5 Reasons Why the Superman Celebration Really Is SUPER

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a Superman Celebration! Each year, the little town of Metropolis, IL hosts a big celebration in honor of the super-est of superheroes. In case you’re a little rusty on your comic book history, Clark Kent (Superman) moved from his hometown, Smallville, Kansas, to Metropolis for his job at the Daily Planet. Part ComicCon, part neighborhood fair, and come on, part absolute glorious geekiness, the Superman Celebration is more than worth a stop.

superman celebration

Need proof? No problem!

 

1. Costumes. Duh.

Costumes Superman Celebration

There’s a reason why this is number one on the list. Because, really, is there anything better than grown men walking around in spandex? Watching a pseudo-fight between Joker and Superman in the street? Catching a Communist Batman (yes, that really happened!)? This is people-watching at it’s finest, and prime opportunity for some pretty epic selfies. If you are a million times more brave than I, you can also join in on the fun. And if you’ve really got this costume thing covered, the Superman Celebration hosts a costume contest with a pretty tempting grand prize of $1,000. Go ahead, unleash your inner diva superhero!

 

2. Fair Food. Always a win.

food stand superman celebration

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out of the country for far too long, but seeing these brightly colored signs advertising fried foods galore gets my heart chugging–and not just from clogged arteries! Deep-fried pickles and funnel cakes are two of my favorite guilty pleasures, and add in some corn dog goodness and ice-cold lemon shake-ups… heavenly. Besides, it’s just so… AMERICAN. The Superman Celebration has it all.

 

3. Celebrity Sightings

me and superman celebration

^^That’s me looking extra short next to the Superman Celebration’s OFFICIAL Superman–actor Josh Boultinghouse.

The Superman Celebration always arranges a pretty good lineup of Superman celebs, like my favorite from this year, Dean Cain. Yep, that’s the Superman from the 90’s television series Lois & Clark that my brother and I grew up watching (thanks to dad’s obsession with Teri Hatcher!). Billy Dee Williams was also on the lineup this year, probably most well-known for his role as Lando Calrissian from Star Wars. And don’t forget Valerie Perrine and Aaron Smolinski. Get some autographs and rub shoulders with the big guys.

 

4. Quirky Events

BMX superman celebration

I promise, I witnessed the most impressive game of Superman Trivia of my entire life. These people know their stuff! But there’s so much more than that… the Superman Celebration is jam-packed with events to suit everyone’s tastes. From art panels for the comic aficionados, to Mario Kart tournaments for the gamers, to BMX and K-9 shows for the family, it’s hard to get bored! There’s even a Smallville Prom!

 

5. And Finally… Because There’s Nothing Better than Superman to Bring Out the Kid in All of Us!

little superman celebration

Superman once said, “There is a right and a wrong in the universe and that distinction is not hard to make.” There’s something refreshingly beautiful (if not a little naive) about the guy. I mean, he’s eternally and thoroughly… good. The Boy Scout of superheroes. That’s what makes a big difference between Superman’s world and that of other characters like Batman, where good and bad often blur and superheroes have their own skeletons in their closets.  With his boyish charm, Superman brings back the simplistic comic-book morality of older days, standing tall in defense of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Take a walk in Metropolis, and it’s almost like a little vacation from the stressful complexities of modern life… where Superman is still super, and right and wrong still easily defined. So eat a snow cone, let it drip down your chin, wait in line for a picture with Superman, and put your belly in that spandex, anyway. This is the Superman Celebration, and that’s all the excuse you need!

 

The Details

  • The Superman Celebration usually lasts for a long weekend in mid-June, this year June 12-15.
  • Metropolis, IL is located just outside of Paducah, near the border between IL and KY.
  • Find more info on the official website, http://www.supermancelebration.net

 

Want more excellent costume photos? I know you do! Here are a few of my favorites:

Striking Street Art in Ratchaburi City

When Steven and I first arrived in Ratchaburi, we came across these giant poster images of people in mostly jeans with masks covering their faces. I didn’t pay much attention at first, because I honestly thought it was a Levi’s advertisement. The next day, however, when we were more awake and had the sunlight on our side, I started to realize that these weren’t advertisements at all. It was our first introduction to street art in Ratchaburi!

Tooten RCA Ratchaburi

That’s kind of how things go in Ratchaburi. If you’re paying attention, you’ll realize that almost every street corner plays host to a bit of magnificent street art. In fact, Ratchaburi caters to the artsy group quite well, filled with quirky cafes and museums that provide the right combination of color and caffeine to get the creative juices flowing.

So what about those giant posters? They’re actually the remnants of an open-air exhibition by Ralf Tooten titled, R.C.A. (Ratchaburi Construction Workers).” The stars of the prints that I had mistakenly pinned as models are actually real-life construction workers pulled from the building sites of high-rise condos and expensive offices.

Their face coverings are alluring, and to be honest, lend them a hip kind of rebel look at a glance… but the reality is much more sobering than that. Not only do many workers need facial covering to protect themselves from dust and debris, but many of them also need to protect their identities. Did you know that there are over a million undocumented migrant workers in Thailand? About 75% of these come from Myanmar. Even those that happen to be completely legal live in fear of being harassed, physically abused, or arrested by the Thai police.

Tooten’s street art in Ratchaburi highlights these workers by putting the unseen on a pedestal where you’re forced to take notice. Say hello to the underbelly of globalization and modernization!

There’s plenty more street art where that came from, though! If you want to check out a sweet little modern art gallery where you can chill with an artsy-fartsy magazine and shoot the breeze with impossibly hip Thai baristas, hit up D Kunst Gallery & Cafe.

d Kunst gallery ratchaburi

On our visit the artwork seemed to consist primarily of photographs of Ratchaburi and the surrounding area, but it was worth a visit if for nothing other than the delicious lattes served up in handmade ceramic mugs. The barista will be sure to give you pointers on where to find the best street art in Ratchaburi on your way out.

drinks at d kunst gallery ratchaburi

I promise, you won’t have to go far. Just across the street from D Kunst, the Mae Klong riverside embankment is covered with gorgeous (albeit fading) street art murals. A lot of pretty big names have made their way to this lazier city just outside of Bangkok, including P7, Mamafaka, and Alex Face–if you’re not already familiar with their work, take a look at this article on BUKRUK: Bangkok Street Art Festival.

There are plenty of other pieces of street art to be found, though. Take a look at my favorites here, and then go find your own! One of the beautiful things about street art is that it’s ever-changing, and it’s the one thing that seems to be going fast in slow-paced Ratchaburi. Just another reason to love this place!

Alex face ratchaburi street art

street art ratchaburi

street art ratchaburi 2

street art ratchaburi 3

street art ratchaburi 4

hello street art ratchaburi

The Art of Khao Soi

If you haven’t been to Northern Thailand, you probably haven’t even heard of it. Shame. Khao soi is without a doubt the most iconic dish hailing from Chiang Mai. Rich, spicy, and complex, it’s also one of the most fun foods I’ve recently eaten. That’s because khao soi isn’t just a meal… it’s an art form.

Khao Soi

This dish is Northern Thai via Burma via South China. The details are murky. Whatever the more distant history, khao soi arrived to the Chiang Mai area through Yunnanese Muslim immigrants. Originally, rice would be ground, boiled, dried, and then sliced into the long noodles, giving the dish it’s characteristic name… “khao soi” translates as “cut rice.”

Now, khao soi is served with a visually appealing and texturally exciting double-layer of noodle goodness. Soft noodles swim in the broth below, topped with crispy deep-fried noodles balanced on top. And that’s what this bowl is all about, really:  balance.

For our first exploration, we did the one thing I never do… we went to a pretty sterilized restaurant with lots of shiny English menus and other Westerners. I know, I know. I’m already asking for it on this one. But here’s the thing. You don’t just eat khao soy. I knew we were going to need a little help here, if we were going to avoid looking like total farang ding dong.

Not convinced? Then take a look at this roadmap:

Sen Khao Soi diagram

We started by picking our meat (we both went with free-range chicken on the bone), spice level, and type of noodles. All of that comes served up and simmered in a soupy deep red curry and coconut sauce. OMG.

That’s not all. At Just Khao Soy, each bowl is appropriately brought to the table on an artist’s palette, surrounded by decadent little dishes to help you get the balance just right for your tastes. From fresh bananas and extra coconut milk to my favorites, shallots and pickled cabbage, we really got to play around with the essential flavors of Thai food–sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

Maybe it takes a little bit of everything to make a masterpiece, but when it’s done right, it’s done right. Delicious.

eating khao soi

 

The Details

  • Just Khao Soy
    108/2 Th Charoen Prathet
    Chiang Mai
    (pretty much just a hop, skip, and a jump from the riverside)
  • Expect to pay about 100-200 baht/bowl
  • If you’re like me and are used to eating street food (read, for Thais), beware. This was one of those places where the waiter thinks it’s funny that you order it spicy and so makes it extra spicy and sniggers in the background when your nose barely runs. Miraculously, I’m not dying, and funnily enough, I do see you over there!

Pie Wars: Battle of the Meat Pies

This week, we are excited to feature our first guest post! And what could be better to start it all off but a real down and dirty battle of the best meat pies?

In one corner, the saucy London parcel, in the other, the cheeky Aussie dish… who will come out on top?

Tom Hoschke of The Raw Prawn give us the play by play.

 

As an Australian, the meat pie is part of my cultural heritage. An ideal hand held snack, these hot pastry parcels filled with anonymous meat and thick, savoury gravy are an integral part of antipodean cuisine.

A pie with sauce is what you eat at half time at any footy game, in celebration or commiseration depending on how your team is going. It’s the working class lunch of choice, bought from the local milk bar or servo. Bakeries in towns across the country are judged almost entirely on the quality of their pies. In the 70s our national car company advertised with a jingle summing up the Australian experience: “Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” It is, unquestionably, as close to a national dish as Australia has.

aussie
via thepolkadotsuitcase.com

Of course, say this within earshot of an English person and they’ll reply with something like, “You know you guys didn’t invent them, right?”

Well, yes, of course I know that the idea of putting meat inside of pastry was not suddenly thought up one day down under. I’m not that naïve. Although, as the practice of eating stewed meat out of some sort of flour-based shell has been around since the time of the Greeks and Romans, and it was the French who made the pastry edible, I’m not sure where the Brits come off taking the high ground on that front. You weren’t the first to deep fry a piece of fish, either, but we’re happy to give you fish’n’chips.

That bit of cultural cringe aside, pies are undoubtedly an important food both in Australia and here in the motherland. As an expat with a soft spot for my homeland’s product, I had to seek out the British version. I decided to try that classic of working class London: pie and mash.

Going in with no real knowledge of the pie shop tradition, I had very little expectation. After I order from the delightful cockney accented woman behind the counter, she places a reasonable looking hot pie on a plate with an ice-cream scoop of mashed potato.

Then she did something that shocked me. She doused the plate with some sort of sauce, vaguely clear with flecks of green. And when I say doused, I mean drowned. It was as though the pie was on fire and she was using the sauce to put it out, a goal she would have achieved many times over.

via www.dailymail.co.uk
via www.dailymail.co.uk

I didn’t get this while I watched her serve, and it made even less sense when I started to eat. The sauce, which had, for me, very little flavour, did two main things to the dish. Firstly, it made the pastry soggy. While it’s possible that the pastry crust wasn’t the crispest to begin with (a reasonable assumption from looking at it), drenching it like this took away any real texture it had.

Secondly, it diluted the meat filling. I would cut into the pie and the meat would spill out, mixing with the liquid, dissipating any flavour of the gravy. The whole concept baffled me. I asked what was in the sauce and was told, “Parsley, and the rest is a trade secret.” If forced to guess any other ingredients, I’d go with cornflour, judging by the texture.

On doing some research, it seems that traditionally the pies were filled with the once plentiful eels of the Thames River, and the sauce was the liquor that the eels had been cooked in. In theory, that is still how they make this liquor, but if so the eels added no discernible flavour.

I’m sorry England, but when it comes to pies, just like the Ashes, Australia wins this one. We may play with the fillings, and we may dollop tomato sauce on top, but at least we maintain the integrity of the pie.

That’s not to say you can’t find good pies here in the UK. In particular, those offered by Pieminister, a company working out of Bristol, are exceptional. With stunning options like steak and stilton, chicken and ham, or classic steak and ale, their stall at Borough markets is one of my essential stops whenever I’m South of the river.

Then again, the owners started the company after visiting Australia and recognising that we made better pies. High praise from an Englishman.

So, sure, we didn’t invent the pie. But strewth, we sure got them right.

 

1044074_10151751894515320_1620965877_nAs an unsatisfied public servant in Australia, Tom Hoschke longed for new adventures. To satisfy this desire he left his job and his homeland, setting out for Old Blighty, where he has spent too much of his working holiday ignoring the “working” part. An enthusiastic devourer of all cuisines, he now writes The Raw Prawn, where he dissects the British food culture in ways only a colonial can.

Top 10 Reasons to Go to Yorkshire, NOW!

It’s easy to pass over Yorkshire. It hasn’t got the pomp and circumstance nor the hustle and bustle of London, and even the locals will admit the weather can be a bit grim. Add that to the common tourist misconception that there are no other cities in England, (Yes, I’m talking to all of you who keep asking me how I’m enjoying London!) and you can see why it’s often left off the old itinerary. But let me tell you, missing out on “God’s Own Country” in the North is a massive mistake! Yorkshire is amazing, and the perfect place to peek in on real English life and history. Let me tell you the top 10 reasons why you ought to go to Yorkshire, NOW!

1.  Yorkshire Cuisine

yorkshire puds

Besides the fact that the best fish & chips are found in the North (trust me), Yorkshire is also home to the king of carveries, the glorious gravy receptacle better known as a Yorkshire pudding. No Sunday roast is complete without it! There’s more where that came from, too… satisfy your sweet tooth with a rich Parkin or Yorkshire curd tart, or taste the perfection of rhubarb grown in Yorkshire’s own Rhubarb Triangle (found between Wakefield, Bradford, and Leeds). You can also get right to the heart of Wallace & Gromit at the Wensleydale Cheese Factory“Gromit, that’s it! Cheese! We’ll go somewhere where there’s cheese!”

2.  Real Ales

Whitelocks Leeds

While we’re on the topic of food, there’s nothing better to wash down a creamy bite of Wensleydale than a pint of real ale. In fact, it’s the reason the New York Times listed Yorkshire as #22 in the Top 52 Places to Go in 2014! You can forget about the bland processed stuff, and instead kick back with a hand-pumped traditional brew in your choice of picturesque pubs. And you won’t have to look too hard, either–there are 57 real ale breweries in West Yorkshire alone!

3.  Stunning Scenery

Yorkshire Dales

The natural beauty of Yorkshire is absolutely astounding, capturing everything from rugged beaches, rolling hills, and all of the goodness in between. Take a drive through any of Yorkshire’s three National Parks and enjoy impressive vistas in the North York Moors, the crags and crannies of Yorkshire Dales, or the rugged lands in part of the Peak District. The  South Pennines also provide spectacular pastures and wooded valleys that aren’t to be missed! If you’re a bit sheep-crazy like me, you’ll also swoon over the springtime lambs literally leaping around you! Seriously, is there anything cuter?

4.  Northern Culture

Yorkshire dialect

People from Yorkshire are proud of where they’re from, and you can’t really blame them! Their rich culture has formed out of a history connected with all sorts of civilizations, including the Vikings, Celts, Romans, and Angles. So join in with the laughs at the local pubs and discover the friendliness of the Northern folk, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch the local costume of a flat cap and tweed! But be sure to bring your decoding skills, because the Yorkshire dialect is thick and difficult to decipher for many outsiders. If you’re wondering what I mean, just check out this Yorkshire saying for an example:  “By ‘eck lad, thi’l look a reet bobby dazzler in thi cap!” 

5.  Big City Buzz

Leeds city centre

While the countryside is amazing, Yorkshire’s still got it’s fair share of cities to keep the urbanite in check. York is obviously the most famous, with its Gothic and Victorian architecture, narrow streets lined with shops, and haunted nighttime walks. Leeds and Sheffield also provide some excellent city locales, dotted with old industrial centers and mills. If you look a bit beyond the bigger cities, you’ll also find a plethora of other appealing spots–whether it’s a Victorian beauty like Halifax or a small traditional country town such as Thirsk.

6.  Epic Shopping

Sweet Shop in Howarth

The options for shopping are about as diverse as they come in Yorkshire. If you want a bit of swank, check out Victoria Quarter in Leeds. Little elegant boutiques with sumptuous tea rooms for breaks? Head to Harrogate! How about an award-winning High Street and castle markets? There’s always Skipton! Yorkshire’s eclectic shopping scene really does have enough to please just about anyone!

7.  Historic Hot Spots

Bolton Abbey

There’s nothing like a bit of castles and ruins to augment a trip into the Old World, and Yorkshire’s got plenty in store! Skipton Castle will really get the medieval side of your imagination pumping, as it is one of the most complete and well-preserved in England. If it’s abbeys you’re after, check out the grand size of Rievaulx Abbey nestled in the moors. Or one of my personal favorites, the gorgeous Bolton Abbey. This is the kind of stuff we just can’t find at home, and walking through a crumbling stone frame just makes me melt with romantic visions of a bygone era! Alternatively, feel like you’ve walked right into an industrial scene from a Dickens’ novel with a visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saltaire Village.

8.  Literary Landmarks

Bronte parsonage

If you’re a literary nerd like me, then Yorkshire’s got some extra-special significance for you. I mean, can you imagine anything much more gratifying than walking in the footsteps of the Brontë sisters in Howarth? You can also search for Sylvia Plath‘s grave in the little village of Heptonstall, or traverse the landscapes that often inspired her husband, Ted Hughes, in Calder Valley. There are loads of other famous authors that have either called Yorkshire home or been moved by the beauty of the area.

9.  Easy-Peasy Transportation

photo credit: North Yorkshire Moors Railway
photo credit: North Yorkshire Moors Railway

I know what you’re thinking… “but it’s so far outside the bounds of the Tube!” True, this ain’t London baby! But if it’s getting around that you’re worried about, put your fears to rest. The train system is fast and easy to use, and if you’re after a cheaper route, the buses work like a charm. Best of all, this is one place where transportation often becomes a tourist destination of its own. Take a ride in a classic steam train, sip on some champagne, and see the countryside in style!

10. Grand Departs & Yorkshire Festival

tour de France

All right. But why is NOW the time to go? Besides that little New York Times mention I already snuck in, and Lonely Planet’s declaration that Yorkshire is the 3rd best region in the world to visit this year, there’s something else that makes this an exceptionally great time to go to Yorkshire–it’s the site of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Departs! The whole area is preparing for what will certainly be an exciting event presented with British class and style. The Yorkshire Festival is in on the game, too, incorporating all things biking with the impressive list of fun events, shows, and galleries. So what are you waiting for? Na’ then, get tha sen t’ Yorkshire, lads and lasses! 

 

Gettin’ Steamy in Tropical World, Leeds

Alright, everyone probably knows by now that the English spring has far from revved my engine, because let’s face it–I’m just cold-hearted or something. Seriously. So imagine my delight when we decided to take a trip over to Tropical World in Leeds! Finally, a chance to step into a steamy tropical hothouse for an hour or two, trading in my chill for a little bit of humidity reminiscent of my former home in Thailand.

Tropical World is not a zoo by any means. It doesn’t take too long to walk through, and isn’t overwhelmed with attractions. However, the brilliant colors of the flowers, birds, and butterflies provide the perfect respite from a typical gloomy English afternoon.

Yellow flowers at Jungle World Leeds

The trek through starts off in the beautiful Butterfly House. If you’re not looking closely, you might just slip by without noticing that silent flutter as it passes by your shoulder! But pay attention, and be rewarded! Somewhere between 30 and 40 varieties hover around the exotic plants.

Butterfly at Tropical World Leeds

As if to rival the pretty butterfly wings, the bird-filled rooms resonate with flashes of vivid colors, loud squawks and caws, and speedy dashes of flight from one end to the other. Among the long-necked ibises and clumsy ducks, my favorite sight was actually this little guy below. I love his bright beak poking out from behind the tree branches!

Little bird at Tropical World Leeds

There were more cute flying friends in my favorite section of Tropical World, the Desert House. These tiny birds are aptly called zebra finches, and have a very chatty, gleeful sounding call. Only the males have cute orange cheeks like the one pictured, but both have the black and white stripes that give them their namesake.

Desert Bird at Tropical World Leeds

Of course, no matter how adorable these creatures may be, the real stars of the Desert House are the meerkats. For all of my non-UK readers, please enlighten yourself with the commercial that created the meerkat craze here! It’s quickly become one of my favorite things, just like everyone else in the country, apparently! The children swarmed around the meerkat exhibit hoping to catch a glimpse at a real-life Aleksander Orlov…

Meerkat at Tropical World Leeds

Better yet, Baby Oleg! Alright, while you’re at it, check out this commercial also to see what I’m talking about. Trust me, it’s worth it! Baby Oleg is the cutest… Steven’s niece even has a little stuffed one. I might steal it one of these days… shhh! Don’t tell!

Baby Oleg at Tropical World Leeds

There were also loads of slimy and scaly critters that I decided not to photograph… snakes, spiders, and crocodiles, oh my! I also really enjoyed a walk through dark corridors checking out the nocturnal animals. Altogether, it’s an entertaining way to break the monotony and get out of the cold! Or, just go for the meerkats. That’s okay, too 🙂

flowers at Tropical World

The Details:

  • Tropical World is just about 3 miles North of Leeds City Centre, at Roundhay Park.
  • Admission prices are reasonable, at £3.40 for adults and free for under 5s (did you read that, parents?).
  • Opening times:  In the winter, Tropical World is open from 10 am until 4 pm, but it’s now the summer season! Enjoy the park any time between 10 am and 6 pm.
  • Stop at the Explorer’s Cafe (just a stone’s throw away) for some yummy lunch or a hot cup of tea on your way out. If you’re still up for some exploration, wander around Roundhay Park–it’s one of the largest in Europe!

Lopburi Monkey Town Madness

Lopburi isn’t too far outside of Bangkok, but it offers a glimpse into an older, smaller town. It’s pretty interesting historically speaking, dating back to over 1,000 years ago, and it even once stood as a Khmer stronghold. But I’ll be completely honest… I didn’t come for any of that. For once, I jumped on the tourist bandwagon and came to see the famous Lopburi monkeys!

Lopburi Monkey Collage

I have no idea how or why the famed macaques decided to take over the ruins in Lopburi, but take over they did! Giant monkey statues greeted us as our train pulled up to the Lopburi station, immediately announcing that we were now in the monkeys’ domain. All along the streets, I caught little scurrying feet, and above my head, even more monkeys scampered across electric lines and street signs. But it wasn’t until we checked into our cute little room at Sri Indra that I realized just how many monkeys were in Lopburi!

Lopburi city monkeys

Barely having settled our things in the room and checking for sneaky roaches, we threw open the curtains to let in the evening breeze.  Sliding the glass pane to the side, we saw that an extensive network of chain link fence had been mounted just above the rooftops and along the walls of this side of Lopburi. Hovering just a couple of feet above and outside, the fence provided a complete alternate universe that belonged not to us, but the monkeys. They would run, climb, leap, and laze about, sometimes shaking the whole expanse with a fury I couldn’t decide was meant to express anger at being kept out, or at feeling caged in…

As I watched the scene with amazement, the sun sinking in the distance with the notorious deep hues of a SE Asian skyline, a rather large macaque attached himself just beyond our window, not 6 inches from our faces. We rushed for our cameras, but after a mistaken flash, the cute little furry fellow reminded us that these are not domestic friends, these are wild animals. He shook the fence with dangerous swaying, howling and hollering as he tried to reach us.

Monkey in the Window Lopburi

A timely warning I suppose, because our plans for the next day included nothing but getting up to some serious monkey business at Phra Prang Sam Yot, or as tourists appropriately call it, the Monkey Temple. This is the Holy Grail of Lopburi, the most-photographed and most-visited landmark of the city. Standing out with its golden monkey statues and three Khmer styled prangs, or towers, the temple is also the favorite resting place and home to hundreds of monkeys.

Phra Prang Sam Yot

Here, there is little question as to who holds the upper hand. Upon entering the dark, cool corridors inside the temple walls, we got a chance to feel what it’s like to be caged in, the roles suddenly reversed. We trampled through the narrow spaces as monkeys ogled us through the bars, sticking fingers in to poke or prod us, curious as we looked out from within our temporary cage.

Behind bars Lopburi

But it’s outside these walls that monkey mayhem really takes over. And can I say cuteness overload?? Especially the little baby monkeys, examining little cobs of corn or pulling tails, with their scrunched up old man faces and large, soulful eyes.

Cute little monkey in Lopburi

Most of the young monkeys seemed to flock to one of the Buddha statues, tumbling and careening down the smooth sides, or having a little mass wrestling match in the Buddha’s folded arms and lap. They seriously are cheeky little monkeys! We stood around this spot for ages watching them play with each other, as the adults sat around the perimeter looking on.

Monkeys in Lopburi

At one point, we were interrupted by a shrill shout… “Pi kah! Pi kah! Mister, mister, pi kahhh!” Two tourist girls who had been posing in the sidelines, with giant straw hats and requisite Asian peace signs, were outsmarted by one brave little guy who took off with her hat! I barely captured him as he stole away, the girls hollering and tour guide in mid-chase! In case you were wondering, she did eventually get her hat back…

Cheeky monkey in Lopburi

As cute as they were, I nearly jumped out of my skin the first time one of the monkeys leapt onto my back! I have heard horror stories about vicious bites and rabies, and in a moment of flushed fear, I absolutely froze on the spot. Truthfully, the young monkeys were relatively harmless, much more interested in figuring out how to open my yellow purse or snapping the hair ties on my wrist than anything else. Some of the older monkeys are much more aggressive though, and I was sure to stay clear. Overfeeding from tourist hands most likely has something to do with that, and so I neglected to take part in the hustle of buying corn or sweet red juice to tempt little monkey tempers.

Monkeys on me in Lopburi

Actually, there’s a reason why feeding these wild monkeys is considered acceptable in Lopburi, where the monkey king/god Hanuman (with the head of a monkey and body of a man) is greatly revered. The city of Lopburi itself was supposedly granted to Hanuman as a thank-you gift for fighting along with Rama against the great demon, Ravana. Locals believe that the monkeys, as descendants of Hanuman, are thus a sign of superior good luck and good fortune. In fact, they host a giant monkey banquet once a year in which over 4 tons of food are gifted to the wily macaques. P.S. — we missed the banquet by one day. One day! Special thanks to the misinformation that often appears on the internet…

At any rate, some of these guys have obviously taken full advantage of the feeding frenzies. We saw a few monkeys like the one below, not looking especially comfortable in their extra layers during roasting hot afternoons. When a monkey like this wants to eat, all others clear the way and only come out for a bite once he’s had his fill.

Big monkey at Lopburi

So anyway, I’m fully aware that Lopburi is a bit of a tourist trap. But seeing the hordes of monkeys was totally worth a quick day or two in the town. Seriously, where else are you going to have sights like this everywhere you turn?

Lopburi Monkey

Monkeys in Lopburi

The Details

  • Lopburi is a perfect stop if you’re heading North toward Chiang Mai. Take a break, stay one night, and then head on your way. The train stops right down the street from the guesthouses, street market, and most of the temples.
  • If you don’t want monkeys jumping all over you, especially the big ones, don’t feed the monkeys! Always remember that they are wild animals first and foremost, and can be dangerous. Also, keep in mind that looking them in the eyes too long can be interpreted as a threat.
  • Where to stay? If you’re looking for a lively spot where you can have a few drinks and swap stories with other travelers, check out Noom Guesthouse. Prices here are cheap, ranging from about 150-350 baht. The guesthouse is in a restored, older Thai-style home with loads of character but impossibly thin walls. If you want something quieter, check out Sri Indra, just down the street from Prang Sam Yot. Expect a very clean, hotel-style room with ensuite bathroom for under 300 baht, and views of those monkeys clambering on rooftops!
  • You’ll find some wimpy Western food directed at tourists in Lopburi for sure, but please please opt for something local! Pick up a few bites at the market on the main strip, or even better, take a seat at Khao Tom Hor. Never mind if you don’t see a sign, it’s the busiest place on the street, and every plate is as delicious as the last!

An Icy Trip to Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park, a gorgeous bit of woods and recreation area in Southern Illinois, is a permanent fixture of my childhood. When I was small, my classes used to bus here in school buses for rowdy picnics and overly loud (and mostly uninterested) nature hikes. In the spring and fall, my family used to pack up a cooler, a tent, and the dog for long weekend camping trips near Ferne Clyffe’s bluffs. But let’s be honest… I was probably much too interested in boys and books to pay much attention to how gorgeous this state park actually is. And in all those years, I never visited during winter…

Giant Rock at Ferne Clyffe

So chalk it up to the increasingly wacky weather if you will, but when a particularly nice and sunny day struck this winter, my family and I decided to take Steven to see this place that is so dear to our hearts and go on a little hike. I was immediately amazed at the transformation of winter. On the drive over, I had a feeling it would all appear brown and gloomy, but in fact, the sparse tree branches actually cleared the view for more rock formations and cliffs than are usually visible. Not to mention, Ferne Clyffe was filled with giant, shocking icicles hanging from the stones! It was incredible!

Icecicles at Ferne Clyffe

We first went to what used to by my favorite ‘alone’ spot whenever we were camping–a gorgeous bluff looking out over the distant trees. I used to carry a book and a bottle of water to sit up here in the sun, sometimes for hours, escaping the day-to-day stresses of being a kid. It was just as gorgeous as I remembered… BUT I stubbornly ignored the signs warning of ice posted around the park…

Keep Off Ice Ferne Clyffe

I decided I really wanted to take a picture on the edge of a cliff the other side of a giant sloping gorge between it and the trail. After discussing for a moment the fact that quite a few people have fallen and died for being careless on the cliffs, I stepped right onto a giant patch of ice heading straight for the fall, smacked onto my bottom and began to slide… I swear for a moment there my life was flashing before my eyes! Luckily I grasped a branch tough enough to slow me down, and finally clambered back to safe ground. I learned my lesson. No ice is good ice!

Me at Ferne Clyffe

We also went to the most popular place on the trails, of course, the largest waterfall in the park. Even though it was mid-winter, the heat from the sudden sun had melted enough snow and ice to provide slightly more than a trickle from the rocks above. I won’t lie, it’s more than I’ve seen on most summer trips when the rocks are generally bone dry!

When we walked up, a little boy was standing at the foot of the waterfall throwing stones to crack the thick ice. Actually, we used to swim in this little pool in the heat of summer, much to the chagrin of our teachers or parents.

Icy Waterfall Ferne Clyffe

Near the waterfall, I discovered some awesome ice formations in a crack between two giant plates of sandstone. Besides the perfectly formed icicles, the shelves of rock were covered with shiny bulbous bits of ice, like little transparent marbles. I’m not sure how they came to freeze just like that, but it was really cool!

Ice at Ferne Clyffe

Interestingly, the 2,430 acres that now make up Ferne Clyffe were once used as hunting ground by the Cherokee during the Trail of Tears march. It is said that Hawk’s Cave, our last stop on the trails, was used as their campsite that winter of 1838-39. As we walked into the breathtaking overhang, filled with enormous boulders and colored with the variations of time-worn sandstone, I thought about the native souls, left for dead, that surely haunt the darker corners of the vistas.

Hawks-Cave-Ferne-Clyffe

All in all, Ferne Clyffe is a gorgeous spot that is a state-wide favorite. There are tons of trails weaving through the rocks, bluffs, and fuana including, you know, ferns on cliffs. The campsites are impeccable, with clean shower and restroom facilities and proper lighting through the main areas. It’s a place that always somehow feels like home to me, even though this trip back taught me that the older I get, the more beauty I tend to find in the places I call home.

Ferne Clyffe

The Details

  • The park is marked well on highways I-57 and I-24. If traveling South on I-57, take the Goreville exit, just South of Marion. After exiting, turn left and go 5 miles to Rt 37. Turn right on Rt 37, and you will see the park entrance just outside the little town of Goreville.
  • As my girl scout leader always used to say, “remember to take only memories, and leave only footprints.” Enjoy the nature and keep it alive for others!

 

Goong Ten: “Dancing Shrimp” in Northern Thailand

Everyone loves Thai food for it’s gorgeous aromas, fresh ingredients, and amazing presentation. Well, guess what? This ain’t your momma’s Thai food! Even some Thais are repulsed by the thought of goong ten, but up in the Northeast, it’s a culinary delight. Let me tell you, this dish is alive. No, I mean literally–it’s main ingredient is live, jumping, squirming baby shrimp!

Goong ten actually loosely translates as “dancing shrimp,” referring to the way these transparent little critters try to squirm away from you–even while eating. To make this odd salad, the little baby shrimp are tossed with seasoning, fish sauce, ground roasted dry chili, coriander, and a bit of onion. Lime juice is squeezed all over the top just before placing the lid on the container, and served with various sorts of leaves.

Goong Ten presentation

So what’s the deal with the lid? As soon as the lime juice hits the shrimp, they start going CRAZY! I’m not talking a little wriggling here and there, I mean the moment you barely lift that lid, they start leaping out in search of freedom. You can even hear the goong ten banging around against the ceramic walls of the pot. It’s an adventure before you even get them near your mouth! Once you’re ready, you just tear off a bit of a leaf and snatch some shrimp before they leap off the table, then shovel them in.

Goong ten in Northern Thailand

Once you do get them inside your maw (if you do manage to get that far), you’ll also get a little tickle from the odd antenna or two moving against your nose or chin, and the tiny tango continues on your tongue. The feel and texture of the goong ten is entertaining to say the least, but then there’s the taste! Like all Thai salads, you get the salty, sour, and spicy–but the way it happens is incredible. The slight saltiness of the immature shrimp ruptures on your tongue, complimented by a slight crunchiness, and finishing with the searing heat of that typical Northern dried chili.

Watch us try it for the first time, and if you look closely, you’ll catch a shrimp leap clear across the screen just before I taste mine!

So. Would I eat it again? … Maybe. To be honest, the flavor is great, and the feeling just… Interesting, as long as you can get past the idea of putting a live shrimp in your mouth.

Bon appetit!

 

The Details:

  • Goong ten is primarily served in the North/Northeast. We had our go at Huay Teung Thao Reservoir, just outside of Chiang Mai. The easiest (and best) way to get there is just to rent a motorbike and go!
  • I’ve been told you can also find it on the streets of Bangkok from time to time, but I have doubts about the freshness. Hey, go for it if you like!
  • Beware, you will attract quite a few stares and giggles from the Thais! All in good fun, of course 🙂

Home of Popeye: Chester, IL

Popeye… the only star you know that made eating spinach cool. With giant, bulging forearms giving way to heavy-as-lead fists, he’s got a penchant for lanky, flirty girls and a roaring self-confidence (“I yam what I yam and tha’s all what I yam!”). Not only did he swoop up Olive Oyl, he captured the hearts and minds across the globe. But who knew that the home of Popeye was in little old Chester, Illinois?

EC Segar's Thimble Theatre Chester IL

This quaint riverside town is lovingly decked out in Popeye nostalgia, right down to the spinach can street posts and the memorabilia shop called, what else?, Spinach Can Collectibles. Oh, and sure, you can pick up Popeye spinach cans while in the Spinach Can. I checked.

Spinach Can Collectibles Chester, IL

But seriously, this little shop is nothing to be scoffed at. The front houses all sorts of things from all sorts of eras–old and yellowing (but well-preserved) comic books, pins, puppets, baubles and other oddities. If you can dream it, they’ve got it with Popeye on it. And don’t forget the rest of the entourage, either!

Popeye Figures Chester IL

The back of the shop serves as a miniature museum, housing the oldest antiques along with foreign Popeye wares. I was amazed at how many different languages with which the Popeye collectibles were graced. The owner informed me that the shop has received visitors from over 70 countries, not to mention all 50 states!

It’s a kooky step back in time, when a childhood hero could still smoke like a chimney, get loads of tattoos, and find himself in all sorts of fights with other buggers like Bluto. But hey, apparently Popeye accounted for a 33% increase in spinach sales, so there’s always that!

Popeye Chester IL

Speaking of the rest of the Popeye crew, here’s something else you probably didn’t know… Popeye wasn’t actually an original character, and you know what that means? Olive Oyl had another boyfriend before Popeye! **gasp!**

It’s true. There’s a timeline homage to all of the characters near the ceiling of the shop, as you can see in the picture below. Olive’s debut was a whole decade before Popeye came along!

(PS, what’s Miley doing photobombing my stuff?!)

Popeye Museum Chester IL

Actually, the original comic strip,Thimble Theater, was created by one Elzie Segar from Chester. After taking a mail-order cartoon drawing class, he based most of his characters on real people from the town, making Chester not just the home of Popeye, but also the original tough guy himself–Frank “Rocky” Fiegel. Before Popeye made his appearance, Olive Oyl (based on Mrs. Dora Paskel) was a floozy fiancee to Harold Hamgravy. I guess her 19-19-19 dimensions paired nicely with those ballooning forearms once they came around, though… Popeye proved so popular that he took over the show.

Back in 2006, the townsfolk of Chester decided to pay homage to the classic cartoon characters borne out of the town by creating a Popeye Character Trail. Since then, they’ve unveiled plenty of characters–some I know and some I don’t. Cole Oil? Alice the Goon? Sea Hag? Maybe I’m just rusty. But all hail my favorite of them all, Wimpy…

Wimpy Chester IL

Sorry, burgers > spinach any day of the week. Respect, Wimpy, respect.

Chester’s even got that roadside attraction feel just right with some good old family fun, because what says fun better than sticking your head through a hole and taking a picture? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Besides, Steven makes a pretty good Popeye.

Home of Popeye Chester IL

Of course, the statue of all statues on Chester’s trail has to be Popeye’s. Made out of solid bronze, it stands appropriately near the Mississippi River at Chester’s Welcome Center. Did you know that Popeye was the first cartoon character EVER to be immortalized in statue form? It’s true. But, well… that one’s in Texas, but it’s still pretty cool!

Popeye Statue Chester IL

We might have stopped in Chester to check out the home of Popeye, but we didn’t expect to learn so much. Not to mention, Chester has got a whole lot more history of its own besides pumping out cartoon characters.

First, there’s the pretty side, like historical sights and French Colonial architecture. Or, just near Popeye, the old bridge connecting Illinois to it’s neighbor, Missouri. This bridge is the only one between the two states outside of St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, still amazingly functioning with only two lanes. Oh, and that bridge has had a taste of Hollywood in the 1967 film, In the Heat of the Night.

Chester Bridge Chester IL

Then there’s the dark side, like the Menard Correctional Center, interesting mainly because of the villains it has housed. Prior to 2003, the prison was used to hold death-row inmates like John Wayne Gacy. Yeah, that Killer Clown guy? Creepy. As we were driving into Chester, my mom and dad informed me that they had both visited the prison during University. Extra creepy. I think I’d pass.

Anyway, let’s stay on the lighter side, shall we?

Steven in Chester IL

“I’m strong to the finish, ’cause I eats me Spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man! (toot, toot)” 

The Details

  • Chester is right on Route 3 between Murphysboro and St. Louis, you can’t miss it. If you haven’t driven this route along the river yet, it’s also a nice scenic pass.
  • Don’t skip a stop in Spinach Can Collectibles! The couple running the place are sweet as pie, just like all small town folks should be, even if they aren’t originally from here. They are also a wealth of information and funny tidbits about the history of Popeye and Chester itself. For instance, did you know that Chester has a sister city in England also called Chester?? I’ll be visiting there soon!
  • If you happen to skip around in the fall, be sure to catch the annual Popeye on the River Picnic for even more fun!

10 Reasons to Fall in LOVE with Cambodia

When I first started out on my trip to Cambodia, I had planned to see Angkor Wat and then head back to my home in Bangkok. Instead, I ended up falling completely and hopelessly in love with Cambodia! My planned couple of days turned into weeks, which then turned into a whole month, and I was still sad to go. It remains my absolute favorite country I’ve visited thus far, and I can’t wait for a chance to return! I’ve decided to compile my ultimate top 10 reasons to fall in love with Cambodia… so what are you waiting for?!

 

1. All Things Angkor

Angkor Wat Cambodia

There’s no getting around the fact that Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s ultimate national symbol. It’s a historical masterpiece, dauntingly massive, creating that unmistakable skyline against the rising or setting sun. While it’s totally a must-see, and even more amazing in person, the mystique and allure are slightly overtaken by the sheer masses of tourists hanging on in throngs around you. Not to worry!

Few people realize, until arriving, just how massive the Angkor complex really is. There are countless temples crumbling in that jungle, meaning if you play your cards right you actually can stumble around doing your best Indiana Jones impression with a temple all to yourself. Look outside the box (or ask your handy-dandy tuk-tuk guide) to find the kind of place you imagined. But I have a feeling that it won’t be long until even those lesser known spots become as big as Vatican City! All the more reason to get there while the going is good…!

The stop-off point for the temple-hoppers, Siem Reap, is a little spot also worth spending some time exploring. Not to be underestimated, Siem Reap has a burgeoning tourist district with great little bars and restaurants, locals who actually like engaging with tourists, and one of the prettiest little night markets you’ll find.

 

2. Tumultuous History

Skull at Killing Fields Cambodia

While the Angkor complex provides a brief view into the historical glory-days of Khmer royalty, sights like Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields) and Tuol Sleng Prison offer a somber reminder of Cambodia’s more recent history. Truly, you can’t really understand or appreciate the modern Cambodia without stepping into the bloody past of the Khmer Rouge rule. Don’t forget, everyone over 40–40!–lived through these atrocities.

Even though these dark tourist spots are filled with death, they really just go to show you how much life abounds in this country. Suddenly you realize that all these faces surrounding you are the faces of survival, defiance, and hope. It’s a massive and saddening reality check, but one that I think we all could use.

 

3. Incredible Food

Kep Crabs Cambodia

You see those crabs there? The ones she’s pulling out of that basket, which she just pulled out of the sea? Yeah, I’m about to eat that. It really doesn’t get better than that! Cambodia has pinned down this whole fresh seafood thing to a level I’ve never experienced before. You can take a seat at the edge of a little shack, hanging on stilts over the lapping ocean waves, and watch as your dinner moves from water, to grill, to table. Combined with the legendary Kampot pepper sauces, it’s perfection.

But that’s not the only thing that rules about the food in Cambodia. After spending some time in Southeast Asia, you learn that Western food costs about an arm and a leg, and after an endless string of rice dishes, sometimes all you crave is a massive plate of ribs or a fat, juicy burger. In Cambodia, Western food is actually affordable, and it’s done well. Two meals that specifically stand out:  ribs as big as my head in Kampot, and a Mexican restaurant in Sihanoukville ran by Americans, OMG nachos.

 

4. Khmer People

Children Bayon Temple Cambodia

By far, my favorite thing about Cambodia is the people. While the country has yet to recover from the scars left behind by the Pol Pot regime, the people have moved on. Everything just felt somehow more genuine and kind than my experience with people elsewhere. It wasn’t uncommon for a young Khmer boy or girl to come sit at my table when I was alone, practicing their English and really wanting to know about me and why I had come to Cambodia.

Their smiles are infectious. Plain and simple. Although poverty and the debilitating effects of landmines leaves life for many incredibly fragile, the Khmer people press on with humility and gentleness. It’s refreshing.

 

5. Pristine Beaches

Koh Rong Cambodia

Powdery soft, white sand. Bright green, swaying palms. Warm, turquoise waters. These are the kinds of beaches that dreams are made of. Even better, you never have to share with too many tourists, as the beaches in Cambodia are notoriously sparse. In the best beaches, you’ll also rarely encounter a hawker, which is a feat compared to the once-glorious, now hawker-filled beaches in Thailand.

That being said, you better check these out soon–Koh Rong (pictured above), Koh Tonsay, Otres Beach… as tourists start to get fed up with overcrowding next door in Thailand, the news is bound to get out. Go enjoy an Angkor Beer with your toes in the warm sand, now!

 

6. Sleepy Towns

Kampot Cambodia

Talk about getting away from it all! Lazy little towns like Kampot and Kep will make you forget all your worries, and very likely the time. We couldn’t seem to leave this haven, with the laid-back attitude and gorgeous sights. Something about these kind of Cambodian spots take away that touristy feel and replace it with pure contentedness. Many mornings, I would walk down the street to my local breakfast spot sipping my special Khmer tea, and just think how easy it could be to just forget the rest of the world. I now understand why people want to run off and retire in a place like this!

 

7. Lush Jungles

Bokor Mountain Cambodia

This is the real thing. Cambodia offers miles and miles of intense jungle fauna, still filled to the brim with wild animals. Driving through on motorbikes, we could hear the hoots of birds and the hiss of the jungle whizzing past our ears. Lots more adventure awaits for those up for more than motorbike rides, though. Imagine real treks into the dense forests, spotting wild elephants, encountering hidden waterfalls, and discovering lost temples and forgotten cities! It’s all on offer in Cambodia.

 

8. Crazy Nightlife

Snake Whiskey Cambodia

No trip to Cambodia is complete without at least one crazy night out on the town, whether it’s sweating your weight off dancing at “Angkor What?! Bar” in Siem Reap, hitting up the amazing 2 for 1 happy hour deals at random roadside holes, or slurping down snake whiskey while jamming to live bands! Oh, and let’s certainly not forget losing your s#@% in Sihanoukville!

In case you’re wondering, yes, I drank some of that snake whiskey above. A massive pull of it, in fact. And yes, there’s also a scorpion in there. And yes, I discovered to my own disappointment (after bragging about my amaze-balls bravery) that all those little creatures in there were actually plastic.

 

9. Superstar Status

Cambodian Children

Okay, so going to Cambodia won’t really make you a superstar. But driving through villages on a motorbike will invariably draw out the local children, running as fast as they can alongside with their giant smiles, waving and yelling, “Hello! I love you!” There’s just about nothing in the world to make you feel as special as you do at that moment. In Cambodia, even the most boring bloke can feel suddenly interesting and special. Combined with the ability to really live it up in fancy bars and expensive-looking beaches, it’s the place to go if you want to feel like a superstar for a short time. Put on your giant sunglasses, get your massage and nails did, and hit the town, baby. You’re not in Kansas, anymore!

 

10. Ridiculous Value

Ferry to Koh Rong Cambodia

And that all brings us to the last on the list, the budget! Cambodia is still so cheap that all of these things are possible to experience without breaking the bank. You can get by on as little as $10 a day, and for $25 a day you can really play it up quite well. I mean, the cheapest I paid for accommodation was $1 a night. ONE DOLLAR! So quit complaining about travel being for rich people, start putting aside a few dollars a week savings, and get to Cambodia before everyone else finds out and prices go up! I mean it! Go! Now!

I promise, you’ll fall as deeply in love with Cambodia as I did!

(If you’re lucky, you might also meet the love of your life… 😉 )

 

A Beautiful Gloom at Ogden Water

The wise Josh Groban once posted to his many Facebook followers:

“God made England gloomy so that people could stay in and watch Come Dine With Me. And the people did rejoice.”

He knows what he’s talking about. But when you can’t watch snarky people cook for each other, there’s always the option of going out into the wilderness and finding beauty in England’s gloomy weather. Ogden Water is the perfect place for doing just that.

Ogden Water, England

Ogden Water is a little country park with trails that wind around a pretty reservoir, a perfect slice of West Yorkshire woods. It’s popular, too, especially when there’s a little window of sunshine. Tons of families flock to Ogden Water for a walk on the weekends, dogs and children alike throwing up their own spattering of muddy drops mixed in with the light drizzle from above.

Paths at Ogden Water

The lacy green fingers of the tree branches block most of the rain and wind, though, like giant ramshackle umbrellas. The skies might be grey, the wind chilling, and the ground wet, but the million hues of green that grace the stone walls and path surrounding the reservoir are downright gorgeous. The lower portion of the tree trunks, blackened from over-saturation, glisten and gleam with an almost neon blanket of soft moss. Such brightness is unusual where I’m from in winter, and for me it’s as if the land itself refuses to succumb to the dreary grey of the skies.

Stone wall at Ogden Water

The stone looks almost haphazard, as if thrown together in a whim, dipping and rising with abandon along the packed paths. I imagine peasants in dungarees and caps, smoking long cigars and pining for a pint stacking these moss-ridden stones… but of course that’s probably more a product of my American romanticism than anything else. Either way, it’s captivating. I stare at this reflective puddle only so long, as a sharp, darting dog whizzes audibly past my thigh.

Visitor Centre Ogden Park

We round the reservoir and cross a gorgeous bridge, decked out with Victorian style lanterns and chic wooden benches. Back to the side is a visitor centre, where I’m told patrons can warm up with tea or coffee, and nibble on flapjacks and gingerbread men. But I am not so lucky, the sun is setting and the shop has already closed for the day.

Fauna at Ogden Water

An Australian study claims that worse weather (and by association, the more depressed an individual) actually allows for a sharper brain. In fact, the psychologists claim that an individual’s memory during bad weather can be as much as 3 times as efficient. Maybe all that’s true, and it certainly gives England something to gloat about… with this many gloomy days, the English must be pretty sharp!

Stones at Ogden Water

But there’s something else that drizzly rain and silvery sky are good for, if you ask me. After living in near-perpetual sunshine in Thailand, the move to England was tough at first. It felt dark and damp every day, dragging me down, and making me feel as dreary as the clouds looked. As I walked around Ogden Water, though, my inner chill was thawed. The grey skies drew out these deep colors of green and emerald, ruby and rust, freckling a gorgeous countryside where I can imagine a robust and adventurous history taking place. Something about the gloominess just emphasized my romanticized visions of England, of beautiful English countryside.

together-at-ogden-water

So you know what? Cheers to a long winter. Cheers to wet days, and misty evenings. Cheers to a lovely stay in England, no matter how dreary she may be. Cheers, Ogden Water.

The Details

  • Ogden Water Country Park & Nature Reserve is just off the Halifax-to-Keighley road, and there is parking just at the top. Be prepared to scrap over space on a busy weekend, though, and remember it closes at 4 p.m. during the height of winter.
  • Taking the bus? The 502 or 504 will both take you from Halifax to Ogden Water. If you’re further afield in Bradford or Denholme, take the 696 or 697 to connect.
  • Yes, it will be muddy, so keep it in mind. Bring your inner child, hop in some puddles, and enjoy!