Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mae Sai - Life is Good

On out trip back from Doi Chang, Elephant Mountain, we spent the night in Chiang Rai.  We had a nice dinner at the Night Bazaar and Daeng's favorite desert.  She likes this jelly textured sweets with ice cream in a coconut shell.  The picture is of the soup we ate.  Daeng made the soup right at the table.

In the morning, we also had a chance to have coffee at Jan's Coffee, Joke and Pa Thong Ko Shop.  Joke is like an oatmeal made rice. They add stuff like egg and pork to it, also.  We really like Jan as she is a sincere, earthy person that works hard and is a real sweetheart. 

I did talk on the telephone with Charlie, her boyfriend from Canada.  I told him we just stopped to see Jan and have coffee and would see him in the spring.

After coffee, we check out of the hotel and made the hour trip back home to Mae Sai.  Our new mattress is still the best sleep for me.  It is an independent pocket spring mattress.  The Thais say it is soft but by US standards I think it would be classified as medium firm.

Mae Sai is doing very well.  This area has two rice crops a year and lots of folks coming through to visit Tachileik, Myanmar (Burma).  Everyday, buses make the eleven hour trip from Bangkok with hundreds of folks crossing the border to shop.  They also shop on the Thai side.  I think prices are better on the Thai side except you can not buy the fake stuff, like purses, on this side of the border.  You can read more about shopping in Tachileik by clicking on  Tachileik, Myanmar (Burma) Yea, Shopping!

Speaking of crossing bridges, how do you like this bamboo bridge?  I walked across it but it was scary for this old fat boy.

We went back to work making our cave a better nest (worked more on home).

We had removed the canopy in front of the part in the middle shop house, straighted the down spot piping from the roof and now were painting the front and pipe. You can read about Daeng and I removing the canopy by CLICKING HERE.

Yep, that is be four stories in the air painting. 

Daeng helped as she did not want me to go up the bamboo ladder without her help.  She also did some of the work on the overhang.

We think the place looks pretty good but will have the outside painted with one more coat of paint and the trim highlighted. 

For now, it is put everything away, pack and close up our master suite as we are going to return car and fly south tomorrow.

Here is a picture of the front of our home.  Daeng's brother has his laundry there and will take care of things while we are gone.

It is for sale for 7,800,000 THB.  If you would like to see the complete listing with lots of pictures just CLICK HERE.  When the link comes up just scroll down to see the pictures.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Coffee - Doi Chang Mountain

Yesterday, it was a nice sunny day as we got in the car and headed to Boonreang's, Daeng's son, school in Chiang Rai to talk with him and his teacher. 

It was an easy trip, about 60 Km, from our home in Mae Sai.  Daeng talked with his teacher at school for a few minutes without her son as he was sick.  He does have some allergy problems and was all stuffed up so he did not come to school.

After Daeng talked with his teacher, we drove over to when he lives, took him some bar-be-qued chicken for lunch and talked.  The concern is for his well being and his grades.  It was kind of a "What do you want to be when you grow up?" talk. 

I explained that we just wanted him to be safe, happy and have a good life.  We also talked about how I did not like school, when I was young, and decided not to go past high school.  I went into the Army and then worked in gas stations and construction becoming a plumber/HVAC technician.  What ever he wanted to do was okay by us.

He stated he wanted to go to school and would do the work to make sure he passed this semester with no zeros and a minimum of 2.0 total grade average.  He seemed to be happy with our talk ever thought I felt 2.0 grade average was a very low grade.

We said "Good-bye" for now and headed to Doi Chang Mountain.  This area is now a huge coffee area as the opium fields have been turned into coffee fields.

I learned a lot about coffee this trip.  To read about another trip we made  to Elephant Mountain in 2008 just CLICK HERE.  You can also see Daeng in Full Akha Dress at the end of that story.

When we drove the 100 Km up through the mountains we came to an area where the road was all torn up.  I walked down the road and felt the care we were drive, a Nissan March, was to low to make it through the bumps and mud.

We found our cellular phones did not work on the mountain so we drove up the high side of the road and asked folks if they knew were we were suppose to go.  Finally a sweet lady said we could use here cellular phone that worked in this area.  She was from Mae Sai and was very helpful.

We found out later that she knew Chom-nom and he would invite her to dinner sometimes when he killed a chicken.  It is a very small world up in the mountains.

It was almost dark but was only a few minutes after Daeng call him he jumped off a pickup truck and jumped in our car to give us directions to get to the coffee company that he worked at. 

It was a dirt road but the little car made it okay.  Chom-nom went right back to work. 

At this time of day the coffee bean picker bring the fresh, bagged beans to him.  He weighs them and gets agreement with the pickers and either pays them 18 Thai Baht a kilogram then or gives them a receipt to pay them 20 Thai Baht a kilogram when processed and sold. (1 Thai Baht = 03.28 Cents US)

The beans, after weighing, are pored into a pit with water in it.  They soak for a little while and then are pumped into the bean huskers.  Bean husker is what I call it as no one can translate it for me, just show me what happens.

The outside of the bean is mostly removed when the bean go through this machine and the inter part of the bean goes into another vat full of water. 

It is time to quit.  Chom-nom took us to a little house where we are going to spend the night.  We are going to sleep on the floor with mosquito net over us. 

It is a cool little house with modern, duel flush, western toilet, sink carved out of wood and shower with hot water.

Chom-nom cooked us an Akha dinner of jungle food and rice while Daeng made up the bed. 

We ate with Chom-nom and another man that lives at the coffee company, also.  The meal was very tasty and included vegetables that no one had an English name for them.  The only thing I could recognise was the rice. 

After dinner, Daeng and I said "Thank you for cooking for us and good-night."  We told Chom-nom we would see him at sunrise for breakfast.

In the morning before I woke up, Daeng picked some vegetables out of the jungle and helped make breakfast.  When breakfast was ready she came and woke me up telling me to hurry as food was ready to eat.

I crawled out of the mosquito net, threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth and headed to the cook house.

For breakfast I recognised three thing: rice, bean cracker and egg.  The bowl in the picture directly in front of Daeng is a vine she picked out of the jungle.  It was fried and I really liked it.  To the left of that is a gourd looking thing that grows on a tree.  Chom-nom picked some more and gave them to us to take home. Everything was great and it was wonderful to have breakfast together and talk about what was the normal day.

After we ate, we walked across the bean drying field to the office and had coffee.  We talked about how the process of getting the coffee from the bush to the cup.   We also talked about the company set up of this company and Doi Chaang Coffee Company.

It was my understanding that all the coffee from Doi Chang Mountain went through the co-op of Doi Chaang Coffee.  Chom-nom explained that there we 500 coffee companies in the area and Doi Chaang was just one.

This company is the BECHEGE Coffee Company.  This company specializes in Arabian un-roasted coffee although they do have one coffee rooster and will roost a limited amount and package under their own name.

I might add that this coffee has a real kick.  Daeng and I drank only a small cup of this coffee and got really hyper.  I'm sure the caffeine contain is very high.

After coffee, Chom-nom had a little work to do before he could give us the grand guided tour of the place.  He told us to look around and he would see us in about 45 minutes.

The place is really beautiful, up in the mountain. There is a large pond along with a gazebo and everything is very clean.  It makes you feel good about drinking the coffee.

We started the tour with the scale area and water pools that the coffee is poured into after it is weighed along with the husking machinery. 

I had to laugh as the "Thai Way" showed through on the husking machine.  Instead of loosing the bolts on the motor brackets and moving the motor back to tighten the pulley belts they just tied a piece of bamboo to take up the belt tension.   

Now, after the coffee bean is picked and brought to this company, it's weighed, pored into the water vat, pumped into the coffee husker and dumps into another concrete vat.  There is sits for about 8-12 hours, pumped into another vat where it is stirred.  Then the husked bean is placed on a big cart and wheeled into the drying area.

The beans are then placed in the sun and turned everyday for at least nine (9) days until they are dry.

You can see coffee beans drying every place you look.

After they are dried they are run through another machine and then hand sorted for size and quality.  Yes, We said by hand. 

There were no sorters working today as they had all gone for a holiday in Chiang Rai.  To see a picture of folks sorting coffee beans just go toward the end of the story of our last trip.  CLICK HERE

The beans are then put in large bags for sale to packagers or rooster.  At this stage the price of the coffee is around 180 THB a kilogram (about $2.68 USD a pound).  Each bag weighs over 40 kilograms (about 90 lbs.)

While I was walking around the warehouse, all of a sudden Chom-nom and Daeng started yelling: "Bean, Bean!".  There were coffee beans all over the floor so I did not know if I wasn't suppose to walk on them. 

Finally Daeng said: "Stop, Stop!"  I stopped and she came over and pointed to this huge bee's nest with these giant bees flying around it.  Now I understood.

On the other side of the warehouse was the storage of "aged" coffee beans.  I never know that "age" coffee was more valuable than "new" coffee but Chom-nom said it was like having a savings account.  He also said they take very good care of it to be sure the beans don't get wet and spoil.

After the tour Chom-nom had to get back to work so we packed up everything.  As we were putting the bedding up Daeng started to scream and pointed to the corner of the room.  It was a big lizard. 

Chom-nom came; he and I chased it out of the house.  He said it was a lot scarier looking but could give you a rash if it jumped on you. 

We finished packing up and loading the car.  Chom-nom climbed the bushes and gave us some jungle food to take home.  It is a nice clear day and you can see forever.

We let our friend, Chom-nom, get back to work. going to head back down the mountain and spend the night in Chiang Rai.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fat Boy - 20 feet in the Air

Well, it's been pretty quiet around home, here in Mae Sai.  We, well I should say "I", wanted to straighten the down spout from the rain gutters on the four floor roof.  Daeng said it was okay but as a professional plumber, I wanted it straight.

As I wrote in the stories last week, my aluminium ladder broke while I was working about half way up the ladder.  I did bruise my left elbow in the fall.  That is feeling a lot better.

Working on the new, 6 meter (about 20 foot) bamboo ladder took some getting used to.  First, the rungs are round as compared to flat on a ladder made in America.  Next, the rungs are not spaced exactly the same distance apart so I had to learn to be very careful in climbing and coming back down.

I think the biggest part I had to get used to was the ladder really bends when you get close to the top.  Once I got some confidence it was okay.

Daeng and I did get the piping rehung straight with the correct size pipe clamps.  I think it looks pretty good.  We only had to move the three clamps over about 2-3 inches.  That sounds easy but 20-40 foot in the air, supporting the pipe while we used a rotor hammer to drill holes in concrete walls, inserting anchors, pipe clamps and screws was a challenge for this 70 year old, fat boy.

While we were working we also had to watch our for the little kid that I call "Bum".  His real name is "Bun".  He is a cute little kid and I tought him to say: "Oh-Oh".  His first English word.

We also took a little side trip to say "Good-Bye" to Daeng's friend, Peg, who is returning to Japan.  She and her husband own a chain of massage parlor in Tokyo.  She says Japanese folks love massages.  Her husband stayed in Japan while she visited her family here.

Nay, Daeng's neice, has been making neck scarfs and hanging out a little with us, as well.  We have been getting the front ready to put the final color of paint to match the other two parts of the shop houses.  We have patched, primed with contact primer, primed with white primer and tomorrow we will put on the first coat of color.

I took this picture at the Ban Pa Mueat morning market while we were having our usual breakfast.  What came to mind was: "Kids praying for kids."

A day or two more of painting and we are going to take an over night trip to see Chom-nom at Doi Chaang Coffee Company, way up in the mountains.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ban AYO - Thanksgiving

It was great to sleep in our own bed last night.  We bought an independent pocket spring mattress this spring and we are glad we did.

Yesterday afternoon, we talked with Newt about our trip to Chiang Mai.  Newt is Hlong's cousin.  Hlong is Daeng's sister-in-law.  Wow, I think I got that one right.  Here is a picture on Newt and son getting ready to go home on her motorbike. 

They are all dressed up like it is freezing out and the temperature is about 90 degrees.  Thai girls do that because they want to keep their skin light colored.  It may be a good idea with all this stuff about the sun and skin cancer.

We got a call from Chom-nom yesterday saying that there was a get together for his Mother, Mechu.  I don't quite understand the get together except that it has something to do with everyone getting together to pray for his Mother's health.

We got up around 6:00 AM, had breakfast at the local market and did a few things around the house before dressing to go to Ban AYO.

By the time we made the 46 kilometer trip it was about 11:00 PM.  They had already killed the pig and were starting to roast it over a charcoal fire.

It was great to see all the kids and the Akha folks.  We now know most of them.  A lot if the kids were playing on a pick-up truck rack that was placed under the big tree in front of Mechu's home.

When another Akha lady saw me she started dancing, kind of imitating me as I'm always doing stuff like that.

We hung out with the kids on Mechu's front porch eating cookies and pineapple with the kids.

It was only about an hour and Chom-nom drove in with his motorbike.  He had to travel about a hundred kilometers from the Doi Chang Coffee Company.  He was looking well.

We talked for a little about his work at Doi Chang Coffee and then headed down the road to see the children's shelter.  The roadway to the shelter had been cleared.  The buildings were about the same as when we saw them in spring. 

You could see the water tanks and all the brush was cleared back from the building so they could now be worked on.

We talked and Chom-nom said it was hard to get people behind this project again until they trusted him.  He did say that the video production company that helped before were planning on coming up to help more this month.  He did not know the dates, at this time.

Another good thing is the electricity is now withing 150 meters of the shelter.  The water is available at the road, as well.

We headed back up the road but stopped at the little church just above the children's shelter.  They were have a Thanksgiving Dinner and ask us to stay.  We just could not say: "No".  We knew a lot of the folks and kids, as well.

Thanksgiving here in northern Thailand is celebrated on different dates by each town or village, all sometime during this month. 

After we ate, the ice cream man showed up so Daeng bought all the kids ice cream.

When we got back to Mechu's home the lady across the street was cutting up banana plants for pig food.  I had never seen that done.  I tasted the banana plant center and it tested okay.

It was almost two o'clock.  We talked with Mechu, wished her the very best and told her we loved her.  We took some pictures and she laughed at us because we are so much bigger that she is, even Daeng.

By this time the ice cream man made it up the hill so we had to have more ice cream.  I love the coconut favor.  Yep, everyone loves ice cream.

It was now prayer time.  The elders all sit together and everyone bows in front of Mechu, holding her hands, passing some money to her and praying for her health. 

Daeng and I both did that but did not pass any money as we had given her some when we said "Good-bye" before the prayer session.

We think we stayed within the tradition.

We said our "Good-bye's" again.  We told Chom-nom we would call him next week and come see him at Doi Chang Coffee Company.  That trip will be an over night trip.

We headed home and our Nissan March ran well.  I think we got great mileage and it passed other cars and trucks on hills much better than I expected with a 1.2 liter engine.