Saturday, 3 March 2012

Batik workshop

Last Sunday Topsi organized some special activities since we had a special visitor: Hanna, with whom we had studied in Freiburg: One of the acitivites was a Batik workshop!

Batik is a cloth manually dyed/painted using wax-resist technique. It is very important for ceremonial costumes in Indonesia. In the past, the patterns in your batik could tell your status in society. Thailand does not share the long tradition in batik of Indonesia, but this art has been somewhat incorporated at least in the southern culture. I have seen quite a few Thai governmental and private organizations using Batik in their uniforms.

Our workshop instructor was Pi-Dam, a friend of Topsi’s and new friend to me in Ta Chatchai. She is the batik artist at her family’s atelier.

Sketching supervised by Pi-Dam. She was so patient!

We started by sketching our drawings on a framed piece of cloth. Then we used a fountain pen filled with wax for the actual drawing. Next comes the painting. It’s amazing how the ink stops from spreading through the cloth surface exactly at the waxed drawing contours.

The wax-resist drawing

Not the final result yet...but almost

At this point, the cloth should dry and will receive some chemicals to retain the ink. The final step is to wash it in boiling water to remove the wax. Et voilĂ !

The final result: the colours become a little lighter, but I was still satisfied and proud of my little piece of art!

Tip: you can recognize a true Batik by looking at both surfaces of the cloth. If you can clearly see the shapes and colours on both sides, it’s a genuine batik. If the shapes and colours on the “inner” side seem worn-off, then it’s just normal dyeing, not a real batik.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Eating, eating and eating!

Apart from seeing Thai people smiling all the time, you will also see them eating all the time. They do not necessarily have big meals, but they eat all day long. Here you will find a collection of the food delicacies I’ve been tasting since I arrived.

The very popular papaya salad (or Som Tam). There are several variations: with crab, shrimp, dried fish...

Fried noodles with vegetables. The food stall where I ordered this dish actually only sold noodles soup, but if you want something dry, they can always improvise ;)

Thai food is known to be quite spicy. In the South of Thailand, even more! It’s true, some food has literally taken me to tears, specially when it comes to curries. The red curry is to be avoided if you easily come to tears like me.

In every restaurant, they will serve you a dish with cucumbers and cabbage or soy (or what is it beans?) and Thai basil, like in this picture. These fresh vegetables always help to refresh your tongue from the red chilis!

Forget about fancy, air-conditioned restaurants, because you will always find just as tasty food at the markets and food stalls - and for a much better price. In every market there's at least one stall selling different parts of deep fried chicken. I think it's even more popular than papaya salad!

This lady knows the local preferences: she sells both fried chicken AND papaya salad

Here you can also find delicious fruits, especially mangoes! However, Thai people do not seem very found of fruits or sweets in general. They prefer whatever is sour and salty. The exception are the noodles: besides loads of red chili, they add sugar to it!

Mango, banana and tamarind. This is the sweetest mango I ever tasted - and mind you that my hometown in Brazil is known as "the mango tree city"

When they do eat sweets, guess what comes with it?? Sticky rice, of course! And I must say i love it! My favorite is the sticky rice with mango.

Thai sweets with sticky rice. The yellow one is with egg yolk, the orange, with coconut and the bown, with tapioca.

Oh, i could also post the pictures of the seafood, noodles, fried rice, ...but I would just continue torture you. So, till next time and ...
Bonne appetit! 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Welcome to Ta Chatchai

Ta Chatchai is the name of the fishermen village where I'm living. It lies on the most northern portion of Phuket island. Local people have told me that in 1785, when the island was attacked by Burma (or Myanmar) and bravely defended through the leadership of two women, Ta Chatchai was used as an elephant base - in battles, defenders would ride elephants instead of horses.

View Larger Map

The village is actually divided in 2 parts: one to the left side of the road and the other to the right side. I live on the left side. Here you will find plants and dogs everywhere. The village has only 2 small groceries shop and  two really nice restaurants. And it has a beautiful bridge - the Sarasin Bridge - named after a Thai Romeo-and-Juliet true story. The only things Ta Chatchai is almost scarce of are tourists and water. I am as glad for first thing as I am sad for second.

On the left is the small hotel where I'm renting a room, on the right is the street where it's located

Tourists usually comes only for a few minutes, mostly in the the morning. The water fortunately comes for a little longer - a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. Little after I arrived, a pipe that distributes the water around the village was broken and they were not able to find where exactly is the hole.

But I am very happy living in Ta Chatchai...especially after I visited the popular and hardly recommendable Patong beach the other day!

The Sarasin Bridge, connecting Phuket to the mainland

Saturday, 28 January 2012

I do work!

For those who think I came to Thailand only to hang around in wonderful beaches, let me tell you that you are wrong. I came to Thailand to WORK at wonderful beaches! I know, it's hard to believe, but why work needs to be equated with stress? It doesn't, and I came here to prove this to myself.

View from the office . The beach is 40 meters away

I am volunteer at the SAMPAN project, which stands for Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network. My task right now is to help the technical coordinator (my friend Topsi) to write their end report of activities. The project is supposed to end in April, but we will try to get a new bid approved to continue with the work. Again, I'll probably help writing the new project proposal.

The good thing to be new in the team is that they have to send me to field to learn about their activities. First, I went to Mu Ko Surin National Park, which is one of the 3 national parks targeted by the project.

@ Mu Ko Surin National Park (Mu Ko means "archipelago")

The SAMPAN team is supporting private tour operators and national parks staff in monitoring coral reefs. They are also checking sea turtles nests for their protection and establishing small trails in the forest for tourism.

My team colleagues are O, Khaew (the two girls in the upper picture) and Nung (in green t-shirt)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The taxi bargain

I finally make it through the immigration. It’s now time to follow the advice from Topsi: get a free mobile chip, exchange money and get on a Taxi and insist to go on meter! What a laugh. At the taxi booth that explicitly says “On Meter”, no taxi driver would take me this way. They proposed a price, which is a rip-off compared to what my friend had warned me as the fair price.

My first bargain strategy is to use the competition, so I say that I will check with another taxi company. They don’t seem to bother at all. No other taxi company would do it on meter, which ruined my bargain strategy no. 1. I decide to give in and go on with the first taxi driver I negotiated.

But it’s hard to accept it. So, once in the car, I look the driver on the eye, smile, but firmly ask him why he would not take me on meter if the booth proposed so. My Asian instinct says it’s very impolite to stare people in the eye around here, but my Western experience says it’s the best way to impose yourself.

He mumbles no convincing answers. But the eye confrontation eventually worked! 50 meters later he tells me out of the blue “ok, fine, you wanna go on meter, I put the meter on, but you will see the price will be pretty much the same”, which of course it wasn’t. Then he spends another 2km complaining that the gas is very expensive nowadays, that he needs to pay the cooperative etc. etc. I don’t mind this type of lies as long as I get the right price.