As Bill and I begin our third week and the New Year of our Thailand adventure, we are grateful that we arrived during the holiday season. Although the Thais don’t really celebrate Christmas, they do slow down and vacation during the new year week. So, Bill has been able to spend time with me settling in. For the first 10 days, we stayed in a residence hall on the campus of the Chulabhorn Research Institute. We had a nice room overlooking a canal and a bustling street in Lak Si, an area north of Bangkok proper.
The upside of the residence is that Bill could walk across the parking lot to his office, and there is a small shopping area about 2 miles away (basically an easy walk except for taking the risk of crossing two busy roads with no crosswalk). It also has a very pretty swimming pool for Bill to sort of do laps in!
The downside is that in order to go anywhere, we had to either get a taxi or request a driver from the Institute (who would patiently navigate the ridiculous traffic, drop us off and wait while we ate, and then drive us back through the traffic). Now, a personal driver sounds nice (esp when he shows up in the van with the massage seats), and it really is nice every now and then, but it makes dining out more difficult than it needs to be. And, although Bill had access to the Internet at the Institute, I didn’t, and boy did I miss being connected!
Anyway, the day after Christmas, a wonderful woman from the Research Institute and Bangkok native (Pao), accompanied us on our hunt for a condo/apartment. We had done some research online (at free WiFi coffee shops!) and had narrowed down our choices to three different condo complexes. After visiting a few places, we were able to contact one of the condo owners who came right away to talk to us. Sang, the owner, and Benz, the condo complex rep, took us to a corner apartment on the 12th floor. All the appliances (including a fridge, small stove, and microwave) were brand new as was the furniture (including a king-size bed! What?!). Pao negotiated a price with Sang, and a deal was completed in less than an hour! We agreed to sign a contract and move in two days later! (As my friend Chuck would say – BAM!). When we arrived on Saturday morning, a techie was already setting up the WiFi (BAM, BAM!). Bill and Sang signed every page of three 15-page contracts, and then Pao, Sang, and Benz all sent me stickers on LINE as my new friends (BAM, BAM, BAM!!). I even gave Sang a pair of knitted booties to seal the deal! And so we begin our 6-monthadventure in a 2-room apartment!
Now that we have spent the past two days acting like college freshmen buying linens and cookware, we are beginning to feel more settled in our “trendy” neighborhood of Ari. Bill will have a 30-min commute to work (just like at home) via the Skytrain and a driver, and I can jump on the Skytrain and easily move around Bangkok.
Right now, though, we’re exploring our local area, checking out restaurants (of course), coffee shops, and the Big C (sort of like a Thai Costco). Once Bill starts working, I’ll be roaming around the street food stalls, the cute boutiques, and hopefully the tennis courts that are a short walk away. Still a bit concerned about playing in 90 degree weather though. Of course, I could try to get up a bit earlier than I have been. We’ll see how that goes!
I hope to do a better job of sending notes and pics in the future, but here are some highlights and fun facts from our past two weeks.
I cannot overstate the craziness of the traffic. It’s like NYC at rush hour all day long, except here there is very little horn blowing or aggressive tactics. Also, when the cars come to a complete stop, the motorcycles keep going by zigzagging between the stopped cars. And they zigzag pretty darn fast! Families of four will be on a cycle, with little kids pinned in between the parents! And helmets are not required. It’s quite amazing to watch (although I generally try not to!).
One more comment about the traffic or actually the cars. I have seen only one car with a dent in it. For as many cars that are rushing around and not rushing around, I can’t believe how nice they all look. Every time Bill sees a Mercedes or a Porsche, he says “I wouldn’t be driving that around!” Of course, neither he nor I will ever get behind the wheel of a car here…any car.
We have done a fair amount of eating out so far, and I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like. Bill was bummed about one dish, but overall he has feasted on some pretty tasty apps and entrees.
And it is quite inexpensive, for sure. For example, at lunch today, we had two rice dishes, two soups, and two drinks for about $4.00! We did splurge on Christmas dinner however. We were still living at the Residence, so a driver took us to a very nice restaurant pretty far away from the tourist areas. It was in the boonies, in fact. One of Bill’s Thai students had taken him there a couple of years ago. Anyway, it has a garden-like setting and is right on the river. The hostesses, adorned in Santa dresses, led the way over different wooden walkways to our picnic table on a pier. There were about 10 tables on each of two piers, but there were other tables indoors that were also sort of surrounded by water.
The wait staff, as in most restaurants here, greet you with a smile, hand you a dinner menu, a drink menu, and a specials menu right away. And the menus are BiG in size because they are filled with photos of all the dishes and usually have both the Thai and English description of the food. The menus are also quite lengthy, so it takes a while to look through them. Nevertheless, the waitress or waiter will wait right there for you to order. I mean, they will wait and wait and wait! Sometimes, we’ll order a drink just so they’ll walk away for awhile, but it doesn’t take long before they return with the drinks on a little cart, which they basically park beside your table. Every time we order a beer or a bottled water, the empties go on the cart. By the end of the meal, everyone in the restaurant knows just how thirsty you have been!
Anyway, we finally decided to order some spicy cashew nuts with red and green chili peppers, a spicy winged bean salad (and yes, there really is a winged bean – I found it in a grocery store), deep-fried snapper, and mud crab. I mean, who wouldn’t order mud crab for Christmas dinner, right?
It was all quite delicious! To add to the fun, the Santa hostesses passed out stuffed Santa dolls and teddy bears to all the guests! Merry, merry!
In addition to eating, I’m on a mission to find out what kind of bird wakes us up each morning. It almost sounds like a young child at first, but the call gets louder and higher pitched until it just stops. It’s good to have a nature challenge!
Well, I think I’ll stop rambling now… cheers to all until next time!