One of the advantages of living off the beaten path (or off the grid, in the middle of nowhere, etc.) should be peace and quiet, right? I mean, I have to ride over 70k on a narrow, twisty, mountainous road to get to an ATM which sometimes works. Amazingly I’d venture to say this is the noisiest place I’ve lived yet! Kids playing with big firecrackers make up for the gunfire of Richmond and Albuquerque, and the semi-broken smoke spewing two stroke motorbikes are louder than “traffic” anywhere.
However, my arch-sonic-enemy in Thailand (chickens, of course) have some stiff competition in Baan Wangka. First some history…in Kano’s old Bangkok “compound” there once was a wonderful and peaceful guesthouse where I would sometimes sleep. All of that changed when Chaat-Chai got into chickens. The Little Isaan chicken farm sprung up behind the guesthouse, and regularly had anywhere from some to a lot of birds. I always thought chickens did their cock-a-doodle-doing at sunrise or thereabouts. Ha ha ha…what a joke. Sometimes they would get going at 2 am, sometimes they would wait until 4 am. Actually, usually at both 2 am and 4 am for a good hour or so they would do their thing. I learned to hate the chickens, and combated their early morning brutality with white noise (FM radio tuned to non-existent station). Kat and I thought up some great song titles for non-existent music about killing chickens, with our big hit being “Cock-A-Doodle Boom!”.
Of course chickens are pretty much everywhere here in the Mon village. Luckily for me, our neighbor has the most I’ve seen at any house on our street. One of their favorite cock-a-doodle-doing spots is on top of the wall separating our house from theirs. Needless to say, my bedroom is right next to this wall, and the chickens love the spot RIGHT outside my window. Sticking with their stupid lack of sense of time, these chickens cover a wide range of dark hours…1 am, 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, 5 am…no problem!
Being a vegetarian and loving animals I’m shocked at the chicken death fantasies I have in bed some morn- ings. Of course a 12 gauge 3” magnum 00 load at close range would take care of the problem efficiently, but my favorite is the samurai sword fantasy. Just picture it…the chickens are lined up upon the wall singing away…I step outside in a white Japanese martial arts suit with my katana sword drawn. In a quick and fluid motion I decapitate three, spin, decapitate three more, and chop another in half before the others even know what is happening. I do not mourn their deaths.
How could anything compete with my LOVE of chickens in the morning you may ask? Enter technology. Our neighbors (yeah the same ones who own the chickens) have a house with bamboo walls and a bad-ass stereo with huge speakers. The sonic containment capabilities of bamboo are about equal to card- board. These neighbors have at least a few teenage girls living in the house…teenage girls with a huge love of Thai pop at high volume. We estimate they have less than 10 cds total, so variety of crappy music is out of the question. The pattern goes like this…the girls get a favorite song and listen to it at least 5 times in the morning before school, and a few more times in the afternoon. After three or four days, the song changes. Keep in mind “morning” for the vast majority of Mon people starts at 2 or 3 am. Being teenagers, the girls sleep in till 4 am and then rock out. It is usually loud enough to almost overtake the chickens!
The song I have heard the most is by a band called “Clash”. This is NOT “The Clash”, and Joe Strummer should come to Thailand and kill these guys. Their (latest) big hit is called “Chet Naam Dtaa”, which translates to “Wipe Away Tears”. If I had a dead chicken for every time I’ve heard this song one problem would be well on it’s way to fixed. Thai pop sucks. American pop sucks. English pop sucks. It is safe to say I don’t like pop music.
The sign on the road as you come into Baan Wangka says (in Mon, Thai, and English) “Welcome to the Mon culture village”. There is no denying the Mon-ness of here…people speak Mon, dress like Mon, eat Mon food, etc. Why do they all like Thai pop? Mon music is great…totally sporadic with crazy time signatures…like you don’t know if the musicians are truly incredible or are just making everything up as they go along. Ok, so teenagers have a valid reason to listen to something else…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!
So we have the chickens, the loud music (lots of bamboo houses with BIG stereos), the two stroke motorbikes, and the fact that Mon people like to yell and talk loud in general. Mon language is not at all like Thai…but reminds me of my personal interpretation of Russian. When people talk, it always sounds like they are angry (but are just saying “hi how are you today”). Combine this with the fact (mentioned above) about waking times, and you have a spectacular assortment of non-complimenting sounds in the air. I won’t even get into the sounds the dogs make (fights, howls, mating, etc. see story about Dukdik). Just remember, remote and quiet do NOT always go together. Especially here. But maybe peace and quiet would be boring. Maybe…