Saturday, 26 April 2008

Day Out in Bangkok

I had the most fabulous afternoon the other day with a group of uber lovely ladies from the British Women's Group in Bangkok. We went here there and everywhere but I have to say the highlight was the Flower Market. Absolutely gorgeous and a definite go to place for anyone coming to Bangkok. I can't believe I'd never been there and that my past visitors have missed out on it.. it really is wonderful and the flowers are so ridiculously cheap it feels like you're stealing them!

Firstly we went to Wat Phu Khao Thong - Golden Mountain Temple. Can't specify exactly where it is, but it was a short walk from the last stop on the canal boat ride (the one that goes past Jim Thompson House). Love the canal boats as they are super zippy, cost next to nothing and there's no noxious car emissions to breathe in on the trip. It can be slightly dangerous boarding said boats though, as the driver doesn't seem overly concerned if one of your legs is still inside the boat when they take off! Getting off at the last stop is always a safe bet though as they wait to fill up slightly before jetting off again. The view above is from the top of the temple.

Just as the heavens opened up we arrived at Bangkok's finest Pad Thai Restaurant on Mahachai Road. Twas indeed a delicious meal and funnily enough, the best Pad Thai I've ever eaten! By the time we'd finished eating, it was only pitter pattering so we soldiered on to see the giant swing just up the road. Not so scenic but a famous landmark in Bangkok. Then just opposite is another temple with a gorgeous Buddha statue and stunning murals on the walls that we had a looksee into.

From zee Wat we traversed via Tuk Tuk to the specialazzo flower market that was about 5 minutes drive away. By this time it was about 9 or 10pm and after the rain, it was just gorgeous. They also have a vege market across the street should you be wondering about the chilli shot!

I walked out of there at the end of the night with a massive bunch of over 3 dozen roses and a lovely bamboo ornamental good luck thingamee for $5....for both of them! Crazy man, crazy! I think one single rose in Australia costs $10!!

We ended the evening on the top floor of the Banyan Tree on Sathorn Road. Amazing 360 degree view from the 79th floor. Since I'm acting out the povo student in me, I couldn't quite bring myself to pay 150baht (about $5) for a glass of coke. I just have this mechanism in me that screams "they cost 15 baht at 7/11!!"..that's about 50 cents. I know..the village gal in me is like a disease! Purge purge!!

Wondiferous evening all round and it's quite a shame I won't be able to hang around with this group more in the future as we all got along like a firey house an' all that. We are still gathering legions of paperwork to sink the titanic for J's visa! We won't have a computer after tomorrow so will be slim pickings from me indefinitely but I hope to give updates here and there when I pop into Internet shops! :-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Mish Mash Tales...

I love storms. Especially electrical storms where you can just sit outside and watch the lightning. Of course it's not so much fun when you're actually stuck outside in the middle of one. Although on my adventurous walk home, I had a rather enormous grin on my face and kept guffawing about my crazy life....

J and I have pretty much decided to go back to Australia for a few years to live. Very easy to say, but putting that into action is quite the feat. Mountains of paperwork to work through, but the best part about applying for this visa in Thailand is that in this crazy ass country, if you want any of your original documents, you have to go to the original issuing office. There is no such thing as fax, post or email in this country apparently.

8 days ago, J arrived in Bangkok after a 17 hour minivan crushorama trip which took him 4 days to recover from stiff limbs and today, as we speak, he is on a bus going back 'home' for a 12 hour trip. Why does he have to travel over 1700km return trip so soon, you ponder? To pick up 2 pieces of paper. I kid you not. 1,700 kilometres people! FOR PAPER! Insanity. I can't even begin to tell of the drama vortex that is whisking us around in fluvial streamlets this week as it involves corruption, white lies, a midget, a wad of cash and a ceiling fan.

Oh, you're on the edge of your seat now aren't you?! To allude to the vortex... when Thai men reach the age of 20 they are required to go into a ballot to see if they have to serve in the army. Something about a red ball, you loose and have to serve for 2 years, or the black ball and you're free to go. Weeeellll, many a person (many a thousands of persons) in the country actually pay off officials to get out of the ballot...gasp, shock, horror, banish the thought of corruption in Thailand!! Well, yes, it does happen A.LOT.!! In order to serve in the army the minimum height is 160cm tall. If you're shorter, you can't serve. My husband is quite small (but not THAT small) and perhaps one day looooong ago, he may have been considered much shorter then he is now because no one actually physically measured them...and then there was that fan and the wad.. and that's all I'm saying about the matter!! Looong epic tales of woe anyhoo regarding the visa apps but tie in a bit of this story for a millispec of the details.

Back to adventure afternoon..I spent nearly 5 hours on buses today just travelling less then 20 km. The joy of Bangkok! One bus trip only costs 25 cents though, so can't complain about the price. The exhaust fumes on the other hand had me nearly retching. Advice to newbies in Bangkok...catch the air conditioned buses, it will add years to your life span.

Get this.. my trip from the Southern Bus Terminal to the closest bus stop to my place is between 12 -15 km, definitely not over. It took 3 hours for me to get home tonight. I left the terminal at 4.20pm and arrived at my door (~13 km away) at 7.30 pm! That includes the 15 minute walk in the torrential rain with lightning going off all around me also. The guffawing came when I turned into my street to find it a foot under water and traffic at a stand still. This flooding was the result of 3 hours of rain so I can't even begin to imagine what Bangkok is like in the rainy season.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Bangkok Weather brings Enlightenment...

Lord it's hot in Thailand at the mo. Advice to all the lovely people who stumble on my humble bumble blog.... don't come to Thailand in April. It's disgusting. The heat sucks out all the oxygen so you're left to breathe a mixture of moist air particles with carbon monoxide fumes, while the rivers of sweat cascade down your neck and between your bosoms if you are so lucky to have them. Thank god I was wise enough to rent an apartment with aircon.

There's a strange phenomena in Bangkok where you die of heat exhaustion while walking to the skytrain or underground, then board your preferred means of transport only to freeze your butt off. They seriously have the aircon blasting at icicle inducing temperatures...and don't even get me started on the cinema temperatures! We went to see the new Jet Li, Jackie Chan movie, which I didn't actually have any desire to see even though I love the Jet, but it was action which is right up J's alley, and I really enjoyed it, surprisingly. Quite fluffy but the fight scenes between Jet and Jack are pretty cool and definitely provide fluff redemption! And of course it was delightful to have my teeth chattering with the cold while thinking of all the silly folk outside the cinema..

And even through the oppressive heat, I'm still fond of the big city. I sure got a good deal on these glasses, right?!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Bangkok Orphanage - Pakkred

J (lovely husband) and I spent a couple of hours playing with iddy biddy babies today! My dear friend Carol, whom I seem to mention every post (she's over here), because she is a shining beacon in the mass of nasty city fumes and is the one who introduced me to Pakkred Orphanage. This place really brings home the heartbreaking reality of where so many unwanted children end up in Bangkok... it's incredibly sad, but incredibly heartwarming at the same time. I went for the first time 2 weeks ago with some ladies from the British Women's Group who meet in a car park off Sukumvit Road to board the free mini-van that runs out to the orphanage daily. A 45 minute ride and you're at the orphanage. The shear number of babies is overwhelming. It's quite confronting because it's not something we generally think about. It's in one of those boxes that you know exist, but no follow up thoughts flow.

The orphanage is really well run, very clean, lovely staff and volunteers but obviously not enough to be able to give individual care to each baby in need. That said though, all the bubs are dressed in clean clothes and seem to be well fed. When volunteers go to spend a couple of hours with the kids it gives them some much needed attention and gives them interaction with different people. So, today was my second trip out there and J's first one. Yes, I knew I was running the risk of J going completely clucky nutty (wanted kids last millenia!) but there were a lot of reasons why I wanted him to go. Thais are very resistant to adopting and in the past I've mentioned my potential desire to do just that, met with much apprehension and frownage... all due to Thai culture and family values about caring for your own blood and karma stuff... it's a complicated mass of web so can't really delve into that pond, but J was astounded by 1. the gorgeousity of the babies and 2. the number of kids there is really full on, especially when you consider this is only one of many orphanages in Bangkok. I'm happy to report that J's opinion on adoption has done a complete 360, and his eyes are just a little bit wider.

I think J was hoping to run around like a lunatic playing with the kids today, as he is prone to do in the presence of anyone under 5! Well, his bubba was out for the count for the entire 2 hours, only waking for about a millisecond to have a snack and then lights out again. In the end, it was just easier to join him in dream land! I had a dear, sweeten, only one month old and quite the heart melter. I've well and truly had my heart stolen so I'll be retrieving it from Pakkred whenever I can!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

I'm buying a convertible porsche...

It's official... I am in the middle of a quarter life crisis (yes, I'm going to live to 120, that's a certainty). Life is quite the roller coaster.

Who would've thought I'd fall in love on my short holiday to Thailand...
Who would've thought I'd end up living in a rice paddy village for 3 years...
Who would've thought I'd have homicidal thoughts about my husband's closest relative...
Who would've thought that I, who hate big cities, have ended up living in and loving Bangkok...
Who would've thought the rental prices in Australia could have doubled in 3 years!!! Literally. Doubled.

Much banging of head against brick wall going on. Many "what ifs", "buts" and "surelys" going on. Oh what a tangled web...This is what happens when you leave it to fate. Valuable lesson in that for all of us now, isn't there? Pros and Cons list of staying in Bangkok or moving back to Australia, here I come....

Monday, 14 April 2008

I Must Be Possessed by the Devil...

I have sunk to new depths of disgustingness. Never before in my meaningful existence have I sunk to such abysmal depths. I ordered home delivered food today. Not just any home delivery.. gulp food take-away delivery. Now, in Australia, it's only really normal to get pizza or Chinese delivered, but it's generally just different variations of pizza Italiano food stuffs. Today I ordered KFC home delivery. My stomach sinks at the admission. I know, I know. I can not take it back, so I must purge myself of the disgustomuchoness of it all by this confession! At least it wasn't McDonalds is the only saving grace (and they do deliver in Thailand!).

To explain myself... I haven't eaten McD's in over 13 years (apart from maybe 3 chocolate sundaes that friends forced down my oesophagus) and I haven't touched KFC for probably well over 4 years. For the last 2 weeks I have been craving a Chicken Burger. Can't explain it. Must be being in the big city again.

Today being Songkran, Thai New Year, and one of the most fun festivals of the year if you are with friends and family due to all the water fights and water throwing that goes on around the country, is celebrated for 3 days (still got tomorrow). This is the first year in Thailand that I've been alone for Songkran... J and I always jump on the motorbike and ride through the village to let all the kids attack us with water pistols and baby powder...but this year, I don't think it's so much fun just to go down to the local store on my own and get a drenching, it's just not the same! So, I've been laying low and was tempted by the evil Colonel Sanders to home deliver so I would stay dry! Sad, oh so sad, but true.

For those of you who may be tempted by the devil himself, I urge you to fight it. I'm still feeling a little ill! I'll tell the tale anyhoo just in case you can't fight it. I called the 1155 number. Gave my details, ordered a Zinger Burger (sounded more zingy then a boring ol' plain chicken), the spicy chicken with rice and a large fries (yes, this is my lunch and dinner and yes, I do want to barf). The total came to 167 baht including tax and delivery. That's AU$5.95 for a home delivered meal (and 2 meals at that!). Have I mentioned I'm the queen of cheap? Not only that, it was delivered in less then 15 minutes!! The burger was mucho disappointing-oh, the chips a pale comparison to Aussie KFC chips (more like woody Maccas fries) but the spicy chicken wasn't too bad and really quite edible! That said though, I shall never face these globalised fast-food demons again. It was a one off moment of weakness fueled by a desire for a chooky burger and by the fear of getting blasted by water guns and powder. Seriously, who said city living wasn't going to be challenging?

By the sounds of all the karaoke floating up to my 8th floor apartment from 3 different directions, I should sleep like a baby tonight, thinking I'm back in the village!

Koh Samet

We spent a very lovely 4 days on Koh Samet island that's just a hop, skip and a jump from Bangkok. Incredibly easy to get to, you just jump in a mini-van that depart whenever full at Victory Monument. The van ride is around 2.5 to 3 hours and they drop you at the pier where you can either catch the ferry that departs hourly for 50 baht or get a speed boat that costs around 200 baht, I think. The ferry ride only takes 30 minutes and is over before you know it. They also have super chill out deck chairs to have a lil snooze on the way over.

On arrival at the Koh Samet pier you have the option to either walk to wherever you want to go or to get on one of the million green island taxis (4x4 songtaews). The crowds all seem to go with the vehicle option, but being the scrimp & savers that we are, J and I walked the 10 minutes to the main drag. Since the island is a national park, westerners who enter have to pay a 200 baht entry fee (Thais 20 baht) BUT if you walk in and avoid passing the NP office by taking a short cut through the temple on the left (wink wink) you don't have to pay!

The main beach and generally the first beach you come across on Koh Samet is Sai Keow Beach. It's a nice long beach with lovely clear water but a bit too many deck chairs, wall to wall bungalows and loads of people for my liking. So, the next beach along was Ao Phai which had dramatically less chairs and a nicer atmosphere. We stayed at Jep's Bungalows in a cuteso wooden bungalow, set back on a jungly hillside, with fan and hot water for 500 baht a night (~$18). The restaurant on the beach was uber-lovely but a tad expensive so after the first meal we explored the island and found on the next beach up at Tub Tims Resort had the cheapest and tastiest meals on the beach, so we set up camp there.

This is a bungalow at Tub Tim Resort. They cost 600 baht/night or 1200 for air-con including breakfast. We'll stay here next time because it has a lovely little beach and the food was divine and cheaporama... barely inflated at all considering it's island food.

Every night at 8pm they have a fire show on Sai Keow Beach that was pretty fantab and a huge crowd pleaser... dine on the beach and watch the fire show..

The island is only about 4 km long so we traversed it the first 2 days we were there to explore and get some much needed exercise. You can pretty much walk straight down the eastern side of the island as all the beaches are connected, although sometimes you have to go bush for 50 metres or so. Walking down the main road of the island can be a bit of a hazard as the taxis drive like looneys and it's not paved so the dust is pretty full on... stick to the beach walks is all I can say! Was a lovely lovely get away, and quite surprising to find such nice beaches with clear blue water so close to Bangkok.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Bangkok Apartment...village gal turning city chick..

Tadaaa! I have resurfaced! First things first... I didn't get the job...sob sob....over it!! Was apparently a close call between me and the other dude but O.D. had the whole IT life experience thang and trumpsed me in the end. Sun is still shining, world still spinning, still have all my limbs.. surprisingly perhaps!! So, since we said if I didn't get the job, that was fate telling us to go back to Oz, I'm hearing it! Actually it's a really difficult decision and one that I'm still not 100% clear on but hub is super keen to go... I know it's because he's been living with his parents on his own for the last 2 weeks and now knows the hideousness of it without the wife buffer factor and needs to escape far far away. Haharrr. Reunition will occur in 4 days time so that's when we'll make our next life changing decisions.... to stay or not to stay, that is the question! (I hope we stay, hope we stay!!). Nail biting stuff I tell you!

I've been staying in Bangkok, firstly with the ever wonderful and can't praise highly enough Carol (& Chris!) from this blog, and then in my very own apartment! Yay for finally being on the FFPC at last (Free From Parents Committee, of course!). Has been pure bliss.. between the world crumbling down around me and house hunting in the hottest 3 days of the entire year in Thailand! All is working out as it is always prone to do.

So, here is my new, temporary pad complete with hot water (hallelujah!), sit down toilet (hoorah!), air-con and kitchen sink. Where would we be without the kitchen sink?! No cooking elements or gas but kitchen sink and fridge works for me. It's a small studio apartment on the 8th floor, very light and very breezy. I looked at over a dozen apartments which was actually quite disturbing seeing the grotto hells some people live in for the price, so this one is a complete gem... clean, light, no smells and has a wifi internet connection! All I need in life. Oh, and did I mention there's a gym and pool here too?! Costs 8000 baht per month and considering its proximity to everything, a great find. It's about a 10 minute walk to both the sky train and the underground and a huge gorgeous park just down the road. Not to mention the huge night market just up the road. Can't say much for the view but it is the city and I'd rather be looking at rice fields but times are a changin' and I'm free... FREEEEE... did I mention I'm free????!

Will have further updates of my adventures over the last few weeks in upcoming days...