Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Songkran Party is still Going On - Golden Triangle

Even though Songkran is officially over in Mae Sai, the party still goes on through today or longer.

Daeng, Peter, Nok and I drove over to the center of the Golden Triangle.  I think President Nixon nicknamed this area "The Golden Triangle" because it is were Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand come together on the Mekong River. 

The Mekong River is the world's 12th longest river and the 7th longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi). It runs to the ocean from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

We have been on this river a few times in the past.  To read two of those stories just CLICK HERE for our first trips on the river.  That story also talks about "cookies are better than guns".  To read the story of the completed school on the Mekong and see pictures of this old, white, fat boy dancing just CLICK HERE.

This area was, at one time, the largest opium growing area of the world.  Today, it still ranks as number two, losing out only to Afghanistan.

The whole area for hundreds of square miles around is know as "The Golden Triangle" but this is the center.

We had a nice lunch looking over the river.  The day was fairly cool, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius. 

We ate salt fish, som-tom papaya salad, bar-be-qued chicken, spicy seafood soup, sticky rice, orange soda and "dancing scrimp". 

Here is a video of the "Dancing Scrimp".

After you watch the video you will know why they call this dish "Dancing Scrimp".

Peter and Nok would not eat the dancing scrimp but I tried it.  The taste was very strong from the spices that were used with the scrimp and mango. 

After we ate we walked up to the "Big Buddha" on the edge of the mighty Mekong River.  There were lots of folks visiting this well know Buddha.

We started to drive down the road to Chiang Saen, about 10-15 km to see if the dragon boat races were still going.

We got to the edge of this little town and the traffic was stopped and everyone throwing water around.  Together we made the decision turn around and go home.  After all it was three o'clock and full stomachs.  A nap sounded real good.

We did have a fun day with Peter and Nok.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Songkran 2013 - Five Days of Fun

Songkran in 2013 (2556) falls on a weekend so it is extended to included Monday and Tuesday, April 15th and 16th.  That makes this years Thai New Year Holiday last for five days.

One of the best descriptions and explanations of Songkran here in Thailand is at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  CLICK HERE!

Basically the whole country shuts down and parties, except for the folks that make money supplying the party, the police and medical folks.  In the five days, over 400 people are expected to die during this big party, mostly alcohol related. 

Pictures like this may Songkran a wonderful time.

If you would like to read our past stories about Songkran just CLICK HERE!

On Friday, the first official day of Songkran, Daeng and I took things pretty easy.  We had coffee and Pa Thong Ko in the Ban Pa Mueat morning market, bought some cut up pineapple and hung out around the house the rest of the day.  One of the things we did hanging out was just that, we hung out the wash.

Some of the things that everyone usually does during Songkran are wash clothes, clean the house, throw the old, unused things away getting ready for a new start in the next year.

Here is a picture of Daeng on TAX day.   You can also read about that story by CLICKING HERE.

Day two, Saturday Daeng went out and became part of the water fun.  She got a little sun burn but had fun.  As for me, I took a long nap.

Being really bored Sunday, the third day, seven of us hopped, maybe a better word is squeezed into the Nissan March and went on a little road trip.  The seven were Daeng, brother Tun, sister-in-law Hlong, Hlong's sister and son, Bum, that's Bang's son and me. 

One part of Songkran is to visit older family members thanking them and giving your best wishes and blessings to them.  Our first stop was up the hill from the southern police check point.  The stop was to visit Hlong,s sister's son's grandmother on his father's side.  Wow, a score card is needed on this trip.

Next stop, after the check point, we made a few turns and went up the hill on the east side of route #1 onward to Hlong's cousin's house.  We had been there once before to celebrate the building of there house.  It is right in the middle of rice fields.

What's done to build a house in a rice field is to dig a big hole in the ground which becomes a pond.  The dirt from the pond makes the land the house will be build on.  Win-win, pond for fish and high ground to build the house on.

There are all kinds of things to eat besides the fish in the pond. 

Daeng found some crab next to the house and rice paddy.

I took a little walk around the pond and found some bananas.

After a little rest, we all got back in the car and headed to Hlong's sister's house in Mae Chan.  It was only a few more minutes south.

When we reached "La's" home we hung out eating pork, sticky rice, fried squid, water melon, papaya and mango. 

To cool down a little, Daeng also went into the river beside her house.  The temperature was nice today, around 95 degree Fahrenheit or 35 degree Celsius.

Around five o'clock, Daeng said maybe it was time to go home.  The rest of the gang was staying there for the night.  We said good-bye to the new hatched baby birds.  I know their mother was glad to get us out of there.

I set the GPS to "Home" and off we went.  For dinner we stopped along the road and had some bar-be-qued squid, chicken livers and fried onions, along with some sticky rice.

Day four, Monday morning we got up and took the motorbike over to the Ban Pa Mueat morning market but NO ONE, except the beggar Su-la, was there.  We didn't even stop and Su-la just nodded his head and smiled at us.  We headed to the Mae Sai morning market about 4 km up the road. 

The Mae Sai morning market was really quiet but the Coffee and Pa Thong Ko shop was open.  We also picked up some fried chicken at the bottom of the hill.  The rain and thunderstorms from last night had cleaned the smoky air and it was nice to see the sun shine through.

This is a picture taken from our bedroom window.

Here is a video of the coffee lady making coffee with a smile and a "Thank you very much." 

We always Laugh at the way she says: "Thank you, thank you very much."

Someone wanted to buy some noodles but the noodle lady was not around so Daeng stepped in and handled the noodle sale.  Yep, she used her noodle to sell noodles.  Is that to many noodle references?

Now Monday is Temple Day.  It is a day that almost everyone in Thailand goes to the Temple.  There are thousands and thousands of Temples in Thailand, as well.  They are all nice but some are really beautiful.

Of all the Temples in Thailand, we like the "White Temple" the best.

On Tuesday, we decided we were "funned" out.  I don't think "funned" is a real word but we have just had tooooo much fun.

This morning we stopped at the temple by our home and worked out a little on the new exercise equipment.  Although the equipment is extremely nice we like the old equipment on the Soi by our home.   

We also looked at a wood table and four stools that the maker said he would accept 3200 THB ($110 USD) for the five pieces.  Daeng and I said we would think about buying them for the area on the second floor by the Thai kitchen.

Daeng also spent a lot of the last few days working on her patchwork quilt.  She started it in America about a year ago.  It is almost finished and sewn all by hand. It looks really nice.

We will be extremely happy when the day is over and we can go back to our regular, boring life. 

In our opinion, three days of Songkran is good but five days is way to much.

Happy Songkran (Thai New Year) to ALL!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fun Trip to Akha Party

I did not feel very good this morning so, after Daeng fixed me a little breakfast, I went back to bed.  Daeng went to the market to buy food for the visitors from Myanmar (Burma).

I woke up about 2:00 PM, showered and dressed as we had been invited by Chom-nom to attend an Akha Festival in Ban AYO.  After saying good-bye to the folks from Burma we left Mae Sai a little after 3:00 PM.

It was a little smoky but traffic was pretty light.  When we made the turn off route 1 onto the Mae Salong Road, there were two farang (non-Asian) back packers standing by the road.  We stopped and asked where they were going.  They told us Mae Salong but the songtail, actual Thai name is "Sǎwngthǎew",  (small pickup truck with a people carrier mounted in the pickup bed) would not go unless there were eight people or got paid for eight people.

We told them we could give them a ride about 12 kilometer but that may strand them.  They said that would be great.  We managed to put their two large backpacks and them in the back of our Nissan March.  She was from Spain and he is from Switzerland but were traveling as a couple.

After talking with them, we felt they were a nice couple and ask them if they would like to go to the Akha village of Ban AYO with us.  We called Chom-nom to see if his Mother had room on her floor for two visitors to sleep the night.  He said: "Yes." so we brought them with us.

It was nice to see Chom-nom's Mother, Mee-chu.  We talked and laughed a little.  They were building a new restroom, here called a water room as the whole room is built to be wet. 

It has a toilet, squat style, along with a big tub for water.  To flush the toilet you just take a dipper of water from the tub and pour it into the toilet.  To shower, you pour the dipper of water over your body, soap up and then use the dipper of water to wash off the soap.  Because the water is cold, it is pretty invigorating.

It needs water piping for the water and some tile or concrete rendering and it will be ready to use.  In the mean time she and her guests use the neighbor's wet room.

The only thing I don't like with this kind of restroom plumbing is the sewage goes to a cesspool and not a septic system, septic tank first before the cesspool.

We talked and laughed until after five o'clock.  We put their backpacks in Mee-Chu's home and drove back, maybe a kilometer, to the area they were having the celebration.  It was on the top of a hill that had been leveled and a huge concrete pad had been pored.  It is my understanding that Nok Airlines did this for the Akha Village.  It would make a great helicopter pad.

At the end of the concrete a stage with lights and PA system had been set up.  Because Thai people tend to park were ever they want, we parked by the entrance so we would not be blocked in so if we wanted to leave before the complete show was over at around midnight.  We were going to go back home, about 50 kilometer, and sleep in our own bed.

Chom-nom met us and took us to a table that had been set up for us so we could eat.  We had Akha (mountain) rice, vegetables, pork and spicy sauce.  The folks we had picked up loved it.

After eating, it was almost dark, the entertainment started.  It was very nice to see Chom-nom taking control of the event and singing, too.

It is also great to see the Akha ladies all dressed up.  This lady had a great voice, as well.

Everyone was having a wonderful time.  I would guess there were over five hundred folks here. It is our understanding that this will be the first of an annual celebration here on the mountain.  We think it is to celebrate the Akha heritage.

Daeng had her picture taken with the Thai/Akha super star comedian that was headlining this entertainment.  I laughed at his signature joke.  He says he is so scary looking, he can only come our at night.  The audience loved him.

We said good-bye to the gang.

Time for us to go home.  When we got to our car we found that we were parked in by over a dozen motorbikes.  We were grateful they were no cars blocking us as we could move the motorbikes out of the way.

After starting the car and turning on the headlights so we could see, we moved all the motorbike out of the way.  We drove down the mountain and home.

It was a fun trip

Friday, April 5, 2013

Trip from Chaing Mai - Stop to see Chom-nom

Yesterday, we had breakfast and checked out of the hotel.  We headed toward home.  We called our friend Chom-nom as he had called us to ask if we would come see him about getting water to his girlfriend's land. 

Her land is about 18 kilometers from route 1 on route 118.  That is on our way home.  When we came to the village of Mae Suai we called him again.  He drove out on his motorbike to route 118 and meet us. 

We followed him back to the land that he needs water.  It would be easy to find again as it is below the grape vineyards on the mountain.

Now, this is the middle of the dry season but there is water running from a small spring which runs into a little pond.  A few yards (meters) away from the pond there is also a dip in the grade with water standing in it.

What Chom-nom wants to do is dig a hand dug well about 40 meters away from the pond.  I would say the area is about two meters (6 plus feet) higher than the pond and the other area that has water standing.  Chom-nom wanted me to tell him there was water where he wanted to dig.

Because we have found water for the Ban AYO Children's Shelter area he thinks I am an expert on water.  I told him that an ex-pert was a drip that was.  (Plumber Humor!)  I told him the easiest way to know for sure is dig.  If you did not get water at 4-5 meters you probably don't have water there. 

By the way, I do feel he will get water about 3 meters down.  I'll be interested, if I'm correct, when he digs it.

To read the story of finding water for the kids of Ban AYO CLICK HERE.

We visited his new piglets and had lunch at his place.  We also told him we would come to Ban AYO on Saturday afternoon to see him and his Mother.

We said our good-byes and headed the rest of the way home. 
When we got home the gang from Myanmar (Burma) were at our home.  The Burma Gang is Daeng's sister-in-law, Hlong's family.  The kids were afraid of me at the start as they had never seen a big white guy.

It didn't take very long for us to become friends.

It was a good trip back to our home, we got 35 MPG on E20 fuel.  It is my understanding that E20 fuel is 20% alcohol.

It was also nice to sleep in our own bed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finding Uncle Balo

It was a sunshiny day.  Daeng talked with her sister-in-law, Hlong, to find out that some of Hlong's relatives were coming from Myanmar, Burma, and she wanted to get a message to her brother who lives about 50 kilometers north of Chiang Mai.

They have no telephone service there so Daeng said we would go find him and his family and let them know.  Now, all we had was a village name and his name.  The village name was Ban Pong Akha by Ban Mea Ma Lai and his name was Balo.  Well, talk about finding a needle in a haystack, this was it.

We talked with one of the waiters, here at the Top North Hotel.  He drew us a little map to get us going in the correct direction.  The main Akha area is about
50-60 kilometers directly north of Chiang Mai.

We set out and his directions were perfect to get us to route 107.  I had tried to find the village, by name, on my GPS but had no luck.

I felt okay about the trip as we had been there a few years ago and Daeng does speak some Akha.

We drove about 35 km and asked if we were going the correct way.  We were told to drive more and then turn left.  We drove another 10 km and asked again.  We were told to drive a few more km and turn left.  Well, about 8-9 more km we stopped and asked again.  This time we were told to turn left at the next road and drive a little ways and turn right.

We followed those directions and stopped again after a few km and ask for directions at a little store.  The lady said to drive up the rode to the stop light and turn right, then ask again.

We did exactly that and the next person we asked told us to go about 10-12 km and at the Akha village, past the elephant place, stop and asked.  We did just that.  When we ask the Akha lady here she said she did not know Balo.  I thought that was strange as his family sells wholesale fruit and goes all over this area.

We drove quite a ways to the next settlement  in the jungle.  There the lady at the small market store knew Balo and told us exact direction.  We had gone to far so we had to turn around, go up to the road directly across from the last place we stopped at and to up the hill to the top.  His place was on the left hand side of the road.

She was exactly right and we recognised the house when we pulled in front of it.  They had built a few houses around it but it looked about the same.

Everyone was glad to see us as almost everyone in the neighborhood knew Daeng as a child. 

Daeng told Balo why we were here and he got on his motorbike and drove up the mountain road a couple of kilometer and called Hlong by cellular telephone.

When he got back from the phone call he told us that his family would have to pay 15,000 THB, about $500 USD, for immigrations to come to Chiang Mai from the border.  He told them to stay there at our home in Mae Sai and he would come see them Sunday.  We are going back on Thursday.

While he was doing that, we hung out with the kids and family.  The kids just got back from catching bees.  They take a long bamboo stick and put this sticky stuff in the end.  Then they reach up and touch a bee, it sticks to the stuff on the stick and they bring it down and thread it onto a small piece of Bamboo to dry.  I'm told they are very tasty.

We had some Thai noodle lunch spiced in the Akha manor.  We talked more and Balo had to go back to his work.  We stayed a little longer, taking a few pictures. Yes, that is a real rooster in her hands.

I just had to take one of the little Akha lady and myself just to show size of many Akha folks.

We made it back to Chiang Mai and took a nap. 

After that we had dinner with our friends Brian, Noochy and Wayne. It was a good day and our mission was accomplished.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Segway Tour of Chiang Mai

Yesterday, Daeng rode over on the bus, I should say two buses, from our home in Mae Sai.  After three days it was great to see her as she is the light of my life.

This morning we got up early and had breakfast here at the hotel. It was a pretty good breakfast here at the Top North Hotel.  We had a mixed green salad, fried eggs, sausage, toast, fried noodle, orange juice and coffee.  We ate to much but it was good.

We then walked across the moat to the Segway Gibbon Tour office.  It was about 8:45 AM but they were not open.  We walked back over to the hotel and hung out for about 45 minutes.  I knew the first tour started at 10:00 AM.

Yea, they were open and said we could joint another fellow that was doing the three hour tour and they would just drop us back off after two hours. 

We signed the releases that said they weren't responsible for anything including injuries. We paid them and they taught us how to control the Segway Transporters. That's what I call them.

Making the Segway Transporters work correctly takes a little practice as when you lean forward, it goes forward. When you lean backwards you stop or if stopped you go backwards.

It you move the handle bars right you turn right and move left you turn left.  I had a little problem of what they called "dancing" because if you lean forward and then backwards, than forward, you just rock back and forth.  I got pretty good at dancing.  At least they laughed at me.

They then took us to a large open area by the Thapae Gate to let us practice a little before going into the inter-city.  That was fun and we all got a little confidence although Daeng was still very cautious.

The two guides, the other traveler, Peter along with Daeng and I traveled through the Chiang Mai inter-city.  We visited a few beautiful Buddhist Temples.

Daeng was getting used to the operation of the Segway and was moving right along.  They had set the top speed of about 12 kilometers an hour, that is about 8 miles per hour or twice as fast as a fast walk.

One of the guides let me use his machine and I went faster than I wanted to go so I slowed down and didn't experience the full speed.  They go faster than I want to go .

We stopped at a coffee shop and had some refreshments.  I was glad we stopped because on the machines we are standing up all the time and my legs were a little tired.  I'm glad we only took the two hour tour.  You can see the machines parked in the picture.

While we rested we learned that Peter buys wood and things from Thailand and sells them on the internet.  Here is his website:

After the refreshments we stopped at another Temple and then they dropped us off at the tour office.  When we turned on our helmets they gave us both t-shirts.  They did not have 2XL so I'll give mine to Daeng's brother.

It was a fun trip and Daeng likes to ride on all kinds of things.

We did talk with Tim McGuire, Segway Division Manager, discussing ownership of the Segway machines.  There cost is around $10,000 USD.