Sodsai Farm, Khun Yuam - Thailand
28.03.2016 - 12.04.2016
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Life on Sodsai Farm quickly becomes routine. Yann and Piak both take off within a couple of days, leaving us quite alone with our new family. Each morning we drag ourselves out of bed an hour before sunrise to help Pap with the task of inseminating the packed sawdust bags from the day before. By this point the compact cakes have spent the night in a steamer; dark, wet and warm being the optimum conditions for baby mushrooms to grow. By the time D and I make it down to the shed Pap has usually beaten us to it. Having arrived 30 minutes prior he wastes no time and gets straight to work, expeditiously transplanting around 400 bags from the steamer to the dim nursery. He sits on an upturned crate completely surrounded by the mushroom cakes, which I now notice bear a huge resemblance to hundreds of delicious haggis. My tummy rumbles at the thought but I cast the feeling aside knowing that morning rice will not be served for, at least, another two hours. I head instead for the pile of already inseminated cakes and start organising them in straight lines against the grey, concrete walls.
Early mornings in these mountains are a blunt reminder of what it is to feel cold. C-O-L-D. This four letter word immediately transforms from distant, empty concept to instantly recognisable sensation, one I know only too well. I snuggle deeper into my black fleece. Pap, in his woolly hat, evidently feels the effects of these low temperatures more than we do. His hat will remain glued to his head until we are finished inseminating, at which point, he will light a fire outside to warm us, while we wait for tea to brew and the rest of the family to rise. Until then, we continue with the task at hand. My body does not function well at this hour. Still half asleep, I much prefer handling the warm cakes than the fiddly task of unplugging the cottonwool and tipping the precious mushroom spores inside. The spores, which look like half-popped popcorn kernels, are extremely delicate and easily susceptible to contamination. The metal rod, as well as your hands, have to be completely disinfected before making contact. Even the tiniest particle of external bacteria can spoil the whole cake, causing the entire contents to turn black. I go back and forth to the wall, holding three bags at a time. The shed, lit by a single, dangling light bulb propped up on a bamboo cane, casts dark shadows into the corners where I scurry robotically, to and fro. This farm has some of the biggest spiders I have seen so far in Thailand, I am careful not to let my hands linger anywhere too long. They quite likely look far more menacing than they actually are but 6am is not the time for a full investigation. It is not just the spiders that come in huge proportions out here. With a warmer climate everything seems to grow to ridiculous proportions: cockroaches, millipedes, fireflies, lizards, mosquitos. The latter being the only one to really cause problems, most notably in the bathroom.
Before leaving for Asia I knew very little about the life of a mosquito. I knew that they seemed to be more attracted to my blood than most of my friends and that sharing a room with just one of these tiny insects was enough to literally have me up all night, searching my room in a fatigued craze, only to be consoled by the evidence of a dead body. Come to think of it, the mosquito is probably the only living being I actively seek out and kill, usually feeling little, if not any remorse once the deed is done. At least in Europe, apart from being a pain in the butt, mosquitos are as dangerous as a stubbed toe. Out here things are a little different. In my months spent in Thailand I have learnt that there are many different types of mosquito. I am, for instance, more likely to catch Malaria at night while Dengue strikes during the day. I know that the mosquito that carries the Dengue virus is the same mosquito that can carry Zika (double the fun!) and, that this particular mosquito is not solid black in colour but stripy, like a zebra. Not only is Sodsai Farm home to a million of these giant, stripy blood-suckers but the bathroom seems to be their very first encounter with planet Earth.
The simple wash room on the farm is enclosed by four peach, concrete walls. As well as a pale blue squat toilet, it contains three built in brick basins. These basins always contain water, the largest being probably big enough to hold a small Shetland pony. A red, plastic bowl bobs along on the surface and is what we use to scoop out the water when we take a shower. Like other small, winged insects, mosquitos begin their life in water. The ideal conditions are stagnant pools of fresh, clean water and right now I am standing in front of the largest mosquito nursery I have ever seen. When I stare hard into the deep, murky water I can see little, stripy bodies gently floating as if suspended in space. These lifeless babies are, however, not yet an issue for me. I am far more concerned with their elder siblings, the ones currently flying around the room, looking for their first meal. Me. It is in this room that I must stand each day: butt naked. By now, I have almost perfected the art of the Sodsai Farm shower. It all beings with a beautifully choreographed dance. Almost as soon as I lock the door I jump rhythmically from one foot to the other. I thresh about at the air around me, flailing my arms out to the sides like a novice skydiver. Anything to keep from standing still for more than three seconds, this generally prevents any mosquitos from landing on my wet skin. At times, it feels both exhausting and extreme. I am positive neither Kita nor Pap perform this intricate dance when they wash each evening. Others have also informed me that the odds of actually catching any illnesses during the dry season are slim but, having read the symptoms, I dare not chance it. Despite the struggle that is washing, I do not find myself despising the shower room, nor its particular ecosystem. It is, in fact, within these same four walls that I come face to face with my very first tokay. It is love at first sight.
An extremely shy and illusive creature, the tokay is not always easy to spot. Odds are though, if you have been to this part of the world, you will have already been in the presence of one. Just as in New York, where you are never too far from a rat, in Southeast Asia you are almost always near a tokay. It is entirely plausible that you have never physically laid eyes on the creature, you will, however, most definitely have heard its call. D and I mistake this unique song for that of a bird for around two months. Our curiosity eventually getting the better of us, we turn to our good friend google for help. The fact that we have nothing to distinguish this bird, except from a strange noise (which I have now learnt to imitate pretty convincingly, by the way!), makes for rather a vague google search. One I am almost sure no direct response will yield from. Apparently “strange repetitive bird noise night Thailand” are exactly the words google needs to identify the mystical animal we are seeking: the tokay. Not at all a bird but a gecko!
Geckos are omnipresent in Thailand. No room is complete without a timid, brown, mosquito-muncher hiding in the corner. Tokay’s are to your average gecko what peacocks are to the common, brown hen. The google search takes place just before our arrival to Sodsai Farm and I am unbelievably relieved to have already seen a picture of one framed by a computer screen before meeting the real deal a week later. Although harmless, its particular colouring definitely triggers the ‘poisonous creature’ alarm-bell in your head. The first encounter takes place just as I am about to pull down my underwear to do my business. My concentration fixed on resisting the regular mosquito attack, it takes me a few moments to notice that today there is a new addition to the room. I instantly freeze as my gaze locks with pair of unblinking, yellow eyes. The reptile clings to the vertical wall directly in front of me, and just as its cousin the gecko does when disturbed, it stays perfectly still. Its almost endearing to think that the tokay is probably under the pretence that if it stays still long enough it will blend into the plain wall beneath. Not an easy feat when your knobbly skin is an unreal turquoise blue, your covered in red spots, not to mention that you are not six centimetres long but a whopping 30. The tokay sort of half reminds me of a real life Pokemon, and kind of like an oversized dog who, completely unaware of its bulky dimensions, still tries to squeeze onto its owners lap as it did when it was a pup. I would love to report that I am calm and collected throughout the whole incident but in truth, a strange yelp escapes my lips before my brain works out what it is I am even looking at. I slowly crab-walk my way sideways out the door to get D and my camera, my need for the toilet quite gone. This is not the last time we see one of these beautiful creatures and catching sight of one never gets boring. Just like witnessing the flash of a shooting star, or winter’s first snow flakes fall; coming face to face with a tokay never ceases to generate a pure rush of childish excitement. I try to share these magical moments with Sodsai, the little toothless boy, who I can report is warming up to us now a few days have passed. Once he spots the tokay his first reaction is to throw a handful of rocks at the wall before running off. I quickly make a mental note that tokay’s are not his thing.
Sodsai is a curious little character. Having been inspired by the birth of their first son, Kita and Pap have named Sodsai Farm after him. The name Sodsai has several meanings including: ‘stability’, ‘responsibility’, and ‘order’. A thoughtful name for both the farm and their son but at the tender age six, Sodsai is none of these things. A remarkably serious child, he talks as little as he eats and can usually be found playing alone, making mud-cakes or filling baby Bang’s bath full of water and bubbles. He is an absolute mummy’s boy but its plain that the arrival of a new baby has been difficult for him to accept. Now, unlike before, he has to learn to share attention. As is common for any first born child, this can sometimes lead him to express his frustration by deliberately taunting and teasing little Bang who, of course, remains innocently oblivious to the shift his birth has caused in the dynamics of the family. Bang is tough and, try as he may, Sodsai never succeeds in upsetting his little brother. Instead Bang follows him around in absolute awe, his little legs, grey with dust as he crawls desperately, trying to keep up with his number one idol. It is the school holidays right now so Sodsai’s afternoons are filled with endless games and who better a playmate than his best friend Meow (the cat), who tolerates the brothers with extreme patience. When you first meet Sodsai, he can come across as a little boisterous in his games, he often deliberately causes havoc on the farm, but there is also an acutely sensitive side to his personality. I have witnessed him sit motionless for hours, drawing and colouring. In fact, one of the first things you will notice when you squeeze past the muddy, white truck parked at the entrance, is the dinosaur doodle on the passenger door. This just ‘appeared’ there one afternoon. “He’s an artist”, I am told. I sure wish my Dad would have let me express myself in permanent marker on the car door when I was six. My other favourite Sodsai expression is an enormous elephant painted on the wall in the house where we sleep; unlike Scottish children, who draw sheep, Thai kids prefer to paint elephants. Figures. As the days go by I tune in more to his artistic side whereas D manages to bond with him by throwing him around. Sword fighting with sticks and water fights with the hose are some of Sodsai’s favourite activities. We try hard to give him lots of attention when he allows us because, between everything that his parents need to get done on the farm each day, plus the attention the baby demands… well, all this can be pretty hard to understand when you are just six years old. Sometimes he lets us into his games but only if his back-up best friend is otherwise occupied. This position having been appointed to his trusty Grandfather.
There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing parents interact with the newest additions to their family. I am smothered by my own broody desires as I watch Pap and KIta play with Bang. I had never, however, realised that there is something equally special in watching a grandfather play with his grandson. As I have already mentioned, Grandfather is the quietest of the bunch. He smokes and he works. However, when Sodsai decides its time to play, an enchanting transformation assumes Grandfather. A mischievous gleam appears in he eye, and he plainly revels in giving the boy a taste of his own medicine. Sodsai likes to play rough and his Grandfather is a worthy opponent. Grandfather is not shy to play fight or even sneak up behind the child to catch him, unaware, with a face full of water from the garden hose. Sodsai evidently adores his grandfather, his wild shrieks of excitement can be heard throughout the whole farm. Seeing them together, its difficult not to laugh along, but at the same time the scene really makes me miss my own grandparents. Or the idea of them anyway.
Being raised in a different country to all my extended family naturally came with some benefits, for example: I was aware almost from birth that the world extended far beyond the fields surrounding my village. I knew that, although the people where I was born did certain things one way, I never had to feel limited to this because, in other distant places, I had seen things done in quite a different way. Of course, I was also lucky enough to be given the chance to kick-start my life bilingual but still, at times like these I am quietly jealous of the bond before me; one I never got the chance to have. Grandparents spending quality time with their grandchildren is not an uncommon sight in Thailand. As families usually live near each other the grandparents are often entrusted with the role of caretakers for the little ones while the parents go out to work. You see the two together on scooters, going to the market, preparing lunch, cleaning the house, visiting temples. It is sort of a give and take as once the kids are a little older it then falls onto them to help look after their, vey much respected, elders. And so the cycle goes on. Most families are large and close, thus creating a guaranteed lifetime of support. I am certain that Thailand is far from being the only country with this ‘system’ in place but as it is such a prominent part of life here, I thought it worth noting. For Sodsai, his grandfather is a godsend, because the kind of rough play he delights in is something only baby Bang will likely join him with, once he is old enough to fight back. His father Pap, for example, is such a peaceful and gentle soul that I cannot even imagine him grabbing the boys skinny ankles and hanging him upsized down. Tender Pap is far more likely to be found singing to his kids than swinging them around.
Initially Pap is an absolute mystery to us as, unlike Kita who knows a couple of useful survival words in English, Pap knows almost none. This does not prevent him from chatting away to us and, after some time, I learn just to parrot the Thai words right back at him. This makes him laugh. Better described as a guffaw, Pap’s laugh erupts from the depths of his stomach like a volcano. This particular volcano erupts several times a day bringing with it an aftershock of contagious laughter leaving onlookers in fits of giggles . Even without words we are able to learn a great deal about this father of two. Number 1. He has the most beautiful singing voice in Thailand. In many other families the women are left to care for the babies but Pap and Kita share the work. Feeding Bang his milk is almost always Pap’s job and the baby will not settle down completely if his bottle does not come accompanied by his father’s special song. As we get on with our daily chores: collecting sawdust, layering in rice husks to the pile, mixing the heap, packing or compressing the bags, collecting the mushrooms; we are frequently accompanied by the melodic and soothing voice of Pap, singing a bewitching, traditional Thai song to Bang. I do not know the meaning behind the lyrics but I soon learn the tune and hum along with him while I work. The end of the singing marks the end of the bottle, a sleeping baby, and usually a sleeping Dad. These quality moments with baby Bang are never skipped, and Pap still manages to acquire time to do the necessary mushroom work, plus all the odd jobs around the farm: fixing the sheds, mixing cement, building walls. He rises the earliest and is generally the last to retire from his duties at night. Just watching him is exhausting. Yet, somehow he succeeds to do all of this with a smile, steady patience and complete tranquility. Regardless of the fact our conversations are limited, we do not need words to recognise a kind heart when we meet one.
Physically Pap looks older than Kita, though being Asian his face does not give away his 50+ years. Nor does his body for that matter. Like most Thai people, he much prefers squatting on his haunches to sitting on a chair. When he does opt for higher ground, he will cross his legs in front of him, clearly more comfortable that way. I would still regard myself as somewhat flexible for a person of 27, whose regular stretching routine is non-existent, but the older generation here really show me up. It seems silly that from age 11 we are no longer encouraged to sit on the ground at school but move instead to ‘respectable’ chairs. Our knees and back are undoubtedly the first to deteriorate from this adjustment. We should technically be bendier than Pap, who is 20 years our elder, but our joints are stiff from lack of use. Poor D cannot sit cross legged at all, even at the monastery, when meditating, he would have to take a chair. Here on the farm D chooses to fold his legs, sitting to one side which makes Kita laugh, “like tiger!”, she says as she describes, for her, his odd choice of position. But Pap outshines us all. The secret behind his preference of sitting crosslegged and constant peaceful aura makes its revelation to us on day five: Pap used to be a monk.
As surprising as a past life spent as a monk sounds to our Western ears, spending a stint in a monastery is very common here. So common that almost every man I meet has been a monk at one point or another. A book I read in the monastery said that by their late 20s, the monastic experiences of a Thai man will usually total at two. The first when the boys are young, at around eight years old. In Thai tradition the young boys are sent to stay in the monastery as novice monks for one month. Here, they are expected to learn self discipline and meditation. This is a huge honour for the family, one that also brings the parents great merit. Merit being kind of like ‘brownie points’ you collect throughout your lifetime by performing good deeds. Eventually these build up and go on to improve your Karma (the energy stream that determines your next life). This still goes on today, although some children attend for less time than was expected in the past. Each region has a slight different twist and here, near the boarder of Myanmar, the little boys spend the two days prior to their enrolment receiving the upmost of royal treatment. Dressed in golden headdresses and lavish clothes, a family member will carry the youngster on their shoulders so that during the 48 hours, their little feet never touch the ground. Someone else will be in charge of holding a golden parasol, generating constant shade from the hot sun. The rest of the family dances along behind forming a grand entourage which includes an entire band (one for each child). Traditional tunes accompany the boy as he is proudly paraded through the village for the full two days. The idea behind this is that the children reenact the lavish life of The Buddha (formerly Prince Siddhartha), before he dropped it all to pave the way to enlightenment. In Khun Yuam, this festival is called Sangalong, and our time on the farm falls exactly on these dates. We are lucky enough to witness the boys; first as princes, and then as little novice monks. We watch as they are carried to the last stop, the temple. The excitement in their eyes replaced by anxiety as their hair is shaved off and their beautiful garments exchanged for plain robes. A few begin to shed a tear as the party dies down, and the reality of leaving their parents suddenly hits them. For many this is the first time they will sleep apart from their family.
Now, flash forward twenty years. The now young men again return to the monastery, only this time for as long as they feel is right for them. I have met certain individuals who spent as little as a month others for a number of years. Nobody is forced and I really get the impression that there is a strong sense of desire and duty behind their decision to join. The fact that almost everyone has been a monk, or knows someone who is or was a monk, means that the entire community can relate and respect with what goes on in the temple, insuring the two worlds remain well connected. It is now virtually a rite of passage for a young man, with many not even considering marriage or parenthood without having participated. When I explain to Kita that where I am from, it is not so uncommon for young men to start a family she seems shocked, her eyes wide: “Too young. Need calm first.” She says this clasping her hands in her lap (the universal sign for meditation) before adding, “Baby after” I think a lot can be said for this; spending time getting to know your inner most self before bringing forth another life into this world. The time they spend meditating will perhaps never bring them enlightenment but surely a crash course in inner-peace and patience is never a bad thing before raising the next generation. In Pap, this past monastic experience is ever present in the serene husband and father he has become today. Humans, however, are all quite diverse and what works for some does not necessarily work for others. Life as a monk is not suited to everyone, nor is it expected to be, so you are completely free to leave whenever you choose. Unlike a ‘drop out’ monk in the Christian world, who is usually regarded as having failed the cause somehow, Buddhists will always view those who wholly give themselves to the life and teachings of The Buddha with deep respect, regardless of the length of their stay. We find out from Kita that Pap’s monastery stay lasted for almost a decade! This sounds like an awfully large chunk of life to me and it must show in my wide eyes as her next reaction is to giggle, her hand landing on my shoulder. Kita’s English is limited and our Thai almost non-existent. Somehow this rarely poses a problem during our stay, where conversations are plentiful.
We have been sitting together on the ground in the yard for a couple of hours now, absentmindedly tying up compressed sawdust bags. D is scribbling in a black note book, Kita peering eagerly over his shoulder. If Kita were to be in an English class she would be in beginners, learning vocabulary enough to allow for simple conversations about “my town”, greetings or how to ask for directions. Her natural curiosity pushes her way further than her language abilities allow. Right now D is explaining the UK minimum wage, the average rent in Edinburgh and what a ‘customer development executive’ is. Naturally words fail. Almost every sentence has to be acted out, drawn or squiggled in the dust, until we see comprehension shine from her eyes. At which point she will respond in broken Thai-glish and the roles reverse, now its our turn to guess. We learn a surprising amount about each other this way: our past, our studies, our families, the differences between our worlds, our dreams. Kita is keen to learn and quizzes us on everything. Her memory for new words is incredible and it is not long before vast improvements can be seen in her English. Kita never tires. Throughout the day she points at many things: table, bathroom, window, pillow, spider; repeating the word in English and then in Thai until my little notebook is filled with new sounds that slowly start to imprint themselves in my mind. I must admit that I do feel a little sad that this intense Thai language course did not take place earlier on in our trip. While the tonal part of the language is almost as impossible to grasp as our early morning starts, I soon come to realise that the grammar is more-or-less doable. Unlike the languages I am used to learning, where verb conjugations play a crucial role in making yourself understood, Thai is all about pronunciation and vocabulary. The most repeated phrase I hear besides ‘Mai cow Jai’ (I don’t understand) is ‘Gen Kaow’, literally translating as ‘eat rice’. Kita yells this out before meal times and seeing as it is pretty much rice three times a day, it is quick to stick in our minds. The most useful phrase I learn is pronounced ‘Chan eem’ meaning : I am full. Without this they would never stop feeding me rice.
As always, my mind drifts from rice to bread, and from bread to cheese: Goats cheese, Feta cheese, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Raclette, Cancoillotte, Roquefort. Applewood Smoked Cheddar… mmmm. I miss cheese. A sudden whoop delivers me from my daydream and I look up just in time to catch baby Bang taking a wobbly step towards Kita before losing his balance. He lands on the ground with a gentle bump, Kita and Pap cheer wildly and Bang giggles back in that adorable way only babies know how. I wonder how many parents out there miss their babies first steps, forced to leave them each morning with a childminder. There is a beautiful freedom to the life of the children on this farm. The baby, who at ten months would be hawked over in the West, is given plenty of space to crawl around, discover and learn with almost no suffocating attention. Even more importantly, for me anyway, is that Kita and Pap do not have to miss Bang’s milestones, they do not have to choose between work and family, they can make a living surrounded by their loved ones. Something you can only really achieve in the West if you manage to find a job that allows you to work from home or start your own business. I had never considered this option before but my mind opens to new possibilities as I can clearly see the benefits Kita has from watching all of her creations grow before her eyes.
I admire so much about this young woman. Her ability to gracefully carry family and business together as one, her willingness to always learn more, her ambition, her determination and constant positive attitude. I love her tom-boy style: big t-shirts and short hair, her sassy attitude, independence and warm aura. I love that despite the financial challenges she faces, her dream of an Organic Mushroom business has never faded. You see, while it is undeniable that Pap plays an irreplaceable role within Sodsai farm, this business is 100 percent Kita’s baby. Where her husband brings with him the steady strength of mind and body, Kita carries with her the vital heart and soul. She is the one who has toiled endlessly at university to achieve a degree in sustainable agriculture, juggling a full-time job and her studies to make ends meet. She is constantly experimenting with different ingredients for the sawdust cake, or mixing up variables that will affect the growth and success of the mushrooms. Each batch watched over with the timeless affection and when the time comes to prepare the dry produce for seasoning or packaging, it is again Kita who will take on this role. Her phone never stops ringing. She never stops moving. Even if our stay is only a short one, I am glad to ease her workload, if only by a fraction. It does seem, however, that the hard-work is starting to pay off. Finally, after six years of working hard to establish her name and reputation, the business is due to receive a loan from the bank. This financial aid will be used to buy machines that should help ease the more mundane steps of the process. “Soon, more comfortable… for family”. She gestures around the haphazard yard with its jumble of farm equipment, drying clothes, kids toys and the sawdust pile, the latter of which demands almost as much attention as her boys. Machines and money will not only bring a little ease to the pace of life here but Kita and Pap will also have time to finish their house. For now, it stands neglected: a grey, one bedroom, concrete shell overlooking the yard below. Until then, each tedious step must be completed by hand. This sounds like it could get boring, and it does (a little) but each day on Sodsai farm is as unpredictable as the last. I wake up every morning in my hot pink mosquito net (with matching mattress!) knowing that today I will be bagging sawdust, like every other day, but somehow the day manages to unfold before me, as erratically as the weather in Scotland. These everyday surprises usually begin with a visitor or two.
Friends and neighbours frequently stop by the farm, appearing openly confused by our presence, they assume we must have gotten lost on our way to Pai. Kita proudly explains the situation, but the concept of our being there to work by choice, for no pay, baffles them even more. Puzzlement mutates into excitement and before we know it we are in the back of their car. We meet grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, temples, hot springs, museums, restaurants and farms. From idyllic mountain villages to getting stuck in with the local garlic harvest. Mr Nice (that is his name!) insists on driving us to his local cock-fighting arena to have our photo taken with his prize winning fighter. A young neighbour, Sigh, invites us to take a mini adventure with her, collecting rice husks for her mum’s garden. Tree lined mountains dominate the sky as we spiral up roads surrounded by fields of lush, green soy. Perched atop the newly filled sacks of husk my hair whips against my face and the warm wind is soft like silk on my skin. Sigh told me earlier that her dream is to be able to travel freely as we do, her brother’s dream is to see the ocean. I guess those living near the ocean probably dream of one day seeing these same mountains. I even met someone last month whose dream it was to be a tour guide. And here I am, living all four in the space of one year. I think this is something worth remembering when our judgement gets clouded. Dreams are everywhere, and each day we are quite likely, unknowingly, living the greatest wishes of another soul. Whether that is moving to an ancient city seeped in history, or enjoying a steaming cup of tea by the stove, in a stone cottage surrounded by tranquil countryside. Maybe it is something as simple as the security of having a full time job, or being able to pop round to your mother’s once a week. It is fair to say that my time here has amounted to more than just solving the mystery of the night time fires and learning how to grow mushrooms.
While the forest fires still remain a mystery I have discovered something even more valuable. Human connection. Thailand is without a doubt a mesmerising country, from its man-made masterpieces to the natural beauty sculpted by mother nature over eons. The colours, the smells, the music, the sunsets, the flowers, the foods, the adventures. Thailand has more than delivered but it is through this specific local experience that I have found the emotional sentiment to tie it all together. No matter how physically beautiful a country can be, beauty is only beauty in the end. It is pleasing, alluring but it is also superficial and inadequate. Sure, you will undoubtably take some great shots and taste some exotic flavours which, as both a keen photographer and gastronomer has been absolutely enchanting, I cannot deny it, but a nation is made up of so much more than this. The bond I have with this family has personified Thailand for me. I am forever emotionally bound to them and the lessons they have taught me. When I think back on our time out here, Thailand will be far more than a mere mental image for me because now I have the added dimension of love. Not only have I seen Thailand but I have been lucky enough to feel Thailand too; which is an extraordinary feeling, but it also means a deep heart ache for the family we have to leave behind.
Thank you Kita, Pap, Sodsai and Bang! Thank you Thailand.
Next stop: Myanmar.
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