bus rides in northern Thailand

Khon Kaen Travel Blog

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colourful coaches of Thailand

Traveling long distances by bus in Thailand was something I was getting used to. I had taken a break from living in business hotels and visiting small townsfolk to visit Sai in Issan. The trip from Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen took 12 hours plenty of time to think and meditate. As we passed the endless flooded northern plains I stared blankly at the Thai MTV.

The favored musical style in the countryside is Look-tueng. A type of Thai country music recorded with electronic instruments. The music is a dreadful wheezing on a bamboo organ flute (SEA instrument like a panpipe in a bundle instead of a row) and synthesized beats. The singing is even worse ranging from a nasal rap to outright whining. I didn’t understand the lyrics but I followed the dramatic acting, which were the standard soap opera plots. 

One song shows a renegade country girl run off to the city and become a prostitute then come crying back to mum a sort of prodigal daughter story. Next song shows a brave Thai country boy leaving his lover to fight the rebels down south he gets killed in battle and an officer gives a folded flag to the crying girl. Next song extolls the joys of country life, a young man spends his days farming and eating yummy roast rats in the field while getting a handsome tan. He comes to the city in the harvest to sell his grain and buy a clock radio, which makes him the most eligible village bachelor. He catches the eye of a pretty country bird and drives off with her on his new tractor. I guess these songs appeal to the native Thais who long to preserve their sabai-sabai hammock sleeping lifestyle in the face of rapid modernization. One thing for sure the lyrics are about easily identifiable subjects in their everyday lives.

I thought about my life recently.  My relationship with Sai was getting deeper every other week when she would come to Bangkok to see me. Those were good times we had with Ken Sunny and us. The last time she came we all went downtown to see some friends. Tom and Patricia were “two young kids having a baby together” Ken told me on the song-teow. Sure enough we found the two young turtle doves cuddling like satisfied bunnies. “Wow you look ready to bust!” Ken almost yelled at her, she giggled at that. The girls cooed over her as the guys just fidgeted with straws. Tom was like a chubby little schoolboy all shaven headed and pink he looked so much the Brit. Over some pizzas we talked about past lives and future plans. “I can’t really place where you’re from.” I said to Pat. “Well, my bio-dad is European and my mum is Thai.” “Really? You look full white.” “Did you grow up here?” “No I was living for some years in Ukraine.” “No kidding? That sounds cool.” “Oh it is. Ukraine is the best! Just love it!” “Then why are you here?” “Well..I was going to return but..plans have changed” She rubbed her teenage oven and leaned over on Tom. They were both grinning like leprechauns and then they started snogging it was almost sickening. “Damn brats” Ken muttered. “What about you?” she asked after she had gained her composure. “Oh, I like Thailand!” I said and put my arm heavily around Sai. “I can see that” she winked, “why don’t you stay?” “Well.. I don’t know if I can…” alarm bells started ringing in my head, ‘No…way..’ I thought as I looked across at this lovey-dovey impregnated pair. “I said, why not?” I jolted “Uh..yes? Why not what?” “Why can’t you stay?” Sai was searching my eyes. “It’s complicated” I assured them, “I don’t think I’ll be fully challenged here” By this time all the guys were sitting there with their arms complacently around their girlfriends, “Come, let’s go and do some shopping cart joust.”

The bus slowed down as we winded through a narrow mountain road that went higher and higher into the mists. All around was dense jungle the most lush verdure. The dark green mountains rose sharply the mists covered steep vales. This was the wild Khao Yai National Park. Soon we were swallowed up in the vastness of the forest and I was again lost in my thoughts.

On one bus trip on the way from Sukothai a dark Latin girl came on board. She was a typical backpacker grimy and colourful she smiled, nodded at me then sat down in the seat in front kicked off her sandals and put her feet up. I generally appreciate clean girls ‘but I guess backpackers aren’t winging to be beautiful’ I thought as I studied her matted dreadlocks and beads. She kept looking back and smiling at me, her mass of hair shifted like a shaking bush. “Okay, where are you from?” I finally gave in. “Colombia. And you?” “Japan” “I knew it!” she said so enthusiastically I almost jumped. “You’re a long way from home.” “Actually I’m living and studying in Germany now” said the young physiology major. “And what have you learned so far?” “Oh everything! This place is soo amazing!” I thought she would bounce off her seat. We talked about our experiences in Thailand especially with the people. I told her about my work, which fascinated her. “Wow oh wow that is sooo cool!” she repeated again and again. “What about Colombia? How are the people there?” “Well..over there life is different.” “Is it really dangerous? I mean I’ve been in crime crazy place like South Africa. Is it wild?” “Well I think it because of different values” she said thoughtfully “everyone in Colombia isn’t satisfied, they all want more and they don’t care how they get it” “Interesting.” “Yes, here people are more satisfied with life. They have a peaceful religion.” “That’s true. I always thought you guys were happy there.” “They’re extreme there, either dancing or fighting.” “Oh well, I guess the whole image of carefree Latinos isn’t so realistic.” “Maybe not” she said pensively.  I changed to the neutral topic of Thai food and she became bubbly and bouncy for the remainder of the trip.
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colourful coaches of Thailand
colourful coaches of Thailand
Khon Kaen
photo by: ivy