Nam and I went on a nice trip to pick up Mina in WA and for Nam to see Max after four years of COVID lockdown/US visa processing. The last long leg of our trip saw us dropped this bus stop in between the two sides of Maha Sarakham city at dawn.
As it turns out, we aren’t moving back to the states just now.
Mina has come back to Thailand; she missed her friends here.
No photos here, just a link to a 13 year old post I updated about some local lizard species which are called the same thing in Thai/Isan languages: กะปอม/กิ้งก่า), but ended up being distinct species with different common names: Oriental garden lizard (Calotes versicolor) vs. Calotes mystaceus (the Indo-Chinese forest lizard).
For the sake of posterity, I hereby shorten their names to Bob(s) and Dan(s). Bobs are the red ones, Dans are the blue ones (did you know that roughly 75% of people on social media would have used apostrophes to indicate plurality in that sentence?)
Update: Uh oh, there are Emmas (green when mating) in Thailand as well: Calotes emma
Further update: There are also some references to a species called Calotes goetzi which is treated as a separate species on some pages, but is also reported to have replaced Calotes mystaceus (who I just call Dan[s]) altogether according to this page, which also says that Dan is called กิ้งก่าหัวสีฟ้า (ging ga hua si faa) in Thai. This literally means the “gin ga (forest lizard) with a blue head,” which I immediately think is weird, because a much larger area than just the head turns blue, and also, every local I’ve ever talked to has just called it a “blue forest lizard” in Thai – there is no reason to be more specific, especially when it’s less accurate.
On October 5th, at around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I wrote about how the whole country was flooding from heavy rains of the past week and how our neighborhood usually floods, but that this time the drainage systems in our area were working really well.
Later that evening, Nam and I gathered shovels and twine and started helping people from the neighborhood fill sandbags just down our street in an effort to block off rising waters from the rear of our estate, where there’s marshland on an open property. Our entire housing estate (which has expanded greatly since we built our house 13 years ago), was originally all rice fields and open land. Nam’s mom warned us that it was a low area that was prone to flooding, but the worst it ever flooded was just enough to wet our driveway and barely reach the house. </foreshadowing>
After an hour of filling sandbags and lifting them onto trucks, we were beat, and it was getting obvious that this flooding might get bad. Still, it didn’t seem too bad, but we decided to take Nam’s car to her mom’s dormitory on higher ground, about ten minutes away. On the way there, Nam asked if I wanted to turn around and get my car out of there as well, but it didn’t seem like it would flood so badly, so I said no, wondering if I was making the right decision. When we got to my mother in law’s place, Nam’s younger sister gave us a ride back home. The street in front of our house was slightly flooded, but no big deal. A couple hours later, it looked like this, which is the highest it had ever been.
Throughout the course of flooding, which was extremely bad but shorter than anticipated – in our neighborhood (they predicted our hood would be flooded for a month or two, but it was pretty much dry in less than a week – we never lost power, so I have chat logs all through out our time spent inside the house, even though we were completely surrounded by water. In fact the last message I sent out to the family on the night of the 5th was, “there’s no rain or wind, we have internet and aircon, but the water is silently rising. Weird.”
In the photo above, the water is only a couple inches high in our driveway, which is sloped towards the street. However, that means that the water is more than a foot deep in the street, which is high enough to bog down my car. It was too late to drive out of there without risking the Crown’s engine and blocking the road for trucks and lifted vehicles, so I pulled the battery cables, chocked the wheels, and pulled everything I could out of it… I didn’t have time to pull the amps or any of the audio system.
After I took that photo around 11:20 PM, the water started rising very fast. Unbeknownst to us, officials in Khon Kaen had decided to open flood gates to relieve pressure on the over capacity Ubolrat Dam, which in turn caused earthen holding walls to break at the nearby reservoir at Gang Lern Jaan. This caused a rush of water from streams and creeks that had never caused flooding in the recent past. The resulting flood was, in fact, the worst in 45 years. When the flood rose about another foot higher than shown in the photo, we decided it was time to bug out. We hurriedly gathered the most important stuff together, put Mina’s cat, Pickle, in a pet carrier, turned off the main house breaker, and ventured out into the dark waters in the driveway, where we waited for a truck to pass by (normal cars and motorcycles had completely stopped coming down the street hours before).
A black Vigo came by a couple minutes later, and the guy was happy to give us a ride out of there. We jumped in the open bed and stopped again just down the street when a couple of uni kids waded out in the street asking for a ride. As we drove down the street just down from our house, a couple yelled at us to slow down from the open window of their brightly-lit house, but it was too late. The wake created by our truck passing by in the flooded street crashed through their open front door (which was only a couple inches above the water line) and rushed into the living room, bouncing off the far wall and rippling back again. The woman sat on the couch and got splashed a bit and the guy went to close the door, much too late to accomplish anything. They both cursed as we passed by, a surreal memory burned in my mind, as adrenaline coursed through my veins. That pattern of adrenaline rush and subsequent dump would stay with me though the next few weeks.
UPDATE Dec. 1: It’s now been a couple weeks since I started writing this post. My words are all jammed up and I’m just… busy. Or maybe tired, as I never really spun down from the mad times that resulted from the flood. I have decided to write about it in installments, for fear of never publishing anything on this blog again… I’m hoping that publishing one post clears the logjam in my mind, so here goes…
VIDEO UPDATE: I’m adding this short video just to show the level of the water on the first night on our front stairs, which were the standard for gauging the severity of flooding throughout the following week.
The whole country is flooding from the heavy rains of the past week (a result of Typhoon Noru which had a completely different name in the heavily ravaged Philippines), but we are safe so far. Usually, our neighborhood floods when there’s heavy rains, but the drainage systems just in our immediate area have worked well this time around. There’s supposed to be more opening of floodgates upriver (mainly at the Ubolrat Dam in Khon Kaen) in the coming week, so it may get worse. For now, there are a lot of volunteers filling sandbags in preparation of more rain and rising rivers. My students coworkers haven’t lost their sense of humor, either.
On our trip to the states last month, I had my first ever birthday on an airplane. It might have been my longest birthday ever because of the time difference (UTC +7 to UTC -7), although I didn’t even really think about it until a couple of flight attendants came up and started asking about my birthday – one in English, and one in Japanese. I was really surprised at first, but it ended up being very dope. Apparently, Nam had asked ANA to do something after Mina and I had checked in and went through the first security checkpoint at Suvarnabhumi. Mina knew about it since Nam had messaged her and she thought it was hilarious.
The dessert plate they brought me “from Business Class”:
The ANA Dreamliner B787 we flew on from BKK to Haneda was pretty badass; the crew can dim all the windows at the touch of a button. You can also set them individually with the button shown below. There’s a row of LEDs (to the left of the button) that aren’t really lit in the photo that show the dimness level.
I didn’t post here for the entire trip and actually didn’t do a lot of things I normally do… Some of them I just may never do again. We have new priorities and our lives are in a state of flux – preparing for a big move back home, etc. – and we are living each day with the immediate goal of joining our family together again. Standing in our way is a long list of big things like selling our house, getting Nam’s green card, finding new jobs, and transitioning to new cultures and lifestyles again… Adventure awaits!
We threw a farewell party for Mina last night and invited her classmates and their families. She’s been going to school with some of them since they were two or three years old, so it was sad… Yet, she is ready to go off on her adventure. We take off in just over 10 days… The next week will be finishing work and school for us, and getting stuff ready to go.
When we got back home last night from the party, it was nearly midnight and starting to rain, and somebody rang our doorbell. It was a Grab (food delivery) rider who stopped to say he had seen a huge snake slithering into our neighbor’s yard (our neighbor doesn’t have a doorbell or a door accessible from the front street). The driver said maybe it was a boa, as thick around as his arm! I messaged our neighbor about it and went looking for it this morning, but didn’t see anything… I was kind of bummed because I’ve always wanted to see a wild boa here.
Coming from Japan to Thailand 15 years ago, the state of the roads here was lamentable, and many of the streets/rural highways in the Issan region and around our city weren’t even paved – or had big enough holes to break wheels and axles, a common sight back then.
I used to go on university trips every term and we would often take the uni bus or minivans on long road trips, ostensibly for work, but more just to get out and travel. This was always a nice perk for government university work, because we could often take the whole family, as well. It also made me very aware of the lack of highway rest stops in Thailand.
Actually, the default highway rest stop in Thailand is fulfilled by large gas station facilities, most notably those run by the PTT group. PTT stations come in all sizes, from a few pumps and a convenience store to larger mini mall-type complexes. However, on the toll roads around Bangkok and central Thailand, there are a few privately run rest stops, most notably the huge one between Bangkok and Chonburi located here: ศูนย์บริการทางหลวง กรุงเทพ-ชลบุรี มอเตอร์เวย์ ขาออก. That ones been around as long as I can remember, and it’s huge (long, actually) and chaotic. It’s also got the most foreign food shops of any highway rest stop in Thailand, with a lot of western fast food joints like BK, McD’s, KFC (maybe even 2 branches IIRC), Indian food, pho, dim sum, sushi, etc. As a side note, it’s also very easy to miss the turnoff if you are speeding along the toll road there.
On our recent trip to Hua Hin, we happened along another private rest stop in Samut Sakhon called Porto Go. It was not as big as the rest stop mentioned above, but it was newer and cleaner (there’s also one in Ayutthaya, apparently). These new rest stops with clean facilities make road trips a lot more convenient than they used to be!
At the beginning of our trip to Hua Hin last week, we boarded a plane for the first time since the pandemic started, and flew into Don Mueang. Nam’s older sister picked us up and we went to see a van we would pick up on the back end of our trip and have lunch. She took us to Tong Peng, a family-oriented Chinese restaurant in the Chok Chai area of Bangkok, south of Lad Prao.
As a sidenote, it feels good to blog about travels again – it’s been too long.
Our beloved cowboy hairstylist has passed from natural causes. He was a local philanthropist, often offering free cuts at pubs along the canal and various festivals in town. I just loved him because he was a hardcore cowboy that popped up here and there quite often.
All four of us have had our hair cut by him many times over the years. He was a real pro, and will be missed.
Tucked somewhere in between a bunch of other cars in an underground parking lot in Bangkok, a true legend is waiting for Sumitomo/Dunlop brake seals that are probably impossible to find… Reading this forum post from 15 years ago reminded me why I had to change out my entire brake system for the Crown. There simply were no replacement parts to be had. My calipers were also marked Sumitomo, and I sent all of the parts to someone who needed them online.
It would be a real dream to see the king of Toyotas cruising down the tollway in BKK. Just like this:
Took some more photos and sold it for half of what I bought it for 8 years ago. It was fun to ride and served me well, and it was also the first vehicle I ever bought new… but I haven’t been able to ride it the past couple of years due to COVID, and the ethanol fuel mandated in Thailand just goes bad very quickly. I ended up having to replace the fuel pump and injector because the fuel had degraded into something nasty. Anyways, we put up an ad yesterday and got several interested parties calling today. A bike dude from Ubon Ratchatani made the drive out and bought it on the spot. I hope it serves him well.
I had replaced the decals with a more colorful set in order to appeal to a younger buyer, and it worked exactly as planned. This sort of strategy seems to work well for us.
My CRF250M originally looked like this:
I originally bought it used in this color and actually had a new one rush made for me in the same color at the Honda factory in Rayong when the old one didn’t work out. I liked this color scheme because it reminded me of my dad’s black 280zx with gold trim from the 80s.
A friend sent this to me. I don’t know who made it, took the photo, or ate it, but I want it.
I don’t know if I’d be more excited selling this or eating it – it’s damn near the perfect triple order of Thai Basil Stir Fry with Crispy Pork topped with Star Eggs. I spent a whole month perfecting this dish during lockdown, making the crispy pork from scratch with a different recipe each time. It was epic, and this is truly one of my top 10 favorite Thai dishes (of which basil stir fries occupy two or three spaces).
I drove by the other day just to make sure it was still there (it’s a few doors down from my co-worker’s language school). It was pretty much unchanged from the time this drive-by photo was taken in mid-2019. In Thai it’s actually pronounced, “oosak.”