Archive for December, 2010
When we found out that my dad was going to spend his Christmas in Thailand, we immediately jumped in; suddenly we had an opportunity to see some family even though we were so far away from home.
My dad has a house in Sangkha where he and his thai wife along with her family are staying while in Thailand. Sangkha is a small city located quite close to the Cambodian border – almost 500 km east of Bangkok, so going there takes most of a day. We decided to go by bus and didn’t regret it.
There is at least three kinds of busses between the east and west; A very cheap one which features only natural air-conditioning (all windows opened), a relatively cheap one, which does have real air-conditing but not really anything else, and then the expensive one which has both air-conditioning, onboard toilet and where food and drinks are served by a nice thai girl in uniform.
We took the latter one and it made the trip a breeze. Once there we booked a room at a nice motel close to my dads house. The room was quite spacious with hot shower, fridge, king bed and very cheap; 350 baht pr. night (about 65 DKK or 12 USD).
Before we went, we’d already talked about making a traditional Danish Christmas dinner and in one of the big Bangkokian malls we’d found red cabbage in a jar and brought along – and my dad had already purchased a duck, which left us only with one problem – how to cook it? Normally in Denmark the duck is roasted in an oven, but at my dads house there were only two gas cookers and a small open barbecue. So we went to Surin – a larger city only 45 km from Sangkha to look for duck-roasting-appliances.
Unfortunatly we were unable to find one of those half-sphere charcoal grills – we’ve been using those for ducks with great success before. Instead we settled on a big bowl-like owen which we quickly christened ‘Otto’ – I think it was the brand name, but we used it in lack of better term. It works almost like a convection oven except the heat comes from the lid and it only barely fits a whole duck. It ended up working very well – since the heat came from above, and the rest of Otto is really just a bowl, it leaves plenty of room for the juices to gather at the bottom; a good basis for the traditional Christmas gravy.
The traditional Danish Christmas dinner dessert is risalamande/ris à l’amande - not nearly as french as it sounds but very good. The basis of this dessert is rice overcooked in milk. Now we could have chosen to cook the rice in a pot as we’d normally do it in Denmark, but since rice cookers are so widely used here, we opted to use that instead, not really knowing if it would work. It turned out to work beautifully; a typically problem when cooking this dish is that the rice and milk quickly get burned on the bottom of the pot – the rice cooker on the other hand is build for this, and as soon as the rice is boiled, it changes to keeping-it-hot-mode which turned out to be a perfect temperature.
After all the eating, my dad surprised us when he dug out a Christmas tree for us to dance around (probably one of the weirdest Danish Christmas traditions). The Thai part of the family even joined us, and politely hummed along to our Danish Christmas songs.
The Christmas celebration turned out to be much more fun and traditional than we could have hoped for; before even going to Thailand, we’d talked about how Christmas would be with an average temperature of 25 degrees and how we would miss the family and the food. But to us it turned out to be a very good Christmas – although next year I think we’ll spend it in Denmark and maybe go for the warmer territories between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Merry Christmas everyone and a happy New Year.
Going out for lunch one day a couple a weeks ago we noticed that there were a lot more people out on the streets including a lot of street vendors selling flower arrangements with candles. The restaurant we had lunch at was in the Emporium Shopping center with a view out over Benchasiri Park and from there we could see that the park was especially busy that day. Deciding to investigate we visited the park and we certainly didn’t regret that decision.
In the park there were several families and couples that were there to let a flower arrangement float on the lake dominating the park. Very beautiful.
It turns out the ritual is part of a celebration called Loy Krathong. To cite one of the sources I could find explaining it:
People look forward to going out and launching Krathongs together to predict their romance future by the direction the Krathongs float. However, this season is also good for strengthening relationship in the family.
The floating of a Krathong is signifies floating away ill fortune as well as expressing apologies to Khongkha or Ganga, the River Goddess.
Realising that this ritual would be even more beautiful at night we returned to the park after dark. The crowd didn’t disappoint us – they launched thousands of “Krathongs” (as the floating flower arrangements are called).
To add to our blog post series about fun machines in Lego (Turing, most useless, 3D-printer and so on) here is a video of the antikythera mechanism built in Lego – that is the functionality is simulated with a machine built in Lego, but it certainly doesn’t look like the original.
If you don’t remember what the antikythera mechanism is then let wikipedia enlighten you:
“The Antikythera mechanism … is an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1900–01 from the Antikythera wreck, but its complexity and significance were not understood until decades later. It is now thought to have been built about 150–100 BCE. The degree of mechanical sophistication is comparable to late medieval Swiss watchmaking. Technological artifacts of similar complexity and workmanship did not reappear until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks appeared in Europe.“
The modern version is explained in this video:
A really really old computer rebuilt in Lego – what’s not to like?