Where The Bamboo Grows

Saturday, July. 11, 5:02 PM
Pai, Thailand

music: Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “satanstompingcaterpillars” album

It’s official… I’m in one of those places where time whizzes by. I’m surprised that it’s Saturday, thought it was still mid-week. As soon as I woke-up, I jumped in the pickup with 5 others and we headed off into the forest to collect bamboo for a new bridge. I had a tiny preview while at Second Home at how building with bamboo is quite involved, especially the part where you pick it!

What a task… first we drove down a long dirt road (painfully, as sitting in the back of the pickup is no luxury) which winded through soybean country for at least 20 minutes. We parked, set out through the soybeans and into the green forest with 4 machetes, and cut down… 50 big bamboos? A LOT. Then we chopped them into 4 foot pieces, then split each 12-16 times (depending on their width) to make 1 inch bamboo slats. How many did we make you ask? 500 was the goal, we made over 700. To be honest, the two Yon hilltribe laborers did a majority of the hard work… while the 4 of us phalang had to rest at regular intervals. It was seriously hard work, and after 4.5 hours I hit a wall… so the next couple hours were the hardest to keep going, especially the part where we carried the tied bundles out of the forest on our shoulders and backs. In addition to the bundles of slats we prepared, there were also had about 30 8-foot hunks (like 2x4s but way thicker) to use for bridge supports, of which I could barely carry 3 at once but the Yons each carried six at a time! I wish I had a picture… I carried my last bundle on my shoulders behind my neck, with my arms up and to the sides… Tom laughed that I looked crucified… haha, I felt like it!

a <em>phalong</em> looking on while the hilltribe people work tirelessly... as usual!
a phalong looking on while the hilltribe people work tirelessly... as usual!

Besides being hard work, the day brought many small pleasures as well. The bamboo forest was really pretty, with a million greens (including various butterflies, some bright lime green and white, others bearing a broader spectrum of bright greens, or completely yellow. A stream ran by our worksite, and Sandot (the ‘dad’ of TacomPai) suggested we made a dam there to feed the surrounding forest (which we’ve just stripped of 50 of it’s finest, really a drop in the bucket though so to speak!) Within an hour we made a fine dam that filled-up knee-deep, and I was so inspired to make one like it for my turtle baby back home!

forest pond, prototype for Axl's future chateau
forest pond, prototype for Axl's future chateau

Sandot brought a lunch for us to all to share… sticky rice, pumpkin curry, and pickled vegatables. He laid out a table of large leaves which he cleaned in the pond we made, and the laborers deftly carved out bamboo plates and chopsticks for us to use. Amazing! Also simply amazing were the water flutes he brought out, bamboo of course, cut to arms length and tied with bamboo string to make a sling, with little holes poked between the sections to keep the water-in and from splashing while being carrying around… it just astonishes me that Everything here (in TacomePai world, at least) is made of two things: Bamboo and/or Teak, both of which are Everything you need for beautiful and practical living.

Also fun was the ride back… imagine a pickup loaded with bamboo, but carrying 7 people (me sitting on the back, barely holding on throughout the 30-minute return drive, which felt just like a jungle safari. We drove very slow, up and down the hilly and badly eroded dirt road, as not to loosen the tied up lumber and precariously balancing phalang in the back. Dog tired, and still crawling with ants (me oh my, so many ants!), I felt peaceful and happily depleted, hanging on and taking in the scenery that money can’t buy in the West. I imagined this life, working hard in paradise every day, building things with only hands, machetes, bamboo and teak, a constant labor of love and purpose. (I also imagined, if this was my job, quitting after 3, no 2, maybe one day!) Haha. Lazy phalang I am, dwarfed in my capacity by these remarkable and capable, smiling workers.

My evening had a cool refreshing destiny named beer. A bunch of us (3 on a motorbike) rode into Pai for a drink and some live music. The beers, (two, in moderation), quenched my well-used body like liquid gold, and the 2 musicians who played at the TacomPai music festival, right here, last fall, were great. A place I heard about, Mama Falafel, kept tantalizing my mind and tummy, so eventually I set out with a friend to find it. When we found it it was 10:30pm and they looked like they were closing, but I implored “please don’t tell us No!” and the smiling Thai couple said Ok, falafel sandwich? Mmmmmm… for the next ten minutes I watched his culinary alchemy, making me the tastiest falafel sandwich I can recall ever, fresh. He fired-up the fryer, spooned-out fresh falafel balls and cut french fries (which went inside the sandwich too, Israeli style). He chopped up 3 fresh tomatoes and 2 cucumbers, spooned out tahini and very special home-made feta cheese… as I ate it my Mmmmms were uncontrollable, and my belly was full into the morning. Two notes about this meal: first, it was perhaps the tastiest falafel ever, due to it’s freshness and love. Secondly, though, I got uncomfortably full, my tummy hurt a couple hours later, I was burping and tasting it over and over, and I realized at once what I love and hate about western food: it’s so tasty and pleasurable going down, but you feel like crap afterwards, with an over-stuffed and bloated tummy, and bad breath to remind you what you’ve just done to yourself. In contrast to the fresh and healthy rice and noodle meals I’ve grown accustomed to eating every meal, this was borderline disgusting. I’m happy to have been reminded about the dark side of the home food I sometimes lust for… instilling a deeper contentment with how good I have it right now eating locally.

I stayed up chatting again with Leo in the moonlight treehouse, our routine for the last 5 nights. TacomePai is a special place, indeed, ever more beautiful and complete than the fancy polished junk in neighboring Pai… out in the forest life is so good, simple and best that I know.


One thought on “Where The Bamboo Grows”

  1. Anthony! Hullo! I just came by your blog by chance..Aaaaa! I need to come back there..you have no idea how much i miss it..its under my skin! Will keep checking this page so as I feel a little closer to that beautiful place. Love to you all xxxx

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