Downtown Bangkok

Entrance to one of Chinatown’s various market streets

I have been in Bangkok for over two weeks now, and I have spent most of my time comfortably in my little suburb, Samakorn. I do really enjoy this place. There are some great restaurants, and great neighbors. I have still a lot of exploring to do in my own neighborhood, but I thought it was about time to fight the traffic of this great city and take in the sights of the downtown area for a night. I landed in Bangkok’s busy markets of Chinatown, and started to see some of what makes this one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.

A water bus on the Chao Phraya River

The easiest way to reach Bangkok’s Chinatown is by hopping on one of the many boats that move up and down the Chao Phraya River and getting off at the five stop. The vast sprawling markets and street food is directly down the street from the station. You can also grab a cab but expect to sit in traffic a lot of the time, and be patient before you get to where you are going. I have found that this is just the way of life in Bangkok. If you fight against it, you will always be stressed out, and you still make it to your location at the same time as if you just went with the flow of traffic and quit worrying about it.

Artwork on the wall outside of the Tep Bar in Bangkok

During the day, the markets are the most interesting things to see. The small alleyways of this part of town are packed with shops filled with all of the cheap plastic, and junk that you never really wanted to have. But it is an interesting place to people watch and the shop owners are not pushy. It is also another place where you just need to go with the flow because you will find yourself within a stream of humanity as it winds its way through the various stalls, and every once in awhile somebody will stop to check something out, stopping the flow. When this happens, there is nothing you can do but wait it out until it starts flowing again. If you are looking for fresh vegetables, and fruit, there are great sections of the market where vendors are selling these as well as making various forms of street food.

Live music on a Sunday night in the Tep Bar.

At night, the shops close up and people head inside to the various restaurants and bars that can be found. A lot of these places offer entertainment, and even on a Sunday night, I was able to find a live traditional Thai band playing for the amusement of the patrons there.

The view from the roof at Wallflowers

The places are wildly decorated as well. My favorite that I saw on my short visit downtown was called Wallflowers. During the day, it is a cafe and flower shop, but at night it transforms itself into a five story eatery. The tables and chairs are a collection of whatever they could find which would make it seem like a chaotic mess, but actually gave it some charm. I had to walk up five flights of narrow stairs to get to the roof where I was able to enjoy the night’s sky and the atmosphere. The food was good, but nothing fancy. It was more just a place to avoid the bustle of the city down below. It was not one of the famous rooftop bars that I have heard so much about from Bangkok, but I think it was the perfect speed for me on my first venture out to the more exciting parts of the city.

I know I will make it to this part of the city again soon because I do not live that far away, but I am glad to finally get out and experience why Thailand is on a lot of people’s bucket lists of places to visit. I know I didn’t hit the touristy spots yet, but I will eventually get down to those place as well. Until then, this was the perfect adventure as I ease myself more into this city’s lifestyle.

Until next time.

The Arrival – The Move Final Day

The living room in my new place as I start to unpack

I know that a lot of people move everyday, and I don’t want to sound like I am complaining because it is a stressful situation no matter how big or small the move might be. My goal is to empathize with those people that are going through with the process because I understand how many trials and tribulations they need to go through until they can get to that moment where they find themselves in the new place and can start unpacking all of those boxes and bags and start living their lives in their new location.

My process started way back in early December when I finally said yes to taking a job teaching at a different international school in Thailand. I started to pack up my stuff while getting together all of the paperwork to get a visa so they wouldn’t kick me out of the country when I finally got there. The list got pretty long with all of the stuff I needed to accomplish along the way, and it seemed like it would never end, but after all the steps forward intermixed with occasional setback, I finally landed in Thailand, signed my lease on my new place, and started moving in.

The street view of the new place

Even though the square space in the house is not much more than what I had in my apartment in Korea over the last four years, it is nice to find myself on a street with my own driveway, my own small front patio, and my own mango tree. I love the fact that I now live in a neighborhood and not a complex, and all of the charms that come along with it. Just this morning as I stood out on my front patio and sipped from my cup of coffee, I was able to wave at the father and his young daughter as they walked down the street this morning. It gave me a sense of community that I never really felt when I entered my apartment complex every evening. I never got to know my neighbors there because they were packed so close together that I never really saw them more often than once a month. It might just be the optimism of living in a new place, but I do not believe that I will have that problem here.

A vegetable vendor on the street market

The neighborhood has a lot more to offer than just neighbors, too. There are tons of new restaurants I am going to be able to try out with a bunch of variety to them, and also a street market every weekend if I would prefer to get some fresh produce and make my own meals. It is these cultural experiences that I am also looking forward to in my new home. The first few weeks that I live in a place I feel like I am always wandering around exploring all the nooks and crannies until I can find out everything that the place has to offer. The weekend market alone should provide me with enough corners that I won’t get bored with it for a couple of months.

Some interesting tile work in the bathroom at my new place

And of course with any new place you move into, there are always a couple of strange surprises that you never thought you would encounter. Mine came in my new bathroom. Behind the toilet, painted into the tiles is this wonderful piece of artwork. It is not small either. It is a good three by four feet, and it is ready to greet me every morning as I get ready for work.

For the most part, it feels very nice to start to put things away and make those small adjustments so we can make the place feel more like home. Of course, it will take a little bit of time before we get to the point where I won’t have to rearrange furniture and try out new locations for all of my stuff, but it is nice to know that when I unpack something, I don’t have to put it a suitcase again because I have not reached my final destination. I have finally arrived, and I can start to quit living in the limbo between two places. I can now take in the sights and start to enjoy my new home.

The Things I am Excited About – The Move Day 24

I have spent a lot of time this summer talking about the place where I came from, and mentioning the place where I am moving to, but I have not really talked about it, and why I am excited about moving there. So I thought I would give a little time to talk about the things that I am looking forward to about the relocation to Bangkok.

First of all, I am looking forward to the food. I know that Korean food is the trendy thing worldwide, but I have never been a fan of this kind of food. I like the spices and I do enjoy the community spirit that is created by going to a Korean bar-b-q, but it has nothing that I have ever craved. I do enjoy what they have done to fried chicken, and I do not think that any culture can compete with this improvement on an American staple, but I cannot eat that every night unless I want to end my life by exchanging cholesterol for the blood in my veins. Basically, for the last four years, I have struggled eating.

My wife and I would always talk about our favorite foods in the world, and if there was one type of food that we had to eat for the rest of lives what would it be. Of course Italian always comes up for me because it has always been my favorite style of food, and my wife always talks about Japanese food because of the variety and the unique flavors that they explore in that country. And even though we both agree with each others’ main choice, we both agree whole-heartedly with Thai food. On my recent trip out there to scout out places where we would end up living, I even experienced new flavors that I did not know existed with this cuisine and it turned into one of my favorite Thai dishes. This just means that I have not tried everything that Thai food has to offer. I am excited to explore these options even more.

Which brings me to the next thing I am excited about, the street markets. There is a big one right next to the place where I will be living. It is not as big as the Chatuchak Market in central Bangkok, but it will still be a nice addition to the neighborhood. Apparently, it is only open during the weekends, but it will be the perfect place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables. And the amount of fresh fruit that will be out there excites me a lot. I was able to get fruit in Korea, but it was heavily dependent on the growing season. When I arrived in the summer was when I could get green apples, but they disappear soon after I got out there. Berries would not be available until late in spring, and yes, I could get a watermelon, but I would have to spend up to $30 for it.

The fruit should be more readily available in Thailand, and the variety should always be there available at the markets and delivered that morning from the groves. I look forward to going to the market and searching for the perfect fruit and vegetables of the day and creating a meal with them later in the evening. I will not always have to wait until the weekend to make this happen either. Where we are moving has a mango tree in the front yard, and twice a year I should have a supply of fresh mangoes in which to eat and cook with. I see myself perfecting the best mango salsa by the end of the first year.

A lot of this is due to the thing that I am having a love/hate feeling towards, and that is the weather. It is going to be hot and humid, and this will never change. My two favorite seasons in Korea were autumn and spring. If you are ever visiting Korea, this is when you want to go because the weather is perfect and the changing of the trees, whether it is the shedding of the leaves or the blooming of the cherry blossoms, is spectacular. I will really miss that about Korea.

What I will not miss about Korea is its bitter winter. I have seen my fair share of bitter cold winters, but I have never experienced anything like the ones in Korea. The temperature drops and stays there. I used to look at the outside, not wanting to venture out because I knew it meant bundling up so my skin would not be ripped away by the dry frigid wind. It wasn’t even pretty because it rarely snowed in the winter to hide the dead tree and lawns. It was just cold. I will not miss that.

But I am not also a fan of extreme heat. I am a runner, and trying to run while it is hot and humid is harder than when it is cold and bitter. It just saps all of the energy from me, and I feel like I am wading through the air rather than slicing through it. I know I will eventually acclimate to this because it is never going to change, but I will miss the colder times of the year. I know this even before I make it out to Thailand  because as I said earlier, the milder times of the year are my favorite. It is still not enough to dissuade my excitement for this move, and it is this weather that makes all of the other things I am excited about possible. It is just a minor thing, and I know that I will be able to make the adjustment.

So as the time pushes closer when I will finally get make that last leap, I am starting to get excited about what the changes will be for me, and I can’t wait to share them with the rest of you.

Making Adjustments – The Move Day 16 – 17

I have moved many times in my life, but it was usually just from one apartment, or town home to a new apartment or house. The farthest I had to go was across town, and I did not really need to worry about making the change to a new culture or lifestyle. Even though it was a small move, it still held some sense of the unknown. Would I get along with my neighbors? Would I find nice restaurants and bars in my new corner of town? Would I be safe there? Would my commute to work be affected in any way? Was the place I bought or rented really up to the snuff that the people who sold it to me said it was at? How will I get my stuff from point A to point B?

These are all things that cause stress in somebody’s life as they make these life changing jumps, and this was only across town. Four years ago, I left Colorado for the first time in my life, making a huge change and a huge adjustment by moving to not only a new house, but to a new country, South Korea. The level of stress increased because I would not get to look at the place I was moving into before I got there. Moving stuff across town in a truck can cause stress, but loading all of your personal belongings onto a baggage scale at the airport to make sure that it falls within the weight limit causes even more stress. I not only had to worry about finding food that I would enjoy, but whether or not I would enjoy the cuisine in the first place. I would not only have to worry about getting along with my neighbors, but I also had to worry about getting along with everybody I came into contact with because we would have a hard time communicating if we could communicate at all. Being safe became an even bigger concern when I thought about the madman that lived just north of the city that I would be residing in. How would I not only get back and forth to work, but to any place that I wanted to go without a car, and would it be a good idea to get a car in the first place because I was sure that they drove a little differently out in Korea?

Having this many questions hanging before me would make me reconsider the decision I had made and go running for the hills of Colorado to hide away until the moment it was safe to come out again. But I am glad that I did not do this. It was a little bit of a challenge, but I do think that it was the best decision I had ever made in my life. It forced me to push against my nature, and learn from the process to become a stronger person. It made me look at the world differently and understand more about not only other cultures but the one that I came from as well. It made me grow in my profession, and I have emerged a better teacher than when I went in. All in all, it made me a better person, and why would anyone not want to experience that challenge if presented it? I am glad I went into the field of international teaching, and I do not think I will ever look back.

My experience in Seoul made this next move a lot easier to go through. I am still traveling into the unknown, and there will have to be some adjustments that are made when I arrive, but I have been to Bangkok, and know what life is like there. I also know what it means to be an international teacher, and I will be learning how to make the leap to an IB program, but this is not as big of a leap from going from an alternative program to an AP program. It is still a challenge to move all my important possessions from one part of the world to the next, and it does always cause stress when I have to figure out how to get nine bags on to a commercial flight and make sure that I get them all after making two layovers along the way. But that is just the pain of moving, and I will figure it out along the way.

It is all a part of the experience, and I am now getting to a place where I am comfortable about the move that I will be making. I am looking forward to exploring a new corner of the world, and even though I am still a couple of weeks away from making that final jump, I hope that you will continue to come along with me as I share with you all the new experiences out there on the opposite of this globe.

Like a Dog in Dirt on a Hot Day – The PreMove Day 4

For those of you following this blog the last few days, you know that I have not done a really good job of capturing the essence of my new home in Bangkok with the pictures I took. I had been busy meeting new people, arranging new accommodations, and learning a little bit about my new position. Because of this, I did not pull out my phone very often to take pictures. That is the real reason that you are not getting a good visual representation. This theme continued on my last day in town, and this is the only picture that I took of that day. Normally I would not have shared a picture like this with you, but it is all I had, so it is what I have to go with. I also have to explain something profound and deep by only using this picture that really describes the way I feel about taking on this new challenge in my life. So all I could come up with is that my move feels like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

I know that this might seem like a huge leap to make a connection with, but for those of you that have dogs and have been outside with them on a hot day, you will know what I am talking about. My dog, Bear, who I have talked about on this blog from time to time, would find dirt on a hot day, and dig himself a hole. It was under that initial layer of dirt where he would be able to find a nice cool patch that he would cozy up to in order to cool off. He would be able to sleep the afternoon away with a big old grin on his face, much like the dog was that I had come across when I took the picture.

Now what does this have to do with my move. Well, going out to Bangkok and meeting all of these new people while looking at the place where I was going to live was like finding a nice cool patch of dirt on a hot summer day. It was really great to get to know these people a little before making the move. I did not long lasting friendships in that short period, but it calm down my nerves a bit that the people I will be working with are dedicated educators who like to have fun at the same time. It also showed me about the new place I am going to live, a comfortable house that is not too large, and not too small and has enough character to make it unlike any of the other houses that other people might live in. It also showed me the neighborhood I am going to live in with all of amenities and escapes that I will enjoy over the next years. I was everybody to find a little bit of comfort in a stressful time, and it had helped to alleviate some of my concerns.

Moving to a new place can be very stressful, and moving to a new culture and country can add a lot to that stress. I had been feeling that pressure over the last couple of weeks as I tried to wrap up my time in Korea while getting ready for my next jump. It is the busy time of the school year as the things that brought comfort in my house slowly disappeared as I started to pack things up. Add on to all of this one big unknown, and I would toss and turn throughout the evening as I tried to make sense of something I would never be able to touch. That is why this trip was so important to me. I did not take a lot of pictures because I was too busy digging into the dirt of my new life until I could find that comfortable spot. I know it was just a premove to the bigger jump that will take place towards the middle of the summer, but it has given me the comfort that I was looking for. And just like that dog in the picture I have found joy. Of course, there are still some trials and tribulations coming up in the next few weeks, but for right now I am going to enjoy the cool and get the sleep I have been looking for. I will be just like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

Sammakorn – The PreMove Day 3

I started the day promising myself that I would take more pictures during the day.

I ended up taking one.

I would like to claim that this little place is available for rent on Air B n’ B for a very modest price, but I cannot in all honesty make that claim. At first, I was amazed at the sheer size of the place. There was no way that this place could be somebody’s house. It had to be a clubhouse for one of the neighborhoods in Bangkok, but after I talked to a couple of people in the area, that it was in fact somebody’s house. Apparently, there was a rich model that owned this place, and lived there with her family. It blew my mind that this kind of place could be situated so close to places like I had posted the day before. But that is what goes on in Bangkok and I am going to have to accept this reality to soon because in a couple of months, it will be a part of my reality.

Today was spent looking for a place to live in the neighborhood where this house sat, Sammakorn. This place is a twenty minute drive during good traffic from the school I will be working in, and even though the neighborhood around the school was very nice with a lot to offer, I felt like Sammakorn was more my speed. There were a lot of great restaurants in this neighborhood and a huge street market. The houses belonged more to a neighborhood with more Thai people living in it, so I would have to learn the language in order to get around more, and be forced to be a part of the culture more. This is the whole reason that I moved overseas in the first place. I don’t want to just live in a different country; I really want to get to know its culture and people. I felt like this was the place where I could do that.

It took all day of looking at many different places and talking to many different landlords, but we eventually was able to find a new place that I would call my home next year. I know you want me to supply you with pictures, but like I said earlier, I didn’t take any. I wasn’t thinking about it as I was looking at these places. I was more concerned with what the place looked like and if I could be comfortable there. The place we decided on is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. It is a one floor house with a tiny yard, but it has a nice front patio protected from the shade of a mango tree. And yes, the mango tree produces fresh mangoes twice a year. We were told over a thousand every year. Now, I am sure that is an exaggeration, but twice a year, I will be enjoying fresh mango on a regular basis. It also has a brand new kitchen with a full sized fridge. I haven’t had a full sized fridge in so long that I forgot what it was like to open my fridge door without something falling out of it. It is also has three bedrooms and two full baths with one of other bathrooms having a great fresco of a jaguar painted into the tile. The whole house has made me really excited about the move, and has made the moving process even a little easier.

Overall, the day proved to be very productive, and justified the reason that we came out in the first place. Of course, I was also able to spend the day getting to know a few of my new colleagues and checking out the places in our new neighborhood, but it is the house that we found that makes me know that I have also found a home. It will be a couple of months before I get to see it again, but in the meantime, it has put my mind at ease. It is not as big as the mansion that I took a picture of, but I would never want something that big. I am glad that these small things are coming together, and making the move that will happen soon easier.

Checking out the Neighborhood – The PreMove Day 2

I do enjoy taking pictures, and I even have a nice Canon camera that I pull out for time to time when I know I am going to experience some opportunities for great pictures. Most of the time though, I just take my phone around and I feel like I can take some pretty nice pictures that I can use while working on this blog. While I am traveling, I usually take anywhere for ten to fifty pictures a day, and I can sort through them to bring you the best of what I have experienced.

This was not the case this time around.

I know why I didn’t take as many pictures. I was pretty busy looking at different houses that I could possibly move into, meeting new colleagues that I will be working with next year, and getting a tour of the school. All of these were great reasons to pull out the phone and take some pictures. I could look at the different houses, and compare them to others I would see tomorrow. I can take picture of the people I will be working with and show them to my family to let them know that I would be working with sane people. I could have taken pictures of the school to show others the beautiful campus that I will get to work on next year. Instead, the only time I pulled out the phone to take a picture was to snap a shot of a cock fighting ring and two run down houses on a river that is pretty close to the school.

I know that these pictures are a piece of Thailand, and there are many places like this all over the town, but this is not a complete picture of what is happening out in Bangkok. The houses that I got to look at were all two story with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. They were full furnished and even came with a small lawn that I had not been able to experience in a long time. They sat next to neighborhoods with large mansions and houses so big that I did not believe that they could exist in any culture. The strange thing about all of them was that they all existed so close to each other that it seemed as if there was no line between social classes in Bangkok. I know that they exist and it is sad to see, but at the same time, it did not seem to disturb any of the people that were living in the neighborhood. It was just a part of what made it the neighborhood.

I wish I had more pictures to show you because it is truly a beautiful place, and the visit out made me excited for the change I am making in my life. We were not able to find a new place this first day out here, but the school is really amazing, and the neighborhood that it is in will make a wonderful diverse home for next year. I am glad I came out to prepare for this big leap and I do think it will make things easier in the coming months.