This past week has been a basic, run-of-the-mill week with Bill spending most of it at an international conference here in Bangkok. Due to the high level of pollution, I decided it was a good chance to catch up on laundry, get rid of a few dust bunnies, and run some quick errands (with my mask on, of course).
My swift soirées down Soi Ari 1 (my street) made me realize that I haven’t really blogged about my day-to-day activities. So, here’s an attempt to capture the atmosphere of our life and our neighborhood in this new neck of the woods.
Each morning around 7:30, a pleasant chanting can be heard from our balcony. We have yet to pinpoint the source, but believe it to be some sort of Buddhist morning prayer or blessing. Although it only lasts a few minutes, it’s a lovely way to begin a new day. During the first few weeks of living here, the prayers would signal that it was time to venture out in search of caffeine because our kitchen was not equipped with a coffee maker. Fortunately, we are surrounded by coffee cafes with the cutest names – Coffee Zelection, Oh My Goodness, and Casa Lapin, to name a few. And they all sell great lattes, cappuccinos, and even frappes! As much as we enjoyed the cosy spots, however, we longed for a caffeinated brew while lounging in our jammies. The recent purchase of a French press has brought une petite joie into our apartment.
For a nice nibble in the morning, when Muesli and yogurt just don’t satisfy, there are two bakeries side by side, just footsteps away from the entrance to our complex. One, Sis and Me, specializes in decorative and tasty cupcakes, and the other, Witty Ville (again, the cute names), bakes up some pretty delicious scones. Both of these places are about 4 feet wide and 6 feet deep so only a couple of customers can drool over the goodies at one time. Because most Thai kitchens are not equipped with ovens, the baked goods are a special splurge. We try to pick up some treats before the shops close in the evening because opening times vary between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, depending on the mood of the shopkeepers!
After breakfast, Bill heads downstairs to meet his driver who takes him to work. As nice as that may sound, it still means being stuck in traffic for close to an hour each way to travel less than 10 miles. Unfortunately, the Skytrain does not extend to the research institute yet but construction is well underway (which also doesn’t help the traffic situation).
As for me, I usually do a quick assessment of our laundry. I’m hand washing most of our clothes and hanging them out to dry (which only takes a few hours around here)! Dryers are a luxury appliance, so balcony clotheslines are quite common.
After laundry, I may head to the Villa Market to grab some groceries. As the crow flies, it’s only about half a mile away. My route as a pedestrian, however, is rather circuitous. As I leave the complex, I look both ways on our one-way street because apparently the motorcycle taxis can pretty much go in any direction they want. They can also drive up on the sidewalks, down the alleys, and even through the indoor shopping stalls (one snuck up behind me when my guard was down)! Anyway, after safely crossing the street, I weave my way through the street vendors and try not to get distracted by the food, the clothes, and the stray cats and occasional chickens, on my way to the Skytrain escalator.
I don’t actually take the Skytrain, but I do have to pass over the expressway, so it’s up, up, up, then walk above and across the chaotic street, and then down, down, down the stairs on the other side. I pick up a few dairy items and OJ, and then attack my route in reverse. By the time I get back to the apartment, it’s time for a shower!
I should mention that each time I scoot out, the neighborhood looks a little different. It’s amazing how one day there seems to be a ridiculous number of motorcycles parked on our street, and then on another day only a handful. And I might be missing something, but other than some “regular” vendors who are in the same place selling the same goods every day, there’s no rhyme or reason as to which other street vendors will show up. Will I pass by the young woman selling the best fried chicken parts ever (including bags of chicken skin), which she adeptly chops up into juicy bite-size pieces, or will it be the man roasting corn and sweet potatoes? No matter who is out there, I can count on the tantalizing smell of meats cooked on small charcoal grills, the bubbling of soup in large terrines, an assortment of fruits stacked in ready-to-go plastic bags, and the grinding of chili peppers in big mortars. I literally pick out my lunch entree and sides as I make my way down the street. Fast food has taken on a whole new meaning!
Other vendors have an array of products, like colorful outfits for the Chinese New Year celebration, handmade flower arrangements used as offerings to Buddha, and an assortment of jewelry, shoes, and brooms. I am amazed at how many stands can fit on one street, or rather its sidewalks.
And, believe it or not, there are four 7-11s within a stone’s throw of each other. I have joined the ranks of Annie and others who are huge fans of the Thai 7-11s. Not only can I drop in and grab water, beer, and liquor, but I can also pay our electricity and WiFi bills there. And if I need to add calling credit to my phone, I just “top it up” at the 7-11! It is pretty much a go-to place for everything essential! And the folks who work there are very patient, I might add (from lots of experience).
If it’s not an errand or cleaning day, I might grab a ride on the Skytrain and head to my silk weaving class or to a museum or just opt for getting lost in the maze of endless and often connected ginormous shopping malls. I’m trying to check out the various Bangkok neighborhoods as well, at least those that are on the Skytrain line, but except for the weaving, my lone adventures aren’t nearly as much fun as the ones with Bill or visiting acquaintances.
When Bill gets home, we decide which restaurant to go to for dinner (always a weighty decision). At this point, I can’t begin to describe all of the excellent restaurants that we have tried within a mile of our place. We have become regulars at a few, and we enjoy the warm welcomes that we receive when we walk in the door. Another option is to line up for street food for a casual dining experience right on the sidewalk. Either way, we have not been disappointed.
We have two favorite after-dinner spots – we either grab a beer or an ice cream. (No worries, there are a few nights when we don’t do either.) For a craft beer, we wander over to O’Glee’s, where they serve beer from Europe and the States. There was a Mother Earth Hippity Hoppity beer on tap one night, but apparently it was from California not North Carolina (thanks, Chuck!). Anyway, the small bar is a great place to grab a brew, eat cashews with peppers, limes, and red onions, and watch some soccer.
For ice cream, we pull up a stool at Floaters. We asked the two young men how they came up with the name, thinking it had something to do with ice cream floats. Instead, they explained that they both were often afflicted by floaters – those tiny specks of protein that move around in your eyes. And the connection to ice cream you may ask? There isn’t one! Regardless, a perfect size scoop of their ice cream is delicious.
I hope this helps you to get an idea of our new surroundings. And, to be selfish, it will help me remember this place in years to come!