I had been in Pakistan, staying close to Lahore for six months when I knew I had to leave. There had been a local election for the province government and there was a distinct sense of threat in the air. I decided that as I was in south Asia I should press on and try Thailand. I had been offered a job teaching in northern Thailand.
I landed at Bangkok’s international airport and got a taxi to a bus station to get up north to where I was supposed to meet a woman called Raynu. The countryside was fantastic, and I loved the monkeys that lined the road watching the traffic go past. It was lush and green with groves of banana “trees.”
The town I was to stay at was on the Mekong River bordering Laos. It was April, monsoon season, and the humidity was a killer. I understood suddenly how the American GIs must have felt during the Vietnam War – there was no respite from the wetness of the place.
I stayed in a kind of ‘camp’ site where there were one-roomed bungalows on stilts, situated around a pond which could have been natural. It was visited by thin, slithering snakes (I guessed that was why the bungalows were on stilts) and huge, regal birds that were some species of fish eagle, I suppose, as they used the fish-filled pond as their dining-room. So did I! My partner would fish in the lake and then barbecue the fish on a traditional clay Thai barbecue pot. It was delicious, though I have no idea what type of fresh water fish they were. This was preferable, on the whole, to eating in Thai restaurants which were fine if you like that sort of thing, but my partner didn’t!
At night there was a large lizard which called “Uck ooo” until my partner went outside and found it on the roof. It was scared and jumped onto a banana tree which promptly collapsed under its weight. It ran off never to come back on the roof while we were in residence!
We were there for the Water Festival and my passport got wet – I hadn’t realized that there was a festival as Thai is not one of the languages I speak, and no one thought to tell us.
Apart from the fish, there were green mangoes and some yellow ones, along with papaya and lots of rice served on banana leaves – saved on the washing up at least. I didn’t find the street food so bad – until I sampled the dried octopus in Pattaya later, which was so hard it was very difficult to eat.
I was in this area around the Mekong River for a month and then I had to leave. I had run out of patience – there seemed to be no job – and money. I had overstayed my visa and the officials weren’t being helpful. We took a bus down to Bangkok and ended up in Pattaya, but all that is for another blog post.