Micah: Unmitigated

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Archive for November, 2009

The Scam?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

My first day in Bangkok and it is possible I was already scammed. I relate the feeling to losing at poker: It happened really fast and I walked away in a daze replaying every decision.

I will give the details and you can decide for yourself:
So, I meet this guy on the street while taking a picture of this

Water Monitor

Water Monitor

3 blocks from the train station (i know i know, but please wait till the end to make up your mind)

His plane back home to northern Thailand wasn’t going to leave for another 6 hrs, so we walk and talk for a while. I agree to tour with him to see the Giant Buddha, where he did some praying and showed me how to place incense sticks and distribute some coins among cups that represent months of the year. He pays for the taxi ride, then some food, water, and beer at a local spot. Contact information is exchanged, pictures are shared, and an offer is made for me to come stay with his family up near the border with Laos. We take a boat ride through canals and see some cool stuff along the way while he points out wildlife and the contrast between poor and rich lifestyles.

I'm On A Boat!

I'm On A Boat!

After the boat trip ends, I say I will pay since he has covered everything else. The price he tells me seems very high, and then apologetically he asks me if I can cover his portion as well, because he doesn’t have enough cash. I cover and he thanks me and says that now I must come stay with him so he can repay. He flags me a cab and tells them where to take me.

After we part, I can’t help but try to sort it all out. I figured he could have been working with the boat man and went back to collect his spoils. I’ve gone back and forth in my head I still am not sure. Here is an ordered list of pros and cons:

Scam:

  1. He picked me up on the street when I was taking a photo.
  2. He received and made a few phone calls, and got some beeps as well.
  3. Felt almost like a guided tour.
  4. He didn’t seem to say all that much to the boat driver, yet we went places.
  5. Local stop was very small, he bought much beer and kept refilling my glass, and asked me if I was having a good time.
  6. When boat ride was done, he had to go different direction than I, and quickly got me into a cab.
  7. It was a lot of money, and he asked me to cover his portion after possibly looking into my wallet.

Not Scam:

  1. Very nice, average looking, 58 year old man.
  2. Said he worked for the government and was down here because of meeting @ embassy.
  3. Said he was going to visit his son at Texas A&M in December and also was going to head out to San Diego to see a former teacher.
  4. We had boat for almost 3 hours, made the driver wait while we ate at stop, and some of  the rates people talk about online were very close to the rate I paid.
  5. He was very apologetic and grateful.

I know that I have listed more Scams than Not, but I currently am leaning toward the later.  All train ride up north I though scam, but after reading what was posted about rates people have paid, I swung back the other way, partly so I feel better inside. Either way, I wish I had the money back and consider the experience, although fun, not worth the price.

After I send an email to him later this week, I should know more, and may cruise out that way to pop my head into Laos. I do have his name, so if I get convinced that it was a scam, some searching will be done and when I find “Amanda Hugginkiss”, he’s going to be sorry. อาจจะมาตรฐานฉันสูงเกินไป

The Other Stuff

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I have a few random thoughts and events that I would like to present to you at this time. With no rhyme, reason, or mitigation, here they are:

Took a day trip up to Bangkok with the group to do Chatachuk Market. Host and Co were looking for spa/coffee shop items and the Bikers sought out restaurant serving things (they plan on opening a little place in Chicago when they return to states). I did some browsing but was only serious about food. With 5 weeks left, I don’t want to lug anything around, plus I will be back through BKK 3 more times.

The market is enormous, thus we got lost a few times. Favorites from the food section were: These shrimb/crab balls, they cooked in a pan shaped like an egg carton. They would spin them constantly, top with stuff, and serve. Fantastic.

good eats

Good Eats

Out shining the balls, was my first bowl of Tom Yum. A spicy broth soup with ground pork, fish balls, peanuts, noodles, bean sprouts, and more, finding the best in Thailand will be my chore.

Good Tom Yum

Good Tom Yum

I love the style of spoon you see above and will bring some back to states. Mango made a shrimp Tom Yum for my last supper, equally pleasing.

Last thing of note from the market, random painting of Mark Ruffalo, especially since all other works were regular museum art. I am a fan of his work but did not pull the trigger on the purchase.

Mark

Mark

On the way home from BKK, we stopped at a rest area and patronized a KFC. Tidbits: I sampled the Shrimp Donut, pretty much as you would imagine, shrimp and things molded into donut form, breaded and deep fried. Host ordered the Shrimp and Cheese balls, like the donut just different shape. I figure these are Thailand specific menu items, although I haven’t been to one of the Colonel’s establishments in some time, due to his wee beady eyes and that smug look on his face.

Went on a 15 min bike ride to reservoir last week to swim. Fun being stared and pointed at by Thai’s, saying “look over there, there is a white man in the water” (loose translation, my Thai is still limited). One kid swam up to me with a big smile and said hello, when I replied in kind, he swam back to his friends and told the story of his encounter. Group on the shore waved, laughed and said “Hello!”. I then biked the rest of the way around the reservoir which took an hour. Fun being on small streets, waiting for water buffalo to cross, and getting more stares. No pics, my camera randomly tweaked out on me, saying “card unreadable”. Have enjoyed riding the farm bike around, been years since i’ve rode this much.

Addition to the food pics, a close-up of me chomping on a cricket. I actually enjoyed the taste, although I will eat anything that’s fried.

It was either him or me

It was either him or me

(Note: I was posing for the picture and didn’t really have that rage in my eyes while eating.)

That is about it for the randoms from my stay here. Today I hop a train to my next adventure. I imagine I will come back some day to see how my projects have finished. They say I am welcome anytime. The rest of Thailand awaits, stay tuned to see what crazy adventures Micah gets into next. วันนี้ฉันฉลองวันประกาศอิสรภาพของฉัน

The Holiday

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The night of the first full moon during the month of November, Thai’s celebrate Loy Krathong. Little boats or discs of banana tree are arranged to float and carry candles and incense. Then, set adrift down rivers or other bodies of water to symbolize letting go of ones troubles and to create good luck for the coming year. Prayers or wishes are also often said before one releases the Krathong.

With family in town, banana parts were collected from the farm, and vessels were constructed. After a amazing meal, we piled into the car and headed down to the reservoir. In the Picture below, the boat in my right hand was designated as mine and made by the Hostess and her parents.

Boat launch

Boat launch

Also part of the celebration: Lanterns of paper called Khom Fai, are set free into the sky like hot air balloons. I received a lantern as part of a bargain my Host made while shopping in Bangkok. Now to set the scene, you need to know this: Lanterns are not allowed to be launched in cities, but Host says that the reservoir site has been approved on the night of Loy Krathong. Also, we witnessed at least 50 take flight while there.

Host had already sent his on a successful flight and now it was my turn to step up. With the Father providing the torch, I held the base of the lantern low to the ground to shield the wind. While we did this, a Policeman came by and said some words in Thai that didn’t seem friendly. Members of the group said some words in reply and pointed to others who were lighting up. The officer moved on. After the paper balloon had filled with warm air, I raised it up and posed for the picture below.

Lantern launch

If you don't like my fire, then don't come around.

I began to gently ease my grip on the wooden base and made sure my launch angle was true and free of obstructions. Out of the darkness, from my left, the Policeman jumped in and ripped the balloon from the air. Hurling it into the water and giving it one good stomp deeper into the mud. He walked off without words and we stood there stunned for a few seconds, not really believing what just happened. Host was upset and my Thai friends were apologetic and told me I did nothing wrong. The event brought our night to a halt as we headed back to the cars, with members occasionally stopping to voice there complaints to men in uniform that would listen. I left feeling disappointed but maybe more stunned than anything. The ritual does not have as much meaning to me as it does to the locals and maybe the man felt that I should not be participating. Maybe he was just having a bad day and decided to pick on some white people. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Overall, I am really glad I got to be apart of this once a year celebration, especially to be able to share it with a local family. The incident is just another story and doesn’t have to be a bad memory or scar on a such a enjoyable trip. Although I do hope that this ends up being my only run-in with a law enforcement officer. ไม่สามารถเราทั้งหมดเพียงเข้ากันได้

The Duties

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

What does one have to do to receive such comforts in Thailand? And, Should one give WWOOFing a try? I will attempt to answer these questions and more in the 700 words or less below.

The jobs have been divided between the House and the Farm (please reference “The Accommodations” post, or actually just reread them all, it will help).

Some of the House projects have been: digging, spreading sand, laying bricks, and then stuffing the brick holes with dirt and sod.

grass in bricks

grass in bricks

This is Japanese style, yo, which fits with the general theme of the Daruma farm/spa/coffee shop. “Daruma” being a hollow Japanese doll, with no arms or legs, that is used to make wishes. Other dots I will connect for you: Host speaks Japanese and lived there for a few years, nearby town of Si Racha has large Japanese population, and there are numerous golf courses in the vicinity.

Other projects at the house have been: grouting the rest of the tile coffee counter, moving furniture around in circles, and sanding a table. All not bad gigs, nice to work in shade and less strenuous.

The Farm work can be creative at times but mostly falls into the manual labor category. Creative: Affix eucalyptus support beams to then add green roof over seed station. Molding a mud and grass wall around chicken coop. Then mixing and applying a mud/concrete/lime plaster onto it (stray dogs nearly wiped out our hens and chicks).

chicken coop

chicken coop

You can see on the right side that we used a different method. The grass/mud wall requires barbed wire to hang from, thus we went with another layer of wire fence lined with bricks. We buried the wire and bricks down a couple inches so that the dogs couldn’t go under.

I also assisted, in a limited fashion, with the formation of a wood burning oven.

Labor: Digging and weeding for new corn field. Operating backpack weed whacker and a heavy mower to cut grass in flooded field (got a wicked burn scar on my right forearm from engine, nice souvenir, and located where I have always wanted a tattoo). Roto tilling and weeding another area to plant stuff.

I dig

I dig

The most enjoyable, cutting down an old banana tree with long machetti, feeding it into the shredder, and then dumping into big barrel for fertilizer. Recipe: add a packet of dry stuff, water, about 4 gallons of molasses, then stir. (note: once a banana tree’s fruit is ripe and removed, it’s life is over)

a piece of land all you need

a piece of land is all you need

The worst job was mowing the field you see above, too many undulations and puddles, it was heavy, and hurt my back. The picture was taken after a 7 day drought, so it looks dry. Plus, I had to dodge young mango and banana trees all while avoiding irrigation pipes. You can also note in the middle of the pic, the duck enclosure: we built another one to the right of it today and herded the ducks over. We also moved the grass roof over and the old pond will become a rice field.

Another painful task was moving old piles of scrap tiles and wood while battling biting ants. I’ve ruined a few articles of clothing so far and drink mass amounts of water working in the hot Thai sun. My farmers tan is progressing nicely and I get new scratches everyday. And to answer the 2nd question I typed in the intro, I would/will do it again, I recommend it, but it depends on the person.

Hostesses parents are in town for Loy Krathong, first full moon of November holiday. It is fun watching them, with the Father lending his expertise on the farm and Mother cooking some sticky rice dessert wrapped in banana leaves. Wednesday I will catch the train to Bangkok and stay for just a single evening, before taking the 12 hour ride up north to Chiang Mai. Internet may not be as accessible, so a lack of writing doesn’t necessarily mean trouble. The code will be: 63 hours without words = capture and ransom money needed, 64 hours = everything is okay. I have to go pour another beer for the Father. น้ำแข็งกับเบียร์โปรด