Tuesday, February 8, 2011


We went to Udon Thani three full days before the birth and checked into the EAK Udon Apartments, just to be on the safe side. We wanted to avoid at all costs a mad dash to the border with Marie-Do having contractions, and so we took our time. We spent three days walking around this very ugly city and even ate at McDonald’s one morning. When a pregnant woman demands an Egg McMuffin, you give her an Egg McMuffin. As you can see, Ronald McDonald says ‘sabadeeka’ like the well-trained operative he is.

Udon is a strange sort of place. They say that there was an American Air Force base here back in the day and a remnant of this is that the city is a magnet for Old White Men. And I don’t mean old like me. I mean really old. They sit around the bars at night smoking and drinking beers and not smelling good. Those who have the energy joke around with the bar girls. Some of them have Thai girlfriends or wives and children young enough to be their great-grand-children. The scene is one of alcohol and despair; and leaves you with a kind of washed-up feeling.

There is a vibrant Night Market, though; that most lovely of Thai traditions, and discount supermarkets where everything is cheaper than in Laos.

There is an old British kind of formalism in some aspects of life here that reminded me of Jordan. The parking attendants at the hospital, for example, all have cleats on the inner outsoles of their boots, so when they see you they salute very properly and click their heels together and say ‘kah!’

The back streets of the city are Thai intimate, little alleyways and people playing dominoes. People are friendly and welcoming, handing you meat skewers and glasses of beer as you walk by their street parties.

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