Archive for February 2008

Our Favorite Kind Of Chutney …

February 25, 2008

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You never really know what you’re going to get with chutney … sweet, sour, spicy, smooth, chunky.  It’s unpredictable but nearly always delightful. 

Same goes for our brand-new puppy, Chutney!  She is charmingly unpredictable but oh-so delightfully loveable. 

We picked her up on Friday night and she quickly got busy wiggling, wagging, flopping and licking her way into our hearts.  That first night alone, she showed us that she could retrieve, discovered another puppy that lives in the full-length mirror in our bedroom, and displayed a generally even-keeled if a bit mischievous temperament. 

She made the weekend magical as she continued to discover more about us, her new home and her always-surprising body (that tail’s always a bugger, isn’t it?)  We took her for her first walk around the apartment complex and she’s already acting as our ambassador – we made two sets of friends in the space of 30 minutes.  That’s more people than we’ve talked to on one of our walks in two months!

Sadly, a lot of people here are simply not dog people.  Especially not BLACK dog people.  So oftentimes, as were out walking, people will actually reverse direction or give the two-month old fluffball a 50 foot radius as though she was Cujo come to steal their souls.  But, that’s their loss.  She’s interested in EVERYONE and EVERYTHING right now (which reminds us to try and be as eager about the world as she is) and pretty much just rolls on her back for a belly rub when a stranger pets her. 

chutney2.jpgChutney was born on Christmas day, so she’s the perfect little gift for us and has been great to help us finish up healing from the loss of Porter.  Also, the breeder had assigned all of the puppies numbers so that he could keep track of them.  Miss Chutney’s number (which we didn’t know until after we chose her) was number 8 – a VERY auspicious number in Chinese numerology (the Beijing Olympics are scheduled to open on 08/08/08 at 8:08:08).  We certainly feel lucky to have found her!

Go Around By Relaxing by Mike

February 25, 2008

Well, I hate to say it, but our first trip to Thailand – something we’ve dreamed about doing for years – wasn’t very, well … Thai.

That pretty much has everything to do with the area we picked.  Krabi, is a small island off of Thailand’s west coast.  It shares aquatic proximity to the island of Phukett as well as the Phi Phi (pronounced “pee-pee”) islands and like its sisters, Krabi is getting to be pretty well-touristed.  As two of said tourists, I suppose we can’t complain, but we were mostly surrounded by young white travelers from Europe (especially the omni-present Germans), Scandanavia, Canada and the US.  Dealing with all of these invading Barbarians seems to have left the local populace a bit worn-out.  In other parts of our travels, we’ve loved trading smiles, jokes and basic pleasantries with the locals, but here, I think such interactions have just been repeated too many times to be filled with much energy any more.

Our HotelNow, don’t get me wrong.  The place was eye-poppingly beautiful.  I’ve been to places in the world before where cliffs meet the ocean, but in this part of the world (the Andaman Archipelligo) there are free-standing cliffs simply stuck everywhere in the ocean.  They look like the scales and ridges of partially-exposed sea monsters.

Railay Bay, where we stayed, can only be reached by boat.  This made for an interesting arrival as our plane landed at 10 PM.  We were greeted, as promised, by a mini-van and drove about 45 minutes to a long, dark concrete pier.  Our driver, who spoke about as much English as we did Thai, told us to just go down the pier to get our boat.  First we thought he was indicating that we should go with the young men sitting at the start of the pier but after we puzzled things out with them, we realized that they probably didn’t even own a boat and were certainly not taking us anywhere.

So, we began the walk down the pier.  It was long.  And dark.  And there didn’t seem to be anyone around anywhere.  We giggled at how krabi1.jpgspooky it felt.  It was hot, humid and eerily quiet.  Yet, we put our faith in Buddha and kept walking.  Soon enough, we were greeted by a smiley man who took our luggage, led us to the end of the pier and helped us board his “long-tail boat” an example of which you see here.   When we got to the boat a charming slight woman “waied” us (the gesture of putting the hands together prayer-fashion in the middle of your chest) and we were soon off.

The sky and its attendant stars seemed extra close as we glided along the sea’s surface.  It was warm and the ride was surprisingly comfortable.  Soon we began seeing the hulking outlines of the shadowy cliffs to our right and our excitement kept pace with boat’s speed.  Eventually, we were delivered to a beach and waded ashore, pants hiked, bags over our heads.

The next morning, we truly appreciated where we had landed.  Here’s a picture of Railay Bay …

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In addition to the stunning beauty of the place, I also have to say that the food was superb.  What a treat it was to have the tang and tingle of Thai food at our disposal three meals a day!  Even breakfast included some type of green or red curry and pad-Thai style fixing.  Dishes came in at about 110 Bhat each – or $3.00 USD.

After a few good days lazing around the hotel and exploring the two sides of the peninsula we were on, we decided to visit Tiger Cave Wat, a Buddhist temple I had read about.  Read Diane’s entry below for details of that experience.

Other trips we took included a visit to Poda Island, where I took this shot …

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krabi3.jpg… as well as a visit to Hong Island.  “Hong” means room in Thai and this island is so named because it has a chapel-like lagoon right in the center of the island.  Our longtail boat driver was kind enough to give us a nice slow spin around this truly sacred place – more spiritually charged, I think, than even the temple was.All in all, it was a good trip although we’re thinking that the next time we visit our neighbor (the flight was just 90 minutes) we might head for the northern part of the country where, we hear, smiles and Thai culture abound.

krabi4.jpgOn one of the tour programs we read, one of the options stated that after snorkeling, you got to visit a local island where you would “go around by relaxing.”  Krabi’s a perfect place for such a thing – whatever it means!

Monkey Stares by Diane

February 25, 2008

Sign of things to comeThat’s right, the temple was a whopping 1237 steps straight into the sky.  The first few hundred steps were inhabited by monkeys – loads of them.   They were swinging in the trees, riding the railings, grooming, pawing and playing with each other and basically occupying every step we needed to traverse.  At one point I was jockeying left and right with a good-size monkey to see which way I could pass.  Mind you, this should be magical, and in retrospect, it was.  But when 40-50 monkeys surround two East Coast gringos, it’s a little intimidating.  They were all sizes, babies the size of kittens and ms2.jpgplenty of big ones almost  the size of medium dogs. They looked like they were lying-in-wait, to see if we dropped a crumb.  I got kind of nervous remembering the tin of almonds in my backpack but thankfully, the miracle of a plastic lid defied their inquisitiveness.  Michael was going tms3.jpgo take a photo but we both thought the flash might result in momentary monkey madness so we ascended quietly, diverting our eyes from their monkey stares and trying to cover our gaping mouths! 

The stairs were uneven in height and on some stretches they were almost vertical.  We nearly gave up early on, thinking it just couldn’t be worth it (we’re both a little bit afraid of heights) but we figured we couldn’t wimp out and neither of us were too anxious to go through the monkey mile again right away.  Around about the 700th step (they were numbered every 150 or so) I left the 5lb book I was reading tucked into the mountain because the hike was getting hard and hot.  (By the way, Shantaram is one of the best books we have both read this year.) At the top, there were many, many Buddhas, large and small and glistening gold.  ms6.jpgThere was a palpable reverie about the open-air three-storied temple and the view of layers of mountains was breathtaking.  There was a monk, seated at the highest point, sharing his wisdom with a captive audience of one. We were tempted to sit with them but couldn’t bear the thought of the intrusion.  Holy places are the same the world over – they’re soul-shaking and humbling and imbued with a peacefulness that stills the stirring mind.  Elevation and exercise only heightened our awareness.  It was ms7.jpgmarvelous. 

The trip down, in dusk, was a lot easier and quicker, maybe because I insisted that we get down before dark.  I knew we’d meet the monkeys again, and it was more fun the second time, but I was sure not going to be surrounded by them in the black of night!  My book was retrieved on the journey down and, amazingly, our driver, who we were told to call (hoping all the while we had a cell phone signal) was waiting for us when we descended.ms4.jpg