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khi nok, among other things

Category Archives: Thailand

Happy 3 month anniversary, Nakrian! I started this blog with a post about border runs, and here we are—a full three months later and a second visa run under my belt. All in all, the trip was successful. I paid the Thai/Cambodian entrance and exit fees, tipped the “immigration aides” (…ugh), and subsequently got all the right stamps, stickers, and signatures in my passport.

While the day started out fairly nice, what with a light blue sky and a bit of heat, it slowly progressed into all-too-typical rainy season weather: gray skies, drizzling rain, and periodic downpours. The weather, coupled with the high number of travelers at the border, made the trip a little less relaxed than last time.

But hell, I can’t complain—I got my visa extended and that was precisely the reason for the trip. Following the immigration rodeo, we decided to check out a popular Thai market on the border.

I can describe the “popular” market in one word: gross. I still can’t get over how much trash, dirt, and mucky rain water there was. I also can’t get over how much of it got on my clothes. Gross. I am no priss, but good lord it was a hot mess. It was a pretty typical Thai market: designer knockoffs (Lacoste, Nike, YSL) sold alongside elephant tusks, mosquito rackets, and bicycles assembled in China. The market wasn’t a total waste: Michael bought 12 pairs of work socks for 150฿ (roughly $5) and I took a lot of pictures and we all laughed quite a bit. 🙂

But, look! 3 more months of blissful ex-patriot life (that is, until my next border run)!

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I was enjoying a bit of afternoon AC and a refreshing iced green tea at Shine’s Café before venturing out into the muggy oven that is my village when my adorable, trouble-making student, Poon, burst into the café.

Poon, my 5 year-old student

“Teacher! Teacher!” He yells.

Sawatdii kah, Poon.” I respond.

Kong Kwan! For you! Longan!” He says in his best attempt at an indoor voice.

He hands me a large bag of longan– I’m assuming picked fresh from his yard judging by the number of ants crawling on the stems of the shelled fruit.

Kobp kun kah, Poon! Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Teacher.” He rattles off his memorized response like a calculator responding to the input “1+1=.”

Poon grins, wais, and runs out the door and into his mother’s idling car.

This cute little interaction was a great pick-me-up before my 5 mile (8km) training run. Love my students!

Longan, aka Dragon Eyes

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Last weekend was the Khorat Candle Festival, a celebration and procession of Buddhist Lent.  So, naturally, we all crammed into our friend’s car and fought traffic to see what all the fuss was about. I knew, when I saw a group of mannequin-like things that I would greatly enjoy the festival.

A mannequin sculpture (or something) encouraging people to donate to a temple

The festival took place at the main square in front of Nakhon Ratchasima’s city hall. Large floats constructed out of wood, plaster, foam, and wax lined the streets, drawing crowds of faithful Buddhists, amateur photographers, and the occasional tourist.

Man touching up one of the candle floats

Wax, in the traditional colors of the Thai monk wardrobe, was intricately sculpted and carved to depict representations of Buddhist lore. Some of the floats featured scenes from the life of Buddha, tributes to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and other Buddhists deities and cultural folktales. The carving of the floats and their subsequent donation is a chance for Thais to commemorate Buddhist lent and raise money for their local wat*.

A sea of wax in Nakhorn Ratchasima

Disregard my other photo comment. This float is literally sailing a sea of wax...

Elephants, dragons, and deities! Oh my!

Although we had dined earlier in the evening at a local Thai-Chinese restaurant, there were numerous street stalls and vendors selling a wide variety of Issan* delicacies: curries, kanomes**, and beverages for those who were hungry. Oddly, a lot of the stall owners were wearing cowboy hats and gingham button-downs. Cowboy hats aside, the festival was peppered with traditional Thai folk music and dance performances. The night culminated in a lighted candle and float procession in order to showcase all of the hand-carved wax. Ultimately, the candles were taken to a wat as a donation for monks to use during their three-month retreat for Buddhist Lent.

Some of the floats were magnificent (while some bordered on the bizarre), there were a lot of people and subsequently a lot of people watching, and there were a lot of strong smells (most of which were not pleasant, believe me) But all in all, it was a fun little festival and we had a lot of laughs.

A bunny-pig and a Buddhist deity making a human offering? Not quite sure what is going on here.

*Buddhist temples

**North East Thailand

***snacks

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Emiko and I went to Bangkok on July 7th to do some light shopping and sight-seeing. We happened upon a soi* that was celebrating one of the most romantic (Japanese) holidays of the year: Tanabata**. This holiday celebrates the love and marriage of two stars: Orihime, the Weaving Princess, and Hikoboshi, the Shepherd. Their romance was all-encompassing and passionate– so much so that they ended up neglecting their sky-duties. Tenkou, the Sky King (and Orihime‘s father), was angry at the two lovers and so he sent them to live at opposite sides of the Milky Way so they could focus on their work. However, Tenkou was sympathetic to the desires of his lovelorn daughter, so he allowed the couple the opportunity to meet once a year, every year– as long as the young couple worked very hard to complete their duties over the ensuing months.

The celestial reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi usually happens on July 7th, when the stars Vega and Altair are in close proximity to one another. If you happen to be in Japan on July 7th, and the night is clear, you just might be able to witness the heady reunion of the star-couple.

Traditionally, the Japanese celebrate the Star Festival by writing wishes and desires on tanzaku (brightly-colored paper streamers) and then hanging the inscribed streamers–along with other paper decorations–on bamboo trees. After the festival the streamers are burned in a bright bonfire to help make the wishes come true.

Writing wishes on streamers for Tanabata

Tanzaku hanging from the branches of a bamboo tree

While my wish wasn’t romantic or even that specific, I do hope it comes true– through hard work and inner-reflection (I wrote on my tanzaku that I want to be a happier and healthier person). Although, now that I am thinking about it, a little magic every now and then is always nice. I could certainly stand some glitter in my life (kind of like Newt Gingrich in this video).

* Alley-way

** The Star Festival

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Found this little guy today and wanted to share him with you!

A gold dust weevil

He's trying to eat my freckles!

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A few weekends ago, the gang and I decided to take a little sight-seeing trip to Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima province (roughly an hour from my village). We drove by rice and tapioca farms, mountains, temples, and many street stalls. The views were absolutely breathtaking; it seemed as though everything was in Technicolor. Pak Chong, in my opinion, is Thailand’s interpretation of The Wizard of Oz.

Pak Chong is replete with many richly colored farms and fields

Field ready for planting with mountain back-drop in Pak Chong

After making a few stops along the way to take pictures and buy fruit at road-side stands (custard apples & 2lb mangoes), we finally arrived at our intended destination: Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave. The cave is about 3km from Khao Yai National Park and is actually quite difficult to find without the aid of GPS and a Thai-speaking friend.

We arrived at Khao Lak Chang at a quarter after 5:00pm which gave us enough time to hike up the mountain for a closer look at the cave before the bats began their nightly hunt. The mountain was rocky and the soil quite fertile, so hiking up to the cave was like a game of chutes and ladders: three steps forward, one slip back!

Hiking (and falling) up to the Khao Lak Chang cave

The smell of urine and guano grew exponentially stronger the closer we got to the cave’s entrance, as did the presence of flies and mosquitoes (the joke of the climb was that we were “undeturd” by the smell–clever, I know). The tiny cries of the khang-khaw* became more audible and more persistent, until I thought I would go crazy from the odor, the flies, and the droning chirps and shrieks of the bats.

Entrance of Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave

A gate was erected to protect the khang-khaw from meddling sight-seers (i.e. people like us), so we could not go exploring inside the cave. However, we were able to climb up the gate and snap a few photos of the immediate entrance. This was perhaps not a very safe endeavor as the mountain was steep, but it did yield some good shots of the activity inside the cave.

Khang-khaw preparing for their nighttime departure

While we might not have been able to see much inside the cave, the view of the farms and horizon below us were absolutely incredible.

View from the entrance of Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave

Shortly after seeing a 5-foot-long (1.5m) black, king cobra near the cave entrance (an adrenaline-inducing experience to be sure), khang-khaw began to make their way out of the cave to go on their nightly hunt. I snapped a few photos before we hurried down the mountain to take in the show in its entirety.

Bats beginning to exit the cave

Millions of bats leaving the cave at sunset

Clouds, mountains, and mountains of clouds

Bats, bats, bats!
Every so often Thai children would scream, causing the bats to momentarily scatter across the sky before reuniting in their tight stream

A cluster of khang-khaw

Filing out of the cave to go on their nighttime hunt for food

The show, which starts around 5:45-6:00pm, lasts for roughly an hour and a half. If you are ever lucky enough to see the rare, wrinkle-lipped bats leaving their cave in Pak Chong, you will be in for quite a spectacle. The sound of the bats overhead is like a strong wind, which is punctuated now and then by the shrieks and screams of young Thai children trying to disrupt the path of the bats. The experience was amazing and I strongly encourage all tourists and residents of Thailand to check out Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave.

* Bats

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Hugs for the birthday girl!

Today, June 21st, is Sigma’s second birthday. She is my little summer solstice baby, so naturally all she wants to do today is catch sunning lizards and baby birds. I am so glad that all the vet appointments, vaccines, import permits, fees, etc. leading up to our move to Thailand went through without a hitch; I don’t know what I would do without my little Sigma. Happy birthday, Little One!

Sitting pretty; excited for birthday presents!