I forgot to show you the mangroves. Cool, huh? How do they do that? The colorful structure in the background is the seafood restaurant where we ate lunch.

Details of a traditional Thai home at the park we visited:

Gold coins outside of a temple. Placing coins in the bowl that sits in front of the Buddha that corresponds to the day of the week you were born will afford you extra protection:


Sabai sabai

Hi friends, I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. I think the tables have turned now and your weather is actually hotter than mine. At least those of you in the Southeastern states. And though it's a little cooler here, it's still pretty darn hot. I've learned from the Thai women here and use an umbrella to block the sun. It's so much more pleasant, I don't see breaking that habit when I return so be warned: You may be embarrassed to be seen with me. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I have some catching up to do. I'll post some pictures below but I've taken many more recently. I'll try to put more up later this week.

A couple of weeks ago, I went with Natalia and Koi (above) to Dusit Zoo and the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion. Natalia, from Colombia, was thrilled to see her first giraffe. It struck her that the pattern on the giraffe's skin looks like autumn leaves. She also saw her first zebra, this beautiful creature below.

The teak mansion was a real treat. A blend of Thai and European styles, it was built soon after King Rama V returned from Europe in 1897. It's apparently constructed without the use of nails and with interlocking pieces of wood. There's a glimpse of part of the complex behind Koi and me.

Also on the grounds are two exhibitions of the current king's own photography—I thoroughly enjoyed this look through his eyes—and a display of Thai transportation over the years.

Natalia and Koi were students in an advanced English class I taught. Five of the nine from that class are moving to the States next month to attend various post-graduate schools. Here, we asked a stranger to take a picture of the three of us. Turns out he's colleagues with another person in the class. Strange coincidence.

Eight of us from the class split into two cars last week and spent a full, adventurous day in the Samut Songkhram province, about an hour and a half southwest of Bangkok. Our first stop was the Mae Nam Mae Klong, where we boarded boats for a tour of riverside life.

The boats anchored and we slopped through the warm mud (I believe people pay a lot of money for this treatment at spas) on a search for worms with a tubular shell. Given that we had just studied endangered species, we felt a bit cruel putting the white powder given to us by our guides into the ground. This chemical causes the worm shells to spurt to the surface where our greedy, curious hands await.

Back on dry land, we steered ourselves and our huge appetites toward this easy riverside restaurant with incredible seafood. The wormy things were on the menu but we resisted after some great effort.

Next stop: the King Buddhalertla Naphalai Memorial Park with traditional Thai houses, lush gardens and lots of antiques.

We also visited the sweetest temple, completely covered in roots and vines.

As dusk neared, we rented a boat and boarded with our dinner: sticky rice, grilled pork on sticks and desserts that are like little pancake tacos with custard in the middle. The boat stopped at this coffee shop below where we bought traditional Thai lemon tea for the ride.

We were let out at this gilded temple that houses the intact skeletal remains of a famous monk in a glass casket. These remains are on a shelf above an eerie wax version of the monk. A downpour actually kept us here for about an hour, but when it stopped we continued on and had the river completely to ourselves for the trip finale. Trees and bushes all along the river were lit up like Christmas trees with fireflies. It was a spectacular sight, particularly against the quietness of the night. Our boat driver said that on weekend nights, a couple hundred boats are all competing for this same view. Most of the tourists who come to this area are Thai so I felt like I had a truly local experience. Definitely a day I won't soon forget.

I also went to Koh Samet for a few days and planned on posting those pictures as well, but I'll save them for next time. Until then, sabai sabai (a commonly used Thai phrase meaning relax or take it easy). I think I'm more directing this to myself as I'm a little nervous about the start of the new term tomorrow. I'll be teaching my first corporate course. Because the school where I teach is such an institution here, companies frequently call requesting teachers. Should be fun though!


More elephants

Yes, yes, another post about elephants. I can’t help myself; I love these creatures. What I don’t love, though, is seeing them plodding down the city streets, often right in the middle of traffic. The practice of bringing elephants into Bangkok is technically illegal, but so is prostitution. It's a sad sight, especially knowing they get scraped and bumped along the way, so I generally try to ignore the handlers and their request for money to feed the elephant. Still, it's hard not to get a little thrill at seeing such an anomaly. One rainy night when my friend Jen was in town, we saw an elephant legs-up in a puddle having the most fun. It was such a joyous sight. I took these pictures yesterday in my neighborhood. The boy below was beyond precious in his timidness.