Catch A Chili Crab Hon

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Koh Kret

Filed under: Thailand, travels — Shirley @ 9:29 pm

Of all of our trips to Bangkok, we never before got over to visit to Koh Kret, an island in the Chao Phraya River, 20 km north of Bangkok. One of the ways to the island is by ferry, which costs .06 cents U.S.  We were at the wrong dock so we ended up grabbing a water “taxi” for a lot more – $4.00 U.S. When we saw one of the ferries we decided that it was worth the extra money; by the looks of it, when you hear of ferry accidents due to over crowding . . . that ferry was right out of the headlines!

The island dates only to 1722, when a canal was constructed as a shortcut to bypass a bend in the Om Kret branch of the Chao Phraya river. As the canal was widened several times, the section cut off eventually became a separate island. The island continues to serve as a refuge to the Mon tribes who dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th centuries and have retained a distinct identity in their flavor of Buddhism and, particularly, their pottery; renowned above all as a center for kwan aman, a style of Mon pottery, which is fundamentally just baked unglazed red clay carved with intricate patterns.

Koh Kret Pottery Koh Kret Pottery

The one with the white sticker in the right picture is the one we purchased. We decided on one that wasn’t cut through.

There are no cars on this little island. The locals may have a motorbike; otherwise it’s walking or bicycling. And if you want an adventure, you can rent a bike to circumvent the island. We just walked; and we were only interested in checking out the pottery and the fish cakes that the island is noted for.

This kiln was reminiscent of the dragon kiln here in Singapore. This one is called Turtle Back Kiln.

Koh Kret Pottery Koh Kret Pottery

These look like pie plates featured in cooking catalogues but I doubt it unless these are for export. There were few people around and it probably wouldn’t have mattered since little English was spoken here.

Koh Kret Pottery Koh Kret Pottery

Snacking on the island:

The island is famous for the fried fish “cakes”. They’re really more like big popcorn fish. That’s all I can say; they’re a little chewy, not fishy . . . but not yummy.

Famous Koh Kret fried fish cakes

At first I could not tell if these were sweets or savories but they were pretty. I don’t know what is under the white topping but it’s red capsicum and basil on top. Someone left their sausage cart out drying in the sun. I didn’t see brakes on the wheels; luckily it didn’t roll off the dock into the river but that may be where it gets its unique flavor?!

Koh Kret Sweets sausages drying on a dock

These siblings were manning a little stand cooking and selling fried quail eggs. The cooking vessel looks like one of those dishes they serve escargot in. They were so cute but I’m not sure they wanted to be on the other side of the lens.

little vendors

We didn’t snack on alot but I did have to try these – very lightly tempura battered fried flowers.  I got a bag of mixed flowers. I don’t know the name of the purples ones, but the magenta colored ones (on right in left picture) are orchids. In the right picture, the reddish flowers on the very left were actually a little spicy.

purple flower and magenta orchids mix and match

The island population seems like one large colony of artists. Here are some sweets for sale: so simple and so beautiful – coconut candies with little handles, and beautiful sugar roses too pretty to eat.

Koh Kret Sweets Koh Kret Sweets

This gal was creating these flowers from a ball of “dough”. Sorry I don’t have any info on the dough that she’s working with. It looked like a marshmallow to me.

Koh Kret Sweets

She used an instrument much like a pair of tweezers to pinch the leaves of the flower and did it quickly.

Koh Kret Sweets

I wish now I bought some to try. Next time.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Pimp My Ride

Filed under: Thailand — Shirley @ 7:58 pm

Back in the days before MP3s and iPod, when you lived on the island of Koh Kret, just north of Bangkok, which has no cars, it must have been a bit boring and none-to-easy to listen music while tootling around on your bicycle. So, in a “necessity is the mother of invention” aha! moment, an ingenious soul came up with this idea!

pimp my ride

The island isn’t that big so I imagine you could ride all around and pick up a signal!

music maestro

This was sitting atop an overhang of a building that was below the path we were walking on. Very strange indeed but always something interesting to find when poking around in these little lanes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy belated birthday . . .

Filed under: food, friends, Thailand — Shirley @ 6:45 pm

Well, not really, just a belated post. Wanted to post Mick’s big 6-0 birthday in the month of August but we’ve been so busy – awww just missed it by one day (it’s Sept 1 here as I write). We weren’t late on the celebration, in fact, we were early. We celebrated Mick’s birthday with our friends while we were in Bangkok.

We already knew that we would be in Thailand around Mick’ birthday and thought about taking a weekend trip out of Bangkok but, since Bruce and Leslie live there and Rachel was going to be there also, we decided to stay in town and celebrate. I asked Leslie to make reservations at the Blue Elephant. You may recognize the restaurant from our trip back in November when we traveled there with Linda and Alex.

The Blue Elephant Rest a cup of tea

Here is the gang, on our side of the table is our new friend Yeon-Jung, who joined up with us for the weekend from Singapore. On the right from the back to front: Bruce, Leslie, and Rachel (you should recognize everyone from other posts!)

the gang's all here

We decided that since no one could decide on just one entree, everyone would order something different and we would eat “Chinese style”. The chef sent an amuse bouche (on the left) to get whet our appetites; and we ordered a slew of starters, one of these being black pepper scallops.

amuse bouche black pepper scallops

The presentation was as pretty as the food was good.

My selection for dinner was a fillet of sea bass baked in bamboo on the left, and Rachel’s choice was Thai spiced spareribs on the right. I can’t remember all of the choices, there were lamb chops too (weird coming from a Thai restaurant!).

sea bass in bamboo ribs

During dinner a lightning/thunderstorm rolled in. While perusing the dessert menu the lights started to go out first in our area where we were seated, and then our whole room. But we noticed that the next room was still lit. Still not suspecting anything but the storm, we were puzzled until we heard the waitstaff coming in singing “Happy Birthday”. A surprise was being cooked up back in the kitchen to bring out Mick’s candle-lit cake. Rachel and Yeon-Jung bought Mick a cake and the restaurant was kind enough to serve it for our dessert. The restaurant also brought out a candle-lit ice cream sundae!

The birthday boy

Happy Birthday Mick, may you have many more and they are celebrated with friends on trips around Europe!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bottoms Up, or maybe it’s Bottoms Out!

Filed under: Thailand — Shirley @ 8:56 pm

We’ve never been able to time our previous trips to Bangkok to be there over the weekend so we’ve always missed out on the Chatuchak Weekend Market experience.

“Covering 70 rai (35 acres) of land with over 15,000 stalls and more than 200,000 visitors every Saturday and Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok is the mother of all markets – and possibly one of the biggest and most famous markets in the world.  If bargain-hunting gives you an adrenalin rush, get ready for a head-spinning, earth-moving experience. Conquering this massive market is no easy feat though. The reward for taking a lot of patience along – together with a bottle of water – is that you can find pretty much anything here.”

It’s mind boggling, and you can’t do it justice in just one morning, or with a bottle of water, you need sustenance and several bottles of water!!!! Not to mention the map, lest you wander through endless rows of things you aren’t interested in. We didn’t last long but did a little shopping; and wanted the privilege to say “been there, done that . . . ” There is probably nothing you can’t get there; from your tourist t-shirt to a pet snake (I didn’t see them but I imagine they’re there. The “pet” section is actually not for the faint of heart or animal lover.)

This is everything you could want “on-a-stick” convenient snacking while shopping. We tried some fried meatballs . . .

everything on a stick!

Had I known there were such treasures to be had, I would not have waited until my last trip to Bangkok to find one of these. Something one’s home should not be without. I just couldn’t decide, the female version of this is wearing a thong. I’m not worried that I may not ever be back in Bangkok; I can have one of our friends living there pick one up. How about it, one for you too? Going for $550 Baht (@US$16), that’s just the starting price. I’ll bet you can bargain it down to $350 Baht – at that price, it’s a steal. It’s not just a bare bum here, they’re sporting tattoos!

grab a heinnie

Will wonders never cease 🙂 I’m not so sure I want to visit the “home” that has one of these in their powder room.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Omnivorous

Filed under: Chiang Mai/Bangkok, food, Thailand — Shirley @ 1:37 pm

I’m taking you with us on a longboat trip (as opposed to a long. boat. trip.) out to the floating market, a short distance outside Bangkok. Sit back, careful you don’t get splashed by the wake of the other boats. That greenery you see floating in the water washes down the river in big clumps when the tide is high. I asked if it was edible and were the farmers losing their crops, but our guide told us it is fed for animals. Some of the houses we saw were “water front”, but mostly what we saw was just the backs.

longboat along the way

Our first encounter with a vendor of the floating market was this woman selling knick-knacks. We bought a couple of little things, thinking that we could pick up others when we got to the market. Unfortunately the market isn’t actually “floating” any longer.

nicknack lady

As we approached the marketplace we saw this little old lady paddling towards us. She looked about a hundred years old but probably stronger and more fit than I am having paddled these waters all those years.

vegetable seller

The few other boats we saw were moored next to a restaurant and was used as the kitchens! I’ve been whining and whining about my horrible tiny kitchen, and little counter space. Everything here on the boat is truly within arms reach! No need either for the annoying hood fan buzzing in your head, sounding like you’re cooking in an airplane, nor alot of kitchen clean-up necessary. . .  not so bad a set up really.

preparing floating kitchen

Ok, so the next time your standing at the supermarket deciding between chicken or pork, salad or broccoli; or in the kitchen with your head in fridge wondering what to fix for dinner, here are some ingredients you probably haven’t considered, or ever seen, or would consider even if they were available to you. Have you seen the show “Bizarre Foods”, or followed Anthony Bourdain on his eating/traveling adventures? We live some of those episodes, only we don’t actually eat!

If your kids won’t eat that pork chop or brussels sprout, imagine trying to get your kids to eat these. There isn’t enough ketchup in this world to cover this kettle of stew. I guess if the bugs are crunchy enough, they might be ok with a lot of ketchup. I don’t want to know.

a pot of "I don't want to know" fried bugs

Really, here are some actually appetizing foods, some in their original “wrappers”. We are so distanced from where our food is grown, and rarely see it before processing that we don’t know how they started out with the exception of our fruits, i.e., bananas, apples, berries, citrus, etc., which look like they do on their trees and vines. The exotic red and green fruit is called Dragon fruit. The flesh is white, speckled with little tiny black seeds; there is a red version too. Sweet, not too soft but not crunchy either.

fruits

Coconuts, and coconuts charred after the green outer shell is removed. Did you know that more people are killed by falling coconuts than any other means in countries where the coconut tree is abundant?!

fresh coconuts charred coconuts

Fresh beans and greens –

fava beans greens

Pink colored eggs that are ready for Easter. I think they were dyed. You can even buy pre-fried eggs.

eggs

Ingredients wrapped in leaves, or corn still wrapped in their husks both look pretty yummy.

3 for 50 Baht fresh corn

After reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, and starting on “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, I’m envious of the people who have access to these foods; fresh, in their natural state, and from local farmers. Ok so they eat those parts that we wouldn’t consider edible, but they don’t waste anything; and I’m willing to bet, but not actually taste, their cooking methods make those “parts” just as delicious. At least they can pronounce all the ingredients. We didn’t have time to eat here, and our friends are leery of trying things from the market, but I have to admit the aromas were inviting and I would have ventured at eating some of them.

Meat on a stick over a brazier, what’s not to like?

sausages on a brazier

The two ubiguitous ingredients that make Thai cooking, most all Asian cooking, and most all cuisines of the world delicious: garlic and chili peppers.

garlic garlands chili peppers

And when you’ve finished everything on your plate – dessert, or an afternoon pick-me-up. Can you go wrong with a crepe filled with marshmallow fluff and dried fruit? Or pop-in-your-mouth sugary candy drops?

fluffer candy drops

Further along in the market are flower/plant vendors, and your ever popular pet-of-the-month: well one of them I consider a pet, the other . . . At least I think they were sold as pets.

baby turtles eeek!

Time to forage in the fridge for our dinner ingredients, bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A monk’s life

Filed under: Thailand — Shirley @ 1:29 am

I really liked these saffron robed monks that were going about their daily business in Thailand. At one of the temples we came across a Buddhist university. Recess time!

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It was here where we saw “Monk Chat”. We didn’t stop to have a chat because we would have had to wait our turn but it would have been interesting to talk to one of them. I have so many questions now that I’m sitting here at home. I believe one of the Southeast nations, and it may be Thailand, requires all males to serve as a monk for a period of their life.

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They start at a very young age, but not younger than eight. In Thailand, women are not meant to play an active role in monastic life; instead, they are expected to live as lay followers. Women primarily participate in collective merit-making rituals, so that in their next life, they may be born “in a different role”. In this way, they can become a monk. Mostly they perform domestic work around temples.

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I’m not sure what the significance of the different color robes is, or the significance of the yellow sash some of the monks wore. I should have sat down and had that “chat”!

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The age of electronics has even infiltrated into a monk’s life. Text messaging (?) and contact through a mobile phone were strange sights to behold on so many levels.

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The left picture is a monk in a temple in meditation, and receiving offerings. On the right is the wax figure of a long gone revered monk.

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My only devotion here is to the fashion statement of the orange and saffron colors. I admit to my shallowness; it’s my Zen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monitor Lizards

Filed under: Chiang Mai/Bangkok, Thailand — Shirley @ 3:50 pm

There’s a park in the heart of Bangkok with a pretty lake, lots of green for a major city,

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. . . and Monitor lizards! People were actually just sitting around or lying – sleeping along the shore of this lake, while not more than a stone’s throw away is a giant “throw back to the dinosaur age” monster sunning itself out of the water.

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We spotted this monster under a tree. I got fairly close but had he moved a muscle I would have had a heart attack!!!

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They “hide” in these concrete pipes along the edge of the lake and peek out. It provides a place for a hasty retreat if needed. I tried to walk out on the pipe to get an overhead shot but he ducked in quickly. The one on the right was just resting his chin on a small log.

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There were several in the water swimming around, or swimming towards the shore.

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Everyone knows I hate geckos, especially when they get in the house, but I find these big monsters fascinating. I know I won’t find one of these in the cupboard like the geckos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

raindrops keep falling

Filed under: Chiang Mai/Bangkok, crafts, Thailand — Shirley @ 1:12 pm

Our driver, that we hired for the morning, was waiting for us after we left the Hill Tribes. He took the short-cut up the mountain in the comfort of his vehicle to meet us when we were done. On the way back to the City the driver asked if we would like to stop at any of the factories that featured work in silks, silver, leather, rattan/wicker, and umbrellas. Mick expressed an interest in the umbrellas.  So there we headed . . .

First, we took a walk through the umbrella “factory” – well, more a parasol than an umbrella, actually. We started here – no one came to accompany us, or offer us any explanation of the process, so we wandered aimlessly. My narration is only of what I was observing. I didn’t think it was going to be helpful to ask questions. I, not knowing a word of Thai, and as I found out, English is not the lingua franca, as demonstrated with my elephant trainer. I smile alot.

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First, they wrap the strings to and around the spokes, then she carefully applies wet paper onto the spokes; then she brushes on, what looked like, a watered down glue. I know, they’re square, I never saw a finished square parasol, so somewhere along the way they must be rounded off? They did however, have “sided” (maybe pentagon/octagonal) canvas patio umbrellas.

applying the base strings IMG_2062.JPG

They use paper and canvas. Canvas for the patio umbrellas that they also make here.

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Mick noticed that most of the women working here were “older” and wondered if this is going to be a dying craft. This must be the “sharpest knife in the drawer” so to speak. She slit that from top to bottom in one quick slice! I’m sure she didn’t start this job last week! Her co-worker (on the right) smooths the pieces, and assembles them to form the “umbrella”.

splitting bamboo for spokes making the spokes

What and where these things on the right are used, I don’t know, but they’re pretty and cheap. The ladies were assembling parasols, which are mainly used for decoration.

IMG_2063.JPG pretty patterns

This pavilion was where they did the big patio umbrellas. These were out drying. There didn’t seem to be much lighting inside this building so I couldn’t get a good shot. There was a man sitting close to the entrance cutting the excess draped fabric from an umbrella (as you see below). And there were other stations where it looked like they were set up to paint/decorate the umbrellas.

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paper umbrellas drying painted

This was just one of many aisles of parasols and fans.

umbrella shop

So many choices, so little room in my suitcase!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Beauty – National Geographics up close and personal

Filed under: Chiang Mai/Bangkok, Thailand, travels — Shirley @ 5:59 pm

Our elephant trek was all about getting to the Hill Tribe Villages. Anyone who’s watched a National Geographic program, or read its magazine knows of the awesome photographs of far-away lands and its people. When you’re able to travel to one of these places and see those pictures come to life, it’s just amazing. A closer alternative is to visit Smithsonian’s Folk Life Festival, held along the Mall, in Washington, DC at the end of June to July 4th. It’s worth the trip, if only to get a taste of a faraway culture; and a close-up look of one of our own States that is featured along with a country of the world.

She was the first of the long-neck women we encountered when we entered the village. It is not actually their necks that becomes elongated, but the coil (not rings) pushes the collar-bone downwards. So if the coil is removed, their heads actually do not flop over.

my first encounter

The Kayen, are not indigenous to this area of Chiang Mai, they came from Burma, escaping from a civil war. In this “village”, they have been brought here to live and work as a tourist attraction; which makes me sad. I’m happy for the opportunity to see them up close but when I think about their real reason for being here, it’s very unhappy. Their livelihood is so dependent on tourism and in turn Thailand depends on them to bring in the tourist but treats them poorly.

Most of the women worked on small looms weaving scarves or belts. I’m not so sure all of the wares sold were made here since they all had the same thing but nonetheless, that didn’t stop me from buying. It helps their situation, and a small price to pay to see and allow me to photograph them.

IMG_2011.JPG I'm unconfortable just watching

The women start wearing brass coils on their necks, arms and legs from the time they’re five-years old. They polish the coils daily for the high shine you see. They will add coils whenever they can afford it. So the higher the coil the richer the girl’s family, and is seen as more beautiful. Depending on the length of the coils, the average weight on the neck of an adult woman is about 3 – 5 kg!!!

love the rings and colors

This little miss is beading, and like children everywhere, there’s always homework!

concentration homework

Her face reveals so much . . .  They’re so beautiful but captured and displayed like butterflies. They have a rich culture, but some of the young women really want to shed these coils, not to turn away from their culture but to be freed from this lifestyle.

another tourist! a little gossip

Don’t have a pet? Put a leash on your little brother! She had him playing doggie.

don't have a pet . . .

They live side-by-side in a string of huts without running water or electricity that I could see. I’m just in love with this little guy! Don’t you just want to hug the bejeebies out of him.

notice the tree what a cutie!!!

The other tribe that lives in this village are also weavers but they do not wear the coils. I didn’t see, or am afraid I didn’t pay attention to what tribe they’re called. They also weave, and they work with silver, as displayed in a belt worn by this woman. This tribe wasn’t as well represented as the long-neck women.

weaving woman of the Hill Tribe

There is a chasm between bringing a foreign culture to the forefront and giving them exposure to the rest of the world (and hopefully, helping them) and exploiting them.  Can there be a line drawn, and where do we draw the line? I hope I didn’t cross it here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Elephant Camp

Filed under: Chiang Mai/Bangkok, Thailand — Shirley @ 9:33 pm

Camp – sounds like the place where elephant parents send their kids for the summer to get out of the city, do arts and crafts; or a family-bonding adventure vacation. Not far from the truth.

Maesa Elephant Camp

The moment you arrive, you are assaulted by the vendors selling hands of bananas and bundled sticks of sugar cane to feed the elephants. I, of course, couldn’t resist the thought of a chance to do this. Judging by all the tourist who were toting these bundles, you can imagine how these elephants grow to such a size!

bananas and sugar cane

Mick didn’t actually get to “feed” the bananas, because as we were standing watching, a rider came up from behind us, and his elephant bumped and stole the hand from Mick! You know how pick-pocketers do the “bump and steal”; unfortunately this elephant wasn’t so discreet when he practically knocked Mick over.

A sign post said to feed an entire hand, or bundle to the elephants. They had no problems devouring them that way, which of course is so you’ll buy more. Mick gave this guy a bundled sweet treat of sugar cane, but I fed them in small bunches. It was probably like us being fed potato chips one-at-a time. If his trunk could have reached me, I think he would snatched the lot from my hands.

Mick with sugar cane treats

– looking for a “trunk” out — who could resist the little one there.

looking for a "trunk" out please?

It hasn’t been 30 minutes since snack time but – everybody in the water!

everybody in the water make room for me

Ooooh that scrubbing feels good, yeah, that itch right there – ahhhhhh . . . and don’t forget to get behind those ears! I didn’t realize how long they could hold their breath under the water, or that they even go under the water like that.

scrub-a-dub-dub don't forget behind the ears

After a nice rub-down to get all cleaned and beautiful, it’s time to show off; starting with a parade.

i love a parade

Hello Mudda, Hello Faddah: I’m one of the little guys, but I’m still too tall for my trainer to get on. I’m showing the crowd how my trainer and I work together. I kneel and lower my trunk a bit, then it’s alley-oop, I give him a boost! Sometimes we lie down on our sides for the trainer to board.”

lowering to let rider climb on alley oop

I am having fun at camp playing soccer, throwing darts; I even won a game of darts against a human opponent!”

(hard to see, the soccer ball is in the air by the roof, the dart is in the air above the left post)

soccer dart in air

Some of us spun a hoola hoop with our trunk, and gave our trainer a Thai massage. We played pick-up-sticks, and painted pictures.” (Click HERE to access the set, then click on the “slide show” icon – under 18 items – to see the whole progression.)

stacking logs adding the flower pot

“Tourism is down, please send money for treats, Love, Dumbo”

* * * * *
After the show, we walked over to the elephant parking lot to board our elephant for the one-hour ride through the mountain to the Hill Tribes Village. We don’t get on board from ground level, we board from a platform level with the chair, well, level depending on how big your elephant is. Though, alley-ooping from the trunk into the seat would have been interesting.

It was very hot and sunny traversing up the mountain and I was lucky to have my umbrella for shade. Some of the guides provided an umbrella but ours didn’t have one. (Our guide snapped the picture of us.)

elephant parking lot us

If we never ride another elephant again, it will be too soon. Am I suffering from dementia? Did I not remember the hour-long trek in Krabi? I definitely don’t possess the memory of the elephant! One time, in a lapse of good judgment, I rode bare-back – in shorts – ugh those prickly hairs on the elephant! Luckily it was just a loop around a ring and didn’t last as long as it felt.

First we sloughed uphill through this gooshy mud. It was a slow and arduous trek for the elephant who was carrying the three of us and the chair on her back. The only saving grace there, should one of us had fallen out, was that the path is so narrow, we might have landed in the tall grass. Then it was through drier mud. The trail did get a little wider and leveled off until we had to come on the downhill side into the village.

sloughing through the muddy incline steep, hot climb

Along the way we passed a small farm of banana, papaya, and coconut trees. And finally we were at our destination.

bananas in the mountains we're here!

About 10 minutes before we arrived at our destination, our guide pointed and said something in the direction of the buildings with thatched roofs that we could see through the trees. I asked if that was where we were headed but I think all he heard was: cigoea bidd mae dsielt ? He didn’t really speak or understand English, even my “Tarzan” English. For the hour long trek that was the extent of our communication, except for “picture”. He did, however, hold one-way dialogues with the elephant.

Something akin to getting off a boat, it was good to be on terra firma to get our land legs. Now to meet the Long-neck women, and the women of the Hill Tribes . . .

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