Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Eve Fireworks

Close FireworksWhat a great time.

Villla FireworksFrom our apartment, I could see no less than a dozen separate fireworks displays. The longest lasted more than 15 minutes and the closest was right outside our North balconies. I mean RIGHT OUTSIDE.

Long FireworksThese pics are not great because I was running back and forth from our North balconies to our South depending on what I heard going on. I took the pics I could, but I didn't stop to adjust exposure times or f stops. Still I think they give you an idea of what it looked like here at midnight.

Happy New Year - 2007/2050


New Years Eve Bombings in Bangkok

CNN is reporting that bombs have exploded in Bangkok this evening at about 7-8PM our time. They say that 4 explosions have occured and 12 people were injured. Brenda and I were not near the bomb sites nor do we expect to be.

We have cancelled our New Years Eve plans and are now safely ensconced in our apartment well away from any revelry.

With only 2 hours to go before New Years, the terrorists would love to claim credit for our current predicament, cooped up as we are in our home, but the truth is that we have ushered in every year since we have known each other in this exact same fashion. HA!

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fish Sauce

HOTFinally a discussion on this BLOG that might be useful to someone who reads it. I am primarily thinking of my dad who is an adventurous eater and who pretty much wants to visit us in Thailand for the food. I imagine his greeting at the airport going something like this “Hi son, where’s Brenda?” followed quickly by “What are we having for dinner tonight?” But some of the others of you might also be able to use this entry to spice up your next Thai or Chinese dish, or maybe even a taco or burger. Use it instead of salt and apply it after all cooking is done for best affect.

There is another blog that discusses the making of fish sauce in detail. That is, they discuss making the sauce in the bottle that you buy at the store. But I suggest that you refrain from reading it if you are the suggestible type, or if something someone says has the ability to put you off your appetite. The sauce is good, but the process of making it from raw materials may be a bit much if you think milk comes from bottles or that chickens don’t have feathers. Never-the-less, here it is if you are up for it.

Golden BoyTra ChangBut the trick for making good fish sauce is in what you do to it after it comes out of the bottle, so I asked Suporn (our maid/cook) to take me through her modifications. Turns out they are so simple that I can’t believe she actually showed me rather than laughing out loud while informing me that she simply can't work for anyone as stupid as me any longer.

Pour about a quarter cup or so of good quality fish sauce into a bowl. Good quality sauce should be reddish/brown and clear, not cloudy. I'm told that good brands in the US are Tra Chang and Golden Boy. Cut up two or three of those tiny, 1 – 1 ½ inch chili peppers into tinier slices and add them to the sauce. Use both green and red peppers so your sauce will be pretty as well as tasty. Mash up a toe of garlic and add that too. Drop in about ¼ tsp of sugar and squeeze a quarter or half lemon or lime (to taste) into the mix. Then stir it all up for 30 seconds or so. Take a taste and you will find that you have made a salty and peppery-hot condiment that tastes great on just about everything.

Fried RiceDon’t use a lot on your food especially at first because depending on the peppers you use it can be HOT. I put less than a half tsp on an entire dish of fried rice. Brenda uses about a tsp. but she likes things saltier than I do. The sauce is high in sodium and is the primary salt substitute in Thailand so don’t mess around if you have high blood pressure or anything else that makes salt a no-no. But it is very high in protein and wonderfully healthy otherwise.

Use this recipe as a starting point and play around adding some this or some that to get your blend exactly like you like it and keep some in the fridge. Suporn says it’ll keep a week without refrigeration and I expect that is a very conservative estimate. Most Thai houses don’t have refrigerators so the sauce is kept on the shelf in 90+ degree heat most of the time. But make small quantities often so you can experiment. It doesn’t take long and even if you aren’t an adventurous eater you will enjoy the flavor it adds to your favorite dishes.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spring Roll II

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingHere is the pic of the "un-cooked" version of the spring rolls. It turns out that some of the ingredients are cooked, but the final assembly is simply rolled into the wrapper and is ready to eat. Compared to the fried version, the wrapper is different, the ingredients are different and the sauce is different. Other than that, it's all pretty much the same.

Suporn promises to make me a chocolate pie tomorrow. Yumm


Monday, December 25, 2006

Sa-ping Roll cooking lesson

RecipeUnlike most of Thailand, Brenda had today (12/25/2006) off for Christmas. So it was an unsual day when both Brenda and our Maid/cook, Suporn were here at the apartment. To take advantage of this unusual alignment of the stars, Brenda decided to ask Suporn for a Thai Cooking lesson. She wanted to learn how to make Spring Rolls (Suporn pronounces it Sa-ping Roll.) I have no idea what went on in the kitchen, but there was giggling and laughing along with note taking and even some actual cooking.
Do it like this

I tried to get Brenda to give me her notes so I could share the recipe with you, but it is now a closely guarded secret.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

These rolls really are good. You can tell from these pics that these are the fried version which we generally think of as Egg Rolls, but tomorrow they are making the version that doesn't get fried and has only vegatables in it. The food continues to be pretty good around here. No Christmas turkey or ham, no sweet potato casserole, but somehow I didn't miss it much.
Don't forget that you can click your mouse on these pics to get a larger version or you can go to the Food section of my photo album.

Merry Christmas to everyone!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chiang Mai

MapChiang Mai is about 400 miles North/Northwest of Bangkok. Wednesday morning we hopped on a Thai Air flight and voila, an hour and about $200 later we hopped off at Chiang Mai International Airport. A few Baht after that, we closed the door on our cab at the River Ping Palace, a genuine antique (about 150 years old) Teak House situated on the banks of the River Ping, just south of the city.

The Palace - Notice the tarp on the roofIf you have ever stayed in a bed and breakfast type lodge, you know that they are unpredictable in their “atmosphere.” The Palace is no different. Being an old teak house built in a country without meaningful building codes, we were not surprised, but we were concerned when climbed the slightly off-kilter stairs and entered our darkened room at about 2:00 PM. Was that sunlight streaking in from the many (many, many) cracks, gaps and outright holes in the walls and ceiling? Did I say ceiling? I’m sorry, there was no ceiling, just a roof, a teak roof that glowed in spots as the wood had merely deteriorated in some spots allowing a sort of back-light affect. We were thankful as we realized that we had arrived during the dry season, but our imaginations wandered to the monsoon season each time we caught a new glimpse of our perforated shelter.

Our adventure continued to mature as we listened to the conversation in the next room as if we were looking the speakers in the face. That acoustical magic played out over and over as guests arose in the morning or settled in for the night and continually as the traffic roared by on the main road just outside the Palace’s property lines. From the sound in our room it seemed that the traffic was routed just past the foot of our bed. Honestly it seemed less like the other guests and trucks were audible in our room, and more like there was an amplifier piping the sound in at higher than realistic decibel levels.

But since lodging in this B&B is apparently intended to stimulate all the senses, it was necessary that something be done for the tactile sense. What could be better than floor joist framing intervals that allowed each step made most anywherer on our floor to be transmitted directly to our bed frame resulting in a step wise undulation whenever any guest moved about their room. Not just when Brenda and I moved around, but when ANY guest moved around ANY room. Ahhhhh, what a relaxing time we had. On the morning after our arrival I joked with Brenda and some fellow guests that “it takes all night to get a two hour nap here.”

taxiBut these accommodations, lacking in fit and finish as they obviously were, almost faded into insignificance in the face of the service and other features of the Palace. The food was more than excellent. It was superb. And it was prepared and served with the utmost care by the proprietor and staff who paid close attention to our preferences. The first question that our host asked when she met us was “Is there anything you don’t eat?” I responded with my now trusted “Faces and Feet” disclaimer while Brenda mentioned curry. As a result I can report that none of our dishes featured faces, feet or curry. Quite an accomplishment in this part of the world.

The written menu was complete with offerings of fish, fowl, pork and beef, but the best choice was usually something not on the menu that happened to suit the taste of the owner and chef. “Whatever is good and fresh” seemed to be the driving force behind the culinary decisions at the Palace and none of us were disappointed with the meals and snacks that seemed to appear organicly rather than as a result of a request. And as noisy as the rooms were, the outdoor dining area was surprisingly quiet and peaceful, and a fine place to dine, relax and chat with fellow guests. Well, enough of the Palace, on to the trip.

SquirtgunOn our first full day we headed up country to the Maesa Elephant Camp where more than a dozen elephants ranging in age up to about 36 years old live and work with their full time mahouts (trainers/caretakers.) Brenda and I are a little leery of these animal shows since they can easily succumb to poor conditions and suffering animals, but Maesa has proven itself over years. Each elephant has its own individual mahout who is completely responsible for the animal's well being. The elephants seemed happy and as if they enjoyed their “work” entertaining tourists in three shows daily. Each show is preceded by “bath time” which was clearly “play time” in the river that flowed along the property edge. After the bath, the behemoths did tricks, played soccer and harmonicas (not at the same time) and painted original works of “art.” These guys and girls are pretty serious about their art. Maesa holds the Guinness book of Records title for the largest elephant painting in the world. Each show ends with a crew of four Goliaths stacking a wall of 20 meter long half meter diameter logs by working together as a team. Impressive. Take a look at for more about this special place.

OrchidWe also took in the Royal Flora Show, which covers over 5 acres south of the city with floral displays from 30 nations on five continents and contains more than 2.5 million plants. You will see from my pics that my favorite area was the orchid pavilion. Spend some time looking at these flowers. They are amazing.

Each town in Thailand has a night market and we visited the Chiang Mai market on our first night (why not, we couldn’t sleep.) It seems like they have pretty much the same stuff at all these markets, but they are fun and provide endless people watching opportunities. I get to practice my limited Thai language skills and sometimes we find a bargain or an unusual item. Take a look at Brenda’s “antique tea pots.”Tea Pots

We also took a night cruise on the River Ping which included dinner aboard a teak long-boat and we were particularly pleased to be able to enjoy that trip with two of our friends from Bangkok who were also in town (but not with us) and two new friends that are here on a “no reservations” vacation from Canada.

You think you are adventurous? HA! Our new friends, Mike and Stacy got on an airplane headed toward Bangkok from Edmonton, Alberta with NO RESERVATIONS for hotels anywhere in Asia and they did it in the PEAK TRAVEL SEASON. I’d call ‘em crazy except that they were having such a good time bouncing from one hotel to the next as rooms became unavailable here and available there, that it seemed like a completely reasonable thing to do. And as we got to know them we soon realized that this type of trip isn’t even all that adventurous from their perspective. Mike has over 2400 skydiving jumps and he and Stacy used to own and operate a skydiving and bungee jumping operation in Canada. Now That’s Crazy!!! Just kidding Mike and Stacy (but not really.) We are looking forward to Mike an Stacy stopping by to spend a night or two with us when their adventure nears its end around January 5 as they mosey through BKK headed back to the frozen North. When we left them today, they were searching the internet for a place to go next. Wonder where it will be?????

So what’s our take on Chiang Mai and our “Christmas Trip?” In spite of getting almost no sleep (did I mention that each of the bed springs in our mattress left a separate and semi-permanent indention in our backs?) we had a really great time. Some of the credit belongs to the hospitality at the Palace, some to the exotic locale and a heaping helping belongs to the friends that we met and made on this “Interesting” mid-week break.

Fire BalloonThis last pic is me and Brenda setting our fire balloon free. It's supposed to make wishes come true and such, but for me it was just cool. There is a sort of half toilet paper looking roll that we set on fire and the hot air propels it up pretty high. There are a couple of pics of it leaving in my photo album so check it out.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Suam-Lum Night Bazaar

Suam-Lum Night BazaarWe took in the night bazaar this evening. There are several, but the big one is adjacent to Lumpini Park and it's called Suam-Lum. Pretty nice. You recall that we have also been to Chatuchak weekend market, the world's largest open air market. Well Suam-lum is cooler (because it is at night) less crowded, and has better quality stuff. It has no plants or flowers, and no live animals (pets) but if you want Thai silk, clothes, a fake Rolex or fake Gucci purse this it your best bet. Seriously, if you are a family member and you get a Rolex from us for Christmas, it is real. I swear, it is real.

We had fun walking around for about three hours and in that time we felt that we saw most of the market. In any case the offerings are not as diverse as Chatuchak so even if we missed something we probably saw someting else almost like it. And once you get bored with the merchandise, the people watching is still a lot of fun. There were lots of Farang in various stages of aculturization. Most were answering the polite Thai merchant's greetings with "HOW MUCH IS THIS?" in a voice clearly too loud for the situation. It is obviously a well known fact that if you are talking to someone that does not speak your language, it helps to speak you own language LOUDER!

We did well on the few items we purchased tonight. I am getting better at recognizing and using numbers in Thai and I have found a few phrases that reveal my vast knowledge of the Thai language. Of course I am kidding about that last part, but I did do well with the numbers and when I reacted to a high price with "paeng maak" (very expensive) the combination of my flawless Thai and the pained look on my face invarably resulted in a lower price..... and a giggle from the Thai.

I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas shopping as much as we enjoyed the market tonight. It is still 90+ degrees here every day so I think our hopes for a white Christmas may be dashed. Never-the-less we are thankful that this time of year is set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus who loved us before we knew Him and came to die that we could live.

sup pen ak pieBefore I go I wanted to let you see the "sup pen ak pie" that our maid cooked this week. Some of you may recognize it as quiche, but our maid insisted that it was "sup pen ak" pie. After three or four tries to get me to understand, she stormed over to the counter in a huff and grabbed a handful of fresh spinach (sup pen ak) and waved it at me like a green fist. Communication remains a daily challenge here, but the pie is always good.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pak Chong District

This weekend, we took a short trip Northeast of Bangkok to the Pak Chong District where we found the Phu Pimarn Resort (poo pimon) nestled in the mountains. Our plans to walk in the nearby Khao Yai national park were thwarted by the rains that peppered our day, so we hung out in our room waiting for the rain to stop and the corporate dinner that brought us there to begin.

Where's WaldoThe dinner event was something to see. We've been to a few of these now and the consistent feature of all of them is VOLUME. They have great sound systems in Thailand that provide a low distortion experience no matter how much they crank up the decibels. This night's event was a variety show entirely in Thai so my evening was spent people watching and trying to keep count of the Thai words that I could pick out of the entertainment. Still we made a productive evening out of the whole thing by chatting with a couple of expats and some very gracious Thais that stopped by to translate a little for us. One of the Thais explained that of the three people pictured here, one was a famous male Thai rock star, one was a very good female singer and the third was another guy. Can you find the two men in this pic? Gives a whole new perspective to the “Where’s Waldo” game.

garden viewThe garden area of the resort is very well done. Lots of folks were out taking pictures when the rain subsided. I took a few myself, and one that I labeled "the end of Eden" shows the edge of the property in its more natural state which provided a striking contrast from the manicured plantings on site. You’ll have to go to my photo album if you want to see that one.

CowboyOn our way home the next day we stopped by Farm Chokchai an 8000 acre dairy farm that is the largest in Southeast Asia. In addition to their farming operations, Chokchai has a thriving tourist industry in which they offer tours of the farm including the dairy, ice cream factory, feedlots, pastures and "genuine wild west show." The tour was surprisingly long. Even though we started our trip at 9:40, we didn't finish until noon. Now that's a long time to ride around a farm.

rope trickWe made it back to Bangkok in time to clean up and head out for the annual St. Andrews Society Charity Ball downtown. An evening full of kilted men and Irish Scottish dancing kept us out until 2:00 AM during which time we were befriended by Duncan. Duncan chatted us up and asked us how we were enjoying Thailand in a heavy brogue that has survived his nineteen years living in Bangkok. He was hilarious as he told us about his kilt and admitted that he would never dress that way in his native Scottland, but that here in Bangkok it felt perfectly natural.

Such are the characters that find us as we stumble about this strange new world. Take a look at some pics at my photo album, but don't expect any of the ball. For some reason I neglected to take my camera, a mistake that I will probably not repeat.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

China Town

China TownHouston has a population of 4 million, give or take. New York City is around 9 million. Bangkok is between 9 million and 13 million at any given time, so I don’t know what in the world I expected as I ventured into Bangkok’s China Town today.

I told my dad that I’d look for some model railroad stuff for him. Derek, my friend that I went with said that we needed to go look at the flower market which he has seen and says is amazing. I saw neither trains nor flowers but did I ever see…….. well you be the judge. Take a look here and see if you are ready to hit the mean streets of Bangkok’s China Town. I know I’ll go back. Will you?


Monday, November 20, 2006

What's in a Name?

Tigger Here's a unique concept. Everyone in Thailand that has the same last name is related to one another. And not only are they related, but they generally recognize each other at family reunions and such. Coming as I do from the "land of a million Smiths," this is a seriously strange idea for me.

The topic came up today as my language teacher asked me what I am doing tomorrow.

"Prungnii kuhn gamlang ja tham arai?" she said, which litterally means "tomorrow you will do what?"

"Prungnii phom gamlang ja len golf." I replied revealing my plans to play a round of golf.

"Ahhh" she said. "Cheu khon len golf gap arai?"

"Phom gamlang ja len golf gap Kuhn Derek," I said easily providing the name of my playing partner and thinking to myself "Well this is going quite well."

"Ahhh, Kuhn Derek," she repeated, and then "Naamsagun kuhn Derek arai?"

This turned out the be the critical question because Derek's last name (naamsagun) is Anderson.

"Khun Derek naamsagun Anderson," I uttered at which time Noi nearly exploded in a frenzy of activity searching her lesson materials and finally producing the name of one of her other students, Ian Anderson. And then she proclaimed "They are related!"

You and I know that such a relation is unlikely, but to a Thai it is a very simple matter. Same last name = related.

From time to time I run across someone with my same last name and we are never, ever related, or at least they don't admit to it. But here, if you meet someone named Joe, Fred, Bob or Mary, if their last name is Chuanarong, you can bet your last Baht that they are related to my Thai teacher. Isn't that amazing? Or maybe I'm just easily entertained.


More Shopping Woes

stoolI have previously mentioned the difficulties associated with grocery shopping in Bangkok. It was the subject of a rant not very long ago. Today, I have a similar rant, but on something so mundane that you just can't believe the difficulty I've had.

Our maid is typically Thai. By that I mean she is honest to a fault (unlike Fred, our driver) dark haired and...... short. So I decided that a step stool would be a welcome addition to our household tool set. She could use it for all manner of chores I reckon, but little did I know the difficulty I would have in finding a simple step stool. Just to relieve the obvious tension that you must now be feeling, let me tell you in advance, I still do not have a step stool despite an entire day spent searching.

Ok, it might not have been an entire day. I spent the morning in a workout (6:30 AM - 8:00 AM.) Then I watched Monday Morning Football. You know MMF better as Sunday Night Football (SNF), but all the world is perspective and from my perspective it's MMF. But right after football, and at the stroke of.... oh..... about 11:42 or so, I struck out to find a folding step stool.

I figured it would be an easy find, and set out to not only get my stool, but to enjoy the day as well. With these two goals in mind, I headed via BTS to the Siam Paragon shopping mall. This is the place that has a Lamborghini dealer on the third floor. Porsche, BMW and Ferrari as well. When you are a guy and have to shop, it helps to have such a warm and inviting environment.

I had a leisurely lunch at the Paragon. For this day I chose a new Thai tradition, Burger King. Let me just say this about Burger King in Thailand.

Thais are a beautiful people. I can't really evaluate the men, but the women here are definitely above average looking. They are all petite with glossy straight hair and big happy smiles. (OK, not all of them but enough to make this point) But the folks you see at Burger King are on a radical departure from the Thai norm. If ever there was an in-situ case study on the affects of American Fast food, the McDonalds and Burger Kings in Thailand are that study. As I ate my Whopper (super sized) I couldn't help but notice that everyone in the restaurant except me was FAT! How in the world does something like this happen? Not only are they all Thai, but they are all FAT and I am the only one in the restaurant that is normal for my race. Go figure. All I can say here is "Run Thailand, run."

After my lunch and requisite Buuuuuuuurp.... I continued looking for a folding step stool in the largest, most upscale shopping center in Bangkok (and Southern Asia.) No luck.

So I walked about a half mile to Central Chitlom department Store. This store was my "sure thing." I have been here many times and I was certain that I would walk directly to the folding step stools nestled securely on the fifth floor near the mops and brooms and what not.

Oooops. No stools. At least no folding ones. Everyone here has the non-folding plastic stoolsbtu they take up too much room and I want a folding one. Our apartment is not that big after all.

Well now I am at a loss. I had previously looked at Tesco Lotus, the Wal-Mart of Thailand. Tesco has no folding step stools. So I headed toward home resolved to check every hardware store I found on the way.

I am home now having checked all those stores. I still have no folding step stool. But undaunted, I will continue my quest..... maybe after Tuesday Morning football.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Hua Hin

AnantaraThe Anantara Resort in Hua Hin Thailand is a true resort. It has accommodations to rival anywhere that I have ever vacationed which is even more surprising given that it is in such an out-of-the-way place. There are reasons to visit Hua Hin. At least the King thinks so. His beach palace is located only a couple of miles down the beach from Anantara.

King's pierBut “beach” must mean something different here than at home. You would more likely consider this beach a seawall. Only at low tide are you able to see more than a very few feet of sand, and then only in a few select places. Never the less, the Gulf of Thailand is accessible at Anantara, and like most resorts they have ample space around their two pools to accommodate those who prefer a less salty dip.

Hua Hin itself is a confusing place in that I couldn’t find much of anything in the town that was interesting. The main street though town is six lanes, but the traffic did not seem to warrant such a large thoroughfare. And as beach towns go, it wasn’t particularly well developed for the purpose. It was just another Thai town with some tourist areas, and a night market with plenty of folks looking to relieve you of your Baht.

There are some good seafood restaurants along the waterfront, and lots of tourist oriented shops like in any beach town. But for me, there just was not “difference that makes a difference” in this town. Oh well, it was still a nice weekend for a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

fishingI took a quick trip to the Pa LA-U waterfalls about an hour and fifteen minutes drive from Hua Hin. It was a nice trip that offered a casual walk through the forest alongside a small river.

fishingPa La-U has two falls, the minor and major falls. The major falls is about 25 to 30 feet high, which gives you a pretty good idea of the minor falls. Still, it was fun to do the hike and get off the beaten path. I was with two friends and we had the place all to ourselves most of the time. But after we had been there an hour or so a small tour group showed up to help us enjoy the trip.

Several of the girls in this group were not at all amused by the hundreds of carp that have grown familiar with the tourists who bring fish food with them to the falls. My fishing techniques were crude, but I got my hands around several of these fish. Happily for them, they are all still safely huddled in there schools awaiting the next group of tourists and their handouts.

You can see a few more pics a my photo album.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Language Barrier

Copyright...Apparently there is no Thai word for "Copyright Infringement." It's not quite the Orange and Black, and I don't think Mr. Harley or Mr. Davidson would recognize their names, but the Bar and Shield is definitely..... well.... not authentic.

But for 200 Baht (bargained down from 280) I couldn’t resist this “genuine” HD shirt found at a street vendor in Bangkok today. I asked my maid to read it to me and she faithfully sounded out ‘Haree Davidsun” across the bar, and “Moto Cycuh” on the shield so I got the real deal and for only $5.41 US.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


We had no idea how to pack clothes for our time in Thailand. We knew that it was generally hotter here than in Houston, but there area places in the North where we might vacation or take weekends that get cooler, or even cold. But the thing that I have learned while here for the past six weeks is that you really don’t need very many different clothes, at least that is, if you have a maid.

closetEach day I kick my dirties off into a corner of the bedroom. And each morning, our maid scurries about doing her this and her that and among those things is the laundry. The result is that every day, everything I own is clean and ready to wear again. If I were so inclined, I bet I could get by with two of everything, one to wear and the other in the laundry. Can you imagine a closet with only two empty hangars in it each day? Then about half way through the day the hangars get re-populated with your shirt and shorts while the unmentionables are tucked neatly away in a drawer. It might be boring to wear the same thing every day, but it is absolutely doable.

So my advice to anyone headed this way is to be conservative on your clothes. The closets are small, and you really don’t need much anyway. Bring enough to provide some variety, but multiple pairs of jeans for instance is just a waste. Bring some shorts, some lightweight jeans (it is hot) a few tee shirts, some golf clothes and some dress clothes. But you don’t need three blue shirts and four pair of jeans. You certainly don’t need a lot of suites because it is a rare occasion when anyone here wears them. Well, maybe they wear them to work. I wouldn't know anything about that.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Haircuts and other exotic things

Before I talk about haircuts, I want to mention that I've played golf here twice and I really like it. You have the option of using a golf cart here, but we walk. Why not, we don't have to carry clubs, everyone uses caddies.

The caddy fee is usually 250 Baht (about $7) and we tip another 200 Baht. So let's see; A caddy can make two rounds a day if they are lucky. They get 170 Baht from the 250 fee and the entire tip. So on a good day they can make about $20. If they work 7 days a week, these ladies (all the caddies are ladies) can make about $7,200 per year max.

I assume that like the US, they stand to be taxed on some of this income, but not the cash portion. Did I mention that the caddy fee must be paid in cash? So the most generous estimate possible still has these ladies living on less than $12,000 per year Gross (before tax) US equivalent. Actually a pretty good living here, but can you imagine working for that in the states? OK, you can if you are a teacher can't you!!!! But remember teach, for the caddy to do that well, they have to walk two rouds a day 7 days a week 52 weeks a year, and with obnoxious Farang no less.

The caddies do add a lot to the round. On my first hole yesterday, I had a 12 foot putt to sink for par. My caddy said "Sawng barr qwa." So I aimed two balls to the left (Sai) of the hole and it broke two balls right (qwa.) In it went. If I could have done what she said to do on every putt I might have only putted 18 times that day.

On another hole, a 170 yard par 3, she handed me a 7 iron. I looked at the hole, and then at her. After a bit, I said "hok" so she handed me my six iron. I still felt I was misclubbed too short, so I took a mighty swing. The ball bounced once on the BACK of the green and stopped in the rough about 30 feet from the pin. As I handed my club to my caddy, she quietly said "seven." The rest of the day I hit what she handed me, no matter what.

Golf is a hot sport here. The daytime temperatures in November seem to be pretty consistent at 89 - 91 Degrees F. There is always a breeze and that helps, but after a few hours walking in that heat, I get farily drained. The result is that if I want to score well, I had better do it on the front nine because I have played significantly worse on the back side both times I played.

So golf is fun, and different than in the states. And there are plenty of places to play, so when you come to BKK, bring your clubs, and your umbrella to shield you from the sun.

Now for haircuts.

You'd think a haircut is a haircut wouldn't you. Especially when the hair is like mine, cut 3 mm from the scalp leaving only a trace of its former glory. But in BKK it too is a little different than you'd expect.

The haircut itself takes about the same amount of time as in the states, and it costs about the same. But after they cut your hair here, they take you back for a shampoo. Still nothing special right? Well remember that my hair is 3 millimeters long and try to account for a shampoo job that takes longer than the actual cutting. I got lathered up three times, and creame rinsed once.

Each treatement was several minutes long and included what I can only call a full scalp massage. After awhile I just closed my eyes and almost took a nap. I can't imagine that I have enough hair to justify such a washing, but it was kinda nice. And this wasn't at a spa, or fancy salon. It was just a barber shop that I found near our apartment. I wonder what they do in the many, many spas that are all over the place here???


Monday, November 06, 2006

Mail - snail, pouch and e

We were very concerned about mail delivery before we came to Bangkok. We get a lot of financial mail… bills and such with account numbers on them and we felt that an enterprising crook could gain access to some important information if we didn’t get our mail handled properly. I think we might have been right. We haven’t had any problems, but we have seen plenty of indications that problems could occur.

We have only received a couple of paper mail pieces in Bangkok mail. Both have been greeting cards from family members, and both had been opened. One had been opened very cleanly as if it was steamed open. The other was less artistic and more of a brute force effort. I am reasonably certain that someone along the long chain of mail handlers was hoping for some cash. Lesson – don’t send cash in the mail.

Solutions – pouch mail:
Many companies provide “pouch mail” for their ex-pats. In these systems, your US mail is sent to a central address in the US by regular USPS. Then a company mail room sorts it all and packages into “pouches” to be sent directly to the employee at their overseas office. We haven’t had too many problems with pouch mail, but we have had a few.

We have received almost none of our magazine subscriptions. We did get my motorcycle mag, but Brenda’s chic mags are almost all missing in action. What does this mean? Is there a guy in the mailroom that understands how important it is to get good quality Harley-Davidson information while abroad? Or is it a chic that doesn’t care to steal my mags, but latches onto Brenda’s like a crab trying to avoid the boiling pot? And what’s the big deal on magazines anyway? First, we paid for them, they are ours and we want them. Second, US magazines over here are phaeng jangloey (sooooo expensive) and difficult to replace.

We have also had some mail ripped open in the pouch mail system. It’s hard to say whether or not it was opened on purpose or not, but it was opened to an extent that would have allowed it to be extracted and read.

Pouch mail takes a long time too. About the same as mail sent to our BKK address. Both seem to take an average of ten days. One package sent by a friend took 21 days to reach us by pouch mail. I figure it would never have gotten here by regular mail.

Solutions - E-mail
So what do you do about all this if you are coming to live here. Well, here is what I did. I converted ALLLLLLLLLLLLL of our financial accounts and bills to electronic delivery. I get NOTHING related to finances in BKK. Not by pouch mail, Not by regular mail. Just plain old NOT AT ALL. I also send nothing financial out of BKK via mail of any sort. It all goes electronically via internet. That makes the internet very important here. Luckily, our internet is pretty reliable and pretty fast. I have heard no complaints from any ex-pat about internet so I guess it’s pretty good all over the city.

I also forwarded any mail that could be sensitive to a trusted relative. The quantity of this mail is small because most sensitive stuff has been converted to electronic and not duplicated on paper mail. So now, about once a week I get a note from my family that we got some sort of envelope and do we want them to open it. Most of the time it is something that I know about and I know what is in it because I have already gotten an electronic message about it. But sometimes it is something I don’t expect and I get them to open it and tell me what is in it. Every now and then, I have to get them to send it to me in pouch mail, but when that happens, I ask them to reinforce it with good packing tape so it will be harder to “accidentally” open while in transit.

That’s our mail situation. Feel free to send a letter. Don’t get anxious for a response because I won’t see it for awhile. But don’t send cash. You can just buy me something nice next time you see me instead.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Loi Krathong

Loi KrathongLoi Krathong (kra-tong) is a festival held here in Thailand during the full moon of the 12th lunar month. Apparently that happened last night because Loi Krathong was held at the river and in waterways all over Thailand. Even some hotel swimming pools are used to carry out the rituals.

Offerings for saleThe central idea of Loi Krathong is to float little boats made of flowers and adorned with candles and incense on the river. They really look more like centerpieces for a nice dinner, but in this case they are offerings.

Offerings FloatingFrom what I gather, the festival was originally secular and was to celebrate the harvest, but from the demeanor of the participants, some have incorporated some religious aspects in their evening.

Some Thais tell me that the festival is to thank the river for its life giving water. Some say it is to thank the river for not flowing out of control and drowning everyone. Some say it is to make offerings to the river goddess (or water goddess) and others say it is to release all the bad things in your life into the water to be carried away forever. The most interesting reason I was given was to apologize to the river for all the pollution that they put into it during the previous year.

Digger and VickieTo witness this festival, two of our ex-pat friends and I headed toward the river tonight using the sky train as our transportation (40 baht round trip.) After we found the river, we crossed on a ferry boat (3 baht one-way - remember there are roughly 37 baht to the dollar) and found a Chinese restaurant on the river that we could get into without reservations. We got a pretty good table with some pretty good waitresses and enjoyed a buffet style dinner while waiting for dark.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAs dusk came and went, river boats decked out for dinner cruises headed away from their docks, and more and more people crammed themselves onto the limited waterfront. Prayers were offered and offerings released. Dinner was consumed and music was enjoyed.

Whatever the reason for the festival, the river and its canals around BKK are crowded and fun places to hang out on this festival evening. Most folks seem to just have fun releasing their offerings, but some are quite serious and make long prayers on their knees prior to the release.

The big winners, as in the US are the merchants and restaurateurs who jack up prices to outrageous levels and undoubtedly make several months worth of profit.

Evil MikeOh! Did I mention that we had great waitresses?


Friday, November 03, 2006

Lettuce Wraps

One of our favorite meals in the states is Chicken Lettuce Wraps at Pei Wei Asian Restaurant(in Houston.) Since we like it so much, and since we are now in the land where the lettuce wrap is said to have originated, we thought we'd get our maid to cook it for us sometime.

Hmmmm. She had never heard of Lettuce wraps. So I started asking around and found that none of my Thai friends or aquaintances have ever heard of Lettuce Wraps. As a result, I no longer believe anything I read about a dish on a menu. It's all just marketing. But I don't really care because the wraps really are good.

So I searched the web until I found a recipe and proudly brought it to our maid. She looked at me like I was from the moon. I quickly realized that maybe my Thai maid has as much difficulty reading English (Angrit) as I do reading Thai. So I mobilized my small network of new friends over here and found someone who could translate from Angrit to Thai (in Bali Sanscrit.) I thought you might enjoy this recipe too, so here it is. Let me know how it turns out.

ไป่ไว่ไก่ห่อผักกาด (Chicken Lettuce Wraps)
เห็ดแห้งชิทาเก (Shiitake) 8 ดอก
แป้งข้าวโพด 2 ชัอนชา
เหล้าเชอรี่ 2 ชัอนชา
น้ำ 2 ชัอนชา
เกลือ และ พริกไทยป่นเล็กน้อย
เนื้อไก่ล้วนไม่มีหนังและกระดูก ½ กก.
น้ำมันพืช 5 ช้อนโต๊ะ
ขิงสับละเอียด 1 ชัอนชา
กระเทียมสับละเอียด 2 กลีบใหญ่
ต้นหอมซอย 2 ต้น
พริกแห้ง (ไม่ใส่ก็ได้) 2 เม็ด
หน่อไม้ฝอยกระป๋อง 1 ถ้วย
เกาลัดกระป่อง 1 ถ้วย
วุ้นเส้น ห่อเล็ก 1 ห่อ
ผักกาดขาวจอ 1 หัว

ฮอยซินซ้อส 1 ช้อนโต๊ะ
ซีอิ้วขาว 1 ช้อนโต๊ะ
น้ำมันหอย 2 ช้อนโต๊ะ
เหล้าเชอรี่ 2 ชัอนชา
น้ำ 2 ช้อนโต๊ะ
น้ำมันงา 1 ชัอนชา
น้ำตาลทราย 1 ชัอนชา
แป้งข้าวโพด 2 ชัอนชา

แช่เห็ด ½ ชม. ในน้ำต้ม แล้วนำมาตัดก้านแข็งทิ้ง ซอยละเอียด
เทส่วนผสมซ้อสปรุงไก่ทั้งหมดในชามคลุกให้เข้ากัน แบ่งออกมาเพื่อใช้หมักไก่แล้วเติมเกลือ และ พริกไทยป่น ใส่เนื้อไก่ คนให้เข้ากัน เติมน้ำมันพืช 1 ชัอนชา คนให้เข้ากันแล้วหมักไว้ 15 นาที

ตั้งกะทะให้ร้อนใช้ไฟปานกลาง ใส่น้ำมันพืช 3 ช้อนโต๊ะ ใส่ไก่ที่หมักไว้ลงผัด 3-4 นาที ตักขึ้นพักไว้ เติมน้ำมันพืช 2 ช้อนโต๊ะ ใส่ขิง กระเทียม พริก ต้นหอมคนให้เข้ากัน 1 นาที ผสมเห็ด หน่อไม้ และเกาลัด ผัดให้เข้ากัน 2 นาที ใส่ไก่ที่ผัดไว้แล้ว เติมซ้อสปรุงไก่ที่เหลือไว้ ผัดให้เข้ากัน ชิมรส
วุ้นเสันนำมาลวกน้ำเดือด แล้วผึ่งให้แห้ง นำมาจัดบนจาน แล้วเทไก่ที่ผัดเสร็จลงบนวุ้นเสัน ตักวุนเส้นและไก่ลงบนใบผักกาดและห่อพร้อมรับประทาน.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thai Broom

broomWhen is a broom worthy of a post on a blog? I guess when it is a Thai broom, and the blog is about stuff I've never seen before.

Our maid reported for duty today, right on schedule. There is no telling how long it takes her to get here. She lives North of Bangkok, near the old airport, maybe 20 miles from here. But she makes the trip on busses and managed to arrive ten minutes early, despite having to call to get our exact location.

Once she got here and settled in a bit, she started puttering around cleaning first this, and then that. After awhile, she needed a broom and asked me if I had one. This question came as something of a surprise because she was holding our broom at the time. It is a Yellow wooden handled broom with yellow synthetic bristles. I'd take a picture, but you can just look in your utility room and see one almost exactly like it in your house.

So I responded "That is our broom." And she said "No, Thai broom. That's OK, I Buy." And sure enough, she went out for dinner ingredients and came back with dinner and a Thai broom.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis thing is remarkably effective. The bristles are made of hundreds of stems from some sort of grass. They are soft and conform to every nook and cranny. It is very light too when compared to a western broom. And operation is a one handed affair, leaving your second hand free to pick up stuff, or carry a dust pan. Pretty nice.

Khaw Phat Gai and Dum Yum GuunShe cooked us dinner too. She'll do this every night. Tonight is Thai food with Khaw Phat Gai and Dum Yum Guun. That's Chicken Fried rice and Dum Yum soup with Shrimp. It's waiting on the stove for Brenda to get home now. Pretty soon, we'll dig in.


Friday, October 27, 2006


This is another of those posts directed at any potential ex-pats that are reading this blog.

Banking in Thailand is not difficult. It is not scary nor is it un-secure. We set up a checking account here with cash that we brought over on our first trip. It is a little difficult to set up initially because you have to have either a long term work permit (which takes a couple of months) or a letter from an employer that is trusted by the Thai government. Luckily, our employer is trusted.

Once it is set up, the Thai checking account works pretty much like the ones in the US, including on-line banking that is accurate and very fast. I can purchase groceries two blocks from our apartment and log in to our local bank website when I get back to the house and the debit will be there. Amazing. (There are a couple of things you need to know about checking here so e-mail me if you are coming this way.)

But the problem with banking over here is that US companies insist on paying salaries in US dollars and crediting them directly to accounts held at US banks. They are not at all happy or even willing to send some of the salary in Thai Baht to a Thailand bank. So what you have to do is set up a wire transfer from your US bank to the local Thai bank so you can pay your bills. No big deal, except that with the anti-terrorism legislation that has come about recently, US banks are under increasing pressure to report and prevent cash transfers from the US to "unknown places" around the world.

What I did was to go to my local bank branch in the US and set up a standing wire transfer that was to occur on the same day each month. It turns out that no one will do that though. They said “If you are kidnapped or killed overseas, the transfers would continue forever and the money would be going ‘who knows where’” To this I responded “KIDNAPPED OR KILLED?????????”

Anyway what I ended up with was a paper file at my US bank with all the necessary authorizations to allow the transfer to occur upon e-mail notification from me. Certain key words must appear in the email, and nothing regarding the source or destination accounts can be changed except in person so it’s really a pretty secure system. Even if someone forges my e-mail, they can’t send money anywhere except From me/To me.

The first transfer worked perfectly. It actually occurred within a few hours of the request at my US bank. I was able to verify it on line with my Thai bank. Cool. Now that it is time to do it again however, I hit this huge brick wall that is entirely understandable, and entirely human, but also entirely unacceptable.

As agreed in advance, I sent an e-mail to a half dozen employees at my local branch. That e-mail was to initiate a response from at least one of the bank employees to transfer money from my US bank to my Thai bank. So how did it work out? Poorly! I got a response from the bank to "call them on the phone."

WOW, I wasn't expecting that. Calling from Thailand is a little unpredictable and I was hoping to avoid this method of communications. I e-mailed my US bank to remind them that they have a file with instructions on this systematic transfer and I also fired up my overseas phone to try and get in touch with them during their normal working hours (my normal sleeping hours.)

It took six calls, most of which did not go through, and a very difficult conversation over a spotty connection to get my primary contact at the US bank to recall that we had set this all up over a month ago and that she has a file on it. Once she remembered the set-up, she pulled the file and agreed that the transfer was legitimate and she would carry it out as discussed. I can only imagine how difficult this would have been if I had sent the e-mail one or two days earlier. You see, my primary contact, the only one with any direct recollection of the conversations or the location of my file was on vacation until TODAY!

I understand everything about this event. I understand my contact's forgetfulness. She only deals with about 200 people a day and it has been 45 days since I talked with her. I understand the regulations on banks that prevent them from transferring money helter-skelter around the world. I even understand the US Company’s reluctance to "direct deposit" to our Thai bank. But man-o-man does it all add up to a major headache for us ex-pats.

Well, I think it will all work out soon. If not...... Mom......Please send cash.....


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grocery stores

You can buy most anything on the street in Bangkok, especially when it comes to food. Fruit stands abound, along with vegetables, meats, flowers and breads. But it can be a hassle for a US ex-pat to meander around the various street markets and shops collecting grapes here, pineapple there (fruit shops often specialize), lettuce at a third shop... on and on until you end up at the bakery for bread and finally a small grocery for milk. Tiring is part of the issue, but just finding everything is the major difficulty.

So it would seem that a supermarket would be the answer to this day-long dilemma. Yes, it would seem so, but it is not. Thais simply don't like the same foods as we do. I love fried rice, so why can't they love a nice burger? Well, they don't. Fair is fair though, I've decided on a few Thai dishes that I will avoid as well.

Tesco LotusSo I went to the supermarket today. I chose the largest and deepest discount place I know, which is Tesco-Lotus. Tesco is the Walmart of Bangkok. Tesco has a large grocery department along with an interesting array of household appliances, TVs, tools, furniture, CDs, and I don’t know what else. It is a big store, and they have stores all around BKK. There are three within easy striking distance of our apartment. So with all this variety, imagine my surprise as I failed to find paper plates. PAPER PLATES for crying out loud! But then it struck me. What in the world would a Thai do with a paper plate? Most of their dishes are more suited to bowls, and not of the paper variety. Thais love noodles and noodles are a wet dish. So I left Tesco without even looking for Cheezits (Brenda's favorite snack) Thais don't like cheese either so searching for a cheese cracker seemed to be a waste of time after I realized they didn't have paper plates.

Right about now is when some lady reading this blog is saying to herself "Why doesn't he just ask someone where to find paper plates?" That is a second problem that permeates every errand here in The Land of Smiles. Do you know the Thai word for "Paper" or "Plate"? And if you do, do you know if the proper syntax is "Paper Plate" or "Plate, paper?" I happen to know that "Plate, paper would be the correct choice, now if I only know the correct words, and which of the five "tones" in which those words should be uttered. "Five tones" you say. Oh sure. There is the middle tone, low tone, falling tone, high tone and rising tone. Some people tell a joke that "Mai mai mai mai mai" is actually a sentence if you say each "mai" with the proper tone. I don't know about that but I don’t doubt it either.

How's this for an example I do know. Glai with a falling tone means "to be near." Glai with a middle tone means "to be far." Bothe rhyme with “Thai,” and in each, the "L" is more-or-less optional. Remember that Orientals have trouble with the letter "L" so some pronounce it and some don't. And some pronounce it as a sort of jumbled "r."

Ok lady, do you still think I should ask where to find Paper plates?

TopsI did leave Tesco with about half of my shopping list. Bread is easy to find, eggs, milk, even yogurt are most everywhere. But for paper plates, I headed to the next level of grocery store in BKK and that is Tops. Tops is not large, and it doesn't have everything a westerner will want, but it has a lot and it is relatively inexpensive.

For example, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes were on my list and Tesco did not have them. Thais, you see don't eat breakfast cereal either. But Tops has it and they are called "Frosties." They also have "Cocoa Frosties" and a small variety of other breakfast cereals at a fair price.

Fruit is also cheaper at Tops. Cheaper even than some of the street vendors. I bought some grapes at a street side fruit stand a few days ago and paid 300 Baht per kilo after being assured that the grapes were seedless. Keep in mind that I know neither the Thai word for Grape nor the word for "seedless," but if I did, I would certainly ask for "grape,seedless". Not only were my grapes not seedless, but they were also not cheap as
Tops. At Tops, I found grapes of the same basic variety, clearly labeled in English "Seedless Grapes - 150 Baht per kilo." So I overpaid on the street, but again in fairness, the seeded grapes are sweet and excellent.

It also turns out that Tops has paper plates, but what Tops does not have, and never will have is Cheezits. For that you have to go to a store that caters to Farang. In fact, any cheese product is likely to be found at only one of two places in Bangkok. The first place is Villa supermarket. They, like Tesco and Tops are all over town. Unlike Tesco and Tops, I find them very expensive. Notice that this comment is in the form of an opinion rather than an outright statement of fact. You can interpret this any way you like. Just remember that I am from the US where Lawyers get elected to Congress so they can right the law so other lawyers can make millions of dollars presenting law suites all over the country.

The other place that carries cheese products is Carrefour. Carrefour is a French supermarket, so I assume that their cheese will be very good. There is not one near us, so I haven't been yet, but if Villa ever runs out of Cheezits I am certain that I'll have to go. Hmmm, I wonder if French supermarkets consider “Cheezits” Food?

There is one other supermarket that folks talk about and that is Big C. I can’t say much about them as I haven't been there yet but they are supposed to be like Tesco.

UFM is another small chain that cateres to Thai (not Farang) and Food Town is supposed to be cheap, but is it hard to find one, at least in my corner of BKK.

So if you are shopping in BKK, Try Tesco, then Tops, then Villa or Carrefour. And if you are looking for an apartment, you might want to see what sort of supermarkets are nearby. If all you have is a Villa, be prepared to overspend on groceries every time. But at least you'll find what you want.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Adventure Cruise

Klong BoatA lot of the stuff that amazes me about bangkok would amaze me in any big city I suppose. The mass of tall buildings, the traffic, the crowds and the availability of almost anything you can imagine within the distance of a 15 minute sky train ride.

But today the trip I had been hoping to have an opportunity to make finally presented itself. I had to go somewhere that the sky train did not go, and neither did the subway. Busses go there, and so do taxies, motorcycle taxies and of course, our driver Fred. But I had wanted to take a Klong Boat and this was the perfect trip to do it.

A Klong, is a canal and Bangkok has plenty of them. Klong boats are probably 40 feet long, skinny and diesel powered behemoths that ply the waters of Bangkok delivering passengers all over the city.

Our apartment is about 1/4 mile from one that runs parallel to Petchuburi Road to the North, and Sukhumvit to the South. I walked to the canal and waited about 5 minutes for the boat. It was really an uneventful experience, except that I learned a few things that you have to know if you ride the boats.

Klong boat approachFirst, you have to know how far you are going before you get on. The fare is dependent on how far you ride, unlike the busses, and it's not that easy to figure out how far you are going. There is no map, at least not a good one that shows the boat stops. So you kind of have to guess at what to tell the guy that collects the fare. Oh, and collecting the fare happens after you get on the boat and it is underway again. I don't know what they do if you can't reach an understanding. Do you think they still have "Planks" to walk in Asia?

On this trip I called ahead to ask which stop I should use. That brought up the second problem. On my street (Thong Lor) there is a sign in English showing where you are. I used this single point of reference to deduce that all the stops have sign that I can read. Ooops. I didn't see another sign that I could read for the whole trip. Maybe there were there, but I looked and looked and didn't find them.

Luckily, I also knew what my destination looked like, and after a few stops I saw it. All excited, I hopped off the boat at the very next stop, right across the canal from where I wanted to go. Unfortunately I got off one stop too soon. That was the second problem. On my street (remember - my single source of information) there is a bridge over the Klong so you can cross over. Not so at my disembarkation. As I watched the boat pull away, I looked around for a way across the canal and realized I had probably made a mistake. It turned out to be a mistake that required a 45 minute walk to the South, then West, then back North to get to a main street that crossed the canal. Oh well, I told you it was an adventure cruise......

I walked my way out of difficulty, as I have done so many times before since arriving in BKK, and completed my business at my destination. I made my way back to the Klong, this time at a stop that let you cross the canal if necessary, and hopped aboard the next boat that came by in the right direction. Fun day. Total cost - 20 Baht round trip (54 cents)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingYou can see from the pics that a lot of Thais use the boats. They are reliable, relatively cool and fast compared to busses. If you sit in front of the engine, they are reasonably quiet and smog free, and they are much faster than any method of over the road travel (taxis, busses, cars…) due to the lack of competing traffic. Most of the Thais were on the boat when I got on, and still on it when I got off. I surmise that these boats are generally used for long distance travel, and they do traverse the city from East to West along several lines of Latitudes. A few canals go North to South, but not nearly as many as the E/W paths.

I'll do it again, but it will take a lot more planning than I gave this trip. Now I have to figure out how to plan with no map….


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Grand Palace

Emerald BuddahWe took a trip across town to the Grand Palace today. We spent about an hour and a half walking the grounds and seeing many of the religeous areas, including the Emerald Buddah. Statues abound in this country and there is no shortage of folks to worship them, but the Emerald Buddah is one of the more famous ones here. The other big ones are the Gold Buddah and Reclining Buddah. We haven't seen those yet.

Photographs are not allowed inside the Wat (temple), but I managed to get this one after I left the building. Being 6 foot 5 inches tall has its advantages. I turned the flash off so I wouldn't disturb the folks inside and lifted my camera as high as I could to get the snap. The little green guy is the Buddah. He is about 40 feet in the air on a shrine and he looks very tiny from where we were. The statue is carved from a single piece of Jade, but I guess Jade Buddah doesn't sound as good as Emerald Buddah.

Take a look at my photo album here. We took about 30 pics today. Take your time and notice how ornate everything is. I tried to get shots of the buildings, but also some close shots that capture how much effort went into everything on this site. There are also some cool trees that have a black bark and are hard as a rock. They either grow slowly or they have been treated like Banzi trees. I don't know which.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFinally as we left, Brenda saw some people selling bamboo and paper umbrellas on the street. She wanted one so I walked over and gave them my best "An Nii Thao Rai?" The little Thai woman sized me up pretty quickly and said "Ha Roi Baht."

"Ha Roi," I said. Then "Ha Roi" to myself as I tried to get the answer sorted out in my mind. And finally "HA Roi?????? No no no no. Mai Ha Roi" as I started to walk away. She wanted 500 Baht for this thing that I had figured at a humdred or so.

She quickly stopped me and said "How much you pay?' I said "Roi Baht, Neught Roi Baht" (100 baht - about $3) She said "OK" right before her daughter said "Roi Ha Sip" (150). I gave the lady a 100 Baht bill and she happily handed me the umbrella. Brenda loves it, and I'm enjoying being able to work out simple negotiations with these folks. It's fun.