Ang Thong Countryside

Most of my ten-day April trip was spent with a family in North West Ang Thong province. Less than two hours drive, but a world away, from Bangkok.

I knew that central Thailand would not have hills, but it’s different to actually experience it. Like The Netherlands, this is area is flat. Rivers, canals, trees, rice and other crops, small towns.

The umbrella in the photo on the top left is not for a picnic. It was keeping the sun off a pump that was taking water from a small river into the fields. Houses were a mixture of modern concrete construction and a few in the more traditional style that you see in the photo on the right below.

My hosts run a store and sell everything from fuel to fishing rods, so there was a regular parade of people stopping by to buy something, or maybe just to chat. After a while the idea of fitting three or four people on a motorcycle started to seem normal, but the sight of people wearing balaclavas in the heat still seemed a little odd. I was surprised how new most of the cars and motorcycles looked. I guess they don’t get a chance to get old under these conditions.

Of course, this was the hot season. Over 35C. It was not as bad as I feared, since it was not particularly humid and there was almost no rain during my visit. Of course, taking several showers a day helps make it bearable. I think that not being in and out of air conditioned buildings made it easier to acclimatize. I did have air conditioning in my bedroom, but it was only used to cool down the room before sleeping.

It took me a couple of days to get used to the idea of putting ice in my beer. But it’s either that or drink it much too quickly.

The bugs were not too bad, though I did use repellent frequently in the evenings. My hosts relied on mosquito coils, stubbornly refusing my offers of repellent, and complained more than I did about the insects!

Earplugs are something I always pack when I’m travelling. In this case they were useful not only to keep out the early-morning sounds of animals and machinery. There was always the risk that a pickup with a multi-kW sound system would park outside my window.

It was enlightening to experience the details of the countryside. Picking mangos and wandering among the coconut palm, bananas, rice, and other crops. Little details that puzzled me when researching the trip, or learning the language suddenly fell into place. Hmm, “sor sala”. There’s a “sala” over there in front of the house. The few traditional houses I saw were familiar from the illustrations in the Manee reader:

My hosts spoke little English. This was an advantage because it was much easier for me to use my broken Thai without feeling like a complete idiot. Sometimes I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, or when, but I soon learned to be relaxed about that.

It took me a while to get used to the Thai “showers”, scooping water over myself, and the squat toilets. But after some practise the practicalities were apparent.

I had worried a little about getting sick, so I had made sure that my vaccines were up to date, and that I had some emergency supplies. But I had few problems. Some runniness at times, but probably just from too much seafood and more spices than I was used to.

It was a pleasant and friendly place to spend time in. I hope to be back soon!

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