Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Bang Phra’

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

The Cuisine

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

“Thai good, you like shirt?”  –Homer

I have hinted about the food a few times, but here I will try to provide details. Now, to those who are expecting recipes, I must aologize. My curiosity has not led me to hover over the chef or ask many questions. I will try to do more research in the future.

I have always been a passive fan of Thai food, with a love for Pad Thai and curries of all type. They seem to have the same cooking philosophy as myself, which my brother has described as “everybody in the pool”. Why have a supper plate with chicken, pasta, and broccoli all neatly seperated when they can be cooked together with some creamy cheese sauce and eaten out of a bowl? I dislike plates: food falls off, forks are normally required, and you can’t drink out of them. The only plate positives: dishwasher space and steak cutting. Spoon and bowl meals for me, which leads into the food here.

Below is a picture of how we eat all of our suppers here at the house. A little uncomfortable on the knees, but please note utensils. Counter clockwise from bottom right is fried tofu with a sweet peanut dipping sauce, noodles, and chicken curry. (Rice maker is out of frame)

How all of our suppers are conmsumed

This is how we do it

a closer look

a closer look

Our chef, as I have previosly stated, is Irish and quite the cook. He spent his first 6 months here in Thailand in the northern part, where he purchased a food cart and specialized in pineapple burgers. He figured it would be a good way to meet people and get by. Wanting a change, he came down here as a WWOOFer about 4 weeks ago and brought his Thai female companion. Now he has a job as the chef and she as coffee shop manager, and they have there own room at the farm.

He collects food from the local markets as well as the farm each day and whips up quite a feast. All meals get a full pot of rice from the cooker even when noodles are served. Curries or curry like mixtures are the norm with lots of greens. Main ingredients used are: Thai chillies, garlic, lemon grass, cilantro, Ginger, and chicken or fish. Sides are often cucumber, morning glories, and some squash like thing. He also always makes sauces that can be added to reach ones desired spice level. Examples: a basic chillies in vineger, a peanut sauce, or a ginger garlic sauce.

The following picture, shows a meal at the farm. Starting from the bottom and rising: We have breaded and fried whole sardines (I think), an omelet of some kind, and then I believe some type of pork product with green stuff in it (tasty). (again rice cooker just out of frame)

Meal at the farm

Meal at the farm

I apologize to the chef, if he ever reads this, because the pics don’t do the meals justice. I have tried not to be one of those nerds that take a picture of everything that goes into there mouth. No offense meant toward anyone.

Not all of my sustenance has been received on property. Just last night, we took a walkabout down the street and sampled some foods. No photos, so just use your imaginations, I will try to help with my words. First stop: fried wide noodles, pad thai style, with pork, egg, and greens (90 cents, delicious). Then: barbecued pork with thin noodles and broth (80 cents, good). Later: flavorful pork sausage type thing on a stick, served with cabbage (2 for 60 cents, food on stick, can’t lose).  Dessert: fried bread folded with a frosting type substance (15 cents, crunchy).  More Dessert: 3 spears of pineapple (60 cents, always a favorite, my goal is to purchase each time I see it). Last: 3 different types of little round things that look like fish eggs, or eye balls, but might be soy related, served in steamed soy milk (15 cents, sweet and creamy).

Other food I have put into my body: Beer Chang which is a “full flavoured lager” and the “pride of Thailand”, according to the bottle. (Satisfying and currently being consumed). Fried grubs and cricket legs, Coconut milk banana smoothies, and toast every morning. On the island beach, I had the crab plate seen below, which I would describe as buttery and scrumptious.

food

food

That about sums up my intake so far. I thoroughly enjoyed the cart hoping and plan to do a lot more of that hence forth, while snapping pictures. Life is still smooth and my last day here is fast approaching. Well, time to quit typing, I just got told to go grab my freakin shine box. พวกเขายังไม่ได้ยินว่าฉันไม่เปล่งปลั่งรองเท้าอีก

The Surroundings: part one

Monday, October 26th, 2009

My fellow Americans, as I have stated before, Bang Phra is the town where my farm is located. It is small and lies on the Bay of Thailand, a short nap on a train from Bangkok. Since it is on the coast, there are some other cool cities and things to see up and down the main highway. With a couple scattered days off, I explored 2 such areas and would now like to report back to you all about my adventures.

The first and closest rad city is called Si Racha, about a 20 minute and 33 cent ride south on the back of a “sorng-taa-ou”(small truck with a roll cage).  Our exploration took us out onto the Ko Loi jetty, where a Buddhist temple and boat dock are.

View of Si Racha from the jetty

View of Si Racha from the jetty

Temple on Ko Loi jetty

Temple on Ko Loi jetty

As we were out there, little droplets of water began to fall from the sky at an incredible rate. We took shelter under the temple roof (seen above, please note that this photo was taken on a different day which will be talked about later, oh what a day that was) and waited about 15 minutes for the shower to subside. This brief downpour was just a foretaste of the feast to come. About 10 minutes later, the sky opened up and didn’t stop for over an hour. Again we took shelter, this time under a small ice cream/coffee shop roof in a park. It was a storm of which I have never seen an equal. The size and frequency of the rain drops, combined with the lightning and volume of the thunder, made for an awesome sight. The following pic sequence should break it all down:

Park early in storm

Park early in storm

Storm at its peak

Storm at its peak

Locals checking out the flooded street

Locals checking out the flooded street

It was fun watching the tuk-tuks get stuck and all the motorbike drivers just hanging outside the 7-eleven. Locals were saying they hadn’t seen it flood this bad which made us feel lucky to have witnessed it.

After making our way around town, taking off sandals to cross the street/rivers, we visited a few covered markets and a large mall. The mall was not very wide, but went up about 6 floors. They have a food market on the bottom floor filled with street vendor food, and the arcade was on the top floor. Sony Playstation’s entertained the kids instead of classic upright systems and I dominated the pop-o-shot.

Scoreboard!

Scoreboard!

It was a good day, which made all the farm work worth while. I realized that I will have the free time to explore and take advantage of my semi-free accommodations. Also, the work is feeling less like slavery now that I am more invested in projects.

On the next post to Micah:Unmitigated –  Micah gets a taste of the infamous Thai beaches. ชีวิตของชายหาด

The Wildlife

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I had a few run-ins with Thailand’s creatures the past 2 days and figured I would share. Starting with the least deadly: I gave the Ducks some food and seemed to have made them very happy. The Ducks also escape often because the green fencing around them is very weak and has holes. Thus, almost everyday there is a duck roundup, where we corner the escapees and throw them back in. I recommended that we make an example out of one of the fugitives and have a nice dinner, but that got shot down.

Ducks

Ducks

Today, while we were working at the house, Mango saw a snake in a tree. We observed it moving along a wall and later identified it as the Golden Tree Snake. Despite the name, they are normally green and prefer woody perennials. They spend their free time sun bathing and feasting on mice and geckos (which are all over the house property). These snakes are not supposed to be poisonous so Kay decided to touch it, i’ll let you know if she dies in the next few days.

HPIM2929

Golden Tree Snake

(Warning: The following content may not be suitable for the weak, child like, or those taking any type of medication)

The last and deadliest beast I grappled, was a centipede in the outdoor kitchen. Now, this wasn’t one of your run-of-the-mill, sweet, cuddly, pick’em up and let them crawl around in your pants, US centipedes that call their grandma’s everyday. This Arthropod was 2 feet long and its body was an inch wide. They are poisonous and gorge on spiders, worms, and water buffalo. I held back the cat, while the Host picked it up with tongs and smashed its head with a piece of wood.

Centipede

Centipede

A rumor is going around of a cobra sighting on the farm, so I will try to get close enough to take pictures, even if that means absorbing a few bites. The past couple days have roused my senses and I will be watching my steps closely. Everything else is good, although the scars are adding up and the anti-biotic is running low. Well, time to go wait in line to receive my days rations. ฉันมีสองกล้วยคุณชายวันนี้?

The Accommodations

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

My first stay is in the city of Bang Phra, which lies about a 3 day walk SE of Bangkok. The Farm is separate from the House, where we all stay, and so far our work time has been split between the two. The goal is to convert part of the House into a coffee shop/massage parlor/spa. My projects there have varied from laying brick, to moving furniture, and also grouting a tile counter.

Everything has changed, absolutely nothings changed.

Everything has changed, absolutely nothings changed.

WWOOFers currently sleep in the Thai massage room on mats. The room stays cool with fans and they provide some nice mosquito nets. Getting enough sleep has not been a problem.

HPIM2845

The main part of the house has a nice TV, tons of DVDs and books, assorted musical instruments, and WiFi. The property also includes a pool (being repaired), a sauna, and a Koi pond. The only difficulty has been keeping things dry.

The Farm has a house currently under construction surrounded by many small fields and enclosures. Eventually, this is where WWOOFers will stay, maybe even me.

HPIM2856

I would estimate the property to be about 12,545,280 square inches, which as you all know, is not that big. Contained in those inches, they have a chicken coop, duck pen, 12 puppies, small rice field, pond, herb garden, banana trees, mango trees, and many other random edible plants. We just plowed them a corn field and are working on clearing another field for more rice. Also in the works is a wood fire oven that needs some more bricks laid. I kind of like that everything is a work in progress, thus it should look drastically different by the time I leave. Seeing results, always helps with motivation.

I can hear the crack of the whip telling me its time to sign off. กลับไปทำงาน!

The People

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

To help set the scene, I will now breakdown the other players in this story that is Micah:Unmitigated.

My host shall be referred to as “The Host” in all future corespondents. He is a retired Naval Officer who specializes in Physic and Engineering things. He has dabbled in many military agencies and may or may not have been an assassin. Intelligent and full of stories and analogies, he can and will go off on any topic.

The first WWOOF couple I met are recent college graduates from the Twin Cities and Chicago. They arrived the same day I did and will be here 3 weeks as well. “The bikers”, as they will be called, peddled 2 wheels nearly the entire route from Prague to here. During the past 14 months, they went down through Turkey, flew to and spent time in Egypt, before making their way to China and then down through Laos. Both are cool and laid back, and spark many discussions.

My first night here, there was a couple from the west coast who will actually be moving to Portland when their trip is over. I will not give them a nickname, as they are now gone. Like me, they quit heir jobs, the guy was a brew master and the girl was in the film industry. Their trip is 6 months long and covers all SE Asia.

Another of the departed is a female, former teacher from the bay area, who quit her job to travel. She WWOOFed in France, Italy, and Greece before coming here. Again, no nickname needed.

There is also and young female from the Twin Cities as well. She seems to be fresh out of college and is on an extended trip, with a return tentatively set for June. Her experience in construction and ability to do a triathlon, add up to one wicked WWOOFer. She shall be dubbed “Kay”, since it relates to her name in some way.

Kat is on the left, Bikers are the 2 on the right

Kay is on the left, Bikers are the 2 on the right

Rounding out the current crop is a young man from Jolly Old England. He arrived the day before me and will be here 3 weeks as well. We may be going to the farm in Northern Thailand at the same time, although he is here for just 6 weeks and wants to see Laos. He shall henceforth be known as “The Brit”. In his previous life, he was a sound engineer who worked concerts, weddings, and christenings. He smokes a lot and doesn’t like soccer, but otherwise still a solid bloke.

Side players include: The chef from Ireland (“Stout”) and his Thai girlfriend (“Al”), The Host’s cool flight attendant wife (“The Hostess”), and her sister (“Mango”), who comes around to cook and make us laugh.

So, that is the cast of characters, in the next chapter, I may get to some actual farming stuff. I hope to incorporate some pictures as proof of my location, as well.

The Journey

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

All has been relatively smooth so far. I enjoyed flying over Alaska and getting to see Mt. McKinley. Also enjoyed 3 movies and 3 1/2 meals.

Mt. Denali

Mt. McKinley

After not seeing a driver from my hotel, I got a “taxi” ride from 3 women in an unmarked car. A little sketchy, but I was confident that I wasn’t going to be driven down an alley and robbed.
The next morning: I hopped a bus to Bang Phra thanks to a map I showed 5 people, figured out how to make a 3 cent phone call, and got picked up by my host on the side of a busy street.
Nice place, 7 other WWOOFers here right now, no actual farming yet, amazing meal on coast with constantly full beer glass.