100th POST

To celebrate my 100th post I am inviting you to my "Name My Dog" virtual party. I play a virtual dog show game where I breed and show virtual Havanese show dogs. My kennel name is Mama Confetti. I have 2 litters on the ground right now. One litter is by Confetti Wedding Singer (my best stud) out of Confetti Fountain of Youth. The other is by Wedding Singer out of Confetti Mighty Aphrodite. Can you come up with some names for their pups? For example, I am thinking about naming one of the boy pups "Wedding Crasher." If I use your name, you will receive glory, laud and honor in the Showdog.com community!


Kwai Kwae and Koi

We had a really interesting day trip yesterday. We floated down the River Kwae in a bamboo raft to a hill tribe village. When we got there, we rode elephants and then visited the bridge on the river Kwae ("Kwai"made famous by the movie of the same name.) Most Americans know it as the river Kwai but in Thai that means water buffalo. Kwae is the correct name. And some foreigners call it Koi (which denotes a certain male body part. Enough said.) During Japanese efforts to expell European and American colonialism/imperialism from Asian countries, they built a railway connecting Burma, through Thailand to Singapore. They used forced POW labor and locals (who got paid a bit). The POWs were kept weak by near starvation, overwork and mental torture. The Japanese would put sand in the rice to make it unpalatable so the POWs would not want to eat as much. They also would stage accidental deaths via dynamite explosions to make examples of POWs who caused trouble or refused to work. They estimate about 1/2 of them died while working on the railroad. After the war, survivors came back to help locate and identify the dead that had been buried in unmarked graves by the various labor camps along the railroad.

Sorry to jump around a bit. The hill tribe people were very nice. Our driver made us these cool hats, using tiny twigs as fasteners.

Our driver turned around and motioned for me to come to the front. Wow! The ride is a gentle rocking side to side. The elephant was voice trained.

This elephant was trained to do tricks. He would take money tourists handed him and give it to a hill tribe lady. She in turn would give him a glass bottle of soymilk or potatoes. He would take it back to the person that gave the money and wait to get fed his snack. Then he would take the garbage and throw it in a trash bucket. Here he is stealing Soren's crown for another snack!

The POW cemetery includes mostly British and Dutch POWs. The Americans have been brought back to America for burial. I found this grave and the irony of life hit me (you know the kind that makes smart people need a happy pill or a drink?) A surreal conversation took place in my mind between Robert THE Bruce who fought Britain (the country that basically wrote the book on Imperialism) and this Bruce who fought for the British against Japanese imperialism. I heard him say, "What arrh ya dooin' man soo farr froom hoome. Ge' bahck ahnd teek keer o' yoor oon." Who can say under which type of imperialism Asian countries would more successfully flourish? (I vote neither since I support self-governance, or at least governance by consent.)

This is a Chinese cemetery nearby. Buddhists usually are cremated exept for the Chinese who engage in types of ancestor worship. I am emailing this pic to my professor who specializes in the history of death and dying. Soren correctly pointed out that these sites remind him of a mixture between the burial mounds we saw in Ireland and the highly decorated, colorful graves in Mexico. Good synthesizing Adventure Companion.

The view from the bridge. You can see a bit of the metal in the lower right hand corner.

We road on a portion of the railway on our way back into Bangkok. A sobering experience. Sometimes the past seems more alive to me than the present--good for a historian or a storyteller but difficult for numerous practical reasons.

Chulalongkorn and I don't care

We splurged and went to a traditional Thai dance show. Dinner was included and there was a living history village to walk through. Delightful--Thai dance is so fun to watch. Hyper extended fingers, bent knees, pleasant looking faces, flexed feet and hamstrings. In the village, Soren got to pull a boiled silkworm coccoon into a long string of raw silk. Thai silk is not as fine as Chinese silk, but the country is really trying to promote it better. No pics of dancing because photos weren't allowed. Being here, I see a lot of similarities between Thai and traditional Hawaiian culture. Similar dance, hospitality and manners, language sounds, focus on good food, manner of dress etc.

The next day we took a day trip to Ayuttaya, the second capital city of Thailand before Bangkok. Chulalongkorn (Anna's student) built a summer palace here. Lots of European influence in the architecture.

This pavillion in the pond is an exact replica of the Grand Palace of Chula's father. Thailand is still a constitutional monarchy and people seem to be very happy with the present king. The king and queen have 4 children--3 daughters and a son. The son is not respected like the father--something about him owning lots of discos. I didn't catch the whole story. So there is the likelihood that the oldest daughter will ascend the throne which seemed fine with the conservative Muslim and Hindu students I was talking to. I guess she is very intelligent with a "good character" which was most important to the students. If she does ascend, she will be Thailand's first female monarch.

The grounds at the summer palace are manicured like the French gardens. I love the elephant topiaries. This is the national tree of Thailand, the "golden shower" tree. The drier it is, the more flowers there are.

Ayuttaya was built in the 1300's but has come to near ruin. The structures all were covered with cement but the moisture and lack of preservation efforts have really taken its toll. Many of the stuppas are leaning due to soggy ground giving way. UNESCO listed it as a world heritage site and is now getting some of the TLC it deserves.

One of the Buddha statues' heads came off and has grown into this Bodhi tree. It a cool effect knowing that it was a Bodhi tree he sat under when he attained Enlightenment.

Thai is a well-designed written language. So pretty.

Outdoor reclining Buddha. It seems you can show your devotion to Buddha by building a large or gold, or otherwise ornate statues and buildings. They are attractive.

Bangkok and then some

At the temples, there are ladies who fold the outer Lotus blossoms so that they look like this. You can buy one as an offering to place by the statues before you pray.
The palaces and temples are covered in colored glass and mirror. Gold gilt wood carving is inset with stones and no area is left unadorned. Google Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand palace for the history. Bangkok is predominantly Buddhist with about 6-10% Muslim and <1% Christian. Thai people are super nice and they are known for always smiling. I didn't know this before I came, but this is the only SE Asian country not colonized by European or American powers. Thai means "Free" and although they have moved the capital three times due to wars with Burma (now Myanmar), they credited their independence for not being a target of Japanese imperialism during WWII. I'll say more on this when I post my River Kwae stuff.

It is considered immodest here for women to wear pants that show the delineation between their legs so most holy sites will let you borrow a sarong before entering monasteries and temples. We have sat on the floor in front of several statues by now. Soren has learned not to point his feet toward them (it is insulting since the bottoms of the feet are considered impure). We have been sprinkled with holy water by a nice monk who gave us bracelets with a piece of gold leaf that sometimes flakes off the old relics. People are always saying how handsome Soren is and I am getting used to people asking my age all the time. It is a friendly way to start a conversation among Thai women. They ask, I answer then they say something nice like "Oh so young." Or "Oh we thought 29 at most." The greeting is Sawasdeekaah--(hold out the kaah in a pretty sing song way). Sawasdeekrup for men. After seeing the sun sign (swastika) on the giant buddha in HongKong and knowing that the symbol is actually Indo-European (where Aryans came from and from whom Hitler co-opted the symbol), I am wondering if there is a relation there between the Thai greeting and the sun symbol. It might be a stretch--I'll have to look into it.

Bamboo scaffolding. Works like a charm.
Can I tell you about the jewelry and Thai silk? I went to one store I found that was fair trade gems. (sing "Heaven. I'm in Heaven") They have a 12carat peridot with my name on it. I wonder if it will still be there when Santa needs to pick it up for me in his sleigh. So I bought some Thai silk and am having a skirt suit made--tailor labor here is very reasonable and quick. Becky, it has elephants on the print! I laughed when I saw it--reminding me of my monkey fabric and Jennie's remark about elephant print wallpaper. I had to get it. I will laugh everytime I wear it. I also got some suits for Soren. I tried to channel you Dad, picking out colors and styles that looked dapper. For those of you who don't know, my dad is a sharp dressed man (a la ZZ Top). Soren feels like the "little gentleman" that people call him around here. The shopkeeper, Rahul, is very nice college student and has offered to drive us to the beach in Pattaya. He said he could tell that I was a "good, nice housekeeper woman." (Uh, since when have I given the impression to anybody that I am a good housekeeper woman?) Alright I confess. I am a great housekeeper. So is my housekeeper. Hahahaha. This line of thought reminds me I need to get the carpets and windows clean. I'll think about that some other time.

I'm Channeling Anna

Leon-Owens that is. She is the British schoolteacher commisioned with educating King Mongkut's children. (King and I) I saw the palace complex she lived in. The buildings are highly ornate and organic. I'll show you next post. These swords are 5 1/2 ft tall. True long swords!
The Reclining Buddha--covered in gold leaf. So calming to look at. Buddha always looks happy. Of course he does-he found a way out of suffering ie avoid attachment. I'm not all that happy he left his wife and child though.

Stuppas (pagodas) are the architectural embodiment of the concept of enlightenment. These are cemented over brick then painted and gilt wood carvings attached. The temple have these beautiful glazed terracotta tiles so the roof glistens in the sun like it's wet. So fun to look at.

I asked Soren if he wanted to taste the best Pad Thai ever. He said "What's Pad Thai?" And then he saw where I was pointing. Street side, dogs, hawkers, some flies, little plastic seats, women with barefeet. He turned up his nose but I persisted. His had shrimp in it--he scarfed the whole thing and said it was the best food he had ever had: $1.75 usd

We went to the flower market. Buddhists make lovely space for flowers in their religious rituals. These are used to hang on shrines or drape over hands in prayer. I think the little white ones are frangipani. They are very fragrant like tuber roses. Katy, can you check with your dad?

Yellow is the color of warmth, so it is the color of life, power and celebration. Carnations last a long time so they are used to decorate homes, floors, food, people, holy sites etc etc etc. There is Soren in the background. The streets of the flower market smelled better than the streets we walked to get here. So MANY people, lots of traffic, pollution--ugh!


Chinese birds

Soren and I saw these in the park's aviary. Top is a Rhinoceros Hornbill. Above is a Crestless Fireback Pheasant. Below is a Nicobar Pigeon and below that is a Palm Cockatoo. (Stock footage since my camera has crappy storage capacity.)

SOGO to Hongkong if you hate buying swimsuits

Above is a graphic on a shirt I got for Ellery--my daughter is pretty traditional. For example, she would pick roses over a wild paisley print. I wonder how she'll like this chick with a Navy fro. (Japanese brand, KingKow.)
Peacock blue and white with henna type detail. Padded (thank you swimsuit gods) halter.

Navy and Cream with red line drawings around the hem. See the bear on the elephants and the bunnies in the grass?

Hot orange and pink and black. The shoulder strap ties in a bow in the back.

I used to have a beaker bodyshape-skinny and flat up top with a booty. Now it is something quite different and I don't want to find creative words to describe it-ok, dimply pear. Are you happy now? But la-la-la-laaa!! I found a brand of swimsuit that actually fits me. My heart sank when I saw the pricetag: 10,000 yen. But they were ON SALE and in USD heaven, they were affordable (Cyler may debate). Value of well-made tankinis with boy shorts and cool details?: PRICELESS. Summer, you can come now.

Kowloon Park

The park is near great shopping and a masjid. There were SE Asian women covering with bright hijabs everywhere having picnics on plastic tarps. Azaleas were everywhere too so the park was full of color.
At the dragon dance, I sat by an older SE Asian man who took a chance and started speaking Spanish to me. We chatted eventhough my Spanish is elementary--he lived in Costa Rica for 20 years and did something with chicken for a living. Spanish spoken with an Asian accent was harder for me to understand. The cutest thing we saw was a 4 year old girl doing a Tai Chi form all by herself. She was in great control and her movements were silky smooth. The older crowd loved her. She wore a white silk tunic with mandarin collar and gold toggles, and black silk bottoms.

We haven't gotten lost at all this trip. Crowded streets are fun if you're in the right mood and it's refreshing to see small mom and pop stores instead of giant chains.
This is not food. It's a lightweight modeling clay I bought for Ellery. It dries over night and it looks like marzipan. The lady kept telling me "No K, no K." I finally got it that she was telling me that the clay weighs 0 Kg.


Chinese Traipsing

The trees look like this in the New Territories (lovely neighborhood) where we walked from a museum back to our hotel in Kowloon. On the way, we stopped to watch people sing Karaoke by the river while others did ballroom dancing (amateurs both). A tipsy Indonesian man with a few teeth missing (with the OK from his wife) asked me to dance. What's the dance called when you do "one-two-three and four"--is it Foxtrot? I didn't know, but of course I don't turn down invitations to dance. Afterward, they asked if I could sing Chinese--I said I would sing an English song (I love Karaoke) but they didn't have any. Sad. The next stop was at an outdoor Acapella festival. A group of about 20. The people dress modestly here, there aren't vulgar ads, there is a general cooperative feel among the people, and of trying to do one's best. They seem to me to be reserved, formal, with great manners. I don't know if communism and censorship has anything to do with this, but it is quite nice. HongKong seems to be able so far to take the best from Chinese communal spirit and Western economic practice. Good balance I think.
I want to be in a Cantonese opera. Did you know there are over 300 styles of Chinese Opera? We learned all about the artistic conventions of this type of performance art and saw a bit of one. The antagonists wear white since it is the color of death and evil. We passed by the marriage registry where brides are dressing in western bridal wear. I wonder if their older family members are uncomfortable with that since the traditional color is red (warmth, life). An older man at the Jade market says young people aren't really getting married or having children much--it's difficult and expensive in HongKong. A Filipino lady who helped me find the ferry said she shares a 3 bdr-2 bath apartment and rent is $1500 USD per month for the place. The man said people have dogs now instead (sounds familiar). The population heres is a bit over 7 million though and I see kids in school uniforms all over the place. Incidentally, this type of makeup looks great on an Asian face with wide set eyes and high cheekbones. I look cross-eyed ;)

As you can see, I couldn't find the night button on my camera. We rode the tram to Victoria Peak (that thing was at a 70 degree angle at times!) On the top there are restaurants and shopping and a great view. HongKong is a sea of skyscrapers! And the harbor is a sea of shipping containers. Mountain after mountain of them. Cyler, I thought of you and 9e when I saw them. God bless shipping containers and long may they sail.
We also took a junk ride around Victoria Harbor last night. From the boat we saw the light show where some of the skyscrapers light up and shine lasers across the harbor. I had mixed feelings when I saw AIG and Bank of America doing this--do they really have the money? Today is park and SOGO (Japanese department store) day. Pics to come.

Lantau Island

And so we make it to HongKong and we are getting to see and experience some amazing things. Here's Soren doing a Shaolin workshop. I was nervous about getting around but the MTR (subway) is just like London and most people speak a bit of English. To get to Lantau we took the MTR and the bus, but they have a cable car Ngong Ping 360 that looks fun too!
Bronze Buddha built 1981-1993. Many of the world's giant Buddhas have been destroyed. If I ever get my dream job at UNESCO, I'll make sure that doesn't happen on my watch.

Moms teaching their kids to pray. The mixture of incense and burning prayers on paper, flowers, and fruit made a fragrance I will never forget.

The Wisdom Path. The Heart Sutra which talks about the state of ever present change is carved here on wooden poles in the infinity shape.

PoLin Monastery. Ornate, peaceful, beautiful statues and embroidery and carving and metal work. Tassles, silk flags, red, orange and pink and yellow. Monks in saffron or gray walking and working.