At the beginning of the East Asian Monsoon Season, rice fields are plowed and readied for planting. In preparation for planting, rice seed beds were already sprouting when it was time for my quarterly trip out of
to fulfill the requirements of my 1-year Thai
Non-Immigrant “O” Visa.
This trip was my 7th to Lao in a little over two years. It turned out to be one of my best so far and contained one particular day that was outstanding; my single greatest day in Lao, thus far, and a day I will never forget.
I head out on my travel permit renewal trips every three months. This time, it was right after The Coup. Leaving the province, at the Nong Bua Lamphu bawkasaw (bus station), I noticed a newly-installed television. When the Thai national anthem came on, most everyone followed tradition and stood up, including me. Not everyone did and some paid the anthem “no never mind.” When I first came to
years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Everyone would have stood
up proudly. It is a sign of the changing times.
(seal of Nong Bua Lamphu Province, Thailand)
Going to Xayaburi Province, in Lao, from Nong Bua, I usually take a second-class bus to Muang Loei, then transfer to a sawng-thaew to Tha Li. This is now becoming a familiar route for me and I still vividly remember the first time I took it with Thip. Memorable, also, was the last time I took it, when I met that thin, young Lao country girl. All during the ride from Tha Li to Loei, we kept giving each other inconspicuous looks. I racked my brain trying to figure out how I could become friends with her; get to know her more, after the ride. I got the impression she’d be up for it and t would have been good, I thought, as she lived in Muang Loei and Loei wasn’t that far from Nong Bua. But, she knew very little English and I know very little Lao. I could not get through the Language Barrier.
On this ride from Muang Loei to Tha Li, I did my usual of sharing a bag of Kopiko coffee candies all around. I just passed the bag along and while most people were shy to take one or two, the last guy – a very sketchy-looking guy, I might add – just pocketed what was left over, bag and all. This surprised me, but also reminded me that the world is full of strange characters.