Thursday, June 7, 2018

What's In My Jug?

Purple orchids!

In spite of appearances, today was a difficult orchid day. In addition to my jug bouquet, I purchased two beautiful new purple orchid plants for our balcony. We didn't need them, but I wanted them. Before I bought them, I asked The Kid if he thought we should get them. He yelled, "NO!" I bought them anyway, because what does he know.

On the way home, as I was juggling two bags of produce, two orchids, one orchid bouquet, and one kid, the kid tripped and fell. I bent over to pick him up, and snapped the orchid spikes in half. When we got home, I dejectedly stuck the broken, blooming spikes in an old Coke bottle. I went to the balcony to hang up the now-flowerless orchids, and realized my orchid dealer hadn't put on the plant hangers. I fought with a roll of fishing line for more time than I should have, and was eventually able to jerry-rig a hanger that probably won't blow away in a storm.

That's the only flower that was spared. 

They would have looked so good in the garden (though, I can't lie, I love the way they look in that bottle. It's like something you'd see in a freakin' aspirational lifestyle magazine).

After the dust settled, I held a small memorial ceremony for what could have been. 

Snapped too soon.
Gardening is hard. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Good Afternoon. I just scraped the paint off our landlord-provided coffee table with my fingernail. I didn't know that was possible. I also tripped in slow motion over a cord, fell down, and pulled my laptop to the ground. I'm just sitting on the couch now. Sitting and typing. Nothing else is going to happen, right?

It's been a while since we've told you about everyday life, so let's have another "Lately." We'll start by updating you on the Christmas Card Challenge, which has been humming along nicely since our interference (See: HERE).

It's delightful to wake up in the morning, and see a bunch of your cards on the floor. 

Yesterday, we received another Christmas card. It managed to evade the post office for six months. For fairness sake, it's probably too late to include it in the Challenge. What a bummer. An unintentional June Christmas card is a real feat.

Here's what's been going on lately, broken down by category, and in no particular order.

Events We've Celebrated:

  • The Kid's birthday.
  • My birthday.
  • Finally finding something to give Phil for his birthday (which is upcoming).
  • Our anniversary.

Phil gave me this German gummy hamburger as an anniversary present. I hid it on a high shelf, and just remembered that it's still up there. I pulled it down, and took a bite out of it. Now I want a meat hamburger.

Food We've Eaten:

  • Mangosteen
I have a hard time describing this fruit. It's very, very good. It's both sweet and tart. It's sort of a grapey mango nectarine texture. 

  • Snickers Oats
It was a lot for one candy bar. Peanut butter and peanuts and nougat and oats and caramel.

  • Thai donuts
They tasted like deep fried vanilla cake. They were so good, but so rich. 

  • Rambutan
It's a koosh ball on the outside with a big, mild grapey thing inside.

  • Pad See Ew (or phat-si-io, or pad siew, or ผัดซีอิ๊ว)
I purchased this from a place that was listed in the New York Times as one of the best places for street food in Bangkok. Three different people sent me the link. I felt obligated, but it was in the New York Times for a reason. Yum. 

  • Disappointing Watermelon Popsicle
I was so full of hope when Phil took this photo. I thought it was going to be exactly like the Pirulo popsicles I loved in Greece. This was much, much sweeter. Sad.

Things We Saw:

  • A pretty place to walk

There's a path between Benjakitti Park and Lumphini Park. There's a lot to see on either side. This mosque was to our left.

These flags were to our right.

  • An extremely accessible and active construction site
The Kid would really want me to show you this. That's the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) in the background. I have more photos of that, for another day.

  • Big, lounging monitor lizard
My initial reaction is always, "ALLIGATOR!!!!"

  • New money
Rama 10, the current monarch, is on top, and Rama 9, the late king, is on bottom.

  • A really expensive Bangkok sky bar
That blue thing dangling above the trees is Dinner in the Sky. It's a popular thing in a lot of cities. They feed you nice food while you're strapped into a rollercoaster-like chair, and suspended on a platform by a crane.

  • Songkran (Thai New Year)
This is just a photo of decorations. My phone was encased in a waterproof plastic holder for most of the holiday, because I didn't want it to get sprayed by passersby. Songkran is essentially a nationwide water fight. It's delightful. I'll tell you more about it sometime, because I really dig it.

Things We Did:
  • Went to Lumphini Park (not pictured yet)
  • Went to the Grand Palace (not pictured...yet)
  • Found a wonderful bakery (not pictured, okay?)
  • Visited Golden Mountain (not pictured/get off my back)
  • Went to a national park (" ")
  • Traveled to Phuket and Khao Lak (" ")
  • Family-wide haircuts
Here's Phil's. He hated it, and went over it again later with his clippers. Mine is probably pictured somewhere. I love it. I haven't cut my hair this short since high school. The Kid got his very first haircut. It was traumatic, for me. We went to one of those kid haircut places where they sit in airplanes and watch TV. Because Thailand is a highly service-oriented culture, there was another person in additional to the stylist whose entire job was to distract The Kid.

  • Garden rescue
My hibiscus plants looked terrible, so I moved them into bigger pots. I spent three times as much for the soil and pots as I did for all three of the plants combined. It was not worth it financially, but it's the principle of the thing.*

*you hear this a lot when somebody's suing someone else. "It's the principle of the thing!" Which, to attorneys, means $$$$$billable hours$$$$$

Look at these poor suffering creatures. They've been doing exponentially better, though the aphids have hit them again hard this past week. Stupid aphids. 

Weather We Watched:

  • This is just a way to justify my extensive collection of cloud pictures.

Misc. Bella:

She's still neurotic and thriving.

Look what she's reading!

Unposed, I swear.

I can't remember why she was giving me this look, but it was definitely a look. I didn't just catch her at a weird angle.
More later, as always, in perpetuity. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Christmas Card Challenge 2016/17: An Update from the Organizer

Thailand is humid. The humidity is affecting our Christmas Card Challenge. The masking tape adhesive is now super glue. I made an executive decision today, as Principal Designer and Referee of the Christmas Card Challenge contest, to modify said contest in light of the super glue tape.

I pried the cards off the wall, cut the tape in half, and reattached them very loosely.

Let's hope we see some action soon. If not, we reserve the right to try something else to get this thing moving.

Fall, you stupid SOBs. Fall!
Happy Holidays...still...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What's in My Jug? A Triumphant Return!

It's been a year since we've looked at the jug. Here it is, full of beautiful, yellow orchids.

Honestly, it's probably going to be orchids indefinitely. Tune in anyway, in case the jug surprises us.

Welcome back, jug. I've missed you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bang Kachao: Bangkok's Green Lung

Last week was a week of adventures, one of which I already documented for you, HERE. I've declared this week a week of rest, not only because I have a lot of crap to catch up on, but also because The Kid got super mean after running around in the heat for several, consecutive days. One of the things I've been wanting to do is write to you about Bang Kachao.

Bang Kachao is the "green lung" of Bangkok. It's a pseudo-island, naturally protected from the city by a bend in the big river, and artificially cut off from it by a canal. It's still relatively undeveloped and villagey, with cheap produce stalls alongside the road, and dedicated hike/bike paths around the island.

Running away to Bang Kachao. 

Despite its proximity, and the island's many draws, we've only been over there twice. Our first visit was last October. We went to Bang Kachao's floating market with Phil's family. Though Bangnamphung is called a "floating" market, it's more like a regular weekend market suspended over a wetland, where you walk on sidewalks instead of paddle in boats. It was still really great. The market was created for tourists, but the crowd seemed mostly local. Products and prices were local, too. Phil had delicious, cheap satay, and The Kid fed a bunch of koi from a baby bottle (See: HERE).

Entering Bangnamphung floating market.

Inside the market.

This looks like a stock photo. I should sell this. I want royalties. 

Our most recent Bang Kachao visit took us to a botanical garden on the island, called the Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden.

Did you catch all of that?

The Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden ("The Park") is a free, public park with bike trails, picnic areas, and paved nature walks. It's part of the wetlands, so I was expecting the whole thing to look like it did on the way into The Park. 

This is what I thought The Park was going to be: an untamed Thai jungle. 

Instead, it was a beautiful, manicured, labeled botanical garden.

This looks like an entryway to the vast, Hawaiian villa of an evil robber baron, doesn't it?

And this is so pretty, it almost makes me want to quote nature poetry that I pretend to have read.

We spent about an hour walking around The Park. It was quiet, and even shady in places. We learned about the local flora, and saw winged animals that weren't pigeons.

That's a butterfly.
An actual butterfly, I tell you.

It was refreshing to get out of the city. That's a cliche thing said by city folk that I finally understand now that I live in a smothering megacity with 14 million other human beings, and a bunch of soi dogs.

Bang Kachao is a nice place to hide from Bangkok, and it's close enough that we don't have to pack five thousand bags to see it with our kid. I particularly liked the Sri Nakhon Khu...The Park...on the island, and plan to return to it every time Bangkok makes me homicidal.

Gotta catch some of those island vibes, man.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Baan Krua

I told you I was eager to see Baan Krua. I dragged the kid across the canal today to see the origins of Jim Thompson's Thai Silk Company Limited. If you have no idea who, what, or where I'm talking about, go back one post, and read about it all HERE.

Crossing the khlong to get to Baan Krua.

If you don't want to do that, it's your loss, and I wash my hands of you. But, for the sake of being charitable, I'll give you a brief summary. Baan Krua was an area of Bangkok originally granted to the Cham Muslims who fled from other Southeast Asian countries. They brought their tradition of silk weaving to Thailand, and developed small production workshops in the community. In the late 1940s, Jim Thompson, an American architect/spy, moved to Thailand and co-founded the Thai Silk Company Limited. Relying on established local weavers from Baan Krua, Jim built an international reputation for himself, and for Thai silk. After his disappearance, production for Thai Silk Company Limited was moved to another area of Thailand. The tradition remained in Baan Krua, as did some of the original silk workshops.

Jim Thompson's house from Baan Krua.

I only learned about Baan Krua recently, while trying to find interesting, offbeat things to see in Bangkok. The neighborhood was described by our Lonely Planet book as "old, tightly packed homes threaded by tiny paths barely wide enough for two people to pass." That screamed, "Old, Greek island village!" to me, so of course I had to pay it a visit. Oh boy, did it live up to expectations. 

The main draw of the neighborhood is the silk stuff. We popped inside one of the workshops to see what we could see. I felt a bit guilty, as we caught them on a particularly hot day, right around lunch time. They had to get up and turn things on for us. They were very welcoming, and didn't begrudge the intrusion.

He was fascinated for about a minute, then declared he was, "All done," and had to be held for the duration of our visit.

This woman was hard at work on the loom when we arrived. She paused to take some photos of The Kid, so we took some photos of her.

Given the circumstances, I felt obligated to buy something from their shop. I should be clear that there was absolutely no pressure on their end, and very little resistance on my part. The biggest check on my shopping was that I hadn't thought to bring more cash. They had beautiful scarves, bags, pillows, and bolts of silk. The prices are reasonable, when you consider the cost across the canal. In the end, this was what caught my eye, with wallet approval:

Isn't it gorgeous? I want to frame it and hang it on a wall somewhere.

There's at least one other workshop that we didn't visit this time, because we wandered around in the opposite direction. Baan Krua is a great place to wander. Wandering with a kid was an extra treat. Thais love kids, and he drew all the attention. It was a nice deflection from me, the gawking farang photographing the neighborhood. Nobody seemed put off by either of us being there (certainly not him--they'd have kept him if possible), but it was definitely the village experience, in that there are a lot of people at home looking at you and wondering what you're doing there. I loved it. It brought back good memories of Greece.

This is one of the old houses tucked away in the neighborhood. I couldn't handle the beautiful woodwork, and was audibly exclaiming over it. A woman stopped to ask if I was lost.

This makes gardening look effortless. Maybe it is for other people.

I like this entry.

We had a great trip. Someone in the neighborhood told us to come back again, and I said, "We will!" maybe a bit too forcefully, because it was clear they were primarily talking to The Kid and not me. Whatever. I'll be back, whether they like it or not.

Crossing the khlong to get back to the big city.