You know, this is what I like so much over here, the slow pace, the relaxed, unagitated lifestyle. A late Isaan afternoon in the cool season: Not too hot, not too cold, a golden light and a soft breeze...
...Mother of all waters is slowly floating by. Right on the edge of lazy Mae Nam Khong, I happily lounge on a rotten bank planted into a delightfully smallish and provincial riverside promenade. A true backwater. I watch a few joggers; two people are sitting on the guardrail talking and snacking leasurely; the odd speedboat farts upstream; almost no signs of life on the Lao coast beyond the brown gurgling river... no worries in this world.
It is somewhere between Nong Khai and Chiang Khan, a pleasant village on the northern edge of Isaan: in places like that I find peace of mind. I could in fact extend my sojourn considerably. How high is the rent for a decent house here, I begin to -
Enter Little Miss Thai
Oh, I am watched. Sabai-dii khrap! Huuuuge brown almond eyes. Maybe eight years old, a sweet Thai school girl is standing beside my bank and watches me in silence. "Sabai-dii khrap!", I go again, but little Miss Thai wouldn't talk. "Khun cheu arai khrap", I go. I know that other Thais do understand this from me, what's your name; also Isaan and Lao speakers over here do understand those Thai words. Not so Little Miss Thai. She only looks at me, her body motioning left and right.
She has an empty balloon in her hand. OK, obviously she appreciates me inflating it for her. Gesturing, I ask her if she wants the balloon knotted. I get a dignified nod: Yes, that I may do. Miss No Name takes her now feisty balloon and wanders off.
You know, I really wondered - sweet, wasn't she? - I wondered about the prices of rental houses over here and if I should find a wooden, a brick or a concrete place to stay. On pleasant peaceful days like that I fancy living in Thailand. Khrap. At least parttime: When it's too cold and wet in Old Europe and not too hot in Isaan. I could do some of my usual work here. I mean, would you get a DSL internet line here? And visa-wise, could I -
Enter Little Miss Thai
Oh, nice to meet you again! Little Miss Thai came back! Huuuuge brown almond eyes one more time. All silence, my pretty little Miss offers me a steamed corn cob. That one is for me, are you sure? Oh, khop khun khrap, my dear! What a delightful surprise. Come on, let's share the cob, chawp mai? Arroy maak! But Little Miss Thai puts on a very serious face, declines my offer with a regretful expression and sets off again.
Pan Shot on Big Missis Thai
I watch Little Miss Thai walking away. She is going to that funny blue wooden house over there, oh, and now I see - there is a Big Missis Thai sitting on the porch stairs. Big Missis Thai sends a broad smile across the fence. Her eyes go back and forth between Little Miss Thai and Mister Farang. Sure, she has sent her daughter with the cob. I figure she had watched me inflating the balloon earlier. I beam a thank you smile back to the porch; corn in my hand, I even manage a funny thank you wai. Little Miss Thai now finds shelter in the arms of Big Missis Thai, back from her brave mission to The Farang. Four big brown eyes are watching me, one pair of them smiling, one pair just serious and thoughtful. Thanks again!
You know, it's just little episodes - real sweet, wasn't it - episodes like that which make my sojourn so delightful over here. You feel welcome, but they don't really descend on you. Big Miss Thai watches me from the porch, but for the food present she sends her offspring. Easier for everybody. If it is too much for me, I can easily say no. I can walk over to her and make friends, but I can also stay all by myself on my rotten bank. No pressures. No overpowering. To me, this unobtrusive friendliness is most charming and unusual. And back to my original musings, I think, visa-wise, there should be some solution for me if I want to stay several months on end. There are "services" for visa extension, I know. I also could could cross the Friendship Bridge from Nong Khai to Vientiane in Laos every 30 days, I would receive a new Thai tourist visa upon return. Would that be okay for Thai -
Enter Little Miss Thai
Oh, Little Miss Thai, welcome back again! And what is that, a glass of water for The Farang? Hey, khop khun maaaaak khrap, OK? But be careful with your huuuuuge brown almond eyes, my serious little lady - you just showed traces of a smile, didn't you? And please, would you answer just one question: Are there houses for rent on this riverside?
© Hans Meier. All rights reserved by the author.