I first arrived in the land of smiles in 1992. I was working overseas in Kuwait employed to extinquish the oil fires in which Saddam Hussien had left so no others were able to use them. At the time we had many different companies and vendors established in the country helping with putting the fires out. I became friendly with a German vendor who suggested where I should go on my vacation. How about Thailand the land of smiles.
Land of Smiles Thailand
Dear Readers. I am now living in Pattaya City and have for the past 25 years. In this time I would like my readers to understand the difficulties, pleasures and unusual circumstances that I am faced with on a daily basis of living in a Buddhism country.
I arrived in the Land of Smiles on 12 April 1992 cleared customs jumped into a taxi and off to my destination of Pattaya on the eastern seaboard of Thailand. My vendor friend has informed this time of the year I would enjoy as some particular events take place. However he didn't enlarge on what? Off I went. Arrived at the Nice Hotel on soi 2nd road booked in by a very lovely lady. Of course not known where I am or where to go is the first thoughts I have. Therefore some expeditions were required to suss the place out.
Food was my first thought and sat down to my first ever thai food. Green curry with Jasmine rice. Not too spicy. The food was delicious. Next off to see the sights. Pattaya has a beautiful beach with many beer bars established around the beach area. Shopping available everywhere and anything you may wish to buy is available. The weather at this time of year is very hot and humid and it won't take long before you get a sweat on and need to drink. I sat down at a beer bar and that is when my holiday began. I had previously been informed of where to go to see other english speaking people so this is where I was. The bar itself was packed with people mostly Austrailian. I introduced myself to the others. As time went on and various people were advising on the what to do and what not to do in the country it soon became clear I was with friends. Everyone was asking have you came for Songkran. I admitted I had no idea what songkran was and would someone please tell me, no one would, only the words were you will find out tomorrow the 13th. So I shrugged my shoulders and decided within myself, I,ll find out tomorrow.
The talking and drinking continued until a suggestion was made by one of my fellow drinkers that since I am new to Thailand we all should do the Go Go bar run. Meaning all 15 of us start at the farest ago go bar away and and end up back to the nearest which was just across the road. A go go bar is a bar with dancers in the bar and you watch them dancing. In 1992 there were about 18 ago go bars in Pattaya.The baht bus was ordered all 15 of us piled in (Open back pick up with safety rails to prevent people from falling out). Off we went and arrived at the first one which was located at the top of 2nd road on soi 2. Everyone piled in and the nights entertainment started which was mainly about drinking beer. This went on for some time until it was time to move on to the next ago go bar and in every ago go more and more beers. At the time I had no idea of just how many ago go bars their were in the town. After going in and out of go go bars we eventually ended up in a place called walking street which i was astonished to see the street was full of even more go go bars. By this time the travelling and the beer was catching up and I realised it was time for bed and returned back to my Hotel.
The following morning arose early and headed for breakfast. The town appeared normal same as the day before, what was this Songkran all about. Ate breakfast and then realised the intensity of the heat and humidity and decided to have an afternoon in my room and later go out when the temperature had dropped. Around 7 pm I thought about going out, got dressed and headed for the local bar in which I had previouly attended.
On the way there a local person suddenly threw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. I was shocked and not being able to speak the language i just stood in amasement why thinking why has he done this. All my clothes were soaking wet and the guy just stood there laughing at me. Nothing I can do about this now i,ll just continue to my destination and while going to the bar it happened again by another then again by another. OMG what is going on with these crazy people. I arrived at the bar, soaked to the skin and everyone was laughing at me and shouted happy Songkran. Bemused by what was going on I asked in a distraught manner please explain. Songkran is the Thai new year and its is blessed by the buddha by a water festival. Ah now I somewhat understand why this total stranger would throw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. My clothes were soaking wet, my wallet and money all stuck together I needed a drink.
Everyone had these plastic wallets around they necks to keep they money and telephones to protect them from water. All wore flowery shirts and swimming trunks as no point in having trousers or shorts due to ammount of water everyone would receive in due course. Its then I realised about my german vendor friend sent me here on 13th April as he knew what I was about to receive. Somehow I would repay the complement to him when I returned back to work. As the night went on and things became more apparent on this water festival, I asked how long does this go on for. As I was holidaying in Thailand for two weeks. I was informed it would continue until the 19th and end at 6pm. WHAT? and it will get alot worse everyday until the 19th so be prepared for a good soaking everyday. Well here I am thinking I would have a lovely relaxing time in Thailand maybe go see the sights and do some travelling. Nothing to stop me from doing it, just that having to live out of a small plastic bag for the next 6 days was putting me off so I decided to cancel all plans.
For anyone who is similar to myself reading this, its an ardous task having to put up with someone throwing water and patting talcum powder on your face all day and night and having to smile when they do it. All plans cancelled, what do we do now. Do what everyone else is doing. Off again to another bar then another bar getting hot then cold water throwing all over you. Great this !! Honestly it got to the stage where i was so sick of it I stopped in my hotel room most days as the hotel restaurant was within the bounderies of the hotel which meant I didn,t have to go outside for anything.
Eventually the 19th arrived I was so happy it soon would all be over. I thought for the last day I would get involved and be prepared this time for a good soaking. I headed off to the local bar. On the way there the roads were all blocked with cars and pickup passengers all throwing water. Water pistols came in various sizes from kids to 3 inch pipes with the blasting power of a fire engine. The roads were completely flooded with water, ice blocks were continually being loaded into 45 gallon drums of water ready to fill the water pistols. Everyone appeared drunk and some with bottles of whiskey drinking from the bottle.
The baht buses loaded with people were the ideal target for water throwing. Music was blasting from every vehicle and the bars. What on earth is going on here. The local people were all dressed for the ocassion dancing in the streets and to me it all appeared to be a complete mad house as I had never seen anything like this before. I arrived at the bar. The bar its self was completely flooded inside everyone was throwing water over each other and drinking beer at the same time. The seats were soaking wet the bar tables and all full of laughter. I just joined the party then around 6.30 pm it all stopped as if an alarm bell had sounded. A few people who were enjoying it continued for a while and eventually they stopped. I could feel so much satisfaction within me that at last this madness was over. Horray lets drink to that. It was then I promised to myself I will never ever come to Thailand at this time of the year ever ever again.
However for some they loved it, some were even saying see ya all next year. Happy Songkran. As I said its really depending on the person if you enjoy this type of thing or not. I don't. Its supposed to only last 7 days. However over the years it has growing to 10 or 11 days in some places of Pattaya, especially the beach area and some small soi,s. So beware of this, if you do come to Thailand this time of year.
Songkran starts in the North of Thailand Chiang mai and works its way down to Bangkok and onto Pattaya and its all suposed to be 2 to 3 days in Chiang mai then the rest in Bangkok and Pattaya. As Pattaya has became a bigger city in recent years. Naglua and Jontiem have became part of Pattaya city and now instead of 2 days in Naglua, 2 days in Jontiem 3 days in Pattaya its just became a full week and some additional days in other areas. For me this time of year, Im either out of the country, away from the tourist areas or stocked up and indoors for the complete period.
The Following day, I awoke and wondered how the city would be now Songkran was over. As for the last seven days all I had seen was everyone throwing water at each other. I felt as if I was back to square one and had just arrived alough a week of my vacation was now over and I only had 7 days before going back to work. What can I do with the remaining 7 days. Travelling now will only shorten my holiday as more time will be spent on local transport. I decided to remain in Pattaya for the duration of my holiday. I returned back to the beer bar to see my fellow travellers and find out what would be going on now Songkran was over.
As I arrived at the beer bar everyone was loading their golf equipment onto a mini bus and about to head off to one of the many golf courses located within 45 minutes of Pattaya City. I thought what a great idea. I asked what the arrangements were and how I could get involved. Basically it was turn up at 9 am and join the group. The beer bar goes to many of the local golf courses everyday of the week and its stated on the notice board which golf course you will play on the day. I was then advised to join a charity organisation called Pattaya Sports Club as the membership card can give up to 40% discount at some of the courses and where to go to obtain the membership card. Great this is my program for today. Of course no golf equipment or foot ware. Plenty places to go and buy golf shoes and hire of sports equipment. Fantastic. It took most of the day to get sorted out and return back to the hotel.
The next day up bright and early and off to the beer bar to play some golf. The beer bar restaurant served full english breakfast and lovely american coffee. Everything loaded onto the mini bus and off we went to Siam Golf and Country Club which is located around 40 mins drive from Pattaya. On arrival we all jumped off the bus and went into the club house to pay the golf fees. At the same time all the lady caddies collected our golf clubs and awaited us at the first tee. We changed into our golf clothes and met them at the tee. I asked to go to the driving range as I was new to the equipment and needed some practice.The caddy master arranged the groups of golfers and we waited our turn to tee off. I was looking around the golf course and realising how beautiful the course condition was. With the flowers and blossoms on the trees. Everything was in perfect condition. No excuses to hit a bad shot. Eventually our tee time came and we all hit off and headed down the fairway. By the time i had reached my golf ball I was already sweating with the heat and humidity. The temperature was around 40 degrees C and the humidity about 70%. Fortunately at Siam golf club water holes for refreshments were located every three holes. so we all manged to drink plenty liquids as we went around the course. It took about 5 hours for our group to complete 18 holes. After a good cold shower I headed for the restaurant where we all sat and talked about each others highlights of the day. We were playing a stableford competition and prizes for the best stableford score and best scratch score. Unfortunately after all my efforts I wasn't even in for a shout of a prize. However I did enjoy the game. Everything loaded back into the mini bus and back to the beer bar for some more liquid refreshments and a good chin wag of the days event. Around 9 pm I could hardly keep my eyes open and headed back to the hotel where I slept until the following morning. For the remainder of my holiday I visited some of the following site seeing area's before i returned back to work.
Walking Street Pattaya
Walking Street Pattaya is located next to the sea front of Pattaya. On the seaside of the street you mainly find the top seafood restaurants with fantastic views of the ocean. On the other side is the beer bars, Ago go bars and tailor shops . The street is famous through-out the world for the Ago go bars. Its the place to be for night time activities and disco's.
Buddha Mountain is located about 35 mins drive from Pattaya. The mountain face is carved with the shape of the Buddha in gold plate. The mountain is a very popular site to see and many thai people visit the site on a daily basis. Adjacent to the mountain is Silver lake reservoir and wine making company.
Scuba diving companies are available on every sea shore resort in Thailand. From basic training to teaching levels. It should be understood its not possible to go Scuba diving without the necessary basic training.
Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens
Pattaya has various tour operating companies who can take you to any of the sightseeing venues. Really just a matter of walking into the office discuss where you want to go and go. Or arrange for another day which suits you. Nong Nooch Tropical gardens is located about 30 mins from Pattaya and is a must site seeing visit. The gardens cover aches of land (Rai in Thai) and most of the tropical plants in the world which are suited to these climate conditions are grown on Nong Nooch. They are also animal shows within the bounderies, restaurants and cafes.
Around 5 years later I decided to return to Thailand and start to live permanently in Pattaya. However first I must obtain the desired visa which fits in with this. If your over the age of 55 you have more of a choice for a visa. And with certain types of visas, You can hold a valid driving licence own a car or motorbike. When you first arrive, your passport is stamped for 30 days in the country which enables you time to decide which visa fits you and then you go to the thai immagration offices to obtain your visa.
I first stayed in many of the hotels in Pattaya and some condominiums. After a while you can get cabin fever living just in a room so I decided to look for a house with land and make a garden to relax in.
The exchange rate to the UK pound was very good at that time. I was able to purchase a small 2 bedroomed semi detached dwelling house. My idea was to use the house as a base until I really knew where I would live for the duration of my life. As transport was quite cheap to buy I purchased a 500cc motorcycle, as one of my dreams was to tour Thailand on a motorcycle.
Owning a house in Thailand is not as easy as one may think. If the home is positioned on land. However a condominium has different rules and In my case i was living on land plot. You have two choices on how to do this. The rules for ownership have changed since 1997 and newer more stringent rules now apply.
Ownership in a Thai national name.
Owning a house through a Limited company is one choice most people have went through. However a limited company is really for a business and therefore its not clear if this is legally a correct choice. At the time most lawyer firms were advertising home ownership through a limited company and as it being through a lawyer one would think it is legal It also can take months to have the final documents through of the formation of the company.
The idea behind the limited company was to register your company name, employ two people and yourself as directors of the company. The other two normally people who worked in the lawyers office. Once the company was formed make the other two directors unemployed thus you had full control of the company. In which a yearly audit was performed for taxes and vat payments if any.
Thai ownership, Would mean putting the land plot in a thai national name. Now if a building structure is erected on the land plot then at that time the structure became the property of the land owner. This has changed from 1997 a blue book is issued from the land office that indicates the land bounderies of the plot size in the thai owners name. In somecases a yellow book can be obtained if a building structure is erected on a land plot and the building owners name goes into the yellow book.
Because the building structure may be a different owner to the land owner and maybe a lease agreement was made for a duration of time.
As I was paying cash for the building I decided to go through a limited company as the limited company can own the land plot. I did have a thai partner who was advising all dicussions with the seller. As my thai language at the time was minimal and having someone to translate was a blessing. However now im quite fluent in the thai languages.
Some problems can exist with this type of deal. As they is nothing stopping the the land owner from selling the land with the lease to a new owner. How things would go from this scenario is really up to the lawyer engadged to deal with it.
On purchasing a new dwelling house the decoration inside the buildings you will find the finishing is of a basic standard. In most cases floor tiling or wall painting is done but to a very basic standard. I set about with the colour choices of walls, ceilings and floor tiling and got on with getting the job done.
I was just about finished everything when I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door to find an elderly English gentleman standing there. He was looking around to buy a small dwelling house same as this. My first words were, you can have this one. I really dont know why I said it but I did. His reaction was ok, how much you want for it. I added on what I had spent doing up the house give him a figure and he words were ok. I,ll have it.The next day he arrived with a cheque for the money and that was it. Sold.
I phoned the lawyer and the limited company was still in the finalisation stages therefore could be withdrawn at any time if needed to. My concerns at the time of selling were when setting up a limited company. Your informed one week to a maxinum of 30 days if they is alot of business at the time of application. I was waiting 6 month without anything moving on. I understand the difficulties between languges and the meanings of words. Some people can speak english by repeating the words but don't really know what the word means. Or how do I know that my application was sumitted by the law firm. I was concerned and I think the relief of selling the home cleared my anxiety as when your uncertain as to what is being discussed about only leads to confusion.
After a week the cheque cleared and I was to move out end of the month. I did think about moving back into a hotel. However having a garden and space around to walk was more relaxing that a hotel room.
The lady who was helping with negotiations informed the company who originally buit the house was offering another house in the same area and maybe I wanted to take a look at this one. I looked at the house the following day it was alot bigger with more land. The asking price was double what I paid for the first house. However I did make some more money on the selling of the old house. After calculating the figures it was going to cost 30% more. As with the first house the decoration was basic styles. I informed the builder if they were to improve they colour schemes to my choice I will buy the house. In which they did.
I am still left with the initial problem how am I going to buy the house. Limited Company or Thai national. Both ways were proven to be a difficult choice. After talks with the builder I realised the building company had a few years of construction left on the land plots. Before finalisation would be made of the land plots to the land office. With this in mind, I asked the builders if it was possible if I paid 90% of the cost, then paid monthly installments on the last 10% until the house was fully paid and the building company reached the finalisation period of informing the land office. As if I continued in this fashion I do not need a limited company or a thai national to buy the house. I already have the receipts as proof of purchase and in a few years when you have to file the plots of land to the land office, I can then decide how I will buy the property, either limited company or thai national owner name and they agreed.
As time went on and houses were being built around me, people were moving in and the area started to develope into a small town. English restaurants or anything resembling english food was very scarce. I did have cooking facilties in the house however at 30 degree C most days is an ardous task to cook. Far better off just ordering thai food and having the food delived.
This is when I came up with the idea of opening a small restaurant selling english food and drinks. I am sure I can teach the thai people how to cook english food if I bought the right equipment, steak hot plates ovens and grills. I shopped around for the equipment I was needing and they were things about I could adopt providing the correct temperatures for cooking english food.
As withThai food everything is either fried or boiled you only need a gas burner and a frying pan. The thai's sell one particular food, if your needing a different dish then you have to go to someone who is selling that type of food.
After searching around I also spotted a place where I could set up shop for a cafe type restaurant. All shop house type of buildings are normally built with 6 units with two end units. The builders are clever as the end units are the favourable one to rent and they normally make them as two units for people to rent. I had spotted one as a single units with additional space attached which I could make into a beer garden. I had discussed the terms with the owner about renting the unit and everything appeared fare and square.
My thai parther was also a cook (everyone is a cook in this country) so we decided on two types of food. English and Thai. As the lady was from Issan the restaurant would cook the issan food which is different from Thai food in most cases however thai food can also be on the menu. As for the english food, Steaks chips and peas, Gravys boiled potatoes all the stoggie food which you miss when travelling overseas especially in asia. And of course pies. Oh how I miss a good Steak pie. Cheese and tomatoe flans. Suet puddings, fish pies. Wonderful at last I can have that feeling of fullness. As with asian food it is very nice to eat, full of colours and spicy. However after 20 minutes your hungry again. You end up eating like asian people 5 times a day. Whereas a good english breakfast and stoggie evening meal will give you enough energy to last you for the full day. All this really just started off for something to do and be able to eat my choice of food when I wanted.
Not everyday but most days. After about a month I soon realised I was not alone as alot of other people were wanting this type of food also.
Thaifood is nice, however its not filling for us europeans. We need stogg, stogg to mop up all the liquids from the previous nights entertainment. Im living here now and no matter what i eat thai, Im always hungry after eating. Ive watched other europeans eat thaifood and all say the same. In fact some europeans eat thaifood to lose weight and you do. Ive experimented, by eating thaifood for a month and weighed myself, lost 5 lbs easily. And eating 4 of 5 times a day. One thing definately sure, its very good for detoxing your body as most of thaifood is green leafy vegetables and spices with garlic.
First thing on the menu, English Breakfast, consisting of; Grilled bacon rashers, fried sliced potatoes, Black pudding, Beef suasages. Fried eggs, beans and Fried bread. Cup of rosey lee (tea). Lipton Tea bags. Wonderful. Just what you need to start off a day before playing a game of golf.
Dinners, Fish and Chips and beans or peas. Mashed potatoes, Gravy, Sliced Beef and Leak pudding (Suet with leaks steamed) perfect for a nights entertainment. Puts a lining on your stomach.
As time progressed, some customers were bringing they own types of food. A friend from Canada Ukon, would bring 10 kg of Canadian smoked red salmon. Another friend American would bring Lamb for the barb b que. We had a weekly event where you could make your own dish for everyone. A German cooked, hock with sourkraut and boiled potatoes. Another Texan cooked Gumbo and if no one else was bothered to cook. I would do an Indian curry with nan bread or poppodums. This became very popular and every week 15 to 20 people would turn up for the food and thai food was available for the ladys.
The events turned into gatherings and a club was formed. We had sports days, shopping days. Tours and even weekend holidays. However as everyone was enjoying thereselves, my motorbike was standing unused. I was itching to get onto my bike and tour Thailand.
A motorbike in this climate is perfect. Even with all your clobber on to protect yourself in case of accident. The only time you will suffer from the heat is at traffic lights.Thailand drives on the left hand side of the road same as the UK. The only thing they dont have is roundabouts. Instead U turns are there on most of the roads. In my opinion keeping off the motorways is a better idea and keeping on the A and B roads is safer and just as quick in the long runs. As I am living on the east of Thailand I decided to make my touring of North Thailand first, Maps at the time were available in english and GPS.
From my understanding. Thai people and Issan speak a different language. Issan language is more Lao with some words thai. Whereas Thai people only speak thai language. The imaginery borders start from Songkla (South Thailand) to Nakhon Ratchasima (Kolat) for thai language. Past Kolat the language becomes Issan. After Songkla its south Thailand language. Now as I say its not concrete of the imaginery borders its really only my assumption. I am also aware Chaing mai has its own dialect.
Of course of all the people speak whatever is their own language and thai is the language they are taught at school. Ive found as manner of politeness they all start off in Thai language until it is understood where the individuals were born and move into that language. As I am not Thai this information is only from my experience with them and my own level of speaking the language.
Now I have to say, I actually went on the Issan tour twice. Because of my type of visa. In most cases every 90 days us visitors must report to an immigration centre to check in. Which meant I returned to Pattaya to fullfil this obligation.
If your in possession of a multi-entry visa you can go out the country at one of the border crossings and return, instead of returning back to Pattaya immigration in Jontiem. Of course having a Multi-entry visa costs more and really isn't necessary. Unless your going out the country more then 6 times a year.
The first Issan tour I drove up the north eastern side of Thailand heading towards Nong Khai located in the eastern province. The second tour through the middle. Both times returned by the western side. Two reasons. Thailand has alot of Temples located all over the country and to access them all, you would really need to zig zag the country in order to visit them.
When visiting a temple (Wat)The thai people call this Tamboon. Its worth visiting a temple just to see the architecture. The design of these temples can put the west to shame in workmanship, scale and size. When you think of the basic tools they have to build these temples compared to the machinery used in the western world. One thing ive noticed is the wood craft joints. As a youngster at school I studied wood crafts. (Joinery). Learning the different types of wood joints, Tounge and groove. Tenon joint etc. When visiting the temples ive never seen any type of wood joint I learned from school.They is wood joints but nothing similar to what I was taught. Completely different. Yet in a way. Fit for purpose. Of all the temples, everything appears to be made by hand. No mass production of assembled units.
The following pictures I down-loaded from the internet of some of the places I visited.
I had heard about the various temples throughout thailand and my first intention was to visit Surin as I was told about this temple in particular. My main problem I cannot read or write Thai. Therefore to find a temple you really need to be shown the location.
I drove my motorcycle from Pattaya via the Cambodian borders. Passed by Aranphetet until I reached the motorway from Kolat to Ubonratchathani. This took some time and my number one rule is to never drive in Thailand during the hours of darkness. To dangerous.
Therefore I needed somewhere to stop. I looked on the google app for hotels within my area and viewed a few of them. However I did not want to go off the main track too much and decided to stay in a hotel somewhere on the motorway. I spotted a very large green sign with Ryans Hotel written on. Perfect written in english. Called in and booked a room.
Kicked off my boots motorbike jacket and trousers lay on the bed. Anyone who rides a motorbike for long periods will understand the relief of sitting on a soft bed. Washed and showered then off to eat. As I sat down to eat I noticed quite a few european people were also staying at the resort. After my meal I started to discuss the reason I was heading for Surin and wondered if anyone knew on how I would be able to get to the Wat. Well of course anyone who is living in this area, everyone knew of the temple and it really wasn't that far away and tomorrow someone would take me there.
Buddhist Monks are people who volenteered to be monks. Or the family met hard times and gave the baby to the temple as really not enough money to look after them. The young monks receive a very good education and are taken care of all their lives. However the Buddhist monk must abstain from women to be a monk.
From what Ive seen. People go to the temples to discuss various problems. Also for marriages and blessings. Anyone can go even westerners and a ritual is carried out to bring you good luck and wealth. The ritual is mainly water throwing over you.Its a bambo brush dipped in the water and the water throwing on you as words are spoken.
One time a lady suggested I should do lucky life from a buddhist monk. A box is made from a banana tree stem and divided into 12 seperate boxes. In each box plastersein shapes are made of animals representing each month of the year. The box is made into a basket shape. You sit in a position where your respecting the buddha and words are spoken from his book. What these words are, Ive no idea as they not in thai. This goes on for about an hour then the box is set fire too. This was your lucky life performed.
The type of things people go to see the buddha about. A problem at work. Even to change they name to make them more lucky. Make you favourable at work to make more money or get a promotion. Some people donate money, gold or flowers and the buddha will perform a ritual for you. In most cases the more you give the better off you are.
Various made-up sizes of plastic buckets are available for sale at the temples, filled with medicines or gifts for you to donate to the buddha. How it works, You buy the bucket of your choice to give to the Buddha Monk. The Monk performs the ritual for you. The bucket goes back to the seller who hands over the money to the Monk. The money is handed to the temple. All in good will.
One time it was my birthday. I was awoken at 4am told to get washed and ready were going to the temple. The air filled with the aroma of food. It made me so hungry. At the temple they were handing the food over to the buddhas for them to eat. A ritual was carried out as it was my birthday and from this I would receive good luck in the coming days. I then went home and had my breakfast. (Cold).
Another time my father died. I asked the Monk what they could do for him. I was given a list of clothes to buy. Shoes, winter jacket, trousers, socks, shirts and tie. I bought the items then gave them to the buddha, Thinking the clothes must be for his journey to the next life. He asked if I would write my fathers name on a piece of paper. I did. He then set fire to the paper. Spoke some words from a book. I assumed this is to give him luck on his journey to paradise.
Its a strange sight for us westerners when you visit a Buddhist Temple. Not only people are there, also many dogs. If dogs are found abandoned or a mother dog has had puppies on a roadside. The dogs are left at the temple. They get well fed and become lazy with so much good food. Its not unusual to be met by many dogs as you enter the temple gates not be frightened by them.
A thai dog is very different from a western dog. Its as if the dog understands how to behave. They are so placid and friendly. All the thai dogs are wild, none have a particular owner. Their born on this world same as we are. The Soi dogs in the cities are particular friendly as it's their way of survival.
Dogs are everywhere in Thailand. The wild dogs in the countryside are so clean and healthy. The soi dogs are not so much as they natural habitat is not available in the cities. Some get the minge quickly as they eat out of the rubbish bins. No such thing as enoculations for them as they were born wild and unfortunately their countryside has been turned into a housing estate.
Whatever your reason you go to see the Buddhist Monk in his Temple. You always leave with a good feeling.
I have provided an online store. Where you can buy your own statue of the Buddha for your birth date. The Buddha statue should be position to face the sunrise in the morning or thereabouts. It should be noted. The buddha statue can take care of you only if the eyes of the statue are opened first. This will be performed by the Buddhist Monk prior to shipment.
When ordering please state In the comments box, your birth date the day of the week you were born on.
The Buddha statue suited to your Birthday will then be shipped.
The Buddha statues are made in many forms. Cast steel. plastic, plaster, china, and are normally coated in a gold colour/bronze. In some cases the Buddha statues are green colour (Jade). The sizes vary from 1 inch to 24 inch or bigger in some styles.
Necklace type buddhas are available also. Selecting a necklace type buddha is really a personal choice. However some help can be given on your selection in the online store. Necklace type buddhas can vary in price. The materials used can be 23.995% Karot gold, silver,china or a plastic mould encased in a gold plated houlder.
Please read the Information page first prior to ordering.
I have stated 5000 GBP however custom buddhas are available at your choice. Custom Buddhas can be 23.995% gold with a variety of precious stones embedded. Diamonds, Emeralds, saphhires, Jade.
Therefore please email your requirement from the online store pictures. Send an email of your choice and of materials to use. A return email will be provided showing cost as per item.
The statue or Necklace Pendant which suits you, will be shipped once the eyes of the buddha statue/Necklace are opened by a Buddhist monk, a ritual for your well being, wealth and good health.
Necklace chains are available in all sizes. All 24 Karot gold. Please note more intricate designs can sometimes cause weak links depending on use. 24 Karot gold is a softer than 18 karot gold. The gold itself is not stamped with a ingot mark. However in some cases a stamp is made on the gold equivelent to thai standards. Not european standards.
Gold in Thailand is sometimes used instead of a bank account. The Thai people buy the gold and store or wear for a period of time. Once the prices go up, the gold is cashed in for profit. Gold it is always a very good investment in this country.
The cost of your Buddha statue/Necklace Pendant will include, Ritual performed by the Buddhist monk and the item of your selection. One pack of Toub sticks.
Packing/shipping paid by the purchaser.
Toub sticks are burned, They are used for the buddha who will take care of you and the people around you. The Toub sticks are used in many ways. Normally 3 is burned, One for you, one for the buddha and one for the people around you to give good luck. In some cases 5 or 9 or even more are burned. In most cases Thai people burn 5 or 9 which is a figure representing past kings of Thailand.
Please ensure when you burn your Toub sticks you do this in a safe manner. The Toub sticks give off smoke and a smell. You normally do this outside of your dwelling and either placed in a pot of sand or just stuck into the ground.
For further information. Please contact. firstname.lastname@example.org
The following day I ate breakfast at the resort restaurant. As I was eating I spotted a pickup truck coming in the entrance of the resort. The open back of the pickup was full of people. I wondered to myself what was going on. The pickup pulled up right opposite the restaurant and everyone in the pickup was glaring at me. The driver of the pickup came over and spoke in broken english, 'you want go Temple'. I looked at everyone and I was offered a space in the back of the pickup. I jumped in and off we went to the temple.
Here in Thailand, everyone wants to go to the temples. The problem is transport, cost availability. When word gets around someone is going and its free, everyone goes who is able to go. I expect in the local village the village head would of informed who could go and who cannot. As the people in the back of the pickup were elderly and some with missing limbs.
As we were heading to the temple the pickup stopped. I was informed of two possible ways to the temple one quicker than the other. However the road may be flooded. Not knowing which road was which. I just agreed. After about 30 minutes of driving the pickup stopped again and I was informed the road is closed. So off we went in the other direction to find the other road.
Eventually we reached the temple and everyone got off the pickup and we all entered the temple. I waited for everyone who was there speak to the buddha until it was my turn. Before you speak to the Buddha a small jar of water is poured into another jar as he speaks words. Flowers are presented an envelope of money as a donation.
I was suprised when the Buddha spoke in English. He asked if I had come to see him for anything special. I informed I was passing by and just decided to come for a look. He introduced himself as Mr.Dapow. He then performed the ritual for me and we all left the temple. We all were lucky that day as Mr.Dapow was a big buddist monk and he is only there every now and again.
On the way back to the resort we stopped at Prasat market. There we walked around the market buying food for everyone to eat back at the resort. And few cases of beer. When we arrived back at the resort everyone started eating and drinking as if it was a celebration. I suppose it was in a way to them, going to see the buddha.
The next day packed up the motorbike and started on my journey. After looking at the map. I decided I would go off the motorway and go onto one of the B roads as the B roads are generally quiet compared to the motorways.I had three choices. One, go to Ubonratchathani or Roi-et or Mukdahan. Roi-et meant I was heading through the middle of Thailand, Ubon was motorway so Mukdahan was the best choice as the road would bring me back onto the eastern side of Thailand. Looking at the map I estimated about 5 hours of driving to Mukdahan.
The road was empty of other traffic with the odd farm vehicle passing by. After about 2 hours of driving I decided to stop by the roadside take my gear off and have a sit down at one of the many wooden shelters which are used as bus stops. (Not that I seen a Bus). I stopped the motorbike put the stand down and walked with my back to the motorbike to the shelter. Just as I was sitting down I heard this noise. I looked back at the motorbike and the bike was on soft sand. The stand had slowly sank into the sand until the motorbike toppled over.
I tried many times to get the motorbike back on its stand without success. Here I am in the middle of know-where not a passing vehicle going by cannot get the bike back on the stand as everytime I tried the motorbike just got stuck more in the sand. I had previously bought a small compressor for tyre punctures. Spare parts. tools just in case, who would of been prepared for soft sand.
I sat there for about two hours. Wondering if I should look for somewhere to sleep for the night or maybe try and make a bed in the bus shelter. Whatever, my thoughts of sleeping out here in the wilds were a bit spooky. Just as the hours of darkness were approaching I spotted a farm vehicle heading my way. I was just hoping the driver would stop and he did. We got the bike back up and moved onto a solid piece of ground. I thanked him and off I went on my journey. Looking at the time it was 5 hours since I left the resort and I was not even half way.
Driving in the darkness here is definately a No No as the farm vehicles sometimes continue working. Not that head lights are an important part of the equipment or people walking around at night or even motorbikes without lights. I had to stop somewhere.
I used my google app and somewhere in my vicinity was a resort type hotel. Not much of a place as it was very cheap but it was somewhere where I could have a room. Eventually found the place and was met with an astonished look on the cashiers face. Very little words were spoken, paid the money received the key and she pointed in a direction. The room number was on the key. Opened the door to the room and the first thing I noticed no windows. No air conditioning or TV, a small fan and a toilet. Just have to do. I can leave the door open until I sleep for fresh air.
Here in Thailand temperatures have an effect on the flowers birds and insects at certain times of the year. I had left the door open and unfortunately for me it was the time of year when these flying ant like insects hatch. Millions of them fly around any light source and its impossible to breathe never mind see. Its just an accepted thing here by the local people. It happens. After spending the night under a blanket in 30 degrees C I was so glad morning came. The ants were all over the ground. They have to hatch, fly, mate, lay eggs then they die.
You may think that after my visit to the Temple in Surin, I have not had much luck. However the buddhist monk would say its luck in another form as your plight may have been alot worse than it was for you. So thank your lucky stars it was this that happened.
Didn't bother with breakfast just headed north. Im sure I,ll find a little road side restaurant and have kapow moo for my breakfast. (Fried minced pork, oyster sauce with basil leaves and rice).No such thing as coffee only water. As time went by the road was getting busy which means Im apporoaching a town.
Mukdahan 30 klms to go. Not bad really as it was nearly midday plently day time light left for driving. Reached Mukdahan stopped for food. Mukdahan is quite famous for its noodles, vietnamese style. The noodles were lovely and headed for That Panom as I had been informed of another temple there. On arriving at That Panom the accomodation was upgrade from my previous resort and it was good to get somewhere with hot water.
That Panom Temple
Tat Panom is located around 60 klms south of Nakon Panom. The area is well known for Buddha temples, in fact many are located in this area. Once a year on the Mekong river a boat show is performed. The boats are scaffolded with bambo and flowers are arranged on the boats. The boats are lit up and it is a fantastic view to see and many Thai people from all over the country arrive to see this.
That Panom is quite a thriving little town. Some of the hotels are located right on the Mekong river. It has the usual markets for food and clothes and since it is quite close to Lao its easy to buy the French bread which is baked daily. Ive always wondered how these people can make such a lovely bread without having an oven. Ive looked around and tried to find out. In fact it has taken years for me to find out. I was thinking maybe some kind of pizza oven or a homemade oven. Now that I know how its done makes me laugh.
All the oven is, is a big clay water pot. Of course no water in it. Holes are punched through the bottom of the clay water pot. Barbeque coal is burning at the bottom of the pot. They place the tins of bread dough on a grill in the pot with a lid on. 10 mins later you have French bread. Baked at a high temperature.
Ive also tried the cooked chicken. They just hang a chicken on a hook, hooked on the side of the clay pot. The length of the hook determines how close the chicken is to the burning coals. As the clay water pots are about 1 metre in height, the chicken is slowly cooked. Im not kidding you, the fat from the chicken drips down the pot walls and the smell is fantastic. The taste of the chicken is out of this world. A chicken sandwich in French bread is the best thing you can eat in an Issan village.
I stayed the night and worked out where next I would be heading. From That Panom I have two choices. Head towards Nakon Panom and then onto Nong Khai or head west towards Udonthani. Going to Udonthani is really taking me off my course. I remembered a friend living up this area and then thought about giving him a call. As he lives half way between Udonthai and That Panom and from my map. I could see a road from his village Bang Dung to Nong Khai. I called and he aswered. I was given directions on where to turn off and head for Bang Dung. One thing I must say. All the road signs in Thailand are in english aswell as Thai. Ive no idea why just that its alot easy finding your way around than having them in Thai only.
I turned down the turning heading for Bang Dung. Riding along expecting a sign to read turn left or right into Bang Dung as I was on a B road. I did see a sign stating Bang Dung but nowhere to turn off. I rode for a further few klicks and decided to turn back thinking Id missed the turning. Strange I had no idea where it was. I phoned again only to find out the village is on the B road. Therfore the sign stating Bang Dung was actually Bang Dung there and then.I found a small guest house and got slackened off there. I used to work with Tony in Yemen on a large scale LNG plant we both worked in the same Engineeering dept.
You will find most of the european people living permanent in the land of smiles are married to a thai lady. Thai ladys are the best business women you will ever find especially it its not they money. However some of them just have the knack to make more money. Tony's wife was involved in mushrooms.(Phet) Growing them to sell.
As we know mushrooms come in many types and some or favourites for thai people. Thai people would eat mushrooms every meal if they had them .Therefore selling mushrooms in thailand is a very good business to have. I do not know much about them and I dont like to eat them. However we met up and I was taken around the mushroom farm and I was astonished to see the amount of mushrooms they were growing. I do not know what the overheads would be for such a business as this. Apparently they sell kilo's of mushrooms on a daily basis.
After the tour we went for a few beers in a local beer bar. I suprised to see so many europeans in the bar. The bar owner was from the UK, Manchester. As the afternoon went on alot more people joined the group and it soon became a big party. I found out then that at least 40 people from europe lived in this area. Bang Dung. Such a small town and so many british/european people living there made me wonder what was so special about Bang Dung. Nothing really just everyone had a wife who was born in the area. As us westerners who originally come over to live in Thailand get fed up living in the holiday resorts, its great news when a lady suggests to go stay where she was born. And this is the very reason these people were there and all had some form of business.
As the evening wore on, it was apparent no one was going home until every bottle of beer was drunk in the bar. Most of the thai wifes were there also. This continued into the early hours of the morning until you either ran out of beer or just couldn't drink anymore of it. Which was my case.Lucky for me my guest house was right across the road from the bar. Getting back was a bit wobbly but got there eventually.
Number 2 rule. Never drive my motorbike with the influence of beer in me. I always give two days of no beer before I ride a motorbike as its really just to dangerous to do so. You have to have eyes in the back of your head on some roads here as you can be met by heavy traffic at anytime especially if its market day in some of these villages. This meant 2 more days of no beer. When in fact it turned out to be two more weeks as living in a small town their is very little to do apart from go for a beer. As I had not seen my friend for some years appeared to be the right thing to do at the time. It was good to talk to people similar to myself who also had motorbikes. For two weeks everday someone had a story to tell about travelling in Thailand.
Thai people call europeans a Ferang because of a tropical which grows here. The fruit is white inside. Our skin colour is the same as the white fruit.
A guy was in the bar sitting with crutches and his legs plastered up. I eventually got round to asking what happened to you. He told his story.
At the time of telling his story everyone found it so funny however he took this in good spirit. He explained in his younger days his job was a brick layer. Someone who builds walls. As he lives in Pattaya. He comes up to Bang Dung every month for his wife to see her family. When he is in Bang Dung, just for something to do he would build a wall or do some brick work for her family. He explained sometimes he would go back to Pattaya alone then come back up to Bang Dung to collect his wife. He drove a 4x4 Toyota pickup. The last time when he was going back to Pattaya he always drives through Burriram. He has done this route many times and knew the roads well. He always wondered about a road which he seen and never any traffic. Signs were up for road works but he didnt take much notice of them.
He decided this time he would go down the road and see where he would come out. As he was driving down the road, he spotted a large lake in the corner of his eye to the right hand side of the road. With the sun shining down on the lake it looked so lovely. He kept glancing over at the lake as he was driving. All of a sudden the pickup was in mid air and he felt the pickup starting to roll over in the air.
The road had suddenly stopped at the top of the hill. As the next part of the road was a bridge to cross a ravine which they were building at the time. The pickup was flying through the air. The pickup hit the bank on the other side of the ravine and rolled over upside down on its roof. The construction workers building the bridge quiclky came over and pulled him out of the pickup and called an ambulance and sent him to hospital. This is why he had two broken legs.
Eventually I got myself pulled together and no more beer for a few days as I wanted to go to Nong Khai which was only about 60 klms away. The following day I arrived in Nong Khai. I was very suprised to see how white the people were. Really different from the Thai people yet still part of thailand. Well in fact right next door to Laos. The only thing separating Laos from Thailand was the Mekong river.You could stand on the banks of the Mekong river and see the Laos people on the other side of the river. It was then I realised it was Christmas eve and wondered what would be going on if anything here in Nong Khai for Christmas day. My hotel was situated right next to the border crossing to Laos and many western people were waiting to go over to Laos on one of the boats. After a few discussions I was told where to go tomorrow the 25th December and where I would find more westerners who lived in Nong Khai.
The next day the temperature dropped to - 6 degrees C. I was freezing even thou I had my motorbike jacket on. It was a cold wind all day. Walking around the town everyone was covered up in winter jackets. Hot drinks were impossible to find or even hot food. I did find a coffee stand however the temperature of the water wasn't anywhere near what I was needing. Who would of thought this would happen. In all honesty I did find other westerners who were covered up sitting freezing and miserable, its then I decided it is time to move on and travel south again. Udonthani was 80 klms away so I headed off there.
Heading down the motorway to Udon I noticed how fresh the air was. The cold front in Nong Khai had certainly cleaned up the air. The freshness reminding me of my younger days in England around Easter time, the Spring air. Every Easter everyone from the schools would do marching in North Shields square. It was the time of year when you would receive your new shoes and school uniform.
Udon has changed so much. This must be my seventh visit to this city over the past 20 years. The actual size of the city has expanded, it was difficult to get my bearings with all the new roads. I knew where I was wanting to go. The railway station. For me this was the centre of town. I eventually found the railway station and remembered which directions I needed to go to find a good hotel. Some nice hotels in this city and not expensive. Udon has everything you need. For me its the best place anyone would wish to live for a westerner. As its quiet but has the shopping facilities of the western world. The design of the city is quite unique. Every road is based on a cirlce going around the city. The centre being number one and out stretching to the final circle. I was in the centre from here its easy to get anywhere I wanted to go to.
Udon has the head office for my Honda motorbike manufacturer. The bike was needing a service, mainly oil change and a few odds and sods to tweak with. I had notice a slight vibration coming from the exhaust at certain speeds. If anyone can sort this out the Udon mechanics will have the equipment and know how to do it. The manufacturing workshop has every kind of testing equipment you need. It's worth taking your motorbike there and watching them perform the diagnostic checks.
They fitted a camera of the dash board on the handle bars. The mechanics then took the bike out for a run. He returned transferred the data onto his computer. His computer has parameters already installed on for my motorbike engine cc, for the transmission, engine, exhaust, electrical systems and temperature and pressures. The data is then compared to how the motorbike performed at the various speeds he rode on the bike. A movie of the dash board is also shown. The mechanic definately tested the motorbike. The rev counter was visible and you could see the counter shooting up to top acceleration in seconds. The graphs were compared and the results concluded. The motorbike was runing perfectly. However if the exaust problem persisted. Then it may be advisible to renew the silencer at a later date. I think when the bike fell in the soft sand may have damaged the baffles inside.
As my motorbike was a new design, high reving tick over, typical asian style. This type of motorbike can go for ever, never have a problem built to withstand any road surface the bike may encounter. I prefer the old style of motorbike. Norton or BSA however prone to problems unless they are new bikes. Unfortunately you cannot buy a new english bike in Thailand. If your want a good runing motorbike which has good efficency and spare parts with low prices you have to buy Japanese which are assembled in Thailand. Buying second hand motorbikes is nothing but problems. As they are tickered with that much that the original settings were lost a long time ago.
Udon has alot of european restaurants bars all over the town.Its quite easy to walk into any restaurant and buy whatever you can imagine you wish to eat. I had remembered of a little place I used to go to a long time ago. I walked to the place hoping it would still be open. It was open, great I thought and the food I was wanting was on the menu. Chilli concarni. Finished it off and decided to go for a walk around the Central Plaza shopping centre.
Udon city centre has two bar areas for us ferangs to enjoy ourselves. Day night plaza and the Cattle mart. Both venues have beer and entertainment. You will be suprised at how many people actually do go there. Its normally packed with europeans. I had a walk down to Day night plaza, met a few people played some pool games. Then walked up to the Cattle mart which wasn't that busy as usual however found a good pool table with not many names down to play. What can happen in some places the winner of the previous game stays on the table until he/she is beaten then winner stays on the table.
As it happened on this night it was a lady who was winning all the games. I don't like playing women at pool. For some unkown reason they jinx me. Anyway this is the rules have to play the lady if I want play a game of pool. She beat me. However she asked if I wanted to play her again and I did. She beat me again. Then I decided to sit down in a chair and just watch the players.
As time went on we had a few words together and she asked what I was doing in Udon. I explained to her I have a motorbike and the enjoyment of having a motorbike is riding a motorbike. To do this you need to travel. I am not going anywhere special its mainly to ride the motorbike. She explained her job before was a tour guide and she was going to see her family who are in the house construction business. Her family were building a house in Loei for a client and its not that far from Udon on the west side of Thailand. I asked where abouts in Loei. To pronouce this place is, Pu-la-lua which is around 1200 feet above sea level.
Interesting I thought. She then asked if I would like to go there. Well I thought I do not really have a destination and it sounds preety nice so why not. Looking at the odds. For me no real expense and for her a free ride to see her family. So I agreed. The next day we had breakfast together and planned to go that day.
The roads going there were busy and past Petchabun started to narrow out and slow moving vehicles were on the roads. This all adds up to alot of driving so a few stops at petrol stations were made. You will find in Thailand, no matter where you go, You will always come across blue trucks with a blue canopy. These trucks carry paper AA and there everywhere. Just bare in mind if you do get stuck behind one in traffic. Be careful for overtaking. As some of them are 40 ft long and overtaking on these small roads is not as easy as you think if another vehicle is coming in the other direction.
Eventually the roads started climbing on twisted roads going up and up. Just as well I have six gears on the bike as in some cases with the slow moving wagons I was down to 5klm/hr.The engine was air cooled which is a benefit in these conditions. The only radiator on the bike was for the oil cooling. Once we reached the summit of the hill, we came into a small town. My first thought was accomodation, where can I stay. Nothing much in line of hotels mainly resorts with cabin type rooms. Found a nice place comfy, TV bed air conditioning, not that you really needed A/c as the temperature drops the higher you go up from sea level. I also learned that the area is spectacular for mountain views and apparently there are some special views this time of year and it really is worth going to see. Some famous waterfalls and a golf course.
To explain to the readers of work camps. work camps are normally built on the work site. Her whole family were involved in the construction of this house. The house was being built on the side of a hill standing alone with a fantastic view of the valley below I would guess the house was 1000 sq ft and two storey. The responsibilty for their work was to build the concrete/cement walls and roof part of the house. The finishing was done by another company. The camps are erected with corrogated tin sheets and made into two rooms one sleeping and the other for cooking. The shower was a water hose from a tap and the toilet a hole in the ground. No such thing as any luxury. I was just glad I had my cabin on the resort after seeing this.
It took around twenty minutes to get to the house location from where my resort cabin was situated. On arrival I assumed they were already prepped of a ferang coming to see them.
For some unknown reason and I still cannot fathom out why. When a ferang visits a thai family it is the ferangs responsility to pay for everything. The food for the night and drinks. I did notice the cases of beer and thought to myself they must be alot of them working here. I first met the head of the family. Nice guy, didn't say much. Maybe because he couldn't speak english anyway. I did get a form of gesture from him.
Within minutes the beer bottles were opened and everyone got tore in. No such thing as refrigerators. Its ice cubes in your beer to keep it cool. I was also offered a beer and drank with them. Everyone I met appeared very friendly and a drink of beer gesture as some form of thank you was made. This carried on until the guitars came out then the party really began. Singing and dancing all night. Then it dawned on me how would I get back to my resort cabin. It is 11pm now. Pitch black. No street lights up where we were. Complete darkness and Im not driving down that road on my motorbike in my state.
I had two choices. Drink beer with them all night or sleep in the corrogated shed. I tried to drink beer with them all night. Eventually I realised this won't work. I asked the lady what about the sleeping arrangements. I was told just grab anywhere you can as then its your space to sleep in the shed.
No idea what time I eventually got the courage to go sleep in the shed but I did. As in the morning the head of the family awoke me to go up the hill to view the sights. When I looked around at least 30 people were all in the shed sleeping. The sights are similar to the northern lights of North Scotland skies. I'll admit I was going to ask if it was possible to go another day as the hangover was raging in my head.
Apparently not, as all the other male members of the family were going. Off we went striding up the hill through bush and mud. Everyone wanted to be first up the hill as if to show their stamina. I had no interest in this one bit and found myself alone quite a few times until someone waited for me. After about two hours of slogging up that hill we got to the top. When I got there everyone had this strange look on they faces. I thought maybe it was something to do with me. Maybe I had let them down by being so slow.
Nothing was discussed and we all went back down the hill back to the camp. I then had the chance to ask the lady what was happening. She said the clouds are in the sky and today its not possible to see the sights. Maybe tomorrow it will be clear and you can go again. I quickly wrote in my diary. (Not available). I made sure the golf course was more important than the sights. Im not going through that again. Cost a fortune in beer.
To finish off the day. The head of the family gave use of his pickup and we went to a waterfall for the afternoon. It was good just to relax and sleep a litle bit in the warm sunshine. I was dropped off at the resort cabin and finished my day looking at the Tv. In the morning the lady returned and asked if I wanted to go up the hill and look at the sights. I assured her my day was going to the local golf course but I needed her for I go collect my motorbike from the building site which I did do.
I knew I had no chance of playing golf here as golf clubs would be impossible to hire. I did follow the road just to have a look at the course. Being 1200 ft above sea level would have an impact on the golf ball and would fly further than down at sea level. At the club house I was able to borrow a 4 iron and some balls and it was nice just walking around the course hitting a few balls.
Flooding (Nam toom)
Later the lady asked where I was going to go to next. No plans really. She asked if I wanted to go to her home in Nakhonratchasima (Kolat) as she has some business to do there. I discussed about my visa and soon I should return back to Pattaya and sign in. As Kolat was more or less on the same route I was going to go on. I thanked her and off we travelled to her home the following day.
Her home was on the outskirts of Kolat more on the eastern side beside Konburi. Konburi is the place where a lot of sugar cane is harvested. Fields and fields of sugar cane as you drive down there.
The time of year is classed as the rainy season as everyday it pours down with rain. When it rains it is as if the heavens turned the tap on as its none stop for hours. Some roads become rivers, flooding is everywhere. Roads are un passable and often it is impossible to access where youre wanting to go to as all the roads are flooded. The local farmers have to plan for this time of year by buying boats in some areas. This particular year was one the worst years Thailand had ever seen. Even the cities suffered sever flooding and reports were of 2 - 3 metres of rain water in the cities.
Everywhere has drainage systems and designed to suit the conditions. However on this occassion no one could of designed a system to drain the ammount of rain the country received. Even the dams walls were overflowing all around the country giving more flooding to areas. It was a common site to see people in rowing boats travelling around they towns. Even some of the higher ground towns in Thailand which never recieve flooding got it too. Nam (water) Toom (over) Nam Toom.
Some of the higher ground motorways were runing and some A roads. It was advisable to keep off the B roads and of course living on the outskirts of Kolat everywhere were mainly B roads. Even if I had of decided to go back to Pattaya it would of been imposible to find dry roads as that much rain came down and it continued at intervals over ther following weeks. I had no choice especially on a motorbike to stay where there were dry roads. The access roads to her farm were completely flooded and only tractors were able to take people back and forward from into the towns.
Kolat city. Is a lovely place to visit. Many hotels, shopping centres train station, bus station, Hospitals. University. It just has everything. Pee Mai is on the outskirts of Kolat and famous for the Temple. Pee Mai (New Year). I was thinking about going to visit the Temple. I had seen on the local news Pee Mai was 6 metres under water and completely blocked off.
The lady suggested we could go to her aunties house and stay there with them rather than stay in the city as no one knew how long everywhere would be flooded. As a joke, I asked how big the family was and do they drink Leo the local beer. She answered not as many as my own family and no mountains. I was assured the roads were dry and we could go there.
Apparenty migrating Ducks come to the area for mating. The thais call them (Bhet).
Now in Thailand everywhere you go, you will come across a 7-11 store. You need these stores as european type food and hot coffee can be purchased anytime of the day. I think 7-11 company must look at the population of the villages to decide whether or not to situate a store and assess if it will be profitable. If there is not a 7-11 in the village you can assume its either miles out into the bush or very few people are living in the village.
Most Thai people living in the villages live in wooden type houses on stilts. In some cases they can be over 100 years old if they take care of them. All made from teak wood as at one time Im told when people first lived in Thailand the rules were you marked your area of land by the amount of trees you cut down. This was then declared your land. Of course the trees removed were building materials for your house. Later on when land offices were formed they would come and measure your land and a (sanook) Land certificate was given to show your land boundries you owned. Once they have the land certificate. The farmers go to a bank and borrow money using the certificate as a guarantee. Most of the farmers do it this way then pay back the bank from sales of the products they grow.
Land in Thailand is measured in wah or rai. A wah being approximately 2 metres and a rai about 1000 sq metres.
To pronounce the village name, Ban Touy. However having asked a few people from the surrounding areas of the name of her aunties village. Ive been met with a blank look on their faces as to never heard of it. It may be my non tonel voice that causes this problem. As thai language is spoken in tones. Example. Ma can mean come here. Ma can mean a dog. How to understand which one is by the tone in which you say the word. Touy I have tried many different tones. No one has a clue what Im saying.
We arrived at her aunties house which was the old style wooden teak house. You could see the sheen on the wooden floor of years of mop cleaning just with water. The house was in perfect condition and I was informed the house has been handed down by generations of the family. Thai wooden houses are cool through the day and warm at night. Everyone sleeps in the same room its normal here. The toilets are outside with a water pot and plastic bucket for showering. Its nice to feel the cold water on your skin. So refreshing. The water is supplied from a well and I was told you can drink it, its that clean. I did have a drink of the water and no problems at all the next day. Cooking outside and normally covered.
No 7-11 in the village. Just a small store which sold the necceseties. Ice and beer. For food you had to go to the market. (Tarat) in Thai. The town was very quiet and relaxing.
Every thai village has a Wat located in the village for the people to go as most of the people are farmers and the Wat serves as a community for the people. The Buddha temple always have something going on and calenders are marked for the buddha days. If you ever go to a Wat Temple on a Buddha day. You will find all kinds of food is available for sale as the people gather there to sell their goods. Ive always wondered why Thailand has so many holidays. It just seems every week its a holiday for something, either goverment of Buddha holidays. I think the main reason is the local people get the chance to sell they goods at large gatherings in all the temples across the country.
Our first meal was fried duck eggs (Khai) with rice. Twice the size of a hens egg. In fact everyday duck eggs on the menu. Some of the people had captured the geese and kept them for the eggs. I approached one farmer with his ducks and he thought I was wanting to eat the duck, he was ready with the knife to kill it. Until I explained it wasn't neccessary. I can buy moo (pork) at the market just the same really. Alough noodle soup with duck was available and delicious. (quitiow bhet).
The village was well known for its black sticky rice. (Coniow). Normally rice is boiled as we know it. Sticky rice is short grain rice soaked over night in water. Then steamed until it becomes soft and sticky. It is really nice to eat, especially the black rice has a different taste from the white rice. (coniow dam).
To inform the reader. I have actually worked as an Engineer in 37 countries of the world. Mostly the Middle Eastern countries, European, African and Far East. In this time, I have received all if not more enoculations (Jabs) to work overseas. In some countries you do not have them or you cannot go into the country. Especially Nigeria.
However during my visit to Ban Touy, I became very ill. I think it was due to the amount of ground water flooding and the blazing 45 degree C sunlight which was in fact slowly steam cooking me alive. The humidity was very high at the time. As one day I awoke with a high temperature and all energy completely zapped from my body. I couldn't move any of my limbs I was that tired. All I wanted was sleep.
The Thai people took very good care of me. I was given a separate room to sleep in (Rice store). A small 3 inch fan. Someone came in everyday and gave food and water. I was ill for two weeks or more just sleeping everyday until I started to feel better. By this time most of the water had subsided and dried up and the roads became clear. I was eating duck eggs every meal and I think this was the reason I got well so quickly.
I found the tasty eggs were the bar-b-qued eggs. A hole is pierced into the shells. Maggie sauce (soya sauce) is syringed into the egg then cooked on hot coals. Absolutely delicious. They are called 100 year old eggs Because they resemble eggs a 100 years old by adding the soya sauce.
The time had arrived to say goodbye and return back to Pattaya. We all sat and had a farewell party under the midnight sky. Leo beer and duck eggs cooked again a different way this time with chilli, oniions, garlic and herbs. (Yam Bhet Khai).
Next day just as I was saying goodbye to everyone. The auntie gave me a gift box. Inside were a dozen duck eggs to take back to Pattaya.
God bless the lady.
Return to Pattaya
Arriving back to Pattaya I was met with a few problems. I was only away three month. The restaurant cafe was deserted. The house had people living in there who I had no idea of who they were.
Pattaya is a holiday resort. Therfore jobs are available for the thai people. Money is important to any family. Working in a shop is alot easier than farming and most of the thai people are farmers.
At that time the main produce in Thailand was rice which you really can only grow twice a year as you need rain for the fields. Some farmers do use water pumps or channel the water to a field. The people who have land next to a river have the best land. Simpley for water supply. Some farmers drill water wells to obtain the water. Therefore if the farmers who do not have water then the family will look for alternative work between the rainy seasons.
Now Thailand has many different forms of produce. Even potatoes are grown here. We call them water potatoes as they full of water nothing like the european potatoes. However they fit the purpose and everyone is eating them. Mashed thai potatoes in my opinion are okay.
Of course working away from home you have to rent accomodation to live in and this can be expensive. In some of the thai provinces, the soil is not suitable to grow vegetables and the people have to rely on something else to make money.
Silk is common in the provinces because the vegetable the silk worms eat are easily grown. You will find they do the rice for themselves to eat and the silk to sell for money.
This reason is why the people were living in the house. Apparently the ladies family were silk farmers. Once the rain started they would look for work as you cannot keep the silk worms in rainy season. It is to wet and cold for them. The rice only needs a few people to farm and two people can do 5 rai in a week. 5 rai is about the standard size for a family to grow rice to eat until the next rain season. Rice is havested and bagged. It is left to harden before they eat it.
Her family were sending the relations down to Pattaya to look for work and using the house as place to stay until a job became available. The family back in the province would receive aticles of food from the relations for helping them and having somewhere to live. This is why so many people were living in the house. Funny enough the next day everyone dissappeared and I never seen them again. The odd one now and again would turn up but only stay one night.
The cafe had money problems. The main cause was the size of the servings. The customers were not coming so often as before. Because the servings were less.
However still charging the same prices. I understand prices for stock can go up and because of this you have to serve less to keep within the profit margin. Every thing was down. Even the famous steak pies were now half the size. The chips were replaced with frozen chips not the real macoys of previous.
The main reason was caused by the cooking method. They had changed the method for cooking the food. It was more expensive doing it their new way. At the end of the month when the bills are paid less profit was available for salaries. So they cut the size of the servings down to account for it.
When thai people cook food in the villages it is mostly on hot coals. Gas ovens and hot plates are not used and they find them difficult controlling the heat and are expensive to buy. The odd gas burner is used but most of the time hot coals. Just the way in which they feel comfortable cooking. The coal was three times the price of a bottle of gas and did not last as long. This was the reason they ran out of money every time.
After this everything was weighed for every portion before cooking and kept at the same standard. Everyone in Thailand can cook food and they all do it the same way. Thaifood is not about amount. It's about taste. The amounts are standard wherever you go. A small soup plate is generally used to serve rice as a standard measure. Europeans eat potatoes to fill the plates of food. Thai people eat rice.
The thais eat alot of bamboo. (Nom mai). Bamboo is grown wild all over Thailand. Many species of bamboo are available and all have a different taste. The best taste are the bamboo shoot that has just started to grow. Every morning just as the sun comes up. You will see a thai person with a small spade looking for bamboo shoots growing around a bamboo tree. Just as the shoot is coming out of the ground they dig it up and eat for breakfast. The best time is when it rains early in the morning. You will find many shoots.
I like a dish called, Gan omm nomai. Gan omm, is powdered chilli, garlic and Phala to create a soup. Fish or pork are the main ingredient with sliced nomai. Its best served with a sliced banana. Eat with coniow.
The Issan people eat different food to Thai people. Khai Mott Deng. Red Ant eggs. is a favourite of them. They are armed with a puffer bag of talcum powder. Climb up a tree that has an Ant egg nest. How you spot the nests, the Ants bend tree leaves over into half a circle and close them together. You will see the Ants in masses around the leaves. They puff the powder onto the Ants and the ants dissappear given acess to the nest where you can grab a handfulls of eggs. A variety of dishes are made from the eggs. Laab, Khai Mott Deng is one of them. Unfortunately all who dare to mess with the ants all recieve bite marks from them which take a few days to heal.
Another favourite of the thais is Phala. Phala is a form of Kimchi or fermented the same way. Whereas Kimchi is mainly vegetables. Phala is fish or small shrimp fry. The smell of Phala to us foreigners is horrible. The taste is fantastic. Many styles of Phala are available in Thailand, Just depends on your own particular choice.
The traditional meal of Issan people is Sontum Phoo Phala. Phoo as in crabs which are also fermented for a period of time. A vegetable used is somtum. Best way I could describe somtum is a cross between a melon and a vegetable and around the same size. The sontum is sliced into very small strips. tomatoes added. Sugar paste, chilli's, lemon juice, salt, Phala and the fermented crabs. Sometimes noodles are added. The whole mix is pounded together to release the juices. Getting the correct mix is the difficult part and the people who can, sell more than others.
Thai people also have a similar dish. Same name other than no crabs added. Peanuts are added. This dish is called Somthai. Whatever its is you can guarantee the dish is very hot and spicy. As chilli is the number one vegetable used in Thailand with food.
Most of thaifood is made from the plant vegetables as per the weather seasons. You will find some grow at different temperatures of the year and some all year. Whatever is fresh at the time is used for cooking.
Another favourite of mine is Nurr (Beef) Tott. You can use pork (Moo) also. The beef is sliced up marinated in garlic and soya sauce then baked in the sun. After 3 - 4 hours, the beef is fried in oil and cooled. Doing the beef this way the taste of the beef is very similar to roasting but more crispy. Eaten with Coniow. Aroy mak maak. (Delicious).
Us europeans have all kinds of electrical equipment to cook our food. The thai people can produce very similar tasting food if not better with the use of different techniques and flavourings with charcoal as the heat source. At one time I collected the different shaped pans used for thai cooking.
If you ever get the chance to walk around one of these massive stores where you can buy anything you can think of. Its worth checking out the cooking utensils on sale. Most of them are manufactured in China but the ideas are unique for cooking the food. It takes a while to fathom out how they are used for cooking.
Tom Yam is another traditional food of Thailand. Tom Yam is a Spicy soup. You can use anything in Tom Yam but the best is Sea Food. Prawns (Gung) Squid, (Pamook) and mushrooms (Phet). The main vegetable ingredient is Lemon grass, which is grown wild and I see every house in Thailand has it somewhere around. Take care as the soup is very spicy (Pet).
Tom Yam is served in a ring pot with a candle heat sauce in the middle. The food is cooked and then placed in the ring pot for serving. The lit candle keeps the food warm.
Steaming pots come in a variety of shapes. Either stainless steel or bamboo. I find the bamboo pots the best to use. In fact some of the food is made and sold in bamboo trays ready to steam. Just a pot of boiling water and 10 minutes later its cooked.
Bamboo in this country is used to make almost anything. Table and chairs, beds, brooms, roofs, houses, baskets, decorations, scaffolding, fences, cooking utensils. goes on and on.
We got the cafe up and running with european food and soon the customers started to return back to how it was before. The thaifood menu was extended with more choice of sea food. Living on coastal areas sea food is available fresh all day and some fantastic thai dishes can be made anytime of the year. The european food was reduced .As It is not easy for thai people to cook european food when they do not know how its supposed to be or taste in the first place. By introducing specials through the week for european food and pie sales would be easier for them to run. Fish & Chips sold only on Fridays in order to reduce stock sizes and free up space for sea food storage. This time with the addition of a liquor licence to sell alcholic drinks.
The additional liquor licence made it possible to also install a pool table and a dart board in the bar. We had team events against other beer bars and a weekly league was formed. In Pattaya they are pool/darts competitions every week in various different leagues. As we were new to this. We joined the Mickey Mouse league which is nothing too serious and meant everyone would play. The teams were a mininum of eight team players. 3 points for a win. 2 points for a draw. 1 point for a loss.