The Beautiful Town of Jardin

With the picturesque town of Jardin, Colombia has won us over. This place is great.

Jardin town square

Jardin town square

Jardin is tucked into the mountains, about 3 hours south of Medellin. It’s name (“Garden”) fits it well, as the town is full of beautiful roses, orchids, and it seems that everything grows in its perfect climate. The surrounding mountains are lush with jungle, coffee, banana palms, and green, green pastures. The average high temperature is about 70F and the average low is about 60F – every month of the year! Can you say “perfect”?!

Local dog enjoying a snack among the flowers

Local dog enjoying a snack among the flowers

Jardin hasn’t really been discovered yet. It’s not in most guide books and there are very few foreign tourists. We arrived on Tuesday having read a few blog posts praising it, but not really knowing what to expect. Our original plan was to spend three nights here, but given the town’s charms, we ended up staying a week.

We left Medellin last Tuesday afternoon by bus. Actually it was in a van that seats ten. The van left from the southern bus station in Medellin, which was surprisingly clean, modern and efficient. Tickets were 20,000 Pesos each. The drive was a fast and winding one, through beautiful mountain scenery. Our driver was a bit heavy on the accelerator and late on the brakes.

Our driver, Speed Racer

Our driver, Speed Racer

Jette breaks out into song

Jette breaks out into song

Then it was time for a nap.

Then it was time for a nap.

I couldn't get any good shots with my phone, but the view on the drive to Jardin looked something like this.

I couldn’t get any good shots with my phone, but the view on the drive to Jardin looked something like this.

The drive went by quickly and before we knew it we were stepping out into the picturesque town square of Jardin.

Hello, Jardin

Hello, Jardin

We weren’t sure where our hotel was and Google Maps wasn’t working on my phone, so we walked over to the middle of the square and took a few minutes to get our bearings. While we were sitting on a bench, a bunch of kids playing a game of “color tag” started using us as “base”! It was really sweet. Jardin is the kind of town where even the littlest kids run around and play on their own.

We got directions to the hotel, which was on the south edge of town, about a 5 minute walk from the square.

Finca Hostal Condor de Los Andes

Finca Hostal Condor de Los Andes

Side yard and mountains in background

Side yard and mountains in background

Barn with horses and chickens

Barn with horses and chickens

Hammocks

Hammocks

The hotel is very simple, but nice and very clean. We met the super friendly couple that owns the hotel and it turns out that Juan Felipe, the husband, is a TV producer and director who just did a show on adventure travel, culture, and nature in Colombia called Expedicion Condor de los Andes.

Expedicion Condor de las Andes

Expedicion Condor de los Andes

They had a national contest to select the cast members from all walks of life and from all parts of the country. The assembled team gets to go an adventure all across Colombia (something that probably wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago) white water rafting, spelunking, skydiving, bungee jumping, exploring ancient ruins, meeting local artists, etc. Colombia is a diverse, beautiful country and with the violence of the past decades, Colombians themselves missed out on the opportunity to explore their own country! The show is on one of the national channels Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30, so we all sat around last night and watched it together. It was great.

OK, so back to Jardin. We spent our first couple of days here just wandering around town and working intently on math. Jette has adjusted her study schedule and has decided to spend 4 hours per day on math until she has finished all of the remaining 5th level math workbooks. When we left Medellin, she had 3 workbooks remaining, and today only one and half. I expect she’ll have them all complete today or tomorrow. So, mornings we spent on math and afternoons exploring town.

Breakfast is scrambled eggs and arepas, with coffee or hot chocolate.

Breakfast is scrambled eggs, arepas, queso fresco and crackers, with coffee or hot chocolate.

Working on math.

Working on math.

If you look at the map, you’ll see that Jardin is a tiny little town, so it is quite easy to walk all over town in a very short time.

Google Map of Jardin

Google Map of Jardin

The town square is lined with cafes, restaurants, bars, and of course the church. It’s really the center of life, and in the evening it is packed with people.

Colorful tables and chairs in the square

Colorful tables and chairs in the square.

Another view of the square

Another view of the square

Just tie up your horse and have a cerveza or coffee.

Just tie up your horse and have a cerveza or coffee. You are as likely to see horses as cars in the town square, and on Sunday nights the cowboys ride their finest paso fino horses into town and show off.

Mid-morning the square is relatively quiet.

Mid-morning the square is relatively quiet.

As evening approaches things pick up.

As evening approaches things pick up.

One thing that was huge contrast to the bigger cities of Bogota and Medellin is the almost total lack of police, military, and creepy dudes. We haven’t seen any of the latter, and only a couple policemen in the week we’ve been here. This place feels really safe, and all the little kids playing in the streets and in the square is sure a nice thing to see. This is a town of hard working people who live in a real community. They clearly take pride in themselves and their town, and it shows. Everything is well maintained. From the simplest shops and homes to the grand church and beautiful gardens, there are clearly strong values of pride and responsibility in ownership.

Most restaurants serve the Colombian versions of meat and potatoes.

Un menu typico

Un menu typico. This is a typical selection at a nice restaurant with somewhat high prices (currently about 3,000 pesos to the USD).

Un plato typico.

Un plato typico.

Colombian food is not highly seasoned, often fried, and heavy on meat. It is not light. After a couple weeks in Colombia I can almost guarantee that you will be craving a salad! That said, there are some delicious dishes and we certainly haven’t gone hungry. If anything, we’ve struggled with the quantity.

On Thursday we hopped into a Jeep and headed for the mountains outside of town.

Ready for an adventure

Ready for an adventure

We drove for about 20 minutes up into the lower mountains where we were to trade the Jeep for horses. We saddled up and rode up higher, all the way into the clouds.

We rode for about an hour and a half. The views were absolutely spectacular, with winding, narrow trails through jungle and high mountain edge vistas. We stopped for lunch at a little ranch tucked into a valley and had a delicious banana leaf meal.

Hearty banana leaf lunch

Hearty banana leaf lunch – one of the best meals we’ve had in Colombia.

After lunch we hiked up into the jungle. It was about half an hour of climbing along steep, narrow, and often slippery trails to La Cueva del Esplendor, a small cave with a beautiful waterfall cascading down from the ceiling of the outer chamber. It was really pretty.

On the path to the cave.

On the path to the cave.

Wow a photo with all three of us!

Wow a photo with all three of us!

River crossing.

River crossing.

At the mouth of the cave

At the mouth of the cave

Jungle gymnastics

Jungle gymnastics

After some time at the cave, we hiked back to the horses and rode back down the mountain. On the trip down, Jette was up front with the fast group, her horse sometimes trotting and even galloping. She had never been on a galloping horse before, much less a galloping horse on a beautiful mountain in Colombia! We all had a blast.

Adios horses!

Adios horses!

Getting ready to head back down the mountain.

Getting ready to head back down the mountain.

Agua fria

Agua fria

On the way back to town in the Jeep, we stopped at a cute little house. There were beautiful flowers, and behind the house, a simple shed with smoke coming from a chimney in the middle of the roof.

The panela cottage

The panela cottage. See the smoke coming up from the shed in the background?

Amazing orchids

Amazing orchids in the garden.

In the shed there we piles of sugar cane, a sugar cane press, and a series of big wood-fired pots for boiling sugarcane juice to make panela. We got to see the whole process and taste the finished product. It was actually really interesting to see the process from start to finish. It is amazingly simple. They sell a ton of panela in the local markets, but we still haven’t figured out the various ways they use it here in cooking.

If you can’t tell, we had a great time in Jardin. Colombia is such a beautiful country, and the people are among the friendliest of any place we’ve visited. I could go on, but I’ll wrap it up here with one more video. Jette and I made a wild zip line crossing of one of the canyons on the edge of town. We put on our harnesses, helmets and leather gloves. The right glove had extra layers of leather stitched onto the palm, as they only way to “brake” was to reach up, grab the overhead cable, and squeeze! As it turned out, it was quite a steep and fast ride and Jette’s arms weren’t long enough or grip strong enough to grab the wire with any force. Once she gained speed, her hand simply bounced off the whizzing cable. Yikes! This lead to a dramatic ending.

If you are wondering, yes, she would do it again, but I’m not sure we would want her to! That was a little bit too exciting.

Our time in Bogota

We’ve done so much and blogged so little lately, I’m not sure where to begin! We spent two weeks in Bogota, which we really enjoyed. Our first airbnb apartment was on Calle 59 and Carerra 7 on the edge of the Zona G neighborhood (Zona Gastronomica).

View from our apartment window.

View from our apartment window.

It was OK. We spent three or four nights there and then moved North to the Bella Suiza/Usaquen neighborhood, which we really liked. Our apartment there was fantastic and the neighborhood was great. It’s an affluent, mostly residential neighborhood that felt much safer and had nice amenities.

Our first week in Bogota was Semana Santa, the week before Easter. The city was fairly quiet and many things were closed, but this ended up being a good thing for us as it meant that the normally horrible traffic wasn’t so bad, and we could get around town pretty quickly and easily. We took a walking tour of the La Candelaria neighborhood where we stopped in a chicheria and got to taste chicha. It wasn’t bad, but it was hard to get the image of a bunch of guys chewing corn and spitting slop into a communal pot out of our minds. Yuck! The modern chicha sold in Bogota chicherias is made more hygienically, without any chewing and spitting. I guess that’s a good thing. Jette thought it tasted like apple juice mixed with beer. I agreed and added, “Not very good beer!”

Walking tour of La Candelaria.

Walking tour of La Candelaria.

We also visited the Museo del Oro which is a fantastic museum. They have a really incredible collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts. It’s the largest collection in the world and the presentation is top notch. Some of the pieces are just amazingly beautiful.

A piece at Museo del Oro.

A piece at Museo del Oro.

Beautiful necklace at Museo del Oro.

Beautiful necklace at Museo del Oro.

Museo del Oro.

Museo del Oro.

On Easter Sunday we walked over to the Usaquen park, had lunch at a nice restaurant, then went down to La Candelaria to the Catedral Primada de Colombia on the Plaza de Bolivar. We poked our heads into the cathedral to check out the Easter service (note the police presence), then walked around a bit.

One of the main streets was closed to vehicles and was full of people. There were street performers, vendors, and tons of people just out for a stroll. We strolled for a few blocks and watched a guinea pig race!

Guinea Pig race in Bogota. Place your bets!

Guinea Pig race in Bogota. Place your bets!

Downtown/Centro Bogota can be a bit gritty. There were some creepy characters about, Jette was feeling nervous, and it was getting late, so we decided to head back North for a different kind of fun. We hopped in an Uber and went to the Unicentro mall. It was packed with wealthy Bogotanos enjoying, food, shopping, and entertainment. It was quite a contrast to downtown, and probably not too unlike Easter afternoon at a any other mall in any wealthy suburb anywhere else in the world. For the kids, there was a clown performance and an indoor “train” for the really little ones.

We had some nibbles then caught a movie – Kung Fu Panda 3 – in Spanish.kungfu

It’s great that the movie was in Spanish because it was great practice. The very next morning at 8 am we started Spanish class. We had signed up with a local language school called Nueva Lengua for their intensive Spanish class.

At school.

At school.

Spanish class!

Spanish class!

It was a group class. Our classmates were mostly twenty-somethings – there were three women from Amsterdam, a Canadian guy, an Australian guy, and us. It was a good group, and a good class. We covered a lot of the basics in that week. Thanks Marcela and Carlos!

Since I started with no Spanish at all I was a bit behind the others, especially when it came to speaking. I didn’t have the pronunciation down and didn’t have the vocabulary (“Uno, dos, tres. Hola Big Bird!”; “Yo quiero Taco Bell!”) I still don’t, but I progressed a lot last week. My verbal and written comprehension is much improved and I feel like I am off to a good start. I still can’t say much, but I’ll be digging in and trying to learn the numbers and some vocabulary words so I can start putting real sentences together and getting my point across. Both Jette and Mila started with more Spanish than me and I think they got a lot out of the class too. It was a good experience, and one we may repeat.

Doing our Spanish homework.

Doing our Spanish homework.

In addition to Spanish, there were some after school activities. Dance lessons, cooking lessons and an international pot-luck lunch on the last day of class.

Making empanadas in our cooking class.

Making empanadas in our cooking class.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

I would post the video from the dance class, but Mila might kill me!!!

For the pot-luck on Friday Jette and I cooked hamburger muffins, which I renamed  “empanadas gringas”. Sounds better than “muffin hamburguesa,” right?!

Potluck

Potluck

All-in-all we had a really good time in Bogota. We had a great apartment. We loved, loved, loved the weather. The average temperature is in the mid to high 50’s year round. Our apartment didn’t have AC, a heater, or a fan and the temperature was always perfect. Oh, did I mention that there are no mosquitoes? So nice. We also found lots of good food, and met lots of nice people. On Friday night we were a bit sad to be packing our bags. We caught a few winks of sleep, got up at 3:30 am yesterday morning and boarded the plane to Medellin…

Here are some random photos from Bogota:

Breakfast at a nice spot in Usaquen.

Breakfast at a nice spot in Usaquen.

Hill in Usaquen

Hill in Usaquen

Home security.

Home security.

Graffiti in La Candelaria

Graffiti in La Candelaria

Meat and taters

Meat and taters

Yum

Yum

Waffles, eggs, and veggie meatballs.

Waffles, eggs, and veggie meatballs.

Cute cafe

Cute cafe

At Usaquen Park

At Usaquen Park

Champion!

Champion!

Breakfast in Usaquen

Breakfast in Usaquen

Earthquake & Tsunami

We’re currently in Galle, a city on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Last night I got an email from our friend Anita in Dallas. She’s an educator and a science nerd of the highest caliber.

Here’s what she said, “7.9 earthquake Sumatra. I think you are a fair distance but keep watch for tsunami if you are near coast.”

I immediately went to Google News and searched for “earthquake sumatra”.

earthquake news

Yikes! Of course Anita was right, and her warning was timed with the earliest of news stories about the quake. It sure is nice to have and early warning network of smart friends. Thanks Anita. This is the kind of email that could have potentially saved our lives.

As you may know, in 2004 there was a similar but larger earthquake in the same area off the coast of Sumatra. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

It is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes.[8] It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches)[9] and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska.[10] Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia.

We’re staying a family-run guesthouse in one of the highest areas of Galle, away from the sea, so I think we would be safe from all but the very largest tsunamis. In the 2004 tsunami, the water did not reach this area, and in fact in the lower area of the fort, the walls of the Galle Fort protected it from the waves. Nonetheless, I found our host and told her about the earthquake and suggested that she call and alert any family or friends that lived on the water or in areas that might be at risk. We were on high alert.

This earthquake really hit home for us as we have spent the past month or so in Sumatra and Sri Lanka, in areas that were massively affected by the 2004 tsunami. Just day-before-yesterday we were at the Tsunami Photo Museum in the beach town of Hikkaduwa/Telwatta. It is a small museum put together by one of the survivors. It sits across the road from the ocean, in the location where her home used to be, before the tsunami washed it away.

Tsunami Photo Musuem

Tsunami Photo Musuem

The owner of the musuem telling us about the tsunami.

The owner of the musuem telling us about the tsunami.

She told us harrowing tales of how the day unfolded. She said that there was no warning and that most people had no idea what was happening. There was quite suddenly a large wave that hit the town, washing over the beach and well onto land in many areas. It was a big wave, but not too devastating.

First wave

First wave

The first wave

The first wave

After the wave hit, the waters retreated to well beyond the normal shore line, exposing ground that was normally underwater. What used to be water was now land and the sea was calm in the distance. People had never seen such a thing, and many came down to the water to look, to check the damage, and to assist others. Some people fled inland, looking for higher ground. There was a train stopped on the tracks and many villagers sought refuge on the train, or put their children on the train, thinking it to be a safe place.

For the next 20 or 30 minutes, the waters of the sea were eerily calm in the distance, and then suddenly, a giant, much larger wave came roaring in. This brought massive devastation and death. More than 30,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka. Thousands are still “missing.”

The second wave hits

The second wave hits people who had walked out to to the beach to investigate

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The train was not a safe refuge. As many as 2,000 people were killed when the second wave hit the train.

The train was not a safe refuge. As many as 1,500 people were killed when the second wave hit the train.

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Here are more photos of the museum:

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This is what the owners home looked like after the second wave. Everything was destroyed. The museum was built on the site where the home used to be.

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This is the tent the owner lived in for 6 months after the tsunami.

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Thankfully, the earthquake last night did not result in a tsunami, but it was still a powerful experience for us and a reminder as to how quickly life can change. In our recent travels, we’ve climbed a volcano where we smelled the sulfurous steam, seen hot lava flows, and felt the burning heat of the active Earth. We visited villages that sit at the base of volcanoes and that one day, will likely be destroyed in an eruption. We’ve seen first hand the devastating power of earthquakes and tsunamis. We’ve seen tragic human impact and loss as well as human strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

Have fun, but be careful out there.

POP QUIZ: How do scientists measure the strength of earthquakes?

Seismologists use equipment called seismographs to measure movements in the earth. These movements or forces are expressed in numbers using the Moment of Magnitude Scale. In the past they used the Richter Scale. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_magnitude_scale

Jungles, Volcanoes, Monkeys and Orangutans

The past month has been a whirlwind trip through Malaysia and Sumatra. We’ve visited the disappearing rainforests of both, trekked through the jungle, climbed an active volcano, met orangutans in the wild, and stayed on a beautiful island in a giant lake, in the crater of yet another volcano.

In Bukit Lawang

In Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Rainforest ants are BIG

Rainforest ants are BIG!

We promise we to blog about it soon, but not tonight.

Tonight we are back in Kuala Lumpur. It’s getting close to midnight and we have to be up before the sun tomorrow for a flight to SRI LANKA!

We promise more updates soon, but in the meantime here is a short video of our climb of Gunung Sibayak in Sumatra. I wish you could smell the sulphur and feel the heat. It was awesome!

Education Update

We haven’t talked much about what would traditionally be called “education” so I thought I would do a quick post on the subject. In a nutshell, things are going very well. In terms of her education, this will be a GREAT year for Jette.

An old windmill in the middle of the city

An old windmill in the middle of the city

The bike trip down the Rhine provided a perfect context and structure for a detailed, experiential look at European history and culture. Following the river on bikes meant that we really experienced the lands we passed through. Hills, valleys, plains, fields, forests, wind, and sea. Endless fields of corn, tiny hamlets, big cities – we saw, heard, felt, and even smelled it all. Just as importantly, we experienced the subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences from place to place. We saw cultures change with landscape, and patterns of human settlement and development defined by geography. The river is the perfect vehicle for understanding human settlement patterns. Rivers are, after all, the cradle of human culture. Every hour of every day provided opportunities for us to explore that story. In the end, Jette wrote her own Story of the Rhine. Of course she did a good amount of math, art and science along the way too. Travel is one of the best teachers, particularly when you are focused on the endless learning opportunities it presents.

Jette with her notebook and some of her books

Jette with her notebook and some of her books.

As we transitioned from our European bicycle trip to our Asian adventure, we’ve added more “book work.” We’re not following any particular curriculum, we’ve created our own. It’s an odd approach that mixes elements of unschooling, Montessori, and classical education (think trivium – grammar, logic, rhetoric).

With the latter, we’ve found that The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer is a great resource. We’ve also been using her The Story of the World texts and teaching guides. Jette is currently on Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor. By the end of the trip she should have completed Volume 2:The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance and Volume 3: Early Modern Times, which will have given her a survey of world history from ancient times to today. I’m a firm believer in the importance of the study of History. All things are interrelated, and History is the “great conversation” that puts it all in perspective (connections anyone?). As part of this work, she is writing a summary of each chapter and a brief biographical sketch of each key historical figure. There is also map work. All of these things go into her binder, so by the end of the trip she will have a survey of world history, penned in her own hand, complete with maps, illustrations, and key biographies. Pretty cool. She’s also doing related reading beyond the main text. For example, as part of her ancient history studies, she read the Mary Pope Osborne version of Homer’s Odyssey, Tales from the Odyssey.

In the Montessori philosophy, Jette is in the Second Plane of Development, where among other things, abstract thinking and reasoning really begins. In the classical model this is the Logic stage. Along these lines, Jette recently completed two books of logic problems and has just started to study formal logic with the text Traditional Logic I. It is fairly advanced, so we’ll see if it proves to be accessible to her.

On the Math front, she’s almost finished with the math workbooks her school so kindly provided, and has been diligently working her way through 5th Grade math on Khan Academy (KA is awesome!).

She been doing some additional writing and even a bit of Shakespeare memorization.

While not necessarily of the “book” variety, our travels are unimaginably rich with learning experiences. Right now we are sitting in a little cafe in the historic district of Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage site rich with history and cultural flavor. We see, smell, taste and hear the intersection of British Colonial, Indian, Malay, Chinese and indigenous cultures every day. Today the Thaipusam festival is in full swing and Chinese New Year is just around the corner. We ordered breakfast speaking in Bahasa Malaysia (“Minta satu ayam, tiga roti cani, dua teh tarik. Terima kasih”) On Tuesday we head to Sumatra, where we will see first hand the source of the smoky haze that choked us and chased us out of Singapore. We might even get a peek at the rainforest before it vanishes and the orangutan before they are extinct.

We are learning a lot.
It has been a good year so far and we are thankful.

Bangkok, a great travel hub

As Waco mentioned in his previous post, we’ve just arrived in Malaysia, but we wanted to go back in time to early December. Here is a map that shows the path we took north.

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Our overnight train from Chumpon back north to Bangkok once again landed us “home” in Bangkok. This time, we decided to try a different hotel in a different part of town, Bobae. The hotel was right on a water taxi line on Khlong Mahanak (Mahanak Canal). We ended up using the water taxi quite a bit and enjoying many aspects of it. Water taxis are not touristy; we were typically the only non-Thais on the boats. It was convenient; the taxi stop was about a minute walk from our hotel’s front door. It was adventuresome; the boats never stopped for more than a few seconds to let people off and on, so you had to be quick or else you’d end up IN the canal. There was no traffic on the canal. Bangkok traffic is awful; it’s gridlock every day and a very short distance ride in a cab can take a painfully long time. And finally, the fares were extremely affordable at just 10 baht, or about 28 cents per person.

We also used the BTS system, which is one of Bangkok’s mass transit train systems, and liked it quite a bit. It was much more orderly, clean and easy to use than the NYC subway which we used for a decade when we lived in New York City. It’s an unfair comparison (5 million NYC daily riders vs. 750,000 Bangkok daily riders), but still worth noting.

Seven Luck

Standing in front of our hotel on the canal

Platform

Waiting on the platform for a water taxi

Waiting

Another day, another water taxi

Canal

Canal view

Same view at night

Same view at night

There was a large fruit market nearby and we walked by jack fruit vendors with huge piles of huge fruit almost every day. We also peeked into nearby Bobae tower, an incredible wholesale apparel operation with thousands of vendors with worldwide sales.

Jackfruit

These look like durian, but are actually jackfruit

No Durian!

No durian sign in a cab (they stink!!!)

Bobae chicken

A Bobae neighborhood rooster

Trapped

We tried not to be concerned about all of the babies and toddlers we would see on bikes and scooters everywhere. It’s just the way things are done here, but I admit I did have to hold my breath every time a scene like this occurred right in front of me. Hold on tight, baby!

Baby on board

Baby on board

We stumbled across a sweet cafe one day. The woman who owned it was the grand-daughter of the original owner and had filled it with kitschy 1950’s vintage pieces all displayed in Chinese style apothecary cabinets. She was proud to point out the original sign with hand-painted Mickey Mouse cartoons. She also volunteered to take a family photo of us in her shop. We couldn’t resist the rare opportunity to have an actual photo of the three of us together in one shot!

Rare family photo

Rare family photo

90 year old cafe

Very old cafe signage

We couldn’t come to a new neighborhood and not expect to meet a sweet dog, could we? Here is Jette at the local laundry spot meeting the owner’s dog.

Laundry

Our laundry spot

Pug

Happy girl, happy dog

This new neighborhood had a lot of manufacturing style family businesses and we enjoyed seeing the small scale of each one; most appeared busy and successful.

Door Fabricator

Door fabricator displaying samples

Manufacturing Shop

Manufacturing shop in the neighborhood

Down the street

Great example of 1960’s modernist architecture near our hotel

Shopping

We didn’t buy anything here, but had fun browsing

Bonsai Farm

Beautiful Bonsai Trees

Looks simple, tastes nice!

Chinese noodles from a popular tiny 4-table restaurant

Shipping these home for our front yard

Shipping these home for our front yard

Happy Buddha

Happy Buddha

We took in the “Bike for Dad” celebration.

Exicited about Bike for Dad

Excited about “Bike for Dad”

Bike for dad lights

“Bike for Dad” lights

Festive "Bike for Dad" street

Festive “Bike for Dad” street

There was a vendor selling these intriguing sweets which we had to try. They ended up being sweet bean treats and were definitely more beautiful than tasty to our palate.

Bikes for rent (Jette misses riding one!)

Bikes for rent (Jette misses riding one!)

Jette temporarily turned into a vampire

Jette temporarily turned into a vampire

Elephant Topiary

One of Bangkok’s amazing topiary-filled medians

Lovely cafe

Just had to get a photo of this gorgeous cafe space

We discovered a breakfast spot about a 15 minute walk from the hotel and immediately became regulars. We don’t really know the English language translation for the name of this place, but it’s a Thai fusion restaurant of sorts. It has a few incredible dishes that all three of us craved. Firstly, they make delicious, icy, Thai milk tea and serve it in frosty mugs. Their iced coffee drinks are fantastic as well. They serve hot, fresh, flaky, fluffy roti with spicy green chicken curry which is Jette’s favorite; the flavors and textures are an addictive combination. They have a signature dish that is difficult to describe, but very easy to eat. It starts with a layer of rice, topped with a crisped egg that has been fried in such a way that it barely resembles egg, yet is just light as air and crispy. Then, they top it all with a scoop of spicy “pad krapow moo” and then we make it disappear.

Walking

Walking to breakfast one morning

Secret (1)

Best breakfast spot in Bangkok!

Secret Breakfast

We love it here

Iced Latte

Iced Latte heaven

IMAG5447

Iced Cappucino heaven

Roti

Jette loved the roti with green curry

 

Mystery meats

Mystery meats

Popular egg dish

Popular egg dish

So Crispy

Crispy egg on rice

We also were within walking distance from a very famous pad thai restaurant called Thipsamai. Going there was amazing, not just because of the delicious food, but for the entertainment value. The cooking took place on the street and there was so much action from everyone involved in making the hundreds of dishes of food they must make every night. The line snaked around forever and the atmosphere was lively. There was fresh, delicious orange juice and a street vendor selling steamed coconut sweets for dessert after dinner; a closed loop system. Dinner, drinks and dessert all within a stone’s throw!

Thipsamai

Line at Thipsamai

Coconut Pudding

Coconut desserts after dinner

We worked quite a bit with Jette finding new cafes for a change of scenery. She accomplished quite a bit of writing and read a significant amount of ancient history.

Working

Working hard

One more math workbook finished!

One more math workbook finished!

We discovered a new dining destination called Food Loft at one of the nicer department stores, Central Chidlom. Basically, a quiet, comfortable dining space set apart from kiosk-style, small restaurant kitchens that were able to prepare almost any dish anyone could desire. One of the kiosks had a northern Thai dish called Khao Soi for Waco. Another had a grilled salmon dish that Jette liked and a third had Indian food for me. On days when the noise, heat and grit of the city would have exhausted us, we would find ourselves wanting to escape to the luxury of our comfort foods in the Food Loft’s soft chairs and plentiful air conditioning. We definitely felt pampered there; it’s funny how simple true luxury really is. It all just depends on your perspective.

Salmon dinner

Salmon dinner

The holiday spirit was alive and well in Bangkok. Jette and I had to engage in some photo silliness.

Holiday Silliness (1)

Sparkly snowmen inspire silliness

Holidays

A holiday display we liked

In case you didn’t know, Jette is permitted a “seasonal doughnut”, meaning one per season, or about four doughnuts a year. How did she spot the Dunkin Donuts?! Check “summer” and “fall” off her list. She made sure to hold back on her “winter” doughnut in case she wants to enjoy two at the same time when “spring” rolls around. Cheeky monkey!

Nooooooooooooo

Nooooooooooooo!

Donut

Just before mid-December, we switched back to our familiar neighborhood, Silom and awaited the arrival of some very special visitors…

Boutique Cafe

Nob Cafe back in the Silom neighborhood

Nob Cafe

A cute display in the boutique portion of Nob Cafe