My time in Sakon Nakhon took me back to the reason I love to travel. Initially I felt a little out of my comfort zone but I soon adapted to the ‘Isaan’ way of life. The humidity accommodates one to several naps per day and everyone seemed very relaxed and content with life. Don’t get me wrong, those rice farmers work hard, really hard and I have a new found appreciation of rice and how it’s made but, no one is stuck in the rat race, the daily 8am-5pm (usually longer) grind. From commuting around in the back of a ute, to catching a songtaew, to visiting a cricket farm, to watching animals roam free in the streets to washing my clothes (Asian style) and appreciating how water on Dad’s property is pumped from a well I think I truly immersed myself into the Isaan way of life and loved every moment!
This was the first time visiting my Dad, his Thai family and their rice farms. I rarely get to see my Dad (once every few years) as he’s a bit of a travelling nomad but has finally set himself up in Thailand. The best memory from my stay with him is travelling on the back of his motorbike with the wind in my hair exploring the villages and being toured around the rice farms. I didn’t even mind the bushwalking and massive bruises I got from trying to follow him up to a rice hut. Safe to say I don’t have the same upper body strength as my Dad.
Phra That Phu Pek
Following a full day of sightseeing in the hot sun, Dad “forced” me to climb up 491 very steep stairs to get to a Buddhist temple ruin of Khmer origin, built in 16th-17th century (having flashbacks to my childhood of being forced to climb mountains when I just wanted to have tea parties and put on makeup). As I sweated profusely in the humidity and my unfitness, dodging the hundreds of millipedes along the way, my step sister, Mew, explained to me there are 7 bells on the way up to signify the 7 stages/stairs to heaven. When we arrived the peace and serenity was something else. There was a cool breeze and something so magical about the place I can’t quite explain but if there is a heaven I imagine the atmosphere would feel something like this and in this moment I was grateful that I had sweated my way up to these ancient ruins.
English is limited here so trying to explain ‘no meat’ every time we went out to eat proved to be difficult, I would end up with either extra meat, a small sprinkling of meat on top or just a bowl of plain noodles. With all the mystery foods from green goo, fried frogs, bamboo concoctions and fried crickets I did find myself eating A LOT of lays chips. I was on the fence about eating insects but eventually decided against it. On the plus side despite being a bit confused about my requests no one questioned me about my vegetarianism in contrast to Australia where people insist on getting all the details of why I’ve stopped eating meat and sometimes even want to get into a political debate about how one person is not going to make a difference to the environment and the food and beverage industry. Either way food was cheap, real cheap. Around 30 baht for a big bowl of noodles ($1.15) but the best noodles I ever had (and the one and only time I got vegetarian noodles) was only 25 baht ($0.96)!!! I also got to try a lot of new and exotic fruits, some were really yummy and others not so much.
Ork is a special friend I made during my stay that deserves his own paragraph! Ork is special and even by Caucasian standards he is a large boy. At 14 years old he looks like a fully grown man but once you start talking to/communicating with him you realise his sweet, gentle and naïve nature. Ork lived a few houses down but would randomly turn up to the house uninvited, wander through and look for my Dad who he watched with intense inquisition (a farang aka foreigner aka expat in this area is rare to come by). As Ork spoke no English we would communicate with hand signals, smiles and a combination of repeating the same Thai and English words over and over again to each other. One morning, very early I heard someone knocking on the bedroom door, I assumed it was my Dad and kept saying come in but the knocking continued. When I eventually got out of bed, there was Ork sitting and waiting for me to come out with a big smile on his face. They started locking the front gate after that…Thanks for your company and all the laughs Ork! Was so great to meet you.
Wat Tham Pha Daen
If you’re up in this part of Thailand and get a chance to visit, it’s well worth it. The architecture is amazing, intricate and mesmerising. Try your luck purchasing a cup of coins and throwing them into the wishing wells overlooking the countryside, each one represents desires in life, winning the lotto, health, wealth, love and happiness. I tried my luck at all and managed to land a single coin in the best one, happiness!
**In transit from Thailand to Nepal I received some very heartbreaking news. Read about the hardest day I've experienced in all my travels and how I dealt with it here**