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

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....

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.

September 29, 2006

240906 family day

hilarious family day =)

when man-maid answers e phone with 'WAH LAU', you know he's overslept AGAIN....& he wasn't e only who overslept AGAIN - so did tuition teacher! no idea how e family ended up hiring these two jokers. whale papa had to make a trip back to KE7 to pick up e baby (who had been waiting for man-maid pickup service for more than half an hour) in e whalemobile, while cat mama chope-d seats for 6 (expecting new mama replacement to turn up) at West Coast Park McD's.

& lau maid you best....choose West Coast Park, when e cat lives just opposite EAST Coast Park....anyway e cat had a cute but not very obedient beagle at e next table for company while waiting - poor guy had to sit on e floor while e cat lounged in a chair =) somehow everyone managed to arrive before breakfast menu hours were over, & e family managed to have a big fat breakfast together + flashlight consultation + much laughter over 'ultimatums' of e marital sort ;)

baby & whale's long overdue birthday gifts:


baby's gift chosen so that she can make full use of her earlier (few years ago) gift from whale papa - a bib =P

on 130906 man-maid & cat mama sat down by e Taka fountain to eat cheapo fish from e Cold Storage sushi counter after their Kinokuniya expedition. halfway through e meal, e cat decided to take a photo of e books. & man-maid had a sudden brainwave....


this is what you get with e man-maid + cat mama combination of strange brains....original idea for bigfatwhale's gift was a Hello Kitty bolster, cos he wants to be a HUG DISPENSER....back then still no mama replacement, so we thought that a bolster would do =P

baby shall lend her gift to bigfatwhale for TEN weeks, & then to lau duck for e following TEN weeks, & finally to baby-in-law for another TEN weeks, & we'll have 3 Hello Kitties in e family =))

spiderweb - big fat reason why West Coast Park was chosen:

but it was a disappointment to e cat - how come got metal frame one? & so short? & gaps between e ropes small enough to trap bigfatwhale. no kick....Pasir Ris Park's spiderweb wins paws down!

lau duck tried to take photos of e rest of e family at e top of e spiderweb. but cat mama's camera hates him, so there are no photos of man-maid hanging upside down from e metal bars or of a bigfatwhale trapped in a non-fishing net. it perfers lau baby instead, who managed to take these:


how come lau duck looks biggerfatter than bigfatwhale? 3 of us had descended to a lower height so that lau duck could join us....we still remember his quacks of 'bu yaaaao....bu yeeeeeooooww!' (不要/don't want) at e top of MacRitchie Jelutong Tower =P

back to Katong Settler's Cafe, where once again lau duck demonstrated his skills at abstract art in Pictionary:

P9240407-10a-march & safety net

[L] 'march' - e 3-line 'wave' emerging from e rectangle at top right is supposed to mean 'flip calendar 3 times'....! [R] 'safety net'


[top] 'caffeine' by baby [bottom] 'cheap' - where e cat interpreted e speech balloon at bottom right as 讲鸟话 instead of 'cheep' =P

3 samples from lau duck's 'parallel lines' collection:

P9240407-10-wq parallel lines

new mama replacement finally joined e family after lau baby called her 'mummy' over e phone *lol* & 3 girls whacked e 3 guys at Taboo =)) adjourned to Parkway Parade Banquet food court for dinner. when whale papa left e table to get drinks, mama replacement asked us, 'does he eat a lot?', & we all auto-assumed she was talking about e bigfatwhale, when she was referring to lau duck instead *lol*

also discovered that whale papa had no originality in his search for a mama replacement but has full faith in man-maid's 'selection criteria' mama replacement & Miz Chan share e same birthdate (freakish thing is, baby-in-law & new papa replacement have birthdays 6 days apart) + are from e same JC + both are poly grads too! so now man-maid can provide whale papa with an annual gf-birthday-reminder-service (by SMS alert? =P) & they can DIY birthday gifts together *grin*

so now, e family's task is to find a PLMM born on 25th April 1982 for lau duck? ;)

see man-maid's version of events & lau baby's version

September 26, 2006

sep 06 - 03

[090906] from whale papa's HK (not Hello Kitty =P) trip, via e baby:


attempt to bell e cat? *BIG FAT HOPE* but 10-Q anyway =P

[090906] vitagen bottle cap - e little things that make e cat happy =)


nice & shiny - recall kids collecting them during e cat's primary school days. anyone tried finding one stamped with their birthday as e expiry date? e cat has a few =)

[090906] e cat has been pretty contented playing with its existing toys. they are shorter than e cat, easy to carry around when going grocery shopping at NTUC after training, & don't attract much attention in public. they have strings attached (literally), & which cat can resist playing with string? =P & e cat has been kept entertained learning all sorts of different ways to play with its toys (traditional, contemporary, long tassel, double), & is hoping to learn one more way of playing with them (long tassel double =P) without strangling itself by accident.

but today, for some strange reason, laoshi decided that everyone should start learning how to play with another (much longer) type of toy instead, together with e upper primary kids. this type of toy is taller than e cat, is e baby's favourite, & has one tooth (very simple dentition!) & unkempt thin red hair. when shaken, it sounds like it literally has a screw loose =P e cat's existing toys all have more manageable white hair.

new type of toy = new terminology & another round of overcoming e language (of instruction) barrier, as e cat is really lousy in e official mother tongue assigned to it by those people who came up with e CMIO system. today it was confused when it kept hearing e word 'ba3' (hua2 ba3, tiao2 ba3, gai4 ba3) - as e only 'ba3' it knows of is sao4 ba3 (broom for sweeping)....!!

[100906] more IMF flowers outside Suntec City:


didn't get to photograph e sunflowers, which are somwhere to e left.

to ACM with supergarf to observe a showashiki (Japanese tea gathering) demonstration & view e ongoing exhibition of Japanese masks:


one of e Japanese organisers who went around distributing explanatory materials to those in e audience handed supergarf a copy, before turning to e cat & asking it - in Japanese - if it wanted a copy, since they had printed only e English version....?! oh! you look like Japanese! sorry - much to e amusement of supergarf, who has passed JLPT2, & e cat, whose knowledge of e language is limited to just nihongo wa dekimasen (i cannot speak Japanese) =P

e 5 from e Chado Urasenke Tankokai Singapore Association, each armed with a black fan & red 'handkerchief':


who started off with hanayose (flower procedure) by each selecting a flower & placing it in a vase/container:


e big fat red hibiscus flower seemed really huge & 'un-delicate' & out of place to e cat....

full house, with many standing around or sitting on e floor:


rowdy kids also made it e noisiest Japanese tea ceremony ever....


let us all reach out & scratch our backs together =P


interesting to watch a Japanese guy prepare & serve tea, after having heard so much about Japanese office ladies (OLs) & how female Japanese staff are expected to serve tea to their male colleagues ;)


this lady was e host of e gathering, & prepared thick tea to be shared among all:


3 of e rest took turns to prepare thin tea, with e order decided by drawing lots!

at e end of it all, each had to compose a verse related to e flower they had earlier picked for their arrangement, grind e inkstone & write it down using an inkbrush, & then recite it.

note e electrical wire running from e traditional-looking 'kettle':

P9100364 P9100364a