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nakrian

khi nok, among other things

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!

Joanna Newsom

I know, I know, this is not exactly a Thailand related post. But, I’ve been feeling a little homesick this week (among other things!) and California-native Joanna Newsom’s masterful lyrics and virtuosic harp-plucking  is more than enough to get me through it. I wholeheartedly encourage you to check her out (please, please do!). Peach Plum Pear, Bridges and Balloons, Sadie, The Book of Right-ON, and Sprout and the Bean are good pieces to start with. You might just get as caught up in her avant-garde style as I have.

Joanna Newsom is not a traveler– well, at least not by choice. “I really would have preferred, if everything I need to do in this life would just come to my front door,” she told Jody Rosen (of Slate.com) in an interview. While this is quite contrary to my own sentiments, I can truly understand how her Nevada City calls to her– it’s very much like how my self-imposed hometown never quite leaves my thoughts. Her warbling song, In California, punctuates her feelings on the matter.

Some nights I just never go to sleep at all, and I stand, shaking in my doorway like a sentinel, all alone, bracing like the bow upon a ship, and fully abandoning any thought of anywhere but home, my home.

Longing for the familiar, nostalgia, sadness– these feelings are not new among the ex-pat community. Odysseus himself wept at the thought of his home and aging family. These feelings ebb and flow, much like Joanna Newsom’s siren-singing. Fortunately, during this latest wave of homesickness, I have her songs to pacify me and to remind me fondly of my roots.

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In Thai ghost-lore, if you are an abusive son or daughter (or if you have committed parricide), you will become the unfortunate pii braed when you die. What’s pii braed, you ask? Well, it is, quite simply, a giant, lanky ghost. The crimes you committed against your parents will determine your ghost-body’s bizarre proportions. For instance, if you were known to hit your mother, your ghost will have apishly-long arms with giant, heavy hands. If you were one to kick your father, your ghost’s legs will be towering and stilt-like and your feet, enormous. In addition to having a distorted corporeal body, the pii braed features a sucker-like mouth, much like the lamprey’s oral disk.

I’m not quite sure of the reason behind pii braed‘s small suckermouth, although, I’ve certainly asked enough Thais about it. The best we can figure is that the mouth inhibits the pii braed from ever being satiated by food or drink– some last ditch punishment from the spirit-world for being a horrendous son or daughter. It is worth mentioning that in Thailand (as in many Asian societies), respect for one’s elders is a major part of the cultural fabric. This ghost-story is meant to teach children to respect one’s parents, to never abuse them, to never kill them– lest you become a homely pii braed.

The following is a video of pii braed caught on cellphone!

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Hot days melt into slow, sticky nights. Trying to keep cool by working on Coral, my latest knitting project. Sigma, however, has other ideas. Specifically, she wants to play fetch.

Amimono's Coral knit in linen

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Anxiously waiting for my bananas to ripen

Thailand’s rainy season is off to a good start– thunder, lightening, and afternoon downpours tuk-wan.1 While the sky might be gray and cloudy, the local vegetation is thriving, thanks, in part, to the warm climate and increased humidity. My friend, Emiko, has several banana trees in her yard, so she gave me a cluster of near-ripe bananas to share with Sigma. However, the bananas, being quite heavy, might bruise if left to ripen on the ground and since ants and beetles love to feast upon bruised fruit, we devised a way to keep the cluster off the ground and out of harms way. Pretty crafty, eh?

Yesterday, I spent the day at Suranaree University of Technology, where Michael teaches English. After I completed a 6 mile training run, we went to lunch at Coffee Pitini, a popular farang2 restaurant located near SUT’s front gate. I ate my first mushroom and mozzarella calzone since living in Thailand–mmmm, so good. I also learned how to ride a motorbike (finally)!

Cheese, bread, and any combination thereof, are not staples in the typical Thai diet

I stumbled across a number of interesting insects during my visit to SUT– many of which happened to bunk with Mike. However, my favorite had to be this broad-nosed weevil. As it lay dying, ants began to swoop in, pulling at it’s legs and antennae in an attempt to bring it to their colony. I like to think that this guy’s glittering shell inspired Lady Gaga’s 2010 Grammy Awards costume.

Ants trying to move a dying metallic weevil

I was sad to leave SUT’s beautiful, insect-filled campus– but more than anything, I dreaded the return trip back to my village. Two crowded buses and 1.5 hours later… home! Oh, and one of the bus drivers even managed to charge me an extra ฿5, because I am a Farang. As I got off the bus, he said “law len3 while he and the other passengers laughed and laughed. Joke’s on me; I didn’t get my ฿5 back.

1. Every day

2. Western/Westerner

3. Just kidding

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A Sikhiu resident brought the Shine Café regulars a basket of ma-muang* that he grew in his garden. This type of ma-muang has no fragrance prior to being cut and is quite hard– even when ripe. They are fairly large and heavy, and unlike most other ma-muang, are round in shape. Golf, the barista at Shine Café, prepared the ma-muang for us, as cutting them is no easy feat. They are a crunchy and not at all juicy, with a texture similar to that of apples. The flavor balances between lightly sour and lightly sweet. This ma-muang species is subtly reminiscent (in flavor) of the mangoes you’d buy in America, but it is ultimately more like a crisp apple shot with mango perfume. Alloy mak!**

Munching on some ma-muang. Alloy Mak!

Prepared by Golf, "barista" at Shine Café


*Mangoes

**Very delicious!

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