Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Off Hiway 3 in Chantaburi: lush foliage hums with insects, joined by the rustling of leaves in the warm afternoon wind

I've usually enjoyed what Robert Frost would have called "the road less traveled", and sometimes that does, indeed, make all the difference.  You can go from point A to point B in many areas of Thailand via reasonably modern highways, but you can also miss a lot by doing so.

A young man sails along the road on his motocy in Chantaburi

My frequent Thai traveling companion knows how I enjoy being in the thick of things, and he goes out of his way time and again to take the smaller country roads; mainly to entertain me, but because he, too, enjoys the surprises you find along the way. Thank goodness, because otherwise I'd feel bad about the number of times I say "Wait... can you stop and go back for a minute?"

Sure, we get lost every so often - and the Thai aren't all that much more accurate with directions for a fellow countryman than they are for we foreigners - but it's an important part of the journey, I think.

Thorny, multi-colored Euphorbia Milii Splendens (Crown of Thorns) seems to be guarding the laundry that's hung out to dry

For me, it's more interesting to see beyond the polished surface of any country I visit; to be out in the countryside among the locals is to be happier than a hog rolling in the shaded mud on a hot country afternoon.

While his wife and two children waited at the edge of the reservoir, a man gathers lotus buds to have with their dinner.

You don't see a string of 7-Elevens, and you can go entire days without being assaulted by a Starbucks, McDonalds or some other such retail atrocity (a treat unto itself, if you ask me).

What you do see are small stalls, mobile businesses on carts, lots of bicycles and motocy, and houses - both firmly on the ground and standing up on stilts, accessorized with livestock and folks resting beneath them on low platforms.  It's a window into a world we as visitors rarely have an opportunity to view.

This family of shrimp farmers in Chantaburi were amused by our stopping just to say hello. Fortunately, my friend could translate for me.

Rounding a corner, beneath the lush foliage of trees reaching out in an effort to touch each other above your head you're likely to see folks sometimes as surprised to see you as you are to see them.  Invariably they'll smile and wave back if you make the minor effort to acknowledge their existence and show a little appreciation for the beautiful area they call home.

Granted, it's not meaningful interaction, I suppose - but it feels good to be "a part of" on the most minor of levels, and far too many people miss it.

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