- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Elephant poo paper
American Community in Chiang Mai
celebrates Independence Day
Chiang Saen, Thailand’s Lost City
Elephant poo paper
That’s not ‘loo’ paper!
Did you know that the beautiful recycled colorful paper,
which you see everywhere on the markets is made from materials other than
wood? These include elephant dung, pineapple leaves and banana leaves.
300-400 grams, or about twice as much as this, are needed to get 1 sheet of
A short trip out from Chiang Mai, behind Mae Rim gets you
to the Elephant Dung Recycling Factory, where visitors can take a tour to
learn about the whole process. It is an interesting experience, and believe
me, it does not smell as bad as it sounds!
Being a bit wary of the large pile of elephant dung I did
not dare to venture too close but the guide explained to me that only the
dung from sick elephants smells. Elephants are vegetarian, their excrement
(poo - technical word) is undigested decayed plant fiber and these kilos of
fibrous dung are perfect for paper making without cutting any trees.
the elephant dung.
The dung is washed multiple times to ensure that there is
really no smell and as I got closer I could tell it was true. During the
next part of the process, caustic soda and water are added and it was
explained how the dung was cooked for approximately five hours to kill all
the bacteria, and bleached afterwards to make it soft and give it a lighter
color. Colors and natural fibers can also be added to the process which will
turn the paper into some pretty pale or even striking colors.
dung is cooked for many hours but even more interesting is ‘the oven’.
Afterwards the dung is weighed out into small balls of
300-400 grams each, to ensure the same thickness and consistency and is
spread above a net and evened out in water. During this part of the process,
leaves and grasses can be added to the paper to give it more texture and
It is drip dried in the sun for three to five hours and
finally trimmed off the nets as large sheets of paper.
soda and water is added to the dung.
The different kinds of paper that are created all go
through the same process but the textures of each were very different.
Pineapple is rougher and banana is soft, so feel the paper next time you buy
some to wrap up a present.
paper is made into picture frames, boxes and booklets as well as paper.
I would even suggest you have a look at how the paper is
made into items such as picture frames, boxes and booklets. It gave me a
greater appreciation for all the items sold in the markets because every
single one takes time and effort by the workers (and the elephants) and are
truly hand made.
The trip to this quaint little factory was short, interesting and
educational. What a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. Next time I
receive a present I will look at the paper more carefully and remember the
elephants and keep it for re-use.
made piece of paper.
on a net and evened out in water.
washed, evened elephant dung is spread on the net and dried in the sun.
American Community in Chiang Mai
celebrates Independence Day
Elvis was in the building!
Photos: Michael & Marion Vogt
Back on the 4th of July 1776, America claimed its
independence, sealed by signing the Declaration of Independence from
England. 228 years later, this auspicious occasion is celebrated by all
Americans around the globe, and Chiang Mai was no exception.
grand fireworks finale.
The grounds of the US Consulate General, beautifully
decorated in ‘classic’ American colors, hosted around 1000 guests, with
an array of tents and playgrounds, and the air filled with the smells of
‘good ole’ hamburgers, BBQ ribs and chicken.
Bouncy Castle was a top favorite amongst the kids, immediately after the ice
Everyone was kept in party mood, and even the weather
gods were smiling, laying on blue skies and sunshine. Host Consul-General
Eric Rubin was busy informing all visitors about the never-ending program
for the afternoon, which included performances by the Prince Royal’s
College Band, the Payap University Choral Group, Robin the magician, the
Bouncy Castle, plus a number of surprise music performances. A huge number
of food and beverage stalls made starvation and dehydration impossible, and
the choice was yours from classic American McBurgers, over Bud’s Ice
cream, home made bagels and burritos, which went down well with a can of
Miller Lite or Budweiser, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper.
brought the house down with favorites such as ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Love me
Tender’, and ‘GI Blues’.
In between, Eric and Henry Jardine gave away door prizes,
kindly donated by a number of businesses, including airfares and hotel
accommodation, decorative items, jade jewelry and newspaper subscriptions.
The crowd went wild when Elvisky (as Henry explained “a
symbiosis of ‘Elvis’ and ‘Whisky’”) entered the building and
started to rock and roll, and had almost everyone on his or her feet within
minutes. The 1 hour performance by the No.1 Elvis impersonator, who has won
a number of awards in his career, covered all the favorites, and was greatly
appreciated by everybody. Elvisky had to promise to be back for more next
year and to also give singing lessons to Henry.
Rubin (far right) and Henry Jardine (second right) busy drawing door prices,
and desperately looking for the winners.
By now, the sun had gone down, setting the right
atmosphere for the Chiang Mai Choral Society, accompanied by pianist David
Wilson, who added many special touches to the arrangements, and this time
also took over Rainy Riding’s role as conductor. The program included
popular music as well as traditional patriotic songs and for the first time
the group featured American country music when the male members of the
chorus sang “Elvira”. The non-US choral members had to learn to speak
“redneck” for this particular piece!
Every American joined in the last sing along, which included
“America”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, “America the Beautiful”
and of course the national anthem, after which the grand fireworks show
started across the Ping River. A spectacular finish for a relaxing and very
homey afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed by all nations assembled that day.
actually bounce - US Vice Consul Henry Jardine, US Consul General Eric
Rubin, and French Hon. Consul Thomas Baude (from left) performing active
make your own jewelry - the kids kept very busy during the afternoon.
had a great time watching Robin the magician.
Choral Group from Payap University.
Chiang Mai Choral Society entertained with traditional and patriotic songs.
Chiang Saen, Thailand’s Lost City
A new tourist attraction?
Mankind has much folklore regarding many cities that have
disappeared. Atlantis, the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and Pompeii for
starters, but there is another - Chiang Saen - Thailand’s own mysterious,
lost city is located on the Mekong River, just across from the Lao border,
and has been buried for hundreds of years.
and his staff have made every effort to keep the restoration as authentic as
possible. Even the mortar is made using an ancient mix of sand, lime, and
sugar cane extract.
The legend runs that the city sank into the earth, in a
single night, because the people ate a sacred white eel, which they caught
in the Mekong. To avoid disaster, perhaps you should check the color of your
sushi next time you are eating near my house.
asked if they planned to cut down the huge tree which grew from the center
of the temple. Noot looked horrified when I asked if they planned to cut
down the huge tree growing in the center of the temple. “Of course we
won’t cut it down. There is a large Buddha statue inside.”
Jasana Doyasa, a leading Thai government archaeologist,
was kind enough to take me on a tour of the dig site, where a team of over
fifty workers is struggling to uncover the ancient history of Thailand.
believe this temple to be the largest,” explained Noot, showing me what
looked like a pile of bricks, half overgrown with roots and vines, and
covered with dirt.
The work began with aerial photographic reconnaissance,
where archaeologists studied the mounds on the surface of the earth, and
determined where the ancient temples lay, finding sixty temples within the
city walls, and thirty outside.
current dig site will uncover six temples.
“The archaeology of Thailand is all about temples,”
explained Doyasa. “In Europe you can uncover markets, churches, and public
buildings. But in Thailand, these buildings would have been made of wood,
which decompose very quickly in a tropical environment. In many ancient
cities, the only buildings which were made of stone were the temples. This
is the only history which remains,” said Doyasa. “We can guess where the
market was, and where the people lived, but since we want to be true to
history, we will only restore those details that we are certain of.”
expressed the hope that the site would become a major attraction.
One of the details that archaeologists didn’t know was
the height of the ancient temples. “We can tell the width and length,”
explained Doyasa, as he walked me through the ancient ruins. Many of the
walls only protruded from the earth by a few centimeters, and would be
passed over by the untrained eye. Doyasa pointed at the highest wall, only
about a meter tall, saying, “We won’t build much higher than that,
because we can’t be certain.”
Doyasa and his staff have made every effort to keep the
restoration as authentic as possible. “As much as we could, we used the
old stones.” Even the mortar, which the mason employs, was made using an
ancient mix of sand, lime, and sugar cane extract.
Being an archaeologist is much like being a detective.
With no one there to tell the story, Doyasa and his assistant, Noot, use all
of their extensive training and knowledge to piece the details together.
“We believe this temple to be the largest,” explained Noot, showing me
what looked like a pile of bricks, half overgrown with roots and vines, and
covered with dirt. Lacking the archaeologist’s eye for detail, I asked if
they planned to cut down the huge tree which grew from the center of the
temple. Noot looked horrified. “Of course we won’t cut it down. There is
a large Buddha statue inside.”
The current dig site will uncover six temples. Doyasa was
happy that the Thai government had approved a larger budget for next year,
so that they could begin excavating the rest of the temples. With the
current, six temple project employing 50 laborers and artisans, the
excavation of the entire 90 temples, will provide hundreds of jobs, giving a
much welcomed financial relief to the people of the rural north.
He expressed the hope that the site would become a major
attraction, bringing tourist dollars to the region. His interest in tourism
is not purely financial, however. He explained that it is often difficult
for him and his staff to protect Thailand’s monuments and dig sites from
encroachment by local businesses and farmers. In many cases, he has actually
asked people to move their business or even to move their home. “Some
people hate me up here,” laughed Doyasa.
It was clear that he was dedicated to the preservation of Thailand’s
history. And, with tourist dollars coming in, it would be easier to justify
to the authorities and locals alike the importance of preservation.
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