Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Part 3

Reminders of Christmas were everywhere we went in Asia. The Philippines with its 70 percent professing Catholic population, had baby Jesus, shepherds, wisemen, Mary, Joseph, angels, and stars of Bethlehem everywhere along with Christmas trees, Santas, and snowmen. 

Santas in the Manila airport in the Philippines.

Thailand had lots of lights and Christmas trees, and employees wearing red and white Santa Claus hats. 

Even China had Santa and Christmas trees in airports and places where people shopped to encourage consumer activity, I suppose. 

Santa in the window of a restaurant in Lijiang, China.

The area near the Samran Place in Thailand had six modern, multi-storey, mega-malls, all decorated for Christmas in ways that exceeded the excesses of America. 

Can you imagine six, huge malls pretty much side by side, filled with stores, restaurants, movie theaters, skating rinks, and shoppers? One storefront had a Ferrari and a Lamborghini on display with other luxury cars. 

Outside one mall, there were hundreds of life-sized Snoopy dogs crowded into the plaza, and at night people were posing and taking selfies with each one. It made me claustrophobic trying to get past them all into the relative calm of the mall where we were going to eat in a food court. 

One night, Zinan and I were walking past all of the malls and we we kept stumbling upon photo shoots with models dressed in Christmas themed attire in front of holiday lights and displays. 

We so wanted to get home to the peace and quiet of our hotel room.

The day we left Tain's hometown, we stopped at a market to pick up some foods to take back to Bangkok, and I snapped these two photos of crabs there:

Mini crabs - I guess you eat them whole

Marinated crabs of some sort, guts on display.
We stopped and ate some food that A and Tain could not leave without having eaten, despite the fact that we'd just finished breakfast an hour before. (I know the feeling. When I go to Maine, there's some things I have to eat, even if I'm not hungry, because I can't eat them anywhere else.)

I had a really good glass of Thai iced tea.

The irresistible lat meal in the hometown.

A dropped us off in Bangkok, and we took the skytrain back to our hotel,

and then went to the mall where Tain introduced us to the cheapest Thai food court in town where we could order from a dizzying variety of foods. I ate pad Thai and sticky rice with mango. After our meal, we watched the third installment of the Hobbit, and when we came outside, it was night, but brightly lit.

After a night's rest, we decided it was time to show Zinan a few of Bangkok's sights. Tain had seen everything before many times, but Dawn and I, despite our previous trips to Thailand, had only seen some of them. Tain's challenge was to take us to places that the rest of us had never been where he would not be bored. We started with a boat ride down the river.

Next was a visit to a Buddhist temple, just to admire the artwork, not because we're into Buddha, since he's dead and nothing compared to our Lord Jesus Christ, who was very much alive in our hearts that day.

He needs the joy of the Lord, I think.

After our temple photo shoot, we looked for a place to have lunch. Tain's favorite restaurant in the area was no longer there, so he did what he does best - make friends and call friends as we waited.

With a new place in mind, we got into a tuk-tuk and zoomed down the street.

Crammed into the back of the tuk tuk

Motorbikes and street vendors

The restaurant had a view of the water, but our eyes were on the inexpensive, lovely food. Every time we said grace, we were so thankful for the food we ate.

Lunch being over, we wandered briefly through an enormous weekend market, the precursor of the modern shopping mall, where bargains galore can be found.

Zinan wonders if he should buy a coconut too.

This kid was playing an unusual instrument that sounded vaguely like bagpipes. I gave him some money.

Once Dawn made her purchase of nearly a dozen pairs of earrings, we headed back to mega-mall row to see one particular mall where every floor is designed to have the feel of a different country. We visited Paris, Istanbul, London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Hollywood within the span of a half hour. Strangely, the highlight of each floor is its public restrooms, and people, like us, could be found taking pictures of them.

The Paris bakery bathroom
Welcome to London

The Tube (subway) hallway leading to the bathrooms

Tain calls his mother from London

Istanbul's bathroom

I wonder if sumo wrestlers would fit into these urinal stalls in the Tokyo bathroom?
Hollywood (its bathroom was boring)

San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

When our 'round the world tour ended, we went back to our places of rest, where Dawn prepared and left for Chang Ma to visit her sister and niece for a Christmas family time.

The next day was Sunday, and we were ready for some fellowship with the body of believers at New Vision Baptist Church. Zinan and I met Tain at the Baptist Student Center and took the elevator up to the church. The Baptist Student Center is an outreach ministry. It offers low cost language classes - English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Thai (for foreigners) - as a means of evangelism. The school has been around for 64 years and is highly respected and very successful in its ministry. Students seeking education find the Lord and become disciples in the church which work hand in hand. With all its years of experience, and the demand for language training, especially English, the ministry is not expanding to other locations in Thailand, using the Baptist Student Center schools to plant churches. Their vision is to win souls and make disciples for Christ, and we found kindred spirits there.

Praise and worship time

The elevator door

The church lobby where Zinan and I received our English translation earphones

We went with some of the brothers and sisters after lunch at the church to where they were hosting a Christmas party at one of the new Baptist Student Centers in another location, We all piled into one of the church vans and rode to the Baptist Loving Center (it wasn't a full-blown student center just yet) where we sang, heard a message preached, ate food, and played fun games with the visitors, some of whom were very new believers with touching testimonies of how their lives had been changed.

Rose apples

This young guy was an amazing song leader and servant of God

Listening to preaching
After the party ended, we all drove over to a floating market to shop for about 45 minutes. Floating markets traditionally have goods and foods being sold from boats floating in the water. This market had vendors in boats and on the shore, and it was nighttime, so it was pretty.

We were tired when we got back home, but envigorated in spirit because of the time we spent with God's people and being about His business.

The next morning, we awoke, packed small bags, and walked to the Victory Monument area where we caught a van to the countryside.

Victory Monument

 We were picked up by a man outside of the grocery store where had stocked up on provisions. He was driving a Jeep that was jacked up on big tires, and he took us further out into farm country where we ended up at this amazing house atop a hill.

We had the use of it for a few days, the first and third floors, including the kitchen and, joy of joys, a washing machine! ZInan and I had never been here before, so we were in awe of the beauty and running around snapping pictures before and during the sunset.

Not for the first time I was thinking of how good God has been to me during my adventure of faith here in Asia. I was staying in beautiful places for little or no money. After dinner, Zinan and I slept out on the third floor deck under the starry sky, lost in the majesty of the heavens, snuggled under blankets, he on a lounge chair, me on lounge chair cushions on the deck itself. I never thought Thailand could be cold, but that night a wind came up and it got down to the 60s, which felt cold by dawn.

Tain was our chef in residence, making meals of of our provisions, recycling our leftovers into soups. He's not called Tain Amazing for no reason. When he first asked me if I wanted to go for a ride with the farmer guy with the Jeep, I thought to say no, but I changed my mind. I'm glad I did, because here is where we went and some of the stuff we saw out there in the middle of nowhere. Our first stop was called a floating market, but it was a roadside tourist trap hodgepodge of petting zoo, kitschy displays of Americana and its Thai equivalent, pricy eating establishments, gift shops. We had fun taking pictures here, but spent no more than the nominal entry fee.

Zinan has become one of my favorite quiet, funny guys.

He's still available, ladies...

Tain and the beast vie for a drink from the bottle.

We saw an Ostrich
a Camel

some Pigs (but no spiders yet)

a giant chicken

...some sort of bear...
...and alligators that we almost went in to pet until we saw the sign...
We met Batman

Captain America
...and your friendly neighborhood Spiderman
But then I caught Zinan taking pictures of some oddly still women... I put him on a motorcycle and told him it was time to go.
Our next stop was lunch at at an outdoor restaurant. We had our own private dining room.

The simple fare was truly scrumptious. I loved the fresh cucumber and Thai lemon (I call it lime) garnishes for this rice dish.

But I think Zinan was missing the silent women...

...and you can see that Tain had developed a bad Coke habit.

I wanted to try the playground, but I exceeded the height restriction.

From the lunch spot we were whisked away into the wilds of Thailand to visit a stream and some falling water. I don't think Zinan had ever been out tromping through woods and over rocks before.

We hiked over rocks and rills and finally up a long hill and down the other side to return to our Jeep.

Our driver, his Jeep, and you know the other guys by now, I hope.
We drove back to our hilltop home through some verdant fields, 

stopping long enough to visit some sheep,

and arrived in time for another sunset.

What if I had stayed home that day with my laundry that I had left in the washer? Think about what I would have missed. It reminds me of what Pastor DeVries spoke of this week: redeeming the time - taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives. Let me get up on my soapbox for a couple of sentences here and say that there are incredible missions opportunities here in Asia for Greater Grace and other soul winning, discipleship oriented, missions-minded ministries to take advantage of. I'm hoping and praying that people reading my blog will realize that there are huge needs for mature believers with the message to come to preach and teach the glorious grace message, and  train, evangelize, and share the life of Christ with the people of Asia. Asia is vast and we need more men and women of God to colabor in the work.

That night, we ate a Tain-cooked meal and went to bed listening to the insects chirp and the birds warble as the stars blazed and twinkled in inky night sky. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve.


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