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Happy new year! I have so many little antidotes to share about the kids, but first we must take a detour and discuss Bangkok.

My best friend, Michelle, and I flew to Thailand to celebrate the incoming 2010 in its tourist-filled capital, Bangkok. It was hot. It was balmy. It was tropical heaven and a relief from the teen-degree weather we’ve been having in Korea. I can sum up Bangkok in 2 words – shopper’s paradise. The city bustles with hot pink taxis and men cycling mini taxis (they look like a modernized rickshaw) transporting international tourists to outdoor markets that sandwich the sidewalks – cramped and crowded – men and women sell Rolex watches (very good look-alikes I might add), Viagra, scarves, T-shirts, porn, numb-chucks (sp?), and because prostitution is legal, women line up trying to catch the eye of a male passerby.

outdoor market in Sukhumvit

I can also understand why people have visited Bangkok and ended up staying there for a few years. It is cheap! To give you an idea of just how cheap Bangkok was, here’s a sampling of items we purchased:

  • cab fare from airport to hotel (40 miles) = $6
  • lunch for 2 (pad thai, chicken curry, beer, pineapple juice, spring rolls) = $10-12
  • cold medicine (10 tablets) = $2
  • 1 Singha beer = $1.25
  • toiletries at 7-Eleven (toothpaste, lotion, hair conditioner, hair gel, gum, cough drops) = $4
  • fresh pineapple and watermelon off the street = $2

We didn’t have a chance to see the Emerald Buddha or Reclining Buddha, but we did go on a dinner cruise on our last night and could see the temples in the distance, all lit up and serene looking.

temple along the river

And for new year’s, we cheered for 2010 on the 59th floor of the Banyan Hotel, having danced our hearts out to the eclectic music the DJ pumped through the stereo. Mind you, Michelle and I were the only ones dancing, but we didn’t care. The view was breathtaking:

Bangkok at night

A very happy new year to everyone! Next…more stories about Korea…:)

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christmas tree in suwon

Christmas is umm…different in Korea. At least to an American so used to overabundance – of Christmas tunes blaring in every grocery, department and convenience store, of Christmas lights decorating house after house, of advertisements to “buy now” – the energy is different here. The stores aren’t packed with last-minute shoppers. The only place where I can tell it is a special holiday is at the train station. It is packed with people with suitcases, on route to visit family members for the weekend.

One of the Korean-American teachers told me that Christmas in Korea isn’t a big deal. It’s a holiday that excites children, with hopes of Santa Clause leaving presents for their good behavior during the year, as well as couples who apparently give each other tokens of love through gift-giving. But the holiday isn’t one about presents; the kids only open 1 or 2 gifts and that’s it (this would make every American kid cry). For everyone else, it’s just another day.

An interesting side note – there are 4 different holidays in Korea dedicated to couples, a type of Valentine’s Day that we celebrate in the states (some begrudgingly). There is even a holiday dedicated to single people, where they eat a certain type of meal, and gather together with a slight anticipation of meeting someone date-worthy.

But, the Koreans do try to scatter the Christmas spirit. Some trees are lit; the department stores and restaurants humbly display Christmas decorations, not at all to the excessive degree that is oh-so-American. And the funny thing is that you can hear Christmas songs – all in American. It makes me wonder if Korea even has their own Christmas songs.

Christmas this year was an usually warm 45 degree day, but it was a good one with even a little surprise at night – fresh snowfall.

Contact

::kristen.byrne@gmail.com
::skype: minikristen

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