Category Archives: Angthong

Out and about in Ang Thong

All of my travels around North West Ang Thong, and beyond, were done by car or pickup truck. This was comfortable and convenient, though I was often not sure exactly where I was. Also, I did not get a chance to discover whether I really could survive for long on my own devices, which may or may not be a good thing…

As well as visiting what could be described as tourist destinations (which I’ll talk about later) we made a lot of trips to restaurants (all excellent), markets, or the 7/11. Occasional trips to ATMs also posed no particular difficulties.

Thinking back on my trip I realise that in my ten days in Thailand I did not say one word to a foreigner. Furthermore, I only recall seeing one or two in Ang Thong province. On the other hand, I did not feel like a curiosity either. Thai people appeared to hardly notice me. If they did they would smile or respond as best they could to my feeble attempts at communication.

The cities are small, as you can see above. If you look carefully you’ll notice that we really should be on the left side of those double yellow lines. Driving like this would cause havoc in most western countries, but in Asia the oncoming traffic anticipates it, making it marginally safer. I just wish my Thai friends would wear seatbelts more often.

On Mondays there was a market nearby, with a variety of food, clothing, and household goods for sale. Not much for a tourist to buy, though I did get some shirts and shorts. People to whom I’ve shown the above picture have commented on the power lines. If they had seen the power sockets on the pole and the extension cords that the vendors ran from them they would have been even more surprised.

Inevitably, events like this are noisy, often with incredibly loud music being broadcast around the lot. But they are good fun and there is plenty to eat and drink.

Motorcycles are, of course, a widely used form of transport. I’m not sure what these workers are going to spray. I still can’t get used to the hats and balaclavas!

There are tens of thousands of temples in Thailand. It’s hard to avoid tripping over them. The local temple seemed almost deserted most of the time. However, some nights it turned into a carnival, with music (loud of course!), rides, competitions, and all kinds of stalls selling food, toys, and other items.

One of the buildings had some very graphic illustrations of what I imagine happens to people who live unwholesome lives. Scary stuff.

Towards the end of my stay I walked down to the temple to have a more careful look. A couple of km in the 35C heat had me drenched with sweat. The workmen doing some renovations looked concerned and offered me some beer and I accepted a mouthful, though it did not seem quite right to be drinking there. They offered me a ride home, but I explained in my broken Thai that I wanted to look around and take some photographs. They did understand one or two important English words. As well as “beer” they understood “New Zealand” and “rugby”.

After looking around for a while I started on the walk home. But I only got about 100m before a policeman stopped and offered me a ride on his motorcycle. This time I gratefully accepted.

Rural Thailand is such a friendly place…

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!