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My friend Henk Landkroon, from Groningen in the Netherlands, has an excellent photoblog: STORMBLAST1953

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pond Rehab

Just before we moved in to this house we built a nice pond for the garden. You can see shots of the construction here:  Korat Pond Construction

Unfortunately, the liner we used, which was supposed to last 20 years, failed in four. We decided to replace the liner with ferrocement.

Here I've ripped out the liner and let the pond drain into the ground. The underlayment held up well. I decided to leave it.

Here the pond is lined with chicken wire (poultry netting). I put in two layers of the stuff.

Here you can better see the chicken wire.

Here I am applying cement to the chicken wire. The mixture is two sand to one cement with enough just enough water to keep it stiff. We added some black pigment as well.

We had to mix many batches of cement.

Smoothing with a sponge.

Not fun to mix mortar all afternoon.

Almost done.

Completed and smoothed.

Almost back to normal.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Ride To Town

I'm getting ready to make some Christmas cookies. One thing I needed that I couldn't find at the usual markets was green food coloring. I'd heard about a bakery supply place downtown, so I got on my bicycle and headed out. It's about 10K (6 miles) from my house to downtown Korat. I took some photos along the way.

This is the original ubosot (ordination hall) at Wat Mai Ampawan. It probably dates from about 250 years ago. This is my first visit to this structure, even though I've passed it many many times.

This mural of a daemon holding a cudgel is poorly preserved.

This is Suranaree Road west of downtown Korat. It is very typical of city streets in provincial cities.

This is in front of Mae Kim Heng market, a large downtown fresh market. Notice the motorcycle taxi (#17) and the Sam Lor (three wheel) bicycle taxi just to the left.

City gate to enter old Korat.

The main highway runs just to the north of old Korat.

Wat Payap. I've never seen another temple in Thailand with this sort of architecture.

Chumpon Gate. Old Korat's West Gate.

Only a few of these old wooden shop house buildings remain.

Excel bakery supply shop. No way to tell what it is unless you get close to the door. I managed to find green food coloring. 12 baht (about 36¢) for a small bottle.

Tao Suranari (Ya Mo) monument. Ya Mo is a local heroine credited with saving Korat from Lao forces in 1826. She is much revered. People from all over northeastern Thailand make pilgrimages to visit her monument. 

Old steam locomotive in front of the Korat passenger railway station. When these engines were retired they were put on display at railway stations all over Thailand. This one was recently given a fresh coat of pain.

Railway station in the background.

This shop sells spirit houses. The taller ones with a single leg are meant to serve as a home to spirits of the land who have been displaced by construction or land clearing. The shorter, four legged spirit houses are for the spirits of human ancestors. When in place they usually have a ladder as it is presumed that human spirits cannot fly and need a ladder to climb up into their spirit house.

So, mission accomplished. I managed to get some green food coloring, visit an ancient temple building I've been longing to see and revisit some of Korat's interesting sites.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Khao Ka Moo

Khao Ka Moo is stewed pork leg served over rice. The pork is cooked for a long time with many flavorings, including cinnamon. I like it very much. Recently I noticed a new vendor selling this dish not far from my home. I decided to stop by and get some for lunch.

The vat of stewed pork is on the left. It is usually served with a blanched kale leaf, some pickled vegetables and fresh coriander. 

The bags contain sauce from the cooking vat and some spicy sour sauce. This serving cost 25 baht or about 80 US cents. Not much meat at that price, but it was quite good.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday Drive - Nok Ok

Nok Ok (Thai: นกออก) is a subdistrict in Pak Thaong Chai District about 30K south of Korat which contains several interesting historic structures. Although close to home I'd never heard of it until I saw a poster promoting it in my local coffee shop. (Nok Ok is the Thai name of a type of sea eagle. In the past there were a large number of these birds in the area.)

Poster promoting Nok Ok. The Thai words on top mean, "Go so Nok Ok".

Unfortunately, the locations shown on the map are approximate. There are no signs in English in the area and very few in Thai. We managed to find these places by doing some research using Google Earth and then adding the locations to a GPS application on the iPad. Otherwise it would have been very difficult.

Here's the location of Nok Ok.
View Larger Map

Old Library Building at Wat Nok Ok. The temple libraries were once built over water to prevent termite damage to the texts which were written on palm leaves.

Only a couple of the sites in this post had explanatory signs and those were in Thai and had very limited information. Not easy to find out about this stuff. The sign at this site said that it was a Mon religious site. The Mon were in this area about the 7th century.

Sema Stone at Wat Nok Ok. Sema Stones are boundary stones which mark the sacred area of the ubosot (ordination hall) of a temple. They are usually made of a single stone in the shape of the leaf of a Bodhi Tree. However, the Mon people sometimes used Sema Stones in the shape of a square or octagonal pillar. Perhaps this Sema Stone reflects Mon heritage.

Old (200 years) Ubosot (ordination hall) at Wat Nok Ok.

One of two giant elephant statues at Wat Meuang.

Buddha Footprint at Wat Mueang.

Sema Stone at Wat Phra Pleung.

Old wooden farm cart at Wat Phra Pleung.

Interior of old ubosot at Wat Kok Sri Saket.

Old Chinese-style plates decorate the entrances to the ubosot at Wat Kok Sri Saket.

Ubosot door at Wat Sri Saket.

Ubosot at Wat Kok Sri Saket. The building is about 100 years old.

Sema Stone at Wat Kok Sri Saket. 

Mural on ceiling of building at Wat Kok Sri Saket.

Mural on ceiling of building at Wat Kok Sri Saket.

Khmer Prasat (temple) at Ban Prasat Prang. This structure, mostly collapsed now with only the tower standing, was probably sort of a hostel used by travelers. It was probably built by the Khmer in about the 13th century.

Rice drying on the road near the Khmer Prasat pictured above.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kham Thale Soh - Ancient Mon Village?

The other day I rode my bicycle through a small village that I now know is named Kham Thale Soh. This is not to be confused with the District (Amphoe) with the same name. This village is located about 5K east of the district center.

After looking at this village in Google Earth I decided that it might be the site of an ancient Mon village. The Mon people, Buddhists from southern Burma, moved across central Thailand and into Isaan (northeast Thailand) in about the 7th century. They were later displaced by the Khmer who came up out of what is present day Cambodia.

The Mon had the habit of surrounding their settlements, from villages to cities, with roughly circular moats. This may have evolved from placing settlements in the sharp bend of a river and then cutting a canal to complete a loop. I have read that there are well over a thousand round-moated Mon villages in northeast Thailand.

Here's what Kham Thale Soh looks like from above. The image is from Google Earth.

The red line shows where I think remains of the old moat are. (The red arrow shows the location of an old rice mill in the village. More on that later.)

I decided to cycle out to the village to see if I could tell whether or not what looks like the remains of a moat really are the remains of a moat.

One of the roads leading to the village runs along this irrigation canal. The canal is lined with sugar palm trees. Many rural roads in Thailand got their start as access roads along the sides of canals. Over the years they get improved and eventually become thoroughfares. 

Here an irrigation canal is being enlarged and the side roads improved.

I've always wondered why the main road through Kham Thale Soh is paved this way. I've never see a small village with this sort of road paving.

This road runs along the outer edge of the village. The old moat is off to the right. In most places it has been filled in or partially filled in and used for agriculture. 

In some places bits of the moat remain as ponds for water storage.

Here's a cleaner bit.

Here's where the moat takes a bend to avoid the wat (temple) and then abruptly ends. This is on the Western edge of the village. 

Here the remains of the moat are being used for a taro patch. This is on the southeastern edge of the village where the road enters.

I did manage to speak to an old woman (well, a few years older than I) who knew of the moat. She also said that the village is ancient (โบราณ in Thai).
Rice is the lifeblood of rural Thailand. Here a rice harvesting machine is being worked on after breaking down.

Here an "Etan" truck delivers rice to the grounds of a wat for drying. These trucks are hand made in Thailand and a very simple vehicles, often with no windshield. The engines are usually Kubota farm engines that can be removed and put to work pumping water or generating electricity.
A woman spreads the unmilled rice out to dry.

Most rice in Thailand is milled in big, modern factories. Kham Thale Soh has its own rice mill. That's it, above.

The machinery is fantastic. Mostly wood with belts and pulleys all over the place. Looks like a factory left over from the Victorian era.

The rice starts at the top and gets rolled and shaken over and over again.

Here's where the white, milled rice comes out. It seems to be a very slow process.

Here's a video I made of the machine in action. It was incredibly noisy and just a little bit scary.

This proud miller keeps the machinery running.

Milled rice goes into these bags.

So nice to end the day with another beautiful Isaan sunset.

Below is a link to click to see the location of Kham Thale Soh Village in Google Maps.