The Thai people use charcoal to cook their food for the best flavour, and for economical reasons of course. I just love the flavour of char-cooked food.
The rubber trees are cut down at the end of their productive time and logs are then sawn to about 3-4 feet each. The logs are then placed into these 'charcoal huts' which are very cute brick domes. The door is closed up and the wood slowly burnt to a heavy charcoal. Most of it comes out still in the shape of the log, not like in the pieces you find in a fireplace.
Entering the Monastery
We were very lucky with the timing of our visit to the provinces of Phattalong and Satun as we had special events to attend at both places that we didn't know about until we were there.
While we were in Satun we were invited as honorary guests to a party of a young man who was about to enter his customary time in the monastery (for up to 3 months - in modern times it's as little as 2 weeks) before he is married.
The night before entry to the monastery is a party held in the boy's honour. All the family and friends attend with a band, marquee and huge amounts of food for all. It is a very big event. Several hundred people in all would have attended the party we were invited to. People just drift in and out all afternoon/night. Most of the people who come to the party participate in the preparation, serving and cleaning up after the food. The food was absolutely beautiful! We were served up with some of everything - we ate so much we thought we'd burst!
It's quite odd to watch as they are butchering the meat at one area, cooking in another, serving in another area, then washing up separately. All of this outside the party. I will put the pictures up under a travelogue to give you a better idea. I don't want to make 8 tips out of one event!
It is customary to give the young man a gift (usually of money). He will be dressed in a special robe and from that point, a woman is not permitted to touch him - as with monks.
String for the spirit
Here you can see the string running through the cave. You will see these strings along roadsides or from Spirit House altars in front of homes to the house roof, or even from house to house.
The string represents a 'trail' for the spirit to travel along. 'Spirit' is not actually Buddhist, but a remnant of the Hindu influence on the Thai people. It is more of a superstition than religion, but is tolerated by Buddhism.
Caves are holy places to Buddhists, which is why you will find statues of Buddha in most of them. They are as natural temples. For the "Plarm" (Buddhists that have some Hindu beliefs), anything that is extra beautiful or different contains "Spirit". An especially large or beautiful tree will have 'spirit', as will a particularly lush or pretty area. The same with a very intelligent dog - anything special.
Curly tailed cats
I just had to take a photo of this cat. It's tail is like nothing I have seen on a cat before. In Phuket they have short tailed cats. At first I thought the tails must have been docked, but I even saw young kittens with the same weird, knobbly tails. The kitten was too young to have healed from a wound of having its tail cut off, so it must be a genetic mutation. I have heard of a story that there is a short tailed cat of Thailand, which when it interbred with regular cats, was born with the shortened tail.
This cat, however, is a totally different kettle of fish. It's tail was curled like a Basenji dog, or like a possum. This is a peculiarity of some of the cats in the area. I saw two like this.