These past few months keep surprising me with unforeseeable outcomes. Many have been so amazing. That phrase of EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON is feeling like a reoccurring theme in my life.
In 2012 I joined a Facebook group called Bangkok Expats. I made a post about my back story and how I was eagerly planning my move for 2013. Mia replied to my post and we quickly began swapping stories of our Thai adoptions and our present life. I felt an instant kinship to her. Not wanting to go too deep into Mia’s personal story I can say that she is a Thai adoptee like me. She was adopted into a loving Australian family and raised away from her homeland. At the age of 21, she flew to Thailand alone to travel and discover the country. I was fascinated at how many similarities we shared. I felt an insta-bond to this lady I had yet to meet. My commute to getting to Mia and her husband Eddie’s house was memorable. Meeting them for the first time was both exciting and amazing. It just refueled my joy for having made it to Thailand.
To get to Mia’s house was an adventure in itself. I had never been to her house before and FOR THE LIFE OF ME could not locate it on a map (paper or electronic!). I was nervous to have to take a taxi for the first time. Recently, locals and tourists have felt the need to share horror stories of tourist being kidnapped or being taken on the LONGEST route possible to their destination. Mia reassuringly told me to call her if I had any hassles and gave me all the details on how much the fare should be and what possible routes the driver would take. I was feeling excited and nervous.
On a daily basis drivers of: tuk tuks, motorcycles and taxi’s honk at me or slow down to try and get me to hop aboard. I always try to look uninterested and keep walking to whatever destination I am heading towards. So the first time I need to hail a taxi I thought it would be easy! I kept scanning the traffic and standing as close to the edge of the sidewalk as possible. I knew that if I walked to BIG C and the other shops there were always vehicles hanging around waiting to drive people. I was just so stunned that no one had picked me up by the time I was almost halfway to the shops. I then spotted a green and yellow taxi (with his light on) coming out of a soi. I waved at him and he nodded his head. I confidently took the front seat and optimistically asked him if he spoke English. He said, “Little bit”! Phewff I was able to exhale. I got a good vibe off of him and the fact that he answered back in English. I was very prepared for the, “Nitto”.
Well to my AMAZEMENT my taxi driver not only spoke a little English…HE SPOKE a lot and we were able to converse completely in English. It did make me slightly nervous when he told me he had to tell me something, “I have to tell you that the green and yellow taxis are private. We don’t belong to a company”. I gave him this blank stare. He quickly reassured me that I was SAFE! He just wanted to let me know that people in green and yellow taxis own their own cars and make their own hours. So he is selective as to which passengers he takes. He bought his car from a dealer and designed the inside of it. I asked him why he chose for his car to have cable but not a gps system? He said he found them to be unreliable and got more lost with them. Not even 2 minutes into the ride I noticed a Canadian flag sticker on the meter. (OF COURSE I NOTICED it because whenever I am in any taxi I always incessantly check the number as it grows bigger and bigger!) The taxi driver told me that Canada is one of his favourite countries. For respect to the couple’s privacy I won’t share their whole lives’ histories but …again I felt like everything was happening for a reason. His wife is American, whose Dad works (worked?) for an oil company. She was born in New Mexico but did a lot of moving around as a child. Their family moved to Thailand and that is where she met him. She is now an English Kindergarten teacher. We switched contact info and was told I could call him if I ever needed a ride. I could even schedule times days in advance. So fancy 🙂
Let’s just say I am now friends with 2 amazing couples! Both women met and fell in love with Thai men and never left Thailand. So sweet. So romantic. In one day I welcomed 4 incredible people into my life. Thailand is really living up to its name: The. Land. Of. Smiles.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. So proud of Kiwi Momma for all her blogging of the Singapore/Hong Kong trip. I knew you could survive without my IT services 🙂
P.P.S. Looking forward to reading all of your NEW YORK blogs DOM! This is so exciting that you will be in your “home away from home” so sooooon!!!!
What a great blogging community I am helping to create. Go Suma go!
I should have blogged this weeks ago –forcing myself out of my lazy blog funk!!
The first day of October and I was treated like a tourist princess. I had asked Marius to treat me like a tourist and he did just that! He took control of the whole outing.
I walked from my place to the bus stop at Big C Chaengwattana. There are no bus schedules so estimating commute times is nearly impossible. The buses come and go however they please and don’t always stop EVEN when you are waving at them. I wish I could say standing and waiting at the bus stop is pleasurable…but man oh man is it ever hot on your legs when the sun hits you! Took me about 40 minutes on the 166 bus to get to the Victory Monument stop. From there I caught the BTS skytrain to the Siam stop. Love the BTS! It runs so efficiently and air conditioned. I don’t always get a chance to sit, but the asian TV ads are able to distract me pretty well! From Siam I walked a short distance to MBK where Marius and I met up. We walked to the canals where we hopped on. Marius was telling me that not many tourists use the canals as a mode of transportation. The price of tickets has stayed reasonably low. The signage to locate the docks are not clearly marked with English maps or names so farang/falang (like myself would have no idea how to differentiate the different stops)! So glad he was with me or I would have stayed on the boat all day. The operators of the boat shoo people on and off the boats so quickly that you NEED to be ready to jump off when it is your stop. What would have been around a one hour bus ride was a cool 20 minute scenic boat ride. We walked passed The Grand Palace on our way to Khao San.
I finally got to see Khao San Road…during the day. As a popular backpackers stomping ground, it takes on two different personalities! Around midday they stop all the vehicle traffic along the road and make it “night life friendly”. I was excited to see all the food stalls and especially the little collectible trinket stalls. I finally saw the tourist Tshirts! We stopped in at a couple of used bookstores to search for some books my Daddy-O recommended for me. No luck finding them but I found LOTSSS of other books. Don’t think I will be buying a new book for awhile!
Soi Rambutri was a lot quieter. A gorgeous stretch filled with restaurants. We passed a fish pedicure salon! I want to try it one day. The sensation of having fish pick away at, and then eat your dead skin must feel so weird!! We stopped for food and drink at a funky little restaurant. We were both attracted by the shade and fans!
We boarded a boat at the Phra Arthit Pier and headed towards Sukhumvitt. We chose to board the local boat (that was more than half the fare) as opposed to the tourist or farang/falang boat. We had to hop on the BTS for a couple of stops. Again I was a very happy tourist looking at ALL THE SHOPS. It was late afternoon so the stalls weren’t too busy. I witnessed my first car accident while trying to cross a busy intersection. Marius and I heard this extremely LOUD CRUNCH and saw a bus drive into the left side of a truck. We heard the crunch then saw the bus TRY to keep moving straight..further metal on metal action. It really felt like slow motion. Luckily there was no passenger in the truck. Both vehicles were turning left and it seemed like it was the buses fault..but who knows how that issue was resolved.
We went to some more book stores and found another restaurant to stop and eat at. The restaurant was cute and quirky. As we progressed into the meal I was reminded to always pack insect repellant. The bugs were relentless and forced Marius to run to the nearest 7 Eleven! I ordered sticky rice and mangoes. I was surprised at how sweet the rice was. I don’t remember it being this way. I felt like I was being hit with a huge sugar rush.
It was a great day of sightseeing.The humidity was a great excuse to pop into different places for refreshing drinks!I loved being navigated around and not being stressed about getting lost.
Forgot to mention we also saw the building and alley/soi where Hangover 2 was filmed.
Thanks for reading! The countdown is ON until I move back into the city. EXCITED. I. am. to be closer to friends!!
The orphanage I was adopted from was called the Phayathai Orphange and was located in Thailand’s metro region of Bangkok. Since the late 1990’s the orphanage merged with another orphanage and now run by the Thai Government. When the two orphanages merged together it took on the name of Pakkred (or Pakkret) Babies Home and became the largest one in Thailand. It is located around 40 minutes north of Bangkok. Part of my desire to come back to Thailand was to volunteer at the orphanage…Babies home. I keep calling it the orphanage but they no longer refer to it as an orphanage. I honestly don’t know what I expect to get out of this experience. I don’t know if it’s closure; giving me a sense of coming full circle? Maybe I will feel more connected to the country if I go back to where it all started? I am not sure. I just know that Thailand->Bangkok->Orphanage was always part of the plan.
Since the relocation of the babies’ home they have less volunteers dropping in. It is not conveniently located and many tourist find it hard to find. From what I have read from online blogs and other internet sources –many people find it too difficult to contact the administration. People wanting to donate or volunteer their time became too frustrated by the lack of communication resulting in a redirection of their donations to other charities. Reading those stories made me sad and even more determined to volunteer some of my time.
I checked out of the Embassy Hotel and taxied to Pi Sangwan’s apartment (that will be a separate blog! LOTS to say about that topic!) Together with Pi Loong, we headed off to find Pakkred Babies Home. Having left Bangkok, we thought we would be able to commute much more easily! The bus stops are right outside BIG C so it is our one stop shopping. It is the place to go for shopping or find transport. Pi Loong didn’t know what bus to take so she asked the lady beside her. The lady happened to be going in the same direction and said that only ONE bus turns down the street we need. After waiting for nearly 30 minutes, Pi Loong layed out the options: tok tok, motorcycle, walk or mini truck. It felt like we had climbed on the next truck we saw. I got the sense we were lost/in need of directions. I was trying to ask Pi Loong how she knew what truck to take, as there had been absolutely no number or any signage. Do you just communicate with the driver once you are on? What happens if the other passengers are going a different way? When Pi Loong started conversing a lot with the only other passenger my suspicions were confirmed. Well we got off that truck pretty quickly. Pi Loong told me I could get off..but since I had NO CLUE what was happening I thought it best if she got off first and I followed her. I really didn’t want to be on the side of the road while she was still riding in the truck! She asked me if I had a phone number for the orphanage. I gave her a longggg look of, ‘no… I thought you knew where to go.’ She tried to reassure me that she DID KNOW, she had been before with Mom and Dad. She just needed to know how to get there. OH DEAR OH ME OH MY. She had to ask a lot of people for directions. Good thing she was with me because I definitely would not have found the place on my own. Eventually she began to think out loud that maybe they would be closed by the time we arrived. Not the motivational words I wanted to hear on our ever going walk in the heat. I told her I wanted to at least get there and see the place. I didn’t care if we had to go back another day when they were open I wanted to see it. I was becoming super agitated. I felt like we were walking and getting more lost. People were meaning well when they tried to give us directions but sometimes EVEN I COULD TELL that they were kind of guessing in hopes of being helpful. We stopped to ask for more directions at the Centre for Crippled Children (so not politically correct!! I am fully aware) and Pi Loong sank into a deep conversation with two security guards. I could tell she was asking for directions AND TELLING THEM MY BACK STORY. They kept looking at me and looking back at her. They asked to see both our IDs and by this point I was OVER the small talk. I wanted to just get to the orphanage. This detour was no making me happy. I was so flustered that we were so close but had not made it yet. I told them I had ID but why did we both need to show if we weren’t at the right spot? We needed directions to the Babies Home. She told me they gave her directions and we were really close but we were allowed to go inside and see the children. They were asking for ID because they need to hold on to them during our visit. I remember trying to stay calm while explaining to Pi Loong this was not the Babies Home. If she was worried about them being closed or closing soon, we should not be making any stops but heading directly over. I know I was coming off rude as to not wanting to see these children -but I truly didn’t. I was so close to where I actually wanted to be. We had to keep moving.
I was so relieved when we finally arrived. The gates were open and there were two staff members on their break eating food. I tried to explain in English that I moved here and wanted to volunteer. They understood the word volunteer and said, “Chai chai chai”. They were saying yes but they were not able to reply back to me in English. Thankfully Pi Loong was with me (hurray for a personal translator) and she explained that I should come back on Monday. There was an English teacher that came to see the kids and he could help organize something for me. That made me happy that I was allowed to volunteer. I really had not thought of what I would do if they said no.
I was pretty sure that I would not be allowed to take pictures once I had entered the premises. I was correct; there were even laminated pictures of cameras slashed out around the property. Clearly there has been an issue in the past! We were allowed to see the children and visit. There were about 35 Thai children around the ages of 2-4, playing in an enclosed metal playground. Well more standing around then playing. Lots were leaning on the gate or sitting with the one staff member that sat on the floor leaning against the gate. There were 3 other staff members outside the play area walking around or watching. I wasn’t attacked by emotions! My first observation was that it was sad that no one was playing or entertaining the children. They weren’t doing anything. Some of the children came up to the gate to say hi and gave us big smiles but most of them just stood around. It felt weird to be watching them like they were a zoo exhibit. I wanted to put my bag down and go in and cuddle and play with them. One of the most outgoing girls noticed Pi Loongs watch and was asking her what time it was. Then they started to have a little conversation in Thai. The kids all looked so tiny and cute. They were well dressed and groomed. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it wasn’t too hard to get the gist of it.
One of the smallest girls kept crying for Momma. Later we learned that she had been dropped off today. HER FIRST DAY! That broke my heart. She was crying so one of the staff took her away from the play area and out for a walk. When she came back she was told she had to get her haircut. She started crying again. No one hugged her or tried to calm her down. They gave her a little trim while she was standing there crying. She did not enjoy it but seemed to calm down relatively quickly afterwards. I don’t like seeing children cry! It was awkward witnessing this child’s first day away from her parents. What would probably become a permanent stay.
Before we had entered the property I was joking to Pi Loong that she could adopt 1 or 2 of the children since she loved kids so much. I knew she wasn’t going to adopt but maybe she could play with the children weekly. She joked that she was tooo old but then the conversation grew serious. She said that she would not even be allowed to take them out on play dates. The government is very strict on who adopts them. She is too old and doesn’t make enough money so they would never even consider letting her look after a child. That made me really sad to hear too. Here is someone who is great with children and could give them much needed one-on-one attention but she is discriminated against due to her financial background. I guess it is for the safety and welfare of the children but what a loss for the children…Good thing they don’t require my financial history too volunteer!
We watched the children have dinner/snack. They lined up and each got a small bread roll. When they were done they were given another bun that had pork inside. One of the little boys started crying because he got told off for just picking out the meat on the inside. He didn’t want the bun and started crying. His cry was so cute…but he did eventually eat his entire bun! Good boy. Some of the children then lined up along the gate to share a water cup. The cup kept getting refilled from a big jug and passed along until everyone’s’ thirst was satisfied. They were all so polite about it.
I left not knowing how to discern my emotional state. I was happy to be invited back to volunteer. I was glad the children looked healthy. I was concerned that they weren’t playing and having fun. I think my role will be to go and speak English to them and bring a bit of joy. To help create happy childhood memories. All believe that all children deserve to be happy and fun. I hope that I can do that for them. Selfishly this volunteering will probably be more meaningful for me then them; but I am hopeful that we all share in the good times.
Thanks for reading…sorry for another long one!
xox Amanda Sumalee
My flights over were both great. The staff and plane were awesome. In all honestly, I didn’t have any expectations of the flights as I had to book them in such haste. I couldn’t be bothered to check comments or ratings for either Qantas or Emirates. I was impressed by both airlines and would recommend either. I LOVED that the Qantas flight had a usb port so I could plug my iphone to charge 🙂 I also like that they served Tip Top ice cream bars for dessert (or “pudding” as my Kiwi friends call it).
I flew from Auckland to Sidney with Qantas and only had 1 hour to switch flights. When I checked my baggage I stupidly forgot to ask if I had to re-check my bags for my connecting flight. I was a little nervous that I would arrive in Thailand without my baggage. Luckily the clerk at the Emirates counter assured me that if was impossible for Emirates to expect me clear customs and check my baggage in under an hour. I was fortunate to receive my request of a window seat over to Australia as the airplane was only around 2/3rds full. On the way to Thailand I was sitting in the aisle in the middle row. Not ideal but not the worst situation. I was lucky to be seated beside a lovely young couple from Amsterdam. I felt awful for then when I heard their flight route. They had just spent 3 weeks (or was it 5?) travelling Australia and were now beginning their trek home. They needed to fly 8hrs from Sidney -> another 8 hours from Bangkok to Dubai -> then an additional 8hours home to Amsterdam. What was worse was they were obligatory to exit the plane so they could go through customs and then re-enter TO THE SAME SEATS! I thought that was brutal. When we touchdown in Thailand all three of us had had barely any sleep. Thankfully the movie/tv/music selection on our individual TVs was exceptional. I was happy with everything I watched! They were eager to exit and re-board the plane so they could try to get more sleep where as I was excited to have reached my destination!
It was after 1am when I got off the plane and felt the humid air. I loved it! Going through immigration was a bit of a wait but fairly manageable. One of the female security guards told us if we wanted to walk a few minutes down the hallway there were another whole area for passengers to go through. That handy little tip saved me quite a bit of time. I was thrilled to discover that my luggage was WAITING for me when I found the luggage belt. It had been turned off with all the luggage lined up in a neat little row.
As planned, I phoned my friend Pi Sangwan once I was ready to leave the airport. She told me she would head over to the airport and that Pi Loong was already at the airport waiting for me!!!! I phoned Pi Loong and she told me where I could meet her. I was really glad she recognized me as I haven’t seen her in years. I was thrilled to see a friendly face as I was not really sure if I was meeting them at the airport or the next day. Pi Loong, her brother and I grabbed a drink at the airport’s food court and caught up as we haven’t seen each other in years. I was under the impression that we were grabbing a drink while we waited for Pi Sangwan to arrive. You could say that I was A LITTLE CONFUSED when around 3am (so 8am Auckland time) we were leaving in a taxi together. I had originally planned to taxi over to my Thai-Australian friend’s house but we decided to change the dates. I then decided I would stay at a hostel near Khoa San Road. I had researched a LOT of different hostels with help from my Thai friends. Lolly mentioned a hostel that she stayed at 4 years ago and it sounded quite cozy. Within walking distance, to Khoa San Road but far enough away to get away from the party scene. The location sounded like an ideal place for travellers and expats to mingle. After catching up with Pi Loong I learned that the two ladies had been chatting a lot about me and were very worried about my safety. They had decided that I wouldn’t stay anywhere near Khoa San Road. So there was a change of plans and I would be staying in a hotel near Pi Loong’s house for a few days.
On the taxi ride to The Embassy Hotel I wanted to sleep so badly. I remember not wanting to blink too long for fear of falling asleep in the car. I was EXHAUSTED and had no idea how long the car ride would be or where we were going. When we arrived at the hotel IT LOOKED massive. There was a bit of confusion when we tried to get our key. Something about them wanting us to wait until 6am to get a room…the mixture of jet lag and English-Thai translation left me in a state of confusion. I looked at my phone and it read 3:34am. I asked Pi Loong 2 questions: if there was wireless so I could message people back home so they knew I was alive, and was I allowed to sleep in their lobby? My phone kept saying it was connected but it wasn’t giving me internet. The room situation was sorted out and I remember sleepily following Pi Loong into this massive bedroom with two beds and a huge window. She said goodbye and she would see me the next day. I put my bags down and belly flopped on one of the beds. I woke up a few hours later and realized I needed to take my contacts out and change out of my clothes!
I woke up again around 10am (Thailand time) and decided I should start the day. I showered and threw on a dress. I did not know if Pi Loong was going to walk back to the hotel or if I was going to need to call her so I left her a note to tell her I had just left for a quick walk. I think it took me 5 mins of humming and hawings as to whether or not I should wear a scarf. (I laugh at this now! But while I was standing in my air conditioned room I really was finding it hard to decide if I needed it or not). AS SOON AS I OPENED the hotel door I smiled as to having made the decision to leave the scarf at home! IT WAS HOT. DRY hot heat. I left the house on a mission to find a sim card for my phone and a wireless internet hot spot. My iphone was easily locating the wireless spots but not being too friendly about connecting to them. I got really frustrated at how fast my battery was dying struggling to connect to a wifi source. I successfully communicated to the 7 Eleven attendant that I needed a sim card for my phone. WHAT I lacked to understand was that I needed to buy a top up card as the sim card was simply a phone number. After sorting that out I still wasn’t able to get internet on my phone. I walked up the street for ages. I debated crossing the street but decided against it for my first day in Bangkok. Baby steps to this BIG ADVENTURE. I really did not want to be using my medical insurance on my first day!
I was starting to get hungry but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try any street food. 7 Eleven are like North America’s Startbucks. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. So I went into 7 Eleven and grabbed some water and dried seaweed. YUMMERS. Solid choice, as I knew I would be eating more food with Pi Loong later that day. Loong came over to my hotel later that afternoon and we grabbed some food at BIG C. It is your everything cheap store (comparable to Wall Mart or Kmart). It has it’s own food court besides all the groceries, clothing, stationary etc. It is your one stop (cheap) shop. Their food court uses the refillable swipe card method payment. So you have to be really good at estimating how much your total meal will cost – or come back within 7 days to spend the remainder of your balance. Pi Loong and I tried to sort out my lack of internet. I decided that if I couldn’t get it on my phone I would try to buy an internet stick. It would mean no whatsapp but at least I would email, google maps and facebook. I quickly nixed the stick idea when I learned that you buy a blank stick and have to pay extra for the internet. That seemed rather odd to me. Would pretty much be like buying a memory card?! Anyways after all that confusion I was still without internet at my finger tips. It really made me realize how much I take internet for granted. I am just so used to always having internet in the home or places to find wifi. I said goodbye to Pi Loong around 10 and got back to my hotel around 11:30ish. I love that there is such a night time atmosphere in Bangkok. Shops are open late and people are out having dinner or at the internet cafes just skyping up a storm. While I was at the internet café emailing and facebooking someone was casually skyping his friend SO LOUDLY beside me. Sure he had his headset on but I felt like I was part of his conversation. His male friend was sitting on his couch in his shorts and t just laughing and loving the catch up… Well that was day 1. I won’t be blogging EVERYDAY but I will try to keep the blog relatively active!
I made it to Thailand and I am excited to share my highs and lows with all of you. LOTS LOTS of highs!
Lots of love to everyone,