excited at the same time. Here I had this beautiful creature sitting next to me that was so happy she was literally glowing. I kept the thought in my mind that no matter what happens I am going to make the best of this experience.
The further we travelled the more buffalo patties I started noticing on the road. We were "truly upcountry" I kept thinking to myself. Then Lek starts pointing out to the driver where to turn and so on. I knew we were just about there at this point. Next thing you know we are on a dirt road littered with potholes and rock. I am sure the taxi guy was thinking twice about taking this mission. We bottomed out a few times he had to grind the gears a few times and then just like that we were there. At first the villagers didn't know what to think. First of all you have a taxi-meter from BKK showing up in the village at around 10 P.M. on a Thursday night. On top of that you have this light skinned Farang getting out of it. To a certain extent I understand what a martian might fell like if he landed in the States somewhere. Then Lek emerged from the taxi. At that point I formed a new appreciation for what family means in Thailand. The family was so happy to see her they had tears in their eyes. It had been six months since her prior visit. Right then the money, cab ride, and my concerns went out the window. I felt safe and in good hands. I knew from that moment on I had made the right choice.
That night was a night I will never forget. We went to her parent's house which consisted of basically a building made of cynder block. It had places for windows but no glass. I don't think Papa could afford actual windows. It was no problem, at night the mid-November breeze in Isaan is quite refreshing. The evening started out with Lek, myself, Mama, Papa, the two brothers, and four neighbours. By midnight there were probably 30 people there. We were singing, dancing, and gambling. It was great! I found that Thais do indeed gamble on just about everything and anything. At one point I was betting them 10 baht a piece I could throw my baseball cap on to the top of the ice box from across the room. I won a couple and I lost a couple. There was one guy there that had an exceptionally good voice. He did most of the singing for the night. My participation consisted of clapping along with the beat and dancing with Lek and Mama. I did (after a few Mekong and cokes) do my rendition of Hotel California. This amazed them and they though it was incredible. If any Westerner would of heard it I am sure they would of had a good laugh.
At around 1 A.M. a few of the senior villagers showed up. They must have a network in the village that is better then any phone or E-mail system… Like a Farang alarm system or something. Word spread fast and the senior villagers were there to check out this Farang man. The seniors consisted of two couples. I am by no means an expert on Thai culture but I do know this. They had the respect of that village. When they walked in wais were flying, and sawatdee krap all around. After observing me for a few minutes they came to the conclusion that I was jai-dee. This made Lek's family very happy. This also made me feel good and a little relieved to be honest.
The night progressed on. At around 3 A.M. these people were still going with an energy that you have to see to appreciate. Next thing, I see one of the older women making up this elaborate bed for Lek and I. Complete with roll out mattress, blankets, pillows, and last but not least a nice mosquito net. I realized I wasn't going back to the hotel that night. I really didn't care either. I was having a ball. After the long day of travel and repeated shots of Mekong I was happy to call it a night at around 4 A.M. Lek and I laid down under the stars and mosquito netting and frolicked a bit. I was surprised her parents let us sleep together. I really didn't know what to expect on that end. I had no problems with the way the arrangements worked out. That night was possibly the most passionate love making I have ever experienced in my short 28 year existence. I don't know if it was to show appreciation for me taking her home or what. All I know is that it was unreal and not to be forgotten.
I awoke 7 A.M. Friday morning to the sound of ice cubes hitting an empty glass. I looked over through the netting to see Papa pouring two Mekong and Cokes. We made eye contact and he kinda gave me that come have a drink with me nod. So you guessed it, time to kill the hangover by drowning it.
The morning is Isaan was spectacular. The rice fields had a dew over them and the countryside was amazing. Obviously I hadn't seen any of it the night before coming in so late. The hangover coupled with a few early morning cocktails had me, shall we say introspective about the land. Lek kept sleeping though I don't know how. For those of you who haven't been to a working Thai village, the noises are sharp. You have a collage of dogs fighting, roosters crowing, buffalo mooing, motorbikes screaming by, babies crying, and people laughing. When you mix it all together it tends to be quite noisy even by 7 A.M. As I said earlier I think Lek really needed a break from BKK so she had no problem sleeping through it all. By the time she awoke ( around 11 A.M.) Papa and I had already got me checked out of the hotel and went on a beverage run. During this trip I bought two huge bags of candy for all the little ones running around. I figured this would be a good gesture on my part and it was received well.
Upon our return back to the village Lek was waiting for me with a smile on her face. She says "time you and me shower". To this I was a little confused. So far I hadn't seen anything that even resembled a shower. She grabbed a bar of soap and my hand and away we go to the shower. It was located about 20 feet behind the house we were staying at. The shower consisted of an open concrete tub of rain water with a small bucket in it. Outside the tube was a small drain. The walls were made of cyder block and there was a tin roof overhead. We got in there and even thought the facilities are no match to the west it could have been my best bathing experience ever. She bathed me and kept dumping these cool buckets of water over me. One of many incredible experiences that weekend. Later that day we had duck for lunch. Can you say fresh duck? I watched Leks father kill this duck and pluck the feathers. Best damn duck I ever had.
I could go on and on about the experiences and discoveries I made during my weekend in this small Isaan farm village. But I won't…I'll let you the reader hopefully have a few on your own.
We stayed until Sunday morning and then caught the bus back to BKK. 250 Baht a piece with air con & good ride. Hell, they even showed a movie in English. Half of the village came to the bus station to wish us farewell. I was never asked for money or anything my whole weekend there. These people didn't expect me to give them money or gifts. I did buy a few gifts in order to keep with their traditions and customs. I was no Cheap Charlie…But then again I didn't go appliance shopping either. The whole trip cost me around 10,000 baht ($225). That includes the idiotic 3,000 baht taxi ride up there. Sometimes it pays to listen to your girl. So I spent around 7,000 baht for food and DRINK for the village for an entire weekend.
We returned to BKK on Sunday evening. The Nana Hotel was a welcome sight. We showered and ate. Lek fell asleep and I went to check my E-mail. Thank God nothing important from Farangland. I hadn't been in touch with the world for the previous 5 days. After checking the E-mail I ordered a Heineken and logged on to your site Stickman to check out the weekly. I read it with a feeling of accomplishment that week. Like I somehow had been a part of what you write about. After reading the weekly it was back to the room and to bed. I was exhausted.
I only wish I knew what the future holds for Lek and I. I hope to see her again someday and I only wish her the very best.
I wish her and My New Family in Isaan the very best!!!
A visit to Isaan can be a very rewarding experience, especially if one does their homework as you did. Sounds like you had it well planned, staying long enough to get a good feel for village life, but not so long as to bore yourself. I really enjoyed this story.