Sunday, April 30, 2006

We've finally found a new place to live.

About a month and a half ago, during our daily walks up to the North Klong Tong Cemetery and Priest Meditation Residence Temple, I spotted a secluded cottage tucked well off the road in the midst of a fruit tree plantation, and decided to check it out.

"This would be a wonderful place to live," I commented to Mam, but at the time she was far from agreeable, pointing out all the defects of the place, which had obviously been uninhabited for several months if not years. She did agree, however, that the silence and solitude was definitely a plus compared to where we are presently living.

During our walks over the past two months, we've spoken to many villagers along the way, some who were curious about us, and some who were just friendly, getting to know many of them well. We never failed to mention that we were looking for a place to live, and that finally paid off.

Last week we were beckoned by one of the local villagers who saw us while we were walking past his house. The man began talking in a very animated way to Mam, telling her that he knew of a gentleman who was willing to rent out his house and would like to take us to him if we were still interested.

Although I didn't understand most of what was said, I gathered from his gestures and gesticulations that he was talking about the cottage I like.

"Is he talking about the cottage on the temple road?" I asked Mam.


"Does he know the owner?"


"Does the owner want to rent the place out?"


It's a burden having a companion who is so verbose, but I suppose I'll survive....

Eventually we met the owner and in short order we were heading for the cottage, riding in the back of his pickup truck.

Mam and I spent a good part of the morning looking the place over and I fully fell in love with the house. It is definitely what I would call a "fixer upper," but I've always been the type that loved places like this and my excitement level could barely be contained. Not to mention the fact that we'd have about six rai of land (about 2.3 acres) to explore and would be able to plant a vegetable garden and have our own flower garden, for a fraction of what we're paying now.

So, we're moving out the 31st of May and I'll be offline for some time as I'll have to have this phone line shut off and it may be a while before I get a phone line installed at our new home.

See you then!


Although a trip to a restaurant is considered extravagant for us lately, we do manage to shop around for inexpensive restaurants in our immediate village and eat out at least twice monthly now.

Recently we discovered a new restaurant in the village that has decent prices and a pleasant atmosphere, so we got all dolled up one evening and went to check the place out.

The menu was huge, and took us several minutes to peruse all the offerings, which were pretty diverse. Mam settled on a big, hearty bowl of seafood Tom Yam, and I decided to splurge a bit and delve into some "Weird" food, since I hadn't eaten anything questionable in quite a long time.

I chose the Wild Boar plate, and Mam told the waiter to water down the spices a bit.

"Is Wild Boar typically spicy?" I inquired.

"Oww! Pet Mak! Very, very spicy," Mam exclaimed.

"Okay, thanks for telling him to make it edible," I said.

Mam's bowl of Tom Yum arrived first, and the bowl was huge, big enough that both of us could share, since Mam could have never finished it herself. The prawns were massive, and the dish was laden with vegetables, curry, lemon grass, large chunks of tasty fish, baby squid, octopus, and other tasty treats.

Then my Wild Boar arrived.

The plate was about twelve inches in diameter and heaped with chunks of Wild Boar and something that looked suspiciously like fresh green - black pepper sprigs. There were some veggies in there too, and the whole dish was swimming in a rich looking, dark brown sauce.

The dish smelled good, albeit spicy, with just a hint of mint. So I dug in and promptly discovered that telltale numbness of the tongue and mouth, which spoke of something so ungodly hot and spicy as to be practically inedible. The last time I had eaten something so damn hot, was in Beijing, China at a Mongolian Hotpot restaurant.

I was good. I didn't complain...much, and I never made an attempt to have them take the dish back. I suffered through the whole thing, my mouth tissues protesting, my nose running, eyes watering and sweat beading up on my forehead.

The boar was good, actually. It had a semi-sweet taste to it, but most of the flavor was lost in the incendiary quality of the recipe. There were many tiny little bones, which were a bit of a hassle, but really not that bad. Mam assured me she knew where to purchase boar at the market and could fix me a dish of it at home if I wanted, sans heat.

"If that dish was the 'watered down' version, I can't imagine what the usual plate would be like," I pondered.

What a spice wimp I am.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thanks to all of you who have recently written wondering how Mam and I are doing and expressing concern over not hearing from me for so long. We are both doing very well, even though we had to cancel our plans of returning to Chum Phae this month because of insufficient funds.

Mam has been crocheting some very intricate, white Buddhist prayer shawls, two of which she sent to her mother in Chum Phae. Those two prayer shawls generated orders from others, so Mam has been busy crocheting every moment she has free time.

Mam and I both enjoy nature. Bird watching, butterflies, plants, flowers and insects all peak our interest, so we decided once again to set out for our daily morning walks like we did while in Chum Phae last October. To date, we've been walking about eight kilometers every morning, sometimes more, sometimes less. Our usual walk is about 8 kilometers (just a hair short of 5 miles) and takes us from our home on Soi 3, south about three city blocks, then east on a major road that runs east-west, for about 3.5 kilometers, and eventually north on a quiet road which leads to the Klong Tong cemetery and priest meditation residence temple.

The walk is peaceful once we get on the road to the cemetery and temple, the grade gradually increasing until we're up top a hill. We've been walking for approximately three weeks now, so most of the people along the way recognize us and stop to talk to us along the way.

On the road to the temple, after passing a large rubber tree plantation, we encounter several privately owned fruit tree farms. Most of the villagers on the hill raise durian, so we've been privy to witnessing the growth cycle of a durian fruit during our walks. If you haven't read my previous entries about durian fruit, the KING of all fruits, please click HERE to find out more about this wildly popular, yet terrible smelling fruit.

On top of the hill, besides durian farms, are farms growing mangosteen, rose apple, longan and pommello. The villagers we come across love to tell us about their fruits and boast about their crops. On the very top of the hill we come to a "T" intersection and turn right, again heading east. Along this road we find a huge sugar apple plantation and get to talk to the plantation owner, a curious man who is eager to find out why this "foreigner" and his Thai wife have wandered over his way.

Our daily walks cover familiar ground, but the surrounding flora and fauna, including insects, have become our main interest, and there is never a day that they are all the same. On a typical walk, while I focus on catching local lizards, Mam scours the forest canopy for interesting flowers, plants and insects. I affectionately call her the "bug lady" referring to her never-ending fascination with bugs.

Today Mam spotted this monstrosity:

At first she called it a butterfly until I eyed its antennae and identified it as a moth. I told her about my interest in the beautiful lunar moths back in the states, but added that I had never seen a moth so large before.

Upon arriving home, I did a Google search and found out that the moth in question was indeed one of the largest, if not the largest moth around. It's called the, "Giant Attacus Atlas Moth," and you can read about it by clicking HERE.

Later on during our walk, Mam spotted another Atlas Moth and this interesting bird:

It's the first blue bird I've seen in Thailand and once home we discovered that it is called, "The White Throated Kingfisher." For such a small bird, it has the largest beak I've ever seen, easily visible from over twenty feet away. You can read about the White Throated Kingfisher HERE.

On the last leg of our walk we typically stop at one of the local stores in our village to buy something to drink or eat. Today I had the munchies, so I purchased two breakfast patties, one of cooked bamboo and another of cooked taro, which were both delicious with hot sauce.

A few days ago after completing our walk, Mam quite literally became semi-famous among the villagers. The two of us had made a short detour to the local wet market to pick up some vegetables, and while returning home through the local temple we saw a bunch of local kids playing in a large Lilly pond near the temple.

Typical kids, playing in water,...or so I thought.

Before I had a chance to understand what was happening, Mam burst into action, jumping into the pond, sweeping up a small girl and holding her aloft, dripping with water. The little girl made a howling noise, sucking in air before she began coughing and sputtering water. It seems she had fallen into the water and was face down in the pond, not knowing how to swim, when Mam noticed her.

There were at least five other kids in the pond, two of them students of mine. Nobody had a clue as to what had just happened, but slowly things sunk in as Mam began chastising the older kids regarding watching their baby sister. Slowly the older girls began to look pretty sheepish.

After a strong coughing spell, the little girl was okay and safely in the arms of her bigger sister while Mam and I walked cautiously away. Only after it had all happened did Mam realize that her back and ankle were sore from the event. It seems she must have slipped while entering the pool and landed on the small of her back in the concrete pool while saving the little girl from drowning.

A little sore and a bit nervous, Mam reflected upon the event and decided the soreness was a small price to pay for what had happened. Without a doubt, the child would have drowned, totally unnoticed, had Mam and I not wandered by the pond. Needless to say I was very proud of her intuition and efforts, as I'm sure many in the village are also.

Since all these interesting happenings, we've continued our walks every morning and have added to our list, the Golden Orb Spider, which is a huge spider that is frequently seen around southern Thailand.

Mam has visited the temple on top of the hill many times, paying her tributes while I wander around and take in the beauty of all the foliage and flowers. Mam and I both are "seed stealers" in that we tend to scour plants we like, looking for seeds that we can "steal" in order to plant them in our own garden.

That's about it, as far as what we've been up to lately. The two of us are very actively looking for another house to rent, since our neighborhood seems to be falling by the wayside, in regards to noise, illegal activity and other, more minor irritations.

Thanks again to all who have written expressing their concern. Stay tuned for updates in the near future!

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