An Impromptu Diversion

I invited my parents for coffee. We ended up in Lampang.

Lampang is a small historic town about an hour’s drive away from Chiang Mai. It’s a funky little river town, with old colonial style buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and rooster-adorned lampposts.

Sukothai style noodle soup

Sukothai style noodle soup

Me & the curry pots

Me & the curry pots

Wall decor

Wall decor

Apothecary, complete with abacus!

Apothecary, complete with abacus!

Old floors

Old floors

Cafe & curios

Cafe & curios

Colonial style architecture

Colonial style architecture

Sometimes a little get-together just isn’t enough. One thing turns into another and suddenly you find yourself riding a cow in a different city. Sometimes the best laid plans are the ones you never made.

moo cow::

So I kind of went of the grid there for a little while. What with moving to a new house, the holidays, taking care of bureaucratic chores, and what not, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. But I have lots to tell you and I can’t wait to show you our new neighborhood and home! Stay tuned for more…

In the meantime, check out some fun glimpses from around the world and other fun little things!

 

Little by Little



A Trip to the Aquarium, Siam Ocean World

In Siam Paragon, Bangkok

Part of our trip to Bangkok was all about doing fun kid stuff with Cy, getting out of routine and around to see some new things. I had known there was an aquarium in Siam Paragon, but I hadn’t expected much because…well, hello, it’s the basement of a mall. But it was such a great surprise to see how well done the aquarium was!

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Cy was absolutely riveted by the very first little tank. We kept telling him there was a whole slew of other fish tanks to look at, but he was captivated by the one just inside the door. He stood there for at least 15-20 minutes staring at those fish.

Then when we went through the rest of the tanks, he was like, “Yeah, I’ve seen fish.”
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There were cool tunnels to walk under the fish – and even a glass bottom floor on top of a shark tank. Cy walked out on top of the glass and saw one shark swimming underneath him and decided he did not belong on top of a glass tank full of sharks._1070724

So many fun and funny creatures!_1070726 _1070727

The exhibit is really well curated.

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If you ever get a chance, it’s worth a visit.

Little by Little



An Escape to Bangkok

Sometimes you just need to run away for a little while. Deal with a different milieu so that, even if it takes up all kinds of energy, it’s a different kind of energy than your every day, so you have renewed energy to deal with what’s in front of you.

That’s what we did. We desperately needed a reprieve from our every day here in northern Thailand. What is usually an escape destination to legions of travelers had become oppressive to us. So we escaped to Bangkok instead.

A city that can be intense and overwhelming to the uninitiated has become a haven for us. (Mainly because of the food. Oh, the food!)

But there’s a lot of beauty in Bangkok too, if you can look past the traffic and the power lines, see past the grit and find the orchids.

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Spirit house

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Street food vendor

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We had a trip to the aquarium…I could dedicate a whole post to that. I probably will…

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Ice cream tuk tuk! Best idea ever.

Little by Little



Momma Chat: On Traveling With a Baby

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIn the span of one month, we have been on nine flights with Cy, if you’re counting layovers at least–and when you’re traveling with a 9-month old baby, you’re definitely counting layovers. That’s nine times we had to get him through take-off, keep him quiet and entertained while other passengers ate, watched movies, read, and slept around us, and then get through landing, security, transfers, and baggage claim. Seven of those nine flights went really well. One was kind of touch-and-go. One involved nearly 5 hours of crying. We got the gamut of reactions from fellow passengers: glares for daring to bring a child aboard, looks of sympathy or hatred when he was crying, and compliments for what a well-behaved child we had. There’s no anonymity when you’re traveling with a baby. Even the flights that go well are stressful because you’re hyper aware of how quickly it can descend into mayhem.

Cy did amazingly well with adjusting to cabin pressure. Truthfully, the only times he gave us trouble was when he was really tired and couldn’t go to sleep (The one really bad flight happened to be his third flight in the same day…can ya’ really blame a fellow for that? I don’t.)

Still, the hardest part of traveling with an infant wasn’t the flying. It was the adjustment period after. Jet lag affected Cy for at least a week after each haul across time zones, and just as soon as he got adjusted it seemed, we would whisk him away again, from Thailand to California, from California to South Carolina, and back. Each time, his little body clock would take forever to adjust, which meant many nights we were up with him until 3, 4, or even 5 a.m. because he’d be wide awake. As exhausted as we were from the travel, regardless of our own needs, our priority was to help him through it.

All the newness was bewildering to him too. We live a quiet life at home. In the States, suddenly there were so many more people! And noises! And laughter, and attention, and sweets everyone wanted to feed him. He was curious and interested and fascinated by it all, but he was also uncertain and nervous, which made him clingy. For much of the time, he held onto me for dear life, refusing to be held by anyone else, playing for only short spurts before he’d need me to pick him up and carry him around. Let me remind you: this boy weighs 20 pounds. I deserve an award or at least a lot of chocolate for all that heavy lifting.

We learned a lot of tricks for traveling with Cy. For instance, book an aisle and middle seat on one of the sides of the plane rather than taking up the offer for the bassinet. We never used the bassinet, and the flight attendants were all too eager to offer the person sharing the row with us a different seat whenever possible so we often ended up with an extra seat for free. Bringing a pillow for added comfort is key. And plenty of food: cereal, puffed rice, baby food pouches, water bottles…all became key distractors. And major points for baby wearing. The Ergo saved us in the airports (no heavy strollers to lug around), and it saved us many a night when Cy couldn’t sleep and could only be calmed by going on a walk. There were a lot of midnight walks through the neighborhood.

It might sound crazy, but for all that hardship, the trip was totally worth it. Of course, it was worth it for us to see our friends and family again, and for them to get a chance to meet Cy. But I think, more than that, traveling for babies is valuable for the same reasons traveling as adults is worthwhile. Being in a new environment teaches so many things, including about yourself–and in this case, it taught me a lot about Cy too.

Cy blossomed in that month. Aside from discovering the awesomeness of Cheerios and fresh berries, he learned so much about being around other people. Normally, he’s home with just me and Toby and our dog Dot. Visitors come once in a while, for an hour or two. He sees his grandparents about twice a week (but they had been gone for the two months prior), and the rest of the people he meets are just random strangers who say hi for a few minutes and then are never seen again. In the U.S., he was surrounded all day by cousins, aunts, and uncles, friends, and his grandmom, and he soaked it up. He watched the interactions with avid curiosity, and you could see the little wheels whirring away in his head as he tried to make sense of it all, watching others play and talk together. As long as I remained close, a safe harbor for him to venture from, he was delighted to play with the various kids, adults, and dogs in his midst.

It was this way that I learned he just doesn’t like to be held by people he doesn’t really know, but otherwise he really is quite social. As long as people don’t insist on pushing themselves on him, he’ll happily play with them. It was so good and so healthy for him to have so many other people around, of so many different ages. I’m sure if we were there for longer, he would have only opened up more.

As hard as travel is, you learn to cope too, and you get stronger as a parent. It’s the middle of the night, you’re exhausted, and your child is keeping up the whole house (and possibly the neighborhood). You proclaim loudly that you cannot and will not carry your child all damn night. And then you do anyway. You learn your limits. And then you learn how to push past them because you don’t have any other choice. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Either that, or you find yourself doing things like feeding your child a spoonful of cheesecake at 9 in the morning so you can have 5 blessed minutes to drink your coffee so you can survive the day. (That may or may not have actually happened.)

It’s hard, but like most of the best challenges in life, rewarding in ways you never anticipated.

That said, I’m in no hurry to get on a plane again.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He has started making funny faces, scrunching up his face and, when he’s really excited (like at bath time), squawking. Did you know there’s actually a term for baby pterodactyls? They’re called flaplings. Cy, bless him, is a flapling.

Scenes From My Week

 

It’s been a nasty smoky season up here in Chiang Mai…so we escaped!! To a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand, where we walked on the beach

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played in the pool

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and ate lots of good food.

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Best way to escape the smoke ever!_1060426

How was your week? Join in at Communal Global!



A Coffee Chat

photo(23)I feel like there were a bunch of things I was going to talk about today…but then last night, I did not sleep well–like, at all–and now everything has gone plumb out of my head.

I did have a productive day yesterday, though. Between catching up on some work for SOLD, doing three loads of laundry, washing dishes that had piled up over the previous day with T being sick, and various other little chores, I managed to get in quite a bit of walking…which, turns out, if done in little spurts and increments, seems to help keep the swelling down in my feet. Then again, it might also be why my back and hips were sore all night.

My goals for today are a bit more cerebral. If I can get enough brain cells to function, I’d like to:

– Practice Thai, since staying at home so much does not give me much chance to hone my language skills (It does, however, keep me at lower risk of catching dengue, so that’s good–seriously, so many people we know got it this year. This season is rough! I never read Dante’s Inferno, but I’m sure there must be a special circle of hell reserved for mosquitoes. And if there isn’t, well, there should be.)

– Read up on what the heck is going on in Syria. I’ve been out of the news loop more than I care to admit these days. Good for my sanity; not so good for my engagement with the rest of the world. A friend of mine linked to this Washington Post article on FB, which I found enormously helpful. Now I just want to read up on various viewpoints of what people anticipate the consequences of and reactions to air strikes are likely to be.

On a more personal note, a few years ago, Toby and I had talked about making a trip to Syria. Some friends had been there and said it was one of the most welcoming countries they’d ever been to (and their trip was during the GW Bush years, mind you)–that far from shunning Americans, the Syrians were excited to meet them and welcome them into their homes for tea and conversation. Now I’m really bummed we didn’t make that trip since it looks like tensions there are unlikely to abate any time soon.

– Then if I feel up to it, I might do some gentle yoga. Probably not a full session, but just a few poses & stretches to strengthen the muscles around my hip joints. They’re ridiculously open and flexible these days, but I can feel that the added flexibility needs to be supported by more muscle strength.

In other news, I came across this recipe for Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider cookies and want to bake them, like, RIGHT NOW…but the recipe calls for Alpine Spice Cider Mix, which, I don’t even know what that is. I’m guessing it’s a powdered mix to make hot apple cider, but whatever it is, I’m pretty certain there is no such thing here in Thailand. I wish I knew what the ingredients were because if it’s just a bunch of spices I could probably approximate it myself. But there’s probably some apple flavoring in there somewhere, which means I’d have to figure out what to do with liquid apple cider in a recipe that calls for it dry. Also, I found the exact same recipe on a different website, and one says it makes 16-18 large cookies, and the other (with the exact same measurements for ingredients) says it makes 51 cookies. (!) I really had to laugh. I like the way the first person counts her cookies–you can eat three and call it just one!

For anyone who likes to see this sort of thing, I made another quick clip of Baby Keller on the move. You can definitely see his movements more clearly these days, since, at 38 weeks, he’s significantly bigger. And this clip has the added benefit of not having a soundtrack of the Sopranos cussing in the background!

Before you go, I’d like to share this quote I saw pinned on Pinterest:

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

The quote seems widely attributed to Carl Jung, but for the life of me I can’t find the original source so I can’t verify it. Anyway, it really stuck with me, not for being a new sentiment, but for so succinctly capturing one of my heart-felt beliefs and general orientation towards life. It also came at a time when several conversations I’ve had or things I’ve read have, without plan or intention, all kind of coalesced around a similar idea–does that ever happen to you? I haven’t really worked my way through it enough to articulate what I’m thinking about, but it’s something to do with valuing experiences and people over things, choosing to be open to life and expand into it over shying away from difference, that giving our kids the gift of courage and resilience is more important than providing them with the trappings of safety, and how lucky I feel to have found a life partner who feels the way I do about these things. The way I’ve written it here maybe sounds like these are either/or dichotomies, but I believe they’re more like ranges or spectrums of values. But it would be incredibly challenging, I think, to share a life with someone with whom one was fundamentally incompatible on these issues.

It’s funny, too, how people can surprise you. Some people you’d think would be up for freewheeling outside the comfort zone end up not, and those who can appear shy or even fragile end up being some of the strongest or bravest people you know. Not that any of it is a front, per se…I think people are just brave in different ways.

Okay, now I’m rambling, it’s officially time to stop. What’s going on with you? Anything on your mind lately?

Celebrating {Five}

awesome years of marriage!

Our vows, in visual form

Our vows & snippets of a Pablo Neruda poem read at our ceremony, in visual form

In five years together, we’ve…

- honeymooned in Costa Rica
- survived my doctoral degree program
- celebrated each other’s triumphs
- Burned on the playa
- took a leap and moved across the globe
- driven the wrong way up a street and down a sidewalk
- joined the fight against child slavery
- adopted a puppy
- bought a car entirely in cash
- ridden motorcycles through rice paddies
- stepped foot in Burma
- learned a new language
- helped each other pursue dreams
- rode elephants through the jungle and played with baby tigers
- partied til dawn in Kreuzberg
- seen the splendor of the Blue Ridge parkway in autumn
- drank American beer in Prague
- walked across the remains of Auschwitz
- driven on the autobahn
- eaten dim sum in Hong Kong and duck fat fries in Charleston
- drank Manhattans in Manhattan
- gotten pregnant with our first child
- learned that a solid marriage makes each person stronger together than they ever were alone
- still come to love the comforts of simple pleasures, like a good cup of coffee and breakfast in bed

and…

- found each other was all we needed to make a home

Here’s to many, many more adventure-filled years! I love you, babe.

wedding

From our wedding ceremony:

from Ode & Burgeonings
Pablo Neruda

“And one by one the nights
between our separated cities
are joined to the night that unites us.
The light of each day,
its flame or its repose,
they deliver to us, taking them from time,
and so our treasure
is disinterred in shadow or light,
all love is enclosed in our love:
all thirst ends in our embrace.
…And here we survive,
pure, with the purity that we created,
broader than the earth that could not lead us
astray,
eternal as the fire that will burn
as long as life endures.”

Scenes From My Weekend

Baked ginger pecan cinnamon rolls to surprise T with breakfast in bed on his birthday.

Baked ginger pecan cinnamon rolls to surprise T with breakfast in bed on his birthday.

Stayed in a little bungalow nestled in the mountains, in Chiang Dao

Stayed in a little bungalow nestled in the mountains, in Chiang Dao

Saw a stunning sunset (SOOC with an iPhone)

Saw a stunning sunset (SOOC with an iPhone)

Went trekking into a cave

Went trekking into a cave

Saw Buddha images carved into the cave walls

Saw Buddha images carved into the cave walls

The birthday boy awaiting his boar burger

The birthday boy awaiting his boar burger

That was our weekend. How was yours? Show us by linking up below or at Communal Global!



What I Show Friends When They Come to Chiang Mai

Riding elephants down the river

Riding elephants down the river

In the two and a half years we’ve lived here in Thailand, we’ve hosted close to 40 different visitors. And of course, we love to introduce family and friends to our new home. Sure, we hit up the tourist hot spots like the Night Bazaar and the day market at Warorot, do a stint at some famous temples, and ride elephants through the jungle. But my favorite things about Chiang Mai aren’t necessarily the ones you’ll find in The Lonely Planet.

What I love about Chiang Mai is that it is both exotic and cosmopolitan: between elephant rides and bamboo rafting, you can sip a world class cappuccino and nibble on macarons; after careening around in a tuk tuk and shopping for handicrafts, you can say cheers over a fabulous cocktail or a variety of fresh fruit smoothies; when you’ve finished your hour-and-a-half Thai massage (for $8), you can make a dinner selection between homestyle street food served from an old woman slinging bags from a cart, upper-crust Thai curries and fresh steamed fish at fine dining over the river, Burmese delicacies by the Sunday market, Korean BBQ, the freshest sushi you’ve ever tasted, French…Italian…Mexican…you name it. You need only know where to go.

My favorite thing to do, when friends come to town, is to share with them some hidden gems, off the tourist track. If you were to come to visit, here are 5 of my favorite things to show you:

Coffee

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Outside of Thailand, it’s a little known secret that coffee has become both a fad and a high art in the north here. Just a few years ago, the best coffee you could hope for in most areas of Thailand would have been Nescafe. But the king has been developing a royal project to get local farmers off of growing opium, and helped them learn how to cultivate other cash crops instead like strawberries, avocados…and coffee. Now there are large regions in the north devoted to growing, harvesting, and roasting coffee beans, and Thai beans are quickly beginning to rival Central American and African beans. A tiny little shop, called Ponganes, just off Moon Muang Road is one of our favorites–and they have excellent croissants as well.

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Not only are the beans gaining recognition, so are the baristas. Our absolute favorite shop to frequent is called Ristr8o, run by a young aficionado, Arnon, and his girlfriend, Jem. They’re super friendly and humble. You’d never know he’s a world-champion latte artist who trained internationally, learning coffee from masters, if it weren’t for the superior quality of every single cup of cappuccino, latte, or macchiato he makes. His coffees seriously rival the ones I’ve had in Florence and Rome.

Food

_TMK2165I probably don’t have to tell you that Thai food is amazing. And that Thai food in Thailand is even more amazing. If I haven’t already piqued your interest with the sheer variety of cuisines that are on offer here in Chiang Mai, I would whet your appetite with the boundless variety of flavors, served fresh and cheap, available within Thai cuisine itself. Everything from fresh fruit (mangos, pineapple, lychees, rambutans, papayas, guavas, custard apples, passion fruit, mangosteens, etc., often peeled and cut up for your convenience) to fresh fish (served deep fried, steamed, in curries or in soups, with countless sauces), noodle or veggie stir-fries, cool meat salads in chili, mint, and lime, coconut delights, roasted duck, and more kinds of snacks than one could possibly count.

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When we take our friends out, we eat until stuffed, and rarely spend more than $20 for 4 people.

Tigers

Tiger Kingdom is one of the tourist destinations, but not one you always hear about until you actually get here. But really, who can resist the opportunity to bottle feed a baby tiger?

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Or watch them play…

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If you’re extra brave, you can go make friends with the big boys too.

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Notice I’m not quite so brave as my husband.

Mountain Scenery

_TMK9601No joke, the north of Thailand is gorgeous. The beaches in the south get all the attention, but for me, nothing beats the view of a couple on a motorcycle tootling past rice paddies, with the mountains in the distance. All kinds of tropical flora and fauna present themselves throughout the year, though rainy season is when everything gets seriously lush and colorful. Most people try to come during the cool season, thinking they’ll beat the heat. But when my best friends ask me when they should come, unless they’re hoping to catch a particular festival, I always say rainy season, hands down. The rains, which are warm and tropical (not cold like in Europe or America) keep the weather on the cooler side, and help make everything smell green and fresh. Scenery-wise, I think that’s when northern Thailand is at its best. Plus, there usually aren’t quite as many tourists since everybody else came during cold season.

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If you came to visit and had a little extra time on your hands, I’d take you to one of our favorite spots on the lake, nestled just below the mountains: a restaurant with little private huts that sit right out on the water (you have to walk up bamboo planks to get to the huts), where you can spend hours just lounging around, munching, and sipping beers. No time limit, no one hurrying you along. And each dish will run you only about a dollar or two.

If you’re in the mood for a little hike in the jungle, I’d take you to Wat Pa-Laad, a little temple hidden up on the mountains, just below Doi Suthep, the really famous temple in Chiang Mai. All the tourists go to Doi Suthep, but I would tell you that you can skip that temple and go to Wat Pa-Laad instead. It’s far quieter, more meditative, you don’t get jostled by a plethora of touts selling their wares, and the views are equally, if not more, stunning. If you don’t like the hike idea, it’s possible to drive straight there too. But if you’re in the mood for a tiny bit of adventure, the approach from the hike leads you up to a waterfall that opens out at the top, just at the base of temple. When you turn around from that vantage point, you see all of Chiang Mai spread out below you. It’s hard to beat that.

The VibeIMG_0648

It’s hard to convey just how Chiang Mai feels in pictures, or even in words. It’s much like the rest of Thailand, in that the people are generous, polite, patient, kind, and they love to eat and they love to laugh. Even though Chiang Mai is a fairly large city, it differs from Bangkok in that it has still managed to retain a laid back, easy-going nature. Life moves more slowly here. Friends and family who come to visit are unfailingly impressed by how livable Chiang Mai is. There’s something for just about everyone: fun shopping, cinemas, and restaurants if you’re in the mood for city life, yoga and temples for quiet meditation, rock climbing, camping, zip lining, and hiking if you want to get back to nature, and jazz clubs for anyone wanting to get their groove on.

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The part I really love about Chiang Mai is the pastiche of old and new: fancy resort malls springing up amidst the ruins of the old city, tradition living side by side with modernity. Chiang Mai is growing, and with that growth has come a vibrant, youthful, experimental spirit, where young artists and entrepreneurs are trying out food fusions, a burgeoning wine & beer scene, coffee, local farm-to-table organic farming, and international fashions. There’s almost always something new to try out, and still you can always count on that soft Thai smile and bow to welcome you.

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I’ve lived here for over 2 years now and I still love every minute of life here.

 

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