Dinner in the dark

We went out to eat at a restaurant on a hill overlooking the west side of Chiang Mai to celebrate a friend's birthday. I heard there was a great view of the city, but it was already dark by the time we got there. This was the best shot I was able to get, and it shows how everything is outdoors; most Thai restaurants are. The food was good, and the cool breeze was divine. It was a good time with friends.

090530 Dinner out

Enjoying coffee

So what do you do when you know how to make great coffee creamer? You enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.


The Odds and Ends of Songkran

Before we put Songkran behind us, I'd like to share a few more photos with you. First, if you think getting splashed with a bucketful of water is bad, imagine what it's like to get splashed with an ice-cold bucketful of water. For about $1 USD, you can buy a block of ice to cool down your water supply. Second, if you're going to pilot a moped around the moat, you'd better get a gunner. But from what I could see, mopeds never came out ahead in these water fights. Third, although not required, facial protection might just be a good idea. I'm not really sure what's up with the mask; maybe he had made some enemies last year. And last but not least, you're never too young to get started in Songkran.

090413 Songkran

The people of Songkran

In the end, Songkran is about people, so I want you to see the faces of the Thai people here in Chiang Mai.

090413 Songkran

090413 Songkran

090413 Songkran

090413 Songkran

Soak and be soaked

Songkran is a water fight. We spent two hours driving around the moat--this ride would take about 5 minutes if there were no traffic--in a massive traffic jam. The whole time we were soaking others while being soaked. Well, at least the kids were being soaked. I confess I stayed in the cab of the truck. Someone had to take the pictures after all, right? Ahem, yes, well.

There were buckets and buckets of water being tossed. Teams of Songkran soakers gave and got. At time, the air itself seemed to be full of water. No one left the moat with even a stitch of dry clothing.

090413 Songkran

Songkran would never go over in America. Not that we wouldn't love a water fight, but we wouldn't do it right. Although my pictures don't do it justice, this was truly a gentle water fight. The Thais generally splashed a person once; in America we would get them a hundred times. They often splashed gently; we would rip their skin off with the force of our splashes. They smiled when they got someone and smiled when they were gotten; we would swear revenge and get them back worse than they got us. Songkran was fun to be in, but the attitude of the people made it fun to watch as well. In many ways, the Thai are very sweet people.

Getting Ready for Songkran

Songkran is the multi-day festival surrounding the Thai New Year; it came on Apr 13-15 this year. Although everyone is off from work and many stores are closed, the most visible evidence of Songkran is the giant 2-day water fight that occurs around the moat, the center of Chiang Mai. On the morning of the 13th, we piled some kids (including ours) into the back of a pickup and went off to get soaked.

Songkran is not something to enter lightly. No sir, you've got to be prepared. Undoubtedly the best way to prepare is the pickup truck. You find the biggest water containers you can, fill them up with water, buy whatever kind of squirtguns you prefer, grab a bunch of your friends, hop into the back of a pickup, and go cruise around the moat. The next best way is to do the same thing, only do it on the side of the road. While the pickup trucks and mopeds go by, you soak them. If you can't afford your own supply of water, no problem the moat is handy. Grab a bucket with a rope and you've got all the (very nasty) water you want. If by any chance you are a total slacker and forgot to come prepared, well, no problems, plenty of vendors are on hand to help you out.

090413 Songkran

Easter Storm

Jan through May is supposed to be the dry season here in Thailand, but in the last few weeks we've had several rain showers. None, however, were worse than the thunderstorm we got Easter afternoon. It was a torrential downpour; the strong winds sent rain flying in all directions. It knocked out our power for a few hours and turned our street into a river.

090412 Thunderstorm

We learned something new about our house. Remember all those lovely windows that our house has? When the rain comes down hard, water comes into the house. The windows are not exactly sealed tight like windows in the States.

Kamala Beach

After getting our visas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we flew to Phuket to join the rest of our team for a retreat. Phuket is an island on the southwest corner of Thailand and is known for its beaches and vacation spots. We were there for three days and spent most of the time hanging out on Kamala Beach. We swam and snorkeled in the water, built sand castles, lounged around, ate dinner, did a little shopping, and got sun burned--it's near the equator.

090405 Kamala Beach

We also rented a snorkeling boat for a day, and they took us out to several reefs to swim among the fish. There were hundreds and hundreds of fish of many different types. We even got to feed them bread from our hands. This was the highlight of our week for me.

Coffee Creamer

I love International Delight's French Vanilla coffee creamer. Nothing else makes a good cup of coffee even gooder. We bought this stuff in bulk in America, and naturally, we can't get it here in Thailand. So I asked Ann to try and replicate this creamer. She began to experiment with different ideas and has finally discovered the answer to making good coffee for our mornings.

1 can condensed sweetened milk
5 ounces milk
3 ounces coffee flavoring

We've tried Torani's chocolate and vanilla, and both are excellent. Mix in a blender and place in refrigerator. Enjoy with your coffee.

My wife rocks!

KL Butterfly Park

Our favorite part of the KL Lake Gardens was the Bird Park, but we also enjoyed the Butterfly Park. It was a large, walk-in park with butterflies fluttering about everywhere. It was also extremely humid. As we walked up and down the paths, we could see butterflies of every size and every color. A very friendly butterfly keeper let the kids hold some of the butterflies.

090404 Butterfly Park

This was another example of where I wasn't particularly well prepared with my lenses. I would have better served to have a faster lens, like my 50mm prime--it was fairly dim--or a telephoto lens--not all the butterflies were close to the walking paths.

More Birds

We were able to see a variety of birds up close and personal, birds with long legs, birds with legs that bend backwards, and birds with watchful eyes. We even saw birds with pretty feathers.

090404 Bird Park

If you get a chance to go, definitely bring your telephoto lens. I only had my wide-angle lens, but if I had had my telephoto with me, I could have gotten many more good shots of the birds.

KL Bird Park

On our second day in Kuala Lumpur, we headed over to the KL Lake Gardens, a large park with a variety of attractions. The highlight of the day was the bird park, a free-flight walk-in aviary. Not only did we get to see lots of birds while being in their habitat, we got to interact with them. Emmy loved them. Ann smiled because of them. Jacen kept a wary eye on them. And me? I got bit by them.

090404 Bird Park

The Skybridge

After we finished at the KL Tower, we hopped in a taxi--it was getting really hot by this time in the afternoon--and went back to the Petronas Towers. After watching a propaganda film--Petronas is a petroleum company, after all--we were whisked up to the skybridge in our second high-speed elevator ride of the day. More great views. Out one side we could see the entire KLCC park, including the reflecting pool, playground, and wading pool. Out the other we could see entire entry way to the building and the intersection before it. They gave us ten minutes to look around, then another group took our place.

090403 Petronas Towers

KL Tower

When we went to the Petronas Twin Towers, we wanted to go up in the Skybridge. They only allow a limited number of people to go a day, so they give out tickets with specific viewing times; our time was 4:45 pm, so we had to come back later. So after playing around in KLCC Park and lunch in the mall, we walked 25 minutes to the KL Tower, and took the high-speed lift up to the observation deck. It gave a beautiful, panaramic view of the city, including birds-eye view of the Petronas Towers.

090403 KL Tower

You can read more about the KL Tower here.

Splashing in KLCC Park

The KLCC Park also has a wading pool for kids. The weather was hot, and our kids are part fish anyway, so they promptly took off their flip-flops and jumped right in. They splashed around and got soaked in the waterfall. Not surprisingly, they thorough enjoyed themselves.

090403 KLCC Park

You have a what?!?

I was working at the computer recently when Emilee said to me, "Daddy, I have a very sexy finger." Well, if a 7-year old daughter wants to instantly get the complete and undivided attention of her father, those are the words to do it. "What do you mean?" I asked. In response, I got this:

090411 Very Sexy Finger

Nothing more than playing around with the lid of Ann's perfume bottle. Whew! Bullet dodged. For now.

Playing in KLCC Park

KLCC Park, one part of the complex at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers, has a sprawling playground for kids, one of the largest I've ever seen. (I notice that I'm using lots of superlatives when describing the things related to Petronas; I guess they decided to do everything as big as possible.) The kids played and had a fun time.

090403 KLCC Park

Sprouting Sticks

A few weeks ago the kids were climbing a tree in the neighborhood. When they climbed a bit too high and got onto branches that weren't firm enough to hold their weight, they broke a couple branches. We took the branches home, dug a couple holes in the front yard, and planted them. And you know what? One of those bad boys up and spouted on us:

090411 Flowering tree

If it grows up, it should produce flowers like these. I guess that's what it means to live in the tropics, eh?


The Petronas Twin Towers are only one part of a massive, sprawling complex; there's also a ritzy mall (Suria), a convention center (with an aquarium), and KLCC Park. We spent a couple hours strolling through the park and playing in it. The first part of the park, just in front of the mall, was a gigantic reflecting pool. Just beyond that were a variety of different trees, plants, and flowers from all over Malaysia. Perhaps the most interesting were the giant rubber trees, which had tangled masses of both trunks and roots.

090403 KLCC Park

Petronas Towers

The type of visa that we have requires us to exit the country every 90 days, so for our first "visa run" we jumped at a chance to visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a couple days. In summary, we loved it! KL (as it is known) is a large, modern, clean city. It has great public transportation, lots of things to see and do, and (due to its British heritage) many English-speakers! Everyone we met spoke at least passable English, which made it really easy to get around and get help; plus, the people we met were all very friendly. We would definitely go back to KL if we got a chance.

Perhaps the best-known landmark in KL is the Petronas Twin Towers, which for a while was the tallest building in the world; it's still the largest twin towers building. We showed up early to get tickets, as they only allow a limited number of people each day to go up into the skybridge, the bridge between the two buildings. Because the building is used for office space, visitors can't go any higher than the skybridge. You can read more about the towers at Wikipedia.

090403 Petronas Towers