A Crazy Mothah of a Month

Uh, oops. Sorry, folks. I know the blogging has been a little patchy in general, but 2 weeks has to be a new low, even for me. It’s been a crazy mothah of a month, mainly because my crazy mothah of a mother was visiting. After she left last Tuesday night, Todd’s dad – AKA Papa Dawg Dave – blew in on the evening breeze for a breezy, very brief 2 night visit. He stayed just long enough to partake in a whirlwind culinary tour of Samut Prakan. Currently, we are feeling like the proverbial fatherless/motherless child(ren), and trying to readjust to life as a twosome. I thought I’d recount one of our more memorable adventures from the past month of parental visits.

Momalot’s trip to the hospital

Momalot is generally a hardy soul. She likes to take the stairs just to make us look lazy for taking the elevator (all right. When you live on the third floor, I guess taking the elevator would qualify as slothful behaviour), and in her heart-of-hearts, I know she wishes that she’d been born in the pioneer era. She’d probably be the person hauling the wagon after the horse dropped dead. She does not, however, deal well with heat. We’re not sure if her health scare on her last weekend in Bangkok was due primarily to the heat, but it definitely didn’t help the situation.

On Friday night, we went to a movie at the mall near our house. Halfway through, Momalot said she didn’t feel well, and went to get some water. When I checked on her a few minutes later, she was feeling nauseous and dizzy, so we took her home. By the time we got there, she was also experiencing tingling sensations in her arms and heart palpitations. We decided it was time to phone an ambulance. The weird/disconcerting thing in Bangkok is that there isn’t a unified 911-type service (or if there is, I haven’t found it yet). Rather, you phone the hospital that you wish to visit, and they send their own ambulance service. We phoned a hospital that we have used in the past – it wasn’t the closest, but we knew it would provide good care. Once we’d given the hospital our address and requested an ambulance, we tried our best to look after Momalot until it arrived.

It was a little disconcerting when the ambulance took almost 40 minutes to reach us. Fortunately, by the time it arrived, Momalot was feeling a little better, but it was sobering to think of what the situation would have been like had she been more seriously ill. The ambulance was equipped with a doctor and several nurses, though, so once it arrived, we felt that she was in good hands. Todd and I rode in the front of the ambulance, and it became clear to us why it took so long for the ambulance to arrive – we were once again reminded that we live in the middle of nowhere. Also, no one yields to ambulances in Bangkok – we even got cut off several times on the way to the hospital. The ambulance also had to stop and pay the tolls on the expressway we were using.

When she got to the hospital, Momalot was thoroughly checked out, and while her pulse was still quite fast and she felt dizzy, the doctors assured us that her heart seemed to be ok. Perhaps the craziest thing for this socialized-healthcare-Canadian was having to deal with insurance paperwork while we were still trying to focus on my mother. One of the hospital’s claims people was even asking my mother (very politely – this is Thailand) to sign documents as she groggily lay on her emergency room bed. I realize that to Americans this probably sounds like standard protocol, but we found it disconcerting.

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Disconcerted.

While Momalot’s heart looked ok, the doctors decided to keep her in the hospital for 2 nights of observation/tests. It turned into an unexpected cultural experience. At this particular hospital (Samitivej), even the most basic rooms are like hotel suites, with fold-out beds for guests, arm chairs, fridges and microwaves. You can order food from a  menu, and cute, tiny nurses with elaborate hairstyles check on you at all hours of the day or night. They like to ask questions like “Madam. You need go pee-pee?” By the second day, Momalot was feeling much better, but she was still under hospital arrest. We took her to the coffee shop in the hospital lobby in her swanky Thai hospital outfit, and tried to entertain her on her forced vacation.

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“Madam. I check pulse.”

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Almost 48 hours after she was admitted, Momalot was released from the hospital. She came away with some random hospital swag including branded water bottles in a branded hospital bag. Nothing substantial showed up on the tests, and we are still a little confused as to what happened to her. On the plus side, she had a bunch of expensive tests done that she would have had to wait months+ for in a socialized system. Her travel insurance really came through (for travelling Canadians – RBC insurance was fantastic), and covered the whole visit. Nothing like a 1000% return on your investment.

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The view from her room’s balcony

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And an outdoor sink in case you want to have a barbecue, or something

All in all, it was a frightening experience for all of us, but I’ll wager that it’s created a cultural memory that Momalot won’t soon forget. I doubt any Canadian nurses will ask her whether Madam needs to pee-pee.

Next up: the food Momalot managed to cook for us when she wasn’t in the hospital.

Lights! Cameras! Weirdness! The Joys of Loy Krathong

Last Wednesday, Thailand celebrated the festival of Loy Krathong. Basically, this is a time where people make small decorated boats (krathong) and float (loy) them on bodies of water – preferably rivers, but lakes, ponds, or the local canal cesspool work equally well in a pinch. This is supposed to bring good luck and blessings. T-bone and I had seen photos of the festival before arriving in Thailand, and we were excited to check it out. In theory, we wanted to visit one of the major celebration sites down town, but in practice, the time it would take to fight our way through the crowds would seriously interfere with our family eating tour.

Unacceptable.

Instead, we decided to check out a celebration that was closer to home. We got a hot tip from Todd’s favourite hot tip source – the cashiers at the local convenience store – that there was going to be a rager of a celebration at a wat (temple) 15 minutes from our apartment. Say no more. We packed the parentals into a taxi and and booked it over to krathong paradise.

Where we were greeted by this friendly fellow.

We were a bit early for the real party to start, so we wandered around, taking photos of the lights and the few krathongs that were already floating in the wat’s pond.

And chilled out with this slightly demented dog.

It quickly became obvious that we were the only farangs in the joint, and we attracted a bit of attention. This – in my highly anecdotal experience – is typical of life in the ‘burbs. There are a lot of farangs downtown, and they sort of blend in/get ignored/are a nuisance, but in the suburbs, a farang is an exciting freakshow. Adults and children joyfully shout “Farang! Farang!” (although it usually sounds more like “Falang! Falang!”), and you get plenty of attention. This was certainly the case at the wat.

This dancer’s father was anxious for her to benefit from a chat with Mama “Farang” Jan.

As we wandered around, we noticed a small congregation of people sitting next to a massive fire. We simply wanted to see what was going on, but before we knew it, we were being ushered into chairs, and asked to sit down. A long piece of white thread was passed around, and everyone in the congregation held on to it. And that’s how we found ourselves part of an unknown religion ritual. Oops.

It was difficult to see the entire ceremony clearly, but we did catch one of its more interesting aspects. White robed men heated molten metal in the fire, and when it was sufficiently hot, they poured it into a mold. They did this multiple times, amidst much chanting. We were about to excuse ourselves, when suddenly it was over.

I don’t even know what to say about this. So strange.

Checking out the steaming, cooling molds.

We spent a little more time wandering around the wat, gaping and taking photos (because being farangs didn’t get us enough attention).

A minute women checking out elaborate krathongs that probably weighed more than she does.

School children release their krathongs.

It was already a strange evening, but then Todd decided to make it stranger by taking us to a local bacteria fest (aka: an all-you-can-eat grill). The concept had merit, but the piles of mystery meat were a little off-putting.

Am I right, little buddy?

We finished the evening by trying to fall asleep to the sultry accompaniment of blasting music, drinking, and fireworks. Just a wee party next to our local cesspool canal. Gotta love that Loy Krathong.

Prototypes ‘n’ Progeny

Our little shack on the khlong has been filled to the gills this week with two of our favourite family members – Papa Dawg Dave (PDD) and Mama Jan (MJ). These two well-traveled Canucks produced my math-loving better half, and we were stoked for their visit.

 

And the stoked factor doubled when they gave me this little slice of Canadian paradise.

They’ve already spent heaps of time living in SE Asia, and they warned us that they weren’t interested in doing the tourist thing. This was fine with us, particularly when we discovered what they wanted to do instead. Let’s break it down.

Eat:

It has been a wild food fest of pretzels/curry/pizza/local bacteria around here. PDD and MJ had some old favourites from their years in the region, and we had a few “must eats” in mind. The combination of these two lists has meant some dedicated eating for this crew. It is hard work, but we were ready for the challenge.

Chopstick warriors ready for battle

Prepared to do our bit for the good of humanity

Shop:

I really hate it when people buy me Christmas presents, but for my in-laws, I was willing to make a sacrifice. While they admired my amazing hot-plate-stacked-on-a-microwave-stacked-on-a-fridge, they thought our kitchen was a little lacking, and bought me a rice cooker. It even has a setting to cook brown rice. The hippie region of my heart just warmed up by ten degrees. My simultaneously practical but strange husband asked for dirt and a pot. The man is all about back-to-basics. We’ll see what he finds under our non-existent tree.

Dang it, T-bone! Get excited about the hippie cooker!

 

Less practical but more fun than dirt and a pot.

Clean:

Sadly, my kitchen has never been as clean as it was this week. I make it a rule to always put my guests to work as often as possible, and I told PDD that I expected him to sweep our kitchen floors at all times. He took this task seriously, and even threw in some bonus dish-washing to mix it up a little. They are seriously upping the ante for any future visitors.

Get back to work!

 

Observe Excellent Home Maintenance Methods:

PDD and MJ’s favourite part of their visit has been witnessing the joy of our strangely constructed apartment, and the even stranger attempts to repair it. They noticed that the back of the toilet was leaking, and we reported the problem to the downstairs office. The manager sent someone promptly to fix it. When I peeked into the bathroom to check on the progress, though, the maintenance man was applying caulking to my shower. Nothing like a little welcome caulking to get the visit off to a good start.

They call this maintenance?!

 

PDD and MJ leave tomorrow, and we are anticipating a return to a life characterized by fewer calories, more brown rice, a dirty kitchen, and a pile of caulking. Sniff.

Toast!

This post is short and (extremely) sweet. We recently found ourselves swept up in the phenomenon known as Asian toast, and I feel that all of you deserve to witness its magic.

Feast yer eyes.

I don’t know exactly how this delight is made, but I will do my best to describe it. Start off with a large hunk of white bread. It should be the equivalent of 5 or 6 regular slices. Somehow fill its innards with sweetened condensed milk and butter, baste the whole blob with butter, then bake/toast it. When it comes out of the oven, douse it in syrup; add a few scoops of ice cream, a few puffs of whipping cream, and (in this case) a few slices of banana; and top it all off with a little more syrup.

Todd wears his special athletic shirt because his stomach is about to get a Work. Out.

T-bone and I first tasted this phenomenon in a bubble tea shop in Calgary’s Chinatown, and have been craving it ever since. The Calgary version, however, was only 3 or 4 slices tall, and it lacked all the fun dairy accoutrements. Thailand knows how to do it right. Given the popularity of toast, I am amazed that the entire nation isn’t obese.

This plate alone could feed the nation.

Todd’s parents were with us when we ordered this monstrosity, and while I would like to claim that the four of us shared it, in all honesty, Todd and I hoovered that sucker down with very little assistance.

Todd’s prototype, AKA Papa Dawg Dave, is prepared to provide backup if needed.

For any curious Bangkokians, we ordered this particular toast mountain at Cookies Crust at Mega Bangna. It was good, but if you really want the ultimate slab, check out After You Dessert in Thong Lo.