Khon Kaen & Khorat, Thailand
We pulled into Khon Kaen, melting under the heat, and excited about the prospect of getting into a room with an air conditioner and a cold shower. We went to the Roma Hotel and asked for an A/C room. They said it would be 500 baht, I said , how about 400 baht, and they smiled, said ok and handed me the key. The smile should have been my clue. Who smiles when you talk them down? So we drag our sweaty bodies and heavy bags up four flights of stairs and enter a room that looks like this….
I stood in the room for four minutes, asking myself, am I just judging this book by cover, or does it really smell like mouse excrement and mold? You would think that traveling for a year would make us tough, hardended budget bohemians able to rough it for the sake of culture and experience. You would be wrong. We asked to see another room. We got more of the same. That’s when I got smart and asked to see a 500 baht room. And this is what we got….
It had air conditioning, free wi-fi, comfy beds, fluffy pillows, a clean bathroom, and cable TV. We left the hotel and walked 3 miles to find a well-regarded restaurant, only to return to the hotel after not finding it. We pretty much didn’t leave the room after that. Yes, that seems lazy, but there is really very little to see and do in Khon Kaen. Besides, some could even argue that being lazy is a form of cultural immersion.
After a few days, we hopped on a bus and went further south to Nakhon Ratchsima, or Khorat as it’s more commonly known. Again, hot weather tempted us to stay inside, but feeling guilty about our slothfulness, we decided to explore the city. As we looked for places to eat we came across huge Wats and several Chinese temples. But what really caught our eye was the impressive graffiti that we hadn’t seen in any other Southeast Asian city. In most alley ways we found some really incredible artwork sprayed on the walls.
As you probably well know by now, food is one of our main joys in traveling. Sampling the delicacies of a region is fun and, in Thailand, a cheap pleasure. But what I rarely mention is that it can be quite a stressful ordeal. Northeast Thailand is seldom touristed, which makes typical food stall eating a challenge due to spoken and body language issues. While a food stall employee in Chiang Mai may know the words for chicken and pork as well as the hand motion for ‘no’, a food stall worker in Khon Kaen may not know any English and will be confused by the western hand signal for no. The southeast Asian hand signal for no is the hand signal we give for ‘kind of’. Add to that the embarrassment of having all eyes on you and it can be an awkward situation. In the name of cheap food, though, we always persevere and are often rewarded for our daring-do.
Not much time was spent in either of the cities because Thailand has changed it’s visa laws. Crossing the border now gives visitors a 15 day visa instead of a 30 day visa, so we could only spend three days in each city. After all we had to get to Bangkok….