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Published: July 16th 2017
Geo: 16.42, 102.83
After 2 months in the village the da has finally come for us to hit the road again and venture into the 'big city'. Bit of a culture shock to see cars, shops, real people, bars - maybe even a few farang !
We are up at 5am for a cuppa and some breakfast whilst Jai prepares some rice for her mum for the two days. Bags are packed so I load up the motorbikeand we are on our way to Phon Thong at about 6am. Check at the house where we are leaving the bike to make sure that everything is still OK thenI take Jai to the bus station and drop her off with the bags. Biking back into town I drop off the bike and am expecting a 20mins+ walk back to the station but luckily someone gave me a lift on the back of their bike. As a consequence we are sat at the bus station just after 7am awaiting a bus that we do not expect until just after 8am. Going to buy our tickets we are delighted to find that an earlier bus is due at 7:20 and that buses leave at 20mins past
the hour all day until 16:20. Bus arrives at 7:30 and we are soon on our way.
I always plan which side of the bus will be the best to sit on according to the direction we are heading and the time of day so that we do not have to sit in the sun. Today I get things slightly wrong for some reason. We are heading pretty much due west so the majority of the sun is directly behind us but enough is managing to creep in my window to make things a bit warm. We reach our midway point at Yang Talad, a town remarkable only in the fact that it is about half way through our journey. Blink and you will miss it which isnt such a bad thing. Jai has slept most of the way. The Thais certainly have a talent for sleep that would impress even Simon Cowell. (There is a version of Thailand's Got Talent on TV occassionally but I havent yet seen anyone sleeping). I sit and look out the window finding myself subconsciously searching for coconut trees that need their leaves stripping. I think I have been mentally scarred by this - or
just perhaps mental ! We keep passing 'City Limits' signs and I am waiting for a burst of song from Tina Turner; "Nutbush..." - but it doesnt come. 20mins later we reach the town of Chiang Yuen and stop outside of a wedding dress shop that somehow wakes Jai up. With her daughters wedding fast approaching she has developed an unhealthy interest in all things wedding related - is it possible to have a healthy interest in these things ?
We arrive in Khon Kaen at 09:45 and take a taxi straight to the immigration office to get this out of the way first thing. When my number is called and I approach a young girl at the counter the first thing she asks me is my age, then, discovering thatI am past 50 - ONLY JUST I tell her - she quietly asks me if I would like a 12 month visa. I dont really connect with what she is saying so immediately point to my existing visa and the paperwork and tell her no, just a 30 day extension. She perseveres for a while before giving up on me. This all sounds a little dodgy to me, not to
say illegal, and would no doubt have involved a sum of money being passed over/under the counter. She is rude and sulky - perhaps because I am not interested in her offer - but on the whole the process is over quickly and is quite painless. I leave with an extension of stay till 28th November by which time we will be in Chiangmai and a day trip up to Burma will be required.
We taxi back into town to the Chaipat Hotel which we have decided to try out as an alternative to our usual hotel in town. The reception area seems OK which is always a good sign and we view a couple of rooms before making a choice and deciding that we would stay. They do breakfast which they claim is inclusive with the price of the room. It turns out to be inclusive only if you pay 50% more for the room ?!! - we decline.
Seeking out the aircon of our new room on the 7th floor we have a rest and a snack that we have brought with us for lunch. It is not long before I get the urge to head out and stretch my
legs in what is approaching the real world. I leave Jai settling down for a sleep - it is a talent honestly - and do what only mad dogs and Englishmen do nd head out into the midday sun.
I am aiming for a temple on thefar southern edge of town which appears from an unscaled map that I have to be a few km away. I was aware that Khon Kaen was a dinosaur city with a dedicated museum and Isaan Jurassic Park not far away but I never before noticed that there were dinosaur everywhere you looked. Street signs, advertising hoardings, childrens playgrounds, traffic police, even the local footall team are known as T.Rex. I follow the main road south until I can cut through a side street to the large Bung Kaen Nakhon lake. A few people are out on the water in cartoon styled pedaloes, a few people are playing petanque in the large of layed out rinks on the banks but most people here, including the pigeons, are seeking out the shade.
I plod on and eventually, 45mins later, reach Wat Nongwang temple. It is a striking nine tier building red and white in colour with the
golden highlights sparkling in the sun against the clear blue sky. It is possibly to climb to the the ninth tier for the views but remembering the walk I have just finished and the fact that Ihave to go back the same way I decide to postpone this pleasure to another - cooler - day. I do venture into the first floor and have a look at the murals that cover the walls here depicting the founding of the city. The temple is being very trendy with its own radio station and website.
Iretrace my steps passing empty exercise parks and petanque rinks and stop for a snack and a large bottle of cold water before entering the paradise of an aircon room. Jai has had - is still having - a good sleep.
I enjoy a liesurely cold shower and watch a bit of English language TV before heading back out to hopefully exchange the books that I had brought. Fortunately No 1 Bar is only a few hundred yards away, is open and still has a bookcase. Over a cold beer I sit and exchange the 33 books that I have brought with me for 31 to take back to
Khamnadie. They are largely old and a bit tatty but still readable all the same. Back to thje room again for a while.
At 17:00 we both go out - yes, Jai has woken up ! - to visit the nearby market that we wish to transplant to Phon Thong as it sells everything. I can see fish is a food, can just about crab as a food but buckets full of live turtles - I'm afraid that I just see turtles and not food at all. We walk back to the street where our usual hotel lives where there is an area of street foodstalls where we often eat. Jai wants to buy some somtam (which she eats everyday) to take back to the room to watch Thai TV movies (that she watches everyday) - so she is having a good holiday enjoying the change of scenery ?! I grab a bowl of noodles and go back to the room with her.
By 19:00 I have had enough and go back out. There is a bar near the hotel called Sevens Corner that Ihave never been to so I head there. I have still never been to the bar though as
it was closed and appeared to be up for sale. I wander on to a large inddor shopping mall where I discover Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, PIzza etc etc. It is good to see that we are using our western culture to improve the Thai diet. After walking around 5 floors of not much - a whole floor dedicated to mobile phones by the million - I leave and end up passing a bar that appears to be named Mai Thai where a few farangs are sat eating and drinking and I cant resist joining them. The menu lists sausage and mash, pie and chips, lasagne, apple tart and ice cream ... the choices of Thai foods are endless. I settle for a cold beer and then a couple more.
Wandering back to the hotel I sit outside a 7/11 with a bag of crisps and a coffee before getting back to the hotel about 21:30 to find Jai sat enjoying her somtam in front of the TV.
I did manage to get a story about the offer at immigration. Apparently 500GBP will procure a 12 month retirement visa without the need for any checks upon savings or pensions that would usually
be required. A further 300GBP would renew that visa a year later - maybe ? I think that I will remain legal !!!!
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