Friday, 10 July 2015

Heading north.

Jason and the Argonauts type statue taken from a speedin Tuktuk.

I'm now back in Thailand, in a place called Nong Khai, which is just the other side of the Mekong. I arrived yesterday afternoon after picking up my Burmese visa. At the frontier, I got a Tuktuk and asked the driver for the town centre. At first, I was under the impressions that he was reasonably proficient in English, but was mistaken. By comparison, my Spanish is on a level with Cervantes; even my German, which nowadays, is almost non-existent, is better than that.

There ensued a ridiculous conversation:

'Town Centre please.'

'No problem, train station.'

'No. Town centre, er, City centre?'

'Hotel, yes?'

And so on....

I was finally deposited in a shopping mall on the edge of town, featuring all my favorites: KFC, Starbucks, McD's etc.

The information desk inside wasn't any better. At least I've learned to see the funny side of these situations and was much cheered to discover that there was a sale on. There were piles of clothes of mainly European origin at bargain prices. I got an 'English' shirt, made in Madagascar, another pair of shorts in a fetching mustard colour and some good quality Chinos for 15€.

Heartened by my purchases, had another go at asking directions and made it to the pleasant town centre. Decided to pamper myself and booked into the first hotel I came across. For the outrageous sum of 13€, got a luxurious, modern room with great shower and a television, which started showing a Thai soap as soon as I inserted my door card in the slot. Hate soaps, (apart from the earlier episodes of 'Shameless). Only small problem was that there were no power sockets. Finally managed to charge the iPad using the TV connection and various bit and pieces to keep the plug in place.

After a shower, went to a funeral.I was hungry and went for a walk around. After a quick look at the Mekong and taking some sunset shots, which were immediately erased, found a street where there were white plastic chairs down one side.

The Mekong at sunset.

Being back in Thailand, went to a German restaurant, as you do. The owner was Thai, but had obviously worked out the tourist situation. The menu was in Thai, German and English and most of the customers were middle-aged German guys. Ordered a schnitzel, which would have been too much for the Flintstones and asked one of the guys what the chairs and gathering crowd were all about. Was astonished to find that they couldn't speak English.

An Australian guy at the bar informed me that it was the funeral of a local dignitary. By this time, it was standing room only. The interesting thing was the cheerfulness of the whole thing. The audience or congregation were all very smiley and adopted the Thai prayer gesture, as monks chanted, occasionally sending texts, or photographing the proceedings. I recorded some of the chants, but they will have to await my return to Europe, as, so far, I haven't worked out a way of uploading them to the iPad.

Took one or two pictures, but didn't want to appear an interloper.

Funeral ceremony.

Am now sitting at the bus garage, having bought a night-bus ticket to Chang Mai. It's 1.35, and I have a wait of 5 hours before boarding. Bought an iced drink at random. Thought it was tea, very strange, it tasted like sweet celery juice. I don't like celery that much, but still, it was refreshing.

In the last few days, I've noticed that Tuktuk drivers keep calling me 'Papa.' This is better than 'Sir,' a word I detest, but even so....

Perhaps, with my beard, they think I'm Ernest Hemingway. As I've said before, us Europeans all look alike over here.

Or maybe they think I'm the Pope travelling incognito. Heaven forbid that it should be something to do with my advancing years.





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