November 25, 2008

Color Me Thailand

Color plays a symbolic role in almost any culture in the world.

In Thailand, color plays an extremely important role.
Under Buddhists cosmology, days of the week are assigned different colors. With 98% of Thails being of this religion, colors take on added importance. They go to extremes wearing shirts of different colors on different days of the weak, shirts to represent which side of the political protesting they are. Not only do the colors voice support but there is often much symbolism in the colors.

On Monday, the color is yellow. The masses wear yellow polo shirts emblazoned with the king's symbol. A nice polo shirt sales for about 80-150 baht or about $2- 5. The yellow shirt phenomena began in 2006 when the country celebrated the 60th anniversary of the King of Thailand's reign. The mass fashion state began to support the beloved monarch who was purportedly born on a Monday. Some companies even require their employees to don the very brightest of yellow shirts on Mondays. When you ask a yellow shirter why they are wearing yellow, they all respond the same: " We support the king."

King Bhumibol Adulyadej is now in his 80s. His loyal subjects pay attention to what he wears. A few years ago, he was hospitalized. When he checked out of the hospital on a Tuesday, he wore a pink blazer and a pink dress shirt. The country went crazy with sell outs of hot pink shirts almost everywhere. Why did the monarch wear pink and spark a new fashion tend? Well, once again the Buddhist cosmology is responsible. But many other tie-ins have been proffer to explain the importance of pink on Tuesdays.

The color pink is the same as the color of piece of silk [rayon] ribbon used in the symbol for the ceremonial celebration for King’s 80th birthday. Also, pink is the color determined by astrologists and fortune-tellers for the year of the King’s birth. The color means that the King will have good health and will fully recover from his illness. Pink is the color of the Year of the Rabbit, the astrological year of the King’s birth. andPink is Tuesday’s symbolic color which is the day after Monday, the day of the week of the King’s birth. Wearing pink is alsoa way of wishing the King a long life. Chulalongkorn University where I have been teaching also has adopted pink as its official color. So when I gave a talk to university deans on Tuesday, November 25th, what color did I wear? Of course I wore hot pink. Everyone commented and praised me on my good fashion sense. It was also interesting to note that among executives attending the the ceremony, the color of pink was toned down. But there certainly were a large number of pale pink shirts in the room.

The newest color is green in Thailand as the king and his countrymen tackle environmental issues. If the King shows up wearing a shirt of any particular color, then his very loyal subjects tend to also want to wear that color. While green has not caught on to the same degree that yellow and pink have taken hold, it never the less is presence. Slogans about Thailand focus on green and serenity.
More importantly, there is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Its purpose is to house a Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jade. The emerald Buddha was brought from Vietian when the city was captured in 1778. King Rama I built the temple and enshrined the Emerald Buddha there as a symbol of Siam's regained nationhood. The temple does not house any monks. Rather, it is more like the personal chapel of the royal family.

So what other colors are important?

Recently, memorial services were held for the King's sister who died in January. For three days of ceremonies which cost an estimated $11 million to hold, individuals throughout Thailand wore black or white out of respect. The King's sister did much good for the country.
The Princess Galyani Vadhana, the elder sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, headed up more than 60 charities. . The ceremony took place at Sanam Luang, or Royal grounds, where Thai kings and royal family members have been cremated for the past two centuries. It was shown on all Thai stations. The funeral provides a show of pageantry, Brahmin and Buddhist ritual and Thai artistry not witnessed since the ceremonies after the death of the king's princess mother Srinagarinda in 1996. The funeral platform was built to resemble the mythical Mount Meru, the Hindu heaven. More than 200 artists worked on the platform for 7 months. Sixty soldiers carried theprincess' remains e on an ornate palanquin platform from the Grand Palace to the funeral area. At the time of the funeral, I was in Chiang Mai and everyone -- from the highest officials to the street cleaners-- wore black or white out of respect for the princess.

Thai politics also are alive with color -- sometimes with ironic purpose.

The protesters represent the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). At the time of this posting, they are a sea of yellow at the airport in Bangkok. PAD has made many many people upset.

PAD supporters wear yellow, the color symboically associated with the nation’s beloved constitutional monarch. Masses of them sit day after day listening to protest talks. Some are actually paid 500-800 baht to attend the rallies. This may not seem like much but the minimum wage in Bangkok is 205 baht a day! So this is actually pretty good pay for sitting and listening to talks. But now people are getting hurt.

In Bangkok, many people I interact with on a daily basis, apologize to me for their actions. They are embarrassed by their actions. I have had young woman apologize to me in a Thai massage shop, a clerk in a store, the doorman at my apartment, the clerk at the 7-11. My heart goes out to these people. The majority of Thai people are generous and kind and wonderful.

Now the anti-protestors favor the color red I can not find information on why they chose the color red except that it is a dominate color in the Thai flag. But red is their color of choice. I made the mistake of wearing a red jacket to a presentation and was reminded that it represented support for the current administration and asked if that is what I felt. So one must be careful on the choice of colors.

If you are tired of the whole ordeal and country infighting which many Thai citizens are turning to the color of white which represents serenity and peace. This is the color of choice for me. I pray for resolution of the in-fighting. This country is full of wonderful people. It's image is being tarnished by the few who want the conflict to stay alive. It is a pity IMHO


November 24, 2008

Royal Chitralada Project

When one thinks about a palace, well one conjures up images of beautiful palatial grounds, topiary, mazes and rose gardens, winding paths. But that's not the case for the King of Thailand. Many years ago, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great(Rama IX) turned the Chitralada Villa, Dusit Palace (Bangkok) into an agricultural and self sufficiency experimental farm. So right in the middle of Bangkok behind beautifully adorned "traditional" gates sits a farm. We're talking cows and milking machines, bees producing honey and literally "royal" beeswax, crops growing.

I learned all this on a recent outing recently with students from a Chulalongkorn Thai economics class. Beloved by the people of Thailand and respected world wide, their Majesties the King and Queen are known for their generosity and support of the "common" people. The King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great(Rama IX) is not only longest reigning one of the richest monarchs in history (He came to the throne in 1946) but he's also a farmer and a good one at that.

While agriculture today is an important component of the Thai economy (half of all Thais derive their income from agriculture
), at the time the King ascended to the throne, it was even more important. Today the per capita income of Thai citizens is about $8,000, this was not the case 50 years ago. Agriculture dominated and incomes were low. The king launched the royal projects to serve as benchmarks and models of agricultural modernization.

Through the years, the projects and experiments have changed due to economic needs and agriculture development. Thailand now focuses a "green and happy society." This is related to a type of economic develoopment called "Sufficiency Economy." This philosophy stressed the middle path as the appropriate way to conduct and live life at all levels. Sufficiency means modernization but with due consideration to integrity, peace, quality, stability as well as sufficient protection from external and internal shocks.

Enough of the economics theory. On with the farm...

The farm contains numerous experimental projects. Regarding milk, the farm produces fresh and dry milk as well as milk pellets (chalkie tasting). The King has long been interested in hydroponics (growing things without soil) and the farm shows various types of plants growing in unique media.

My personal favorite project was the use of compressed rice husks to make fuel logs. Rather than throwing the husks away, they are tightly compressed into logs. The logs can be burned as they are or turned into a charcoal-like substance. The advantage of rice husk logs is that they burn cleaner and are less likely to lead to death as occurs with charcoal used in confined areas. While the process needs some refining, it's a neat use for an item that normally has been considered waste.

I also found the process to make exotic papers extremely interesting. Plant fibers are placed in a big vat and turned into pulp. A mould and deckle (screen mesh on a wooden frame) catches the mushy fiber. As it dries it turns into beautiful paper. The color and texture varies by the plant fibers used.

Other semi-commercial projects include a cheese factory, rice mills, dried vegetable , juice and vegetable canning plants, alcohol factory, fish meal, mushroom culture, and beeswax-candle making plants. Biodiesel A total of 700 people work in the royal project area.

November 3, 2008

Dog Shows in Thailand

One of life's pleasures are our canine companions. Their love is unconditional and the friendships they help us develop are long lasting.

While dogs and dog shows are not a typical part of being a Fulbright scholar. They are an important part of my life. Through the sport of purebred dogs, I have made friends all over the world -- Australia, Brazil, France, Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, Russia. As a licensed judge, I have judged dog shows in the U.S. and many of the countries listed above.

Before arriving in Bangkok, a couple of people worried. "Isn't that the place they eat dogs?" "You're not taking a dog with you are you?" Well, I am here to say that I have yet to see someone eat a dog in Thailand. I have seen street dogs, beg for dog food. I've seen mannequin dogs (scotties and daschies) used in department store advertisings. I've seen well kept dogs in stores, keeping shop with their owner/managers. And I've seen and judged a dog show in Thailand.

Before arriving in Bangkok, I contacted a few people I know in the U.S. who are from Thailand but also show dogs in the U.S. They graciously provided me with some names of other people in Thailand who enjoy the same obsession with dogs and dog shows as I do. My thinking was that it would be great fun to attend a dog show in Bangkok to meet people here and to compare the quality of dogs. It would also be a way to meet people in Thailand who are not part of the academic communicating I interact with routinely.

As a judge, I also was interested in learning how large the shows are in Thailand and how they are operated. Thailand Kennel Club is a member of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and so the shows are conducted differently than in the U.S. Terriers include the same breeds as in the US AKC shows but also Cesky Terriers, Silky Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier and English Toy Terriers.

I was very honored when I was asked to judge Terriers (Group 3) and Companion and Toy Dogs (Group 9) as well as Pomeranian specialty and Best Thai Bred Dog in Show. Held on September 27, the show I judged at was part of a three day cluster of shows. These shows are held under the auspices of the Kennel Club of Thailand but are put on by local breed clubs who rotating doing all the paperwork and arrangements for the shows. My hostess for the show was Bensri Chiayah, who breeds Pugs and also owns a West Highland White Terrier.

The Thai Kennel Club granted me permission to judge all breeds in Group 9. The breeds included in this group include: Bichon Frise Bolognese, Boston Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Chihuahuas, Chinese Crested, Coton de Tulear, French Bulldog, Griffon Bruxellois, Havanese, Japanese Chin, King Charles Spaniel, Lowchen, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Papillon, Pekingese, Phalene, Poodles, Pug, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Spaniel and Tibetan Terrier.

Sponsored by Beagle Club of Thailand, the working group the show was held at a shopping centerBangna Hall Central City Bangna, in Bangkok on September 27, 2008. Because the space is rather small, there were only a couple of rings. Therefore, we we had to take turn judging our breeds. On the panel was Mr. George Kostopoulos (Greece) who heads the judges committee in Greece, Dr.Passiri Nisalak (Thailand) and Mr.Kari Jarvinen (Finland) , and Mr.Roberto Tesoro (Phillipines). It was truly an international panel. While waiting for our turn to judge, we discussed everything from American elections to FCI politics to global business issues in Asia.

One thing I have learned since being in Thailand is that nothing starts on time. Dog shows are no exception to this rule. Scheduled to start at 1 p.m. I didn't begin judging until around 3 p.m. I began my judging for the day with the Pomeranian Speciality. While I did not get a catalog, I would estimate there were about 20-30 dogs entered in the specialty. This is equivalent to what a regional specialty might draw in the U.S. I was impressed by the quality of the dogs. They generally had the correct silhouette and moved truly. Dogs were also in excellent condition and presented well. Coats were nice and of correct texture. In the U.S. I am used to seeing both male and female handlers. However, there were very few female handlers. the dog that I gave the specialty to moved a little cleaner and true than it's nearest competitive. But on another day, it could possibility have been reversed. Both were of good type, proportions and silhouette.
I was also impressed by a younger dog that finished its Thai championship at the specialty. Really pretty type (a perfectly shaped powder puff) in silhouttee.

I had to smile when one handler showed several dogs to me. Each time he did, two little boys sitting ringside would spring to life and clap wildly. While I never found out for sure, I am guessing they were clapping more for their grand dad than the puppy he was showing. But still it was a nice puppy.

In the all breed show, there were not too many terriers. I gave the group to a lovely Norwich terrier (like the dog in the movie Best in Show). This one, I later learned, was an American bred championship and multiple all breed winner, Am. Th. Grand Champion Devondale's Master Marmot Phil. Bred by Lois and Anna Bellenger, it was co-owned by Saipin Puranabhandu, who has owned several top winning terriers in Thailands including a sealyham, kerry blue and now the norwich. The Norwich went on to win Best in Show honors under the Greek judge. Not bad picking for an American huh! There was a nice young bull terrier and staffordshire in the group of dogs as well. Alas, for me, there was no scottish terrier.

In Group 9, the entry was much larger with papillon, pugs, Maltese, Shih Tzu, a poodle, chinese crested, Chihuahuas of both varieties. I was particularly impressed with the depth of quality of the pugs, a papillon was of exquisite type with beautiful butterfly-placed ears, Chihuahuas were a little more varied in quality and type. Shih Tzus which happen to be a breed I like a great deal were of nice quality as were the pugs. Great depth in the classes for pugs. The breed class made me work hard to decide which one I liked bested.

While the dog show was not as large as those held in the U.S., the exhibitors were well trained, presented their dogs well and there was good quality among the dogs. I certainly would enjoy judging in Thailand again. Dogs bring out the best in people whether in the U.S. or Thailand.

Khob Pra Khun Kha

Siem Rep and Cambodia

A short 30 minute flight from Bangkok is Siem Reap, Cambodia, home to ancient temples and world heritage sites. Needing a break from grading student midterm papers, I decided to treat myself to a three day visit to this "must see" area. It was well worth the journey and cost. After lunch, set out for Cambodia's amazing temple complex of Angkor Wat. Overnight at the Angkor Palace Resort & Spa.

The airport is small but modern. Beautiful tropical plants, surround the terminal building. Customs only takes a few minutes with a $30 American fee for the visa. Dollars is the currency in favor in Cambodia. In fact cash machines pump out dollars rather than riels. The Cambodian riel is mainly used for buying local produce and other merchandise. The United States Dollar (USD) is known as Cambodia's unofficial second currency.

Siem Reap literally translated means "Siamese defeated." In early history fights over the land and temples were prevalent. In past years, the empire of Angor included much of Thailand. Even today, the temples near the border are being fought over. But Siem Reap itself is safe with a small town look and feel to it. Many roads are dirt, with a red-yellow color. Getting there by plane cost about $200 from Bangkok. The alternative is a very long bus ride along the bumpy back country.

My guide greets me just outside of customs holding a sign with my name on it. He says in somewhat broken English that our driver is waiting at the van. Here, as in many countries the job of tour guide is separate from the job of driver. Drivers typically do not speak English. I opted for a 4 star hotel and was not disappointed. The hotel lobby was beautiful with lovely carvings in local woood. My room was very spacious and overlooked the swimming pool. Definitely a nice treat -- particularly because there was nice little bakery inside the hotel with yummy cinnamon raisin buns.

The ancient ruins of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are north of town. But there are many many temples to explore in the area. In exploring the temples, there are beautiful carvings everywhere, snakes, lions, elephants adorn the ruins. Even the bridges crossing over streams, have carved railings with men pulling ropes, or serpents across the water.

Angkor Wat is considered the world's largest religious building. There are moats surrounding the temple. Despite being left to rot in the jungle for many many centuries, the temples still bring to life in the "mind's eye" the wonders of the past. You can picture the craft person doing detailed carvings on the walls. If you look closely, you can see where one carving is not finished and you wonder if the person died or the project ran out of money.

In some cases the temples have been patched to restore their structural integrity. According to one travel guide the process is anastylosis and was developed by the dutch. Put simply original materials are used to reconstruct that which has eroded or collapsed. Only when the original material can not be found, can other materials be used.

The Temples all have inscriptions and tell stories about the people and the culture. One can follow along the sandstone walls, the story of a group making a pilgrimage, elephants being used to build a structure. There are exquisite depictions of dancers. On first glances they all appear to be the same, but then a closer look shows that they are different -- a hand raised, fingers bent forward or back, a slightly different costume. Visiting the temples demands stamina. There are lots and lots of tiny ancient stairs. It is also very hot and humid.

One of the sad facts of visiting the ancient temples is that many of the figures were beheaded or damaged. During times of turmoil, the temples have been pilfered and robbed. As government change and religions dominate, the temples also have been damaged. Was very sad to see this damage. Now as world heritage sites, it is hopeful that preservation can take hold. A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a site (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is considered to have outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity.

In addition to the temples, I also visited a silk farm. Here individuals from the rural areas of Cambodia are taught the craft of silk weaving and dying. They serve voluntary apprenticeships for which they receive board and room. In exchange, they are taught to weave the silk, loom complex designs.

It was fascinating to see the silk larvae. Apparently 30 percent of the silk larvae are allowed to develop and mature to restore the stock. The others still in the larvae are placed in the sun so the larvae die. The silk comes from these cocoons. At the silk farm, the guide tried to shock me by gobbling down a few silk worms. Yummy protein, he said. At this training center, only nature dyes are used on the silk. These dyes create a beautiful array of colors.

I also visited a craft workshop which teaches young people (a large group of deaf) ancient crafts. These include intricate wood carving, stone work, painting, inlay work, and ceramics. Workers are paid a living wage and upon completion of their training, they may start their own craft business.

Cambodia, while one of the poorest countries in the world economically, is rich in its cultural heritage. A visit is like stepping back in time. A time we must remember and must preserve.

Botox Treatment in Thailand

One of the fastest growing business sectors in Thailand -- particularly in Bangkok and Phuket -- is medical tourism. Some centers are full service. They have tourist packages that pick you up at the airport, take you to a fine hotel. You have your face lift, recover under pampered care, see the local sites and are off again. You can get gastric bypass surgery, knee or hip replacements. etc. While with any medical procedure, you must verify the qualifications of the physicians and hospital. Cruising the internet, one finds that many individuals are trained in the U.S. or among the finest schools in Europe. U.S. as well as Thai board certifications are common.

Having had a Botox treatment in the U.S. for the price of $600-$700, I decided I would try to get the procedure done in Thailand. One of the concerns in having Botox is ensuring that they are using botox rather than the generic alternatives produced in China. While the Chinese product is viable, it is also diluted and it takes twice as much to attain the same effect as Botox manufactured by Allergen.

After checking various blogs that I have found have useful information, talking to students and personnel, I decided to visit an APEX Profound Beauty center. Centers are located at the Siam Center, Bumrangard Hospital and the Emporium. I chose the Emporium Center because I was told the founder who is board certified in the U.S. as a dermatologist and laser surgeon worked at this center.

I did not have an appointment so I had to wait a bit. That was useful as I got to observe the types of people who come to the center. I struck up conversations with the staff and several consumers. There was an owner of a spa in Melbourne, Australia. She was here to get thermage treatments on stomach and get some help with what she insisted was a perpetual weight problem. IMO, she looked beautiful. There were several men getting treatments, one in his 30s seeking botox, another getting treatment for acne, another older businessman who in our discussions expressed he'd had various treatments in many countries but liked it here. He was back for thermage after two years. I was surprised how many men were there and how young some of the women were. Botox and facial treatments seem to be as routine in Thailand as getting a Thai massage --provided you have the baht. It seems as routine to them as getting a hair cut and color. Yes many men in Thailand dye their hair.

Okay, now it was my turn. The assistant takes me into a consultant room. I indicate I would like a Botox treatment for the deep "professor" thought lines between my eyes and my growing number of frown lines. "Just a minute" she says. The physician, a lovely vibrant Thai woman in perhaps her 40s came in to talk with me. She suggest botox would help and said if I wished the full treatment to reduce the effects of aging and bags under my eyes (a family curse), then ideally she would recommend thermage and a fraxel laser resurfacing just around the eyes. This would last many years and mean I would not have to have surgery.

Okay, the big issue, so how much would each treatment cost? I knew that Botox cost about $600-$800 in the U.S depending on the units used. I had researched thermage which varies in cost depending upon the amount of area of the face or body covered.

Thermage uses Capacitive Radiofrequency (CRF) technology to heat the skin's under layer and the web of collagen in the inner layer, causing tightening as well as new collagen growth. Local numbing cream and anesthesia is used particularly around sensitive areas such as eyes and mouth. Cost is between $1000 and $4000, average $2000.

Fraxel Laser Treatment produces esurfaces the skin by removing damaged upper layers of skin until unaffected skin is revealed. It's a little like sanding your skin. It is used to resurface skin, get rid of tattoo's, acme scars and yes the ravages of aging. Local numbing cream is applied before the laser is used. The cost of laser skin resurfacing is $2,378.
Botox from a physician is around $600-$1200.

Okay, without thinking about pain or anything else, I decided to for the works. The Thermage was 30,000 baht (about $850), the fraxel laser resurfacing was 10,000 baht special combination deal ( $294), and botox for laugh lines and forehead, frown lines was 12,000 baht ($352). So utilizing the services as a triple board certified dermatologist in Thailand resulted in saving at least half the cost of the same treatments in the U.S.

Now about the treatments. Botox is botox. Even with some numbing cream, it stings. But the results are almost immediate and visible within 3 days. I had the Thermage the same day. In addition to numbing cream, I had local anesthesia. But it still hurt. I tried deep breathing; and they distracted me with rubbing my legs. But darn it hurt. It was like a being stung by a swarm of wasps. The area around one's eyes is sooo sensitive. So if you have pain aversion, this treatment is not for you (at least around the eyes which is suppose to be the most sensitive area). Had I done more research on the pain (wasp stings around the eyes), I might have been more prepared. But maybe it was good I had not. The good news is that the overhang on my upper eyelid seems a little less and the baggy under eye area a little tighter.
I'll let my American friends decide when I get home.

I came back on Saturday for the fraxel laser resurfacing. Once again, numbing cream was applied and I waited 45 minutes for it to take effect. I was prepared for this time for it to hurt, but it really didn't. It felt like a dry skin brush going across the eye areas a few times briskly. Nothing more.

I would recommend you bring a good concealer or sun glasses after this treatment. I went into the rest room and the area around my eyes was really, really red. Wow. It really surprised me. Now I know why she had me come back on Saturday so I would be a red eyed monster to teach my students. The area burnt a bit for about two areas. After applying some heavy duty concealer to the area around my eyes, I was good to go. The redness was gone by the next day. The area felt flaky and a bit rough for about 5 days but the physician had told me it would. I just kept some moisturizer on it and all was good.

So would I do this again. I would definitely trust use this doctor and go to this facility. I had a nice long talk with the physician and plan to write about her as a entrepreneur for my book on Women Working. She was medically skilled and enterprisingly skilled as well. It was professional, sterile with very nice people. I'd definitely do the botox and the fraxel laser resurfacing. Luckily, you aren't suppose to need thermage for several years. So maybe, maybe by then I would do it again. But definitely not tomorrow.

October 23, 2008

Bangkok glows at night

It's a funny thing about cabs and Tuk Tuks in Bangkok. In the mornings they are everywhere. In the evenings, they are only around the night spots and the malls. Having stayed late at the Chulalongkorn University (I'm talking 7 p.m.), there were no cabs in site). So I decided to walk home. Good exercise. Lovely night without rain.

I like walking in Bangkok at night. It is sometimes cooler but more importantly, Bangkok is very different at night. It comes alive. It has a new personality at night. On the streets, small vendors set up shop. One has socks of various colors; another has sunglasses. There is a chocolate stand, tiny squares of lush chocolate, white and dark. School girls in their uniforms crowd around a vendor selling little "knock-off" Lesportsace bags. T-shirts in row after row adorn another stand.

The evening restaurants pop out. Some are no more than roll-along carts like New York's hot dog vendors. Sidewalks that once were walkways, are informal restaurant. You can get corn on the cob cooked over charcoal, or nice bowls of noodles with various types of fish. Tables sprinkle the side walk with people talking, chatting. The stray dogs wander in and out of the tables hoping for a tasty morsel or two. There is the blind man with his boom box singing a beautiful song on a corner spot. His friend stands near. A pandhandler or two dot the street. "Please madame their eyes hopefully beg.

One thing that is important as one walks around the streets is not to avoid people. It is okay to say no you do not want something but if they speak to you, you need to at least smile and acknowledge the person "Not today" They get very upset and shout at you if you don't do acknowledge them.

You can buy cans of soda, potato chips, candy, sun glasses, watches. The massage ladies (reputable) sit outside their shops waving signs. Business has been slow due to the bad publicity Bangkok has received about political unrest. So the signs say "Massage only 149 Baht." Now that is a bargain. That's about $5.

I pause by a park as a few people practice gentle movements of Tai Chi. So beautiful, so fluid. the parks are so beautiful with lush green grass, lovely fountains. I feel a moment of peace. As I near a small shrine. Women sit at their roadside stalls selling incense and small handmade flower wreaths to give thinks to the Gods. I take a moment and reflect and pause myself.

Near the sky trains on the overwalks, young kids break dance. Never under-estimate a Thai young man because he is not as large as African Americans. These young guys are strong. Very strong. They can do the usual tricks. But they add a grace that is strictly Asian. Perhaps a martial arts influence is what makes it different. One young guy balances again and again on one hand. He holds the move longer than one might think possible and then rolls into a unique hip hop spin.

People wait on the streets for a bus ride home. Advertisements on video billboards entertain them as they wait. Zooming up and down the streets are trucks of construction workers. The trucks remind me of cattle trucks with high side railings and cloth cover over the top. Males AND females ride in trucks, all dressed in the same color uniforms with hard hats of the same color on their head. The uniformity in attire reminds me of work crews from the country lock-up in the U.S. But that is not the case. These are the people who keep the city moving. It is cooler to do repairs in the evening hours. I see more women working construction in Thailand than I do in the U.S. and they don't just hold signs. They dig and work along side their male peers.

The lights of the MBK center shine brightly as a beacon light. Finally, I am near the the last cross over bridge Okay good I am not lost. No problem I am almost home. The walk seems long because to cross ever major street, one must walk up two flights of stairs to take the overpass bridge and then down again. A mother with a small child sits with a cup and hopes from contributions for her family. I watch in amazement at his determination, as one man with very deformed legs such that he can not walk on them. Puts sandals on his hands and does a hand stand down the stairs from the sky train walkway. I promise myself that he will get a a donation from next time. I can not walk on my hands at all, let along go up and down steep steep stairs.

Car horns blare at a night. Motorcycles whip in and out of the traffic. If really impatient, they even zoom past me on the side walk. Now that is scary to be walking along and all of sudden there is a motorcycle heading your way. the only negative is crossing streets. One must walk with determination across the street. Any hesitation and the car will zoom past you -- very close. Too close for comfortable for this slow walking American.

Getting closer to my apartment, I cross over the river on the bridge. The lights are bright. Elephant heads stair down, carved into the pillars of the bridge. A stray dog walks by me taking the bridge to who knows where. A girl offers to take my packages. I think she is sincere but I do not know. I talk and chat with her but hold onto my own bags -- just in case.

I look down at the canal from the bridge. At night. the water taxi is lite up and still runs its run, gliding down the glossy river. Carts are pushed up and down the sides of the roads with various food items. The vendors roll them to new and different spots if business is slow. Near the malls music booms out as various musical acts perform.

As I pass the shop where I usually get a massage, they wave. "Tonight madame?" they ask. "No, maybe tomorrow." They are always hopeful about business. But it has been too slow. I stop at my favorite corner market to pick up some coke lite. The owner lady sits ironing. Every baht matters in Bangkok's small family businesses. Her son sits at a desk, ready to translate for the Americans who need help. His books are open. He hopes to be finish college and work as a translator. His English is quite good. He laughs at my silly jokes. Perhaps I need some potato chips too.

I like Bangkok at night. It is a different city than the Bangkok of the day.

October 21, 2008

Becoming a Traditional Thail Beauty in One Hour or less

I've always liked to play dress up. I danced as a kid and loved wearing the hula costumes that swished, the calypso outfit with all the ruffles, the flowing modern dance out. In an earlier life, I dressed up and participated in mountain man re enactments. I wore a traditional Shoshone Indian outfit, had a lean to I lived in, hair types with fox, hand beaded shoes with gorgeous red poppies on them and I could outshoot most guys with my black powder gun.

Now you might wonder that this has to do with Thailand. Not much except to say that I always like to dress up and try different things. So when the opportunity presented itself to have my picture taken wearing traditional Thai clothing, I thought it would a great fun memory photo to hang on my wall with my mountain woman picture, my dog show picture and other quirky things.

So We began with my hair. I have short brown-red hair which does not lend itself for exotic styling. My Thai boy-woman was extremely beautiful,long silky hair, long legs, pretty face, just a bit throaty voice. Hilariously funny. S/he first applied basic make up to focus on my eyes. We even attached false eyelashes. Then I got voluptuous read lips. Kissable I think. My hair which is cut short and symmetrical was pulled back. one bun and then another wiglet that matched the color nearly perfectly was filed on top. not one but two wiglets. It reminded te wiglet I wore in 1966 for the yearbook picture. Fortunately, this one was on straight. the 1966 wiglet was crooked and m hair was wilted.

Next we chose a color them. I said I wanted to be a red hot mama so red it was. We wrapped the silk material two or three times around. Tighter, tighter. Maybe a corset would have been better. Now I now why some Asian women have smaller breasts.They are wrapped to tight to grow. NextPost Options it was the skirt which was also wrapped and then pleated in front Indian fashion, I got shiney cold bejewled belt to wear, Three big fake rings adorned my hands and gold bracelets were on my arms,

Now the real challenge. They expected yours truly to walk in gold high heals. And to climb acorss a door war in a flowing skirt. Hah that one was alaught. I looked about as graceful as cowgirl with her foot stuck in a milk bucket. They too 15 poises. I had negotiated the price to 2000 baht or about ($60) and a CD of all the pictures. Hmm I bet I can talk my friend into a little photoshop fix to enhance my natural beauty.

Well, don't tell my students. I allowed them up negotiate me to four big 8 X 10 photos and 4 small ones I redressed and we picked the photographs agreeing on what I wanted right then and there. We agreed on cropping and of course a little botox for the side of my eyes. I wanted to be almost as pretty as the king of Thailand. The grace to walk in the shoes she walks in -- well that's isn't going to happen.

Of yes, I felt like what was her name May West stuffed in an outfit when I was asked to recline on a bench with my lacks outstretched. Luckily I got to hold a fan to hid what needed to be hidden. And I got to be a serious warrier in one shot. Don't mess with me and this sward.

The name of the place --and they do singles, couples, families and even normal pictures -- is Studio Thai Style on the third floor of MBK. Their only failure, is I still don't look like I am 30 years young.

My worse part is that they take the pictures out in front of their studio so all passer-bys can see how you look, watch the strategy and I assume want to do do the same thing. I had two elder gentlemen (cute handsome) walk by and then come back for a second look. They both gave me a thumbs up sign. I certainly hope it means the same thing in Thailand that it means in the U.S. I baited my fake eyelashes and flushed slightly with my Thai feather fan. I proper Thai girl would never talk to a Thai man first. A property introduction is even better.

Okay let's see if I can add some pictures. Well since I can't figure out how to add them I will have to forgot this. If anyone knows how to add the pictures, let me know. Insert isn't working.

So here of the grand results. We're taking votes on your favorites. I'm not sure how to do that but I guess put a comment by the picture