Friday, March 22, 2013

Chingay Parade

We really didn't know what we were in for when we got tickets for the Chingay Parade.  All we knew was that it took place at the end of Chinese New Year celebrations and it would be an amazing spectacle.

Instead of a parade that goes down the street ,this one took place at the Formula One grandstand. As we entered we received "goodie" bags with shiny gold pompoms to shake and (irritating) whistles to blow, so we could "take part" in the festivities.

The performances were down on the track; literally tens of thousands of people performed for us. It really felt like the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics. The track was lined with torches and then the acts began. Dancers of all ages, intricate costumes, neon floats, stilt walkers, chinese operas,, pop stars... My photos can only give you an idea of the spectacle, entitled Fire and Ice.

The performances represented different cultures of Singapore, the first one being Chinese.  Fitting for the season, they first presented a typical New Year celebration including the dragons, warriors, gods and immortals.

These stilt walkers sauntered along for a while; then the lights went out and they started shooting fireworks like fountains out of their backs:

There was a special "green" dragon, made entirely of recycled soda bottles

And a flourescent centipede (a visiting group from China)

Some of the floats:

Singapore is a city state, but it has smaller communities called Community Development Councils (CDCs) that take care of local needs and recreation.They offer social services, but also courses like yoga, dance, cooking.  One act was thousands of people doing Jazzercise; they ended up doing Gangnam Style, of course.  But the one I got the biggest kick out of was this to advertise how much fun their cooking courses are:  every CDC was represented by a cooking cart with a real wok. They had celebrity chefs on floats with giant woks.  At a signal from the head chef, all the carts fired up their real woks, heated oil and garlic, then stir-fried vegetables!  It smelled so delicious!  Then young kids on roller skates collected the cooked food and they all went on to the next stopping point.  How much fun is that?!


After performances from Indian, Japanese, and Korean cultures, we had local pop stars prep us for the finale:  SNOW!  Gigantic towers floated in poured out foam that fell on us like snowflakes.  It went on for a long time, covering everyone with disappearing white flakes.

On the way out of the stadium, we paused to take some photos with performers and a happy group of ushers:

On the way home we passed by one of my favorite buildings in Singapore, the lotus-shaped Art Museum at Marina Bay Sands:

and came upon an acapella concert at the outdoor stage at the Esplanade:

A fun time was had by all!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thai Cooking School

On our recent trip to Thailand, I spent a couple of days in Pattaya - John was working and I had to find things do.  I had already seen the sights of this city (see a previous post) and wasn't keen to do much more.  So I looked online for a cooking school and found Happy Home Thai Cooking School.  In real life it didn't look that great, but after I got cooking, it was heavenly!

Ingredients for Green Curry (the little green balls are baby eggplant)

 Smashing the spices for the arm got tired so the helper took over...
 The DELICIOUS  result:

Below is my fellow student; she was on the 4th day of her week-long cooking course.  Her first dish of the day was a Red Curry:

I watched her on her next dish:  whole steamed fish with ginger and spices.  Yummmm:

Next dish: Tom Yam Goon, that wonderful spicy soup.  Here is my teacher with my finished product:

And the famous Pad Thai.  Here are the ingredients, including Galangal and Palm Sugar, and the dish:

Then she taught me the secrets of a good Sticky Rice with Mango and I went away happy and satisfied, carrying those precious recipes.  Now, finding the ingredients in Singapore is pretty easy, but in the States??

The night before, we went to one of John's favorite restaurants. 

The food is wonderful, but the special thing is the live music and the dancers who come out every 20 minutes to share folk dancers with us.  This time the music seemed to be a mixture of authentic gamelan and electric guitars...  but the effect is still the same:

I'll leave you with a pretty fruit offering from the Ruen Thai:



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

Our final day in Chiang Mai: a trip up the mountain above the city to see the temple complex begun in the 1300s.  Additionally, it should be a fabulous view, but of course it was too smoggy... But the trip was worth it.  First you drive up and up and up the switchback highway


Then you walk through rows and rows of cafes and souvenir/tourist shops (where you can buy hand-crocheted angry bird hats):

And then climb 300 steps to the temple complex:

Where you are rewarded with a feast of sights and sounds 

Before us was an array of gold, glitter, colors and devotion.  An abundance of Buddhas and bells surrounded by incense, flowers and prayers.  Behind the main building was a museum filled with antique devotional items. Take a look!

The complex held hundreds of Buddhas of every material and pose:

Some people make offerings of gold leaf which they apply onto a statue:
Outside the main door was one of my favorite statues; not a Buddha, but a guardian with an attitude!

Before our flight home, we visited a village of woodcarvers,searching for my own "little" souvenir.  I wanted a gong stand and this is what I found:

Till next time!