On December 31st of last year, we went to visit Max and Mina’s great grandmother in Surin. This is the second year we have stopped on the way at Baan Tha Klang Elephant Village on the way.
This is the affordable elephant village in Thailand for mainly Thais, as compared to the overpriced one for foreigners in Chiangmai. Prices for everything are much cheaper here, especially for high ticket items like elephant rides and elephant paintings. Also, the experience here is raw – you are closer to the animals and may even get into slightly dangerous situations (if being molested or trampled on by an elephant could be described as such). For these reasons, I recommend Baan Tha Klang in Surin Province as the best place to go see elephants, except for the faint of heart, or people who don’t mind paying $150 for a Dumbo painting.
These villagers are descendants of the Suay or Kuay Ethnic group, who have a long history elephant husbandry. Unlike northern Thailand where elephant is kept for labor, Ta Klang people consider elephant as their friends who can share the same house.
Insofar as they are all living in the same dusty village, this much seems to be true. The mahouts in Chiangmai are probably told not to speak with all the thousands of guests they see every day. The mahouts here openly ask for money to buy the elephants food. It’s just a more genuine experience, as exploitation of large mammals on a large scale goes. Anyway. Elephants!!
Looking back through our photo archives, I found that I’d never had time to blog about last year’s visit. I found footage of the main show, where we almost got trampled by Jumbo and Baby Dumbo:
The university where I teach, Rajabhat Maha Sarakham, used to be a teacher’s training college. My uni is just one Rajabhat institute of about 40 spread all over Thailand, that were turned into universities by the king with something called the Rajabhat Act in 1995. Therefore, when we clean up, move, or renovate offices and I see asset tags with “teacher’s college” or the like, I know I’ve found something at least 17 years old, and sometimes much older.
The last time somebody cleaned out a storage room on the 3rd floor, above my office on the 2nd floor, a bunch of cool old stuff was put out to be thrown away. I’ve started documenting what I’ve saved, and this is one of my coolest finds:
I’d never even heard of the United States Information Agency before, and I can only assume that “U.S. Information Service” was an alternative name for the agency.
Now if I can only find a working 16mm film projector!
Today we were hit by a sudden storm that dumped a whole lot of water on us, very quickly. This year’s weather has been very wet and relatively cool for Thailand, and it’s been raining almost every day.
I’ve been very busy for a while now, and everybody in this house started getting sick from last week. First it was Mina, then mommy, and now Max – but daddy is too busy to get sick. Taking care of three sickies is demanding, you know. So I didn’t even notice that the street in front of our house was flooding after about an hour of heavy rain. Nam did, though. I rushed out to make sure the storm drains were clear. They were, but they were running slower than usual. They empty into the pond in front of our house, and it was very high, the highest I’ve ever seen it. Hmmm.
For the time being though, the water in the pond and in the street wasn’t high enough to worry about, so I went to survey the damage behind our neighborhood, which always floods during heavy rains. A truck plowing through the water sent a small fish flying in its wake, and it ended up gasping for air on a non-flooded part of the street. I rescued it and took it back to Max and Mina as part of my One Day Pet Plan. This time it also turned out to be a snakeskin gourami. Shades of Bitty. I returned to my damage survey thinking that there were probably much larger fish in the flood water, and in fact ended up slowly chasing one up the street. A lady saw me and asked what I was doing; I told her I was chasing a snake. She disappeared. By the time I reached the rearmost houses in our tract, I was wading in knee deep water, and some of the houses had very nearly escaped being flooded. The raised driveways are all that saved the houses not built on a high foundation (our house is built on a meter-high foundation laid on a raised plot so there is no real danger of floodwater reaching inside – but it might damage our vehicles if it got really bad). Satisfied that none of our neighbors had been washed away, I returned home to resume cooking dinner (Hainan Chicken ala Kris).
An hour later or so, I needed some Chinese parsley and feverish Max needed some cooling pads, so I got on my bike and got as far as the back exit of my tract, the one that connects to another neighborhood and eventually exits out onto a highway. It was totally flooded out, which was a surprise since the rain had stopped almost two hours before, and the sun was now beating down on us like nothing had happened. There were cars and motorcycles stalled out and abandoned in the deepest parts, and pickups with pumps were trying to help drain the newly-formed lake. The storm drains were just full.
Remembering some elderly teachers we know back there, I decided to try and check on them. I went home to get the car and tell Nam where I was going, then got on the bypass and drove around to the other side of the flooded area. I drove down a side street as close as I could get, then started running into flooded out cars. The flooding in this neighborhood was quite bad. It reminded me of the damage I’d seen years ago after a big typhoon on Awajishima.
I helped an old lady push her scooter to high ground after the engine flooded. I almost got bit by a stranded dog I tried to help, and gave up. I got to the teachers’ house and found them OK. The water had just barely come up to door level, then receded, but their son had parked their new SUV on the street. It started and they moved it in the driveway, but the floorboards were soaked with dirty water. They were angry, but didn’t need any help. I waded back to my car and took some photos with my phone.
This is a bael or bael fruit AKA Bengal quince, wood apple, stone apple or seer phael (head-fruit). In Thai it’s known as matum.
In Thailand, bael is usually found in the form of dried slices, which are reconstituted in water to make juice. Our housekeeper brought over a few from her tree and I was surprised at how hard and heavy they were. We did as she said and boiled them, but then accidentally left them out on a hot night and the next day, they had fermented in the shell and burst, oozing a heavy syrup onto our counters. I threw them into the pond out front as an offering to Shiva, although he seems to favor the leaves instead of the fruit.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being Chris Delivery’s bodyguard (I got the job by looking “ex-yakuza.”) Fortunately, there were no kidnapping or assassination attempts, but he did get jumped by several groups of screaming fans wanting autographs and v sign photos (and, I suspect, a romantic evening under a private mango tree).
The talk he gave at our university was heartfelt and entertaining, and a great success by any measure. Props to my friend, Ajarn Kedsiree Jumpeehom, for setting it up and thanks to Chris for putting on an awesome show.
For a television personality with several shows, books, and other assorted projects known to pretty much everybody in Thailand, Chris is humble and just a generally great guy; he pretty much hates being grouped in with the snobby TV star set and keeps it real. I pretty much flipped when I heard that he personally teaches all of the classes at his English School in Central World (there’s a list of other teachers there so maybe he teaches all of the classes some of the time).
Here’s some shots showing the venue (the Main Hall at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham) and the turnout (around 1,500 at the start by my count, plus many more walk-ins changing with students leaving for classes part way through)
Pre-show meet & greet:
Almost go time:
Gauging crowds by counting rows, but sorely needing a wider lens:
Gauging crowds with the motorcycle index:
Gauging crowds with the broken toilet index:
After we reached Khon Kaen Airport, my detail ended by safely escorting the principal to the secure area, and I immediately proceeded to the airport shop to acquire a cold six-pack. All members of the escort team proceeded to the nearest McDonalds and many freshly-constructed McRibs were consumed the way Buddha intended them to be, with a freezing can of Leo. All in all, it was a great day, even if I did crash my goddamn car to start it off.
Taken (shakily, sorry!) at dinner gathering for the International Conference on Science and Social Science / International Conference on Science and Agricultural Technology held at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University in Thailand.
Being MC for an event means you get the closest seat to the stage!
I announced that it’s common practice to tip the performers if you like them, and I think the girls and the band made out pretty well…