I’m deeply mesmerized by the refinement and warmth of Bali. I have a thing for the rough and raw of Cambodia. And I’m in breathless awe for the humble and sincere practice of the Burmese.
But with Thailand and me it is something else. It’s a vibrational thing. It’s my heart expanding the moment the wheels of the airplane touch ground. It’s this upwelling of tears when I cross any land border coming from Laos or Cambodia (no kidding!). It’s crazy. It’s irrational. And it’s unconditional.
I smile when they smile their famous smile, but from deep deep within. I do the “khaaa” thing with such a profound and silly joy. I love the cute and I love the coarse.
And yes, I know. I heard the stories, I’ve seen my share of the good, the bad and the ugly. The very initial phase of romance has ended some time into my third or fourth year living in the Land of Smiles.
Mai ben lai kha.
My heart keeps calling me back here and I’m coming on a special mission this time around:
It’s a dream of six years plus to travel Isaan, the large region in North-Eastern Thailand, the rice bowl of the country, a land full of magnificent National Parks with deep jungle and big wildlife and home to the famous forest tradition of Thai Theravada Buddhism, root of some of the better-known Western Buddhist teachers like Jack Kornfield.
Tomorrow has finally come! I’m on what already looks like one of the most epic road trips ever! And it is a pretty sincere revival of the good old backpacking days as well! Having come down to a shoestring budget to fulfil the mission I’m back to staying in my cheap but clean place near Khao San from 20 years back (still up and running for 210 THB = 6 € per night, but now including free Wifi!), using only public transport for the trips between the chosen destinations. This is also the somewhat abrupt end to indulging into the joys of the raw chocolate, vegan and health food bohemia of Ubud. It’s Isaan street food on night markets and mingling with the locals from now on.
My Thai is slowly coming back online. Not everything is lost, that I have learned from the two angels of C&M Study Center on Koh Phangan. Well, they don’t really speak Thai in Isaan, is what my massage therapist in Bangkok is telling me. Like many of the Thai massaaage ladies, the beer girls and other service providers in the tourism industry all around the country she is in fact born in one of the cities of the North-East. They don’t speak Thai, she says, they speak Isaan. That’s more like Laos language. Good that I’ve practiced my improve theatre qualities these past few weeks in Ubud. Might have one or the other charade coming up.
“Khon Isaan mee jai dee mak mak”, my friend adds to my big relief. The people in Isaan have very good hearts. Dee mak mak. Very good. I’m ready!