A Travellerspoint blog

Heading back to the homeland...

You know you’re still adjusting to life outside of Thailand when:

sunny 25 °C

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Today marks one month since I moved back to Canada. In honour, I’ve composed this small list…

You know you’re still adjusting to life outside of Thailand when:

1) Being only given a knife and fork, you borrow the serving spoon from the lamb saag so you can eat your curry fork and spoon in hand, Thai style. Your dining companion only looks mildly askance at you.

2) You have minor laughing fits standing at crosswalk lights, looking at your fellow pedestrians, “Surely we just wade out into traffic, don’t we? There’s hardly anyone on the road!”

3) You actually miss your daily commute on the back of a motorbike taxi, kamikaze style into oncoming traffic.

4) Without the cacophony of Bangkok streets, the silence freaks you out when you first wake up. You literally tense up wondering where all the people have gone and if that’s the silence of nuclear winter??

5) You can understand every damn word of folks out on the street, on public transit, in the shops…and you really wish you couldn’t. (10 blocks on the streetcar listening to some chick fight with her boyfriend…argh…)

6) You’re somehow indignant that you have to clean your own apartment and do your own laundry.

7) You reel at the price of a taxi and decide to walk instead. And you CAN walk outside! [

8) You’re still made giddy by green leafy parks and wide open natural spaces.

9) Waddya mean I can’t get a fresh fruit smoothie on the street for 30 cents??

10) You can bust out your three inch heels again and even then you’re not the tallest girl out. Fancy that!

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Posted by DenaAllen 07:30 Archived in Canada Tagged home canada Comments (0)

My Best Books of 2011

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So, I read 24 books in 2011. These were my favourites of the bunch:

1. Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro

2. Zombies vs Unicorns – Justine Larbalestier & Holly Black, eds. (Yes, I did just include that, haters)

3. Perfume – Patrick Suskind

4. Finding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin

5. The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

6. The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye – A.S. Byatt

7. The Passion – Jeanette Winterson

8. A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

Posted by DenaAllen 09:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged books Comments (0)

China. Wow.

Some highlights (and a couple lowlights) from my intro to the People’s Republic

rain 16 °C

September 9, 2011 -- 9:10 pm

1) I have decided that Chinese babies/toddlers might be the cutest children in the world. Seriously! They are just OBSCENELY cute! I think it's the chubby cheeks. Photographic evidence below.

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2) Met two of the coolest old dudes who basically volunteer (they get paid a tiny stipend) to run the Plan child centre in their community. They were soooooo obviously passionate about the work and really felt it was important for the community. They were so excited talking to me and kept shouting over one another, so my colleague didn't know who to translate for, it was great. Mr Yao and Mr Yao, no relation. They were cool as beans. Photographic evidence below.

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3) I peed in what was, hands down, the NASTIEST toilet I have ever used in my life! And that's saying something, I've seen some pretty rancid loos on a number of continents. This one was a waterless concrete hole and was quite literally a festering, roiling mass of shit, piss and half-inch-long white maggots. GROSS! Photographic evidence below.

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4) I ate some of the best noodles ever. They were home-made, exquisitely chewy, and came in this spicy thick brown sauce. The resto owners were delightful, and quite pleased to have a foreigner in their small-town establishment. They quite seriously assured me when taking our order that their restaurant didn't have rats. That is good to know. Below is a photo of their mah jong table.

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5) There are all kinds of counterfeit 100 yuan notes in circulation. Now, I kinda expect a fake note from a dodgy taxi driver or a shady shop owner, but a legitimate bank ATM?? Ouch.

6) Chinese babies pee on the floor!! They have pants made expressly for it! There's a big hole in the crotch of their pants, and they wear no underwear or diapers. Their moms or dads just hold them up and they wee right on the floor wherever they happen to be. Then every now and then someone gets a mop and wipes the floor down. I counted, and tried to avoid (with about 95% success), five puddles while I was there. My colleague says they wear diapers at night. What happens when they need to poo? (They still win the cutest babies in the world award, floor-weeing or no.)

7) When driving out to the village we passed apple orchard after corn field after apple orchard on repeat. Later in the day, this middle-aged man - without saying a word - took my bag from me, opened the zipper, and stuffed it full with as many apples as it could hold. He then just laughed and handed it back to me. Nicest. People. Ever.

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Posted by DenaAllen 15.09.2011 07:47 Archived in China Tagged kids china living abroad toilets Comments (0)

Living & dying as an imperial consort

The Emperor will need female companionship in the afterlife

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They buried the concubines in pits, after the women had hung themselves from silk ropes or swallowed poison. This is what my guide to the Ming Tombs in China, John, informs me as we both stare down at the metal grate covering one of the pits in question.

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Upon death and his entry to the afterlife, the Emperor would need female companionship. So he chose which concubines were to be executed by palace eunuchs or to commit suicide, and they were buried on the outskirts of the tombs.

“Sometimes they were burnt, and very rarely they were buried alive in a standing position, so they could greet the Emperor in the afterlife.”

The latter two practices were discontinued in the advancing years of the Ming dynasty after being deemed uncivilized.

The Imperial Garden was the site of concubine try-outs. Concubines would audition for entry into the Emperor’s select inner harem. Some Emperors had thousands of concubines, so making it into the elite inner circle was no small feat. Those who didn’t make the cut were given as presents to foreign dignitaries, nobles, or those the Emperor was pleased with.

Staring at those burial pits, wind through cypress needles, I shudder, snap a photo, and walk on.

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Posted by DenaAllen 05.09.2011 06:08 Archived in China Tagged culture city china forbidden living_abroad Comments (0)

Sense-drunk & sweating

Bali's insistent indulgence

sunny 31 °C

November 25, 2010 – 8:22 AM Ubud, Bali


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There is a woman whose job it is to pick the flowers. The flowers used to adorn every nook and corner of the villa I’m staying at in Nyu Kuning village on the outskirts of Ubud, Bali. She has a long stick with a forked end, and a plastic bag half full of blooms looped over her arm. She quietly prowls this garden that makes words like verdant and lush seem understated. I have grown gills and cannot be convinced to leave the pool. Bending down, she shows me her collection and asks if I’d like one. “For your hair,” she says, offering me a pink frangipani.

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The flowers are also used as offerings. Bundled with fruit and incense and intriguing little flourishes like a mini-Ritz cracker or a plastic-wrapped candy. Balinese people are intensely devout and small shrines and offerings are everywhere – outside family dwellings, shops, dotted around guesthouses, on sidewalks, tucked into the corners of green spaces – incense wafting and the little banana leaf packages being raided by birds.
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“The ephemeral arts”. I am in love with this phrase. I found it on an art gallery wall used to describe the offerings Balinese women are responsible for making on behalf of the family throughout the day. Simple or elaborate, these spirit gifts must be constructed. The forces of good and evil must be kept in balance. Words must be spoken.

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Magik. Incense. That otherworldly gamelan music in your ears. Flowers. The shining filaments of butterfly cocoons dripping off palm leaves. Water running over rocks. Snakes red and brown and small. The iridescent exoskeletons of beetles. People moving slow and smiling quick. Fat, glossy lizards. A lushness that teeters on the obscene.

Cruising around rice fields on the back of a motorbike. Koman and I are on a mission to find the perfect woodcarving of Rama and Sita for me to take home to Bangkok. We’ve stopped for a break at a roadside eatery – I’m sticking to the red plastic chair and scarfing down some of the best roast chicken on record.
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Art is ubiquitous. Paintings, carvings, music, dancing, ceramics, silverwork…galleries and museums both in your face and hidden away. Every café and guesthouse and shop features some artistic offering for either view or sale. Walking into the surreal and sensual Blanco Renaissance Museum, I’m presented with an oversweet welcome drink and a flower “For your hair”, the lady who takes my ticket informs me with a slow smile. Large tropical birds – both tame and wild – muttering and screeching, a giant stone dragon slithers down the imposing entrance steps, there’s opera in my ears, and a stained glass dome filtering coloured light downwards to glance off the already shockingly bright walls and canvasses.
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The Blanco museum is bonkers and beautiful. Ornamental, strange, sexy. Rococo doesn’t even begin to cover it. Carved gilt frames and flashing black eyes and full breasts. Fruit and glitter and the sound of insects. Strange words strung together. Dizzying. Hot. Me, sense-drunk and sweating. Blanco, and Bali, softly but firmly whisper to me that more is more. As if I needed convincing.
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Posted by DenaAllen 03.12.2010 22:14 Archived in Indonesia Tagged art bali indonesia culture living_abroad Comments (1)

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