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Polaroid of the Week

Polaroid of the week: Buddhas galore in Bangkok, Thailand

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..polaroid of the week thailand bangkok buddhasBetween the blaring horns, speeding scooters, whizzing tuk-tuks on the buzzing streets and the overall constant bustle of Bangkok, the Buddhist temples (and there are hundreds of them) provide perfectly peaceful havens to escape it all.

After six months traveling in North America and Europe, our arrival in Thailand’s capital city slapped us with quite a bit of culture shock at first, but we adapted quickly by jumping into a tuk-tuk and touring a few of Bangkok’s beautiful temples, or wats, as they are called in Thai. We would whip along main roads and around back streets in the open-air tuk tuks, only to arrive minutes later to near-silent temples with spectacular golden Buddha statues, known as Buddharūpa, which means Form of the Awakened One. Some wats have a particularly large golden buddhas, as high as 32 meters, either standing or reclining, while others instead have a number of buddhas lined-up together in the cross-legged lotus position, like the ones pictured above.

Watching the Buddhists paying respects and bringing offerings at any hour of day, and witnessing the monks collecting the alms in the early mornings has been like a very easy crash course to this fascinating culture and a great way to begin our travels through Asia.

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Polaroid of the week: Phra Phikanet (Ganesha) in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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.polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai phra phikanet ganesha figureGanesha, one of the five Hindu deities, is known as Phra Phikanet or Phra Phikanesuan in Thailand. When Hindus spread out to South East Asia, they took many aspects of their culture with them, including Ganesha. In Thailand, he is worshiped as the deity of fortune and success and there are Phra Phikanet shrines all over the country. Many Thai Buddhists pay their respect not only to the Buddha, but also to Phra Phikanet, and bring him offerings such as sweets, incense, flowers and fruit, hoping that in return he will help their businesses flourish.

We think we’ll start traveling with extra donuts and flowers to leave with Phra Phikanet, too!

 

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Polaroid of the week: Novice monks at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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..polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai wat chedi luangIn perfect harmony with all of its modern conveniences, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand also has over 300 Buddhist wats (temples) woven into the fabric of the city. They are hidden off small backstreets, set dramatically on main roads and they dot almost every street corner – and no two temples are alike. Wat Chedi Luang, pictured above, is one of the oldest temple complexes in Chiang Mai, built in the 14th century. Until it was destroyed by the great earthquake in 1545, this main chedi (temple structure) was the largest in Thailand for many years, with a height of 82 meters and a base diameter of 54 meters.

Only few of the massive stone elephants stampeding out of the structure held up against the earthquake. Despite its destruction, this ancient temple is still one of the most impressive wats in Chiang Mai. Beat the tourists to Chedi Luang early in the morning to be alone with the Buddhas, (stone) elephants and the novice monks passing through on their way to monk school.

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Polaroid of the week: Pretty poodle princess in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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..polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai poodleAfter having seen countless injured stray dogs in Central America, it has been a relief to discover that dogs are treated much better in Thailand! Stray dogs here live in the Buddhist temples and are fed by the monks, and actual pets are treated like little kings and queens! Now that the temperatures have dropped from 100F to 80 – 90F (the Thai version of winter), many dog owners dress their little darlings in dog shirts and even shoes, and we regularly see dogs being driven around in strollers which seem to have been bought specifically for the dogs. Poodles are particularly popular in Thailand, often styled like princesses with ribbons and bows, as in the picture above.

 

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Polaroid of the week: Cycling through rice fields in Northern Thailand

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..polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai province cycling through rice fieldsWhen we recently arrived in Chiang Mai for our second visit, we were determined to see more of the scenic countryside of Northern Thailand rather than staying within the city. As we have learned, bicycle tours are the best way to get to know any area while traveling, so we hopped on a tour, pedaled through rice fields and watched handicraft-makers create the beautiful products by hand that we usually see at the markets in Chiang Mai. The tour ended at Sankampaneng Hot Springs…we had lunch and dipped our feet in the rejuvenating mineral waters before heading back into the city. Stay tuned for the full story about our cycling tour with Spice Roads.

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Polaroid of the Week: Ladyboy on stage in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai ladyboy showWe have never run out of things to do in Chiang Mai, quite the opposite in fact. We ran out of time last time we were in town and were not able to see a particular cabaret show that a friend recommended. Luckily we returned to our favorite Thai city this past month and caught the ladyboy cabaret with our friends Betsy and Warren from.

Ladyboys, known in Thailand as Kathoeys, are more accepted and prominent in Thai culture than transgender people in Western culture. Kathoeys usually work in more typically female professions, such as shops and beauty salons, and more recently as flight attendants on some Thai airlines. While their lives are certainly not easy (no chance to become legally recognized as women despite surgeries, for example), several popular Thai models, singers and movie stars are kathoeys. But what we find the most inspiring and interesting, is that ladyboys need not ‘escape’ to the big city, instead being accepted in rural villages as commonly as in urban areas, which can help to eliminate feelings of loss, shame and solitude that transgender people in western cultures most often deal with.

At this show at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, these ladies put on such an entertaining show. It’s free to enter, but everyone must drink! We were not complaining about that…

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Polaroid of the week: Cycling through Berlin

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin cycle tourApologies for the lack of updates in the past couple of weeks – I’ve finally tackled the big website update that has been overdue for months, but the transition to my new mobile-friendly site design didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for. Please bare with me as I am ironing out the remaining glitches, bugs and errors – I have plenty of posts waiting to be published.

After our amazing first weekend in Berlin, we continued our adventures with more street art, more German breakfasts, my visitor’s (and my!) first ever curry wurst (this was the first time I found a vegetarian curry wurst), sunsets over Tempelhof airport (one of my favorite places in the city), and an epic 20 mile bike ride through Berlin. The city is so enormously big that is impossible to explore it on foot, and since it is a really bike-friendly city with plenty of bike lanes, bikes are a great way too see Berlin. Tiergarten alone (Berlin’s version of Central Park) is big enough to spend half a day there  (or longer) walking along the trails.

We were blessed with beautiful summer weather, cycled from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburg Gate to Victory Column on one of Berlin’s main boulevards, along the canals, and all over Tempelhof which is another one of those places that is too big to be explored on foot. We did get our fair share of walking in this week, however, with the free history walking tour (I mention this tour in my quick guide to Berlin with a few other must-do activities) during which our guide brought us to the iconic Berlin landmarks such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, the Berlin Wall (again!) and the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square.

Highlights of the week? Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap (a Berlin institution, which I put on my Berlin Must Eats in 2013 and it still totally lives up to the hype), the Turkish market at Maybachufer (I went on both days, Tuesday and Friday), Street Food Thursday, and last but not least: watching Germany win against Northern Ireland in the Euro 2016 soccer championship on the ‘Fan Mile’, a public viewing area with a giant screen right behind the Brandenburg Gate. Experiencing a soccer game with thousands of other fans is such an incredible experience – I am definitely happy to be in Germany for the Euro Cup after watching the last two World Cups in New York where soccer is just not as big as here in Europe.

I didn’t make it to all of my favorite places in Berlin just yet, so stay tuned for next week’s Polaroid with another update from Berlin, and my monthly round-up with all of June’s highlights in more detail.

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Polaroid of the week: Love padlocks on the Brooklyn Bridge

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn bridge love locks When we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time in 2009, there were no love locks. This time around, we noticed hundreds of padlocks ceremoniously hooked on the bridge. The trend has gained momentum since first starting here in 2011, after immigrating from Europe, where this has long since been a tradition. This grand romantic gesture has been very popular in Italy for years, when a book by Federico Moccia, Ho Voglia di Te, featured a couple locking their love padlock onto a bridge in Florence and throwing the key into the water, thus locking their love forever.

The first time we noticed them was in Cinque Terre, when we walked the Via dell ‘amore (The Path Of Love) between the picturesque coastal villages of Monterosso and Manarola. Now bridges from Cologne to Prague to Paris, and even as far as China and Taiwan, are locked with love. We even stumbled across an entire fountain covered in love padlocks in Montevideo, Uruguay a couple of months ago.

We might just add a lock of our own to the Brooklyn Bridge, a symbol of our love, love of New York and this incredible spring, so look out for a lock with our names on it next time you’re in the Big Apple.

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Polaroid of the week: Street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city bushwick street artWhen I arrived in New York last week, I was told that I had brought summer with me. Apparently, it had been cold and rainy most of the spring until the weekend of my arrival – and hearing this made me feel reassured again about having spent all of May in Austin (in case you haven’t noticed yet – I’ve got a major case of FOMO and ‘scarifying’ a month in New York for four weeks in Austin wasn’t an easy decision for me to make!). To be honest, I was considering extending my stay in Austin for another three weeks (yes, I loved it that much – more on that to come next week) but then my travel plans were changed by circumstances beyond my control (more on that soon).

And that’s why I ended up spending only eight days in my adopted home. Knowing that my time in New York would be short and sweet, the goal was to make the most of it. This meant: make sure to have a decent New York bagel (check), have a pizza at Roberta’s (check, and it was so worth nearly missing my flight for it! Still my favorite pizza spot in NYC.), see some new street art in Bushwick, go to Smorgasburg for some street food, see the spring blossoms in Central Park, catch up with friends. Well these were all the things I that I managed to fit in – my actual list was, as usual, much more ambitious than what I could actually fit into a short week, but I also managed to fit in a daily run in Prospect Park, bike rides through Brooklyn, I checked out a brunch place I’ve wanted to go to for a while (Cheryl’s Global Soul, thumbs up). It felt amazing to be ‘home’, to see my friends, just to be part of life in the Big Apple again.

What else did I get up to? I checked out a few new ‘coffices‘, had two wild nights out, soaked up the sun in Madison Square Park, made time for a stroll through the West Village (one of my favorite neighborhoods), and I even ended up at Dominique Ansel Kitchen (unplanned, which made it even better), which is a pastry lover’s dream, and where I last went for a birthday treat last winter, for a chocolate nutella swirl croissant (just as indulgent as it sounds) and scoped out a couple of Middle Eastern places I hadn’t been to yet (thumbs up for both Taim and Kulushkat.

The last two got me excited for my next destination: the next Polaroid Of The Week will be coming to you from BERLIN (where I’ll be stuffing myself with as much Middle Eastern food as possible for eight glorious days and welcome a very special visitor).

 

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