April, 2001 from my third-floor room overlooking the new train station in Nong Khai, Thailand.

(Photograph at bottom of page.)

The locals are complaining a lot about the heat. Apparently it is pretty warm for this early in the season. It will get hotter and possibly by the end of next month, the rainy season will start - should help cool things occasionally (but only while actually raining). The other effect will be that travel, and in particular walking will be very difficult. We have many dirt roads here, and I understand that they are pretty much impassable after a couple of days of rain.

I've been getting out the door before 06:00 for half an hour to an hour of brisk walking most mornings. I missed one because I slept a little late. By 07:30 it was much too hot and sunny to go out walking. By the time I get back to the room, often by 07:15 or 07:30, things are busy around the train station.

The train station across the street continues to be a source or entertainment as well as annoyance. Tuk-tuks arrive at about 06:45 in anticipation of the arrival of the overnight train from Bangkok. There are 110 to 130 of them -its hard to get an exact count because they keep moving around. There are probably nearly all the working tuk-tuks in Nongkhai. By 07:15 the train has arrived and most of the tuk-tuks have roared out of the station with their passengers. The number of passengers arriving from Bangkok is exceptionally high in these days leading up to Songkran, as people return to their villages for the celebratory activities.

Also by 07:15 the restaurants between our room and the train station set up for the day's business, playing loud music, often Thai music. Often throughout the day, and particularly at night, the karaoke machines are turned up and really poor off key singing booms across the parking lot. The police were nice enough to come last night when I called at 03:00 (in the morning) and ask that they turn things down.

Every day at 08:00 and 18:00 the national song ("Song Thailand", I am told) is played over loudspeakers in government buildings and people stop what ever they are doing and stand at attention until the song is finished. At 08:30 every morning, school children all over Thailand sing this song. At the train station the five seconds leading up to 08:00 are ticked by as loud beeps over the stations loudspeaker system, followed by synthesized bells chiming the hour. Synchronized with the termination of the last chime, one of the uniformed policemen standing at attention in the doorway to the police office at the train station blows his whistle loudly and the Song Thailand begins playing, almost as if on his cue. When the music starts, the crowd milling around the front of the station freezes in its tracks. The appearance is strikingly similar to what a line of ants does when you blow on them.

I've been occupying myself a little by trying to relearn what little I knew about C, using an old Metroworks compiler on a second hand portable computer. I'm starting to remember how clumsy seemed the last time I tried using it and am considering going back to Pascal for my software tinkering. Then again, is going back to Pascal really a step forward?

Its nearly 08:00 now. Time to stand in the doorway to my third floor balcony (replete with laundry drying rack) and watch the train station for a couple of minutes. Maybe today won't be as hot as yesterday was.

Warm regards (warm, in more ways than one...)

From my balcony, looking over roofs of the make-shift restaurants and karaoke joints, to the train station across the street.

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Updated July, 2009