Nan, Thailand

Living & Dying In Nan

After some days in Sukhothai and surroundings I call a friend’s friend named Tao.

ขอบคุณครับ แอนนา ผมไม่คิดถึงคุณหรอก 😉

Dhamma bro Tao lives in Nan.

On the phone he says I can stay as long as i like. Sounds good.

When I arrive at the bus station he and his two sisters Tim and Tom are already waiting for me. We go to have something to eat. Then, sleep.

Tao likes to take it easy, nice and slow. เนิบเนิบ. He is interested and skilled in the art of natural and holistic healing. Concocting his own herbal cough medicine and stuff. He wants to be an organic farmer. Free. Independent. Grow his own vegetables. Build a nice little clay house. He keeps his eyes open for a piece of land near river Nan to realise his dream. His heart หัวใจ bleeds whenever he sees some man-made structure in a remote area of natural beauty. ‘Why do they build that here?’ he whispers to himself.

Friday we prepare the blue Honda Wave for the trip north of Nan. We also visit the ที่งานน่านเนิบเนิบ.That is the Trade Fair ‘Nan, slowly slowly’. Good food there. Really everything is provided for. I am not allowed to pay.

I write this in retrospect with the help of my calendar cuz as a traveller I keep on forgetting what day it is… i know it’s February, though. So, Saturday we start early in the morning. We share the driving up north to the Laos border. Short stop at the Riverside Art Gallery for a coffee.

Driving is fun. After a while it hurts. Roads are in good condition. Sometimes not. Sometimes construction sites slow down our trip. Sometimes no matter what the road is like, carelessness leads to disaster and sudden death.

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We sleep somewhere in a Bungalow near Thai-Laos border and get up early the next day it’s foggy so much morning mist but after a 20-minute drive the sight is clear. Sun comes up behind a hill. Iz not getting noticeably warmer but at least less chilly.

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Sunday. Our first resting place is at a restaurant named Lamchanat (meaning ‘very delicious’ in northern dialect) at Bo Kluea (meaning ‘Salt Well’). We have breakfast and hear the story of the former restaurant owners. There used to be a bigger restaurant until for some unknown reason the man – who was also a police officer – killed his wife and was arrested.

We check out the stream and the salt well and the production site – several huts in which the salt water is boiling, leaving the crystallised salt on the ground of a big kettle. Outside the sun is smouldering and yet, after a while sitting inside one of the huts the open air feels quite fresh. We are back in Nan at sunset.

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Next day. Sunny Monday afternoon. We drive to the suburbs. My dear driver points out crops of sesame growing on the fields we pass by. The next minute we spot what looks like a crime scene. Tao stops the motorsai at the side of the road. We soon find out that a woman was found dead in her nightgown. Police are investigating. Scouring the terrain to find evidence, traces, indices. It all seems incredibly near and clear. Exodus as a fact of life. Nothing to be particularly surprised about. Happens to everyone. Tao asks someone if she was killed. A man answers ‘Something like this…’

Then my dear guide brings us to a friend’s house. First thing to do after entering the room is to down a glass of high spirit in a plastic stamperl. Like an inverted entrance fee, hihi. Next thing I do is sit down and get beard trimmed and hair cut. 10 minutes. 30 baht. We leave. Tao is an efficient teacher when it comes to avoid wasting precious time. We have a good meal with Tao’s sisters and take a stroll through the wat. Sit and bow down in front of the golden statue. Go outside. Watch and listen to percussionists preparing their drums with sticky rice for a competition. The player of the instrument with the most balanced sound wins. The jury looks critically wise with their sleek uniforms and ready whistles round their necks. After that there is a beneficial dance operation going on – it’s too automatic to call it a gig really. It’s just noise. Too loud to go near the stage. Too sober to dance to these tunes. I am grateful when Tao says he wants to leave. Great idea. I get up to join him. Get rest.

Silence enwraps me.

Soundless sound sleep.

Next day we take a tour through the city on the motorcycle. Tao suggests we visit his cousin Pik (Thai for ‘tiny’) in the neighbourhood. When we arrive no one is at the house but we find some groceries in a bag. She might be back in a jiffy?! Tao has a look around while I stay at the house in case she comes back. Some minutes later he returns and tells me a woman he knows has been found dead this morning. Pik is there. It’s round the corner. We go there and meet up with his cousin and many other locals. Within ten minutes of our arrival the pickup truck with the coffin on it and a monk on the passenger seat passes us by to drive off to the nearby temple for ceremonial business.

Later I relax in the afternoon sun reading Recollections of Ajahn Chah and enjoying doing nothing. At the river I feed some fish. At a food stall (‘Lupin Kanom-Waan’) Tao and I eat some sticky rice with coconut milk and mango (kao niao mamuang). In the evening we visit the sisters Tom & Tim to have dinner with them. Some students also come by and interview me: Where do you come from? How old are you? What are you doing in the city? Do you like Nan? I ask them to write down the translations in Thai in my notebook.

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Days go by.

Days go by.

One day we have breakfast at Ban J veggie rahn-arhaan after doing some gardening in the morning hours. Another we visit the sisters’ house and everything is prepared for us. We only have to set up a table, sit down, and feast.

At noon we get picked up by brother Sotep and his wife and go to Santisuk – Pua – Bo Klua to revisit some places and also see some new,e.g. the queen’s residence at Phufa Development Centre in the national park. Suai suai! Beautiful!

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We see the salt well again and listen to traditional music played by a group beside the river. I buy some sausages to feed begging dogs on the street.

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At 8 p.m. we are back in Nan and meet the sisters. Together the six of us enjoy a delicious Thai dinner. Many plates on the table and we all share what’s there. I look at the bottom of my nam-gæo (water glass). It tells me I am lucky in Thailand.

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As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. (C.G.Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”)

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