[This is the second of three posts about my commutes between my favourite flight hub of Bangkok and my pied à terre in Luang Prabang. Memories of travels impossible and places unreachable in Covid-times.]
Nakhon Sawan is a busy nondescript provincial town. Nothing really goes on, but life itself. People get to and from work, to and from school, to and from shops and takeaways. There are no so-called ‘things to see’, no obligatory tourist attractions. There is nothing idyllic about it. I never see foreigners there, other than the groups of Korean golfers in my hotel. I liked it right away.
I stay for a few days, sometimes a week. Coming from travels in China I relax. Coming from Holland I try to get rid of my jet lag.
I turn right out of the hotel and a 15 minute walk gets me to Big C, the common man’s shopping mall. In the second floor supermarket I buy bread, fruit, yoghurt, peanut butter. And some small cans of Chang beer, provided I didn’t yet again forget no alcohol is being sold in Thai shops before 5.00 p.m. In which case later in the day I hop into one of the 7-Eleven stores, omnipresent in Thailand.
I turn left and after 10 minutes I get to the confluence of the Ping and the Nan Rivers. From here on they combine to be the Chao Phraya, the river that irrigates Thailand’s fertile central lowlands and flows along the past and present capitals of Ayutthaya and Bangkok. It is the kind of place that fascinates me. Such geographical significance.
I walk along the river bank. I walk the streets. I see characteristically Chinese shops. Around Chinese New Year large dragons decorate the centre of town. A sizeable part of the people must be ethnic Chinese. But I can pick out few by their features. I never hear anyone speak Mandarin. They are not part of the wave of newcomers from China that now rolls across the world, but descend from immigrants that settled here generations or even centuries back. They have long since integrated in Thai society.
I love my hotel. Rooms are large and white and brightly lit and functional. Thankfully no effort has been made to make them somehow atmospheric or cosy.
The desk stretches forever along the wall. On one end, next to the fridge, is a tray with glasses. Next comes some of my food, fruit, biscuits; then my clean folded laundry. I sit at the other end with my laptop, near the door to the balcony, in the comfortable office chair. When coming from China I spread out tickets, receipts, invoices and keep my accounts. I spread out my notebooks, maps, hotels’ and drivers’ name cards and type out the travel info gathered on this trip.
Laundry I hang out to dry in the open closet in the small hallway. When there is not enough space I spread out the rest on the plastic sofa.
I prefer high hotel floors, always stay on the fifth or sixth here. A couple of times a day I walk down to the lobby to make my instant coffee, tea or Milo – provided for free as is the custom in provincial Thai hotels.
For dinner I go to the local eateries that spill out onto the pavement. Food isn’t as good as usual in Thailand though, and sometimes I end up in one of Big C’s chain restaurants.
The town’s songthaews can be spotted from far away, coming in bright colours that correspond with their routes. I get on Yellow for the bus station, when I feel it’s time to move on.