Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thailand – Land of Buddhas and Buckets…

Arriving to Bangkok to see one of your best buds is both a blessing and a recipe for disaster! Hitting Khao San Road (backpackers haven) we immediately went to testing the rumors of how cheap the booze really is. Even with Khao Sans inflated prices you can still get big beers for 1.50, not bad! A bucket is what it sounds like…one bucket, four straws and lots of the good stuff….

But cheap and amazing pad thai is what it’s really about! 30 Baht for a Full plate ($1).

Dancing with the locals on Khao San

Or maybe it’s the entertainment? Bboys on Khao San? Ping Pong Show?

I mean, you have to get right into the culture right?

But other than cheap clothes and cheap food, Bangkok has more to it than that. Culture lurks around each corner, and even taking a 5 minute walk around the corner led us to see a young Monks inauguration ceremony. Do they really know what there in for? But for the family this is a great honor.

The Buddha’s come in big small, skinny, tall, reclining, sitting, eating and smoking…. As we were explained, they’re all the same – so chubby Buddha from china (the one we’re most used to) is no different from Thailand’s skinny Buddha’s. What IS cool is the ceremony behind these gods. See the picture below for what I mean.

Tough right? And It’s not molasses…. Apparently you pray to these guys for luck or prosperity, and if your lucky enough to get your wish you must return to the god and place heroin in its mouth for thanks….yes heroin, or so we were told…. How badass is that?!

Ceremony is huge in Thailand. And it’s everywhere. You will often see incense burning alongside a cup of coffee, maybe some pineapple, a melon or even a cup of Yogurt. These offerings are to certain gods for protection, luck and wealth. Each day, offerings are placed outside with specific prayers, depending on the persons needs. Thais are very spiritual in nature with a strong belief in the unseen spirits. Each shrine can seem similar but may be very different in its significance. So when in Thailand, or asia for that matter, and you see a mango laying around outside a household….don’t eat it.

Young boys and their first days into becoming a Monk

Word to the wise, when you travel Bangkok, or anywhere in Thailand for that matter, do your research before you go. I hate to say scammers, but everyone is out to make an extra dollar (even the gov’t). Lucky Buddha day is EVERYDAY. If they say a temple is only open for today, they’ll say that tomorrow too. If you take a gov’t tuk tuk – great price (all over town for 20 Baht) you need to suck up your time at the “worlds greatest tailor shop” and say no thank you because I don’t think travelling the world with a new Armani is all that sensible.

But DO dive into the culture. Learn to pray at the temples, always be respectful and continue to learn as you go.

When this god grants you luck, you must return and pay homage to it. -Bangkok-

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Hong Kong Snack Time – Dim Sum

For an authentic food experience, filled with history we needed to try Dim Sum. Dim Sum is the Cantonese word for Snack. Traditionally served from steamer baskets as bite sized food. Dim Sum includes various types of dumplings, steam buns, spring rolls and rice wrapped in Lotus leaf. The best things about Dim Sum are its traditions.

Dims Sum is always served with tea. When your teapot is empty, you must leave the lid open to signify that you’d like some more water. When re-filling tea, you must always serve the other person first, and as a gesture of thanks you tap your pointing finger to your thumb to signify a bow. This tradition comes from when the king and queen would go out for Dim Sum in public. It was a great honor to have his wife pour tea for him, so in a gesture of gratitude he would “bow” with his fingers to go un-noticed.

We took the time to source out one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most traditional Dim Sum Restaurants and it was totally worth it! The ambiance added a great experience to our “brunch”.

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Hong Kong – Markets

The Mong Kok area is home to the Bird Market, Goldfish Market and Flower Market; each boasting their own distinctive aromas and excitement.

You can get pre-bagged goldfish or mini turtles for 50 cents at the fish market. Turn the corner and you have the flower market, where the scents of flowers rush your nose holes.  I thought Suzie was going to come home with at least 5 orchids! Luckily there was no room in our hostel.

The Bird Market is a wonder to see. Also classified as a “bird sanctuary” so along with the birds in cages you have birds free which are there just there for the party! No need to get too sentimental though, the birds are well taken care of, getting grasshoppers with freshly clipped legs, baths with the shower head and “made on the spot” birdfeed.

Street markets with fresh veggies and fruit are hidden within busy shopping districts, and of course clothes are cheap! knock-off anything you can imagine… get your Hello Kitty fix here!



Hong Kong – Packed full of people

So our journey begins with an unplanned visit to Hong Kong. With the Air Canada strike due to begin the day we were to fly into Bangkok we took advantage of the no-charge flight change option “Strike Sale” and added two days in Hong Kong. Besides, it’s hard to get your complimentary Pretzel Sticks when 6800 flight attendants take the day off.

Hong Kong is a city full of life, which does not sleep. Each section of the city is distinct from the other which means in a short time we really got to experience different vibes, from trendy upscale to busy street markets. It’s amazing to see the vibes working together, where right off of Queen’s Central Rd. (upscale business people types) there is the Graham St Market, where each side of the road is packed with market style vendors selling fruits, veggies, fish and meats of all kinds – pigs head seemed to be the crowd favorite. Salted duck eggs were also neat to see, but on day one of the trip we thought it best not to jump TOO DEEP into local delicacies. Sitting on a toilet for three days is no way to see Hong Kong! We did eat at McDonald’s one day, which I can still call a cultural experience since it was my first McDee’s with leather chairs…

If I had to describe the city vibe, I would say layered. At one point we counted three metro levels under a busy metropolis, where buildings took over the skyline. Our hostel was located in Mong Kok, which boasts the most people per square kilometer in the world at 130,000!!

But with so many people you think you would always feel crushed. The HKK Metro (MTR) is amazingly run and immaculately clean, the streets are busy but the patches of green space add sanity to the chaos. “Octopus Cards” act as quick tap and go, transactions for anything from subway rides to a bag of chips. Once we figured out the MTR it is amazingly easy to get around the city as well as to and from the Airport.

Being a developed city, things can get pricey but our hostel (glorified closet) was in a great location right off of Nathan Rd. in Kowloon and about $16 CAD a night. The best part was, the shower was literally a hand held shower head which hung on the wall right above the toilet. Our toilet paper had a little plastic bag over it so when you showered you wouldn’t soak your TP AND you cleaned the bathroom at the same time, brilliant!

Hong Kong


Hong Kong, a set on Flickr.

Hong Kong photo book.