adventures in Thailand



Yesterday was our Open House which attracted about 10 families. All went smoothly and feedback was good. None of the guests could have imagined how 4 people were cleaning furiously that morning. Though the place was spotless, that’s for sure.

Living in the school house has ups and downs. The ups are that it is spacious and beautiful. The downs are: 1) no pipe connected under the bathroom sink so a bucket catches the water 2) no internet–supposedly the landlady’s wi-fi should reach but it doesn’t 3) as of last night the drinking water filter system isn’t working…had to buy water at the local “corner store” this a.m.

We’re having a difficult time finding experienced staff. So much so that we might have to delay the opening. Unless we find a Thai national pronto, we can’t open. It’s looking likely that I’ll go to Chiang Rai for the two week training at Khom Loi Development Foundation, starting Oct. 3. Just found out that Damaris, my Foundation friend from Kenya, does the lectures in English and someone translates into Thai. Great news for me.

I’m toying with the idea of checking into Bueng Pai Farm again this weekend for an overnight. Originally I had planned to go to Chiang Mai for a few days. There’s a piano concert there tonight. But decided not to go. Thus, I figure a small portion of the money for that trip could be applied to another visit to “heaven.” Tomorrow morning I’m meeting two friends there for breakfast. It’s less than a 10 minutes walk from my home.

It’s Thursday and I hadn’t had a massage since Saturday. So this a.m. May, my favorite massage therapist, gave me an hour-long (plus) foot massage. Felt great!!!

That’s all for now. A short one for a change.


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A day/night in heaven (Pairadise)

Yes, folks, Pairadise is not misspelled. It’s a play on words–making the name of my town, Pai, part of paradise. This Pairadise is Bueng Pai Farm ( where I spent a good part of the day and am sleeping overnight. It’s a 10-minute walk from the school house. This a.m. I came here for breakfast and was so overwhelmed with its beauty and low price that I booked a bungalow for tonight.

There was extra motivation for the overnight excursion: at 11 pm here (12 noon Boston), I’m supposed to skype with relatives at the annual Goldsmith Reunion. Let’s hope my eyes stay open that long. There’s good internet reception here on my MacBook altho’ the iPad2 was unable to connect.

This place is sooooooooo beautiful: 3 ponds–one for fishing and two others filled with koi, lovely bungalows some of which hang over the ponds, friendly and helpful owners, organic vegetables and fruits growing everywhere (cherry tomatoes, herbs, papayas, passion fruit, bananas, coconuts, long beans and more). The long beans live up to their name–they grow 20-25 inches.

The fishing pond is open to the public for a fee. There were 3-4 families with kids plus a handful of men trying to catch their dinners. A lot of them succeeded–saw lots of fish flapping in nets as they left the property.

There’s a “natural swimming pool” filtered with charcoal, volcanic rock and sand—no chemicals. At one end is a waterfall which was great for massaging my shoulders. Its bottom is black. Will try to send photos from my iPad.

My bungalow’s main room isn’t as spacious as Ing Doi where I stayed for 6 weeks. But it’s a bit more upscale. The owner gave me a two bedroom suite because it has the best internet reception of the 14 bungalows. He’s charging me way less than the list price: only 400 baht, about $13.50. Isn’t that incredible??!!?? I hope to come back several times in October before high season begins and the deals end.

Keeping this one short since two other postings were already published today.


BAAN (house)

Thursday was moving day. All my possessions were packed, put into Jake’s old red truck and moved a couple miles to the 3-bedroom house that will become the Banyan School on November 1. I suggested staying there temporarily to save money for the project.

It’s such a lovely property that it might be difficult to leave. But I don’t think it would be good for the School Director (me) to live where she works. 8 am – 5 pm is plenty of time to spend here, Monday-Friday.

I’m settled in one bedroom for sleeping while another one holds my clothing and possessions and the third remains bare. The eventual plan is to use the three bedrooms as follows: office, guest bedroom and conference/storage room. There’s enough room in the big, paneled living room and a medium-sized foyer to provide spaces for the five different sections needed in a Montessori school.

It was bittersweet leaving Ing Doi, Jake and Mink’s guest house where I’ve been living since July 29. They’re a lovely couple and, of course, it’s been great being around cute, precocious four-year-old Pansa. Plus Mink is an amazing cook so the family style dinners there were always a treat.

We have our first Open House on Weds., 9/21/11 and there’s lots to do before then. Jake and Mink hired two women to clean the place on Sunday and they did a great job. The landlady—a nurse who speaks some English, has 7-year-old twin boys and lives next door—hired people to clean up the grounds. There’s still some debris to remove but overall it looks quite good. The gardens are beautiful. There are three mango trees, a pomegranate tree/bush (?), a lemon or orange tree, and many pots with plants.

The garden even has a Spirit House, a typical fixture in 90%+ of the houses in Thailand. It’s sort of an outdoor shrine where offerings are made. Needless to say, yesterday I lit incense and brought fresh water, fruit and flowers for the “spirits.” Okay, you non-believers…I don’t particularly believe in spirits. However, I am trying to observe Thai customs as part of my multicultural acclimation. For example, the landlady said it was good to move in on Monday or Thursday only. So her wishes and her belief in the spirits were respected.

A couple things need to be fixed at the house. Most pressing is the bathroom sink that has no pipes below it. So there’s a bucket underneath temporarily. Also, last night I didn’t know how to make the shower have hot water. But the landlady showed me this morning so that should be fine tonight.

The kitchen is very spacious—perfect for preparing lunch for 15-20 kids plus staff.  There’s even a big commercial-size vent over the stove. Unfortunately the stove doesn’t work but will be replaced soon.

Meanwhile, I might buy an electric burner or a small microwave to use in my permanent house.


Between the move on Thursday, a motorbike lesson and two business meetings on Friday, I was exhausted and fell asleep at 7:30 pm. Of course that mean I arose 7 hours later (you do the math!). If all goes as planned I’ll go back to sleep for an hour or two as the sun rises.

At 9 am my landlady and her 7 y.o. twin boys are coming over for an English lesson. In theory she’ll teach me Thai. Let’s see what happens.

NEXT DAY— they didn’t come. Typical. Oh well, another time. She’s making it up to me on Sunday—she’s letting me sit in her living room and use the internet. In theory it should carry 100 meters to the school house. Now that she’s put in her password we’ll see if it works later. Plus she just went into town and asked if I’d like papaya salad, a Thai speciality. Said “no” initially and “mai pet” not spicy. She assured me it’s not spicy. Well, now my mouth and lips are on fire!!!!! Luckily she’s eating in the other room so she can’t see me trying to pick out the red pepper flakes.



Let me clarify this headline. Chiang Rai, the city, is okay but not fabulous. However, my day-long meeting with Damaris Chao at the Khom Loy Develpment Foundation here couldn’t have been better. She and I had great chemistry, she taught me so much and the two schools we observed were eye-opening and helpful for our start-up operation.

I now feel confident that we will open the Banyan School/Center on Nov. 1 and will be prepared. Not only did I learn even more than by observing at the Chiang Mai Montessori School in August, but we met with a local carpenter who makes Montessori materials. Our initial order has been placed. A handful of items will be ordered from a company in Bangkok that makes top-quality Montessori products that are too complicated for the local man to make.

[just took a quick break to run to my room for heavy duty mosquito repellent. i’m using the free computer in small guesthouse lobby rather than my iPad. too difficult to write at length on iPad. keyboard is unbelievably sensitive.]

OK–back to my day at Khom Loy…The most difficult part of the day was getting there. The man on duty at the guesthouse spoke little English. He told me he would order a tuk-tuk for 8 a.m. so I could arrive at 8:30. But then the driver wasn’t available—which wasn’t completely clear. At 8 a.m. the owner, who lives across the street and speaks good English, came over. She wrote down the name and directions in Thai–the page that had been downloaded from its website was in English only. Anyway, I got there at 8:25 at the cost of 80 baht–under $3 for about a 15-20 minute ride.

We spent the first 45 minutes talking at the teacher training center at Khom Loy. Then a teacher/trainer, Damaris and I headed off in a new, big pick-up truck. That vehicle was necessary because the Hill Tribe villages are very isolated and difficult, bumpy, pothole filled packed dirts roads lead to them.

The first school was in an Ahka village. It was for 18 month olds to 3 year olds. It was amazing to see how well behaved these kids are and how much they are learning. Next, we drove to a government (public) school to observe kindergarten, 3-6 year olds as prescribed in the Montessori method. Again there was a teacher/trainer along with the regular classroom teacher. The teacher;/trainer was in her last 2 weeks of a year-long residency at the school.

The govt. teacher, who looked about 50, said that when she started learning and implementing the Montessori approach, she was very discouraged and couldn’t figure out why there was a need to change. However, after about 4 months she realized how much her students had improved: they were able to concentrate, focus, and discipline themselves which was not the case previously. She explained that before this method, there were 2-3 children whom she could work with to help them with the skills. The remainder had “free time” almost the entire school day. Lots of clay, play-dough and watching videos time. So different now!

One of the highlights of the day was my meeting with Damaris after lunch. We reviewed the Montessori catalog that I had downloaded from a Thai company and decided what to order. Then she phoned the local carpenter who makes Montessori materials. He came over and took an order for 80% of what we’ll need by November 1. About 10% will be ordered from the more expensive catalog. The remainder will be purchased locally at the big market in Chiang Mai. Those latter purchases have already begun. Visited the Wawarot Market on Sunday and bought many ceramic items. Will return to the same stand this afternoon and purchase even more.

Originally I had booked a return VIP bus to CM at 5 p.m. But went to the bus station in CR and changed it to 9 a.m. My sightseeing here has been limited to a beautiful WAT (Temple) at the end of our block and the famous gold-leaf Clock Tower at the opposite end of our block. At the former I purchased flowers and incense for an offering—the first time on this trip. In the past I’ve usually made offerings when visiting Wats.

Guess that’s all for now sine my work count is nearing 700. Readers have told me that they prefer “short and sweet.” [Actually those are my words in quotes but it’s an interpretation of your feedback.]

Whoops, forgot to mention the Night Market and shopping–guess this’ll go to 900 words.

There’s a good Night Market here–not as big or famous as Chiang Mai’s but decent. Best part is that it offers free entertainment. First night I was too early to see the traditional Thai dancing. However, last night I enjoyed that plus a wonderful trio–2 men, 1 woman who sang and played a Thai string instrument. The two men were on guitar and one vocalized.

A half-full moon rose over the stage. Let me know if you want a photo from my iPad. Also took amazing photos of the food booths. Of special appeal were the beautiful fish platters and — ready for this????? — the two stands that sold four varieties of fried insects: silk worms, grasshoppers (?), crickets and bullys (whatever that is). I plan to taste them eventually—but have to work up my courage.

Among my purchases were an inexpensive watch, two handmade eyeglass cases with needlework by Ahka Hill Tribe women, and a few other things.

Now, this is exactly 900 words.




FOUND IT: Paula: 163/ Ants: 4 ONE MONTH HERE



It’s my one month anniversary of arriving in Thailand. Decided to celebrate with what else but a massage. That’s what I did on my first night in this country also.

As for the above score, it’s approximate, and covers only 24 hours. Smashed a a big load of the tiny biting ants yesterday morning and another large amount later that day. However, 4 got away. My knowledge is increasing: it’s now possible to feel the difference between a mosquito bite and a nasty tiny ant bite (which hurts more). Another new learning experience is remembering to check the pillows an sheets for tiny ants before settling in under the mosquito net. Yesterday afternoon, just as I reached a deep state of relaxation, nearly asleep, a lousy @#Q&@^ ant bit the middle of my back. That sure got my attention!

Now for the good news…this morning’s observation at Pansa’s public preschool was great fun. Learned a lot also—i.e. as the 2-3-4 year olds sing counting and alphabet songs it helps me master (????) the Thai language. Good timing. Last night I reviewed numbers one through five for the first time. The lesson was reinforced at preschool.

No wonder the parents here want a top-notich school. There are FORTY kids, ages 2-3-4, and only 2 teachers plus an assistant who helps the really young ones, i.e. helping them eat lunch, changing their clothing when they pee—seems like there are no diapers for toddlers. No underwear either. Guess it’s better for the environment. Haven’t observed any infants yet so am not sure what they wear–my guess is cloth diapers, not disposable ones, or no diapers at all—just lots of change of clothing.

A couple days ago I looked at two possible rental houses. One was really great–but a bit too big and slightly too expensive. About $225 a month for 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, huge living room an really big kitchen, completely furnished, wi-fi, cable tv an more!!! Can you imagine the rent for that in the Woodstock, Kingston, Westchester or Montgomery County?

The second house helped me decide on certain criteria: 1) guest bedroom 2) screens on windows 3) THE CLINCHER–Western toilet. The second house had a “squatting” bathroom. Somehow it was hard to imagine a visiting 70-year-old using it…to say nothing of me in the middle of the night.


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thx for comments and signing up

It means so much to me when someone posts a comment. Thanks, Dave, for your most recent one. Also, you subscribed which really puts a smile on my face. I’ve done the same for your very funny blog.
Thx to Karen, Jane, Dianna, Lori, Nan, Kathy, Pat and a couple other subscribers.
Next post will be from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai where I head today, Sunday, through Weds. or Thurs. Business trip to observe at the Khom Loy Development Foundation and start buying materials for the school.
BIG NEWS: Moving into my temporary lodgings (at the Banyan School) at the end of this week. HURRAH.


My New Home and Fabulous School Building

Yesterday, Sept. 1, we had access to our school building (a 3 bedroom house) and my temporary home until mid-late October, depending on when my “almost ideal” rental home is located. Jake & Mink did an amazing job finding what seems to be the perfect place to start The Banyan Center. Yes, we might avoid using the word School until our official opening in May due to govt. regulations.

My plans are to move in there upon my return from Chiang Mai (Sun/Mon) and Chiang Rai (CR – Mon. night-Weds. a.m.) and maybe a couple days in Laos. The CM part is merely to make the connection to CR. Altho’ Pai & CR are both in northern Thailand, one is in the Western part and the other more central/Eastern. There are mountains in between and no passable roads. It’s not even possible to fly there from Pai. One must take the “puddle jumper” to CM and then another small plane to CR. More on CR later.

Back to the school building…It’s well-maintained, has lovely wood floors and wood paneling in many rooms, and painted walls in the 3 bedrooms and large kitchen. There are numerous fruit trees–at least 3 mango, lemon, pomegranate and a couple others. The landlady, a nurse, speaks good English and lives next door. She’s offered to share her wi-fi with us which is great.

Eventually one bedroom will be the Banyan’s office, another a guest room, and the third a Montessori learning center. Montessori method has very specific areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, etc. The living room is very large and unobstructed so 2-3 of the 5 prescribed centers will go there. The kitchen can easily be modified to accommodate our initial enrollment of 15-20 children, ages 3-6. Children will eat outside in an area with roof and partial sides.

Now back to my upcoming trip. The reason for Chiang Rai (CR) is to spend a day at the Khom Loy Development Foundation which is spearheading Montessori education in Thailand. Peter and Celina, the two NYC professors on the Banyan Team, visited there last February. They have a 6 month Montessori training program for Thai teachers from the area’s public schools. I think there are 4 private Mont. Schools plus some public ones. Jake’s British brother-in-law who is married to Mink’s sister moved there 3 years ago when his oldest child turned 4. We hope that with the creation of The Banyan Center/School, people will COME to Pai, not LEAVE it when they’re seeking a good education for their children.

Chiang Rai is fairly close to the Laos (pronounced without the S here and in Laos) border. Was only there in ’99 for a half hour—an 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. mini-van tour to the Golden Triangle. We also spent an hour in Burma.  Haven’t had time to research a 2-3 stay there. Might or might not go.

On Tuesday I took my first yoga class in two months. Excellent instructor who will be doing 5-day yoga retreats at Ing Doi during high season. Then yesterday I had a 1.5 hr. private session. Needless to say, a few muscles were used that hadn’t been engaged in a couple of months. To counteract the potential aches, I had an oil massage that evening. It was so relaxing and I was so tired from the 2 hour open class that I slept through at least half of the hour massage. Then was asleep by 9:30 p.m. Slept great!

Hope you sleep well also—sweet dreams.