13 June 2011

Wonderful oddness

While living in (or visiting) a foreign country, I am charmed by the everyday differences from my home country. Differences are what make things, places and people interesting. They make me wonder, smile and etch themselves in my brain as a moment of discovery. Below, some of the latest 'differences' discovered...

My husband had a horribly unfortunate short return home between recent business trips. I offered to make the unpack and quickly repack a bit easier and picked up a few things on his needed toiletry list. Looking for a tiny, airline friendly tube of toothpaste, I grabbed a familiar brand. Once home, the fact that I bought Salt(!!!!!) flavored toothpaste sunk in.

Wiring. In the States, the entire perimeter of this intersection would be roped off for fear of electrical  damage to anyone passing by. In Bangkok, every single sidewalk seems to be covered with poles dangling in intricate webs of electrical wire and hanging individual pieces trailing from the poles to the sidewalks. Crowds walk by and slowly move around all obstacles. I somehow can't seem to miss the swinging strays and they hit me in the windshield weekly while driving some of the side streets.

I have no idea what the Thai says, but found this adorable collection of children's school rulers while shopping an outdoor market. After a bit of use, I looked down and wondered why the entrance to the park (on the bottom green ruler) says "Fighting"?!

All over Thailand, English is used in the shopping and tourist areas. Writing of English seems to be approached similarly to a foreigner wishing to  write a Thai word... sound out the words and give it your best shot. Other examples recently spotted on professionally printed signs: 'We toil your suit' (We tailor your suit!) and 'Come eet hair' (Come eat here!).
Deep fried jackfruit! Who would have thought to fry it (not me!)?! Found on a very local restaurant's menu, it was delicious. Kind of like a plantain, but not. Kind of like a fritter, but not. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Slightly sweet, but savory. I'm pretty certain I'll never have anything like it again. But, if presented with the opportunity, I'm soooo there.

06 June 2011

Hua Hin

While living in Bangkok, we've been fortunate to visit several of Thailand's amazing beaches. I've loved them all and have a collection of seashells and memories to prove it. If you're in Bangkok and need a quick getaway, head to the summer spot of the Royal Family-- Hua Hin. A few faves from our visits there:*

DO!
Go to Hua Hin to relax, escape the air and noise pollution of Bangkok and enjoy waves on your toes without having to hop on a plane or sit in a car for a full day's drive. But, if you must 'do' something while in Hua Hin, here are a few highlights.

1. The night market. I've never met a Thai market that I didn't like. This one is a manageable size, strung with overhead fairy lights, filled with vendors serving satay from their grills, beer towers flow and you can purchase anything from pirated DVDs to original paintings to rice paper lamps to handcrafted jewelry and everything in between.

2. Walk the beaches. Gorgeous white sandy beaches of Thailand. Go early before the day's humidity drives you into the shade.

3. Thai cooking classes. I immensely enjoyed my time spent in this cooking course while on my first holiday in Hua Hin. Completely relaxed, you start the day in a very small group trip to a local market to buy ingredients and then spend the rest of the day in a family home cooking. Everything is hands-on and there is no way you'll be leaving without knowing how to make curry paste from scratch, exchanging travel stories with the other participants and enjoying more food than you should have eaten in a given day!

EAT!
1. Monsoon (Narasdamri Road). Your opportunity to eat in a Thai teak house. Climb the traditional narrow stairs (and beware if your feet are larger than an average Thai size!) and enjoy evening breezes while colorful lanterns sway on the balcony. Traditional Thai dishes that our whole family enjoyed.

2. Brasserie De Paris (3 Naredamri Road). THE fantastic restaurant for a night spent staring out at the water. Foie gras, giant Thai prawns, generous crispy salads, pomme frites-- all delicious in a setting that makes you feel like you're on a private yacht sailing through exotic lands.

3. Rua Rimtarn Restaurant (12/203 Khao Takiab Beach). Located down a long dirt road, this restaurant is housed in a big land locked boat, with an active view of an inlet populated by colorful fishing vessels. The traditional southern Thai dishes are yum. And, it's a perfect family-oriented place. Our kids loved the playground/park located next to the restaurant and we loved that they could run back and forth from the toys to the dinner table as we dined on the generous deck.

STAY!
1. The Dusit Thani Hua Hin. For a true luxury experience, this place was great. Our kids loved the chocolate fountain at the breakfast buffet and the HUGE kid's pool with the island fitted with fountains and planted with palm trees. I loved the pool side drinks served in hollowed out dragon fruit. Plus, I had the divine ability to lay in a lounge under an umbrella and watch my kids splash about without worry that the water was too deep, the edges were too sharp or that they were disturbing other guests with their swimming fun. A perfect all-inclusive resort experience (and they provide a regular shuttle into town when you grow weary of the all-inclusive resort experience!).

2. Anatasila Villas. Located on the south side of Hua Hin, this resort is located down a dusty dirt road and difficult to find. Go here if you want a more remote experience, but still with wonderful touches of Thai hospitality. I loved the instant access to a seashell laden beach, sitting in fabulous teak gliding rocking chairs and staring out at the surrounding palm trees, and watching my son "rescue sea life" by throwing stranded beach crabs into the gently crashing waves.

*By the way, like everything else on this blog, these are a few of my personal favorite things (in other words, I haven't accepted any form of payment or any requests for advertising!). We've had several great trips to Hua Hin and I've left a huge handful of experiences off of this list. Consider it a short version of my faves that I'd easily recommend to anyone who asked what I enjoyed while in Hua Hin.

01 June 2011

Noise

Bangkok is LOUD. Outside, it's black exhaust billowing buses, millions of zipping full throttle motorbikes, cars dodging the two aforementioned vehicles, skytrains whizzing overhead, promotional materials blasting full volume over microphones, bossa nova music cranked up while the shop or home next door blares their techno beat... all combined with the other typical noises of the city. Inside, there is a mix of three types of competing music, video screens playing anime and commercials, promotions blaring on the loudspeaker while a live 'model' announces another promotion via a microphone.

Take a look and a listen to the noise of an indoor children's play area.*


video

* I've written about the play areas before. They are located all over the city and provide a park alternative for children living in Bangkok. In this climate, unfortunately outdoor park play expires fairly early in the day as the sun scorches the plastic and metal play areas and buckets of sweat pour from an active kid in a matter of minutes. We enjoy the outdoor parks, of which there are many gorgeous ones, as often as possible in the early morning hours.