Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bangkok Is Not Thailand

This is Mukdahan, on its walkway by the Mekong. When I first went there, the walkway was empty; the last time I was on it, it was crowded with vendors. The view is still exhilarating and two years ago, I could still buy coffee from this truck and watch the river as I drank it.

Across the river is Savannakhet, another favorite spot, where Laos people are separated from their Thai relatives only by the border formed by the Mekong. The language, the food, the friendliness is the same as it is across the Friendship Bridge that takes me over the river into another country.

Along the river, a short van ride away is Nakhon Phanom, I still miss that lovely, peaceful place.

And there's Korat, where I always stop and spend a day or two before going on to the Mekong cities.

Then there are the people and places I see from a bus window as I travel through Isaan. They haunt me as much as the places I've spent time in.

I think of the small towns that the buses pull into at dusk, where I think briefly of getting off, finding a room, and staying for a while. Someday I will.

But for now, I'm grateful for the knowledge that Bangkok is only a pale reflection of the rest of the country. All that is being erased there is still thriving and vital in smaller cities, tiny towns. Next time I'll skip the capital and go to Thailand.