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Why travelling 20km often takes an hour (or more)

By on Aug 16, 2014 in Travel in China | 4 comments

We often wonder at the variety of ways in which our journeys to the local crags go from a straight forward drive to a bit of a mission. I guess if you factor all of the variables into the equation it is not at all surprising that the 15 – 20km journeys often takes about an hour (or sometimes more). Variable one: Development is much more important than free flowing traffic. Therefore the road going through the village is not really a road it is a public space to be used for construction work… Variable two: Saving money on construction costs is very important. So, in order to save money the nails securing the solar panelled lamp posts into the ground is only 15cm long… Variable three: It is very important to stay entertained whilst driving. So to make sure that people don’t get bored of the tedious task of driving with a car full of passengers, the rear view...

The Queen Sirikit museum of textiles

By on Aug 12, 2014 in Travel in Thailand | 2 comments

No visit to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to Queen Sirikit museum of textiles.( At least not the visit of a textile lover!) It seems that the Queen of Thailand has a deep love not only for her people but also for the Thai traditions of making textiles. “The museum’s mission is to collect, display, preserve, and serve as a center for all who wish to learn about textiles, past and present, from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia, with a special emphasis on the textiles of, and related to, the royal court and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Additionally, its goal is to create public awareness of Thai identity 
and culture, and the beauty of Thai traditional textiles, through research, exhibition, 
and interpretation.” – See more here. In the museum you can watch a beautiful short documentary on the full process of making Thai silk, from the harvesting of...

The streets of Bangkok

By on Aug 9, 2014 in Travel in Thailand | 4 comments

You would think that living in a city of 6.5 million people would prepare me for a trip to a “big” city like Bangkok. Except that it didn’t…. Kunming, despite its huge population, is a village compared to Bangkok. Population wise the two cities are pretty much on par, but in terms of development and worldliness they are light years apart. We foreigners stand out like sore thumbs in Kunming; and in Bangkok nobody looks at us twice. In Kunming people dawdle across the streets randomly without fear of being run over; in Bangkok crossing the street feels like a suicide mission. In Kunming I often rush past people because they are so slow, but in Bangkok I am the one being shoved aside as I amble along the sidewalks. In Kunming the only option for public transport are taxis and busses (and a very new one line metro which nobody trusts yet) but in Bangkok there are tuk-tuks, motorbike taxis,...

The Grand Palace in Bangkok

By on Aug 6, 2014 in Travel in Thailand | 4 comments

It is no secret that I love shiny, pretty things. More than once I have written about how much I love the architecture of Laos and Thailand, but on my most recent trip to Bangkok I think we can safely say the the love for these buildings turned into an infatuation! Yesterday I went to visit the Grand Palace  in Bangkok that was built in 1782, as commissioned by the Thai King, King Rama I. In my life I have never seen such an abundance of mirrored and painted tiles in one place. The Grand Palace complex is no longer used as royal residence for the King of Thailand, but is still used for many important official events. The sprawling complex measures 218,400 square metres (2,351,000 sq ft) which takes about three hours to tour. In the oppressive Bangkok heat touring this complex over mid day is quite a feat! Fortunately there are a couple of water points at which the complex attendants...

The smell of fresh dumplings

By on Jul 29, 2014 in Life in Yunnan | 2 comments

A while ago the key to my electric scooter’s lock suddenly stopped working. I had just finished a morning session at the cerebral palsy clinic where I volunteer, and I needed to go to a teaching job in the city. Needless to say I was less than amused when I could not get the lock off the bike. In a huff I set off to catch a bus across the city only to discover that I had absolutely no cash to pay for bus fare. I raced to an ATM, drew money and by that time I was so late for my next job that I had to take a taxi to get there. After teaching I went back to the tiny back road that our clinic is on in the hope of finding someone who could help me free my e-bike from the lock. After about an hour of trying to convince various shop owners to come help me angle grind the lock off the bike I finally found someone who was willing to believe that I was not trying to steal someone else’s bike. He...

The Etsy experience

By on Jul 22, 2014 in Our craftsmen | 5 comments

I have been very absent from The Red Buffalo’s Road lately. The reason for this absence is that in my flurry of blogging and working on the online store day and night during May and June I managed to give myself golfer’s elbow. At one point I was not even able to hold a cup of coffee in my right hand without pain all the way up my forearm. Needless to say I had to slow everything down and focus on doing rehab exercises and generally just taking a step back from the all consuming Red Buffalo. What I did in the meantime was shop. Lots and lots of shopping, not for finished products or tribal embroidery as in the past, but rather for fabric and zips and hooks and lining and batting and leather. Up until now I have either been buying products for the Red Buffalo directly from artisans in Kunming or I have been commissioning items to be made especially for the online store. The...