adventures in Thailand


Rainbow, Cat, School and CouchSurfing

RAINBOW  As many of you know, one of the joys of living in Pai, Thailand is its amazing natural beauty. A couple of  days ago a lovely rainbow arched across the sky. The view was from my front porch. Though it took nearly a half hour for the rain to reach my home, one could see the storm clouds behind the house. Rainbows are a fairly common occurrence but this one really caught my attention. A double rainbow tried to form but only made it 1/3 across.

CAT  The young cat that my first CS friend said couldn’t be tamed now is docile and loving. Despite having said she wouldn’t come in the house until after her visit to the vet, I relented and last week she came in and out for a few days. However, I think she has fleas so now she’s been banished to the front porch and side door area. Hope to take her to the vet this week. Yesterday bought a fake cat carrier that my friend Dianna recommended. Pace, the cat, (BTW, that’s pah chay not PACE) now eats her meals with the food bowl inside the carrier. Thought it might be a good idea to get her used to it.

I had hoped to get her examined, shots and fixed before she got pregnant. But it might be too late. Not sure but the vet will tell me. Her presence adds to my happiness. Someone to talk to…and she doesn’t answer back except with meows.

SCHOOL  Our second board meeting takes place tonight. As mentioned previously, I’ve been busy with work in preparation: creating the agenda, completing tasks (i.e. meeting with graphic designer about reprint of our brochure, trying to correct website, etc).

Yesterday the Banyan Center received a fabulous compliment. There’s a new parent who moved here from Malayasia with daughters 3 and 5 years old. She came to Pai because of the school which one of our CoFounders predicted would happen. Yesterday we had lunch and she said, “I’ve looked for schools in many parts of the world and Banyan Center is the first to truly meet my needs and expectations.” Isn’t that great? She’s German and her kids speak that. So now we have German, Japanese, Russian, Thai, English, Shan speaking kids at the Banyan Center.

The strangest part about meeting this new parent in Pai, Thailand is that we share something in common: both have worked for human rights in Palestine. She was cofounder of International Solidarity Movement (she’s been shot 7 or 8 times and once the person running right next to her was shot dead!). The group I worked with, International Women’s Peace Service, grew out of ISM. IWPS was founded a few years later to be slightly less radical and woman centered.

She was born in Germany where her Palestinian father practices medicine.

COUCHSURFERS  Today a 27 year old British couple arrives. They are traveling the world overland for two years. If it sounds familiar, you will recall that my first CSers fit the same bill although they were British an Canadian. The new couple sounds very interesting and am eagerly awaiting their visit. Best of all, my repaired refrigerator arrives this morning (hopefully). Thus, after 3 weeks of using ice in a cooler for a fridge, things will be back to normal.


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BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS: Scorpion, Wasp and Snake (plus more)

BAD NEWS: Stepped on a scorpion in the shower a few days ago.

GOOD NEWS: It didn’t sting me prior to its demise (courtesy of me).


BAD NEWS: A wasp stung my right forefinger today and it is now twice as wide as my left forefinger.

GOOD NEWS: My iPad (which I was holding last time two wasps stung me) was safely in the house with its new LCD screen which had shattered when dropped following the first wasp attack in June.


BAD NEWS: The snake curled up in front of my porch was/is alive.

GOOD NEWS: It didn’t bite but disappeared upon being hit by a rock (thrown to see if it was alive). Also, its venom is only dangerous to frogs and small animals, not humans.

Okay, enough with the nature reports, right? There have been several comments about earlier biology lessons, etc. on this blog. But truly, it’s nature here in Pai that is so different from Woodstock, NY and so amazing to this foreigner. On to other subjects…

INTERNET It has been so wonderful having internet access which was achieved by buying a special external modem ($30) that connects my laptop to a CAT satellite and works anywhere in Thailand. When signing up, frugal Paula chose the cheapest option instead of the unlimited version ($3 vs $20 per month). I thought mistakenly that the charges only occurred when downloading something. WHOOPS! The account was charged anytime I was connected for email or listening to my favorite radio stations (WAMC and WMHT). Despite the fact that I downloaded podcasts and a few iTune movies at other locations using wifi instead of my modem, the first month’s bill came as a huge shock: over $300!!!!

Needless to say the CAT office was visited recently and the problem explained to the English-speaking manager. In Thai fashion, I smiled a lot, admitted my misunderstanding and stupidity, and hoped for the best. No raised voices, no impatience, no harsh words. The manager phoned the regional office in Chiang Mai but the problem was so big that it was referred to headquarters in Bangkok. He suggested we cancel my first contract and issue a new contract with unlimited satellite time. Great idea and accomplished immediately.

Only potential problem was that I had to go home and remove the SIM card inside the modem, replacing it with one affiliated with the new contract. Naturally my technophobia reared its ugly head. It delights me to report that all was installed properly despite no directions or “how to” illustrations.

Yesterday when I stopped by the CAT office the manager was out so the verdict is still unknown. My fingers are crossed (a gesture unknown to SE Asians) that we’ll negotiate a figure closer to the unlimited monthly fee of $20 instead of $300+. BTW, that’s just the June bill. July will probably be the same.

TERRIFIC BLOG (NOT MINE) If you want to read a more detailed and more literary blog about Pai, a nearby Karen hill tribe village and the Ahka hill tribe near Chiang Rai where I stayed last month, go to: This is the blog of my first (and favorite!) CouchSurfers Julian and Brianne. They visited me in week 7 of their two-year overland adventure from Singapore to England. Brianne is a wonderful writer and Julian a magnificent photographer.

FINAL WORD: HYPHEN.  Perhaps the ant colony that sometimes resides in my laptop ruined the hyphen. It doesn’t work. Sometimes an equal sign is used in its place but in this blog the hyphens were just skipped. So for you editors, writers and (former) teachers, please overlook the missing hyphens in a couple of places. ADDENDUM: Recently I became aware of an editing service on the this blog website. When the robotic editor noticed the missing hyphens, it suggested the correct version. So you got the hyphens after all. (Although all of the passive tenses were not changed to active tense as suggested.)





AKHA HILL TRIBE VILLAGE As I write this, a mountain looms ahead: Tall leafy trees in front, a mango orchard cresting the hill to the left and more mango trees cascading down the mountain to my right with a large clump of banana trees toward the base. Directly in front an ugly brown swath of land interrupts the greenery, the result of a landslide a few days ago during heavy rains.

This is the view from the (flimsy) deck of my bamboo bungalow in an Akha Hill Tribe Village an hour west of Chiang Rai (CR).  My first CS guests raved about the place so decided to come after my visa run to Burma on Monday, yesterday.

It gets mixed reviews from me. The bungalow is very basic since I opted for one of the lower priced ones ($6.50) a night. Room extends for about 1.5 yards on one side and the base of the platform bed which, gratefully, has a big mosquito net. (I ignored the 2 square inch hole at the top and so did the mosquitos. Will ask for some tape before bed and block the hole.) Best parts are the netting and electricity. Worst is the squat toilet. Oh well, I can handle it for a few days.

There’s a lovely, open=sided reception/lounge area where meals are served and where there’s internet access. Great views from there as well. Food is served there also==there’s quite a large menu to choose from. (My dash is broken so using = instead.)

My hope was to hike to the waterfall today. But it keeps raining on and off. Will wait until tomorrow when, hopefully, there’ll be other guests who want to go also. If it rains tomorrow I’ll leave in the morning; if it’s nice will stay one more night.

The disappointment is that the village doesn’t seem what I’d imagined as traditional. Everyone wearing western clothing. School girls using the internet for homework and games. Big, modern house in the last stages of being built though most are made of simple bamboo.

Upon my arrival an older woman sat down near me as I waited to register. She cracked a betel nut and started to chew it===knew what that was. But then she took a green leaf, about 1.5 inches long, out of a pouch, put a bit of white cream (reminded me of Nivea) on the leaf and then popped that in her mouth also. Have to ask someone what it was.

VISA RUN  Prior to arriving at the village around 6 pm yesterday, I spent two days traveling. Sunday started with a 3 hour bus ride from Pai (NW Thailand) to CM, then a few hours shopping and getting my iPad fixed (HURRAH==new LCD screen installed in two hours), and then another 3 hour bus ride north to Chiang Rai.  Sunday marked my one year anniversary in Thailand.

Monday morning’s hour=long minivan ride to Mae Sai put me on the border with Burma. Passing through immigration was easy===all it took was giving up my Thai departure card. About 30 yards later the Burmese immigration office  took my $17 fee and my passport and gave me a short=time (shopping) visitor’s card.

Then it was “shop ‘til you drop.” Both sides of the border, but especially the Burmese side, are filled with small shops. There are definitely over a thousand stalls in Burma selling fakes of everything imaginable===Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags, watches, phones, toys, electronics, etc, etc.

I bought a fake POLO 20” suitcase for my RTW trip, clothing for the 5 scholarship kids at school, a couple gifts, and a pashmina (haha) shawl to keep me warm in the minivan going back. Of course, the shawl was in my new suitcase on top of the van but luckily it wasn’t too cold on the return.

NEXT DAY at VILLAGE  Well, I’ve decided to stay and hope that the hike to the waterfall happens. Last night I had the worst pad thai ever. YUK. This morning’s pancake and yesterday’s scrambled eggs were better.

Worst part is there are dozens of yellow jackets circling the food and wifi area. None have stung yet, but they are a pain.

Well, off to the village museum. So long for now.