Saturday, November 30, 2013

North Again to Udon Thani and Miracle Springs

So I'm on a bumpy old Thai bus out of Udon Thani, way up north near the Lao border.  Hopefully on my way to someplace called Ban Dung (pronounced Baan Doong) where my pal Steve Areen will come and collect me (once I figure out a way to call him).  
I left horrible Klong Kloi beach and awful Koh Chang yesterday (funny it doesn't look horrible, does it?) travelling by mini-bus across on the ferry and then on up to the airport in Bangkok.
 I got a nice clean room near the airport with aircon and actual furniture and a warm shower!  Heaven.  No stream of fire ants crossing my mattress to attack my bags.  But up at 5am to make my early flight.  Happily I was able to trade in my flight from Trat for this one and it only cost me another $50 or so to make this sojourn  north.
It was really a toss up beteen visiting Steve way out in the Issan boonies, or going to the quaint Lao town of Luang Prabong.  I've wanted to visit LP for many years, but after travelling solo for weeks, it will be great to be with a friend, especially one as interesting and funny as Steve.  
I am a bit nervous about this leg of the trip however.  I'm the only farang on the bus and WAY off the tourist trail here.  I have no idea where we are, but we keep stopping to take on and let off passengers.  I'm just trusting the driver will let me know when to get off and that I will indeed get off at the right place.  Trust.
Writing later:  that bus trip took about an hour and it was pretty clear where to get off, but I was wrong about Steve meeting me there. I was supposed to call him and I know this sounds lame but I couldn't figure out how to use the pay phone!  I tried a bunch of times but kept getting a message in Thai.  No luck.  Finally some people at the copy shop next to the pay phone sort of adopted me.  At one point there were six or seven of them trying to figure out what the hell was my problem.  When they finally got that I just needed to call someone locally a man went in and dialed the store phone...and got Steve on the line!  
Most of the time I've travelled in Thailand I'm on a tourist route.  You can get wifi in almost any cafe or restaurant, people speak at least some English.  Safe to say that VERY FEW farang come through Ban Dung, and those who do probably know what they're about.  For me it was a powerful opportunity to feel how kind and compassionate Thai people can be.  
Turned out I needed to get on another bus to go another half an hour.  I went back to the bus station and three more Thai people helped me (in a very respectful but determined way).  They gave very clear instructions to the bus driver where to let me off!
And there was Steve waiting for me and now I'm here at his Thai dome home.  One of the coolest places I've ever been in.  His house is near a small lake in a mango orchard.  I'll put up some photos in my next post.  
Down the road a ways is Miracle Springs, owned by Hajjar and Lumiyai.  Hajjar is Steve's sister's husband's brother.  I think.  There are also some really cool wwoofers from Finland, Australia, and the US.  Hajjar Gibran is a distant cousin of the great Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet.  Hajjar wrote Return of the Prophet a few years ago, based on channelled conversations with Kahlil!  He also invented the dome building method that Steve used for his famous house.
Apparently Steve's dome house really has become famous.  It's been written up in print magazines all over the world and of course in lots of internet blogs and websites.  He's been getting love letters from women all over the place!
Did I mention there are rubber tree plantations here?

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