Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Days In Chiang Khan

The bus arrived there earlier than I have expected, 4 in the morning. I was awake when I felt the bus stopped and looked around....

Hmm... there's no one on the bus.

"I am going to Chiang Khan," I told the driver.

"This is Chiang Khan," he replied.

After being kicked out of the bus, I grasped my backpack and wander from the point I was left.

The town was sleeping when I got there.

I looked at a map in my hand, trying to find where the place I would stay was.

No any other people, there're only me and my shadow.

It's not opened yet. Well.... it even was 4 in the morning.... I looked at a closed door of a concreted house and stood there for alittle while.

My stomach's scream was reminding me that I have not eaten anything since the night before. I decided to carry my almost-bigger-than-me backpack and find a market for my super early breakfast.

Early morning market

I ran away from a big city to reconsider about something. I told my family that I would come here for meteor shower while the sky was even cloudy.

5.30 am, I walked along a track by Mae Khong river.

Left side across the river, it's Sinakham province, Laos.

After my breakfast, I walked back to the house. The door was opened when the owner saw me was sitting at the front. I threw my backpack into a room and followed the homestay owner to offer food, in this case, it's sticky rice, to monk.

Chiang Khan is a strong Buddhist community.

Mae Khong river view from the room I stayed

Da, the owner of Sai Ru Dee house, took me to a temple. It's Buddhist holy day. I rarely go to temple when I am in Bangkok. Well... it was good to have a chance to go to temple though it was different place, I thought.

At the early of the next month, there will be "100-year-old Chiang Khan" festival. At the temple I went with Da, there was a community meeting, talking about the festival. The leader of the town asked for cooperation from people. After sitting there, observing their discussion, I then found that this town was a strong community.

Community meeting in a temple

The town is unique by itself. The culture and tradition still remain against modern lifestyles and mainstream values. They have their own language which is Thai but Luang Prabang (a province of Laos) accent. Their writing language is also influenced by Laos. And these are charm of Chiang Khan.

Old wooden buildings were charm of Chiang Khan.
I loved to walk and enjoy seeing the old town.

Modern lifestyle can be seen there also. Guesshouses, coffee shops, internet cafe' and create-decorated gift shops are sparsely in the town.

Will oneday Chiang Khan become like Pai? I asked myself.

Chiang Khan is challenged by this question. When modern civilization is visitting the town, an identity of Chiang Khan is questioned how long it can remain its culture and tradition. Some people I have discussed with said that they want their economic to be better than what it is now. One thing that can make theor dream come true is to promote the town to be a tourist attraction.

I went back to the homestay to shower. I had a good conversation with Da about her life in Chiang Khan and what she thought about the change. Then I rented a bicycle and rode it around the town.

School bus
The red sign says "Student's sweetheart"

After I have riden the bike to a bus station for a ticket to get back to Bangkok, I rode across Chiang Khan to a place called "Kang Kood Koo," the place where Mae Khong river bends and it becomes a view point near the town.

On the way there, the way was so quiet and there was no any houses on some parts. It was so silent that I hesitated to ride thru.

On the way to the destination

Rode till I wondered if the place really existed.
Then..... there it was!! White sign with red arrow told me that it was not too far.

"Scared?" I asked myself.

"Quite," I heard myself replied. After some experiences I was forced to get in the past, I never trust silent ways ever again.

The last sentence of my mom was echo-ing inside my head, "Don't trust anyone, Khwan."

I then asked myself while riding on the bike if I trust the situation too much. So that I was careless and rode the bike out of the town on silent road like this.

Though finally, I got back to the town safely... "Don't do like this often," I warned myself. "It's not funy if there's something happen with you." I always warn myself that I may not always be lucky like this. The most of all.... I can not protect myself as I always say to everybody.

"Don't worry! I can take care of myself." I just say it to lessen my family's worries. But... to be true.... I never be confident that I could really protect myself as I say.

Chiang Khan boundary post was on the way from Chiang Khan town to Kang Kood Koo

Immigration checkpoint
Entrance and exit were between those couple trees.
It was that simple as you can see.

As getting back to the homestay, I was quite sore. How long I didn't do much exercise or ride bicycle like this??? Awhile, I guessed.

I was about to explore the town again. But then I found that my legs were weary. Da pointed me to a building obliquely opposite to her place. I then walked there.

"You rode on bicycle, didn't you?" an auntie asked me while she was pressing her elbow on my thigh.

Hmm.... I thought I saw a natural law obviously....
Because there's a thing has happened, another thing then happened.

Because there're bicycle for tourist to ride, that's why there're Thai massage shops there.

After I fell asleep while my nerves were being treaded by elbows, hands, knees and feet of the auntie, I got back to the homestay to have dinner with Da. She even searched for me to let me know that she prepared dinner for us already.

I took the bike back to the shop and took a walk to see Chiang Khan in the evening again.

By-Mae Khong-river track in the dark

How many places are there.... that could make me feel safe and warm, ensure me that there would not be any bad things happen though I was alone in the dark and strange place like this.

I was back to the homestay and went to bed earlier than usual.

Would the sky be clear tonight? I questioned.

Somehow I would not be lucky to see meteor shower when the sky still was cloudy like this...


The sky was cloudy....

It was 3 and 4 in the morning that I woke up to look up to the sky. Unfortunately, I could not see anything.... no meteor shower... no any stars....

Anyway, meteor shower was not the main issue for me to come here.

One habit of mine is I like to see the sky wherever I go.

Chiang Khan sky that I know then is the faded cloudy sky, both day and night time.

At my second night in Chiang Khan, I just wished I could see some stars there.

Da knocked on my door around 6 in the morning, asking if I wanted to offer food to monk with her this morning. I shaked my head and said no. I was tired and did not sleep enough due to one of my habit.

It is I can not sleep tight during night time if I have to be in different place and I will be awake almost every hours.

Anyway, back to when Da knocked on my door, I did not want to get up yet since the weather was cool enough for me to want to be under the blanket and... well... I am not wake-up-early person.

On my second day, I didn't do anything much, only walked and walked and walked from a side to another side of the town and enjoyed atmosphere there.

Started from the place I have spent my nights in Chiang Khan

It was an old house in Chiang Khan.

Check out the wall, then you will see their folk wisdom of how they build their habitation.

The wall structures were made from intertwined bamboo pieces, then covered the structure with stucco.

Chiang Khan local product -- 1,000% cotton blanket

The town receptionist.

Wish I could find a guy like him -- watched my back on every steps I have taken, sat and waited until I finished my errands, sat with me in silence and turned to give me a big smile sometimes, and warned me when I was busy with something for too long.

I'm not sure if it's because I walked around there many times or because of my stand-out shirt, so that people there recalled me and someone finally asked if I got lost in the town and offered me for a ride to where I wanted to go.

In this easily noticeable shirt, everyone there could tell I was a tourist.

When I realized that I was tired of walking around the town, I found some place to take a rest.

Then I thought about an internet cafe' I have walked pass. Hmmm.... I did not come to Chiang Khan to find a new place to be online. So.... let's look over it.

I then walked to a park by Mae Khong river and sat there until the sun set.

Public park by Mae Khong river

Can you tell that I was lonely?

In the second evening, I didn't want to bother Da with asking her for dinner. So I stopped by at a restaurant to had diner alone. Funny.... I ordered some food I always like, but in that evening, the food taseted not delicious as I thought it would be....

Was is because of the food itself? Or was it because I was alone?

It was so cloudy that I could not see the sunset.

After my dinner, I walked back to the homestay. There's a guy was riding on bicycle passing me. He stopped and called me.

"I saw you walk back and forth many times. Where are you going?"

"No idea. I just take a walk around." I told him.

I then knew that he's a friend of a postcard shop where I spent an hour there and chatted with the owner.

"I will go to badminton court. Wanna take a look?" he asked.

My mom's words echoed in my head again.... Don't trust anyone.

But finally, I found myself sitting in a badminton court.

I asked myself.... why I was there....

Yeah, I realized that there would be many people there and it would be safe enough for me to be there.

Yeah, I had nothing to do at that evening.

And yeah,.... I was careless.

However, I didn't regret for my easily following the guy to the badminton court. I found that the front part of the court was an old cinema of the town.

The old cinema
Soldiers and police in uniforms were welcome for free.

The second floor was only for VIP.

It even costed you 7 Thai Baht.

After getting back from badminton court, I talked with the guy for a little while and excused myself to go back to the place I stayed when he invited me to a traditional wedding celebration.

My last night in Chiang Khan was not so bad. I had some people to keep me company and had a reat conversation with them. The story about the town was told. New guesshouses are under construction. I could imagine that the change was about to arrive in Chiang Khan.

I questioned them about how the town would against the mainstream culture and economic. Some said they wanted the town to remain its local culture and tradition since they are Chiang Khan charm and selling point. But as being in this world, we can not avoid change when tourist come to the town and request for convenience more and more.

The sky was cloudy in my last evening there, Chiang Khan either. I walked a long a small alley again to memorize pictures of this small unique town.

As being not Chiang Khan people and and I was just a tourist to visit the town, all I could do is just to wish that modern civilization will not change the town too soon and too much.

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