Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas letter postscript

Soon after hitting "send" and sharing our three page Christmas greetings to half the world I realized I had left out something that really needed to be said:

We are so, so, so, so fortunate.

While grateful for an extraordinary quantity of blessings, and reasonably mindful of others' situations, we could do lots better on both counts.

Monday, December 14, 2015

More Miscellany

Showing holiday spirit in efficient fashion, green, red and blue lights here cover Diwali, Eid and Christmas.  Lots of putting up and taking down, or at least turning on and off, but economical.

Commuter backhoes are a fairly common sight, backing up traffic and alarming some of us in the rear view mirror.  We know they travel at least 7 miles one way, much of it on the shoulder-less two lane coastal road.


Oh ick!  Seen in Singapore store.
Need any ants?

We had terrible "haze" = smog for over a month, caused by burning of forests in Indonesia and also Malaysia, mainly to plant palm oil.  The intentional burning ignited peat, which makes a highly toxic, long-lasting burn.

Travel much? 

Christmas season activities:

At Mt Miriam cancer hospital.  This man has been on the hospice ward  for two years or more.  He cries with joy at the music....

Ending this with something lighter:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Singapore airport

Singapore’s airport, Changi, is often rated the best in the world and it’s no wonder. So many thoughtful and also fun features. Water fountains, internet and charging stations even inside the gates--and much more in the main on.  We have passed through several times,  most recently in October on our way back from Thailand.

Giant durian, anyone?
There are benches (not all as dramatic as this one).  We know airports where you can't find anywhere to sit.
There are a variety of shops and restaurants, not all with the predictable overpriced designer goods.   There are gardens.  Easy to find recharging places and more than one free internet spot.  Comfy seats to watch TV. Gaming stations--free. A movie theater--also free!

Care to watch the big game?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao

It is not a direct flight from Penang to Chiang Mai, so have to change in KL's new budget airlines airport.  We luck out making the tricky transfer in the new, sprawling terminal by innocently asking a worker which way to the international transfer area?  Signage is HORRIBLE, and last time we were there trying to change planes we were swallowed up by the massive shopping complex inside the airport building.  The person we asked was sitting in an idle shuttle vehicle.  He said “climb in”.  In 5 minutes we were there.  The grey hair no doubt helped.

Reading Lonely Planet in the plane, specifically the descriptions of yummy local foods we could look forward to, I wonder if T will try “loo,” a dish featuring “raw blood mixed with curry paste and served over deep-fried intestines and pork cracklings.”  Or perhaps he would go for the “naam,” fermented raw pork. 

   Going to Thailand from Malaysia reminds me of going to Georgia from Azerbaijan.  It feels more relaxed, sensible, orderly, fun, COMFORTABLE, alive, cultured even—I know I have to be careful with that one.  All places have culture, certainly Az and Malaysia are very rich culturally.  I guess I mean refined, classy maybe.

We spent day one of two in Chiang Mai walking the old city checking out some of the incredible wats (temples).   It was drizzling but that made for good walking weather, Tom skillfully navigating.  [Another sign of age?  I don't seem to care anymore when he pulls out the Lonely Planet to consult the map...]

Above:  assorted wat pix.  Sorry I lost track of what wat was wat...

At Wat Chiang Mai, the oldest of the many many many wats in the city, from the 14th C, It features an 1800 year old crystal Buddha.  
wax monks

In some temples there are CREEPY wax figures of some dear departed monks.

Seen about town (Chiang Mai)

Moat around the old city

City walls

Day two we went out to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, which K remembered visiting a shocking number of years ago. What she remembered were the 300 steps to the top. Ha! We were shocked to find ourselves at the top in about 10 minutes, no huffing and puffing whatsoever. The first bit of steps are low and wide, and lined with shops.  The second bit are steeper but not taxing, and lined with a majestic naga (think snake/dragon).

Jade (?) Buddha

They are fixing the roof of one structure on the temple grounds

Next day we bus it to Chiang Dao. Three to a seat, both T and I perched on seats with two parents and a toddler, 1 ½ hours.  Not bad really.  We pass numerous agricultural and educational projects supported, so large signs tell us, by the king and queen and even their son, who, as I understand it, is not nearly so well-loved as his sister but who is nevertheless next in line to succeed the aging king on the throne. We also pass a sign for an “Elephant Retirement Centre” and, later, “Elephant Training Centre.”  The bus goes all the way to Fang, which seems like a must-see destination just because of the name.  Another trip...

From the bus we get a song teow to the hotel.

Our hotel is in a rural area near the Chiang Dao Cave. Had to check out the cave.

outside the cave

We spend the whole next day walking around the area, along peaceful country lanes.

banana flower

 A monastery at the end of one road is an incredibly lovely spot.  We were warned about the 500 steps to reach it, but, again, did not have to work hard.  Some of the steps go down, and none are steep. 


Thoughtfully, a first aid kit is provided to visitors 100 or so steps in.  I gratefully help myself to a bandaid for a blister in waiting

At the top

wat selfie--is that right??

Elsewhere in the area...a 1,000 year old temple

The sky has been cloudy our whole visit. The last night, T wakes up in the middle of the night and peeks out--the STARS are out.  Wow wow wow--Milky way and all.

Such a beautiful, peaceful place. Ah and the food at the hotel's restaurant (Chian Do Nest 2) was superb, and beautifully presented.

Bye Chiang Dao!