Daily Archives: August 24, 2005

Visiting Bala-hala Forest Field Camp

(I am leaving for my hometown, Sabah (East Malaysia), for a few days…so I had better finished my date…The Hala-bala.:))

After touring and inspecting the Hala-bala forest for some time, our helicopter stopped at the first border patrol police field camp on the fertile banks. At the request of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the border patrol has been stationed at Balahala since 1990, protecting the forests and watersheds. Wildlife has benefited from their presence.

The first camp we visited is located at the left.

We also visited another camp site at the riverside, about 15 minutes away by helicopter, and had lunch with the police. I must say that the police cook better than I do! 🙂 It is indeed a lunch with a difference, spellbound with the tranquility of the rainforest.

Listening to Mayor of Betong & Some of the patrol police

There are chalets for visitors at the camp sites. During normal days when the river is full, the visitors can come by boats. However, currently the water is half dried so the visitors can only take the boats halfway and have to walk here.

Parts of the camp site

According to the police, a herd of around 20 rhinoceroses roamed the grasslands near the police camp sometimes, unperturbed by people. There were elephants, wild pigs, deer and otters appearing too….Besides, the police often found footprints of tigers along the river banks. Asking whether the wildlife will attack people, the police told me that they live together ‘peacefully’ …..thanks to the good work of the border patrol police and the sustainable use of the forest by the indigenous people!

The Thai call the indigenous people as “Sakai”rong>“Sakai” is a Malay word, it carries 3 meanings. 1. a general name(which is rude) for the primitive tribe. 2. a name for a primitive tribe (senoi). 3. slave, servant or follower. In Malaysia, we called them in Malay language as Orang Asli which means indigenous people or natives.

As I can speak Malay, I chatted with Din, the native. He has similar outlook features with the natives I visited before in East Malaysia and Cameron Highlands. Din is shy but friendly. He is 20 years old, married with 4 kids. His family of 10 live 20 miles away from the filed camp. Sometimes he came to the field camp to visit the police and sometimes to barter for food with other tribes of about 10 people,not living far from the site. The police told me that Din has learned Thai from them and can speak some simple Thai. I asked whether I can visit his house…he said it took two days to walk home and there are tigers on the way….

One step closer….

I’ve been having a really miserable time since my first post, but at least it seems my yearlong dilemma has been cut short. I just need to pick up some more courage, run a few of those nightmare laps of visa – plane ticket – bank account, then close my eyes, and take the plunge. I’m just wondering why it’s so hard this time, after all, I know what it’s like to fit in a different culture (I could write a two-volume book on my experiences in Taiwan), I have already been to Thailand a few times, I can find my way around, I have a rough idea of what to expect. Hang on…. could this be exactly where my feelings of uncertainty stem from? That I have expectations of returning “home”? That it’s not just an adventure any more, not an admittedly and undoubtedly transitory phase of my life, but there is a lot more at stake? But on second thought, what on earth is NOT transitory?! I’ve been hanging on to this idea of “returning to Thailand” as a last resort, as an escape route if all else fails. And now all else has failed almost completely. But what if even the escape route fails? Then I would be stuck to say the least. These feelings have been haunting me for a while now.
What are my expectations? On first mention, images, sounds, smells, tastes come back and make me smile. Fractions of moments, snippets of memories. I have always had the feeling I had seen all before, maybe in a previous life. Everything was eerily familiar from the very first day on. After my return, I was frequently dreaming about Thailand in amazing detail and vividness. (And no, I have never ever been homesick the other way round. I longed for home meals at times and of course meeting my family, but not the place as it is.) The details…. The smell of the flower garlands, incense sticks, and curry, and the rotting rainforests. The quick smile of monks as they look at me in the eye and then realise they shouldn’t and look away, the shy faces of children in small villages. The sound of honking cars and motorcycles, and music, and fish chewing coral, and the Bangkok conductors opening and shutting their money cylinder. The touch of warm monsoon rain on my skin, and the wet red clay under my bare feet. The taste of mataba sold in a certain Bangkok street, but only very early in the morning, and the phat thai in a certain Chiang Mai street, but only in the evenings, and the milkrice at Treehouse, Ko Chang. Dozens, hundreds of fragments like this, I could start to fill another volume just by listing them all.
And then comes this feeling, this impression – six months is not much time really, I can only have impressions – that in Thailand, people are not just a bunch of indifferent people, but they are held together by myriads of invisible threads and bonds. Despite the development, and modern achievements, they have managed to hold on to traditions that go beyond the surface and relationships that make a society work. Here in Eastern Europe, there is a lot of talk about Christian values and a cooperative society and caring for each other and developing potentials and freedom of personality and speech and most of all the freedom to consume…. but somehow it’s just a nice icing on an otherwise individualistic, pushy, aggressive, depressive and disintegrating cake, oops I mean, society. Maybe I just haven’t had enough insights, or I want to cherish a dream desperately, but I feel that despite the controversial issues of a modernising society, Thai people are hanging on. The fabric of society (common values, traditions, rules, and mutual obligations) is in much better shape. And this appeals to me. Just to look at it selfishly, it’s much easier to get by in an optimistic, caring environment even as a visitor than to survive on a daily basis in a gloomy, egotistic, suppressive setting. For example, let’s just take this case of dogs and men…. next time 🙂

Satellite Photos of Bangkok

A few months back I was telling you about the new google web site where you could view satellite photos of my home province of Samut Prakan. At that time there were no photos available of Bangkok. But, google have just done an update. You cannot see it on their online version, but if you download Google Earth you can then explore Bangkok from the comfort of your living room!

This first picture clearly shows Sanam Luang (the brown looking green field). You can see how near to the river it is. At the southern end is the Grand Palace complex. The wide road running across the top is Ratchadamnoen. At the roundabout is the Democracy Monument. Can you see Wat Suthat? (Go to page 2 for a closer look at the temple)

In this next picture I have zoomed in to show the Grand Palace. In the top right is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In the middle is the actual palace. The southern half of the compound is the “harem” made famous by Anna in the movie The King and I. Only women were allowed here. Even the guards protecting the entrance were women.

There are more pictures on page 2 and also the link to download Google Earth for free!


A Roof Above the Head

However modest, a home after all is a home. There is always this sentimental attachment. In so far as a house is independent, it tends to develop its own personality- a tree here, a spirit house there, a few plants of colourful hibiscus. Some of Bangkoks’ houses by the klongs look very photogenic.

But now its a luxury in a big modern metropolis. So we have tall apartments and condominiums.

New Residential Complexes

Two newly constructed housing complexes are presented here, located in Phahonyothin Road. While walking across the road, I found both the buildings radiating happiness.

Thai Body Talk

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter! I’m “progressive” and all but I’m not talking about THAT. 😉

As Wit goes about talking about JAI (heart), as I was at home yesterda because my guts has been literally rebelling against whatever it is I ate the previous day, I was inspired to expand on the Thai body parts into a few other Thai sayings. Of course, this is all based on my understanding of the sayings. No book to back it up or anything. You just have to trust the native speaker on this one. : – )

Thankgoodness for online Thai-English dictionary! I managed to construct the sayings onto here either word by word or letter by letter.

So here goes, starting with the one near and dear to my heart at the moment. And yes. It’s a little gross.

Tong Siah / Tong Ruang / Tong Dern
ท้องเสีย / ท้องร่วง / ท้องเดิน
Direct translation: Bad (siah) stomach (tong) / Falling (ruang) stomach / Walking (dern) stomach

When Thai people talk about their “stomach”, it doesn’t necessarily mean just the stomach. Tong covers your whole mid section and your intestinal tracks.

Tong Siah is used when someone has a mild case of diarrhea. It suggests that the “stomach” has gone bad. Tong Ruang is when it’s a really bad case of one, befitting the imagery of your intestines falling out of your body. Tong duen is a little less than that, but worse than Tong Siah. I don’t have to go into more details than that, do I?

Siew Sai / Kluen Sai
เสียวไส้ / คลื่นไส้
“Oh…my…god…we’re all going to die!”
Direct translation: First off, Sai means intestines. Oh gosh, how on earth can I explain “siew”? Sensitive teeth meet ice. Nails on chalkboard. Yeah. That’s the feeling of “siew”. Kluen means wave, as in ocean waves.

Siew Sai is a slang for that sensation you get of anticipation and terror. Not necessarily in your stomach, and maybe a little bit of the tingling in your spine. It’s the feeling you have right before the roller coaster takes the dip; when it’s 1 point away with 5 seconds to go; witnessing a near-hit collision. On the other hand, yet another sensation you may get out of riding the roller coaster, Kluen Sai means nausea. Nice imagery once again for that gurgling, rolling feeling in your stomach when you are nauseated.

I promise, the rest is not gross.
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