Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cartoon biceps and bargaining in Thai

Today is my last day in the ISDSI office, and so I thought it might be appropriate to show you the main project I have completed for actual work in my time here.  Oh right, I was working....not just running around the city shopping and eating and looking at beautiful temples!

Raise your hand if you've ever heard of a garuda.

I hadn't either until a few weeks ago.  A garuda is a mythical creature, half-man-half-bird, very strong and fierce and fights and eats dragons and serpents.  It appears on the seal of Thailand.  The director here wanted a tough-looking garuda design for their new CrossFit gym.  Here's the end result.  I spent a long time getting the biceps just right.  Apparently all men spend part of their teenage years drawing cartoon biceps and superheros, but ya know I skipped that stage of development and so it took me a long time.  He's swinging a kettlebell.  Looking forward to wearing this t-shirt!  I also worked on some other t-shirt designs for ISDSI, and did a few illustrations for my language teacher.

(By the way, if you follow that last link and scroll way down you might see me teaching a capoeira class.)

I fly out of Chiang Mai tomorrow evening, and begin the long trip home.  Of course it will be sad to leave, I really love it here and have enjoyed learning the language and exploring and feeling like I really live here for a few weeks.  But on the other hand, I look forward to getting back home and working on what's next.

I had a great moment last night, empowered by language and a wee bit of cultural understanding.  I had met up with some girlfriends for a Thai massage, and then had to get way back across town to go to the evening Walking Street market one last time.  Armed with my newly-learned Thai and some bargaining skills, I asked a couple of tuk-tuk (motorcycle taxi) drivers how much it would cost to get a ride to the Tha Phae Gate.  They conferred and said 100 baht.
"Paeng maag!" I replied (too expensive!)
"Mai paeng!" they came back (not expensive!)
"Hahaha!  Mai bpai!" (I'm not going)..and I smiled and walked away and crossed the street to flag down a rot daeng (red bus taxi).  I asked the driver...and got a ride for 40 baht.  That's more like it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


 Walking by the wat with the mirror walls near the north gate of Chiang Mai.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A brief pseudo-ethnography of farmers' markets

This is an entry for my market friends at home.  As most of you know, I'm part of the Ithaca Farmers' Market and therefore have a certain fondness for this genre of food shopping.  Thailand is full of markets of various kinds, from the tourist-ridden weirdo Night Bazaar to the local farmers sitting by the side of the road with their basket of papayas.  Here in Chiang Mai we tend to get our food for the house primarily at the market down the road (pummelos, cashews, eggs, spices, greens, kilos of passionfruit, fresh orange juice, snacks wrapped in banana leaves, etc etc)....I often walk there in the afternoons after leaving the ISDSI office.  I also love strolling the Sunday evening Walking Street market downtown, about a kilometer of road closed to traffic and completely packed with art and craft and food vendors. It's so fun.  Even though I come from the other side of the world, I feel a certain solidarity with the vendors at these places, setting up their displays and being nice to customers and answering questions and hoping to make a living...I know what that's like.

There's a mix of people at all of these markets...some seem to be peddling items that were made or grown elsewhere, but some people are definitely there with their own produce or art/craft.

Here's a couple of photos of farmers' markets.  The first is the Je-je Market, a small organic market which is open two days per week...we go on Saturday morning and stock up in an attempt to limit exposure to the otherwise ubiquitous chemicals.  The second is just a nice shot of a bountiful display of tropical vegetables available at the market that's open every day down on the east side of the old city near the moat (there's also a noodle vendor there, which has been my source for fresh wide rice noodles as I continue the quest to make my own pad see eu).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Here be dragons

I'm exhausted!  One of my best friends from waaaay back had a few days off in the middle of a business trip to visit, and the last few days have been a whirlwind tour of every possible fun thing to do in Chiang Mai.  Belynda and I hit the Chinatown shopping area, back sois full of scarves and bags and embroidery, the Sunday Walking Street Market, ate our way through the city (street food and restaurants), massage and manicures, fruit shakes and iced teas, temples, more markets, walking all over the place, and the grand finale of a fun-and-scary bus ride at rush hour.  She is on her way to the next leg of her trip, and I'm definitely going to bed early tonight. 

I'm feeling rather pleased with my rudimentary Thai language.  I might sound like a two-year-old with a bad accent, but I can negotiate market prices, talk to tuk-tuk drivers (and arrive in the right place) and ask where a bathroom can be found.  Not that I always understand the answers, however...

But now it's back to work, I have something like three t-shirt designs to work on that are slowly not going anywhere.  But they will look fresher in the morning.

Here's my favorite photo from the last week, dragon feet at Wat Buppharam, just outside the east gate of the city.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The other, OTHER white meat

My life is now complete.  I have seen a street vendor at the famous Chiang Mai Flower Festival peddling fried insects.  And before you ask, no I didn't.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I had a great day yesterday.  I could understand enough Thai on the bus to know that the people were talking about food (although people often talk about food here, you would too).  I walked through the northeast corner of the old city, which is full of small streets and no traffic and flowers and shops.  I took a full-day cooking class (oh yes I did).  Got a pedicure for about $7.  Returned triumphant from the market with cashews, acacia, wide rice noodles, and tiny bananas.

Here's a dose of color for my friends on the east coast being snowed under.  I have to confess it's hard not to gloat a little when I read the Ithaca weather report and see phrases like "freezing drizzle" and "windchill of -2."