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Archive for October, 2007

Really. Even I’m amazed.

Today I had a fantastic massage.

In my house.

For about US$10 (plus my generous tip).

Oh, and I only had to call about five minutes before I wanted my massage – no appointment needed!

I thought I was in paradise when we hired our wonderful maid, Lam Duang, back in August, but now I know I am…. And I can’t believe it took me this long to get my first massage at home! Everyone else has been talking about it for months. I think I’m going to have to make it a weekly ritual now…

It may sound strange, but I really am impressed and amazed at how well the Thai people understand foreigners. I am very used to moving to a new country and having to adapt to the local way of life. I haven’t been living in Bangkok long, but I am constantly surprised at how must the locals seem to know about me (and by “me” I mean Americans in general). I’ve never lived in a place where my needs were so carefully observed and so thoughtfully catered for.

Every day I’m impressed at the little things our local staff notice and comment on. For example, today one of our Instructional Aides asked me if light pink was my favorite color because she sees me wearing it often. She then proceeded to tell me how nice I look in pastel colors. This woman is one of about 40 IA’s we have in the Elementary School – she doesn’t specifically work with me, and I probably only see her in person about once a week.

Later in the day, my absolutely fabulous IA, Khun Wan, saw that I looked stressed out, gave me a short massage and proceeded to tell me about the benefits of regular massage and Thai medicine (which she is studying at the local university). And then, of course, the masseuse that came to my house today: Thai massage is not at all like your standard western massage (by which I really mean, Swedish massage), but this women not only did a fantastic combination of the two, but she was able to sense every tiny nook and cranny on my poor, stressed out back, that needed attention.

I know there have been, and will continue to be, cultural misunderstandings and little “life in Thailand” dilemmas that I get myself into (aren’t there always…) but I think this is going to be a pretty sweet place to live….

Image from: http://www.melbourne.grand.hyatt.com/hyatt/images/hotels/melbo/spa_massage_masthead.jpg

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Taipei: 101

City ViewNot too many people travel to Taiwan for vacation. In fact, I have to admit that I didn’t have any real interest in ever going to Taiwan until a whole group of our friends from KL moved to Taipei this year. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to discover that, clearly, we were all wrong. Taipei is an exciting, trendy, vibrant city with tons to do, a strong cultural connection, and a real cosmopolitan energy.

Last weekend Alex and I had the pleasure of spending four days in Taipei thanks to our very hospitable friends, Darby and David, who let us stay in their palace of an apartment in Tianmu. We had such a great time hanging out with them and playing with their brilliant 15 month old daughter, Elliette. We also got to visit with our friends Mel and Dave who used to life in KL, which was an excellent surprise!

As soon as we arrived in Taipei we headed out to visit David at work (at Taipei American Quick Trip to the BeachSchool), which is in the Tianmu district of the city. Just on that short ride to the school, I fell in love with Taipei. The trendy shops on the street, the busy pedestrian traffic, the bright neon signs, and the obviously cosmopolitan atmosphere gave the city a real Manhattan feeling. Plus, the school is actually right in the middle of a bustling urban neighborhood, which I loved – how great would it be to be able to walk out of school and have the wealth of a city right at your fingertips?

One of the fabulous things about Taipei is that even though it’s a huge city (the world’s second most densely populated city after Dhaka according to Lonely Planet), it’s so close to nature. We were just 10 minutes away from the hot springs, a group of wildly active geysers and only a half hour away from the beach. In just one day we were able to take a great drive through the mountains to get to for a short hike to the geysers, then hang out at the beach, and later enjoy an outdoor sculpture park – all with enough time to make it back for a tasty dinner!

Night MarketAnother day we headed out to the fabulous Palace Museum. Apparently, Chang Kai Shek took all of the ancient Chinese artifacts to Taiwan for “safe keeping” so this museum actually has more Chinese art and history than the museums in China. I have to say, it was pretty impressive – well worth the trip alone. While we were there we bought a very cool scroll for when we finally decorate our apartment. The museum was only about 10 minutes from Darby and David’s house so we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around their beautiful neighborhood and shopping. Then we went out to a fantastic night market just two stops down from the Tianmu MRT station. What fabulous people watching – and some absolutely bizarre food options….Taipei 101

On our last day we headed out to the tallest building in the world, and Taipei’s claim to fame, the Taipei 101 tower. On first glance it looks like boxes of Chinese take-out stacked on top of each other, but once you realize that it’s supposed to look like a bamboo shoot, it starts to make a little sense. The elevator is apparently the fastest in the world – traveling at 60km/h – it definitely made our ears pop. And what a fabulous view of the city from the top!

The best part about our whole trip was the weather. I didn’t realize how much I missed cool fall days (although it probably never got below 20 degrees Celsius, it felt like fall to us). I got to wear some light sweaters, I definitely could have gone for long pants, and the breeze from the mountains gave me goosebumps at night. It was fantastic! According to Darby and David these were the first cool days since they moved in months ago, and the first clear days since the recent typhoons. So, I guess we got lucky!

SteamingOur weekend in Taipei was definitely full of unexpected surprises, thanks to our fabulous tour guides!

If you have the opportunity to visit Taiwan, I highly recommend it! Check out my pictures to see a little bit more of Taiwan.

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Photo Hunt: Smelly

Let’s just be brutally honest here: there’s quite a lot that can be deemed “smelly” here in Bangkok, actually all over southeast Asia. Most of the time, like my friend Sabine, I just try to turn off my sense of smell, but sometimes it truly is unavoidable.

Like after it rains, and the air is so heavy you can’t believe it just rained (isn’t rain supposed to clear the air?), and you step outside of your mostly smell-free condo only to be immersed in the horrific scents wafting up from the much-too-close-to-the-surface gutter.

Or when you’re strolling down a cute little soi (small street) and you stumble across the garbage disposal area for the neighborhood (and by “garbage disposal area” I mean the place where everyone just dumps their trash and waits for the poor souls that have to clean it up).

Or maybe when you’re hanging out down in Chinatown and the mostly cleaned, but definitely deader-than-dead carcasses of whatever they’re serving in the plethora of restaurants is kind of rotting out in the sidewalk after it’s been stripped bare of serviceable parts (and by serviceable I’m talking about feet, snout, innards – anything and everything goes here).

And, of course, who can forget durian season. I mean that’s the smell to beat all smells. Durian, the king of fruits, the smell of smells.

But, today I have something simple for you. An interesting smell that I happened upon during our ferry ride downtown a few weeks ago:

Mystery Drink

This is a drink. It’s kind of a blackish-purple color, with ice cubes kind of steaming around inside, and some sort of leafy vegetable floating among the froth. I have to admit, I was not brave enough to taste it (I have a problem with textures inside my drinks – drinks, aside from orange and grapefruit juice, where I can mysteriously tolerate pulp, should be texture free in my opinion). Thankfully, I have brave friends, and they said it was kind of a spicy-tasty, herby health drink, one that is as common in China as it is here in Thailand. It probably cures all kinds of ailments (including the dreadful cold I’m suffering through now), but unfortunately, the potent smell and lumpy, gelatinous texture is going to keep me away. Far away.

What kinds of smelling things have you noticed lately?

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Normally I love my birthday. It’s that one special day a year that all about me (secretly, I believe every day of the year should be all about me, but that’s the day that I can proudly proclaim is “officially” all about me). However, this year was a little bit depressing…

Apparently, given the fact that I was born in 1977, I am now 30 years old. I’m not really sure where the time went, or how it could be physically possible that I’ve already lived 30 whole years, but I guess it’s true. I’m 30. Thirty. Yikes! I guess now it’s time to “grow up” and start “acting my age.” Considering, I still feel like I’m 21, that’s going to be harder than it sounds…

Anyway, thanks to my lovely new friends here in Bangkok, and my wonderful husband, I had a tasty birthday dinner at a surprisingly good Italian restaurant called Limoncello:

Birthday Friends

My favorite part was the delicious dessert tray, which didn’t take long to go from this:

Birthday Cakes

to this:

Tasty

And, I also liked the cute Thai pizza chef tossing the dough like a pro:

Flying Pizza Crust

I think he was secretly flattered at my documentation of his professional pizza tossing abilities.

By the time my birthday rolls around again, I want to do something even more exciting downtown – anyone have any recommendations?

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