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Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Over the last few years Alex and I have been working on collecting art, specifically paintings, on our travels. Nothing fancy, but Alex now likes to refer to me (sarcastically) as a “patron of the arts.” Whenever we’re on a holiday, we tend to look for paintings by local artists as our souvenirs. Of course this also includes selecting special pieces here in Bangkok.

So, last week, we headed out to Chatuchak to pick up our second painting by a local artist:

Bodhi

This one is a Bodhi tree, the tree that Buddha meditated under, and a common site around Thailand and southeast Asia. I love the heart shaped leaves, a shape which is reproduced in all sorts of temple decorations around the country.

We had our first painting made (by the same artist) last year:

Swirls

This one is more of a modern twist on a similar style. I love the swirling style and flowing writing across the bottom. The three panels make it super easy to transport and gives it a more distinct feel than the single panel.

Both paintings have a dark reddish background with the trees and leaves pressed on in gold leaf. They are so shiny and soothing to look at. I love them!

What do you like to purchase as a record of your travels?

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Today begins our three week semester break! We started celebrating in style last night with a hi so (a cute Thai nickname for “high society) evening of drinks at the Banyan Tree’s Vertigo, dubbed the highest open-air bar in southeast Asia, and dinner at the Suan Lum night bazaar.

We arrived just after five, in time to see the cloudy gray skies over the city:

Gray Skies

Got to watch the beautiful sunset, while enjoying our drinks:

Sunset

Ben and Chrissy

Enjoyed seeing the evening lights slowly brighten:

Dusk

And eventually headed back down to the city for some tasty Thai food:

City Lights

Along with our lovely friends:

Celebrate

The perfect way to start a holiday break, if you ask me!

What are you doing this holiday season?

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This has been an interesting week. On Tuesday, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), began protesting at Bangkok’s international airport, Suvarnabhumi, which resulted in the closure of the airport when they “stormed” the airport control towers and stopped allowing planes in and out. It’s now Saturday morning and both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang (the older, domestic airport) have been closed for days. Hundreds of thousands of travelers are now stranded in destinations around the world while this major hub of travel in Asia is non-functioning.

Oddly enough, life seems to be going on entirely as normal here in the city. The streets are calmer than usual – less traffic, less people out and about – but that’s about it. We continue to go to school and work every day, ride the BTS, and enjoy living downtown. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that something critical to the county’s future is happening just on the outskirts of the city, but having absolutely no effect on our daily life.

I wonder when all this is going to end? Technically, I suppose I’m stranded in Bangkok, but if Bangkok is home, does that really count as stranded?

Treasure Island by Aaron Escobar

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One of my favorite things about having visitors is doing all of the “touristy” things I never seem to find time to do on an average weekend in the city. One of the things I had really been wanting to do was take a boat tour of the canals in Thonburi (across the river from Bangkok). Despite all the visitors we had last year, I was never able to make it over to the other side of the city.

Theppaksi

So when Alex’s parents came for a visit a few weeks ago, and the fates aligned to allow us a day off work during their trip, I took my chance!

We enjoyed a relatively cool morning exploring the Grand Palace (I believe this was visit number 2 for me and visit number 5 for Alex) where I continue to tempt fate by bringing a pair of flip flops to change into once I skirt the security guards at the entrance. The rule apparently is was that all visitors must wear closed-toe and closed-heel shoes to enter the palace (along with covering shoulders and legs).

However, every time we go there I see dozens of people, foreigners and locals alike, wearing much more casual clothes than the “rules” stipulate (although I am familiar with the concept of simply ignoring the “rules” that rages quite rampant here in Thailand, I am such a rule-follower that I wouldn’t dare). But, this time I’m quite pleased to report that I was able to trade my closed-toe, formal wear, palace-appropriate shoes, for the far more comfortable flip flops.Offering

Despite my fear of the eventual embarrassment of being told by one of the security guards to put the other shoes back on, no one seemed to notice, and in fact, at the very end of our visit, my father-in-law spotted that the sign now says that flip flops are acceptable footwear for the palace. Hello comfort! And no more carrying around my decoy “real” shoes all day!

After the palace visit, we headed over to the pier for our canal tour. Amazingly, although Alex hadn’t been there in months, the guy at the little booth actually remembered Alex from his last visit, and off we went without having to negotiate an acceptable price.

The tour we took lasted about an hour and whizzed us through the canals on our own private long-tail boat. It was a bit overcast so most of the pictures are pretty gray, but living in a tropical climate definitely makes you appreciate the cloudy days. 

Boat View

Crossing from one side of the river to the other is like stepping back in time. All along the banks of the canals are traditional Thai houses on stilts, you can see where the water has eroded the banks of the river. We saw kids playing in the water, people bathing, and of course lots of little ladies selling treats from their own boats. 

I wish we could have taken a few detours down some of the smaller canals, but the standard route must be pretty clearly mapped out. We saw quite a few other boats speeding through in the opposite direction as well.

Porch

I love being able to see the contrast between the modern city we live in on a daily basis and the more traditional, peaceful, pace of life in Thonburi. It’s amazing to me that these places can co-exist only a few minutes from each other, yet be so totally different.

One of the things I love the most about Bangkok is how quickly things seem to change, yet how much of the traditional culture is retained. When we lived in Munich I really felt like I had explored all the nooks and crannies of the city within the first two years. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance to know Bangkok as well as I knew Munich, and certainly not as quickly. And I have to admit, I love that feeling. I love the idea of all the undiscovered secrets waiting to be found, a new adventure around every corner. I think that’s my kind of city!

What do you like best about the place you live?

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As usual, it’s hard to believe the summer is over… You won’t hear me complaining, though, I know a good thing when I see one. Eight weeks off every year is a pretty sweet deal, that’s for sure. Even though it went by at lightening speed, we had a great summer (as we always do!).

Our first two weeks in Munich were fabulous. It’s hard to believe we’ve been away from the city for three years already. It felt like we were living there only yesterday as soon as we stepped out of the airport. So many things have changed, but thankfully, most of our old favorite spots are still just the same:

We had some spectacular schnitzel at Steinheil:

Steinheil Schnitzel

Enjoyed the lovely, long summer twilight in the city’s many parks:

Frauenkirche

Got to see the highly protected, secret, back courtyard of the Augustiner Keller on Landsbergerstr:

Augustiner Keller

And, of course spend tons of quality time with our fabulous friends we miss so much:

Neil and Sabine

Sabine and Neil (check out the guy in full Bayern wear in the seat behind us – just a regular Saturday in Munich).

Martine and Chris

Martine and Chris (who flew down from London to see us!)

Mithra and Frank

Mithra and Frank (our steadfast lunching companions)

Trish and Martin

Martin and Trish

Once we got back to the States, we spent two weeks relaxing with my family in Connecticut:

Spent a few good days at the pool:

Lisa, Kim and Jay

Reconnected with one side of my family that I haven’t seen for 15 years (a post is soon to come on that story):

The Cofino Family

Enjoyed some fantastic meals, and just enjoyed being home.

For the last part of our vacation, we headed out west to Eugene, Oregon for two weeks, where we spent some quality time with Alex’s family and got to:

Experience the Oregon Country Fair:

Crowds

Go whitewater rafting on the MacKenzie River:

On the raft

Taste some delicious Oregon wine at the Kings Estate Winery outside Eugene:

Hills

Enjoy the stunning Oregon coast:

Crash

And hang out with our old friends, Annaliese and Jeremy, that now live in Portland:

Reading with Ken Kesey

Aside from some airline related travel snags (Hello, domestic travel in the US sucks big time!) It was a pretty sweet trip, I must say. Even so, it feels great to be back home in Bangkok – especially being able to hop in a taxi from the airport and find ourselves home, downtown, in under 40 minutes!

So, now that we live downtown, and we’re going to be here for more than a month (which was about the amount of time we had in our new place before we left for the summer holidays), what should we do that’s off the usual tourist/expat path?

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It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I’m sad to say that this blog has been quite neglected since I started my new position at ISB. I’ve been so busy, learning so much, that I haven’t had much time to reflect on my non-existent personal life.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been traveling. As soon as vacation starts, Alex and I are off on another adventure. Last month it was a fabulous two week tour of Thailand – from the southern state of Krabi to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya, to the northern city of Chiang Mai. We did all this lovely travelling with our two great friends from Munich, Sabine and Neil, who flew all the way here to experience the beauty of Thailand.

Sabine and Neil

We started our trip with a week at the beach, Krabi, where we had a surprising number of adventures:

On our very first day, we were enjoying a nice swim, when Sabine was stung by a sea urchin. She said the pain shot up her leg almost instantaneously. Thankfully, the hotel staff were incredibly responsive and carried her into the doctor’s office immediately (which, I must say was quite frightening to me – I’ve never seen anyone move so quickly in southeast Asia before!). It took her about 12 hours to recover – she was in a wheelchair for the whole evening. I can only imagine what might have happened had we not been staying at a hotel with a doctor!

That very same evening we were forced into one of my least favorite things about Thailand during the holidays. At all the major hotels (this one was a Sheraton) on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, they have these huge compulsory dinners – usually one dinner costs at least (and often more than) the price of the room. This time around we had a huge Christmas Eve buffet – which, in all honesty, was delicious. Unfortunately, whatever I ate was not quite fit for my stomach, so I spent the following 12 hours in the bathroom enjoying all the glories of food poisoning. So much so that I ended up at the doctor’s office as well. What a pleasure to spend my entire second day at the beach in the hotel room. Lovely.

After those first two days, things evened out a bit. We got to play with the hotel’s adorable baby elephant, RaRa, on the beach and in the water:

Rara by the Sea

she had such bristly hair on her back:

A Bristly Back

but she was still so cute:

Elephant's Eye View

We also spent some time exploring the various beaches and waters of Koh Phi Phi and around Krabi:

Swim

After Krabi, we flew back to Bangkok, spent some quality time at Jatujuk market, and visited the Grand Palace:

Guardian

There was so much to see – I can’t wait to go back the next time some friends come to town!

Next, we took a day tour of the old capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya:

Wrapped

Spotlight

Fly-by

After Ayutthaya, we headed up to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand:

Not only was the weather absolutely perfect – so cool and refreshing – but it was so relaxing and green! We enjoyed visiting the beautiful nearby temples:

Lantern

Melt

and ruins:

Ensconced

took Thai cooking classes:

Ingredients

where we saw the cutest kid ever while we were at the market! He loved having his picture taken and seeing the result on the camera. I actually managed to teach him how to take a picture, he was enjoying himself so much!

Little Cutie

and took a trip up the river to a fruit and herb farm:

Sunset

We also spent quite a bit of time shopping while we were in Chiang Mai. Everything is so much cheaper than Bangkok, and with the cool temperatures, it makes it such a pleasure to stroll around the markets. We ended up buying quite a lot of teak furniture, which I absolutely love (pictures soon). I can totally see how easy it would be to buy a whole house full of furniture here (hmmm…. a plan is forming).

One of my favorite things about the first long vacation in a new country is exploring everything we new eyes. We had such a great time traveling around Thailand with our friends. Their first visit made it feel like our first visit! Honestly, I feel so lucky to be living in such a beautiful country with so many wonderful people and places to see…

We will definitely be going back to Chiang Mai, and I can’t wait to spend more time on the beach! I just wish there was a little more time for vacationing ;)

How did you spend your holiday season?

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I’ve been waiting for this PhotoHunt for a few weeks! Just over a month ago we spent a long weekend in Singapore – a city I had long wanted to visit, but never seemed to manage to make it there (even though it’s only a short hour flight from KL and two hours from Bangkok).Something about the island city-state seems so exciting and cosmopolitan – the skyscrapers right next to the ocean – sounds like the perfect city to me! Plus, I had heard that they have an absolutely stunning Christmas display every year, and we were arriving just in time to see everything get set up.As could be expected, Christmas lights in Singapore are over-the-top, glittering and twinkling on every tree, branch, pole, and building on Orchard Road. Although we only arrived at the very begining of the holiday season, we saw more lights on one street than we’ve seen in the last few years!

Towering Above

Singapore Christmas

All A Glow

Now I must admit, though these lights are especially festive, they are not the only interesting lights I have seen lately. Here are a few more, just to round out this week’s entry:In September, I saw the bright lights of Shanghai:

The Bund

In October, I saw the neon lights of Taipei:

The Brightly Lit Streets of Taipei

And how can I forget the endless lights of Bangkok:

View from Above

The German side of me gets frustrated when I see all of Bangkok’s temples and streets aglow with fairy lights every night, but I have to admit, the gently glimmering sights of this pulsating city has to be one of my favorite things about living here:

Temple of Dawn

All lit up

Bridge at Night

And, of course, we have a few bright little lights in our house as well:

Orange

What kind of lights have you seen lately?

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This summer I bought a Nikon D40 in an attempt to improve my photography skills.

Now, I know that people say the talent is not in the camera, but I’ve just been through all the pictures I’ve taken in the last three years, and something about the Nikon has drastically improved my photography. Maybe it’s just the fact that when I hold that camera I feel like I know what I’m doing, and since I can pretend that I look like I know what I’m doing, I seem to have more confidence, which leads to better pictures…

Anyway, one thing I’ve learned is to capture small details that represent the larger whole – instead of having one picture to capture everything that’s happening in one scene, focus on the details. And with that in mind, I give you some small details from the fabulous Jatajuk market here in Bangkok: 

Pile of Color

Buddha

Silk

Puppets

Tribal Pillow Patterns

Solitary Lotus

For those of you that don’t know Jatajuk, it must be the biggest weekend market in the world with over 15,000 stalls and 300,000 visitors on an average weekend day. They have absolutely everything and anything you could imagine – from strange wild animals, to silks, to plants, to clothes, to toilet bowls. It’s amazing. And, clearly it’s going to be a few dozen more trips before I even start to touch some of those other sections – the silks and handicrafts are just too interesting for now!

What small details capture your weekends? 

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One of my favorite things about living in Bangkok is the bustling pace of life on the Chao Praya River. We live close to Nonthaburi Pier, and occasionally take the river taxi down to the city center. I love seeing the temples from the water and the sophisticated skyline approaching in the distance.One of the best ways to get from one side of the river to the other is the ever-present long-tail boat:  

The Long Tail

All along the river, at any given time of day or night, these boats are racing up and down and back and forth, their long-tails churning up the water as they speed by. There’s nothing better than exploring the hidden canals of Bangkok, than by a colorful long-tail boat!

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PhotoHunt: Flexible

Gecko, Under

Among the interesting creatures that quietly co-habitate with us here in our condo in Bangkok (just like in Malaysia), is the flexible (and sticky) gecko.

Usually, at night, we can see them climbing up (the outside of) our glass patio doors. As they work their way across the doors, they bend and twist from head to tail, more flexible in their little, sticky toes than Alex and I combined. They’re pretty much unstoppable with their little, flexible bodies – even the comparably huge door jam (pictured above) is no obstacle for them!

Our flexible friends find their way into our apartment via the aircon ducts (we have one that lives inside one of our air conditioners), and I’m guessing some small gaps underneath the doors. They wriggle across our ceiling to go from one part of the house to another, and they love to spend time lounging on our kitchen counters, in the dark, while we’re asleep (which often leads to quite a surprise when we wake up in the morning).

Sadly, our intrepid flatmates have been somewhat decimated as of late, due to their lackadaisical attitude about shimmying away when we turn on the kitchen lights in the morning. About a month ago, Alex had a one-to-one encounter with our most audacious kitchen gecko. Let’s just say that slamming a gecko tail (accidentally, of course) with a cabinet door, results in one less gecko around the house.

Never fear, there are plenty more where that one came from….

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