Meanwhile, On the Domestic Front

Meanwhile, things are good at home!  Mai and I have been experimenting making pizzas from scratch, with the idea of making them and selling them at the local twice-weekly market.  Thai’s aren’t really big on western/European style pizza because they have weird ingredients.  We decided to experiment making some pizzas with real local Thai toppings.  Not “Thai style” but the real thing!

Our first topping was Laab Moo.  Laab is a Lao dish, and Moo of course is pork…really!  Laab Moo is minced pork with mint, coriander, lime juice, fish sauce, onions, garlic and some ground browned rice to give it crunch.  We also bought some tomatoes and made our own tomato sauce from scratch, adding Thai basil and garlic.  We bought frozen pizza crusts and grated Mozzarella at the grocery store.

The result, pictured below, was delicious!  This may be the start of something!!

In local news, So Phisai got a nice new Sum Tam shop!  Sum Tam is one of my favourite Thai dishes.  Think of it as cole slaw but with shredded green papaya instead of cabbage.  Then add tomatoes, chilies of course, green beans, dried shrimp, garlic, a little sugar and a dressing of fish sauce and lime juice.  Crunchy, spicy, fresh tasting, a little sweet, salty and sour.  You specify how many chilies you want because real Sum Tam borders on volcanic.

Thai Sum Tam has dried shrimp.  They look a little like the dried shrimp you feed your tropical fish.  Lao style Sum Tam has crab.  Don’t think sticks of artificial crab legs.  Think crab legs freshly plucked off a live crab!  See the lady sitting on the green stool to the left of the photo?  She’s plucking the legs and claws of a bucket of live crabs for someone’s Sum Tam!  I don’t eat Lao style Sum Tam.

The shop also sells other prepared foods like Gai Yang (barbecued chicken) and Khao Niew (sticky rice).

Mai’s young son Max is a sweet little kid.  We like each other but we don’t have too many things to do together.  Last weekend I took out a Raspberry Pi micro computer I brought with me, downloaded some new software for it and turned it into a gaming console that plays a few dozen vintage video games from way back in the 80s and 90s.  Remember Atari and those guys?  Then I went to the local computer store and bought a keyboard and game controller and we were all set!  Now we play Donkey Kong, Pacman and a handful of other games.  Max hadn’t seen them before but he picks them up right away and routinely beats me every time!

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Two (!) Visits to the Temple

Monday this week was a rare sunny, warm day after it rained all night before.  Mai asked if I wanted to go to a particularly beautiful temple about 30 km away, Wat Dan Wiwek.  We left shortly after and drove through some beautiful farming country along the way.  I asked if we could stop so I could get a shot of a rubber tree plantation where all of the trees had been fitted with small umbrellas around the trunks to keep heavy rain water from diluting or washing away the latex rubber sap altogether.  A great shot to start the day!

Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead!  All that driving, beautiful conditions and a dead camera!  We continued on and I made mental notes of all the other things I hoped to shoot when we returned.  I wasn’t too hopeful that would be soon, and I sure didn’t expect it would be the next day,  However, the pattern of night time downpour and a sunny morning repeated itself on Tuesday morning and back out we went!  I got most of the shots I was after.

We never got to see the temple building itself because of approaching thunder.  We enjoyed the beautiful grounds then hopped in the car and headed to Bueng Kan city for lunch.  There were several points of interest along the way but by that time the rain was coming down in buckets.  Mai could hardly see the road and ignored my joking requests to stop for a quick photo!

I hope you like what I did manage to get of the farming areas and the temple grounds.  As always, click on any image to view a full size version!

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A Visit to the Market

Lao language and culture are strong influences in the local Isaan way of life (Isaan is the informal name given to the northeastern corner of Thailand).  Here, the restaurants and markets carry plenty of Lao foods, which aren’t always available in central Thailand (Bangkok).

Mai took me to a Lao market in the town of Pak Khat recently so we could pick up a few things and so I could see the different foods.  The market sits on the bank of the Mekong River.  Laos is a stone’s throw away across the river.  The variety of foods was  fantastic and it was fascinating to see all the very different things that Lao and Isaan people eat as you will see in the photos.  Click on the photos to view full sized images.

Fresh ingredients; herbs, spices, vegetables of every kind were on sale.

Plenty of pork, chickens, rats (yes those are rats in the center photo!), different sizes of catfish, several other fresh river fish, frogs, eels, turtles…you name it!

Fresh wild honey, fresh wild bee larvae, roasted bamboo shoots and the freshest coconut juice anywhere!  There were also clothes and shoes for sale, music and movie CDs.  One stop shopping.

As we were about to leave and old guy took me by the arm, led me to the coconut juice stand and signaled for me to please take a photo.  Presumable it was his son’s or daughter’s stand.  I took a few and showed them to him.  He was happy, and giggling all the way and chattering to me in Thai, took me by the arm again and helped me across the highway to where our car was parked!

It was sunny and very hot that day.  I would have stay longer if not for the heat and we’ll definitely go again!

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Around So Phisai

The countryside around So Phisai is incredibly green.  No wonder, considering all the rain we get!  We were lucky enough to get out for a while one afternoon without any rain.  It had rained that morning and as it turned out it rained again shortly after we returned home.  This is a great time to take photographs.  The breaking clouds make the scenes dark and moody and the conditions seem to intensify the colours as well.  I hope you enjoy these first few shots of the area.

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Around Bangkok

Bangkok is a bustling modern city.  Actually, bustling is an understatement.  The level of activity in Bangkok borders on madness.  There are also much older and quieter areas that are simply beautiful.  We didn’t have to walk far from out hotel to find plenty of both!

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The Skytrain in Bangkok connects many of the business areas together. A fast and inexpensive way to get around.
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Nana Station. The local Skytrain station at night. Sukhumvit Road at the bottom. Take the stairs up one level and buy your ticket. The trains run on the upper level.
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Work goes on day and night.

The old part of Bangkok is just a few steps away.  Many large houses sit in walled properties with elaborate entrance gates on the side streets.  Some of the entrance gates look ancient, and some just look worn out.  I could see the entrance below from our balcony so I grabbed my camera and went to take a look.  The original gate had been replaced years ago and the current one wasn’t much to look at.  Many of them have a separate entrance that callers use.  That turned out to be my “shot”!  It was so old looking I decided to process the image to enhance the oldness.

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Entrance door to a walled property on Sukhumvit Soi 7. The fancy gold coloured script is how you write the number 8 in Thai.

I spotted another walled property further down the street.  This wall had gap in it.  I spotted this collection of discarded pots through one gap and thought it made a perfect composition!

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Unused clay pots in a garden in Bangkok.

 

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Introduction

I have already been living in Thailand with Mai, my fiancée since early July 2018.  In that time we have gotten married after spending a few weeks in Bangkok figuring out the paperwork.  Then jetting off afterwards to Chiangmai for a short honeymoon.  After that, we flew to Udon Thani, which is a few hours away from our home and began shopping for the items we would need to make the home operational such as a TV, washing machine and basically everything for the kitchen and dining room.

Our house is in the small town of So Phisai, in Bueng Kan province, which is in the far northeast of the country.  The map below will show you where we are.

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As you can see, we’re not far from Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar…all sorts of fascinating places!  To date, we have visited a friend working in Myanmar and I spent an enjoyable weekend exploring Vientiane, the capitol of Laos several years ago.

Bueng Kan is a rural province.  We have rice growing across the street from our house and a rubber plantation behind us.  Elsewhere there are banana plantations, plus pineapples, papayas, coconuts, mangoes and sugar.  The Mekong River forms the boundary between Thailand and Laos, so we get plenty of fresh fish as well.

We’re finally settle in here and enjoying our lives together.  I get out and do a little photography when the weather permits, we’re in the summer rainy season now and when it rains it rains a lot!  I’m looking forward to exploring and photographing the countryside.  I also cant wait to get my radios set up and doing some listening.  I just need some critical equipment from back home.  I’m also looking forward to joining the Radio Amateurs Society of Thailand and working towards getting my Thai ham license so I can get on the air!

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