I sit here in one quiet corner of the house while it’s packed around me. And of course I need to write this blog. If not for anyone else, but for myself and our memories of Bangkok.
These are a few of my favourite things…
I adore fruit. Always have, my mother would attest that I was the family ‘fruit-bat’, consuming my body weight of feijoas when in season and at one point so many strawberries that I came out in hives (hmmm have learnt my lesson). Thailand, the tropics in general, is great for fruit fiends (though I do miss my classics). Our fruit bowl is full throughout the year with juicy pineapples, mangosteens, passionfruit, crisp guava, bananas and the epitome of Thai fruit, the glorious mango!
When in season we go through 10 a week! The kids adore them, fresh, with yogurt, as smoothies and ice-blocks. What I didn’t realise until a few months ago is that there are 12 different types of mangoes in Thailand!We love the sweet, squishy yellow type of course. But I’ve grown to enjoy the crisper, tarter green mango.
I will miss the shear availability and low cost of these amazing fruits, the ability to walk down the street to a fruit cart and pick up a sliced, ready to go mango or guava (if they are florescent green they have been soaked in sugar syrup and god knows what else, beware, not what I expected – and the Thai word for these small green, apple-like fruit is ‘farang’ same as the word for foreigner). The ready made, healthy snack on the go. Perfect!
Cheap, plentiful and easy. Much like fruit. There is always a way to get to where you’re going.
I’ve driven since we arrived and dropped the kids off to school most days which is less than 2 kilometres away. I really thought we’d walk but it’s just too damn hot most days! Driving has meant an insane amount of patience and accepting that 2 kilometres is not 4 minutes away. It’s anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes!
The temptation to stay in the car is high, the convenience and air conditioning so welcoming. Enter friends drivers. Many of my friends have drivers and the convenience of not having to park and being met loaded down with shopping at any point, I must say, is easy to get accustomed to.
But even this can be a hinderance in Bangkok traffic. Then there is the sky train, usually turned to refrigerator temperature is a cool oasis of peace. Flying above and away from the bumper to bumper traffic below.
Motor-cy taxis buzzing up and down the sois are intimidating and rightfully so weaving through traffic with no helmet seems equally exotic and downright dangerous. We do use them on occasion, usually to zip to the bts and on nights out. The kids have been on them home from school when there aren’t any other options and they adore the thrill. If you can picture me, both kids and the driver squished in one with school bags hanging off me at the back. Bangkok classic.
Tuk-tuks – a Bangkok icon aren’t found around our home area. Rather the Japanese style. Far less cute but practical and more affordable.
Ferries – up and down the khlongs and the mighty Chao Phraya they race carrying a dizzy-ing number of people through the ‘Venice of Asia’. Loud, crowded and a little terrifying they are a fabulous way to see the back of Bangkok.
Uber, Grab and hail taxis aplenty. There really isn’t any reason you can’t move through the city!
However, if the rains hit it all comes to a sloshy, crazy stop and taxis are more rare than hens teeth or uber is 3 times the price. All in the name of Bangkok living.
Walking, the only reliable form of transport. Often sweaty, sometimes wet but no hold ups and this city is flat!
Swimming in the rain
Leading on from the above, when the rain comes, it really does come. It thunders, it flashes and it pours. I love the rain, the pure energy of the storms is thrilling and so different to home. We’ve often been woken to thunder shaking us awake (goodness knows how the kids sleep through it?!).
If we’re home during a storm my kids love nothing more than cycling through the puddles and around our house getting soaked to the bone. Remember this is the tropics so the rain is warm, the ambient temperature is hot.
This then turns into swimming in the rain. Showering in the hot rain pouring off the roof. It’s exciting, noisy and fun!
Food, food and food
Besides fruit I love the crazy amount of food available anytime, anywhere food. Anything you would like. And I’ve yet to have a bad experience with street food. Tasty, cheap and always available. I couldn’t believe how good a simple som tam (papaya salad) with grilled chicken was after being in New Zealand and not having it for a few weeks. And noodle soups??! So simple. So good.
One of our favourite spots has been the food court at the local mall. The mall itself is brand new and mega fancy. The food court is lovely and we love that the kids and us can order whatever we like. Ramen, chicken rice, pork on rice, noodle soup, mango sticky rice…
Let alone eating out. Western food is expensive but Japanese is plentiful and great. My husband and I have a couple favourites for date night. And Chinese. Thai restaurants we don’t get to so much as they just do the inexpensive stuff so well!
Crab in yellow curry, on high seats on a hot busy street with a cold singha beer? Classic Bangkok.
We’ve found the best food really is in Bangkok. Tourist locations really play to the lowest denominator and bland Thai food is thoroughly disappointing. Made mildly better when your feet are in the sand and the beer is cold.
Two years later and we’ve barely scratched the surface of this exciting, ever changing foodie destination.
Service with a smile
There is a level of service that is only available in countries like Thailand. I am writing this while eight men pack my house down into boxes in a careful and efficient manner. It’s been two days and pretty much my life is now on a truck or in a suitcase.
Everything is done with a smile, there is always someone to help. It will take a bit to get used to packing my own groceries and goodness you mean I have to get out of my car to put petrol in and pay??! Stuffed that up royally when I was in New Zealand last.
One of the most amazing perks of expat life in Thailand has been my Burmese maid/helper. She has been a wonderful, calm addition to our household. She’s helped to keep our home beautifully clean and tidy. Washed and ironed all our clothes, cared for our cat when we’re away. And also cared for our children when needed (mostly date night).
It really is a luxury to have someone do this and is something you can get used to.
What I’ve loved most is the time it puts back into my life, our weekends and my ability to focus on the children, exploring Bangkok and pick up volunteer roles with a women’s group.
It’s a guilty privilege that does seem excessive to our kiwi selves but one we will sorely miss.
And I know the kids will miss having her around to play with and they love the odd time she picks them up from school. They’re happy to walk home if there’s an ice cream on the way!
Wow! Epitome of expat wife life is the pampering. It’s affordable, it’s available and why the heck not?!
I have a couple favourites I’ll miss. For beauty Panipa has been great. Nails, waxing, hair, eyelashes, facials etc etc. and if you time it right they really go to town. I think once I had five ladies all doing different treatments, some at once. Efficient and really makes it feel like you’re somewhere different. And come out looking great!
Massage, foot massage and reflexology. I’ve got my favourite for each. Even my husband has a favourite foot massage place 10 minutes walk from home. It’s now become his regular Saturday routine. We will miss $8 massage.
Being thrust into a new culture has been inspiring, exhausting, frustrating and has enlivened me.
Want to feel challenged, alive and part of something bigger? Travelling and living abroad really does this and more.
Struggling to be understood, to understand forces you to try. Seeing people who look, act and seem so different all the time makes you soon realise how much the same we really are.
The attitude towards children is heart-warming if a little overwhelming. We really could learn to embrace kids in society and treat them with a little more respect and adoration.
The Thai’s are a warm, polite and somewhat reserved people. But they live a public life part of a bigger community. They are a little ‘out there’ at times when measured against my way of thinking. And this is part of the charm.
Scratching below pad Thai, khao san Road, Chang beer and the smiles has meant I leave feeling a little more educated, a little more ‘cultured’ and certain Thailand, Bangkok and it’s people will always be special to us.
This bubble of ours is popping, maybe not for ever, but for now. It is a comfortable way to explore Bangkok.
It has broadened my horizons, I’ve made some incredible friends, from around the globe. As a family we have built a community around ourselves and I’m still trying to let it sink in that it won’t be anymore.
That is one of the parts I don’t think I could get used to. If I came back to visit in 2 years, 5 years or even 6 months chances are the same group will no longer be here. It would be a different place. Thank goodness for social media means I won’t lose contact completely.
So, we head home to New Zealand shortly. Summer is still in full swing and we have lots of beautiful friends and family waiting and anticipating our arrival.
And with mixed feelings we leave this city and all the things we have grown familiar with and love about Bangkok life behind. They’ll be with us forever and I have definitely taken enough photos!