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As I write this, I'm laying on top of my bed in a Lamphun guesthouse recovering from a 24-hour bout with what I think was the flu — runny nose, headache, and massive stomach cramps.  Or, perhaps it was a bad cold coming at the same time as a bad reaction to local food eaten yesterday.  Or, it the stomach problems might have been the result of my forgetting to brush my teeth yesterday using bottled water rather than from the tap.  At any rate, I've spent most of the past day in bed drifting in and out of sleep between trips to the restroom.  I just hope I feel well enough tomorrow to visit Tim's parents once again; she's been a trooper taking care of me all day rather than going down to Wiang Nong Long herself.

When last I wrote, we were getting a late start Saturday following an "interesting" night out on the town.  All difficulties had been forgiven and forgotten and we were looking forward to a nice day together.  Once Tim woke up, we drank coffee together on the balcony overlooking SK House's swimming pool.  We then walked to an eatery I'd noticed while walking on Moon Muang Soi 6 the day before.  The Chiang Mai Saloon offers a decidedly Tex-Mex selection of food and I wanted Tim to try some food similar to what she'd find in New Mexico.  She ordered chile con carne with refried beans and I had beef fajitas (which actually was served on a cast-iron skillet, just like "home").  The beans weren't very hot and the other items had a strange Dutch crumbly cheese (similar to blue cheese) that didn't provide the same effect as cheddar would have but overall the food was very good, particularly the fajitas.  Tim especially liked the chile and the chips with salsa (some of the best salsa I've tasted, by the way).  We also liked the saloon's logo (featuring a Thai cowboy atop a bucking elephant rather than bronco) and I decided I wanted to buy a t-shirt there.  However, they were out of extra large sizes at that location but told me I could buy one at their original branch on Loi Kroh Road.  Tim purchased a very smart-looking black polo shirt for 200 baht while we were at the Soi 6 location.

We took a tuk-tuk to Pantip Plaza where I bought a plug adapter for the laptop and then we began walking to the other Chaing Mai Saloon to buy my t-shirt.  However, we got turned around and lost so ended up taking another tuk-tuk there.  They didn't have any black polos but I did buy a white t-shirt with the logo that looks nice but not near as nice at Tim's shirt.  We then began walking just to look around; when we stopped at one point, I found on the map that we were very close to the Suriwong Book Centre on Sidonchai Road so I led Tim there to check it out.  It was a huge book store with a very large selection of English-language books at wholesale prices.  Tim and I both chose several books, including one I'd been checking various bookstores to find since arriving in the city.  Exploring Chiang Mai by Oliver Hargreave has detailed descriptions not only of the city itself but of the surrounding villages and countryside along with great maps and photos.  I was very impressed with this particular bookstore in a city full of bookshops (both new and secondhand).

It was raining when we exited Suriwong so we took a tuk-tuk back to our guesthouse and spent the evening reading and repacking.  I did some computer work and we turned in fairly early.

We checked out of SK House around 9:30 Sunday morning (a simple process of just giving them the key, no paperwork or additional payment was involved) and found Anon waiting for us in his ancient Toyota pickup truck.  We set my laptop backpack on the passenger seat in the cab (the sky was threatening rain) and the remainder in the bed where Tim and I also rode.  It was a pleasant hour-long journey down to Lamphun with a cool breeze and the rain held off.  Much of Highway 106 along the way to Saraphi is lined by very tall yang trees (903 of them, according to Hargreave's book) which were planted in 1899 and are protected by a 10,000-baht fine for damaging them.  The countryside is dotted by small villages and temples with many trees and occasional small rivers.

Anon had scouted out a couple of hotels in Lamphun we could stay at and we chose Tantong (spelling?) Guesthouse near the railway station.  It's a couple of kilometers outside of the old town center but is fairly clean and comfortable with air-conditioning and mini-bar in the room and an Internet cafe in the lobby.  It's a bargain at 450 baht per night (about USD $11), although there are a lot of spider webs along the ceiling in the bathroom (which I worked on dislodging with the shower hose tonight).

After we settled into our room, Anon drove us to Tim's family.  This was another case of people living in a completely different location than I'd been told.  First, Tim had told me they lived in Lamphun and then it was Pasang which is an hour from the far side of Lamphun.  The actual location is closer to Wiang Nong Long, another hour or so past Pasang.  Somewhat past Pasang, we left the main highway (106) for a weaving country lane only wide enough for a very narrow car or truck.  The mountains were in the distance and the fields the road passed through were full of cotton and longan trees.  The area actually reminded me quite a bit of northeastern Kansas and the drive on the winding road began to remind me of drives I've done to Lake Perry with my dad.

We finally arrived at the home of Tim's parents.  It's a pretty basic structure with a concrete enclosure at ground level (that doesn't have walls on one-and-a-half sides with a wooden house above (also open-air with a covering.  I managed to remember to wai both papa and mama and speak the appropriate greetings to each in the Lamphun dialect of Thai (essentially a different language from that spoken in central Thailand) and got big hugs from both.  After we had sat (on a platform in the concrete ground-level "basement"), Tim's father took a spool of white string and proceeded to wrap it around each of my wrists to make bracelets.  Tim's mother than did the same with my wrists and then they repeated the process with Tim.  As I understand it, this means that they give their approval for our marriage.  We then showed some of the photos we'd taken together and had lunch (I mainly ate cucumbers although Tim gave me some fried pork skins and sticky rice a couple of times).  Two of Tim's brothers and her sister also joined us and they all had great amusement at my discomfort in eating the flying red ants offered as dessert (I did manage to get a few down; later, when I had the first of my stomach problems I joked with Tim that the ants I'd eaten were now eating me).

After a while, Tim led me behind her parent's house past an open-air barn containing several cows to the shack shared by her youngest brother and sister.  They had a mud oven (similar to the hornos used by native Americans in New Mexico to cook fry bread) next to their home which was made of cinder blocks; the only "furniture" inside was a broken-down television set and stereo speakers.  A short visit there and then we walked down the country lane a hundred yards or so to the house of Anon's parents (he'd grown up with Tim), visited there for a while, and then walked another couple of hundred yards to the house of Tim's oldest brother.  This was another very poor hovel (Anon's family home was the nicest out of the four I visited) and her sister-in-law was sewing pants on the side "porch" amidst a swarm of chickens.  Tim's oldest brother is a musician and he played a tune on the stringed instrument remembling a guitar (Tim couldn't tell me the name of the instrument).

It had been raining off-and-on all day and I began filling ill sometime after noon, mostly a sore throat and a case of the sniffles.  We had planned to have our "official" engagement photos made in Lamphun so we cut our family visit short around 4:00 after another brief visit at the parents' home (where papa gave my hands a big squeeze and placed them atop Tim's hands, another sign of his approval).  Tim's youngest brother loaded a small motorbike into the bed of Anon's truck; he was loaning this to us so we could get around a bit easier (no tuk-tuk's in Lamphun and only rare songtow's run in the area).  We arrived at the portrait studio in Lamphun just before closing time — we both had makeup applied to our faces and were outfitted in traditional Lamphun costumes for the photos.  We had a number of 5x7's made, plus a couple of 10x15's which came with "free" frames.  Best of all, we were also given a CD with the photo files to make it easy for reprints.

I was feeling very sick by this time so we made a quick stop at a pharmacy before Anon dropped us back at the guesthouse.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I spent all of last night and most of today alternating between sleep and trips to the toilet.  I feel a little better now, have eaten some food (Tim found some croissants somewhere), and took a shower a short while ago.  I hope to feel strong enough tomorrow for another trip to see my new family.