Friday, July 2, 2010

playing in the sand

sun and sea

Tra Chang Fish Sauce Factory

Wiley and I decided to head to the source of fish sauce. My mom loves her fish sauce and swears by Tra Chang brand, so we went out looking for it. Tra Chang (and many other brands for that matter) are located around Rayong province (Thai: ระยอง). Rayong is really close to my mom's house in Sattahip and it was a short 45 minutes before we were surrounded by fishing boats in Rayong city. We saw the Tra Chang logo off in the distance on a building and a local (thinking it was funny that we wanted to go see how fish sauce was made) told us how to get there. We drove along a narrow isthmus packed full of drying fish, fishing boats and cement fish sauce vats.
Surprisingly, we found Tra Chang with ease and wandered in. The daughter of the owner met with us and showed us the packing and explained the process to us. Fish is brought in, salted with a little sugar, placed in cement vats for 1 1/2-2 years, drained and bottled up. Pretty simple, right?
She explained quality to us. They have two levels of quality. 1 1/2 year (18 Baht) is more diluted and is used more for general purpose cooking and 2 year (34 Baht) is more for sauces and finishing dishes. I asked if there was a 3 year and they said it would be too dark to eat. Also, glass bottles are better for storage and you should try to keep it out of the sunlight. When you buy fish sauce, look at the ingredients. There should only be three ingredients: fish, salt and a small amount of sugar. This is why the Tra Chang logo has a scale with a white brick that says "100%" representing salt on the right side and fish and shrimp on the left side.
Shrimp is on the logo because they also make grapi, fermented shrimp paste. We checked that operation out, too. The best grapi is made only with a tiny species of shrimp and salt. First the shrimp are dried in the sun, mixed with salt, fermented and ground up. The picture above with the wheelbarrow full of a the reddish purple paste is the grapi ready to be packed.
The owner (the man with Wiley and Ahmalie pictured above) was nice enough to get up from a nap and chat with us. His eyes looked they could see for miles and his demeanor was that of person who stood by his actions and by the quality of his life's work. I asked about depleting fish stocks in our oceans. He didn't seem too concerned about over fishing, because the products he uses utilize the smallest fish and shrimp in the food chain. The only costs that increase for his company are labor and energy.
After the tour we went to go get lunch out farther along the isthmus and watched a rain storm come off the Gulf of Thailand and swallow up the awaiting container boats offshore.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adi's Thai Dinner

I told Adi to get his plate ready for dinner. He made this arrangement. All I had to do was add some rice in the middle he said. I guess Wiley has been showing him some stuff. Oh yes those are fried HOT DOGS.
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Ahmalie and my aunt's hair dye/hair growth sessions. From the looks of these photos I am convinced that Ahmalie really enjoys her Spa Treatment.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

สักยันต์ Sak Yant @ Wat Bang Pla

In Thailand, traditional tattoos are known as "Sak Yant." It means "Sacred Tap." Tattoos are made by tapping a long ink filled stylus onto the skin.
We got there at 10:30am thinking we would be served next. Oh how wrong we were. People sat there and waited for hours to get a Yant on their body. I went there with one Yant in mind. It was called Universal Blessing; sounds freaking awesome, right? I showed the monk what I wanted and he was very quick to say, "not here." He told me to look at the blue folder sitting on the floor and tell him later what I wanted. We sat there about 1 1/2 hours then decided to go get some lunch. When we came back there were more people waiting to be tattooed.
Long story short, my turn came around 6:45pm. The monk asked me again what I wanted I answered, "Eight Direction Yant." Of course, he told me no that's for men. For men? He then asked, "why?" I told him because I want it. Again he said no. Fine I decide to get the Sak Yant Hah Taew. I was so happy that this point that a five line blessing would be wonderful. I sat on the pillow with my back turned to the monk waiting for him to spray alcohol onto my back when the temple lights went out. Is this really not meant to be? Ajan Tum said "no tattoos in the dark." I was very sad that is point. He then said let's wait until the lights come on. But Adi was at home waiting for us and we couldn't just be there waiting for the lights to come on.
A man asked the monk if he could bless his old tattoos in the mean time. I walked over to Wiley with a very sad face. I decided to feed Ahmalie instead. As I was feeding her, I heard my aunt calling my name to go get my Hah Taew. I ran to my sitting pose. Ajan Tum decided he could give me my tattoo at least by candle light. He managed to put on about two lines when his phone rang. "Shit" I told myself. He picked up the phone to tell whoever that he was in a hurry to finish up a tattoo in the dark. Oh, by the way his ring tone was John Lennon's "Imagine." Ajan was ready to give my back's full attention now. Everything became really calm and peaceful when a song started again, "Imagine all the people, living in a world of peace." Ajan let the whole song play through without answering his phone. I knew that this tattoo was special. Wiley was taking pictures of me and saying, "Hey, PK I think you got the most mystical tattoo ever with candle light and music."
When I was done one of the helpers said, "I have been here a year and this has never happened." It was then 7:25pm. We were guided down the stairs by lighters lit by the Wat's helper. My most magical mystical Tattoo.
The meaning behind Hah Taew: Every sacred line of this Yant will bestow a blessing on the receiver, usually including loving kindness, success in all aspects of life, charm, good luck and protection against evil spirits and the banishment of bad luck.

Saturday, June 5, 2010