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18
Dez
2009

With the Forest Thais



One of the reasons why I havn´t posted anything new in the last weeks, is the fact that I spend these weeks in a small village close to the Burmese border. Mainly to visit a longtime friend but also in order to flee from the daily lunacy in Bangkok.

Like all small villages which I occasionally visit, it is almost impossible to get to this small village without knowing some tricks and people.
Only if you know the name of the right temple you can tell the bus driver where to drop you off. After that it takes another phone call and 15 minutes later some relative of my friend comes and stores me on the back of his pick-up truck.

After arriving at the village, which is in fact only a small accumulation of simple houses in the forest, almost nothing happens. Unlike in an Isaan village, people in western Thailand are less affectionate. And even if, they don´t show it.



While I am hugged endlessly in the Isaan village and shown around like a trophy, in the forst village at the Burmese border there is hardly a lead that somebody recognized my presence.
But people in Isaan are ethnic Lao whereas the western part of Thailand is populated with “Forest-Thais”.

Apart from that there are many mutualities: The village is full of females of all generations since the men are either working in the woods or have moved to the city to find employment there.



Occupation: Village Inhabitant

The remaining village inhabitants accept their domicile also as occupation: livin in a village.
This means they basically do nothing. And my daily routine is accordingly:

At 5 in the morning I get up, under two blankets with jacket and wool cap, because during this season, temperatures drop down to 12 °C.

I stay in bed until six since it is still too cold and dark outside.
That it´s six I know from the smoke of the neighbor’s coal fire that wafts in my nose.
Still, at this time most of the people are still fast asleep.

I go outside, look for wood and chop it to small pieces with the help of a perilous cutlass.
I rake yesterday´s ashes out of the cooking site and spread it in the yard. The small pieces of wood I stack in the cooking site. A small piece of an old rubber tire serves as lighter.
Smells and smokes like hell but it burns long and hot. After that I pile up the charcoal until I get a proper blaze.

I take a pot and go behind the house. In huge cisterns water had been collected during the rainy season, which is now used as drinking and cooking water. I fill the pot angle some dead leaves out of it and heat the water on the cooking site. Unheated the water would be too cold for the grandmother who is concluded from her appearance about 4000 years old.



Then, I have to think about what to cook today. Actually, the people in the village don´t have money. Hence, most of the ingredients are found in the surrounding nature.
Although the garden behind the house looks feral, spontaneously one could easily whip up three different dishes from the plants.



Ingredients are provided by the surrounding nature

Today, I decide to fix a papaya curry. In Isaan people prefer to eat the unripe papayas as papaya salad (som tum). Forest Thais rather wait until the fruits are ripe and sweet.
First I have to pluck some tamarind and boil it in the wok. Then I have to find a long bamboo pole to push down a bulky, green papaya off the tree.
The rest is pretty simple: Chilli, sugar, salt, chop up the papaya and boil it. Meanwhile the rice is cooking in the cooker. As soon as everything’s ready, miraculousy the whole house awakes.

The food has to suffice for the rest of the day. But Thais eat mainly rice anyway so the curry is practically only used to add some flavor to the rice.
Eating like in a western Chinese restaurant where you topple the whole dish over the rice and mix it is unimaginable and even impertinent in Thai perception.

After breakfast not much happens. I sweep some dead leaves together, carry the garbage out in the yard and burn it all together. A waste disposal service doesn´t exist in the village.



Sometime around 9 neighbors drop by. This is the time, when I retreat behind the house and plug in my ear plugs and read a book.
The way people communicate with each other in that village in Kanchanaburi province is even for my all-terrain mind way too much: These people don´t talk, they shout. And many times they shout completely meaningless sounds.

One woman yells for more than half a minute „Ohooooo- Ohooooo- Ohooooo“.
In addition all participants of the talk repeat everything that had just been said.
Which is in fact no big surprise since in a village where nobody ever does something, nothing ever happens. Accordingly, topics to talk about are rather rare.
Hence, I form a highlight in their daily routine. When I add more seasoning sauce to my rice the whole village will know it.

In addition, every household has half a dozen dogs. And quite often it seems as if these dogs are only kept to have an opportunity to shout at something. Constantly you hear a housewife shouting at some dog.

Eventually the sun goes down again. I eat papaya curry for the third time and at 9 o`clock I go to bed.

For some this daily schedule might appear boring, but for me it´s holiday. Just doing nothing. Get up when I want, eat what and when I want and just sit out in the sun and read.

For vacation and relaxation I don´t need beaches and the sea, which I could of course easily find in Thailand.

But you find palm trees in the village, too.

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