Chiang Mai Chinese Cemetery, Old Lady and Cart, Mixed Fermented

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008


Our little hut on the lake.

J. and I went to Huay Tung Tao reservoir again on Sunday hoping to see more Thai people hanging out. There weren’t much more than a weekday, but enough to add ambiance to our little hut above the water. It was another relaxing day of food, reading, cards, and sitting around. Next to us were all kinds of fish and crabs eating algae off the bamboo supports. Read more about our first trip there in this post.

Yesterday, we went in search of great adventure only to find ourselves quite tired and annoyed over diverging goals.

By taking a random turn down an alley off the Superhighway, we stumbled upon a large Chinese cemetery. Aside from a few confused looking groundskeepers, a snake, a dog that chased after you, and hundreds of dead Chinese, the place was deserted. Wandering around the grounds was a magical experience. All of the graves had a decorative headstone that capped the front of a grassy mound. From behind, the numerous green mounds looked like a discarded set from Teletubbies.

Abandoned lot in the alley.

Chinese tombstones and mounds from the front.

The same mounds from the back.

More elaborate markers for the elite class?

Map view. The cemetery is near Highway 107 and the Superhighway.

Despite the pretty photos, it was pretty exhausting to wander around. The air was hot and stagnant, and we worked up quite a sweat. Our bike was parked next to a tree that had dropped green fruits on the ground. Many smelled sweet of fermentation. My helmet had gotten wet the day before and smelled of wet sweat and hair oils. A muddy patch of ground nearby had the sulfurous stink of sewer.

Grave wandering works up an appetite. We decided to eat lunch near the more touristy area on the east side of town because J. hadn’t seen much of that area yet. I wasn’t too keen of wandering around that area, so we split ways. We were to meet back at the bike in three hours. All alone, I did what I do best: buy sliced pineapple and eat it while sitting in a wat. During my pineapple, I saw a cat haul off a rat, an old monk stir in his sleep, and the floral preparations around the casket of a women who had died.

A car had smashed into this pole. Only some kinked re-bar was supporting the mess of power lines on top. The wires were practically hanging into a balcony.

Oil filled container sitting on an oil drum next to oil on the ground.

Little restaurant, almost in the pueblo style.

Door? What door?

A rare display of graffiti in an otherwise untagged country.

A set of tables in chairs in a field next the road. I think there used to be a restaurant in this spot, but all that’s left is the floor, some lights, and this furniture.

For the next hour, I wandering around the less touristy side streets and alleys. One block away from a major road, I discovered a narrow street that time forgot. It was paved, but all the buildings were wood and ramshackle. There was mud, chickens running around, clothes drying, the smoke from food wafting by. People looked at me with curiosity. It seemed odd that just a block away I would have blended in to the wanderings of sweaty tourists. I made sure to smile a lot in order to ingratiate myself. I took a turn down an even smaller street and said hello to a man with a cleaver who was talking to three old ladies. They said hello back. I walked a few meters more and realized that the street dead ended at a house. The man with the cleaver lived there. He walked by me as a I backtracked. I smiled and shrugged. Further down the road, I came upon a big-butted elderly woman somehow pushing a huge cart with a refrigerator-sized cooler of milk products. She had just reached a hill and called out for help (in Thai), when I came up behind her. Without delay, I offered her a hand. When we got to the top of the hill, we pushed the cart left for a bit, she thanked me with a prayer-like wai gesture and I walked away. The whole interchange had been nonverbal. For some reason, I was compelled to turn around and offer to push the cart for her all day.

Afterwards, I picked up an expensive used copy of John Irving’s The World According to Garp and sat on a bench by the moat road. I took breaks from reading to watch the steady stream of traffic, particularly the merging for u-turns. After looking at vehicles whizzing by, when I’d look down at the canal everything continued to move. I passed some more time enjoying the warping hallucinations of the bricks, water and road.

For dinner, J. and I sought out a new dish we had tried one evening at the Sunday Street Market. Based on taste identification, it’s a salad made of crumbled fried rice balls, lime juice, meat, onions, basil, peanuts, and more. We didn’t know the name of the dish, but had seen it for sale in the food court of TOPS grocery store in Central Kad Suan Kaew Mall. It was also for sale in the main mall food court, FOOD FACTORY. At FOOD FACTORY, we ordered it and som tom, but I forgot to ask what it was called. Then we walked to the grocery store and ordered it again. When I asked the lady what it was called, she misunderstood and offered me more cabbage. I tried again, and she pointed to the menu. The Thai name of the dish had at least 50 characters. In English, it was simply called “Mixed Fermented.” Fermented? I’m not sure what part of it is fermented. There were some translucent, noodle-like things and a pink crumbled salami-looking meat. I’m guessing that those are what give it its name, as all of the other ingredients looked fresh off the farm.

The fried rice balls.

Trays of other ingredients added to the mix.

The finished product.

A less exotic dinner we’ve been making at home is pictured below. The recipe is top secret, but involves pork and pepper flavor Mama Ramen.

Dinner. Ramen with vegetables and fresh-brewed, chilled bael tea. The lighter drink is honey wheat green tea.

Can you guess the recipe? Hint: the secret ingredient is water.

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