Amanda's Epistle

The continuing story of my life in Thailand

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The “Secret” Saingam Hot Spring

My husband is from Saingam Village and has used the hot spring for many years.  As it is now very popular, we thought we’d share some information about it for future visitors.

What you need to know about the “Secret” Saingam Hot Spring

  1. Saingam is not a Thai village.  It is a Lisu village and the people have their own language and costume.  Most of the younger folks speak Thai but some of the older ones do not.  They would use the hot spring to bathe during colder weather.
  2. It is no longer secret.  In the old days, pre-2014, only the bravest tourists were able to find our hot spring.  The turn-off wasn’t marked and the road to it wasn’t fully paved and was very difficult to drive on.  It also had no facilities, so there was no place to change clothes.  This was nice, as the hot spring usually wasn’t terribly crowded.  This is no longer the case.  The road has been paved, there are signs at the turnoff, and trucks and vans full of tourists arrive at certain times (2:15 pm on Sundays, for example).  If you want to arrive before crowds do, you have to get there before the tour vans do.
  3. The road is STILL difficult.  While it has been paved, it is still very very STEEP.  If you go by motorbike, you need 100 cc for 1 person or 125 for 2 people.  If not, your passenger WILL have to get off and walk up the hill.  You must also use 1st gear going down the hills.  We have had to take people to the hospital when they lost control of their motorbikes.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
  4. There is gas available.  The hot spring does not have a gas pump, but you can purchase gas in a 2 liter bottle from the shop if you run out.
  5. You do have to pay twice.  Tourists pay at the junction to enter the jungle.  That money goes to the Thai Forest Protection Unit, which makes sure people do not chop down too many trees to clear farmland.  You pay again at the hotspring and that money goes to Saingam village.
  6. It does support the local economy.  The guards at the hotspring are people from Saingam village, including my brother-in-law.  The people running the shops and restaurant are also from Saingam.  Anything you purchase, as well as your entry fee, is helping an otherwise impoverished village.  As with most other tourist spots, locals do not pay to get in.
  7. There is STILL no electricity.  Saingam and the other villages in the area have no electric power lines.  They only have solar panels, which provide enough power for lights, but not enough for refrigerators, washing machines, or large appliances.  We are really hoping the popularity of the hot spring will help them get power lines.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your swim at the hot spring!09A6C644-8EA4-443C-B94C-0E39F7C251A3


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Thailand Spouse Visa: Everything we needed

After THREE trips to the immigration office we finally got my visa paperwork filled out.  One reason for this is that there is no LIST of ALL the documents a person may possibly need.  We kept getting sent back home (3 hours away) to get documents copied or modified for their requirements.  So I am going to write a list for our own reference and also for others in this situation.  This should help us and those hard-working immigration officials a great deal if we don’t have to keep doing multiple visits.


TWO copies of everything.  They keep one in the regional office and send the other to Bangkok.

The application

A recent visa photo (no less than 6 months)

The pages of you passport (you can just bring two copies of all of them with stamps, just to be safe)

– front page

– page with your original visa

– page with your departure card

– page from when you originally entered

– page with your re-entry permit (if you used one)

Your OLD passport front page (we bring along my old passport just in case)

Your OLD passport page with your original visa (if it was in an old passport)

Marriage certificate with your Thai spouse

Birth certificate of your Thai children

Your spouse’s house book (you don’t have to be living at this particular house, it just needs to be fully owned by your spouse or his/her family and have all of you listed in it)

– front page with address

– page listing you under the house book

– pages listing your children under the house book

Rental agreement (if you happen to be renting)

FOUR pictures of you at your house, inside and outside – 2 copies of each

– Must be the house you are living in (as in the rental house)

– pictures must have you in them

– pictures may include your spouse and kids

– pictures may NOT include anyone else

A map to your house (the one you are living in)

Your spouse’s ID card

If you are male, they may also want your bank record to prove your income.  If you are female, they will interview your husband and ask for his income, but do not ask for yours.  Very patriarchal society.

Please note that if any of you needed anything else you’d like to add to this list, please let us know so I can update this page.  I’m hoping it will help others who are married to Thai citizens with the visa process.

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20 Minute Wet Nurse

Odd thing happened the other day.

One of our regular responsibilities is to check in on the Lisu villagers in the hospital.  Yesterday, we visited two of them.  One was a church member who had just given birth by c-section to a large baby boy.  We prayed over the baby and his mother and lso gave the baby the name Timothy.

Lisu Christians will usually ask a pastor to name their children in a big ceremony that involves killing a pig (the Lisu use nearly any excuse to kill a pig and have a party).  We also showed them how to spell the name in Thai so it could be used on the birth certificate.  Most Lisu parents have no name picked out at birth, so the hospitals wind up choosing Thai names for the birth certificate, which the child has to use when enrolling in school.  A lot of village parents don’t know their children’s official names until they enroll in school, so we advise many of them to pick out a name and have it ready when the child is born, so the official name is one you know.  If you don’t know the gender, you pick a name for each gender (we really did have to tell them to do that).

After our visit with Timothy and his family, we visited one of our relatives, who was actually staying at our house so she’d be close to the hospital.  This lady gave birth to a girl, which made her very happy, as she has four boys already.  The Lisu actually want girls in the family, as boys do not help with housework and usually grow up to be lazy drunks (I’m working on informing the parents that if they teach the boys to help out and stay about from beer, they can prevent this).  The family also gets the bride-price when the girl marries, as compensation for losing a worker for their fields.  The downside to this is that it encourages them to marry the girls off at a young age (14 or 15) and to support divorce (they get money again when the girl remarries).

When we went to visit this relative, the mother was out of the room and the infant was crying.  The father explained that the little girl hadn’t been nursing and was getting fed through a syringe.  That’s when my husband turned to me and suggested I try to nurse the baby.  After all, I haven’t had any trouble nursing my own.  If anything, I have more milk than my daughter can eat.  But I had to ask.

“You sure her mom would be okay with that?”

I wasn’t sure about Lisu women, but I was pretty confident that an American mother would strongly object to another woman coming in and nursing her baby without asking first.  But my husband assured me it would be doing the family a good service and they wouldn’t object.  So I went ahead and picked up the baby.

She nursed for a good twenty minutes or so, and when her mother returned, she didn’t mind at all.  In fact, they were happy the baby was nursing.  I figured maybe the baby will nurse from her own mother, now that she has some experience.

The father then gave us a couple of names and asked which one we liked, so we named the little girl Mary.  Then we prayed for the family and I reminded my husband that I had my own baby at home who would probably want to be fed herself.

Thankfully, my daughter had no objections to her milk being shared.

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Life with Jam (Part 7)

Jam was always the good one, well-behaved and never got into trouble.  I was the one getting into trouble (and Deb usually the one getting blamed).

But Jam had her moments too.

When I was a baby, there was a time that Jam stepped on me (not that I actually remember this).  Dad then chased her down the hall and gave her a spanking, which makes me believe she did it on purpose.

Another time, the two of us teamed up and managed to break a clock.  I don’t remember this either, but Deb certainly does.  Mom insisted that Jam and I were too small to have broken the clock, so Deb was the one who got in trouble for it.  Most likely, Jam was using her puppy-dog eyes on Mom to show how innocent she was.


Jam did have lovely big brown eyes, but she always had to hide them behind glasses.  And when she was a kid, she HATED her big thick brown glasses.  I think she also got picked on at school for those glasses.  She finally got fed up enough to leave them out in the yard.  We had a black and white beagle named Aspen at the time, and he happily chewed those glasses up for her.


But for the most part, Jam was one who wanted to play it safe, follow the rules, have a routine.  She actually would have fit in very well over in Thailand, where everything follows tradition.  When I first came over to work here, people would ask me who was at home taking care of my parents.  After all, the Thai retirement plan is to make sure your kids will take care of you, usually in exchange for you babysitting your grandkids.  So I told them Jam was at home with Mom and Dad, so I was free to work in Thailand.  They found this to be acceptable, although they found it terribly strange that my other sister was unmarried and lived alone in her own house.


I’m beginning to think little Johnny will be a lot like Jam.  He’s going to be the middle child (although he was our firstborn, we took in Ben, who is older) and has a tendency to be a quiet child.  Sometimes I find the house to be too quiet and wonder where Johnny has gone.  Just yesterday, I went to wake Johnny up to find he wasn’t in bed.  I then found him in the kitchen, quietly looking around for something to eat.


Yes, little Johnny will be a lot like Jam.


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Life with Jam (Part 6)

For those of you who don’t know, Jam passed away on Saturday morning.  It was evening over here and Mom used Skype to call my cell phone, as we were up in the village.  Little Ben actually cried.

Ben also said, “Auntie Jam is happy but the rest of us are sad.”

Auntie Jam is happy that she doesn’t have to suffer from cancer anymore.

She’s happy she no longer walks on a crooked foot with a metal plate in her ankle.

She’s happy she no longer needs corrective lenses, as everyone in heaven has perfect vision.

She’s happy she no longer has high-frequency hearing loss.

But most of all, she’s happy because she’s with Jesus.  

And while the rest of us are sad, we also have a few things to smile about.

Like the fact that Jam left behind absolutely no debt.  When our Uncle Frank died, Dad had to send all his creditors a death certificate so they would stop calling about this debts.  But Jam actually learned something from Dad.  She only used her credit card for gas and paid it off every month.  My parents will be able to use her assets for the memorial service without any financial strain.  

She also left behind some great memories.  We’re currently going through pictures for the slideshow and found quite a few we had forgotten about.  Like the one of all three of us in bathing suits in Florida…and we’re actually skinny! (Sorry, but this photo will NOT be included in the slideshow.  My Thai husband would kill the rest of the family if they allowed a picture of his wife in swimwear to be displayed in public).

They also found the picture of Jam at the grand piano at our local Carnegie Arts Center, where she would have her piano recitals.  That was the time she played The Entertainer, which she spent months practicing and learning to play.

We found a great picture of her with Lady, our big yellow lab.  Lady was the dog we had the longest and also the dog that scared the neighborhood boys so they stopped bothering us.  They also stopped playing baseball so they wouldn’t have to fetch the foul balls out of our yard.

They still need to find the picture of her falling down during the ski trip.  I risked life and limb taking that one.  But at least I have the picture of us walking Stacy, Mom’s basset hound.  Stacy actually died of cancer too.



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Life with Jam (Part 5)

Jam with Johnny  Feb. 2012

Jam with Johnny
Feb. 2012

It was nice that we lived only two blocks from the school.  Jam and I always walked to school, with the exception of the one year we had to ride the bus (which we hated).  One time it was snowy and icy and we had a hard time getting up the hill.  My solution was to walk in the neighbor’s yards, as frozen grass is easier to walk on than frozen pavement.  But Jam, always a stickler for following the rules, said it wasn’t polite to walk in someone’s yard.  So she walked on the street and kept falling down.  Then, when we got to the top of the hill, a neighbor poked her head outside and called to us, “Hey you kids!  Don’t you know school is closed today?”

I was laughing.  Jam was mad.  We then sat on our butts and slid back down the hill.

We loved snow days.  Since we lived at the bottom of a hill, we would take out sled out and slide down it.  Unfortunately, the hill was also a road, as well as an emergency snow route.  So they usually plowed it pretty quickly and ruined our fun.  We would stand outside with the other kids and BOO at the snow plow.

Another time we got to go to Colorado for a youth conference over Christmas break.  This was when we both discovered that skiing is NOT our thing.  We spent most of our time hanging out in the lodge.  I also had a camera and had fun taking pictures of people.  I really wanted Jam to fall down on her skis so I could get a photo of it, but Jam refused to do so.  So I just waited until she really did fall down…and then took a picture before I would help her up.

Jam was pretty mad about that too.

Just as we never got the hang of skiing, being from Kansas where there’s nowhere to ski, we never really learned to swim either.  Mom took us to swimming lessons with Deb when we were really small, but both of us were terrified.  Jam didn’t want to pick her feet up off the bottom of the pool.  I didn’t want to put my head underwater.  So as it was, Deb was the only one who ever learned how to swim.

Not that we had much chance to swim either.  The only two pools available were downtown, and Dad the cheapskate only took us there once or twice a summer.  Even when we went on family vacations, Dad usually opted for camping rather than hotels that had pools.  If we were lucky, the campground would have one.

One of these vacations was in Branson, in which our tent was pitched on top of really hard rocks.  And it rained all night and the tent leaked.  The only thing we actually liked about that vacation was going to Silver Dollar City.

But most of our vacations were in Colorado, where our Dad grew up and where our grandparents lived.  We actually got to ride horses and go fishing out there.  One of our relatives still has a log cabin up on a mountain that was built in the ’20s, so we always wound up going up there.

In spite of nearly burning it down.

Jam and I were sleeping up in the attic of the cabin, along with Deb and our cousin Rachel.  Then cousin Stve came running upstairs and said there was a fire!  We all went outside in our nightclothes and saw Uncle Frank and Uncle Les, along with cousin Colin, trying to put out a fire in the woodshed behind the cabin.  Actually, we didn’t SEE them doing anything.  None of us had time to put in our eyewear, so all we could see was a bunch of blurry figures running around.

There was a drought that year, so a fire was terribly dangerous if we couldn’t get it out.  Cousin Steve jumped into his car and drove down to the lodge to report the fire.  They did get a fire squad up there, but by that time, the others had put most of it out and we were all able to go back to bed.  We later told the story to our parents (and also Steve’s parents), who had been staying in another cabin and slept through the whole thing.

We had a lot of adventures on vacation, or afterwards.  One year, Deb and I had to fly back from Colorado early, as I had to go to band camp and Deb had to work.  When we arrived, we had a lot of hassle at the airport, as my luggage didn’t show up AND there was a bomb scare in the parking lot.  Then when we got home, we get a call from Mom saying Jam broke her leg.

It seems they were having spaghetti, Jam’s favorite, but didn’t provide parmesan cheese. When she got up to get some, she tripped over the table and her leg hit one of the metal posts. Dad then had to drive her into town to the hospital…and the dog ate Jam’s spaghetti.

Jam was pretty mad about that too.

I’m rather glad I missed out on the trip back.  Mom said they found out which rest areas provided good handicapped bathrooms and which ones did not.  Jam had to be in a wheelchair with such a huge cast on her leg.  But when they finally arrived home, it was then MY job to help Jam around the house and in using the bathroom.

But I did win the bet.  Since Mom never told us which leg Jam broke, Deb and I made a bet as to which one it was.

Jam didn’t care for us gambling at her expense either.  But she was at least glad she was already done with school.  That would’ve REALLY been a hassle.  Jam was able to recover and walk again, but her foot was never fully straight after that.  She also had metal pegs put into her ankle, so we were never sure if she would set off metal detectors or not.

Turns out, they do a good job so people don’t have that problem.  Jam was able to fly out to Thailand with everyone else twice.  The first time was supposed to be for my wedding, which was delayed.  So my family stayed in a guesthouse near my tiny rental room.  They also sat on my bed…and it broke in half.

Thai beds were not made to hold up four Americans.

Jam did get a bridesmaid dress out of the deal, even though she never got to be in the wedding.  This was good, as in my husband’s tradition, I’m supposed to give a gift to my older sisters for marrying first and “surpassing” them in status.

Deb says she’s still waiting for her gift.

The second time Jam came out was when everyone came to meet little Johnny.  We actually had our truck by this time and didn’t have to rent a vehicle for everyone.  Jam got to ride inside, being so tall, while Deb and I were usually stuck in the back of the truck.  They stayed in our house in the village, where we had put in a mattress for Mom and Dad and a pair of sofas for Deb and Jam.  The sofas were too short for Jam though, so in true Thai  style, she slept on a mat on the floor.

That was the last time I got to see her in person.


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Life with Jam (Part 4)


By virtue of age, Jam and I were more of a twosome on a quest to drive Deb nuts.  Deb was more of a second mother and regular babysitter, not to mention bossy.  We used to go downstairs on Saturday mornings to watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse in the family room, which was right next to Deb’s bedroom.  Deb was always livid when she had to wake up to…


Dynamics changed when Deb left for college.  On one of our visits to her, she looked up at Jam (literally) and said, “How dare you get taller than me!”  Then when she would come home, she’d call out, “It’s big sister!”  I would then run down and give her my version of a flying football tackle.

When Deb graduated, she decided to pursue a masters degree while living at home.  This was when we really became sisters more than just underlings.  Jam and I were in high school and Deb introduced us to the coolest thing ever…the internet.  She had to use it for her degree program, so we were some of the first kids at school to use email.  We shared an email account and called it Jamanda.

Deb also showed us a great new card game called Nerts.  The three of us would play it on Saturday nights while listening to Night on the Town, a radio program that played Broadway and film music.  Jam would keep score on an old chalkboard she still had and we even had several “invisible” players in the game in case on of us got stuck.  To this day, we can’t listen to Broadway music without thinking it’s not the same without a card game.  Nor can we play cards without missing the music in the background.

Another Christmas tradition was watching the movie White Christmas.  Not only did we love Bing Crosby, but we always liked singing the Sisters song together.  Another favorite was Meet Me in St. Louis, since it has four sisters in it.  When Frozen came out, Jam told me it was a great sister movie as well, but as I now have boys, I’ve never been able to watch it.  They’re far too interested in superhero films.