From Lopburi, I hopped a train to Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station. Here is a shrine built in honor of the late king. Since his death a couple of weeks ago, all of Thailand appears awash in black and white, from the new national dress code to banners on nearly every building.
The overnight train pulled out of Bangkok, southbound to Nakhon Si Thammarat. With the windows open, one of the advantages the fan sleeper car has over the air conditioned ones—besides being cheaper and not freezing cold—is the unobstructed view.
Did I neglect to mention that this is the International House Hunters edition of the blog? The next morning, I moved into a furnished condo on the sixth floor of this complex called PassionSiri. It was built about a year ago.
The propaganda posters I bought in Vietnam really bring the room together, don’t you think? The first thing I did after abandoning my luggage was run over to the mall to pick up bedding. I have since become a regular customer at Big C for all of my household needs. It’s kind of like Target. Going out in Nakhon, whether to shop or to eat at restaurant, has really forced me to up my charades game. Unlike in cities on the well-trodden tourist path, few people in Nakhon speak English. Like, zero words. My Thai vocabulary consists of about ten words, and no matter how vigorously I shake my head and shrug, this does not stop shopkeepers and clerks from rambling off a whole megillah in Thai to me. Somehow, we always figure out what needs to be said.
A sliding glass door separates the bedroom from the living area. I have not one but two air conditioners.
The kitchen. The lack of appliances is normal for a Thai apartment. If I want to do any cooking, I’ll have to invest in a hot pot and rice cooker. So far, I just have plug-in tea pot to boil water for coffee. Clearly I have my priorities straight.
It’s rare to find a shower stall in Southeast Asia, so this was very exciting for me. Most common is the “wet bathroom” setup, which is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine this shower without the door, just a shower head attached to the wall. So you may be asking yourself, how do you keep the water from spraying all over the place? That’s the thing. You don’t! That’s why it’s called a wet bathroom. I’ve seen all kinds during my travels, but the one that wins first prize for ingenuity is the one in our hotel in Hanoi. The way the shower was positioned made the water shoot all over the toilet, sink, and underneath the bathroom door into the bedroom. Ah, the memories. The hose next to the toilet is kind of like a Thai bidet. Without getting into graphic detail, let me just say I think it’s a marvel in bathroom engineering, and it has really opened my mind to the level of clean that is possible in personal hygiene. Thumbs up!
The view to the north from my little balcony. There are a few cows out grazing in the pasture. When it’s clear, you can see mountains in the distance. The overcast sky is thanks to the southwest monsoon, which affects this region from October through December. Before I came to Thailand, I didn’t understand what a monsoon was. I think I was confusing it with a typhoon. For those of you in the same boat, the good news is it’s not that bad. In the rest of Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, the monsoon is responsible for the rainy season lasting from June through September. In my experience, it rains a little bit for an hour or two in the afternoon, and not every day. Occasionally it will rain most of the day and/or heavily, but overall the monsoon doesn’t usually cramp my style. Now that I’ve moved from Northern to Southern Thailand, I get two monsoons! In all honesty, the rain is a welcomed relief from the heat.
I finally mustered up the nerve to rent a motorbike. When I cruise around town, I get quite a number of stares from passersby. This is no shock to me. Living in Thailand has been remarkably similar to when I was a resident of Chicago neighborhoods like Pilsen and Garfield Park. People are curious about why I’m there and offer to help me because they think I’m lost. (With the sense of direction I inherited from my dad, or lack thereof, they’re probably right.) I guess this has been my M.O. for some time now, intentionally aiming to go where I don’t belong. I’ve always felt like I don’t fit in no matter where I go, so if you can’t join ’em, beat it. Wait a minute…
Once I got my wheels, I was able to visit Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, the most important temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Its giant Sri Lankan-style stupa was under renovation, enshrined in scaffolding. It happened to be Chulalongkorn Day, a national holiday to commemorate the death of King Chulalongkorn in 1910, but this year it became a de facto memorial for King Bhumibol.
The Thai flag flies at half mast, and behind it is the dharmachakra (wheel of dharma), a Buddhist symbol representing the cyclical law of nature. Whatever arises must pass away. Not even a king is above the law.
Although my all-black fashion was on point with the funereal dress code, the mid-thigh length of the dress missed the mark, so I had to don one of these baggy white cover-ups, which I affectionately called my lab coat. In the sunlight, they glowed a purplish hue.
The very large stupa is surrounded by many smaller ones. Looking at this photo makes me want to a) get some sweet drone shots of this amazing temple, and b) go to Sri Lanka. I kind of think the second option is more realistic for me, unless one of my drone-happy friends wants to visit me in Nakhon. At least two of those come to mind. Just throwing it out there.
On my way home, I stopped to take a gander at the park, which is rather lovely…
…and this funky clock tower. Hold on, I’ve been staying in one place for almost a week. What time is it, besides time to get funky? Time to get outta Dodge. I gotta go do a visa thing. See you in Malaysia!