Going on a Beano
I staggered out of the bedroom and went looking for the miscreant. OK that's not a nice name for the missus but I meant the giant forest bee. Although I was looking for Waan as well to ask her what the noise was. In the kitchen was a bunch of women eating, mainly because that is the national past-time for Thai women, but also because they were finishing off the slumberless sleepover with breakfast. I got the usual unsolicited, and to be honest, unwelcome at six thirty, smiles and chants of "Gafare lon mai". I don't know why they ask, I'm a farang, I awake grumpy, of course I want ruddy coffee hot. Didn't stop me joining them on the floor for some breakfast though.
I asked where is Waan, which always brings looks of consternation because that is not her name (long story), but she was out the front with her mum when I rephrased it. And up the street was whited out with smoke. Whoever the idiot was with this moped they sure had a major problem with the two stroke oil. By the sound of the misfiring two stroke was all they had put in the petrol tank. The smoke billowed up over the house roofs and around the walls and I asked, "What is he doing?"
"I doh noh", she replied.
Sometimes you wonder why you bother to ask and often that is exactly what happens and is why farang get their information come knowledge all wrong. There is an endless stream of poppycock that you can find reference to all over this website. Actually it is why I started writing it, to try and dispell some of the myths, but I'm not winning. You can't win when you're up against Thai Visa who get a thousand visitors every day or Stickman who gets twice as many as anachak. Don't get me wrong, I'm not resigned to losing because it isn't really that important, but I do wish the ex-pats would keep their expert opinion to themselves. 'Perpetuation', that's the word I'm looking for. Hence the farang walking ahead of the smoke cloud told me it is 'from the Government' and 'they are killing the mozzies'.
I asked Waan if that was right and would have been a welcome explanation seeing as I get chewed to bits every time I come to Thailand. The mosquitoes do not even have any respect for any kind of repellant. They sneak around silently, no buzzing or anything, they land on you without you feeling any sensation, and their proboscis is so thin that you do not feel it puncture the epidermis. They dribble an acidic saliva into the skin which immediately melts the flesh which the mosquito can suck up. This takes one or two seconds and you do not feel the itching until long after. The bite doesn't hurt, the resulting wound doesn't even bleed, and when the mozzie has left there is no pain. That leaves you wondering why mozzie bites are so painful.
The reason for the delay in itching is because your body's natural immune system goes to work repairing the damage and driving out the poison. That causes an itching sensation, and when you scratch you release the Histamine which spreads across the unaffected area, which then swells and becomes sore. When you scratch you exacerbate the itch so once you start you will keep on until there is an open sore that becomes infected. So, the advice is, leave it alone. Or get some linament to put on it to reduce the itching. Use the local mosquito repellant, cover your feet, and do not use strong smelling shower gel or perfume because all insects like smells whether they are nice smells or not. That leaves you in a quandary as to which is worse, smelling of soap, or smelling of sweat. Believe me despite some information on the web about how to avoid getting bitten it doesn't matter which you smell of. Mosquitoes do not pollinate but they do attack creatures that are attracted to flora and they lay their eggs and breed on the surface of stagnant water, especially if it is polluted, so any kind of aroma is attractive to them.
I asked the guy doing the dusting what it was all about. Usually with my rediculous English accent the Thai find it rather difficult to understand me and have to listen intently. I suspect because of this guys job he had the hearing of a dentist and shouted 'Khai Saa'. Back to the missus of course to ask what that meant as well. Dengue is carried by mosquitoes and is a painful fever to get and is on the increase across southern asian countries. I wouldn't call it prolific and you're unlikely to contract it on your holiday but it does, in extreme cases, kill.
Of course you do get the occassional farang who has had it, got it, or died from it even though it only kills from persistent, long term, repetition. In other words it kills rural Thais. The most famous death was that of Bollywood star Yash Chopra who got it for the fourth time (but that was only the ones he knew about) and died at the premature age of 80. Let me try and put this in perspective. One in six 'tropical tourists' return home with Dengue Fever. Of those one in 52,000 die and not one of those was a 'natural' British citizen. A Greek died from it a little while ago but other than that all the tourist deaths were Indians returning from India or Central Americans, mainly Puerto Ricans. Meanwhile nobody has been on holiday to Thailand and died from Dengue. In fact, no ex-pat has died from it while living in Thailand either. But it is painful and requires hospital treatment so do not ignore it. And this guys job is to try and fumigate it. Not sure the sister-in-law fully appreciated the meaning of fumigation as she chased after him yelling at the poor chap to blast the chicken shed inside and out. She knows damn well Waan's teenage son has taken to sleeping in there and was likely flat out after a hard nights indulgence in something his mum would prefer he didn't. Anne I'm sure would see it purely as opportunism not vindictiveness. I'm not convinced.
It was time to go and shower and to my amazement in the washroom slithering around in the quarter inch of water was a ruddy fish. And not a small ruddy fish either. My missus calls me Victor Meldrew and I could hear myself up two octaves shouting 'What in the name of all that's holy'. I mean, given all possible consideration, where could the ruddy thing have come from? The nearest fish pond is 200 metres away. It would have to have leapt out of the shallow water, climbed the grass bank, wandered through a copse, crossed the road, gone round to the back garden and up the waste hose and then up and out the top of the washing machine. Or perhaps it just fancied a shower, I don't know. I could only guess some twat thought it might keep fresh for longer in the bathroom.
But it gave me an idea for a hobby. I needed one, I was bored senseless, but after fetching my camera to capture the evidence I decided I'd photograph Thailand insects. The buggers are big enough even I could manage to photograph them reasonably well. I soon discovered I can't but that wasn't going to deter me. Of course I then had the problem of trying to put names to them. Of all the things I have had a go at studying, entomology ain't one of 'em, and if you've no idea what something is you can't find its' name by searching photos on Google - and pay your taxes as well you selfish bastards!
I already had two photos, a garden snail captured in a Bangkok hotel hanging garden, and a millipede in Ayutthaya. The problem is scale, in a photo you just don't get the remarkable size of them. This snail is crawling over a piece of four by four (10.5cm if you've been metricated), it's huge. And the kerbstone beside this millipede is six inches high (15cm). These monsters don't bite or sting but they have pincers on the head that can take a chunk out of your fingertip.
It wasn't long before I got my first insect for my new hobby. Came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel and on the mosquito net over our bed was a grasshopper. Best of all, this shot isn't on macro, it really is three inches long and not edible. It isn't poisonous and one of the few insects that is defenseless but Waan says it tastes 'no good'. I was now on a roll and as a result spent four hours trying to capture an illusive butterfly. The village kids quickly latched onto what I was trying to do and decided to help. Though I'm not sure if they were trying to help me or the butterfly which they kept scaring off.
As a result I had to snap this Atlas Butterfly, although I think it is actually a moth, when it took a breather on the concrete wall of the house and that gives it nothing to compare against but at a guess I'd say it has an eight or nine inch wingspan. Then just five minutes later during what was probably the only time the sun came out I captured a six inch dragonfly on the bamboo washing line, yep that really is half inch diameter bamboo, and that was quickly followed by our usual tenants the Weaver Ants. These little blighters give you a rash but I am reliably informed that is because they are antiseptic and even excrete an analgesic. If you get bitten by these tiny blighters it doesn't hurt unless you look at the spots. Stings even more if you rub the little red lumps that come up. These things do not even intentionally hurt you and what they secrete is meant for keeping the hive sterile, and potential invaders out, but if you are in their way they let you know it.
The only problem with insects that are this big is they are intimidating. Honestly, a spider in England is going to get some delicate handling and placed carefully in the garden but a Blue Scorpion even with a missing stinger can give you a nasty nip and he knows it hence just after lunch this one was doing the 'Come on then if yer 'ard enough' stance that was made all the funnier because in the background I could hear My Chemical Romance playing Teenagers singing the line "So darken your clothes or strike a violent pose, Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me". I still chose not to provoke this mean machine any further despite his size, hence it is a bit out of focus.
A walk up to the bro-in-laws house discovered a Tokeh upside down on the ceiling but luckily I had my trusty camera with me. I was a man possessed in my quest to record every insect and pest in the village not realising this would run into the tens of thousands and I caused chaos on the road down to the town when I slammed on the pick up truck brakes to photograph a Black Krait. Unfortunately I ran straight over the bastard much to the delight of my missus. On berating her for her lack of compassion she replied "It not a dog". Go on, argue with that! Whilst this snake has a lethal venom it looked rather sad with a flattened trench right through the middle of it complete with tyre tread so I gave it a miss with the camera. Both Kraits and Mambas lurk in the shallows of rice paddies and when the food supply, usually water rats and other Kraits, runs out they wind across the roads into the next field. Often children are playing in these fields and paddies and when they tread on one they get their ankles bit. About two hundred a year die from snake bites in Thailand and several thousand are seriously injured usually having to have limbs etc amputated to save their lives. The moral for tourists is - do not go into the fields unless you are told it is safe to do so.
I got what I fancied for dinner from one of the street traders in our nearby town, one of my favourites of naam, which is a battered rice cake with fried glass noodle and sping onion. It is bagged with more fried onion, fried chilli, fresh onion, and batter bits. In the Black Country we call them scratchins but its those left over bits you used to get from the chippy that aren't worth having any more because they don't use beef fat. How many times do I have to hear the phrase 'Change the face of Britain' when what it really means is Bangladeshi's have ruined the face of chip shops. I have grown to much prefer fast food in Thailand with naam served up with side salad and fresh lime. When you go to Thailand, try it, it is truly delicious. We bought some deep fried bananas to go with it. I think these are an acquired taste. I like them but only when I'm in the mood for them. They very quickly become sickly I think.
So we took this delumptious food back to Mae's house and I headed for my favourite chair to find an enormous bright green preying mantis rocking backward and forward one step at a time on the chair back. They are harmless and surprisingly tame in company and his eyes followed the camera around in fascination as I tried to get the best angle in the dusk. Thier only defense is to make like a leaf in a bush. Which is probably why boys love them as pets.
So having finally got to rest with my supper of naam and my trusty soldier at my side to guard off any potential marauder the pair of us tucked in and thoroughly enjoyed our snap until the sister-in-law came running in all excited with a Rhinocerous Beetle on a stick for me. Amazing how the word gets round in an Issan village but insects and supper aren't really a match. These beetles are harmless but they have a hell of a bite so don't try to pick one up head on.
I dropped a message to my mate in Bangkok just to say I'd pop down and see him soon but he called me back with a suggestion we have a bit of a lads night out. What from down south they call a Beano. I felt obliged to stay with Waan but Bleak said I had done my family duty and deserve a well earned break. I asked Waan how she would feel about my having a couple of days in Bangers and got the usual 'Up to you'. That's what they always say which makes it very difficult to know how they really feel but Waan has been Anglicised enough to tell me when she's not happy about something so I decided I would go - the next morning.
Photographing the naam cakes gave me an idea. I was already bored with insects and really I did get all those in one day. There would have been a lot more but it was too hot and rainy to go hunting and besides which, Waan hates it when I rummage in the garden let alone woodland and farm fields. She's a woman after all, she doesn't like snakes, creepy crawlies, molluscs, spiders, nor anything that might bite so she considered my hobby a little wierd.
Now I would move on to photographing my favourite village foods.