Tag Archives: sugar

The ‘Squirrely’ Side of Thailand

I thought it only fair since I posted ‘Things to Love about Thailand’ that I should also have a little ranting page about things I find squirrely about the country as well.  Again, they are in no particular order 🙂

#1: Whitening
Ok, now I understand that this is 100% a culture thing.  Unlike many people in the Western world and many Europeans, Asians want white skin.  White skin is a sign of wealth.  For if you are wealthy, you spend most of your time indoors and don’t have to work or labor outdoors, hence you stay out of the sun, hence you have white skin.  On the flip side, having dark skin is a sign of poverty.  So ok, I get people here want white skin, but what I’m not a fan of is the whitening products and not having a real choice outside of it.  Deodorants, body washes, lotions, basically any product for your skin has chemical whitening agents in them.  As a falang who prefers a little color to my skin, and as a person who doesn’t want unnecessary chemicals put on my skin, it’s really, REALLY hard to find any skin products without whitening chemicals in them.  They are all “whitening”, “extra whitening”, “white and firm”, etc….  What’s worse to me is so-called skin care product experts like Nivea, Oil of Olay, Dove, and so on are on the whitening bandwagon.  They are just out to give what the culture wants despite what damage it may do.  All about the $$$$… Again, I get it’s a culture thing to want white skin, I just wish there were options that didn’t have the whitening chemicals in them, that’s all 🙂
#2: Electric Lines
I don’t know why it is exactly that electrical poles have what sometimes looks like hundreds of lines coming off of them stretching along every road and side road.  It’s as if they had poles with a few lines at first, then as demand for electricity increased they just added more and more and more.  It’s sometimes scary as when you walk by many of the poles you can hear them literally buzzing with electricity!  And between some of the poles the electrical lines stretch from the top of the pole to at least half-way down allowing the lines to sag almost to the ground.  Now, I’m not an expert in electricity by any means, so I may be way out of my depth here, but I would think there would be a “neater” or more organized way to get electricity where needed without just adding more and more to already congested poles… Hmmm…

#3: Sugar
I learned very quickly that sugar is super popular here in Thailand.  They put it in EVERYTHING!!  It’s even a condiment on the table for your meal!  They have the chili pepper powder, fish sauce, a vinegar sauce with sliced chili in it and sugar.  Nope, that’s NOT salt!  I’ve heard that Thailand is way up there for diabetes and obesity, though to be honest I haven’t noticed that many obese Thai’s, so while that part came as a surprise to me, after realizing and tasting that yes, everything does have a ton of sugar in it, it’s not so shocking after all.  Bread, coffee, “all natural juices”, potato chips, the list goes on!  If shopping on the street at the various vendors, if it looks like it may be tart or not have sugar in it, you really won’t know for sure until you take that first bite.  As someone who is trying to watch sugar intake for personal health benefits, I literally have to read every ingredient on what I pick up in the store to check for sugar.  I’ve done this action so often now, I even recognize the word in Thai (since the majority of ingredient lists are 100% in Thai).  Such a bummer!

#4: Visas
If you enter Thailand via air, you automatically will receive a tourist Visa for 30 days.  If you want to have a Visa for a longer period of time, you can apply before going to Thailand to the nearest Thai embassy for a 60 or even 90 day Visa.  It is possible to get a year Visa if you are doing some sort of education while in the country such as learning to speak Thai or Muay Thai training.  If you arrive in Thailand via land (bus or train) you get a 15 day Visa!!  Seriously???  What in the world would anyone actually be able to see of Thailand in 15 days!?!?!  I understand that there are many expats and travelers that get jobs while originally just visiting Thailand and aren’t being legal about it (paying the appropriate taxes and such) so the government is trying to limit the amount of time people stay in the country to make it harder for those who get jobs and aren’t legal about it.  I get that.  It’s just unfortunate from the perspective of regular travelers who just want to explore the country without having to leave every 30, 60 or 90 days (yes, even 90 days is a pain to have to do!!) especially with some borders being closed (well, you can leave, but you can’t come back).  I’m spending my saved earned money in this country… Wouldn’t they want me to be here for a longer period of time without having to leave?  Then again, maybe that’s part of it too… Paying for transport in and out of the country to be right by the Visa is also stimulating the economy… Hmmmm….  The rules do change quite often apparently and many expats who have been here legally for many years simply say that “that’s what happens when the government is ruled by the military”.  (Sigh)

#5: Thai’s Don’t Sweat!
Ok, this one is obviously just meant to be humorous… It simply astounds me how the Thai people never seem to actually sweat!!!  Seriously, if I’m sitting indoors without a fan directly on me I start to sweat profusely!  And even then, while the skin being hit by the fan is dry and cool, my backside is not!  Walking anywhere and well forget it, I’m drenched in sweat so often just walking about that my clothes change color from being sweat soaked.  I’m constantly peeling clothes off soaking wet clothes and setting them outside to dry after my walks and when they do dry they are streaked with white marks across them (from the salt in my sweat) so into the wash they have to go.  Yet watching Thai laborers in the sun constructing a new building, carrying materials and such, not a single drop of sweat anywhere!  Their skin isn’t glistening with any sign of stress!!  Ok, now of course this is a teeny bit of an exaggeration because of course they sweat, otherwise I’d think that was a major health issue, but seriously compared to how I and other falangs sweat, it’s night and day!  What is their secret???  I’m off for my third shower of the day now to rinse off the sweat from simply writing this post. 😉

Back to Thailand

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Isola d’Elba

Isola d’Elba!!  Though I am half Italian, I never knew that this little archipelago off the coast of Tuscany in the Mediterranean Sea even existed!!  The shame, I know!!!  Thankfully my dad did as he suggested a weekend trip there to explore the little land and its numerous beaches!!  From his house outside of Florence it took about 4 hours to get to the dock at Piombino where we drove on to a ferry-boat (called MOBY) and headed to the port in Portoferraio on the island of Elba.  Though the weather had been very sketchy for several weeks prior to our trip, and though it even rained on the ferry ride over, we got two full days of sun on the island and only had cloudy days on the day we arrived and the day we left:)  Seriously lucked out since it was toward the end of summer/early fall that we went to begin with!

Our hotel (hotel Gabbiano Azzuro- hotel Blue Seagull) was located in a town called Marciana Marina on the North Western section of the island.  The town itself is a cute little quaint place with the usual shopping, restaurants, beaches, marinas and hiking trails from here to there.  The hotel, while really not terribly impressive inside offered quite a delicious breakfast including some of the best brioches I’ve personally ever tasted!  They were filled with Bavarian cream… YUM!!!  Just looking at them however pretty much capped my daily allowance of sugar intake… lol!!  I should probably clarify that the hotel itself was quite clean, the people very nice, the location an easy walk to/from the town center, but the rooms were not that big and while they boasted that each room had a private balcony, the majority of those balconies looked on to an abandoned building and you could only see a sliver of a nice view.  However, we were not there for the hotel… we were there for the BEACHES!!!

As far as beaches are concerned, I seriously didn’t think the ones in San Blas could be topped but the ones on the Island of Elba sure do give them a bit of a run for their money!!!  The colors of the water surrounding the island at the various spots are out of this world beautiful!  I found myself literally taking the same exact picture 3 or 4 times over just to make sure I was properly capturing the colors!!

The beaches are quite different from one another and some were even different from any I had previously been on before.  While I’ve mainly been used to beaches with sand, many of the beaches on Elba consisted of stones!!  I wasn’t expecting this aspect at all!!  The stones are like river stones, therefore not sharp in any way, but smoothed out from years of sea water sanding them out.  While they weren’t that comfortable to lay out on, they weren’t completely terrible either and it was due to these stone beaches that the colors remained so crisp and lovely, even when in the water!

Needless to say, after mapping out several beaches for us to visit, the next few days were spent just going from one beach to the next, sunning and tanning, swimming and snorkeling and generally just loving the water and life!  It was a great and relaxing time to be sure!!  Even more of a bonus was that we were still in Italy so dinners were to die for!!  I Love Italian food!!  The last day was spent driving almost all the way around the island, taking several pictures along the way before heading back to the ferry and then home.

Pictures:

On to Return to Treviso

Back to Europe

Monteverde Horseback Ride Tour

My tour was due to start around 11am.  As I sat in the common area of my hostel (Cabinas Eddy) I was surprised by a delicious homemade tamales that the Eddy family offered me, as well as to learn that I was the only one who had signed up for the horse tour!  The people who ran the tour however were very good friends of the Eddy family and as such, Eddy the first and his wife opted to come along on the tour with me!

Eddy Sr and his wife didn’t speak a lick of English, and as I was still learning Spanish, communication was quite entertaining!  But certainly not impossible as my knowledge of Italian helped a lot and hand gestures and charades made up for the rest.  All during the ride to the horse facility Eddy talked about Monteverde explaining how the majority of the land is used for the growth of coffee beans and chocolate.

We reached the facility about a half hour later and were greeted with open arms.  As mentioned earlier, the “horse” family and the Eddy’s were good friends so we were all greeted as such.  We sat in the main lobby area as the two families caught up on each others lives, then we set off on horseback for the tour.

The tour was led by a girl about 12 years old who knew the land like the back of her hand.  She was patient and kind and was very knowledgable about the land she grew up on.  It was quite entertaining because there were several times when she would begin to explain something about the area only to be interrupted by Eddy Sr. who would continue the explanation as if he were the guide.  I found this to be humorous as I could see that everyone was eager to share their knowledge of the area!

The horses are a much smaller breed than those found in the states, and since I had just come from a horse facility riding draft horses, it made these horses by comparison feel like ponies!!  But nonetheless it was great just to be back on horseback!!  It probably was a good thing that the horses were so small however as there were many areas that I literally had to throw the reins away and allow the horse to navigate their favorite path through the terrain!  Parts were so narrow and muddy and slippery and on the edge of cliffs and through rivers that it honestly made me nervous until I just allowed the horse to do their job and get us through safely.

Over hills, through jungle, along hillsides, to the top of a small mountain we finally arrived and my-oh-my what a view!!!  Our final destination felt like we had made it to the top of the world with a 360 degree view of everything around us!!  You could see Monteverde, Santa Elena and all the way to the Nicoyo Peninsula including the Gulf!!!  Though it was a little windy up there, the view was absolutely spectacular and honestly had it not been for the wind, we probably would not have been able to see so far!!

We got off the horses at this point and just spent time walking around enjoying the magnificent view all around us as the horses took a well deserved break, snacking on the grass around us.  After we all had our fill of our surrounding views, we mounted back up and headed down a different path to get home.  As some areas on the way back were safer to canter along, we did so enjoying the faster pace.  You could tell the horses were once again quite familiar with their jobs as though they would never take off without instruction, they always slowed down when they knew they were coming to the end of an area that was safe for speed.

All sorts of day-critters were spotted along the path, including a large variety of butterflies and birds, and of course spiders and webs!  Once we made it back to the ranch, I was shocked to realize that almost 5 hours had already passed!!  How time flies when you are having fun!!  I was very pleasantly surprised upon our arrival back to the ranch that we were greeted with a delicious homemade lunch!!  Now, I’m not entirely sure if lunch was ever part of the tour itself or if it was simply that I was being joined by friends of the family that I was served lunch.  Either way, it was delicious and I was very thankful to have had lunch as it had been a while since I ate anything as well:)

After our meal we all took a walk to their garden where we were shown a large variety of plants that they grow on their land including sugar cane and a very large variety of spices!  Our young tour guide cut some cane down and led us to and old shack that had a hand-crank machine designed to crush sugar cane.  She placed a bucket at the mouth of the machine and fed sugar cane bark through the machine as Eddy Sr. and I worked the hand cranks to make the machine work!  After several feeds of the cane through the machine we had several cups of pure sugar-water entirely from the cane!!  It was quite amazing to me how much sugar-water was squeezed out of only a few pieces of cane!!  We all took shots of the sugar cane juice and cheered to a wonderful day!!

After our garden tour, I was asked if I minded taking a trip off the normal path of the tour and instead join Eddy Sr. and his wife on a trip to one of their friend’s house.  Absolutely, I would love to join them was my response as any opportunity to see real life and real family life in different cultures is part of the reason for any of my travels to begin with!!  We headed off on foot to their friend’s house (who I later learned was the family of our young tour guide.  She was the eldest of the children in the family) where we were once again greeted with open arms and offered refreshments.  I was absolutely taken aback by the beauty of where they lived!!  The house was modest as all of them are, with only 3 bedrooms (to be shared by the parents and 7 children) and one bathroom, living room and kitchen.  I loved the kitchen as though it was simple, it was the largest of all the rooms and was completely open with a large table in the center just welcoming family and friends to join.  The roof was tin and as with most of the homes here the walls didn’t meet the roof but rather had a gap of about half a foot all the way around.  I could just imagine how wonderful the sound of rain would be off the roof, echoing around the vast area!!  How splendid!!

A better spot for the house as well could not have been picked as the land it was on had a phenomenal view of the mountains around them!!  The sun was getting lower on the horizon and it simply lit up the land around us in a fantastic glow that changed in color as it set lower.

Just being with the family, listening to conversation, being present in their tremendous hospitality humbled me.  There was nothing but love and fun radiating from them and though I couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said, the general feeling was of community.  We headed back to Cabinas Eddy about an hour later and though it was technically still early, I was definitely exhausted and just relaxed the remainder of the evening.  Of course I did make sure to thank everyone profusely for the fantastic day as none of it would have been possible without first the Eddy family joining me, and second for everyone’s amazing hospitality all along the way!!

On to Manuel Antonio

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