A trip to Sri Phang Nga Nationalpark

It was a long time that I hadn’t left Phuket, due to my busy life as a scuba diving instructor. But on the beginning of march, I got the chance to take five days off. First I went to Bangkok to visit some friends, but soon came back, as Bangkok always quite exhausts me and I wanted to tank some energies. So I decided to do something I planed a long time already, but never had the chance to do: Visiting the Sri Phang Nga National Park of Phang Nga Province. The park isn’t as big and famous as its neighbor khaw sok (เชาสก), but because of that, it’s also less crowded, not least a big reason for me to go into nature, is to be alone. Sri Phang Nga lies approximately 60 km north of khaw lak (เขาหลัก) and 160 km north of Phuket Town, where I live. The trip was also a great chance, to try out my new Honda CBR 500r for a longer trip. I was quite late in the afternoon, so I drove up to khaw

sarasin bridge phuket

sarasin bridge phuket

lak pretty fast. First I passed the sarasin bridge, which connects the Phuket Island with the mainland. The view from above the bridge is amazing and it’s always a great feeling to leave Phuket into the green of Phang Nga province. From khaw lak north onwards, the landscape simply blew me away. Mountains, forests and every few kilometer some houses in the midst of the green. After a long ride, I finally arrived at the national parks headquarter. There was a big

Sri Phang Nga National Park

Sri Phang Nga National Park

guy, with a hand as big as a football. He obviously was disabled and told me he got that bloating of his body since he was born. Anyway, the guy was great fun and apparently enjoyed my company. I was shown the very simple, but clean bungalows to sleep in, which even provided running water. I took a shower and went to bed early.

Sri Phang Nga National Park

Sri Phang Nga National Park

In the morning I woke up with the sunrise and after a breakfast, which I found approximately 4 km outside the park entrance (restaurant of the National Park didn’t open that early), I met my local Thai guide. The guy just recently moved to Phang Nga from the marine national park Tarutao, where he lived and worked before. He obliviously missed his wife and kids, which are living near Bangkok, but he also told me, that he can’t imagine a life outside nature, and that though he doesn’t get much money out of it, loves his job. After a short walk we discovered an amazing creature, called a mousedeer or chevrotain. It wasn’t far away, but it was hiding in the brushwood, so I didn’t get a good picture. We continued our walk for about 2 hours, till we reached a waterfall. Some Thai kids with their parents were playing in the water. The waterfall was amazing beautiful and the water clear and full of fish.

Sri Phang Nga Waterfall          Sri Phang Nga Thai Guide

I didn’t miss the chance, put of my shirt and trousers and jumped in. The water was nice and cool and the pool about 2 meters deep at its deepest point. After the refreshment it was already time to leave Sri Phang Nga and driving back to Phuket.

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Kaaw Tom – Thai breakfast for a healthy stomach

kaaw tomThai people love to eat boiled rice in the morning. There are many restaurants, which just open mornings to offer those foods. There are two varieties of boiled rice. There is the usual kaaw tom (ข้าวต้ม), which is just rice boiled a few minutes, and there is the jock (โจ๊ก) which is rice boiled for a much longer time, which results in a thicker rice porridge. Both are served with meat balls and slices of meat, liver and sometimes other intestines like stomachs and bowels. Pork, Chicken, beef or seafood can be chosen for those two dishes. Additional there are different herbs on top of the boiled rice and ginger slices. And of course, the four optional ingredients, which are used for noodle dishes too, namely dried chilli, sugar, chilli in vinegar and soy sauce, can be added too. Those dishes are especially appropriate after gastrointestinal diseases like stomach flues, as there are not spicy (as long as one doesn’t add too much chili), very stomach-friendly and the ginger is also supporting for abdominal functions.

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Phat Si Ew – Soy sauce noodles

phat see ewAnother dish I enjoyed recently, is called phat si ew (ผัดซีอิ๊ว), which literally means fried soy sauce. As the name already says, it is made of a soy sauce called si ew, Chinese broccoli, garlic, wide rice noodles (sen yai), eggs and thin slices of pork, beef, chicken or seafood. Like rat na, this dish is very stomach-friendly and at the same time provides a high nutrient value.

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Khao Lam – Thai/Khmer dessert

Thai foodThis dish, I discovered during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The dish is called khao lam (ข้าวหลาม) and is made of sticky rice, red beans, coconut as well as coconut cream, sugar, eggs and red beans. The whole thing is then roasted in a specially-prepared bamboo tube. They either use white or dark purple rice. This dish is also known in Cambodia where it is called kralan and mainly served at the Khmer as well as at the Chinese new year. This dish is extremely filling, so make sure you don’t eat before going to a good restaurant or enjoying another dish.

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Vegetarian festival of Phuket

One of the main cultural events in Phuket is the annual vegetarian festival or tesagan gin je. The festival takes places all over the island, but Phuket town is the heart of it, as there phuket vegetarian festivalare the most important shrines and temples of the island. During this festivals, the nine emperor gods are worshiped an invited to come down from heaven and take possession of mediums. As I live close to one of the main shrines, the Jui Tui shrine, I of course had to see the ceremonies myself. Jui Tui shrine is located near Phuket’s main market at Ranong road. The main deity of the temple is called tean hu huan soy, a Chinese god associated with performing artists and dancers. The origins of the festival is based on an event which took place about phuket vegetarian festival150 years ago. The mainly Chinese community of Phuket invited a troupe of Chinese opera entertainers. Many of the artists fell suddenly ill. To cure themselves, they then abstained from meat and alcohol and prayed to the Nine Emperor Gods. The locals were so impressed by their recovery, that they decided to venerate the Nine Emperor Gods (and whatever other gods too of course) and abstain from sex, alcohol and meat during 9 days every year to ensure good health for themselves.

The event begins with the rising of the poles. At around 5 pm on the first day the poles are pole raisingerected at the different worship places. Those pole are believed to be gateways between earth and heaven, and it is there, where the gods are believed to descent to earth and take possession of certain people during the festivals. The Jui Tui shrine was very crowded at 5 pm and the air was thick from the firecrackers and the incense sticks. There was a wired tenseness inside the temple complex, like people were waiting for something. It was too crowded to go outside, where the pole was raised, so I stayed inside the building and witnessed the people around mediumme. Suddenly I heard some people screaming and making strange moves. Right in front of me, a woman began to waggle her head and then her whole body was shaking. When she started to behave strangely, people put her in a red coat to mark her as a mah song or a person, which is possessed by a spirit. The mah song practice during the vegetarian festivals, is actually not a Chinese tradition itself, but originally Thai. As the Chinese settled in Thailand, they of course adopted many Thai cultural values and practices. The adaption of Thai culture went so far, that today most Phuketians aren’t able to speak Chinese anymore and often have to sent their kids to Chinese schools to learn the language again. The mah song are important elements in Thai popular folk Buddhism, and are consulted for advice by people from every class of society. incarnated manThe process of becoming a mah song is usually rather difficult and the future mediums are often sick a long time, before they become a medium. But at this festivals, it seems that ordinary people can become such mah song. Those shaking mediums, which sometimes made noises like animals are believed to be incarnated by the invited Chinese gods. Thus they are venerated and people go on their knees and pray to them. I wondered how much this possession thing had to do with the wish of certain people to become the center of attention and if this transformations really happened uncontrolled. At least the mediums looked very authentic Phuket Vegetarian festivaland their behavior changed dramatically. Finally I made it out of the building into the entry area. I observed three men dressed in specific dresses started to shake and jump around in front of the poles. Then they started to light up incense sticks and then draw the sticks through hitting them on their body. Another guy got attention in that he hit himself with a whip till he was bleeding. After about an hour or so, the crowds dispersed and gave place to smaller groups of worshipers. Some hours later, the crowds regathered at the shrine, as the gods are believed to descent at the poles late at night, but as it was raining heavy, I preferred staying at home and skip this event. On the next day wasn’t much going on, but we decided to stroll a bit around and try some of the vegetarian foods at the little street market in front of the Jui Tui temple. There were hundreds of small street stalls and restaurants and a huge variety of vegetarian (some shops offered meat too though) foods.

street stalls phuketstreet stalls phuket

street stalls phuket          street stalls phuket

Also my girlfriend decided to make some offerings to the female Bodhisattva called Guanyin. To venerate a certain god or goddess  Thai people usually buy incense sticks, candles, flowers or oil for lamps as well as more specific offerings, depending on the likes of the god or spirit (could be toys, black sweets, fruits, eggs an many other things). In the Jui Tui temple they offered some colorful ships, which they burned in a fire to pay respect to a certain god. At a small room at the entrance of the temple, they periodically set fire to very noisy firecrackers.

making merit          making merit Phuket

making merit Phuket          making merit Phuket

caravanThere were processions every morning, everyday from different shrines and temples. As it was raining on the first and second big procession days (the 7th and 8th), I skipped those events and got some more sleep instead. On the 9th however, the sun was shining, perfect conditions to visit a procession. I drove up to Ban Tha Rua in Thalang from where the procession started. On the way up, I discovered shrines with fruits, candles, flowers and small cups of water (or whatever was inside there). The shrines were set up on both sides of the street, about every 50 – 100 meter. People were waiting for the mah song of the mah songprocession to walk by, so they could pray to them and offer foods. Before I arrived at the shrine, I saw the first caravans. They played loud music from several cars and fired plenty of very loud firecrackers. The firecrackers have the purpose to keep evil spirits away from the caravan. Almost every caravan was accompanied by a mah song. The mediums pierced thin poles, as well as other objects up to the seize of baseball clubs,  through their cheeks mah songor ears. There was astonishingly little blood though. Also some mah song with more severe damages, had some blood dropping from their mouths. Those ones were always accompanied by worshipers and friends who cleaned their bloody chins with tissues. The self-torture is believed to clean the society of their sins, in that the medium shifts bad karma from individuals onto themselves. The mediums stopped at the shrines and the worshipers went on their knees and started to pray to them and offer them foods. The mah song blessed them, sprayed holy water over their heads and distributed sweets, fruits and other goods to the worshipers in return.

 mah song         mah song Phuket

mah song Phuket          mah song Phuket

mah song Phuket          mah song Phuket

mah song Phuket          mah song

On the 10th, I visited the morning procession again, this time the processions started at the Bang Neow and Cheng Thalay shrines. Everything I wrote above, was also true for this procession, except that it was bigger, much noisier and the self-torture more severe. But let’s the pictures tell the story.

phuket vegetarian festival          phuket vegetarian festival

phuket vegetarian festival          phuket vegetarian festival

phuket vegetarian festival          phuket vegetarian festival g phuket vegetarian festival h          phuket vegetarian festival i phuket vegetarian festival j          phuket vegetarian festival k phuket vegetarian festival l          phuket vegetarian festival m phuket vegetarian festival n          phuket vegetarian festival

phuket vegetarian festival          phuket vegetarian festival

 fire walkingIn the evening of the same day, there was a fire-walking event at Saphan Hin, Phuket’s recreational park at the east coast. It was pretty crowded and I was quite far away for my 30 mm camera, thus the pictures are a bit low quality (had to use digital zoom). Before the fire-walking started, some mah song danced around the fire, hold their black flags before there heads and wrote magical spells with their fingers on the flag. During the whole event, there was music played from traditional Thai instruments, as well as the noise of firecrackers and rockets shot into the sky. After about 1 hour waiting, the procession finally arrived. Now they run around the bed of hot coals and finally stopped to form a line before the hot coal. Some guys started to prepare the hot coal for the fire-walking. The music stopped and it became very quiet. Then the first guy run through the coal pile. Some guys walked amazingly slow, and I wondered how their feet could have stand the heat.

fire walking          fire walking

fire walking          fire walking

fire walking          fire walking 
On the following last three days was the ladder walking at several shrines, every evening. The mah song climbed a approximately 15 meter high ladder, of which the stairs were made up of sharp knives. It was very crowded and difficult for me, to get close to the ladder, so I had too take shots from about 50 meter distance.

ladder climbing          ladder climbing 2

On the last day of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival several processions from all the important shrines took place. All processions arrived around midnight at Saphan Hin Park. Allover the city were fireworks and firecrackers, it was pretty loud, the air full of smoke and the ambulance sirens could be heard everywhere. Especially when the mah song walked by, people especially became enthusiastic to light up ear-battering fireworks. We stayed first in the old town, to watch some processions walk through, and then moved to Saphan Hin before midnight. At Saphan Hin, there were shrines and candles everywhere, and people sit beside the streets and in the the grass. There were a lot of street stalls which offered plenty of meat products, and long lines in front of the shops, made of people who finally were allowed to eat meat again, as the festival was concluded at midnight. We bought some grilled chicken, fired some last firecrackers and went back home, not so unhappy to know, that on the next day, the air would be clean again. Nevertheless, the festival was a great experience of local Thai/Chinese culture, and I will look forward to next years festival.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Phuket Vegetarian Festival Phuket Vegetarian Festival          Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival          Phuket Vegetarian Festival

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Watcharin Art Studio – A genious of naturalistic art

watcharin art studio Today I visited an amazing art gallery called Watcharin Art Studio. From outside, this shop looks more like a market garden than an art studio. The entrance is emblazed with overgrowing trees and bushes. The inside of the shop is adorned with a little fish pond and various fish aquariums. This artist definitely loves nature, and that’s  also reflected in his beautiful pictures. His pictures have an organic touch, are very colorful and stimulating one’s fantasy. I was totally occupied by those masterpieces and could have stand there for hours. But my little watcharin portraitcontemplation was cut by the appearance of Mr. Watcharin, who appeared from his working area in a backroom. He welcomed me and allowed me to take as watcharin 11many pictures as I wanted. He showed me around and elaborated on his work. He also told me a bit about his life and his struggles to make a living out of painting. His picture’s style is called naturalistic, but in fact this guy developed an own distinct style of painting. Watcharin grew up on a farm in the southern province of Surat Thani, and spend hours in the nearby forests, from which he draw his inspirations. Later he studied art at the famous Thai Italian university Silpakorn in Bangkok. Watcharin gives regular courses in art at the Bang Pae waterfall located in the Khao Phra Thaeo national park of Phuket. He teaches his students to use their fantasy and be inspired by nature and their emotions, rather by what they see with their eyes. For further information, feel free to contact Watcharin personally per phone: +66883861449, or via his website (alternatively leave me a message, so I can guide you to his place). Let him know, that “phum” gave you his number.

watcharin      watcharin     watcharin

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The Cook – Thai Italian Cuisine

The cookOne of my favorite restaurants in Phuket Town is called the Cook. It is one of the rare Thai restaurants which offers both, delicious western and Thai food. There are plenty of Thai restaurants offering western dishes actually, but their western food just doesn’t taste as it should. As I had quite bad experiences with Thai restaurants offering western dishes, I first went there with suspicion and didn’t expect to eat there specially good food. But I was proven wrong this time. This Thai gentleman cooks indeed amazing Italian and Thai food. The pizzas are thin and crunchy, real Italian style pizzas, not like those thick overloaded and unsalted pizzas from American restaurants like Pizza Hut. Don’t get it wrong, I like Pizza Hut, but I just really appreciate good quality authentic Italian food. Despite the really good Italian food,  this restaurant doesn’t even pretend to be real Italian. Instead they offer  interesting mixtures of Thai and Italian dishes, like pork basil pizza (see picture on the right), green curry The cook 4pizza or even durian pizza. Another interesting creation is the tom yam gung rice (picture right, for the original Thai dish see my post about the Tom Yam Gai). Beside the permanent dishes offered in the menu, they always have some new creations written on a black board. Last time I tried the new Banana Coco Ice Drink, which was with 120 baht on the more expensive site, but blew me away, as it just tasted fantastic. At the end of every meal, there are served free watermelons, baby bananas and langsat. The restaurant is located at Phang Na Road, just down from the Sinthavee hotel. The cook and owner of the restaurant is The cook 2called Bultham Bulrid (pronounced buntham bunrid, as a Thai “l” is always pronounced as an “n” after a syllable).  This guy opened the restaurant about 8 years ago and worked before in the famous Le Meridien hotel located at the Karon area of Phuket, as well as an Italian restaurant owned by his brother. After several tries as a Pizza Bakery Owner, he finally settled down successfully at the current location at Phang Na. As he was sitting at a table for a break last time we visited, I had the chance to take a picture with him.

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Central Phuket – Modern Thai Shopping Mall

My category “local markets” wouldn’t be complete without including one of Thailand’s modern shopping malls. Thais love them, as they are cooled down with aircons and offer DSC00864everything, including lots of Thai and international foods, clothes, jewelery, supermarkets, IT and electronic centers, bookstores, watches, massage and beauty parlors and even car and motorbike exhibitions. As a hallmark of Thai Malls, there also is always a movie theatre at the top floor of the shopping complex. Often, but not always, there is a bowling center on the same floor too.
In Phuket, there are two main malls. One shopping complex is called Central Festival and another Jungceylon. The former is at the outskirts of Phuket Town, the latter in the tourist DSC00866magnet Patong. As I live in Phuket Town, I know the former far more better than the latter. Central has four floors and also some outdoor restaurants with daily live music. Additionally there often hold small exhibitions, Thai dance performances and specific theme markets (a herbs and traditinal medicine market last time I saw it). One of my favorite stores there is the DJ or Diary Queen ice cream store. The ice cream is much cheaper than at the other places, but damn delicious. Another great store is B2S, a huge book store, which offers everything, DSC00868from Thai cooking books, over science fiction, language teaching books and documentaries. Watching a movie in the mall’s movie theater is not just entertaining, it’s a little bit about Thai culture too. Every movie theater in Thailand shows the royal anthem after the previews and before the main movie. The royal anthem was composed 1913 by a Thai prince called Narisaranuvadtivongs and it’s lyrics can be translated as the following: We, servants of His great Majesty, prostrate our heart and head, to pay respect to the ruler, whose merits are boundless, outstanding in the great Chakri dynasty, the greatest of Siam, with great and lasting honor. (We are) secure and peaceful because of your royal rule, the fruits of your virtues preserve, the people in happiness and in peace, may it be that whatever you will, be done, according to the hopes of your great heart, as we wish (you) victory, hurrah! During the anthem, all people stand up and stop talking. During the anthem, there are picture shown of the king’s life, emphasizing especially his work for the Thai people.

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A trip to Krabi – Southern jewel of Thailand

Way to KrabiLast weekend it was time for another trip, this time further south, namely to the province of Krabi. From Phuket, Krabi is reached within 2-3 driving hours (around 180 km). We had the luck to be invited by a woman, who grew up in Krabi, and even had the pleasure to ride on the backseat of her car. The way to the capital city of Krabi was amazingly beautiful. We drove through forests, palm tree plantations and limestone hills. On the side of the street we discovered several shops which sold fruits and other local products. We stopped at one of the basket shops. There they sold, kongbeside various baskets and fish traps (sai), a kind of a miniature fish trap, which Thai people call kong. Those kong are hanged outside shops and businesses and are supposed to bring luck in business, strictly speaking they are thought to trap money, like the bigger brothers called sai trap fishes. Those talisman aren’t specifically southern Thai and are usually found in Northeast Thailand.

sea snailsAfter checking in in our little 400 baht hotel and taking a shower we went down to an area called saphan jao faa, which lies beside a river. There we had lunch at  seafood restaurants  called raan ahaan nai dam, according to our local woman one of the most delicious one. We ordered two special meals. The first meal consisted of a kind of sea snails called hooy sag tin and a salakspicy dipping sauce called nam jim sea food. For another dish we had a raw blue crab in a spicy sauce and a kind of basil called hua rapha. After filling up our stomachs, we headed south to the beach of  Ao Nang. On the way to Ao Nang we stopped at a fruit stalls and discovered another variation of the usual salak fruit, called sala indo. The taste of this fruit was similar to the normal salak fruit, way less bitter than the wild salak variation, which I discovered at Kaw Sok (see the post about my trip to Kaw Sok National Park for more information), but slightly more bitter than the common salak fruit.

Finally we arrived at Ao Nang and could enjoy the sea. But as it was cloudy and the water dirty from storms and rains, we didn’t want to jump into the water. Instead we walked along the windy beach, caught some small crabs for fun and discovered various kinds of sea and snail shells, including the snails hooy sag tin, which we had for lunch before. Far away we could even discover the two Phi Phi islands, which also can be seen from the other side, 200 km away in Phuket.

Ao Nang krabi          Ao Nang beach crap

Ao Nang Krabi sea shell          Ao Nang Krabi

After about an hour we left again, and this time we went to the house of our local woman’s mother family. As soon as we arrived, her relatives started to offer us their homegrown durian baanfruits, especially their delicious smelly durian variety called thurian baan (picture left). This sort of durian we already discovered on my trip to Kaw Sok National Park,but this time we got them for free. We were also offered the jampata fruit, another smelly fruit native to Southeast Asia. After eating plenty of the high calorie food, we were ready for a little visit to their forest. The first relative we found in the forest, was a cousin of our friend, high above ground in the middle of tree crown, collecting langsat fruits (see picture below on the left).

Krabi langsatDeeper inside the forest we discovered a house, where we found another relative with her children. They immediately began to offer us some of their langsat fruits, an offer we couldn’t dismiss. They were sitting outside the small hut on a platform. Under the platform was a small fire burning, whose smoke had the purpose to keep mosquito away. Most rural Thai households have such little huts near their work places. The rice farmers (chao kaaw) built them near their rice fields, the forest farmers (chao paa) inside their forests. Thai people call those huts grat thom, a word derived from the ancient Khmer empire. Those houses aren’t for a living, they are just temporary resting places, where people can eat, rest and sometimes sleep without having to go back to their main houses.

tree house krabi          langsat

With even fuller stomachs, we made our way back home to our small 400 baht hotel. After a shower, we were ready for Krabi’s popular night market. This night market was very night market Krabitouristic, nevertheless we could discover some interesting stuff there. Amongst other things, we saw some Thai kids playing traditional Thai instruments. The first ancient instrument at the bottom of the picture with the playing kids is called kim (use the Thai word ขิม to find some great music videos on YouTube with that instrument). The European counter part to the Thai kim is the cimbalom. In fact this instrument wasn’t introduced into Cambodia night market Krabi musicand Thailand from Europe, but from China. In China this instrument is called yangqin. The Southeast Asian version has 14 groups of strings, and every group consist of three strings (thus 42 strings in total). The instrument is played with thin, flexible bamboo sticks with soft leather at the tips to produce the unique soft sound of the Southeast Asian cimbalom/yangqin. The second instrument is called ranat ek and was probably invented by Southeast Asian people themselves. It is likely that the Thais copied the instrument from the Cambodian lukchubxylophone called roneat ek, as so many other things, which were introduced to Thailand during the Khmer empire (like Thai dance, building style of temples etc.). The instrument consists of 22 wooden bars, usually made of rosewood (Thai: mai ching chan), and sometimes made of bamboo (Thai writing ระนาด for YouTube search). We also found the ancient royal dessert called luk chup. The sweets are made from mung beans and a gelatine coating, as well as various natural colorings and resemble various fruits and vegetables in miniature.

On the next day, it was time to go back. But before we went back to Phuket, we headed chao mae guan imto a forest temple called wat tham sua, which can be translated as “the temple of the tiger cave”. At this temple we found not only Buddha images, we also discovered a shrine with the Hindu god Brahma (Thai: phra phrom), which is the god of creation and another shrine with the Chinese goddess Guanyin, a female Bodhisattva, which is worshiped allover the country, despite it’s Mahayana origin (Thai’s are proudly Theravada Buddhist, in contrast to the Mahayana Buddhist of China, Japan and other parts of East Asia), and also the elephant headed Indian god called Ganesha. Our friend and my girlfriend stopped at the Guanyin shrine, prayed and lighted joss sticks to pay respect to the lady god. Our friend knew the abbot of the temple since her childhood, and we were warmly welcomed by this monk. The abbot invited us into the monks area and brought us a little box full of amulets, from which we should choose one. According to the abbot, those amulets were very valuable and old ones, but he insisted, that we took them for free, as we were his friends. In Thailand there is a big amulet market, which is very lucrative. Amulets can cost several thousand dollars. But in Thai culture people never use the word “buy” for those spiritual protectors. Instead people use the word chao, which simply means “to rent”. The amulet is rented for a certain time (can be a life long) and then given away to somebody else. Amulets are wooden, stony or metal icons of the Buddha or a famous monk. Thai people simply call Amulets tiger cave templethem phra, the word for a Buddhist monk, or phra kruang. Religious places and objects are believed to be loaded with magical power, which Thai people call sak sit. Through rituals and worship, such objects and places can be loaded with sak sit. The power of an amulet derives from what it represents, as well as from the magical powers of the producer and succeeding owners of the amulet. Through misconduct, the magical power can be used up. Such misconduct can be sexual acts without removing the amulet from one’s body, contact with female underwear, or passing the amulet under hanging clothes. Also the amulet should always be kept high (not in the trouser pockets for instance). If such misconduct happens, it’s possible to go to a spirit doctor, Brahman or Buddhist monk to conduct a ritual and restore the amulets power again. Beside the Buddha and monk images, there were little transparent glass tubes with tiger hair inside. Those tiger hairs are also believed to possess magical powers. Such tubes are called ta grud and they can contain various magical objects, such as pieces of robes of famous monks or even the Buddha or ancient magical spells, written on some small papers (usually in Khmer or the old Pali language). After this excursion into popular folk Buddhism,  I wanted to see the caves. As the others were too tried, I had to go alone Tiger cave temple krabiup the hill and into the forest. On the way to the caves I discovered three gibbons up in the trees, which stared at me with their big eyes. Unfortunately I don’t have a good zoom lens yet, and didn’t manage to get a good picture of them. Arriving at the caves, there were several monk huts, called kuti, partly built into the rocks. Inside the caves were some Buddha images and meditation mats. There were several hidden small caves, which could only be reached through crawling through the small corridors. I had not much time, as my friend and girlfriend were waiting down at the temple. So finally it was time to go back and we jump into the car again to drive back home to Phuket.

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Salak – The acid palm fruit

Today it was time for another bunch of salak fruits. This fruit is grown on a little palm tree, which grows only up to 6 meters. Its scientific name is salacca zalacca, but the fruit is common known as snakefruit. Thai’s simply call it sala. The fruit is packed in a snake like scaly skin with tiny thorns which can be quite painful if stinging into your skin. Despite the difficult to peel the skin of this little fruit, it is worth non the less. The fruits taste delicious, thai salaka mixture between acidity and sweetness. The little palm tree of the salak is native to the Malaysian peninsula (to which southern Thailand belongs) and Indonesia. There are two main varieties of this fruit here in Thailand. One is rounder, the other more elliptical. The first Thai people call sala indo and in English this sala variety is usually called salak Bali. The other one is simply called sala and seems to be the more common one here in Thailand. Like the mangosteen and durian, this fruit can only be harvested in the rainy months of May, June and July. The fruits flesh is high in beta-carotene (good for the eyes), vitamin C and plenty of tannins. Due to its high fiber content, it is also useful to eat salak if suffering from diarrhea. The fruit is also believed to increase stamina and neurological functions.

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