Ban Hin Heup
Early morning market place as the village awakens. Not having skipped a beat, patriotic clips on the communal television set: the road scenes of the country de-garbagified to reflect the perfect Homeland.
Buses come to stop here and the market people come out waving sticks of barbequed meat or eggs impaled on skewers. A man with a broom and shovel cleans up the large gravel expanse in front of the market.
It rained last night and this morning the mountain is full of mist, rising slowly from the forest floor as though fires were being lit to lift the steam.
Here, in the marketplace, the smell of charcoal burning; wood of forest essences cooks the rice and meat and this ancient smell bridges the then and the now.
The couple who was here last night is still here. She breast feeds her baby and they are still waiting. I wonder what it must be like for a man to be able to offer no more than a table and corner cot in the marketplace for his wife and infant. I sadden at the futurelessness I see in his eyes.
The fog lifts not. I’ve had my breakfast of phở, looking forward to my lunch of phở and my delicious phở dinner. As always I am amazed at the poverty of peasant cooking in Southeast Asia. Like the French, they have everything they need to make a varied cuisine and yet they always seem to eat the same thing, repetitiously; the brutish monotony of days merging with the soul-crushing monotony of their diet.
This is the Wild East, where people struggle and make do. Why do any of these people leave their dirt villages and dusty trails? Wasn’t life simpler there? The cooking fires burn just as hot there and the surrounding forest cover protects them without outside help.
Second cup of coffee. I brought instant coffee and milk with me from home. Other buses come; the vendors hold up their wares like crucifixes.