Friday, January 11, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand, Day 7

So sad to leave.  Thailand is a wonderful place.  Friendly people.  Tropical weather.  Great food.  English is not so prevalent there, but enough that we could get by.  And restaurants boasting of food that is “unresistible” and “confirmed in deliciousness” have a certain charm.  Our experiences this week painted a portrait of a culture that is alluring.

We made it to the airport and through immigration – passports stamped – and learned that our flight back home was delayed.   We were delayed a couple of hours before boarding, then spent a few hours on the plane before take off.  Good thing there were lots of movies to choose from to pass the time.  We ended up making it home in the wee hours of the morning and everyone crashed well into the next day.

Bangkok, Thailand Day 6

Day 6

Bank Pa-In Palace--The Summer Palace of the King of Siam.  Wow, what a beautiful palace or several palaces!

We visited the ruins in Ayutthaya, the original capital of Thailand dating back to the 1300s.  When was destroyed in the war with the Burma (present day Myanmar) in 1767, the Thai abandoned the city headed south to rebuild the capital.  The kids found bats in the ruins.  We all rode elephants.  Lunch was fried chicken, sticky rice and fresh pineapple at a roadside restaurant. 

Bangkok, Thailand, Day 5 – Christmas!

Day 5 – Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  We celebrated Christmas at the Caynors’, enjoying a Mexican feast – guacamole, salsa, burritos, etc. – all freshly made.  We exchanged small gifts and had a wonderful time visiting.  Jason got a giant scorpion (in a display case, thankfully) from Thailand.  He declared that a scorpion is exactly what he wanted for Christmas!  The kids got little remote control cars that crawl on the wall.  They had to put the cars away when we realized the remote control was turning the air conditioner and fan on and off – if they had garage door openers in Thailand I’m sure we would have been opening and closing garage doors in range! 

Some Thai university students came over and tried Mexican food for the first time.  They thought it was a little odd, but liked it.  We were invited to perform a sort of chicken dance – Guyon – that was supposed to be a “welcome to Thailand dance”.  Seems like a good chance for new people to make a spectacle of themselves.  The locals seemed to be pretty amused by our performance.

Christmas with the Caynors and university students was so much fun.  It is a Christmas we will long remember.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Field Trip to HKDI museum

So interesting seeing the designs of everyday things.

Love these crayons/colored pencils/ oil pastels/water color pencils!  Multi-purpose me please!

Check out the design of the old computers!  The kids wanted to know what the slot was for!

Cell phones!!!

kids wish for these grocery carts but I can just imagine the crashes they would have racing these!

Bangkok, Thailand Day 4

This is how we go to work. Yikes!  Tons of overloaded vehicles--standing room only.

All kinds of fruit farms.  Mangos, bananas, pineapple, coconut--amazing!

 Houses on stilts with electrical wires running everywhere from them.
 Sun shining on the salt farms.  I did not know they had salt farms but there were stands all along the highway where you could purchase a bag of freshly harvested salt!
motorcylces going whichever way

We rose before the sun for our trip to the Floating Market.  Rick arranged for a driver (Do is a taxi driver that attends the Caynor’s church) and Tik had a day off from school (she teaches at a local international school) so they both joined us for the day.  We drove an hour and a half out of town to the Floating Market.  The Floating Market phenomenon is a bazaar on the water with people cruising along in longboats – most driven by an oarsman, but some were powered by outboard motors well past their prime.  The water canals were lined with merchants selling trinkets, figurines, artwork, spices and most anything you can imagine.  Longboats were floating kitchens with woks filled with culinary magic.  We ate fresh mangos with sticky rice as we cruised along negotiating the boat traffic.  The traffic was as bad as the city; right of way goes to the most aggressive and the deftest navigator.  Our boat driver shouted, “Keep your fingers in the boat!” the entire voyage.  Tik haggled with the merchants in Thai for the items we wanted.  The purchase was as much fun as the prize itself.

After the Floating Market, we went back into the city to the Rose Garden Cultural Center.  The main attraction was the elephant show where they performed an assortment of feats ranging from dancing, playing soccer and reenacting ancient battles.  The highlight for JP and Emma was petting and feeding the elephants after the show, especially the baby elephants.  Alexis complained of elephant snot on her after an elephant wrapped its trunk around her leg.  Elephants have always been Emma’s favorite so she couldn’t get enough of the elephants.  She left asking when we are going to see more elephants.

Alligator show!  They stuck their head in but I could not watch!

Girls spinning the boys!

It took and hour and a half to get across the city to our flat – we were told traffic was light so we made it in an hour less the expected!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand Day 3

The view from our apartment window.  The elephant building!

Busy city at night.

It’s probably past time for us to introduce Rick and Lisa Caynor.  They are missionaries living in Bangkok.  Shelley was a friend with Lisa dating back to high school, but lost touch over the years.  When we moved to Hong Kong, Shelley learned that Lisa was now a “neighbor”.  Rick and Lisa were gracious enough to spend time with us sharing Christmas, showing us around Bangkok and generally befriending us.  Since Shelley had not spoken with Lisa for years, they were taking a big risk hosting the Hale Storm.  They had no way of knowing if we were crazies or not.  (We didn’t actually ask them if they thought we were crazies after all…figured that was better left to our ambiguous interpretation.)  It was great to catch up with them and hear their miraculous story.  (Perhaps Lisa has a blog that tells her story.  We cannot do it justice here).  They were so kind with their friendship, they instantly felt like long-time friends.
Headed in to church.

The kids program, we could not understand what they said but they were sure funny to watch!

JP and Emma watching the kids program at church.

Sunday morning, we went to the Thai church Rick and Lisa work with.  This Thai church was the real deal.  None of the service was in English.  About half of the songs were Christmas carols that we could sing along in English.  The kids did a Christmas number complete with the kid in the middle hamming it up – some things are universal.  The preacher was Thai, but we could follow the Christmas story sermon from the scripture references – Matthew 2.  The people were incredibly warm and friendly.  It was a small church – maybe a little over 100 people attend each week.  They meet in a space they are outgrowing in an apartment building.  We’ve been in Hong Kong for over three months, but we’ve never been to a foreign church service (only international churches).  Even though we couldn’t understand what was said, we loved the experience of church in a different culture.  It was simple.  It was genuine.  It was encouraging.
After church we went to a mall for lunch.  The signs on the bathroom doors their were so funny!

Bangkok, Thailand Day 2

The mall

Emma and Jp making friends. (Play is a universal language!)

Devon and Rick on the MRT (very similar to HK MTR!)

Rick and Lisa picked us up Saturday morning and took us to a shopping mall near a shrine.  Ricky, Rick and Lisa’s 17-year-old son, took Devon and Alexis on the MRT (Bangkok’s subway system) because there wasn’t room for everyone in their truck.  We all met up at a Starbucks.   Yes, Starbucks is everywhere (perhaps there is a corner of Africa without a Starbucks).  Everyone had coffee – some fufu drinks, others coffee black as it was meant to be.  Rick taught Emma to ask for ice to put in her coco to cool it down…in Thai – nahm kang.  She also learned to say thank you – cup coon kaa (cup for boys).  She delivered her new vocabulary with confidence.
This family paid for 8 dancers during their turn on the mats. The smoke is from incense.

Not sure why the elephants but I think you can buy them to worship Brahmin too.

Look up from the temple and you see the MRT, highways and a huge mall.

If you would like to buy a bird to release for your prayer too, you can.  They will go back to the shop keeper later.

Crowded sidewalk--watch for motorcycles!

All the flowers you can buy to put on the idol.

Next we went to the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a small square surrounded by modern city – we could see the largest shopping mall in Southeast Asia from the square.  The square was crowded with people burning incents, presenting offerings and praying.  Dancers would perform before the golden Brahma idol in the center of the square that air people’s prayers.  People lined up (and pay) for a chance to kneel and pray before the Brahma in front of the dancers.  There were also caged birds (setting them free brings good karma) and statues of elephants.  The incongruence of the age-old religious practices in the middle of a very modern metropolis was amazing.
People lighting incense.  Causes a huge blurr of smoke there is so much of it.

Brahmin is the idol in the middle of the smoke and flowers.

Shelley and Alexis went with Lisa to see The Hobbit and Tim took the rest of the crew to a big aquarium in the shopping mall.  The Hobbit was in English as was most of the aquarium!  After the aquarium, JP decided he needed a nap – on the MRT.
On the walk back to the flat, JP still unconscious on Tim’s shoulder, they walked along a sidewalk that had street merchants cooking in preparation for the dinner hour.  Suddenly, JP said, “Dad, you missed the crickets.”  Crickets?  What Crickets?  “I saw crickets back there.  You missed it.”  Were they alive?  “No, they were dead.  They were in a pan cooking!”  We went somewhere else for dinner.

That evening, we stole away for a dinner sans kids.  Walking along the street, we walked by a crowded street restaurant and decided to give it a try.  We were seated at a table and the hostess went searching for the waiter that spoke a little English.  The menu was in Thai, but someone found the menu with English descriptions (and more importantly pictures).  The waiter’s recommendation was a fine looking fish dish, which undoubtedly would have been quite tasty, but we were looking for a dish that has the fish head separated before it is cooked (at the very least, before it’s served).  Soccer was on the big screen so we had to communicate our order in between the roars that erupted with each shot at the goal.  We went with a spicy beef salad and fried rice with shrimp.  The food was incredible.  After our meal, we decided to order another dish of the fried rice and shrimp for the kids.  Tim waived at a waitress and motioned with his finger for her to come over.  Shelley then reminded Tim that that was a pretty rude/obscene gesture in Thailand.  Oops.  Shelley could see a couple of waitresses conferencing while looking our way, but they were at least smiling.  Our order was soon sorted out and Tim asked for the check.  The waitress brought Shelley the check.  Shelley handed it to Tim and he paid with a 500 Baht note.  The waitress then brought Shelley the change.  Before leaving Tim left a 60 Baht tip.  Shelley said she saw the waitress laughing and showing the tip to her friends.  All told, we left after an amazing meal (and take-out for the kids) all for under US$15.  I think the waitress got a good laugh at our expense (if it wasn’t an amused laughter we saw, we would rather not know) and we had a wonderful time.