After the urban metropolis of Bangkok and the happening university town of Chiang Mai, we were off to see the quiet side of Thailand. Thanks to our good friend Mark, who spent 8 months living in the region, we got to spend time in a rural village that does not see many Westerners (with one significant exception). You see, the connection goes beyond Mark – his travel buddy Matt stuck around after Mark returned, and ended up marrying Nat, a girl from this little village. So, after a series of emails with Matt, we were connected with Nat’s lovely Thai family that lives in the tiny, rural village of Maetachang.
A couple hours north of Chiang Mai by bus, we were the only passengers to be getting off at the sleepy town of Mae Suai, a short drive from the sleepier Maetachang. We didn’t travel with cell phones and were told the family didn’t speak any English, so we were hoping that the message had been relayed correctly and that someone would be there to meet us. However, there was no need for us to worry as we easily stood out and our host’s grandson, Pong, had no trouble finding us.
Pong became our friend and quasi-translator for the next two days. Though raised in the village where we were visiting, he currently attends university at the next big town up the road. He is the only one from his town attending university and he was nice enough to come home from school over the weekend to show us around. His English was very limited but as our Thai was non-existent, we were nothing but grateful and impressed. In fact, even if we did speak Thai, the family we stayed with spoke a local dialect so we still would have had difficulty communicating!
Our hosts were extremely generous and accommodating and though we certainly regretted not being able to ask more questions or properly express our thanks, I hope they were able to tell how much we appreciated them opening their home to us.
We were visiting during a quiet time as far as work in the surrounding rice fields were concerned but we no problem finding fun things to do.
We ate our meals together, gathered around a small table and sitting on low stools to enjoy some wonderfully flavorful soups and stews – always served with lots of rice. We got to explore Maetachang and nearby hills by foot, asking Pong a lot of questions about life in the village and about his time at university. When Pong had to return to school, his adorable young cousin, Pui, stepped in to serve as our guide. Pui was 9-years old and didn’t speak any English, yet he happily picked up where Pong had left off by walking us into the nearby hills and taking us to scenic spots along the river.
Though a short but sweet peek into village life, we were very happy to have visited Maetachang and left wanting to learn more.