Category Archives: South East Asia

Thailand, Cambodia

An Artist in Ice

Birthday Party on the Beach

The Buffet table at your holiday resort looks stunning, the food arranged with aesthetic attention to detail, and dominating the centre is a beautiful carving in ice, a pagoda, a ‘plane, a fantasie in ice with coloured lights making it dance and dazzle, or a bird, its neck an opaque white and the translucent wings poised as though to take flight.  In a few hours it will have dissolved into a puddle.

The people who create these centrepieces are artists in ice, men and women who have the ability to create these beautiful animals, birds, and flowers in frozen water to add a shimmering brilliance to the tables.  And they do this knowing it will all disappear in a few hours. Performance art? Or art installation?

Khun Panas Suchantra at the Dusit Thani Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand, was the resident artist in this ephemeral medium when I was last there.  He is involved in every aspect of the work, from the early discussions with the F & B Manager, the chef, and the General Manager if the event is of importance.  

I watched him work on various carvings over a three week period and never tired of the theatricality of the scene as he chipped and chopped, moved around with speed (the ice continues to melt as he works on it) and created delicate ice flowers and feathered wings with the precision of a mathematician.

Most ice-carving artists use many different types of chisels, plus a saw, to get their effects.   Initally, a V-angle chisel is used to score the outline and to draw on the uncut ice, gouge chisels with their round tipped blades are used for making patterns, and flat chisels are for shaving.  The saw is used for cutting and carving (see photograph below).

Khun Panas  often works outdoors in a covered Pagoda overlooking the sea, a piece of performance art that is much appreciated by the visitors to the hotel who gather round to watch in silence, as a solid block of ice is transformed into a three-dimensional sculpture. 

As he works, the mateial starts to melt and there is a sense of urgency about his actions but with a few quick movements he saws off a piece of the block on which he outlines a shape before beginning to chisel away the excess.

With the outer shape of the subject delineated he starts on the base cutting into the ice to enhance the main figure.  After that it seems but a very short time before the ice-carving is complete, to be taken into the kitchens and stored in the freezer until it is ready to be placed centre table at the buffet.

Japan is the country that has elevated ice sculpting to high art: you only have to look at the Winter Festival in Sapporo to see what visions they create.  It goes without saying therefore, that the best and most expensive tools come from that country, seasoned by years of experience in making Samurai swords.

Tools of the ice-carver’s trade

Challenge your Camera: Steps and Stairs.

Steps and Stairs Challenge linked to Dr. B’s challenge at Dr. B’s Challenge your Camera.

What better place to start Steps and Stairs with than The Spanish Steps in Rome.

The Spanish Steps, Rome

Still in Italy, it’s a steep walk to the top of the amphitheatre in Verona during the Opera Festival there but that’s where the budget seats are, obviously. I’ve sat up there – when I was much younger – but I’ve also had the luxury of the lower seats too, and I know which I prefer!

The Amphitheatre, Verona

And now for something completely different, as they say. Ad hoc steps for swimmers in Syracuse in Sicily, used as sun-bathing platforms as well and looking pretty dangerous to me.

Steps for Swimmers in Syracuse in Sicily

Still in Sicily, below is the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, the 3rd largest Opera House in Europe. Film buffs will know these steps as the setting for the scene in The Godfather, Part III, where the godfather’s beloved daughter is shot dead, one of Al Pacino’s great moments among many in the series. The interior of the theatre was also the setting for the closing scenes and backstage tours are on offer.

Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Sicily

Across now to Japan, to Hiroshima, where we see school-children on the steps of the Motoyasu River that runs through the Peace Park. They are having a history lesson on the bombing of the city and the consequences for the world.

Schoolchildren in the Peace Park at Hiroshima, Japan

And lastly, there may be many more of Angkor Wat but I never tire of looking at the shrines here and remembering the 3 days I spent in and around the site, loving every minute I was there.

One of the many shrines at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Silent Sunday: Thai Beach

The lights have gone out and a lone visitor to the Shrine looks out over the waves.

Early morning on the beach at Thailand at one of the many shrines along the water. Local people come here to leave offerings to the Lord Buddha, in the form of lotus flowers, small portions of cooked rice, fruit and water.

10-Day Travel Photo Challenge

Thanks to my namesake Marie, at Hops, Skips and Jumps for the nomination.

The Travel Challenge involves posting one favourite travel picture for each day and nominating another ten blogger – That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, 10 nominations, and 0 explanations!

Some of my favourites you may have seen before but I’ll do my best to find something different each day. It’s hard to decide whether I like a picture because I think it is good or because it reminds me of happy times – sometimes it’s both and that’s a plus. Lucky there’s no text required so I may make it to Day 10 despite Covid and Christmas.

So, Number 1 coming up. Linked to Hops, Skips and Jumps blog

One Word Sunday: History

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Linked to One Word Sunday here.

In January 2004 the grandson of the then King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, was killed in the tsunami that swept through much of S.E. Asia. Born Bhumi Jensen in 1983, he was the son of the King’s eldest daughter, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and her former American husband Peter Jensen. He was also a nephew of the current ruler of Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn. Khun Poom died at Khao Lak in Southern Thailand.

We were in Thailand at the time and we were honoured to be invited by Thai friends to attend the lying-in state for the young Prince at the Royal Palace in Bangkok which was by invitation only. Both men and women dressed in the stipulated black attire. We sat on chairs and were served snacks, conversation was muted and respectful. These are a few of the photographs I took at the time, not good because although photography was permitted, it had to be very discreet and done from one’s position in the room, no flash allowed of course, nor tripods permitted. I don’t think I should have been smiling in the photograph, but at least one of my Thai friends was also smiling!

January 24th, 2005.

Linked to One Word Sunday here.


Only the Singing Bamboos

It actually was a Sunday and the silence was all enveloping, as was the humidity. I had to turn back after half an hour as I couldn’t cope with the perspiration dripping into my eyes, the mozzies, the dampness all around me and the general feeling of too much growth and things rotting. It was a weekend party with some Thai friends but let’s face it, I’m just not cut out for roughing it in the jungle and being uncomfortable.