The night before leaving Ubon Ratchathani had been a relaxing one. In fact, I was able to watch television before bedtime. I tuned into a music channel called Sabaidee TV which featured an atrocious line-up of old school Thai ballads. For a while there, I thought I was stuck in 70's melodrama where music videos had familiar, albeit recurring story lines: a couple is usually seen flirting and smiling, then sometime in mid-video, they fight, they grieve, then make up. It's a pretty consistent narrative thread. And oh yes, these had really gorgeous people. Thais are indeed some of the world's most beautiful, and they know how to show them off in movies, music videos, TV shows.
In the morning, I woke up as early as 5:30 AM because I wanted to catch the sunrise over the Moon River. I swiftly hopped into the riverside and waited for the sun to gradually raise its head on the horizon. This took forever. I noticed a girl doing her morning run, carrying her iPad with her. She smiled and I greeted her with a "hello". I should have said "Sawasdee". She stopped and we talked. "Our sunrise is beautiful, isn't it? " I couldn't agree more with her, but she added, "A few weeks ago, this promenade was submerged under water. This place was waist deep!" That really surprised me. Her name's Pak, a sales rep for medicine. We exchanged emails. She even invited me to visit more temples - as my guide! It was very inviting, but I had a plane to catch in a couple of hours. But true to the warmth of most Thais, Pak is a glittering example of Asian hospitality. She took my photos through her gadget, and I took hers with my camera - then we said goodbye. Thank you, Pak. Kapkun (khob khun) krap.
MORNING ALMS RITUAL
Meanwhile, I noticed the monks from the nearby temples begin their morning alms ritual. There are 3 or 4 temples near the riverside promenade so the ritual was easy to catch. As customary, I followed one set of monks around to observe the ritual. Nothing much is different from their Lao counterpart, except that the Lao people actually kneel by the roadside when giving their "gifts": bread, rice, food, fruits, noodles, candies, even flowers. This set was a considerable number too. I tailed them until I felt I had enough photos. On my way back to my hotel, another set of monks was making their way back to their temple. They were carrying huge bags of goodies. Wow, I was amazed! All that in a few hour's "work". In fact, they even had an assistant to help them carry their stash. These monks will take these gifts back to their temple and share their "harvest" with the rest of monkhood.
Back at the restaurant, I found a seat close to the entrance, directly facing the road outside. I called the waitress who informed me that since I had a twin room, I could order a meal for two people. Though not particularly hungry, I wouldn't miss the chance of finding out what constituted breakfast at Sri Isan Hotel. I ordered one American Breakfast - egg, ham, sausage, bread with jam - and another Asian Set - which turned out to be a chicken soup with rice, not dissimilar to arroz caldo, although this was really "sabaw" than porridge.
After breakfast, I hastily checked out. I prefer getting to the airport early. This has advantages because it allows me to check out the airport facilities, plus it avoids unnecessary rush to check in. Everything gets leisurely. Besides, I love observing people. I asked the front desk to call me a taxi with meter.
The ride to the airport took a ridiculously swift 15 minutes. The meter marked 42 baht; I gave 60 baht for gratuities. I was smug because the fixed rate from the airport to my first hotel (Krungtong Hotel) was 100 baht. Sri Isan was farther by 2-3 blocks and I only had to pay 42 baht for that? Isn't it cool? I am easily pleased, you see. :)
Ubon Ratchathani Airport is small. It used to station U.S. forces, but has since been made the base of the Royal Thai Air force. it has also been turned into a commercial airport. Upon my arrival, I noticed that there were very few operational counters, but then the airport has limited services. One counter services Bangkok, the other was Chiangmai. They also didn't have web check-in services. Gate 3 services Air Asia flights.
After checking out the limited shops at the airport, I proceeded to the pre-departure area. On public television, they were showing the Korean hit, "Boys Over Flowers". I chose a seat and relaxed. My flight leaves at 9:30 AM. This will take an hour and ten minutes to sandbag city.
Bangkok, here I come - again!
This is the Eye in the Sky!
|My new friend Pak who was jogging with her iPad.|
|Morning alms ceremony in Ubon Ratchathani.|
|Each one gets something in their bowl.|
|When everyone's been given, someone is assigned to lead a "blessing" ritual, which is kinda like a chant or a prayer.|
|Another set of monks were coming home with a huge stash. The early bird catches the worm, indeed.|
|But they aren't done yet.|
|They even had an assistant help them carry their stash with them.|
|Two sets of breakfast at Sri Isan Hotel.|
|Beautifully prepared, but a bit on the bland side.|
|A candle wax display at the hotel lobby.|
|My taxi ride to the airport.|
|Check in at Ubon Ratchathani Airport.|