1 February 2009
Khon Kaen, Issan, Thailand
16°25'53.05"N 102°50'14.10"E


Khon Kaen is a lovely smallish provincial city in the north east Issan area of Thailand, with magnificent sausages on sticks. Yum isn't enough to describe them. The food is totally different to what we've been having. Although it's only about 400km from Bangkok, it took 7 hours to get here by bus - of course that included the compulsory meal stop. Suppose it's a good chance to stretch the legs a bit. Having always thought that bus fares were fairly similar and competitive in Thailand, we found a huge difference in price for this trip - we spent several hours crossing town to get to Mo Chit bus station and found quotes ranged from TB890 to the TB530 we paid, and we got a fair dinkum VIP bus. One thing we've noticed here is that the hosties on the buses are almost without exception kathoey, or Thailand's third, trans-gender sex. I hesitate to call them lady boy's, because that implies they are prostitutes which they aren't, but they certainly look good, and respond very, very well to a random compliment. I find it odd though that they are accepted as a matter of course here - other Asian nations are not so tolerant of trans-gender folk, but as I said they are accepted by everyone as being the natural third gender and there is no shame in it whatsoever. If only the rest of world could be so tolerant, it would be a much better place to be in.

In Bangkok for the last few weeks, Peter attracted the attention and pure hatred of a dog. Not just any old dog, a big snarling, salivating vicious black thing that once actually chased him down the road. Of course I did what any good wife would do - almost wet myself laughing, along with a toothless old couple although almost everyone else around was concerned what would happen if said dog actually caught up with him. He managed to escape into a hairdresser's shop, and stood looking out of the window until the owner came along with a big chain to put around it's neck. Peter's convinced that this dog lies, pretending to be asleep until he gets right up to it. I've passed it several times without any bother, it's just Peter that this muttly hates. Even the owner has difficulty keeping it from starting off.

We still are yet to see rain since leaving Hat Yai back in early December. It was actually quite chilly over the last couple of weeks - we had to secure an extra blanket and a few evenings I needed to use my sarong as a shawl to keep warm outside. It's said there was frost just outside Bangkok - unthinkable really. The airport closure has started having an affect now - even though a lot of the tourists that had already booked their tickets haven't cancelled, it seems that nobody is booking flights to get here now. Can't blame them really - if I HAD to be back home the day I was supposed to be because of something at work or an important meeting or an appointment with a specialist doctor that I'd waited a few months for, Malaysia or Vietnam would be looking very attractive. There have been a couple of small demonstrations in Bangkok too, but they aren't big enough to have made BBC World or CNN, but they're getting bigger every time. I don't think the Thai's realise that the thing the whole world was focused on was that a small, unarmed group of people were able to shut down the main airport without any hindrance from the police or army. Of course, Thai politics is very complex, and the last time this party was in power there was a military coup to get rid of them. Such is life here. Khon Kaen is completely different to Bangkok - it has a really friendly, small town feel to it. It took Peter all of 5 minutes to find the bar where the ex-pats congregate, although he says that none of them look happy or content. There are very few westerners here - I think that apart from the ex-pats who are married to Thai's we are the only ones. Peter is coming along well speaking Thai - or he was; the dialect up here is totally different from that in Bangkok. At least it's fairly similar to Lao, where we're heading in the next day or so. We're getting the international bus and have been warned to have a visa in advance as the bus (which goes straight through to Vientiane so you don't have to fight the taxi drivers at the border) won't wait for you to stand in the queue for a visa on arrival. It's the most expensive visa we've bought so far - TB1,300 and with the Aussie dollar acting like the South Pacific Peso again it makes it pretty rough. We could have got it for TB1,100 but we'd have to wait for 3 days to get it back. What a con - it's not like the consulate was busy, and an ex-pat told Peter if you look at the date on it, the visa is always processed as soon as you hand it in, but unless you pay for the express service they hold your passport to ransom for 3 working days. Just one more reason to love South East Asia. Fair possibility that we're going to India with Roshan, Jas and a cousin, shopping for the wedding. We were going to get the visa in Bangkok, but I trawled the internet and found that the cost of the visa is exactly half the price if you get it in Laos than if you get it in Thailand. Why, I don't know - I don't even bother thinking about it now, these strange ways have just become quite normal to us now. I think that means that we have acclimatised. Laos, here we come.