Mark’s Excellent Adventure in Thailand

If the folks here haven’t seen hide nor hair of co-owner Mark Gatterdam in the last several weeks, there’s a reason. He and his wife, Erika, conveniently used their points to take a first-class airplane ride to Thailand. For three weeks. During the worst snowstorm we’ve seen in decades.

So: while you were out shoveling 20 inches of snow, here’s where Mark was:

Welcome to fantasy island.

Welcome to fantasy island.

Yes, while we were complaining of backaches and sore arms from all that shoveling, Mark and Erika were complaining of sunburn on the blog they created for the trip. As for aches, those got kneaded away by the 12 massages Mark got during the trip. His only complaint? That he didn’t get more.

From his perspective as an artisan, though, Mark was able to share a few observations that didn’t make the rest of us snowbound losers gag ourselves.

Bangkok is known for its tailors, so Mark and Erika both had clothes made for them while they were there – bespoke service for less than what you would pay at Nordstrom’s for a nice suit, can’t beat it.

Marks fitting

Mark’s fitting

They also visited a Thai Craft consortium, which showcases saori, a weaving technique. Sales benefit women affected by the 2004 tsunami by keeping them employed by their craft.

Thai Craft consortium

Thai Craft consortium

Next, they visited the White Temple in Chiang Rai. You thought our people at Hardwood Artisans were talented? We’ve got nothin’ on this:

White Temple in Chiang Rai

White Temple in Chiang Rai

Erika also saw a notice in a local paper for an art fair of master craftsman who are skilled in the Japanese bamboo basket weaving technique, known as beppu. They wouldn’t let Mark take any pictures, but we found some representations here:

Traditional Japanese basket weaving

Traditional Japanese basket weaving

Another example

Another example

Mark’s fondest memory is of going to Myanmar, and riding down the Mekong River into Laos. “Sitting on this long tail boat, scooching down the Mekong River, I’m thinking, ‘How did I get here?’” he asks. (That’s the David Byrne in you, Mark. But rest assured, that is your beautiful wife!)

And finally, a note on cutting trees. We have a huge shop filled with big, powerful machines to cut the wood for our furniture. It takes mere seconds to cut through big, long slabs of it.

But as Mark was sitting by the pool one day, he saw someone truly dedicated to his task, with nothing but a dull blade:

Pruning palms

Pruning palms

Here’s what he said about it: “We spent an hour watching a man pruning the coconut palm tree by the pool today. Everyone was watching. He climbed the tree barefoot, and proceeded to cut the fruit and lower it by rope to three men below. He was using what was obviously a pretty dull hatchet, chopping repeatedly at his task. These people are really very industrious.”

Watch out, artisans – run for the hills if you now hear Mark telling you that you need to be “more industrious.”

We’ll exit this post now with one last bragging right from Mark. You see, while we were staring out the window at a blizzard, here’s what Mark was looking at:

By the pool

By the pool

Not too shabby, eh?

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