Shopping


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.

Photobucket
Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

On Phra Arthit in Banglamphu there is a really cute store selling some fun handmade ladies clothing and accessories, postcards and this, a fridge magnet paper doll. The first time I saw her I knew I had to have her. She brought back memories of childhood holidays on my grandparents’ farm, where my mother grew up.

Why memories of the farm? Because aside from it being a great time to play hide-and-seek in massive mango trees, swimming in rivers and chasing giant bugs it was also a time when we went through all my mom’s old toys. There was a kitchen set complete with tiny oven, her porcelain dolls and, my favorite, paper dolls with lots of outfits to mix and match. I would spend hours and hours playing playing stylist with them.

I’ve been back to the store many times since that first time and finally decided to buy her on our last visit to the area. She came in her own little bag, complete with outfits and accessories.

Photobucket

Now she has a new home on our fridge and I get to play dress-up again. With my fridge magnet paper doll.

Photobucket

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?

I realized recently that the largest part of my salary is going towards grocery shopping. I love all kinds of shopping, but I especially enjoy shopping for the kitchen. I am constantly making little lists of things I want to pick up for the nights dinner or future baking projects.

My problem with doing so much grocery shopping in Bangkok is the plastic bags grocery bags that get handed out with reckless abandon. I have a hard time explaining to the people at the check-out counters that I do not need two bags for three items.

I picked up this large pink shopping bag for B10 (less than a dollar) at a market and it works wonderfully for big shopping trips, but unfortunately it is too large to carry with me all the time.

So I was very excited when I found this fun bag at Playground a while ago. It cost a bit more than my pink shopping bag (about US$3- which is still very cheap) but it rolls up and fits perfectly into my shoulder bag. So whenever I stop at a grocer on the way home to pick up a can of this or a bottle of that I can whip my small shopping bag out and insist on my groceries being put into it.

The picture at the top of this entry was taken by Alexander less than an hour after I bought the bag, it was already being put to good use. Money well spent, I think.

I thought I would not get around to any writing while my visitor is here, but seen as I am unable to fall asleep again I might just as well spend some time blogging instead of rolling around in bed.

Nic is here from Taiwan and currently on a round-the-world trip that will take her to Greece, Turkey, parts of Europe and then Canada. I am jealous, even though I’ve spent most of this year living in foreign countries, Taiwan, the US, and Thailand, and have been traveling a lot I always feel a tinge of jealousy when I hear about other people’s travels.

I met her and after some initial problems with the airport bus we decided to take a taxi straight home. Alexander had fresh coffee and some delightfully delicious toasted sandwiches with tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil from the balcony waiting when we arrived.

I suggested that we go to Ban Chiang for dinner. It is the same place I took Alexander on his first night in Bangkok and we decided back then that we should come back at some point in the future, Nic’s arrival seemed the perfect excuse.

We made a stop in Siam first to satisfy my craving for a tall, warm latte. Vanilla Industry in Siam Square seemed like the perfect option. This coffee shop/ bakery/ restaurant/ bake shop was a surprise discovery some weeks ago and is probably the most adorable and stylish coffee shop in Bangkok. There are many pleasant and nice places here, but this one takes first prize in my books.

My latte urge was pleasantly satisfied and I also convinced the others to share a brownie with me from the cake stand full of tempting goodies like sunken chocolate cake, banoffee pie, heavy chocolate cake and nine-layer vanilla cake.

We spent some time browsing around Siam Square and discovered It’s Happened To Be  A Closet. A store that mixes interiors, fashion, food, and beauty in a tiny space with a lot of creativity and style. Anybody with a love of food, design and style who ever finds themselves in this part of Bangkok should make a point of visiting these two establishments. Big must-not-miss places!

After Alexander picked up a sexy new T-shirt and Nicole and I contemplated some new wardrobe items we headed to Ban Chiang near the Surasak BTS stop. Tempting as it was we opted not to sit outside in the lush tropical garden but rather in the air conditioned comfort of the old teak house, pleasingly decorated with antique Thai furniture and old family portraits of the Thai monarchy.

The highlight on the menu on our previous visit was the minced chicken wrapped in kale leaves. But this time we opted for papaya salad, tofu marinated in lime and ginger, and fish souffle in a coconut shell. Everything was fantastic and this time the fish souffle was the highlight. A coconut shell gets filled with some shredded cabbage, fish and some aromatic Thai herbs and spices. The fish turns melt-in-the-mouth soft during the cooking process and the flavors spread throughout the fish, the cabbage and the coconut flesh. After we finished the dish Alexander and I scooped out generous helpings of the soft white interior until only the shell was left.

I would have loved to try some dessert, but the meal was satisfyingly filling and we so we decided to call it a night and return home.

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of picking up the paper on my to work in the mornings, but as there is not enough space for it in my current bag, I always ended up carrying it under my arm. I designed this one more with traveling in mind. It’s large enough for a guidebook, notebook, some pens, travel documents, wallet, small digital camera, iPod and cell phone. It is not big enough to carry around teacher’s files, test papers, or, the newspaper.

I began working on a design for a new shoulder bag, the first of my more ambitious assignments for my new sewing machine. I’ve also been promising Alexander a bag since forever, so this past weekend we decided to go fabric shopping.

As a child I often went with my mother to fabric stores, either at Cape Town’s Parade or the Oriental in Johannesburg. I was in love with the smell of rolls upon rolls of textiles, and although I did not know the names of everything I saw and touched and smelled it left a lasting impression on me. When I moved to Bangkok, I wondered where I would be able to recreate a similar experience. Mostly I’ve only seen tailor’s stores stocking suiting and silk fabrics. Not exactly what I was looking for.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we headed toward Pahurat, a street in the mainly Indian neighborhood just east of Chinatown. We first stopped for some terribly satisfying iced caramel macchiatos at the really cute little Fine Time Cafe on the way, and then hopped on the bus.

A couple of fabric and wedding paraphernalia stores lined both sides of Pahurat Street. None of them seemed too enticing, until we crossed the street and walked into one that was a little bigger than the others. Entering the store I noticed that at the back it opened up into another fabric store, and on closer investigation I discovered that we had stepped into a labyrinth of fabric stores. One after the other they were crammed into the tiny spaces that made up almost half of the city block. Everywhere I turned, mountains of fabric in every imaginable color, design, and texture surrounded me.

Soon I was feeling out of breath with excitement and we decided to go for Indian food before shopping for materials. In a small alley, just off Chakraphet Street, we found the Royal India restaurant where we had one of the best naan ever. I highly recommend a trip there to anyone ever in the neighborhood.

Walking back to the Pahurat fabric labyrinth we discovered a cramped but very well stocked bakeshop where I will surely be returning to once we have an oven.

After browsing around for a bit, Alexander settled on a brilliant piece of Berber-inspired fabric for the lining of his bag, and some textured gray suiting for the exterior. As usual, I had a hard time picking something out, being presented with so many options. In the end I selected a funky polka dotted piece for the lining, and a very dark brown bordering on plum for the exterior of my bag. I also noted some very retro looking fabric with orange and green floral prints, which I picked up on a whim with a tote in mind.

Now we only needed to find a haberdashery store. After asking around and not getting anywhere, I marched up to some ladies behind sewing machines. With a questioning expression I pointed to the tins of sewing thread in front of them and soon everybody around joined in to give directions.

I do not understand Thai, but I did follow the hand gestures, and within seconds we were in the most incredible haberdashery store I have seen in a really long time. The store itself was not enormous, but it was stocked from top to bottom and everywhere in between with thread, buttons, clasps, zippers, rolls of interfacing, elastic, and just about any other sewing necessity. I had to really control myself not to buy anything that I did not need right now.

Exhausted, but exceptionally content with our discovery and purchases, we returned home, all set to turn the contents of Alexander’s big shopping bag into fun new accessories.

Most of the images in this entry was taken by Alexander.