Arriving in Thailand we experienced it: the enigma of arrival.
That euphoric feeling when one crosses the border between the familiar and the strange and finds oneself in a different culture.
We had expected it. It wasn’t as if this was our first visit to this country. Far from it. Over the years we had been there often and seen the country undergo dramatic changes, some of them for the better, others far less so.
Anya and I broke our flight from Amsterdam to Adelaide to visit friends in living in the city of Khon Khan in the north east of Thailand. Our last visit to Thailand was in the late 2018, when we travelled in the very south of the country, near the Malaysian border (lying near the Laotian border Khon Khan was at the opposite end of the country so to speak).
After a break of four years – including two years staying in Australia due to Covid and the previous eight months travelling in Europe (Spain, Corsica, Belgium, Finland and Italy) – flying into Thailand was like visiting a strange country.
Why, I don’t know.
Perhaps because it was something very different to the western cultures such as Australia and the nations of Europe.
Over the years, Thailand has modernised quickly, in the process losing much of its original culture – and the enigma was palpable.
We booked a budget hotel for a night to recover from the overnight the international flight from Amsterdam. It was in an outlying area rather than situated amongst the hotel towers closer to the international airport. It took some time in the mini bus to get there. We found ourselves in an area where the hotels were smaller (3 and 4 story) and where local Thais also lived.
The enigma of arrival involves a sense of otherness. Religion plays a powerful role: here in the most mundane place, outside our hotel, the icons of a different belief system:
Arriving in our room I opened the back door where there was a small balcony and took in the view:
The following day we took the hotel mini bus to Don Muang Airport to get the flight to Khon Khan; a lot of waiting for a flight of an hour.
Priority seating for monks at Don Muang Airport
We arrived in Khon Khan mid afternoon, spent time talking to our friends and late in the afternoon went to the local market. If there’s one thing which is unique about Thailand it’s the evening markets. In this case in a lane adjacent one of the ubiquitious icons of the Thai landscape, the ‘7-11’ mini-market: