Sunday, February 28, 2016

Last Things

Today is our last day in Chiang Mai. We will check out of our room at 6:00 and have ordered a taxi for 8:00. We'll have dinner somewhere not too far where we can take our time. Our flight is almost at midnight, but we'll be better off sitting at the airport (in A/C) than in the less-than-comfortable lobby of our building.

I finished up my Tai Chi class on Friday. It was also Mathilda's last day and she brought fragrant posies for everyone (camellia or gardenia, maybe). We had some group pictures. Two of the class members will likely be there again next year, but the others will have flown off in their different directions. It's been a fairly convivial group, everyone encouraging the others.

The grandkids came on Wednesday evening. After our domino game, we stood on the balcony in a strong wind that seemed to be brewing up a storm. It held off, but around 2:00 there was loud, heavy rain for an extended period. It cooled things down nicely, but the humidity was quite high. I had my last massage on Friday afternoon. Dang seemed sad to see me go and I was sad to see the last of her for some time.

Saturday we had our last time with the grandkids -- we are all getting a bit sick of dominoes, so no one was too sad about seeing the last of them! I had asked Dan to get some oranges while he was out to offer for snacks. He came back with a fruit feast -- oranges, pomelo (already sectioned), papaya (cut), watermelon pieces and pineapple (in spears). Along with some crunchies we already had, we gorged ourselves. In the end, one orange, one piece of watermelon, and one section of pomelo were left! Again we got supper down at the market area -- a mixture of chicken kabob wraps, papaya salad, pad thai, and pork, and brought it back to our room to eat. We'll see them all in May when we visit Spokane, so it wasn't a sad farewell. What a treat it's been to have them here!

This morning (Sunday) we took the scooter out to the JJ Market, where we had been on our first Sunday here with Ming and her mother. It's about a mile northeast of the Old City. It is an organic market with incredible vegetables and fruit (not that we need those now) and some handicrafts. We needed to pick up a few gifts (nothing like waiting until the last minute!) and knew we'd find something interesting there.

Now Dan is off for his last massage and then to return the scooter. I'll work on packing and relaxing (and probably a little tai chi practice).

We'll be in Korea for about five days, heading home on Friday, March 4.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Update

Our last week here is flying by. As I'd hoped, I finished up the Tai Chi series of moves yesterday. That gives me three classes to go over the entire series and make any corrections necessary. My plan is to practice regularly during the year so I can start moving ahead right away next year (it took me more than a week just to get caught up to where I stopped last year). Our grandkids are coming over today and we'll have one more time to get together on the weekend.

Our residence has a nice big lawn with a covered sitting area and a few more seats. Recently there have been people out there playing bocce. When I took this picture it was over 90° and too sunny for me!

Every day I walk past the fire station on my way to tai chi class. Monday the tank truck was out on the street and filling up with water from the moat. You would not want to be drenched with that stinky water!!

On Saturday I signed up for the Asia Scenic cooking class at a farm. I did this last year, but I wanted to review my Thai cooking skills. And it was a chance to spend the day with Jazz and Billy, who wanted to cook, too. I signed up by email and got a confirmation of pickup time. I was a bit concerned when J&B weren't on the van, but when we got to the market on the way, they were there in another group. I spoke to our leader and asked if I could be switched, since we had signed up together. He immediately moved me into their van and cooking group, which worked out well.

At the market on the way we looked at the variety of vegetables and other things. This shows some of the types of rice available -- sticky and plain, several colors.

One of the features of this class is making the curry pastes from scratch. It is a lot of work, pounding with the mortar and pestle for quite a long time. Here is the group hard at work. We had people from the U.K., Greece, France, and the U.S.

My soup of chicken in coconut milk and massaman curry.

Sunday morning I walked over to the soi (alley) behind the Chiang Mai Gate Market. There were many little stalls with a variety of things available. As shown in the photo below, a lot of things are sold wrapped in leaf packets. I've no idea what these were. Prices can be shown for a single item or a kilo, depending what it is.

Underwear in two sizes, usually small and extra-small. And of course, you can choose black or white!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tai Chi Classmates

Our time here is flying by -- we only have one more week before we head home. I am on track to finish the Wudang Tai Chi Square Form (Short Form) by the time we leave. There are 42 moves, each consisting of three steps (coordinated hand and foot movements). I learned #39 today, so I should be able to make it to the end. I can usually take in one new move each day, although it can be hard to remember by the next morning, even with some practice. I have found that this discipline is incredible for both mind and body.

Our teacher, Rod, is from London, of Greek background. He is married to a Thai and the classroom is attached to their home. He is pretty amazing. Not only is he very patient and a good teacher (adapting as necessary to individuals' particular needs), he also teaches Chi Gong (Qi Chung), Reiki, Yoga, and provides spirulina and noni juice to those who wish it.

It's been interesting meeting other people in the class. Marisa is from Australia, has lived in C.M. for maybe ten years. She is very advanced, but still comes a couple of times a week. The only other person I knew last year is Patrick from France. He owns a condo here and spends 7-8 months out of the year in C.M. He is trying to sell the condo and get a different one. His English is somewhat limited and my French is nonexistent, but we chat anyway.

Dario is American, from Chicago, and a professional percussionist. He has played in Mexico City and elsewhere, but is teaching English here. He and I agree that playing in an orchestra makes counting in your head automatic, helpful in our Seven Steps movement. Michelle is African-American and a restless sort. She has been here a bit more than a year but is ready to move on, to the Philippines next.  Patrick, Dario and Michelle are all near the end of their Round Form, on which I hope to begin work next January. (Round Form follows the general outline of the Square Form, but with constant flowing movement, no steps.)

Mathilda is from the Netherlands (and the only one my age) and has lived here for about 12 years. She is in the process of closing out her lease, selling furniture and moving back to the Netherlands. I think her husband died not long ago and she is ready to leave. Fabrizio arrived while we were in Luang Prabang. He is young and very energetic. It's hard to get him to slow down when we do Seven Steps or Spinning Silk together. Today Mathilda said she thinks he might be autistic, and it makes sense to me -- he doesn't interact in an ordinary way with the other people. And he's a little fierce!

Manuel and Judith are typical -- they are Swiss, just came this week and are leaving already. We get new students most weeks, people who are interested in checking out what tai chi is. They seem to enjoy just a bit of it. I remember when I started, how envious I was of those who had obviously been doing it for some time.

Olaf is in the Chi Gong class just before ours. I first noticed him when another student who was in my class the first two weeks mentioned that he had asked her out. She teaches at an international school here and was quite excited to think of having a date. But by the time she had to go back to school he hadn't arranged anything. A couple of weeks ago Olaf asked me about "my friend" (I didn't really know her well, but we had chatted a bit). I asked him if he meant Amy and he said yes. I said, well, you should call her! He said he would. But a few days later he told me he had decided not to bother. I'm pretty sure she had given up before that anyway. It's so interesting to have these small glimpses into other people's lives.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Couple of Outings

I've mentioned the Blues Pub before -- a small, inexpensive restaurant a short block from our place. We go there pretty regularly, even though they don't have a very large menu. This time I got a photo of the couple who run the place -- it's been going for well over 20 years. I'm pretty sure they live in the back.

When I walk to my tai chi class daily, I pass a lot of familiar sights. I finally got a photo of this fried chicken stand. When I go by on my way (about 9:35), it is just getting going. There are two huge woks of oil in the shelter on the left. The cooler is full of marinated chicken parts. And the canopied cart has various pieces of deep-fried chicken priced from about 10 to 35 baht. There are always customers!

On Saturday, due to a Facebook posting, we met up with a former Woodstock student, Sharon Getter Mitchell. She had been in a village in China and spent a few days here with her husband on their way south. We had lunch at a great little place near the train station, Upper Crust. They had great sandwiches and other items. I had the Greek salad shown below and Shari and I both had the mango cheesecake for dessert, which was wonderful. Dan and Malcolm had hamburgers; they looked really good!

Here we are with Shari. Thanks, Malcolm, for the photo.

We tried a new place last week, Gai's Thai Cafe. The veg pizza was delicious.

Last Sunday we went back to the Whole Earth Restaurant where we ate several times last year. The dining room on the upper level of the building is gorgeous.

The mango lassi was great! We had Indian food, which was good, but not quite up to full Indian standards.

Flowers on the table are common at many restaurants, as is the note telling the wifi password.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


As promised a few days ago, I have some photos of the parade on the Saturday of Flower Festival.

The first thing we saw were several young women dressed in ballgowns with escorts. I think they were the candidates for the queen of the festival. What you can't see below is the very high stiletto platform heels she is wearing. This is near the end of the parade, which is nearly three miles long. I can't believe she was still able to smile at the crowds!!

There were a number of bands and various groups in regional dress. Here is one such group.

This enormous drum might have come from a temple. Notice the gongs on the side.

All the floats were completely covered with flowers, petals, acorns, etc. An astounding amount of work must have gone into them.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Flower Festival 2016

Last year I went a little crazy taking photos at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. If you are interested, look back into the February 2015 posts. This year was very different. Dan had a Thai lesson on Saturday morning, so I walked to the park (about a mile) and met up with Seth, Jasmine, and Billy. We looked around the park and at some of the flower exhibits. They didn't seem nearly as numerous as last year, and more of them were inside the park. Instead of many exhibits on the road, there were booths, some with flower exhibits, but many with things for sale.

Park wall decorated


Another bonsai -- amazing droopiness!

Photo-op with selfie

Succulents for sale

Posing in front of the elephant

Street booth with photo-op
After we had looked around, we saw that the parade was arriving. We walked along the street toward our place. We stopped for a while at the massage school where we get our regular massages; they had a front stairway that made a perfect viewing spot.  We saw a lot of the decorated floats; I'll post some of those later.

We went on back to our apartment, where we met up with Dan, I made scrambled eggs for lunch,  and had a good round of dominoes.

Now it is Chinese New Year and the Chiang Mai Life website says 80,000 Chinese are expected here for the holiday. We will stay away from the most popular areas!! There are already plenty of firecrackers going off even in our neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Luang Prabang Wrap-up

We are heading back to Chiang Mai today (Wednesday). It's been a very nice, relaxing visit. There is a new very modern bar next door to our hotel. We stopped in a couple of times and enjoyed chatting with the manager (Swiss) and owner (English). The food is small plates (tapas) and all delicious. Below are a dark chocolate mousse and shrimp balls.

Looking down from our balcony, I watched a truck/taxi filling up with backpackers, probably heading to the airport or bus station.

These are the brooms they use to clean. I'm not sure why these were laid out so nicely on the patio, but I thought it was a good opportunity for a photo.

One day we ate lunch at Lao Lao, recommended by our hotel. We biked there, as it was a bit far to walk. It was a lovely setting in a garden that went up a slope behind the street. Lao Lao is also the name of the distilled spirits we saw being made in the village.

This dish was chicken and vegetables in a coconut milk curry sauce. Very tasty.

While we were there, we enjoyed watching this small dog move around from spot to spot. This young man brought him food and tried to get him to eat, but the dog wasn't interested.

The Lao skirts and tops are lovely, in both silk and cotton. I saw many of the women, young and old, dressed in the skirts, which are a tube that is wrapped around the body. Very colorful!

We visited one of the temples on the main street. The front of one of the temples was covered with a mural.

Closeup of one section of the mural.

Entrance stairs with multiple snakeheads was reminiscent of Angkor Wat.

This old stupa was on the grounds.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

River Trip Lunch

I promised I would share our lunch with you, so here we go.

First came the appetizers, sesame-coated Mekong sea plant, very thin, deep fried. Crispy and nice but not too much flavor other than the sesame. There was also some sliced sausage.

Soup course -- absolutely delicious; chicken with potatoes and carrots in a coconut milk broth.

Sticky rice was served in its own cute little basket -- one per person. It appears to be more common here than regular rice.

These little packets held two bites of delicious soft fish in an herbed broth.

The two main dishes, both chicken-based. In the rear is lab, a salad-like dish of minced meat with herbs. The front dish was chicken and vegetables in broth. They offered regular rice as well as the sticky, but we had plenty to eat without it.

We had a nice plate of fruit afterwards.

This spirit house was near the dock area. I thought it was wonderful with its carved balconies and staircases.