Letters from Thailand

Gui’s friend Sarah is currently working in Thailand as a volunteer in the Thai
Government’s pollution control department. She applied for the position through CUSO(a Canadian NGO). She has been sending us some very interesting stories since April. I’m trying to get her to start a weblog of her own. 🙂 Before she does, I’m going to temporarily show a few segments from her recent letters. I enjoyed them tremendously, I hope you do, too!


2003-4-20

The past two weeks have been filled with interesting
experiences. My teacher sent each of us out on a
mission. She gave us the word of something we were
to buy without telling us what it was in English. I
went off on my own to the market and starting asking
people where I could by “katea”. They would point in one
direction I would walk right to the end of the
market and then I would ask someone else and they would
point in the direction I just came from. Turns out that I
walked right by the vendor of “coconut milk” several
times. That afternoon we all swapped stories about
our experiences. It was all quite funny. The next day,
the teachers took the ingredients we bought and made a
sumptuous dinner, including pineapple curry with
coconut milk. The latter is turning out to be one of
my favorite dishes. We also tried sweet rice with
mango. It is a specialty here in Hua Hin. People
drive all the way from Bangkok to buy it from one
particular vendor here. Even the King orders the sweet rice and
mango from the street vendor across from the Hilton.

On Wednesday, a few of us had a picninc on the
beach.We ended up speaking with the police
superintendant for the area and a multimillionaire
who owns the property we were sitting almost in front
off. He even has a nanny for his seven dogs, including
his miniature dobberman (who was wearing a Manchester
United shirt).

On Saturday, we left Hua Hin for Petchaburi. There
are very few “farang” (foreigners) in Petchaburi, which
made it even more enjoyable. On Saturday night, we
ate dinner on the sidewalk (and I do mean on the
sidewalk). You pay 2 dollars and they give you a
candle and some straw mats to sit on. The food also
proved to be delicious.

On Sunday, it was Songkhran,
the Thai New Year. They celebrate by having one huge
waterfight. We ended up absolutely soaking wet.
People also walk up to you and paint your face with white
talcum powder that has been mixed with water. We
didn’t remain, however, only on the receiving end.
We ended up jumping in someones pick-up truck and
starting firing back. You wouldn’t believe how much
fun it was.

In the evening, we were invited to one
of our teacher’s friend’s place. It was out in the
country side. They set up tables outside and lit
torches all along the outskirts. They also did a
little fireworks display. After dinner, they set-up
a TV and karoake machine. As for the food, I have
never seen so much in my entire life. It just kept on
coming and coming and coming. And all of it was good,
including the desserts. I forgot to mention that
Petchaburi is famous for its desserts. There were a
number of dessert vendors near where the hotel was
located (blocks and blocks worth). I gained weight
just walking by them.

In Petchaburi, we were also able to walk up this
small hill that had some absolutely beautiful wats/temples
situated at various locations. It also boasted a
huge number of monkeys who would try and steal anything
they could get their hands on. At one point, I felt
like I was in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds,
except with monkeys. There were also a number of
mothers with very, very young monkeys. The babies
were so very cute. I could watch the monkeys playing for
hours.

2003-5-28

The village stay was
quite interesting. my grandmother would be very happy
to know that I had to sit like a lady (however, on the
floor) at all times and that I wore a wrap around
skirt most of the time. I came to be known for how
well I dressed. The family I stayed with was extremely
generous and very patient.

This particular village had
never had westerners visit before. The villagers found
us to be a strange lot, especially our eating habits.
They kept on mentioning how little we ate. The entire
time I was there, I was never hungry. I went between
being full and less full. They fed us every 20
minutes. my family went way out of their way to
accommodate my eating habits. the mother would make
one meal for me and another for the family. my meal
would contain lots of veggies, no msg, very little
salt and sugar, and lots of tofu. you had to be
careful whenever they asked if you liked something.
you always had to say yes, but if they thought you
really loved it, then you would get tons of whatever
it was. i.e., there is a particular type of mango
here that i really love. i told the mother and the
next thing i knew there was a 10 pound bag of mangoes
for me. she also told whoever we visited that a liked
that particular mango, so they would serve it to me as
well. there are so many different types of fruits and
vegetables growing in the area that is unbelievable.

i also asked if i could have a piece of bamboo since
candians consider it very exotic and they’ve got it
growing everywhere here. my host mother asked me which
tree I wanted (they’re over 3 metres tall:) i also
said i’d like to see how she makes her own dish and
clothes detergent. she was more than happy to make
another batch just to show me. i had no idea that it
involved stirring for two hours follwed by letting it
sit for 2 days.

i sold veggies and sticky rice in bamboo every
saturday with my mother at an organic agriculture
station. making the sticky rice in bamboo is very
labor intensive with everything being done by hand and
cooked by fire. got on famously with the 23 year old
daughter. tried to teach english for an hour at an
elementary school, had a foot massage at a school for
the blind, went to two weddings, took part in
ceremonies at the wat on religious day (you carry a
candle around in a circle 3 times following behind the
monks), made offerings of food to the monks in the
morning on 3 separate occasions (did it wrong all 3
times), took part in a ceremony for us volunteers on
the last night i was there that was to call back our
spirits to provide us with good health and good luck
in the future, swam in the canal with the local kids,
butchered the thai language.

it was amazing to sit on the stairs of the house and
listen to the bamboo trees cracking when the wind blew
and to hear all the ripe fruit constantly dropping
from the trees. lived among chickens and ducks. really
loved taking bucket showers. discovered a new
technique for using a squat toilet.

3 thoughts on “Letters from Thailand

  1. I love that part about sitting on the stairs and listenning to the sound of bamboo, etc. So close to nature, and … romantic. Doesn’t life in America seem surreal in comparison?

  2. Me Too! Listening to sound of bamboo cracking. The closest experience i could recall was that time we were hiking on Berry Creek trail, and we always mistook the sound of wind for the waterfall. I guess her life in thailand and our lives here are similar to the difference between “wild fruit” and “synthetic jam”. 🙂
    Travel bug finally starts to bug me. Hey, maybe we can go camping in the Sierras! 😀

  3. Please let me in on the secret to using a squat toilet. I’m so baffled. You could email me. If you don’t want to explain it here.

    Thanks

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