We got up on the 11th of October at 6AM and after being ready got out and found a taxi immediately. He drove us to the main bus station. We had to wait almost an hour before we left. The bus was quite comfortable. Much better than all our past experiences in Africa. It was nice too to be in the middle of Thai people and no more surrounded of many tourists.
The mentality of these people is nice, one has to take time to observe them. There is a kind of shyness sometimes in their way of being. Other times it is exactly the way around.
It took almost 9 hours to the bus to complete the 515km. An interesting point was that most of the panoramas were not differing very much from what we see in Europe. The country seems to be much developed.
However, approaching Udon Thani many small business running gave again a typical asia touch.
We needed to take a Tuk Tuk to get to our hotel. Here Tuk Tuk are quite different from the ones driving in Bangkok. A kind of mix between Bangkok Tuk Tuk and Zanzibars Dalla Dalla …
The hotel is very comfortable. We even have our own shower and toilet … it is already a long time we had not that much luxus. We then decided to go outside for dinner. In our street there are exclusively Internet Cafe and Hair cut. This is amazing. more than 200m long only such business are running and even new opening. The average rate is 10 Baht for an hour (25 Euro cents). In the touristic area of Bangkok the rate is 3 times higher…
The city is as well very nice, people are looking at us being kind of surprised to see Mzungu (white people) here. Indeed we saw only another white man. Otherwise only Thai people.
We found a very typical restaurant: a few tables and chairs spread and in a corner the kitchen in a very small area providing gas and located closed to a fridge. We avoid strictly meat. However here almost no one speaks english. Hence we showed simply to the cook with our fingers: fish -> Yes, meat -> No with big signs. She laughed and prepared our dish.
As we were served we had exclusively meat … I wondered whether we will have any chance to communicate when so low level dialog gets misunderstood … 30 minutes later as the cook saw we left all meat aside, she came apologizing in Thai 🙂
Another communication surprise was when I called the reception to know whether I could let my computer in the room or if I should rather bring it to the reception when going out. They answered: Yes. I asked whether she understood my question and replied just a moment … looking for another person speaking better english.
Hence people here are very polite but they prefer saying yes than explaining they did not understood what was said … maybe it is impolite here not to understand a person.
On the 12th I stood up at 7AM to go to the village of Nong Bua Lamphu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nong_Bua_Lamphu_Province) where the sisters are staying. I asked the reception to write me in Thai the name of the village and left the hotel to go to the Bus Terminal located far away. As I saw a Tuk Tuk I asked him to drive me to the Bus Terminal. He could not understand what I meant. He called someone speaking english and I asked again … same thing he could not understand. Then I showed the name of the village. Then he understood. He asked me for 100Baht that I could reduce to 70.
The bus going there is really nice, many colors and pictures inside. A little chaotic but lovely. It took over an hour to drive 50 km and I was left in the middle of nowhere. I asked a local Tuk Tuk for the House of Mother Teresa. Even the word mother could not be understood. I then asked in a shop and a girl speaking english told me it was far away.
She called a Tuk Tuk (he could not understand even a word of english) and we went … for a small adventure. We drove a lot on a kind of Highway where I think a Tuk Tuk is not allowed to drive on such roads. After a while, as no house could be found he asked any guy on the street who somehow sent him to hell. Then he drove in the opposite direction and asked again someone who told him to ask over the road. He asked again and after a long discussion in Thai we went again further in the first direction … for a long time. After asking 2 or 3 times we arrived at a place for children but it was not the one of the sisters. There he spoke a long time with people. He was somehow upset but I could not understand him. After the long discussion he drove me again very far in a different direction. Again he had to asked 2 or 3 times and finally after almost 2 hours in total we arrived …
I met the main sister who explained me at the house children are in average 14 years old and most of them are HIV positive. However they are carefully followed and one cannot notice anything: no sign of weakness … they are actually restless. We talked half an hour and then as the children were not at home that day she told me I could come next day.
In the evening we went to eat in a nice restaurant. We could order from the menu to make sure it would be well understood. To drink we asked for Milk Shake Coco … they said no problem and we got chocolate sorbet 🙂
On the 13th (saturday), similar story. This time I took a bus which drove me to the bus terminal of Udon Thani and then switched to the one going to the bus terminal of Nong Bua Lamphu. I tried to find the way of the sisters. She had written in Thai the name of their house. I asked many people but unfortunately no one knew. Again I spent around 1h30 searching. I met many very nice people who really tried to help me asking around … without success. As I asked in a kind of restaurant, someone took his motorway and brought me there. As we arrived he did not want even 1 Baht … he did that only to help. I am amazed seeing how nice people here are. Only Tuk Tuk give the feeling to try to cheat but they are as well really nice persons.
As I arrived, the sisters were away, the cook showed me the room where the children were and I went inside. Children were somehow spreaded all playing, some in groups, some alone. I went around, every child greeted me very politely with a smile mixed of a kind of curiosity and shyness. One of them is kind of mentally disabled. It was intersting to notice the difference with the children of Tanzania who immiediately started to play with us when we arrived the first hour already.
Here they first observe. We then went to eat altogether sit around the same table. Many observed me. I started to ask for some translation: Rice, Chicken, … It was a kind of fun. Afer lunch, in most of the houses of the sisters I saw so far, children go for 2 hours rest.
After resting some came out to do some hula hoop. I took the opportunity to try what I did not do since around 30 years … it was a disaster but nice to get more in contact. Then a seven years old child proposed me to play draughts. I as well did not do so since around 30 years. I tried and after less than 2 minutes the child had won. A second time I could survive 5 minutes. Then another child a little older came and help me. We survived 10 minutes. But the youngest seems to be really good. He stopped and never lost even once … around 16:00 I left the house and went back to Udon Thani.