WELCOME TO THAILAND…
I am on vacation and traveling in Southeast Asia. The next few posts will be on Thailand and Cambodia in the order of my visits.
My first post is on Na Wa located in the Isan Provence of Northeast Thailand. Na Wa is a small town surrounded by a number of even smaller villages. My best friend from Med School, Cormac Ferguson has been living there for approximately 12 years with his beautiful wife Mae.
Cormac has been trying to get me to visit and move here for years. I contacted him this past summer and told him I will be arriving in November. My plans were to travel throughout Thailand for a couple months. I was also coming to explore the idea of moving to Thailand, specifically Na Wa.
I arrived in late November a month or two into the “high season” for tourism in Thailand. The first thing I want to address is there is no tourism in Na Wa. It is a rural community consisting mainly of rice paddies, rubber tree farms and harvesting fresh water shrimp and a variety of fish.
I personally prefer being in the mountains in an area like Pai.
However I find there is also a draw to Na Wa as well.
One obvious factor is having one of my best friends for the past 25 years nearby that has lived in the area and knows the ropes.
Another definite plus is Cormac has introduced me to a core group of expat friends that also live in the area. Some are full time residents, some show up at various times throughout the year for weeks or months at a time. They come from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Scotland, the UK, the States and I’m sure I am leaving someone out.
Like all friends each has his own idiosyncrasies and quarks, me included. They are a great group of guys that I enjoy sharing a beer, meal and general bullshit sessions on a variety of subjects.
This was usually occurred at Bruno’s Resort which consisted of a half dozen small independent rooms, a small kitchen and a long table where we would gather throughout the week. The kitchen supplies us with drink and fantastic food cooked by Bruno’s wife Nan.
All those that know me know how much I like to hike. I found myself getting up each morning grabbing my camera and setting out to explore the countryside. I wondering along rivers, through rice paddies, along the shoreline of lakes and through the jungle and forest anywhere from 2 – 5 hours depending on my mood.
My first hike was along a river. I found a dirt road that turned into a trail and off I went. It was not long until I came across two women wading in the river fishing. They had large nets that were attached to a bamboo structure that they would lower into the water, let them sit and then raise them to see what they caught. They were usually successful but the fish were extremely small, a little more than minnows but if you caught enough of them it was a meal.
I continued down the trail, rounded a bend and found a monk walking towards me. He stopped and speaking very little English asked where I was from and I replied America.
He took my hands, said a prayer blessing me with good health and peace. I responded with the two phrases in Thai that I know… Sa Wat Dee Krap (a polite greeting or goodbye) and Khaawp Khoon Krap (thank you) both with the male version ending in Krap, the female is Kha.
The next morning again I grabbed my camera and set out in a different direction on a different trail. This time I passed through rice paddies and several rubber tree farms before heading back to Brunos where I was staying.
On another hike I came across a large man-made lake used for irrigation of the surrounding rice paddies and a canal where villagers were fishing This was done by the throwing of nets from small dug out canoe.
On still another day I followed a trail that led me through the forest. After about an hour or so I came across a river with several large fresh water shrimp boats with their nets held high above the water made of bamboo.
Following the trail along the river bank about 30 minutes later I came across a group of 5-6 fisherman in the dug outs fishing the river. Every now and then they would abandon their boats for a quick dip in the water to escape the heat of the jungle sun.
One day I set out for a long hike following a dirt road. I traveled through a forest, along river banks and farm land eventually coming across a small village. People in these villages live a very simple lives and make what they need from what is available from the land and nature.
They farm rubber trees and harvest the rubber.
They raise stock from pigs to cattle.
They fish the rivers and lakes.
They buy fresh vegetables grown on the farms and fresh cooked foods at the weekly market.
And they prey and worship at the Buddhist Shrine that is in each village.
It did not take me long to decide that I was going to move to Na Wa next year in the fall after my next ship contract. I plan on staying in Thailand from September until February give or take a few weeks. Those months are the best weather months in Thailand. It is followed by a few months of very hot weather which is followed by the monsoon season.
This time frame works perfectly as my contract is seven months long which covers the worst weather period. Then I can arrive for and live in Na Wa for the five months when the weather is typically like Southern California.
If you come to Thailand on vacation I would not come to Na Wa. It is a sleepy community, there are no tourist resorts, no elephant rides, no rivers to float. But for me it is going to be a nice place to live, relax and visit with friends.