A river dinner cruise

Mark and I enjoyed a wonderful boat cruise down the Mae Nam Chao Phraya River, with his co-worker Benjamas and her family.

Before getting on the boat, we all received an orchid corsage.

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The cruise ship

P1020437Dinner up top, with 2 singers for entertainment

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Interesting to see Holy Rosary Catholic Church

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Benjamas, and a niece visiting from New Zealand and me

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The Grand Palace

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Grand Palace from across the Chao Phraya River

The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, RTGS: Phra Boromma Maha Ratcha Wang)[1] is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), currently resides at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. Wikipedia

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The Rama lllX Bridge

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The Temple of Dawn

The full name of the temple is Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan (วัดอรุณราชวรารามราชวรมหาวิหาร). Named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, the Wat Arun is considered one of the most well known of Thailand’s many landmarks.  The temple is so named because the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence.[1] Wikidedia

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I can’t remember what this building was called, but thought it looked nice.

P1020441Our group

P1020466It was interesting to float down the river and hear the stories of the recent flood, when none of these boats were allowed access to the high flowing river.

Chinatown, Bangkok

Mark and I had a very entertaining weekend doing some sight seeing with co-workers, to show us around. After our boat cruise down the river (tomorrow), we went to Chinatown which was amazing.

“Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. At day time, it’s no less busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples.

Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants, Chinese medicine stores and probably the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city, Chinatown is an experience not to miss. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious – it will keep you wanting to come back for more. Plan your visit during major festivals, like Chinese New Year and the annual vegetarian festival in October, and you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.”  Taken from Asia Web.

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It really was vibrant, perhaps because it was during the Chinese New Year. The sounds, the smells, the excitement was tremendous. Amazing to see all the people eating as this was 10:30pm. Most tables were full, this picture is to show the tables.

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We walked by the shark fin soup shop

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Happy to walk by the “smelly” durian fruit stand.

The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. The odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia. (Wikipedia)

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We tried a small bottle of pomegranate juice (first time for me), and found it to be absolutely delicious.

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The reason we went to Chinatown was for Benjamas  to buy us some roasted chestnuts.
P1020401They are stirred around in this kettle with warm pebbles to heat them.
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They looked warm and delicious.
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You are literally almost sitting on the street while you are eating.
Benjamas really wanted us to try the “birds nest soup”????
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bird’s nest soup
Bird's Nest soup.jpg
A bowl of bird’s nest soup
Origin
Alternative name(s) Yanwo
Place of origin China
Region or state Chinese-speaking areas
Details
Main ingredient(s) Swiftlet’s nest, water
Bird’s nest soup
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaning swallow’s nest

Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy[1] in Chinese cuisine. A few species of swift, the cave swifts, are renowned for building the saliva nests used to produce the unique texture of this soup.

The edible bird’s nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup.[2]

The Chinese name for bird’s nest soup, yàn wō (燕窝), translates literally as “swallow’s nest”. When dissolved in water, the birds’ nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup or sweet tong sui. It is mostly referred to as “yin wo” unless references are made to the salty or sweet soup in The white nests and the red nests are supposedly rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, improving focus, and an overall benefit to the immune system.[2]

I really didn’t know if I wanted to eat some soup made from bird’s saliva, but with Anthony Bourdain from the TV show “NO Reservations”, I thought I should be brave and give it a try. You could get it cold which Benjamas chose.

P1020411Benjamas and her soup.

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I tried the hot version.

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I was very surprised to find the soup had a sweet taste, but didn’t care for the gelatinous texture. It was different looking from the article above , but a lot cheaper, so a different variation of the soup.

With all the cooking along the street, also came the dish washing.

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You don’t eat in Chinatown, if you are worried about a few germs.

The cooking and the dish washing.

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Mark was amazed at the long line of people waiting for plain toasted bread!

The bird nest soup booth.

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As you can probably tell from the length of my blog, that I was fascinated walking around Chinatown, even though I live in China.


Thailand decorations

These are the decorations I see when I go for breakfast every morning. A quick reminder that I am in Thailand.

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For breakfast I had fresh mango and orange juice. The fruit is great, love the sour/out of this world passion fruit. (the orange seeds in the purple skin).

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Who says orchids are a fragile flower. This corsage still looks great after 4 days and no water, perhaps the humidity helps!

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Cold weather/ Hot weather

It has been cold in Beijing for the Chinese New Year, but that didn’t stop Mark and I from walking down to the mall to see the light display.

Amazing to see the lights everywhere.

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This year they displayed the Smurfs, and it really felt like Disneyland, hearing “It’s a small world after all” played over the loud speakers.

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Look at all the beautifully colored leaves! If you look on the pole to the right, you will notice a huge longevity knot hanging near the top. I learned how to make the smaller version.

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When we looked closely we could see that as well as decorating the trees with lights, they were decorated with colored leaves. Can you imagine how long that took to wire the leaves to all the trees!

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Look how fancy the steps were decorated.

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Mark and I flew to Bangkok last night, so felt great to shed the winter coat, for shorts and sandals,

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And a banana, mango, pineapple smoothy beside the pool.

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Once again in love with the high speed internet!

The hit of the party

Last night Mark and I had a wonderful time welcoming in the new year, with new and old friends. The hit of the party was the delicious dessert prepared by my new friend Elizabeth, which was poached pears, covered in a sweet sauce with a dollop of whip cream. Delicious!

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Elizabeth helped me with the jiaozi, which turned out well, considering it was made by cooks from China/America/Poland. Elizabeth has made her fair share of perogies, so she was a pro with the dough.

Elizabeth and husband Mirek, our new friends, who live in our apartment.

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Old friends, Michael, John, Mark and Joe

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Mark, Matt (fellow Chinese classmate)

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Mark and I

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Beautiful tulips which were a gift from Joe, with the color chosen to be close to gold for good luck.

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Orchids for the Chinese New Year

Yesterday Mark and I stopped by the flower market to purchase some orchids to help bring in the new year. At home a Christmas tree or a poinsettia plant, here some orchids.

The flower market was the busiest I have ever seen it, with the new year one day away.

I had only planned on buying 2, but fell in love with three.

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I liked this one because it had a few different kinds in the basket.

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I love the traditional purple orchid.

P1020303Just getting ready for our little party tonight. Will see if I can remember how to make the jiaozi.

Making “jiaozi” Chinese dumplings

This morning Xieman came over to give me a lesson on making “jiaozi”. It is suppose to be made on New Year’s Eve, but she just found out that she has to work, so we made them early.

Jiaozi are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and year round in the northern provinces. They look like the golden ingots yuan bao used during the Ming Dynasty for money and the name sounds like the word for the earliest paper money, so serving them is believed to bring prosperity. Many families eat these at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Some cooks will even hide a clean coin for the lucky to find. (Wikipedia)

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She went shopping for all the fresh ingredients.

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Just flour and cold water make the dough.

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She did a lot of kneading to make the dough look so good.

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She sliced the celery into long strips

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Then chopped into tiny pieces. It was interesting to watch her sprinkle the celery with salt and then squeeze out the excess water.

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Next the nice looking mushrooms

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Also chopped into tiny pieces and squeezed to remove the excess water.

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Next, some fresh ginger

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Add an egg, mix with fresh pork, and jiaozi seasoning

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Roll the dough into a small log shaped form

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Roll into small circles with the tiny wooden rolling pin

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Scoop with chopsticks a small amount of filling into each one

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Xieman stuffed a few raisins in one of them for good luck  for one lucky person.

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Look at all the cute shapes. The misshaped ones are the ones I stuffed and molded.

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Cook in boiling water, and bring to a boil 3 times, while adding some water with each boil.

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Time to eat, with a little soya sauce for added taste.

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We enjoyed our lunch and have lots of supplies left to make more on New Year’s Eve.

Calligraphy

I went for my second calligraphy class yesterday, which I enjoyed. I really appreciate the soothing meditative atmosphere in the classroom. In the middle of the session, we take time to do some stretching exercises, which is great for the whole body.
One of the advanced students brought in some pretty red paper for our final product. Just in time to hang it up for good luck for the upcoming year.
I learned I hung up my decorations a little early as they were just to be put up yesterday. Suppose to completely clean before, which I did spend a couple hours wiping the dirt and dust off of all my plants. I am sure they will be happy to bring in the new year.

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The Longevity Knot

This morning I tried another crafty class. We learned how to make the longevity knot which took the whole two hour class.
We started with yarn, 1.5 meters long which we pinned to the foam.

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With the help of big tweezers we weaved the yarn over and under the stick pins.

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That was the easy part, as then we removed the pins and pulled in all directions, to get a square shape.

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I received lots of help from the teacher with this part, as I found the task a little difficult. That is why it looks so nice.

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The teacher said I did a great job with the gold cording.
I would have such a difficult time trying this again with the written directions, so I will treasure the one I made and stick with the calligraphy.20120116-173529.jpg

Year of the Dragon!!

The start of the Chinese New Year is quickly approaching, so time to decorate the apartment.

On January 23rd, we will usher in the Year of the Dragon (Long).

I got out a few decorations from last year to use again, but Xieman told me that it was not a good idea to rehang them. Rather unlucky as new ones bring you, your family, and apartment good luck. What could I say to these cute decorations (will give them to a friend).

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So, I went to the store to purchase some dragon decorations.

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The front door

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She said a big decoration needed to be hung on the front door,

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as well as the bedroom door.

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Lots of cute little dragons are all over the apartment.

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I received this dragon as a gift from the apartment. Didn’t know dragons could be so cute!

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Purchased some red envelopes (Hong bao) to fill with money as gifts for the workers at the apartment.

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I feel the excitement for the upcoming holiday, which unlike ours will last for the whole week.