4 May 2013

My Near-Bomb Experience

"Copyright Owen Jones 2013 (c)"

By: Owen Jones

My Near-Bomb ExperienceUdon Thani is a big city in northern Isaan, which itself is called north-east Thailand, except by the millions of Thais who live north of it. Foreigners nd the Thai government do tend to live south-west of it.

Anyway, we arrived in this lovely city on our way back from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, which is only an hour from it. We needed to move onto the next hub on the Thai travelling network - Phitsanulok - so that we could get back to our village in northern Thailand as opposed to where we were in north-eastern Thailand.

In reality, Udon Thani and where we live are equally north, although purists may say that they are a few hundred metres north of us

There are two bus stations in Udon, as it is known locally: one in the city centre and one just outside, conveniently called one and two. Number One serves travellers to Udon and number two those who're going on elsewhere.

It is typical of Thai bus stations, that as soon as you get off the bus, dozens of people, men and women, bombard you with 'Hello, where are you going?', hoping to be able to take you there at an exorbitant rate because you are a foreigner. Not that thy are adverse to ripping off anyone who is new to the place.

So, please don't take it personally, as I used to - you are not alone, wherever you come from.

The best way of dealing with this onslaught is with distain and nonchalance. just don't look at anybody or speak to anybody until you are composed. Get a bottle of water and sit down for five minutes. look around.

My wife has been training me I this regard for nine years and I am just learning to be rude without feeling guilty. I justify this by saying to myself that I did not initiate the conversation, so they accosted me.

If you approach any Thai bus or train station with this in mind, you won't go far wrong. In fact, you will go far right, because they will stop seeing you as stupid, rich, foreign prey and start treating you as a fellow human being.

This is not behaviour typical to Thailand. Taxi drivers are renowned for taking advantage of strangers all over the world.

Anyway, to return to Udon Than Bus Terminal Number Two. If you practice the above, you will soon be invited to sit at a point convenient for catching your bus or you can sit elsewhere if you like. There are quite a few small Thai/Lao cafes near by.

If you just want a beer or coffee without food, that is OK, but I highly recommend trying Isaan food, after making sure that they know you want it 'not hot'(mai pet), because Isaan food is one of the hottest regional varieties in Thailand.

I was sitting outside one such cafe this evening, when there was a deafening explosion. Clouds of dust were billowing down the road towards me and several cars drove off at high speed. People rushed for cover.

However, it transpired that a bus had driven over a reinforcing bar in the road, which had punctured a tyre. The bus was still driving off, 50 metres away from us, oblivious that it had been the cause of the panic.

Thailand has on-going terrorist problems with Muslim separatists from the south, but people rushed to protect me although they neither knew me nor knew what was going on.

by Owen Jones

Source: http://behind-the-smile.org/wordpress/
Owen Jones is a writer and self-publisher of a novel ('Behind The Smile ~ The Story of Lek, A Bar Girl In Pattaya'), 100+ ebooks, 150 web sites and well over 1,000 articles.

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