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

Visitors!

It has been a social coupla weeks around here! Not that I’m complaining – I was on the verge of becoming a hermit. If you are wondering how it is possible to be a hermit when you share your days with an adorable lump of baby, let me assure you, it is possible. As much as I nag her, Zoe absolutely refuses to engage in meaningful conversations, or ask ME how I’M doing. Sometimes I feel like she doesn’t even know that I exist. Or that she exists. Or what “existence” even is.

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Why won’t that woman stop yapping already?!

But all that changed when Zoe’s subjects grandparents came to pay homage to her visit us. Granny and Grandpa were a very welcome addition to our daily routine, and it didn’t take them long to acquire that grandparent-ly touch. They soon became pros at doing things for Zoe that even her ever-loving parents would never attempt, such as reading the same story thirty times in a row while simultaneously bouncing her on a fitness ball followed by ninety-nine ten million verses of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” (but with ‘milk’ substituted for ‘beer’ to make it age/interest appropriate).

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More bounces, Grandpa! MORE, I SAY!

They also ran errands, made sure we were fed, and babysat. And sometimes they babysat so we could feed ourselves. In retrospect, I’m not sure this was the best idea, because Todd and I clearly have no boundaries when it comes to calorie consumption. I’m pretty sure I gained a Zoe-worth of weight while they were here.

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As long as you look guilty, the calories don’t count, right?

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And these calories don’t count either, because it was a birthday present.

And for dessert, they provided medical care for my feet. I’m not the sharpest tack in the box, and while I’ve managed to avoid cutting Zoe’s toenails too short, I haven’t extended the same courtesy to my own poor li’l nubbins = ingrown toenail. Since I’m a hypochondriac, I was on the verge of going back to my OB/GYN and letting him refer me to an orthopaedic surgeon, but then Todd suggested that I let his mom – a nurse – help me out. At first, I thought this was too big a favour to ask of anyone, but then I remembered that she used to work for an organization that provided healthcare and more importantly, footcare, to Calgary’s downtown homeless population. Some of her patients literally wore the same pair of socks and shoes ALL WINTER (I say this from experience – I worked there, too). So I asked her to take a stab at my poor, weary, but fairly clean toe.

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Uh…ouch. Ha. Aha. Ouch. 

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Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (hyperventilation, not laughter. Ps: white socks in bottom right corner courtesy of Gramps the Champ)

She fixed the problem, but only after I almost passed out from the trauma of it all.

Partway through Granny and Grandpa’s visit, my Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Jack swooped in for a visit during their gallivant around SE Asia. It was a treat to see them, and my uncle was extremely pleased that he got to hold Zoe before her grandfather (his brother) did. Unfortunately, he was too busy cackling with glee to pose for a photo, so here is one of Zoe cackling instead.

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She thinks escaping her swaddle is the height of wit.

And today, all the visitors are gone, and it’s back to the g-r-i-n-d for us. Not sure how we’ll manage now that we have to look after our own meals and our own toes. Not to mention that Zoe’s expectations for entertainment have been raised exponentially. Maybe if I discuss “existence” using 99 bottles of beer as a metaphor, both of our needs will be met.

 

Snapshots

Oh dear. A month between posts has to be a new low for me. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a bit of a trance – not enough sleep combined with the unpredictable schedule of my tyrannical new boss has led to a lack of motivation for doing anything other than eating sugar and trying to manipulate my computer’s VPN address so that I can watch the Winter Olympics. Nothing like watching the world’s best athletes compete while you try to complete the extremely physical task of remembering where you left your baby.

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“You left me in this pile of Canadiana”

Here are a few snapshots of our life over the past month:

1. Good news! I’m not having a heart attack

I have been experiencing pain in my sternum since Zoe’s birth. I kinda suspected that it is due to my bad posture (hauling 15 lbs of baby fat* around tends to drag the ol’ shoulders forward), but since my ribs did take a bit of a pummelling during my c-section, I thought I’d get it checked out. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, and when I arrived, he seemed quite pleased to see me. Imagine a small, old, uncle-y Thai man who wears suspenders so his pants don’t fall down when he’s rushing to a delivery, and who talks in a sing-song voice when he’s in a good mood.

“Ahh. Ruth! Here for your last check-up! Please, please, let me poke and prod you in the most painful and awkward of places so that I can assure you that you are capable of going through this whole miraculous experience again!! Tralala.”

“Uhh… Actually, I’m here because of my rib pain. Andthethoughtofproducinganotherchildatthismomentishorrifying.”

“Rib pain? Haha! Beyond my jurisdiction! I will refer you to my colleague. Now, please, please, allow me to examine you!”

After he ascertained that I am (physically if not mentally) still capable of bearing children, I ended up in a cardiologist’s office. Before I knew what was happening, a nurse was strapping these weird suction things to my chest and administering an EKG. When I saw the doctor, he had a confused look on his face.

“Uh… Miss Ruth. Your heart is fine. You are only 29, you know. Still so young. You are not having a heart attack.”

What a relief. My rib pain and I will just mosey on home, secure in the knowledge that at least my heart is still ticking.

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So relieved.

2. First-time parenting neuroses

Todd and I both experienced some pretty strange dreams during pregnancy (well, I was pregnant. Not sure what Todd’s excuse was). A real fun surprise during these last few months is that these middle-of-the-night episodes have continued into parenthood. They’ve now slowed down somewhat, but during the first month, Todd and I would have this conversation in the middle of the night, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

Ruth “Where’s the baby?!”

Todd “I’ve got her right here!” (as he squeezes one of the pillows on our bed hard enough to decapitate it – just one of the reasons we don’t co-sleep).

Variation:

Todd “Where’s the baby?!”

Ruth “I’m just nursing her” (as I fumble through the sheets, unable to find the baby)

In both these scenarios, Zoe was happily grunting like a goat in her own crib while her parents lost their minds.

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Glad you find this so humorous, bobblehead.

3. Travelling with a baby

Todd had a week off for Chinese New Year, and we made the brilliant** decision to pack up our 2-month-old, and head for the closest island. We’ve been to Koh Samet many times, and have always considered it an easy jaunt from Bangkok. Doing it with a baby would be simple, right? We packed Zoe up (ie: tried to shove her into her carrier, which she hated, because her boneheaded parents couldn’t figure out how to use it properly), and headed for the bus terminal, where we encountered the first glitch in our plans – the bus was leaving an hour later than anticipated. So we picked Zoe up (no packing this time) and went across the street for a coffee.

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“I wonder if I could ask for my latte to be made with human milk…”

We finally boarded the bus, and tried to ignore the people glaring at our baby. I can understand why people aren’t fans of travelling in the same confined space as babies, but I have to say that Zoe behaved like a champ. She hardly made a sound. This, however, was because I was so afraid of disturbing people that I would neurotically nurse her as soon as she gave any indication that she was even alive.

“Gah!! She opened her eyes! Slap her on, quick!”

This made for a gruelling 4 hours, especially as the bus never stopped for its requisite noodle break. In Thailand, it is widely understood that humans cannot go more than an hour or two without a break for food, so we planned accordingly: we would eat lunch and change Zoe when the bus stopped. As the trip dragged on, it became increasingly obvious that we would not be stopping. It also became increasingly obvious that Zoe’s diaper was not going to last. All I can say is that it is amazing what you can accomplish in a moving vehicle. And I am very grateful that Zoe is no longer operating like a SuperSoaker filled with poop.

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At one week old. That pack of wipes was a write off.

When the bus finally arrived at the pier, I was famished and feeling pretty done with the whole trip. But we still had a speed boat ride to look forward to. Todd and Zoe camped out on the dock while I bought us some nasty pad Thai, which we ate on the pleasantly diesel-scented dock.

We finally boarded the boat for our destination, and I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that we were the worst parents on the planet. How could we subject Li’l Ham Hocks to the turbulence and danger of a speed boat ride?! How selfish could we possibly be?! Nothing like a heapin’ helpin’ of parental guilt to help you relax and enjoy your vacation.

When we finally arrived, we realized that we didn’t really have a place to set Zoe outside of our hotel room. At mealtimes, one of us would hold her while the other ate (when she was happy) or one of us would sit with her in the room while the other ate (when she was not happy). We also got to enjoy taking turns on the beach (“would you rather stay in the room with Zoe first, or hang out with too many acres of aging European flesh on the beach?”).

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Zoe’s only trip to the beach: carefully timed to be after the sun went down, but before the bugs came out

Zoe seemed to realize that she was in a different place at night, and grunted extra-loud and woke up extra-often in response. We didn’t have our usual white noise with us, so this translated into her parents waking up extra-often.

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But don’t worry – we’ll still keep you.

After two nights of this, I was “relaxed” out of my mind. Fortunately, I had a long bus ride home on which to plan our next “relaxing” trip.

Maybe I should book another appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss my sanity. I wonder which specialist he would refer me to…

 

*When I say “baby fat” I actually mean “fat baby”

** Boneheaded