Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Northeast Thailand

On the way through northern Thailand toward Laos, we stopped in the provincial city of Khon Kaen, arriving just in time to see the annual silk festival. Other than the festival and the beautiful but impoverished Thai women, there isn't much to attract foreigners to Khon Kaen. Nearly all of the other foreigners I saw in Khon Kaen were middle aged European or American men who went there to marry Thai women, or to meet their Thai mail order brides for the first time. When googling Khon Kaen, I found little information other than a blog by an American man who visited Khon Kaen to meet his "little honey" before bringing her to the U.S.

The northeast is one of the poorest regions of Thailand, and many of the local people must migrate to Bangkok or other areas to find work.

The silk festival parade consisted of marching bands, floats, Thai boxing and lots of people dressed in beautiful silk clothing.

In the evening we feasted on local street food

(well, we passed up that food and instead went for the tiny eggs)

while watching dance performances,

and I paid a few baht to feed an elephant on the street, which in hindsight probably wasn't very responsible in terms of the welfare of elephants.

There was little English spoken on Khon Kaen, and we got by with gestures, the patience of locals and a phrasebook which contained lots of words but didn't tell us how to pronounce them. Thai is a tonal language written in a sanskrit type writing system which is not easily transcribed into the Roman alphabet. And in any case, people in northeast Thailand primarily speak Lao rather than Thai. Despite our linguistic stumbling, people in Khon Kaen went out of their way to help us and make our visit enjoyable.

One of the many things I like about Thailand is that people smile easily. When I flashed someone a smile, they flashed it right back, and many times they were the first to smile. Thailand is, after all, known as the "Land of Smiles." I like it there.

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