Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sunrise And The Colors Of The Morning Sky

Part of the reason I like to be up early in the morning is witnessing dawn itself.

If you've the vantage point, a cup of some morning beverage and a relatively comfortable place to sit, with a minor - and I mean very minor - effort you can watch the stars fade as the sky lightens from black and a glow begins to spread across the sky as if Nature itself were throwing back the blankets to greet a new day.

Even in the darker days of my past, when "waking up" was really more about "coming to", the morning hours were a special part of my day; a quiet time when I could attempt to pull thoughts together and piece together the night before. Perhaps some of you understand better than others how nice it is to have it quiet while you're doing that.

Somewhere outside of the city is nicer, to my way of thinking, anyway - but sunrise is sunrise, and each has its own distinct charms to it. Today's photos were all taken in the countryside near Surin, on the Isaan Oddysey trip.

Traveling with a friend's partner (now a friend himself) who was acting as my guide and transportation we'd spent the night at his brother's home. Being excited about the day's journey ahead I'd awakened early and sat on the covered terrace adjoining my room and watched the sun come up as I idly slapped at the odd mosquito.

The view to one side was especially lush, to say the least; deeply green with trees and grasses. The smoke from local crop burns hung in the cool, damp air and added to the colored sky in the distance, giving the nearby hills the soft hue of a watercolor wash.

As an added bonus, it was near the peak of the full moon. My poor old camera didn't like being forced to take such a long exposure, but it nobly did its best.  The shot isn't great, but the memories behind it - and the others - most certainly is.

And to think, had I slept in another hour I'd have missed it all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Water Collection And Storage, Thai Style

Rainwater is collected in a large urn by a family's open kitchen in Isaan

You're bound to see them most anywhere in the kingdom of Thailand, in settings as varied as the styles of the containers themselves. From the simplest 55 gallon/190 liter plastic drums to bulbous cement or pottery urns to 250 gallon/1,000+ liter plastic drums and huge commercial stainless steel cylindrical containers like you'd see on the rooftops of stores or hotels in more urban areas.

In the countryside you're likely to see pottery-style urns such as the one above, with a trough slanted down from the roof that collects rainwater during the wet months. These are some of the most common for folks who don't want to use the plastic containers (or the stainless steel ones, which can develop tiny leaks within a few years).

Most of you know that rainwater is "soft" water, free from the calcium, lead and magnesium that can come from treated water. You can, however, still get contaminates from whatever washes off of your rooftop into the containers, but given the choice I'd still go with rainwater, even if only for bathing. Cooking with it and drinking it are another story. Legionella (remember Legionaire's disease in the news some years back?) and other risks are always there, I suppose, but there are filters and means of avoiding that which we don't need to go into here today.

Nevertheless, you'll see them almost everywhere... and why not? It's free water and fits hand-in-glove with the Thai way of conserving resources and costs. Waste not, want not.

Over the years I've seen more types of collection/storage containment devices than I'd have fingers - even if I resembled a the multi-handed Hindu-style statue. It was an idea I happily borrowed; after my first visit I set up a few 55 gallon drums and had my rain gutters empty into them, saving the water for watering the yard after the rains had stopped.

Naturally, standing water is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes - something else you're sure to see (and perhaps suffer from) in Thailand, but a few mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) will keep them under control. Many county health departments will provide them for free, if you contact them and ask. Just a few in your garden containers will do the trick.

One trip I took a few pictures of tanks on the roof of a school building. There were some tanks with the lids askew (like the one below), and I wondered if it was intentional (unlikely) or merely what I like to call "the curse of the lowest bidder" when the service company was hired (much more likely).

Friends who've grown up on farms have told me that when they had a true, down-into-the-ground well that they had to draw or pump from there were often unfortunate snakes, frogs, rodents and the likes down in them. I suspect that gave the water it's own "zing" that didn't fall under the heading of piquant, but I suppose they got used to it. I also suppose there are similar visitors to these water-gathering containers, via one opening or another.

Naturally, rain barrels aren't in use in different forms in many other countries, but I enjoy details like these wherever I go... and now you know a bit about the "barrels" in Thailand.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thai Smiles, Part 55: I Guess You Had To Be There

Giving a morning manicure along Beach Road in Pattaya

Maybe it's different with you, but it's often a mystery to me why some things that happen in the workplace are more amusing than identical things in a setting nearly the same in every other aspect.

How often have you heard something or seen something while at work and laughed out loud, but when you relate it to someone later it barely raises a patronizing chuckle?  I'll grant you that some folks tell a tale better than others and that - regardless of what they themselves may think - not everyone's even a halfway-decent comedian, but that doesn't really clear the issue up much.

All too often the person trying to salvage things lamely follows up the flopped anecdote with "well, I guess you had to be there", and, frankly, I think that has a lot to do with it.  No great debate point, but it livened up an after-dinner conversation I was a part of on Koh Samed a while back.

Seaboat touts taking a break

Part of it has to do with the element of surprise - the unexpected often being the easiest way to make this old dog laugh - but part of it also seemed to involve the regular tedium of many of our day to day tasks; in those cases humor on any level is an appreciated break, and that's where my money lies in the wager.

Running with that idea, my theory is that folks I meet while strolling around and people watching are willing to stop and smile for a picture because it's A) a break and B) it's sanuk (fun).  Of course, the less charitable might say it was just to get me to go away, but I've tested that theory often enough to be reasonably certain it's rarely the case. So there.

A local barber pauses during a client's shave

There are other examples of Thai folks finding some enjoyment or fun in what they're tasked to do while holding body and soul together here on the blog. If you're a newer reader you can learn some of the overall cultural view among workers in Sanuk Doesn't Just Mean "Fun" , among go go boys in Camaraderie On Soi Twilight and among prisoners in Pathumthani Prison "Chain Gang" At Work

Being left to tend the family cart can make for a boring morning

Speaking of work, I have a project strewn about my house that I've been trying to avoid for days now so I ought to get back to it... but first, would you like to hear something funny that happened while I was setting the thing up?

No?  Hmmm... didn't think so!  It was funny if you were there, though.

Enjoy your morning/afternoon/evening, depending on where you are when you're reading this, and thanks for checking in.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Playing With Fire On The Beach On Koh Samed

It's Friday, and Friday is usually the time when people's minds turn to thoughts outside of their office or regular weekday routines.  I'm no different, really (well, I freely admit to being a bit strange, but that's an entirely different arena) so I'm ready for a couple of days with friends and family.

Sitting out in the back yard with a cup of coffee this morning I watched birds landing in the upper pond of the waterfall to take a morning bath. Every so often one of them would misjudge the flow of the current and end up swept over the edge of the falls. They always catch themselves, naturally - birds can fly, after all - but one this morning kept dipping in, being carried over the brink and coming back to try it again... much like a child shouting "again! again!" when they're tickled by something.

The mild "flirting with danger" aspect of it reminded me of the traveling bands of Thai men who move along the beach of Koh Samed with their fire shows. Some are more skilled then others and some bear the scars of previous mistakes, but they, too, continue to flit about the flame(s) like moths.

So, here's an example of one of the somewhat larger groups doing a portion of a number. The sound isn't important on this one - trust me; the music was loud and the wind caused a roar in the recording as well.  Still, an entertaining routine.

Enjoy your weekend - whatever it is you end up doing.