May 1st & Issan Mukdahan and Nakhom Phanom Province
We had a conversation here with a retired Australian teacher. He told us about the life conditions in Australia a little. About who earns how much.
He gave an example to the jobs making the most money with mine workers at the inlands of the country. They’ve been making 7 thousand Australian dollars in a week. Because the job they’re doing was as hard as no one would want to do, they were living away from the cities, their families, children. He forgets to mention the danger of the job. I guess the reason of this forgetfulness is that this job isn’t that dangerous in Australia any more, that the precautions were taken. I think about the accidents, dying workers in our country and what they earn.
Our laborers working in the conditions in our country aren’t doing it because they like this job or they want to do it. They’re working because they’re forced to work, that they are constrained.
I hope some things will change.
Happy May 1st…
Issan Mukdahan and Nakhom Phanom Province
At last the sun became more merciful and rain cleaned up the trees and houses on our way.
It’s getting cooler. Since we got caught by the storm while we were camping at a resort near the national park the weather began to get chillier. We began to sleep comfortably and ride more comfortable in the mornings in a cool weather with the chill of the rain. At last the most unbearably hot month of here, April is passing and more comfortable days for riding our bikes got closer.
We continue our journey near Mekong river. It’s not possible to see much foreigners here. Even if the roads are partially distorted, the narrow and nice roads makes it much more pleasant for us to ride a bike. This is the course of a cycling organisation called Tour Asia that follows Mekong river. Many cyclists must have passed through the roads we’ve been. Despite this, people here are much more interested in us.
The first biggest town on our road is Muktahan. We arrive there just in noon. I see an interesting building at the entrance of the town. Even if that building had two stories, it seems like a 4-5 story building because of the concrete blinds on its front. The building reminds me of ugly office blocks in Turkey. Since there are no high buildings in the town and since I hadn’t seen a high building for days, in fact months, this two-story buildings remind me of cities.
At the market just across the building we find traditional coffee particular to here. We had Vietnam coffee with us which we had bought from Cambodia however we finished our coffee in 2 weeks. As siblings, we like to drink coffee. We may have different interests but we both have an eye for good coffee. For us, the Vietnam coffee is the most unique taste in the world. Here, especially the coffee brewed in town has a different flavor lik chocolate and it’s quite soft. If you’ll have a chance to drink, you’ll taste one of the most interesting and most unique flavor of the world. We bought 1,5kg of the coffee from Cambodia and carried it with us for 3 weeks. If you think about us carrying 1,5kg of coffee with us during a bike tour, you may understand such a must-have taste this coffee is for us. Since we finished our last Vietnam coffee with Elif, we’ll continue our journey with the Thai coffee we found in that market that day. After the shopping, we wander around the store a little and begin to search for a water vending machine to find sufficient water to take us to the next town. Taking a tour around the town convinces us to stay there. The city centre, where the market is unfortunately unlikeable but the roads that follow Mekong coast and houses are so green that the town is like a giant national park. As we encounter a school yard across Laos, we barge in to also take a tour around there. By chance we find water in there, decide to finish that day early and to stay there. Now we can have a nice time in the town, we can buy some things to eat with our coffee from the market but as the first thing, we stop by a hairdresser. I got a haircut like a Buddhist but this doesn’t happen very easy. Unfortunately my hairdresser doesn’t know English and this is why I have a hard time trying to tell him what I want. One of the customers speaks English but I don’t know how he translates what I say to the hairdresser that my hair doesn’t get short in no way. At last I got it all cut off after shortening for 3 times. Even if the cutting process would take 5 minutes, since I couldn’t explain myself I had to wait an hour on the chair. The second part was to get Elif’s hair cut. Even if she didn’t change much, I had a huge change. It’s clear for me to understand it from the people’s giggles at the market which I went for the second time. Also I don’t have to remember my annoying hairdresser experience in Cambodia every time I look in the mirror after this haircut.
Next day we proceed to a new town, Renu Nakhon to feed scorpions after resting. We find a calm market for lunch. Lucky us, that day the weather is a little warmer and people definitely don’t want to go outside to sun. We eat the food that a Thai lady who knows English had prepared in the shadows. The lady wants to introduce us to her husband, he’s Australian. We meet and have a nice conversation. His husband has been there for a long time and apparently he had missed speaking English, that’s why as he heard some foreigners had come, he drops by for even a 5 minute conversation. This was the same for a couple of foreigners we’ve seen in this region who were living there. As I understand, the only reason is not to speak English. When they stay here for a long time, they miss other things that lack in the Thai culture. That’s because the culture here is pretty different. You can come and stay here for months and don’t experience any problems. You won’t complain about nothing. However when they stay here for a while, people tend to complain about some things. They want to be like Europeans, they want to argue, criticize. Because Thai people’s lives here are quite different from ours, the topics people discuss, their values are more different than many countries in the world. Just because it’s possible to understand why people want that much to talk to foreigners after they live here for a while.
We continue on our way and reach the town Renu Nakhon. It’s evening market and police station seems that they’ll do everything it possibly can for us to rest well at night. We get some snacks from the evening market and begin preparations for camping. This time we have a spot near a lake on the grass. There’s also a fringe where we can prepare some hot water and watch something on the computer. As we were done with our preparations a young policeman came nearby who was returning there from jogging and we start talking. He says that he’s also a cyclist himself. It’s easy to say that the young policeman does lots of exercising and he’s fast and agile however, our conversation ends with an unfortunate incident. The policeman goes to his home just to show us his bike. He comes back with his bike and the trophy he won. Just as we were getting our pictures taken, he drops and breaks the trophy. This unlucky situation makes us feel bad. Even if we try to repair it for a while, it seems hard to repair it from where it broke. Our policeman friend must have decided that it cannot be repaired that he shows his body and says ‘this is tough, I’ll get another trophy in the future’. I hope he’ll come back with a more invulnerable trophy from another cycling race.
That night’s misfortunes doesn’t end there. Some people are sensitive to some animals. For instance some people are much more delicious than others for flies. I guess Elif is one of those people, but not only for flies. The second biggest scorpion I’ve seen in a school yard that we camped in, has come towards Elif’s tent. The scorpion was black and shiny as recently greased. It seemed more like a newly shined up black pistol than a living creature. It had been easy to get rid of the scorpion. However this time we cannot get away with it that easy. As Elif coming with her bag on her shoulder something stings her on the leg. As Elif goes towards a light, I search the bag. Unfortunately I cannot see the scorpion. Elif sleeps with the scorpion at night and gets stung two more times and only after these we can be able to find the scorpion. Fortunately this scorpion isn’t like the ones we first saw and it’s quite harmless. After we threw away the scorpion from the tent, we explain the situation to the Thai family staying with us. They don’t make a big deal out of it that much, we understand that we can keep on thus we keep on.
We experience a minor poisoning after the breakfast on the road. This is our first slight sickness here. First Elif starts to have a bitter headache following a nausea. Even if we had only ridden for 30km we realize that we cannot keep on and stop at a diner. I leave Elif there and go for a search to find somewhere near to stay. At the diner, a policeman who had begun drinking in the morning behaves too enhtusiastic and doesn’t leave me. After seeing a couple of places, the policeman says that we can stay at the police station. Even if we are pleased with this gracious offer, the policeman had drunk so much that he cannot stand still even if it’s noon and he makes a lot of noise. Just because we have to get tid of the policeman first. I don’t even want to think about the condition such a person who’s that drunk at that hour would become will be in towards the evening. The policeman shows me his wife and Elif then offers us to go have fun together while they stay there. Even if it would be nice to go to a karaoke bar and meet new girls with my new friend, we have to make arrangements for our stay. There’s a resort nearby and we go there. The policeman goes to the karaoke bar alone. I myself write some stuff on the computer. As Elif begins to get better in the evening, I start to have poisoning symptoms. My situation is not that bad but I have to sleep and rest with a bitter headache. The next day we wake up and go to the same diner. It’s 08:00, our policeman is there and drung again. This time we don’t have our poisoned, sullen attitude, instead we have the smiling joyful one. We thank our new friends for their help and leave there after a long breakfast.
And in a short while we reach Nakhom Phanom town. Sometimes as we arrive a town here, we happen to have arrived two towns at the same time. For instance you can see towns like Pakse, Savannaket in Laos that goes along the Mekong river across. It’s the same for Nakhom Phanom. There’s one of the two bridges that connects the two countries together at 10km north from the town and this bridge reaches one of Laos’s major towns near the Mekong river. Just because as you pedal near a river in Phanom, you have a chance to see a different town across you. This situation of Mekong reminds me of the Istanbul Bridge sometimes. Even if Mekong is much more different with its color and nature, it succeeds in seeming like the Istanbul bridge time to time, flows with the same width and creates a scene like Istanbul 50 years ago.
We don’t stay here much, we just have lunch and tour around the town a little and keep on going. This town has become much crowded for us. As we arrive to the following town, Tha Uthen, we realize that we have found a nice place to stay. The police station here is away from the noise of the town and it’s near Mekong. Our decision for the camping spot is a fringe under a giant tree, just next to the river that has a Laos view. We meet two friends there. One of them invites us to his house to stay but the view of the place we were was so nice that we don’t want to leave there and go into a house. Next day we decide to stay there for another night and try to find a chillier place that we can spend the day and do some work. The temple in town turns out to be just the place we’re looking for. We settle on the tables under trees, get a shower. As Elif studies Japanese, I write some things on the computer. This place has had a priest. The priest who knows some English wants us to stay there and shows us a spot under the fringe ahead. The priest has an interesting knowledge about football. As he finds out we’re Turkish, he immediately says Trabzonspor and Samsunspor (!) -football teams in Turkey- He also says that Kayserispor game will be played the next day. Even we get amazed by what he speaked about, we’ll stay in this town at the temple because of the incoming raindrop the next day and get to know the priest closer.