We are now on Day 5 of our trip with REI and it is another long drive day with a good break in the middle. Destination tonight is Ching Mai, but along the way we stopped at a village where the local leader, a woman, met us and showed us around to see how their community operated. It's called Ban Na Ton Chan. You can read more here in this National Geographic article.
First, we visited a farm for limes and bamboo. Limes are used in almost every dish here in Thailand and are one of their more lucrative crops. They are in season now so she taught us how to pick a good one and then sent us out into the fields to find the best one. Then she as the village leader selected the best from the adults and best from the children. Andy/Dad won best for the adults which was quite nice as it was his birthday. They enjoy limes cut fresh with salt and honey. Next, we saw how they made bamboo into chopsticks as well as cups. Riding in the back of her family’s farm truck we went to her home where she showed us how to prepare a spool of thread and then how to weave using a loom that the pattern was controlled by our feet. This village is famous for its cloth as it is very soft. How does it get so soft…one of the steps before they dye it using natural plant dyes they soak it in muddy water. Apparently, the women of the village figured this out after the hems of their dresses would get soaked in the muddy rice fields and then washed and over time got very, very soft.
Also at this village we were taught to make our own lunch. A piece of muslin cloth stretched tight over the top of a clay pot full of steaming water….we poured a pancake/crepe type batter (except made from mung bean) and let it steam while covered with a bamboo hat/tent structure. Then on another drum head we cooked an egg. We placed vegetables and glass noodles in the center of our “pancake” and then were taught how to fold it into a Thai burrito using a bamboo stick. We placed this in a bowl, topped it with our egg, some broth, and then chilis, cilantro, and crispy pork. Really good! Ally even enjoyed her all vegetable one. The dish is called khao poep.
Back into the cars we traveled to the busy northern city of Ching Mai. Along the way we saw many small parades of school children and in the front of the procession was an elaborately decorated pick-up truck bed with a giant candle. This week the Buddhist lent season starts and the monks are not allowed to travel much and as many temples do not have electricity the people in addition to food and other supplies bring these giant candles as an offering to provide the monks light during their 3 month lent.
We worked our way through the Ching Mai rush hour to the Wat Suan Dok. Here we got to do a “monk chat.” Yes, this is what they called it, not us. But seriously we got to spend an hour with Monk KK. He’s been a monk for 15 years and started at age 13 after losing both his parents. All men are required to spend time as a monk in their life…even if only for a few weeks. Most generally do several months. A lot of orphans or children of poor families are given to the temples to be monks to ensure they are taken care of and educated. We learned about their way of life including some of the 227 rules they must follow, including never, ever touching a woman. In fact Ally and Mom had to be well covered in their presence…to their ankles and no bare shoulders. Monk KK was very nice and answered our questions non-stop and in the end showed us the three ways they are allowed to wear their robe. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos of the monk.
Before leaving the temple area we found our guide, TK, had been out doing some shopping. As a post monk chat snack he brought us durian. Look it up. It’s an incredibly stinky fruit, that is actually quite expensive and generally reserved for special occasions. He brought a very ripe one and not so ripe. We all tried it with our noses pinched. Dad preferred the soft, ripe one. Alec and Mom the less ripe one and we couldn’t convince Ally to try either.
Off to dinner we dined at a river side restaurant overlooking another beautiful stupa. At the end of dinner our guides had arranged a birthday cake for Andy as it was July 6. We checked into the beautiful RatiLanna Riverside Spa Resort. We get to stay here for 3 nights. Everyone was so excited after moving every single night except our first two. Another birthday surprise greeted us as instead of two separate rooms we received a large connecting suite for our family that upon entrance had 2 cakes on the master desk again wishing Mr. Paul Andrew Jolly a happy birthday. But we couldn’t eat another bite and we had an early morning date with some elephants, so off to bed for us.