Monday, October 18, 2010

Hong's farm

Dateline Bangkok, Monday October 18

We traveled by bus back to Pranburi Thursday, arriving towards evening at the Phasook Hotel, the same place we had stayed on the trip down to Koh Tao. It's a pretty nice hotel even if by stateside standards a trifle run down. It has wireless Internet, air conditioning, and nice showers with hot water, an important feature this time of year, and cost only 450 baht per night (about $15). Not all hotels where I've stayed in Thailand offer hot water but in the summertime it doesn't matter - the cold water is plenty warm enough! Nighttime temperatures outside of Bangkok at this time of year are quite pleasant -- we didn't have air conditioning on Koh Tao -- the overhead fans worked very well. We often shut them off completely at night.

On Friday we returned to the farm of Hong and her family. I'm actually sorry we missed the season of rice-planting because it would have been interesting to see this in person. I'm sure I would have wilted away in the heat but I was willing to try it even though merely walking about the place at mid-day was enough to give me bigtime sweats. Of course Hong wore a long sleeved jacket and Nut hid under an umbrella to stave off the sun's harsh rays. In the photos below I show a shot of Hong's grandmother as she was heading out to feed the fish. The fish food is in the large bowl. Granny seemed to enjoy the attention.

Feeding frenzy

Nut and Hong picking wild chili peppers
After these photos were taken we were hanging out in the family's outdoor kitchen when I noticed the sky darkening in the south. Soon torrential rain hammered the sheet metal roof and strong gusts bent the trees violently as the weather front hit. The roof over the main part of the house has good, leak proof  sheet metal but the stuff over the kitchen is so old and thin in places that you can literally see though it. The entire kitchen area was dripping wet in minutes. A nearby papaya tree was knocked flat in one gust. But I enjoyed the storm. After it peaked I walked around out by the fish ponds under an umbrella digging the rain. The water was, after all, warm and basically friendly feeling. Unlike up in Alaska where a soaking rain like this could turn out to be a killer even in the summer.

Friday was haircut day as well. I got my hair cut fairly short, although not as short as when the maniacal barber in Trat last March practically scalped me; that particular "haircut" lasted for over four months! Nut was just sitting there watching so she decided to have her hair washed, dried and brushed out. The two old ladies who worked on us giggled as they chatted with Nut about her falang boyfriend. They charged 250 baht (8 bucks) for the two of us, an exhorbitant amount in Nut's opinion. She says they took advantage of us because they think you are rich! Nut is very protective of me and is ever vigilant in defending me from rip-offs. I've taken to calling her ma-mam at times.

Next day we had planned to accompany Hong and her father to market and a nearby temple but we awoke to more rain and decided to grab a mini-van back to Bangkok. We had the dinner with Nut's brother Moo coming up Sunday and despite my resistance to ever riding in one of these vans again (see my rant in an earlier entry) we thought hell, it will be faster than the government bus and the aircon will be good so I relented and we climbed aboard. This humorous sign was posted on the van's door:

The first three are obvious, no pets, no booze, no smoking. The next one we don't have a clue about. No bugs, no cuttlefish, no carrots?? The last one needs no explanation.

My foreboding about these vans, actually the drivers of these vans, was not inappropriate. The guy was a goddamn maniac, a speed-freak, a macho idiot. We traveled at speeds averaging 80 mph most of the time but reached a maximum of 91 mph (150 km/hr). And this with a fully loaded vehicle; twelve helpless passengers looked on as we weaved in and out of traffic on the 4-lane divided highway. When Mr. Speed Demon wanted to pass a slower moving vehicle he just moved up to within 4 or 5 feet of its rear bumper and waited for the driver to notice and pull over. Sometimes he flicked his lights, sometimes he blew the horn, and it that failed to achieve the desired response, he merely moved over and passed. In this way we raced northward to Bangkok.

These vans make stops along the way to discharge or take on passengers. Due to the way he drove when these stops occurred he had to jam on the brakes but then because of our excessive speed often overshot and had to back up. As if that isn't bad enough the backing up was done in the active lane of the highway -- cars and trucks hurtled by in the adjoining lane but anyone of them could easily have rear-ended us. And then just outside of Bangkok we stopped for a break to get fuel. A large majority of the vehicles here, especially buses, trucks and taxis, run on liquid natural gas. The lines of vehicles trying to refuel at the single LNG pump at this particular station necessitated a wait of over 30 minutes! So although we hurried along when in motion, we also waited for fuel. Stupid idiot! We made it back okay in spite of his best efforts to kill us in the process.