Escape to Thailand

After our first six weeks in Mumbai, we needed a break. Badly. There are direct flights to Bangkok, and we took advantage. The only two photos I took were of what seemed to be the world’s largest highway rest stop. It was at least a kilometer long, and packed with shops. Not surprisingly, there were more 7-Elevens than I could count.

The other photo was a beautiful sunset.

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d be going to Bangkok as an escape from a noisy city.

Harbin Ice Festival Show

I liked producing stage shows when I was young. If someone had given me a million dollars at the age of twelve to develop a propaganda show, I think I would have come up with something resembling the show at the Harbin Ice Festival.

Hundreds of people on skis wearing capes…

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A massive shoot-out on ice skates…

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A giant flag waving celebration…

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And, absolutely no semblance of a plot at all. If I was fifteen, I definitely would have added explosions.

Note to self: Add skiers wearing capes to list of evil empire army conscripts.

Yangshuo’s big show

With 600 performers on small boats on the water, the Impression Liu Sanjie show was big and visually stunning. It’s claim to fame is that it was apparently produced by the same individual who do the Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies.

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Its scale was impressive, but I still have no idea what the story was about.

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Bangkok Hat Tournament

I played in the Bangkok Hat Tournament and with some fantastic luck, found myself playing with an incredibly strong team. It was an incredible amount of fun, and I learned a lot.

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By the semi-finals, I had already played more Ultimate in weekend than ever before. I’ve always been enjoying a beer after (or throughout) the second game on a Sunday. This time around my team made it all the way to the finals, but lost in univeral point.

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I even scored the occasional point, like catching this blade from Tyler of DiscIndo fame.

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Playing with great players was absolutely awesome, and really makes me want to get better.

Mr. Important Bionic Ear Man

Mr. Important, I’m Ready to Talk to you Anytime Without Using my Hands Because I Have a Bluetooth Headset Permanently Attached to my Ear, didn’t receive a single call for the whole half hour we were waiting for our luggage. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the device didn’t have a large blue LED light that flashed every second or so.

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If he had one of those surgically installed, now that would be cool.

A Thai Cooking Class

I’ve wanted to learn how to make some Thai dishes for a long time so I convinced everyone to sign up for a Thai cooking class. Apparently this is one of the most popular activities in Chiang Mai.

Our first stop was the market where our chef showed us all the various ingredients we’d be using and how to buy them fresh.

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The entire course was made worthwhile just for having someone explain how to pick the juiciest sweetest pineapple. I could have left at that moment and been satisfied with what I learnt.

We started off with the basics – like how to wrap spring rolls.

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We soon turned our attention to more advanced wok techniques – like making the biggest flame while not burning things.
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This photo is very amusing to me, especially when you look at everyone individually. Joya and I are looking rather calm.
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Carl looks like he’s enjoying himself; possibly a little too much.

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Pam on the other hand was giving her best kamikaze scream.

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We ended up with a monstrous feast which was absolutely delicious.

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

There’s a temple on the top of a hill (accessible by cable car of course) that was stunningly beautiful after a brief rain.

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I’m sure there’s something lost in translation on this one.

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An organization called the International Buddhism Center is located in the complex. They offer 21 day medidation courses that have a lot of appeal for me.

Bringing the remote villages a little closer

Northern Thailand is home to numerous unique ethnic groups. The reason they’re still unique is due to their remote locations in the hills that make it hard to visit. In typical Thai style, they’ve found a way to make it just a little bit easier on the tourist by bringing villagers, their handicrafts, and their homes down into a common village about an hour from Chiang Mai.

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Watching the kids play was very amusing. This was a two person game of tag.

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It took a lot of restraint to not go play dump truck with this kid.

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Phutthamonthon – the big Buddha

There’s a beautiful park a few hours from Bangkok that is home to the big Buddha statue. At over 15 meters, it was pretty impressive. The clouds certainly added to it’s mystique.

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The park grounds were pretty spectacular too. This bicycle caught my eye.

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There were a few monks who came out to visit the sight.

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A rainy day at the Dumnoen Saduak floating market

The torrential downpour delayed the arrival of the hordes of tourists, which left us with more market to explore.

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Most of the boat paddlers looked pretty lonely.

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It seems that everyone in Asia has a phone now; even fruit sellers chat on their mobiles.

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The banannas coated in coconut and deep fried are some of the tastiest treats I’ve had. These three ladies run a pretty intense operation.

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At the gas bar

I thought this was an awesome use of urban space in Bangkok – gas station by day, covered patio by night.

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Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport

Bangkok Airport has a certain Gattica feel to it. It’s especially present in empty wings where the only people milling around between the white floors and bright white translucent ceilings are dark suited ariport security officers.

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I’m sure I could have done something to make this a more interesting shot, I’m just not sure what. I tried over and under exposing and a few different angles, but that didn’t really achieve anything. I’m open to suggestions.

The Brige over the River Kwai

We had a particularly somber afternoon by visiting the Bridge over the River Kwai, made famous in a 1954 film. It’s a railroad bridge that the Japanese constructed during World War II using forced labour of Thais and POWs.

The bridge itself isn’t that spectacular, but the story is.

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We also visited a nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetary.

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Near the cemetary is a new museum that has opened up. It wasn’t listed in any of our guide books, but was a surprise highlight of the trip. It documents the history of the Burma Railway in exceptional detail and was very well presented. I was skeptical at first because from the outside, it looks like nothing more than a tourist trap. For reference, it’s on the street immediately to the right of the cemetary when looking at the main entrance.