Around The World 5 More Bangkok

Last year the Eiffel Tower was lit up in red for a week as part of a celebration with China. It was spectacular to see.

Here is another reflection in water that I like, taken at Palais Royal.

Around the World

January 9th

Off to the Siam district by metro. We were told it was lively. What it seemed to be was mostly department stores in giant malls. I had read on the Internet raves about shopping at the MBK mall which turned out to be just another ordinary mall although it felt great because it had a/c. A lady had stopped us in the street to ask us what we were looking for-we obviously stand out as tourists-and told us not to bother with MBK as it was over-priced and full of teen-agers–and it was. According to the map that we picked up at the air-conditioned information booth, Jim Thompson’s Museum was nearby. He was an American who came to
Thailand by chance, fell in love with it, stayed, and restarted the dying Thailand silk industry. He built a beautiful home which is now a museum. The guide we had on the tour we took there said that his Chinese astrology sign is the horse and it is said that the 61st year can be dangerous. He was 61 when he disappeared without a trace on a walk in Malaysia. We found his home on a canal. His home is all of wood, six old Thai buildings fitted together and very chaming. Afterwards, we walked down the little canal and saw a boat pass by. It stopped on the other side of the canal so we missed it and walked past primitive shacks and little places selling food. We crossed back and forth on a few bridges when the sidwalk ended. At one point we came to a wall, a dead-end, and someone had left a wooden ladder which we climbed ending up onto a busy street. We found a busy market which seemed to sell wholesale in packages of twelve. We finally got a boat which only went one stop where we walked to the Golden Mount, another temple, up many stairs. Great view but not that impressive. We saw a monk in orange robes who looked like an American. Then we caught the canal boat back. The boats are very long and low as they have to pass under bridges and at one point even lower the roofs until it almost touched our heads. It was an athletic feat to get aboard stepping on a little rim on the outside of the boat, over the side onto low seat while ducking under the roof holding onto a rope to get inside. Sometimes the boat barely came to a stop and people were quickly getting on board, some being women in heels. There were two guys who collected the money-8 bat-clinging to the side, holding on to the rope and, somehow, not dropping any money. They wore helmets, probably because I’m sure one of them occasionally hit their heads on the low bridges. Two plastic curtains were on either side of the boat that could be raised to keep out sun or water spray. It was a fun experience. Then back to the hotel for a cool bath. We had a pizza in Siam-a late lunch or early dinner. Too tired to do anything else, then back to our room.

The boat we rode on the canal. It was used mainly by natives, not tourists.

Along side the canal were homes with flowers and laundry outside. Life started in Bangkok on the waters of the city.

Inside the boat.

Part of the museum of Jim Thompson’s Home.

I think the monk on the left was an American, now a monk.

Around The World 4 Bangkok

I like the way the sun was shining through this lampost which sits on the Pont des Arts before it crosses the Seine, near the Louvre.

Blue skies with a few clouds always make the Louvre Pyramid look better to me.

January 8th
We took a motorcycle ride to the skytrain. I hold on tightly, keep my eyes closed and pray we don’t wreck. I’ve seen too many victims of motorcycle accidents in my days as an operating room nurse to be comfortable. The fact that the driver had a helmet and I didn’t, didn’t help but we made it to the train station safely. We boarded the train, switched trains once and went to the end of the line which took us to the Chao Phraya River. At the harbor there we took a water taxi eight stops and went to see Wat Pho, the largest and oldest wat in Bangkok. The best thing there was the giant gold reclining buddha. It was huge with lots of worshippers burning incense. There was also a large gallery of many smaller buddhas. This is where a famous massage school is run as well. Then we took a very short boat ride across the river to Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn. It was much more elaborate with alot of Chinese porcelain covering the temples, some made into shapes of flowers. Then we walked to the Grand Palace. This was so huge, elaborate and ornate that the other two wats sort of fadded from memory. There was a huge temple totally covered in gold. The grounds were enormous and took forever to walk around, especially in the heat. This is the home of the Emerald Buddha which seems to be the most venerated in Thailand. There were many worshippers and it was extremely elaborate, almost overdone in decorations. The buddha was actually very small and was dressed in a gold robe-it is changed seasonnally thrree times during the year.
There is a famous week-end market, Chanachak, that we drug ourselve to. It was huge and packed with everything you could think of. We bought a wall hanging and two t-shirts and ran out of energy, tired of fighting the crowds in the heat. We took the metro back and then the motorcycles again back to the hotel.
The people seem very sweet and warm here. Whenever we enter a hotel or restaurant they put their hands together and bow their heads. Maurice and I like the difference between Hong Kong and Bangkok. Bangkok seems different than most big cities. Except for the food and the people, Hong Kong could be NYC in many ways as it is so very western. Bangkok seems very eastern still even though they are working fast to be modern. There is still a huge difference between the rich and poor.

Some of the tile made into a flower motif found on the side of a temple.

Three gods holding up part of a building.

I especially loved the roof line of the many temples in Thailand.

The head of the reclining buddha-hard to see how enormous it is.

I don’t know why the feet of this buddha are outside the container, just thought it was worth a photo.

The very elaborate gold covered Grand Palace.

Around the World 3 Hong Kong to Bangkok

Doesn’t this make you want to sit down and order something French?

Sacre Couer. Doesn’t it look great with the green trees and blue sky? When the skies are gray it isn’t near as dramatic.

January 7th
We slept in rather late then had a good buffet breakfast at the hotel which was to serve as both breakfast and lunch. Then we walked up the street from the hotel where there were supposed to be birds for sale but found another market instead. I liked it better than the Ladies Market which I took Maurice to see last night after we saw a very cold outdoor tennis match. I bought a large “designer” bag for my daughter in law to use as a diaper bag. At the market today Maurice found some jeans for only $10 which had a Levi brand which I doubt is real. They even shortened them for him in five minutes. They fit well when he tried them on later. On the way back we walked along a street selling all sorts of fish, mostly tropical.
Then time to go to the airport. We took a taxi to Kowloon metro stop where we then took the airport express train where we were able to check in our luggage , got a refund on the octopus ticket. It was a walk of at least 30 minutes to get to our boarding gate. I found a new inexpensive electronic solitaire game at a shop on the way.
We arrived at the Bangkok airport after a flight of less than two hours. We were told to make the taxi driver turn on the meter and, if he didn’t, to get out. Ours didn’t but we kept quiet. We knew the approximate cost so we let it go when he told us our charge. When we arrived at our hotel, the Davis, we were told our room was still occupied. We had to wait twenty minutes and got a suite in its place which was very nice. Driving to the hotel, I was reminded of Mexico-lots of shacks and open food stands with dogs here and there. We did a walk to the sky train which, it turned out, was a very long walk from our hotel. There are some guys across the street who gave rides on a motor scooter which we ended up using the next day as it is very hot and tropical. Again, on our walk, it seemed so much like Mexico. There was building going on at night looking rather primitive, no street lights, food stalls almost in the dark, people sitting on the streets, many mangy dogs, mansions along side old ugly buildings. We found the sky train and our route for the next day then went into a mall which is almost exactly like one you would find in the States and full of modern, well-dressed girls. We checked for e-mail at an internet cafe, got lost in the mall and came out finally not sure where to go. Finally found our way back. On the way we passed a huge restaurant, the Seafood Market where a sign said, “If it swims, we have it” and you can select your live creature and then it is cooked in a huge kitchen with an army of cooks. We had a horrible night probablly due to some chocolate we ate. We watched several movies as there are three movie channgels available at our hotel.

Here are a couple of the “dressed gods” that I saw in Hong Kong.

Lit incense rings with prayers attached.

I assume there must be alot of spitting in Hong Kong for this sign to be up. There were signs against graffiti as well.

Around The World 2

I am contuing posting some of my favorite photos for those of you who come here to get their “Paris Fix” but am also posting my diary from our Around the World Trip. We got the idea for this trip when we decided to go see the Australian Tennis Open. From there we wanted to go to Texas to be in time for the arrival of my newest grandchild. A look at the prices to do this were shocking and we found the One World Alliance of American Airlines to fit our needs although you forget about the cost of hotels and rental cars when you first start planning all of this.

I love this photo with the two men talking in front of the fountain. It’s just so French.

This is one of my favorite shots of the Eiffel Tower. It was right after a rainstorm and there was a big puddle in the right location to get a reflection. I wish I had had a wide angle lens with me so I could have gotten the entire tower, but I still like this one. It wasn’t even enhanced, color-wise, in photoshop.

January 5th

After a great night’s sleep, we were up at 7:30. We discovered that the Rose Bowl was on this morning so we spent some time in our room to watch it. Finally, we set off after watching UT beat USC! We took the metro down to the harbor with some more huge amount of walking to get to the metro train. Once on the train, they are great but many seem to be in the middle of (or bottom of) huge shopping complexes. We bought an octupus card to use on all city travel. We even used it on the ferry that we took across the harbor to Hong Kong Island which was a short five minute ride. I wanted to see Hollywood Road which has antiques up and down each side and an escalator that goes way up a hill that is a thirty minute ride. It turned out to be a series of escalators, not one long one, and it only went up, not down, but was fun. We ate a very late lunch-our inrernal clocks were still off-a big hamburger at an English bar- and then walked around in an area called SoHo and into some small, funky streets. I saw several things I liked but end up buying nothing. At the end of Hollywood Road was an interesting temple-Man Mo-full of many different statues with the temple filled with a thick cloud of incense smoke from incense sticks, both in front of the statues and what looked like possible containers of ashes of those who had passed on. Oranges were offered as well. People would buy a handful of incense sticks, light them in front of a god and leave one burning in sand. There were also rings of incense burning with tags attached, which I imagined were prayers. It was a very active temple. None of the gods were buddhas that I could tell and some were dressed. Another incredibly long walk underground to our metro train to return to our hotel.
After a rest, I walked to the nearby Ladies Market full of mostly junk, bought some pillow covers-got back with one I didn’t want as the guy who sold them switched them for some reason. I hope he made an honest mistake but I doubt it.
January 6th
This morning after an egg sandwich sort of thing at a “French” cafe in the food court, we took the metro across the bay to Hong Kong Island again, then after a long walk finally found the bus terminal. There was a really long bridge across lanes of traffic. I guess it is the easiest way to handle pedestrians. Bus number 6 took us across the island playing commercials on a TV on board passing a beautiful bay and some impressive homes and high rises to Stanley market. We finally found some postcards there-very few places have them so I guess it must be a western practice. The market was large and packed but mostly with tourist junk. There was a totally different ambience from yesterday. Some little school girls stopped us and asked us some questions while they taped it about how we liked Hon Kong. I assume it was a school project. They were cute and pretty much unable to understand our English. We took the bus back. I had a sandwich in the huge metro station, then back to the hotel for a jet lagged nap. On the spur of the moment we decided to go to a woman’s tennis exhibition. The metro was packed. We had to wait for three trains before we managed to squish into one. We missed two matches by the time we arrived. There is only one court and it was outside. It is rather chilly here, which is nice weather to play tennis in but not to sit and watch. At least it didn’t rain.
Maurice is really missing his French diet. There is little bread, we’ve had no wine and haven’t seen any cheese unless it was thinly sliced on a sandwich. Maurice doesn’t like chinese food anyway so he will probably be thin by the time we get to Australia. We don’t like the smells on the streets very much-very shrimpy/fishy and the things they are frying up in the little sidewalk places don’t appeal to me, probably because I have no idea what is being cooked. After reading an article in the Hong Kong paper that they found cat meat in some of the brochettes sold in Shanghai (and a sudden disappearance of local street cats) I’ve decided not to have meat. They mixed it with lamb so it tasted like lamb. Probably some dog meat as well.

Here is a view of the street right by our hotel. Lots of shopping and selling going on there.

The view from our hotel room. Hong Kong is a very crowded city-rather like NYC but with a Chinese population.

Here are the little girls that interviewed us. They also taped the interview so maybe their teacher will tell them what we were saying.

Around The World-Beginning and Hong Kong

I have been posting about Paris and Provence since the beginning of January but, in fact, they were from a “book” I wrote a couple of years ago. Actually, Maurice and I have been on a around the world trip. I am going to continue to post photos from France and my postings about living here but am also going to post my journal on our trip.

Here is one of my favorite photos taken in Place des Vosges, one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.

The Venus di Milo is always surrounded by tourists madly taking photos. I have been trying to get a photo with her in the digital screen as well as the sculpture itself.

Jan. 3rd, 2006

The Beginning

We drove to the CDG airport shortly after lunch and there was fog which got gradually thicker as we neared the airport. I was wondering if would affect our take off time and, sure enough, we were over an hour late taking off. I turned to Maurice as we sat in the plane waiting for the back-log of planes to take off and said, “I’m tired of flying already.” We will have many planes to board before we finally returned to Paris.
It was an eleven hour flight to Hong Kong, our first destination, and also January 4th. I really like the airport, all huge and shiny clean. We took the train to Kowloon and then a taxi to our hotel as we had been advised by Maurice’s daughter who has to fly to Hong Kong on business. We probably would not have stayed in such a nice place had it not been for a Christmas present to upgrade us to the Langham Place Hotel. The hotel is in the center of a huge shopping complex that we could see from our room on the 32nd floor. The complex also had a food court which we made use of several times when we just wanted a simple meal. We were able to check right into our room-it and the whole hotel had a wonderful aroma of some sort of flower, ginger, I think. I turned on the TV and there was the Citrus Bowl from the States which we watched for a while but we have no idea who won as we fell asleep for a couple of hours. After a bath for me and a shower for me in the beautiful marble bathroom, we set out walking through some wonderfully funky streets with many signs stretched out over-head which would light up the area once it turned dark into something as bright as Las Vegas. None of the shops had doors or even fronts, but were all open air with most of the wares spilling out onto the sidewalk. I guess it is never cold enough here to worry about more than some occasional rain. Temple Street, a popular shopping street, was pedestrian and just starting to get set up as we walked along at 3 PM. We stopped at a McDonalds as we were both feeling hungry and all of the shops we passed looked a little risky to try the food. I had a really good Korean Beef Flat Bread sandwich which was very fresh and tasty. We made our way down to the harbor-lots of fog and hard to see much across the water on Kong Kong Island. A walk along the Walk of Stars along the water where there are stars of various Chinese movie stars, the only two I knew being Bruce Lee and Jimmy Chang. A long walk underground led us to the very clean and efficient metro which brought us back to our hotel. We had a drink in the hotel bar, went to the food court for a light dinner and struggled to stay awake past 9 PM as we had major jet lag as we didn’t want to awaken at 3 AM.

A monk with a digital camera. It just seems strange to me to see them using new technology and acting like tourists.

7-11’s are everywhere in the world. We also saw Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway stores, and many more.

Brooms for sale!

The Hong Kong streets all lit up.

A House in Provence, Chapter 19

Our Yard and Bugs

There is so much that I want to do in the yard but can’t. First of all we have to wait for dirt to be brought in to fill in some low places. One of these areas is behind the pool where I want to do the majority of the planting with lots of bushes and trees, making it as lush as I can with plants that don’t need a lot of water. The area behind the pool is huge and in order not to have to work full time to keep the garden up, use less water and just generally make it look good, I have decided I need to put in some small walls here and there, maybe some trelleses, make some “walls” out of plants. That way there will be a large area we won’t see and can do the minimum with.
This being not only summer, but autumn, 2004, we just wait for the dirt. A man did come and dumped a huge pile of dirt and rocks across the road and told us he would be back in September to move it to our yard. The only problem is, we have to wait at least a year for all of the dirt to settle so I am afraid to try much of anything, not wanting my work to have to be done all over again if a bush or tree sinks a foot or so.
Maurice and I have been working in the area where we can which is below our house where we have been making steps out of dirt and rocks. One thing our property does not lack is rocks. They are everywhere in Provence. A lot of rocks were uncovered when our house was built and, to my surprise, we used them all up with our steps, the size I wanted anyway. I know they are under the dirt but I need some sort of tractor to get to them. There are some good sized rocks in the pile across the street and I have raided that. No one is living in the house below us and we have taken a wheel barrow down the steep road to get a few larger rocks. I don’t want to take a lot as they will probably need them for future landscaping and I feel like a thief when we do it. I’ve edged alot of paths with rocks and I am not sure where I will find my new supply.
I now notice all of the rock walls and edgings as we drive around our house into the country looking at how it has been done. Many walls have no cement or dirt, just the rocks themselves. I would love to watch how they are constructed.
I’ve noticed, also, that rocks from different areas, even those close by, are different colors. Our property has a lot of shale and some golden-white colored stones. Those delivered and dumped across the street come from Grambois, just a few miles down the road, and they are in shades of ochre and rust. I have found that shale easily falls apart and isn’t good to use if it is exposed to the air and rain. It chips all over the place.
Then there are bugs. I knew from my first experience on the property before we even started building that there would be many flies. Maurice and I had several big discussions, dare I say arguments, about flies, the source of which is the sheep farm up the road. He wants to leave the doors wide open for the fresh air which would be fine with me if the house didn’t become invaded by tons of flies. He thinks I want to live in a bubble, afraid to live as one with nature. That isn’t it at all. I really have a phobia about flies on my food and in my kitchen. He said, when he was brought up on a farm, they just accepted flies as a part of life and did fine. I finally did a google search on flies wondering if I was being a little paranoid and found that flies can carry over 15 diseases, some of them very serious such as typhoid. Once the air conditioning is needed doors have to stay closed so it isn’t as bad, but I am constantly killing flies in the house even so. I have had several French guests who left their windows open upstairs in the bedrooms and I walked into our kitchen to be greeted by a whole new group of flies to kill.
There aren’t as many mosquitoes, Provence being fairly dry, but there are those funny looking bugs that suck your blood, and also little flies shaped like little stealth bombers that lay their eggs under your skin, a yucky thing for me to contemplate.
Then there are the wasps. We didn’t see any of them in the Spring but they certainly arrived with the summer. At first I thought they were what I call “garbage bees” as they hang around garbage and, when eating outside, they come hovering about trying to pick up a piece of meat. I didn’t think they were that harmful, only very annoying, until Maurice’s son got bitten by one, followed by me. They only bite if you put your arm or leg on one. My, did it hurt, and I had a huge bump on my arm for about 5 days which itched and burned and woke me up in the middle of the night for several nights. We finally bought a bug zapper, one of those things that glow purple, but they only attract moths that I can see, the wasps being interested in food not light. Then we bought these little plastic covered bowls with a whole in the bottom. Filled with a beef broth, the wasps are attracted to the smell, go in the hole and then can’t get out. In an hour we trapped 7 of them. I would like to get rid of them at their source but, with our land being so large, I can’t track where they are going. I was told to be careful around my lavender plants as they often make nests near them in the ground. I have to go and cut off the flowers in September or so and will have to be vigilant to not get attacked.