Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our First Few Days in Bangkok

Some of us (Kevin, Caitlynne & Christopher) managed to sleep a few hours our first night in the house. At 3.30 am, I was re-arranging furniture and planning where all of our paintings, rugs, and "stuff" would go when it arrives in mid-September. Is anyone who knows me surprised at all by this?!?

A driver from the Embassy picked us up at 9.30 am to take us to the Embassy ( for our formal check in. This driver was the same one that Kevin and I had in January and he also picked us up at the airport the night before. It was nice to see a familiar and friendly face. He is Thai, has worked for the Embassy for over 20 years and will be Kevin's driver for meetings, trips to the airport, etc. Although Bangkok traffic is known to be horrible, our drive downtown took just about 30 minutes, so not bad at all.

We visited Kevin's new office and met up with his predecessor who walked us through all of the various offices at the Embassy that we needed to check in with... CLO (Community Liaison Office), HR, Medical, Housing, ??? I am sure I am forgetting something. The Bangkok Embassy is one of the largest US Embassies in the world. There are three main compounds spread over 2 or 3 blocks and with a few more offices in other buildings very close by. We were all fine with our jet lag until about 2 pm and then our eyes glazed over and we truly were just going through the motions. We left the Embassy at about 3:30 pm and the kids and I promptly fell asleep in the car on the drive back to the house! When we arrived home, all I remember is Christopher going up to his room and not seeing him until the next morning. 

Honestly, between jet lag and being in a new home in a foreign country, the next few days passed by in a blur. We went to dinner Saturday night at a restaurant called Baan Rabiang Nam (or, in English, the "River Tree"). Kevin and I had gone here in January and LOVED it. I was glad we were able to take the kids there as we had told them about it several times. For about 30 baht (or $1.00), a tuk tuk picks you up from the car park and drives you down a very crowded and chaotic lane to the restaurant. Once you arrive at the door of the restaurant, you know you are in for something special. The restaurant has an amazing setting right on the bank of the Chao Praya river so you can watch the tug boats & barges pass by as well as the boat taxis and the decorated longtail boats. There are also a lot of beautiful river plants that float by in massive clumps so the river looks to be dotted with floating gardens. The food at the River Tree is fabulous and incredibly cheap. I cannot wait for our first visitors to arrive so we can take them there. It is such a great "Thai" experience. 

Our first trip to the grocery store was quite an experience! I was amazed, overwhelmed, and confused all at the same time. I have been told that everything I need can be found in the Thai grocery stores so I guess I will just need to figure it out. There are very few "American" or recognizable brands and all the writing on the packaging was in Thai. While some items were easy to identify (i.e., dog food), others were pretty hard. For example, all of the laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, fabric softener and cleaning products are kept in the same aisle and it was hard to determine what was what. It was difficult to select cereals as well because the packaging did not give a clue as to what was in the box. Also, the cereals were very expensive - almost $8.00 for a small box.

The meat section was interesting in that there are these huge bins (uncovered and unrefrigerated), each full of whatever cut of chicken, beef, pork that you might want. You ask the attendant for the type and amount of meat you need and he/she spoons it out of the appropriate tub and into a plastic bag. I was told not to buy my meat like this (as if!) but only to purchase the pre-wrapped and refrigerated meats which are available in some of the smaller food markets.

The fruit and veg section was so incredible. Every type of tropical fruit - some that we recognized and some we didn't - was on display. I went a little crazy and bought some pomelo, passionfruit, yellow kiwis and guava. I recognized most of the veggies and all of our favorites (zucchini, green beans, broccoli, potatoes, and lettuce) were available. I was also happy to see that pumpkin and squash are sold already peeled and cut. I have several recipes for curries or tangines but I have avoided making them because prepping the required pumpkin/squash is such a chore. As long as all of the produce is cleaned well, it is safe to eat.

We went to the grocery store with someone from Kevin's office who is living here by himself. His maid does most of the food shopping for him so he was unfamiliar with a lot of the foods and where to find some of the specific things I needed. My first task will be to meet up with someone who can spend the time to walk around the grocery store with me and explain where and what everything is. Otherwise, I am sure we will go hungry because I just couldn't figure enough things out to put together into a meal.

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