Even after two months Thailand still feels like a complete mystery to me. The communication barriers have made it very difficult to get to know anyone or to gain any real understanding of the culture. What I know mostly comes from travel guides and the typically cynical perspectives of the few long term expats in town. But I suppose that in this little town of Phrae I am as much a mystery to the people here as they are to me.
My status in town seemed to elevate slightly when I acquired a pedal bike to cruise the town on. No one walks anywhere ... apparently other than tourists and the poorest of the poor (and there seem to be very few from either category). The vast majority drive scooters, while the others use cars or bicycles. With the acquirement of my bicycle, it seems that people went from looking at me as mere tourist to something of a more permanent fixture. I now get nods from other cyclists and motorbikers and feel pretty local when I pull up in front of the open market to buy bananas from my favorite fruitseller.
I've gotten into the habit of going on daily rides in the countryside. My favorite loop (ie. the one with the fewest stray dogs trying to chase and eat me) winds through a small village and then through rice paddies at the base of the stunning nearby jungle laden hills. I still get strange looks from those whose houses and shops line the village streets. I'm sure they are wondering where the 'farang' (foreigner) could possibly be going and why I only seem to ever pass in one direction. Here are a few photos from my sunset ride this evening.
|Time for rice harvesting before the dry season sets in|
|The main irrigation canal. My research focus on those who are managing this waterway.|