19-Feb-2002 -- Continued from 18°N 102°E.
When we planned this trip to Thailand we contacted some of our friends in Bangkok to find out whether there would be an opportunity to meet and things fell into place quite naturally: The confluence project was mentioned; they were planning to buy a new car; we wanted to go to the south/beaches; the car had to be properly tested on a road trip; ... A plan was made for a weeklong trip to the south of Thailand with a focus on beaches and confluences. To make things complete we set our friends up with a Garmin etrex.
We left Bangkok in the late morning heading south on roads #35 and #4. About 15km south of Phetchaburi and 12km west of the confluence we turned into road #3187. The street map indicated roads within a couple of kilometers of the spot. Simply following the arrows on the 2 GPS units brought us to an open gate in a fence just outside a little village a mere 80m from the spot. We walked through the gate towards a house, trying to find somebody to get permission to do our thing. Nobody answered our call and we proceeded to the confluence. The actual spot is located at the edge of a pond.
As we were taking pictures a man came from a small hut about 30 m from the confluence, walked to the house and came back with some food for the fish in the pond. It turned out that he and his wife had watched us, keeping a low profile, to find out what we were up to. When we appeared to be harmless city dwellers they decided to reveal their presence. They had interpreted our strange behavior around the pond (walking up and down; pointing to something in the pond) as some interest/search for fish. As we walked over to the hut and talked to them we apologized for just walking onto their land and explained that we really only wanted to take some pictures. In the hut they were making sugar from some fruit from the very tall palm trees nearby (see pictures). While they were explaining the process it came out that they initially thought we were some kind of officials performing an inspection. Apparently there are some people that go beyond making sugar in little moonlighting operations.
None of us knew what the fruit of the palm trees looked like and they had none left. So the wife prodded the husband a little and he agreed to climb one of the trees to get some fresh fruit to show us (see pictures). He took a long rope and quickly and effortlessly climbed up one of these tall trees. The rope was not for safety; once at the top he cut some fruit and gently lowered it to the ground with the rope. I had to carry the fruit back to the house were it was opened. We got to eat some of the fruit, which tastes quite good and refreshing. We learned that the fruit is sold on the farmers market and that the sugar actually comes from the stalks. Juice is squeezed out of a certain part of the stalk and than reduced in a big pan over the fire pits we saw in the little hut (see picture). Other parts of the stalk and fruit are used in cooking also. We ended up with some of the fresh sugar, it made very good candy.
This was quite an experience and the couple seemed to enjoy our visit almost as much as we did. We would never have met these nice people or learned about the sugar making first hand if the GPS wouldn't have directed us into their field. Time seemed to stay still in this little village only a few kilometers from off the beaten path.
Continued at 8°N 99°E.