By Christian Norr
Thailand is the East's answer to Greece. No
Asian country receives as many Western tourists as Thailand, and a
large proportion of these are Danish. Despite the large influx, it
is still possible to find largely untouched places where the
authenticity and kindness of another world awaits. Take to Isaan -
Thailand's poorest and least visited province.
The small, yet closed hand slides forward between one of the holes in the stairs. The black eyes and the boyish face are still hidden behind the dilapidated railing. But you look closely for an expectant smile in the darkness. A second later, two pieces like this dump into my hand. Larger gift no adult can hope for, whether the donor lives in a remote village in Thailand
Gifts and good food have always been people's way of welcoming strangers. And nowhere in Thailand does one feel more welcome than in the country's poorest and least visited province, Isaan in northeastern Thailand, bordering Laos and Cambodia on the one hand and the mighty tourist magnet, Chang Mai Province, on the other.
What this part of Thailand lacks in beautiful
beaches, elephant treks and gilded temples, in turn, it has in
excess of something as rare as curiosity, kindness and genuine
The tourist attraction here is human meetings. And not to mention human encounters based on a buyer-seller relationship, as there are many other places in Thailand and the rest of Asia.
It is unimpressed and genuinely interested in showing and giving. The same personality trait that has made the country of the Thais one of the Danes' biggest holiday destinations in recent years.
But unlike many other places in Thailand,
Isaan has not yet been ruined by Western tourists throwing money at
the wrong things and at the same time refusing to pay the price to
the pineapple-selling woman on the beach, who is just trying to earn
a living daily wage.
Therefore, it is not unconscious bathing holiday to make a detour from the well-known tourist route. All the practicality is taken care of, but as in any good meeting, it takes empathy and commitment from both parties to become really good.
This is also the case if you visit the local villages of Isaan. The more you give, the more you get again. Do you choose to reach out and receive the gift, or do you stand up with the camera at a safe distance and just photograph the 'natives?
If you choose the latter, you get good
pictures, but no stories to tell about the pictures. On the other
hand, you have stories for life printed on both the retina and the
photo retina if you not only have to be entertained, but also
contribute to the entertainment yourself.
"A great experience awaits you, if you like," was the slightly cryptic message from our guide in Bangkok before heading into our rented Toyota Hi-Ace with our own driver and guide and heading towards "the unknown Thailand ', As it was so poetically formulated.
However, now it is so with the unknown and pristine in Asia's tourist country number one. There is hardly that street kitchen in Thailand that has not had a big-mouthed backpacker sitting out front eating a hump in tasty Thai food. Isaan is no exception. It just feels that way when you walk down the streets of the small villages and are greeted by giggling children who shyly wave at someone who was the Emperor of China. And the hand on heart: Who doesn't just occasionally enjoy feeling important and especially welcome?
Not because you have paid attention, but
simply because you are a stranger and thus pr. definition
interesting with its white skin, strange words and hair on its legs.
Just a few hours drive from Bangkok, it is as if you are crossing an invisible border with another country. Here it is the old Thailand that meets one, where everything goes the best way with overloaded bikes, waving children, hardworking women in the rice fields and big curious eyes when a Hi-Ace blows through their land of ruddy from time to time. tourists in the back seat.
Bangkok disappears in the rearview mirror, and in front of us the
wide open expands. The fresh air and the beautiful greenery over the
rice fields cause the pulse to drop.
A rice farmer bakes with two oxen, a team of women stretch their backs and straighten the sun hat before bending over the green sprouts that are their lifeblood of everyday life. Isaan is and will become agricultural land. And so it is hard-working farmers who, after a long day's drive, receive us in the village of Khampom.
Although we arrive late at night, a sumptuous evening meal awaits us. And while we taste our way through local Isaan dishes, where the strong papaya salad is a local specialty, Henk, our Dutch host, scrutinizes the program for the coming days:
We go on a tour of the
village, visit the school, the temple, the medical clinic and join
the rice fields and help if we like. And once again, we are reminded
that the more we participate, the more we get out of the visit.
After a night with a local Thai family, it's time for the big village tour. The rumor that there are "farangs" (Thais nicknames for white strangers, ed.) In the village has long since come to an end, and especially the children have difficulty controlling their curiosity.
"Hello, how are you ..." cries a little boy before laughingly burying his head in mother's skirts. Shortly after, he will play: "Paper-stone-or-scissors" and reach out challenging fist. It is these experiences that are the real purpose of the trip.
Kampom certainly does not have the major
tourist attractions to offer, and so anyway - maybe they have
greater experiences than many other places. It just requires eyes
Soon after, we sit at the first parquet in the temple and dine with the village's oldest residents, who have brought the Sunday dinner to the temple, before the oldest monk calls for prayer and gathering.
My bald travel buddies are asked if he is a Danish monk. A smile and a quiet shake of their heads make only the old ladies laugh even louder and rank their own delicious, and less delicious, local dishes for public dining by the village guests.