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The Tin Man and Other Endeavors

Tin Man

We pass by this man’s shop nearly every day on our way into town.

As you stroll by his shop you can hear the “tink, tink, tink” of him hammering away at sheets of tin. Lining the floors and walls of his small shop are watering cans, mailboxes, buckets and other various items all handmade by this guy. I’d often pause briefly to see what he was working on and would think to myself that I should probably purchase something from him.

A few weeks ago, Webley was reading our local magazine and there was an article featuring the Tin Man. She said, “Mom, we better get to his shop quickly and buy something because he’s 99 years old and he’s retiring next year!” One thing we have learned living here in Asia is that people don’t show their age as much. So, if you see someone who actually looks old, you know that he or she is REALLY, REALLY old. Now, there’s no doubt that this guy looks old, but 99?! He sits on the floor and taps away day after day and has been doing this since 1952. He actually has a picture in his shop of him shaking hands with Margaret Thatcher.

Tin Man margaret

And he’s obviously out-lived the Iron Lady.  Ponce de Leon was clearly searching in the wrong place for the fountain of youth!

So we ended up buying from him this tin box for 80 HKD (or 10 USD).

Tin Man Box


With our purchase, we also bought the right to photograph him.  He wasn’t very pleased with me when I snapped a picture of him before I made a purchase.

Tin Man aaron2


Tin Man Aaron

Webley is continuing her entrepreneurial efforts and convinced our next door neighbor, Kimberly,  to hold a rainbow loom bracelet sale with her.  Kimberly broadens the potential market since she can speak Cantonese.

 Tin Man sale tin man sale2

Aaron’s been improving his golf game.

Tin man golf


Hong Kong’s only public golf course is a short ferry ride from our house. The views rival Pebble Beach.

Tin man golf2


tin man golf3

Kumai, Indonesia: Take Me to the River

After our meeting with Donny, we decided to explore other parts of Borneo while we were in the neighborhood.  What else does one do while in Borneo?  Well, a quick google search came up with orangutans.  It turns out that Borneo is one of only 2 places left on earth where orangutans can be seen living in the wild.  But, Benjy told me we’d have to travel 3 days on a boat down a river into a rainforest to get to them.  What’s not to like about boats, monkeys and rainforests?  We were in.

We had to travel to the small town of Kumai.


It’s the closest town to the Tajung Putting National Park, the preserve where the orangutans live.

We caught our boat out of Kumai.  This would be our home for the next 3 days and 2 nights.  The boat in the picture below wasn’t our actual boat, but it looked just like it.


We occupied the top part where you see the guy with the guitar.

Aside from ourselves, the boat carried the captain (he’s the one hugging the kids), his assistant, the cook (and her 4 year old son) and our tour guide.


All of them shared the space below ours.  There was one bathroom on the boat.  We did have a toilet and a shower, but both functioned using river water, so no hot water.


The guy in the red is “Joe,” our guide.  He used to be a ranger at the preserve and has a lot of knowledge not only about the orangutans, but also about all the wildlife on the river.

Aaron loved hanging with Joe


and the other guides.


The captain of our boat was trying to learn how to speak English.  He enlisted the kids in helping him learn his ABC’s.  It was so cute to listen to him sing the ABC song and then mess up the order of the letters.  The kids would correct him and I was glad to see that they didn’t laugh at him or make him feel silly.  I guess we all know now what a humbling experience it is to learn a new language!


All of our meals were prepared on the boat by our cook, Eda.  She made traditional Indonesian food, which is quite spicy, but really good.  We ate all our meals at this table.


Nice, don’t you think?  Indonesia is right on the equator, so it is in no way a chilly place, but these pictures were taken right after a rain storm, which cooled things off so much that we found ourselves digging into our bags for our jackets.




This is where we slept at night, under the stars, anchored on the river in the middle of the rainforest.  One night, we could see so many fireflies in the trees it looked as if the rainforest had Christmas lights.  It had the potential to be quite romantic….but for the 2 (human) monkeys sleeping right next to us!


When we began our trip out of Kumai, the river was a muddy brown color.


Joe told us that due to gold mining (which uses mercury to clean the gold) and the effects of deforestation, the river water is extremely polluted.  But, as we traveled deeper into the rainforest away from all of the pollution, the water turned a dark black color.  It looked almost like black coffee.  Oddly, the black water was more transparent and more reflective of the light than the muddy water.



Joe told us that rain washes through the organic matter on the floor of the rainforest.  The water darkened by the organic matter then flows into the river.  The darker the water, the healthier the river.

Lovely…the river was like a mirror here.


As we puttered along, we came upon this sight.


 Yes, that’s a python.  It’s dead, though.  It apparently got into a fight with a crocodile.  We missed all of the excitement, but I guess it’s easy to tell who won.  We didn’t see the croc, except his bubbles.

Here’s a shot of the casualty with a bite in his side.


We also saw monitor lizards.


Smallish crocodiles


 and other monkeys.  This one is called the proboscis monkey.


I didn’t get a good shot of one, but dominant male proboscis monkeys have these big floppy noses.


They come to the river around 5:00 in the evening and they are all just hanging out in the trees.  We were looking at them…looking at us…looking at them as we cruised beneath.  It was so cool seeing these animals in the wild and not in a zoo.

We stopped at a reforestation center along the river where visitors can help replant trees.  Joe told us that a few years ago he had the privilege of being Julia Roberts’ guide when she visited the preserve.  This was the tree she planted.


Impressive, I know.  Here is the tree we planted.


Next stop, the orangutans!

One Week in Bangkok

It’s been awhile since our last post.  Sorry about that.  We’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things with homeschooling and I’ve had a small case of writer’s block/laziness.  It’s soul-destroyingly hot in Hong Kong and I’m just trying to get through each day without melting into a puddle on the ground.  Yes, I know I’ve lived most of my life in Florida and what, you ask, could possibly be hotter and more humid than Florida in August?  Trust me.  I now know it’s possible for a place to be hotter and more humid than my former home and it is now my current home.  The good news is that there is a typhoon bearing down on us, so that should cool things down at least a few degrees.  The bad news is, well, there’s a typhoon bearing down on us.

So I no longer can blame the lack of material for my failure to post.  We just returned from a week-long trip to Bangkok, Thailand.  It was a wonderful trip despite that it was also hideously hot there, even more so than here (again, yes, it is possible).

I have to say that, so far, Bangkok is one of my favorite cities that we’ve visited in Asia.  To me, it was like a nice blend of Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong.  You had the big, modern city without the breathtakingly high prices.  Everything is so cheap, which in itself is really nice.  But, probably the loveliest thing about Bangkok is the people.  They were all so kind, helpful and friendly.  I loved them to bits.

Since we are a homeschooling family, a portion of all our trips are required to be educational (much to the chagrin of Webley and Aaron).  So, we spent part of the time learning about the history of Bangkok.  What I find interesting about Thailand is that it was never colonized like so many other Asian countries.  Thailand had a long succession of able rulers who exploited the rivalry between French Indochine and Great Britain.  Thus, the two powers intentionally left the country un-colonized so it could serve as a buffer state between their colonies.

Other than the war between Thailand and Burma in the mid-1700’s, the country has lived, for the most part, in peace.  While I highly respect and admire this about its people, I found it made for a rather brief and unexciting homeschool history lesson.  With no invasions, wars or conflicts to discuss, there just wasn’t much to say except that it’s a beautiful city with gorgeous temples and delightful people.

During the first couple of days of our visit, we dutifully toured the temples and learned as much as we could about the history and culture from our tour guide.  One thing about Bangkok is there are A LOT of temples

budda temple family

bangkok temple demons

bangkok stupas

bangkok temple shot

Bangkok temple

and Buddhas.

Bangkok reclining buddha2

bangkok buddha

bangkok autthaya buddha2

bangkok autthaya big buddha

For the Thai, the day of the week on which a person is born carries great significance.  Each day of the week is represented by a color and a Buddha pose.  Webley was born on a Tuesday.  The color for Tuesday is pink and the Buddha pose is reclining Buddha.  The one we saw was the 4th largest in Thailand.  Notice the pink flowers in front of it.

bangkok buddha web dad

This is the angle from his toes.

bangkok reclining buddha family

Aaron was born on a Friday.  The color for that day is blue and the Buddha pose is contemplating Buddha:

contemplative buddha

We took a trip outside of Bangkok to the former capital, Ayutthaya.  Located nearby is the summer palace of the royal family.  Webley gives us the run down of this tour.

When the Summer Palace was first built (no one knows the exact date), the king used it as his summer retreat because the location was cool in the summer and it was very easy access by boat. It was used from 1350-1967. In 1767 the Summer Palace was abandoned because the Burmese were invading Thailand. Fifty years later Rama the Fourth came with his son Rama the Fifth. He liked it so much that he decided to make it his summer home. He restored it, and since then it has been restored many times. Today, it still remains the Summer Palace for the king.

This is the king’s watch tower.  He uses it to keep an eye on flooding.

bangkok summer palace tower

King Rama the Fourth was the King of Siam in the book “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon.  That book inspired the Broadway musical and the movie “The King and I.”  King Rama the Fourth was highly influenced by western culture and this can be seen in some of the architecture at the Summer Palace.  You can see the combination of western colonial and traditional Thai architecture in the buildings behind us and the bridge below.

bangkok summer palace colonial

bangkok summer palace bridge 

Next, we went to Wat Yai Chimogkol (the word “wat” means temple in Thai).

The temple was built about 600 years ago as a celebration of victory over the Burmese. At this temple, there are 163 Buddhas.

bangkok autthaya buddhas

The temple was used to keep charms and treasures of Buddha. The building where the charms and treasures are kept is called a stupa. The stupa is round and bell-shaped.

bangkok autthaya temple

 After that, we went to Wat Mahathat or “The Buddha in the Tree.”

bandkok tree buddha

At this temple there are many different kinds of stupas. The Cambodian style looks like a cake that has tiers.

bangkok stupas 2

The Thai/Sri Lankan looks like a skinny cone that has rings on it.

bangkok stupas 3

At this temple there aren’t many heads on the Buddhas because people took them off to sell them.

bangkok headless buddha

One person left a head under a bush and forgot about it. That bush is now a tree with a Buddha head stuck in its roots.

bangkok buddha tree

So, now the fun stuff.

Webley and I took a cooking class and learned how to cook some yummy Thai dishes.

bangkok cooking web

bangkok cooking roll

Thai food is so delicious!

bangkok cooking school

While the girls were busy in the kitchen, the dudes were doing their thing…

Fishing.  They caught Mekong giant catfish.

Bangkok benjy aaron fish

Aaron caught a 25 lb. fish

bangkok fish aaron4

and Benjy caught an 88 lb. fish.

bangkok fish aaron3

They weren’t allowed to keep their catch and had to roll them back in once the picture was taken.

We took some boat tours and saw

bangkok boat aaron benjy

cool architecture

bangkok thai house

traditional boats

bangkok tradition boat

and monitor lizards.

bangkok lizard

We fed the fish.

bangkok temple fish2

These fish were right outside of a temple where fishing is not permitted.  The fish seem to know they are safe here.

We road in a tuk tuk.

bangkok tuk tuk

bangkok tuk tuk aaron

And we took a 40 km bike tour of the countryside.

bangkok bike family

During the bike tour, we stopped at a primary school.  The kids weren’t used to seeing tourists, so they were very excited for us to be there.

Bangkok webley school

They practiced their English with the kids.

bangkok bike school

We stopped at a monastery and this female monk was particularly taken by Aaron.  It’s funny that Aaron is nearly as tall as she is!

bangkok aaron monk

Bangkok was just lovely!

bangkok bike web mom

bangkok summer palace sarong