Saturday, November 29, 2008

13 November to Chiang Kham, Ricoh Foundation

The kids manage to squeak in a final round of tennis with Leslie, and we have one last fabulous light lunch - my choice is a gorgeous light, “do-it-yourself” Thai tortillas - thaitillas? and pack it up, saying goodbye to the friendly folks at the Four Seasons. Our next stop will be the Ricoh Foundation - a growing non-profit tennis operation founded by Americans Rick & Corinne Fowler. The Fowlers have sent their friend, Pritcha, the van driver, to fetch us. Pritcha is a very slight, older Thai gentleman who sports a well-worn U.S. Army camo jacket, miles of wood bead necklace, well-engraved smile lines and a disproportionately large presence of calm.

We stop at another wat on the way out of town. This time, a quiet village wat where monks & workers are picking up from Loi Krathong festivities, and preparing a symbolic funeral pyre. Pritcha says the pyre is for all the villagers who can’t travel to Bangkok for the beloved Princess’ funeral festivities. (An entire park in Bangkok was converted to a wat-like altar honoring her life.) Villages all acrossThailand will be simultaneously honoring her life in festivities next week.

The 6+ hour winding drive into the mountains is well-utilized for alternately gaping at thick jungle, rice paddies & stray civilization and catching up on well-needed sleep. As darkness falls in the village of Chiang Kham, we pull into an unassuming little road toward the rice paddies. We are met with a candle-lit wonderland of gardens, pools, two porch-wrapped homes and the welcoming smiles of our hosts, Rick & Corinne and Victor. We sit down in the outdoor dining room for a fabulous dinner overlooking the rice fields and distant twinkling village lights.

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