Posts/September, 2008/

From my Thailand Apartment

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Believe it or not, Nik and I aren’t always on the go.  Many of our days over the past two months have been spent in our Chiang Mai apartment researching, reading, writing, drawing, eating, cleaning and playing.  At a minimum, we start every day around 9:30am with the breakfast of champions: bananas, sometimes mangoes, coconut yogurt and muesli in the bowl, and hot coffee with Non-fat milk in the cup.  This meal is our one constant western indulgence, and it is the ideal way to start the day.  Our mornings are usually pretty quiet, and the only distractions are the ones that fly through the sky, bark or ring a bell.

In Chiang Mai, the commercial airport is very close to town so no matter where you are, you can see and hear the planes.  Luckily, our window looks out towards the primary flight path, and being the 5 year old that I am, every time I hear a plane I run to the window!  Nik used to laugh at me because I wouldn’t realize the planes were passing until they were almost gone, and then I would get mad that I missed them.  I think my reaction time has gotten better though because I started taking photos.

Sometimes they fly low and look like they might hit the apartment building across the street, and sometimes they fly high and the clouds are so low that we don’t see them at all.  Most of them are basic commercial planes, but occasionally we will see smaller prop-planes.  And on clear mornings, we see fighter jets taking off from the air force base.  These guys typically fly in pairs, but once we saw 5 take off within 5 minutes.  Pretty nice!!

The other distractions occur at street level.  In the mornings, there is this lady that walks to work with her two dogs.  This sounds normal enough, but only the lady walks. The dogs ride in this little push cart, and make a raucous barking at all of the neighborhood dogs.  I don’t know how the woman can stand it every single day!!!  Recently I have noticed her walking home as well, but on the way home, the dogs don’t bark.  Strange.

Then there is the ice cream cart!!!  Around 11:30 every morning, we start hearing the bells of the ice cream cart.  I think there are two or three local guys that work in our neighborhood, or perhaps it is just one super busy one!  He used to walk in front of our apartment building, but about a month ago, he changed his route so that now he turns the corner.  I was super bummed when this started happening because I liked looking down at his rainbow umbrella!  (Sorry for all the exclamation points, but ice cream makes me happy!!)

Also, the window next to our desk looks west over the vacant lot across the street towards the mountains.  I often find myself staring out this window daydreaming while I watch the clouds.  We have seen a few great sunsets, and it is always fun to watch the storms role in.

Our first apartment together has been wonderful.  I will miss it, but at least I get to take Nik with me!

Nik’s Blog: Our Chiang Mai Apartment near Wat Jet Yot

Bird Watching in Chiang Mai

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Bird Watching at Mae Hia Agricultural College

Bird Watching at Mae Hia Agricultural College: Asian Koel**, Red Wattled Lapwing**, Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo*, Spotted Dove**, Green Bee Eater*, House Sparrow*

I can officially call myself a novice ornithologist!!  This morning a good friend, Marisa, took me with her on a birding expedition just a few kilometers from our apartment.  She had scoped out the location, Mae Hia Agricultural College in Chiang Mai, a few days ago, and thought it would be perfect for a novice, such as myself.  We left our apartment at 6:30am (I know…way too early!) and it took about 15 minutes to drive down the Canal Road to the campus.  When we arrived, it was raining, so we sought shelter, but after 30 minutes the rain stopped and we started exploring.  The area is mostly grasslands at the base of Doi Suthep with a few ponds.  There is also a large forested area near by, but we didn’t make it that far.

As my first experience, it was highly successful!  We probably saw at least 10 different species in 2 hours, 6 of which I remember, and have shown above.  I also saw a rooster, which Marisa thinks could have been the undomesticated Red Junglefowl, and another large bird that could have been a pheasant of some sort.  This trip was very encouraging and now I want to purchase better binoculars and wake up every morning at 6:30!!!

Nik and I see the Common Myna nearly every day outside our window.  The markings are beautiful!! *

Nik and I see the Common Myna nearly every day outside our window. The markings are beautiful!! *

By the way, birding is huge here in Thailand.  There are over 900 native species in this country, which is about the same number as all of the United States and Canada combined.  Some other locations in Northern Thailand for bird watching are Doi Inthanon National Park (wish I would have known this last week!), Doi Chiang Dao National Park, Doi Ang Kang, Doi Lang, Chiang Saen, and Doi Phu Kha National Park.  Marisa has also taken some early morning trips up to Doi Suthep and has seen the stunning Grey-Chinned Minivet.  I think I’ll try that next!

Here are some great resources in case you’re more interested:

Mae Hia Agricultural College @

*Photos By Carl-Johan Svensson

**Photos from Wikipedia

And according to my friend, the field guide of all field guides for Thailand is the Princeton Field Guides: Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson.

In other birdwatching news, this month the Vaux Swifts will be in Portland, Oregon at the Chapman School for their annual migration.  The Chapman School is in Nik and I’s old neighborhood near NW 23rd Ave, and I recommend spending an evening on the hill with friends, take-out and a cardboard sled!  The best time to go is at sunrise or sunset each day.  For more information, visit the Audubon Society of Portland’s Swift Watch 2008 website.

Thai Sweets: Candy and Khanom Buang

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008
Assorted Jelly Candies

Assorted Jelly Candies

We tried these pyramid shaped candies for the first time at the Sunday Walking Street in June, and we haven’t been able to pass a stall without a bag full since.  I believe they are handmade, and I don’t know what they are called, so if you do, please tell me!!!  At the market, there is a huge table with 8 or 10 mounds of individually wrapped jelly candies piled by flavor.  You grab a bamboo basket, and mix and match your favorites.  Some of the flavors that we know are Durian, Black Sesame, Peanut, Coffee, Strawberry, and who knows what else!  The texture is a cross between gummy bears and sugar taffy, and they aren’t nearly as sweet as we expected.  We normally pick up 10-20 pieces for about 20baht.  You can find them at most outdoor markets in Chiang Mai, as well as in Central Huey Kaew Mall tucked away in a corner on the lowest level.

Crispy Pancakes (lkjljk)

Crispy Pancakes (Khanom Buang)

Another street favorite are these miniature crispy pancakes, or Khanom Buang.  The pancakes spread thinly on a large iron skillet with a flat wooden tool, and as they are cooking, coconut cream is smeared on top (the white sauce) and then they sprinkle shredded coconut before folding each one like a taco.  The orange coconut shreds are a little salty, and the yellow shreds are a little sweet making the perfect combo of crunchy & sweet & salty!  These were made at a street stall near the Siam Bank on Suthep Road in Chiang Mai, and were 20baht/plate.

Archives for September, 2008
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