I’ve just come back from a visit to my wife’s village in Phitsanulok province. This is a part of the world that I know well as we lived there for almost five years. I’ve so many memories associated this place – both good and bad. This is where I hit my final bottom in alcohol addiction, and it is also where I spent my first few years in recovery. My son was born in the local hospital and my life as a blogger and writer began here (this is the website that I created back then- click here).
Living in the Middle of Nowhere
The village of Pak Rong fully deserves the title of, “situated in the middle of nowhere”. It is near a small town called Chat Trakan and this is half way on 250 kilometer detour off highway 11. If you decide to take this road it will bring you through some beautiful terrain, but for all your effort you will be only 30kms further along highway 11 and missing four hours of your life.
If you arrive in Pak Rong and try to tell the locals that you are just passing through they will give you an odd look. This is because there is nowhere to pass through to. Few people arrive in Chat Trakan by accident; you really would have to be hopelessly lost.
The main attraction for tourists to Chat Trakan is the waterfall in my wife’s village. This pulls in only a handful of foreigners each year. I know this because during my years living there the waterfall employees would always try to take these people to visit my home. The locals never seemed to believe my claim that not all white people know each other.
We hadn’t been back in the village for almost a year so our visit was long overdue. My wife loves going home and I must admit that I was excited too. It is a seven hour drive from our home in Minburi and this is why we don’t go back more often. I prefer to do such journeys over night as the roads are less busy; my wife and son can sleep for most of it. We arrived at seven and my in-laws were there to greet us. The village looked the same as when we last left it with the only noticeable change being a new wall around the village clinic.
Going back to Pak Rong is like stepping into a pair of comfortable shoes. I know it’s a cliché but life really does slow down in a place like this. The day seems to stretch out for longer and there is no need to rush anywhere. This noticeable change of pace hits me as soon as I step out of the car. I can almost feel tension leave my body; even though I wasn’t aware that I had any tension. Even the village smells and sounds are therapeutic.
People never act surprised to see us back in Pak Rong. They just continue with the same conversation that we were involved in the last time we met. It is like I just nipped to the toilet rather than been away for a year. They all see me as a strange foreigner, but it is easier to be an outsider in a village – you become their strange foreigner. I taught in the local school for years and so know most of the families. I recognize faces and they recognize me. Some of the young people I taught in primary school now have their own children.
Nostalgia for the Thai Village Life
It is easy for me to feel nostalgic about Thai village life now that I’ve been away from it for. I can even start entertaining notions of moving back to rural Thailand. Maybe it would be a better life for my son? Wouldn’t it be great for him to grow up in such a relaxed environment where everybody is so sociable? He would have plenty of friends and it is a safer environment.
This nostalgia for rural Thailand doesn’t fully win me completely over though. I can remember the downside of living in a village as well. While I love the idea of a place where everyone lives in each other’s pockets the reality of it nearly drove me demented at times. I feel almost ashamed to admit it but I value my privacy. I just can’t be around people all the time. I also remember that there are a lot fewer choices in the village; this can be both a good and bad thing.
The drive back yesterday seemed to take forever. By the time I reached the outskirts of Bangkok I wasn’t thinking straight. I ended up on the wrong motorway and this took me right through the heart of the city. I didn’t mind though because the Bangkok skyline is such an impressive spectacle at night. I grew up on the outskirts of one city and I now live on the outskirts of another one – it is where I feel I really belong.
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