Monday, April 30, 2018

Sea Life Ocean World: The Bangkok Aquarium

Thailand has world class diving. I am not dive certified. The second best option for me was to go to the aquarium in downtown Bangkok. Sea Life Ocean World, a mouthful of a name, is in the basement of the massive Siam Paragon mall. The mall is also home to Krispy Kreme, Jamba Juice, and the country's first IHOP. Fun!

The aquarium is owned by the same megacorp that owns Legoland, and operates Madame Tussauds. They know how to entertain the masses. We've been a few times with our Thai ID card, which gives us a nice discount over the regular person rate. They have the full aquarium experience: octopus, penguins, touch pool, jellyfish, otters, rays, a big shark tank tunnel, and mood music. My favorite room has a see-through floor looking down on the shark tank. There are other attractions for an extra fee, which we have not experienced.

It took me several visits to photograph things for you, and now I've given up. I think I did all right.

Assorted fish.

Blue fish.

Some kind of vertical fish? I don't know. I clearly haven't read the signs.

I was eating shrimp as a kid when I first learned about the realities of meat eating. Someone told me I was eating a dead sea creature. It didn't make me a vegetarian, but it did create a whole lot of guilt. Just looking at this photo makes me uneasy and, this is awful, also pretty hungry.

More assorted fish.

This is the see-through floor room, and the shark tank below. It's the most entertaining room, by far, because you get to watch adults try to play it cool while they're walking across a shark tank. Some are good actors, but most wear their thoughts on the outside (and their thoughts are like, "Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, careful, woah, woah, woah.").

Very large crabs.

[Jaws theme]

Jellies photograph well. See HERE for more blurry, amateur photos of jellies from my favorite aquarium.

These are Garden Eels. I love them. They poke their bodies in and out of holes in the sand like slimy blades of grass. Look at their tiny, dumb heads!

This exhibitionist likes to smash himself (herself?) flat against the tunnel as people are walking underneath I've seen it pull this stunt every time I've visited.

Same with this attention whore. It makes better faces, so I don't judge it as harshly.

This guy isn't performing, he's demanding performance. The penguins like to swim up next to the glass, and eye everyone on the other side. Now that I type that, it occurs to me that maybe they are performing after all. They might be participating in a piece of performance art that invites to question which of us is on display, as a clever commentary on animals in captivity. Penguins really are the best.

Sea Life Ocean etc. has been a fun place for us to visit. It's a nice rainy day activity in Bangkok, particularly with discounted tickets through a Thai ID, tour groups, or Klook. 

And IHOP's just upstairs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Kid at Night

It's quarter to 1am, and I just engaged in a serious conversation about the biological appropriateness of a toddler using a diaper overnight. To be honest, I'm not even sure if that's what was bothering him, or if it was more of a routine existential crisis. Whatever it was, it ended happily with me handing him his monster truck school bus, and him willingly submitting to his diaper.

Thought I'd crawl in here and update you about my performance as a parent.

Good night. Please.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Phraya Nakhon Cave

Two months ago, I started telling you about a trip we took five months ago. Last December, we rented a car and drove to the Sam Roi Yot district. We frolicked on the beach, gazed at elephants, and enjoyed walking around in shorts a few days before Christmas. If you need a quick review of our trip, look HERE and HERE.

While all of it was great, the most picturesque of our outings was at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. The park has a lot of attractions--wildlife, bungalows, beaches, campsites, hiking, a restaurant...and caves. The best known cave is Phraya Nakhon.

Phil at Phraya.

Hard to tell why it's famous.

At some point in the cave's history, a couple of sinkholes formed, and punched holes through the ceiling. As a result, the Phraya Nakhon gets enough natural light to support tree growth. It's beautiful.

A sinkhole in the ceiling, and trees.

The pavilion inside the cave was built in the late 1800s for King Rama V. He signed the wall of the cave during his visit, as did King Rama VII, a few years later. King Rama IX, the latest late king, also visited the cave. He saw it twice, but didn't sign the royal guest log either time.

Here's another view of the cave and pavilion.

King signatures.

Look at these cave guts!

Getting to the cave was a bit of a hike. We managed to do it with a toddler, and without a toddler carrier. Though it's not something I'd suggest, we still made it in decent time, by passing The Kid back and forth at intervals. He was able to walk under his own power, with hand holding, for parts of the trail. He was able to walk around the cave all by himself. What I'm saying is, it's doable.

This is the entry of the cave. It looks hairy, but there were stairs and a handrail.

The views along the hike were great, and so was the beach below. If we'd planned it better, we would have hung out on the beach for longer.

The beach from above.

The beach from below.

If we'd been really ambitious, we'd have rented one of the bungalows on the beach, and spent the night in the park. They looked like a nice, quiet place to spend time--after dark. I imagine that during the day, you'd have to keep the curtains closed to prevent the looky-loos from peering inside your vacation.

And you're going to get a lot of looky-loos with this thing just up the hill.

So, that's it. That's the end of our December vacation. This brings our tally of Thailand National Park visits to 2. There are over 100 more, and we have just over a year left. We need more time, ****it!

An Interlude

I am overwhelmed by the task of backposting. I don't know where to start. I think not chronologically, even though that probably makes the most sense.

Let me think about this for a minute.

All right, here's what I'm going to do, I'm just going to start posting from the top of my Drafts pile. If I can maintain momentum, you're going to see multiple posts over the next two weeks about interesting places we've explored. If you start to feel sad about how many adventures we have, remember that these are spread over a seven month period, and we (Bella and I) sit at home and watch TV as much as you do (very likely more).

This concludes our interlude. Please return to your seats. The show will begin soon.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Greek Easter Summary/Reference (and Easter 2018)

Xristos Anesti!

Happy Easter! Last night was the most exciting night in all the Greek year; but we're in Bangkok.

This week, I've been looking back at my nearly-liveblog of Easter last year. I'd forgotten a lot of the events and symbolism. It was nice to have a reference. I've compiled it for you here, because I'm a kind person, who wants to be able to find this crap more easily next year.

Greek Easter Summary/Reference
(So I Can Find This Crap More Easily Next Year).
Holy Week Background
Holy Thursday
Holy Thursday Update 1
Holy Thursday Update 2
Holy Thursday Update 3
Holy Thursday Update 4
Great Friday
Great Friday Update 1
Great Friday Update 2
Great Friday Update 3
Great Friday Update 4
Great Friday Update 5
Great Friday Update 6
Great and Holy Saturday
Great and Holy Saturday Update 1
Great and Holy Saturday Update 2
Great and Holy Saturday Update 3
Great and Holy Saturday Update 4
Great and Holy Saturday Update 5
Great and Holy Saturday Update 6
Great and Holy Saturday Update 7
Midnight Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday


I appropriated some of Greece's things to celebrate Orthodox Easter in Thailand. I mostly did all right, for an American with no Greek heritage whose only ties to the country are a former two year residency as the wife of a foreign service officer, and a kid who isn't even an anchor baby, because Greece doesn't have jus soli citizenship the way some countries (USA) do.

Deep breath.

Here are our red eggs for the tsougrisma game. The Kid won this year. He's good at cracking other people's eggs. He's had a lot of practice.

Last year, I used a special packet of Greek dye for the eggs, because it was readily available, because I was in Greece. This year, I mixed 1tsp vinegar with 1/4c hot water, and a buuunch of red food coloring. I also used brown eggs, because that's what they sell. They turned out perfectly. Better than last year.

Here are our koulourakia cookies. I'd rather buy them from Eat Crete, but their online store is offline, and they weren't open when I was there in person. I'm very worried they might have gone out of business. It's kept me up at night.

I used THIS recipe, with the baking ammonia. These would be great with coffee. I don't like coffee.
I did not put enough orange zest in the dough. To compensate, I made a glaze from confectioners sugar and the zest/juice of an orange.

I was pleased with how store bought these looked in the takeaway containers. Almost like Eat Crete, if Eat Crete were open to give me cookies. I wash and hoard takeout containers for just such occasions. 

Here's the tsoureki. This is the second year I've made it, and the second time I've thought, "I really don't care for this." I keep thinking I'll just make challah next year, and call it good, but I convince myself that it has to be the real deal, mastic flavor and all. The Kid likes mastic. I posted an instagram about it the other day (good plug, right?). Mastic, or masticha, is tree sap. It's like eating a pine tree.

Year 2 of a botched tsoureki from THIS recipe. I make beautiful, six-strand braided challah loaves, but for some reason this three-strand thing is beyond my skill level. I blame the mastic. It's tree sap, for Pete's sake!

We added a little mainstream Easter to our morning. We missed it last week, due to E.coli, or whatever. The Kid got some cars from Aunt Kate, and just about died. He took them to nap with him. I could hear him in there saying, "How are you?!" to his cars, over and over again.

Bella on the egg trail.
It took The Kid a while to find the baskets. I thought they were pretty obvious, but the eggs turned out to be more of a red herring than anything. "Balls!" he yelled, and spent the next five minutes naming the colors. 

Here are my egg cutout cookies. Love them. That's a command, not a comment.
Phil's mom arrived late last night, just in time to celebrate with us today. Everyone is napping now, including the new cars. It's been a pretty nice Easter.

Right, Bella?

Χρόνια Πολλά!!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Antibiotics and Lately

I think I started writing this post on Monday or Tuesday. I can't remember. This week is fog. Not foggy, just fog. It's not a bad fog, it's more like the fog over the ocean before sunrise, or the fog in a fairy forest. Good fog, but fog nonetheless. I'm rambling.

This ray gets it. 

Earlier this week:
I have to keep one eye on the timer while I type this. I'm making cupcakes.

Hi! How are you? We're doing fine now. Last week sucked. Two of us experienced bacterial gastroenteritis for the first time. I wouldn't recommend it. On the plus side, once the antibiotics kicked in, things improved rapidly. I don't know what I'll do if we reach global antibiotic resistance. Die, I guess.

During the course of our disease, I learned something new from the pediatrician. In the United States, approx. 90% of diarrhea cases are viral. In Thailand, 80% are bacterial. Most of those are caused by E.Coli. I've been reciting those statistics like scripture, because they're wild.

I suppose we should commend ourselves for avoiding bacti gastro in Thailand for seven months. But that's not why I made cupcakes today. I made cupcakes because we're celebrating antibiotics, and a belated mainstream Easter. Greek Easter is this coming Sunday, so we'll still have a chance to do a full Easter revel.

I did not keep an eye on the timer, and now my cupcakes are overdone. They're not burned, but I do blame you for making this happen. They taste fine, but the texture is weird. It's like eating a muffin. I wanted cupcakes. I spent the equivalent of $10 for a vanilla bean for cupcakes. I'm seething.


In no particular order, here is a list of things that have happened recently:

  • We went to a local beach. It was nice, but not "screensaver on my computer" nice.
  • We finally received our registration and license plates, so we are legal to drive. 
  • The CV joint on our car broke, so we can't drive.
  • The Kid independently said a full, clear sentence to Phil yesterday. It was, "No. The blue train goes like this." He's very particular about his vehicles. I'm asked to shampoo police truck every night.
  • Bella's become good friends with all of the ladies who work at the front desk. She frequently tries to go home with them.
  • One card--one--fell off the 2017 Christmas Card Challenge wall. All of the others, and the 2016 cards, are still clinging. The tape is actually getting stickier in the humidity. There's a chance they've become integral to the building's structure.
  • I started watching The Good Place, season 1.
  • I finished watching The Good Place, season 2.
  • There are a few more inexplicable black stains on our borrowed carpet. I know you think I'm naive for parenting a toddler, and referring to stains as inexplicable, but they are.
  • A fruit vendor almost shortchanged me 500 thb (about $15). Unclear whether it was intentional.
  • Terry and Kayla came to visit, because they love us better than any of our other friends.
  • I bought 3 orchids, 4 dangly green plants, one pink Dr. Seuss-looking thing, and however many bugs are living inside them.
  • Phil went to Laos for the first time. He ate at Church's Chicken.
  • The Kid and I used our aquarium pass twice. The octopus died while we were in Greece. The staff member never truly confirmed this, only nodded and smiled uncomfortably when confronted with suspicions about the "exhibit under reconstruction."
  • I finally installed the Windows 10 update. I've been "not now"ing since last year.
  • Our apartment is 85% put together. I expect to have it all done just before we pack up and move next year.

Since writing the above, one more card fell off the wall. This one was competing in the 2016 contest. It was so exciting. I was sitting right there when it happened. 

The rest of the week involved saying goodbye to Terry and Kayla, botching Greek Easter recipes, and getting ready for Phil's mom's arrival tonight. I'm going to take some photos of our Easter tomorrow, including the botched food, and show them to you. They will be shot in flattering lighting, from deceptive angles, and edited beautifully. You won't even know!