STOP THE CLOCK!

I can't keep up with my blog!!!

And I'm currently here:


This is getting out of hand! How do people keep up with their blogs AND live a life off the computer? I am failing at this lately. I rarely ever stop by to visit my old bloggy friends either...just NO TIME!!! I do not like this. No good at all. I miss everyone. I'm sure everyone misses me. (right??)

A Visit to Jim Thompson's House - Thailand Silk Founder


Yikes, I have been home for weeks and still haven't finished posting about my time in Thailand! I'm almost caught up, and luckily I don't have much of a life to blog about back home!

One of the places highly recommended to visit when in Thailand is the house of Jim Thompson. JT was an American who made Thailand  his home after falling in love with all things Thai. He is the founder of the Thai Silk Company, a company providing only the best silk products, at some of the highest prices (from what I can tell).

On a trip to Malaysia at age 61, he went for a hike and was never seen again. Some say he wanted to disappear. Some say he met an untimely fateful death.

His house back in Thailand has become something of a national treasure. Jim was a collector of antiques and his house is an amazing traditional Thai house that made me fully understand why people fall in love with Thailand. I don't love all the antiques - some of the furniture just looks so uncomfortable, but the layout, location, and overall tranquility of the house is spectacular.


Beautiful tree I sat under while I contemplated moving to Asia.
 
I love how this tree just grew all proper-like just between two buildings.
 

This is the only place inside the house where they will allow you to take pictures. This woman was our lovely guide and watched us like a hawk with our cameras!
These are actually chairs from China I believe - you heat a fire inside it and the coals heat the seat, which heat your bum! Smart!!

 


 
The spirit house in the back of the house.
 
 
 

 

The backside of one of the five buildings. The city canal runs directly behind it. In Jim's day, he would have used the canal to go everywhere.

In the courtyard of the house is a pond, with some mammoth size fish and some sociable turtles. One of the workers was feeding them chopped up seafood as I happened by.
 
The employee saw me taking pictures of this guy and without warning, lifted the turtle up by his front legs-something that looks horrifying-and placed him on the ledge for a photo op.

The turtle was not amused and left after one perfect pose.

This woman stands at the entrance and does a very slow beautiful, traditional Thai dance. Behind her is someone sorting silk. 

 

 I want to live here.

A Visit to Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine - Fertility Awaits You!

Disclaimer: I am not looking to get pregnant. Not now, probably not ever again.

While in Bangkok, one of the things I read about as a tourist destination of oddities was the Tuptim Shrine. There are shrines all over Bangkok, tucked away between houses or, as this one, behind a hotel. There is a LOT of praying going on in this country. This shrine was a little different than most others I have visited.

This particular shrine happened to be very close to my own hotel and I had read about it online and found it a wee bit fascinating. The story goes that a Thai woman was trying oh-so-hard to get pregnant and it wasn't working. She went to this particular shrine one day and prayed to a fertility god to help her conceive. And then, thanks to her prayers, she became pregnant. From that day forth, the Tuptim shrine was believed to be the place to go to meet all your fertility needs.

As you enter the shrine, there are these 1-foot tall statues of children:



They are a bit creepy and I couldn't stare at them very long. I could feel them taking my soul from my body and absorbing it through their creepy little mouths....

The shrine itself isn't that impressive. It looks like any other spirit house that you find outside of any other building.




 But then off to the side, is this random file cabinet. And dresses hanging from the tree.
 I gather these are maybe wedding dresses? They are beautiful, and I'm sure they helped some desperate woman have a baby.

I LOVE this kind of tree. No idea what it is, but it's pretty amazing.

People wrap it in ribbon and say a blessing.

 And they leave offerings at the base of it....


 Say wha?
I'm pretty open-minded...but this was just a bit much for even me. Its just TOO much.
 This is serious....

 To the left of the shrine, more offerings!!

 And at every possible place in this little area, yet more offerings...
These are about 4 feet tall.


There's not many times in life when you are surrounded by things such as this. Unless you are a porn star -HA!


I'm sure you can insert your own joke here about the "offerings" and the tree. I'll save you from any I have to offer. I kinda felt bad for the tree here, it looks like it's trying (rightfully so) to get away...



I'm not really happy with the quality of the pictures, I would have liked to take them from different angles and be more careful about the lighting and whatnot, but there was a group of three hotel men smoking just outside the area, watching me click away. I was a little self-aware about the fact that I was clearly not there to pray and my mission was to take pictures of wooden penises. I wanted to explain to them that I'm a blogger and I'm documenting for my family and friends back home (cause I'm certain all my family and friends need to know about this place), but I didn't know the Thai word for blogger.

This was an interesting destination...but once you see it once, you don't really need to go again. Unless you want to get pregnant of course.


Hello Again, Thailand! Great to See You, Old Friend

I love so much about Thailand.
It really is the land of smiles - people are so ready to help you or at least treat you to a smile. If you need something while working in Thailand, the staff will do whatever they have to in order to make it happen. They treat guests like royalty, they never want you to be unhappy in their country. It's so refreshing. (who wouldn't like being treated like royalty!).

Just like in Malaysia, I LOVE my coworkers here. I could see working with every one of them every day. They have such great personalities and they make me laugh, and love to laugh with/at me when teaching me their language. Maybe it's more intense for me since I work from home and have no real team (other than the online one), but I just love these two teams so much! I will be moving on to work with other countries soon and I can't imagine that the new teams will be as wonderful as these last two have been.

What I will not miss about Asia - the insane heat and humidity. There has not been one day where I didn't immediately start sweating after leaving the hotel/office. It's been pretty intense, though it is now monsoon season and it's getting a bit better, or maybe I'm just getting used to it?

The rains are so crazy. I'm from Oregon - I am really familiar with rain. But Oregon rain is like stepping under a shower with light water pressure. Thailand rain is like when you turn the shower head to the highest pulse available and point it directly at your face. And leave it there for a long time. It's relentless. You can't just go out in it and do whatever you had planned. The roadways can't handle it, so they quickly start flooding and normally insane traffic becomes even more of a parking lot. Luckily, it seems to only last a portion of the day. In Oregon, it will rain nonstop sometimes for days and days. Here it will rain for 5-7 hours and then be done for 12-24. The roads clear up soon after it stops raining and people go about their normal business.


Everything here is so cheap - it's hard to stop shopping. I keep finding more things to buy. Everything is like $3.00. How can you pass that up?? "That" being whatever it is you are looking at. Cause so many things are $3.00 and you probably will need it at some point. Or maybe it would be a good gift for someone someday. You just can't pass it up!

The food is pretty great - though it's not like the Thai food I have grown to love in America. America is fooling us all. We are not really eating Thai food. Thai people don't even love *gasp* peanut sauce!! It's at every single Thai restaurant I've ever gone to in the states, in multiple dishes. I've found other things to love though. And if you love fruit-you will be happy here. Fruit is so cheap and you can buy it (cut up and in a bag with a little skewer) on almost every block you are on.

Random pictures from my journey:

This made me lol - it's a helping point. For Swiss people. I've never seen any other country offering a helping point. Luckily, I wasn't in need of help as my Swiss accent isn't quite perfected yet.

This is the pad thai from my hotel restaurant. It's cooked up just like normal, wonderful pad thai, and then they wrap it up in this lovely flattened fried egg package. It's divine. I had it twice. I wish there was a place at home that would make it just like this!

This is the guy from the movie, Ratatouille. He looked just liked him, did dances around his big skillet, cooked with flair, sang with an Italian accent (though he was singing Gypsy Kings-a spanish band), and he was the star of the market. I watched him for about 20 minutes. He was pretty entertaining.

Train doors have advertisements on them. This might have been one for vegetables in general. It was a bit disturbing. 

Asiatique is a newer place to go shopping. It's got a great market, a ferris wheel, random festivals going on and open bars with live music. I met my friend here for dinner, drinks and strolling and had a fabulous first weekend back to the country.
This is one of the shops I wanted to go into. My friend looked at it and said, we can not. It's closed right now. Can you see how she would know?
Of course - the chair and stool are blocking the entrance to go inside. Hence, it's closed!!

These airports reminded me of my mom - we had these growing up at any outdoor event. This booth just screamed out "This is your childhood." Too bad it was closed up tight and I couldn't explore.

My friend and I were bedazzled by the size of the beers that were served at the table next to ours. I asked if I could take a picture of it, as my friend was doing the same on the other side of the table...of the beer glass. My girl pushed the glass forward, fixed her hair and then leaned in. I didn't have the heart to tell her I didn't need a photo of her...so we'll give her a little internet love here.

This is the most delicious chicken I might have ever eaten.


Salmon, avocado, squid cake. My friend graciously ate the squid portion - the rest was delicious!
These shorts...they have such great phrases like:
No dude!
Take your passion
Failing
What a feeling
No duh!
Flash
Boo
This creme brulee has welcomed me to Thailand on my first night both times I've come here. 

Be Careful Bag!

Graffiti wall in the market - love it!! It's a chalk board. And note the panda on the telephone pole on the left. 
Stay tuned for my trip to a fertility shrine..

A Weekend on Penang Island, Malaysia

My return trip to Asia is coming to a close. I have spent two weeks in Malaysia, and just about two weeks in Thailand. It's getting close to check-in time to go home!! I haven't even been homesick, though it has been 27 days since I left. 

I haven't yet written about my trip to Penang Island in Malaysia, so let's go back in time and relive that wonderful, peaceful weekend, shall we?

Penang is a lovely island about 5 hours north of Kuala Lumpur. It's got a really large Chinese and Indian population and is really popular with expats as it's just a beautiful place no matter where you are on the island. There are a fair amount of big-named factories up in this area, and a lot of tourist activities. I was pressed for time so didn't get to see/do much, but it was lovely to just get away from work and go see another part of this beautiful country.


This is the view from my bus. Five hours of this - nothing but beautiful trees, different types all mixed together; rolling hills, blue and gray skies; wild monkeys running on the side of the road (seriously-this happened!).

Something I found really wonderful about the cheap bus I was on - There's a handle behind each seat and each handle has a little knob, from which everyone hangs their food/drink bag. The drink bag was strange to me at first, but now I love this idea. It's a regular small plastic bag that you would put food in...but they put your drink in it when you buy it, with a straw (everyone uses a straw), and then you just carry your drink by the bag handles. Your hands never get wet, if it spills, it lands in the bag (mostly I think), AND the best part - you can hang your drink while on a bus so you never have to worry about it!!  Malaysia bus makers are SMART.
This was my hotel view in Penang. I wasn't in my room very long, as I was only there for the weekend, but I could look at this every day.  The condos down by the water are about $2.5 million USD. I don't need the view that much...
It's slightly hard to tell from this photo...but the hanger on the back of the bathroom door made me laugh EVERY time I saw it. It was like someone really wasn't trying that hard that day.

I asked multiple people in Penang what I should do with only one free evening on the island. Everyone said to go eat at Gurney Drive and go see the sunset in North Penang Island and visit the night market nearby the beach. And since it's always good to take the advice of strangers - this turned out to be my exact itinerary.

This is where I ate dinner on Saturday evening before heading to see the sun set. This is at 5:45. I was rushing to finish so I could make the 6:30 sunset up the road. There was not one other person in the place while I was there. Apparently in Asia, you just don't eat around 6pm. When I left the beach area, I shared a taxi back to this area with a couple from Australia who were headed to dinner....at 10pm. And it was packed.  It's a famous food area: 

This was the most amazing sweet and sour chicken. The stuff I have back home is NOTHING like this. EVER. 


This is me - at the beach. Ready for the sunset. I put my hair down for the photo. And then put my hair immediately back up because it's a million degrees in Malaysia. If I lived there forever, I would probably have to go all G.I.Jane with my hairstyle, cause longer thick hair does NOT work in this part of the world. 

Amazing.

So Amazing.

Enough of the beach. One thing I LOVED about Penang was the friendly people,as you would find all over Malaysia. Ever cab I got in, every restaurant I went to - I talked to locals and they were so happy to share information about their country. This is where travelling alone becomes a really great time. When I normally get in a taxi, I ask if they are local and then we chat up about whatever. When I was with the couple sharing a taxi, we only spoke to each other. As soon as they got out and we headed on to my destination, the taxi driver and I had the best conversation. If I constantly had a travel companion, I would have missed out on some wonderful chats.

One of the things I really hate about Penang - every single taxi driver except the one mentioned above - overcharged me by far. One guy doubled the meter and told me that it's standard for the island. Another told me that taxi's on the island use a different type of petrol and so they use the meter but they also have to charge a petrol fee based on how much the meter is showing. I hate arguing with everyone over what amounts to a few dollars...but when you know you are getting an unfair deal, you have to try to make right. When I was headed to the beach, after a 20 minute enjoyable conversation with a taxi driver, the meter read something like 32 Ringgit. I gave him 100. He thanked me and just waited for me to leave. I said, oh, sorry-I actually gave you 100 Ringgit. And he replied, right, the meter shows half price. And i refused to leave the taxi, stopped partially in the road, slightly blocking traffic because HELLO - that's robbery.  Eventually I got him to give me back 45 of the 68 he owed me, but it was literally about a 6 minute ordeal. It gives taxi driveres a really bad reputation! You can't trust them anymore. But then my last taxi driver of the night had a printed sheet with set prices from each section of town to another and I wanted to hug him for being honest.

Anyway....here are some random pictures:
This is a Malaysian baby. THIS is how you become a Malaysian adult who is not bothered by the heat. The day I took this photo, it was probably 98 degrees and maybe 89% humidity. The baby was wearing a long sleeve, pants outfit. With socks! In that weather?? No, thank you! He was as happy as could be though, probably because the large red-faced, sweaty american sitting next to his mama looked like a cartoon character.

This is a cat. In what seems to be a hamster cage, calmly taking a bath. This is in an artists stall, she painted some beautiful pics of cats. Lots and lots of cats in the booth. And then a real cat in a hamster cage. I was told that cats are kept in cages because stray dogs (which there are a lot of) will eat them. Sad. Everything about that -for the cat- is sad.

If you steal the ironing board at my hotel, they will bill you 380 MYR. 

I liked this dapper man on the mens bathroom sign.

And I really like that when you enter, you are meant to flip over the Vacant sign yourself - to show that the restroom is "engaged." So quaint!

And that ends my Malaysia pictures...on to Thailand!

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