Friday, June 26, 2009

Quiz: Name the Object

Answer posted below (as of July 10)

A very common object in Isaan. But a complete mystery to the outsider. It's handmade from an Asian hardwood, carved from one piece of wood. It folds into a fairly compact form in order to toss into your backpack or farmer's satchel.

Your best guess? Please put your guess in the comment section. After some of my readers take their best shot, I'll add another picture which will reveal all.

Answer, July 10

And behind the our answer-photo which will.... put an end to your sleepless nights!

A pillow, of course! Some of you came close, for example...

  • a seat = pillow for the derriere
  • a bed = pillow for the entire body, a sleep-related object, etc.

Surprisingly, a pillow made from Thai hardwood is quite comfortable, given it's perfect contour for the back of the head, and perfect height from the flat surface it sits on. I actually fell asleep on it.

Definitely better than a standard Japanese pillow--which is like laying your head on a bag of noisy, rolling marbles.

My Personal Encounter With a Cobra

I've heard that the area where I live has a very high concentration of Cobra snakes, including the King Cobra, which is reputedly one of the most venomous of snakes. One species of the King Cobra can actually spit blinding venom into the eyes of its victim up to 10 meters (30 feet) away with remarkable accuracy. I've heard reports of it happening to local farmers in my area. No thanks. Fortunately near my home, I have never had the joy of meeting one of these reptiles. Instead, I had to travel about 600 miles to a southern island (Koh Lanta) for my own personal encounter.

I was with a group of friends who decided to hike to a popular cave in the jungle, led by a local Muslim farmer-guide. After a great adventure through a cave system with battery-powered headlamps, we started hiking back to the main farm at dusk. I wanted to get some photos without people in it, so I hung back a bit, until the party ahead was out of sight, and began shooting pictures.

In just a few moments I heard something in the underbrush about 1.5 meters (5 feet) off to the left side of the trail, going in the opposite direction. Realizing I might be facing an opportunity for a good shot of some wildlife, I did an about-turn and followed the sound. It picked up speed, and so did I. Of course, I was thinking naively that I'd be catching a photo of maybe a lizard, a rodent, or some other fairly benign animal.

Suddenly, the sound in the underbrush ceased as the object of my attention crossed the trail about 1 meter (3 feet) directly in front of me. It was a quite long snake--about 2 meters (6 feet) in length. I had the good fortune to have my camera ready, and shot the above picture. The snake's midsection is very prominent, and the head can be seen on the far left of the picture between leaves which surround it on three sides.

Happy with my prize photo, I turned around and rushed back up to the group which was beginning to wonder where I was. I showed the picture on the LCD screen of my camera to our guide and asked him what kind of snake he supposed it was. Immediate recognition in his eyes. He pointed to the red marking on the back of the hooded head (I hadn't noticed any of the tell-tale sure markings of a Cobra) and then he exclaimed: "Oh! You very lucky foreigner!"

I thought, "He must be admiring my luck for getting such a great photo!"

But then he added--"Lucky you not die! BIG Cobra!!"

Realizing I had chased this thing for 30 feet down a forest trail, and then to have it cut me off by crossing my path a few feet in front of me (and thankfully continuing on it's journey), suddenly left my knees turning a bit weak. I had been chasing sure death. Had I accidentally cornered it next to a stone, or even stepped on it's tail (shudder) in my open sandals, my hiking buddies might have been prying my camera from my cold, dead fingers in the jungle.

"Hey look at this last picture on his camera! It's something with fangs! Cool!"

Oh, talk about Babe in the Woods. Or better yet, the Bible reminds us, "The Lord preserves the simple." Guilty as charged.
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