Occasional news and details from Gecko Villa, among the rice paddies of rural Northeast Thailand. Other Thailand travel information may also be posted here, as may photographs from the vacation villa, from visitors or from events at or near the Thai villa. If you would like to post pictures of your Thai holiday at the villa here, please feel free to contact us by email.

Posted By Gecko

Free Rice Logo

Gecko Villa invites you to play a word game and help the United Nation's World Food Programme to donate rice to those most in need. Since the launch of the game in 2007, thanks to players such as yourself, Freerice has helped raise enough funds to feed over  4 million people in countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

 It's free to play! Simply visit our Free Rice page and start playing this word game - it is simple to start with, but quickly learns to challenge you. 

Teachers: why not get your classes involved? They will enrichen their vocabulary and provide rice for others with every correct answer...

 
Posted By Gecko

Crying Tiger Beef Thailand

 

This simple dish adds zing and sumptuous depth of flavour and bite to a simply grilled steak. The meat is best flame-charred on the outside, and still very pink and juicy on the inside. It makes a perfect "kap khlaem' or "drinking dish", to be nibbled with a long cold beer. The dish's spiciness should be intense - or else the tiger will not cry!

- Combine 2 large, finely chopped garlic cloves, three chopped roots of coriander, and 1 tbsp each of of fish sauce & soy sauce. Marinate approx 400g good rump steak in this, preferably overnight.
- Brown 3 tbsp of  uncooked jasmine rice grains in a dry pan for approx 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. When golden, cool and grind to a coarse powder (with the consistency of roughly cracked black pepper.)
- Remove the steak from the marinade. Brush with peanut or sunflower oil and grill (or preferably BBQ) on a high heat till rare or medium rare. Set aside for ten minutes.
- In a bowl, mix together 5 tbsp fish sauce, 6 of lime juice,  1 tbsp of palm sugar,  and 2 tbsp of coarsely ground roasted dry chilies (use Thai style dark red chili flakes rather than insipid bright red powder!)   

- Cutting against the grain, slice the steak  into thin strips. Add 2 tbsp thinly sliced shallot rings,  approx. 10 big mint leaves, a handful of fresh coriander leaves, and  two finely sliced spring onions. Add the ground rice to this, as well as the steak and any juices.  Mix and serve alone, or with raw cabbage leaves as serving cups. The chili-fearing may prefer to serve the sauce in a bowl to the side.

You could substitute lemon for lime, cane sugar for palm sugar, and store-bought Thai ground rice powder for the home made variety, although when preparing Thai food the original ingredients are the most harmonious! 

 
Posted By Gecko

Thailand to Laos Vientiane Udon Nong Khai border

Many guests travelling to or from Gecko Villa combine a stay at our country pool villa with a visit to Vientiane or Luang Prabang in Laos, given the proximity of the Thai / Laos border. Here we list some travel options from Udon Thani  to Vientiane.
Train: Train 69 leaves Udon Thani at 07.14 and arrives in Nong Khai at 08.25. Delays are frequent. From Nong Khai train station, you can transfer to the bus station to head over to Laos. There is also a once daily train service from Nong Khai to Thanaleng, which is in Laos but about 13 kms from Vientiane.
Bus: There is an international coach service from Udon Thani to Vientiane, although we would only recommend this if you have your Lao visas issued prior to arrival in Thailand. If you have these, this alternative is fairly straightforward and inexpensive (approx THB100 per person.) Buses generally depart each way at 07.00, 09.30, 15.00 and 17.00 If you plan to get a Lao visa on arrival, you can take a coach from Udon to Nong Khai. A shuttle bus runs from the bus station across the Friendship Bridge to Laos every 20 minutes throughout the day ( fare about THB30).  It stops at Thai immigration 5 mins after leaving the bus station, where you need to get your exit stamp,  then crosses the Friendship Bridge to arrive at Lao customs & immigration some 10 mins later (a visa on arrival is available for Laos at this border point).  You now remove your luggage from the bus luggage hold and go through Lao customs.  Then take a tuk-tuk to your chosen hotel.
Car: Private Thai vehicles are not allowed into Laos  without a special license. This means you need to get to Nong Khai in one vehicle, go through the various passport and customs controls, take a third party bus across the bridge, go through Lao immigration, then take another bus or taxi into Vientiane. Guests of Gecko Villa  may book a fully licensed car in advance for the transfer between Gecko Villa and Vientiane (in only the one vehicle, and without border  issues.) This is the quickest and most independent option but is more costly, at approx THB3,500 each way.

 
Posted By Gecko

As we move into the dry season, the emerald green rice  paddies around Gecko Villa will metamorphose to yellows & golds, and will soon be ready for harvest. Scarecrows in ragged old tee shirts will cede their place in the fields to villagers with straw hats and scythes. Rice is the mainstay of the local economy and - in good years - sustains  villagers throughout the year. In Isaan, rice is generally limited to one crop a year, making bountiful provisions all the more susceptible to the climate.

I know its a rice field - but where's the rice?

All our guests have eaten rice in their home country, but many  seem embarrassed to ask where the rice grains might be found, and  "under the water?"  is a common guess!

The Rice Cycle

Around May, farmers use either the traditional water buffalo or “Kubota” motorized ploughs to prepare the soil for sowing. Seedlings are grown in a waterlogged rice paddy until they have developed into sprouts of about 1ft in height. (You will see many of these seedling paddies near our local lake, as adequate water is more readily guaranteed here.)

The rice sprouts are transplanted into the ploughed & flooded rice paddy. They are replanted in rows by hand, in a process known as casting. This may look easy, but if you try your hand you will soon suffer from the constant bending, and will  be surprised by the weight as you carry just one long stick of seedlings through the waterlogged mud to the paddy for planting.

The rice is left to grow for the next 3 to 4 months. Rains cease and the weather becomes hot and dry, and gradually the rice turns golden brown.

When fully dry & golden, the rice is harvested  by hand. This is a time of much merriment as a supply of rice is being guaranteed for the approaching year. Much joking and drinking usually takes place during the harvest, in which all villagers participate. Even villagers who have migrated to Bangkok or elsewhere to work will return for the harvest, much to the despair of their employers.

Once harvested the rice is threshed (either by hand with sticks, or by machine) to separate the rice grains at the head of the plant from the stems, before loading the rice grains into sacks. So, the rice grains are much like wheat: they are found at the top of the golden blades, not under water!

Finally, the rice grains are milled, removing the husk (to be used as pig food or fertilizer) and preparing the rice for transfer to market for polishing and sale.

The rice grain is made up of 3 main layers. The hull or husk is the outer hard protective layer which people cannot eat. This is removed when it is milled. Underneath the hull or husk is the bran & germ layer. This gives brown rice its colour. White rice is when the bran and germ layer are removed. The bran is the outer layer and the germ is the inside layer. The endosperm or kernel is the inside of the rice grain. It is hard and white and contains lots of starch.

Thailand_Rice_Diagram

 

 
Posted By Gecko

A British family based in Bahrain recently stayed at Gecko Villa, and during their trip visited the local primary school, where they made generous donations to the school and children in attendance. During their trip they also kindly gave gifts to villagers in their homes or in their fields -- surprising the locals who were just going about their daily village life.

The guest later thanked the family that runs Gecko Villa noting that "they were really delightful people & the food was fantastic & healthy. Wish I could cook like that!"  At Gecko Villa, Ten said "The guests were very generous and really went the extra mile to ensure that their donations went to those who were most in need. I think their son was very surprised by the difference between his own school and the one in our village. The least I could do to thank them in return was to try to feed them well!"

Many thanks for your kindness - from all at Gecko Villa and from the villagers.

School-donation-responsible travel

 

 


 
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