First site of the day is a small termite mound on the back side of a campus to which we drove. We all load back up, drive 60 feet and stop. Get back out for the second site. There is another aerial termite nest in a rubber tree and luckily this is right by a little pond. So collecting for all. The nest was about 10 feet up in the tree and while we were looking for a way to get to it, Dr. Sirikai takes off his shoes, hangs his cell phone and glasses in a bush and proceeds to climb tree. Straight up it! Everyone is in awe, Iím taking pictures like mad and Bob walks up with "Donít feed the monkeys, kids". An absolutely amazing feet. So termites were easily obtained to the enjoyment of all.
The pond had some nice dragons flying around it and I was swiping them up. Bob and A started collecting and got one of these. This is a type of water scorpion (it is an insect, not a true scorpion -family Nepidae), and some other interesting specimens.
The next site was rather unexpected. We went to the main building of the college to get drinks and they had a very large pool built against the front of the building. Everything is new, so they havenít had time to put in plants or fish or whatever, but there were dragons flying and waterstriders everywhere. Well, easy pickings, so we collected while the others went to attack another innocent termite mound.
We load up and head out. Our next stop is at a waterfall that A and I had already collected at. But the termites were good, so we got some more specimens for Dr. Houseman. Hereís a close up of one of the fungus gardens and a solder (on my finger).
We drove and found ourselves in the immediate vicinity of the ocean. Of course you are never far away from the ocean in Southern Thailand, but most of the time you canít see it. In the distance you can see the (and Iím not making this up) Pee Pee Islands. One of them is featured in the James Bond (the one before this newest one [Tomorrow Never Dies]) so there are lots of advertisements to go to James Bond Island!
We made two more stops for Dr. Houseman. To identify termites to species you either need a winged adult, or a solder. Usually solders are easy to come by because when you breach the nest they come out to defend it. At the second stop we were collecting termites from mud tudes on the side of a tree (the main nest was way too high). We must have spent fifteen minutes and only got a single solder - at the very end!
Our next site was a water fall. Too many people (lots bathing, too). I got a picture of a family near the base of a somewhat large tree.
Another very large tree had multiple bee hives in it. Here you see two fresh ones (yellow) and one that has been covered in dirt.
Last site of the day (of nine total). A termite mound in a field. The first few whacks yielded nothing but ants, which had apparently invaded one side and set up shop. The other side of the mound was much better for us, equipped with pollen combs and everything.
I got a pretty good shot of a solder in action. What is he biting into? My wrist just below the palm! I never felt him, just noticed him when I was brushing off dirt.
We stayed the night in Phuket (pronounced Poo-Ket), a big tourist location. We headed to the night market in search of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Bob visited last time he was here. Everybody was selling something, and they were very persistent. It was late and I was hungry, so we split up. I stuck with Dr. Siriaki and Dr. Houseman and the rest went with Bob. They never found the restaurant Bob was after, but we got to eat good, do a little shopping, and back to bed before midnight!
Our last day with the group. A and I are headed back to Oís house for the night and then to Bangkok the next day. A has visited Thailand many times while working on his masters and Ph.D. Every place he collects specimens is given a number, i.e. L-12, L-368, etc. The numbering is sequential starting at L-1 many years ago. When A arrived this trip he was on L-415 (the 415th location that he has collected at in Thailand). When I met A a month later, I first collected at L-488. Yesterday we collected at site L-599. We are all hungry for 600.
Before we split up we find a waterfall and start collecting. I only got one specimen, but it still counts!
This park is also home to a gibbon recovery project. Many people get gibbons as pets, but canít take care of them when they grow up. There are also a few wild gibbons floating around, thus the sign:
One the way out we stop by an elephant trekking place and get pictures of the great beasts.
We drive to a shaded park on University grounds to transfer stuff between vehicles and repack. There is a little muddy pool right beside us. Whenever you watch a nature program and they start talking about fish leaving the water and their lineage giving rise to amphibians they always show a particular little muddy fish that swims, but spends most of its time out of the water jumping, running, and barking. This little muddy pond was infested with them! But if you got too close they would plunk right down into a burrow.
The rest of the day is driving. We make it to Oís house and have another wonderful supper prepared by his mother.
Another day of driving. First of all, the vehicle was packed full. Two Thirds the back seat was also full, just barley enough room for TangOn to squeeze in.
Whipping along the highway I spot the answer to one of my many questions. How do Thais transport large quantities of aquarium fish? Well, hereís your answer.
We stopped by a huge market of fruits, cookies, and candies. A got a bunch of stuff for his family. One of the interesting pieces they had on the wall was this carving. About ten or 12 feet long this is a carving made from Teak wood. They bond four or five 2x6 inch (approx.) pieces of teak together to create a huge board. Then the carving is made from this single piece of wood. Weíll see more of these later, with better photos.
We drop TangOn off at her house, she will be leaving for Japan for a conference in a few days. A picks up his younger sister (he has only one sister, but in Thailand you always to state younger or older. So we make fun of poor A.). She is amazingly nice and has helped get me a very good hotel at an even better price. A heads home, I shower and procure nourishment.
A few hours later A picks me up and we head to the airport. We are going to pick up Dr. Houseman and take him to his hotel. He leaves the next morning for the US and back to his much missed family.
10 or 11 June
I lost a day somewhere. I didnít take any pictures! So you will get two days mixed together. I believe it was the 10th that A took me to KU (Ksomething University). A huge beautiful university in the middle of Bangkok, A spent 15 years going to school there (Kindergarten through college). He introduced me to one of his professors. A very, very nice lady. She showed me pictures of her latest trip to Washington State. I headed over to another lab where some people were showing off a keen little digital camera that magnified 40x and 140x. It had video out, so you could hook it to any monitor or TV and see the magnified image. Really cute.
Speaking of really cute... Every entomology department in every Thai university that I have stopped at so far is almost totally populated by female students. And they are all beautiful. Happily most of them speak English very well. I got to talk to a couple of them at KU. The one I spoke with the most was named Yolk (perhaps not spelled right). She mentioned this too, and pointed out they only had one male ent student. I asked why she thought it was that there are so many female entomologists in Thailand. She said it was probably because females are more focused and can concentrate better. I agree, who could be focused with all the cute girls running around! LOL
She was working on stoneflies (Plecoptera). I work on those, among others, and she showed me some of her specimens, and a few that she had reared to adulthood. Its really fun to get to "talk shop" with someone. We got onto English. They pointed out that W-I-N-D and M-I-N-D are pronounced wind and mind. I understand, it doesnít make any sense to me either.
Also on the tenth we made another airport run to pick up Poo. She flew from Chiang Mai, will spend a few days in Bangkok, fly to Japan for a conference, then fly to Iowa (yeah, I said (stifling a yawn) Iowa) where sheíll work for 6 months on her Ph.D. project. I told her she was more than welcome to come to Columbia where she could see things other than corn and soybeans, like trees and hills.
There are three Thai people who work in my lab in Columbia. Yam, a graduate student whom we met in Hot Yai. Akekawat (A in my logs), a Ph.D. student with whom I am traveling. And Aea (means Boo in English), she is a Ph.D. student in education, but works as a tech in my lab. A and Aea have been good friends for years so we head over to say hi to Aeaís parents. We park the car at Aís grandparents house. I get to say high to everyone there, and immediately they have tons of fruit out and ready for me to eat! Iíve never been really hungry Thailand, and most days Iím stuffed to the gills, especially when Iím around families. I got a picture of their gate. Gates and fences in Thailand are not that horrid chain link you see in America. They are works of art (and very expensive from what I hear). I havenít been able to get any good pictures because we always pass them at 90km an hour. This one is very beautiful but is certainly not the most ornate Iíve seen.
We hop into a taxi and head to Aeaís parents business. When we get there I wander in and before I can ener look around I see a familiar smile and hear "Whatís up Mike?"!!! Its Aeaís younger sister Rose! I ask her how long sheíd been back in Thailand- Since two this morning, she said. Aeaís parents are absolutely the nicest people you would ever want to meet. We all load up and they take us to eat. Rose helps me order and keeps me from dying.
The next day A, Rose, and I went to the Grand Palace. A huge place full of many temples. Its been around for at least 200 years and amazingly ornate. I donít know any stories or explanations, so here are some halfway descent pictures I took on the tour.
We took a tuk-tuk to and from the Grand Palace. These are those three wheeled affairs that Thailand is known for. I pretty much fill one by myself, but we all fit and it was an adventure. We made it back and Aeaís parents took us out for supper. I got a nice picture of them and Rose. Lovely people.
Aís sister (the younger one) came by after breakfast. We rode a city bus for a while (fun) and walked a bit. She took me to a street full of tour agencies. We wandered around and I signed up for some day trips next week. We went to a huge mall, as big as my home town. She said it was one of the smaller ones. At a pet store I got a picture of a small crocodilian you could buy for a mere 69,000 Baut ($1,700)!
We met up with A, and picked up Rose. To another mall, we milled around and ate "buffet" at a suki-yaki restaurant. Remember the meal way back when that I had where you grill your own little pieces of meat. Well this was much more civilized, the grill was flat, so meat didnít slide off into the soup. When you order the buffet you can have as much of any type of meat that you want. And they had Hosin sauce, a thick sweet sauce that I love. It was a great meal.
Today Bob flies in from Hot Yai and we are to pick him up. A grabs me after breakfast and we head to the airport (I think this is trip three now). We get Bob, and careening through the streets of Bangkok to his hotel A points out the Beer Chiang building. Their label has two elephants on it, and their building IS a giant elephant. I got this picture out the back window as we shot by.
A has other business for a while so Bob and I go out and wander the streets. Past shops and tables filled with all kinds of wares, we come to a huge market under a roof built over the empty space between two buildings. The majority of Thailand is functionally pre-refrigeration. What I mean by that is, the bulk of what Thais eat is fresh, or held through the day using ice. Fruit of course will hold for a given time, most other vegetables, leaves, etc have been harvested at most a day or two before they are finally consumed. Fish are still flopping.
Hereís a picture of a meat seller. Its 100 degrees, if this meat doesnít sell today it must be thrown away. The entire country is full of fresh food. The production and transportation of food must be enormous.
Another picture. I can see ten different types of fruit and there were at least 5 more than were above, below or to the sides of the picture. Amazing.
Bob takes us out to eat and we have chicken wrapped in banana leaf, or something like that. It was very good. A and Bob drop me at my hotel and head to pick up Bobís wife and two of his kids, at the airport!