Opening Day


For the past month or there abouts we’ve been fondly eyeing the monstrosity that is MAYA on the corner. MAYA, to those unfamiliar, is a(nother) shopping mall/centre that has just been built in Chiang Mai, this on the corner of Nimmanhaemin and the Super Highway.  It’s a large cuboid buiding with a funky honeycomb-like wavy pattern snaking around its exterior, with a screen blasting colourful and flashing advertisements into the Chiang Mai sunlight. It certainly stands out from the competition, which is mostly two or three storey buidlings, and the odd tall apartment or hotel not far away.

The opening day, January 23rd had long been announced, and from speaking with the other long term residents in the condo complex we’re staying I got the impression that most people were looking forward to it. It’s a bit of black hole in terms of proximity to everything, the nearest real amenity is a 7-Eleven and street of funky little shops with over priced restaurants around the corner. I suppose most people though were looking forward to the Starbucks and the supermarket, because the one a five minute drive away was just too far.

Also in relation to the opening day, we pretty much saw little to no activity around what looked to be a shell of a building for days, until the week before it was due to open. All day and late into the night trucks and pickups were pulling in weighed down with all kinds of boxes, sacks, and shop fittings, desperately trying to get set up for the deadline. I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen and enjoyed explaining these doubts to Herself, but yesterday there was complete chaos on the corner where MAYA is situated, and I suppose they got their stuff done.

This morning we headed down to see what all the fuss was about. Opening was set for 11AM but we were there before 10, and fortunately it was going to be a long drawn out opening. Anyone familiar with Thailand will know that it’s a fairly religious country when it comes to it’s Buddhist faith. In fact it seems like for even the opening of a packet of crisps they need to bring a monk or two around to give it the go ahead and wishg it good luck, because it’s all about luck, as opposed to medieval practices like marketing and business strategy. Even as you walk down the streets you can see little shrines offering snacks and drinks to the spirits in the hope that it will bring them favour. Of course a certain amount of this probably has to do with keeping up appearances, but it’s still a fascinating display as many of the shrines are colourful and well serviced.

I liken much of this to Ireland’s necessity for bringing a priest around to bless whatever it is that’s opening. While not as common a sight these days (I think/hope/wonder), getting the Church’s seal of approval was an important part of any opening ceremony. Whether there were crucifixes or portraits of the Virgin Mary lying around afterwards depended on the proprietor of course.

Thailand though seems to do it with much more vigour. There were prayers by a gentleman dressed from head to toe in white, who then proceeded to toss colourful flower petals over people’s heads, and then there was a line of monks who sat covered from the sun in a white tent who chanted away for a short while. We, to be honest, were far from enamoured by this performance, so we went looking for breakfast.

By the time we came back we were just in time to catch the opening of the doors. We piled in with everyone else full of oohs an aaahs, looking up at the large skylight full of dancing silver balloons dangling from some invisible tread. Everything was nice and shiny, with the exception of the odd tile or two which had not received the appropriate amount of grout, as Herself discovered when she kicked a piece ten yards down a half empty make-up aisle.

To our disappointment the supermarket wasn’t open, so we went to check out the food options. While there is always an excellent variety here in Thailand, we have become increasingly concerned with the lack of high-chairs for +1. At this stage she is 100% wriggle and run, and anything we can do to save our arms and allow us to enjoy some aspects of our meal takes precedence. We have discovered however that Thailand, to it’s detriment, is not a baby chair place. Maybe they just don’t take their kids out or something…

Anyway.

It’s a fine place this MAYA. We only hung around a short while just to get a feel for it, but we’ll be back I suppose, many times I imagine. Having something like this so close to where you live always makes you feel like you’re living a better life. Still as I walk through there even just window shopping all I can hear is my wallet contorting in agony as I pass buy another thing I think would look great in my possession, or stomach.

For more photographs from the opening of MAYA please follow this link to my Flickr page

All writing and photographs © Conor O’Reilly January 2014

November


I like November and I always have. The month just sits there, almost Christmas but still far enough away to be still kind of normal, and long enough after any summer holidays so any pining is well gone. Even though it can signal the true beginning of winter, a season I don’t shine too, with all the cold rain, wind, the leaves losing their leaves, I still look forward to November every year.

I think it’s one of those reliable months. I know it will be colder because the wind will suddenly pick up a notch and the temperature must drop a few degrees further. Despite this, I can prepare well. November is a great time for dusting out those heavy jackets, wooly jumpers, thick socks, gloves, scarves, and hats in warm, earthy colours of browns, burgundy, and dark greens to keep me cosy.

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And to keep me satiated it is certainly a most appropriate time for food, with soups and stews and baked root vegetables all coming out of the kitchen. It’s a great time to really roll up my sleeves and rekindle the worthwhile craft of cooking a hearty meal. In Korea as well, there is no shortage of stews, and then of course all-weather barbecue dinners take on a new life as they move indoors. These are particularly special treats, which start as soon as I step inside and the hot air warms me through instantly, and after a feed of beef or pork, not to mention a few – if not several – drinks, stepping back into the icy night air afterwards is the ideal way of encouraging passage to the second round.

If you have a fire there is no better month to first light it than November. The joy of sitting by the warmth of a crackling, or gas flowing hiss, while the television shows a late night movie and my glass is half full with my second decent sized glass of red wine cannot be praised too much. Add to this the company of Herself or friends and I can do little to complain – unless I end up drinking too much wine and wake up with a corkscrew of headache and no memory of the end of that film I was watching.

In Korea, of course, fires are far from common in the home. In fact if I lit a fire I would probably be arrested, that’s if I survived my home burning down as well as the entire building I live in. I don’t think my neighbours would be impressed. As a worthy compromise there is the always reliable underfloor heating which is piped throughout every apartment. While it can be slow to start off, once the heating is primed it doesn’t take long for the house to warm up. Stepping into a room with the floor heating on always feels like I am passing into stove warmed cabin; it is cosy, inviting, and homely, and any memories of firesides with wine are forgotten once a basket of freshly baked sweet potatoes are passed around.

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But for me, the real magic of November waits outside. By the time October has passed the trees are well beyond deciding whether or not they will move on to their winter hibernation. Their leaves are either in the process of their radiant discolouration, or they are tumbling down the street in a series of never-ending somersaults courtesy of the stiff breeze. Ochres, auburns, maroons, mellow yellows, fading greens and coppers are splattered about the trees, while the crunching and scratching of the already deceased come from where my feet meet the street. It is always hypnotic.

The air at this time of year has only began to bite and with each small gust it nibbles away at my ears and cheeks, as I duffle up my jacket fully for the first time and perhaps tie a scarf snuggly under my chin. The sky is as blue as if it has dressed for the occasion of being painted in a landscape, and if there are clouds they do the same, ballooning up in a white lather like bubble bath. At all times the sun shines down down, strong as ever, but warm like an old radiator in a big stone room.

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The buildings stand in sharp relief to this bright blue scape, with their every angle being caught and stretching out in a long straight shadow courtesy of that sun which no longer reaches a central apex. It is undoubtedly as the architect had imagined when the designs were first sketched, with the sun catching in a pinprick sized corner of glass which reflects as beaming spot light upon the riotous Renoir painted scene below.

Osaka January 2011


Recently I spoiled myself and paid for a pro flickr account so that I can take full advantage of the service. I take a lot of photos and I’m always looking for somewhere to put them, and with the limit flickr has on 200 hundred photos, it kind of forces you into paying eventually, that is if you don’t know another service that’s free (please don’t suggest one in the comments section until at least a year from now).

With this, I’ve began to go through my various folders of photographs which I never got around to organising and sifting through. These are photos I’d always meant to go through, but for whatever reason they got the old reliable and famed long-fingered treatment that is my modus operandi.

This set I’ve posted was from my second proper trip to Japan (I have taken one more overnight trip back in 2005), when myself and Herself travelled over at New Year for four days. It was kind of a Christmas surprise present for Herself, although she kind of knew she was getting it, as she had never been to Japan and we had been talking about it for years.

Despite a brief scare the night before we left because Herself was in the process of being knocked around by a serious dose of flu, I dragged her out of the bed and we drove to the airport and flew over to Osaka. Dodging the quarantine scanners that are a regular sight at Korean and Japanese airports, we eventually found our hotel where herself took a quick nap. When she woke up we went straight out to eat, and even though Herself was struggling we eventually found a sushi restaurant and began to make short work of the contents of the rotating plates. After a couple of huge pieces of jellied eel, Herself never felt better and we were ready to take on Osaka!

 

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Osaka January 2011, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
In December 2010, myself and my wife visited Osaka. We left Korea on December 31 and came back on January 3.

These are some of the photographs I took of the city.

Below are a couple of videos I have on youtube of my time there as well.