Hot Dang, Dan Chang

Dan Chang: The Elephant Path

I’ve finally left Bangkok and gone to my new home for the next 10 months, Dan Chang. It’s pronounced Dohnnn Chohnng in Thai, and it means “elephant path,” “chang” meaning elephant and “dan” meaning path.  My school coordinator, P’nga(pronounced Pinga) told me that it was named that way because elephants used to walk through here on their way to go play in the river.  Unfortunately there aren’t elephants here anymore, I’m guessing it’s either because the river has been dammed up or because of the sadly decreasing elephant population.

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Dan Chang is in the Suphan Buri Province, about 2 hours northwest of Bangkok.  It’s 40 minutes outside of the main city, Suphan Buri, and has a population of 15,ooo.  It’s rural, being primarily a sugarcane farming community, but not considered to be very rural by Thailand standards at all.  Although there are a ton of pretty sugarcane fields that I pass on my motorbike when I go to town.

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Sugarcane for days.

Dan Chang’s claim to fame is having the largest non-concrete reservoir in Thailand.  Everyone goes to the reservoir in the evening to work out and socialize, when it’s a little cooler, but still very buggy.  I’ve started going with the other 2 American teachers that I live with to run every evening, it’s very postcard-esque at night, although there are definitely a lot of stares.

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The reservoir at sunset, and the spirit house located halfway across the reservoir.  On the bottom right is one of the shops not too far from my apartment, a lot of the buildings look like this, with a lot of outdoor space.

The town center has an open market.  On Monday nights there is the Monday market, which is like the open market but way bigger.  The market sells everything; maggots(yum), various parts of raw fish, exotic vegetables like dragonfruit and mangosteen, clothes, gummies shaped like sushi, shoes, allegedly even one time puppies, anything.

Whenever I walk through town I get stared at, because it’s obvious that I’m not from here.  In fact, the first farang in Dan Chang didn’t come until the school began to employ foreign teachers, 15 years ago.  P’nga told me that everyone in the entire town came to see her on her first day, as many of them had never seen a farang.  It’s also a small town, so whenever I go out in public I usually run into my students, whether it’s at 7-11 or the reservoir.

There are not one, not two, but THREE 7-11s in town, a ton of random little restaurants all over the place, a pizza place owned by a Swedish guy, numerous coffee shops, 3 Thai massage parlors, an agricultural college, amongst other things that I have yet to discover.  There’s also Wat Dan Chang, or the temple of Dan Chang, where the locals go to worship.

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Top: Image taken on the main road.  Note the family of 3 on the motorbike on the left.
Bottom: The agricultural college, image of the King in tow.

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Top: Wat Dan Change, sorry for the quality it was getting dark.
Bottom: Spirit houses at Wat Dan Chang, the monks’ housing is in the background.

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A Buddhist shrine I think?  I found it down the street from my apartment, the signs are all in Thai so I don’t know(recurring theme).

The restaurants here are so cool.  In my half-asleep full-exhausted state that I was in on the Friday that my coordinator picked me up from Bangkok and brought me to my new hometown, we stopped for dinner.  I don’t know if it’s because I was delirious, but it literally looked like something out of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.  After going to a few more restaurants, I realized that they are all like that.  The restaurants are all outdoors, with little wooden tables and plastic dollar-store chairs.  There are stray dogs that wander through, no white people, and the kitchens are open, so you can see everything that goes into your food.  Everything, blood, guts, and all.

And the food- when I was in Bangkok eating mostly food that was catered by our hotel, I had to second guess myself as to how much I actually liked Thai food.  Some of it was weirdly seasoned, drowning in fish sauce, or just downright lacking flavor.  Ex. some kind of a “fish mousse” that was brown-ish and consisted of fish and egg.  But after getting to Dan Chang and trying the real stuff, I’ve found a new religion: Thai food.

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One of the restaurants down the street from where I live.  All of the restaurants look similar, being mostly outdoors with plastic seating.  Also don’t even ask me what the above food is, the other American teachers who have been here longer helped me order it.  It’s some kind of chicken with banana peppers and a fried egg on top, sooooo good.

It’s completely different and a million times better than the American stuff, not surprisingly.  There is no such thing as drunken noodles, but Pad Thai and Tom Yum are very real, and significantly better than their American counterparts, shockingly.  They eat everything either with rice noodles or over rice, and I think I’ve consumed more rice within the past week than throughout my entire life.  My recent obsession has been Gai Pad Mem Wong, or cashew chicken.  Unfortunately most restaurants/stalls don’t even have menus, or if they do they’re written in Thai, so I’m limited to ordering what I can say in Thai or what the other American teachers I hang out with can say.  That means a lot of Gai, Thai for chicken.

And everything is so cheap.  Sooooo cheap.  A standard meal out is 35-45 baht, a little over a dollar.  It costs me 60 baht to fill up the tank on my motorbike, which is less than 2 dollars.  A one-hour massage costs 250 baht, or about $7.

Thanks for reading!  I have to stay in the country for 90 days until my work permit is processed so that my visa gets extended, so I’ll begin traveling around Thailand, new posts coming soon!

 

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