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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.