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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.