Wednesday, March 12, 2014

       HOW TO GET

Having company when you are living abroad can be one of the most anticipated and intoxicating events to happen.
When your company is Ken Parsons….
need I say more!!!!

Waking up at 6AM on a Saturday to meet Ken at the Ubon International Airport (UBP…  Why it's called international is yet another Thai mystery… you can only fly to Bangkok) was the easiest thing I've done since arriving.  I had real, straight from home, company, and I knew I would be playing tour guide for the weekend.
Ken's journey to visit me was a little more complicated.

We were messaging Thursday night when he told me he had just come in from a long run.  I asked if it wasn't a little hot to be running, and his reply was, "no, as a matter of fact just the opposite.  I'm in Germany right now."  Starting in Dallas, traveling to Anchorage, then on to Hong Kong was the beginning of his journey.  From Hong Kong, UPS sent him to Mumbai, and on to Cologne.  Friday, he flew to Bangkok, had a six hour layover during which time he had the pleasure of sleeping in a room with paper thin walls, in the middle of the entertainment district.
At 6AM he was back at Suvarnabhumi (BKK) for his one hour flight to Ubon.

Any fool can figure out that someone who has been through that is going to be starving, tired, and more than a little cramped from sitting on a plane all that time.  And I had a plan.  First thing…. Asia Duck for some great breakfast, Thai style.


The establishment is about 3 blocks from the airport.  Walkable, actually, but I was pulling out the big guns and springing for taxis this weekend!  To make sure my lack of Thai language skills wouldn't spoil a thing, I brought a map along to show the simplicity of my plan.

Ken arrived on time, and it felt sooo good to finally see him!

Taxis inside the airport area are exorbitant, so we walked just outside the entrance where a gaggle of taxis were waiting.  I explained where we were going and flashed my map.  We were directed into the nearest cab where our driver slid confidently behind the wheel.

While Ken and I talked, I kept my eye on the road, and found it curious that the driver was heading in a different direction than expected.  It's not my country…. he must know a short cut.  The cab stopped several times to confer with other drivers before finally pulling over to the side of the road and shuffling us into a new taxi.

This woman knew what she was doing.  She briefly studied the map, gave a nod, and we were on our way.  A few rights, a left, some traffic lights, and she pulled over for a colleague's advice.  Ahhhhh…. that was the problem.  Now, a U-turn.  Again, we seemed to be heading away from our destination.  No problem, we stopped, she went over to a merchant who nodded sagely, pointed down the street and left, and I was beginning to smell duck.  A little prematurely.  This pattern repeated itself for about an hour…. NO exaggeration!!!!  You have to give her credit for her tenaciousness.

At last I saw the street sign just before we were about to go past and urged, "Sai, sai!" (left).  She turned, and about 500 meters down on the right was our destination.

I had no idea how hungry Ken might have been, but fortunately, our meals came quickly….

Bami haeng pet
Khao na pet

 Hunger satisfied, we headed out to the road and flagged down a taxi.  One block south, right turn, and we passed the airport, headed to my "mansion".

A quick look to confirm it really was about the same as a dorm room, and we headed to his hotel.

400 baht/night

 I introduced him to one of my colleagues, Lorraine, who lives two doors down from his room, and we were off for a look at the lake and a 2 hour Thai massage.

With only 48 hours, we had a full schedule.  Next on the agenda was Theung Si Muang park and a bite to eat.

 Formerly the ruler’s rice paddy fields, it was turned into a public park 
and venue for festivals during the reign of King Rama V….1824-1851.

Exercise equipment in most all public parks.



This large figure is in the center of the park and represents the wax candles that are a part of the Candle Festival in July.

In Ubon, it seems that from 2:00 - 5:00 PM is the "witching hour", meaning everyone is napping and it's hard to find a place to eat.  My bad.  The upside is that we went over to The Moon Lover's Cafe along the Mun River and had some delicious icey coffee concoctions.

I think Ken had already developed his blister at this point, but he wasn't saying anything.  We took a taxi back to our respective accommodations and did a little napping ourselves!

Refreshed, and very hungry, we met up and took a taxi to Smile (I sometimes push the walking thing to extreme limits).  It was great to relax, have a beer, enjoy air-con, and finally eat.  By the time we finished up and were ready to move on, it was 9:30.  The night market is really only a short walk from Smile.  At the head of the market are the food carts.  Ken had the opportunity to meet my little friend from "Saigon" (a restaurant of sorts), as her family also sells food at the night market.  Although only 5 years old, she is learning English in school, but is far to shy to ever speak it with me.  I have no idea how much of what I say she understands, but we still have some good communication going.  
She was gracious enough to take a picture of Ken and me.

The night market closes down at 10PM, so vendors were wrapping things up as we arrived.  Not ready to end the evening yet, we grabbed a cab to Chill Bar.


We got home around 1 AM and slept soundly!

Sunday, March 9th

Happy Birthday, Ralph and Beth!!!!

Breakfast at Ken's was followed by a short walk to school and an abbreviated tour of my school.

One of the large posters displaying the school uniform (as opposed to the national uniform).  Kids are the same everywhere, don't you agree?

The one thing Ken had found that he really wanted to see, was the wat with the three-headed elephant.  I had never heard of it!  Map consultations led us to walk the length of Saphasit Road to catch a song-tauw to the old part of the city.  Fortunately, we ran into Yenchit at the orchid/flower shop.  Having no particular plans, she said she would be happy to drive us, and it would be a great excursion for her since she, too, had never been.  Driving along, my concern was that she had misunderstood us; she was driving in the exact opposite direction that we were headed!  Turns out that we had the directions wrong, and NEVER would have made it to the wat without Yenchit because it was quite some distance outside of the main city.  It was sooooo worth the drive!



A little further back was the wat that's surrounded by water.  The catfish in this lake were truly the size of cats!


 Temps are in the 90s these days, so it was really hot and time to go.  On our ride home, though, we had to stop to check out the traditional Thai homes (lanna-style) that were being constructed.



Mathew…. forget the apartment over the garage; I want you to build me one of these in the woods behind the house!

Yenchit dropped us at Ubon Square 
so we could see my friends at Take a Break and have some coffee (and desserts, but don't tell Darla).


Another taxi home (I never take taxis so freely!), and I think we napped before heading to the Night Market.

We had a light meal at the food carts, then stopped into a coffee/art shop called Nam Sai for dessert (really, Darla, he'll be just fine).  It was delicious, but the decor was somewhat unsettling….

We had plenty of time to walk around tonight, but we didn't do any buying.

The insect collection.  Even the shock value doesn't make it worth trying these.


At this point we were just about spent, so we ended our evening at the bar at the end of my street.

Ken said his flight was at 7:30 AM, but that didn't stop us.  I was home at 1:30 AM.
This is where our adventure turns full circle.  When Ken arrived, we spent hours in a taxi trying to get somewhere that was a few blocks away.  Monday morning, we caught our taxi at 6:15 AM, almost got as far as the airport when Ken realized his flight wasn't until 9.  Tom, our taxi driver who apparently remembers me from other misadventures, drove us around and around, trying to find a coffee shop we could hang at for another hour and a half.  Lots of traffic, and not a lot of coffee shops open, he finally brought us to a hotel he used to work at for some coffee, and promised to come back in time for Ken's flight.

Sure enough, he came back at 8:00, and my taste of home came to a close.  I'll miss hanging with family, but your visit, Ken, was the best thing that could have happened!

Love you!