This was recorded in our street in Chiang Mai, Thailand at about 6pm on a weekday night – in early April. Every night the cicadas start screeching at about the same time, and in the background (if you listen carefully) you can hear the sounds of the local community ‘announcer’ chatting away through the loud-speakers strategically positioned on lamp posts at the end of our road.
I finished my month long CELTA course last weekend and decided to go and lie by the Lotus hotel pool at Kad Suan Kaew shopping center in Chiang Mai. I had intended to sleep and wind down after a hugely stressful month.
I met Tasanee – founder of Safe Haven Orphanage – on my first weekend in Mae Sot, two and a half years ago, and since then we have become close friends. This Podcast is a short interview I did with Tasanee whilst motorbiking around Northern Thailand with my sister last December. The interview is also contained in the much longer Podcast 1483km by motorbike in North Thailand.
In 1987 Tasanee started caring for orphaned children on the Thai/Burma border after she received a frantic message from a local villager in Tha Song Yang, Thailand that a little girl had lost her mother during birth. In Karen culture this is interpreted as a bad omen, and the child is often killed. Tasanee took in the young girl – now known as ‘Boonmee’ – and with her brother converted their childhood home into an open space to accommodate the children. Starting with whatever funds were available, she built the foundation of what has become the first Safe Haven Orphanage. Relying on her personal funds and the donations of the people of Mae Sot, she was able to expand and take on more children. She now has forty-three children under her care.
Last year, thanks to a generous donation from Ireland, Safe Haven Orphanage purchased five acres of land just outside the current village. The children and Tasanee are now working hard to make this land habitable, and to raise the funds to build a new orphanage.
The orphanage is located in Tha Song Yang, an incredibly picturesque Karen village in northern Thailand. It sits next to the Moei river which separates Thailand from Burma. It is surrounded by jungle and beautiful limestone mountains, which cut it off from the bustle of the outside world. Electricity was introduced only a year or two ago, and there is only one phone in the middle of the village. It’s what a small village should be; a small tight-knit community where all the kids play together and all the parents know each other. It was at one time a target of Burmese mortars; the pot-marked roads still show evidence. Now however, it is the most peaceful place you could imagine. In the mornings, the sun rises over the mountains to the sound of the local monks chanting.
This was recorded at around 7.30pm on a weekday night at our local vegetarian restaurant on Suthep Road in Chiang Mai. I popped to the restaurant and had a Khao Soi – one of the traditional northern Thai ‘curry’ dishes. Dinner cost 25THB (about $0.60) and was incredibly tasty. As I ate I was treated to some wonderfully cheesy background music, as you will hear in the recording.
Last week I completed a long 1483Km motorbike trip with my sister Laura through the mountains of North and North West Thailand, you can listen to the podcast we made along the way by clicking above.
Setting off from Chiang Mai, we headed North East through the mountains to Mae Hong Son (via Pai), before heading South to Mae Sot and about 650KM along the Thailand/Burma border to our final destination – Umphang. Surrounded by national parks and wildlife reserves (and classified as a UNESCO World heritage site), Umphang is one of the most beautiful, but least accessible districts in Thailand. Nevertheless, it has one major tourist attraction, Thi Lo Su Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Thailand – 200 metres high and 400 metres wide.
Remarkably, Laura had only learned to ride a motorbike two weeks prior to the trip – she drove a 125 CC Honda Dream Scooter and I drove my 200CC Honda Phantom. In total, the trip took seven days of actual driving, with two days ‘resting’ in Mae Sot and Umphang.
This podcast features a lot of the sounds we heard along the way, from the jungle sounds of cicadas & birds of paradise, to frogs, Lisu musicians, a Thai kick boxing match, rafting near Umphang, and an interview with Tasanee at Safe Haven Orphanage.
The route we took was Chiang Mai – Pai – Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang – Khun Yuam Sunflower fields – Mae Sariang – Mae Sot – Umphang – Mae Sot – Chiang Mai. (See the map on the right courtesy of Travelfish.org)
The approximate distances are below.
Chiang Mai to Pai – 135KM Pai to Mae Hong Son – 139KM Man Hong Son to Mae Sariang (via the sunflower fields) – 250KM Mae Sariang to Mae Sot – 242KM Mae Sot to Umphang – 176KM Umphang to Mae Sot – 176KM Mae Sot to Chiang Mai – 365 KM Total: 1483KM
Every Sunday in Chiang Mai, from about 4pm until as late as midnight, a market known variously as the ‘Sunday Market’, or the ‘Walking Street Market’ takes place in Chiang Mai. The Sunday Market has, in recent years, become a bit of an institution in Chiang Mai – with many thousands of locals and foreigners turning up to browse, buy, and eat from the various street stalls or simply socialise with their friends.
The Sunday Market is also the best place in Chiang Mai to see genuine Thai style street entertainment. Right along the length of the Ratchadamnoen Road are pavement artists – from traditional musicians, Thai dancers and living statues to puppet shows and busking bands.
This weekend Tina and I headed to the Sunday Market with our recording equipment in hand, in an attempt to bring you some of the sounds and atmosphere. We hope you enjoy it!
Sunday Market location
Ratchadamnoen road, running East-West from around Tapae Gate (the East gate of the Chiang Mai Old Town) – every Sunday from about 4pm.