Monday, August 6, 2018

2016 Christmas Card Challenge Winners!!!!

It is with great pleasure that we announce the 2016 Christmas Card Challenge Winners, Natalie and Broc. This win has been two long years in the making (See: HERE and HERE and HERE). We're thrilled to present you with this major award, and take your old card off the wall, though we'd never say that last part to your faces.

There they are; the only card still standing on that section of the wall. You'll note that we still have 5 cards in active competition for the 2017 Christmas Card Challenge.

And so, the Year of the Double Duel is half over. We hope to crown our 2017 champion before December, but with four months to go, and no wall action in over a month, it's going to be close. Let's all cross our fingers together, and hope for a Christmas miracle. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What the Wat: Wat Saket, The Golden Mount

Ten thousand years ago, The Kid and I went to Wat Saket. Our friend organized the trip. She figured out how to get to the temple via water taxi, so we rode a boat down the khlong. I'd never have done that on my own, but it's easier to do terrifying things when you're with someone braver than you.

Getting on and off the boat was frightening, because we had to clamber into the thing from the pier with our kids, and all of our associated kid gear. The boats bob up and down in the water, as boats do, and it's a pretty big step down from the pier to the deck. You have to do a sort of simultaneous duck and swing to clear the roof. Normally, they load and unload the water taxis at an alarming pace, but everyone took pity on us, and went slow. It was an exciting, inexpensive ride, and an easy way to get to the Golden Mount.

Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount, is a temple in the center of Bangkok. Its name comes from the golden stupa of the temple, which rests on top of a man-made hill. A stupa, as I just learned from Google, is a structure that contains relics of Buddhist monks. In Thailand, stupas are often called chedis. This particular chedi is said to contain relics of the Buddha.

There has been a temple at Wat Saket for hundreds of years, but the current temple, the hill, and the golden chedi on top of the hill, are relatively recent additions. In the 1800s, King Rama III ordered construction of a massive chedi. The ground was not accommodating. Bangkok soil is boggy and soft. Rama III's chedi collapsed during construction. As nature began to retake the chedi, a hill formed. In the late 1800s, a new, smaller chedi was built on top of the old, collapsed one. The current temple at Wat Saket was built in the early 1900s, and the hill with the chedi was reinforced in the 1940s.

Visitors purchase these leaves to make merit (give offerings).

The temple site is large and quiet. To get to the chedi, you have to walk up a winding set of stairs. There are 300 in total, but they're small, easy stairs. The four year old in our group was able to walk all of them, and the two year old made it halfway before quitting. Along the route are various objects for worship and meditation--probably. I'm not very familiar with Buddhism, so I don't have much insight into the symbolism. It's very lovely and peaceful, so I appreciated it in a base sense.

Buddhists come to Wat Saket to worship. It's a tourist attraction for the rest of us because of the view from the top.

We went on a beautiful day, and were able to take advantage of a nice breeze. I love visiting temples when there's a breeze, because you can hear all of the little and big bells blowing in the wind.

The breeze wasn't strong enough to ring this bell, so the four year old rang it, instead.

On the way down, The Kid took his first photograph for the blog:

This is how the world looks from his perspective. It gives me vertigo.

One very interesting feature of Wat Saket is the burial ground on the side of the hill. Some of the memorials are built for patrons of the temple. I don't know if patrons is the correct word. It will have to stand, because I don't know the correct word. Some are for people who were cremated here. And some are for plague victims. Wat Saket was a burial site for around 60,000 of Thailand's plague victims during the late 1700s. We sat near the base of the cemetery while we took a snack break. It would have been interesting to look around it more, but I was very hot.

Wat Saket was not on my radar until my friend planned this outing. It was a trip worth taking, and something I'd recommend to anyone spending more than a day or two in Bangkok. During Loy Krathong in November, there's a big temple festival at the site. Depending on whether you like crowds of people, or not, that might be an interesting time to go. I'd be tempted, but only slightly. And only if someone else planned the logistics. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Year Without Greece...almost

We left Greece exactly one year ago. We are happy in Bangkok, but there's a lot to miss about Ελλάδα

Earlier this year, Phil had a work training in Frankfurt. We decided to make a brief detour back to Greece. We saw a few new things, visited some old things, and spent time with many of our friends. I've finally sorted through the photos, and thought it would be nice to mark our departure anniversary by forcing you to scroll through them. Everybody loves a vacation slideshow.

I've presented the photos with minimal captioning, due in part to the fact that I've already told you about a lot of these places, in part because I don't live there anymore so I don't feel obligated to tell you about these places, and in part because it almost physically pains me to see these places. Greece is so beautiful.

On the beach in Kantia.
George, a resident, told me that, "Everywhere else in Greece it is raining, but here the God's have an umbrella."

Poppies and olives in Argolis.

Goats on the road in Argolis.

Beautiful port town in Argolis.

Hiking to Franchthi Cave.

Franchthi Cave, first occupied in 38,000 BCE.

Coming back from the cave.

Hiking on the point near Ermioni. 

Hiking on the beautiful point near Ermioni. 

HIking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.

Still hiking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.

Starting to wonder what the actual town of Ermioni looks like, if this is what the point looks like, while still hiking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.


Poros island.

Temple of Poseidon on Poros island.

View from the Temple of Poseidon on Poros island. 
Still on Poros.

Still on Poros.

On or near Poros, actual location was not archived. Whoops.

On the way to Methana.

Hiking on Methana volcano. 
A shot of our unsolicited Greek farm dog guide on Methana volcano.

A portrait of a volcano, specifically Methana.

View from the top of the volcano.

View from inside the volcano.

View of the unsolicited Greek farm dog guide who rock scrambled with us all the way to the top of the volcano.
He also ran ahead of us on the way down, and made sure we got back to our car.

Dogless view from the top of Methana volcano.

Phil in front of the furnace.

Breathtaking Greece, near Methana.

Future award winning photography, probably. Also near Methana.

Rainbow over Tolo from a beach in Kantia.

Memorial shrine in Sounio.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounio.

More from Sounio.

Monastery on Mount Parnitha.

Sun in the pavement at the monastery.

Kid in a tree at the monastery.

Park of Souls, Mount Parnitha.

Hazy view of Ελλάδα on the way out of town.
We have one more year in Thailand, and a lot more to see. It's been a different post from Athens, and I will miss it differently. I wonder how long it will take after leaving here for us to come back here. This seems like an excellent opportunity for some gambling. Anyone want to start a pool?