Monthly Archives: September 2013

In Motion: Family Fun At The Calgary Stampede

There are plenty of ways to have some good old fashioned family fun at the Calgary Stampede

While there are attractions for people of all ages at the Calgary Stampede, it is a wonderland of excitement for the little people in your life. If you’re a family looking for an ideal place to visit that provides a balance of things that interest adults, as well as your young ones, visiting Calgary during the Stampede is a no-brainer. Just be sure to book accommodations well in advance, because as we mentioned before, you aren’t the only people thinking the same thing.

There are many ways to enjoy some family fun at the Calgary Stampede … for a sample of check out Today’s In Motion below!

Photo: Movie Night On The King’s Birthday, Lopburi, Thailand

Movie Night On The King's Birthday in Lopburi, ThailandLocal Thais watch a movie on the King’s Birthday in Lopburi, Thailand.

The King of Thailand is one of the world’s most revered monarchs. Ask any Thai, and the vast majority will espouse how the King has led the country from being an agrarian nation at the conclusion of World War II, to a modern and well-regarded state where people’s quality of life has vastly improved. Everywhere you go in the country, you’ll see giant portraits of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Small framed photos of the King can be spotted in shops, guesthouses, and homes. Despite the fact that Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the King has no real political power, politicians often call on him for advice, and nobody dares to disrepect him when he voices an opinion, one way or the other. Indeed, it is a crime to insult the King in Thailand.

On the date of the current King’s Birthday (December 5), a bank holiday takes place throughout the entire country. Speeches to honour the King take place on TV, the sale of alcohol is banned (stock up before this day and ALL other scheduled Buddhist holidays), and festivities, including fireworks, take place across the entire nation.

In Lopburi, one of the events they held to honour Rama IX was a movie night on the King’s Birthday. Right outside my guesthouse door, they had a giant video screen set up, where they were showing videos trumpeting the King’s leadership over the years through various tough times. The movie shown above was one concerning typhoon Gay that struck places like Surat Thani and Koh Samui in 1989, making it the first tropical disturbance to form in the Gulf of Thailand and make landfall since 1891. Over 600 people in Thailand were killed, necessitating a massive relief response.

The King led the formation of a charitable organization, which sprung into immediate action in the wake of that disaster, and it has been called upon in other calamities in the years since then (the most notable example being the Tsunami that struck Southwestern Thailand back in 2004, killing 7,000 people). The video was very well-produced, and it did an excellent job to help explain why Thais love their King so dearly.

Ever been in Thailand during the King’s Birthday? What events did you witness/partake in?

A Day In The Life Of The Calgary Stampede, The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth

The sun sets on yet another day in the life of the Calgary StampedeDowntown Calgary as viewed from the Elbow River, in the SW neighbourhood of Mission. Located near the Stampede Grounds, this part of town, along with Downtown and the Beltline, are ground zero for folks partaking and celebrating the Calgary Stampede.

For tourists visiting Alberta from outside Canada, when Calgary is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is its most famous festival, the Stampede. For over 100 years, this event, starting out simply as a rodeo, has come to define the city, to the chagrin of some. Despite the mixed feelings that some people have for this event, it is still one heck of a party and deserving of the moniker “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth”. Here’s what a day in the life of the Calgary Stampede looks like…

Calgary Stampede front gatesStanding in line for Stampede Tickets … as of 2013, ticket prices cost $16 for admission, a good portion of which goes to charity…

Teepee Village @ the Calgary Stampede The Teepee Village, showing how the First Nations people that resided in this area before us lived.

Walking around the Calgary Stampede Throngs of people stroll the Stampede Grounds, eating the food, enjoying the rides, and taking in the musical acts. Just over 1,000,000 people go through the turnstiles every year, testifying to the popularity of this well-loved festival.

Concession stands @ the Calgary Stampede Just a small slice of the food on offer at the Stampede. So wrong for your waistline, but go on. The Stampede only happens for 10 days a year. Spoil yerself!

Midway Games at the Calgary Stampede Step up. Try your luck. Win a prize.

As if all these traditional trappings of a fair weren’t enough to elevate your excitement level, how about … a wandering marching band? This is the Stampede, remember…

Had enough of the outdoors, or maybe the weather isn’t playing nice? Come indoors and sample some of the attractions located inside the many building on the Stampede Grounds. Like country music? Head to Nashville North, where a nonstop cast of musicians roll on and off stage every day (and beer never stops flowing…) Wanna sample some fine food? Head over to Western Oasis, where you’ll find plenty of elevated treats, along with some excellent wines that pair perfectly with them!

Or, if you are fortunate enough to witness this spectacle as I did during the 2012 Stampede, slap some board shorts on, get wet, and ride some waves more than 1,000 kilometres from the sea on the Flowrider…

After all that activity, it gets better still. Many of Canada’s leading and up and coming acts are attracted to the Stampede’s free stage every year, so you can find yourself a spot on the lawn and listen to the musical stylings of bands such as The Trews for $0 (well, it’s included in the price of your ticket but c’mon … keep up the illusion here!) 😛

After all this, if you still have the energy, head off the grounds and partake of the many offsite parties throughout urban Calgary that are all well-attended by the locals. Even during the week. Seriously. Many people get little or no work done during these ten days, as the city grinds to a near halt. The Stampede is that big of an event, guys. If you attend one festival during your time in Western Canada, make time for the Stampede.

Just be sure to book well in advance, as places as far as an hour outside the city can disappear months before the event.

After you tie up all your loose ends, pack your ten-gallon hat, your Alberta-sized belt buckle, and start practicing your Yahoo! … you’re headed to one of the greatest public celebrations in Canada!

Have you ever been to the Stampede? Share your experiences below!

Let’s Head To The Market: A Visit To The Outdoor Korean Food Market In Onyangoncheon, Korea

Optimized-IMG_0434Fuelling up on Don Katsu (breaded pork cutlet), smothered in a zesty garlic sauce, accompanied by all the usual banchan (side dishes), namely rice, tater tots (which I ate already, tee hee), a salad dish I can’t identify, plus some yellow radish and Kimchi…

Korea is a land of many unique foods. Kimchi stands chief among them, a fermented, spicy side dish of raw cabbage that many shy away from. Having indulged in it many times however, it is a taste that you grow to like in my opinion, and the spicy zing adds life to many meals without overwhelming them.

In order for the Kimchi, and the main dishes that it stars alongside to be created in the first place, the cooks, both household and professional alike, must first visit the local market. After catching word of an outstanding Korean food market in Onyangoncheon, the largest city in Asan, I had to check it out for myself…

Optimized-IMG_0451 A dizzying variety of produce, most of it from within the region, greets visitors to the market in Onyangoncheon

After taking Seoul Subway Line 1 to Onyangoncheon Station (visitors from Seoul will want to take an ITX train to the station [name is the same, as they share the same track] ), walk out onto the main street, and wander eastward for a couple of blocks. After this, cross the street and head south until you run into throngs of people, and an endless array of vegetables, fruits, seafood, baked goods, and people hawking crafts and other general merchandise.

Optimized-IMG_0452 A tantalizing array of Korean fast food (Ddeokbokki [spicy rice cakes in a red pepper sauce], Hoddeok [a pastry filled with brown sugar and nuts/seeds], sundae [Korean pork sausage], battered vegetables, etc) awaits those with a void to fill in their tummies (like me!)

Optimized-IMG_0453 An enviable selection of freshly caught fish waits patiently in their market stall, until a seafood chef comes by to arrange a marriage between them, some cooking oil, and a frying pan.

Optimized-IMG_0454 Awaiting a similar fate, a wide variety of shellfish are kept in good condition by constantly flowing water, until they find themselves in a stock pot later that evening…

Optimized-IMG_0457 Mmmmm …. Doughnuts!

After exiting the market, I came across a fountain just south of the train station. Before heading back to the terminal to catch the subway home, I found out quickly that this was no ordinary water feature

What’s your favorite thing about markets? The food? The atmosphere? The people? All the things you can buy? Talk to us in the comments!

In Motion: Safety? Who Needs That? Not Korean Kids…!

Back in Canada and in the West in general, we tend to take safety very seriously. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Every angle is covered. Even activities that seem safe for 99% of people have warning labels and safeguards against the 1% of Darwin Award candidates that might fall victim to an unlikely accident.

In Korea (and Asia in general) though? Safety, at least in the way that we think about it, is an afterthought. It’s as if most people tend to trust that other people will do enough on their own to keep themselves safe.

Still though, this? I guess they teach Korean kids not to be afraid of little things like gravity at an early age.

Liability lawyers, start your engines and head to Asia, the land of opportunity! 😛

Photo: Gilded Chicken Statues At A Shrine, Ayutthaya Thailand

Optimized-hpim1111Shiny blue and golden chicken idols, near Ayutthaya, Thailand

For many first time explorers in Thailand, sights like the one depicted above may come as a surprise. Denoting symbolism that has no direct comparison with Western culture, it definitely contributes one of many additions to the “WTF” file when exploring this exotic country.

If you want to know however, the chicken statues displayed here are at the shrine to the former Thai King Naresuan in Ayutthaya Thailand. When he was a prisoner in Burma back in the 1500’s he had nobody to talk to, save a bunch of roaming chickens. Having his Castaway moment, Naresuan anthropomorphized them into feathery friends, got through his ordeal alive, and later immortalized them in statue form.

Cool story. But even cooler statues!

What’s the most bizarre thing you have ever seen on your travels?

Isolation In The Midst Of A Big City: Nose Hill Park, Calgary, Canada

Optimized-DSCN2269An entrance to Nose Hill Park in Calgary, Canada, accessible off John Laurie Blvd.

After travelling Southeast Asia a second time in the winter of 2012, I decided to settle down in the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta for a while. My motivations were twofold. One, to spend some quality time with my sister’s family, who I felt I hadn’t been seeing enough during my time in the mountains and travelling overseas. And two, to give myself time to save up some badly needed cash while considering my next move.

Being a lover of the outdoors, it took me little time to seek out the many expansive parks that this city has to offer. Nose Hill Park in Northwest Calgary is chief among them. It is one of the largest parks in North America, and features undulating buttes, pocket valleys with tight, thick brush, and killer views of downtown Calgary, and the Rocky Mountains.

Optimized-DSCN2271The wide open grassy plains that comprise most of Nose Hill – yes, you are the middle of a city of 1 million people … but you’d never know it here.

Optimized-DSCN2306The long, lonely path leads you through a land of sweetgrass, puffy clouds, and nobody else to keep you company but your own soul (except in popular areas, where you will encounter dog-walkers and joggers 😛 )

Optimized-DSCN2281Looking Northwest, we see the low density of suburban Calgary, and the beginning of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is within visual range of the Rockies, but sometimes, it can be hard to see, depending on atmospheric conditions. Strain your eyes, and you might see the silhouette of them in the distance 😛

But it is by walking around to the south side of the park, that views of Calgary’s formidable skyline of gleaming glass skyscrapers can be had in abundance…

Optimized-DSCN2309Seemingly sprouting out of a field of daisies, Calgary’s urban core stands in stark contrast to the nature that will surround you on your meaderings through Nose Hill Park. It makes for a killer photo opp though, so bring along your telephoto lenses and snap a much better pic than I did (NOTE TO SELF: Get a DLSR ASAP!)

How do you get here? If you have a rental car, drive north on 14th Street until you’re in the N.W. The park should be unmissable, rolling up on your left after driving approximately five minutes north of the downtown core.

For those without a car, you could take the train to Brentwood station and either walk along Charleswood Drive until you reach the park, or then catch the #72 bus, and then get off as soon as you cross 14th Street N.W. From there, it is a short walk to the park near the Calgary Winter Club.

Have an urban park that you are dying to share with the world? Tell us about it below!

Photo: Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s Version Of Central Park

Optimized-hpim1021Lumphini Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, like many cities across Asia, tend to be a sprawling concrete jungle, teeming with traffic and people, but with precious little in the way of green space.

Which is precisely what makes places like Lumphini Park in Bangkok so special. An oasis of grass and greenery in the midst of soaring skyscrapers and concrete shophouses that dominate this megalopolis of 14 million people, it is a welcome relief for all who happen upon it. Joggers, Tai Chi enthusiasts, and office workers seeking a temporary escape from the office all frequent this space of relative calm, finding solace in the hectic lives that they lead.

Worn down from your time in the Big Mango? Take the MRT to Silom Station and take a break in one of Bangkok’s most relaxing spots!