#RoiEt #Thailand: A Lake Sits in it; #KhonKaen to boot…

Lake in the Middle of Roi Et, Thailand

Lake in the Middle of Roi Et, Thailand

Not so many cities have a lake sitting smack in the center of them, literally, so to find one, in my one-time sometime adopted ‘home’ of Thailand is something special. The odd thing is that I knew none of that when I landed in Roi Et, itself somewhere smack in the center of Thailand’s vast little-traveled northeast ‘Isaan’ region. I’m here simply because it’s here, and I’m on a quest to see everything. I’ve seen the name on the map many times, but never stopped, maybe never even been through it, not sure. As for the surprise lake, well… you don’t expect me to read guide-books now, do you? Yeah, right…

Buddhist Temple in Roi Et, Thailand

Buddhist Temple in Roi Et, Thailand

The place is a revelation. Not only is this a pleasant, attractive mid-sized Thai city in the heart of Thailand’s poorest most desolate region, but there are other surprises in store, too, like vegetarian restaurants—Thai food, of course—but more than I usually see, all without even trying. There’s even one in the produce market, which also doubles as a ‘night bazaar’, common in Thailand by now, thanks to Chiang Mai, but this is a new twist. Okay, so there’s always some joker wants to be Johnny Friggin’ English to come along and spoil my purist fantasy, but that comes with the turf. Welcome to Thailand…

Okay, so there’s another reason the city’s been on my map all these years. That’s where Nam Fon is from. The name means ‘Rain Water’. All Thai girls have diminutive nicknames BTW, many guys, too. I met her in Songkhla, Y2K-ish. Songkhla is a special case. Many of the people there are from somewhere else, coming to find their fortunes in the relatively sparse south. There are many foreigners there, too, but they’re not tourists; they’re offshore oil workers. That’s where I was, for no special reason. So was she, for a very special reason. She was some cowboy’s special order. But that’s another story.

Lunch Time in Thailand

Lunch Time in Thailand

Roi Et is a surprise bright spot in an otherwise somewhat boring Isaan landscape. Next stop is Khon Kaen, one of the region’s boom towns, fancy schmancy like I’ve only seen in Bangkok. I’ve never seen laundromats in Thailand before, either, anywhere. But for some sleazy ho-bars in the middle of it all, you might not even know you’re in Thailand. Best of all: people ignore me! No: “Hey, you!” No: “Farang!” Now that’s a sign of modernity that I can live with.

Other than that, though, there’s not much to see or do, can’t even find a traditional market. It’s time to get back on the bus, trains all but forgotten now, though one certainly passes through here, goiing north or south. I’m going west. By the next stop, we’ll be out of Isaan entirely, inside north Thailand, historic ‘Lan Na’ even, where Chiang mai once reigned as capital. That’s another dialect, and another culture, my first stomping grounds in Thailand. Next stop is Phitsanulok.

June 2014

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