But I’ll get to talking about that later (I needed some kind of intriguing title…). It has only been a few days since my arrival in Khon Kaen (ขอนแก่น), and it’s all still a bit surreal that I’m actually in Thailand! After flying into Bangkok, it was a six hour drive to Khon Kaen. And let me just say, driving here operates on an entirely different set of norms than back home. It’s a place where everyone has some kind of amazingly horrible talent to drive within inches of other people, cars, and motorbikes without hitting anyone or anything. Pedestrians have essentially zero right of way, so I’m definitely taking the saying “Look both ways before you cross the street” to heart. On the drive over, we stopped at many gas stations which are seemingly the hip place to be. Each one has a coffee shop (Cafe Amazon), a 7-11, and usually at least two other small open-air restaurants in addition to vendors with carts selling a variety of goods or food. Upon arrival to Khon Kaen University (KKU), I was amazed at how large the campus is! There are many shuttle buses that go around campus, as well as songthaews (สองแถว) that go from the campus into the city. After introductions at the CIEE study center, I met my Thai roommate Praew (แพรว)! That evening, we were all very fortunate to be a part of a welcoming ceremony during which a Brahmin called our spirits of happiness from our hometowns to Thailand. After the ceremony, we were treated to a traditional Isaan feast. There was sticky rice, papaya salad, grilled pork with basil, omelets (Thai style), stir fried vegetables, chicken, and fruit for dessert. Oh, and we ate it all with our hands!
Now, I can’t write about my first week in Thailand without mentioning the food! Not only is the local food delicious, it is absolutely cheap. There are restaurants, street vendors, and cafes everywhere (although here the cafes don’t open until around noon). Every day there is a night market on campus where they sell a variety of clothing and food. This colorful noodle dish was both beautiful and tasty.
I’m really using this trip as an opportunity to push my comfort zone and do things I never thought I would ever do. Part of this includes trying new foods. Hence, eating crickets! The crickets were crunchy and a bit on the salty side which was unexpected. The texture wasn’t bad, except when the wing or leg would get stuck in between my teeth which was slightly uncomfortable. I wouldn’t say crickets are now my go-to snack, but it was definitely worth trying!
The second notable, novel thing I’ve eaten since being here is blood jelly. I didn’t mind the taste or texture so much (it really didn’t have much taste at all), but just the thought of what I was eating threw me off a bit. The curry itself though was very delicious with just the right amount of spice! It hasn’t even been a week yet, and I’m so pumped for what’s to come!