Hello, Welcome!

Posted: September 12, 2012 in Travels

[music: Caught a Long Wind – Feist]

“Hello, Welcome!”

I heard a woman’s voice call out from the roadside restaurant. I hesitated, but waved and kept on cycling towards Old Sukhothai. I was on my way back from Wat Si Chum after a full morning visit of the Historical Park. ‘I am getting hungry’ I thought to myself, ‘better find something in the centre of town.’

I parked my bicycle and sat down at what I thought was a suitable eatery: ‘full of tourists, therefore the food must be fresh and it must be good’, my Greek genes told me. After making my choice I waited, and waited. No staff appeared. I was relaxed and on vacation, so I waited some more, fresh and full of patience. I thought back to the ‘Hello, Welcome’ and my hesitation. I debated with myself whether it was worth going back in 38 degree centigrade heat, but I followed my instinct, jumped on my bicycle, and headed back; I was here to meet the Thai and not be surrounded by other Farang.

I was welcomed with a big smile. I was the only customer. I ordered the Green Curry and started to chat with Noi, the owner, and her assistant. She presented me a guestbook that was filled with glowing reviews from all over the world (especially for the Green Curry). I gathered that Noi had learnt English phonetically using the Thai Alphabet, so while she could communicate, she could not read what was written in her guestbook; that is testimony to trust.

Every so often, a lone or group of tourists would cycle by and one of the two women would yell, “Hello, Welcome!”  The tourists did not stop. I asked Noi, why she did not have a sign with more English as it would help attract tourists. She explained to me that the majority of her customers were Thai and if they saw a sign in English, they would expect higher prices and stop coming.

And she was right, if the tourists did stop to eat a Noi’s that afternoon, the Thai people did. Quite a few just to order take-away. I understood why it was one of the best meals I had on my trip and at a fraction of the price of ordering a bottle of water here in Belgium. Before I left, Noi told me to head north and climb to the Buddha. She explained to me that she went once per year and it was one of the nicest places at Sudkhothai. I hadn’t intended to go that way, but the next morning, I rented a bicycle, headed north, and climbed.

Wat Saphan Hin turned out to be the highlight of my trip to Sukhothai. Not because it was the most impressive monument, but because of the splendid view over the plains of Sukhothai and the scarcity of people. For one hour, I sat alone under a tree next to the standing Buddha and meditated in a soft breeze; atop of this hill, I felt a real sense of peace. It is where I took the pictures for my Three Gifts and decided to kill the dragon.

I also made a resolution to take some time from now one whenever somebody greeted me and kept to that commitment for the rest of my trip. It allowed me to meet some very interesting people, the vast majority of whom were nice and honest. Even taking some time to discuss with those that had ulterior motives was educational and often even enjoyable.

On my way back, I stopped again at Noi’s Thai Food and had a fantastic lunch. So if you are ever in Sukhothai and want a great meal…

  1. Hook says:

    It’s interesting how we start with so many preconceived notions. We don’t even question them, we just accept them unconsciously. Then, one day, for who knows what reason, we look at things from a different perspective, and suddenly the “truth” becomes just one of many ways a situation can be regarded. Growing up can be fun.

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