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Archive for the ‘Bangkok’ Category

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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I still remember the first time I enjoyed fresh strawberries in Germany – biting into a ripe, red berry, and finding a squirming beetle inside. Ew! But, I reasoned, at least that was because they don’t use dangerous pesticides, and really, isn’t all natural always better? 

This was around 9 years ago now, and I must admit I’m increasingly impressed with my ability to turn off my highly tuned gag reflex. 

This week put me to the test, though.

On Monday, I went to my favorite local grocery store – totally overpriced and specially for expats, but I still like it since it’s just down the street and everything is so easy to find. I was making one of my favorite quick meals – cous cous with zucchini, asparagus and broccoli. As I was chopping up my nice, round zucchini, I noticed it looked a little off – a brown tinge and a bit hollow. Figuring it was rotten, I tossed it away (thankfull that I had purchased two).

When I went to cut up the second one I noticed a little squirming friend on the cutting board. A tiny maggot. Delicious.

Managing to amaze even myself, I simply threw the maggot in the trash, washed off the knife and cutting board, and chopped up the second zucchini.

Hmmm. Perhaps I have adapted to my less-than-sterile environment here in Southeast Asia?

Today I got another chance to test my tolerance levels. We went to my absolute favorite pizza place in Central World Plaza (just a five minute walk from our house) with some friends who were visiting from out of town. I may have mentioned how much I like this pizza on one or two previous occasions to these very friends, so I was quite excited to bring them there for lunch.

Sadly, as I was about to bite into my second to last slice, what do I notice resting next to a tasty, salty black olive? A crunchy, leggy little cockroach. Nice and toasty, all baked into my beloved pizza.

Ug.

Despondently I called the waitress over (she knows us so well, we don’t even have to order when we come in we just get “the usual”). Thankfully she was quite horrified (and removed the charge for the pizza from our bill) and had I not already eaten 95% of the pizza, I probably would have finished the rest.

Plus, I didn’t panic, didn’t declare that I was never coming back, and I definitely didn’t gag. It’s all part of the experience, right? The little daily adventures that make living abroad so exciting.

I consider this my personal “arrival” to the world of expat living. I may have been out of my anti-bacterial-obsessed-country for the last nine years, but being able to ignore a cockroach pizza, and simply toss away a maggot has to be a sign of adaptation, right?

No more hand sanitizer for me!

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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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Delivery 2.0

Apologies for those of you that don’t follow the wonderful world of web 2.0 (and the annoying habit of all those who do terming everything new and better “2.0” – let this be your first experience), but I have discovered something amazing. Something spectacular. Something that may cause me never to leave my lovely new apartment again.

A little something called Food by Phone.

And it rocks.

First of all, I get a little over excited about delivery service for any restaurant since I grew up in a town of about 8,000 with no potential of delivery, ever. Once I got to university and experienced the true joy of having food delivered to your door, I discovered the double-edged sword of having to talk to the delivery people on the phone to place your order – which got significantly worse when we moved to Germany and had to do the ordering in German (and lets not even get started trying to analyze the conversational disasters that we’ve already experienced trying to talk to anyone on the phone here in Thailand).

Well, as could be expected, the concept of delivery service is perfected in Bangkok. Food by Phone allows you to order from over 100 Bangkok restaurants of all cuisines and price-ranges, online. Yes, that’s right. No language difficulties, no searching for menus, no guessing which meal is best from each restaurant. The site includes the top 20 dishes being ordered at the moment, records your past orders, and allows you to purchase grocery store items (including beer) along with your order. Plus, you can order from as many restaurants as you want in a single order for a minimal fee.

Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Alex and I just ordered Indian (for me) and chicken wings and onion rings (for him). All I had to do was click on the various food items I wanted and a half hour later the guy shows up with our orders from two different restaurants.

Now, I have to ask: Is this a local phenomenon? Or do other cities have the same type of thing? Cause I think it’s going to be pre-requisite for the next place I move….

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