Showing posts with label visitors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label visitors. Show all posts

Summer Solstice and Rain...


The sun’s long northerly march has come to an end and after the briefest of pauses it now begins its equally long journey south.  June is a transitional month for me with my birthday and anniversary falling within this month of the Summer Solstice.  I have written four posts recently which haven’t made it to the blog.  We have taken a short trip to Chiang Mai, had visitors from Australia, with more visitors are on the way.  My wife went with friends to Hong Kong and Macau, but maybe that was in May, while I stayed home and played house husband.  My wife is now attending classes again after a two month break.

Father’s Day is also significant, even though I am not a father, as I was born on a Father’s Day many years ago.  When I was young, 60 seemed very old indeed, and seemed to mark the transition into old age.  I am now but one year short of that landmark and will no doubt spend far too much time thinking about what it means to me over the coming months.

I haven’t been out on the bike for a little over a week but there have been some great rides and I still manage to find new trails and invent new ways to link old trails.  That helps a lot in maintaining a sense of discovery and adventure.  My camera, having developed a few bad pixels, has got me looking for something new.  Sony’s NEX 6 or 7 look interesting right now but so far I am still looking.

Rain, Rain, Rain...

Unexpected Events and Is It Really July?

Everything on the June calendar got taken care of and July is off to a much more subdued pace, creeping by almost unnoticed.  There were a few unexpected events and purchases that added joy to the month of June.  I am admittedly very bad with special calendar days, like anniversaries, but this year I got lucky.  The Apple store called while I was a few shops down having coffee at Starbucks.  The salesman was calling to see if I was still interested in the new 13 inch MacBook Air, as they had just received one in the latest shipment of new products.

We had been looking for a computer for my wife to use at school and home.  While I was impressed with the new MacBook Pro, it was clearly more than my wife needed so we settled on the feather light Air as the best option.  When I picked her up from school later that day I was not empty handed, as I have so often found myself.  “Happy 13th anniversary my dear, here is your new toy.”  I had fun setting it up for her but not sure I will be getting my hands on it very often in the future, except for software upgrades and the like.

On another weekend OMM, a frequent reader and contributor to this blog, visited Chiang Rai with his girlfriend.  It was pretty early in the day, so while his girlfriend did whatever girls do, we got together for coffee and a familiarization tour of the town of Chiang Rai.  It was nice putting a face to a name and having someone new to talk with for a day.  We basically spent our time visiting and taking in the city sites until it was time for me to go pickup my wife after school.

No two people are ever at quite the same place in life and factoring in age and different experiences it can sometimes be challenging not to step on other’s dreams or interfere with their chance to experience their own adventure on their own terms.  I must say, on this day I had a great time as it provided an uncommon break from my routines and hopefully I contributed something of value to OMM’s journey.  I found it interesting to see how some aspects of being newly bitten by the Thailand bug have changed with the advent of new technology but at the core much of the experience is not all that different from what I went through more than thirty years ago.

There have been a few recent mountain bike rides that didn’t make it to the blog.  There were some new trails mixed in with the old and some odd encounters but I have done the bike trails thing recently and prefer to mix things up on the blog.  Then again, perhaps I am just easily bored and distracted when things get too busy.  After some trail abuse, I found the back tire had a slow leak that caused the tire to deflate after a day or so.  I took that as an excuse to get the Trek into Northern Bike for a checkup and ended up with some upgrades.

Not being a racer or overly serious about my riding, I see little need for the lightest and greatest but thought some minor upgrades might be in order.  So in addition to the back tire, I got an entry level Shimano Deore crankset installed with new grippier peddles and a Cateye Velo 9 to give me an idea of how far I ride.  Nothing a true enthusiast would be impressed with but new and exciting for me.  Everything performed well on yesterday’s ride.  With heavy rain the night before and things not completely dried out, it was an interesting ride and not easy going in places where the clay clung heavily to my tires.  On the way home I took the opportunity to stop by a visit with a young German friend in a neighboring village.

Another friend recently arrived for his yearly visit, has found himself spending a few days at one of our excellent local hospitals.  It just so happened that on one of those days I was in town to take care of the bike.  In these parts it is the done thing to go visit people in the hospital, with family often spending the night to help take care of the patient.  I’m not big on hospitals myself but took the opportunity of being in town to stop by for a visit.  It gave us a chance to catchup on what had transpired in our lives since last we talked.

There was one more chance encounter I remember, though I’m sure there are others that don’t come to mind at the moment.  There was a new female member posting on a local forum early last month.  She posted nothing revealing about her identity on the forum but on two different occasions I saw a young woman at the Central Plaza and there was something about her that caught my attention. 

Call it intuition, or being nosy if you like, but on the off chance I might be wrong, I sent her a private message to confirm my suspicion.  A man I may have approached more directly but I didn’t feel that was the correct approach in this case.  A bit astonished that I was able to guess her identity, she acknowledged that it was indeed her on both occasions.  Later I spotted her with her Thai husband talking with a local real-estate agent as I entered Starbucks.  We ended up having an interesting conversation first in English while her husband was finishing up his business and later in Thai when he joined us.  Eventually my own wife showed up and we all got a chance to visit.  Hopefully, we will all get together again soon.

Though I don’t find spontaneity as easy as it was in Bangkok it is still an important aspect of life for me.  It is the new, different, unexpected and unplanned that adds spice and color to my life.  Sometimes I find it by seeking out new trails on the mountain bike and other times the unexpected happens on our trips to town.  I never know where, when or how but I always know something new will cross my path, even after more than 35 years in Thailand.

Bangkok Girls do Chiang Rai ...


I am playing the provocative title game today just for a little fun.  The truth is, we recently had four of my wife’s lovely friends from Bangkok come up to visit us at our little place in the Rai.  They have all traveled a fair amount but none of them had ever been to Chiang Rai.  Finally they worked us into their busy schedules and flew up to see us.  Chiang Rai is no longer an unfamiliar place to them.

I didn’t take a count of all the cameras and iPhones clicking away but did notice there were quite a few between the five girls.  There I go again, using the word girls for thirty something females but except for my wife they are all single and younger than her so they are all girls to me.  My wife was the oldest, having just turned thirty-seven.  One of the girls is one of our oldest friends, having known us since before we got married.  Being single is not all that bad, in my opinion, for if they were taking care of husbands and children, they most likely wouldn’t be running around having so much fun.

It seems most of my wife’s friends in Bangkok fit this mold of a thirty something professional woman still living with family or on their own and with disposable income to spend on travel and other fun stuff, if they can ever get off work.  Facebook was well utilized both during and after the visit to post pictures and comment, so no one should complain if I post a few of my wife’s shots here.





















Four Thai Girls and the Farang...

The girls are gone and my duties diligently discharged.  Day one, saw an early departure from home, arriving at the airport just in time to collect our three guests.  Off to Doi Chaang for coffee and breakfast before starting a day of sightseeing.  Black Village was first on our list before heading off to Doi Tung to visit the Garden and Royal Villa.  While I joined the girls on the stroll around Black Village, at Doi Tung my preference was to find a quiet seat with a view.  From there I could sip my Doi Tung coffee, enjoy the mountain setting and watch the parade of tourists, as I my wife and her friends shared some girl-time without me as a distraction.



After lunch we headed to the White Temple and then to the main market in town, to gather sustenance for the evening meal, back in the village.  We arrived home in time to settle in with a tour of the house and garden before preparing for dinner.  Our friend from Hawaii had stayed with us before but it was the first time for the other two.  The last time these four had gotten together was in Bangkok so it was nice that they went out of their way to fly up here to stay with us this time.

I feel it is important to find the right balance when we have visitors.  This was clearly a chance for the four girls to get together and my role was primarily that of facilitator.  My wife still feels uncomfortable driving alone, over distance or in stressful situations so it is understood that I will be the chauffeur for the duration of such visits, and fortunately I don’t mind, though I do find myself exhausted by the time they leave.  The animated conversation of four very talkative women can be a distraction while driving, however, and I did miss a turn or two along the way, unable to shutout what they were discussing.

Talk of the intimacies of relationships was restricted to when I was not present, I believe, but there was little else off limits when I was around.  Politics, Reds vs Yellows, Royals, family, friends, food, the past, the present and perceived differences between things here and in Isaan, where the three visitors were from, as well differences with the West.  I can no longer imagine what it would be like, surrounded for hours by an unfathomable noise, unable to participate in a meaningful way.

The most repeated observation about me, was how lucky my wife was (not sure if that was in reference to me or the house which they loved), and my inexplicable reserve and patience, in dealing with unexpected occurrences on our long drives and the sometimes long spells spent waiting for them in the truck.  You see I often remained in the vehicle to revel in the quiet and solitude of those moments, free of incessant conversation.  Not that I expressed such feelings to them, of course.

Exhausted from travel and sightseeing all had an early night and rose the next morning at a respectable hour.  We hung around the house until afternoon, before making a trip to the local marketplace followed by a very steep drive to the top of Doi Yao and down the other side, on a new yet even steeper and windier stretch of mountain road.  Sadly the haze has returned to the North and Phu Chi Fah in one direction and our village on the valley floor, in the other, were obscured from view.  Still it is a favorite little rest stop for us, amid a natural setting with a hill tribe village to drive through.

Later to bed and even later to rise the next day, we were off to a late start for a day that would have us dropping our guests off at the airport for their late night flight, before returning to a very quiet house and very lonely dog.  Trying to avoid some of the major road construction areas, we meandered through the back roads from Phaya Mengrai to Chiang Saen.  We came upon the river road very near Wat Phra That Pha Ngao so decided to take our guests up the hill to the chedi and the teak temple.  There is also an expansive view of the mighty Mekong River with Laos on the other side.

After and excellent riverside lunch, we proceeded to the Golden Triangle, where I once again stayed with the truck, while the girls did their thing.  Continuing along the river from there, we soon encountered some of the prolific roadwork in our region.  At first we engaged the four wheel drive and ventured on.  Before too long we were looking for alternatives that got us out of the dirt and back on to some windy backcountry roads.

Finally reaching the main highway between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, the pace picked up, until we reached the turnoff for Tham Pum Tham Pla or Wat Tham Pla.  Here at the base of the mountains, there are monkeys roaming wild looking for handouts, fish to be fed in crystal clear ponds and caves to be explored.  At first we had the place to ourselves but soon a tour bus unloaded its hordes in our midst.  Even that could not distract from our sense of peace and tranquility in this unique location.

With time to kill before heading to the airport, we found ourselves back at Doi Chaang, this time for a bit of sweetness and delight, in the form of cheesecake and apple pie.  Even with an early drop-off we arrived at our very quiet house, well after dark.  Today has been one of cleanup for my wife, while I have been processing pictures and writing. 

I must be looking very old these days, as my wife even found time to give we my weekly facial, which she recently reincorporated into my personal hygiene regimen.  We used to do that kind of thing more often, living in the big city.  So, now you are up to date with the goings on of the VF household.  Until next time...

Merry Christmas ...

What a beautiful Christmas Morning.  The temperature dropped again last night and this morning was crisp, clear and quite simply, beautiful.  Took the dogs for the usual stroll, enjoying the way they attack the fields and trail with such gusto.  Then I sat with cookie while she swam with her fish in the pond.  From the sala, my eyes drank in the grandeur of all that lay before me.  The water, mountains, fields and hypnotic synchrony of a flock of white birds against the brilliant blue sky.  Of course that was not the plan for this wondrous day.

Today was supposed to be a family outing with the highlight being a ride on an elephant, for those who had never found their way onto the back of the mighty pachyderm.  Superstition put an end to that plan, however.  Something went wrong with the morning rice preparation and someone else had a bad dream, so no way were they getting in a truck with us today.  Their loss, not mine.

Last night we had a lovely dinner with friends at Favola, in town, coming home a bit later than usual.  Just the day before my friend and I did another little run to Chiang Mai on our 650 Ninjas.  Heavy fog the day before and the day after, but on our run the weather was perfect for riding, almost cold in the morning and just a bit warm on the way home.  Perhaps I am getting used to the longer rides or have improved my riding technique.  The 500 kilometer roundtrip did not leave any residual numbness or aches as in the past.  Still, I am not what you would call a long distance rider.

We hosted a party at our home recently and attended one at a friend’s house.  Tomorrow our favorite houseguest is flying up from Bangkok for a few nights.  I love this time of year.  The kinder weather seems to be reflected in the behavior and hospitality of all who we encounter here in the Rai.  We have missed some events but there are more to come.  Perhaps we will make it to the Chiang Rai Flower Festival again this year.

As this year draws to a close, I see much to be grateful for.  On the top of my list, however, is my happy little family.
Family VF

Busy Days, An Update ...

Today, Cookie lost out to the mountain bike once again.  I suppose it wasn’t really her turn, having been to the dam just the other day.  I always feel guilty leaving her behind, though.  She so loves to hit the trail.  Anyway, after two hours of hard riding on the trail I’m awash with endorphins and basking in the afterglow.  No worries here.

On a health note.  My recent physical found me fit except for my consistently elevated cholesterol.  Down from the mid 250s of my Bangkok days I still came in at 220.  Over the last month, a regiment of healthy living and the marvel of modern pharmaceuticals, has put me at 108 as of yesterday.  Imagine that.

The combination of intermittently cool weather (today is actually chilly) and guests has produced a whirlwind of recent activity.  Repeats, included another trip to the Black Village and Doi Din Daeng Pottery with a guest.  New for us, (we are seldom out after dark) was a walk down Chiang Rai’s Walking Street one late Saturday afternoon.  Stumbled upon parking quite by accident.  Walked the street in the fading light of the day.  Had something to eat and headed home just as it got dark and the crowds seemed to be pushing in around us.

We also got up a 3am to drive to Phu Chi Faa for the sunrise.  Not a spectacular day for photos but it was still a good experience.  It was anything but lonely up there with a surprisingly good turnout.  I didn’t enjoy the lack of sleep, however, so doubt I will be eager to do a repeat performance anytime soon.  I probably could have done without the incessant talking and singing of the group just behind me, but what can you do.

Apart from the weather being perfect for outdoor adventures, this is a great time to visit government offices.  With all the farmers bringing in the harvest, offices are all but deserted.  We updated our motorcycle driving licenses, from one year to five, with no wait at all.

The Land Department in Thoeng was equally deserted and the staff ever so helpful.  My wife got the notion that perhaps I should be put on the chanote (land ownership papers) as having the right of residence there for the rest of my life.  As a foreigner I cannot own land so everything is in my wife’s name.  Unlike some, I have no misgivings about our financial arrangements or the peculiarities of Thai law.

Being twenty years older, I am usually the one voicing concern about my wife’s wellbeing after I am gone.  Recently she started pondering what would happen if something untoward happened to her.  To protect me from overeager relatives who might inherit the land, she came up with this notion of giving me right of abode so I couldn’t be sent packing.  The land department staff were quite helpful and quickly came up with the proper forms to be filled in.  The fee was next to nothing and even considering the stack of forms, copies and bureaucratic procedures involved, everything went quite smoothly.

A friend from Hawaii has just arrived in Bangkok, so I have booked a flight for my wife to go down for a visit.  I volunteered to stay home and look after the house and dogs so she could enjoy a girls only, time on the town.  We very seldom have any time apart, so a few days surely won’t hurt either of us.

As we are having guests over for dinner a bit later, perhaps I should rap this up and go about making myself more presentable.  My biking clothes are a bit ripe so it is off to a steamy hot shower for me.  On a chilly overcast day like today, who knows I may just get lucky after washing away the trail dust.  Wish me luck.

More Visitors ...

Our most recent visitors have come and gone. Anticipation of their arrival was too quickly followed by a lamented departure. Our feeble attempts at hospitality were overshadowed by their graciousness as guests. Late seventies and a zest for life that would put people half their age to shame. Interested in everything, eagerly clicking away with their cameras. Easy to please, as well as tolerant and accepting of me, though we no doubt hold vastly different values and beliefs. These family friends have been so giving and caring to my parents in their time of need. Nothing we could have done, would have been adequate to repay our debt of gratitude. Yet in the end, we feel as if we took away more from their visit than we were able to give.

Their path to our door was far from direct. Ranging from Bhutan to Luang Prabang, we were a not insignificant detour, at the end of their journeys before returning to Hawaii. We crowded in as many nearby locations and scenes as time and weather would allow. Many of which I have previously shared with you in these pages. The four wheel drive was allowed to express itself and proudly wore the coat of mud that came from taking us to our many destinations.

As we prepared to leave for the airport there was just time enough for all to gather around the computer and Skype my father. I’m sure it was a thrill to hear the voices of his friends, coming from his youngest son’s home, on the far side of the world. No doubt their reunion in Hawaii will be filled with stories and pictures that will bring untold joy to my father. Sadly my mother is no longer able to share in such things as her reality varies so greatly from ours these days. Even with the best of care, dementia of any form, is a cruel, drawn out and inhumane way to leave this world.

Today things are back to normal around here. The wife and I took our dog menagerie for a stroll to the dam and washed the mud from our truck while watching a truly beautiful sunset, of desert hues. Other than our walk today, I have included views from on top of nearby Doi Yao and a couple of butterflies that had our guests eagerly clicking away in an attempt to capture their beauty.








A Guest Writer ...

(I have resisted the ever present temptation to edit or tamper with someone else’s words. Said I wouldn’t, so I didn’t. I figure anyone, that good at keeping a secret, deserves the respect of “hands off”. So without further adieu let me relinquish the floor to our Guest Writer...)

Praise Where Its Due…

Dear Readers
I am hoping that Village Farang will publish this article as one of his main blogs rather than merely as a “comment” because many of his regular readers may find it interesting.
At this stage I must apologise to Village Farang for not letting him know sooner that while I have been making comments on his blog site for several months as “Village Surfer” I am also the male half of his “Visitors from New Zealand”.
I have had many holidays and travelled through over two dozen countries in the past twenty years, but our two weeks with Village Farang and his beautiful wife would have to be among the most rejuvenating and restful I have ever experienced. It was great to have a base where we could relax, recover and enjoy companionship in luxury, in between our various expeditions.
After several days of celebrations with my Thai partner’s family near Bangkok, we flew in a Boeing 737 for an hour and a half towards Thailand’s northern border with Burma and Laos. We were picked up from Chiang Rai airport by Village Farang and his lady and escorted in their luxury vehicle to lunch at a great “locals” restaurant in the outskirts of the town. After a further sixty kilometre journey we arrived at VF’s mansion next to a rice growing village in the countryside. With the village two hundred metres away to one side, the views all around the house were soothing to the eyes with different shades of green from luxuriant plots of recently transplanted rice seedlings at different stages of growth. Villagers with peaceful expressions added colour to the scenery as they inserted seedlings into the water logged soil in half planted rectangles. Clumps of trees dotted the fields as one gazed further afield and took in the darker green and blue of the hills and mountains in the distance.
We felt pampered, with good views from the luxury of a five star visitors’ room with toilet, hot showers, a queen size bed and air conditioning. The day after our arrival we were taken on a tour of interesting little towns and wide rivers on the borders of Laos and than Burma.
In the evenings VF’s talented wife would serve tasty Thai meals while breakfasts included exotic fruits and VF’s special coffee brewed for exactly eight (or was it seven?) minutes. There was never a dull moment with the puppy and dogs allowing us all to play with them. As the days passed the girls enjoyed visiting the temple as well as relatives and friends in the village while VF and I went out on walks and bike rides and reminisced about exploits from our younger days and philosophised on the state of humanity.
As someone who grew up in the countryside watching the locals working their farmland, and as a dog lover playing with the dogs, I was able to re-live my childhood on a daily basis. This nostalgia meant a lot to me, and I will often remember that this “special vantage point and playground” evolved from and was a reflection of VF’s unique “energy”.
Village Farang and his family were able to have a break from us when I talked my partner into joining me on an amazing three day trek amongst rainforests and hill tribes in the mountains.
On our return we were again treated to delicious meals by VF’s wife whose physique and exquisite taste in clothes is a sight for sore eyes. Then our hosts drove us to Chiang Mai and left us there to enjoy the city and its ancient temples. Several days and a few bus rides later we returned “the house” to once again recover and relax in luxury.
In New Zealand in the weekends I often go away on surfing trips or work in the garden while my partner catches up with her Thai friends. This gives us enough of a break from each other to really value our stable relationship. So after two and half weeks of us being cooped up together all the time I decided to give her a break from me while I went and spent a couple of days in Chiang Rai. This also allowed her and my hosts to more candidly reminisce about their many years of friendship without the presence of my “less familiar” energy. The trip to Chiang Rai allowed me to enjoy travelling on my own as I had done during two years of backpacking around the world. It also gave me chance to get over a slight annoyance with my girlfriend about some “fair sharing of workloads” issues which had built up over several weeks to a level where it had finally required discussion. We needed a few hours apart to eliminate any residual negativity that may have built up, and to take on board the “win-win” solutions we had discussed.
I got the feeling that Village Farang did not agree with or wish to understand my ideas of “cutting to the chase” and the “value of time spent apart”. However, being a gentleman he did not impose his opinions on me, and left me to deal with my own baggage, with the comment, “whatever floats your boat”. But that is all good because life would be boring if we all had the same attitudes to ways of communicating and resolving issues.
On my return from Chiang Rai, Village Farang and I once again enjoyed discussing “the meaning of life” in between attending to the puppy and entertaining the other dogs. VF also showed us how his computer works and the software he uses to enhance photographs and manage his blogs. Meanwhile the ladies enjoyed their last days together before we were dropped off at Chiang Rai airport.
Safely back at home now, we look forward to Village Farang and his wonderful wife coming to stay with us in New Zealand sometime. They can rest assured that they will have as good a time with us as we had with them.
We thank, “Village Farang and his lovely lady” for looking after us in their home, and giving us a chance to enjoy Northern Thailand.
Adios

To Overcome ...

As the sun sets and dusk settles over the world, the darkness that envelopes the night often enters our lives, hearts and minds as well. In much of the world, tomorrow is a question mark. It can be hard to discern the lucky ones from those who, may or may not, make it through the night. War, famine, pestilence, natural disaster, are for most, real and constant. In the West we suffer much angst over not getting our “fair share” and being frustrated in our efforts to attain our goals. Few understanding that getting their “fair share” would ultimately mean giving up much of what they already have. Often we are surrounded by whiners and complainers, loudly advertising their weak hearts and minds.

While the big picture varies little from day to day, occasionally one witnesses a small victory that looms large in the life of an individual. As the sun rises, a new day dawns and a young woman is reborn. From a mindset of, I can’t and I won’t, comes the realization that, I can and I did. Three days in a rain forest, in torrential downpours. Steep muddy trails, leeches, bugs, rivers, elephants, strange hill tribes food and accommodations. Wet, dirty, week and tired, from days of hiking the rugged terrain, and yet somehow feeling refreshed and renewed. What had seemed insurmountable at first, is now a fait accompli. Dread and foreboding is pushed from the forefront and replaced by the joy and exhilaration of victory and achievement.

I find myself humbled as I had been certain that my wife’s friend, would at some point, call for a vehicle to rescue her from the ravages of the jungle. I am sure she was tempted and I admire her ability to resist that temptation. Though still noticeably the girl we have known, she has grown and continues to do so. No doubt the boyfriend has played a role but since we have known her for 10 years and him for the proverbial 10 minutes, the focus is on her. I wish to giver her credit, where credit is due, regardless of how much help she may have had along the way. So here is the Village Farang saying, “I was wrong. I underestimated our friend.”

After resting up and sampling our slow paced village life. After a good massage in the comfort of our home. The adventuring spirt of our guests resurfaced. Chiang Mai was calling them. So we mounted our trusty black steed, with puppy in tow, and headed south through the mountains to our much larger sister city of the North. Staying at the same hotel but separating during the day to pursue our different agendas, allowed them to be the tourist as we visited friends and did some shopping for the house. We ended up returning home early, to allow them the freedom to do as they chose and return when they pleased. Being no less delighted to return home than us, our puppy celebrated her homecoming by plunging several times into our pond.

And now the end has come. We have just returned from the airport and things do seem a bit quiet, with our guests gone. Catching up with an old friend. Meeting someone new. It all makes for a busy, whirlwind of conversation and activity. With two brief and timely breaks, the two weeks seemed to pass almost unnoticed. One day here, the next day gone, all in the blink of an eye.

 It strikes me that the good thing about such visits, is the intensity. Compacting and condensing years into days. Whereas the bad thing about such visits, is the intensity. It is an artificial high that is simply unsustainable in day to day existence. One must endure separation in order to bask in the joys of reuniting. Living where we do, the separation will no doubt pass with celerity and our recent meeting will feel as if it were only yesterday, when we once again meet.

Visitors from New Zealand...

The visitors from Hell? No wait, that story belongs to someone else. Our visitors have been a real joy. The role of gracious host can be tiring when done right but when your guests are as polite, thoughtful and appreciative as ours the time passes quickly and it all seems worthwhile. They brought their own luck, with the neighbors putting on a show right outside the front windows for two days. Watching twenty-some villagers planting rice as you eat breakfast and sip your morning coffee is truly priceless. What are the chances of being here when that particular 10 Rai plot is being planted? All around us the show has been continuous, with many people working at various stages of plowing and planting.

The first day we arrived home from the airport in time to get a much needed hike in. The girls made dinner as the men (dogs included) made it to the dam and back before dark. The next day started slowly but finally the four of us and the puppy were in the truck and on the road. We did the loop from our house to Chiang Khong, Golden Triangle, Mae Sai, Chiang Rai and back home. Roughly 300 kilometers with lots of stops for pictures and to let the puppy pee.

The following day I was in no mood to drive but a bike ride seemed just the thing. The girls opted to do a few loads of laundry and be free of their men for awhile. After adjusting my old bike to fit my guest, we headed for the hills, valleys, villages and fields. Only twice were we forced to dismount. Trudging up a particularly steep gradient seemed more sensible than trying to ride it.  Expedience demanded we tread lightly when surrounded by a pack of dogs who didn’t invite us to pass their territory. One can peddle slowly through a herd of cows or buffalo, or when passing most dogs but not all. With some of our canine brethren the chase instinct is too strong, and walking slowly or stopping briefly is the more judicious option.

Meals have not been a problem and our guests quickly made themselves at home and useful all at the same time. Being an outdoorsy Kiwi, the guy expressed interest in a Trekking adventure. With the help of my wife we got them setup with a guide, itinerary and recommended kit. To my genuine surprise the wife’s girlfriend decided to go along. If not for the house and puppy we would have been sorely tempted to make it a foursome.

Just to be clear, we are talking about a Bangkok girl, who’s idea of a hike is to walk from the car-park to the shopping mall. Granted she has lived in New Zealand for several years but to the core she is a conservative, middle class, over protected city girl. She had never been to an area even similar to where we live. So I’m waiting on pins and needles to see how she has dealt with jungle trekking, hill tribes, elephants and peeing in the bushes. I am hoping that my fears will be proved unwarranted and that she is no longer the “little girl” that has been my wife’s friend for so many years. She has surprised us before, however, by going to study in New Zealand and ending up staying and getting her citizenship there.

To me it seemed ominous that all of the driving, shopping and prep work for the “Trek” was done in the pouring rain. Today things are looking better but I’m sure that first day was very wet indeed. Perhaps I will have more to tell when they return from their adventure and rap up their stay with us here at, The House in the Field.