Friday, November 26, 2010


While our Thanksgiving this year wasn't quite as wonderful as I had hoped, it still beat the pants off of last year!  We may not have had football or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... or beer... or wine... or turkey... but it was still pretty fun, all things considered.  Mr. Faiyaz at the hotel hooked us up quite nicely with a whole menu of delectable treats made especially for us!  I even met with the chef to plan the menu, never mind that he left out most of the stuff I asked for (cranberries and apple pie, to name a few).
Our specially printed menu.  Seriously, Faiyaz told me they had these cards specially printed up for us.  I don't know if that was extremely necessary, but it was a nice touch.  I mean, look at that cornucopia overflowing with delight!  And that sun setting ever so gently behind the mountains.  You've outdone yourself, India.  

It was really interesting to have so many people from other countries celebrating our traditional American holiday.  We had four "American" Americans (Ben, Matt, Carrie, and little old me), and then several other "non-traditional" Americans, as well as some plain old Indians, and Alberto, the Spaniard.  I don't think any of the others really grasped the concept of Thanksgiving... they just know it as the holiday for gluttony, which is basically what it is anyway.  Of course I made everyone to the whole "what are you thankful for" thing, but most of them just said a variation of what I said, which I guess means my answer was the best one (also, I went first, so that might have something to do with it).
International Thanksgiving

As far as the menu went, it wasn't traditional Thanksgiving fare by any means, but we did have some "normal" stuff (corn and mashed potatoes), along with a bunch of, shall we say, non-traditional courses, such as "chicken sausages wrapped with bacon rashes" and "silky brocooli soup".  By far the two stars of the evening were the roast leg of lamb, and then whole chicken with "bacon stuffing" which they made me carve at the table.  Yeah, I'm that much of a badass.  For desert we had caramel custard (flan) and shahi tukda (your guess is as good as mine) which wasn't half bad.  When all was said and done, I was feeling slightly disgustingly full, which I think is a mark of a good Thanksgiving.
Obligatory head shot.  Matt is refusing to shave his face until they put VGO in the unit... they just shut down again today, so it could take a while.  I'll keep you posted.  

In other news, I went to yoga yesterday, and while we were doing our sun salutations, the lady next to me let one rip.  Seriously.  I know that downward facing dog can be a little strenuous, but can't you hold that in?  Apparently not.  Later, during our relaxation meditation, she fell asleep and started snoring.  Needles to say, I hope she doesn't come again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Love Expats

Don't cry for me, Amurica - things are looking up!  Just when things seemed very bleak indeed (we hit four months in India, my hair started falling out, we're facing a third Thanksgiving in a foreign country all alone, etc, etc...), I met a huge group of women expats, and they are all awesome!  Last week I went to that expat meeting that one lady told me about, and I met lots of women from all over the world!  Ain't that fine?  Apparently these ladies have been meeting at the WelcomHotel once a month for about a year, and no one at the hotel ever thought to tell me about it.  Thanks, hotel staff.  Appreciate ya'll.

In addition to meeting all those wonderful people, I got in touch with a woman who teaches yoga in Baroda, and I signed up for classes!  Yesterday was my first class.  It is awesome, and it is cheap!  I payed about $25 for two months, and the classes are three days a week.  Try getting a deal like that in Chicago (no, don't try.  You can't get one).  While I won't say that I am a natural at yoga (it's quite the opposite, in fact) I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I'm not horrible, but at one point the instructor, Smita, looked at me and said "Oh.  You need a lot of work."  True dat.  The next class is tomorrow, so we'll see how I do.

Today I was invited to a brunch meeting at a British lady's house.  It was a little overwhelming because there were probably 25 women there, and I hadn't met most of them.  They were all really nice and super talkative, but I felt like I was telling the same story over and over again:  "My name is Caitlin, I live in WelcomHotel... yes, I have lived there for four months... no, I'm not getting an apartment... yes, it's very boring and difficult, etc."  I exchanged numbers with a lot of people, and have already had invites to go shopping and such later in the week.  See, I knew it would get better!  Okay, I know that's not true, but I'm feeling super positive at the moment.  Don't burst my bubble.

Also, Matt talked to our hotel manager best friend, Faiyaz, about setting us up with a Thanksgiving dinner through the hotel.  Faiyaz went paintballing with us the first time, and he was on my team.  I think I impressed him with my natural paintball talents, because he has set up a whole Thanksgiving menu for us... for freeee!  I don't know that it will be a very "traditional" dinner, but anything will be better than last year's Indonesian KFC debacle.  Won't it?  I'll let you know.  At least this year, I have something to be thankful for: expats.  (No offense to everyone else... I'm always thankful for you guys.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The End

After so many, many posts, complete with pictures glorious enough to make even the most generous feel sick and green with envy, I think it's about to wrap up this Thailand story.  Also, I feel like this last post has been hanging over my head, mainly because I actually have something important that needs sharing.  However, of course I've forgotten most of the details, so I had to get online and do some much-hated research in order to get it all sorted out.  So I guess what I'm saying is, please forgive me for any information errors in advance... and for the length of this post (it's a doozy)... and for being pretentious and pedantic.

The best part of our trip in Chiang Rai (for me, at least) was undoubtedly the tour we did of some of the hill tribes in the area.  On our first day in town, we went to visit the very interesting and informative Chiang Rai Hill Tribe Museum to learn about some of the tribes and get some info on tours and such.  Lucky we went there first, because we discovered pretty quickly that there was some shady business going on with this hill tribe tourism kick - the most notable skeeziness comes in the form of the "long-neck" group of the Karen hill tribe. (Yup, this is where I start getting preachy.) You know the ones.  Those ladies who wear the rings stacked around their necks to give them the appearance of a long neck (thus the nickname). Almost all tour companies in Chiang Rai offer trips to see the long-necks, and I must admit, I was pretty excited to go on one.  They take you up to their "village" and show you their "authentic handicrafts" and their super stretched out necks, but they never mention that the whole thing is a farce.  Boom.  Bet you didn't see that one coming.  Now check out this knowledge bomb:

The long-necks aren't native to Thailand (they come from Myanmar), and those who live there now have only come in the last ten years or so.  The museum explained that the long-neck village was built as a scam to get money from tourists, and the tribal people don't see much or any of that money at all.  According to the museum, people who live in the "village" aren't allowed to leave or live normal lives.  The women are put on display like in a human zoo and forced to make "traditional handicrafts" for tourists, while the men sit in some back room gambling and drinking all day. Seriously.  I don't know how much of this is true, but I felt it was better to boycott the whole thing altogether, so we decided to go a different route, and take one of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA)-sponsored tours through the museum.

Basically PDA is a non-profit organization created to promote family planning programs in Thailand, but it has since diversified into other areas, like educating people about HIV/AIDS and combating rural poverty.  Click here to learn more.  Anyway, through the museum, we were able to book a PDA tour, which is waaay better than any other tour because the guides are sensitive to the cultures of the various hill tribes, and are always respectful.  They even have a community-based tourism development project in a village called Ban Lorcha where tourists pay a fee to enter the village and watch people doing their village activities - stuff you wouldn't see normally on a random day visit.  Almost all the proceeds from this go into a fund that assists orphans, widows, and the village in general.  How's that for responsible tourism?  Danielle and I were pretty excited about this because after learning of the horrific long-neck zoo, we wanted to be sure we were participating in something that would help others, and not just satisfy our arrogant American tourist curiosities. (So pedantic, I know.)  Anyway, after much deliberation, we decided against the Ban Lorcha tour and opted for an elephant trekking tour that visited four hill tribes.  (Yes, the Ban Lorcha thing looked amazing and interesting and helpful, but honestly, who would pass up an elephant trek?  I mean, they had elephants and trekking.)

Anyway, to put it mildly, our tour was fantastic.  We rode on a boat for an hour on the Mekong river to see a Karen tribe (the long-necks are just a sub-group of the overall Karen tribe), which is based right on the edge of the river.  The village was surprisingly modern, with concrete houses, a paved road running through it, and a big Christian church at one end.  It wasn't quite what we had expected, but hey, it's 2010.  Concrete houses and paved roads are the wave of the future.
See that Christian church?  Not quite what I had in mind, either, but interesting nonetheless.
That's what I'm talking about.  Rice fields at the foot of the hills in the Karen village.
We walked along the road through the village to the elephant training camp where we would hitch a ride up the mountain on an elephant.  In a word: awesome.
God bless, I love elephants.  Ain't he/she a beaut?
Our elephant was a 42-year-old male named Lampang.  He and I had quite the connection.  Lampang took us up into the hills for two hours, traipsing over streams and through rice fields and jungles like it was his job (which I guess it was, in a way).  We also had a mahout (elephant trainer) along with us, who drove Lampang and kept him in line; unfortunately I did not catch his name or age.  Sorry.  
The mahout driving Lampang through the stream.
About two-thirds of the way into our trip, our mahout jumped off the elephant and asked if we wanted our pictures taken.  Of course we did.  Did he even need to ask?  
I know all my Facebook friends have already seen this, but it's such a good picture! 
After this picture-break, the mahout jumped back up and sat in my seat next to Danielle and let me ride Lampang's neck for the rest of the way.  I know what you're thinking, and it's true: I really am that cool.  I was kind of scared and almost fell off a few times, and I kept getting elephant snot all over my feet, but it was worth it.  Totally.  Anyway, Lampang took us all the way up to the Lahu (or Akha, I can't remember... so much for responsible tourism, eh?) village, where we ate lunch and visited with an ancient lady who sold us some handicrafts.  Of course she did.  It was worth it.  

After lunch, we "trekked" (really we just walked back down the hills... not much trekking involved) over to the main section of the village where the school was.  The school seemed to be really well-maintained and even had several computers for the kids to use (all of this made possible through solar panels set up throughout the village).  
Main Street.  
Our guide was really amazing and seemed to know all the people in all the villages.  Also, he speaks all of the different hill tribe dialects (there are many), so he was able to translate for us.  Later we walked down to a waterfall, and then visited a Yao and Akha (or Lahu... jeez that's embarrassing that I can't remember) village, which had sort of a combination of bamboo houses with thatched roofs and more modern houses.   
Our guide at the waterfall.
Hill tribe village.  That one in the back is painted with an aluminum roof.  They got big money back there.
I think that about sums up our Chiang Rai hill tribe experience.  Whew.  Sorry it's so long... I won't do that again.  Takes way too long to write out.  I guess that sums up my Thailand adventure as well.  After Chiang Rai, we flew back to Bangkok, and then I flew back to India (complete with a six-hour layover in Mumbai's beautiful domestic terminal), and the rest is history.  The hill tribe tour is definitely up there on my "Best Things I've Ever Done" list, thanks mostly to Lampang the elephant.  The End.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Trust the Evil-Doers

My hair is falling out.  From my head, but also my eyelashes in particular are looking a bit sparse these days.  Don't bother getting all worked up about it - it'll do us no good if you all start losing your hair as well.  I've already researched it on the Internet, and found a wealth of material concerning the matter. Apparently I'm not the only one who's prematurely balding in India.  I found one girl on a forum who was losing her hair in big chunks a few weeks after returning from a trip to southern India.  Also, I'm guessing it might be a fairly common problem with the locals as well.  I am always seeing advertisements for "Hair Fall Prevention" shampoos here.  Most people on the Web said the water was probably the root cause of this, especially in Chennai, where they have apparently been suffering this hair fall condition for some time now.  I, however, have not been to Chennai, but I guess that doesn't mean the water here isn't just as bad (considering what it's doing to my skin, I think it's probably to blame).  Other causes I read about include: vitamin deficiency, protein deficiency, stress, too little sleep, side effects of anti-malarials and imbalanced chakras.  So all I have to do to cure my condition is stop bathing, eat beef, sleep more, and balance my chakras.  Aside from the sleeping, I can't feasibly do any of these things (I don't know how to balance my chakras... yet).  In conclusion, I don't really know how to stop the baldness at the moment, so please don't make fun of me if I lose all my hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes.  They'll grow back... right?

In the interest of keeping my life stress-free (and preserving some hair), I'm going to stop thinking about the balding.

A sign from a random temple in Chiang Rai.  

Anyway, back to Thailand.  After the disaster that was the Naga Fireball Festival we headed back to Bangkok, and Mary and Kat left the next day.  Danielle and I headed north in a different direction to visit Chiang Rai.  Danielle had already been to Chiang Mai, which is bigger and more touristy, but she hadn't seen any hill tribes, and man, she wanted to see some.  Sadly for her, she had to wait it out with me for several days in Chiang Rai while I mentally prepared myself for the hill tribes.
Mekong river and Chiang Rai countryside.  

In the meantime, we took many impromptu walking tours around the city (which is relatively small... I think we walked the whole of it a couple times) and visited lots of temples.  It was nice being in a small less-touristy town as opposed to Bangkok and Krabi.
This is a replica of the sacred Emerald Buddha in Chiang Rai (the real one is in Bangkok).  It is in a room with green lighting.  I quite enjoyed that.  

On Wednesday, we hopped on a public "bus" (it was a van, not unlike those we used in Indonesia) and rode with the locals to the White Temple (or Wat Rong Khun).
The aptly-named White Temple.  
This temple was built by Chalemchai Kositpipat, a renowned Thai artist.  He built it all in white to symbolize the purity of Buddha.  And he's not finished yet.  He and his team are continually adding new buildings and statues around the site.  
This was the bathroom.  Is that not the most glorious restroom you've ever seen?  It was closed when we went, but I don't think I could've used it anyway.  It's too fancy.  
The temple was interesting, but I found it kind of difficult to look at its eye-scorching brilliance.  In addition to the white paint, the artist put up tiny glittering mirrors around the designs to highlight them.  It  gives the whole thing a very blinding effect.  
Thais posing at the side-entrance.  
Inside the main hall is a huge mural depicting... something.  Seriously, I couldn't figure out what was going on inside that thing.  I think it might be some sort of massive Buddha head made up of various people and events from pop-culture.  I know I saw Darth Vader and Spiderman, and there's no telling what else.  Apparently the eyes of the Buddha depict George W. in one eye and Osama bin Laden in the other.  I am obviously no great art-analyst, so I won't pretend to know what was going on in there.  Probably something about the evils of pop-culture taking over our lives... Isn't that what all art is about these days?  
A vomiting planter.  
 After visiting the White Temple, we went across the street to a cafe for lunch and drank Thai iced tea with bugs in it.  I noticed the bugs pretty early on in my tea, but I drank it anyway.  I didn't want to be rude.  Plus, I was thirsty.  Later that day we went shopping at the incredible Chiang Rai night market.  The end.  

Are your retinas scorched yet?  Dragons on top of the White Temple. 

Friday, November 12, 2010


Just checked the forecast here because it's looking cloudy, and this is what I found:

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Vadodara, India Weather

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Updated: Nov 12, 2010, 3:10pm Local Time

Right NowNext 36 Hours
SmokeTonightTomorrowTomorrow Night
Scattered T-StormsScattered T-StormsScattered T-Storms
SmokeScattered T-StormsScattered T-StormsScattered T-Storms
Feels Like: 90°LowHighLow
Past 24-hr precip is only available for the contiguous U.S.Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
From SSE at 10mph
N at 5 mph
SSW at 7 mph
NNW at 5 mph
Seriously?  What does that even mean?  Ahh, India.    

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Ughhh, I'm sick of blogging about Thailand, and I'm sure you're all sick of reading about it.  Buuut, I have to write it all down or I will forget.  Don't worry, I'll make the rest of them short and sweet.

After we left Krabi, we headed to Nong Khai, a city in the Northeastern part of Thailand, for the infamous Naga Fireball Festival.  Nong Khai is on the bank of the Mekong river, with Laos just across the water, which is cool, but only because Laos is a country I haven't been to.  I hear it's not amazing, but I wanted to go over there anyway... my Facebook "Where I've Been" map isn't going to update itself, you know.
Laos, from across the river.  You don't have to say it - I know it's an amazing shot.  
So our whole trip to Nong Khai stemmed from a book of Danielle's called "1001 Natural Wonders of the World", which featured a section on "Naga Fireballs".  According to the book, these fireballs are supposed to be naturally-occurring glowing balls that rise up from the Naga (serpent god) that lives in the Mekong river.  I'm not describing it well enough, but it is really hyped up in Thailand and all of Southeast Asia.  To get a more detailed account of the fireballs (and to see why we traveled across the country to see them) click here.  Or you can just Google naga fireballs and read any or all of the numerous articles about it.  See, it's a pretty big deal.  
So, long story short, we got to Nong Khai the night before the fireball extravaganza, (which is traditionally held on the last full moon in October... You'd think it'd be hard to plan the exact date and time of a naturally-occurring event, but they do) and walked around the local festival and ate some weird street food, including, but not limited to a pancake-type thing hard-fried in loads of palm oil and covered in sweetened condensed milk.  It was delicious.  The next day we explored the town, ate some Vietnamese food and fed a baby elephant.  Just a typical day.  
Elephants love me.  It's a fact.       Photo by Mary P.  

To go see the fireballs, we had to take a bus to a different town not too far away.  However, in typical Asian style, we had to wait until the bus filled all the way up with people.  And that includes filling the aisles with standing passengers.  So between waiting time and driving time, we didn't get to the place until two hours later.  We were still in pretty good spirits, though... anticipation is powerful medicine (so is beer, and we may have had a couple on the bus ride over).  We waded through the crowd to find a perfect spot from which to see the fireballs (we didn't find one), and then we waited for hours for the fireballs to start.  They eventually did, but they were, shall we say, less than stellar.  It was a huge disappointment.  Click on this link to see a video of exactly what we saw.  Actually, that video is probably better than what we saw.  I think we witnessed maybe four "fireballs" in all, and they all strangely seemed to be coming from the Laotian side of the river.  We foreigners were not very impressed, but I can't speak for the Thai visitors.  Man, they go crazy for those things!  

A boat that came "coincidentally" just before the fireballs.  Each time.  Also, yes, my pictures from Nong Khai aren't very good.  Sue me. 
To get back to our hotel, we had to take another bus (standing room only by the time we got there... it wasn't very pleasant) and inch our way through traffic for two and a half hours.  We were all fairly disheartened by the whole experience, but hey, tomorrow is another day.  However, the next day started in much the same vein as the night before... Our flight out was early in the morning and our hotel was an hour away from the airport.  No one spoke enough English to help us get a taxi, and no one seemed to understand why we were going to the airport in the first place.  Why would we ever want to leave? (Remember, we are all well-seasoned travelers by this point... they were making it illogically difficult.  Not our fault.) The whole debacle took maybe two hours, with lots of stressful hair-pulling and kicking of things. It involved numerous tuk-tuks, a ride to the taxi station, a ride to the bus station, and then a ride to the airport in a tiny beater truck.  It was ridiculous, but we made it. 

Anyway, so that about sums up our Nong Khai trip.  Sorry, it wasn't quite as short as I had planned, but I wanted you to get the full effect of our experience.  Not all parts of the trip were good ones, but it was an unforgettable experience, to say the least.  

Matt is working late tonight.  Bleh.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scuba Steve

Before I get into my description of my epic scuba diving adventure, I'd like to share with you a few minor India details.

  • I broke down and went to the new branch of FabIndia today.  It is much, much smaller than the one in Mumbai, but still relatively fabulous.  I bought nothing because after paying half of the balance on our carpet, we are kind of short on cash.  I'm not allowed to go to the ATM, due to reasons.  (Actually it's due to the fact that Matt gets per diem in rupees which are very hard to exchange into dollars, so I have been told to "wait it out" repeatedly on the money situation, as we will get a plethora of cash shortly.)
  • While at FabIndia, I met a lady expat(riot) who invited me to the big weekly lady expat meeting next Tuesday.  We exchanged phone numbers, and she promised to call later with the time and location of the meeting.  We'll see.  I don't want to get too excited because I think I may have inadvertently given her the wrong phone number.  I'm still pretty excited, though.  I like expats.  Sometimes they drink a lot.  That's about the extent of my knowledge of expats.  See, sometimes shopping does pay.  
  • I have decided to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) while here in India.  I looked it up online, and I think I can take it in Ahmedebad, which is only a couple hours away.  I haven't actually decided on a graduate program, or decided what I would like to study in graduate school... or decided if I even want to do graduate school or if I should just man up and get a job... but I figure studying for and taking the GRE can't hurt.  Well, it could hurt a little, I guess.  Especially if I don't do well. 
Anyway, I will keep you posted on the above happenings.  In the meantime:
                                                                                                 Photo by Mary P.
Kat and me in all our scuba gear.  Matt says I look good with my equipment.  I think he's running out of compliments.  

We did, in fact go scuba diving on our ExTRA trip.  I was told (and I kind of figured) that it wasn't the best diving trip ever, due to the bleached out coral and lack of fish, but it was still pretty awesome. (Sorry, I lied about the sharks and the sunken ships.  What can you do?  Sometimes I lie.)  Just breathing underwater was an incredible experience, as was trying to swim with flippers.  I'd never actually done that before, and I wasn't very good at that part.  I was good at the breathing, though.  Not to brag, but I've known how to do that for ages.

Anyway, we did see some cool stuff underwater, but I don't have any pictures of it.  We saw loads of jellyfish, of which I was initially terrified, but then grew to love after I got to dribble one on my hand like a basketball.  Also, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a seahorse that my instructor pointed out, which was pretty rad.
                                                                                       Photo by Danielle S. 
After diving, we stopped at this island for a breather.  No big deal, just a pit stop at one of the most beautiful places on the planet.   

Aside from diving, we also took an island-hopping trip to a few random islands off the coast.  No big deal, just visiting three or more exotic islands in a matter of hours.  All in a day's work.
                                                                                      Photo by Danielle S.
Hong Island

As a part of our island-hopping package, we got to go snorkeling (always a good time) and sea kayaking!  I'd never been sea kayaking before, and it was really fun, but definitely more taxing than I was prepared for.  I think maybe all that beach laying made my muscles start to atrophy (also not getting much protein or nutrients in general in India might be a factor).  On our sea kayak trip we went from Hong Island (above) to Hong Lagoon (below), which we had already visited once at high tide.  
                                                                                     Photo by Danielle S. 
Hong Lagoon, pre-kayak trip. 
By the time we got back to the lagoon in our kayaks, it was a dramatically different sight.  Almost all the water was gone, and there were hundreds (probably) of starfish lying around!  

                                                                              Photo by Danielle S.
Mary and I got a big kick out of the starfish.  Please excuse my hair.  It knows not what it does.  

Anyway, so that was about the extent of our Krabi extravaganza.  I know, I know, it was amazing and beautiful and possibly the best place on Earth, but fear not, it wasn't all fun and games.  I got violently ill on the longtail-boat ride back from island-hopping.  By violently ill, I mean I just got really insanely nauseous but didn't actually throw up.  See, it wasn't all good.   Anyway, I know this is long, and for that I apologize.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Diwali

WelcomTreat from the WelcomHotel.
Last week India celebrated Deepavali, or Diwali to the layperson.  In some places, Diwali is celebrated for three days, but in Gujarat, we do it up big: a five day celebration where virtually nothing is open and no one does anything but party.  My kind of holiday.  

As many of you may know, Diwali is the "Festival of Lights" (Deepavali actually translates into 'row of lamps' - thank you Wikipedia), so of course they have fireworks!  Also, you are supposed to light oil in clay lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil.  
Ain't that fine?  This was in our hotel lobby.  

Also, I read something about how Diwali is the commemoration of how Lord Rama returned after 14 years and vanquished the demon-king Ravana.  Obviously I should look further into this, because that sounds like a good story.  

Friday was the actual day of Diwali (the rest of the days have other names, but of course I don't remember them, and I threw out the WelcomScroll I got with the info on it), and the hotel, in its infinite wisdom, invited all the guests (only the foreigners are lame enough to not go home for Diwali) outside to watch the fireworks (they call them crackers.  Not firecrackers, just crackers.  I liked that) show.  And what a show it was!  
That's right, they don't mess around.  
Of course I got totally into it, but so did everyone else, so that's okay.  We mostly had sparklers (fun, but not dangerous), but there were also some sort of screaming roman candle-esque things (both fun and exceedingly dangerous.  

Me with one of the screaming roman candles.  Mostly I like this picture because I look like a crazy person.  

After the hotel ran out of fireworks, we went outside in search for more (our lust for crackers is insatiable).  Across the street, the locals were setting off huge hundred-foot rolls of crackers in the middle of the road (unbelievably dangerous).  While traffic continued to drive by.  It was quite entertaining.  
Tell me that's not terrifying.  I guess maybe you had to be there, but it was.  
Anyway, that was about the extent of my Diwali experience.  I have many many more pictures, but I've run out of time and energy.  Fear not, I'll be back tomorrow with more stories of Thailand (spoiler alert: we went scuba diving and saw sharks and sunken ships!  Maybe that's true and maybe it isn't.  Tune in tomorrow to find out).  
Ben, Matt and Chris being boys.