21. Nong Khai, Incoherence
. I seat at the the communal table that lies under the straw like roof in the middle of the Garden of Mut Mee Guesthouse. When I look up I see the white light bathing the Mekong. On the other side of the river I see Laos. Behind me are lush green vegetation, trees, and some of the houses that host our guests. I look up again, turn around and I see the people. Some Nong Khai victims, some tourists.
Most people here have been here before. Nong Khai victims are those who have just stayed. Some have been here now for years. This place is crazy I think. In front of me I see some of those who just stayed. Computer geniuses, university professors, yogis. I see the Dutch sadu looking like painter who has been living in India for the past 25 years. There are also the temporary victims those who come to stay for one day and are now for over a week. What is it about Nong Khai?
Nothing really I think. There is a really interesting sculpture park. The promenade along the river is nice. In some places you see low tables on the pavement, some people who seat on the ground. Mainly thais having Thai food. You also see the older Europeans with young Thai girls. Lady Boys who you cant ( at least not at first) tell are boys. Prostitute bars that are really friendly like. There is the people who come to volunteer, the people who are crossing to Laos. There are the massage parlours offering more often than not happy endings. There is a total difference view on sexuality. There is nothing really that is that special about Nong Khai and yet it holds many here.
It must be Mut Mee I think. The communal tables, the craziness of the stories that go around, the fact that people suddenly connect and stay. It must be Julian and his story telling. I really don’t know what it is. The surrealness of all that could go on and just be normal here. This morning for instance we all watched a snake snatch a HUGE gecko from the wall. We watched the snake constrict it. It was like national geographic live. Ambivalent feelings from all. “It is nature” said someone so children, young, old people all looked and observed for hours the slow process of the fight between the gecko and the snake. The snake constricted, the gecko made noises, we looked anxiously, shocked, curiously, marvelled. The fight for life in both sides. I don’t know how many hours it took for the snake to manage to swallow the whole gecko. And as it finally did, this Thai man who no one knew grabbed a broom, and got the snake, took it on his hands, open its mouth, removed the gecko. It couldn’t be alive we all thought. He threw the snake away in the jungle and released the gecko who petrified at first barely moved. Then after the Thai man encouraged the gecko to recover from the whole shock somehow it did. The crowd was divided. Some were happy for the Gecko some felt pity for the snake that worked for hours for nothing. He was a monk. Barely spoke english had once been bit by a tiger in Kanchanaburi. We all wondered whether he had then removed food from its mouth as well.
It is strange Nong Khai. Watching that battle for life was strange. It felt like it was arbitrary my decision. Why was I supporting silently the Gecko, why did I also think it was wrong for the monk to intervene in the natural process of that snake finding food to survive? I wanted both things to happen simultaneously. I wanted both the snake and the gecko to win. That is it I know what is it about Nong Khai: it is ok to be completely incoherent here. It is ok for you to want completely contradictory things at the same time. Everybody does it everywhere but here they just don’t hide it.