Friday, December 23, 2011

I LOVE Christmas!

Its Friday December 23rd and Christmas really feels like it's upon me. I've been skyping with Mum and Dad (Sue and Craig) more frequently recently, trying to organise our impending trip to Japan and also because it's Christmas time and you just want your family at this time of year don't you?

The last time we talked, my parents were at our friend's place, The Michalskis, and I took some screen shots of them with the beautiful tree. The Michalski family are all incredibly talented so their Christmas - including wrapping, cards, food and decorations on the tree/table/around the house - is always stunning. Each year there's a different look and their tree is particularly beautiful, all lit up and hung with their beautiful and familiar decorations. I'm sad I missed the yummy Christmas dinner they had but I'm thankful to skype for allowing me to see the tree and my folks :)

Craig and Sue and the beautiful Christmas tree

Can't wait to see them tomorrow night!

Merry Christmas Craig and Sue

The lead up to Christmas has been odd because some of the things that I have come to associate with Christmas are totally absent in Thailand.
There's no mangoes right now (not in season) and nor are there cherries, nectarines or peaches. It might seem odd to all you non-Australians, but stone fruits are synonymous with Christmas time for me.
It doesn't smell at all Christmasy here either. The air smells as it always does, a humid mix of sewage and spice but in Sydney I'm used to the lovely summery mix of fresh salt air as the cool summer breeze comes off the sea, pine  from the Christmas trees dotted around, and particularly the smell of ripe mangoes just waiting to be eaten.
Although it's hot in Thailand, it's also rainy season so the weather is a bit grey and the clouds are always heavy with impending rain. In Sydney December is warm and the days and nights are mostly clear (not sure that's the case this year though) so there's always a lot of fun Christmas things to do outdoors, like carols in the domain or shopping for Christmas gifts at markets. And not having any of my family or friends from back home here makes it all a bit surreal too I think. But we're doing our best to make it a very Thailand Christmas. There's a secret Santa amongst the teachers in kindergarten and we have had dinners/drinks in the lead up to the 25th (just as we would have in Sydney). I stopped myself from buying any tinsel or Christmas decorations for my apartment because I'm leaving today and not returning until Jan 3rd so there didn't seem to be much point.

At school Christmas is in full swing. For 2 weeks it's been jingle bells and Christmas trees, we're literally decking the halls and you know what? It's been big fun! Being around the joyful energy of my 25 amazing little rug rats has really helped me get into the Christmas spirit.

Here's some pictures of my class in front of the Christmas/Snowman inspired art project we did last week:

I love the snowmen. We stuck cotton wool buds
to them so they're fluffy and snowy.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Apart from making thousands of X-mas art projects, we've also been practicing (very hard, and incessantly) for the kindergarten Christmas show. The show was on this morning and my kids did amazingly, I'm so proud! Yes, I cried a little but I think if you'd been there you would have cried too. Beautiful little balls of Christmasy delight they were, I adore them so much.  
Sadly my computer won't let me upload the footage I have of the show right now but I hope to work that out in the new year.

Here's a video of my amazing little Chrissy Elves practicing for the show.

I have to finish packing for my trip to Japan. So exciting, but I'm also a little bit nervous, I think the temperature in Japan is going to be the coldest I have ever experienced, Bbbbbbbbbbrrrrrrr.
Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope you have a wonderful family, food and joy-filled day on the 25th. Have a happy New Year and I will write again in 2012.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Flying Visit to Sydney + Bonus Footage of the Wedding of the Year

Bridesmaids at Paris & Todds' wonderful wedding

I can't believe it's taken me this long to post about my trip home to Sydney in early November. I guess I arrived back in Thailand and hit the ground running, and after putting pics up on Facebook I just put it out of my mind.
On November 4th I returned to Sydney for a flying visit. My pals Paris and Todd got married on November 12th and I was blessed to be one of Paris' bridesmaids. I was only in Sydney for about 9 days but the weather was amazing the whole time, blue skies, sunny and warm - lucky me!  
Here's a little photo diary of the trip.
Josette (who collected me at the airport) and I enjoying
a fresh pineapple and  mint  frozen drink from Miss Chu 

Driving over The Harbour Bridge

My girls, Evie, Brielle and Julia.
Bri made cocktails and mini cupcakes for Jules' birthday :)

Tequila, enough said.

Bri and her beautiful son Josh
(in a hand knitted froggy hat from Thailand)

6am play time...yaaaawwn

Super morning photo or me, Josh and Jules

Bri, Joshy and I on our way to do some
shopping at my fave antiques store.

So cute!

Joshy and Mummy.

Lunchtime and 'I'm not happy!'

The day I left for Thailand (March 22nd 2011) my dear friend and kind of surrogate grandmother, Tess d'Alpuget, passed away. She is buried in possibly the most beautiful cemetery in Sydney. It is on a headland and overlooks Bronte beach. My mother and I went to visit the grave.

Mum and Tess' grave

Me and Eloise at Balmoral Beach.

Yummy dinner with friends at Fu Manchu,
one of my favorite restaurants in Sydney

Beautiful Linda, my amazing friend from L.A
who writes a food blog
My beautiful friends Eloise, then me, Amanda, Julia, Evie and Katie

Amanda had come from a wedding,
I decided to wear her hat in an attempt to be Mrs Bucket 

My 2 friends named Craig doing a 'Craig sandwich'
with me in the middle
On Saturday November 12th my beautiful friend Paris married the gorgeous Todd. It was a perfect day, full of love, fun and flowers.

Beau doing Paris (in a beautiful Vera Wang dress) up

Paris was (and is always) breathtakingly beautiful!!

Paris and her beautiful sister Beau,
having photos in the park just after the ceremony

This is me at the reception,
which was held on an island fort in the middle of Sydney Harbour - WOW! 

A perfect sunset

Me and the bride

Beautiful Sydney

Todd (the groom)and I

Just Married!

The flowers at the reception were amazing!!

There was a wonderful and uplifting performance by a friend of the Bride's, Richard Tognetti AO. Who is the Artistic Director and Lead Violin for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Satu Vanska, the Assistant Leader of the ACO. Satu plays a 1728/9 Stradivarius violin, which is pretty special!!

They played 4 songs but I was so mesmerised I only filmed about 20 seconds of one, which I have added below. 

The view from my seat at the reception.

Cutting the cake
On my final morning in Sydney I caught the ferry into the city with Craig/Dad. It was a perfect morning in my beautiful city so i got a bit snap happy.

Dad and I. I love this pic :)

And that ends my journey to Oz. It was lovely to be there, but sad to have to say good bye so soon. Seeing my buddies, eating some great food (yes including 2 dinners at Thai restaurants...WHY?!) and hanging out with my folks was wonderful!

Paris and Todd's wedding was beautiful and I am so blessed to have been asked to be one of Paris' bridesmaids. I will never forget that day.

Farewell Sydney. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Going on a Snowy Holiday

I a so excited! In exactly one week I will be winging my way to JAPAN! It's Christmas time and because I work  at a Christian school I get 10 days off!!

My parents have had a snowy Christmas before, (I believe they were in NYC in 1975 (?) when there was a blizzard) but i have never seen snow for Christmas. Christmas Day for me is sunshine, beaches, cold cuts of meat, fish on the BBQ, cold drinks and the smell of bushfires.

That's all about to change though because this year I will be in Hakuba, near Nagino. Yay! The actual plan is to fly into Tokyo, drive 5 hrs to Hakuba and meet my parents at our lodge, just in time for Christmas Eve dinner :)
The map of Hakuba...EXCITED!
We're going to spend 5 nights in Hakuba, 3 days snowboarding and 1 day on a tour of a nearby castle where we can see snow monkeys!

We are moving to Kyoto for our last 4 nights in Japan, my parents love Kyoto and stayed in the centre of Gion (the ancient and traditional Gesha area of the city) when they were there last. We're staying at a different hotel but it is still right in the centre of Gion. I am so excited!

I am looking forward to eating at my Father's favorite tempura restaurant, seeing Nijo Castle, and going to the beautiful Fushimi Inari-Taisha. If we have time I'd love to see the Kyoto Manga Museum too but it might be something I do on my own :)

I really miss my wonderful parents when I come away, and although I only saw them 6 weeks ago, it will be wonderful to catch up with them again. It's going to be a Christmas to remember! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Full Lunar Eclipse

On Saturday December 10 there was a full lunar eclipse and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (Koh Phangan, in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand at almost midnight) where I could watch the whole thing. Here are some pics my buddy took:

This eclipse was a full penumbral eclipse. Penumbral means a partial outer shadow that is lighter than the darker inner shadow. I'm not sure that I will ever see an eclipse like this again because penumbral eclipses are quite rare and only occur when the Moon passes through the Earth's penumbra.
The moon appeared red because of the way the light passed through Earth's atmosphere, and the angle that it was refracted.

I am really blessed to have been able to watch such a beautiful event. It made me think about my insignificance, and how ancient and mighty the universe is. It was a very humbling experience and I am truly happy I was able to appreciate it with some good friends. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Top 5 Beaches in Thailand

This past weekend was another national holiday and so Clare (who you may remember from previous posts, my friend who is visiting from Sydney) and I, along with a bunch of other groovy people from Nakhon, went to Koh Phangan for 3 nights.

 The beach we went to, Haad (meaning 'beach' in Thai) Yuan, is one of my favorite beaches in Thailand. Actually it's one of the best beaches I have ever been to. I told Clare when she was planning her trip, that she simply had to visit Yuan because it's just so beautiful, chilled out, peaceful, and there's hardly any backpackers (yay!).

I have a bit of holiday time coming up in March/April/May and I want to spend some of it in Thailand. Which has got me thinking, should I visit places I've been and love and perhaps want to say good-bye to or should I try and discover some new places. If I had to name my 5 favorite beaches in Thailand (because apart from Chiang Mai and Pai in the North of Thailand, my favorite places are all islands or beaches) which ones would I choose?

I thought about it over the weekend and, finally, after much deliberation, here is the list of my top 5 beaches in Thailand (so far):

Note - 'Koh' means island in Thai.

1. Haad Yuan, Koh Phangan.
This beach is only 5/10 minutes by longtail boat from horrible Haad Rin (the horrific 'Full Moon Party' beach) yet it is so different. Haad Yuan (and neighbouring Haad Tien and Haad Wynam) are not at all built up, no loud bars blasting terrible music from 5pm-3am or bucket drinking backpackers to ruin your day/night at the beach.
The food on Haad Yuan/Tien is fantastic too. Bamboo Hut is my fave place to eat. It's perched on the rocks and affords a fantastic view of the beach. I particularly recommend ANYTHING on the menu!

On my 27th birthday, Haad Yuan

Haad Yuan, taken from Bamboo Hut

2. Paradise Beach, Koh Wai
Here's an areal image of the island. The beach i'm talking about is the 1st big beach at top left, there's a per jutting out on the Eastern side. Crystal clear water, lots of fish and some good snorkeling. There's one restaurant (attached to Paradise Resort) on the beach and you can find cocktails, snack, meals and fresh juices all served with a smile.

Brielle and I showing the love for Koh Wai

Shaking coconuts out of the tree
The beach and the pier
There were so many different types of fish living under this platform!
Great Snorkeling - Koh Wai

The restaurant on the beach, Koh Wai

3. Thong Nai Pan Noi, Koh Phangan.
blogged about this beach a few months ago. I went there with my pal Janice and had a wonderful time. We went in the height of low season and the weather was just OK, not a lot of sun BUT we still loved it. The beach is beautiful, there's a lot of options for accommodation and there are several wonderful restaurants!

Janice on Thong Nai Pan Noi
Me sipping my fresh coconut, YUM!

Thong Nai Pan Noi (and Thong Nai Pan Yai in the distance. Yai means South and Noi means North)

4. Koh Lidee (there's only 1 beach, the island is so small!)
I went to Koh Lidee in August, which is supposed to be rainy season. Although we didn't get any rain, we didn't have super sunny days the whole time either. The final day was bright and clear and I think that's what made me fall in love with the island/beach. The water is so beautiful and the area is so peaceful and quiet. Just magical.
You can either stay in the few cabins on Lidee or bring a tent, but I can guarantee you won't want to be spending much time indoors if you go to this island. We brought all our own food except for the fresh seafood which we bought off the local fishermen (there's no shop). There was a BBQ as well as some big containers for ice to keep everything cold.

The view from my bedroom window

Enjoying the warm water

Post swim, morning coffee

A beautiful full moon

Koh Lidee by day, stunning!

5. Loh Dalam Bay, Koh Phi Phi Don. This beach is on my list for a different reason to the others. It's not the most magical, beautiful place in Thailand but it's just so much fun! Phi Phi is a great island with loads going on. During the day everyone flocks to Loh Dalam Bay and relaxes in the flat, shallow water, and at about 5pm people start to leave and get ready for a fun night out in exactly the same place.
At night the beach transforms, there are rows and rows of beach bars with fire shows and fresh seafood on BBQs.
I have been to Phi Phi twice and each time I loved it! I, like everyone else, spent everyday lazing around on the sand and swimming with all the other tourists (sounds horrible, is actually quite fun) and every night watching fire shows and drinking cocktails on the same beach at night.

Loh Dalam Bay

From the viewpoint, Loh Dalam Bay on the right