Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hello Bangkok

We dropped off the rental car at the airport in Chiang Rai and took the one hour and ten minute Air Asia flight to Bangkok. I know I have said this in the past but flying into Bangkok reminds me of flying into the Bronx in New York.

The Christmas decorations were up in the tourist areas. That is pretty cool considering 95 percent of the people in Thailand are Buddhist.

I am sure you have heard of the alligators in the New York sewers. Well, New York does not have anything on Bangkok. The lizard in this picture is about six to eight foot long.

Daeng says they are good to eat and TASTE LIKE CHICKEN!

Daeng has never had a typical American Thanksgiving Dinner so Dana at the Road House BBQ invited us for Thanksgiving Dinner.

It was a great meal but it was not the same as sitting around the table with family.

A few days of shopping for Daeng and resting for me and we're back on the plane for the Looonnnngggggg trip back to the USA.

Myself, I enjoy the Kebab that can be found on Soi 7 on Sukhamvit.

We are both feeling pretty good and looking forward to being with my side of the family for a few months.

We will say good-bye to Bangkok tomorrow. We leave here at 5:15 Pm and arrive in Los Angeles at 7:15 PM, yes two hours later.

We are in the air 17 hours, no wonder our brains get jet-lag.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Death of a Sister

Daeng's sister died on November 18th but I have not written about this tragity as I don't really have the words. I feel I should write about it so I am just going to try and tell the greaving process of the family here, through picture.

Mon, Daeng's sister was 42 years old. She had gotten quite sich about a year ago but recovered well and went back to her old way of life and stopped taking the medication the doctors had prescribed for her. You can read about that story by clicking on this link:

Daeng had visited Mon and spent the night with her, November 17th. The next day as Daeng was driving to home in Mae Sai, about 40 kilometer north, Mon stopped breathing. Tun, Daeng's brother told her when she arrived home. She showered, changed clothes and returned to her brother's home in Chiang Rai to help start the furnial arrangements.

For the next three days, friends, neighbors and family would pray and greave for Mon.

To feed the 200-300 friends, neighbors and family for three days takes a lot of food. Daeng bought one days food for everyone, chickens, pork and vegetables, at a cost of around 4,500 THB ($150 USD). Her brother, Jai, bought and buchered a 105 kilogram pig to help feed everyont the other two days.

I drove to Jai's home and visited with the family the next day, November 20th. The family was in pretty good spirits and everyone had arrived except one sister from Bangkok who would arrive by bus that evening. One of Mon's brothers was in Myanmar (Burma) and could not be contacted.

Daeng went shopping to buy a new outfit and shoes for Mon to be buried in. I kidded with Daeng that she could cremate me naked, just like I came into the world. I found it very hard to joke with everyone being so sad.

The christian service was to be the next day at 11:00 AM, then a big meal for everyone. After that Mon would be loaded on a small truck and transported to her resting place in a crypt that was built yesterday.

I did not count the people but we guess there were over 200 people at the service and eat. Our friends, Peter and Nok came to support Daeng and the family.

Folks eat under the tents and at the two homes across the road from Jai's home. All that was left of the pig was the head and ears which would be cooked in soup for the three days of praying following the burial.

After we all eat, I took pictures of the immediate family. From left to right standing: Brother Jai, Brother Poopie, Jai's wife Sang, Mon's Mother Meechu, Daeng, Nephue Kit, Tun's wife Hlong. Below left to right: Brother Tun, Sister La, Neice Nay, Nephue Jok, Sister Sa.

I spelled all the above names the way they sound in English, as best I could. Please remember, I'm a plumber and not very good with English skills.

After I took pictures of the family, Mon was loaded on a small truck and moved to the crypt that was built for her in a christian burial plot at the top of the hill.

There was anyother ceremony.

Then Mon was placed in the crypt and everyone placed flowers on top of her casket.

The casket was then opened and Daeng and Pooie placed the blanket over Mon's head.

The top of the casket was closed. Corrogated metal was placed on top of banboo supports and the crypt was sealed with cement. Daeng and Pooie helped to move the cement from the mixing area to the crypt.

The top was trowel smooth and Pooie wrote Mon's name, dates and a message of love in the cement.

Most of the folks had already walked back. Daeng, Pooie, Sang and Meechu were the last to walk back down the hill.

By the time they arrived back to the house, the tents, tables, chairs and all the cooking equipment had been loaded and were gone.

I helped load a few things and then took four of the visitors from Mae Sai back with me in the car.

I know that I will always remember Mon as will her family. Death is always a tragity!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trip to Prison - Lampang, Thailand

It was a nice, sunny day here on the Myanmar (Burma) border as we packed the car to make the trip to the Central Prison in Lampang, Thailand.

We wanted to visit Chom-nom to find out if he was alright, find out his release date, see what his plan was upon release and to let him know we would try to help him if he was ready to stay clean (drug free).

When we visited his mother a few days ago, she told us he was in the prison in Lampang which is about 300 Km (186 miles) away. I did a little research on the internet and learned a few thing about the Thailand prison system.

According to http://www.foreignprisoners.com/ this small country has the 25th largest prison system in the world and the second largest number of inmates in South-East Asia, second only to Singapore. The Thailand prison system holds approximately 200,000 people and it is estimated that over 70 percent are drug related crimes.

The trip to Lampang was uneventful, which was good. We stopped once for lunch in a large open market area just south of Chiang Rai. The price of gasoline is a little lower than it was in the spring at 36.11 THB a liter ($4.56 USD a gallon) for 91 octane. 95 octane gasohol is a little cheaper, by a few cents.

We arrived around 4:00 PM and checked into the Kim Hotel not far from the prison. It is an old hotel with free WiFi and coffee for around $11.50 USD a night. After we checked in we went for a little ride in a horse drawn carriage so we could see this town.

The driver stopped at the train station and we had something to eat. It was dark by then so we rode in the carriage back to the hotel and turned in for the night.

Up early, coffee, shower and dress in long pants for the trip to prison. We drove the kilometer to the prison, parked close and enter the prison gate.

There were about fifty people or so in the waiting area already. Daeng filled out a form showing who we were asking to see and all our information. She turned it in and was given small cards with the number 4. That means we were in the forth group to visit.

We sat down and waited as each group can visit for 15 minutes with about 5 minutes between each group. Number 1 was now in process so that means we would have to wait about 40 to 60 minutes.

In about 10 minutes Daeng’s name was called on a loud speaker system. She went up to the window and was told that Chom-nom was not at this prison. We went over the the administration office and were given a phone number to call so we could find out where he was.

We went out to the car were we left our phones and cameras as they were not allowed into the prison. Daeng called and was told he was in the Lampang prison but a different area about 15 Km away. We went back in and asked for directions. Now we know we are in trouble as directions are usually: “Go up this road about 15 Km and ask someone.”

We went back to the hotel, packed up, checked out and ask the lady at the desk for directions, also. We got about the same directions: “Go up the Chiang Mai – Lampang road about 12-15 KM. If you don’t see the sign stop and ask where it is.

As we were packing up the car we saw a "cute" motorbike that looked like a horse carriage but with the motorbike on the front. I asked the man: "How many horses this had?" He laughed.

Well, we want you to know that the directions worked. When we didn’t see the prison sign at about 15 Km we stopped three times and asked for directions. After we turned around we found the sign. It was hidden with the plant growth. We drove up the road about a kilometer and stopped at one of the gates with a guard and he told us we were at the right place.

We parked and went inside. It was 11:00 PM and the man at the visitor’s area said we could see him now but only for maybe 5-8 minutes or we could come back after 1:00 PM and see him for 20 minutes. We told him we had come a long way and would like to see him now, if possible.

Another guard filled out some paperwork using Daeng’s identification card and he sent another follow, maybe an inmate to find Chom-nom. We sat and waited.

About eight minutes later, Chom-nom showed up behind an area with wire and screening to separate us. He was in good spirits and looked healthy although a little skinny.

We asked him the usual questions and he told us he was okay, helping with the system. He said he was being a good boy there and would be released in 4-5 months. He wanted to go back and finish the children’s shelter in Ban AYO.

We explained to him that his mother was doing okay, we saw her last week. Daeng told him that she had no way to contact his wife regarding her or his two children as she had changed her telephone number. Chom-nom said he did not have her new number and phone calls were not allowed from prison here.

The guard said it was time to end the visit. We told Chom-nom we would help him and the shelter for the kids. We said good-bye and told him we would see him again in March of 2012.

I am glad we make the trip.

Daeng and I decided to spend the night in Lampang and drive back to our home in Mae Sai tomorrow. We stayed at the Asia Hotel for the night.

We did visit one of the largest light shops in the area but did not find any table lamps that we liked for our bedroom.

We also saw a young man carving "flip-flops". That is correct, he was carving pictures and saying into the rubber flip-flops. Daeng wanted a pair but he did not have her size, right now.

Oh well, TiT. TiT stands for This is Thailand.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just another day? Church, Chiang Mai, Pooie's House, Ban AYO, Furniture & Loi Kratong

We say: "Just another day?" Everyday is just a little different here in Northern Thailand.

On Saturday, October 29th we went to the opening celebration of Rev. Sunit's new church. He has been working on this church for the past two years and it is now complete. Here is a story from last year: http://terrysstories.blogspot.com/2010/10/my-fall-in-church.html. Here is another story from the year before and in the old building that was used for a church: http://terrysstories.blogspot.com/2009/11/church-food-childlife-kids-flowers.html.

There were over two hundred folks attending the celebration and a good time was had by all. That is "Bang" serving food after the church ceremony.

Bang's baby is a happy little boy that is about six months old now. The baby, Bang and her husband are all doing well. Bang is in several of the past stories.

After church, Daeng and I started to paint the TV room. The reason is we had bought new drapes and rods for that room last week but did not want to put them up unless we painted first.

It was a lot of work as this room had not been painted in over 16 years, the first paint job was not very good and there was a lot of staining on the walls, maybe from smokers.

It took three coats of paint, a sealer, a coat of white primer and a heavy coat of finish paint. We used a silk pearl finish to hide some of the blemishes on the walls.

After the three day paint job, Daeng and I put up new rods and drapes. Then Daeng did a special clean up of the tile floor. The room looked very nice after we finished.

By the way, here is a picture of some fellows riding in a truck along the main highway. They are in hammocks; what a great way to travel.

The day after finishing the TV room, Daeng and I packed up for a little road trip to the City of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and is in the northern part of this county. To read more about this relaxed area just click on this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Mai.

The drive is about four hours from our home in Mae Sai. It rained very hard as we came over the mountains. We spent the next three days shopping for lamps and looking at furniture during the day. Then we spent the evenings with our friends, Brian and Noochy.

Brian is in the jewelry business. His website is: http://www.aajewel.com/. His specialty is Burma Rubies but deals in many types of gems and pieces of art.

We did find some furniture that we would love to have in our guest room. It is inexpensive but the problem is getting it to our home four hours, by car, away. Maybe we can arrange for the purchase and shipping during our next trip in the spring.

After three days of resting and shopping we left this lovely city and headed to visit Daeng's brother, Pooie. We were told to drive to the big temple in the village of Doi Saket, turn right and drive about 5 Km and just ask where is Pooie's house.

We followed the directions and the first person we stopped to ask told us to go to the next street and turn left and then right. I ask if they know Pooie and was told "No". I laughed because this is the Thai way. Thais want to make you happy so they will tell you what ever they think you want to hear even if it is wrong.

We drove a short ways and asked another person where was Pooie's house. Again, they gave us directions but when ask if they know Pooie, they said "NO". Daeng said she wanted to scrap the trip and head on home. I said let's stop at the local market and ask.

At the local market, they knew Pooie and gave us the correct directions. We know the directions were correct because the kids were playing in the front yard when we arrived. I nicknamed Pooie's son "Ling" (Thai for monkey) as he was climbing all over everything.

After talking for a while we decided to all hop into the car and head to the hot spring a few kilometers away and see Pooie's wife and the hot springs.

Seven of us got into the Toyota Vios that we had rented and headed to the hot spring.

We visited two hot springs, one that was mostly for the high class wealthy folks and the other one for the common folks.

We liked the one for the common folks as you could do fun things like cook eggs and hang out in the hot spring water.

We also got to meet Pooie's wife but she could not spend any time with us as she was working, cooking.

It was getting late in the day, about 4:00 PM so we jumped back in the car and made the trip back to Pooie's house. We said good-bye and started the trip back home. We thought we would go to the City of Chiang Rai, about three hours away, and spend the night.

Well, it gets dark about 6:30 PM here. I was starting to get tired and don't like to drive after dark because there are so many people drinking and driving. We stopped at a couple of hotels on the way but there were all very run down and dirty.

We saw a sign, Daeng said to stop. We drove up the driveway, I rolled down Daeng's window and she ask the man standing beside the driveway if they had rooms for the night. He laughed and told Daeng this was a "short-time" hotel and usually rented rooms for an hour or two. He ask if we would like to see a room. We were there so why not?

The place was immaculate, everything was very clean and crispy, hot water, western style toilet, air conditioning and mirrors on the walls. He said he would rent us a room for the complete night for 400 THB (about $13.00 USD).

The bed was a little hard but we were glad we stayed as we got a good nights sleep. Daeng and I both laughed as there was a place to park the car next to our room and then pull a curtain so no one could see our car.

It sorta made us feel like we were getting away with something.

Oh well, what happens in Thailand stays in Thailand. Eat your heart out Las Vegas.

We talked about heading back to Ban AYO to see if we could find Chom-nom's Mother and find out what the real story was. We decided to do that and to come in the back way or what I would call the high road into this village.

It was a easy trip as we were rested. I am so glad Daeng said stop at the hotel we stayed in last night.

The road, even though it is less than two years old, has been kind of taken over by the jungle. It was a little scary coming in from the high side.

When we pulled up in front of the house in Ban AYO, Chom-nom's Mother was on the porch. She was very happy to see us.
We spent a few hours with her and her friends, talking, eating cookies we had brought and ice cream. The same ice cream man showed up from the last trip. Click on this link for that story: http://terrysstories.blogspot.com/2011/10/ban-ayo-trip-tears-anger.html

From what we could tell here is the real story. Chom-nom was arrested with maybe a hundred "Yaba" pills. The reason he did not get a life sentence is he was not convicted for dealing, just possession. He had been arrested in the past for drug related crimes and had spent thirteen years in prison.

The good news, the water tanks are still in place at the children's shelter. We just could not see them because the jungle had taken over.

The other folks that were helping to build the shelter will help him complete the shelter when he get out of prison within the next year. But, this will be his late chance with them.

He is in prison about 150 Km south of Chiang Mai and his mother let us take a picture of her house book that shows his exact name so we can find him and visit him.

We wished each other the best and told her we would keep in touch.

We headed home to Mae Sai to sleep in our own bed. Well, we don't really have a bed, it is a mattress on the floor but tomorrow the new furniture and bed will be delivered.

Another day, we had coffee, sticky rice, fried chicken and Pa Tong Ko in the Ban Pa Mueat market by our home. On the way home we stopped to work out on the exercise equipment.

We then went home and moved all the stuff for the furnture men to install the new bedroom furniture.

The men with the furniture showed up around 11:00 AM as their truck broke down a few kilometers south of us.

They did get busy putting everything together. I watched them do the first cabinet and could tell they had done man of these before. I am sorry now that I did not continure to watch as after they left, later in the day, I realized they had reversed one of the back panels on the second wardrobe cabinet and because it was reversed, no screws were in it.

The cabinet looks okay but the stability of the cabinet is compromised. I took pictures and will stop at the furniture store in Chiang Rai when we are there next week. I don't have a lot of hope that they will send someone to correct it as we have already paid.

The other side is the people have never seen real "A" grade quality so they don't know what that is. They accept "C" grade for good quality and "D" grade as acceptable.

That part makes me crazy!

The new furniture did change that side of our master bedroom. Now we need to work on the other half of the room.

Well, enough about just another day, we are now into the Full Moon and the Celebration of the Lights called Loi Kratong, sometimes spelled Loy Kratong. To read about that holiday and see a beautiful slide show just click on this link: http://www.tatnews.org/events/events/2011/nov/5229.asp

As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November and the 10th this year) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual called "Loy Krathong" - the 'festival of lights". This is one of the Kingdom's oldest and best-preserved traditions.

Daeng and all the girls made kratongs to set afloat. This year they did them the old fashion way with just banana leaves and flowers, no styrofoam. They all were beautiful.

Daeng even made one for me, how romantic.

Then after dark, they set them afloat in the near-by river or waterways. They are really a beautiful site to see.

You can read a story of this holiday time in 2009 and hear the holiday song by clinking on this link: http://terrysstories.blogspot.com/2009/11/loy-krathong.html.

We will keep everyone informed regarding our visit to Chom-nom.