On my travels from Vientiane to Bangkok, I decided to split my journey and spend a night on a stopover in Khon Kaen, a large city in the Isaan area of northeastern Thailand. Taking advice from my neighbour on the bus, a Thai traveller, I stay at the Kosa Hotel (walk-in rate 1,350 Baht). Being ill-prepared and with limited (zero) knowledge of the area, I didn’t expect much. The plan for my stopover in Khon Kaen was to eat, sleep, eat then bus to Bangkok. Being such a rare occasion in Isaan meant necessary to indulge in Isaan food. I went scouting nearby.
Note: I know there is much beauty in Khon Kaen. I was just unfortunate to miss it. I now feel the need to return and find it.
The area I was staying was totally bizarre. To be honest I didn’t expect many foreign folks in Khon Kaen. It is well-off tourist trails and offers little to travellers. I was very wrong. It is Thai bride country and I had landed in the thick of it. Sunday Midday – bars with inventive names such as “Eric’s Bar” are open and fronted by boozing westerners. A quick lap of the block finds a dozen wedding shops. Completely surreal.
The area also appeared central to the Khon Kaen’s sex trade. I see what looked to be a transaction. A western man, 60s, is joined by a Thai lady, 30s. They chat. Money is set on the table. The lady kisses the man’s cheek. Money is passed to the lady behind the bar. The man finishes his beer. The two leave together.
I eat Isaan sausage. I still feel miffed by my surroundings. It is midday and the sex trade is apparent. I always pictured the stereotypes of the sex trade being old and sinister – like Fritzl. Wrong again. Many passing mongers are young and appear relatively normal. The area got under my skin. I get a nod from a chunky farang on a scooter. Do they think I’m one of them?