Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart and is probably my second favorite holiday after Christmas.

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is not that big a deal around here. Back home, the whole day revolves around it, with a day off of work , watching a parade on TV in the morning, watching my beloved Detroit Lions lose in the early afternoon, then hanging out with they family and gorging ourselves with comfort food like turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, stuffing, and apple pie until the evening when we have to bundle up and drive home in a food-induced coma.

In Bangkok, it's just another day, with the kids having school and their activities and my wife working, but there are a few restaurants around town (owned by Americans) who offer a Thanksgiving buffet with all of the fixings. When our friend Corey suggested that a bunch of us go to the Great American Rib Company to celebrate this special occasion, it was just what I needed, especially since I was feeling a bit homesick from an email my beloved Aunt Shirley had sent me earlier in the week that read: "There will be 5 empty spots at our dinner table, but we are in hopes that they will one day be filled again!" SOB SOB!

So that's what we did. It was pretty good too. The buffet had all of the standard Thanksgiving favorites, plus ribs and various salads. (Note to Aunt Shirley: the potatoes were decent, but not as lumpy as yours).

I don't know about everyone else, but I made my way through the buffet line four times.

All in all, I think our family has a lot to be thankful for. It's been a good experience over here so far and the past year has been especially fun and exciting. Everyone is happy and healthy. It is all going by so quickly, so it's nice to stop, reflect, and take it all in. I think that's what Max is doing in this picture (on second thought, he's probably just wondering if he could fit more food on that plate).

It was nice to spend the evening with our pals too. I'm thankful for the friendships we've made over here and hope that they continue even after we all go home (or to wherever).

So from our family to yours - Happy Thanksgiving!


Just like back in the West, there is really nothing more macho in Bangkok than watching two sweaty, nearly-naked men beat the crap out of each other. I suppose that's why a movie like Beowulf can be so popular in this day and age.

Last week, myself and some friends were in the mood for a night of manly pursuits so we headed over to Lumpinee Stadium to witness the ancient art of Muay Thai boxing live and in person.

Muay Thai boxing has a lot in common with regular boxing: two guys put on boxing shorts and gloves and dance around a square ring while repeatedly hitting each other.

Also like regular boxing, the boxers will start embracing when they need a short break to catch their breath.

What really sets Muay Thai boxing apart from regular boxing is that other parts of the fighters' body can be used as weapons, not just the fists. This includes feet, knees and elbows. The scoring rules of Muay Thai clearly states that the fighter who uses these weapons correctly, according to the rules, and can weaken or damage his opponent more will be the winner. It was kind of difficult for me to determine if they were doing it correctly or not.

Other rules are as follows: the fighter who uses Muay Thai's techniques correctly according to the rules and can clearly hurt his opponent more will be the winner; the fighter who can use Muay Thai's weapons to cause more cuts and bruises will be the winner; the fighter who makes more moves will be the winner; the fighter who can protect himself and can hit back and avoid getting hit according to Muay Thai's techniques will be the winner, and the fighter who makes no fouls or fewer fouls will be the winner.

I'm not sure what happens if one fighter makes more moves while the other one causes more cuts and bruises. These rules seemed a little ambiguous to me and at the end of most of these five-round fights, I was at a loss as to who the winner was until it was announced.

This was a fun night out, but the dreaded Thailand two-pricing system for foreigners was in full effect this evening. When we went to get tickets, we were told that we had to get the best seats because they wanted to treat us to the best possible experience. We said that we didn't need the best experience (which comes with a price tag of 2000 Baht - over $60), just a good (cheaper) experience. They said, sorry those are the rules: foreigners in front, locals in back. And so you can see, here we are surrounded by our fellow white people:

And most of the Thai people are in the cheap seats:

It was almost as much fun to watch the crowd as it was to watch the fights themselves. There is a lot of open betting going on here and it makes for a rowdy atmosphere with people getting very animated as they cheer every move.

We had to watch eight fights (which took over two hours) before they got to the Main Event. A few times a fighter would get knocked down, but he always got up quickly and each of those fights lasted the full five rounds.

But when the Main Event finally rolled around, the action picked up (faster punching, more punches, more kicking, etc.), but it ended very quickly in the second round and the fighter was put on a stretcher and carried off. To me, it had the feeling of a "fix" but who knows.

Another difference between Muay Thai and regular boxing is that the winner gets a pretty necklace of flowers and ribbons as opposed to a gaudy gold belt.

There were ring girls too, but they were dressed in traditional Thai attire.

Lumpinee Stadium is pretty small, so no matter where you're situated, you are always close to the action. This includes a trip to the toilet where you walk past the area where all of the fighters are getting ready to step in the ring. The whole thing smelled like one giant Ben Gay convention.

All in all, it was a good time, aside from the extreme price gouging for foreigners. I suppose I am used to that over here, but every time it happens whether it's at a national park or a museum or a boxing match, it always rubs me the wrong way because the price is about five times of what a local would pay. Oh well, when in Thailand...


Located a bit outside of Bangkok, the Erawan Museum has several objectives: to continue the traditions of Thai arts and crafts so they can be passed down to younger generations; to provide a safe place where Buddha images can be housed and cared for so as to prevent their loss to other countries and to create an architectural environment which is symbolic of the cosmography of the East.

Despite all that, most people around here know it as the largest statue of a three-headed elephant in the world.

Standing 29 meters high (or 43.60 meters if the base is included), the museum is an impressive site. The grounds around it are similar to many wats and temples around town, with various statues, including one where you can apply gold leaf to it and make an offering.

There are also several bells and gongs that you are encouraged to ring (which is good when you visit a place like this with kids because they are going to try to ring them no matter how many times you ask them not to). Apparently this is one of the noisiest ways to make a spiritual offering known to man.

The basement of the Museum represents the Underworld (or Naga World). This is the place where antiques and artifacts are stored. I found it interesting that they are supposedly here to be protected from relocation to other countries, because some of them were from places like China and Cambodia. A bit of a double standard perhaps?

Pictures were not allowed, but I managed to snap off a few before the security guards started hollering at me.

Inside the base of the Museum (which represents the Hall or Human World) are more antiquities many of which depict religious stories and promote world peace.

From there, you can take a staircase found in one of the elephant's hind legs that leads to its belly. This is representative of Tavatimsa Heaven and contains more Buddha images (still no pictures allowed so shhhhhhh).

The walls and ceiling are covered with a mural that depicts the solar system.

Back on the outside is a lush botanical garden and a pond with a chance to feed some fish. After extreme bell ringing, this is another activity that kids go wild for.

The Erawan Museum was a pretty interesting place to visit if you like unique sites. Honestly, where else can you go and walk inside the belly of giant three-headed elephant?