What Did This Place Look Like Back in the Day? Imagining Sukothai, Thailand

What did this statue once look like?

What did this statue once look like?

As people flock to temples in Asia, some new, some old where the beautiful sculptures are still relatively intact, I like to hang around the ruins that look like…well they look like ruins.  Temple columns with exposed bricks.  Heads of Buddhist statues lopped off.  Faint resemblance of a sculpted story of a battle chiseled on a temple wall.  I enjoy marveling these ruins so that I can wonder “What was once here?  How majestic had this looked back in the day?”

This one is still relatively intact...love the facial expression

This one is still relatively intact…love the facial expression

In the Sukothai Historical Park in Thailand, I discovered temple ruins with gigantic statues of Buddhas, Boddhisatvas and also elephants, all of which had seen their heyday back in 12th – 13th Century.

The beauty of traveling to Sukothai is being able to view a snapshot in time of this once great palace area resplendent with colorful statues and walkways.  Now it’s a UNESCO heritage site for thousands of tourists every year, and it’s a quiet tourist destination that is often overlooked on the map for those in favor of Chiang Mai, Bangkok or the number of gorgeous islands in Thailand.  I loved my brief time in Sukothai as I wandered around and imagined the hustle and bustle of this once great kingdom that ruled for 200 years.

Those were once elephant statues that greeted royalty

Those were once elephant statues that greeted royalty

 

Imagine the temples that would've housed the Sleeping Buddha

Imagine the temples that would’ve housed the Sleeping Buddha

Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

Delicious fruit and snack plate

Delicious fruit and snack plate

One of the highlights of my time in Chiang Mai was taking a cooking class.  In a span of three hours, we made fish cakes, two curries, Pad Thai, onion rice, banana fritters and mango pudding.  Awesome! We assembled as a group in the morning, explored the local market to pick up fresh ingredients and then we came back to chop, cook & eat.

I loved learning about the spices we threw together to make the mysterious Thai curries that just melted in my mouth.  And I  learned how to make the infamous Pad Thai noodles which was ridiculously easier than I thought.  Finally, the coconut chicken curry soup was heavenly.  DSCF1262

 

The toughest part when I returned home to NYC was finding the ingredients, and fortunately, I found a lovely Thai grocery store in Chinatown that had it all.  If you ever venture to Chiang Mai, take a cooking class!  It’s well worth it.

 

Banana fritters and mango pudding

Banana fritters and mango pudding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yummy coconut chicken soup

Yummy coconut chicken soup

Snapshots of People from Bhutan

Sonam at the town's grocery store

Sonam at the town’s grocery store

“Hello! Can I practice my English with you?” she asked.  I heard this high-pitched voice from across the street and when I turned around, all I saw was a small wooden shack that served as a mini grocery store in this tiny town in Bhutan.  “Over here!” she waved.  Her beautiful big smile greeted me and she introduced herself as Sonam, a Bhutan-born Nepalese girl whose family ran the store.

Sonam and her sister in their modest home

Sonam’s two sisters in their modest home

That afternoon, I met her two sisters and we chatted about boys, American movies and funny stories about their teachers.  I think kids are the same all over the world.

Welcome to the family!

Welcome to the family!

During a drive to a nearby monastery outside of Punakha, I met this wonderful Bhutanese family who shared that they’ve never had a family picture taken of them. I took a few shots and then I mailed them copies when I returned to the U.S.  The funny part was that they insisted I had to be in every picture!  “You are now part of the family,” the patriarch said to me.  They were so kind and hospitable, inviting me to tea and biscuits afterwards.

This is the biggest prayer wheel I've ever seen in my life.

This is the biggest prayer wheel I’ve ever seen in my life.

My driver knew a handful of English phrases including “Hello,” and “It’s time to go,” and “You may eat that.”  Although his English was limited, he was always so gracious during the 12 days I was in Bhutan, and we learned to communicate by reading each other’s facial expressions and using a lot of sign language.

I love the grin of the girl on the far end on the right

I love the grin of the girl in the red skirt

I loved the kids I met along the way!  One time, I walked in the middle of a field to see the town stupa.  Suddenly, around seven children showed up out of nowhere and we had a blast taking photos and singing songs.

Who can cheer the loudest?

Who can cheer the loudest?

 

Trumpeter's call to prayer

Trumpeter’s call to prayer

Monks in a doorway

Monks in a doorway

I enjoyed visiting the temples in Bhutan mostly because of the people-watching.

Prosciutto Heaven in Rome

Proscuitteria Platter

Meat and Cheese Sample Platter

Despite all the pasta-eating and espresso-drinking last week, my favorite eating spot in Rome was La Prosciutteria.  Yes, you heard it correctly:  an affordable quaint place that specializes in just prosciutto and other fine sliced meat.  I tell you, the Italians have perfected the art of cured meat because no matter where we tried it, prosciutto and salami just melted in our mouth.  The cold cuts also served as a nice light mid-afternoon snack.  And to think that I grew up eating Oscar Meyer crap as a kid and not knowing any different.

After a long day of seeing the ruins and zigzagging our way through the cobble-stoned roads, we turned down the street from the Trevi Fountain and discovered La Prosciutteria.  Prosciuteria

At first, I felt overwhelmed when ordering because every imaginable prosciutto or sliced meat took up the entire counter or hung on the hooks above.  What to order?  We hesitated until the kind lady shooed us away and said “Sit down.  I’ll prepare you a sample platter.”  Wow, bring it on!  Prosciutto, ham, cheese and mushroom pate on bread covered our wooden block.  We devoured it in a matter of minutes.

When we looked up from our delightful snack, my eyes re-focused and took in this unique place: everything was recycled and nothing was wasted.  The tables, counter and shelves were all made out of old wooden crates.  Lamps, formerly as jumbo tomato cans, hung from above.  Even the ceiling was pieced together by recycled wooden doors.

So if you’re ever in Rome, check out this carnivore-delight:  La Prosciutteria and get the cheese & meat sample.  For just 5 Euros a person, you are stuffed.  Great value!

Me & Eduardo at Proscuitteria

www.laprosciutteria.com   Via Della Panetteria 34 | Fontana Di Trevi, 00187 Rome, Italy

 

 

 

 

Europeans Have It Right: Simple Breaks Throughout the Day

Cappuccino with a small croissant

Cappuccino with a small croissant

I love the Europeans’ take on a “coffee break”. While traveling on business in Rome and Paris recently, I’ve discovered the little ‘pauses” of a work day, a refreshing change from the go-go-go work style I’ve been used to in New York.

“Let’s take a coffee break,” said Valeria, my lovely Italian colleague in Rome.   I assumed she meant going to the local Starbucks, buying a ridiculously big coffee for take-away and drinking it from my desk.  That’s all I’ve known since working in NY for more than a decade.

I soon discovered that was not the case.  As we crossed the bustling Via Condotti street packed with tourists, I felt relief to get out of the confines of the office and to get fresh air and enjoy a few minutes of the Rome scene.  Only a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, I might add.

We entered a trendy cafe with two baristas working the gigantic  espresso machine that stretched across the counter.  “Now, we take a coffee,” Valeria said, with a slight clip of an Italian accent.

My colleagues from the Rome office:  Luca and Valeria

My colleagues from the Rome office: Luca and Valeria

Luca, my other colleague, bellowed out some orders in Italian, and soon three empty cups plunked in front of us.  We bellied up to the bar.  Espressos were poured into the cups, as small as shot glasses, and we downed them in a matter of seconds.  I loved the buzz.  Then we chatted for several minutes about work, life and weekend plans.  Other customers hovered around munching on biscottis.  Petit sandwiches and palm-sized croissants (and not the monstrously big croissants back in the U.S.) sat in a row on the counter.  I noticed whether in Paris, Brussels and Rome, people ate lightly throughout the day.  And always a piece of dark chocolate here or there to tie you over to the next meal.  Twenty minutes later, we were back in the office, and I felt better, my spirits lifted.

Small palm-sized treats

Small palm-sized treats

“Why are you eating alone?  I will join you now for lunch,” said one co-worker to me earlier that day.  I was so used to eating alone, and I welcomed a break to eat and chat.   My Rome colleagues gathered around in the boardroom with their lunches and we ate together.  They unpacked their salads, proscuitto ham and bread, and the boardroom table transformed into a mini picnic.

“It’s good to take a break,” one colleague said.  He had spent some time in the U.S. and commented on how strange it was that Americans would eat their lunch over the keyboard while working.  Oh I’ve been guilty of that.

“I guess to be efficient?” I said.  He laughed and said, “You have to pause in the day.  You feel more refreshed and then you can go back to work.  Simple.”

Indeed.  I think the Europeans have it right to take short breaks, enjoy an espresso & a small piece of chocolate, before heading back to the grind, a little more rejuvenated to take on the rest of the day.

Hubby joins me in Rome for a long weekend

Hubby joins me in Rome for a long weekend