paulathai

adventures in Thailand


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Rip-off in CM: Tricycle Saga and more

TRICYCLE  Some of you might know that in mid-November I bought an adult tricycle in Chiang Mai and paid for it in full. In December when the trucking company went to pick it up the shop owner said it had already been picked up in September (unlikely since it wasn’t purchased until November).

This has been an ongoing saga filled with frustration. Upon my return to Thailand in early May I visited the bike shop and explained the problem. Came back the following week with the receipt and Adam, the guest house owner where I stay who translated. The owner said I had to have an original receipt, mine was only a photocopy. Of course the trucking company had lost the receipt from 7 months ago.

So Wednesday afternoon I went back to the shop and a nice young woman (much nicer than the owner) listened to my problem again. She phoned the owner who maintained that without an original receipt there could be no proper proof. Thus, I went to the tourist police.

The Tourist Police visit was equally frustrating although they were very nice and there was a terrific translator. At first they said “tough luck” using more polite words. Then after about 45 minutes the police officer called the bike shop owner. He came back saying that the owner remembered ordering it for me and then it was picked up. LIE #2: there was a white trike on display which I purchased, they adjusted the seat, added lights, reflectors, etc.  (LIE #1 was that it had been picked up.)

Bottom line per police: I must show up at the shop with the truck driver and Mink, my friend in Pai, who contracted the trucking company. The chances of us all being in CM at the same time are fairly miniscule. So, most likely, I’m out nearly $200. It really irritates me since if I were Thai and not falang (Westerner) I doubt this would happen.

iPad adventure was equally frustrating. I took my iPad with the shattered screen to the Apple Store and found out they couldn’t fix it. However, the sales clerk did tell me at the other, larger mall there’s a non-authorized Mac place that might fix it. Let’s hope so. Will go there next week on my way to Chiang Rai.

Chiang Rai is on my schedule because by July 30 I must leave and re-enter Thailand on a “visa run.” Every three months this occurs even though my visa is good for a year. My tentative plans are to take an early morning mini-bus from Pai to CM, spend 4-5 hours there, and then catch the big bus to Chiang Rai. I’m hoping that breaking up the trip in two segments will make it more bearable. Each bus segment is around 3 hours long.

Then one night at a guesthouse in CR where I’ve stayed previously. Next a morning bus to Mae Sai, the Thai border town with Burma, which takes about 1.5 hours. Will spend a couple of hours in Burma and return to CR where the excitement begins. On Monday-Tuesday nights, July 30-31, I’ll stay at an Akha (hill tribe) village about 20 miles outside of CR. My recent CouchSurfing guests stayed there and loved it. Their photos of a nearby waterfall were spectacular. If I like it, maybe I’ll stay a third night.  No doubt there’ll be a future blog entry about the Akha village.

Well, friends, this is the fourth blog in July–a new record. Feedback is welcomed.

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RATS, CATS and ANTS (more biology lessons)

RATS – Well, make that singular, RAT. Nine nights ago I walked into the kitchen around midnight and was greeted by a small rat scurrying around. Luckily the rat disappeared immediatey. But I definitely shrieked–luckily not loud enough to wake the CouchSurfer couple in the bedroom.

Haven’t seen it again and have taken several defensive steps. First, I no longer leave any compost stuff in the sink. Cereal box and fruit now sits on top of fridge. (Julian, the CSer) says they can’t climb up there–not sure if it’s true but no sign of it again.) Also now put compostable material in a covered trash bin instead of open one.

It’s normal to have/see rats in this area. But, luckily, so far none had entered into my living quarters. I had seen a few in Chiang Mai eating garbage one night.

CATS  My biggest/best defensive move is “adopting” two feral cats, a mother/daughter of about 8 months old. (Julian is a cat expert and gave me good info. and started the taming process.) There are loads of cats and dogs without owners throughout Pai. The two I’ve adopted are calico. Though I had hoped to make the daughter “my cat” the mother is less afraid and will probably become my indoor/outdoor cat. First I want to take her to the vet to be sure she doesn’t have fleas and get her neutered. With my luck, the vet will tell me she’s already pregnant. Hope not! So far they stay outside and are fed under the roof that extends from my house to and beyond m guest house.

ANTS are a pain in the you-know-where but are a fact of life here. I’m used to seeing tiny ones in the kitchen, porch, and other spots (i.e. bed!). But Sunday before last Brianne, half of the CS couple, went out the side door to feed the cats. She came screaming in, hopping up and down and went right to the bathroom to use the shower hose. I thought the cats had scratched her. No–she had stepped in a bunch of ants. There were loads of them on the kitchen floor also–not the normal tiny ones but somewhat bigger (but not the biggest ones I’ve seen). We both put on shoes which are usually not worn in the house.

Anyway, the next morning I awoke first (of course) and went into the kitchen which was infested with these darn little buggers. No exaggeration, there were 100s of ants on the kitchen counter. YIKES. Smashed as many as I could, swept them into the sink, wiped them off the counter, stomped on the ones on the floor. Then I took everything off the counter—lots of stuff: about 8 canisters, spices, peanut butter, noodles, vinegar, oil, soy sauce and so forth. Then I cleaned the counter thoroughly and sprayed it with vinegar. That afternoon went on the internet for ant prevention ideas. So that evening there were lines of cinnamon and Johnson’s baby powder all along the edges of the counter and sink. It helped somewhat but I don’t think the ants read the same article-not all of them knew they didn’t like those substances.

Meanwhile I tackled their nests. Followed the columns of marching ants outside and discovered a big area behind the house with 8 or 10 holes from which they emerged. Used crevice spray in there (though I don’t like to use the chemicals and avoided them completely in the kitchen). The next day Run, owner of Bueng Pai Farm, told me to pour boiling water down the ant hills/holes. So when I discovered another huge ant colony area on the other side of the house near the edge of the mango orchard, the electric tea pot became my latest aid. Instead of making tea the water became a fatal weapon. Happy to report we’re back to normal ant quantities, not an infestation.

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REVISED-CouchSurfing – Fantastic

This post that just went out was a bit messed up in order of paragraphs. Don’t know why. This one is in correct order but spacing is weird. Keep reading until you get to ### even though spacing looks like it stopped.

With apologies from your techno-challenged blogger, PaulaThai.

COUCHSURFING – Fantastic

Have you ever heard of CouchSurfing? It’s a 13 year old international non-profit that links people with a couch (bed) to share with people who need a place to stay. This past summer in Bologna I spent one night with a CS host who is a friend of Katia. It wasn’t an official CS visit but it introduced me to the concept. Helena raved about her experience hosting people from all around the world.

So in March, while bored in the hospital, I went to http://www.couchsurfing.org and registered. About two weeks ago I activated my account, indicating that I could host. I thought there would be a lot of requests since Pai is a tourist destination, especially for young travelers. Every week I get at least three requests. Most of them I decline because it would be overwhelming. My thought is to limit visitors to two times a month, three nights maximum, and not accept travelers under the age of 25.

My first CSers arrived last Saturday evening and stayed four nights instead of the original three. What a lovely couple–if they’re all like that it will be a fabulous experience. Julian (38, British) and Brianne (26, Canadian) were  in week seven of a two year overland trip from Singapore to England. Problem was that Julian arrived ill–not only food poisoning that started the night before but 20 miles outside of Pai a wasp got into his motorbike helmet and stung his ear. Definitely not in good shape. He spent all day Sunday in bed with a few brief excursions to the porch to read. That’s why they stayed an extra day.

A fascinating couple–he’s an ice road truck driver, hauling fuel and equipment above the Arctic Circle in the NW Territories of Canada for two months in the winter. He’s also a photographer of professional quality. His pictures are amazing. They are both outdoor adventurers–rock climbing, snow boarding, skiing, etc.

Thus they didn’t begin sightseeing until Monday afternoon. Tuesday I made arrangements for them to visit a Karen (hill tribe) village about 2.5 hours north of here. An Australian woman had given me the name of a man in the village where she had stayed for two nights. It’s 100% non-tourist, just word of mouth to visit or stay. Julian and Brianne LOVED the excursion. Brianne wrote on Facebook that it was the best day of the trip so far. Also they liked Pai better than any place visited in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand so far. I plan to make a day trip there with Nuey, the teacher I recruited from Bangkok. It should be an exciting drive on her motorbike.

Tomorrow I host a young man from Lichtenstein for two nights. Turned down: Chinese woman, Korean woman, Danish couple, Dutch/Spanish couple, Italian couple. The last three booked into Bueng Pai Farm, BPF, instead. So we’re five minutes away and can hang out together. The Danish couple arrived two days and are great. However, the woman got deathly ill yesterday and is in the Pai hospital, diagnosed with “an infection.” I’ve suggested they go to Chiang Mai tomorrow and go to a real hospital. We had a nice hour-long visit on the their arrival day before she became sick. Today the man and I got together for tea at BPF. The Dutch/Spanish couple arrives tonight, Sunday, and we’ll have lunch together in town, maybe even breakfast at BPF. As you can imagine, it disappoints me to turn down the Italian couple (two men) but it’s too overwhelming to have too many guests.

Lots of other stuff to write about but don’t want to strain my hands. My right hand is acting up from too much keyboarding. So have tried not to type too much for the past couple of days. Have had two massages in the past week to work on the area but it’s still tender. Will try to do another blog post tomorrow or the day after. TO COME: rats & cats, ants (again), rice saga #3.

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Rice Saga #2 – Mystery Solved

MYSTERY SOLVED      Ready for the latest report? Saw something very interesting today that resolved a question I’d had about the rice planting.

As I recalled from last year’s rice crop, it was planted in little groups (10-12 stalks) clustered together with lots of space in between each clump. But the rice that was planted in May was simply rice grains scattered all over the wet paddies. The rice grew like a bright green lawn. I kept wondering about that—had my memory failed me? Or maybe they cut down the in-between areas at some point to create rows with lots of space between them.

Today the mystery was solved. This morning I heard lots of female voices and looked out from my front porch to the rice paddies across the street. There were at least a dozen women working. They wore knee-high black rubber boots and cone-shaped woven grass hats that remind me of Vietnamese or Chinese ones.

The small paddy with the “carpet” of stalks had disappeared. They had been removed. The stalks from there were grouped into clusters of 10-12, tied with a string (?) at the bottom and put into a very large woven basket. Then the group moved into the nearby paddies and started planting the groups in long, even rows.

They worked together with one of the of women’s son, who looked about six years old, handing out the strung-up clusters as needed. He stood on the bank while the others were nearly knee-deep in water.  The groupings were placed about 15 inches apart in width and about 10 inches in depth. When they completed one paddy they moved on to the next. 

The dozen paddies are separated with earth “walls” about two or three feet wide that rise a couple feet higher than the water level.  I assume the barriers make the flooding easier to control. Maybe someday I’ll google RICE HARVEST and give you a full report or at least a link. 

The paddies on the side of my house are still flooded except for the two patches of solid grass-like rice. When the stalks get about 15 inches tall, I assume the voices of a dozen women will alert me that the new planting has begun. 

Twice in Thailand I’ve seen rice growing and also in Vietnam in ’99. But have never experienced the complete process. It’s fascinating to watch—at least for this “farang” (Westerner). [NOTE: I’m becoming more Thai because instead of saying faRang I now say faLang as they do. Don’t know why the transliteration is farang when they pronounce Rs in the middle of a word as L. Although I’ll admit my vocabulary isn’t growing much—not working on it.]

This morning I went out and asked if it was okay to take photos. If my soon-arriving CouchSurfing guests are more savvy than I, maybe they can help me figure out how to include some of the pictures on the blog.

OTHER STUFF–MISCELLANEOUS

As I write this I’m standing up. My new twist–two hours old. There was a report on NPR last week about how much healthier it is to stand rather than sit. I’d heard that before but it was interesting hearing interviews with a couple people who stood at work instead of sat at their desks. This afternoon I had a FABULOUS 1.5 hour back/shoulder/neck/arm massage. It seemed nuts to come back and recline on my (sort of) couch as I used the laptop. Thought it would un-do all the good of the massage. It sure would be nice to have a Western-style recliner here.

So here I stand. Must admit in the last few minutes there’s a bit of discomfort in my left lumbar region. (Chronic area for discomfort.) But, hopefully, it will pass. My feet feel fine. Let’s see if I can keep up this standing routine and if it helps me. Meanwhile, I MUST start stretching or doing yoga and try not to spend so much time at the keyboard. Both are difficult.

Next blog will be about my CouchSurfing guests. They were due here a couple hours ago but sent an email that they got a late start. They rented a motorbike in Chiang Mai, CM, and are driving up here. Good luck! 762 curves. Can’t wait to hear what they thought of the drive. Shouldn’t be a problem–the man is an “ice truck driver” in northern Canada. No ice here though.

INSECTS AND GECKOS  Well, the insects persist. Especially ants now. Unlike American ones who go after food and sugar, these don’t seem interested in that. They like dead insects and dead frogs…and the inside and screen of my laptop. The other morning as I sat on the toilet I noticed a dead insect attached to the high wall with ants clustered around it. Instead of knocking it down, I left it. Next time I visited the bathroom there was no sign of the dead creature or the ants. Obviously, they’d moved on to another tasty treat.

Even crazier than the dead insect was a little frog. For a couple weeks in May there were dead frogs on my front porch from time to time. Escapees from the flooded rice paddies no doubt. One day there was one in the corner. So instead of sweeping it away I left it to see if the ants would consume it completely. Sure enough–a few hours later, no trace!

As for GECKOS, they have taken up full-time residence. In January-February one or sometimes two would appear in the evening. But now there are at least three or four every night. Usually on the high wall (ceilings are very high here, maybe 12 feet) or else on the ceiling. They love to spend time on the living room light fixture—long florescent  (how do you spell that?) bulb. Didn’t take me long to figure out why—insects are attracted to light, right? Good hunting area.

They are also on the outside of my screens. Not a night goes by without one or two visiting me as I read in bed before going to sleep. Two times–a few weeks ago–there were fireflies on the screen which was fun to see.

As a final note on geckos, last night as I lay on the couch reading there were TWO geckos on the screen (outside, thank goodness) right next to the couch. Seems to me they were mating. Can’t figure out why they would be on top of each other if not for that. Saw that once before up on the light fixture—took me a long time to figure it out. It’s quite high and they’re not too big. Looked like a large gecko with six or eight legs at first.

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Cacophony of Insects

You know how loud the cicadas are in the Woodstock area in the summer? Well, multiply that by at least 10 or 20 and you can imagine what it sounds like here at night. Not sure what kind of insects they are or where they are, but gosh it sure is loud. If you want to hear it, let me know and I’ll try to send a short video from iPad with sound. There’s no picture because it’s dark but the chirping (?) is there, full-force. It sounds a bit like radio static. I wonder if it has something to do with the planting of the rice paddies. There’s an awful lot of water around my house right now—most of the paddies nearby aren’t planted yet. They’re just flooded.

Meanwhile, those rice fields that are planted are the most brilliant green I’ve ever seen. Absolutely amazing. It’s the young rice that seems brightest. Almost a yellow/green. Then as it gets taller, it turns into a an emerald green. It’ll be fun watching the changes in the rice paddies from beginning to end.

Mangos (mangoes?) are still in season and will be for another couple of months, I think. My landlady came by with another two mangos a couple days ago. Nothing like fresh from the tree. Meanwhile, they can be purchased in town for about 25-30 cents a pound. I wonder if there’s a Thai saying, “A mango a day keeps the doctor away”? The fruit here sure is incredible.

Bueng Pai Farm, my favorite place in Thailand, finally re-opened. Thank goodness. I missed it and its breakfasts and its owners. Have been there twice so far. They have this amazing swimming pool that is for GUESTS ONLY. Last week I asked Run, the owner, if I might be able to swim occasionally and pay. He invited me to come anytime free of charge. How nice! Have been waiting for a sunny day but think that will approach will have to be abandoned. We had an hour of sun on Friday afternoon but that’s about it for nearly a week. Rainy season. At least it’s not raining all the time like it did last year. Hope it continues this way. (Not the clouds but the occasional rain.) Temperatures haven’t been too bad–cooler than Woodstock. The first several weeks were brutally hot.

There’s not much news here since my involvement with the school is nearly zero. But next week I’m hosting my first CouchSurfing guests. A couple from NW Canada who are traveling from Singapore to England by land. (Well, I guess they’ll use air/boat to cross the English Channel.) Should be interesting. Check out: http://www.couchsurfing.org.  It’s an international organization that offers free housing to travelers. I hope to use it in my next foreign travels.

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