Family Visit in Khon Kaen
Trip Start Oct 15, 2009
29Trip End Dec 15, 2013
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I had asked a few people for advice and also found a forum on the Internet that provided clues. But this was not an easy thing to figure out. It looked to me like the Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen bus line is run by Esan Tour. Their buses do not go through Sukhothai or Uttradit, the locations from where i could start the journey. The closest pass through point for those direct buses was Phitsanulok
There was a limo (private taxi) driver working with the bus station. (He likely had some sort of referral arrangement.) I negotiated a deal with him and we started the trip about 4:00PM. He told me it would take 3.5 hours and I figured I'd be lucky to get there in 5 hours. My driver was terrific! All business. His Toyota was comfortable and dependable on really challenging roads! I could not believe the scenery. Out of 310 km, about 150km went right through beautiful mountains. We passed through several National Parks, saw lots of signs for waterfalls, wildlife, including elephants, and enjoyed a stunning sunset around the beautiful Petchabon area
We did not stop except for LPG, and we made good time. When we arrived in the outskirts of Khon Kaen, I could see that my driver intended to return to Phitsanulok the same night. We flagged a KK city taxi near the airport entrance to run me to the hotel, which was just 15 minutes more. 4.5 hours and that was some accomplishment! If you need a driver in or around Phitsanulok, or to take you to the National Parks or to Petchabon, you can call Kun Kreang Sak at 0873098820.
I checked into the Pullman Raja Orchid, the best place to stay in Khon Kaen city, for two nights to rest up before the kids arrive for the village home-stay. Our family stayed here 2 years ago when we came to Khon Kaen for Noah and Sumalai's wedding in nearby Ban Dorn Kaem. The Pullman, is one of the high end brands of the German Accor Hotels. The hotel has a spacious comfy lobby, lovely pool and pool bar with food available, a first rate fitness center with classes (and local members too), a spa, a great bakery & coffee shop, & several restaurants, free Wifi, and an airport shuttle too.
On Thursday, I walked around Khon Kaen a bit and checked out the preparations for the upcoming King's Birthday holiday weekend. My room had a great view of the Center of Khon Kaen and of the pretty Christmas decorations at the Central Shopping Mall. I got my laundry done just next to the hotel (exit to the right and look at the strip of stores there.) And I had a very nice and not expensive Thai massage in the hotel spa.
I had suggested that on Friday morning when Noah, Sumalai and my dear little Terran arrive from Bangkok, Sumalai's mother and sister, bring the children and swimsuits for a morning at the pool. Getting late checkout was no problem. We had a lovely time! We stopped at the Central Shopping Mall for a late lunch, and some grocery shopping I wanted to do before going out to Aor's village for a few days. At Robinson's I bought a lightweight stroller for Terran as he has gotten so big (like 18 pounds already) that I just can't hold him all of the time
We arrived in Ban Dorn Kaem. Sumalai/Aor's twin sister Sumalee/Aa has a beautiful new house completed since my last visit. Her darling girls, Jasmine and Airrin gave me their lovely room, Thanks girls! Life in this Thai village is different from life in New Hampshire. The weather is different; it's a lot warmer there:). The food is different. The stores and coffee shops are different, and the culture is different. Life is not better there and it is not worse either. It is just different. This is one of the gifts of the opportunity to travel. I always treasure invitations to visit local homes. A home-stay, that is even better!
I experienced and learned about life in an Isan rice farming village. There is only one rice crop each year and the proceeds from selling the rice must support the families all year. The rice had just been harvested. Most of the farmers had sent their rice to be milled. It comes back to them in large rice bags and each family stores what they will need for their family for the entire year. The rest gets trucked to markets to be sold and I saw every mode of transport imaginable stacked with rice bags.
Every day, Sumalai's family joins together at her grandfather and grandmother's home for the evening meal. This trip, I am able to speak and understand a little more Thai. Even though the Isan dialect is Lao, I enjoyed being able to talk with Sumalai's parents and grandparents, and with all of the children, her cousins. Her family is very close and her grandmother explained to me that family is like a sturdy tree
During the day, we went to the coffee shop that Noah likes, in the town 7 kilometers away. I ordered some vegetarian noodles that were good. One day we went to the nearby market and I bought fresh vegetables and lentils. I tasted some of the local food and cooked ratatouille and lentil soup for the family to share also. One day a fellow with a roti cart came by and we all had rotis. Rotis are sweet crepes and I was very surprised to find them on the quiet street in the village.
We walked over to the local Wat/Temple and Aor and Aa showed me around. Their great- grandparents each have a monument in their memory. There are two beautiful old trees on the temple grounds and the Temple buildings are pretty also. On Father's Day we visited another temple. This famous Wat is at the base of the mountain and going there is very good luck, especially on the holiday of The King's Birthday
I had heard that the Khon Kean Silk Festival is not to be missed. It is a 12 day festival, once a year, and while it is a like a fair with rides and entertainment and a food market and general market, the famous Khon Kaen silk is displayed and sold there. I really wanted to go. One afternoon, most of the family climbed onto Aor's father's Song Thaew truck and we headed into Khon Kaen. We were riding in the back of an open truck, Terran in his stroller, no car seat, the young children no seat belts, Aor driving. I am used to seeing this in Thailand and to seeing babies and young kids on motorcycles with no helmets also. But "my baby" oy vey; this made me really nervous.
First we had an errand to run at Global. Noah and Aor wanted to arrange to have some work done on Aor's parent's home and Global (like Home Depot) could give a quote and materials could be purchased
By then it was already getting dark and we headed to the Silk Festival. It was a huge campus and was very crowded. I especially enjoyed the informative displays about how silkworms are grown and how the silk is made. Also there were several beautiful tributes to the King and some stunning King genre artwork too. After a while, the family left to go out for dinner. I still wanted to see the silk fabric in the market (if I could find it) and stayed behind. Cell phones come in very handy at times like this. Noah called and told me where they were. I enjoyed wandering by myself and took a taxi to the mall to meet the family at The Pizza Company before they finished a yummy dinner.
I was so happy to meet Aor's teenage first cousins, Yean and Por and At. Yean has a laptop and is on Facebook. At is also very interested in computers. I showed the teens and XO-1 that I brought with me. I told them that if they were interested in learning how to use it, so that they could teach Jasmine, Oak and Bank, (the 6 year olds) XO laptop skills and how to use some of the Activities, that I would leave the XO with them and send them a second one
I had a memorable visit to Khon Kaen and the village. I was so happy to see Aor's father and mother with their new grandson, Terran, and to be able to share this time with "my baby," my first grandchild too. I'll be returning to Bangkok for the last 6 days of my trip. I am tired and missing Mark, my home, (and especially my shower:), it's been a great trip. But it will be so hard to leave little Terran!
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