adventures in Thailand


HONESTY IN CHIANG MAI, written May 18, 2012

Wednesday I awoke quite early so went to  Wawarot Market about 6:30 a.m.  According to guidebooks it opens at 5 a.m.  Well, not really. Most of the food vendors we open but many of the other stalls and stores were not.

Wawarot is where are the Thais shop.It is HUGE. Perhaps equal to 9 or 10 square city blocks or more. Many store owners in Pai and other small towns shop there for their goods.

I enjoyed wandering around, buying some fruit, two large colorful pillows for my living room and an iced cappuccino. Near the last establishment my small change purse (which is all I brought with me) must have dropped. About five minutes later I realized that it was missing. Retracing my steps proved fruitless.

I wound up  back at the pillow vendor and an Indian merchant overheard me trying to explain my situation in very broken Thai. he jumped right in and translated.Then he offered me 20 baht (65 cents) for my ride home. I thanked him profusely but explained that my preference  would be to return the two pillow and get mymoney refunded ($4). He was doubtful but graciously translated. To our surprise the merchant agreed and I was suddenly rich with 120 baht  ($4) in my pocket.

So I headed back to the guesthouse where 1000 baht awaited me in my big purse, dismayed that I had lost the purse with  nearly that much in it. At the entrance the owner greeted me with news that someone had found the purse and phoned. In it were my room key, a hotel business card and a photocopy of my passport.

Needless to say I was overjoyed. “Kwam Su, Kwam Su,” ( happy, happy) I exclaimed. After catching my breath I returned to Wawarot, tracked down the vendor-and retrieved my purse. Everything was still in it. I offered the kind woman 100 baht but she refused.

My first stop after that was back to the pillow vendor to re-purchase the two pillows. Then I visited a fabric stop that had been closed earlier. Going there was the main reason for my excursion. I bought two different cotton fabrics so my local dressmaker can make a cool, open neck blouse and a dress for me.

ELECTRICITY seems to go off every afternoon.Sometimes for a minute and other times for an hour. Sometimes I think it is due to thunder storms.

MATTRESS was delivered yesterday from Jake and Mink (owners of Ing Doi Guesthouse where I stayed for 7 weeks at beginning of trip). They ordered it from BKK. Very nice. Sure beats the three, three-inch by six-foot pads that comprised my previous mattress. The choice was between the padded bed or the super hard coconut husk mattress as I had in the school house.

———–As often happens, posting two blogs on the same day.




TOO DARN HOT(written May 14)

Nearly 93 degrees in my bedroom at 8 pm is too darn hot, don’t you agree? The coolness of last Sunday after the rain is long gone. April and May are the hottest months so I am hopeful that June won’t be as hot. Doubt I will ever get used to it.

On a happier note, the last five days with Jack and Taylor have been great. Highlights included: Thursday night in CM we went to a very tourist-oriented but lovely dinner featuring live music and a large dance troupe in fabulous costumes doing about eight different pieces, Saturday hiring a car and driver in CM  for four hours and going to Doi Suithep, a beautiful mountaintop temple on the outskirts of the city, Sunday night’s private cooking lesson in Pai for the three of us with a great chef who worked for 14 years at CM’s famous Oriental Hotel.

They left for CM at 4:30 today, Monday. Unfortunately I have to go to CM tomorrow for one night. Peter, the who co-founded the school, asked me to greet and accompany five U of Penn Wharton business school volunteers from CM airport to Pai. They are here for three weeks or so to help refine our business plan,set up computer systems, etc. Peter wrote a grant and we were one of eight NGOs out of 22 applicants to be selected worldwide. There is no way that I am going to take a three hour van ride to CM on the same day as returning. That means that by Weds. evening I will have taken the van trip five times in 11 days. Luckily it costs less than $6 one way. Hope to stay put for a while after this trip.

I am trying a new guesthouse this time. Upon my arrival for 3 nights and again last week for one night I stayed at my favorite place, Tri Gong. Nice spacious room with cable tv,AC, fridge, private hot shower and the most gracious host for $20. The second night last week I decided to economize and stayed around the corner for $12.  Clean, AC but definitely a step down. Tomorrow I’ll try a nearby new place that is just under $15.

If you stay at a four or five star big hotel you can spend $150 and up. In CM Jack and Taylor paid $37 including buffet breakfast for a lovely boutique hotel with swimming pool. In Pai we decided that my offer of hospitality was not a wise way to go since there is no AC. They loved the small hotel on the Pai River that I recommended. It was only $23 a night. Thailand sure is inexpensive!

LATER- Thursday, May 17
On the subject of hotels…the Britannia where I stayed was lovely. No fridge but otherwise all the amenities of Tri Gong for only $13. Plus a better TV that included BBC which TriGong doesn’t have.

Weds. afternoon I enjoyed the gorgeous pool at Jack and Taylor’s hotel. There was a young couple at the pool. Turns out the fancy hotel has a new “sister” hotel nearly next door that caters to frugal travelers like me. They were staying there. For $1.70 you can get a pool pass good for three days. Guess where I will probably stay next time?

The Wharton students were very excited when I found them at the CM airport. There are five undergrads, only one will be a senior next year. Two will be here for two weeks and remainder for three weeks. A very international group: one South Korean, one from Hong Kong, one from China but her family Ives in South Africa, One American whose parents are Nigerian, and one plain old American from Westchester Cty, NY.

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Although I really love living here, the insects are the worst part of life here. It was so great to have two months free of insect bites in the USA.

A mosquito got me the first night in Chiang Mai, CM. Now there are several more bites of that variety. But worst of all, tonight my left forearm has broken out in little bites. Do not think they’re from mosquitos. Looks more like flea bites. But I do not think not think there are fleas in the house. Who knows? Will go to the pharmacy tomorrow and ask them to identify the culprits. Need to buy more anti-itch cream.

Meanwhile I have four insect specimens for our school’s nature section in our Cultural area: a beetle, a small moth and two unidentified bugs. Tonight there was an infestation of some flying insect…no idea what it is/was. I killed about a dozen of them. as long as they don’t bite, I don’t mind that much. LATER: Spoke with Dianna who thinks they are related to termites–agree, they look similar to the swarming kind we get in the USA this time of year. But MUCH larger.

On the subject of creatures….there might be a dead large size kitten outside my house. I thought it was just sick and resting. but when I got back from town it wasn’t moving at all. In the a.m. I will look again. If it is dead maybe the man next door will dispose of it. YUCK! LATER: It was gone the next morning as Dianna predicted–probably eaten by feral dogs.

Speaking of kittens…I hope to get a live one soon. My friend’s cat had four kittens and one was supposed to go to me. But she got fed up with them and brought them to the daily market to giveaway. It will be easy to find another no doubt. Will keep you posted on what happens on the pet front.

This is my second blog post since my return and no mention of massage yet. So get ready  to be jealous. Am on Day #4 for consecutive massages. In CM, hour back/shoulder, 1.5 hour Thai massage the next day, first night in Pai a massage at my house–1/2 hour foot followed by one hour back/shoulder and today in town a half hour working on my right shoulder joint which has been achy on/off for the past six weeks. Massage is (one of) the best things of living here. Will return to normal twice weekly schedule soon.

As often happens, two posts consecutively. Might be a while until the next one.


BACK AT HOME (written Sunday)

Yes, HOME AT LAST, that’s what it feels like to be back in Pai.
Truthfully I wasn’t sure if it would feel like this to me but it does. I definitely love it here.

My trip back here went very smoothly and three nights/two days of relaxation in Chiang Mai were great. My lesson  was learned on my trip East two months ago—- take it easy to recover from jet lag. Do not bop around as I did. Perhaps you recall that in my first 10 days I slept in four different places and traveled from NYC to Boston to NYC to Woodstock. And you remember the next stop, right? KINGSTON HOSPITAL for eight nights.

Feeling fine now. Cough has been gone for 7 weeks and energy is about normal. Smoke is gone from Pai and it rained overnight.
The rain is much needed–heard on the news on TV that Thailand is in a drought. Best part of rain is that it cooled down the temps.I am sure it will get hot again later but it is pleasant now and the house–which felt like a steam bath yesterday afternoon–has cooled off. I went to sleep in a tank top, changed to t-shirt and 2 a.m. and put on a long sleeve shirt at 8 a.m. Progress in the right direction.

The mango orchard behind my house has already given up most of its fruit. Drats! I was hoping to look out the bedroom window and see hundreds of yellow mangos hanging from trees. But they are still in season and very inexpensive. Have had mango shakes two or three times already.

However on the side of the house there is a fruit tree laden with red treasures. Do not know its name but we have one at the school and I have tasted the fruit. Good but not phenomenal. Will report back how these taste and what it is called. LATER:  its name sounds kind of like shampoo. Very moist but bland taste.

Overall the trip to the USA was good if you remove the eight day hospital stay. Actually that wasn’t bad either because I got great medical care and saw how much my friends and family cared for me. Guess how much one night in a shared room in the hospital costs. $3,100! My hospital bill ( not including doctors) was nearly $39,000! Is the US healthcare system screwed up or what?

Medicare covers everything but $1350, a flat rate for  to 60 days.  My medical team included ER doc, two internists, two infectious disease docs, and a pulmonologist.  The duplicate docs were because of weekend coverage which differed. Each dr. bills separately and Medicare covers a portion of it. Bills are trickling in.

So now that I am back and not officially school director, how will my time be spent? Hmmmm, good question. I plan to volunteer at Banyan Montessori Center (our new and improved name), travel a lot, relax, read and go to the swimming pool a lot. It will be interesting to see if this more relaxed lifestyle is fulfilling enough for me to remain in Pai which I expect it will be.

As for the school,when Beth the lead teacher and Montessori person returns from CM on Monday, I imagine she’ll have some things for me to do to prepare for our opening on May 14. Once school is underway I hope to coordinate a monthly field trip and perhaps help on special projects. I also volunteered to help make Montessori classroom materials, a constant job. The standard big stuff (pink tower,brown stairs, cylinder blocks) are all made professionally by a woodworker or in a factory. But every week there is new material to be made. As students express interest in different subjects we customize the learning tools. That involves going to town to the Internet cafe,downloading photos or illustrations, cutting them, mounting and pasting them, laminating them, and cutting them again. Very time consuming. Officially I am board director and the “public face” of the school.

The big highlight in the next couple of weeks is that my friends Jack and Taylor from NYC are in BKK now at a Rotary convention and will be in CM next week and then come to Pai. My plan is to go to CM on Thursday and spend two nights there with them. Then we will travel together to Pai for Saturday and Sunday nights and most of Monday.  Next I will return to CM with them on Monday afternoon and spend two nights there. We will do some touring together–places I haven’t seen yet or want to revisit.

Jack and Taylor are my first two visitors….hurrah! They are a lovely couple whom I’ve known for decades. Jack is a retired dentist and amazing amateur violinist/violist. We met in 1983 when a mutual cellist friend wanted me to meet “this nice Jewish dentist.” So I learned the Mozart horn quintet for four strings and horn. Never clicked romantically but became good friends. The most amazing part of their marriage, in my opinion, is that Jack was over 70 when he married for the first time!

They were my gracious hosts in Greenwich Village for many nights during this recent trip. It makes me happy to reciprocate in Pai. Besides staying in my home, I have been very involved in helping them plan the Thai and Vietnam part of the trip. I think they are very happy that I will be with them in CM since I know the city quite well.

Two more guests are on the horizon. Antonio, my Italian photographer friend whom I met in Thailand 2.5 years ago, hopes to come in late October or early November for a long stay. He wants to do a photojournalism story about Burmese refugees. We are hoping that he and his girlfriend will spend some time at the beach and then she will return to work in Florence while he remains for a month or so.

Then in late November a friend’s mother- in-law is coming with a friend of hers.  If all goes as planned they will be in CM for the full moon festival in late November, Loi Krathong, and I will join them there. Then they will come to Pai for two nights.

Hopefully they will be the first of many visitors. HINT, HINT. My itinerary is to be in the area until October 1 when I return to the USA for medical followup, see family and friends and enjoy fall foliage. Will return by Nov. 1 at the latest and remain until the end of January. Not sure what will happen then, just know that I am “outta here” when the burning season begins again. Might go to India or southern Thailand beach area for a couple of months.Both are cheap and warm. When it warms up in the USA will visit there. But who knows that will actually happen? Certainly not me!

For those of you whom I saw in the USA, it was great. For those of you I missed (Ruth, Patty and Bernadette especially), sorry.  Thanks to all of you for your love and support when I was sick.

LATER…Bueng Pai Farm closed until May 20. BUMMER.

Looking forward to hearing from you.