07 June, 2009

Dear Diary: a summary of our 2009 so far

It's been a frantic-crazy yo-yo year for us. Here's a series of links to show different activities (in case you missed any :-) followed by a few miscellaneous photos of more recent pranks...
Each link will open in a new window for your convenience:

1. In January we participated in the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka.
Very good experience indeed. It's a pity that the festival may now be subverted as a propaganda weapon by the bullish Rajapakse government. If so, we may not attend in 2010, and go to the Jaipur Literary Festival instead.

2. Tour of Laos in late January.
Went with Nicolette. The Thong Lor cave was the highlight. Vangvieng wasn't.

3. Spent a horrible month in Adelaide, Australia.
This was on account of the death of Marie's father and subsequent sabotaged attempts to tidy up family matters. After that stressful debacle, we rooly needed a break [see 4].

4. Spent 10 days in February in Malaysia, particularly at Perhentian Island off the coast of north-eastern Malaysia.
Didn't go fishing, but hey, you should see what Marie caught.

5. With our strict chaperones Alan and Brenton we drove around exploring to the south-east of Chiangmai, particularly Phrae, Nan, and Pua near the Laotian border.
Discovered hidden weaving treasures in remote villages - but not a single tiramasu.

6. Similarly, we toured the charismatic 700 year-old ruined city of Sukhothai to the south-west of Chiangmai.
We showed the locals the steps to "I'm a Little Teapot". Cultural exchange, you understand.

7. Now we've begun another apartment renovation. Yes, it's the awful truth - a small room next door to our present apartment.
And no, we don't suffer from insanity. We enjoy every minute of it Bwaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha *Latest photos uploaded on 07 August 2009.

8. All the while I've continued to self-publish various pieces of my “classical” music on the web.
There are (downloadable) mp3 recordings on the MySpace Music website, plus scores in pdf format - so you can listen and also follow the dots if you choose.

The new-born panda at Chiangmai zoo has triggered cult-status pandemonium in the region. Huge billboards shouting Hello Little Panda have popped up everywhere, along with a nation-wide naming competition. Little Panda has become the new Hello Kitty. (Only Buddha knows what might happen to the Kingdom of Thailand if the tiny varmint suddenly upped and died.) In the pic below, Little Panda has been cheekily elevated to a prime spot next to a shrine to the Thai King, no less! (the intersection of Nimmanhaemin and Huaykeaw Roads):

Only in Thailand ! (see more Panda fun here.)

Marie and I are considering kick-starting a counter-cult:

Hello Little Crocodile!

Over the past few weeks the atmosphere has been uncommonly clear (the burning of the rice paddies has ceased due to the monsoon season). So for the first time ever, we've been able to see the mountain called Chang Dao to our north. This was the view of the mountain's dramatic profile from our apartment balcony yesterday.

Taking advantage of the even-fabulouser-than-normal weather, we took a car trip to the town of Pai, north-west of Xiengmai. En route, we had to overtake this Buddhist coffin(?):

Pai (pronounced as "buy") has concentrated on Tourism in the same manner as Vang Vieng in Laos, and suffers the same sorts of crass cultural pitfalls as a result. Like all of Thailand at the moment, it only has 20% of the usual numbers of tourists: you can see from this photo just how not-busy the main street is:

Much accommodation in Pai is of the hole-in-the-wall variety, but there are more "resorts" there now too (if in name only, in some instances). In the pic below, the rickety bamboo bridge affords access to the tourist kennels on the other side of the river (in which, apparently, you can go Brown-Water Rafting: