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September 2004
Updated July 2006

Nong Khai and Mut Mee Guesthouse
The author, a Bangkok expat, and frequent traveler to the Mut Mee Guest House in Nong Khai, relates his experiences meeting interesting people and the laid back bohemian atmosphere that prevails at the guest house on the banks of the Mekong River.

I was first told about Mut Mee Guest House by my friend and co-worker, Peter, a former Catholic priest who did missionary work in Nong Khai prior to his change of life. Peter was someone I had always admired but he was also an enigma to me. He seemed to be the kind of person who didn't have a malicious bone in his body. Maybe it was the aura of a former priest, but I have also gotten this impression from other, but not all, religious people of various faiths. In the era of pedophile scandals and corruption, maybe it was all a contrived persona. But I trusted Peter, something I couldn't say about too many other people I have met in my life.

Peter worked as a missionary for some radical branch of the church whose objective was to provide poor people in developing areas with self-sufficient industries and, I suppose, the word of The Lord as well. As a missionary priest, Peter made about 10,000 US dollars a year. His base was Nong Khai, and some of the projects he was involved in included a traditional silk weaving business that is still in operation.

It was clear that Peter had some uncertain feelings about leaving the priesthood, but apparently the vow of chastity was too much to handle and the lure of local woman was his downfall. When I knew him, Peter had been married for several years, had two kids, and was working alongside me at a government university outside of Bangkok. Peter worked as a translator and I worked as a lecturer.

It was Peter who recommended Mut Mee Guest House to me. He said that Nong Khai was a unique and interesting place with an old style pace of life and a small foreign population. Mut Mee Guesthouse, he said, was run by an artist couple and located on a back soi that also housed art galleries and shops that gave the area a somewhat bohemian atmosphere.

I took an overnight sleeper train to Nong Khai and arrived on a chilly, haze-filled morning to Nong Kai, on the Thailand-Laos border in 1996 and I have visited the place many times since then.

Mut Mee Guesthouse

Mut Mee guesthouse is comprised of several small wooden houses situated directly on the banks of the Mekong River in Nong Khai, Thailand. Nong Khai itself is a slow-moving, traditional town that differs from other slow-moving traditional towns in Thailand because of its scenic riverside location, its proximity to Laos, and its French influence (apparent in its cuisine and some of its architecture). Also, Nong Khai has been touched by a number of interesting Thai and non-Thai residents, who have brought beauty and uniqueness to the friendly town.

Julian, who owns Mut Mee with his Thai wife, is a young middle-aged British man who has an aristocratic and dramatic air, as if he would be quite comfortable discussing art or theatre with a group of New York or London intellectuals. Julian has studied art and the Mut Mee Guest House is a tribute to his imagination and sense of style. But Mut Mee's art is accessible, found in small details like wall murals and creatively designed furniture. And unlike other artsy places, Mut Mee is also a budget-oriented and laid back place.

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