Monday, October 3, 2011

Apologies for the multiple blasts

I am sorry if you receive multiple notices of blog postings. I am trying to get back to working on the blog and found some photos had vanished from some previous posts. I am replacing them and have a feeling  you may get notices of each change if you are following the blog. I don't think I can prevent this so just ignore anything you get in the next day or two. I will not post anything new until at least Wednesday.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Quick khlong boat ride

We decided to start trying to figure out where you can go on the system of khlong boats which travel quickly down a khlong (canal) through central Bangkok. This mode of transportation is primarily used by locals; you have to be ready to hop on and off the boats very quickly so as not to slow down their rapid progress. I had been on these boats one time but have not quite determined where you can go. If we can master these, we can travel quickly from our place to spots that can take as much as an hour by other modes of travel. Blue tarps are pulled up along the sides of the boats as they travel to reduce splashing of the dirty khlong water onto the passengers - great idea!  Riders get a view of life for the residents who live along the canal.

This pier is less than 1 km from our apartment

This ride took us to a very busy shopping area.

Pedestrian and auto traffic was heavy. All we needed was a pair of headphones but that entailed moving through a 5 story electronics shopping center full of booth after booth of vendors. Computer parts, cameras, DVD's, tools and other electronics were presented with no order we could discern. But we did find what we were looking for.
   In the near future, we will take the boats in another direction to see just how far we can go and then map out the possibilities for travel.
   We ended the day with a quick visit to a restaurant near our house featuring 4 Thai guys who do remarkable covers of the Beatles.

Pattaya - Been there, done that.....

   We had a long weekend due to the Chulalongkorn Day, commemorating the rule of Rama V, so we decided to take a trip within easy reach of Bangkok. Pattaya is a beach resort less than 2 hours drive from the capital. We arranged details of the trip then started researching Pattaya. After a bit of reading, we realized that Pattaya was not going to be our cup of tea,  but decided to proceed with the trip to escape the heat and bustle of Bangkok. Pattaya used to be a quiet little coastal town; then, during the Vietnam war, it became an R&R spot for U.S. soldiers. Despite efforts to clean up its image, the wildness of the town remains and there is much development and encroachment by Russian investors. 
     As we drove through the town to reach our hotel, there was little appealing to be seen so we decided to  stay out of  the main area of town and enjoy the views and relaxation at the Birds and Bees Resort. This is run by the Population and Community Development Association, the receiver of $1 million from the Gates Foundation for its effective campaign to reduce population growth in Thailand. They run hotels and restaurants in many areas of Thailand, employing many from the rural north of Thailand. All of their facilities have a very upbeat, tropical feel with humorous, sometimes acerbic,  political comments.
Thai resort thoughts.
  We have never spent a vacation relaxing poolside at our hotel but that was our primary activity. We did venture out to a temple on a hillside above Pattaya. It was within walking distance from the hotel, albeit a hot, uphill hike. I have a feeling that the temple was build primarily as a draw for tourists; vendors were selling small bamboo cages full of little birds. The selling point was that freeing the birds in the area of the temple would bring one good luck.  We did not bite!     Temple visitors leave many different offerings at different spots of the temples; some consist of food and personal items for the monks, their sole source of food. Some are figurines of gods, goddesses or animals.  Incense is burned in remembrance of deceased family members; flowers are left in front of statues. Gold leaf is purchased to rub onto statues of Buddha. Temples are vibrant and sensory scenes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thai Cooking Classes at May Kaidee's in Bangkok

Thai Som Tom Salad
  Tom and I spent one Saturday morning at May Kaidee's cooking school to get some tips on the finer points of cooking some of our favorite dishes. After four hours, we were so stuffed we had to start packing the food in a to-go bag instead of our stomachs. We made at least 12 dishes, alongside a British couple whose sons had arranged their visit to the cooking school. Our teacher was a vivacious Thai woman from northern Thailand (Issan) where the primary language is Laotian; she was very fluent in English and kept us on task as we moved from one dish to another. She gave us a compact May Kaidee cookbook, which we have now used many times. I have been able to recreate several of the dishes but may have to visit the cooking class again to gain the nuances of a few dishes.  One of our favorite recipes is one of the easiest: som tam salad pictured above. Green beans, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, peanuts and lime juice are pounded in a mortar; then shredded green papaya is added for a few more poundings of the pestle.
    We learned to make soup in 3 versions, all based on the same combination of ingredients. Here is my version at our wok (bought in 1975 on Prince Avenue in Athens Georgia):

Small moments of culture shock

    Having been in Bangkok now just shy of 2 months, there are still things that surprise me as we wander the city and settle in our apartment. I have to remember NOT to plug in any appliance we brought from the U.S. without first plugging it into a transformer we bought with us; I find myself walking down narrow streetways with no sidewalks, watching where I put my feet on the uneven roads, while also keeping an eye out for the motorcycle taxis that dart in and out among the cars and taxis. Somehow, everyone seems to be very aware of each other and there is almost a ballet of vehicles as one gives way to another and many columns of drivers gracefully merge into one or two lanes without so much as a honk of the horn, quite different than in India. At any cinema, the entire audience rises from incredibly plush seats and stands for the "King's Anthem" which is played before each movie.
     Visiting the open air markets to purchase fruits and vegetables is a sensory experience of colors, sounds and smells, some good, some bad. I don't know that I will ever get used to the overpowering odor of dried fish and shrimp products found at all of the markets. But the availability of a plethora of fruits and vegetables is worth learning to tolerate any discomfort. Today's visit to the market filled our arms with bag after bag of mini corn, pears, mangoes, green papaya for som tam salad (spicy, spicy!), mangosteens, baby corns, tiny sweet bananas, eggs, and peanuts, all for about the equivalent of $20.00.
     Entering a bathroom at the subway station and finding the sign below is today's "you're not in New Orleans anymore" moment. I don't think I will stand on any toilet seats no matter how long we live here!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Canadian, a Singaporean and an American were walking in the park.........

This morning, rather than run on the treadmill in the apartment gym for an hour or so, looking out at the pool the entire time, I decided to go to a nearby park for an early morning walk/run; I was joined by two other residents (see above) in the apartment building who were  interested in a change of scenery.
     In the park were several Tai Chi groups;  one, led by a young man, had a bit more hip movement than I have seen before in Tai Chi;  some were moving VEEEERY slowly;  most participants were dressed in sweats, despite the warm temperatures. The participants were of all ages and looked very peaceful. Supposedly, anyone can join in so maybe I will try it one day.
   At 8:00 am sharp, a whistle blows and everyone comes to a standstill to listen a recording of the King's Anthem; this song plays all over the city and anyone on the streets is expected to  honor the King, with no smart-aleck remarks allowed.  
   Street vendors were out in full gear, cooking breakfast dishes which look much like lunch dishes. It was nice to be out in the fresh air where there was a hint of coolness at the beginning of the outing, but which had dissipated well before we were headed back. There are many dogs roaming the streets here and there were a few in the park; they don't look emaciated so they are finding food somewhere, but I would not try to make friends with them as rabies can be a problem in these soi dogs.
    I think an excursion to one of the parks should become part of my weekly routine; it was nice to observe part of the life of the city before the streets are clogged thoroughly with taxis, motorcycles and cars. 
   Tomorrow, Tom has consented to attending a Thai vegetarian cooking class with me; we will get a tour of a nearby vegetable market and  learn the names of some of the unique products available. I am intrigued by tiny eggplants about the size of grapes. I would love to know how to use those in a curry or soup. I imagine we will get some interesting photos there;  if so, I will post some. I think there is some singing and dancing involved!
    On Sunday we will stick close to the apartment, except for keeping an appointment we have for more inoculations. The red shirts have a demonstration planned in Bangkok and in Chang Mai and it is probably advisable to keep our distance. 
   We are thoroughly enjoying the many ethnic foods available and have not tired of Thai food at all. But I do have to admit, that the brocolli-potato soup and spoonbread I have made for dinner tonight are very appealing. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Orchid plants from flower market - local growers gather to sell their plants.
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