Sunday 27 April 2014

Quiltography for the iPad

One of the many great things about Thailand is that almost any place you go, hotel or restaurant, there is free wifi.... Why can't England do this!?

Anyway, as it's far too hot to sit in the sun, I've been surfing, and on one of my regular visits to Lily's Quilts I found out that Quiltography is one year old, and is offering their app for an iPad at the bargain price of £4.99! So of course, with time on my hands to play, I just had to download it.... and it is fantastic!

Not only are there lots of sample blocks for you to design with, place where you want, rotate, flip and so on, but the best bit is that you can upload images of fabrics from your stash to add to your fabric library to use when designing your quilts. What a great way of keeping a record of those spending sprees!

It really couldn't be easier, I went to Doughty's, of course, and had a play with the new Town & Country range from Lewis & Irene and came up with this zig zag quilt...

Sadly the one thing it doesn't do is measurements, how much to cut and where... I suppose we do need to do some of the hard work!


Tuesday 22 April 2014

Time to rest my weary feet....

So Sunday night we took the sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, I think 'sleeper' is a bit of a misnomer really with the juddering and shaking, but still, we had a huge bunk bed in a cabin to ourselves, and the restaurant car served up some great food.

We are now staying at the La-or Resort in Hua Hin, a large town about two hours south of Bangkok, and where the much revered King has his holiday residence. La-or is just outside of the busy town centre, though Hua Hin is nowhere near as busy or manic as Bangkok and Chiang Mai - there seems to be a much more laid back feeling in the air. The resort has individual cabins, each with their own terrace sheltered by the sun, and a lovely pool to plunge into when the heat gets too much.

We originally booked a week here, but have extended it to two, so finally, we can now sit back, relax, and rest my weary feet!

As we plan to do very little in the next two weeks, other than spending time with a friend and his gorgeous new baby and wife, I thought I'd steal Justin's #tonightstea photos which he shares on twitter and show you some of the scrummy dishes we've been enjoying.

Thai green curry with roti...

... Phad Thai...

...Beef massaman...

... And beef with ginger, deep fried squid and grilled red snapper... Yum!


Sunday 20 April 2014

A day with the elephants

Friday was a very early start, well for us anyway! The bus picked us up at 8.30 and drove about an hour out of town up into the countryside. We really wanted to see some elephants but I didn't fancy a trek as such, so we booked this trip to an elephant park, which included an elephant ride, an ox ride (very odd), a bamboo raft ride down the river, a visit to the Long Neck people's village and finally an orchid farm.

Admittedly we hadn't researched much about this place, I know there are some places where they treat the elephants badly and they're just tourists traps. Sadly I can imagine this place could be horribly busy in peak season, but when we were there the elephants seemed to be really cared for by their owners, there was plenty of food around, and obviously we were encouraged to buy more to feed them, but I didn't really get any impression of maltreatment, though we could have lived without the painting and dancing show!

Anyway Justin made a new friend....

As did I.

We also visited the village of the Karen tribe, commonly known as the 'long neck' people. There seem to be different stories on why these ladies put these very heavy rings around their necks, one was to make them unattractive to slave traders, while another is the exact opposite, that it in fact makes the women more attractive. Our tour guide explained that the rings actually push down the shoulders rather than pulling up the neck, so when the rings are removed there is no damage to the neck.

This little settlement did seem like another tourist trap, but it was nice seeing the ladies making the shawls and handicrafts themselves, and I did succumb to a couple of purses.

Finally we wen to an orchid farm, if only my orchid at home could look like these....

In this pic you can see how the orchids grow hung up allowing their roots to dangle, so they're not in water. I wonder if mine will look like this when we get back, eh sis?


Wednesday 16 April 2014

Crafty Chiang Mai

We're now up in the north of the Thailand in Chiang Mai. We flew with Bangkok Airways, who's slogan is "fly boutique, feel unique"! And we did - it was only an hour's flight and we got fed! Needless to say, Jus was very happy!
We are staying at the Maninarakorn Hotel, which after changing rooms to the more modern part of the building which was on their website (!) we are now happy, though the noisy air-con is starting to drive me up the wall.
Anyway, on our first full day here, now Songkran is over and we can walk the streets without getting drenched, we had a wander into the centre of town, and found it much nicer and calmer than Bangkok, even though it is the country's second city. It is much greener in the north which make a difference, the small roads within the city walls are lined with enticing restaurants, beautiful temples and cool looking bars.
This afternoon we went on a tour of the "home industries" - small local factories where they make and sell handicrafts to the public. We popped into one of the many independent tour operators and arranged for a taxi to take us around, he waited for us at each place and then brought us back, the tour was about 3hrs - all for the bargain price of 300baht - £6.00!
We started at a teak factory and saw some absolutely beautiful carvings and furniture. We also saw a couple of the amazing craftsman at work.
Teak has been taken under the Forest Stewardship Council which offers certification of sustainably grown and harvested teak products. Our friendly driver explained that once Thailand's old teak was gone, they would not be able to use their own teak for another 20 years when the new plantations had matured.
We then went onto ceramic, leather, silver, jewellery, and paper umbrella factories, plus the Thai Silk Factory.... Ahhhh fabric :)
I have always wanted a loom, they just look so methodical and therapeutic to use, once the two thousand threads are set up! And they create such beautiful cloth.
We then went into the shop...
Oooo look, a colourwall!
Can you believe these we're only approx £12p/m! Unfortunately I wouldn't know what to do with silk, so I'm just inspired by the colour and designs.
There were also finished items such as this quilt set, the colours aren't really me, but there is definitely some courthouse steps there, and I love the folded triangles in the border.
Tomorrow a bit of a rest, then elephants on Friday!

Monday 14 April 2014

Living the Thai life

So we're finally here, the house has gone, as have the jobs, and all our worldy possessions are in lock-up storage garage! Eek! Anyway, trying not to think about that. So we started our travelling adventure with a few nights in Bangkok, suffice to say, as it is the most humid time of year here at the moment, Bangkok seemed busier and hotter than ever. We walked around a little, but mostly rested at the hotel pool!

Now we are an hour north of Bangkok, in the country's ancient capital, Ayutthaya, a lovely town full of smiling people and temples everywhere, as you can see below.

As well as being so hot, it is also Thailand's New Year at the moment, called Songkram, which involves a few days of celebrating, having fun, and blessing each other with water, and covering each other's face with a flour paste - this tradition has moved on to huge water guns and buckets of freezing cold water - we got very wet! The kids couldn't have been cuter though!

We're staying in a lovely Homestay called Baan Thai House which is within walking distance of the main town, but far out enough to be so peaceful, the surrounding gardens are beautiful. We have our own little villa, huge bed and great shower - what else could I ask for! We had dinner in their restaurant which was nice, and the breakfast was a good start to the day.

We then decided to go on not one, but two tours! The first was by tuk tuk around the city visiting various temples, as seen above. Here's me trying not to bang my head in our party tuk tuk.

As I can't seem to go anywhere without seeing possible quilt blocks, I thought I would share..

This evening we went on a river cruise, again visiting more temples, but also experiencing life along the Chao Phraya River.

We finished the evening at a night market for dinner and a beer.

I love this last picture! Tomorrow we're off to Chang Mai in the north.