adventures in Thailand


Flooding in Pai

It’s been raining for about 36 hours with a few breaks of sunshine. The river has overflowed, flooding guest houses on its banks and a few streets. It’s the worst flood since 2005 when Jake and Mink’s riverside guesthouse was ruined. Now their guesthouse is on high ground about a kilometer or two from the river.

The ducks are loving the rain and the many instant ponds in the grass. Last night I had half a duck egg with dinner–tastes just like chicken egg but richer.

The flowers, birds and butterflies here are wonderful and abundant. On the way into town there are these tall flowers whose stalks look like birds-of-paradise but flowers resemble irises. I’ve seen at least 6 different types of butterflies. The most interesting was black with a couple of big white circles on each wing. The birds provide a musical background constantly.

Jake and I are going to begin work on the Banyan School today. We want to write a great ad/posting for our head teacher. Also, we’ll develop a flyer to attract Thai parents and their kids to our school. So far most of the parents who have expressed interest are couples with one or both parents from America or Europe. We want our school to be truly multicultural–Shan, Thai, and mixed heritage.


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Greetings from Pai, Thailand

At last–in my new home, Pai, Thailand. The drive here from Chiang Mai on Friday was as beautiful as remembered—-up and down and up and down again, over and over, as the air-conditioned van climbed and descended summits in Thailand’s national forest. The three hour, 100 mile drive included a couple hours of breathtaking beauty with amazing vistas and lovely cloud formations.

Pai is as I remembered with one difference: it’s much hotter than during my visit in Nov/Dec 09. Temperature is only around 90-92 but feels like above 100 degrees. Have spent a good part of this afternoon in my bungalow with the fan blowing on me, listening to podcasts of “This American Life” and classical music.

This morning Tierney, an intern with Burmese Refugee Project who’s halfway through her masters at Columbia University’s School of Education, and I went into town for breakfast and shopping. She arrived yesterday for a 10-momth internship. Picked up some groceries, fresh fruit at the open market and a bar of aloe soap.

Ing Doi Guesthouse, where I’m staying until a house is found, is on the outskirts of town (10 minute walk) and quite lovely. It’s owned by my friend Dianna’s son, Jake, and his Thai wife Mink. There’s a pond with 6 ducks (fresh eggs in the a.m.), 6 bungalows, lots of flowers, and a main open-air building with kitchen and dining area.

Other than the firm mattress and personable host and hostess, the best part of Ing Doi is Pansa, Dianna’s grandson who will turn 4 on August 12, the Queen’s birthday. He’s adorable, very bright and 100% bilingual. He loved the books, paints and animal hand puppet washcloth brought from the USA.

One of my big concerns about the move was how I’d cope with the heat here. Am still wondering. Jake suggested frequent showers: two so far today and it’s 5 p.m. Probably one more before bed. Not moving too much helps also. However, once the school opens the afternoon rest periods and naps won’t be possible. Hopefully by the time we open on November 1, it will be slightly cooler and I’ll be more accustomed to the heat.

Your emails and comments mean a lot to me. Please keep them coming.



Day of self-care (or self indulgence?) in Chiang Mai, Thailand

After the best night’s sleep in weeks (8 solid hours!), my first full day in Chiang Mai is being spent recuperating from my 30-hour journey. It’s mid-afternoon and I’ve already had a manicure, pedicure and foot massage, a lovely lunch at my favorite restaurant, BLUE DIAMOND, (thanks, Dianna, for introducing me to it in Nov. ’09), and am scheduled for a back/shoulder/neck massage at 5 pm followed by dinner at 7 pm with 2 Italians and a Canadian who are staying at this wonderful guest house, TRI GONG.

The Banyan School Team has been e-ing frequently as we clarify salary and benefits for our first hire. It feels different working on the project in Thailand instead of in the USA. The excitement of our big undertaking is beginning to emerge. If you haven’t already checked out our website, go to: Then to “our work” and next to “school initiative.”

Tomorrow a few tasks will be tackled: buying a mobile (cell) phone and setting up a calling plan, getting finger paints for Pansa, Dianna’s grandson in Pai, picking up 8 pounds of laundry that’s being washing and dried today, adding at least 5 words to my limited Thai vocabulary.

Cost of living here is incredible. The hour-long massages are $5 as are the manicures and pedicures. A lovely lunch costs $2 – $4. This morning’s breakfast was a papaya smoothie for $1.25 and a baby coconut for $1 (as opposed to the $6 it costs in Woodstock). The guest house is expensive by Chiang Mai standards: $20 which includes a spacious private room with refrigerator, cable TV (with 5-6 English channels), private bathroom, and maid service. Many nice places cost $10-$12 a night.

If my dinner partners are interested and I have the energy, this evening will conclude with a visit to a jazz club that Jake, Dianna’s son, introduced me to last time here. It’s only a 10 minute walk from TRI GONG, near the North Gate.

Your comments or personal emails to me at are always welcomed.


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Greetings from Cairo Airport

Grueling trip–too many hours:  4 hour layover here plus 3 more hours in Bangkok Airport tomorrow and started with 5 hours in Milan’s Malpensa this morning. Had to arrive early in Milan in order to make the best train connection from Bologna. Then, of course, there’s the travel time–train was 1.75 hours, plane to Cairo was 4 hours, plane to Bangkok is 7 or 8 hours (I think), and plane to Chiang Mai is just over an hour. Whew!

Sunday started on a very damp note. As usual, I awoke early – 6 a.m. and went out by 7 to explore the city despite the steady rain. After about 2 hours my L. L. Bean windbreaker (that folds into its own pocket) was rather wet around the shoulders. But it dried out as did I. Weather cleared later and it was sunny.

My last night in Italy was lovely thanks to my friendly approach. There was a young man from Belgium waiting for info. in the line behind me at the Tourist Office. We enjoyed talking with each other so I asked if he wanted to have dinner together. We met at 8 pm and went to a wonderful restaurant that the hotel clerk recommended.

Gosh, there’s not much to write about tonight—am I too tired? Guess it’s not very interesting reading about all these flights anyway. But let me end on a high note—my arrival in Thailand on Tuesday and the beginning of a new career and life. Very exciting! It’s bound to have a lot of ups and downs. But I’m ready for the challenge.






Prejudice & rain in Bologna

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday it was sad leaving Antonio Busiello (check out his website to see his prize-winning photographs from BBC, Natl. Geographic, etc). The good part was that we went to Florence/Firenze together and had time for a coffee with his girl-friend, Beatrice. Also sad to leave Lucia and her amazing mansion.

After a difficult and lengthy time trying to find the B&B in Bologna, I finally met the owner who loved to make jokes. I was very tired and hadn’t eaten any protein for over 7 hours and was grumpy. Turns out that there’s an old synagogue on this street. This was discovered when I asked the owner, Giovanni, why there was an Army jeep with 3 soldiers. He told me about the “church for the Jews.” Then he started to say nasty things about Jews–particularly that no one liked Jews. When he learned that I grew up Jewish and am a secular Jew, he was very embarrassed and said it was a joke. HA! If I hadn’t been so tired and it was so late (after 9 pm) I would have left then. I’m definitely leaving today for my last night in Italy.                Naturally, I awoke early and started exploring the city. Unfortunately it was raining on and off. Got a bit damp but am drying out now. It’s only the 2nd time there’s been any rain during my stay. And it looks like it’s clearing now.  Hope to go to a couple of museums that I’ve never seen here. Leaving Monday a.m. on an 8 a.m. train for Milan and then the train or bus to Malpensa, the international airport. Flight leaves at 2 p.m. to Cairo, 4 hour layover there and then overnight flight to Bangkok where I catch a plane to Chiang Mai about 400 (? or more?) north of Bangkok.

ciao- paola



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Living it up with the rich!

Well, friends, who would have guessed that I’d be staying for 3-4 nights in an amazing 3 story mansion in the middle of Montecatini Terme, a picturesque town with a famous spa just west of Florence. My friend Antonio’s brother (a professional musician) and sister-in-law (who runs a huge company with factories in Italy, India, China & the USA) have welcomed me into their home. The brother is Sardiniia playing at a resort but his wife is sooooo nice. Very down to earth despite the wealth.

I have my own suite with 2 bedrooms (using only one) and a beautiful bathroom on the 3rd floor. Antonio has a one-bedroom suite with bath. There’s also a den area with huge tv and couches. The 2nd floor has the master bedroom and 15 year old son’s bedroom with a HUGE jacuzzi in his bathroom. The first floor has a living room with Steinway baby grand piano, the office, a big kitchen/den and formal dining room. The staff consists of two. There’s lovely original art everywhere, including a 5 foot wide black & white photo that won Antonio a big international award when it was in color.

This evening after dinner I took a brisk walk through town, listening to live music at two outdoor bars. Montecatini Terme is a big tourist spot and very lovely. My third time here but not in 20 years. Never at night. So the decorative lights and fountains on the main streets are particularly enchanting in after dark.

Would love to hear back from anyone who reads this.


Paola (Italian spelling)