Monthly Archives: October 2009

Ecownomics

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We’ve all heard about cows and buffaloes being the farmer’s best friend, but I never knew cows can be regarded as cash assets until I got together with mr;p. In rural Thailand (and probably farming communities anywhere else), a cow may reap interests faster than the bank. Don’t believe? In October last year, mr;p and I bought a pair of cows, a mother and son, for his parents at 14,000B. Two months later, a potential buyer offered 20,000B for this pair. That’s 6000B more than what we paid for, and if translated to conventional banking terms, equivalent to an interest rate of ~42%! Incredible, isn’t it? In the end, we didn’t sell them because we would still like to keep them with the parents in Udon Thani.

Now, I’ve gleaned a bit of knowledge about cow trading. In the bovine world, the females are worth much than the males because of the former’s reproductive ability. If a farmer wants to sell his cows, the male ones will most likely be the first to go, however, a bull with characteristics deemed valuable may be kept to pass on his genes to future generations. A good cow should stand tall and big, and it is desirable to have long ears, just like my cow Niu Niu (calf in the foreground). He may have long ears but his playmate (beside him) has even longer ears that extend beyond its face!

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Cheng Sim Yi – Sweet Confessions

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As a Singaporean Chinese of Hokkien-Hakka descent, I simply love looking for similarities and differences between Chinese food across Southeast Asia. In Bangkok where I now reside, it never fails to amaze me the vast extent of Chinese culinary influence on the Thai street food culture.

One evening, after finishing an extremely fulfilling Isan meal at Udomsuk Road, I chanced upon this stall ‘Cheng Sim Yi’, which sells Teochew-style desserts. Meaning 清心丸, or ‘refreshing pill’ in Chinese, this stall ran the full gamut of ingredients needed for Chinese desserts, including water chestnuts, grass jelly, yam cubes, sliced lotus stems, red dates, attap seeds, etc. The colourful spread gave the stallfront an tantalising look that beckoned to passer-bys. Well, mr;p and I finally succumbed to one bowl of poei sian* (八仙) and tau terng** (豆汤). These iced, sugary desserts were refreshing indeed. Cheng Sim Yi has a few franchises in town, with the most famous branch situated in Talaat Suan Luang, so I’m planning to visit it soon!

* Known as Ba Bao Tang (八宝汤), or Eight Treasures Soup in Singapore.

** Known as Qing Tang (清汤), or Clear/Refreshing Soup in Singapore.

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Sweet Tooth

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Sweet eats for lazy times. Yummy!

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Inle Lake: Where Time Stands Still

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Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar (Burma)

It was hard to believe that such a tranquil place still exists in the modern world today. My mind tried to come up with the best words to describe Inle Lake as I sailed its calm waters. The second largest lake in the country, it is a freshwater lake flanked by green mountains running its length at both sides. The clear, reflective waters are occasionally punctuated by a lone boat, wooden stilted houses or rows of floating gardens. And here, locals still paddle their wooden boats from place to place and the Inthar fishermen row their boats with their distinctive one-legged technique.

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Kwaang: A Bug’s Life

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Rhinoceros beetle, also known as kwaang in Thailand

On a recent trip to Chiang Rai, I finally got a chance to view and touch the rhinoceros beetle up-close at mr;p’s brother’s place, where it was being kept as a house pet. In real life, it looks fiercer than its cartoon counterpart in A Bug’s Life but still possesses a silly air around it. Nonetheless, it still makes a impressive creature with its black, shiny exterior. With its forked horns locked together, they make a perfect loop for my finger to hook through. Don’t be put off by its ‘pincer’ horns – they only pinched slightly when it made its way around on my palm and fingers. When placed on the mat, where it struggled to walk without its six legs constantly getting stuck in the cracks, it produced loud hissing sounds to signal its displeasure and irritation.

In northern Thailand, male rhinoceros beetles are often kept to engage in kwaang chon, or beetle fighting. A beetle tethered to a sugar cane stick is a common sight. As any upcountry kid when he was young, mr;p recounted keeping rhinoceros beetles as playthings before finally grilling them into snacks when he got bored with them. Oh, did I mention these beetles are a favourite amongst the chicken too? Oh well, it’s a bug’s life after all…

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