Slurrrrp! A delicious lunch WithLocals

This past Saturday, T-bone and I had a very unique experience. We stuffed Hunca Munca into her sausage casing carrier, went for a ride on the BTS, and ate an obscene amount of food. None of that is unique – it pretty much describes every single weekend of our Thailand existence. The unique part is that we got to eat the obscene amount of food in the home of a lovely Thai family.

I was recently contacted by WithLocals, a company that connects travellers and locals through the power of chow. Basically, locals with a passion for Thai cooking invite travellers to come to their homes for a meal. WithLocals vets the host families, and then posts their profiles on-line so that travellers can choose a dining/cultural experience from a variety of options and price points. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and when the company invited me to enjoy a meal with one of their host families, I was pumped. It doesn’t get much better than a mound of tasty calories cooked by friendly people who don’t mind if Hunca Munca tags along.

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Or more accurately, they didn’t mind that we tagged along with Hunca Munca

On Saturday morning we made our way to the conglomeration of shopping malls next to the Siam BTS. Depending on how much you like to shop, this neighbourhood is either utter paradise, or pure, unmitigated horror. Fortunately, we weren’t there to shop. A friend of our host family met us at Siam Center, and drove us across the river to the lovely home of Meaw and Eiad.

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The two friendly faces in the back row other than Todd (I wouldn’t call my face friendly in this photo)

Our hosts were extremely welcoming, and they had prepared a MOTHERLOAD of Thai food for us to try. I had to use my full powers of introversion to contain my excitement when I saw the delicious spread on the table.

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Mmmmmmm…… Where to start……

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Two friendly fellas just begging to be eaten

 

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Som Tam (green papaya salad)

 

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Spicy beef salad. They grilled the beef over charcoal, and it was deeeeelicious.

 

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I didn’t get close-ups, but the feast also included pad Thai, pork omelette, rice, french fries, and spring rolls

 

While we ate, Hunca Munca alternated between sitting on our laps, taking selfies with the helpers in the kitchen, growling with our hosts’ friend,

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and writhing around on the floor. Todd’s pretty good at eating with Zoe on his lap, but I’m a terrible multi-tasker, so when it’s my turn to hold’n’eat, I usually set up a little “play center” on the floor. Oops. Did I just admit that publicly…

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Just chillin’ with her multi-coloured cow/giraffe thingey

As we ate, we got acquainted with our hosts. It was neat to learn about their backgrounds, and they were interested to hear about our experiences in Thailand.

By the time dessert rolled around, the “play center’s” entertainment value had worn off, and Hunca Munca was asleep on my chest. I didn’t think I could hold any more food, but you will be relieved to know that I girded my loins and gave it my best shot. It’s a good thing that I am so determined, because there were at least 4 desserts to sample.

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Mango sticky rice and some interesting rice flour flowers

 

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After dessert, our hosts showed us a display case with photos of all the travellers they had hosted in their home, and told us that they would add our photo to the shelf. I’m not sure that our sweaty mugs will improve the look of their home, but we were touched by the sentiment.

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Before we left, Meaw presented us with scarves made out of traditional fabric, and invited us to visit again. We were really overwhelmed by their generosity, and I do hope we’ll have a chance to take them up on their offer.

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I would definitely recommend this experience, especially to travellers. It can be difficult to meet “real” locals when you’re a tourist, and WithLocals provides a great opportunity. If you want to enjoy a meal with cute Meaw and Eiad, select “Dine in a homely setting.” Your heart and your stomach will both be full when you leave 🙂

Rock Domain: Bangkok’s indoor climbing paradise

This past Saturday, we went climbing at Rock Domain, a newish climbing gym in the Bangna area of Bangkok (a lot of words start with a Bang here).

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I used to climb quite often while I was in university, but I haven’t gone once since we moved to Bangkok. This soon became painfully obvious. Nothing like heaving yourself up a wall over and over again to A) remind you that there were too many Magnum bars and not enough weightlifting during your now long past pregnancy, and B) make you ponder the futility of human existence a la the book of Ecclesiastes. Oh wow. That is way deeper than I wanted to go. Let’s go back to the frivolity.

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Get out of my brain King Solomon, and get out of my face, Todd-with-his-camera

We met up with our friends Michele and Leah at the gym. Michele and her muscles appeared on my blog a long time ago. Hmmm… this seems like the perfect chance to reuse one of my all-time favourite photo series: Michele teaching our friend Sean how to do a cheerleading lift. I was going to add captions, but really, the photos say it for me.

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She still likes to throw people around, but her guns have gotten even gunnier since those days.

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If you gave me some muscles’n’posture, I could almost be her twin!

After a few climbs, I gave up all pretence of keeping up with her. Fortunately, her CrossFit buddy Ben soon joined us. They alternated between climbing some of the most difficult routes in the place, and doing 2-fingered pull-ups during their breaks.

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Lucky for me, Leah is new to climbing, so she and I took a more relaxed approach. During one of her breaks, she somehow managed to put my child to sleep in her arms, a feat that I have not yet accomplished. I am still awestruck.

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Not sure what is going on in this photo, but I think Leah might be gloating.

Todd was a daddy extraordinaire, and looked after Zoe while I climbed. He managed to find a few moments to do a little bouldering, and to introduce Zoe to the wall. It’s never too young to start good habits, right?

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Zoe free soloing her first climb.

I was pretty impressed by the set-up at Rock Domain: there are loads of top-roped routes at varying levels of difficulty, lots of lead-climbing routes, and a big bouldering area. You can rent any equipment you might need, and the staff can teach you how to belay. It would make for a great day out – we noticed groups of friends, what looked like some awkward dates, and a few daddy-daughter combos (they are not paying me to say this – I was just really, really happy to find such a great climbing centre in Bangkok).

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Part of the bouldering area. It’s not just my crappy photography skills – it’s actually on a slope.

Oh, and the cute cafe next door, intriguingly named My Secret Place. Because you never know when you might secretly need some coffee and a weird tuna pastry to fuel those climbs. And no one should know about your tuna pastry habit unless you want to tell them.

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AND it secretly contains a Christmas tree. Motto: “Bangkok: where it’s always Christmas, but never winter”

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AND we secretly feed our child chocolate banana frappes.

Here is the link to Rock Domain. It is almost invisible from Bangna Trat, so be sure to check out the map, and get your taxi driver to talk to the staff at the gym if you get confused.

Foodie Friday: Rotee!

Not even going to pretend that it’s Friday.

One of my favourite parts of Bangkok’s food scene is its variety. You can find a meal at almost any price point – from a dollar for a bowl of soup on the street to obscene amounts for an al fresco dining experience at a rooftop restaurant. The Thais just know how to do calories. This even extends to the usually revolting mess that is the mall food court.* While Thai malls offer yer average bland, calorie-bomb chains (ie: KFC, McDonalds, etc.), some also contain real gems. This is the case with Paradise Mall, one of the approximately fifty thousand shopping destinations located in our corner of southern Bangkok. While it should be noted that “Paradise” is not actually “Paradise” in the literal sense, the distinction gets a little blurry after you experience the joys of Rotee.

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I get excited every time I see this sign

Rotee is an amazing little stall that serves curry and Thai (not Indian) roti. This is an important distinction: Indian roti is a plain, unleavened, whole wheat bread. It tastes fine, but it’s pretty pedestrian. Thai roti, on the other hand, is a yummy lump of white flour-and-egg-dough fried in a good slather of grease.

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So shiny. So perfect.

At Rotee, after frying the roti, the staff then wrap the bread in a cloth and beat it within an inch of its life. I’ve never seen this done anywhere else, but it yields an an amazing pile of dough that is simultaneously fluffy and greasy.

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Couldn’t get close enough for a photo of this process, but you can see the results.

The curry is also excellent. Lately, I have a thing for Massaman curry, a mixture of chicken, potatoes, and peanuts in a spicy sweet sauce, and Rotee does a good one. They add enough sugar that it tastes like dessert and a guilt trip mixed together.

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The food is what keeps me coming back – it isn’t the staff. The ladies behind the counter are not your stereotypical smiling Thais. I’m convinced they think I’m a complete idiot no matter which language I use. Usually when I feel this way, I tell myself that I’m being neurotic, but in this case, I think I’m actually correct.

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A random photo of a nearby stall that was too good not to use. Something about the artwork makes me feel extremely exposed.

Paradise Mall is located near King Rama IX park, which means that after a stroll through the gardens, we can replenish the massive number of calories that we burned.

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Sneaking photos of a group fitness class. At least my eyes were getting a workout.

Also, it means that usually Zoe is asleep when we’re eating dinner, leading to many situations like this one:

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I once saw a post on BuzzFeed, or some other mindless time-wasting site, that included a bunch of photos of “bad parents.” One of the photos was a dad eating dinner while wearing his child on his chest. Either we’re so far gone as parents that we don’t even realize how bad we are, or whoever wrote the post isn’t a parent, because unless you want to ruin a nap or never eat again, there are many, many times when this scenario is necessary. I may have had to pick an olive out of one of Zoe’s neck folds once, and a certain unnamed family member** may have left a small smear of mayonnaise on her eyebrow on another occasion, but other than that, she is pretty much intact.

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Although she thinks her hand will provide nourishment if she sucks hard enough, so maybe I’m wrong.

If you live in Bangkok, do yourself a favour, and make a trip to Paradise. If the cashiers at Rotee make you nervous, remind yourself that your mother probably thinks you’re great, and place your order. All the intangible parts of you will be in paradise while all the tangible parts of you are simultaneously also in Paradise.

* Not that I’m dissing revolting messes. I enjoy burying my head in the food court feeding trough now and again.

** Not Todd, but someone related to him

Hosers’n’Tots

This past weekend was basically split into three equal parts: the first involved an abundance of testosterone and hosers, and the second involved an abundance of estrogen/progesterone/prolactin/insertyourfavouritefemalehormonehere and babies. During the third part, we were basically comatose, which is always a good time but difficult to describe, so we’ll just leave that part out.

Part 1: Samut Prakan’s finest attraction: Taco Lake

This blog may have somehow given you the impression that T-bone likes doing Stoopid Schtuff on a regular basis. You would not be wrong (for further evidence, see this post or this post or this post or this post). In fact, I strongly suspect that this is why he married me, but I digress. T-bone’s favourite Stoopid place to go in the Bangkok area is Taco Lake. When I first heard of it, I started dreaming of Mexican food, but sadly, Taco Lake doesn’t appear to have anything to do with its tortilla wrapped namesake. Rather, it is all about wakeboarding.

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T-bone is also All. About. Wakeboarding.

The lake has a bizarre/ingenious rope system that runs a bit like a t-bar at a ski hill. Wakeboarders wait on the edge of the dock until their rope is pulled, and if they can manage to hang on, they can ride around the lake until they either fall off or give up.

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The pulley system that miraculously keeps on pulling.

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Lining up for their turn (and not at all weirded out that a pregnant farang is taking their picture).

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T-bone in his element.

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Not sure if this one was a “give up” or a “fall off”

Every time Todd comes home from Taco Lake, he has a limp in his step and a gleam in his eye, and I can tell that he is already dreaming of his next trip. We have agreed that after Bannock is born, he will be responsible for all care-giving/breastfeeding duties (only fair since I am incubating her), so he decided he’d better fit in one more wakeboarding session while the gettin’ is good. Stoopid Schtuff is the most fun when done with Stoopid People friends, and it didn’t take much for Todd to convince his entire math department to join him.

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The hoser math department. Motto: We dig numbers’n’neon.

Part 2: Bobbleheads galore

After Taco Lake, Saturday was a bit of a shock to the system. In the morning, BAMBI, Bangkok’s biggest mothers and babies group, put on a massive garage sale of baby/kid stuff. Partly because baby gear is so expensive in Bangkok (crazy import taxes), and partly because my deeply entrenched value system tells me to “never buy anything new if you can buy it used and never buy anything used if you can find it in a back alley/dumpster,” I knew this was a sale I needed to hit up. Todd had to supervise Saturday detention, so other than the two dozen friends I bumped into and the ten million members of the general public at the sale, I was utterly alone.

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This is only a small corner of the sale: I couldn’t fit the whole scene in the frame.

Clearly, this was the place to be for anyone in Bangkok who has ever spawned, is preparing to spawn, or thinks that they may spawn at any point in the near or distant future. Honestly, it was all a bit terrifying. I had a few items that I was searching for, and I ended up finding those, plus a few things that I forgot I needed. Most of my purchases have names that are neither English nor any other identifiable language: ie: “Boppy” “Bumbo,” etc. This is why parents end up speaking gibberish to their babies. After 1.5 hours of the feeding frenzy, I called it a day, because I needed to make myself semi-presentable for the second baby-centred item on the agenda: my friend Nicole’s baby shower.

Nicole used to be a teacher at our school, and is the mother of a two-year old. She is one of the first people I went to for advice after I found out I was expecting. Turns out that she was/is too, and depending on when they decide to make their grand entrance, our daughters will be born just a few weeks apart. That’s where the similarities end, though, because she is a stylish belly dancer who wears clothes and makeup that actually coordinate.

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The lovely mother/mother-to-be

I dig mini men, but I have to say that baby girls are way more fun to shop for. Nicole’s baby received the usual explosion of pink frills, with a bit of purple thrown in to mix things up. I didn’t even attempt to be original with my gift: my cute reflex has officially overridden my gag reflex these days. It was an adorable afternoon.

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The four pregnant peeps at Nicole’s shower. From L-R: 36 weeks, 34 weeks, 32 weeks, 21 weeks. Note how we have all succumbed to the allure of “sensible shoes.”

On Sunday, we went to church. The rest of the day is extremely hazy – I think it involved McDonalds and a gory action movie, but I can’t be sure…

Snapshots from my first month back in BKK

Uh… whoops. Another delayed post – sorry. And even though half my posts recently have begun with an excuse, I still feel compelled to offer yet another. So let’s just say that there’s a creature in my gut who’s been sucking all my brain power/memory/sense of time lately. Some days I’m amazed that I even manage to dress myself. Good thing no-one’s life is depending on me right now. Oh wait…

Coming back to Bangkok after a month in Canada has been just a real slice o’ life. On one hand, Bannock and I were both pretty pleased to be reunited with her father (she signalled her joy by slamming all her limbs into my ribs). It has also been great to move into our new apartment, see my Bangkok friends again, and trigger severe acid reflux by eating massive quantities of pineapple. On the other hand, I’ve had to undergo some not-so-fun medical tests, watched my ankles fluctuate between “bony” and “tree trunk-esque” on a regular basis, and felt a little bereft after leaving my families, friends, and Percy the Miniature Horse behind.

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On the other hand, I got to meet this doll when I subbed for the two-year-olds. It appears to be a creepy cloth version of Todd as a baby. Bannock, please don’t look like this.

On that merry note, here are a few snapshots from my first month back in Bangkok: apologies if they are a little heavy (ha!) on the pregnancy end of the spectrum. Somehow, the knowledge that I will have to basically shove a watermelon through a straw in 2 months has completely hijacked my brain.

1. Thai Culture Class

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, and either have a good memory or are my mother, you may recall that I had to spend a significant chunk of time in Thai Culture Class around this time last year. It is a mandatory course for all teachers at international schools in Thailand, and I took it along with all the new teachers at the school. I have vague memories of making a lot of random crafts out of a lot of random materials, dancing around in Thai loincloths, and sitting through loooong discussions of Thailand’s kingly succession. It had some good moments, but I think we were all pleased when we “graduated.” Imagine my delight when I discovered that I had to take the course again this year. Apparently, because I entered Thailand last year without a teaching visa, the course didn’t count, and I would have to retake it if I wanted to continue subbing. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I succumbed to my fate, and found myself spending three days with a bunch of Swiss and British teachers at one of Bangkok’s swankier international schools. Surprisingly, Thai history hadn’t changed much in the course of a year. The food at the Culture Class, however, had. No offence to T-bone’s school, but whatever they served us last year paled in comparison to the spread at Patana school. Whenever the classes got dull, I would distract myself by dreaming of the lunch buffet. That, and watching my ankles swell before my eyes.

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Last year. When I still had ankles and a waist.

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And this year. I think I need to invest in some new facial expressions.

2.  Last *sniff* bike ride

After it took us a solid year to actually buy bikes in Bangkok, I was a little depressed when I realized that it was probably time to sell mine – I’m getting bulky’n’awkward, and we need to make space for more baby schtuff in our apartment. And as much as I like to picture the three of us going on family bike rides after Bannock is born, I have come to terms with the fact that that just ain’t gonna happen. So Todd and I took our bikes out for one last adventure in the “Green Lung” of Bangkok, a community/park that is almost an island in the Chao Phraya river.

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Bannock was well protected

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You should always wear head protection on a ferry.

“Leisurely” would be one way to describe our speed. When we finally got home, Todd started putting together an advertisement to sell the bike.

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Which one of you idiots wants to buy my bike? Huh!?!

Before he even posted the ad, one of our teacher friends offered to buy the bike. All I can say is, Wes, you had better actually take it off our hands, because Todd made me spend an entire evening posing on that durned thing.

3. Fun tests/parental guilt

There’s nothing the medical community seems to enjoy more than springing random tests on pregnant women. I have peed in so many cups over the last few months that I’ve lost count. And my technique still hasn’t improved (if anyone has any hot tips, please share). A particularly enjoyable test that I got to indulge in was the blood glucose test. Basically, you swig a cup full of pure sugar, and then have your blood taken an hour later – this helps determine if you’re at risk for gestational diabetes. I did it one better – I drank a litre of orange juice for lunch, and then I swigged the sugar mixture. Looking back, this may not have been the wisest choice, as, lo and behold, my test results came back showing elevated sugar levels, and my doctor told me I had to do the extended version of the test. Most humans would merely be annoyed at the inconvenience, but I am feeling a little “special” these days: I spent the evening weeping, convinced that my over-consumption of Magnum bars during my first trimester was going to lead to my poor child being a 13lb colossus. Welcome to the world of parental guilt. After fasting overnight, I hauled myself back to the hospital to chug the Kool-aid again. I don’t know how this is possible, but it contained twice the sugar that the previous test did. I then experienced the rare privilege of having my blood drawn FOUR times over the next three hours, as I continued to fast/tried not to pass out. I hate needles, but once I remembered that I was going to have to actually give birth to a human in a few months, I stopped feeling sorry for my current self, and started feeling sorry for my future self.

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Note how my forearm is arranged so artistically next to the word “Laboratory”

4. Stuff students say

This post is already way too long, but I have to share a few of my favourite lines from students that I have subbed for regarding my burgeoning figure:

“Is that fat or a baby?”  13-year-old boy

“Is Mr. Todd the father?” 16-year-old boy

“You and Ms. Therese are both pregnant, but you are waaay bigger” 17-year-old girl (said with a look of utter confusion. Apparently, Ms. Therese is the prototype for pregnancy, and anyone else is a deviation from the standard. I had to explain the concept of “different due dates” to her).

And finally, the look of utter glee and shock on the faces of two twelve-year-old boys when I informed them that, yes, I am indeed pregnant. They looked as though I had just told them the best, dirtiest joke. I still can’t figure it out.

I’m starting to wonder if these students have ever taken a health class, or interacted with a pregnant woman before. Just doin’ my bit for humanity.

And let’s finish off with one last picture, because it is too good not to use. Our friend Jessica turned 18.* I think the world would be a better place if we all just publicly embraced our birthdays.

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Leaving no doubt as to who the birthday girl is.

*Give or take a decade