Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014 & the Rod Fai Market in Bangkok

Santa came to visit us at our hotel in Bangkok. He left a beach toy for each kid and a note saying that the rest of our gifts are at home in Korea. 

 This was all of our first Christmas in a hotel, but we still had fun. We ate crossiants and orange juice and skyped with family.

Look what I got from Santa!

After taking the kids swimming at the freezing cold hotel pool, we made our way to the Rod Fai night Market. This market is located at an old train station and has rave reviews on trip advisor. Unlike the Chatachuk market, this market seems to specialise in antiques.
We took the sky train to On Nut station and from there took a taxi to what felt like the middle of nowhere. We emerged out of a neigborhood full of quiet side streets to a main street with a huge shopping center. The market was just to the right of that. (Side note, on the way back to the hotel we took a taxi the whole way and not only did it cost less than taking the train but it took half the time).
First we found the food. There was a variety of food, Jim and I each got a gyro and we found brownies!!! Despite turning our children into world travelers, their palates continue to be decidedly narrow, they were so happy that we found a pizza place.
While we were waiting for our food, Santas came by and gave all the kids in the restaurant teddy bears.

After finishing the pizza, we went out to see what we could see. The market has antique shops set up toward the back and regular market things in the middle (i.e. t shirts, hats, socks, one stall had just overalls, etc.).
The antique stores were so great. Unfortunately because of the nature of antiques, I couldn't afford to get anything and even if I could, getting it back to Korea would have been either costly or a pain.

Vespa scooters
radios and chandliers
Jim and the kids were very cooperative. It was a nice night and the market wasn't busy at all, so the kids stayed outside of the stores while I looked around.

antique cars

This horse had working sound effects
On our way out we passed a section with pet stores-both with things for pets and stores that sold pets. We came across this groomer. This cat's mom is going to kill him when she sees what he's done to his hair.
The day after Christmas we headed south by van to Hua Hin. And....I finally came down with the stomach flu that's been going around our family. All things considered, it came at an excellent time-after we settled into our apartment here. We're here for the next week. We have a small but very nice apartment with 3 pools. And there's this:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thailand: The Snake Farm

It's Christmas Eve and sunny and warm in Bangkok! We started our morning with some fresh squeezed orange juice.
 Jim got a veggie omelet cooked over a gas stove at a food stand on the street.

We finished up our last minute Christmas shopping and took the subway to the Snake Farm!
Our kids are tall
This is just a cute picture of August and Grace
The Snake Farm is a part of the Queen Saovbah Memorial Institute which is an institute that specailzes in the husbandry of venemous snakes and the extraction of and reasearch of snake venom. It's associated with the Red Cross and the World Health Organization and has been around since 1929. 
Ruby was excited because just last week she presented a report about Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross.

 There are a variety of super scary snakes kept in glass and caged enclosures.

 We got there with enough time to look around and get front row seats for the snake show. The snake show was very interesting, with tons of facts (so many that I can't actually remember which snakes to run from and which to stand still around but enough to remember that king cobras live in Bangkok and pit vipers live under your bed or something like that). It was interesting and entertaining and it was included in the $3 entry fee.
The king cobra (and the preseter behind him. The prestner gave the entire
presentaion in both English and Thai)

And how to capture a King Cobra, if you're into that sort of thing:

the Pit Viper
This is a video of a scary snake, but I don't remember its name:

For the grand finale, of course they bring out the Python snake.  At the end everyone is allowed to line up and get their picture taken with it.
Grace is keeping an eye on the snake
When we left, we spent quite some time getting across streets in the crazy traffic.
 We walked 2 blocks to Lumpini Park so the kids could run around a bit.

I think Santa is on his way to Bangkok right now...

A new tradition? Thailand for Christmas again!

We loved it so much last year that we decided to come back to Thailand for winter break again this year. This year we found a cheap direct flight from Seoul to Bangkok.
 We got in late but had booked a place near the airport ahead of time. We took a taxi into Bangkok Tuesday morning. Our first day out we walked around the neighborhood and stumbled upon a little market.
nuts and nut cookies
fresh fruit 
watch out!
the kids got fruit and yogurt and Jim and I got Thai coffee
made with sweetened condensed milk
 We eventually headed to Terminal 21 mall to try to get sim cards for our phones and finish some last minute Christmas shopping. While I shopped, Jim took the kids to see the new movie Big Hero 6.
Want to know what it's about? So did I, here's what it's about according to August (that is a bandage on his forehead, he fell on ice 2 days before our trip and needed 5 stitches):

The kids outside Terminal 21

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ikea is here.

Since we moved to Korea people have told us that Ikea was going to be built here. At the risk of sounding like "back in my day" kind of whiner, I want to tell you about my mixed feelings regarding Ikea being built here at this time. First of all, I love Ikea-trendy, cheap items for my home? Love it. Sign me up. But listen, you need to know how stinking hard it was to decorate our apartment when we moved here. I could NOT find a floor lamp here.  Rugs were not only hard to find, but when I did find one at Emart, it was $700. Now when other expats move here, they'll just pop over to Ikea and get everything they could ever need. 

Knowing the difference between how crazy Costco is on a Saturday in the U.S. and how it's 10 times crazier here, I was braced for full on lunacy with Ikea. I heard it's about an hour drive to the north and west of where we live. Officially, Ikea opened on Thursday. Our winter break started Friday afternoon and we decided to go on Saturday. Soo and Heidi wanted to go too, and we decided we would get there right when it opened at 10. I figured that we would need an hour to drive, 30 minutes to sit in the car waiting to get into the parking lot and maybe an hour to wait in line to get into the store. 

First we stopped for coffee, were led astray by the gps directions (we crossed the Han River 4 times when really, we needed to cross the Han zero times) and got to Ikea right at 10:00. There was an additional parking lot for the Lotte outlets across the street, so we parked there and decided we'd just pick something up at Lotte to validate our parking. This area is like a little golden triangle of shopping: Ikea, Lotte Outlet and a Costco. 

 It was not at all as crazy as I had anticipated.
Looks like a line for a ride at Disneyland, but it's just the entrance to Ikea

This guy was wearing a tank of coffee on his back pouring cups to
those waiting in line.
They were also handing out these hand warmers
We got inside after a very short (2 minutes maybe?) wait. I was talking to an Ikea employee inside and he said they space out the people entering the building between the 7 entrances so there aren't too many people rushing in at once.

me and Soo, ready to shop!
Overall, it was just like being in the U.S. the crowds were comparable to Denver and so were the prices. I had heard that things were marked up as much as 40%, but I didn't see that.
The cafeteria
The store is laid out so that you go through the show room, then eat and think over what you've seen and then go buy it all. We got to the restaurant right around 11:30 and we just beat the rush. The meatballs are the same! The menu is more limited and there are no kids' meals. The cold foods are similar (salad and wraps) but the hot foods are limited to these 4 choices:
 meatball set, fried kimchi and rice, bulgogi and rice, pasta.

The classic!
 Being there was overwhelming. In the end, I got a new lamp and rug for the bedroom and a few other knick-knacky things. I'd found a rocking chair that I liked and they were sold out. I inquired about it and the Ikea employee told me that somethings were sold out because they didn't antipate how huge the response would be. Please, I could have told you how huge it was going to be.
see? Normal prices
By the time we left around 1:00, the line to get in was much longer and the traffic was getting worse. In general in Korea, things open late and people get going later in the morning than they do in the U.S., especially on a weekend. Going right for opening was a good way to beat the crowds.

Jim had so much fun putting this lamp together that he's asked me to go back to Ikea to buy more things! Just kidding.