20060530

37 thaikarl i can understand what people are saying this must be USA

friends,

landed back in seattle, washington, UNITED STATES (the sign in the airport didn't say "of america")
i can understand ambient conversations.  i can read the signs.  the money is all colourless.    the food un-appealing.  people are inconsistent shapes and featured.  jeez.

i didn't get searched at customs this time like i did last year.  so i breezed thru all that in less than an hour.  no one at the airport that i knew, so i took the metro bus.  with 25kg of  luggage.  always come back heavy with acquisitions.  it was 8pm and the sun was just setting.  in the tropics its completely dark by 8pm.  and COLD!

at my apartment, it was a joy to see my cats - they were mildly interested in my return, had to sniff all the strange smells from me and my bags.  they are so BIG, these cats.  asian cats are generally small and thin.  my room-mate was a little nervous to see how i would react to everything being moved, reconfigured, restacked and re-piles.  i'm okay with it.  it's a mess, all my electronics are unplugged and confused, stuff is not exactly where it used to be.  but i expected all that.  i have to re-do all this stuff anyway to adjust to living in a much much smaller space.

i'm in that weird "don't quite know what to do with myself" zone.  my body thinks its the middle of the  day, but it's now 4:06am.  birds are chirping, which means the daylight will arrive soon.  the culture shock of returning to this place is far far worse than going overseas.  but i'll get used to it. mostly.  enough to get along.  next time i buy a ticket for asia it will be a one-way ticket.  (even if i know i'm coming back, extending and re booking is more expensive than just buying a one way return ticket)  but maybe, i won't need that return ticket. not for a long time.

i called Tok, she i getting busy as always - working in jamlongs shop, setting up to cut and style hair at her own house, and some people have expressed interest to her of learning english.  "hey, that's supposed to be MY job i said to her".  i miss her and the family, and all the people in the neighborhood.  but i must keep a "cool heart" as they thais call it.  so i will.

the next adventure begins...

now.

Onward!
Nu.

or am i back to being karl?  oh  yes, i guess so. thus:

Onward!
karl

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060529

36 Thaikarl time to go back in time

friends,

it's 6:25pm monday may  29th here in taiwan.  it is 15 hours earllier in seattle.  so when i catch the plane tonight at 11pm, after some 11 hours in the air i will arrive in seattle at 7:10pm, this same day.  going back in time.  appropriate. returning to my past, from this far eastern present.

what a long strange trip it's been.

i haven't felt like writing since i've been here in taiwan.  i will have to backfill the travelogue from seattle.  i have enjoyed my visit to nationalist china.  seen and done some interesting things. doug and jasmine have been very friendly and helpful to me.  and i miss tok, the family, and thailand very much.

Onward
Nu

--
i am in ???? at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060525

35 Thaikarl we're not in ..... anymore dorothy

friends,

taiwan is a bit of a change from thailand.  language and script completely different of course, and many small differences in life, appearance and custom.  i've been pretty much doing nothing for the last couple of days, walking around the neighborhood some and hanging with my friend doug.  nice to just chill after the last couple of months of busyness in the village.

but today i am determined to find the subway entrance and go into  the city.  Doug and Jasmine live in an outlying area of the megalopolis of Taipei.  so all i'm seeing is the local business and residential life.  the Taipei city is something else.

doug has a DSL connection here at his apartment,, so i'm online much more.  you can look for me on yahoo instant messenger as indiakarl.  or  not.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in taiwan at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060523

34 Thaikarl greetings from taiwan!

friends,

many baht later, i finally made the plane from bangkok to Taiwan. i'm
visiting with Doug, whom i met at the Celta course and his wife. i'm
typing this on an iBook at dougs english school. (so nice to see a
mac again) quite an impressive setup they have here, two nice rooms
with new desks and chairs, whiteboards... a real school. it's called
DJ's English School for Doug and Jasmine (his wife)

it's a little different here. like, everything is in chinese
characters, and the language sounds very unfamiliar, soft and breathy.
the city of thaipei is some ways away, we are out in the out lands of
the city proper. i can take the MRT subway into the city. doug and
jasmine are busy with school.

raining. grey. like the scenes from blade runner...

will be nice to soften the let down from thailand. i have been with
tok 24/7 for 4 months... feels strange to be on my own now. but she
is not that far away.

onward!

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my
travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:
http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060522

33 Thaikarl Missed my plane! so i'm going to china.

friends,

for the first time in all my flying, i missed my plane yesterday.  drats.  simple as setting alarm for 'time to be at airport' not for 'time to get up to get ready and goto airport'.  and of course, it being sunday, the Delta airline office was closed, and you can't get china air on the phone.  still, we packed up and took a taxi to the airport.  i went to the china airlines counter and the ladie said there was a 1:30pm flight, no problem.  okay good.  went through all the dreary goodbyes at the security gate etc.  when i got back to the counter and they started punching things in the terminal, things went wrong.  seems that china airlines only has one "codeshare" flight per day. and since i have a paper ticket, i had to goto the delta office to change it.  but they don't open until 9:00 am monday, and the flight for the day leaves at 8:25am.  sweet.  all of this took much discussion, terminal keying, calls to supervisors etc.  fortunately Tok was still waiting at the passenger fence.  we took taxi back to the hotel.  when the taxi stopped, i woke from my nap and opened the door... and clipped a car that was zooming past.  black-car stops, there is a lot of discussions in thai, broken mirror glass on the ground and i have little idea what's going on.  we got the new room (wayyyyyyyyy in the back of the lodge) and when we came back out, the taxi and black-car are still there. black-car man calling insurance company.  we ate lunch at the road stall.  eventually some guys came out on a motorbike, took pictures and made out paper work and told me that i had to split the cost with the insurance company.  2000 baht (little over 52.00). i gave the taxi driver 200 baht, because it wasn't his fault and it had taken up much of his time and fares to deal with all this.  he was quite surprized and grateful for that.

so this morning, monday, tok and i take the skytrain and walk to the delta office - up on the 27 floor of an office building and rebook the ticket.  oh, another 75.00 USD to change the ticket. the original flight is booked now.  so once again, my arrival in seattle is set back.  now i return to Seattle on the 29th of may, china airlines, flight 22 arrives 7:10pm.  my thai visa expires tomorrow, the 23rd, so i have a little problem there.  i don't need to spend MORE money to make a visa run to cambodia, so i'm going to leave BKK tomorrow morning and fly to taiwan.  i have a friend from the english course who lives there, and i will visit with them for 5 days, waiting for the flight to Seattle.  that will be interesting.  doug and his wife are starting an english school in Taipei, so i am looking forward to seeing how it all works.  and to hang out in Taiwan for a bit.  more foreign money to add to my collection of places to come back to.  but, the cash is gone.  i had to take back the money i gave Tok to live on to pay for scratched car, more hotel and food etc, i'm going to be eating rice and walking alot in Taiwan.  the Dutch have a saying: "laugh and pay".  i'm laughing my ass off.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060520

32 thaikarl Amazing Thailand and the next stop

Friends,

Departing bangok tomorrow.  There is a pall hanging over Tok and I, knowing that it will be some time before we are together again.  We've shopped for last minute things… mostly things for Tok.  She purchased the rudiments- dryer, curler, scissors etc so she can cut hair at home to earn a little money.  I gave her everything I had left in Baht, hope it will tide her over until I can generate some cash to send to her from seattle.

What follows are a collection of Amazing Thailand bits that I noted and may or may not have included in prior messages.  Some are a bit thin in explanation, but I have other things to do tonight…

Onward!
Nu
Amazing Thailand
The time bell ringer
Bangs the gong 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 for 10 pm
Tok and I were eating Phad Thai one evening in Lom Sak.  I heard a clanging sound, someone rhythmically hitting a piece of metal.  Tok says "It's Ten PM" "How do you know that?" I ask her.  "The time man." She says.  I notice a man leaving on motorbike across the street.  The sound I heard was the man banging on a piece of metal hanging from the road sign.  "Clang-Clang…Clang-Clang!" Ten times for 10 o'clock.  I am amazed.  They actually have a time keeper who goes around ringing a gong to tell the time.  I ask Tok if there actually is a man whose job it is is to ride around town and gong the time.  Of course there is.
Roti Boy 4/19/2006 9:24 AM
Everyday in Siam Square there was a long long queue at the Roti Boy shop.  Roti's are buns that have a butter and coffee cream dressing applied to the dough before baking.  They originated in Singapore decades ago.  They started as a mix of bun and cookie, then became a soft cream cookie melted on top of the bun.  From early in the morning until late afternoon, there would be a line of people around the corner and down the alley waiting to get their Rotiboys.  Reminds me of the similar craze when Krispy Kreme doughnuts opened a store in Issaquah Washington.  Another outlet in Siam is Papa Roti.  Papa Roti's buns aren't quite so buttery and have a slightly crispy top.  Tok waited and hour in line to buy some Rotiboys for us.  They are very tasty, but hardly phenomenal.  They go through thousands of these things every day.  (we have since see Rotimom, RotiBuns and somewhere is Rotigirl)
Anti Thaksin ring tones 3/9/2006
The prime minister of Thailand is having a difficult
 time right now.  Something about a business deal where he sold his shares in a communication company, and made millions of Baht – tax free.  A little article in The Nation reported on that political ringtones can be awkward in some situations.  People have downloaded anti-Thaksin ringtones for mobile phones.  A reporters phone started ringing "Thaksin ok pai" ("Thaksin get out" I'm guessing) during a press conference with the agricultural minister – who is a good buddy of the prime minister.  Even funnier, the ringtone was audible when the TV news reports of the press conference were broadcast later that day.
Croaking Lizards 3/14/2006 9:59 PM
Every night I have heard a loud croaking sound.  Starts with a series of short chirps then a loud Wah!-Waah!, several times.  And I do mean these things are loud – about like the cawing of a crow loud.  I asked Tok several times what was making that sound.  She said it was like a gecko, but bigger.  I wasn't sure what that meant – things get lost in translation very easily.  I've heard it several times from the north wall, near the cabinets that make up the wall of Mama's bedroom.  Tonight I got my flashlight and peered over the top of the cabinet, and there was a large head sticking up! As big as a tablespoon big! Big yellow eyes, pale green skin with soft pink dots.  It ducked down the wall when I shown the light on it.  I went and got a mirror and went into Mama's bedroom and put the mirror against the wall so that I could see down the space between the wall and the cabinet.  Wow, it's a lizard of some sort- a BIG one.  Has to be at least 9 inches long.  I didn't think a little gecko sized creature could be making so much sound, now I know what it is.  I learned that these guys are called a "Tokay".  The name approximates the sound they make.  So many strange and interesting creatures about.  I like to kid Tok, every time I discover another one.  "Are we going to eat them?" She always laughs at me.  I learned that the croaking sound is a territorial call.  Mama got fed up with the animal waking her up and tried to fish him from out behind the cabinet one day.  She kept shoving the palm broom behind the cabinet.  The Tokay finally came out and stopped by the window.  I ran to get my video camera, shot 3 seconds of video and it ran down behind the cabinet again.  A few days later it was gone.  I was afraid mama had killed it, but it reappeared a couple of weeks later.  Loud as ever…

Houses on stilts
Many Thai houses outside of the towns and cities are built up on stilts.  Some are several feet above ground, most are above head height, some are 15 feet up in the air.  I've wondered about the reason many times.  I asked Tok about it and she gave the reason for the tradition.  In former times there were wild elephants and tigers in Thailand, having your house up in the air protected you from them.  Well, there are no tigers or elephants now, so why do they continue to build houses this way? I've come to realize a few things about this construction that makes a lot of sense, for here and other places in the world where they build stilted houses.

When you house is 10 feet up in the air, it is more difficult for enemies or bad guys to gain entry.  The house is up where the breezes are.  The space beneath the house is shaded, and open to any breeze, thus is cooler.  The space is also protected from the rain.  It gives a place to cook, work, store things and hang out.  Being up on stilts also prevents most of the critters like rats, mice, frogs, snakes and numerous bugs from coming into the house.  Most of the houses are supported by concrete columns.  I've seen the molds they use for the columns behind the hardware store.  The concrete columns have steps formed on the upper end, to support wooden floor beams.  The beams are bolted thru holes cast into the tops of the columns.  The base of the columns has a footing molded into them.  The columns are set about two feet into the ground.  I don't know if they set them into a concreted hole or not.  Having stilts made of concrete keeps the termites from eating them, and making their way up into your house.

I like the stilted houses.  I like the open spaces beneath them and the way people work and live under the house.  The interior of any house gets quite warm in the sun.  There is generally no insulation beneath the roof or in the walls, so the sun heats the roof and walls, which re-radiates into the rooms inside.

Burning trash
Out in the rural areas, most of the household trash is burned.  Everything.  A lot of plastic bags, food containers and other things that make a nasty pollutant smoke.  They don't have garbage collection.  There just isn't the infrastructure to support it.  And burning is easy.  That means that just in Thailand, there are thousands of these fires every day.  Add that to the large portion of the rest of the world who do the same thing, and I imagine we have a lot of junk going into the air.   Sure, north Americans, and the European union countries have stopped or curtailed burning garbage, but that is a small portion of the world population.

Thai newspaper coverage
I have noticed something about news coverage in Thailand, at least in the English language newspapers, and what I can glean from the TV news.  They don't put a lot of stories of death, destruction and "things to fear" in the paper.  There are two national English language papers – the "Bangkok Post" and "The Nation".  They print stories that are mostly concerned with politics, social issues, financial dealings, world news and human interest.  Very muted are the shootings, road accident spectacles, lurid coverage of murders, rapes, robbery, fires, child molesters, and other horrors that the north American news and papers love to dwell on.  They do report these things, but they are limited to a few column inches, not pages and pages of such events.

The Thai language newspapers I can't tell you about.  There seems to be a number of them that are a bit tabloid in nature.  There is always a photo of people that have been murdered, often in the drug world.  They show the bodies splayed the way they were found, like "true crime" photos.  Usually they will pixilated the faces, or immodest portions displayed.

Doug and Matt go to concert
Doug and matt were telling about going to the Bangkok100 concert last night.  They were carrying beers in their hands when they went to go in, but the guard at the gate told them they couldn't carry beer in.  They pointed at some people passing beer thru the fence a few feet away.  The guard said that was okay.  So mat went into the gates and around to the fence.  Doug handed the beer to him, just a few feet away from the guard, who nodded them on.  Then Doug went into the gate, met mat, got their beers and went in too the concert.

Afterwards, there was a truck of roadies from the show going by picking up people who where trying to get away from the concert area.  They jumped on the truck with some 30 other people.  At one point the truck almost couldn't make it up the hill.  They didn't know where the truck was going, but it was away from the show, in the general direction they were headed.

White men can't squat
Business Terms form BKKpost
Professor W Chan Kim and Professor Renee Mauborgne brainchilds;
Red Ocean Strategy or Bloody Ocean Strategy: Competing within the existing industry and weaning customers away from competitors
Blue Ocean Strategy: Creating new demand in the marketplace.  The competition is irrelevant.  Focusing on a target market (say B class and higher) and concentrating on innovative products with good design.
"Sunrise Market"Motorbike trailers
People use motorbikes for many forms of transporting; people, goods and products.  One of the interesting uses is to haul a little trailer.  These trailers are two wheeled, made of metal or wood and have an extended push bar across the front.  People place the load on the trailers so that the push bar is lightly loaded, place the push bar over the seat of the motorbike, and sit on it to hold it in place when moving.  This method, of course, begs the question, "what happens when you hit a bump hard and your butt comes off the seat?".  The answer of course is that the trailer will be "un-hitched" and go flailing across the road.  But this seems to rarely happen, as many people use the 'seat of the pants' hitch method, and you would think that they would stop doing that and make something else if un-hitching was a common occurrence.  Tok and I hauled a bag of cement, 6 boxes of ceramic tiles, a new toilet and sundry hardware in a cart like this.  I had to keep the speed down of course.  Today we hauled two big bags of fine sand, and two more bags of concrete.  Nearly flattened the tires on the cart.  I had to be the trailer hitch; it was too heavy for Tok to control. 
Relaxed property boundaries- open doors
Bugs and critters
You can't go with out shorts and shirt
The miserable mosquitoes
Ants, beetles, flying ants, roaches, red ants, bees
Frogs, skinks, tokays, lizards, toads, mice, rats
Bug blooms
The big four wingers when it rains
The ants go crazy
Bumble beetles
And the little ants that carry away the bodies
Thais don't wear baseball caps
When they do, they are on straight
Many Cambodians do – motodup drivers uniform
Fuel costs
BKK post the some farmers are going back to using buffaloes.  The fuel for the motorized buffaloes is getting too expensive.
Half of the Thai Fishing fleet grounded due to fuel costs.

Oil Wars.  If you think the war in Iraq was about Oil, and even if you don't… just wait.
Short doorways and eye-poking umbrellas
Thai school children wear uniforms
What will happen to the frogs if they widen the road?
Tok told me they posted notices that they are going to widen the two lane road that runs by her house to four lanes.  All of the property that is on the road has a 23 meter set-back (about 75 feet) that is owned by the government.  They will use the space to enlarge the road.  The road is posted as Road 21, which means it is a major roadway.  Although it will be good for travel and commerce, there will be some sad consequences of this progress.  Along the roadway now, especially in the village areas are some magnificent trees, which will of course be cut down.  A lot of shade will be lost in front of peoples properties.  Between Toks house and the road is a pond.  Many properties have drainage pipes to carry away the water, Toks doesn't.  so the water accumulates between the raised driveways of hers and her neighbors property.  Many frogs and other creature are living in this pond.  That will also be gone.  Not to mention moving the noise of traffic that much closer to the house.  Oh well.  Progress.
Not talking or listening to people talk sure gives you time to think.


--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060516

31 Thaikarl short timing grey skys today

friends,

i just notice that there are two issues numbered "29"  so is this one 30, or 31?  i'll make it 31 and sort it out in the later life.

short time.  so many things left undone.  guess i'll just have to come back.  what do you want from thailand?
I want the life i have now. you?

Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060514

29 Thaikarl my purpose in thailand and...

Friends,

I have finally realized what my purpose for being in Thailand is…

It's to nourish the mosquito population.  The little bugs really like me.  There must be something quite flavorful about my farang blood that they will fly in from all directions to sample.  And I'm positive that after a nice meal, they wiz off and tell all their friends where the best dinner is.  The mosquitoes here are minute.  You think they were simple little gnats, nothing to fuss about.  Not so.  Evolution figured out the "small is better" advantage when it came to these guys.  They are not as easily spotted as they home in for a dose of my blood.  And being so small, when they land on your skin, you can't feel it.  I have been bitten hundreds of times, and I have yet to actually see a mosquito on my skin.  I've had constellations of bites on my back.  Going shirtless is a nice idea in the luxurious temperature here, but it means they are going to get you.  I slather on the repellent, which seems to dismay them a bit.  But they are quite expert at finding the little patch of skin I missed.  They especially like your ankles and calves.  I won't leave home with out my DEET.  If there is any chance of being out after nightfall I have one of the little bottles in my kit, or pay for it later.  And these creeps are active 24/7.  They tend to stay out of the hot sun, but then you must be out in the sun to enjoy the relief.  One small consolation: these mosquitoes are fairly solitary.  I have suffered through the *swarms* of mosquitoes in Michigan and Ohio.  Thai 'skeetos are not like that.  Thank whatever god they live by.

 

I finished the brickwork on the wall we knocked out, and helped move the junk from the back porch to the shed and the burn pile.  Tok is allergic to lots of dust.  She broke out in hives the night before last when we swept up much of the concrete and wall dust and debris in the front entry.  The hives are still dissipating.  So there is frequent sweeping and moping to do to keep the dust level down.  I tried to keep a fan blowing out the window, to make some airflow *out* of the house, but they see the fan sitting there burning up electricity, with no person sitting in front of it, and someone turns it off.  I turn it on.  Next time I come back in the house, it's off again.  Gave that one up.  Prior programming "unplug and turn off what is not being used this very minute" over-rides the temporary program "air flow to take dust out the widow using the fan".  So I gave up on that concept.  But we're almost there with the major projects and clean-up.

I hope we can have a day to borrow Jamlongs motorbike and goto the mountains before departure to Bangkok.  We'll see.

 

BTW:  DEET is the active ingredient in mosquito repellant.

 

Onward!

Nu

 

Thai bit:  After having a baby, the new mother lays continuously next to a fire for up to seven days, drinking herbal tea and eating only rice, salt and fish.



--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060511

29 thaikarl end of time acceleration

friends,

the end of my time here (for now) is approaching, and i am seriously feeling the compression of time.  i am trying to keep a neutral feeling about leaving - they call it "not having a hot heart" in thailand. (interestingly, a "cold heart" is a calm, relaxed person, unlike our meaning.)
working to finish up the projects, and take in everything.  what ever gets left un-done will mean i just have to come back.  like when i visit another country, i don't convert all my currency back to dollars.  that means i'll have to come back to the county to spend the money.  so i have currency from canada, europe, india, thailand, cambodia, vietnam, and now Laos.  lots of places to get back to.

but thailand is home.
back to work....

On wards!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060507

28 Thaikarl wow the whelm. it is bangkok

friends,

after the "quiet life" in the country, bangkok is even for me, a bit overwhelming. but i like it.  have noticed the total assault of people, traffic, commerce and cool things to see and do does make the brain a little frazzled. 

i had a few 'gotta do's' while we are here, so i ran around yesterday and took care of them.  got my airline tickets and all that.  today was some sight seeing.  mama wanted to got wat prekow (sp?)  which we had been to already, so i passed on the 200 baht farlang entrance fee and went wandering.  turns out that is is a big buddist holiday, and they had all these tents out on the big field with exhibits, and displays.  very cool.  the first tent had a collection of budda images.  tens of them.  many people looking, praying, taking pictures.  in another tent they had they very modern exibit on the history of buddism.  mulit-media projections, sculptures, 3D LCD dispays, and even a holovision of the baby budday coming at you, out of the thin air.  it was very well done, and they did have english notes under things.  after the family got done at the temple they came over and we went through everything again.

mama was tired, so we took them to the hotel, and tok and i went to jatachuck market, and back to mbk.  everybody is pooped out.  i'm kinda tired also, but city-jazzed up.  taking the bus back to the north tomorrow.

onward
NU

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060506

27 ThaiKarl bangkok holiday, return to USA

friends,

brought the family to bangkok for the weekend for the little holiday i
promised them. Teri is excited to go "every place!" we went to MBK
last night. Mama had never been on an escalator, and we had a good
laugh as she stumbled on and off. by the third floor, she would just
stand at the step and keep sticking her foot out, missing the next
rising step. and teri had never been on an elevator, so when we took
the lift down from the 7th floor to the ground, she grabbed her mother
and hung on. talk about taking the country folks to the city! and
all the stairs we have to climb and decend using the fly-overs to
cross the streets is a killer for mama. but at (roughly) 74 she's a
sport about it.

i'm trying to find a dentist that takes visa cards. i have to have
some work done, but my cashmachine is about empty. which also means i
have to return to the USA. i got my revised ticket today at Delta
(they don't have e-tickets!!!!) i return to seattle may 24th.

i came back to ECC to get my course certificute, and i'm taking
adavantae of the (free) computers in the teachers room.

onward!
Nu
--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my
travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:
http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060428

26 Thaikarl Songkran Pt 2 and workaday


Friends

Songkran Part Two

The rest of the Songkran day was entertaining.  All the parade cars and trucks rounded up at a playing field in town.  They paraded the Beauty contestants on stage, speeches were made, awards for parade cars and such were made, food was passed out, each village presented a singer and dancers on stage, and of course, over by the Buddha there was lots of water being thrown.  Of course I had little clue what was being said on stage.  Tok would fill me in occasionally, but it was pretty easy to follow.  Tok and I bailed out earlier in the evening.  I wanted to get back home.  Tok and I went for a walk later on that night.   Out in the tobacco fields, under the full moon, I had a written request, but she had to remove it from the earth first.  It was quite quite, pleasant.

My 30 visa-on-entry was expiring on the 26th.  That meant I had to get it renewed.  We had talked to a woman who is Thai, but is married and lives in Texas now.  She said just go up to Loei, she had hers renewed easy.  Okay.  Well, Loei is a town, and also I later found out, a province.  Tok said we could borrow Jamlongs motorbike and ride up there.  Jamlongs motorbike is a 125cc, has more power for a road trip.  So we went to the shop in the morning.  They had the bike out getting new tires, and Jamlong said we could just take her truck.  Okay, good.  I think.  Later it turned out to be a very fortunate thing.  Oh joy, now I get to drive a car on the left.  It is different.  Years of always keeping your body to the left side of the lane makes you unconsciously drift to that side.  I had to force myself to the right side.  The shifter was on the left, which took some getting used to, using my left hand to change gears.  And the blinker was on the right, so I kept turning on the windshield wipers where I wanted to signal.  Loei is about 2 hours away, and it turns out the city is up over the mountains.   Very lovely out there.  When we got to town, we went to the police station to ask where the immigration place was.  They told us we should go to the station at Chaing Kran, another 100 km to the north.  Now I'm glad we are not on the motorcycle.  We get to this little town, find the immigration office, and learn that they can only give a 15 day extension.  Not enough.  The Mekong River ran down below.  The station was there for people making the boat crossings back and forth into Laos on the other side of the river.  We could take the 15 days, go back home, or drive 200 km further to the international border.  Yow.  I was already tired of driving, so I handed the keys to Tok and we headed east.  The road wound back and forth following the course of the river.  Very scenic, passing thru lots of little villages, and getting behind slow farm vehicles.  I tried to nap, but there was always something interesting to wake me up for.  Along the last section of road, there were topiary animals.  Elephants, cows, horses, dinosaurs, giraffe, people.  I wonder who maintains them.  We didn't get to the border until after 6pm, almost dark.  Now I was very glad we were not on the motorbike! What a rigmarole.  We parked the car, had to go thru exiting Thailand, getting stamped out, and then take a little shuttle bus across the river on the "Friendship Bridge" to the Laos side.  There, they wanted 30 dollars American for a visa.  I didn't have any dollars with me – didn't expect to be here.  They charged me 1550 baht, which is 41 dollars.  Got screwed on the exchange there, but not much to do about it.  If you pay in USD, it's 30 of them.  If you pay in Baht it's 1550 of them.  Filled out an entry/departure card, got all the right stamps, paid another 10 baht (25 cents US) "entry fee".  We were in Laos.  Tok just walked thru all the gates with me.  Didn't show any paper work, just told them she was doing the turnaround with me, I think.

We walked around to the OTHER side of the building, where I went thru the drill of departure, more stamping of paper, another entry fee, and we were out of Laos officially.  Took the shuttle bus back over the bridge, went thru the Thai immigration and passport lanes, got more stamps, and I'm good for 30 more days.  By now it had started raining again.  So it's dark, the visibility out of Jamlongs truck sucks in the dark and wet, and we are a long way from home.  I bought a proper roadmap at the gas station, and saw there was a nice fat red-line road going south, then another fat red-line road going west back to Lom Sak.  I did not want to drive on two lane twisty secondary and tertiary roads in the dark and rain all the way back.  Now I was very very glad we were not on the motorbike.

The thick red-line roads turned out to be the two/three lane divided highways.  I was able to maintain 100 kph plus (60 mph) most of the time.  But it was high alert driving.  The rain was intermittent, heavy at times; some people went really fast, the trucks really slow.  Which lane is the "fast lane" anyway? What was a real drag was when the slow truck was trying to pass the even slower trucks, which meant you were sucking diesel fumes and spray and losing ground.  And of course have to watch for the motorbikes, and people going the wrong way.  Other than that, it was a good drive.  The road narrowed to two lanes going west over the mountains, but it was two good lanes, with good markings on curves and even reflectors marking roadsides.  Didn't arrive home until 2am.  We were on the road for 14 hours, traveled 800km (500 miles); cost me 2300 baht for diesel for the car (62 dollars) ouch! Plus all the afore mentioned fees.  That was an expensive adventure.  But necessary.  I was kicking myself for not bringing my stash of American dollars and a few other things.  But we were only going a few hundred km away too get a stamp at an office.  But i didn't get the full information, and Tok didn't know what the drill is.  Next time I do not leave Lom Sak without dollars and I'll take the bus.  Longer time on the bus, probably and overnight trip, but much cheaper for bus tickets, probably 600 baht and I can sleep and read and look out the window.  Such is life.

I haven't been online much, as you can tell.  I'm doing a lot of things around the house, and I want to get them finished before I have to leave.  There is a four step concrete landing at the bottom of the wooden stairs to the second floor.  Nothing is square, lengths and widths are all different.  We formed and evened the depth of the stairs somewhat, and had the first go at tiles.  What a disaster.  Came out with a huge dip in the middle, was a hassle to work with the concrete mortar.  I didn't like it so I popped all the tiles backup and decided to start over.  Tok asked a few questions at the store, they said to use an inch of mortar at least.  We were trying to use like a ¼ inch.  This time I laid out level lines, and floated the tiles on over an inch of mortar.  Made all the difference.  The mortar is workable at that thickness, and I had plenty of slack to take out the big dip in the existing surface of the landing.  Used a level on all tiles this time also.  Looks much much better! But we ran out of cement and sand, only got 13 big tiles laid.  Much more to do, figuring out the stairs will be interesting.

So after the trip to the building supply store, I switch gears and knocked a big chunk of interior wall out.  More like chiseled and broke it.  There was a half room wall on the lower level.  Tok and I both had the idea the same day about removing or knocking out the wall.  I wanted to make a big mess and noise and dust and hammer things.  The noise of the banging brought all the neighbors over to watch and comment.  There were people and kids hanging in all the windows and doors, helpfully observing and making comments on what the crazy farang is doing now.  After covering the floor with broken bits of concrete block, I was disinclined to have to carry all the debris outside, so I told the two boys in the window "sip baht" to take it out of the house (10 baht, 25 cents) they giggled and I heard "yee baht" (20 baht, 50 cents) and I gave them a thumbs up.  By golly, they carted all the busted cinder block outside, spread the small stuff on the muddy path next to the house and raked and smoothed it out.  Rock on! [oh the pun] Paid them.

I have a long list of things to do here.  One more big job is to move 8 concrete poles to the other side of the house to make a floor, extend the tin roof one sheet length, to make storage for the rice.  The concrete poles are left over from a house.  They are sitting in to the north of Toks house, very much in the way.  Tok didn't' think I could move them, so I used ancient technology.  Rollers and rope.  I cut up a length of three inch PVC water pipe into 20 inches pieces.  It took a big effort to get the crew to understand the principles, but 1 man, 1 women, an elder and a 13 year old girl got one of the poles moved around to the other side of the house.  Proved the concept.  Try to instruct in English didn't work well, no matter how many times I repeated myself.  Showing them got across the point, but not the principal: put the rollers from the back *in front of the pole, not underneath it* They got the point- rollers go under the pole, but not the principle: rollers from the back, when placed at the nose of the pole will get run under the pole as I pull on the thing with a rope.

And there's the new farang style toilet (sit down) to install – easier for mama to use.  I asked the store for a mounting flange for the toilet.  Don't have them.  They just put a piece of PVC pipe under the outlet of the trap.  No wax seals, rubber grommets, etc.  Guess I'll figure that one out like the stairs.  The toilet doesn't have a water tank – they don't have running water here, so you flush it with the bowl from the big tank.  But I'll have to build a platform to get PVC drain pipe underneath the toilet, and tie that into the existing pipe that goes to the septic tank.  They don't always bother to bury drain pipes.  They are run on the ground.  Never freezes here, so it's not a problem.   Sure makes it easier to maintain and change when all the piping is on the ground instead of in it.

 But somewhere in here we're going to take another trip into the mountains.  There's a great place called "coffee hill" on the road up.  They make espresso, and  there are a couple of salas (open huts) perched on the edge of the hill, with a super vista of the valley and mountains.  Jamlong is always to rushed to stop there, so I want to go back on our own.

 
Finally had to book a ticket back to the USA.  Big Sigh.  I'm not looking forward to the reverse culture-shock, which is always way worse than coming here or any other place I've traveled to.  But, I have excellent motivation to pass thru it, and use it to my advantage.


Onward!

Nu

 



--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060420

25 ThaiKarl water in the face songkran part 1

Friends,

 

I know it has been a while since you have heard from me.  Mostly due to the Songkran holiday.  The street where the internet shop is was a designated water zone, and I couldn't get near the shop without getting soaked.

 

The Buddhist holy days are aligned with the lunar calendar.  The days to go to temple (like going to church) are marked on the calendars aligned with the phases of the moon.  This recent full moon, the 13 of April was the Thai calendar new year.  It's a holiday festival called Songkran.  Everybody geared up for it.  One of the ways to celebrate it is to douse people with water.  I understand that in the old days, it was just a few drops you would flick on people.  Now its open season, and gone gonzo.  Kids drive around with pickup trucks and pumps and hose people with water.  Pump squirt guns are the rage, or just a good ole bucket of water tossed at motorbikes and cars.  "gangs" of people stand by the road with barrels of water, and as you drive past they throw water at you.  They are trying to discourage some of the wilder overkill.  There are a lot of accidents – some from getting dumped with water, but most from drinking and driving.  They scored the holiday death toll in the newspaper.  5,533 accidents, 441 deaths.  The paper said if you throw water on someone, causing an accident that results in a fatality, you could be charged with murder.  And not only can you be charged for driving drunk, if you are sober and your passengers are drunk you can be arrested.

 

On the 12th, Wednesday, we went to a school up the road.  They were having the village Songkran celebration day there.  Beauty contest, games, music, and of course, lots of water.  Tok went to work at midnight and worked all night making up and dressing the girls for the beauty contest.  There was a parade of pickup trucks, each carrying a contestant on a high chair in the back.  The trucks are decorated with banners and cloths.  They played a few games we in the west know: musical chairs, gunny sack races, blindfold kick the can, and one I had never seen.  The men the tied a string to a cucumber, and tied the string around their waists.  The idea was to swing the cucumber back and forth between their legs, using their hips, and bat a orange across the field to the finish line.  That was pretty funny to see.  The puns- 'well hung', 'swinging…' etc are rampant.

 

The best part of the day was the honoring of the old people.  They set up rows of chairs under the awning.  Each row had chairs facing each other, and all the old people sat in the rows.  A group of people went down the rows and gave each elder a scarf or shirt.  Then all the people went down the rows and poured a little water on the cupped hands of the elders, sometimes a little water was poured down their backs.  They gave them flower petals, and touched their faces with perfumed paste.  Quite touching.  Old people are generally honored and respected in Thailand.  Quite an interesting day.

 

The next day the 13th, was the actual songkran day.  Tok went to work at 4am to do hair and makeup for beauty contestants.  I took the Song Teaw (which means "two rows" – it's a pickup truck with two rows of seats in the back, and a roof.  They are the local buses that go back and forth between towns.) into town to meet Tok.  She took me into Lom Sak.  The soi where the Internet shop is was a kind of designated water zone.  The street was lined with people with barrels of water and buckets.  As you rode down the street you were doused with water.  Sometimes just a few drops, most of the time a small bucketful.  Great fun! Quite warm that day, so getting soaked didn't matter – Though the people who had iced the water before they threw it cause a few breath-taking moments.

 

After a tour of Lom Sak getting wet, we parked the bike next to the big road to watch the parade.  Trucks carrying the beauty contestants and their krews rolled down the road slowly down the road, people smiling and waving.  Between each truck was a crazy band called a [insert name of bands here] . they typically have a bass guitar, kick drummer(s), a marching band drum rack, and a guy playing a cool instrument called a "Pin".  The Pin is a three string guitar like instrument.  Some players have double-necked versions.  Everything is run into a stack of battery powered amplifiers and effects, on a rolling cart with a nest of speakers on top.  The music they play is fast, rhythmic and furious.  I really like the sound… when it's not too loud.  I've inquired into obtaining one of the Pin instruments, and it seems that you can only get them custom made.  They don't sell ready-made ones in the shops.

 END OF PART ONE - Part two next time

They don't have the same "probable cause" hindrance here, so they set up checkpoints and check every driver for alcohol.  Somkid got busted 50 meters away from the shop tonight.  Tok and I were behind on the motorcycle and were waved thru, but Somkid was being escorted hand on shoulder by a uniform to the police tent.  Jamlong was climbing into the drivers seat as we passed, as mama and Tury were in the truck being taken back home.  Heard later that Somkid was charged with DUI, has to spend the night in jail and pay some 250 USD in fines.  Not sure what else is involved in that.  Bummer.  It's Jamlongs birthday today, and we went to the night market shopping, then to Jamlongs for dinner.  I got Jamlong these cool replacement windshield washer squirters, that light up with blue LED lights (away from the driver).  There was tons of food of course, and a couple of my favorite kids, Namfun and Mak were at the shop.  All people I like.  Wuan of course wasn't there, having got killed when we were in Cambodia, but they gave me a photo of him that I asked for.  Somehow he wasn't in any photos I've taken.  Usually saw him at night, and don't like to use the flash on the camera.  I'm hoping some of the early video I shot has him on the footage.  If not, oh well.





--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060408

24 Thaikarl working holiday in lom sak...

Friends,

Languid days here in Ban Don Khwang (Toks village).  Nice and hot, light breezes, occasional warm rain.  I've been busy, in a laid back way.  Installing electrical fixtures, lights, switches and wires.  Just try to find a pull-chain-switch here.  They have never heard of such a thing.  But my guys at the electrical shop across from the internet cafĂ© came thru for me. Now you can turn on the new upstairs light by pulling the string from downstairs, or upstairs.  Quite a novelty.  The local kids all had to come in and try it out.  With comments of he Thai equivalents of "Wow!"  I also installed a hand rail next to the toilet.  Mamma is 74 years old, quite "spry" as they say, but I was concerned about her climbing up the step.  And getting down.  It is helpful for me also I found.  White men can't squat.  Not flatfooted like the rest  of the world anyway.  Easier to keep my balance when I have a handrail to hold onto.  (have to thank my dad for this thing about hand-rails.  He's an advocate for them.  I installed many in his house)  Next big job is to tile the concrete portion of the stairs to the second floor.  Never laid tile before.  So I'll be figuring it out on the fly.  Of course, they don't have Quikcrete here, so I'll have to crash course in cement.  They don't use a mastic to glue down the tiles.  When I've seen them laying tiles, they use a thin Portland cement mix.  Hmmm.  The tricky thing is that the stairs were built by drunks… nothing is square, the rise and run of each step is different, and one stair is wider on the left side than on the right.  So I'm going to have to reform the stairs with some new concrete, and tile over that.  Should be fun.  Then there's the storage house for the rice, and a new toilet, and windows to replace the corrugated tin nailed over the openings, and a plant stand for outside of the kitchen so you can look at flowers rather then the neighbors rusty tin fence, and… and… and…

Not that I'm killing myself with projects.  Took me 8 hours to install two switches, and outlet and wire up a new lamp fixture upstairs. I would do a little wiring, have a smoke, read some paper, more wiring, extract the junk from the pond with a long bamboo pole, a little wiring, eat some rice, etc…  every time I had to go looking for a tool or screws I'd see something else that would grab my attention and I'd do that.

Not that there isn't any play.  Few days ago, Jamlong and Somkid came round and took us all up to the mountains.  We visited a war memorial on the top of a mountain (you could paraglide off there!), went down the hill to visit a huge chedi (Buddhist shrine thing), and of course, stopped to eat food numerous times.  Jamlong won 10,000 baht in the lottery.  A girlfriend of hers had some dream that prompted Jamlong to buy the winning ticket, so she took the girl and all of us out to dinner.  The place we ate at was quite interesting.  They bring a clay jar with hot charcoal burning in the bottom and set it in a hole in the middle of the table.  Over that they put a domed cook pan- kind of like an upside down wok with a edge around it.  They bring you plates of raw pork, liver, beef, kidney, glass noodles, veggies, and other mystery foods.  You put the strips of meat on the hot cook dome, and cook it yourself right there.  The juices run down the dome into the broth around the outside of the pan, making a soup to cook the noodles and veggies in.  yum times 27!

Happy birthday patty lommis (april 9th) where are you this year????

Onward!!!
Nu


* Thai-bit:  you drive on the left side of the road
* in Thailand. Unless of course you are going
* the *Wrong Way*, then you drive on the
* extreme right.

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060401

23 home again, and the dead

Friends,

I've been AFK for a few days.  Got a bit sick there, but I'm better now.  A story I'll relate another time.

We're back in Lom Sak – home.  Rained all day yesterday.  Not that  piddley cold rain we get  in seattle- genuine downpours, with intermittent breaks, then whoosh! Down it comes.  And it only cools off a bit.  Doesn't get cold and drive you into the house.   The ground gets all soft and squishy.  I took advantage of that to hack away at a stump I've been trying to dig out.  When the ground is dry, the  dirt is like crumbly stone, you get a quarter inch gain with one whack of a shovel.  After the rain yesterday, I could at least get the spade into the dirt to dig. 

The  rain also woke up the frogs.  They were doing their competing chirps and growls with vigor and persistence last night.  Tok brought me in a bucket that had been sitting outside that had maybe 20 frogs in it.  They had all jumped in. why I don't know, maybe for a party?  Oh. Now she's laughing at me… tells me "Sorry Nu, the frogs didn't jump in the bucket, my relatives went to the fields and caught them for mama to cook."  Ha Ha.  Gullible farang. 

I was dismayed to learn upon our return that Somkid's Dad died while we were away.  Somkid is the boyfriend of the shop owner where Tok works.  His dad was a likeable guy.  A bit annoying when he was drunk sometimes (which was like, everyday).  But he was a happy drunk.  He really liked me.  He was always talking to me, and of course I didn't understand anything.  But he was quick to offer me a seat, some food or drink.  He would come up and grab my arm and shake my hand over and over- which is a bit unusual, Thais aren't real big on public touching.  He crashed his motorbike on a sharp curve.  Probably had a few or more, dunno.

The father of one of Toks friends died this week also.  This afternoon we went to the "funeral".  I didn't know what would be going on, Tok said we were just going to her friends house, so I didn't bring my VDO camera.  Very interesting.  There were a hundred or so people at the house up the road in the village.  There were tables and chairs food and drink.  Monks were chanting inside the house.  The sound is piped out to a big stack of speakers outside, so you can hear, loudly.  After a while, they broke down the ornate displays around the casket fridge and took it all out to a flatbed truck.  They don't do embalming like we do in the west.  They leave the lid off the casket and put it in a big ornately decorated refrigerator.  The top of the cooler has a window so people and look in and see the body- if they like.  After the casket and all of its adornments were transferred to the truck, there was a procession to the temple nearby.  There were a gaggle of monks in orange robes that led the way, each holding on to a string that ran back to the truck, where the other end was goes inside the casket, tied to the lid.  Everybody followed behind the truck, which of course had enormous speakers tied to the roof and was playing music.

At the temple the procession went three times around the crematory building.  The building houses an oven with a tall square chimney into the sky.  They brought the casket and all its decorations to the top of the stairs and assembled them.  Then there was chanting by the monks.  They ran the string from the casket up over the trees and into the temple where the string was run across the rows of monks, so each held on to it.  Tok told me that they believe that the prayers go thru the string back to the body and the spirit of the dead.  Kind of a spiritual soup can and string telephone line I think.  The mans life story was told by his family over the speakers.  Everyone was sitting in the nearest shade, on red resin chairs.  The monks all had orange Fanta sodas and a bottle of water in front of them.  I asked tok if they only drink orange Fanta because it matches their robes.  She didn't think that was it.  Finally, everyone went up the stairs, women on one side, men on the other and left a joss (incense) stick on the casket, then descended down the center staircase and the ceremonies were complete.  I'm not sure when they burn the body.  Tok tells me that the family will return tomorrow to collect the ashes.  They keep the ashes at the house for 100 days, during which time the spirit of the dead person is believed to be still around.  After that, they have various ways to treat the ashes.  There are mausoleums, sometimes the family keeps the ashes, and sometimes they are buried.

Always something interesting, everyday.

BTW, replies and comments are well received and I do reply.

Onward!
Nu



--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060326

23 Thaikarl - it gets dark when the power goes out

friends,
 
sitting in another internet cafe looking thru emails, just opened a compose window and everything went black.  the whole couple of blocks in the area went dark... oh well.  found another place here.
 
Tok had spaghetti napoli at a sidewalk restaurant.  first time.  she said it was "okay".  hundreds of motocycles were passing in front of us. it was sunset and soon after.  whole families of 4 people, lots of kids, teen agers and everybody else cruising the boulevard by the river.  amazing how they don't seem to crash into each other, everyone dodging trucks, bicycle rickshaws, cars and 3 wheelers.  i enjoyed a double espresso and a few "liberation" brand cigarettes.  no messy helmet laws or anti-smoking nazi's here.  most of the motorbikes don't even have plates.  nor do many of the cars.  they have paved a few more of the streets since last year.  many of the side streets are still rocks, dirt and trash.  trash is everywhere.  plastic bags are used for everything, and everyone drinks bottled water, but there are few trash cans, so it all goes on the ground.  an army of street sweepers and collectors comes around at night and picks up the piles.  well, much of it anyway.  little 8/9 year old kids cruize the sidewalks selling counterfeit books, home-made handbags, bracelets.  they hear "no" probably 700 times a day.  you will get an 8 year old with a smaller kid, who is dead asleep hanging from a cloth wrap come up to you and give you the most pained, plaintive expression and do the fingers to mouth gesture - "please sir" shake of the head, and look away and they are off to the next one.  instant smile when one of their friends walks up.  give when you feel like it, don't if you don't.  up to you.  but you will NEVER run out of beggars.
 
back to the hotel, watch a little tv.  my friend/driver Alee phoned to see if we were okay - he'll be picking us up at the hotel to take us to the airport.  if you ever come to phnom phen, i'll give you his phone number. he'll take good care of you, and knows trusty friendly drivers in other cities also.
 
did i tell you that when i sit composing these messages, that Tok sits beside me and edits my spelling and english?  she does.  ever faithful.
 
Onward!
Nu

--
I'm in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

22 Thaikarl back in PP, cambodia bakeland

friends,

took the bus back to phnom phen this morning.  got set up in a 6 dollar hotel room (with satellite tv!) and we're laying back, preparing to fly back to thailand tomorrow.  i will miss cambodia.  i like it here. the streets dont have stop signs, there are only a few traffic lights in PP.  they name the beach huts names like 555, 777, 888 - so they are easy to remember.  the food is not spicy or hot like in thailand, so it tastes rather bland.  they always think Tok is khemer.  Tok asked a waitron why there are not many cambodian girls with farang men. the ladie told us it's because they don't think foreign men are honest, but the teenage girls are starting to show interest.

they have ATMs here now!  they didnt have a single one on all cambodia last year - progress!  not that many, but they can be found.  Toks sandle was loosing the sole on one foot.  we walked by a shoe fixer on the sidewalk, and i gotToks soles all nicely reglued for 2000 riels (50 cents).  Thy sell a version of red bull here that you don't see in thailand.  its in little 250 ml cans, not as syrupy as the 100ml bottles in thailand.  Tokays live here also - those sqwaking lizards i talked about in an earlier message.  at night, small herds of millipieds would be crossing the concrete in front of the rooms. about the diamiter of a pencil, and as long as your finger.. little smaller.  when you touch them, the quickly curl up in a spirial with their head at the center.  after a minute or two, they unwind and go trooping off again.  there were a lot of weddings going on in sihanookville last night.  strangely enough, the band plays the tune to "Happy Birthday" at some point in the flower-throwing, cake cutting ceremony.  internet shops are common, used by the khmer as well as the tourists.  the kids are amazed at the "pull the end of your thumb off" trick.  some truely astonished, others quickly figure out its a trick of some kind.  they almost forget to ask for money after you goof around with them a little while.  the kids at a mountain top temple we visited yesterday were playing a game on the tiled terrace of the budda.  they would put some money on the floor, then kick flip-flops.  the idea was to kick your shoe and hit the other guys shoe.  if you missed, the other guy could kick his towards the money. if he hit it, he wins it, if he misses, you have to hit his flip-flop with yours again.  interesting.  another game we just saw on the sidewalk used round, flat nuts (tok tells me thais call the nuts saba).  the kids would set up a triangle of nuts up on edge.  the shooter at the other side would try to skip his nut and nock over the upright ones - kind of like bowling.  when on kid won the whole game (not exactly sure what the details of that were) he would take two nuts and holding them together would bang them on the losers kneecaps 4 times.

the only tragic thing i saw was the street kids in Siem Riep huffing.  they have small plastic bags they put paint thinner, spray paint or solvents into, then breath in and out of the bag.  they hide the bags when they come up to you, but they get them out when they are off running around.  I suppose, the numerous land mine victims are pretty unpleasant, but different.  kids an adults missing legs, arms and eyes, stumbling around begging.  horrible things - mines.

any questions?

we fly back to thailand tommarow morning.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060324

21 Thaikarl don't step in the fire ants, it pisses them off

friends

parked the bike tonight to got get some dinner.  my left foot started flaming.  i did the wildman flip-flop dance, but because it was dark i couldn't see what what happening... it just stung! many times!  checked the spot with my LED light after dinner - sho nuf, little tiny ant hole right where the kickstand was.  no wonder the little buggers were annoyed.

at the street places to eat, they have tissue on the tables to use to wipe your fingers and mouth with.  you throw the used paper on the ground underneath the tables, along with bones and scraps.  Tok pointed out, that you can tell the best/cheapest places to eat by how much tissue is on the ground under the tables and chairs.  seems to work.  Tok notices little things like this.  She's a good traveller.

we took the motobike out of town to the waterfalls today.  it's the dry season, so there wasn't much water, but it was pleasant none the less.  there was a footbridge across the river, which we went over. seemed like the logical think to do.  but a young fellow at the other end wanted 300 Riel's.  but couldn't tell us why.  so we went back and climbed down the rocks.  there was a pretty nice fall about 30 feet high, and you could go back around the falls behind the water.  we took a lot of video.

right at the end of the dirt road, when we got onto the pavement the bike started acting funny, whumpa whumpa from the front end.  flat tire.  great.  pushed the thing about a kilometer up the road to a factory village by the road.  found the bike fixer.  he had the front tube out in minutes, found the blowout and indicated we needed a new tube.  okay.  whipped off the front wheel, put in a new tube and we were ready to go in 10 minutes.  $5.00.   we walked around the place a little bit, got some noodles at a stand.  only 1500 Riels - where they are charging 2000 - 4000 in town.  (4000 Riels is $1.00)  behind the shops were rows of dormitory like rooms.  apparently housing for the shoe factory across the road.  i need to buy a laxative, so we went to the "pharmacy". little shops with all sorts of pills.  you just tell them what you want, and they sell it to you.  except not a word of english beyond "Hello" and "Bye-Bye" was working in this place.  so you can imagine the pantomime i had to do to try to explain what i wanted.  went thru this 3 times, at three places before we figured out they were tellin us we had to look in town.  funny ha ha...  Tok bought 3 apples before we headed on down the road.

we took the turn-off that went to a temple we could see from town.  i parked the bike near the entrance.  notice there were monkeys coming down from the trees.  cute little things.  one of them heads over to the bike, Tok says "My apples!"  the little monkey climbed right up the front wheel, and snatched the bag of apples out of the basket and high-tailed it up a tree!  we just stood there rather helpless looking at this money up there eating out apple.  he just ripped open the plastic bag and started eating.  one of the little monkeys made a grab, and when the bigger one went to swat him away, one of the apples fell to the ground and i barely beat an old female to it.  mr. Big up there happily comped up the first apple, and took off with the second.  occasionally he would nonchalantly toss away a piece that the other guys on the ground would snatch up.  musta been good apples!  my parting comment to the little beasts?  "How do ya like them apples!" (of course)

and the temple was very beautiful besides.


it's dark now.  think it's time to motor down to the room, park the bike and walk the 50 meters to the beach and have a fruit shake.  Care to join us?

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060321

20 Thaikarl toes in the ocean, life is terrible

friends,

all day on two buses brought us to Sihanoukville, the beach town in southern cambodia.

nice.

the usual crowing crowd of motor drivers were thrashing at the gates of the bus when we arrived.  one boy was pleasant and not pushy.  the kind i usually choose.  6000 reils ( 1.50) motobike ride and he took us to a guesthouse at the end of the southern beach.  8 dollars a night for a room with two beds - too expensive - were moving to a small room tomorrow.  but the sea is 100 yards away across the road, and the sun was just going down.

very nice.

a long, un-crowded beach, lined with restaurants and beach chairs, gentle surf, bilious clouds, pale orange sunsetting.  Tok and i walked along the waters edge to the far end. we had some fresh grilled squid from one of the beach ladies that carry a charcoal grill on one end of a bamboo stick over their shoulder, sauces and supplies in a basket on the other end. yummy.  stopped and sat in some chairs and enjoyed a fruit sake while Tok amused me with stories of her early teaching days - sneaking back into school after the 8pm curfew after they'd been to the movies.  living on 25 USD a month, bringing rice to the border soldiers near cambodia and seeing communist guerrillas thru binoculars...

this end of cambodia is much greener, the people seem better off.  their houses are better.  there's even a range of mountains we drove thru to arrive at the coast.

very very nice.

going broke tho.  oh well.  four days hotel, with breakfasts and water in siem riep came to 38.50 USD.  for two people.  food and things are more expensive in cambodia, lodgings are cheaper than thailand.  If we were in europe, 38 dollars wouldn't even cover 1/2 day.  nor would it in the states for that matter.  we have a few days here. gonna rent a motorbike and sport around some.
wish you were  here.

ONward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:   http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060320

19 Thaikarl - temples have been crawled, next

friends,

we've been crawling the temples for three days.  as immense and absorbing as last time i was here.  i shall have to come back again.

we are heading out early in the morning- taking the bus to phnom phen, and then down to sihouinoukville (sp)  which is cambodis beach front town.  layabout in the heat and salt air for a few days, maybe snorkling.

the many temples of angor wat are mind-boggling.  the story behind them, the history, the people - its a lot to take in, alot to imagine.  all the sandstone was hauled from 120 km away - over 60- miles.  they had elephants for heavy lifting, but everything was done by hand.

and its all falling down.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060318

18 Thaikarl Angor Wat

friends,

its nice and toasty here in Siem Riep Cambodia.  Tok and i went on our first day of 3 days touring the temples.  i was here last year, and it is still just as amazing and marvelous.  Tok is really impressed also.  the three day pass is $40.00 USD.  when the gate person came up, they were only talking to me.  they gave tok funny looks when she produced a photo for a pass.  they asked her where she is from, and she told them thailand.  only after the deal was done did we realize that they thought she was cambodian - and didn't need to buy a pass.  if we would have just kept quiet, it would have been 40.00 for my pass instead of 80.00 for two passes.  ouch.  we could have lived on 40.00 for 3 days.  next time we'll know.....

but Tok is a little bit baffled that they start talking to her in khmer.  she understands as much as i do. which is nuttin.  i keep kidding Tok, telling her that now she knows how I feel most of the time. tee hee.

after a day in the hot sun climbing around piles of rocks, i lured us into getting a massage.  from the blind massage people called "Seeing Hands"  $4.00 for an hour.  oh, so very very nice!

packing it in early tonight folks... heading out temple traipsing at 9:00 am.  photos and more details to follow.

ONward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060316

17 Thaikarl - some thought from earlier

pre-wrote this a few days ago... didn't get to send it before coming to cambodia.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Friends

In response to a couple of queries- no, taking a shower with a bowel from a tank is not the universal method.  Seems to depend on how much income you have.  One of the first things Thais will do to improve their houses is to put in tiled walls and floor, maybe a shower hose and sink.  They will also tile and sink the kitchen, and put in a built in stove top.  This costs money.  Toks family has depended only on her income for some time now.  So the money has gone for more important things, like school for Tery, cloths and food.  Tok is very thrifty, and a great bargain-hunter.  I ran out of Kraeting Daeng the other day.  We were in town in the evening and we checked in a store to see if they had a 10 pack.  The price was 5 baht (13 cents) more than the other store.  Which for me, was negligible. Tok said she wouldn't pay that, she would goto the other store.  But then, I'll go and pay 50 baht (1.25) for a cup of espresso, which to her is quite extravagant. But she never gives me a hard time about it.  As long as there is money for the family and everything, what I do with my money is fine.

 

Everyday I spend hours just absorbing what I see and hear here.  I am fascinated by the differences and similarities.  When you spend your life in your native country, you learn, without really realizing it, that "this is the way things are done".  Living in thailand, or most any other outside your native country, "the way things exist" can be quite different.  Similar, but different.  Here in Thailand you will often hear the phrase "Same Same, but different"  A delightful way to say it I think.

 

Take something simple like writing paper.  Thai's (and most of the rest of the world) use a standard paper size called A4.  this paper is 8.27 inches wide and 11.69 inches long.  A little narrower and a little longer than American paper.  But it's office paper, just like we use.  Same Same, but different.  We used this paper in school in Bangkok.  I didn't realize the difference for a week or so, until I was looking in page set-up in a document I was working on. I like it. The proportions seemed better to me.  A small thing I know, but it serves to illustrate the concept.  Expand this to millions of other things – housing construction, vehicles, roads, writing, speech, clothing, habits, morals, plants, politics… can you see why I am never board? Even when I'm just hanging out somewhere, be it a sidewalk in Bangkok or at a house in the mountains waiting for Tok and Jamlong to do hair and make-up for a wedding party?

 

I am surround by an environment rich in differences in "the way things exist"  I am constantly stimulated – should I care to look.  I have met people here on holiday, who think Thailand is quaint, interesting, and exotic – but only for two weeks.  When they go back home, they go all the way back.  Thailand was a "nice vacation, but the food was too spicy and there was no hot water at the guest house we stayed at on the beach!"  I understand this, but the experience of being here runs hundreds layers deeper than that for me.  I really couldn't tell you why either.  I've thought about it a lot, but haven't reached a conclusion.  Maybe some past-life thing. Maybe I'm just "ready".   I have a friend who lived here for 5 years.  When I came last year, and he read my comments in my emails, he would reply with notices like "that's one of the signs man", or "you're in deep now"  having lived here himself, and seen a lot of vacationers and internationals come and go, he knew the indicators – the ones that tell the difference between the two sets of people.  Seems I've got the set that says: "you're gotta live there".

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

16 Thaikarl -- Moonrise over the Mekong

friends

the waning full moon rose over the mekong river.  orange and beautiful in the horizon haze.  the streets of phenom phen are busy with motorbikes and tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws and walkers.  brown-eyed children come begging to buy books from the basket slung around their necks.  it's warm, but with a nice breeze to soften the humid air.  the litter of the day wanders about the streets and gutters, market stalls are closed, and the masses of vegetation and plastic gloam together in little piles.  more westerners about than last year.  young and old.  few americans it appears.

Mr. Alee took us to the lakeside, where his friend owns a guesthouse and restaurant.  the menu was all in english, so i had to describe 'ginger', 'plum sauce' and  'tofu'  to Tok.  Alee went next door to hangout with a few of his friends.  they are all chatting away - in australian accented english.  Tok notices also that there are no tall buildings in phenom phen - the tallest maybe 6 stories.  and the streets are dark.  few people turn on lights in front of buildings, and there are no streetlights anywhere.

I also like it here.  Couldn't tell you why either.  it just feels good.  the people are nice.  there is a bit of a "danger!" flavor in the air... but no obvious threat.  there is a certain rawness of quality, a feeling of recovery and renewal.  other eyes would see dirt, economic hardship, decay, struggle.  children working the streets late at night selling conterfieted books and prayer flowers, ragged and grimy stalls and food of unknown origin.  to me, it's life.  different than other places, but an experience of life non-the-less.

we are bacteria on this planet. eating it up.  everywhere.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

16 Thaikarl -- Moonrise over the Mekong

friends

the waning full moon rose over the mekong river.  orange and beautiful in the horizon haze.  the streets of phenom phen are busy with motorbikes and tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws and walkers.  brown-eyed children come begging to buy books from the basket slung around their necks.  it's warm, but with a nice breeze to soften the humid air.  the litter of the day wanders about the streets and gutters, market stalls are closed, and the masses of vegetation and plastic gloam together in little piles.  more westerners about than last year.  young and old.  few americans it appears.

Mr. Alee took us to the lakeside, where his friend owns a guesthouse and restaurant.  the menu was all in english, so i had to describe 'ginger', 'plum sauce' and  'tofu'  to Tok.  Alee went next door to hangout with a few of his friends.  they are all chatting away - in australian accented english.  Tok notices also that there are no tall buildings in phenom phen - the tallest maybe 6 stories.  and the streets are dark.  few people turn on lights in front of buildings, and there are no streetlights anywhere.

I also like it here.  Couldn't tell you why either.  it just feels good.  the people are nice.  there is a bit of a "danger!" flavor in the air... but no obvious threat.  there is a certain rawness of quality, a feeling of recovery and renewal.  other eyes would see dirt, economic hardship, decay, struggle.  children working the streets late at night selling conterfieted books and prayer flowers, ragged and grimy stalls and food of unknown origin.  to me, it's life.  different than other places, but an experience of life non-the-less.

we are bacteria on this planet. eating it up.  everywhere.

Onward!
Nu

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

16 Thaikarl - Greetings from Phnom Phen

friends,

flew into phnom phen today.  i was asleep before they closd the door of the plane in bangkok and didn't wake up until then engines stopped  in cambodia.  didn't even feel the landing bump this time.

my  friend Alee was waiting for us at the airport, took us in his new tuk-tuk to a hotel, got checked in,  then he took us to book the boat to Siem Riep, have some breakfast and back.

we slept the rest of the afternoon.

things in cambodia seem better, but i can't tell you why.

the locals just start speaking to Tok because they think she is cambodian.  but she understands as much as me. which is none. :-)

Onward!

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060311

15 Thaikarl - days going by

friends,
 
the days are going by.  i'm busy working around the house (at times), hanging out, drinking krating daeng (thai red bull) and enjoying being warm everyday.  Some days i go with Tok to work.  We get in Somkids truck with Jamlong and assorted people, drive out in the country or up to the mountains somewhere, where Jamlong and Tok do hair an makeup for brides and their family.  i get to just lolabout, read my book, nap.  but yesterday i got to be a human bag-of-bobby-pin and hair-dryer holder.  we always get fed.  i get to see many different thai houses, some are basic, some are big, some are fancy.  and lots of people.  i like it.  yes. yes. yes.
 
Onward!!!

--
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address. view previous posts at:  http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

20060306

14 Thaikarl - cleaning your self up in thailand

How to take a shower.
(see the two photos from the previous email)

 

Toiletry in a basic Thai household.

 

You can find western style toilets, showers and bathtubs in the cities in Thailand.  Most of the hotels and lodges I have stayed in have the ordinary sit-down toilet.   The hotels that have western visitors often have hot water, and a bathtub.  But away from such "modernized" places, toiletry is much simpler.  

 

A Thai bathroom will have a big tank (on the right in the photo) for water for bathing and washing.  Adjacent to that is a smaller tank for flushing water.   The toilet is barely raised from the floor, with ridged pads for your feet.  After you use the toilet, you take the bowel for the flushing water and scoop bowlfuls of water into the toilet to flush away the waste, and splash water onto yourself and your hand for cleaning.    No toilet paper.  If there is paper, it's for drying yourself a bit after you are clean.  You don't throw this paper down the toilet, you put it in a waste basket.   Even in the city, where there is a sit-down commode, there is a spray hose to clean with, not paper. I wasn't sure which direction was proper for using the toilet.   I face the wall, since my western legs can't do a flat footed squat, and I need to balance myself with my hand on the wall.  I asked Tok about it, and of course, I'm going things backwards.

 

Bathing is breath-taking.  You use the bigger bowel to dip water from the big tank and pour it on yourself.   It's not heated, and I can tell you, pouring cold water on yourself from a bowl is exciting, even when it's 95 degrees out.  Even more so in the evening when you shower before bed and the air is a cool 70 degrees.   I can't say I've grown accustomed to the process entirely.  I just can't bring myself to pour cold water over my shoulders and back.   So I make do with pouring water in my hand and sloshing it over myself.  Face, feet, arms and legs, okay… upper body… brrrrrrr.  Tok can tell I am not taking a 'regulation' shower by the difference in sound.   Full-pour water sounds different than hand splashing, and she's knocked on the door and wanted to see how I am taking a shower a couple of times, and chided me for not taking a proper shower.   Farangs are so crude when it comes to personal habits – eating, bathing, and dressing.  We have to be re-trained.

 

I've learned that it is important to not mix up the bowls, and to be careful to not get grey-water in them.  You don't want to contaminate the tank water.   That's one reason for having a separate tank for flushing water, so you will not get any toilet substances into the washing water.  You use the water from the big tank to brush your teeth in after all.

 

You are never alone in the bathroom.  I have seen three different kinds of frogs; gecko's come out on the rafters to eat bugs attracted to the bathroom light.   Last night there was a palm bug (a roach) two inches long on the wall next to the toilet.  Spiders claim the corners, and flying things come in over the top of the wall and flit about the room.   And of course, there's the ants.  Ants are everywhere.  Tiny little societies that live in a world of giants, constantly searching for our droppings and left-overs.

 

Households in the town may have water from a tap to fill the tanks. Out here in the village, there is a well with an electric water pump.   Mama plugs in the pump and takes a big hose and goes around to the tanks and cisterns and fills them.  Some of the houses have a water tank that will supply water to taps by gravity.   Since many Thai houses are on stilts though, the water outlets are on the ground area, not inside the house.

 

Toks kitchen is off the back of the house, kind of a porch area.  There is a low wall that runs along the outside.   The kitchen "sink" is a wooden slatted table on the other side of the wall.  Next to it is a big ceramic cistern.   You get water for washing and cooking using a bowl that is sitting to the side.  All the water from the "sink" drains down a sheet of tin, is collected into a cut open plastic oil container, that feeds a pipe that runs out to the rain pond by the road.

 

By western standards, it may all seem so primitive.  Even so to may Thai's I suppose.   I understand that they build western style fixtures in the more expensive Thai houses.  I don't think either one is "better"  it is fascinating to me of course, because it is different than I have experienced for most of my life.   I'll probably find a 3 liter water bottle, punch some holes in the lid and hang it upside down in the bathroom.  Then I can fill it by hand from the tank, and have water streaming down from overhead.   Just so I can get used to the cold water shock.  Seems easier to step into a falling spray of water than to willfully pour a bowl over your back and shoulders.   Tok thinks this is kind of funny.  She looks at me like "why would you want to do that?"

 

Just crazy I guess.


Onward!
Nu
--
my epitaph will be:   Oh Well....
i am in thailand at the moment. to be added or deleted from my travelogue, send request to this address.