Bob Penoyer
October 1968 to October 1969
Some of the Sights of Korat, Bangkok, and Pi Mai

During the early part of my time at Korat, we were on a work schedule of two 12-hour shifts per day, six days per week. This was a holdover from the Tet Offensive that began in Vietnam on 31 January 1968. This heavy schedule made visits to town a top priority. It also made going to town with friends difficult.

Because everyone worked six days per week but everyone's day off was different, it was sometimes hard to get to town with friends. When someone had the next day off, he'd always want to blow off steam in town that night. Those who wanted to go to town with him had to sacrifice some sleep in order to be on duty the next morning. But a lot of us did it because going to town was a top priority.

The pictures shown here are a mixture of a lot of different phases of life away from the air base. They are presented in no particular order.


This very confined area was known as Nitnoi Alley, Sweetheart Alley, and Darling Alley. It was the busiest area in Korat at night.

Nitnoi Alley was a very narrow pathway that provided access to several bars. It also provided access to Bar Row, which is at the far end of the narrow opening seen near the center of the picture.

The Sweetheart bar can be seen at the left with a bar girl standing in the doorway. The Darling bar is the window at the top left. The term "nitnoi" means "small" or "tiny" in Thai. The "alley" is very small. Hence the name.

This is the infamous Bar Row. Particular bars cannot be seen in this view but there were several along this road.

The water seen in the road was constantly seeping to the surface until the road was paved. Incidentally, most of the paving work, and most of the construction work in general, is done by women!

The Sripatana Hotel can be seen in the distance. It was located near Bar Row. The Sripatana was one of two rather modern, Western-style hotels in Korat. It was one of the few places in Korat where air-conditioning, decent food, and comfortable rooms could be found. When the next day was a day off from duty, it was a nice place to sleep while getting away from the oppressive heat of Thailand. The large building at the right is the Chomsurang Hotel. The Chomsurang was somewhat nicer than the Sripatana and had better food, but it was a fair distance from Bar Row. Also, the Asia Massage can be identified by the sign above the sidewalk. Massage parlors were popular among the Americans.
This is a cobbler that I stumbled on one day while wandering through town. I've always liked this photograph, so I've posted it here. Unfortunately, without the crisp detail that can be seen in the original photograph, it loses some of its character. Still, I like it.
This is a long, lonesome, dark stretch of road at night. It runs from Bar Row in the distance to the downtown area behind the camera. The total distance is maybe 1 mile. Imagine walking this unlighted road alone at night!

Gold stores were very common in Thailand. The gold jewelry was 24kt.

The prices were very realistic. For example, if you bought a gold necklace for $100, the store would buy it back later for $97.

This is one of several marketplaces in Korat. These large, open-air markets sell all sorts of fresh food. Notice the samlors (pedicabs) parked along the street.

Sam's Place

This was a great place for steaks! The story I heard about it was that Sam was either a soldier or airman stationed in Thailand. He married a Thai woman. When he left the service, he stayed in Thailand and opened this restaurant. The prices were very reasonable. For example, the most expensive steak cost 70 baht ($3.50) and was so large that it spilled over the edges of the plate. The steaks were tender and tasted great.

Thai Scaffolding

This amazingly crude assemblage of bamboo lashed together formed the standard scaffolding used in construction in Korat. As mentioned before, women seemed to do most of the work at construction sites.

Yahmoh

This statue of a woman is located in the square at the center of the downtown area. It was explained to me that Yahmoh is "like Buddha." It was never clear what this meant. However, the statue appeared to be treated with great reverence. Often robes and other clothing were placed on the figure. (I have since found out that the woman depicted by the statue was named Thao Suraneree though the people of Korat often call her Khun Ying Mo. Click image for more info.)

Train Station

This steam engine is located in front of Korat's train station. There was a surprising number of steam engines in use as switching engines at the station.

Water buffalo are grazing near an abandoned Buddhist waht (temple.)

Me, Malee's brother, and Malee

Malee's mother and Malee


These are pictures of my hootch girl, Malee, at a time when she wasn't working on base. She had invited me to go to a Buddhist festival. This was quite an honor because only a half-dozen or so airmen had been invited. Unlike her picture on the On Base page, here she is an example of the reason why Thailand is called the Land of Smiles.

The half-dozen or so airmen and maybe 40 Thais took buses to a Buddhist sanctuary, away from Korat. The buses stopped outside of town. There, everyone left the buses and the Thais began parading and dancing through town to a Buddhist sanctuary.

The airmen were treated as honored guests. When we were trying to take pictures of the parading dancers, the whole procession stopped until we were done! Upon arriving at the sanctuary, the oldest (and, therefore, the most respected) woman in the group sat the airmen at wooden benches formed in a circle. She passed out bottles of soda pop to us all, then invited us to dance a traditional Thai dance with her in the middle of the circle, one at a time. It was clear that we were embarrassed to attempt the unusual motions of the dance in front of everyone, but we all laughed and had a great time.

We then went into a large two- or three-story teak building where everyone ate chicken (which appeared to be sliced haphazardly through the bones) and drank rice beer. Rice beer looks like milky water with a few pieces of rice floating in it, but it tastes like beer.

The whole event was a lot of fun, one that I will never forget. One of the best parts was experiencing such wonderful treatment from the Thai people.

Floating Marketplace
Bangkok

These are just two pictures from Bangkok's famous Floating Marketplace. People come here like any other marketplace to buy and sell foods, fabrics, and other goods. But here, of course, everything is done on boats. The marketplace is a branch off of the Chao Praya River.



Waht Po
Bangkok

Waht Po is a very large Buddhist temple located in Bangkok along the shore of the Chao Praya River. Each year the king visits Waht Po, arriving on one of his extravagant barges. The pointed towers seen here are among many at Waht Po. These are pagodas and hold the remains of previous Thai kings.

Waht Po
Bangkok

This is perhaps the most peculiar sight at Waht Po. I will tell you about it as a guide explained it to me.

What you see here is a phallic symbol carved in stone. As I recall, it was about four feet tall and maybe one foot across. It sits on a rocklike platform, some of which can be seen in this photograph.

I was told by my guide that barren women would come here and sit on this figure while praying to Buddha. If the woman later conceived a child, she returned and placed a piece of gold leaf at the top. The pieces of gold leaf seen here appear to attest to some measure of success for the ritual.

If you are unfamiliar with gold leaf, it is a small square of pure gold, maybe 3/4-inch square and only molecules thick. It is often used to give building domes and roofs, statuary, and other items a bright gold appearance. A piece of gold leaf is very delicate and must be handled with the greatest care to prevent it from disintegrating. Guides and others often hand out pieces of gold leaf to visitors. The gold leaf is held in a fold of paper.

For more pictures of Korat, click the image
Come along to a Buddhist festival by clicking the image
For more images of Waht Po and to see the king's royal barges, click the image
For more images of the Floating Marketplace, click the image
Pay a visit to Thailand's Pi Mai Sanctuary by clicking the image
To access the On Base pages, click the image

To link to another Korat Web site with a lot of interesting pictures, click here.

To link to a Korat Web site with some great maps and aerial photographs, click here.

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