Bangkok


This past week saw me doing a lot of walking all over Bangkok as part of a new freelance job. I’ve been taking pictures of various sights and points of interest in the city, spending whole days on my feet. I forgot how sprawling this city is.

My legs and feet are tired, I think I lost a ton of weight and I saw some parts of the city I did not exactly care to see. On the upside I saw some parts of the city I have not been to before and stumbled onto a really pretty temple.

Wat Ratchabophit lies somewhat east of the palace grounds and is therefore not nearly as visited and popular as the wats around the palace. I arrived here late in the afternoon and the grounds were virtually deserted except for a small group of devotees congregated in the main viharn. The temple was built in a circular style with vibrant tiles adorning its walls.

I know I’ve been terrible with blogging and reading blogs and keeping things up. Blame it on all the walking. We’re heading south today though and hopefully I’ll get a little more time to update again. And remember to send me you entries for HHDD#23.

Today we are leaving our Bangkok apartment for the last time. Everything has been packed up and sold or shipped, leaving behind bare walls and empty spaces. The last couple of days our apartment resembled the same apartment we moved into in August of last year; just a lot of empty space.

As we are saying goodbye to one home…

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… we say hello to some new temporary ones.

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We will be on the road again for a couple of months, traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and potentially Singapore. We have decided it was time to make a move again, and what better way to start a move than by going traveling?

I’m sad about the fact that I won’t be able to bake or sew again. But excited about the new places we’ll be going to and the much bigger journey lying ahead. I will also try to catch up on some old writing during this time and of course update you on our journey.

Goodbye then Bangkok, home for a year, and hello new adventures!

When Alexander first arrived in Bangkok, just over a year ago now, I took him for lunch at Rakk on Pha Arthit. On the previously unused stairs going to the upper level was a big bag filled in which we could just make out the small stuffed toys that it contained. We were curious to know about the contents, but thought it polite not to enquire.

Some days later, while walking down the street, our questions were answered when we saw an old lady sitting at a sidewalk table, the contents of the bag now neatly displayed. She had a collection of small mammals, all handmade from rejected pieces of old cloth. I fell in love with them and since we’ve made a point of always stopping by whenever we’re in the neighborhood and she’s out. Whenever she is not there I feel deeply disappointed and and when she is I have to pick something up.

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In this way we have collected a giraffe and frog, squirrel and kangaroo (a gift from my friend Nicole), a snake and a cute monkey, one of her first bigger designs, that Alexander bought for me. My friend Nicole also bought me a rhino, but the poor thing has decided to slip into my sister’s luggage and move to Pretoria.

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She always has something new, lately she’s been working on a lot of larger toys including a kangaroo with joey in the pouch. Although I really like them too I think the small ones are more appealing, and considering that we are building a collection of these soft toys more manageable in our small apartment.

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The one stuffed toy we did not buy from her is this monkey I picked up in Hanoi. He’s made from cut-off Hmong fabric and with his nose missing was just calling out to me to be taken to Bangkok. I think him and the other monkey get along very well.

Taiwan was a shopper’s paradise. This, together with a decent disposable income, made it the ideal place for me to spend six years of my life.

By the time I left at the start of 2006 I had a fine collection of clothing mixing some designer labels, funky street wear, and cheap socks. Shopping for clothes was definitely something I missed a lot when I returned back to South Africa.

Besides being a student again last year and therefore pretty poor, I just did not find the same wide range of inexpensive and trendy clothing. As a result I spent almost no money on clothes last year, in fact, I only bought one cool hooded sweater and three pairs of socks. If not for the hoody it would have been the most bland year for my closet since primary school.

So after not really shopping much for a year, and then traveling for another year and also not shopping much for clothing, I recently started going mad at all the brilliant clothing stalls at markets around Bangkok, especially at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Not since Taiwan have I seen such an enormous selection of cute, hip, sexy and cheap T-shirts, Bordeaux staples.

Here are a couple of examples. Cool, don’t you think?

There are numerous pretty parks in Bangkok that we’ve only seen in passing so far. There is the enormous Lumphine Park, the Benjasiri Park near Emporium and Chatuchak Park next to the weekend market going by the same name. We have long been threatening to visit one of these parks, so inspired by an article in this week’s BK Magazine I suggested going for a picnic yesterday.

While I was still being lazy in bed, Alexander made fresh tortillas. I’ve never had home made tortillas before, so I was used to the generic taste of the store bought variety. The ones Alexander made was super fresh and oh so delicious! I was bouncing around with excitement (literally), while being fed bites of warm tortillas.

So into our picnic bag went the still warm tortillas, some cupcakes, hummus and tomatoes picked up at the Emporium Gourmet section and two coffees. We went and hung out at the lush and inviting Benjasri Park. There weren’t too many people and the atmosphere was relaxed. I thought too late about taking a picture of the tortillas, so this blurry image of the best tortilla I’ve ever had will have to do for now.

And of course we enjoyed cupcakes for dessert.

This picture of a used cup was taken by Alexander. I like how the bit of pink icing that dropped onto the bench contrasts with the grayish background.

Out of all the places we viewed around Bangkok as possible new home we decided to settle into a funky new building just off Sukhumvit Road. It is spacious, partially furnished, clean, came with Wi-Fi, located near a sky train station and between two shopping centers.

The one thing our apartment did not have was a proper kitchen. We have shelving and cupboard space in the living room area and a tiny balcony leading from the balcony with a sink and small work surface, but nothing like a working (or workable) kitchen.

This was a problem to us as we were both so hungry for being able to have a home and begin our own cooking again, but we decided to view it as a challenge. We really wanted this place and so we decided we would make it work somehow.

Over the next couple of weeks we browsed around kitchen departments at numerous department stores around town, measuring tape at hand, and came up with some ideas of how to organize the living room and balcony into becoming a working kitchen/pantry/living space for us.

The shelve became our pantry. We searched out attractive colors for our crockery to brighten up the living space and the bottles of sauces and spices added some additional fun colors to the shelve. We bought the stuffed toy animals beside the blender from a lady selling them on her street side table on Phra Arthit.

I bought the large shopping bag for Alexander in Siem Reap, Cambodia and the slightly hidden pink one for myself here in Bangkok. It cost only B10 and it is pretty strong and very funky.

We picked up a camping stove to use for cooking. The large cutting board doubles as a work surface when we are preparing meals outside. I got quite used to cooking outside on the balcony, but it is a bit of a bother when we are hit by monsoon rains sometimes and the whole area gets flooded.

Below are two of my favorite items in the kitchen. I believe the soy sauce brand name translates to something like ‘fat baby’. I love the image and design as well as the colors. The basil plants was a surprise for me from Alexander. It brightens up our balcony and has served us well in the kitchen!

At the top end of the stairs of a pedestrian bridge we often use on the way to work sits a tiny old beggar lady. Her gray hair has been bleached yellow by the sun and her eyes look eerily large on her tiny sunburned face. Whenever she sees us appearing at the top of the other end her right hand shoots out in front of her in the hope that we’d have something for her.

Yesterday on the way home I noticed her sitting at the top of the stairs again and decided to pick up some freshly cut papaya from a street vendor for her. It was a really hot day and I thought a fruity snack would be appreciated. However, when we got to her and I held the bag of papaya out to her she dismissed it with a wave of her hand and clearly indicated to me that she was holding out her hand in such a way that she should be receiving money, not food.

I was pretty taken aback and continued across the bridge, stunned silent with Alexander giggling beside me at my shocked expression.

When we arrived at home I was still carrying the rejected bag of papaya with me. I decided to make smoothies with it at some point, so I put the whole bag in the freezer.

This morning I took out the frozen bits and threw it into the blender with some milk and a sweet banana. The result was a icy cold and fruity rich papaya smoothie with breakfast. So in the end I guess having my kind offering rejected worked out just fine.

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