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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 21

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015
    Dan Sai, Thailand

    Carrot soup and toast at Veggie Cafe in Phitsanulok, Thailand.
    Carrot soup and toast at Veggie Cafe in Phitsanulok, Thailand.

    I awoke around 9:00 am this morning to the unexpected and loud sounds of fighter jets circling low around the city of Phitsanulok. I wonder what that was all about? For breakfast, I had small bowl of carrot soup and a tiny piece of toasted bread next door at a hipster cafe with really chic interior design. It even had a fancy fixed gear bicycle on display near the front window! After checking out of the Lithai Guesthouse, I took a tuk-tuk to Phitsanulok’s bus terminal number one to climb on board a rig bound for Dan Sai, a small town about two hours north. Luckily, it was due to depart in only 20 minutes, so I would arrive in Dan Sai in the early afternoon. Yay! Fortunately, no one sat next to me, so I could put my backpack in the open seat for maximum comfort instead of between my legs. The journey was very pleasant as we passed through numerous small towns and farmlands, and proceeded up into the woodsy mountains of the Loei province of Isaan, an area where few tourists go.

    Veggie Cafe in Phitsanulok, Thailand.
    Veggie Cafe in Phitsanulok, Thailand.

    I kept my eyes peeled for any signs announcing Dan Sai, hoping that it would be written in Roman letters as well as Thai. Luckily, that turned out to be the case in the few towns before Dan Sai, so I was confident that I’d know when to disembark. As we entered the Dan Sai District, there was a sign announcing it, along with a large Phi Ta Khon figure on the side of the road. It took another half hour of slowly chugging up steep hills and flying down them and negotiating many curves–hairpin and otherwise–to finally reach the town itself. At first, I was confused by a big sign stretching across the road that said, “Welcome to Loei.” So, when the bus stopped, I asked some people standing outside if this was the town of Dan Sai, and they said yes, so I jumped off. (I guess the sign meant Loei province, as the city of Loei is much further away.) I strapped on my backpack and started walking north toward the Mountain Green Resort, where I had booked four nights in a teepee!

    Taking a tuk-tuk to the bus station in Phitsanulok, Thailand.
    Taking a tuk-tuk to the bus station in Phitsanulok, Thailand.

    On the way, I paused to snap photos of several Phi Ta Khon mask exhibits set up in front of various businesses. I also noticed some shops selling Phi Ta Khon t-shirts, miniature masks and other souvenirs, so I’ll be sure to stop in tomorrow and buy a couple. On the map, the resort appeared to be about a mile–or maybe a little more–outside of town. My heavy backpack made me break out into a sweat and gave me back ache as I trudged along a slight uphill grade in the blaring afternoon sun. Luckily, as Dan Sai is located up in the mountains, the temperature here is considerably milder than lower Thailand. After about a mile, a nice man sitting with a lady in a small shop on the side of the road offered to ride me the rest of the way on his motorcycle. He drove super carefully, and once I spotted the tents and teepees of the Mountain Green Resort a half mile up, he pulled into the driveway and dropped me off. I gave him 20 baht.

    The bus I rode from Phitsanulok to Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The bus I rode from Phitsanulok to Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Welcome to Dan Sai, Thailand.
    Welcome to Dan Sai, Thailand.

    The staff inside the coffee shop / reception area didn’t speak much English, so they called the owner, San, who does. He told me he would come check me in about a half hour later. As soon as I finished some grub I ordered at their small cafe, the super smiley and friendly San pulled up and we chatted for a while as he showed me around. In addition to a small hotel containing a few rooms, the resort also includes the aforementioned teepees, which have electricity, a fan / air con unit and a mattress with pillows; and really small tents with no electricity or mattresses at all that fit one or two people. Unfortunately, he said that I could only rent the teepee for two nights, as someone else had already booked it for the second two nights. I don’t know how that happened, as I successfully booked the teepee for four nights through a web site a few days before.

    A display of Phi Ta Khon masks in front of a business in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A display of Phi Ta Khon masks in front of a business in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    I asked San if I could rent a bicycle to ride down into town to eat dinner and bring back some snacks. He said he didn’t have any to rent at the resort, but that he would drive down into town and get one for me. He returned a little while later near dusk with a funky mountain bike and even funkier helmet. Unfortunately, there was no basket to put my water bottle in, and the seat post was too short to accommodate my height, which made pedaling way less efficient and more difficult. But, it was super nice of him to fetch it for me. He even said I could have it free for the night, but tomorrow I’d have to pay 100 baht ($3.00). So, I coasted down into town for a look around, where I saw a bunch of folks preparing for the Phi Ta Khon festival. Then I stopped in a cafe for a small serving of Pad Thai, and picked up some snacks at a roadside shop on the way back to the resort.

    A display of Phi Ta Khon masks in front of a business in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    A display of Phi Ta Khon masks in front of a business in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    When I arrived, San, his wife and two other ladies were eating dinner in the cafe and watching TV. San and I had a nice, long chat about his life here in Dan Sai, the Phi Ta Khon festival, the influence of Laos on Isaan music and culture, etc. San first opened the Mountain Green Resort only three years ago to add value his land that it sits on. He also runs an agricultural grain / chemical shop down in town. In fact, his sales have been so good, he was treated by his company to an all-expenses-paid 10-day trip to the United States, where he got to visit Los Angeles, Chicago and New York! Around 10:30 or 11:00 pm, we all decided to call it a night and headed off to bed.

    The Mountain Green Resort owner San, Nee, San's wife Jam and Noy enjoy dinner in the cafe in Dan Sai, Thailand.
    The Mountain Green Resort owner San, Nee, San’s wife Jam and Noy enjoy dinner in the cafe in Dan Sai, Thailand.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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