Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

New York - here we come

Sore feet- but it was so, so worth it!

Frazzled Farang lady looks out the window

Gingerbread Houses to benefit vulnerable and exploited women

 

New York - here we come

What do a good number of us miss more than almost anything else? That’s right - delicious, mouthwatering, totally self-indulgent - real chocolate. Belgian, white, dark, truffles, Swiss, French… need we go on? An online report of a very special fashion show, held annually in New York, therefore, hit where it definitely hurts. Ex-New Yorkers may be aware of this event, the rest of us may not - The Annual Chocolate Fashion Show.
This amazing event involves hours and even days of preparation by world-famous chocolatiers and pastry-chefs, who create costumes – yes, clothes - solely out of chocolate for models to wear - yes, wear - on the catwalk. Unbelievable. This year’s theme was superheroes, with the fantasy costumes of legendary comic-book and TV series characters such as Lara Croft, Bat Girl and Warrior Princess strongly featured.
Creations included a chocolate bikini, hotpants, (remember those?), even a chocolate gun and holster, and a bodybuilder outfit complete with dumbbells - the Incredible Hulk, perhaps?
The show itself, a French inspiration, first began in Paris, but soon moved to New York to attract a global audience. Needless to say, it’s become a huge success, and also includes tasting sessions and demonstrations and advice on recipes including chocolate. Let’s just hope that the venue’s air-conditioning keeps working!

 

Sore feet- but it was so, so worth it!

When Khun Boong sent out her email inviting members of Chiang Mai Friends to take part in last Wednesday’s Loy Krathong Parade, (the smaller one), I accepted, with some trepidation. Walking? For an hour and a half … or more? Hmmmm- I’m a city girl, or was in the UK, and city girls don’t do “walk”, do they? Can’t let the side down, though, being a Brit! Besides, it was a great chance to turn out in my wonderful batik and embroidered royal blue silk Lanna skirt and top, and a really pretty pair of shoes.
So, there I was at Thapae Gate, on time at 6 p.m., scrubbed up and glowing, shoes- with sensible, (or so I thought), 2 inch heels - and all. There were 8 of us altogether, 4 Thais and 4 expats - all, as the Mayor had told us, “Kon Chiang Mai.” This being Thailand, we wandered around admiring the lanterns and the stunning festival decorations for what seemed like a very long time … before we discovered the Chiang Mai University’s home-made strawberry and lychee wine stall. Very nice.
Fortunately, shortly after the first glass went down, we were called to assemble for the parade, together with the Chiang Mai Friends’ banner, thoughtfully provided by Tony. By then we’d been all been photographed by dozens of people, and were beginning to get the flavour of the occasion, and to realise that there were bystanders literally packing the sidewalks waiting for the fun to start, all also with cameras … we hadn’t realised that 4 foreign residents in a Loy Krathong parade along with 4 Thai friends would cause such a stir!
As we moved off, the crowd cheered and waved, and so it continued, all the way down Thapae Road. There’s something about walking, slowly, down a road which you drive down almost daily …you realise that you didn’t previously notice so many things: the smaller, quieter temple with the very old, beautifully intricate carving, the many shops which actually cater for residents, not tourists, the view from the bend in the road, the lights in the larger temples, and their differing styles of decoration …and, through it all, the feeling of discovery of something familiar, but surprisingly new. And, that night, at the same time, waving, smiling, being waved and smiled at, the subjects of more and more photos, a video crew stopping to interview us, children being brought for admiration and yet more photos. Then, looking up into the night sky, and seeing the first of so many Khom Loys floating above us, coming from all directions.
As we turned onto the road next to the Ping River, the crowds became even thicker, and we became aware of a huge number of fireworks being let off all around us. The traditional loud music being made by bands in the parade somehow seemed to blend with the noise from the crowd and the crackling and crashing of the rockets into a great festive roar: friendly and encouraging, even to those of us whose preference is usually the peace and quiet of the countryside.
The lights as well, on the road, from the fireworks, from the parade itself, and the glow from the ever-increasing number of Khom Loys above us, all seemed to blend into a golden mist, accentuated by the glorious sight of the full moon almost directly above us, that ancient inspiration for more than 700 years of Loy Krathong festivities and worship.
At that point, just as we had passed the flower market, one of our number decided he had to find a bathroom – and wasn’t seen again after that! Perhaps he’s still looking…
The route ended at the VIP dais where the Mayor and many other dignitaries were seated, watching the floats and groups of beautifully costumed dancers, musicians and drummers. And us! We even heard Chiang Mai Friends Group mentioned over the tannoy …we’ve arrived, guys! By then my feet, in their two inch heels, (bad choice), had decided that enough was enough - returning to the car was a barefoot operation!
During the one and a half hours, (!), it took me to get out of the city and onto the road home, I had all the time in the world to consider the experience - my first time ever in any kind of parade, here in a city thousands of miles and several lifetimes away from my origins, with a different culture which still permeates the north of this, my chosen country.
Would I do it again next year? Just try and stop me – but give me enough notice to go and buy some flat shoes first!


Frazzled Farang lady looks out the window

A flying sightseeing trip from Bangkok to Istanbul

Leaving the smog and the high-rise jungle of August in Bangkok, we were quickly over rice fields, green and regular, stretching away from the city.
Beneath us slipped Asia, clouds and terrain of monsoon season. It was fortunate to have mostly clear skies, and be able to look down as if it were a map. Our first sight was Burma’s Irrawaddy River, heavily swollen to gigantic width, the muddy water winding to the Bay of Bengal. Slowly and silently floating past the sadness of Burma. Slipping by golden pagodas, sandy riverbanks, with gentle Burmese struggling to survive.
Soon, we were looking down at the delta of Bangladesh and India. Hundreds of rivers pouring into the bay. It is hard to believe there are that many rivers in the world. No wonder each year brings floods and misery in these countries. Then, we were over the famous city that is Calcutta. Beneath us, a huge metropolis of people, living, dying, working, laughing, crying. It looked so grey and silent from far above, smooth and peaceful. The massive distance quiets the chaotic din that is India.
South of the Himalayas we flew, straining our eyes futilely, longing to see just one peak, just one!! Right there, so close, had to be the mountain where men trudge in the ice, spending millions to say they climbed the great climb. All was hidden with clouds. The only visible proof of the mountains were the massive rivers coming from them, winding past the people who live in their lush shadow.
The monitor told us we are over Benares. Below, the smoking pyres must be burning along the sacred river. I think that in merely the small view of my window, thousands are dying, thousands are being born, thousands are turning the soil, pounding curry, loading horses, carrying water from the wells, and driving trucks on the muddy roads. The gurus are sitting with matted hair, staring into space, seeking the meaning of it all.
Nepal, New Delhi, Pakistan slowly fade into clouds, the rugged mountains, grey and deep, with villages of tough mountain people. They live a history of endless warfare: Gurkhas, the Khyber Pass, rocks and cold, pick-ups on bad mountain roads. Somewhere down there is the Gurkha knife my father regretted buying 40 years ago. The clouds obscure my view. I fall asleep.
Upon waking, I lift my window shade and see below me a stark landscape of mountains and rocks, in sweeping formations made by wind and blowing sand. It is so dramatically barren, such a contrast. Green Asia had long since been left behind during my nap. There are vast curves in the landscape, with deep canyons. It looks so forbidding, who could live there? Checking the map on the monitor, I realize we are over Tehran. Three sides of the city is surrounded by a brown valley of fields, burned by the August sun, suggesting that the land is very productive in the cooler months.
The large city of Tehran is the same grey-brown color as the sand stretching into the foothills. About a half hour beyond Tehran there is a huge installation of some sort, modern and organized, in the middle of nowhere. The road leads away from it, into the nothingness of the desert, like a small white snake through the dust. I wonder what it is…
Suddenly mountains and the Caspian Sea, enveloped in the clouds, a natural border. We are over Tabriz, where the salesman throws the carpet on the floor with great flourish, and it is alive with silk outlines among the wool threads, he says “Tabriz”, the land in the North of Iran, green and different …the makers of beautiful rugs.
Now the land begins to roll and looks more fertile, Eastern Turkey. Hundreds of miles of cultivated landscape as far as the eye can see. Then, the Black Sea looms from the north, flat and empty, then suddenly full of large ships. The Bosporus, the lights of Istanbul, sitting so ancient and heavily on Asia and Europe. History seeping out of its seams.
It is such a gift to be able to see the world like this. Once, we went to Mt. Popa in Burma with our tiny friend, Htay Htay. Mt. Popa is an ancient volcano core, where the spirits they call “Nats” are from. It is their Mt. Olympus. Htay Htay had never been there, and was so excited to visit. We climbed steps to the top, 700 meters of steps! When at the top, little Htay Htay looked over the edge, and said, “Is this what it looks like from an airplane?” We said “yes”, and he looked again, as if he had seen a miracle.
It was then I realized what a privilege it is to fly.


Gingerbread Houses to benefit vulnerable and exploited women

The Garden of Hope, a Thai foundation here in Chiang Mai, is once again offering homemade Gingerbread House kits for sale during the run-up to the festive season.
These kits take the hassle out of a great holiday tradition. They include everything needed to assemble a beautiful and delicious Gingerbread House, including pre-cooked gingerbread pieces, decorations and icing powder. Better yet, they are both made by and provide vital employment to vulnerable and exploited women.
The kits are priced at 499 Baht each. Orders must be received by November 20 for delivery the first week of December. To buy a box, or two, contact Christa Crawford at [email protected] Hope.org. These kits also make a great gift to your favourite children’s charity or children’s home.