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Isaan: Home Of The Bargirls – A Visit

  • Written by Anonymous
  • April 19th, 2002
  • 31 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

By BS



THE GIRLS:

With few exceptions the bargirls and others in the sex trade come from the Chiang Mai, Lampang, or Isaan areas. The girls in the highest demand come from the northern areas particularly around Chiang Mai. This is because, for reasons unknown to me, people from this area tend to have very light skin colour. These are the girls most in demand by Asians. The girls from Isaan tend to be darker due to their Khmer and Thai Lao origin. Girls from the Chiang Mai and Lampang areas make up most of the staff of the massage parlours, Japanese and Korean bars and escort services – although there are now quite a few local Bangkok girls in the escort service business as part timers. The girls from Isaan make up the majority of the “bar girls”

The only alternatives for most of these girls are to stay at home and live in abject poverty on an almost unbelievable scale, to find a job in a factory at 150 to 200 baht a day, or get into the sex trade where they can make enough money to provide for their families at home. And once exposed to foreign tourists and their relative, (though rarely real) wealth, the dream of meeting a foreigner who would provide their families with some sustaining income is always in their mind. After they have been in the business for a while – sometimes only a matter of a few weeks, they come to realize that the foreign men they meet have other objectives – namely to have a good time with them at the least cost and then to leave them until their next trip to the land of smiles. Inevitably, over time, unless they are one of the very lucky few who meet, love and marry, they learn to take advantage of the men they meet.

The foregoing does not, however, apply to many of the girls employed part or full time by the “Escort Services”. Many of these girls are local Bangkok girls and come from respectable families and they are supplementing their income or improving their living standard through greed and whatever else it is that entices women, even in the most wealthy of nations and circumstances into this oldest of the professions. Many of these girls would, if met under different circumstances, be considered to be “nice girls”. However they tend to be among the worst of the lot if lying, cheating, and conniving is the measuring stick. I know one who is a shop clerk in a very respectable large jewellery store and who, at one time, had 4 or 5 foreign husbands, all of them sending her money every month and all of them either planning to come and live with her in Thailand or working on an immigration visa to their home country. The way she juggled their visits to Bangkok through various stories and charades was a fascinating tale of duplicity, lies, and chicanery. To top it all off I was told by a man who knows about these things that she was also involved in the trafficking of women to Malaysia. She is a real beauty too, educated, quiet, reserved, well dressed – the ultimate in deception. Unfortunately, there are many girls like her, even outside the bar scene – for she was never a “bar girl”.

Therefore if “bar girls” are your forte, and you become involved with one, chances are that she comes from Isaan province and sooner or later you will meet one who will insist on you accompanying her on a visit to her home village. And there, chances are, you will come face to face with the harsh, bitter, sickening, degrading, humiliating, and dehumanizing extreme poverty of rural Isaan.

MY TRAVEL COMPANION:

You might also learn something like I learned about a more or less typical bar girl’s family. Like this.

My girl left school at 16. Her family consists, (or consisted), of the grandfather and grandmother, her father and mother and two younger brothers. She was supported through her nine years of schooling by her father and mother who both worked as common laborers in the construction of buildings in the area, mainly houses. The working life of a common laborer in Thailand is about 10 to 12 years. A visit to any construction site will tell you why. So by the time she left school her fathers working life was pretty well over and after that he was able to work only at small short-term jobs. Both grandfather and grandmother were too old to work.

She got a job in an electronics manufacturing plant in Chiang Mai for 150 baht a day. She worked there for four years before moving to another firm in Bangkok where she made 200 baht a day. Of the maximum of 4000 baht a month she made she never sent home less than 2500 baht a month and sometimes 3000 to her family. She did this by living in 4 and 6 girls to a small room and living on less than a dollar a day for food. This money became the only stable source of income for the family other than periodic work in the rice fields and the 35 baht a day her mother sometimes made weaving Thai silk cloth. The older of her two younger brothers finished his schooling last year hoping to also get a job in a factory but the economic slowdown has dimmed his chances.

In Thailand, social services such as we are accustomed to in the western world does not exist other than that provided by a few NGOs scattered about. According to Winston Churchill even during the Great Depression, “No one starved to death in the English Speaking world”. (Although John Steinback, in his Grapes of Wrath, disagreed.) Not so in Southeast Asia. People die of starvation every day in Cambodia although today it is called malnutrition and exposure. Like the woman who died with her young baby in her arms on the sidewalk in front of our hotel in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago. If you are poor, uneducated, helpless, sick, no work, sleeping on the sidewalks, etc there is no help for you.

You can only turn to your immediate family and if they aren’t there God help you. This harsh reality of life in a developing third world country is what keeps these families together. It is important that a foreign man understand this before getting deeply involved with a girl from a poor family. Their family will always come first. This has to be accepted and understood. Unfortunately, it rarely is.

Last year her father, a smoker, as most of these poor people are, contracted lung cancer. His medical costs, mainly for pain killing drugs, were 150 to 200 baht a day. Now the family was in crisis because daughter was making only 200 baht a day in total and needed some of that to live. A girl friend got her a job as night time Go-GO dancer in a bar where she was paid 4000 baht a month. That 4000 baht added to her 4000 baht day job salary gave her father the 200 baht a day he need until he died January 5 of this year. Of course as a good looking new dancer she was in demand but the other girls and staff knowing her predicament looked after her. She was relatively unscathed by the experience. I was introduced to her last September by a mutual acquaintance who felt she would be a good girl for a long-term relationship with me. She lives with me now in an entirely new life style. She is a very nice young woman and we are very happy. But hanging over us every day is the predicament of her family and her responsibilities to them.

I relate this story because I know that the family aspect of it is typical of all of these girls. As Stickman says you ought to stay away from bar girls. Not many western men can cope with the scene through a long term relationship or marriage.

ISAAN REALITIES:

Its hard to believe that this province, which comprises a large chunk of Thailand roughly a third to half of the land area and with 20 million of the roughly 62 million total Thai population people, remains so poor compared to the rest of the country – but poor it is.

There has been some previous discussion in Stickman’s weeklies about the advisability of visits with the girls to these rural areas. I am not a particularly typical visitor having spent a lot of time in rural Cambodia. So I have been exposed to the extremes of poverty and deprivation before. But I am not hardened to it as some people apparently are and I cannot accept it as an inevitable aspect of human existence on this earth. Probably, if you are like me and you are affected by this sort of thing you should stay away from these villages. One's sensitivity to these sorts of thing is dulled by drink – unfortunately, (or is it fortunate?), I don’t drink much. It is a consideration though and I think you will be better off with a “glow – on”.

Its one thing for a middle class tourist to ooh and aah over watching an old lady weave a silk cloth on a handloom in her yard. The more astute observer would note that the yard is full of wandering chickens and their excrement, that the buffalo are paraded through the yard every morning and evening and their excrement rots in the yard; the stables are below her sleeping quarters; that the only water available for cooking or drinking is water drained off the rooftops when it rains and it is polluted from storage in the large vats strewn about and sitting in the 35 or 40 degree heat; that most of the cooking is done over wood fires because there is no money for either a stove or cooking gas; that there is no fridge, that the place is swarming with flies; that the nearest medical clinic is 20 km away and the nearest good hospital 200; that in any case there is no money for medial care; that the toilet consists of a squatting hole that drains into a hole in the ground and is separated from the outdoor kitchen area by only open lattice framework; that there is no paper and you clean the excess from your rectum with your hand dipped in the common water container; and that in the evenings and mornings the place is swarming with malaria and dengue fever laden mosquitoes.

On inquiry the astute observer would learn that this old lady works at least 8 hours a day at her little loom and earns, if she is lucky in her sales, a grand total of about 35 baht or 80 cents a day.

The degree to which you are bothered by these sorts of things should be a major factor in your consideration of the advisability of a visit.

PREPARATION:

Assuming that you have decided to make a visit to a village in the province your next most important consideration should be prevention and care of your health. It is very easy to become far too complacent about disease when one spends his time in cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, or Phuket. But these are the tropics and if you are not careful terrible illness can strike you down at any time. (Sometimes even when you are careful). One mosquito bite can bring you down with a virulent killing case of malaria or set you back for days with Dengue Fever. One sip of polluted water can bring Typhoid Fever. I made a mistake one evening in Cambodia and drank half a glass of polluted water. You cannot imagine what it is like to have a case of the virulent dysentery that I caught. Unless you have experienced it you cannot fathom the degree of the dehydration. Water literally pours out of your rectum. Only the antibiotics, anti-parasite drugs and rehydration salts I was carrying with me saved my life. As it was I was so dehydrated in 12 hours that my lips were sheet white.

My advice with respect to health in rural area is this. Don’t even consider such travel if you are allergic to any antibiotics. That is a given. Forget about all you read about the widespread misuse of antibiotics without prescription. You must look after yourself. These articles are written by people who have never been 200 kilometres from a hospital while flat on their backs with malaria or some other tropical disease. Secondly, don’t consider travel in the rural areas if you do not have a full set of immunizations and vaccinations. You should have Typhoid, Typhus, Tetanus, Meningitis, Polio, and Hepatitis A & B. And if you plan on being cute by munching on a rat or two with the peasants in the rice fields of Cambodia or Vietnam you had better be immunized against the bubonic plague as well! All of these should be entered in your international immunization card and carried with your passport. If in spite of all advice to the contrary and against all human logic you insist on partaking of a bit of the old “In-Out” it is also a good idea to get a medical book and simply scan through the long list of venereal diseases prevalent throughout Asia. It’s a long, scary list and just scanning it will dampen the ardor of even the horniest of men.

Get yourself a clearly marked first aid kit about 5 by 8 inches, empty it out and equip it with the following: Antibiotic ointment, Antibiotic ear and eye drops, 6 tablets of Fansidar, 15 tablets of Amoxill (general antibiotic) 500 mg., 15 tablets of Tetracycline 250 mg, 15 tablets of Lomotil or Imodium; 20 tablets of Flagyl 250 mg (for water borne parasite infestations of the gut) now the most common cause of severe dysentery and not prevented by boiling water or even chorine, some band aids, a small roll of bandage, a roll of elastic bandage, a pair of small tweezers, and a small bottle of anti-insect ointment containing Deet. Follow the instructions for using these drugs and when you get back to the city go to a good doctor in a hospital and explain what happened to you and what medications you took. He (or She) will handle it from there.

Purchase and carry with you a mosquito net and use it.

You will have to make a personal decision on whether to use preventative tablets or rely on other means of malaria prevention such as ointments and netting and, as a desperate attempt at a cure, Fansidar. Fansidar is not very effective now. The problem with the preventative tablets is that the only really effective medicine can have side effects and is useless unless it is taken as intended – that is prior to and well after your return. Talk it over with a good pharmacist. Another problem with malaria and dengue fever is diagnosis – so if you really come down with a fever you have to decide on Fansidar, Antibiotics, or both.

I know that some of these medications are prescription drugs back home and most travel books caution against carrying them through customs although they are available across the counter at all pharmacies in Asia. I can only say that in my extensive travel throughout Asia over the past 6 years I have always carried such a first aid kit in my carry on bag which has been searched many times and not once has anyone ever questioned me on the contents. Just make sure they are in their unopened, clearly marked packages, and in a clearly marked first aid kit. However, if you are worried about it you can always put together a kit like this perfectly legally on arrival in Thailand or Cambodia, for example, and discard it when you leave. The cost is minimal.

No matter where you are there will be a little store not far away where you can purchase bottled water. Buy it and insist on using it for everything, even brushing your teeth. The locals probably can’t afford it but you can. And always look carefully at the contents of the bottle. Look for sentiment and lack of clarity.

Boiling water is ineffective in ridding it of parasites and poisons such as pesticides. In Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh, the more well to do people in the expensive residences have large pressure cookers in which they “cook” the tap water for 20 minutes under pressure at temperatures well above the boiling point. Some people in Thailand probably do this as well. This cooking under pressure is supposed to kill the parasites as well as bacteria. They use this water for drinking and cooking. Don’t trust it.

Take more money than you think you are going to need when you visit these villages. You will want to buy some food for the large evening family gatherings and some cola and Mekong whiskey goes a long way to promoting conversation and friendship. If you don’t know any Thai, language is a problem. But I was well coached in etiquette by my girl and she handled some basic translation. At any time a smile will get you by a difficult moment.

All of the forgoing is simply common sense. It is also common sense to stay off motorcycles. The number of people killed and injured on these things in Thailand is astounding. During the four days of our trip in the Songkran Festival week this year 279 people were killed and 19,000 injured on the roads of Thailand, most of them on motorcycles.

TRAVEL:

You should travel by bus even if there is an airport nearby. If you are undertaking this visit you must want to experience this area of Thailand the way the locals do – so use their means of transport.

The bus station for the northern destination buses is way out from the Sukhumvit area – a 100 baht taxi ride. We left around midnight and that is advisable since the traffic to the bus station is light at that time of day. The buses are well organized. Tickets should be purchased there a few days in advance. <This is actually not necessary unless you are travelling at the busiest times – Stick> There are various classes of buses and tickets. The fares are amazingly low. Return fare on an aircon first class bus is less than 800 baht. Your seats are reserved in advance. Some of the buses are old. Therefore never take seats at the back or near the back. The engines are noisy and the shocks are bad and it is a rough ride in seats 35 and 37 as I can attest. It’s a 5-hour ride to Chaiyaphum during the midnight hours but this will stretch out to 7 hours or more due to heavy traffic during the daylight runs.

MY VISIT:

My girl hadn’t been home in a long time and like all of these rural girls she wanted to be home for the Songkran Festival. Partly to accommodate her, and partly to see the country for myself, I agreed to take her to her village about 40 km from Chaiyaphum.

My girl’s family including grandfather, grandmother, mother and two brothers plus various cousins and family friends met us on arrival at the station. Altogether a good 15 or 16 people with 3 pick up trucks. We piled in the back for the 40 km or so ride to her small village where we arrived at the crack of dawn.

Oh, it’s grim! Cambodia all over again. Shacks with corrugated iron roofs with more sheets nailed haphazardly on the frame to form walls. The only door of any significance is the large barn type door at the front entrance.

These village shacks all have the same basic interiors. They are two story affairs with the main downstairs room more or less bare of any furniture except a TV and VCR. The floor is concrete. No sofas or chairs. There are a few straw mats to sit and lay on. There is a rickety stairway to the upper room which is the main sleeping area although depending on the size of the family there may be people sleeping all over the main concrete floor as well as upstairs. There are no windows as such. The place will be full of large gaps in the siding and cracks in the floors. There is no protection from mosquitoes although in our case there were several nettings available – lucky for me because I had forgotten to bring one. I am getting careless in my old age!

The kitchen is outdoors next to the house under a lean-to nailed to the outer wall. Most of the cooking is done over a wood fire although they had a small gas range but I suspect no money for gas. There is no refrigerator. Therefore, food must be purchased as and when required. Pork and fish don’t keep long in the heat and are soon covered with flies that are in abundance. I don’t know where they get the food. I suspect there is a butcher in the village somewhere who supplies fresh meat and fish. Various carts and bicycles go by all day, their riders selling various fruits.

The common toilet, bathroom, wash-up room is outside next to the kitchen. It consists of a concrete block room about 7 feet square with a corrugated iron roof. In our case an old rusty chunk of roofing salvaged from somewhere. There is a large concrete square box full of water with two small plastic basins floating in it. The floor is concrete. On one side is a squat hole which must have a U-trap under it as one flushes it by dipping one of the small basins into the tub and pouring it down the hole. There is no smell which given the circumstances was a pleasant surprise. After one squats over the hole and defecates the procedure is to fill a basin with water and wash yourself. There is no paper so you use your hand or hands. Having completed your toilet you flush the remaining water down the squat hole and return the basin to the tub where the next person uses it to pour water over his or her body as a shower bath. This water drains away through a hole in the floor. There is some soap lying about so you can use a basin of water and wash your hands. There is certainly no septic system or underground holding tanks so I take it the wastewater simply is drained into a large hole. Hence the pollution of all the well water.

Each of the houses in the village has several (as many as 6) large concrete vats in the yard. These stand around 5 feet high and 4 or 5 feet across at their widest point. They look like they come from the “Plain of Jars”. They have tin lids. They store rainwater, which is used for drinking and cooking. This is obtained by draining it from the house roofs via a couple of portable tin troughs. Bottled drinking water is available from the local small store but no one can afford it. Hence the need to store the rain water. In the dry season, like now, these vats of water sit out in the sun and since even basic hygiene does not exist one can only surmise what is in this water after it sits for a couple of months or more. Think of the good one could do for these people simply by explaining what they could do with a gallon of bleach.

My girl’s home was one of the worst of the lot. Anything of any significance had been purchased by her including the roof; new beams made from salvaged wood, TV, VCR, 150-cc motorcycle. But basically the place is unsalvageable. Another thing which one notices is that anything of value that these people do manage to acquire such as motorcycles, bicycles, TV’s, VCRs are badly looked after. Everything is beat up after a couple of weeks or months. It’s like the majority of welfare cases look everywhere in the world.

Often the upper level of the house extends over the stable for the cattle (buffalo) where they are housed during the night. The house next to ours was like this and to let us have a bit of a rest after our all night trip they had laid out a couple of sleeping pads over the stables where we were able to lay down for a couple of hours.

Early in the morning the cattle are let out to forage in the adjoining rice paddies and are herded down the narrow concrete road that forms the main street of the village. In the early evening they all come back to the security of the stables for the night. So in the early morning and early evening they meander down the street defecating as they go. Their spoor remains on the concrete road and dries in the sun.

The house yards and street is swarming with chickens, mostly a scrawny bunch, interspersed with a few outstanding fighting roosters for cock-fighting is a popular sport in the village although I didn’t make it to one. The chickens shit all over the place and combined with the manure on the streets the place is a hotbed of rapidly reproducing houseflies. Thousands of them.

And here we are wandering around all this polluted ground in our bare feet in sandals. No protection at all. If you ever needed tetanus shots this is the place. This is not the time to get a cut or sore or even a scratch on a foot.

As usual these poor people are probably the most hospitable people in the world. There is nothing that they won’t do for you to make you welcome. I guess very few foreigners make it out to these places. I assume that many of the younger people have travelled to Bangkok or Chiang Mai and have thus been exposed to foreigners previously but this is not the case with the majority of these people. Many of them had never seen a foreign white man before. The first day a group of the older and middle aged women surrounded me outside the house and were marvelling at the colour of my skin. They said I was beautiful – skin like a woman and tall like a God. This happened to me once before away up in a village of the smallest people I have ever seen; a hill tribe in the far northeast corner of Cambodia. It was certainly unexpected in central Thailand.

However this simply reinforces the fact that tourists, (even backpackers), rarely visit this large area of Thailand, the exception being the annual elephant roundup in Surin. Even during this festival holiday I never saw a foreigner in Chaiyaphum and as far as I could tell there was only one hotel. I am sure there must have been a few men like me in the company of their girl but I never saw one. In any case, it is not the place for the average run of the mill tourist

I suggest that, no matter to what extent you are a “party animal” it is probably a good idea to avoid large celebrating crowds. We went one evening to a concert near the large village Wat. Young Thai men in these villages, as in peasant villages everywhere I suppose, tend to drink far too much and drunkenness is widespread at these affairs. To make matters worse there is a lot of amphetamine type drugs around the poor areas of Thailand and this stuff when mixed with alcohol makes people crazy and dangerous. I didn’t like some of the vibes I was getting and we left early. Incidentally take along a small flashlight (torch). When there is a power failure at midnight in these places and you have to walk a couple of kilometres in pitch darkness you will wish you had one!

You are going to be offered a lot of food. Your gut has no immunity to the microbes that are in it. So if you do not want to spend the remaining time of your visit on the squat hole and in the unbelievable dirty toilets at the bus stops on the way back to Bangkok you are going to have to work out some means of defense. There are two that I can think of. On arrival after waking from a short rest and making a quick survey of the situation I sent my girl to the little village store for 12 bottles of water and some Nescafe and creamer for my “sick” stomach. “Something I ate before leaving Bangkok”. Hence, due to a previously contracted illness I was unable to eat. And I didn’t eat for two days until I got the lay of the land so to speak. Much to my surprise no one in the village drank coffee or even tea. Hence the Nescafe. So I had lots of coffee made with my bottled water along with creamer and Mom’s sugar. Later I saved the hosts some face by eating some boiled rice. I was okay.

The second defense I have heard of, and one that is used by many travelers to India, is to take 250 mg of a general anti-biotic every day you are in country. I’m sure it works but I am equally sure that doctors oppose it for all sorts of logical and medical reasons. But it’s probably not a bad idea for a 2 or 3 day trip.

Don’t ever think that the locals don’t get sick. They certainly do. Most of them are sick all the time and from the look of a lot of the teeth many of them are in constant pain too. I met several men and women my age and younger who looked like they were 100 years old. Torn down is an inadequate description. I am sure the life expectancy of these people must be in the fifties or even less.

On the second evening there was a big family meal. I confined my portion to a small helping of plain boiled rice. Of course my girl friend did not take any precautions. She felt that having lived there most of her life she would have some immunity. Wrong. There are no built in immunities. I realized that in 1995 when I saw Cambodian soldiers being brought out from the battle areas in northwestern Cambodia on stretchers dying of malaria.

About midnight my girl became violently ill. Terrible consecutive vomiting every 10 to 15 minutes. The problem with a real bout of food poisoning is that it may be accompanied by dysentery and if you cannot stop the vomiting you cannot keep down oral antibiotics needed to cure the dysentery. Then you have a real problem. You cannot keep taking antibiotics because you don't know how much is being absorbed and how much excreted in the vomit. The only cure then is a hospital and intravenous antibiotic.

Fortunately for us, after a dose of antibiotic (probably all excreted) and a few hours she recovered and with a half liter of water with dissolved rehydration rehydration salts the next morning she was okay. But be aware, this is what can happen to you. Take care and be prepared.

One afternoon in the company of several village children and a few liters of bottled water, we walked for a couple of kilometres through the rice paddies. There were several large man made ponds where rainwater is trapped and which sustain the buffalo, which graze there. These buffalo are still widely used in the cultivation of the fields although I did see a couple of the rice paddy tractors around. These are interesting pieces of machinery consisting of a short main frame steered by a couple of trailing bars operated by a man walking behind. They are driven by a small exposed diesel engine mounted over the front of the frame, which powers the transmission through a belt. The contraption can be utilized to as a tug for wagons or various pieces of machinery.

Each paddy is fairly small, perhaps 1 by 200 meters. They are divided by rows of man made hummocks, irrigation ditches, holes, trenches, etc. to control the flow of water. As far as I could discern most of the work is done by hand including the seeding and harvesting. It must be back breaking work. On subsequent trips I will see it being planted and harvested.

Once I met a Cambodian woman on a flight out of Phnom Penh. She had escaped the Khmer Rouge horror by making it to a camp in Thailand when she was just a little girl. Now she is a successful businesswoman in San Francisco. She was taking out a little eleven year old girl; a distant relative she and her husband had adopted. She told me that the problem she always encountered when visiting Cambodia was that she was so devastated by the poverty she encountered among her distant surviving relatives that she never had so much as a cent left when she left the country to return to her home in the States. She gave away all the money she could get her hands on every trip.

This is a problem you are going to encounter in these villages unless you have a heart of iron. You want to do something to help these people; in particular the immediate family of your girl friend, and you will probably be back with empty pockets. So, as I said before, take a little more than you think you are going to need, but don’t take money you are going to need later. You may be so overcome that you end up giving it all away. I met a man once who told me to never give these people anything except something that will assist them to develop an income of their own. I suppose an example might be a new loom for an old lady. Or, as I did once in Cambodia, the purchase of a motorcycle for two little 15 year old girls to get to and from work in a Chinese garment factory for $40 a month. I also paid $50 for each of them to get their jobs. Two years later they were still working there riding that bike to and from work with enough income to support them and their families. Take this advice into consideration or you may find yourself pouring your money into a bottomless pit.

I discovered that the old women in almost every house earned a little money by weaving Thai silk cloth. They sell these pieces for 300 baht apiece to a dealer who comes around once in a while. They end up being sold on the streets in Bangkok for 500 baht and up. I watched and filmed some of them at this work on their small home looms. Their income assuming the dealer comes around and buys works out to about 35 baht (80 cents) a day. The dealer hasn’t been around for a long time and they all have a surplus. So I helped them (and me) by buying a dozen pieces at 300 baht each to pass on as gifts to my family back home.

Of course each of these villages has a few families with money, new trucks, nice homes etc. I suppose they are the landowners. I don’t know the intricacies of the village life – yet.

When we left, half the village was there to see us off. I certainly have a lot of empathy for these people notwithstanding that they are affected, as the poor are everywhere, with a lassitude, and a propensity to drink, gambling, whoring, and probably murder on occasion. We caught the bus back in Chaiyaphum at 8 PM. An easy, smooth, ride back, in seats in the middle of the bus.

On return to Bangkok my girl discovered that I had been bitten by some sort of tick several times on my back. She squeezed out the body of one that was about two times the size of the head of a pin. The other holes were about the size of a pinhead but they had bored in deep. I don’t know what they are or were. Maybe they came from the cattle we slept above the first night. Maybe someone out there can tell me. At home in Western Canada these kinds of ticks, which are found in the big pine and spruce forests, can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, which is a killer. I hope there is no such fever in Isaan!

So there you have it. All in all it was very interesting. If you go it will be one of the great experiences of your life – for better or worse. But as I said it’s not for the average tourist so do go prepared.

Good Luck.

Stickman says:

Thank you for a wonderful and ever so practical article about touring Isaan. It is something that I have yet to do, and which sadly I may never get to experience.