1. One of the two big main crops in southern Thailand is rubber. The other is palm oil but we’ll get that one later. Rubber comes from trees. Did you know that? I technically did but I’m still kind of amazed by it. The host family I stayed with when I first moved to site has several rai (some measurement of land – I think about ½ an acre but I can’t look it up right now because the internet is off and I’m too lazy to come back and edit these things) of rubber trees. Rubber trees are tall and thin and then have very shallow roots. So when we had all the flooding down here you could watch the rubber trees fall over like tooth picks. Really big, heavy tooth picks. This is also what led to some of the problems of the mud slides. Rubber has been quite a cash crop lately and many people will cut down all the natural trees and plant rubber tree orchards. This doesn’t give the dirt much to hold on to and causes the mudslides when there is heavy raining. So to harvest the rubber (which is basically just the sap from the tree) you do so late at night…like the middle of the night. I’ve heard two reasons: 1. That’s when the sap will come out of the tree and 2. It’s really freaking hot during the day so they do it at night when it is cooler. My guess is that the real answer is closer to number 2. The harvester uses a tool to make a long gash in the bark of the tree. The sap runs down the gash and is collected in a cup that is attached to the tree. They then pour the sap into forms and let it dry. They also put it through some machine that looks like they are making pasta but I haven’t seen that part up close and personal yet so I’ll give you more details later. You are supposed to wait until the tree is 7 years old before you start to harvest the rubber. Both I’ve been told that because the price of rubber is so high some people are doing it when the tree is only 5 years old. I have no idea what that means for the quality of the rubber or for the tree but just thought I would share my extensive knowledge!
2. My host brother and sister-in-law wanted to take me out on the town. They said they were taking me to a country bar. My first thought was “ugh, I don’t like country music.” Not a problem at the Kansas Saloon Country Pub. I tried to explain how exciting it was to be at the Kansas Saloon because my family is from Kansas and there’s Boot Hill…and then the eye’s glazed over and I stopped trying to explain. So at the Kansas Saloon Country Pub the band and waitresses to wear western clothing but that is where the western theme stopped. The band played mostly reggae music, the tv’s where showing Celine Dion videos, and they served bangers (no mash). Oh, and there were Elvise, Madonna, and Beatles records on the wall. There was a mural in on the back wall that said “Kansas…legend of the South.” I decided that this meant that the Kansas Saloon Country Pub was a legend in Southern Thailand and not that the state of Kansas is a legend in the South of the US.
3. My host family took me to the Emerald Pool and to some local hot springs. The Emerald Pool was beautiful but it was a holiday and there were a lot of people using it to cool off so my host sister-in-law said that the color wasn’t has brilliant as it normally was. The hot springs were very beautiful but I tried to explain that in the US we go sit in the hot springs when it is really cold outside and that I didn’t understand why you wanted to sit in 100 degree water when it is 90 degrees outside. I don’t think anyone understood what I was saying and it actually was quite lovely to sit in the springs.