Monday, December 29, 2014

Bann Nah 10 - Building Posts

While I was away in Lao, I had kept in close communication with Thip about the construction of “Bann Nah” (country home), on our 9 rai of Riceland. Upon returning home, I was happy to see that progress had taken place pretty much as I had imagined it.




I was actually surprised at all the preparation for both the teak posts and the main floor beams that had taken place. Lott’s and Naht’s attention to these essential and most-important parts of the house, along with what they had done with the column footers, boded well for the project overall.



Moving up from the main floor beams that had been bolted onto the cement posts that had been fused to the column footers, Lott and Naht had put the 9 main wooden structural posts in place (with the help of Sawt’s crew and their crane). These were bolted to the floor beams upon which they sat.

At last, work on the second story was now underway.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lao Trip 8.6b - Freelancers

Toward sundown, I headed west along the river road, back to the Bor Pen Nyang. This time, there were two freelancers present. After a couple of games of pool and a pitcher of draft Beer Lao, they made some passes at me. I kept my distance, not because I’m a “gentleman” or a prude, they just didn’t look my type and I wasn’t out for anything like that, anyway. I did, however, enjoy watching them try to work the room.

I again availed myself of the draft Beer Lao, watched the night market set up, and viewed and listened to the aerobic exercisers at sun down. It was a little bit of a repeat of last night, but had I made a move on the girls, the night would have taken a whole other direction.


After finishing my beer, I “ran the gauntlet” of riverside vendors, again, with the same empty results as last night.


When I got back in the vicinity of my hotel, I ran across some “ladies of the night” on motorcycle. Now, that wasn’t something I had been expecting. Again, they weren’t my type, so I didn’t waste their time, but smiled and laughed a little, waving them goodbye.

Next day, I left Lao country and headed home via Nong Khai and Udon Thani. In Udon Thani, I stopped in at “Fuzzy Ken’s” to buy some used books and grab a beer. I met Mr. Fuzzy himself. Ken was very polite and seems like a good guy.

While I was having my Beer Chang, some European falangs at a table not far away were in heated discussion about the Scottish independence vote. I was again reminded of how opinionated people can be; often setting on their position and not budging.

Can’t beat the location of Fuzzy Ken’s. It’s right across the street from Centrun and around the corner from the “inside” bus station.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lao Trip 8.6a - Vientiane Temples

Day 6, I checked into CNN and BBC World News, on TV, to get caught up on what was happening on the planet – or, at least what the major news outlets considered newsworthy. There was a lot of bad news and I felt myself fortunate to be in Southeast Asia, where world attention is no longer drawn.

I again partook of the Duang Deuane continental breakfast and then set out on what I considered to be my first official “tourist day” in Lao in the three years I’ve been visiting the country. I had determined that I needed to visit the three religious centers in Vientiane that held the most interest to me, even though, as I’ve told you before, “I’m not a temple guy.”

Funny about that, though. I seem to be spending a lot of time in them!


First, I went to Pha That Luang, which is not a temple but a chedi (stupa). It is probably Lao’s most well-known image, even appearing on the country’s seal.


Then I went to Haw Phra Kaew.

I broke for lunch, as all the temples close mid-day, and did some shopping for a shirt and a cellphone charger.

After lunch time, I wound up my temples tour at Wat Si Saket. All my connections were via samlor (tuk-tuk), except that I walked back along the river front from Wat Si Saket to the area of my hotel.


Before returning to the Duang Deuane, I stopped off for a beer break at the outdoor eatery by the tree between the hotel and the night time vendors. I liked it cuz it’s outside and is frequented almost 100% by Lao people. The middle-aged owner/operator – recognizing me from the day before – had me sit down with her and her friend. I got the feeling she was kinda trying to set me up with her friend. I just played dumb and innocent. I’ve learned to be good at that.

Back in my hotel room, I took a much-needed “air-con” break, did laundry, showered and placed a video call to Thip, using my Samsung Galaxy 3 smart phone.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lao Trip 8.5 - Lao National Museum

You get a free continental breakfast at the Duang Deuane if you make it before 10am. After I got mine, I set out for the Lao National Museum.

                   
Besides being an historical writer and generally a person who knew Lao history better than most, I was attracted to visit the Lao National Museum because of something I’d read in the Lonely Planet Guide:

[the museum] “does serve to sum up the country’s ongoing struggle to come to grips with its own identity.”

I found this to be true and I’ll add that it was quite obvious – at least to me – that the Lao communist government’s perception of the country’s history after winning victory in 1975 is not very clear. Certainly, it is not presented well or logically for foreigners. Also, it seems that the attempt to translate things into English, post-revolution, has been haphazard. There were a lot of post-1975 pictures coming up to present day, but they are mostly of people receiving medals and awards for who-knows-what.

The museum collection is expected to move into grander digs and it is unknown what will become of this classic building which was originally built in the 1920s to serve as the French colonial police commissioner offices.


Coming back to the area of my hotel, I took a beer break at an outdoor food stall situated between the commercial district and the riverside vendors. It has a nice big shade tree.

After the beer, I went back to the Duang Deuane for an air-con break, laundry and shower, getting ready for the second part of my day.

The Bor Pen Nyang had been recommended to me from a falang guy on the Teak Door forum. It has great elevated views of the Mekong, draft Beer Lao, and is frequented by freelancers.

Although I passed a very attractive girl in the stairwell, leaving unfortunately, there were no freelancers at this time of day (late afternoon). However, there were great views of the western-most riverside vendors setting up for the evening’s commerce. Beyond the vendors, close to the river, there were groups of young Lao girls doing aerobics exercises to the beat of “Sexy Music” and “Baila Chili Cha-Cha.” The Nolans tune is from 1981, when my wife was ten years old, and I hadn’t heard “Baila” since the days when I first met Thip, 15 years ago.

On the way back to the hotel, I “ran the gauntlet” of riverside vendors, but didn’t see anything that really grabbed my attention despite the fact that it’s times like these that are opportune for buying gifts.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Lao Trip 8.4 - To Vientiane

Day 4, after waking up in Nong Khai, I headed for the “Friendship Bridge.” At the border, this time my checkout from Thailand and check into Lao proceeded smoothly, mostly thanks to the extra pages I now have in my passport.

On the Lao side of the border from Nong Khai, there are an incredible number of touts offering rides at inflated prices. Away from the main group, I was able to score an old tuk-tuk driver at reasonable rates. And he definitely looked like he could use the kip.

Arriving in a foreign location now that I’m in my mid-60s, I usually set myself in or near the center of the action. Since I’m on-foot, I like to stay in that mode as much as possible. This second time in Vientiane, I picked a hotel not far from the river front and not far from the hotel Thip and I had stayed one night in, back in 2012. The Duang Deuane was a little cheaper than Orchid, didn’t sit right in front of the river, but had a little bit of a Mekong view if you got up high enough, which I did. The desk clerk warned me that the hotel’s wifi sits on the ground floor, so I might have a little problem accessing it, but didn’t.


After my usual clean-up routine, I went walking the neighborhood, having a beer and fish and chips on the outside patio of the Belgian Beer Bar. Later, I had an Indian sweet tortilla from a roadside vendor and checked out a small portion of the riverside vendors.


Back at the hotel, before going to sleep, I stumbled on a John Carter movie on TV; based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ last installment of the Barsoom series. It was surprisingly good!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lao Trip 8.3: Forced March: BKK

On Day 3 of my 8th trip to Lao, I hadn’t even gotten there yet.

The bus from Nong Khai left around 7pm and arrived at Mor Chit, Bangkok’s main bus station, around 6am. I grabbed a cab straight to the U.S. Consulate in Bangkok, dismissing the first first cab because it didn’t have a workable meter. This is a well-known taxi scam in Bangkok. If the cab driver does not have a workable meter, chances are he will charge you lots more than it would have cost running a meter. Many cab drivers apologize that their meter is broken, when in fact they don’t want it to function, anyway. You don’t want rides from these guys. There are loads of taxis in Bangkok to choose from.


 Everything at the Consulate proceeded smoothly and I was again reminded of American efficiency compared to Thai. My appointment had been for 8am and I was out by 9:30, with a lot more pages added to my passport. I grabbed a cab back to Mor Chit where, lo and behold, I got the same bus crew going back to Nong Khai. They were even excited about that and shouted at my arrival back on the bus.

When I finally got back to Nong Khai late that night, I was able to get my usual room in my favored guesthouse, even though my reservation wasn’t for that night, but a different one. I was pooped. I took a shower and collapsed on the bed, falling asleep immediately.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lao Trip 8.2 - No More Pages!

Checking out of Thailand was routine, but when I tried to check into Lao, I was informed that I could not, as there were no pages left for the visa stamp. I had assumed there were, but actually at the back of my passport, the last two pages are reserved for “amendments” like travel restrictions. Apparently, most countries require these last two pages in your passport to be empty or contain the relevant information and not be used for visa stamps.


There was only one thing I could do. I had to leave Thailand, as a condition of my one-year visa. Every day I went over my 90 days renewal and stayed in Thailand I would be fined stiffly. I needed more pages in my passport so that I could have space for future visa stamps and be able to leave the country. There was only one place in Thailand where I could get more pages in my passport and that was the U.S. Consulate in Bangkok.

We’re talking about a 10-hour bus ride south, getting in a consulate queue and then a 10-hour ride back, not counting all the time in-between those events.

There really was nothing else I could do. So, I voided my Thai exit stamp and took a tuk-tuk to the Nong Khai bus station. There, I got a ticket on the next bus to Bangkok (Kreung Thep) and proceeded to bide my time at an outdoor eatery in the bawkawsaw complex. I probably should have gone for a VIP bus or van, but I travel cheap and I like riding with average Thai people. Anyway, working out the schedules, a van or VIP bus really wouldn’t get me there any sooner than the public bus, although the VIP bus would be loads more comfortable and the rides quicker.

While having a Beer Chang and ice, I availed myself of a local wifi and used my smart phone to reserve an appointment at the U.S. Consulate for the following morning; first thing. My main worry was not knowing exactly the time the bus would arrive at Mor Chit (the main Bangkok bus terminal). It was possible that I could miss my appointment.

While having my beer and then another one, I indirectly met Pu, an early 30’s Thai woman. She was related to the owner somehow and showed interest in me. Since that time, we have struck up a friendship using social network links on the Internet (Facebook, Line).


A few hours later, I got on the bus for Mor Chit, and rode through the night.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lao Trip 8.1b - Nong Khai

So, in the center of the city, at the “inside” Udon Thani bus station (there is an “outside” bus station out on the “ring road,” also, that services primarily east/west connections), I took a second class bus to Nong Khai and Nong Khai province. From there, I could have gotten on a “Friendship Bus” to Vientiane, but decided that since the day was already half over, anyway, I might as well hang out in Nong Khai for a little bit and go to Lao the next day.

This is one reason I like to travel Southeast Asia alone. I can make changes to my itinerary “on the fly.” I don’t have to check with anyone or worry about whether my changes to The Plan are going to upset anyone.

Nong Khai is actually a pretty neat city. Each time I visit it, I like it more and more – and I don’t like cities!

This was only my third visit to Nong Khai, but it threw me some curves, all of which I made without sliding out of my turns.

I checked into the same guesthouse I used last time, close to Wat Hai Sok. Not sure if the owner/operator recognized me from before or not. It’s a nice place; clean and right by the Mekong, near the main waterfront road Th Rim Khong.

After washing my clothes, a shower and change of clothes, I headed out to the Nam Khong. I was glad to see the Mut Mee expansion complete and looking good. Thip and I had stayed there one night, back in 2010, but the construction noises had been too much. That’s how we found the guesthouse I now use. It was our alternative to the Mut Mee, not on the travel guides, but a better option in our opinion.

However, the Mut Mee is its own thing, being a kind of crossroads for international travelers; mostly of the backpacking kind.

I had a Beer Chang with ice at the floating Nagarina restaurant (owned by Mut Mee), Khong side. I was served by a very pretty and very young teenage girl who I had to wonder where her school was and why she wasn’t in it.


Gangway from the Nagarina to the river bank.


The Nagarina, looking from the west, down river.

 After watching the commerce bustling at Nong Khai’s small commercial port, I made my way eastwards along Th Rim Khong to the main shopping area; the Tha Sadet market. I bought a pair of cheap sunglasses, binoculars and dried mango and peanuts.

On the otherside of the market, I hit another floating restaurant and had some squid – pah merk – in crab sauce, with a Beer Chang and nam khaeng (ice). I was just about the only one in the whole place that probably did its best business in the evening and at night. From my vantage point, I could see some of the girls and younger women doing aerobic exercises to Thai pop music on land and watch the sun go down over Lao and the Mekong.



Have I told you how much I love floating restaurants? There’s just something about them that I can’t adequately describe. Wanna find me on the road in Southeast Asia? Look for the closest floating restaurant!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lao Trip 8.1a - To Nong Khai

I was fast coming up on my three-month travel permit expiration, so given that we were in construction mode and I needed to keep close tabs on what was happening, I decided to go to Vientiane, the capital of Lao (Laos), this time around. Being right across the Mekong from Thailand, Vientiane would allow me easy cellphone contact. I wouldn’t have to switch sim cards and calls wouldn’t be expensive. If I needed to rush back to the construction project, it was only a day’s ride away.

I had had it in the back of my mind to re-visit Vientiane. I wanted to make another assessment of it. I’ve found that living in Southeast Asia, my initial impressions are not always accurate. So, after dissing Vientiane in 2012, when I briefly visited the city river front that first with Thip, I wanted to give the place another chance.

This 8th trip to Lao was notable not only for a few days in Vientiane, but also for time spent in Nong Khai, Thailand, and two significant mistakes I made – one small, one big.

The trip started off as they usually do. After I took care of the monks, I drove my tuk-tuk toward the highway, parking it at Thip’s sister’s property. From there I continued walking to Highway 210, turning down an offer for a ride from a villager who would have driven me out of his way, for all the ten kilometers to the bus station, if I would have let him.

Instead, I took the Line 1 sawngtheaw to the bawkasaw and from there hopped on a bus to Udon Thani, the next province over.

At the Udon Thani bus station, I discovered that I could not take a direct bus to Vientiane. I would have to take a bus to Nong Khai, then get the “Frienship Bus” from there.

OK, a small mistake that set me back a half day; baw peng yawng (no problem).



On the riverfront, near Wat Hai Sok, in Nong Khai


Commercial shipping at Nong Khai (Lao in background)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bann Nah 9 - Foundation and Beams

After all the power line electrical work was done and after the post-raising ceremony, Lott and Naht set to setting the nine cement posts and bonding them to the column footers. Once this was done, they prepared the main horizontal floor beams at our village home. When they were done, we had the nine vertical concrete posts placed three meters apart and nine horizontal floor beams bolted to the posts.

Shots of the cement foundation posts being set:





Shots of the main floor beams installed:






Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bann Nah 8 - Power Lines

Just before the foundation posts ceremony, Sawt and his boys completed Phase 2 of the power lines project. That is, we had the rest of the power line posts installed, lines strung and power installed all the way to the pad, in the middle of our rice fields.


Here’s the video showing some of the previous Phase 1:


2014-07_electrical from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.




The following Phase 2 video shows Day 1, when the posts were put in and a late afternoon rain ran the linemen off. Day 2 shows Sawt and his wife Nui wiring the remainder of the power line run; installing the street light and light sensor. The video ends with an arrival by Thip – in “temple uniform” – fresh from the wat:


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bann Nah 7 - Posts Ceremony

A little like a barn raising, the Thai-Lao Buddhist ceremony for raising posts on a new home is not only practical, but is also shrouded with religious ceremony. It’s a chance to wish the future occupants well in the home that will be built. Since you already have a bunch of guys present to do the heavy lifting, it’s also a perfect time to eat and celebrate.




Here’s some video I shot, showing some chanting, placement of post and attachment of good luck symbols (fish trap for never going hungry; part of an old loom for always being clothed; sugar cane, banana leaf, coconut, flowers, bag full of money, etc.):


2014-08_p-ceremony from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.


Once the monks and most of the invitees had left, core family and friends cracked open some Leo’s.





Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bann Nah 6 - Column Footers

Out at our larger rice farm, once the pad was completed (November 2013), we let it sit. Normally, you don’t want to build on a newly dumped dirt pad unless it has time to settle. In Thailand, that usually means at least one full rainy season and then some. When we were ready to move ahead, this past summer – only eight months after the pad’s creation – it was still somewhat soft. Our head monk Lungpaw Boon Long suggested we sink column footers from the top of the pad to the bottom and that’s what we did.



Lott and Naht dug vertical tunnels from the top of the pad to where the top of the rice field used to be, below; about six feet. Then, they wired-up rebar cages and sunk these into the holes. In the holes, they then dumped cement and gravel to create custom column footers nearly the depth of the pad.

Here’s some video I shot showing some of the fabrication of the rebar cages, their preparation for transport, concrete and gravel mixing at the construction site, placement of the cages in prior-dug vertical tunnels and late afternoon rain clouds moving in:


2014-08_cfooters from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.



On top of the column footers, the cement posts that would end-up supporting the house above ground were placed (viewable at: http://vimeo.com/111314523). Again using rebar, Lott and Naht wrapped the posts to the column footers and cemented over the area to effectively bond the posts to the column footers.



But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, here. Before the cement posts could be set ontop of the cement column footers, there had to be a ceremony…


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tuk-Tuk Driver

In August of 2014, I was given the role of tuk-tuk driver for transporting monks from our forest temple to and from the village, in the mornings, so that they can binta baht (do their alms round).


My samlor aka tuk-tuk.


I use the word “given” very loosely. It was more like the job defaulted to me. The assistant village headman needed the time to work on his farm and village affairs. He had taken over for Tah Nah. Tah Nah is getting old (same age as me, actually) and no longer has the energy to transport monks to two villages each morning. So, I took over for Paison, the village’s second-in-command. Now, Tah Nah does Bann Noi Pakwet (aka Sawan Pattani) and I do Bann Noen Soong Pleui (our village); basically, the job was delegated to me by Paison using a kind of slight-of-hand.

At first, I thought it was temporary and went into it in good spirits. But, as time went on and Paison no longer was working on his farm in the mornings, but I was still chauffering, I realized this is a permanent job – as permanent as permanent gets, anyway.

When I grokked the situation I was in, I grew a little resentful because I see many other men in the village with samlors better than mine. Some guys have cars and others own trucks who have the time and could transport the monks in and out of the village in style.

But, the general reasoning went that since I am retired, I am the perfect candidate. Everyone is so busy… as if I’m not.

Fact is, Morning times are very valuable to me because it’s the best time of the day to put in a chunk of time on the computer, writing, gaming and staying in communication with family and friends outside and inside of Thailand.

But, my wife keeps insisting this is good for my karma and the family’s karma. By being samlor driver for the monks every morning, I can boon (do a good thing) every day and serve both temple and village.

I eventually saw the wisdom in what my wife kept saying and so now I’ve been trying to adjust my thinking and feeling about this. I’m happy to do it. It’s just that I don’t want to have to do it, if you know what I mean.


My tuk-tuk and Thip's motosai, side-by-side, at the building site.



I’m probably not the only Falang to transport monks for their alms rounds, but I may be the only one in Thailand who does so with a tuk-tuk. The more I chauffer usually 3-4 monks in and out of the village each morning, the more comfortable I get in my new role. Of course, it is somewhat of an honor and my personal prestige in the village is greater as a result, but this is a work in process. We’ll see where it goes…

Monday, November 3, 2014

Home Alive 3

And now, it’s time for “Home Alive 3” !!!

No, it’s not the latest Hollywood blockbuster sequel, but a break from all the construction posts so you don’t get bored.

I thought an annual update on the state of our relationships with the creatures around us – the non-human kind, that is – has been overdue.

Back yard, looking up.


Our home in the village still notably features the presence of a half dozen gap gays (tokays) of different ages. They are somewhat reclusive, but on any given night, you can easily spot the big one and usually one other; probably his mate. Occasionally, they make their signature call and these can be heard not only in the house, but from the neighbor’s roof and the big strand of bamboo that overhangs from Gam Gnan’s property.

Backyard looking south.


Nyoong (mosquitoes) will always be a problem for me, but at least I have incorporated strategies to deal with them effectively.

Rats and scorpions are pretty much history; at least in the house. A couple of times a year I might have to trap one or two rats (where there’s one, there’s always two and if there’s two, it’s likely there’s some babies around, as well); nothing like the nightmare that greeted me when I first retired here in 2012.

We had some “city slickers” visit us a while back; a friend we knew back in Santa Barbara and her sister, both of whom live in Bangkok. They were a bit repulsed by the slimey-looking lizards that roam around outside but also get into the house, sometimes. We take them for granted. Like the tokays, their biggest downside is their poop. You can’t smell it unless you get close to it, but it does stink.

A big surprise continues to be what I call the “fast runners.” They are thin, dry skinned lizards who, Thip tells me of the ones that climb, are related to the iguana. These do not come indoors, but have proliferated around our one acre ever since I put a ban on their being hunted on our property and the installation of a chain link fence in the back to halt cross-property pedestrian traffic.

Another big surprise continues to be the birds. Each year, we have more and more of them and different kinds, too. It’s probably the fruit trees that attract them, but it may also be that we have a large parcel and don’t hassle them. The longer they stay, the more they get used to us and, consequently, the closer they come.

Besides the mosquitoes, the one creature that has been the biggest problem when I look back over these past 2.5 years has to be the soi dogs (street dogs). Most every Isaan dog is either a farm dog or a street dog or combination of the two. They are loyal to their owners to a certain extent and there is some love there. But many are just left to fend for themselves, so they go and do whatever. Especially problematic are soi dogs who like to nip at the legs of motorcycle riders. Our dog Imbune became one of these and we had to commit him to tht family farm where he often stays on a chain to keep him away from the traffic of the village.

Another problem dog has been Heng Heng, who “came with the house.” As he grew out of being a cute little puppy into somewhat of an ugly, scraggly soi dog, his owners basically abandoned him. Since he grew up at our house and property before we bought it, this is where he gravitates to most of the time. Also, he loves Thip; I can understand that!

I’ve gone back and forth with him so many times I’ve lost count. He’s a good dog in some ways, but causes me extra work by digging holes, spreading fleas and sometimes going after motorcyclists. I just tolerate him, now, and occasionally feed him scraps that would otherwise be thrown out.

I would run him off and never feed him a single scrap if it weren’t for the fact that I’m working on opening my heart more. I can’t help but think of myself as a kid when I think about Heng’s situation. For a good portion of my childhood, I could be considered to have been a “street kid.” Not that I hung around the streets, but I bicycled through all of them in my small town and hung out in the woods and beaches most of the time by myself. This ended when I was taken in by another family (Gault) on request of my dying mother (Williams). So, I know about estrangement and despite Heng Heng being a pain in the ass and causing me extra work, my heart goes out to him.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bann Nah 5 - Power Lines

We were fortunate to hire two workers from our local temple, one of whom I was already friends with (Samlot). With the endorsement of our head monk Lungpaw Boon Long, Lot and Naht were tasked to do us good and quality work; with this stated expectation from Boon Long and other monks to Lot and Naht, thereby assuring that Thip and I would not have the same kind of problems we’ve had on all our previous construction projects:
  • bathroom: actually, a pretty good job, although I had to take over some of the caulking; 
  • kitchen: drain and drain pipes poorly installed; 
  • village home rewiring: a good job, but wire trays are connected by masking tape, when the trays themselves should have just been pvc pipe; 
  • closet/laundry room: washing machine water outflow not connected to exterior pipe, partly my fault;
  • village home ground floor roof: now beginning to sag on one side, because they didn’t cement the concrete posts into the ground, roof is damaged from workers walking on it between the rafters, and not enough screws to hold it down;
  • front patio: no complaints
  • overall with all the work we’ve had done, it’s the trim work, painting and staining that are most often the most poorly done portion of the work.

 To say that I’ve been disappointed with the quality of most all the work we’ve had done for us over the past 2.5 years would be an understatement. It’s not that Isaan workers can’t do a good job. It’s just that they don’t care.


A perfect example is Thip’s brother Sawt. Since he’s a high voltage lineman (in addition to being a seasonal rice farmer), we hired him and his crew to extend the power lines from the public road down to our pad. The work took shape in two phases. When it was all done, one of the cement posts was considerably at an angle (not perpendicular); there was no cut-off switch for the street light installed on the pad; and the street light itself was loose. When I offered to pay Sawt some more to fix these things that I had already paid him to do, his response was something like: ‘it’s good enough as it is.”

You know, like it was his call to make.


2014-07_electrical from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bann Nah 4 - The Plan

As I previously mentioned, the initial plan was to just take down “Love Shack II” and put it back up again on the new pad once the pad had solidified. When the love shack wood was inadvertently burned by one of our neighbor’s sons while clearing his own rice paddies (the fire jumped paddies), we received the father’s shack as settlement (Tah Mai – now Lungtah Mai – had since gone into the monkhood). Then, the plan became: take down and reconstruct Lungtah Mai’s shack (a shack with walls) on the pad.


{Looking from the north, at the bend in our road, as it goes to the pad)


This second plan didn’t last long, as various pressures were put on me to expand the scope of the project still further. For my part, I realized I’m not getting any younger and that if my wife and I are going to enjoy it out there – as our head monk assured us we would – I might as well act sooner than later to put in a structure we can live in year’round and that fits our lifestyle. Consider it a kind of “country home,” not quite a “vacation home.”


(At the turn in our dirt road [same spot as previous picture was taken from], looking westwards toward the main road and temple. You can even see Lungtah Mai's shack/bungalow with red roof off to the left)


Friday, October 17, 2014

Bann Nah 3 - Shack Dismantling

When we realized a way we could donate and sell more of our laregest farm to our temple, so that the chedi really could be built and that what we had already donated wouldn’t just end up being a parking lot, we hired friends to dismantle Love Shack II and move the wood over to the new location where we intended to rebuild it.


Here’s video I shot of the take-down of the shack, moving of the wood, and build up of the new pad in the middle of what was left of our land – the former “17 Rai,” now “Gao Rai” (9 Rai):



17 to 9 from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.