14 December 2008

A real giant

Wat Pho is an amazing place and, although high on every tourist's list, it shouldn't be missed. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is the oldest Buddhist temple in Bangkok and houses the largest Buddha in Thailand. 

On a recent visit, we also learned that is home to more than 1,000 Buddha images, more than any other temple in the country. After removing our shoes, we entered the temple. My daughter jumped back in fright at the sight of a huge towering person looming overhead while my son said, with a tone of awe, "A real, real, real giant." Two different kids, two different reactions to a truly awe inspiring sight. 

After walking around the Buddha (who takes up the entire interior of the temple), visitors can make a donation and receive little cups of coins to toss into brass buckets lining one interior side of the temple. By tossing the coins into each of the differently sized containers, you create a sort of mysterious melody that echos throughout the temple. When you initially enter the structure, you are a aware of the haunting sound but can't quite recognize what might be making the noises. It isn't until you walk the full length of the Buddha's body and round his feet that you gain an understanding of the vessels creating the music. My daughter spent several minutes earnestly tossing her little pieces of baht and satang into the containers and was enchanted by the echoing ting-ting-ting she added to the room.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 28:
Coconut Popsicles
These are an unusual concoction of simple Thai flavors. Try serving them as a pallette cleanser between courses, for dessert or even as a passed appetizer. And, forget waiting for a warm day, the intense flavor makes for a great lick no matter the season! I recommend using the smallest size popsicle mold that you can find (or even an ice cube tray with beautiful ornate toothpicks as the handle), since they are rich.

1 cup of Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
dark chocolate, optional

Mix the above ingredients and pour into a popsicle mold. Freeze until hard. If using the chocolate, melt it over a double broiler and dip the popsicles quickly half way. Place on a greased cookie sheet and return to the freezer to harden again.

03 December 2008

Climbing in a womb

After a week of occupied airports, I am beginning to think that the color beige is a viable member of the spectrum. With yellow shirts on one side, red shirts on another and protesters in yet another location waving Thai flags (wearing multiple colors of clothing), the Thai political scene is one that is difficult to explain. Yesterday's ruling to dissolve the current government leaves Thailand without a ruling party and the future political scene involves quite a bit of the unknown.

So rather than spend another day staying home, watching the news ticker and hoping that the airports will open in time for holiday flight plans and departing family members, I wandered out with the kids for yet another everyday adventure. My father, stranded tourist label still firmly intact, joined us.

Heading out on the Skytrain, we disembarked at the Mo Chit station and went to a place the kids and I know well. A morning of play at the Children's Discovery Museum was just what was needed after spending some days at home. The museum is a weird and wacky place. While I have travelled to many different kid-centered attractions since the birth of my first child, I have yet to encounter a place that compares to Bangkok's children's museum. Where else can your child climb into a replica of the mother's womb and experience what it was like prior to their birth? Or, maybe you'd like to visit the adorable seven dwarves home (of Snow White fame) and see the truly frightening witch leering through an open window to offer your child a poisonous apple? And, if those two don't peak your interest, perhaps a play in the sand pit with a towering fire spitting dragon statue leaning over your children would make for a nice precursor to their nap time?

And, despite the odd elements of the museum, I have still spent many mornings since my arrival in Bangkok sending balls down their wonderful water shoots, waving at the Disney character statues planted around the place, cringing as my daughter scaled the (truly dangerous) sky high trapeze nets, admiring the kid-sized Thai stilt houses and watching my son tear through a contraption with scores of wrestling bags dangling in rows (that ultimately rebound against his head and knock his little two year old body to the floor).

Today's visit was no different than any of the others-- two very happy kids trailing after adults who previewed each exhibit to make sure their was nothing scary or dangerous about the place. Sure, we got locked into an exhibit, but upon release the kids were happily racing through a wobbly balance testing walkway... and happy to be doing so. 

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 27:
Thai Cabbage Slaw
A simple and refreshing spin on salad.

1/2 head of cabbage, sliced finely into shreds
1 cup of bean sprouts
1 cup tightly packed cilantro, finely diced
1/2 cup roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the vinegar, garlic, oil, honey and salt and pepper. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.