Always On My Mind
I wonder how much of our life we spend daydreaming, I know on a timescale mine would be very high. My work days and much of my spare time are spent thinking about Thailand, perhaps thinking is not a strong enough word. My day dreams take me to Suvarnabhumi Airport and the joy of having just landed, to Pattaya and its many bars, the beautiful beaches of Koh Chang and Hua Hin, but mostly my thoughts fix firmly on a small village in northeast Thailand, Ban Norn Chad.
Beyond The Mango Juice has various posts listed under Village Life in the Category widget in my sidebar and today I am going to give a little background to those stories with a post about the one place in the world I really do like to be.
Wonderful Wi’s village is in Udon Thani Province, deep inside Isaan country in the north east of Thailand. The first inhabitants of Ban Norn Chad settled here about 100 years ago, many of them came from Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) and Surin. The Wang Chang River flows along the front edge of the village which is entered by crossing a narrow bridge onto a beautiful tree lined road ( above photo ) which divides the river in two.
The river is a source of fun for the kids ( top photo ) and provides families with one half of their staple fish and sticky rice food diet. The paddy fields are the major supplier of work and cattle is another for those lucky enough to be able to watch their investment graze its days away. Money is hard to come by in this poor rural part of Thailand and many families rely on their offspring working in Bangkok to send some of their salary back home.
The river is as I said a valuable food source and at the right time of year 20 to 30 of the villagers can be seen fishing down by the bridge with many of the small kids swimming nearby. Their catch is shared by their families and if their haul has been plentiful the remainder can be sold for small change that can make a big difference to their day on day budget.
Thailand’s Central Wage Committee recently raised Udon Thani’s minimum daily wage by 7 baht to 151 baht per day, approximately 4 US dollars, the going rate for a hard days graft in the village rice fields is a little short of that. It’s underhand cash but you never bite the hand that feeds you.
Vegetables are grown around the village but the small plots are mainly for the families own usage. Fish, rice and vegetables, living off the land and earth’s natural resources are the means of survival.
At the top of the tree lined road our rented car blasts its horn three times as we swing right past the Buddhist shrine and turn left to pass the village school. Another right turn takes us past the village Wat (temple) and next to it is the shell of the new temple that is under staged construction.
Wilai seems to think that a lack of money amongst the community will mean that it will take years before the temple is completed. Money is sparse in these parts and my strong belief is that nowadays the middle aged and younger Buddhist Thai’s place enhancing their life above their elders ethic of bettering lives, who am I to argue.
Toyota, Tesco Lotus, McDonald’s, KFC, nowadays commercialism bites deep in Thailand. Toyota is rife in village life but fortunately not the others. Ronald McDonald the burger chain mascot, on guard outside and looking resplendent in his bright yellow colours basking in the sunshine, inside the red shirted workers toil away no doubt on minimum wage, a perfect parody of Thailand itself……KFC….. you pull the wishbone but I’ll eat the meat. The temple will have to wait.
A left turn takes us into Soi Buffalo and over the crossroad, the picture on the left is one that to me typifies the daily life of a Thai villager, someone going about their business in no hurry and seemingly without a care in the world. Look at the crossroad photo and you could place any given year on it, perhaps only the wooden carts tyres represent time and the wheels of progress that is very slowly being made in rural Thailand.
The villagers sit outside the small open front shops and by mid afternoon hammocks are swinging away under wood stilt houses. The finish to the school day brings a rush of exuberance and freshness to the village air and the seemingly never ending food vendors in trucks and on motorcycles constantly whip up red dust from the newly laid road. There’s no yellow brick road in Ban Norn Chad.
Our house is the last in the village and it’s the one location in this goddamn world that I really like to be. It was built just over four years ago, myself and Wilai have been together nearly six and I know she’s real proud of the house but that pride doesn’t come anywhere near my feelings for her.
The villagers have all got used to me over those years, the red faced farang who smokes and drinks too much, but nowadays I do feel part of their community, they’ve always made me feel welcome.
I can hardly leave this post without mention of the Buffalo Boys, they’re our two dogs Cola and Gaan plus our rabbit Noo. They were great fun to be around on my last holiday and I look forward to years of fun with them.
To finish the post I think it best if I once again steal a few song lyrics, right click and paste…..Maybe I didn’t hold you , all those lonely, lonely times. ..And I guess I never told you…I’m so happy that you’re mine. Always on my mind.
Song lyrics Always On My Mind by Brenda Lee