- Thailand is known for being home to Southeast Asia’s wildest beasts and most curious creepy crawlies, but nothing will instigate more the sensation of utter terror than the sight of a lingering mosquito (take it from me, Dengue fever ain’t all that fun).
- It doesn’t matter how OTT the acting is (at times abysmal), how out of sync the background music is, or even how many adverts there are, you will somehow find yourself shedding a tear over what has become your favourite Thai lakorn drama, because THEY JUST DON’T REALISE THEY BELONG TOGETHER FOREVER AND IT’S SO DAMN FRUSTRATING!
- Everyone is related – going to market with Mum involved constantly stopping to say hello to relatives I didn’t even know I had, e.g. “This is your Grandad’s second cousin’s brother-in-law”.
- On the subject of market, I have never felt so white in my life.
- It is possible to sweat as soon as you step out of the shower, or in my case, the washroom equipped with bowl and bucket of water – that’s right, they do it old skool here, a la ‘splash’n’dash’.
- Sitting in the back of a pick-up truck is the most fun ever, until the heavens decide to open up – when it rains, it pours… so much so that the road becomes invisible; gotta love monsoon season!
- Tiger Balm is a remedy that cures everything – bruises, mosquito bites, broken heart, you name it!
- Apparently (Grandma says) 200 Baht, the equivalent of £4, is too expensive for a hand-cart of coconuts (40 to be precise!).
- Rice is life. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even dessert! The word for dinner/meal in Thai actually translates ‘eat rice’ – true story.
These are only a few things I have learnt from this trip and previous visits to Mum’s village (particularly the first one, Grandma just came out with it; apparently her dad was from China and died from smoking too much opium). This is not a holiday. My dad jokes that when we come back from ‘up-country’, Ban Wat, Nakhon Ratchasima, to be exact, it’s as if we’ve returned from a mission like in one of those Bruce Willis films. What he means by this is, the two weeks that we spend here in the village on every trip we make to Thailand, this is the hardest part, in so many ways. For one thing everything is so different, so raw. It’s not a bad thing, at all; in fact it is quite refreshing to experience living this way. I think things are appreciated more as a result. I will give examples: the kitchen in my grandparents’ house is not actually in the house. It is an outdoor shelter of tin sheets under which there are wooden tables and seats. The bed is a hard mattress on the floor, the cooker is an Asian barbecue and the sink is a hose and a giant plastic tub. This all sounds quite basic, but it works, and why shouldn’t it? The only pain is that everything cooked must be done there and then, but if it produces the freshest food, then is that really so terrible?
It is always inspiring to see Mum back in the place where she grew up, and she truly is in her element, running around cooking for everyone, strutting about in a sarong and flip flops, speaking (yelling) in her Korat dialect ever so sassily. Yet at the same time, you can see how it is so difficult for her to come back, because of how taxing it was before. I think subconsciously she goes back to her role of caring for everyone, as in back when she was 14, having left school to work with her dad constructing roads, and to later help her mum look after 6 siblings. Accustomed to the ways of Western life now, I can see the frustration Mum faces; also having to play translator for two weeks can’t be a doddle, “MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM what are they saying to me?!”.
Every time we move on from Ban Wat it is nice to see Mum. I say this because although we are staying in the same house and visiting the same places, we see her only in passing, or when she has the time to sit down after rushing around trying to see everyone. This brings me onto the main reason why our ‘mission’ is so tough. We try to go to Thailand every three years, at one point we had to leave it six years because of political unrest in the country. This gives Mum two weeks for every three years to see the majority of her family. From day one there is a countdown on the time she has, and as soon as we step off of the bus from Bangkok it settles in that there are only 14 days to enjoy village life. For Mum this means 14 days to see everyone she can, and spend as much time catching up as she can. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen, which just makes this flying visit all the more heartbreaking. When I was nine I remember crying in Granddad’s truck on the way to the bus station, because I had left my watch at their house. The watch was just an excuse to come back; I really wasn’t ready to leave, and this is the feeling I’m dreading when the day comes this time round.