Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If I could bottle a rural village...

If I could bottle a rural village, I'd make a fortune, selling it as a natural sleep aid! Our sleep patterns have been pretty woeful since we arrived in Thailand four months ago. The night before I headed to my friend's hometown, I managed three hours of broken slumber.
San Phor Loi (have no idea of the transliteration or Thai script...can't even find it on the map) is south east of Mae Sai, about ten minutes off the main highway. Typical, with acres and acres of rice paddies, slow moving vehicles, friendly people, an abundance of relatives and QUIET. By 8.00 pm it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop...and crickets!
Mum's storage shed.
Ms P built a beautiful, modern home (no photos) there a couple of years ago, where her Dad resides, while she lives and works in Chiang Mai. I met a few aunts, uncles, cousins and of course, Mum.

At one aunt's place khi lek (ขี้เหล็ก) leaves where on the boil. The tree grows everywhere and everyone seems to eat it for its general medicinal and believed anti carcinogenic properties.

Note the cracks in the earth. Very dry!
I was warned that it would be far too bitter for my tastes, but it wasn't at all unpalatable, in or out of soup. The chilli content on the other hand....!!!! Turns out khi lek is otherwise known as Siamese Senna, Senna being a natural form of laxative and is sold in supermarkets worldwide. I'm not sure if the Thai name should be literally translated (pooh + iron) but it could be fairly accurate, not only does it keep you regular, but perhaps it's high in iron also?

Khi lek soup, the three bowls on the left.
Aunty Tong Bai was kind enough to cook for us on both nights of our visit, ensuring that there were local, but, farang friendly dishes on the table, which weren't blazing with chilli. 
Lovely Lanna woodwork on Mum's house.
On the second night, Ms P refrained from telling me that one of the meals I was eating consisted of large juicy, ant eggs (red ants to be exact), until after I'd whoofed down a few servings. Quite nice and apparently, seasonal! Little bursts of flavour in every bite.
Aunty Tong Bai's kitchen
Unfortunately I didn't get a photo...there wasn't much left in the bowl by that stage, but if you're interested, it looked a lot like this.

The warm hospitality of country folk seems to be a constant in most countries, and Thailand is no different. Instantly welcomed and fed home grown/reared/gathered food...even if it did seem a bit odd that Ms P fronted up with a new friend, farang and female to boot. We had a few private chuckles about the scenario and bet chins were still wagging after our departure ;)  
I slept like a log...a solid eight hours, or more, each night and during the day I accompanied Ms P around the Golden Triangle area visiting relatives, shopping and seeing some be continued.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai


Paul Garrigan said... Best Blogger Tips

Sounds like you are having a great time Snap. I'll look out for the next installment.

Malcolm and CieJay Burgess said... Best Blogger Tips

Snap, theres nothing like the village life , I have never slept sooo well in all my life we've been here almost 7 years , took me a couple of months to get use to the quite, but I'm into it now with no problem. Sounds and looks like you had a fun time , I still haven't got the nerve to try the red ants eggs , and Ciejay on a regular week will pick khi lek for her and the neighbors and she uses it to make red curry. Thanks for great post and photos . Malcolm

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Paul, I'm back, it was great! Way too short though. But, Auntie invited me to stay for a big event in the village, later this year :)

@Malcolm, I think I slept so well because the silence reminded me of our place in Australia. The ant eggs, what can I say, except I didn't have my glasses on. Honestly, they didn't have any particular flavour, not even chicken. I believe they're a good source of protein.

Mike said... Best Blogger Tips

Snap that sounds fun. Can't quite agree with you on rural quiet though. True its usually hushed by 8pm but the buggers are up at 5am!

We are also blessed with a loud speaker system in the village that occasionally burst into life in the wee hours too.

That said I wouldn't change a thing since I am a country boy at heart anyway.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Mike Happy to report there wasn't a loud speaker in ear shot...or perhaps I slept through it :) I do love my quite at night, and preferably, pitch darkness.

Lani said... Best Blogger Tips

Miss you sweetie but I see you are in good hands. Had no idea khi lek was a laxative! Don't care for the taste but you see people picking them on the roadside all the time. In fact, I saw a guy standing on his motorbike to get some just the other day!

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Lani I tried Khi lek in both soup and on it's own. It's not what I'd call delicious (or lam dtae dtae in Lanna speak) but like other veggies (not mentioning any names...brussel sprouts), I'd eat it if I knew it was good for me.

I'm out of good hands now ;) and back in CM...I have my special guest arriving tomorrow morning!

Swiss said... Best Blogger Tips

Ant Eggs! Wow you are adventurous haha. Just close your eyes and eat. The village sleeps sounds perfect too. Free of the cellphone towers and wifi that prevents fully calming down in the city. Your site and pictures are fantastic, I need to catch up on some posts here!

I wanted to thank you for keeping up on my Cambodia blog. I'm always so happy to see your comments! It's really touching that you grew to know Nader through the writing. If you want a little adventure from your adventure, when I get back (hopefully soon) you are always welcome to pop by.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

Swiss, you're right! I think being away from my computer helped me have a good night's sleep...not even a TV to watch, only my Thai study book to read.

It's been my pleasure to read Pilotage Cambodia and can't wait for more of your posts in the future.

Martyn said... Best Blogger Tips

Snap I've had some of my best nights sleep in a village, they're so quiet at night. I now have the comfort of a modern brick house when I stay in Thailand but even in Wilai's mama's old wooden stilted home I used to get a good night's sleep. If it was raining I'd listen to the raindrops pinging on the corrugated tin roof and eventually nod off.

Going downstairs to the toilet at three in the morning wasn't so good.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Martyn We have a tin roof back in Australia, I too enjoy the sound of rain falling at night...very soothing. I'm not too keen on outside loos though, luckily I had a choice where I was staying :) Inside/western or outside/local.

Theodora said... Best Blogger Tips

There's a lot to be said for getting out of the city. Hope your R&R means you're now sleeping better in Chiang Mai itself.

Ant eggs? Brand them as caviar and no one would ever know...

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Theodora Hmmmm...about the sleep, seems to be getting easier to nod off, but staying asleep is the next challenge.

Agreed! Ant eggs ARE a bit like caviar, only gigantic and unsalted and white ;)

Catherine said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow Snap, that looks like it was an amazing experience! And sleep - the challenge - I so know that one :-)

I love the photo of the wooden Lana building. I can't get enough of those.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Catherine I can't believe the trouble they go to with some of those roof tops, so intricate and do appear to be purely for decoration.