Saturday, September 30, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 11 Mae Salong Xinghua School

[131205] along e way we heard e chatter & laughter of kids & headed towards e source - Xinghua School 兴华学校:

photo by YK

e 2 Akha kids we met just beyond e arch at e school entrance:


they were so excited & started piling up bricks, competing to see who could build e tallest stack:

photos by YK

e slide in e school 'playground':


school basketball court + carpark + 'canteen' - a long sheltered row of snack stalls:


here we sat down for a while beside an old man selling some unidentifiable round green fruit in two baskets hanging from a pole, who has a wonderful voice & sang us songs =) e girl who reminded e cat of Pig-pig, & her mum who sells some sort of flaky crispy pancake dusted with sugar (below):

photos by YK

e school, built & maintained with donations from Taiwan (e Kuomintang link):


it was 4pm in e afternoon, an hour after official school hours end across Thailand, yet kids were streaming IN instead of out of e school....turns out that e kids here attend e national school (Thai curriculum) a short distance away from morning till 3pm, & then continue with e Chinese curriculum at this school from 4.30pm till 7pm (full day on Saturdays!), after which they trudge home (older, richer kids will ride their scooters) along dark unlit streets in e cold, reaching home close to 8pm! & we complain about long school hours in Singapore....=P

elementary & high school sections are housed in e same building. those who can make it to college & can find e funding will head to universities in Taiwan. every year someone from Taiwan will come over to review/update e curriculum. reading 范文 (model essays) on noticeboards along e corridor:


one of e essays on 'My Ambition' read '我要做空姐....做空姐要看得顺眼' (i want to be an air be one you must look 'easy on e eye') *lol*


origami paper cranes hanging from e ceiling - leftovers from Thaksin's 2004 gimmicky 'fold 60 million (one for each Thai) paper cranes to be airdropped over e Deep South' campaign as a useless peace gesture to e Southern militants:

photos by YK

e classrooms with wire netting windows remind e cat of its sec 1 days in e Jalan Kuala campus =)

we were so freaked out by these words on a pillar in e classroom:

photo by YK

明天还有新功课 lit. 'tomorrow still have new homework' - how very motivating....>_<

secondary 2 class timetable:

click here for larger version

because they are Nationalist Kuomintang, everything is in 繁体字 (older complex writing script) like in Taiwan, Malaysia & Hong Kong, & Singapore during e cat's parents' generation. from e cat's generation onwards Singapore started using 简体字 (simpler modern characters) like Communist China.

suddenly a bell rang, & e noise in e schoolgrounds ceased & everyone vanished indoors by magic:


e headmaster who has been walking around with his stick for caning students since e days when Mr Ho of Shin Sane Guest House (now middle-aged) was a student!


wonder what percentage of Mae Salong residents have been disciplined by him =P

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]

chiangrai 2005 - 10 Shin Sane Guest House

[131205] Mae Salong is predominantly Chinese & Akha, a place in Thailand where Thais are a tiny minority - YK & e cat got around by speaking Mandarin! e Chinese are descendants of e Kuomintang troops & their families who fled from Yunnan into Burma after losing e civil war to e Communists, & were subsequently forced out of Burma into Thailand. e Akha also migrated along a similar route, albeit many decades earlier.

at Mae Salong Shin Sane Guest House 美斯乐新生旅馆 (tel. +66-053-765026), we met e Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese owner, Mr Ho (贺先生, for those who wish to address him in Chinese). Shin Sane has old rooms that give you an idea of how things were like when e guesthouse was started ~35 years ago, as well as newer brighter bungalows. having arrived a day ahead of our booking, all bungalows were still occupied by a group of missionaries, & we settled for one of e older rooms that can sleep 3 for 150 baht:


in e far corner (above center) is a little artificial bonsai decoration in a ceramic pot, with branches fashioned out of twisted shiny gold wire, shiny green plastic leaves, & pink, orange & yellow plastic 'pearls' as fruits - something that wouldn't be out of place in any of e Chinatown shops in much more cheena can this place get?

for e cat's friends who recognise that obiang faded black + orange + blue + green + white towel hanging on e wall (above right), it is e towel-that-never-dried =P

e non-bungalow rooms share these 2 common loo + shower units - algae-ish but not as bad as it looks:

photo by YK

e zinc roof & walls with wooden plank supports remind e cat of its Yio Chu Kang kampung outhouse. e only sink (with a tap that can rotate 360 degrees!) is out in e open, on one side of e courtyard - probably can't use it during heavy rain =P

photos by YK

sneak shots of each other:


studying maps - (1) e free (10 baht for non-guests) hand drawn trekking map from Shin Sane Guesthouse, (2) sections of e GPS map by Tall Glass printed from e internet, & (3) photocopied from guidebooks:


decided to spend e rest of e afternoon exploring e southern end of town. e single sloping main street is lined with greying concrete single-/double-storey shophouses with signboards in Chinese characters, bagua mirrors to ward off evil, dusty red lanterns that have seen better days, & faded posters peeling off e exterior walls, housing shops selling Oolong tea, noodles & karaoke joints. felt just like Chongqing in Sichuan during e mid-90s....

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]

chiangrai 2005 - 09 Phu Chi Fa - Mae Salong

[131205] overwhelmed by size of breakfast back in Rai Phu Fa:

photo by YK

never expected to be so well-fed in e mountains of this remote corner of Thailand. but then again, Thailand is e land of food & constant snacking. e sinful omelette was fried e exact same way - with crispy edges - as e kind e cat used to eat at e homes it stayed in in Bangkok. nothing spectacular, but brought to mind childhood memories of learning to eat khaaw4 tom4 (porridge) with e super hard stick-like version of baa4 huu1 (pork floss) =)

one of e many interesting plants on e grounds of Rai Phu Fa:


close-up by YK:


e flower buds (at bottom left) are so cute!

with e wonderful Phi Daeng & her daughter:


we were prepared to spend one more night at Rai Phu Fa as we thought we wouldn't make it down from Phu Chi Fa in time to catch e once daily morning bus back to Chiangrai city. but it so happened that Phi Daeng's husband was about to leave Rai Phu Fa for their home just north of Ban Pasang, which was enroute to Doi Mae Salong, e next place we were planning to explore. managed to arrange a ride on his 4WD all e way to Ban Pasang for 250(?) baht - not cheap by Thai standards but a lot of time & hassle saved.

& so it was a smooth air con ride all e way from Rai Phu Fa to Ban Pasang via Thoeng & Chiangrai city, stopping along e way to pick up e driver's sis. amazing how snugly e 4WD hugs e winding mountain road even at e speed we were going. Phi Daeng's husband dropped us off right at e Ban Pasang songthaew 'terminus', which is just an empty lot with parking space for 2 songthaews:


e white pickup (above left) is waiting to turn into Asia Superhighway No. 1, e not-so-super-looking highway that connects Bangkok (many hundreds of kilometres to e right) with e Mae Sai border checkpoint, Kengtung (Myanmar) & Yunnan (all somewhere to e left & way beyond). in front of yellow-shirt guy (above right) is all e barang YK & e cat brought on this trip, minus e old clothes for donation (left behind at Baan Bua Guesthouse).

songthaews leave only when full, or if someone mao2 roht2 (charters entire vehicle), & so we were more than prepared to wait. there were Phu Chi Fa postcards to write & mail home, a small provision shop behind e songthaews with junk food & drinks, a noodle shop directly across e road in case we got hungry, & toilets behind e noodle shop.

more than 1.5 hours later, there were still only e 3 of us & e songthaew driver. yellow guy finally offered to pay 100 baht per person, if YK & e cat would agree to that rate too, & soon we were winding past fields of pineapple & small vineyards, Akhas working in e fields, & their rice & maize storage barns & field huts. view from back of e songthaew:


up, up & away into e mountains =)) along e good quality sealed road built partly(?) to facilitate military access to e Thai-Burmese border region to guard e border & crack down on opium production & trafficking. e air started to get cooler as we gained altitude.

at Ban Sam Yaek (lit. 3-way intersection village) we encountered another military checkpoint where a road branches off north to Ban Thoed Thai, & from there on to a few isolated points along e border that traces e 'spine' of e Daen Lao mountain range. Ban Thoed Thai used to be known as Ban Hin Taek when it was e HQ of drug warlord Khun Sa & his Shan United Army until 1982, when Thai forces finally drove them into Shan state.

[ filed under: chiangrai_2005 + thewanderingstraycat + thai1 ]