A short post and a bit of a cheat. I promised the last post was the absolutely final one from Isaan but I was up early yesterday morning and observed a couple of things that may be of some interest so thought I would pass them on. As we were almost on our way back to Chiang Mai I think I can get away without breaking my previous commitment for no more Isaan posts – maybe.

Getting up at 6.00 am introduced me to a whole new world that I largely haven’t experienced before as I usually try to sleep through the very early morning activities, well anything before 8.00 am, as reported HERE.

Even at this early hour, by my standards anyway, the whole family was up and about. Yuan and Lud had gone to the farm, mama was waiting to make a offering to the local monks, a thing she does every morning and Gaun was plaiting Peng’s hair.

Thai schoolgirls are only allowed to have short hair, which is in real contrast to their mums most of whom will wear their hair long. If hair is more than a bob cut – is that the right hairdressing technical expression? –  it has to be plaited otherwise a visit to the barber is required. Peng prefers her hair longer and usually gets a friend to help her out in the fashion department. However with Gaun at home this task has fallen to mum and she has been up early every morning to make Peng legal!

Update 8 October 2014:

Peng’s teacher had a crack-down and Peng has lost her longer hair. No more morning braiding for Gaun once we get back there.

I think Peng has outgrown that chair.

I think Peng has outgrown that chair.

I sometimes worry I make this blog too personal with photos like the one above. I don’t want the blog to turn into a family photo album as these are images important to me but not necessarily for anyone else. However I think that on the whole where a photo illustrates a point, like the strict hair rules for schoolgirls in Thailand, then it serves a useful purpose.

A ramdom image pinched from the web to illustrate my point without the use of family.

A random image pinched from the web to illustrate my point about hair length without the photos of my family.

Passing Gaun and Peng and walking round the corner to make coffee in the kitchen I spot mama out the front and remember that she will be waiting to make an offering to the local monks. I wrote about this in my last post HERE, under the sub-heading “Loud speakers and more”, and said that I would never be up early enough to take any photos. Not so evidently!

Gaun's mama waiting for the monks to arrive.

Gaun’s mama waiting for the monks to arrive.

The monks on their way to our house is the photo at the top of this post. A video of the short ceremony of mama and the neighbour across the road handing out food and receiving a blessing can be viewed below:

The monks then walked to the next house and down the street. The food basket must get pretty heavy by the end of the walk but at least an appetite is worked up.

The monks at a the next door house. You can see another offering ready to go further down the street.

The monks at a the next door house. You can see another offering ready to go further down the street.

While waiting for the monks I caught this scene of the roaming dogs as I spoke about in my previous post.

While waiting for the monks I caught this scene of the roaming dogs as I spoke about in my previous post plus a couple of roosters who must think they are dogs.

After the monks have passed Peng replaces mama at the front. She is picked up by a local mini-bus at 7.00 am and taken to school. Gaun pays 300 THB or $10.00 a month for this service, which includes a return trip at the end of the day.

Peng replaces mama on the bench waiting for her school lift.

Peng replaces mama on the bench waiting for her school lift. Motorbike dragging a cart of something in the background.

I was surprised at how early the day started for Peng. I think because the school bus does the rounds to collect a full load it is probably a longer process than a trip straight to school would be. Just out of interest I borrowed these words from a teaching in Thailand website to give a little more background to the start of the school day:

Some of the students will arrive at school as early as 6 in morning. Most students will arrive by 7.30 School assembly starts at 8 and the students are inspected to see if they are smart enough because personal hygiene is seen as very important in Thai culture. Furthermore the national anthem of Thailand is played on TV and radio nationally and everyone must stand to attention. This can be unusual to begin with but you will get used to it.

As Buddhism is the religion of Thailand, Buddhist chanting, student vows, and students reciting the school motto will follow the national anthem.

Peng leaves for school. She gets to sit up front. The last time we will see her until October.

Peng leaves for school. She gets to sit up front. The last time we will see her until October.

We were packed and on the road for the nine hour trip back to Chiang Mai shortly after. Once on the move with over 600 kms to cover I don’t stop to take photos for the blog but this time I will treat you to a couple!

The first stop was a mandatory one as I find that when directed to pull over by police wearing guns that’s it probably a wise move to follow orders. The police must have been on a mission Tuesday morning because we passed through three manned checkpoints although only one required us to stop.

This was the first time I have had my papers properly inspected when travelling since arriving in Thailand. I believe that post-coup the military are pushing for a crack-down on farang overstaying their visas. As an aside they are also stopping farang living here almost indefinitely on their tourist visas. This is done by leaving the country and returning every ninety days in a process called “The Visa Run” and it is quite a business here. I have no problems with Thai enforcing their visa regulations. A tourist visa is intended for holiday makers not for people who want to live here. Mind you a blind eye has been turned to the visa run farang for years.

We were not only stopped at this police checkpoint but asked to pull off the road, which is always a slightly nervous moment but especially in a foreign country. The guy in charge came over and wanted to see my original passport, not the copy I keep in the front pocket of the car. He spoke good English and was very polite and professional. I am always expecting a shakedown but have never been asked for money – yet.

It turned out he was ex-Immigration, which accounted for his English speaking skills, and in my case he was ensuring I had the correct visa and one that hadn’t expired and I did on both counts.

The whole thing only took 10 minutes and we were back on the road. I was even able to score a photo to record the moment:

My brush with the police.

My brush with the police. You will note my hands in protective mode!

Our drive to and from Chiang Mai has fallen into a routine now having done it so many times. Heading back to Chiang Mai the first coffee and cake stop is about two hours out just before Dan Sai at the Amazon cafe attached to the Jiffy petrol station – I wrote a post about the Wat at Dan Sai HERE. A slow roasted chicken, sticky rice and sauce lunch happens at a roadside stall outside the small town of Nakhon Thai and then an ice cream just after we hit Highway 11. This time I was able to expand the pit-stops to include an alternative coffee/ice cream cafe between Nokhon Thai and the 11.

Once a Doi Chaang cafe this is a modern and out of place cafe in the middle of nowhere.

Once a Doi Chaang cafe this is a modern and out of place cafe in the middle of nowhere.

This is the only outside table but it has a view.

This is the only outside table but it has a view. The rice paddy in the background is being prepared for planting.

A low calorie long drive sugar hit happening.

A low calorie, long drive sugar hit happening.

My dear wife helping out.

My dear wife helping out.

I hasten to add that this stop replaced the normal ice cream top-up on Highway 11. To do both would be a bit odd even for me!

We left Si Bun Ruang at 8.30 am we arrived back in Chiang Mai at 5.30 pm. A pizza at the excellent local Italian owned restaurant finished the day. Having got the trip down to a fine art in terms of coffee, lunch and ice cream we only have one more drive to complete before we move from Chiang Mai to Si Bun Ruang permanently on 31 October. Typical.

If you are ever planning a drive from CM to North East Thailand drop me an line and I will share my GPS eating stops with you!

Thanks for reading.