Asia | South East Asia | Thailand | Northeast Thailand | Nong Khai – another day on the mekong
Started the day with an early morning bike ride along the Mekong, passing a Tai Chi class on the street along the way. Nong Khai is a laid back town of about 60,000 souls in the province of Isan, which is known for its silk production and weavings which are all over the markets. As seems to be typical of thai towns, the main transport is motorbike and bicycles (to a lesser extent). Driving appears chaotic and anarchistic, but people tend to be cautious and driver fairly slow since there are dogs, cats and people walking around every which way.
Yesterday began the volunteer orientation as it were. It was very informal, takes place on the covered patio between the open mind buildings. We received several hours of invaluable thai language and culture lessons, followed by frank discussions about the recent coup, zero drug tolerance, the disappearance of wildlife and the economic reality of rural Thailand. Heres what I learned from the Thai people i’ve spoken with (their personal opinions):
Re: the coup. Generally a good thing because the Teksin govt was more corrupt than usual and bought the goodwill of the people by offering no interest loans that they are having a hard time paying back, thus creating a bad financial situation for the govt.
Re: drugs. About 3 years ago a zero tolerance drug law was imposed which allows the govt to shoot (!) anyone they believe to be taking or dealing drugs. One of the staff said an undercover cop came to his college and shot the cook dead in front of the students because they were thought to be using drugs. Meth is called Ya ma which means drug that makes you crazy.
Re: wildlife. Rural thai people eat anything, so much of the wildlife has simply been eaten. People dont tend to value it as anything more than a source of food and money (poaching). The govt downplays poaching (and everything else) because the norm here is to keep a cool heart, so it is very unpopular to bring up anything controversial or unpleasant. I personally have only seen frogs at the market, but apparently there are separate markets elsewhere for wild meat and yet another for dog and cat meat. Think Ill skip all that in my sightseeing!
Re: rural economy. The younger generation is having a hard time making a living in rural areas of Thailand, so they go to work in factories on contract for 1 or 2 years in Korea and Canada. The husband of one Thai staff is currently working in Korea. Because there is no welfare system for the elderly, children must work to take care of their parents and there is a lot of pressure to bring home the bacon.
Re: farang men and thai women. There are loads of white westerners hooked up with Thai women over here. (Truthfully, the men are mostly not very attractive, leading me to think they can’t get laid at home. Sorry, that’s not very polite…) Anyway, apparently since rural life in Isan is so impoverished, many of the young women head to Bangkok hoping to score a farang that will take care of them and their families. So, one would hope that the arrangement is mutally beneficial. Of the couples that i have seen, both parties appeared happy and smiling, so that’s what’s important. I hear it is a status symbol to have a farang husband, and Thai women are certainly trophy material in terms of overall beauty!
Today more Thai learning and practice and also getting some tips on teaching English. Soon my work will begin. I am nervous about teaching, but will rise to the occasion i’m sure.
Oh, and i’ve posted some pictures on this and previous pages. Enjoy!
love and suk dee (good luck) to you all!