A Morning at the Market

One of our favorite things to do at home on Saturdays is to go to the farmer’s market. Here, we can do the same thing, except the setting is a little more dramatic.

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Dom St. Stephen

Although there are other outdoor markets throughout the week, the one in the plaza in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the closest to our apartment. It’s the usual fruits and vegetables you’d expect from a farmer’s market, plus some bread, meats, and cheeses, and several vendors selling potted plants.

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Produce stands in the plaza

What’s for sale these days? Well, it’s strawberry and asparagus season!

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These strawberries were so good that I may never eat an American strawberry again.

A local regional specialty is the white asparagus you can see in the top part of the above photo. It has a thicker stalk than the green asparagus, has a milder flavor, and a softer texture. It is grown the same as green asparagus, but as the shoots come up they are covered with soil. Without being exposed to sunlight, no photosynthesis occurs, and they remain white. I had some the other night for dinner, slathered in a butter sauce. Delicious!

There was also a stand selling wooden toys and kitchen utensils.

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Hugo keeps insisting that there is a zoo in Passau, but I’m pretty sure these little wooden creatures are as close as he’s going to get

After a lunch of bread, cheese, and strawberries, the cathedral bells started ringing and the crowds of tourists from the Danube cruise boats started pouring in to the square.

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Time to head home.

Touche, Tokay

Gek-o, gek-o, tok tok tok tok

“Quick, go get it!”

I throw open the balcony door as loudly as possible and start banging on the ceiling with a broom handle.

“It’s not…”

Gek-o, gek-o, tok tok tok 

“It’s not working!”

Our days and nights are plagued by a horrible and unseen beast.

At first I thought it might be a bird because there’s a nest in the potted tree on the balcony, but the sound is coming from above.

A frog or toad of some sort? Maybe.

Then the maid said she saw it, blue-gray with red spots, hiding in a corner of the roof of our balcony.

She told me it was called a tokex, which Google translate helpfully told me is Indonesian for tokex.

A little more digging and we figured it out: a tokay gecko, one of the largest geckos in the world.

LOOK AT ITS MENACING FACE!

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Here are some disturbing facts about our unwanted roommate:

  • It can grow to up to 20 disgusting inches long
  • They have a creepy semi-prehensile tail
  • They have a beastly “third eye” on top of their head that can sense light
  • If you look into their ear you can see directly through their abominable head (I did not make this up)
  • They have a monstrous fold of skin which prevents them from casting a shadow (also not made up)
  • They have a vicious and  painful bite
  • American soldiers in Vietnam nicknamed it the “fuck you lizard”  for obvious reasons

And of course there is its famously loud call.

Fuck you lizard, indeed.

Making Friends

Hugo has made a friend. Her mother works at the guesthouse where the students live.

They laugh together.

They were jumping up and down the stairs and counting

They were jumping up and down the stairs and counting

They read together.

Cosmo Girl Indonesia!

Cosmo Girl Indonesia!

They share an umbrella.

Checking out the fish pond

Checking out the fish pond

I think he’s pretty tired of having just me as a playmate.

Plus, she waged a long battle to win his affections, including but not limited to bribery with crackers and juice boxes.

What’s For Breakfast?

A friend of mine on Facebook posted this video the other day:

I’ve often felt that breakfast was the most difficult meal for “going local.” There’s just something about eating strange foods early in the mornings that’s harder than at other times of day.

Here, every morning at 6am, our breakfast arrives in tidy boxes.

It's like Christmas every morning! What surprises await?

It’s like Christmas every morning! What surprises await?

Let’s take a look inside.

Everything is neatly wrapped, even the little green spoon.

Everything is neatly wrapped, even the little green spoon.

Today it was rice, a piece of chicken, garlic vegetables, some krupuk, and a tiny banana.

It's never too early for roasted chicken! It's usually some variation of this. Sometimes fish or tempeh, sometimes a different fruit or vegetable, but all in all not bad!

It’s never too early for roasted chicken! It’s usually some variation of this. Sometimes fish or tempeh, sometimes a different fruit or vegetable, but all in all not bad!

What did you have for breakfast today?

Getting To Know The Neighborhood

Selamat pagi! After a couple of weeks of touring around we’re finally getting settled into our new home in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As I was preparing for the whole Pac-Rim trip, I always thought that this particular part of the trip would be the most challenging: we will be here the longest, I have almost no communication skills in the local language, and Gareth will have the most work to do. I’m sure I’ll muddle through with a few miscommunications and wrong turns in taxis, and in the end maybe my Indonesian will actually improve! It’s just that making those kinds of mistakes seem a bit more stressful with Hugo
in tow.

We spent the first day here unpacking and getting to know our neighborhood. We’re in a house a bit back off the main road on a small lane.

Our small lane. It feels semi-rural, with chickens running around, small rice paddies, and banana trees everywhere, but we are not far from the main part of town.

Our small lane. It feels semi-rural, with chickens running around, small rice paddies, and banana trees everywhere, but we are not far from the main part of town.

We found a rambutan tree.

If you're never had one, they are a lot like lychee

If you’re never had one, they are a lot like lychee

Hugo was amused by the blue eggs.

Fun fact: blue chicken eggs usually come from just certain breeds of chicken found in China and Chile that have a high incidence of a particular retrovirus that changes the chemistry of the eggshell. A dose of science with your breakfast!

Fun fact: blue chicken eggs usually come from just certain breeds of chicken found in China and Chile that have a high incidence of a particular retrovirus that changes the chemistry of the eggshell. A dose of science with your breakfast!

We interacted with the not-so-wild life.

Birds are a popular pet

Birds are a popular pet

We bought some ripe rambutans to take home.

You shouldn't eat them until they turn red

You shouldn’t eat them until they turn red

We ate them later while waiting for the rain to stop.

When he was scared of the thunder, I sang him "My Favorite Things." It worked. Thanks, Fraulein Maria!

When he was scared of the thunder, I sang him “My Favorite Things.” It worked. Thanks, Fraulein Maria!

Rainy Day Project

What do you do when it’s raining like crazy in Singapore, forcing you to cancel your fun outdoor plans?

You build a ridiculously complicated LEGO knock-off Millennium Falcon!

This hunk of junk has more than 100 pieces! But it can do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

This hunk of junk has more than 100 pieces! But it can do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

But there is a key problem with knock-off LEGO:

7 leftover pieces, including a little hand. Maybe it's Luke's. [or insert other appropriate Star Wars reference]

7 leftover pieces, including a little hand. Maybe it’s Luke’s. [or insert other appropriate Star Wars reference]

Selamat Tinggal, Malaysia!

On our last morning in Malaysia, we picked up some baozi from the Chinese restaurant on the corner, and took a walk through Little India to Fort Cornwallis, built in the late 1700s by the British East India Company.

However, once we got there, we saw there was a very nice playground nearby, and who needs visits to historical sites when there are slides!

It's hard to photograph a kid coming down a slide

It’s hard to photograph a kid coming down a slide

It’s also right on the waterfront, and Hugo wanted to go see the ocean.

It's also hard to take a selfie with a toddler

It’s also hard to take a selfie with a toddler

Wait, let’s try that again.

He hates to have his picture taken, so sometimes you have to take what you can get, even if it comes with a weird expression

He hates to have his picture taken, so sometimes you have to take what you can get, even if it comes with a weird expression

We walked back to check out Hugo’s favorite piece of street art one last time.

Maybe if I'm really diligent I can make one of these found object rickshaws at home

Maybe if I’m really diligent I can make one of these found object rickshaws at home

And we bought a giant mango snow ball (like a snow cone, but in a tray instead of a cone).

Sorry for the blurry pic, but it was all I could do to keep him from eating it before I took the photo

Sorry for the blurry pic, but it was all I could do to keep him from eating it before I took the photo

Our days in Malaysia have really flown by. I wish we had more time to spend in this fascinating place — a diverse confluence of cultures, languages and foods.

But, before we knew it, we were back on a plane…

I always let him have the window seat

I always let him have the window seat

And eating lunch on the veranda in Singapore!

Food always tastes better when dining al fresco

Food always tastes better when dining al fresco

Hello, 你好, and selamat sore to Singapore!

 

The Last Few Days

It’s hard to believe that our time in Chiang Mai is coming to an end! We’re spending our last few days here soaking up all we can of the city and revisiting some of our favorite places.

Our last chance to smell the yellow flowers.

Our last chance to smell the sweet yellow flowers

“They’re full of butterflies!”

Our last chance to feed the fish.

It's amazing how many fish can live in a murky brown pond when given continuous food.

It’s amazing how many fish can live in a murky brown pond when given continuous food.

Our last Sunday market street food.

There really aren't enough foods shaped like pandas.

There really aren’t enough foods shaped like pandas.

Our last giant tropical smoothie.

mmmmmango

mmmmmango

Just kidding, there’s always time to drink your height in smoothie.

You wouldn't think his stomach was that big.

You wouldn’t think his stomach was that big.

And in case you didn’t think he could finish it…

And of course he immediately asked for another.

And of course he immediately asked for another.

And our last songthaew ride.

It's a picture of a songthaew taken from inside a songthaew!

It’s a picture of a songthaew taken from inside a songthaew!

I’m sure we have a few more lasts up our sleeves before we leave, but I’ll be sorry to say good bye to Chiang Mai!

 

Hipsters Are Everywhere: The Barn

Our neighborhood has a cool new café called The Barn.

Sorry, it's not a café, it's an eatery. Plus design. I mean, "+ design"

Sorry, it’s not a café, it’s an eatery. Plus design. I mean, “+ design”

This café was designed by some local architecture students as their final graduation project.

It has everything you may want from a hip, trendy café: unfinished wood floors, antique rocking horses, tables made of spools, naked globe lights, cooler-than-you art on the windows.

This photo  needed the retro border treatment

This photo needed the retro border treatment

They were even playing Arcade Fire on the sound system (but not the new Arcade Fire, if you know what I mean).

And that sound system? Disguised inside an antique radio.

There was the usual array of espresso drinks and sweets available. Hugo enjoyed the smoothies.

Hugo just recently figured out how to use a straw. He likes to take a sip and then triumphantly shout "You suck!"

Hugo just recently figured out how to use a straw. He likes to take a sip and then triumphantly shout “You suck!”

It’s a great place to come and sit and work alone on your Apple brand electronic device.

Here’s where to find The Barn if you are ever wandering around Chiang Mai in search of espresso and lo-fi music.

Lost in Translation, Part 1

My friend Rosanna asked if I could post some pictures of funny English mistranslations. Honestly, Thailand hasn’t been a great source of ridiculously bad English. A lot of people here speak very good to passable English.

Even the old lady at the fruit stand can quote me a price in English. This is good because I’ve only managed to learn to count to three, so unless my bananas cost three baht or less, I’m in trouble.

So here are some of my favorites from Thailand (so far)!

Thanks for the recommendation, Nick!

Always remember, freedom isn’t free! It’s available for the price of a tasty curry.

I ate at this ominously named restaurant:

I didn't die after eating at this restaurant, but I sure felt like I was going to!

I didn’t die after eating here, but I sure felt like I was going to!

I’m trying to imagine the pitch meeting for this ad:

I could list all the ways this ad is sexist, but it would make me cry.

I could list all the ways this ad is sexist, but it would make me cry.

Purra Marketing Exec: We need to sell more water to women. Our studies have shown that women are the primary water buying decision makers.

Purra Ad Agency Exec: We should try to appeal to their emotional side. We all know that women are emotional. It’s because of their weird lady-parts and hormones and stuff.

Purra Marketing Exec: Yeah, my wife just won’t stop crying whenever she’s on her monthlies.

Purra Ad Agency Exec: Wait! That’s it!

Purra Marketing Exec: Co-marketing with sanitary products?

Purra Ad Agency Exec: Don’t be gross. Hear me out, I’m having a Don Draper moment. Tears are made of water. Purra water is made of water.

Purra Marketing Exec: This is genius. I can’t believe no one realized that before. Have the intern write some copy and find us a stock photo of some crying lady’s face. I want to go national with this by next week.