Arrival in Thailand
So far the trip has been a success. Although it was only about 36 hours ago that we landed, everything has gone smoothly. After arriving in the BKK airport we made it to our hotel (next to the airport), which was near a couple small restaurants and food stalls where we had dinner. This is where we all caught our first glimpse of just how useful Hudson’s prowess in Thai really is. Even traveling through western countries where I did not speak the language it seemed easier to communicate than it does here, possibly because of cultural differences in body language alone.
The next day we spent the first half of the afternoon gathering a couple essential supplies we needed in Bangkok (a task which was again greatly facilitated by having a Thai speaker on the team) before heading out to Amphawa, where we are staying. Upon arriving at our inn, the family that owns the place greeted us with fresh coconut water… by fresh I mean they gave us each a coconut - picked from trees in their very own backyard - that had a straw in it. C2O is right: The coconuts from this region are incredible, sweet, and refreshing.
After checking in and talking briefly with the family, we headed out to the nearby floating market. On the way we stopped into a small coconut farm so we could catch a glimpse of how it looked. In fact, it was very interesting: coconut trees are grown in rows separated by canals, which form a grid system that have a current generated by a small motor upstream. When the coconuts are ready to be picked, they are dropped into the canals float to a collection point through the current. There are a lot of interesting things to consider here as we move forward with the project, from value-added activities using other agricultural products (and byproducts) of the flora, to use of the land, to the people in the villages that benefit from these activities.
Dinner at the floating market was a real treat. The people were very nice – a little more relaxed than in Bangkok. Bowing is also more common here in everyday transactions. We had been advised that this is common in Thailand. However In Bangkok, where they are more attuned to Western tourists, I did not notice bowing as much as out here in the more rural region. Here in Amphawa we find ourselves bowing all the time, and the people seem as happy as we are to share in the experience with them.
Today work commences on the project. We are all looking forward to sitting down together after breakfast, underneath the coconut trees in the garden of our inn, and discussing the current state of our deliverables, expectations, and understanding of our surroundings. Before we meet our contact here, a coconut broker with whom we’ve been put in contact, we plan to assess how open the villagers are with discussing their knowledge of the coconut economy, starting with the family that owns the inn.