My annual Christmas pilgrimage to Thailand got off to a great start once again. For many years now Etihad Airways have upgraded me to Business Class for the Heathrow to Abu Dhabi leg of my Christmas flight. That was the case again and the ‘golden parachute’ continued for the second leg to Bangkok too. An absolutely wonderful and cared for experience.
The weather in Udon Thani was fairly mild in the evenings. Some years it has been quite cold. Daytime temperatures circled the 30 degree mark. Central Plaza’s Christmas and New Year decorations drew good crowds but out on the streets some bar owners told me tourist visitors were down. If so, I didn’t see it that way myself.
An excited and early rising Wilai opened her presents on Christmas Day morning and her smile beamed throughout the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the day too. With a little festive spirit thrown in courtesy of Jack Daniel’s and Cheers beers.
While in the city I’d bought a halogen cooker – a steal at a reduced 660 baht (US$20). Christmas Day evening I cooked chicken, roast potatoes, carrots and sweetcorn. Mixing a little gravy too. It tasted better than it looked but Wilai settled for eating Thai. Wise choice given my previous kitchen form.
You can see the damage in the photograph below. The fuzzy picture is because it was a night-time camera shot – my cooking looks better in the dark. Notice the mistletoe around the plate. A very festive meal.
Another dish to be added to my ever-growing list of Thailand cuisine crimes?
Village life is slow and laid back. I like that, but now and again you have to pick it up and kick its ass forward. Then again, sometimes, something happens that brings a smile and crow’s feet to your face.
Bangkok is a haven for fashion shopaholics. The Big Mango boasts Central World Plaza, Siam Paragon, MBK, Terminal 21 and many others too. A Thai village relies mainly on nearby markets and travelling hawkers for their glad rags and feathers. A peddler pitched up outside our garden gate. Wilai and her cousin (on the left) made the most of the unexpected fashion show.
All this for 200 baht. Like me, you probably thought it cost less. London’s finest fashion designers must be scanning copyright laws with a fine-tooth comb. The thing you’ve got to most hope for, is none of it’s been bought for you. Lads, you know the rules, if the missus buys you those multi-coloured shorts, you’re obliged to wear them once or twice. Fortuitously, Lady Luck didn’t pass anything my way. Only a broad smile at the stylish clothing chosen.
Loei and Phu Rua Flower Festival
Our route to Loei takes in a wonderful view of the Mekong River dividing Thailand and Laos. At times the scenery is gloriously hair-raising and we stopped our car to take a few photographs and drink the backdrop.
Chiang Khan, 25 minutes from Loei city, is another photogenic pitstop. It didn’t appear to be as busy as previous years but tourism was still swishing its tail loudly enough. A beautiful town sat on the banks of the Mekong River.
Loei is not really my kind of city. It’s pleasant enough, but I like a city to feel and behave like one. Bright lights, nightlife and plenty of things to do. Loei doesn’t quite stretch that far. Not for me anyhow. Nonetheless, one of the town’s OTOP shops passed a bit of time away. Loei Province is famous for its Phi Ta Khon Festival and ghost masks were on sale in the shop. They are hand-made and very colourful works of art.
On the mountain road to Phu Rua we stopped at Wat Pa Huay Lad. Another breathtaking view, lots to marvel inside, and further strain on the camera battery. Pa Huay Lad Temple is a popular tourist site and I’ll post a full review and pictures sometime in the near future.
Phu Rua had themed itself around windmills for their latest annual flower festival and the Kitty Resort was their star attraction. There were a lot of visitors milling around – group photographs, selfies – you get the picture. Only 20 baht entrance fee too.
You had to wait to get a picture next to this rather loud sports car. Jessica Rabbit might have thought twice about spinning the wheels in this one. Sunglasses were a must at the Kitty Resort.
We had a fun day out in Phu Rua but the main reason for being there was for Wilai to buy flowers and plants for her business and our garden. She accomplished that big time.
New Year in Udon Thani 2015
The New Year was welcomed in at our village home and then it was back to business for Wilai on New Year’s Day making flower garlands to sell at Sang Khom’s twice monthly Buddhist Day market.
Tiring work. Not sure where the dogs energy went, but I think it’s a very cute photograph. The sunshine is blazing outside and it’s siesta time for Wilai, Tang Moo and Snow.
I posted this picture on my personal Facebook page. This is what I commented about it.
Seven in the morning and the village monks make their morning alms round. Wilai, her cousin Bing and an elder neighbour make their offerings. Wilai politely turned down my offer of KP Cheese Footballs, last night’s leftover pizza and a drag each on my E-lec-tron-nick cigarette. Must be fussy souls dem monks.
I won’t add to that.
I did find time to party a bit in Udon Thani. The Day & Night Bar Complex being one of the venues I visited. There were plenty of westerners about enjoying Udon Thani’s nightlife scene and best of all, I didn’t see any sign of trouble.
All in all, a great holiday with some special moments that even Jack Daniel’s failed to dull. And to go back to where we started, Etihad upgraded me to business class the whole way home. This could be my lucky year.
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© 2015, Martyn. All rights reserved.