30.04.2010 - 04.05.2010 34 °C
Friday 30th April
Rose, Glenn and all the children, except the three oldest and the three youngest, departed for Pattaya at 3am this morning to take part as ball boys and girls in a rugby tournament at Horseshoe Park. I can’t say I envy them since they are travelling in the Home’s open-sided school bus. The vehicle is larger than a minibus and has a separate enclosed driver’s cab. Bench-type seats are arranged along each side of the back of the bus with another bench seat along the middle making the total comfortable capacity for children about 18 or so. The 423 drive to Pattaya is going to take several hours and every time the bus takes a corner it lurches to the side so the children are going to have to hold on tight for much of the time.
You are probably wondering where the children will be sleeping in Pattaya. They’ll be sleeping in Glenn’s house there so there’ll be no hotel bills to pay and they are due back late on Tuesday night. Whether it is a good idea to go so far for the children to work while others have fun playing their sport is debatable. What do you think ? I’d love to read your comments.
After school at midday Mr Anan, the school principal insisted on taking me to lunch in Lamphun which was very nice of him. He took me to a different restaurant from the previous occasion and we had lots of nice food and a few Leo beers. During lunch there was a scare that the restaurant would be burnt down. When we arrived I noticed a large bonfire in an open space opposite the restaurant and behind another house. The fire got out of control and the wind spread it dangerously near then house over the road. Fire engines were called and all was well in the end but the restaurant owner and the staff were running around looking very worried for a time while Anan and I calmly enjoyed our lunch.
When Mr Anan realised that I planned to go to Chiang Mai he immediately offered to drive me there but, first, he wanted to take me to his home, mid-way between Chiang Mai and Lamphun, to introduce me to his wife and to his five dogs. It was interesting driving there because, for once, I had an opportunity to see what the hinterland consists of beyond the main road and usual shops and stalls that I normally see. What I saw was a real surprise because here was a maze of twisty unnamed lanes just wide enough for two cars to squeeze past slowly and lots of nice houses and all the things you would find in a village, such as a temple etc.
Mr Anan drives what I can only describe as an oversize pick-up truck. It rides high off the ground and had large wheels and a fence-like structure in front between the headlights. It can seat for people and the open part at the rear can carry almost anything. In fact, the rear part is often used as a people carrier and I often see whole families sitting in the rear or workers/labourers squatting there.
He has a very nice clean and comfortable-looking house. His wife is a teacher of Thai culture and computing at a primary school in her village and immediately I arrived she produced iced water and plates of water melon slices, whole rambutan and sliced green mango to nibble on.
After the visit I was expecting Mr Anan to drive me back to the Home so I could change and pack my overnight bag etc but instead he headed towards Chiang Mai. I had to seek confirmation a couple of times that we were in fact going back to the Home and each time he said yes. It wasn’t till the third time of asking, and we were drawing ever closer to the city, that the penny dropped and we did a u-turn and drove back towards the Home. Luckily, it wasn’t very far and he was very apologetic about his misunderstanding which arose because he thought I was only visiting Chiang Mai rather than staying for two nights.
We duly returned to the Home and I rushed off to change and pack and about 10 minutes later we were back on the road heading to the city once more. He dropped me off near the Tha Phae Gate and I walked the rest of the way to the Anoma hotel where I had stayed before. I had been thinking about going somewhere else a bit cheaper but I felt that until I knew if my ATM card worked or not I had better say where I had access to some more cash.
Apropos my ATM card, I received the new PIN by email after my friend in London had opened the letter from my bank for me. The new PIN turned out to be the same number as my old PIN and I began to wonder if my bank had made a mistake. It was with some trepidation that I walked down to the ATM after checking in at the hotel and pushed my card into the slot. Joy oh joy, it worked ok so I was fluid again.
My next most important task was to discover a reputable clinic because I had recently found a large number of spots on my back. I was unable to see them all in the mirror but I could see that a few were larger than the others and looking an angry red. Luckily, the owner of the Anoma had no hesitation in recommending the clinic she and her family attend which was only a short walk away on the other side of the moat. I decided to go there as soon after it opened in the morning.
Saturday 1st, Sunday 2nd May and Monday 2nd May.
After breakfast I walked to the clinic and went in. There were a number of people sitting in the foyer who I assumed to be waiting attention. The lady at reception took my name and age and asked me to step onto the weighing machine and I was shocked to find I only weighed 64kg whereas in London my weight was a steady 70kg. I knew I’d lost weight but this was the first time the amount was quantified.
The receptionist then told me to go into Room One. I did and sat down expectantly. A couple of minutes later one of the two doctors at the clinic popped his head round the door and told me he’d just be five minutes. The doctor – tall and silver haired - looked avuncular and very professional.
When he came back I told him about my back and after examining it and asking me some questions he pronounced the spots, or rather bites, the result of bedbugs. He gave me a jab in my backside -with a hyperdermic syringe that is - and prescribed a course of antibiotics. Two capsules three times a day, another capsule twice day for the next week and I am to see him again on Friday.
He told me that he was originally from India and had trained there. He spoke fluent Thai and accent-free English and, while he was giving me the prescription, we chatted about the UK election this week. He felt sure that G. Brown will be out with his tail between his legs!
The cost of my consultation ? A reasonable 2,000 baht (about 40 pounds and rising as the pound drops to even deeper lows!!) and this includes the drugs.
The remedy for the bedbugs ? I searched for info and the net and soon discovered that the blighters are hard to eradicate. However, a pharmacist familiar with bedbugs told me an effective remedy is putting the mattress outside all day and letting the sun beat down on both sides of it as well as washing the sheets and pillow cases and any blankets. I was unable to do anything about my mattress whilst in Chiang Mai but planned to act on this advice when I got back.
I spent some of my time in Chiang Mai exploring a few more corners of the old city which is always a very nice way of passing the time. I also kept an ever-open eye out for nice but inexpensive restaurants where I could have lunch or dinner and I found a couple that fitted the bill two blocks away from my hotel. I also took a new photo of the moat, or the canal as some locals call it, with the fountains playing which is now in my photo gallery.
On this visit to Chiang Mai I brought my laptop with me. I found that I could just squeeze everything I needed into the same bag as my laptop. IT was good having it with me to take advantage of the free wi-fi at the hotel.
During the weekend I discovered that Monday was a public holiday and everybody assured me that my school would be closed. I emailed Mr Anan for confirmation but I didn’t a reply as quickly as I had last time I mailed him. I also phoned Guide at the Home for his opinion and he checked the calendar and assured me it was a public holiday and that the school would be closed. In the light of all the similar opinions I decided to stay in Chiang Mai Sunday night and return to the Home Monday afternoon as there would be nothing for me to do there.
As a result of this decision another highlight of the weekend was the Sunday Walking Market which I had only glimpsed before on my way back to the Home. The main spine of the market takes place along Ratchadamnoen Road, which is at the top of the road where my hotel is located, so very close. This road and several leading off either side of it are all closed to traffic. Both sides of these roads and the middle are lined with temporary stalls selling everything you can imagine. Most of the articles on sale are handmade or made by villagers as part of the OTOP scheme that I have mentioned before and they are very different from the stuff you see on sale in tourist areas and are of a much better quality. Consequently people flock to the Walking Market and there is a king of one-way system with people going up one side and down the other side of the lines of stalls. Most of the market strollers were Thais, many in family groups. There were farangs too but few.
Remarkably, the market opens before dusk at about 6pm and doesn’t close till midnight when the stallholders pack everything away in their vehicles until next Sunday.
Food stalls are dotted along the way and several temple forecourts become food courts for the night with some very tempting delicacies on offer. I am not really an eat-as-you-walk person because it is impossible to do so AND take photos but I was sorely tempted by many delicious looking things I saw. I took some food related photos so you could be tempted too. I also took some general photos so you can get a feel of what the market is like. Take a look in my gallery!!
On Monday morning I received an email reply from Mr Anan who said that he’d told the students on Friday to disregard the public holiday and to come into school for my English classes. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to find a way back to the Home to change and get my teaching files and get to the school. So I replied sending my sincere apologies.
Later, I took a stroll down Nimmanhaemin Road where my hotel was located when I was last in Chiang Mai four years ago. Back in 2006, only one of the sois was gaining a reputation of being a creative centre with some galleries, some artisan boutiques, a saa paper specialist etc etc. The rest of the road was then very uninteresting and there was certainly nothing of interest open at night – I know because I walked down the road in 2006 looking for somewhere to have a drink that was more interesting then my hotel but failed to find anything at all.
Now, Nimmanhaemin has changed almost beyond recognition. The road is a-buzz with trendy boutiques, eateries and galleries and much more. Down the various sois there seems to have been a building boom since my last visit since there are a large number of apartment buildings, residences, condominiums and so on which, I assume, cater to the aspiring and/or affluent Thais, Koreans and Japanese and others. Why else would stores call themselves Ice Chic, or describe themselves as the Bestaurant. One oddly named place did catch my eye which was The Salad Concept. They only serve salads but innovative ones as well as Caesar Salad and the like. The menu has illustrations of all the various types of lettuce – some of which I have seen in supermarkets in the UK, some not – descriptions of all the various dressings, and all additional toppings you can have. The prices were very reasonable, cheap even, and the place was full of hungry customers. Considering Thais don’t eat salads as we know them I thought this restaurant was onto a good thing.
Apropos signage, I saw a large banner advertising a steakhouse which read Rare or Medium but always well done. Did this mean that the steaks are always burnt ??? The Johnny Walker sign intrigues me too. You see banners advertising the whisky everywhere. Below their logo it states: Keep Walking. To me, this means don’t stop by for a drink, keep walking, give it a miss. In passing, I hate whisky so I for one would definitely keep walking by.
I returned to the Home on Monday afternoon. Guide came into Chiang Mai to collect me and we had an uneventful journey back. That evening Guide took me to Big C supermarket where I stocked up on fresh milk for my breakfast muesli and some other things.
Tuesday 4th May
Things are very relaxed at the Home with Rose and Glenn and most of the children away. Work on the new site has slowed to a crawl as the older children enjoy the novelty of sleeping in and doing what they want for a change.
Nobody was around by the time I was ready for my lift to get to school so I woke M up and he gave me a lift on his motorbike. The children at the school were very pleased to see me. I was only able to give two lessons, one to the senior class and one to the junior class. I’m not sure what happened to the middle class students, perhaps they went home early. As a result, I was finished by 11.15 and Mr Anan invited me to walk around the temple where preparations were taking place for the annual festival on Wednesday and Thursday when, you’ve guessed it, the school will be closed again!! As soon as we arrived in the main area we were invited to have some noodles. It was impossible to say no and so we sat at a table and women bustled round serving us with iced water and said noodles which, by the way, were really delicious.
Mr Anan was very keen that I accept his invitation tomorrow evening to see the festival Muay Thai boxing and the dancing. I can’t say I was that keen since it means being trapped at the Home for the two day holiday with precious little to do in the searing heat. I’d much rather return to Chiang Mai where at least there are choices about what to do and when.
Luckily, today was blazing hot and sunny because before I left for school this morning I left instructions for my mattress to be taken out and left in the blazing sun and for the mattress cover and pillowcase to be washed and the blankets to be hung outside too. When I returned to the Home after lunch at the temple I turned the mattress over so the other side would get the same treatment. Everything else had been done for me and I began to feel confident that my bedbug episode was finished.
The bus returned from Pattaya with the children about 9pm and there was pandemonium as they debussed, unloaded kit, greeted those that stayed here and grabbed something to eat not that they had had nothing to eat on the journey. Food is part of the welcome in Thailand.
A large polystyrene box was also unloaded containing some fish which will be turned into more Lanna style fish sausages which Rose is selling to local restaurants. It appears that the children enjoyed their role as ball boys and girls in Pattaya and they returned looking very tanned after spending so much time in the sun.