Saturday, October 29, 2016

Paw prints for the future

Paw prints - Bangkok
Paw prints on Soi Sukhumvit 15

Perhaps these paw prints, currently embedded in a Bangkok street, will be unearthed by someone thousands of years from now and preserved as an artifact from our time on earth.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hello Good-gye Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai at night - homage to Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Chiang Mai at night
Homage to the King
Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol passed away just days before we got here. The impact is hard for outsiders to grasp. How can we? In America, bloated monster Donald Trump grabbed power overnight by inspiring hatred and bigotry. In the UK, self-serving politicians gerrymandered the Brexit thus threatening, not only the stability of the UK and the European Union, but perhaps the world. In contrast, King Bhumibol was that rare, actually wise, actually virtuous leader who inspired, guided and stabilized Thailand by the force of his personal example like a wise, loving father. The country is in mourning for a year and the sadness is tangible.

White wat - Chiang Mai
White stupa in Chiang Mai
We were planning to stay in Chiang Mai for the next five months, and did for a week, but have decided to move on. There are a few reasons but mainly it's because, this time, we didn't stay in the old city and by "old city" I mean that part of Chiang Mai located inside the moat and crumbling walls of what was once the Lan Na Kingdom.

The words Chiang Mai means "new city" which was true in 1296 when it became the new capital of the old Lan Na kingdom, founded in 1262. Today it is that part within the wall and square moat. This trip we stayed outside and walking to the old city required crossing the belt line road which is something like a foreign body trying to cross the body's blood-brain barrier. There are only a few crosswalks over this daunting road and most of those don't even have a traffic light. You cross at your own risk. And even where there are lights, they barely give enough time to run across before changing back to red.

Bangkok spirit house with pigeons 2
Bangkok spirit house
with pigeons
Of course we went there, sometimes taking a songthaew (red truck) just to avoid crossing the road but it just wasn't the same. Yes, the old city is extremely picturesque but I already spent months photographing it on earlier trips. Also Khun Churn, our go-to vegetarian restaurant, moved away from the center and the peanut butter smoothies at Beetroot Cafe are now watered down and the girl working there acted like she wished we were dead. So, we decided to move to Bangkok. You have to know when it's time to go.

One note though—on our last day in Chiang Mai a friend turned us on to a different, excellent veggie restaurant, Imm Aim Vegetarian & Bike Cafe. They serve even better peanut butter smoothies and the people were really nice so who knows? We may move back but, for now anyway, we are apartment hunting in Bangkok.


  another language
  another world again
  hello Moon, old friend.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Taipei, a once over

Taipei City

Taipei was a pleasant surprise. If anything, I was expecting the usual color and chaos of other S.E. Asian cities, but Taipei was mellow nearly to the point of hypnotic. 

Taipei morning with steam buns
Breakfast in Taipei

People were friendly and helpful even when they didn't speak English and the city was clean, prosperous and quiet. Even the motorbikes, so much a part of life in Asian cities, were quiet. And Taipei was safe. The Westerners we met, many of them long time residents in Taipei, were quick to mention it. Still, we were shocked to see that most of the bicycles downtown were left on the rack unlocked. Where else does that happen anymore?

Taipei bike rack - few bother to lock their bikes.
Few bother to lock their bikes.

And we loved the vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. We especially liked the buffet at Minder Vegetarian. In fact we ate there every day, sometimes twice a day. But, there was one quirky thing about Taipei, the umbrellas. Umbrellas are popular among Asians as protection from the sun, it's practically a cliche, but in Taipei it was something more.

Daoist Baoan Temple priest - Taipei, Taiwan
The only "litter bug" we saw was a Daost priest
ritualistically throwing leaves onto the sidewalk.
Ba'oan Daost Temple

A light rain fell intermittently throughout our entire stay andevery time it beganumbrellas instantly popped open creating a nearly unbroken canopy over the entire sidewalk thenwhen the rain stopped a few minutes laterthe canopy disappeared. This happened repeatedly throughout the day—every day. Add music and you'd think it was a flash mob ballet.

Nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan
People carrying their trash to the garbage truck
during the nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan

But perhaps the most amazing thing of all to me was that people in Taipei don't litter and there was hardly a trashcan to be found, not on the street, not outside stores or cafes, not anywhere. In Taipei people just don't drop trash on the street. It's mind blowing. The streets and parks of Taipei are almost completely litter free. But, when the nightly garbage truck announced itself in the neighborhood with a tinkley blend of ice cream truck jingle and Twin Peaks soundtrack, people came out in spite of the rain and tossed their would-be-litter into the truck.

Reflexology path - Tai  Taiwan
Reflexology path

I didn't intend for this to be just a laundry list of Taipei's glories. Laundry lists are boring. Certainly, like everywhere, Taiwan must have a dark side. Such widespread conformity can be a red flag but, otherwise, we just didn't see it. As it stands, we were intrigued and hope to return.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump, Taiwan and dinner

Red eye to Taiwan

We landed in Taipei yesterday and will be here for a week. After that we head to Thailand for the next five months. Unfortunately, even though it's all so far away at the moment, the first thing I did this morning was read the latest US election news.

Trump is so bizarre he's like a very real, truly diabolical version of a creepy clown. And, when you think about it, there really are definite, disturbing similarities between him and the worst of them. To name a few, they both threaten people with violence. They both scare people outside the US and then there is the matter of the hair. We know that people like Trump feed on the darkness in the hive mind  but is it also true that Trump's rise, as some speculate, is fed by a collaboration between Russia and Wikileaks? There is evidence to suggest this is so.

A real life creepy clown

But there is one big difference between Trump and other the other creepy clowns stalking people these days. As the Washington Post wrote, Trump could "reshape America and the world". This would be a disaster of inestimable proportions. So, before we left, I did my part to avert this disaster. I voted for Hillary. I hope you do the same.

Please note . . . if you are still thinking of voting for Trump anyway because "you doubt he could do much harm" — this Washington Post editorial is for you.

Morning in another land
Inflight monitor

As for Taipei, it's an amazingly mellow, friendly place. We are both blown away by it. Also, Taipei is very vegetarian friendly. Happy Cow lists 177 vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants here. So far, we've eaten at two, both very excellent Minder Vegetarian buffets. One is walking distance from where we're staying. It was one of the big reasons M. Lee picked the apartment we're staying in. So today it rained all day, just right for getting over jet lag.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Clinton - Trump Town Hall debate

This extract from a Metafilter discussion of tonight's town hall debate between Clinton and Trump is of another failed attempt by predator Trump to be "presidential". Cooper is one of the debate moderators.
COOPER: you grab women's genitals, that's sexual assault, do you understand that?

TRUMP: I never said that, I don't think you understand this is locker room talk. So many terrorist organizations around the world cutting off heads it's crazy around the world, Yes it's locker room talk and I hate it but I will knock the hell out of ISIS and. . .

COOPER: You're saying you didn't kiss women or grope women without their consent?

TRUMP" I have great respect for women. We're going to make America safe again

COOPER: Have you ever done that?

TRUMP: No I haven't.
posted by petebest at 6:12 PM on October 9 [31 favorites +] [!]

Source: "Don't modulate the key then not debate with me via Metafilter
As for me, I voted for Hillary before leaving on this trip. At the moment we're sitting at Los Angeles International Airport. Our flight to Thailand via Taiwan leaves at midnight.