After our two day, relaxing stint at Bouy Guest House, Mitch and I were ready for the big city again and hopped on two buses before arriving in Khon Kaen, the capital city of Khon Kaen province in Isaan, the Thai name of northeastern and eastern Thailand.
This area of Thailand is not very often frequented by the typical tourist. It’s off the beaten path in a very agricultural area of the country where the average income is less than 1/10th of the average income in Bangkok. Most people speak very little English, unlike other major cities in Thailand like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Mitch received lots of stares and waves and was the recipient of many a whispered “falang” (“foreigner”). Still, Khon Kaen is the capital city, and we weren’t quite in the heart of the countryside fields… yet.
Our first full day in Khon Kaen, I had to visit this famous silk village about a 1.5 hour motorbike ride outside of town. Long story short: 1.5 hours turned into 3 hours of searching until we found the village. We were exhausted after another 1.5 hours back home.
The next day, we took it easy by visiting Khon Kaen University and the National Museum. KKU is the largest college in Khon Kaen Province. It is HUGE! We enjoyed a peaceful bike ride through campus, especially enjoying the agricultural and veterinary departments, which boasted a beautiful flower field, tree-lined roads, and gorgeous pasture.
The Khon Kaen National Museum is a small, two-story museum detailing the history of the region and focusing on the Khmer influence in art and temple building.
After a day exploring KKU campus and the National Museum, Mitch and I were ready to hop back on the bike for another long ride, this time to the ancient Khmer ruins of Prasat Pueay Noi, and Hindu temple. Eastern Thailand temples have a lot of Khmer style influence from when the Khmer empire stretched down to the area between the 9th and 12th centuries.
While at the secluded little temple, I practiced my motorbike driving skills in the grassy lawns of the area. It’s so much easier when there’s soft grass to cushion a possible fall (note: there were no falls!).
Our last day in Khon Kaen was our favorite day and night of the trip so far.
We had been going to this amazingly delicious restaurant for breakfast every morning of our stay. Towards the end of our time in Khon Kaen, the owner, Mu, started a conversation with us, and we ended up talking for quite a while about food, family, heritage, everything! She and her husband were so friendly and kind to us.
On our last day in the city, Mu and her husband presented us with gifts (what!?). I was so shocked. My eyes welled with tears from surprise and the kindness of Mu and her husband. They invited us to lunch that day at their favorite som tam (papaya salad) place, which happened to be on the Khon Kaen University campus, and Mu’s husband kept reiterating how happy he was to have met us and to spend the afternoon with us.
It was so wonderful to be the recipient of such hospitality, thoughtfulness, and kindness. We were so taken aback and grateful to have met them. We exchanged information and plan to stay in touch.
Later that evening, while walking back from dinner at around 8pm, I mentioned to Mitch that we had better finish packing and get to bed early to be ready for our next day of travel. On the way home, I heard someone playing the guitar outside a massage shop and stopped to listen for a moment. Seriously, I had just planned to stop for 30 seconds and be on our way, but we were invited by the guitarist’s girlfriend, Tumtim, to sit down, and soon we were having beers and whiskey them. The guitarist’s name was Toom, and Tumtim’s sister, Boom, also joined in the festivities. (Sidenote: I LOVE Thai nicknames).
We sang and danced to Toom’s music for hours until they invited us to go to a concert with them that night. Despite planning to be home hours ago, but we couldn’t pass up this opportunity and ended up seeing the band Carabao. We seriously rocked out with everyone around us and had the most fun of our entire trip.
After the show, we drove around picking up different types of beer and drinking it through straws (yep, that’s how much Thai people love straws) before stopping at the lake. We sat by the lakeside, opened up all the car doors, and sang along to Neil Young, John Denver, America, and The Eagles at 2am under the stars with our new friends. It was a day and night I will cherish and never forget.
The hospitality and kindness of the Khon Kaen people really stole our hearts and made Khon Kaen our most favorite visited place so far.
Next up: Mitch and I get down and dirty in a small village home stay. Teaser: there are giant spiders and scorpions involved.