6 Jan 2009

Tales from a Thai Village

In the unfashionable Eastern side of Thailand, barely two hours from Bangkok but light years away from the capital, is an area that is not quite Isaan and not yet Cambodia. Few tourists come here, though many have criss-crossed this land on their visa pilgrimage to the border town of Aranyaprathet. The Thai government has upgraded and widened the main road that runs through here so that route 33 can become the main artery linking Bangkok to Cambodia. The locals have for many months been totting up the virtual income from all the drivers stopping for food, refreshments and cheap accommodation. What seems more likely is that virtually all of them will speed past faster than before or take a quick dip into the growing gang of hypermarkets. I suspect many shop owners will sit there watching the fumes waft by. And so we come to a land frozen in time. With enough technology to be seduced by advertising but without the education to see a way out. The glacial pace of progress is in stark contrast to the blazing heat of the sun. But this is a place where slow-time is seen as positive and where the political earthquakes that shudder the cities are barely registered. Indeed, many families who have gone to seek their fortunes in the cities often return to the village in times of turbulence. The village is a prison to some and an oasis for others. For me, it is two different worlds - one through my laptop, the other through the front door. Together they form these tales from a Thai village.

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