Thailand’s Happy Pizza

There is currently an explosion of CBD cafes and edible hemp products/companies all over Thailand. This is kind of the second wave of not-really-pot popularization. The first wave was semi-legal CBD oils and tinctures (although the most sought after ones were straight up black market products that claimed to cure cancer). Now we are to the point where the most popular pizza chain in Thailand, The Pizza Company (revenue over 7 billion baht in 2020 – half of the Thai pizza market), are using it in their ads… Mainstream popularization is a good thing.

My Dream Meal

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).

Online learning

Saw this in my feed and it made me smile because my daughter had to sit next to me and take a swimming class online last term. The current term ends this month, and the kids in Thailand may be going back to school from next term, but who knows? A lot of it depends on if they actually get vaccinated or not (there’s still not enough of any kind to go around and the only one proven safe for kids is still Pfizer – which is in very short supply), but it’s been a while now.

Online Teaching at Thai University

The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:

I removed all info except for one student who worked too hard on their name for it to go unappreciated. Please note the green article of clothing is not a vest, which I will have to ask about in a future session..

I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.

There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.

One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).

Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.

The flight controller is useful for navigating never-ending online meetings.

On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!

Thai Funeral with Royal Sponsorship

This is a video from last week. The whole funeral lasted seven days.

I have read online about soil or water being provided from the royal institution for these affairs; in this case it was a candle with a bundle of flowers (made from corn husks and fragrant tree bark) that was eventually lit by a representative from Bangkok. I need to find out more about this, though.

This was my second time at a funeral with these honors, and I learned a lot more this time. It was a fitting and touching sendoff for Nam’s grandmother.

Hoetel

Were in Sangkha, Surin province for Nam’s grandmother’s funeral. We’ve been coming up here to visit her once or twice a year for 15 years. It’s a small town near the border with Laos known for black magic, apparently.. I never saw evidence of that, though. The funeral is going to be a totally recognized 7-day affair, and it’s going to be hot, so we are grateful they made a hotel with a pool here recently. Because of covid, we hadn’t been swimming for a couple of years… Instantly worked out a shoulder pain I’d had for a few months.

And now we are in a Hoetel.

In the Shadow of the Star Egg

Thai basil stir fry with crispy pork topped with a fried egg (AKA “star egg”)

A star egg makes everything better, especially when cooked to crispy bottom/gooey yolk perfection. Also, crispy pork is the way to go as far as Thai basil stir fry goes. I mean, to each their own, but some ingredients are clearly better than others for any given dish. More on this pad krapow hierarchy at a later date.

Lethocerus Indicus (Giant Water Bug)

“The Vietnamese call this insect cà cuống. It is a highly prized food and often boiled and fried whole.” LINK

Here in Thailand, it is called maeng da or malaeng da, and is mostly used ground up in chili paste called nam phrik or jaew bong. The pheromone that so famously attracts the females has a unique and powerful scent, unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. Not unpleasant in and of itself, but very strong. I can eat it, but have never tried it raw… I found the one above freshly dead, in my driveway. It did not smell. It’s the only one I’ve seen in the wild, although they sell them live at the fresh markets and deep-fried at edible insect stalls.

Incidentally, maengda is also slang for “pimp” in Thai.

Why I still love Thailand

The ad blurb translated by Googs:

Last day. Golden minute. When it’s gone,

Boiled chicken. Golden minute. Big size. Only 89 Baht each!!!!

One day only. Discount for 60 baht immediately when shopping for fresh food department. 600 baht or more / receipt.

This Chinese food festival!! with valuable quality at Tesco Lotus.

Tesco. Boiled chicken with entrails. Size M. Size 1.4-1.6 kg. Normal item is 189 Baht each.

⏰ Golden minute. Reduced to 89 baht each!!!!

⏰ Golden minute. The last day. 1 July. Year 63