Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Bicycle

 It's been almost two months already since I arrived in Thailand and, as usual, my first blog post is fashionably late. The place I am currently calling home is the small town of Phrae in the northern region of the country, where few travellers come and English speakers have become a bit of a novelty for me.

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.
My research work involves the recent UN award winning participatory irrigation management scheme in the area. The program involves farmers at the grassroots in decision making surrounding the water management. I am talking to those involved about how the scheme works and whether there is anything happening to make water use more sustainable. The work itself fluctuates between being enjoyable and frustrating, often leaning heavily towards frustrating... again, because of communication issues. There has been one lovely soul, however, that has been willing to help with translation when possible and has made my job much easier (Thanks Toon!). There is now the bittersweet prospect of having only a few days left in Phrae before heading back to Bangkok. Good times to come though, with a certain lovely man to meet up with for a couple weeks of touring through Cambodia and Thailand. After New Year's, I'll be heading to a new site which I expect will be just as, if not more, challenging than this one. I'll try to be a bit more regular with my posts!


1 comment:

  1. Somroomyob! I am living my travelling side vicariously through you! And keep up the postings.... I'm interested in all! Especially about where you are , the people, and a very particular man person!!!!!! ;) love you!