Month: January 2015

Tak bat

They walked bare footed, in saffron uniforms basically composed of a sheet, and with heads shaved. We bared little. We were uniformly diverse in our attire except for the required accessory of the camera. We labored about our hair. And yet there was a pact of sorts. The monks had agreed to keep their ritual alive. They would, as they had for years, take a morning meditative walk (known as “tak bat”) gathering offerings of food from locals looking to build merit by supporting the monks. We foreigners were drawn to this ceremony, so much so that we were being asked to adhere to guidelines on our end. Published throughout town were signs advising on how to stave off offensive behavior by not stopping a monk’s walk for your photo or dressing disrespectfully for with exposed shoulders and legs. Tourists wanting to participate get dropped off in vans to pre-set mats with foods ready to offer. Much is written about how this religious ritual has been distorted or even perverted by foreign tourist paparazzi. Reportedly, …

Negotiations

We could have gotten up early to see the monks. I had a leisurely pancake breakfast instead. We could have bought the little birds for sale as an offering to Buddha during our tour of Phousi Hill and the Vats. I didn’t know what you were suppose to do with the birds – set them free? Leave them by Buddha in their miniature bamboo cage? My Lao doesn’t go far enough to ask. We could have hopped on a tour. I wanted to pick up ballet tickets for the night instead. We could have taken it easy, and ridden bikes between coffee shops. I jumped on the discounted offer to the waterfall as an exchange for T sitting through ballet. We could have made it back in time for the drumming. We made in back for a pre-ballet cocktail instead. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except… – Maybe booked in with French group who had tablecloths, wine and a catered picnic by the falls. Darn those French! – Maybe found the steps down the …

Joy of cooking

Recipe 1 local Lao chef with English good enough for jokes 2 large BeerLao, cold 4 Germans, 2 Canadians, 1 Texan living in Spain 40 stems of lemongrass 1 bottle of fish sauce 1 jar of local fish sauce (the stinky one per Chez Joy) 1 gangal root never seen before (like ginger) Tamarind A pinch of salt A pinch of MSG just because Instructions: 1. First go to fancy restaurant in the morning where you will find other farangs (white people) dropping hundreds of thousands of Kip. 2. Pile into tuk tuk where you and the other farangs inconspicuously follow Chef Joy speaking English to explain the local herbs while locals stare at us taking pictures of pineapples. 3. No stopping for questions in the meat section of the market. It makes the vegetarians queasy, and most carnivores too. So know in advance the thing you don’t recognize is congealed blood, and yes, they do sell pigs faces as an offering to the spirits or the base of a stew. 4. Pile back in …

Blizzard

My last meal in Thailand was a Dairy Queen blizzard in solidarity with Boston peeps digging out. And because foolishly I thought we’d have more food options at the airport! But alas..our last Thai meal will likely be in Cambodia or New Zealand instead. We wished we’d arrived in Chiang Dao earlier or been able to stay longer. It was a sleepy town with beautiful town with many trails to explore, yummy places to eat and breathing was easy. I can understand how a wandering monk ceased wandering and planter roots here. A hop, skip and a jump and we were in Laos. The prospect excited and scared me as it meant time had tricked me again, and rather then moving slowly as it felt, weeks had flown by. Luang Prabang in Laos is a UNESCO world heritage site. This moniker comes with the recognition of being significant (here to architecture and religious history) and also getting some preservation funds. It also means there is finally no Starbucks. Laos is also one of five communist …

In a happy fog

We woke up in the mists to roosters. It was a happy reset. The town crier was shouting out news updates incomprehensible to us. The Chiang Dao mountain stood strong, and the locals wrapped in sweaters and hats went about morning market and other activities in this “wintery” morning of low 60s. When in Rome, we we went with the locals to the market and I finally caught the pig! When we’d been in Bangkok, I’d asked our Thai hostess what people do here with pig’s faces as I’d seen a few at markets and couldn’t fathom the purpose. She hypothesized it was just so people would know its pork! And said she hadn’t seen such things. T being ever accommodating held a photo session with the pigs head/face at the morning market so I could provide evidence to our friend. Strangely, he found this photo session easier than my waterfalls pictures, but to each their own. We continued exploring around on bikes, and as we were in the mountains it seemed a hike was …

Shrooms

We arranged an early ride out to the mountain town of Chiang Dao, one hour north of Chiang Mai without traffic. Somehow, I was still in charge of picking accommodations and had found a happy Brit who had built a series of earthen roundhouses that look like mushrooms! As we are on our sabbatical of sorts, it seemed inspirational to stay with another dream chaser. Maggie, our host, wanted to live of the land and spent years planning and building these roundhouses. As we are here she is finishing another and has her own blog to show how! http://maggimck.wordpress.com/ They have the loveliest view of the mountain, and the fresh air, chickens, papaya trees and puppies are a perfect chaser to antibiotics. We went to see the local cave, the main tourist attraction in town. Nice to see, and no crawling on your belly or hitting your head on stalactites. And with that, we completed our touring and had a leisurely afternoon of biking around and reading. Breathing easy again, Chiang Dao was quickly becoming …

Recovery

We knew this day would come. Fortunately, we had antibiotics and nowhere to be. T got to catch up on bad TV and since I wasn’t doing his cleanse (and passed on the cabbage topping which seemed to do him wrong), I went back to the same safe, yummy restaurant three times. And brought him back rice and Gatorade, like any good wife would. In our convalescence, we even managed to see the Thai state of the Union address. Recovery meant familiar things, so back to the mall and even hitting a movie. We got to choose our seats but standing for the King’s song was mandatory. T was impressed to find a co-working space at the mall called CAMP, while I liked the flash mob or performance troop better! We’d had to change hotels, and without T’s insight, I picked a well reviewed spot which turned out to be in no man’s land. Very peaceful, except when the taxi bus asks you to get out as the destination is too far out of their …