Thursday, October 19, 2017

A solemn time for Thailand- in memory of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

   Thailand's beloved King died last October, while we were planning our move to Bangkok. We knew we would be living here when they held the funeral one year later and it has been a very sobering experience. King Bhumibol had ruled for 70 years and most Thais have only known him as King. The outpouring of respect and grief shows how much he was loved. 

  When we first arrived in Bangkok, we saw memorials everywhere with large photos of the king embellished with bunting in black and white. Inside all public buildings are lavish shrines with his picture. Many people bow or show respect when they pass by.
   Now the formal year of mourning is almost over and the King's funeral will take place Oct 26 with many ceremonies over a series of 5 days. Starting October first, we noticed many changes in Bangkok-the BTS only plays soft music while scenes from the King's life show on the monitors instead of the usual raucous commercials.  All photos and videos in newspapers, online and on news shows are in black and white. The King's other name, Rama IX, show up at night on buildings, and there is a brisk business for special t-shirts in black with his symbol on it. (We bought them also)
   Here are some of the signs of respect around the city:

In the BTS stations- scenes from his life

On the sides of Malls

Here is a beautiful memorial with the number "9"
in marigolds for Rama IX

Shrines at small businesses

In our local Tesco grocery store

In lights, the number 9

Siam Paragon mall had a spectacular memorial- 
and also a large display of his many Royal projects
(over 4800) that helped Thailand and his grateful subjects

   At every mall there were stands set up for people to make paper flowers for the funeral- there were ALWAYS people making them, day or night. They must have made millions.

October 13 was the anniversary of the King's death and a national holiday. The new King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun honored his father at the making merit ceremonies in the Grand Palace Throne room. 

   During the ceremony, monks chanted and the King gave out robes. See the photos above and below show the monks with their ceremonial fans.

   Next week start the 5 days of ceremonies and rituals. Here is a how to see all the information, from maps, photos of the royal chariots, explanation of processions to timelines: and choose the left button.
   The city is preparing for hundreds of thousands of visitors from around Thailand to view the funeral-we will watch live on TV and hunker down as EVERYTHING will be closed. We share the sadness of the Thai people over the loss of their King.

                                                     Until next time, Audrey



Monday, October 2, 2017

All the color and excitement of the Navaratri Festival

   Today was our lucky day! Over breakfast I read about the largest Hindu temple in Bangkok that was an easy 2 train hop, so we decided to see this today. By beautiful coincidence, it is the final day of Navaratri, the festival honoring the Hindu Goddess Durga and everywhere were families making shrines.

   I stopped and asked a guy what were all these gorgeous altars and though it took a few other people to help him translate, he said it was "for all the Goddesses, with a parade tonight". As we walked along (in the street, as these were all built on the sidewalk) each altar more beautiful than the last. The smell of jasmine and marigold, the statues, families all working as fast as they could stringing flowers, arranging fruits- it was amazing! 
   At one altar a boy handed us iced orange juice and food as it honors the Goddess to supply sustenance. No two shrines were alike and while a few were very professional looking, all were very lovely displays of devotion. 

On the two streets we walked, there must have been at least 250 of these wonderful shrines. As you see in the 3rd photo, most everything was made from plants and flowers by hand, even these snakes with money coming from their mouths!

   Once we arrived at the Temple itself, the details and colors were overwhelming...

 Inside it was bursting with worshippers, making the rounds inside of the different altars. I did go inside (barefoot) and though they didn't allow photography at the holiest places, here are a few pictures:

   There were long lines of people waiting to buy offerings and then you could go into the main hidden altar where bare chested priests would accept and place them for you. Over loud speakers, a woman's chanting prayer filled the entire block. Inside the temple it was very solemn while the street displays were more of a fun holiday vibe. Next year we will come back for the parade which is something to see, as the Goddess is pulled along in these golden chariots by hundreds of worshippers. 

   Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Exploring Rod Fai Ratchada Market

   Last night we got to visit a place we had found on Youtube back in the States that looked amazing and we were not disappointed! The Rod Fai Night market, Ratchada location was a BTS skytrain and an MRT metro ride away but totally worth it. 

The MRT lets you off right at this mall, the "Esplanade" and being the wusses that we are, we opted to walk thru this mall with A/C to the back where the night market is. Gotta stay cool as long as you can! The Rod Fai is really popular, with live music, lots of clothing, fun stuff and a retro vibe. And then, there's the food. Soo many choices and as the evening goes on, gets really crowded. We had seen some great meals on Youtube but choosing was hard! 

I was intrigued by this woman selling flattened squids- you get 3 for 50 baht ( $1.50 USD) and she cooks them over an old style charcoal pot, cuts them into bits with scissors and hands you the bag of pieces. It smelled really good.

   We wandered around and saw MANY choices, even at least 4 places selling roasted bugs- maybe some other time. We did get some fried chicken chunks and a watermelon smoothie (my fav-they just blend ice and watermelon and a little simple syrup- terrific) and then got a banana/chocolate roti-

   He makes a pastry then cooks in this flat wok- puts in the goodies and folds it into this square like an envelope. Then it gets cut up into little pieces. They offer lots of different choice flavors and so good. 

   We wandered around and in the back is a HUGE aisle of about 25 bars, all playing their own music. Most are double decker and it was early and not too busy but the noise is crazy! We plan on hanging out here again, but tonight we were on a mission to explore.

   We finally decided on a place to eat that had seating. Very tight though and by that I mean all the tables next to us had to get up and out so we could sit down. VERY busy seafood booth, I had wanted to try the salted fish and they were making it fresh-so this was the place! 

It was kind of funny, a boy maybe 13 got our table and took our order and another young lady who looked about 8 brought our food and plates.  We tried to order beers, they were on the menu but I got a total blank look from the boy- I mean, nothing. Another customer said "he is not Thai" and tried to order for us, but we finally gave up and just gestured drinking, which got us two warm coke bottles. 
   Those kids were working very hard getting food and orders as fast as they could doing a great job and I wondered if not Thai were they Laotion, Cambodian, or what? 

   Jimm wanted the prawns, and the salad herbs and cabbage came with. They stuff the fish with lemongrass and coat it in salt, turn over hot coals and done! It was very tender and mild, the green sauce is spicy but adds a lot of flavor. Really good food and again the booth was PACKED--and how's this:total for this meal including the napkins you have to pay 60 cents for was $16.80 out the door.

   Okay, now the live bands were really getting started, but they play right next to each other and as you might imagine, it's a little chaotic.

It seemed you could order food elsewhere and get beers here and sit at these bars with live music- this was the first market we had been to with no general seating. Kind of makes it hard to walk and eat but most people seemed fine with that. Okay, so more checking out the stalls-you can get your nails done, a haircut or a tattoo also. Here's a few more shots of the bars, they were all showing the soccer game..


We will definitely go back, it is a bit of a hike to get there but so much fun. On another note, all our thoughts go out to Florida and Hurricane Irma-I have friends and Egencia coworkers there and we are thinking of you and hope all will be well. 
                                                   Thanks for now!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shrines and Spirit Houses

   One of the joys of living in a foreign country or getting to travel is seeing what the locals experience everyday. Thailand is over 90% Buddhist with Hindu influences and one way most visitors see this devotion right away are the Spirit Houses and Shrines. They are outside most all buildings and businesses, usually where a shadow of the actual building cannot fall on it.
   The Shrine houses a statue of the Buddha and is the larger the two. The smaller Spirit House is there to honor the spirits of the land the house or building is on, kind of like Mother Earth.

   They are always near each other but have separate  places for offerings. These could be flowers, incense and often food and soft drinks. Many times I see people from our building praying and leaving offerings. Even just walking by, they "wai" (bow head with palms together) 

   Most businesses also have a small shrine area inside-we see them in restaurants and stores, all adorned with flowers and food. While I have not been in a private home, I understand they normally have one there also.

   There are several famous larger public Shrines in and around Bangkok, most of which are busy day and night. They often have statues of Hindu Gods, which Thais also worship. Here is a video of Erawan, right in the heart of the hotel/mall center of Bangkok. 

   This Shrine has a famous 4 headed statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu God of Creation Lord Brahma. You enter and can purchase offerings, then working  clockwise pray at all 4 directions. People pray for luck, love, health and money. If you want special prayers you can hire the Thai dancers and musicians where you kneel and they will dance behind you. It is very solemn and respectful and once your prayers are answered, you are supposed to return and give thanks.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Never a dull moment in the neighborhood!

   Before moving to Bangkok, we did tons of research.....I mean TONS! Endless YouTubes of street food, studying google earth, hundreds of apartment sites, you name it! We even watched a video of a guy walking from one area of where we were considering moving as he walked to the train station so we could time it for distance!
   Some of what we wanted in our area were: lots of markets, access to a large grocery store, VERY close distance to the BTS sky train and away from the tourists. We wanted to live where regular Thai people lived and really get to be part of the community. One of our main worries was when it pours, they do have flooding in Bangkok and since they get almost 60 inches of rain a year, (compare that to Las Vegas' measly 3.5!) slogging thru dirty water on uneven sidewalks was a real concern.
   We chose the On Nut BTS as it had everything we wanted- a huge Tesco attached to the train station (hardly get wet!), several markets in the side Sois (streets), and the train gives us a quick 15 minute or so trip to the heart of the retail/hotel/restaurant center of Bangkok.
   Imagine our surprise when google earth stopped showing a quite large market and a big square of dirt appeared...what happened? Well, it turns out the right next door they are building a mall/hotel/movie palace- I mean, it is about 12 feet from our building! Now, there are 9 train stops to the center of town I had mentioned and each one has a mall there, with all different vibes. One is Japanese, one is super exclusive, another is world themed...kind of like Las Vegas. We thought our area was a bit far to have its own MALL, but someone felt otherwise.

     The VERVE sign is our building-- so while a little daunting worrying about the extra traffic, we are looking at the bright side of a movie theater next door! I will go into the movie experience in a later blog, but it is not to be missed.

   This is the view from our elevator-we can see daily changes as they work on this almost 24 hours a day. It is scheduled to open in October. It is right next to our pool and headphones are an absolute must due to the building noise. 

   Here is a small list of who will be opening--I am excited about the B2S store, which is as close to an art store as there is pen heaven for any planners out there. Bangkok is ever-changing and pushing out further into the outer edges of town. The big fear I think is gentrification fever which uproots people who can't afford to live in their area anymore and some flavor gets lost. 
                                                                                                      Bye for now! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Welcome to my Inaugural Posting!

   Thanks for visiting my blog on retiring to Thailand from Las Vegas--a huge change for us and I hope interesting to others who want to know what life is like on the other side of the world! My husband Jimm and I have traveled all over the place, but a trip we made to Thailand in 2015 was unlike any other we had experienced. We talked about our adventure for months and were kind of amazed at what a connection we felt for that exotic country.
   In 2016 when Jimm made the suggestion that we retire to Bangkok if I thought I could make the numbers work, I JUMPED at the chance. Looking back, I know I have always wanted to live in other countries...traveling has always been a part of who I am and to live in Thailand and also be able to see all over Southeast Asia was a bonus too good to pass up. Our lives have been conventional but in un-conventional ways, so in retrospect moving here is so "us"! To the family and friends who thought we were kidding, I only point to the way we have done things in our lives. My personal mantra "Nothing to it but to do it!"  sums it all up- because a dream without a plan is just a wish and if I want it to happen, I find a way!
  Fastforward 13 months later and through much reading, researching, watching youtube, emailing people and so much more we now live 14 hours ahead of Las Vegas time and it was absolutely the best decision for us!

   So as I sit here on the 28th floor of my 485 sq foot apartment, looking out at a cityscape of 14 million people in a major world city, I hope you enjoy following our adventure and on the way, learn about the culture and people of this amazing country...