Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Activities for ChiangRai visitors

Activities for ChiangRai visitors:

There was a time, decades ago, when the thing to do was trek to hill-tribe villages, take photos and smoke opium. Now, for good reason, that’s not done so much. The villages aren’t remote, some frown on strangers stealing their image, the government is hardly as indulgent about opium, and marching into people’s homes for the curiosity value of it is sometimes even recognized for the rudely-mannered arrogance it is. You can still go to human zoos to see "long-neck” people, but that, at least, is generally recognized for what it is (if not beforehand, then maybe subsequently).
But there’s lots to do that isn’t intrusive:
On Sundays, the Thanon Khon Muan weekly street fair on SanKhongLuang Road fills a wide area with goods-for-sale, small stages with plastic chairs for audiences provide interesting entertainment, there’s an area for participatory dancing, food, food and food, and the ever-popular people-watching.
Mondays in BanDu a few kilometers up Hwy 1 from the bridge over the Kok, opposite the highway from Gate #1 to Rajapat Univ, is a “Walking Street” with mostly clothes for sale but also food and drink, packed with Rajapat students enjoying themselves.
Tuesdays, also in BanDu, in an open area on the highway just south of there, right north of Wat BanDu, is a Talat Nat open market featuring low prices and often a blow-up fun house for kids, plus a safely-enclosed trampoline.
Every night in the middle of town the “Night Bazaar” provides lavish entertainment on several large stages, beer, food, hill-tribe vendors and a remarkable array of delights.
Saturdays there’s the Thanon Tanalai (Tanalai Road) Walking Street, so popular that walking can be difficult. Kids do stunts on bikes and boards, and again, there’s participatory dancing.
Every night TokTaeng Restaurant towards the south end of town has local ethnic cuisine and local music by musicians in traditional local garb, and a quick walk further south, towards the KhunGon intersection that marks the end of town, also on the west side of Pahonyothin Road (the main thoroughfare) is ToopYaDong herbal-whiskey stand with interspersed comedy ad local music (all in local lingo only, and with some very friendly katoey lady-boys).
East of Hwy 1 on the south side of the Kok River a row of good restaurants provide sea-food, local fish, Chinese food, stage shows and riverside ambience.
“Pattaya Noi” (ChiangRai Beach) is a great place to relax of an evening, with a long row of open-sided pavilions to choose from for drinking and enjoying bar-b-q chicken and fish.
And then there’s JetYod Road, with tourist-oriented bars, massage shops and restaurants with Western food. Oh, and coffee-shops too (but they’re everywhere, anymore!).

Days, there’s the Elephant Camp on the Kok west of town, several hot-springs, waterfalls, museums, and the Central (Main) Market, at the northeast corner of which hill-tribe folk in tribal attire sell vegetables daily.
Day trips to outlying areas can work out, but often overnight is better, especially if you want to see the sunrise from PuChiFah overlook on the Mekong, or the birds at ChiangSaen Reservoir. To see Santikiri/DoiMaeSalong, ThoedThai/BanHinTaek, DoiTung and the Amphoe MaeFahLuang borderlands requires a couple days (at least), and good accommodations are generally available (except during the Chinese NewYear period).
Then there are the many National Parks, reservoirs, fishing parks, the Ostrich farm, artists to find out about, arboretums, caves, temples, interesting businesses (Lanna Souvenir, Orn’s Used Books, DoiDinDaeng Pottery), NGOs (AFECT, Mirror Art Group), and long-tail boat rides on the Kok River.

Huai Mak Liam Hot Spring and Forest Park is 4 km past Ban Ruam Mit on the other (south) side of the river, past the turn to Akha Hill Guest House. Sometimes at the height of the rainy season the area gets flooded, but it’s usually quite pleasant enough. Just by an almost boiling lake is another, cool, normal one. There’s a mixed water lake for free public bathing, and snack shops. A few kilometers closer to town a newly constructed natural hot-water pool has recently opened, also offering free public bathing.
Ban Poang Phrabaht Hot Spring (Ban Du) is west from Hwy 1 by Ban Kuk (just north of the airport road at k835). Private rooms with showers B20 plus B10 per person, a little more for newer rooms back behind the guyser, which looks a bit like a public shower. The half-hour time limit can be stretched a bit for showering off. There are towels for rent, and herbal ointments for sale. Clean enough (at least by Carribbean standards). The water’s so hot it must be mixed with cold.
Pong Nam Rawn (Baw Nam Ron) by Mae Suai, at the tourist trap on Hwy 118 – very sulfurous. 3 cement and stone well-like structures, 2-4 meters wide, with shallow, very hot water. Across the road one can rent small rooms with stone tubs and cold showers, B20.

also, just south of Mae Chan, turn west towards Mae Ai and Fang and go about 5 kilometers, maybe 6k, and on the south side is 'Silver Springs' hot-springs.

This list is hardly complete or comprehensive, but perhaps some things should be left to discover on one’s own. There are guides, bicycles, motorcycles and cars to hire, and a few Tourist Authority offices, if you can find them!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

swimming at NangLaeNai waterfalls

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dark Meat

At the end of this month, our borderland Chinese folk will celebrate finishing planting, and give offerings to spirits of the land and ancestors – particularly chicken. Some prefer black meat chicken, reputed to help one look good, be healthy and attractive. So today we took 18 dark chickens up to the mountains to sell.

First we had to catch them. Ours are real free-range chickens, with diet well supplemented by insects and grasses, so they really do provide very healthy meat. The price should be much higher than it is (just above the price for regular chicken), but organics aren’t a big thing here. We’ve lots of fresh food, don’t have factory farms, and most locals use much, much less in the way of packaged food than do Western city folk. Our selection of breakfast cereals and snack foods is way less than at the supermarkets most English-speakers rely on. I’ve been wanting to find applesauce recently, and have looked everywhere; none to be found. We used to have it, but it was expensive. Now we have only apples – plenty of them. Only one place in ChiangRai makes anything decent with them though (Suan Chalern just this side of MaeSuay). One might expect the Chinese who export apples to make applesauce, as it will keep longer than apples, but no… There’s rumor of some epidemic disease current among our pigs these days, and the Thai food at restaurants hardly competes in taste with that of Thai restaurants in so many other countries, but still, we get by.

To catch the chickens we use the tallest aluminum ladder I could get; I hold it while Muay climbs. She’ll have scoped out which chickens are roosting where first. Some like to go high in the trees, others like our veranda. Anyway, both of us will have a flashlight. Muay grabs a rooster or hen without chicks by the legs, and passes it down to me. I take it over to a cage (either steel wire or bamboo – we use both). Sometimes nasty ants bite us – I keep the grass mowed well enough that leeches and scorpions haven’t been a problem.

Were Muay to kill and gut a chicken the price would rise B30 (a dollar is not B34). Live chickens, however, do not require refrigeration! So we put the 18 in one of the round bamboo chicken baskets, put that in the backseat of the car, and headed up to the hills. We sold an old boss of hers three for B370, and she told me that when she worked there she got B1500 a month. Her first job paid only B200/mo. but most of that was in rice (lots of rice – 45 kilos!)… the most her father ever made was under B1000 a month. I spent more on car fuel than I got for the three, and the other twelve went to her mother, meaning I expect nothing back, but that’s OK, I got some interesting photos. I hope readers will enjoy them! And don’t forget to propitiate local spirits and your ancestors. (I wonder if those more businesslike Chinese on the eastern seaboard neglected to do that, leading to current economic turmoil!)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Yesterday at Ban PaSakGai school. In the early evening there was also volleyball - all the players seemed to be gay (katoey) or transexual, although I didn't ask. They were clearly having fun (although perhaps not quite as much as Jit - it isn't clear, but if you look closely, his name is on his shirt, in Thai) and staying healthy - wish I was fit enough to have asked to join in.

Monday, April 6, 2015

haze solution

Tis was in both the Nation and Bangkok Post this morning. I wrote and sent it early yesterday, in exasperation.
There is a way to limit the yearly haze, but the rich and powerful are surely too addicted to American-style idiocy to try it. Long ago in England, villages had commons, an area of communal ownership where locals could graze livestock.
If each Thai village had a plot of land where husks and stalks could be brought to be chopped up and composted, they wouldn't need to be burned, but could instead provide fertilising mulch. Some will say, in the manner of those in America who promote privatisation, that this could be done as a business. I don't think so. But it could be done, and without much problem, if profit and class didn't come before people and stability.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Drunk bug hunting

Around here, where it isn't rice-fields or ground covered with fill-dirt taken from our mountains, anyway, one finds meter-high mounds of very hard dirt, made by termites. The termites ar often underground, and near their nests, nests of Maeng-mao "drunk bugs" can often be found. Something from them the size of goose eggs sells at market for about B3000 (almost $100) a kilo, and today Muay decided to take the kids out to look for some. Where the previous owner had had a chicken coop for his fighting cocks, I'd left a pile of rotting bamboo and other debris; yesterday Muay burned that pile and also some piles of leaves (local custom is to rird of insects and other pests that way; this results in seasonal haze, top-soil loss due to run-off, and reduced biodiversity, but all that wasn't a problem until recently. Now the government has "banned" burning, but being big city folk, they have no advice about composting, top-soil preservation and regeneration, or biodiversity). Under my many-year-old pile were, of course, some termites, but we didn't find drunk-bug nests. Doubtless, right after the first rain, there will be lots of the drunk-bugs flying about any light, fluttering crazily on the ground while dying or being picked up for food. It gets hard to go in and out of houses early evenings as they like to rush inside and fly madly about. Almost as annoying as angered house-flies but not noisy.
At least I was able to buy some red-ant eggs up in the mountains the other day! fun to eat; they pop and are delicious!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yesterday I took the family up to the border for New Year Celebrations (Chinese, Lahu, Lisu and Yao) – dancing, feasting, firecrackers, socializing… and saw a bamboo basket larger than usual for sale at the colorfully named Ban Sam Yaek (t-intersection village). There was also a chicken-carrier (pictured). Today an Akha friend and her mother came over to get four chickens and some bamboo. They cut down one of our tall bamboo trees and formed something like a combination of my basket and chicken-carrier, but for chicken nesting. The four chickens, legs tied, were put in a feed (rice) sack, a plastic bag was turned into a handle for the nesting ‘box’ and all, with some oranges and a little other food, loaded up onto the family’s only transportation…
That last is our dog, Mali.