Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No. 1 What's this gizmo?

Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Can you guess what this tool is used for?

Happy New Year 2009!

Fire-dancer, Klong Prao Beach, Koh Chang, Thailand Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Gott nytt år! Happy New Year! Xinnian kuaile! Wishing all of you the best for 2009!

More geckos

Drawing ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn/Burton Booz

Here is the original drawing of the tokay gecko before manipulation (see below "Geckos galore"). Burton (11 years old) did the pencil drawing, I colored. 

Dwarfs and coconuts - Merry Christmas 2008

Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This year Christmas began for me with a gang of Vietnamese dwarfs dressed up as elves and Santa's little helpers. No kidding. They had been hired by the Hotel Equatorial in Ho Chi Minh City to goof around in the lobby. The hotel receptionists and waitresses all wore little red and white mini-skirts and Santa hats and had a great time chasing the dwarfs around. The little people themselves seemed to be having a good time too, giggling and running about with high-pitched screams and kicking balls with all their might at the hotel guests. Outside in the 35° heat the city had put on it's Christmas best with lot's of colored lights and scrawny decorations. Motorcycles zipped by with their drivers hugging Christmas trees. When Christmas actually came around on Koh Chang Santa himself came striding under the coconut trees dispensing cookies and good cheer. Amazing how he gets around the planet.

Monks and moms

Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

One of the strongest memories I have from my first trip to Bangkok in the late 1980s was the incredibly slow traffic along Sukhumvit Road, creeping along in a public bus for literally hours with no sight of my destination and elephants walking beside us faster that the bus. Nowadays a trip to Bangkok is a pleasure due to the speedy, clean and efficient Sky Train. I spotted this sign on the train a few weeks ago and from a distance first thought that it said "Please offer this seat to moms". How nice. 

Geckos galore

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

One of the joys of the tropics are all the friendly and sometimes not so friendly creatures that want to share your days and nights with you. Geckos are the best and centipedes, spiders, scorpions, mosquitoes and cockroaches are the worst. Here in our bungalow on Koh Chang we have very few mosquitoes, only one poisonous centipede in the bathroom and no cockroaches but oodles of geckos and one big tokay gecko. The geckos make their own sound that is a little bit like their local names ching-chong or chick-chack but the large, colourful tokay has it's own distinct mating call - a tight, high pitched tok - kay, tok - kay, tok - kay from which it gets it's name. The sound is repeated and if you hear it speak 7-8 times some say it means good luck. The tokay gecko is the second largest gecko species, nocturnal and native to SE Asia. They are looked upon positively by most people in Asia, so much so that the Chinese consume them for medicinal purposes. They feed on the many small insects and rodents that might want to pester you, so please welcome them. But they do poop a lot!

Illustration: Drawing of a gecko (with only four fingers, they actually have five) that my son Burton and I did together, painted, then fooled with in the computer. 

Thailand lästips

Resa i Thailand av Britt-Marie Bergman Saengkhamchu
Detta är en resehandbok som jag kan varmt rekommendera. Den är dessutom på svenska. Boken är skriven av någon som både är bosatt i Thailand, har en stor kärlek till landet och folket och är gift med en thailändare. Britt-Marie och hennes man Ging driver också en liten lägenhetshotell på ön Phuket. Läs hennes blog och webbsida (hon är en jäkel på att blogga och skapa webbsidor):

(Boken ingår i samma serie som min egen guide Resa till Kina. Resa i Thailand är inbunden och ges ut på Ica bokförlag. 192 sidor.)

Beskrivning av boken från Bokus webbsida:

"Thailand - mer än bara bungalower. Thailand är vita, solvarma stränder och sammetsmjukt vattten. Det är festivaler, marknader, tempel och elefanter. Det är också läcker mat, fantastisk natur och vänliga människor. Här är boken för den som vill ha en härlig semester och som vill veta mer om exotiska Thailand.
Britt-Marie Bergman Saengkhamchu guidar genom natur, kultur, matvanor och historia. Hon berättar om de klassiska sevärdheterna och de bästa stränderna, men också om egna favoritställen och pärlor som västerländska besökare sällan upptäcker. Här finns praktiska tips om hur man prutar och väljer boende, hur man reser, vad man äter och hur man undviker kulturkrockar.
Hon berättar om den thailändska hälsningen wai, hängmatterytmen, att förlora ansiktet och andra saker som är typiska för den thailändska kulturen: Varför ska man låtsas som det regnar om någon fått ett löv i håret? Varför bör man inte ge bort lotusblommor? Vad är det som är så roligt med att turister äter guava?
Denna utgåva är reviderad 2008 och utökad med ett avsnitt om Ban Krut och ett om Trang, ett relativt nytt resmål som blivit populärt bland dem som söker stillhet. Avsnittet om Khao Lak har utökats, och hela boken har uppdaterats genomgående.
Det här är idag den enda boken på marknaden som beskriver landets befolkning och vilka kulturella skillnader som finns mellan thailändare och skandinaver."

Eating recommendations Bangkok - Koh Chang

A touch of Sweden - teddy bear rice serving at Kharma, Kai Bae Beach, Koh Chang
Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

It's difficult to get really bad food in Thailand, but then again there is so much to choose from it's nice when you get nudged in a certain direction with a helpful recommendation. So here is my humble selection of good eats experienced this last trip to Bangkok and Koh Chang:

Bla dip (Skytrain stop Ari, corner of soi ari samphan 7, praram 6 rd. tel 02.279.8185) This is our absolute favorite in Bangkok. Fusion Japanese-European-Asian to die for. Very affordable, huge portions and the guys wear super-cool fedoras. So popular sometimes difficult to get a table, but you can wait outside in the garden until a take is ready to take you to culinary heaven.

Koh Chang
A Bella (Klong Prao Plaza)
Italian, good meat dishes with real, cream sauces, yummy! and anything Italian too.
Kharma (north end of Kai Bae, near Chang Park Resort)
Great tasting, home-cooked Thai, mixed-western and Mexican food in BIG portions, run by Swedish Veronika (från Gävle) with her partner Arty.  Obs! Svenskar välkomna här, Veronika serverar även jättegoa köttbullar och annat svenskt och delar frikostigt med sig av information om ön och annat. Supertjej. 
Zivas (upper Kai Bae)
Greek, italian, yum-yum
Rock Sugar (middle Kai Bae)
Great for steaks!

....and most important, midway on Kai Bai there is a local family food-shack/restaurant with extremely cheap, scrumptious thaifood and the meanest banana shakes around. (Hint, hint: What this gizmo?). Look for the restaurant with no sign in English, but with a little print-shop located inside the open-air restaurant. Warm, friendly family. You can't go wrong here.

Fantastic REAL coffee can be had at:
Papa Deli & Bakery (south end of Kai Bae Beach) 
Very good whole wheat bread and sandwich baguettes. Wow coconut pastries!
Mochaccino (south end of Kai Bae Beach) 
Coffee plus Internet, oslagbar kombination.
Doi Chang (White Sands Beach)
Fair-trade coffee with a smile from Northern Thailand

Thailand - again

Klong Prao Beach, Koh Chang Photo ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
Back in Thailand for a dose of good friends, great food, warm weather, wonderful smiles, holiday shopping and a pleasant place to celebrate the Christmas and New Year Holidays. Winter in Chengdu is bone-cracking cold, dripping wet and depressingly grey so the motivation to flee the city is great. Those living in south-west China and with spare change (and time) are spoiled for choice: Hainan Island, southern Yunnan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos (no beaches though!), Vietnam, the Philippines, are all warm destinations this time of year. Wintertime in most of south-east Asia is perfect, very little rain, sun, sun, sun and not too hot. The kids love it and we parents are easily convinced. Thailand is still the choice of many even though the numbers of travelers this year is down due to the recent political problems and closed airports.  A perfect time to travel actually as it means less problems getting accomodation during peak season, better rates, etc - but of course, terrible for all who rely on the tourism industry for their daily survival.
For many years the coastal areas of Thailand have sold themselves as a total tourist package where the visitor can thoroughly relax, indulge their every fantasy and forget all worries at home. But every time I come to Thailand it still takes a little getting used to the extent that people throw their cares (and clothes) away. And I'm not talking of topless women here (on the island of Koh Chang), but big, fat men with bulging beer bellies, hairy chests and armpits, frighteningly tight speedoes, butt-crack exposing low-slung Billabongs  and tattoos galore. The average age of the Thailand-tourist is no longer twenty-something so the beach beauties mentioned above (like myself) are way past their prime. Exposing yourself on the beach or around the pool is one thing but extending this fashion to every waking moment of the day and any place you go always makes me wonder what the ever-smiling local people think of us crazy foreigners who often treat Thailand like a disposable commodity with no culture of it's own.  So fellow Thailand travelers, please keep coming to Thailand, but remember to close your shirt or put on your sarong when you're walking through the lobby or eating in a restaurant!