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Travel Photo: Umbrellas, Bo Sang, Thailand

6 Dec

Painted silk umbrellas in Bo Sang, outside Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bo Sang, a village outside Chiang Mai, is the umbrella-making capital of Thailand.

Sign Language

17 Jul

Closeup of Z and Solene drawing at a table.One of my spawn’s many endearing qualities is that he generally, as here with his new friend Solène, looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

So you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to have created his own – hem! – innovative variations on the standard divers’ sign language.

Now, as you’d expect in a branch of the teaching profession so rarefied that students quite often attempt to kill not only themselves but their tutors, diving instructors already have quite a few obscene variations on this theme.

Such as: “You! Look. At me! Your FACE. Makes me SICK!” Or: “You! Look. At me! YOU are f***ed. You are TOTALLY f***ed.” Continue reading

10 Lines that Say You’re Being Hustled

12 Jul

Poster warning of "non-Thai pickpockets", Wat Pho, Bangkok[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]This rather charming warning sign comes from Wat Pho, Bangkok, home of a 50m reclining Buddha and, it would appear, a gang of light-fingered Playmobil people.

Outside the nearby Royal Palace, however, the sign warns, succinctly and sweetly, “Beware of wily strangers.”

And wily, to be honest, is the perfect word. For ten lines that only wily strangers will use — with handy translation — read on. Continue reading

Into the Deep

12 Jul

Z in scuba gear exiting a boat with a giant stride.

One small step for mankind... One giant stride for a boy.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Why learn to dive?

Well…

Scuba diving opens up an entire new world. There’s the fluid, graceful movement in three dimensions, moving up or down (quite literally) on a breath, turning any way you wish like a gymnast in zero gravity, powered only by your legs and fins.

There’s the chance to explore the complex ecosystems of coral reef: a surrealist, ancient, technicolour landscape, populated by a myriad creatures who, unlike their land equivalents, have yet to learn to fear human beings.

There’s that warm, buzzed glow of discovery you get when you surface. And that edge of anticipation as you take the giant stride off the side of the boat…

Which is exactly what Z is doing, in the picture above. (The ginormous wetsuit is, in fact, an extra small.) It’s his first giant stride as a qualified Junior Open Water diver, off Koh Tao, Thailand. Continue reading

Penguins in Bangkok

9 Jul

African penguins exploring their rocky home, behind glass at Siam Ocean World Aquarium, Bangkok Aquarium.

African penguins come to Thailand.

We didn’t come to Thailand for the penguins.

But there’s something surreally magical about stepping out of 35 degrees of sweaty, humid heat and coming face to face with these little fellas.

Nestled below the designer mecca of Siam Paragon, Siam Ocean World is the largest aquarium in South-East Asia.

It takes the aquarium concept and stretches it to its very limits. From penguins to beavers, from Amazonian predators to fossil fish, right through to a jacuzzi of pedicuring fish. Continue reading

Vertigo, Bangkok

8 Jul
Bangkok night sky illuminated by skyscrapers, seen from top of Vertigo, Bangkok.

Bangkok by night. From Vertigo.

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This is the view from Vertigo, the aptly named, open-air bar which sits on the sixtieth floor above the Banyan Tree hotel, Bangkok.

And I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend our last evening in one of Asia’s most dynamic cities than this.

The neon-blue night ahead of us, expressways surging into the distance, pyramids of skyscrapers far below, and the winding Chao Phraya river forming a patch of slinky darkness amid the buzz and hubbub of the city. Continue reading

Zorb Balls and Sky Coasters

7 Jul
Z in lake, underneath brightly coloured zorb ball.

The ultimate splashdown. Falling out of a zorb ball and into a lake.

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Thinking of taking the kids to Thailand this year?

One of the huge benefits of the general nervousness right now is the instant availability of fun of all kinds. With close to zero queues.

Over the last couple of weeks, junior and I have enjoyed a championship minigolf course all to ourselves. We’ve had back-to-back goes on rollercoasters at a nearly deserted theme park. And sir has continued his adventures in extreme sports.

Such as zorbing (or xorbing) — pictured above — an activity which has now taken the place of zipwiring in sir’s ever-changingl canon of “most fun ever“. Continue reading

Imagine Peace

4 Jul

zip up shirt crafted from Thai flag, artwork on display at Bangkok centre for Art & Culture

Zip-up shirt crafted from Thai flag, Imagine Peace exhibition, Bangkok centre for Art & Culture.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Junior remarked the other day, “I do hope the shirt war doesn’t start again while we’re in Bangkok.”

And my mother asked me over the phone, “How is Bangkok right now?”

A reasonable enough question. Last time we were here, the red shirts were still in residence but the protests had yet to turn bloody.

One day a chunk of the city centre was shut down for marches, with shiny new black pick-ups heading into the financial district across traffic, their red-shirted occupants waving amiably, scarlet banners and bandanas waving in the breeze.

A few weeks later, and only a month or so ago, great chunks of the city were in flames. Not long ago a remarkably well-timed bomb was discovered inside a cart of pineapples outside the offices of the ruling coalition.

This time? Continue reading

If Bangkok was a Colour…

3 Jul

Siam, Siam, wherefore art thou Siam?

Pink and yellow leopard's head with tuk-tuk, Bangkok[/caption[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]]If Bangkok had a colour, it would most definitely be pink. Hot pink.

Like a bar girl’s brassiere, or those gorgeous metallic fuchsia and violet taxis which ply the streets below the Skyrail and the concrete walkways.

A slightly shopsoiled pink. Sort of Bladerunner pink. But definitely bright. The swooshy, showy muted colourwash that floods the Siam Center shopping mall is just a little too, well tasteful. Continue reading

“Mum! FEET!!!”

30 Jun

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]It is amazing how fast children adapt to and internalise the conventions, taboos, the social norms and etiquette of another culture.

And not just by eating crickets, as the nine year old is doing in his charming self-portrait below.

Self-portrait of Z with cricket in hand, approaching mouth.

Shown not entirely to scale...

We are in Thailand right now. An etiquette minefield. One moment one is torn between sheer admiration for the enviable phsyique of the hot young thing who has popped into chat to the novice monks of Wat Suan Dok wearing tight white spaghetti vest top, denim hotpants and no bra (honestly, none required), and a sense of unappealing smugness at having remembered to cover one’s own, perhaps rather less, erm, enlightening, shoulders, legs, et al.

The next, one is innocuously sat in a tuk-tuk, those cutesy petrol-powered three-wheelers that are so emblematic of swathes of Asia that miniature versions sell in night markets from Chiang Mai to Kandy, when one’s spawn taps one irritably on the thigh and adjures, sternly, “Mum!!!! FEET!!!” Continue reading