Friday, January 26, 2007

National Pride

Well, believe it or not, today was a holiday here! Today's holiday was a matter of National Pride. It celebrates the country being recognized as their own country... but don't confuse that with Independence Day, we have that too :)
So, today we ventured out with 7 other people (a big group of 9 white people) to see the parade. We really wanted to see the parade, but in most areas of the parade, you couldn't bring cameras inside... but in one end of the parade (in an area where you only get to see half of the parade - which we later learned) - we were able to bring our cameras in. We had to watch the parade through a fence most of the time, but still cool! They started off by showing off the military groups from the different states here. They all had really interesting uniforms - especially the hats! Way cool!!
This military group (below) is from one of the states way up North of us that actually gets snow! It was awesome that part of their uniform included skis on their backs!! How cool is that!! They even had these crazy-cool ski goggles (but you can't really see them in this pic)
OK, so the camels were my favorite! There were TONS of them!! They ROCKED!! Some of the camels looked like they were wearing body armor on their necks! They were representing a state south of us that has a lot of deserts!
Following the military men on camels, was their band - ALSO ON CAMELS!! OK, all of you who were in marching band growing up... picture yourself playing your instrument... while riding on a camel - how cool is that!! You can see the sousaphones and tubas in the pic below:
In this pic you can see the bass drum and the clarinets! Can you imagine being a camel and having a bass drum being beat by your head for an entire parade! hahaha!
And last, but definitely not least! - you can't have a parade without some South Asian Mimes! These guys cracked me up!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kite Day Blues...

Over the last few days we have been in M-town. Some new friends of ours (in the pic below) are moving to M-town for about a year, so we went to help a little in that moving process.
All 4 of us fit on a little tiny bicycle rickshaw! It was awesome!!
We got to hang out with the Kumars (the family we used to live with when we lived in M-town). Our favorite street dog (Mad Dog) had more puppies, so we got to see them and they were very cute!
Of course we had to make a trip to Pizza Hut to see the dancing!! It's awesome! They turn up the music really loud, and all of the employees dance a choreographed dance! If you want to see a video of a previous Pizza Hut dance, then click on this link:

OK, so on to the Kite Day Tragedy....
I think I mentioned in the previous post that Kite day is our all-time favorite holiday here... It's an awesome day of Kite-flying and great food! Last year we woke up really early and flew kites almost all day! Now, for those of you that think that sounds boring... think again because it's not just about flying your kite, but "cutting" other people's kites! The goal is to get your kite up high in the sky and then try to "cut" another person's kite... and when you cut their kite you yell out: Vo Cuttay (I cut you!). It's TONS of fun!
So, Kite Day (Basant Panchmi) was on Tuesday... so we decided that we would leave M-town on Monday night to be back on Tuesday morning in the capital for Kite Day. We thought it would be a great and easy way to meet some of our neighbors that we haven't really had the chance to meet yet. So we were excited!

All day on Monday (and the days before) we saw scenes in M-town like the one in the pic below of kids buying and selling kites and getting ready for kite day! Well, on Monday night we were checking on our train (that was supposed to arrive at 8:30 pm) to see if it was on time or not... we checked online and it said that our train was running 1.5 hours late. No problem, we just hung out with our friends a little longer... So right before we were about to get on a rickshaw, we checked the schedule again and it said it was only running 45 minutes late!! So our friend Scott drove us to the train station quickly (as quickly as you can in south asia) so that we wouldn't miss the train. Well, we got to the train station just to learn that our train had left ON TIME! and that the internet was WRONG!

Well, we wern't sure what to do because we really wanted to be home in the capital for Kite Day. So we called Scott and were talking to him and realized that our favorite train to take hadn't left yet... BUT we didn't have tickets and we couldn't buy them at that time of night... so we decided just to get on (aparently you can do that, but it's just a little risky)... so when the train came, we jumped on (there's only about at 1-2 min stop in M-town, so we had to be fast)

We got on the train and just as the train starts going, one of the conductors told us that he was going to charge us 1,700 Rs. per person!!! That would be about $80 for the both of us!!!!!!! We knew the price that we should pay (250 Rs. per person - about $5 each) so we told the guy we wouldn't pay more than 250. Then he told us to go to another car. So we walked through a bunch of cars to get to that car. When we got there, another conductor pulled us in between the cars and told Adam that he had to pay 1,700 per person (we knew they were trying to scam us)... ANYWAY... to make this already too long of a story shorter... we stood our ground and only paid 250 a person.... whoo hoo! Talk about a cultural victory!!

Well, we got home that night and went straight to bed so that we could get some sleep before Kite Day that next morning. Well, we woke up and didn't see any kites in the sky.... so we took showers and then checked... and no kites!!! We decided to walk around town .... NO KITES!!! Well, we finally found out that they don't celebrate Kite Day in the Capital!! Talk about dissappointment!! We could have stayed in M-town just one more day and we could have celebrated Kite Day!
We brought some string back with us from M-town, but we didn't bring any kites... so we couldn't even fly one ourselves... what a sad Kite Day Tragedy... Oh well, I guess we'll have to wait for next year.... Next year on Kite Day we're definitely coming to M-town!!

Here's a video from last year's Kite Day if you wanna check it out! (we had to shrink the quality to put it on here, so you can't really see all the kites in the sky, but trust me, it was covered!! Oh, and the begining of the video is a little bit boring... sorry)

If you want to check it out, press play and pause and let it load before watching it.
Kite Day!!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lohri

We definitely live in the land of a million and one holidays! Saturday we had a holiday called Lohri. Different people here have varying definitions as to what this holiday is all about, but the basis of it is that every January 13th, everyone builds fires all over town and celebrates that winter is begining to end. They say that after January 13th, the temperature will change and begin to get warmer and warmer from then on. That night people had fires EVERYWHERE! It was funny! About every other house or so on our street had a fire in front of their house or on their driveway. Some people had even hired "mini-bands" to come play at their fire in front of their house. (In the pic above you can see a bass drum and a couple of brass instruments)Our neighborhood association area had a Lohri party. They had a fire and snacks... as well as a stage and seating area! At the begining of the performance, kids came up and did a sort-of talent show. Most of the kids played their electronic keyboards. It was cute! Then they had some "professional musicians" come and play. It was a fun party! I have to say that I LOVE that there are so many holidays here! It makes life exciting! One of my favorite holidays is coming up on Tuesday! - Basant Panchami! (Kite day!!!) Hopefully I'll have some good pics from that! It's definitely going to be different to celebrate it here in the capital than it was in M-town, but it still should be pretty fun! I'll keep you posted!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Funny Things :)

Well as you know, here in SouthAsiaLand, we always see funny things... things that really make us laugh! So today I'm going to share with you a few of thing things that have made us laugh in the last few weeks :)

This one speaks for itself:
This guy in the pic below was our rickshaw driver the other day... I liked his sporty jacket :) I think that was the first time I had ever seen the words "Hamster" and "Sporty" used together... hahaha I don't think any hamster I ever had was sporty... well, except for that whole wheel-running thing :)
Now this guy was creative! When Adam & I were riding our scooters around Phuket Thailand, we saw this guy going for a walk with his baby.... He had somehow attached wheels to this baby carrier thing and then tied a string to it... he was pulling her up and down these hills and over those cobble stones on the left - it was pretty funny! The baby was loving it!
This is a Mannequin that I saw in Thailand last week.... I couldn't stop laughing when I saw it... I thought it was hilarious!And last - but not least - back in SouthAsiaLand... the land of extremes :) - we were going down the road the other day and saw a stand selling Chandeliers on the side of the road! (and some sort of inflatable dog thing on the left)... it made me laugh!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Phuket Thailand!!!

We just got back from our vacation to Phuket Thailand. We had a good and interesting trip :) No sightings of famous people or anything like that, but we did meet some interesting people :) One of the days we hiked to this waterfall... they told us to keep hiking up to see the waterfall... we saw the little waterfall in the picture above, but we didn't think that was it because it was so tiny... so we kept on hiking... well, we eventually figured out that that little trickle was the waterfall... the people working at the "waterfall" told us that that was the best time of year to go because in the summer the waterfall is non-existant! hahaha! We had fun though... Adam got to swing on a vine and pretent he was Tarzan... he thought he was cool :)
We rented scooters for most of our time there. It was a lot of fun to explore the island by scooter :) I'm getting to be a professional at driving on the left side of the road :) I looked really cool in my helmet! :)While on our scooters, we got to explore areas that aren't on the normal "tourist path"... it was neat to see all over the island! We saw this neat fishing village (below)... but I think it was at low tide... at least I hope so... that boat isn't going anywhere any time soon :)
The big Tsunami that hit in December 2004 really hit Phuket hard. They had a lot of damage. They really cleaned everything up fast and got all of the tourist areas back up and in ship shape... Tourism is the number one industry (and maybe one of the only industries) in Phuket... it's good that they got it all back up and running. The areas where the tourists don't really go were less of a priority to fix up, so while on our scooters, we could still see some of the damage... it was really interesting.
I'm not exactly sure what this was, but I think it was some sort of temple area.
Since the Tsunami, they have really made some changes in the island. They had these signs (below) a little bit of everywhere to tell people which way to go in case of a Tsunami. They all lead up to higher points on the islands where all of the public transportation vehicles will meet up and carry people to higher ground.
They have these new warning systems too. There are bouys way out in the ocean that send signals to these towers that are on every beach that will send out alert signals if there is a Tsunami coming... giving people ample time to evacuate to higher ground.
We stayed in Phuket Town (which is now offically in "city status" now but it's still called Phuket Town by most) for the first night and then on the beach the next two nights. The place we stayed was right on the beach, BUT up the side of the mountain!! We were WAY up there! We had to walk up a million steep stairs to get to our place! We definitely got a workout doing that! Our view from our room was great though (you can see it in the pic below)!
You can't see it in the picture, but on the left side were tons of rocks that have become like a coral reef! We did some snorkling there and we saw TONS of cool fish! The water was sooo clear - it was really neat! We got to see all of the fish from "Finding Nemo" plus more! It was awesome!
Anyone up for some "Japanese Sumo Food?" They had a really cool sumo guy out front!
We went up on top of one of the mountains to a great viewpoint! In the pic below you can see the three beaches that we were close to... the one closest to me is Kata Noi beach where we stayed. We had a great vacation!! We're in Bangkok right now and head back home tomorrow!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Whoa! Nigel & Elvis!

OK, so you never know who you're going to see when you're overseas! Tonight, we were in the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand... we had just gotten foot massages, and we were walking around and guess who we saw????? NIGEL LYTHGOE! The producer of "AMERICAN IDOL" and "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE".... So, of course, we asked if we could take a picture with him :) He was really nice. It was funny and random to see him here! haha! You never know...
We also saw a Thai Elvis... :)