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Col. Kurtz

Lost in Isaan: The chronicles of my time in Sisaket

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Col. Kurtz

For a certain reason, I have to return to Sisaket province in Isaan, Thailand every single year. These are my experiences here….

 

I arrived in Bangkok on the 18th December in the afternoon. Everything felt like a routine. I got off the plane, made it through the immigration, grabbed my bag, went a floor down to the cabs, grabbed one of these and got transported smoothly through the chaotic traffic to my destination: Soi Nana Sukhumvit.

I spent a couple of nights in this infamous entertainment area while I had a look at my options on getting to Sisaket province for New Year. It must have been December the 27th when my former brother in law, namely “Oat”, hit me up on facebook and asked me about my plans on going to Sisaket. Oat used to be one of the countless taxi drivers in Bangkok but has given up the occupation for a little better paying job in a recycling company. We haven’t met each other for over 2 years so I was quite surprised to hear from him. He told me that he rented a car and if I wanted to join him, this way we could share the costs for the rent and the fuel. “Okay”, I thought, “Why not?”. The only alternative option I had in mind was going by the night bus from Mochit bus station. Cheaper- of course, but much less convenient. So we made an appointment for the 30th in the evening and exchanged phone numbers.

 

I checked out of my room in Soi Nana and took a taxi with direction Nong Khaem suburb. On behalf of navigation apps and the way description that Oat provided, we soon found the place and I was glad to meet him after more than 2 years and apparently he felt the same. He had a small room next to the recycling company he worked for. It was dark and a bit shabby. There was some rubbish outside and everything looked exactly how someone would expect a less wealthy area in Thailand to look like. Next to the rooms was a pool table surrounded by his coworker friends who seemed to spend a lot of their spare time with. I had a brief chit chat with them, helped Oat to put some of his stuff into the car, and had some rice and grilled beef for dinner before we started our 6-hour lasting journey through rural Thailand.

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Col. Kurtz

The journey itself went quite smoothly. Due to the fact that we started relatively late (it was just 1 day before New Year’s Eve), there was not a lot of traffic neither in Bangkok nor in the provinces that we passed. Only the last hour before sunrise was a bit of a challenge, as Oat struggled with being tired and could not really see the road marking that almost caused the vehicle to get off the track. But as soon as we arrived at Sisaket province, the sun came up and we looked forward to crushing the last few kilometers until we would arrive.

We had a stop at a bordering Amphoe and bought some stuff for kids and family and got us 2 big bottles of Chang which we would immediately open and pour down. It was a big surprise for all the folks there when we arrived at the house and tears accompanied the greeting. What an emotional moment. After a strengthening meal and a few pints Chang more, I could hear a noise outside on the road in front of the house. We all went out and could witness many people gathering for a wedding parade.

We didn’t hesitate and joined the group. As I expected it, David, a man from Scotland who can be found every year at the same time as me in Sisaket, was there dressed in traditional Scottish garb and was ready to go as well. A pick up with a monstrous sound system lead the parade and immediately started to drive and to blast loud music through the huge speakers. The women right behind the car started abruptly to dance and the rest of the group followed.      

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Col. Kurtz

 

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Col. Kurtz

After we walked for more than a kilometer, we decided to get back due to the lack of drinking water, the burning sun, and a general level of exhaustion. We were lucky to get a lift by a random pick up and arrived soon back at the house.

Shortly after, Kaew- my former sister in law and her long term boyfriend Tom arrived in Sisaket for my surprise. I was glad to see them as I have lively memories about a few years ago when we would spend our weekends together in Bangkok’s suburbs. We always enjoyed being around each other with food, beer, and a good laugh. They came down all the way from Ubon Ratchathani, a neighboring province north of Sisaket.

We sat together and had even more pints of Chang until I could all of a sudden feel how the night on the road and the many beers made me sleepy right away. I arranged the seats in Tom’s pick up and fell into a deep slumber until I woke up again at around 6 pm. Tom and Kaew asked me to accompany them to Ubon, where they planned to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I agreed and we started our 2 and a half hour lasting journey to the house of Tom’s family in Ubon Ratchathani, not far away from the Laotian border. We arrived at 11 pm and most of the people there were already drunk and had what I would describe as a typical Thai party with tons of Isaan food, dozens of beer bottles and not to forget the odd person enjoying their “Lao Khao”-rice spirit.

At first, I provoked surprised reactions as I was the only foreigner there, but no long time passed by and I blended perfectly in. The house itself was huge with many rooms but with the simple sanitary equipment that is typical for houses in rural Thailand. Right behind it, there were a few square meters with rubber trees, that contributes a little more than 20 000 baht a month to the family’s income, Tom told me. The firework started after the count and now it was the year 2019. It always gives me shivers when I think about how fast the time goes by in recent years. It feels like the clock turns faster and faster with every single year. Anyways, I got drunk together with Tom and 2 other Thais whose names I cannot remember.

Happy New Year!            

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Dr No

 Very interesting, keep going mate. 

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Col. Kurtz

I woke up on New Year and could feel a stark pain everywhere in my head. Ouch! What a hangover! That was definitely the aftermath of the Chang beer –massacre the night before. I believe that there is no beer in the world that causes a more severe hangover than Chang. If anyone can prove me wrong: Go for it!

After a refreshing shower in a basic Isaan-style bathroom with nothing but a tank full with cold water and a ladle, I went outside to the other Thai guys and started to do what they did: Fighting the hangover with even more beer and Lao Khao, or how they call it: “tawn”. Smashing down the first bottle felt rather painful, the second was much better already. Not a lot of time passed by and the food was served to us. I took over the charge for the pumpkin- curry and the steamed fish, which were both extremely delicious. The feast was accompanied by a cold glass of beer and everything went down a treat. I must have looked quite tired as the guy sitting next to me asked me if I wanted to take a nap inside the house.

And indeed, I felt like I was ready for the cradle again. So I deliberately followed the advice of the observant fella and slumbered for a few hours inside the house, before it was evening again. We basically spent the night exactly like the night before with eating, drinking and having a good laugh. The next day, we woke up quite early as we had plans to bring Tom’s father to the hospital in the provincial capital. He fell down and injured his knee a couple of days before and wasn’t able to move let alone to walk. We spent about 3 hours there until they let Tom’s father out of the emergency room and we could go. 

Our plan was to head to “Wat Phra Pao”, near the Laotian border. This place was amazing. It is a nice temple building on top of the mountain with a great view over the surrounding landscape and mountains. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in Sisaket and therefore I could take neither videos nor pictures of this beautiful scenery. We enjoyed watching the sunset there and returned to Tom’s family house after that were dozens of dishes of Thai food waited for us. Stir-fried crab with curry powder, spicy crab salad and a lizard- curry which was totally new to me.

I took a few spoons and evaluated the taste. It was not too bad; the consistency was quite a bit fishy, but no intrusive taste. I would have almost eaten it up, but suddenly I caught a piece that felt like the foot of the reptile. Before I even could start to chew, I noticed the sensation of lizard- fingers in my mouth and spit the whole thing out right away. –Yes! It was the foot, or the hand, anyways at this moment my carrier as a lizard- stew gourmet came abruptly to an end. The next day arrived and we packed our things in the morning and put everything on the loading area of the pickup. We said goodbye to everyone and headed straight back towards Sisaket province.

Back in Sisaket, I looked for a room in a resort nearby as it really works on me to use the basic sanitary stuff for multiple days. Many nights sleeping on the plain concrete ground with almost no padding is also only doable for a few days for me. I found a really nice bungalow in a resort about 10 kilometers away. It was spacey, new and clean, alone the water pressure left room for improvement. But for 600 baht a night, it was more than satisfying. I spend the next couple of days with my family in Sisaket before I went back to Bangkok in order to travel to the next destination on my list: Cambodia

This travel report is going to pause right now and will be continued in about 2-3 weeks.

If you are interested in my travel to Cambodia look here:  

 

 

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Ranovertheborder

Thanks for posting I really enjoyed reading that 

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Howdo

Thanks for sharing your trip. What part of Sisaket do you stay in? I have been to Sisaket many times and will be making a return there in September ten years after my last trip there. Also how far away is Wat Phra Pao? It sounds like a side trip worth taking.

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Col. Kurtz
On 24/02/2019 at 21:28, Howdo said:

Thanks for sharing your trip. What part of Sisaket do you stay in? I have been to Sisaket many times and will be making a return there in September ten years after my last trip there. Also how far away is Wat Phra Pao? It sounds like a side trip worth taking.

Sorry for the late reply, i'm all over my cambodia report now. I stay in pranku district next to khukhan. Wat phra pao ist nice, just forgot my camera, just have some shitty phone shots. Its worth a visit if you want to explore ubon rathschathani.

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Howdo
On 02/03/2019 at 18:04, Col. Kurtz said:

Sorry for the late reply, i'm all over my cambodia report now. I stay in pranku district next to khukhan. Wat phra pao ist nice, just forgot my camera, just have some shitty phone shots. Its worth a visit if you want to explore ubon rathschathani.

Thanks for the reply. I am looking forward to checking out Wat phra pao in September. Now I must go read your Cambodia trip report

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Col. Kurtz
Posted (edited)

For those who did not follow my trip report about Cambodia:

I ended up bringing a Khmer girl to Thailand. We first arrived in Bangkok via bus, had 3 nights in Khao San Road after we headed to Hua Hin for some relaxing days at the sea before we would go to Sisaket. Here is my review on a budget guesthouse with sea view

 

Edited by Col. Kurtz

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Col. Kurtz

The next 2 videos will cover the time in Hua- Hin, despite being a trip report about Isan. I hope you all don’t mind the little sidetrack it’s just to stick to the story of the whole trip. This is how Hua Hin night market looks like during the low season:

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Col. Kurtz

If you fancy some Muay Thai training: There is a nice laid back gym, called Muay Thai Garden located in the soi next to Soi Binthang (Bar street)

 

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