Photos by MJ Klein, including some FOOD PHOTOS
Day four of my Thailand trip began very early, as I had a morning flight to Khonkaen. I did not take out my D7000 for the duration of the flight. So my first shot of the day was taken with my mobile phone as I exited the plane and walked toward the terminal building:
It had been well over 2 years since I was last in Khonkaen. I had some questions about places that I used to frequent, as things change pretty quickly in Thailand. But I didn’t have time to go check things out. The first order of business was to get down to Phon to the factory that I had come to visit.
I got on the bus and took a seat in what looked like the biggest row. It turns out that things have changed since I was last in Khonkaen. There are 2 bus terminals, and I went to the one where I used to get buses to Phon in years past. They are no longer there. So I had to walk about 1.5 KM to the old bus station. I found a bus that was leaving in 15 minutes according to the schedule, anyway. It ended up leaving about 30 minutes later.
This is the old, non-airconditioned bus terminal. In times past, only the local non-VIP buses stop here, which is why I wanted to avoid taking a bus from this station. I wanted a VIP bus with air conditioning and one that only stops at the major stations.
This vendor got on the bus, and let me tell you, he had a real rap going! He held up various items for sale and even though I cannot understand Thai, I could tell that he had a very good presentation prepared. You can see toothbrushes in his left hand, while he holds up lighters. He had fingernail clippers, and you name it!
Rather bored waiting for the bus to take off, I looked out the window and took a few shots of the old station.
Finally we backed out of our slot and started to move!
The line of tuk-tuks are still there of course, but….
these are new – metered taxis. The last time I was in Khonkaen, I heard a rumor about metered taxis coming to the city. It turns out that the rumor was true. These metered taxis were very vigorously opposed by the tuk-tuk drivers, who are accustomed to charging customers whatever they think they can get away with. The main problem with using a tuk-tuk is that most of the time I cannot tell the driver where I want to go in Thai beforehand. The reason this is important is because you have to get the price up front before you begin. Once, in Bangkok, I neglected to get the price up front for a short trip to the BTS and the driver had the nerve to charge me 300 baht. That trip should have been 40 or 50 baht. So, it’s important to negotiate that price before you get in the tuk-tuk. But if you can’t tell the driver the name of the place (and you’re just going to point and tell him where to turn) then you can’t haggle the price. But the metered taxis solve that problem by the use of the meter. It doesn’t matter where you are going – you can just point and grunt, but the meter will read the same as if you spoke perfect Thai to the driver. The tuk-tuk drivers do not like the competition.
One last look at the old bus station and we’re on our way down to Phon.
Central Plaza is relatively new to Khonkaen. It’s a nice upscale mall not unlike what you would find in Taiwan. We went there to eat on our last trip, and I have some great food photos to show you from this trip, taken in a new Japanese restaurant. But that’s later.
This bus was what Brunty calls “a cattle car” and it takes back streets and stops anywhere. We passed this oil refinery complex that I had never seen before, and it’s in Khonkaen.
I love stuff like this. Real Thai.
Now, at first glance, this might seem like a shot of 2 people on a motorcycle taking lots of stuff with them. But it’s not. The subject of this photo is the window. There is no metal column between the panes of glass. The black strip is duct tape. The entire time I was riding, the window was rattling and I could see daylight along the bottom seam. It occurred to me that if I sat with pressure on the window, it could break and I would be tossed out of the bus at highway speed. Naturally, I readjusted things so I wasn’t touching the glass!
These gas station/rest area complexes are so typical of highway travel in Thailand. Some of these complexes are huge!
There are still places with high water. It’s been years and the water still hasn’t receded.
The bus took a turn toward Ban Phai station.
This next series of photos was taken with my camera in my lap, pointing out the window beside a seat. I’ve reported on police checks in Thailand before, and this one is a perpetual police check on Highway 2, south of Ban Phai. If you ask me, it’s nothing but an opportunity for the Thai police to line their pockets with cash.
Here you see a police officer writing a ticket. Notice that they are all wearing masks. You cannot identify them with the sun glasses and masks.
This poor sucker is going to have to pay.
I have no idea what the criteria for stopping a vehicle is, but I’ve yet to be stopped at this particular checkpoint when driving either a motorcycle or car.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering why I would post a photo of a urinal. It’s because Dear Reader, I have a duty to show you everything that I see. This is the first time that I’ve seen fruit used to manage the smell of a urinal, so naturally I had to share this with you. Please note that this technique was not successful, however.
I arrived in Phon and decided to walk to the factory because I wanted to get some exercise. As I headed out to the main road, I turned around and snapped this photo of the Phon Bus station.
As I was walking down the highway, I saw the above block building, and….
These Isaan ladies selling their wonderful dried sausage.
In this story, I mention going to a factory where we met Mr. Somhkit. So I won’t go into it here, but I went to ask Mr. Somkhit to pack up my tools and send them to Taiwan. Mr. Somkhit took me to lunch, and his lovely wife and daughter joined us.
Right off, I had a Thai tea! It was delicious!
First up, mu krapau – a very very good version of this famous dish!
Sour Thai seafood soup.
This was so good, it deserves a second shot!
Deep fried morning glory. The sauce was perfect with the aromatic vegetables.
Believe it or not, this is a German style pork leg. So you can see of course, there was too much food on the table, again!
As we were talking about food and tea, I was made aware of a very cool offering: Thai style bubble tea! This is the same excellent Thai style mixed tea from the first photo, with the tapioca balls from Taiwan! This tea was fantastic! I hope to see this tea available in Taiwan soon!
I wanted to get a shot of the place where we ate, but, because of the air conditioning, my lens fogged up as soon as I went back outdoors. Oh well.
Since my business with Mr. Somkhit was concluded for that day, I went back to the bus station to catch a bus for Udon Thani to meet Oath, who had flown there this morning. Mr. Somkhit took me to the bus station where he introduced me to his friend, one of the managers. I got my ticket and said goodbye to Mr. Somkhit, but only after we made arrangements to meet later on in the week.
The uneventful multi-hour trip to Udon Thani
Once I got to Udon Thani, I met Oath who picked me up and took me to a hotel where he was staying with his girlfriend. I was so beat from the early morning flight that I took a shower and went to sleep right away. Later on when I met up with Oath and his girlfriend to go out to eat, I forgot to take my camera with me – that’s just how tired I was. So, like a dummy, I wasn’t able to take any shots of where we went, except for this mobile phone shot below:
They had a huge stage, with 5 bands going on, one after the other, throughout the night. Fortunately, Hui-chen and I went to Udon Thani the last time we were in Thailand, and we got photos of what we did. We were in the same place as this time with Oath, so if you read this article you will get the idea of where I was this time.
I felt really bad about forgetting my camera, but I promise that I’ll make it up to you with photos from upcoming installments!
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Articles in series Thailand, 2012: