I took these while taking a small walk through an elongated, gated park, watching people execute their daily jogs and bike rides. Ian, my neighbor here in Saraburi, picked me up on a friend’s motorbike, and we drove as the sun continued to set around the lake that Khon Kaen surrounds.
I mentioned how easy it is to get around because all you have to do if you get lost is find the lake, and follow it until you’re in the direction you need to be going.
“Like Madison,” he replied.
My favorite cities in America, ones that I find are easily navigable, all follow the water. Living in Chicago during college whenever I lost my equilibrium walking or getting off of an unfamiliar stop on the CTA, I’d look to Lake Michigan and figure out where east was, then west, then where I needed to go. In Detroit, when you get to the Riverwalk at the end of St. Antoine and you look across the river and see Windsor, you’ve found Cobo Hall and expensive parking structures and Hart Plaza and Joe Louis’ fist.
In this way, Khon Kaen felt so familiar. The second-largest city in the Northern region of Thailand, the size of it is still manageable and the air is less thick. Sidestreet walls are graffitied with paintings, artistic and pulsating with an energy you can feel. The streets smell like grilled everything and tangy fish sauce and rice being steamed. I thought of my mom’s barbeque and the graffiti portraits Chicago kept on her brick walls and the way the brisk air surrounded my skin bike riding along the Detroit River on an autumn afternoon.
That night, Ian and I went with Ian’s expat friends that live in the city to what’s referred to simply as Chocolate, owned by Jordan from California who hangs his friends’ artwork on the walls and plays mellow music over the speakers and serves you himself in between conversations. Ian played guitar duets with his friend Bryn and a bubbly fellow Thai patron, and we spent the night amid the dim Chocolate lights, drinking slowly in the wide, plush couches, belting out Beatles songs and songs they’d written themselves and songs about rivers in the rain that sometimes, at night, look like long, white trains. River, I love you.