Rural Thailand, Klang Yai, white rice and atavistic fears
Klang Yai is just a mild 20 minutes ride from Ban Phue. That is situated at an even milder hour and a half ride from Udon Thani. This last city being one the biggest city around there, the mighty region of Isaan, and from where a big part of prostitutes, freelancer girls, Isaan food stalls owners, and multi- unskilled workers come south looking for a better life, a job, money, success, and a rich foreign husband. Whatever could be better, in their eyes, than their surrounding nature, consistent sun, clean air and almost unbelievable cheap prices.
We stayed at W. place, or better at his dad place: a nice two floors big townhouse made of concrete downstairs, and wood upstairs. The garden around was populated by chickens running free and thoughtless, some dogs, random kids from the neighborhood and a professional size Muay thai ring with bags.
I arrived there at 5 am, completely fucked by the 2 sleeping pills I took for bearing to the long bus ride. I don’t even know what those pills were, the pharmacist I asked about them just told me they work and cost 3 baht each. After all, who am I to doubt science?
I managed with great efforts to call the guys as soon as I arrived there, at the glorious Klang Yai, at about 6 am. They had told me that they usually go running at 5 in the morning, as later is going to be too hot. They were fairly awake already so I tell them I would have waited in front of the 24hrs supermarket (that I rightly supposed to be also the only one). Then, sleepy and dizzy as I was, I managed to find a table, on which I lay waiting and under which I put my backpack. 20 minutes later the guys were there, and I felt so shitty to be so high not to be even able to speak while they were all awake and sweat and ready to kick that day’s ass after 40 minutes of running. Once home, I finally got to go sleeping again until midday.
The greatest sun outside, and I woke up all rested and fine just on time to have lunch. On the way to eat, I had the chance to meet the grandfather of the house, in my opinion, the best character of the whole week. Moreover, he perfectly fitted the part of the old Asian grandad: wise in every little movement, speaking only strict dialect, and always taking care of cooking white rice and checking the level of it in the house, as it should never drop below a certain point. In fact, in Isaan the unwritten rule is that everybody has the right to eat as much rice as they want, no starving allowed. We spent a couple of evenings of the 4 we were there together with him, watching Muay thai fights and commenting them. The lingua franca was my Thai and a lot of funny body language: that kind of thing you then realize, the day after, you don’t want to do anymore.
A couple of things of the traditional thai house that I loved since the beginning are the bowl shower and the open air kitchen.
The first one was basically a big round container filled with cold water, with a small round empty bowl floating in it. Even the colors were so lively contrasting that they perfectly fitted the situation: blue the big container, yellow the small bowl. The user is supposed to stand in the middle of the room, which has a drainer and use the bowl with the water inside to wash him/herself. I can assure you that not a drop of water is wasted as doing this movement is very annoying after a while. Also, showering with cold water was a very nice sensation with 40 degrees and a big sun outside, but I could imagine this not being that comfortable in wintertime (which however is never very harsh in Thailand). The open air kitchen was set up in a room connected to the rest of the house, but basically opened. It means that there were no windows, just mosquito nets. M. cooked there only a couple of times during my staying there, but it was enough to let me get the idea. Basically, everything not needed was thrown outside in the garden, like vegetable peels and used oil. The same treatment is reserved to the water they use for washing the dirty dishes: they make them stay for a while in a container with water and soap to remove the grease, then rinse them in another container with clean water.
Easy. Almost tribal. Nonetheless highly effective. The modern man achieved a level of artificiality that makes him see everything that is too simple as less beneficial. The modern man is a brainless creature.
The house was always opened and we had a continuous flowing of people going in and out. Everyone was very curious about us, and we heard W. telling the same story about us over and over to everyone, while they were studying us as weird animals. I felt cool, ugly, handsome, weird, raped, ingenuous, handsome, smart, bashful and virtuous in various orders and almost every day.
One night, W. took us to see a rehearsal of a traditional dance that some 70 girls and women had to perform on the next weekend. There, Miss M., W.’s sister, took the microphone and called me to bring her the bottles of soft drinks she had in her car. Everybody in the square turned his head to me. I went to take them and then carried them to the stage, while all those girls were looking at me and started laughing and screaming and sending me kisses. I sensed so many eyes looking at me that I felt naked and wanted to disappear. Handsome, ugly, cool, raped. I thought about a massive orgy, but then almost ran away with my tail down my legs. Yes, I’m a fighter. Yes, girls scare me. The great fear of the black triangle, my friends use to call it. A 90 kg guy made of testosterone, nerves and bones scared by those little things with high strident voices. It’s so conflicting that even thinking about it hurts a little bit.