Just Another Day in Paradise
Now that I’m back in England my thoughts regularly drift back to the Land of Smiles and the place I miss most of all. Whether I’m working, relaxing on the computer or enjoying a quiet social beer (or two), my mind frequently has thoughts about my time spent in Wonderful Wi’s village in Udon Thani Province.
One of my pleasures while staying in the village happens most days around early evening time. When the clock strikes six I know that’s my call to grab my nine iron golf club, slide open the front gate and take a walk up the road which leads to the next village.
I rarely get past the end of our garden wall before our two largest dogs come bounding past me, tails wagging. They know the golf club means it’s time for walkies and their chance to let off a little steam. The golf club?, that’s for anything that might slither too near to me, but so far I haven’t seen any snakes. I often wonder how many have seen me.
We don’t stroll too far, our walk is about a one kilometre stretch and if I’m lucky I might see something to catch my eye on the way.
Regular readers may remember my post Thailand’s Scarecrows and Black Holes part of which documented the workings of two charcoal kilns (photo above right and below) just a stone’s throw from our village house. On one of my walks with our dogs Cola and Gaan during my recent May holiday I was lucky enough to find the owner of the kilns busy preparing his next charcoal supply.
The basic mechanics of the charcoal operation are quite simple. You can see in the photograph opposite the kiln owner is packing the inside with cut logs which he positions upright. The kiln will be packed fairly solid with logs and then a fire is lit underneath them.
The kiln opening is sealed shut and the wood left to smoulder and smoke for about three days. The end result is charcoal which is sold to households in the village and surrounding area. You can see from the photos the cramped working conditions and believe me the kiln was still very hot from the previous charcoal batch.
The road is straight and on the left are the barren rice fields waiting for the rainy season to empty a cloudburst on them. This year the rainfall was late coming and throughout May the fields remained mainly bone-dry and parched, with the odd rain storm filling the hollows and dips. Cola and Gaan always enjoy a good soaking in those on our way back to the house. Since my return to the UK the rain gods have delivered their rich survival source at a more regular rate. Sticky rice is the bread and butter of village life.
On the right of the road is a large plot of land where a handful of cows and chickens cluck, chew and muck their day through. Cola and Gaan are now both about eighteen months old and on my Christmas stay they would chase the chickens round and round. Thankfully they’re better behaved these days and a whistle or stern call brings them back onto the road.
The road is a place on which I plan and recollect my thoughts on things to do the next day and memories of the present one. Sometimes a truck or motorbike might break my musings, other times it might be a group of village kids wrongly wondering just how far the farang has hit his goddamn golf ball.
As I wrote earlier in this post, Cola and Gaan always enjoy a dip in some water on our stroll back to the house. I think it cools them down from the excitement of their walk with the nine iron wielding farang. It looks cool but I’ve never been tempted to jump in and I’ve got to admit it takes a few whistles to get them out.
On our return home I’ll normally grab a beer from the fridge and relax sat at the garden table. Another day in paradise and I can’t wait for the next one, although I do worry a bit about whether Cola and Gaan are giving those chickens the run around again. Wilai can’t whistle and she’s hardly got a stern voice, which brings me to a question.
Have you ever heard a Thai person whistle?, I can’t recall hearing one do so.