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My Travel Story: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016 - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    My plan was to travel back to Thailand from Myanmar overland. I've read it's possible in the dry season to go to Dawei (Tavoy) and then take a truck of some sort to the border with Thailand at Three Pagodas Pass in Kanchanaburi Province. Sounds pretty fun and well off the beaten path.

    However, I got a nasty cough and sore throat in Mandalay that I just could not get rid of (it's almost totally cleared up now), and I didn't feel quite up to the couple of days of grueling land travel needed to get back down south in Myanmar. So instead I went a couple hours out of Mandalay up into the Shan Hills to a chill place called Pyin Oo Lwin for a few days, then came back to Mandalay and flew to Bangkok.

    My hotel in Pyin Oo Lwin (see attached pics) was a former British colonial mansion, a bit funky and slightly out of the town center, but the grounds were well kept, the staff was marvelous, and the wi-fi worked stunningly well for Myanmar.







    Yesterday I took a bus from Bangkok to Surin, a pleasant little non-touristy town in southern Isaan. I like the people here and the place I stayed at last night so much that I booked another ten nights, so I'll be hanging out in Surin for a while. It'll be a great place to get some serious practice with the Thai language (Isaan language also, and even Khmer is widely spoken here, though I don't know any of that one).

    My hotel in Surin: https://www.facebook.com/Tkmansion
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  3. #12
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    So...I thought I've been staying in Surin, but on my way back into town today there was a sign from the Interior Ministry informing me that I am in a place I'd never heard of, called Nakornchaiburin.



    As the sign says, it's an amalgamation of four different provinces: Nakorn Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Buriram, and Surin.

    And, as the sign also indicates, it's considered the "road of ancient Khmer civilization" or something, which kind of makes sense given the old temple ruins built in the heyday of the Khmer Empire scattered around the region.

    However, some web searching led me to this article in Thai from Thai Rath, which gives a slightly different take on the reason for inventing Nakornchaiburin. The four provinces wished to join together in a marketing position to call themselves the "ASEAN Silk Sourcing Hub". This actually makes more sense to me because this area has a very long silk tradition, and quality silk products are a sought after commodity throughout the world.

    Either way, weird name aside, consider spending some time out here in Nakornchaiburin. Yeah, you're not going to find a lot of "must-see" attractions like at the beaches or in the mountains along the typical tourist routes, but there is a great deal of slow-paced charm awaiting those who make the effort to seek it out. You might even discover, as I have, that by and large the local people in this region are well described by the phrase "salt of the Earth".
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  5. #13
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Every Saturday there is a "Green Market" in Surin which showcases organic and locally produced produce. There is actually quite a well developed network for organic rice in this region, much of which gets exported overseas. I've seen and have bought organic rice from this area in the Asian grocery stores back in Minnesota.

    The honey sellers are from Si Saket Province.

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  7. #14
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    That would be a great place to live near. My wish would be to live where I could walk to such a market daily (or whenever it is open) for fresh fruits and veggies, buying only what I need for the day and getting a bit of exercise in the process.

    I have never actually visited Surin, but only traveled thru the province a time or two. It is good to know there is a lot more to it than the annual elephant roundup.

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  9. #15
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    The hotel/apartment I'm staying at in Surin suits me fine. It's somewhat geared toward longer-term stays but you can stay here just one night no problem if you want, the price is quite reasonable, and the staff and facilities are wonderful.

    Each afternoon and evening, the street directly in front is turned into a night market. That's great for me, but does means that for people coming here with a car, it's impossible to get in or out of the car park during those hours, so you'd have to park somewhere else if you wanted to use your car at that time. Motorbikes can still get through.

    Almost directly across the street, in a parking lot in front of the fire station, many people gather each evening for Isaan dance, much like aerobics is done throughout the country. It's fun to watch the fluid motions especially of the dancer's arms and hands as they attempt to follow the lead of those up on stage. The vast majority of the dancers are women, but there are a few males who also participate.

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  11. #16
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Hello Tim, can I just ask about the vehicle access to TK Mansion when the night market is on. I thought that was sorted out.

  12. #17
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Quote Originally Posted by robjak View Post
    Hello Tim, can I just ask about the vehicle access to TK Mansion when the night market is on. I thought that was sorted out.
    You may be correct. I did see one truck leave the lot and one car enter tonight, and the market was certainly taking place at the time. They might allow cars to drive across and out through the lot where the dancing was taking place. I'll ask the staff tomorrow for details and give an update here.

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Thanks Tim.

  14. #19
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    I did ask the staff here at the TK Mansion and they confirmed that it is now possible to get in and out with cars while the night market market is on. So yes, that issue is sorted.

    I also discovered that dancing in the lot across the street is a temporary thing, running every night until April 11. They call it ร่วมรำบวงสรวง "a dance to make offerings to the spirits", which I gather is a way to honor the founders, history, and traditions of the city. Here are some pictures of a similar festival this year in Udon Thani.

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  16. #20
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Little did I know I'd be writing about Lady Gaga connections with Northeast Thailand, but here goes....

    Guests here at the hotel in Surin who don't read Thai might wonder about this sign around the side of the office building.

    It says "Lady Gaga customer parking only. Please share this spot with other customers". As it turns out, there is a wedding, fashion, and photography studio called "Lady Gaga". The hotel property adjoins the back of that building and there is a gate that can be opened for access, making it a good off-street parking area for the shop.



    So it all makes perfect sense.

    Now, the other Isaan connection (which I perhaps should be embarrassed to even know ) is that there is a singer named สาวมาด เมกะแดนซ์ who, influenced by the international Lady Gaga mania, had a somewhat popular song called เลดี้ปลาร้า (Lady Pla Ra). For those who aren't aware, pla ra is the infamous fermented fish sauce traditionally made and eaten in rural Isaan and Laos.

    The song is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI9_ywqzmh8
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