Greetings and Happy New Year from Bangkok, Thailand! 🎇
I started the year with a literal bang by watching the NYE fireworks near Central World in Bangkok, the self-proclaimed Times Square of Asia.
Side note: Although the crowds were massive, the atmosphere here was very calm and tranquil. There was no pushing or shouting, which I believe lends itself to the Buddhist philosophy of karma in Thailand. 🧘
Unfortunately though, due to my grandma-like nature, I didn’t stay out very late after midnight. 😴
Fun fact: According to the Buddhist Thai calendar, it is not the year 2020, but actually 2563! 🎉
According to the Chinese zodiac, is also the year of the rat, which I find ironic considering the recent viral outbreak and the rat’s historical connotation with disease and the plague. 🐀
At least that means some fashion trends are coming back in style. 😂
As you can see, although there is a lot of chaos and concern lately regarding the coronavirus, where face masks are literally flying off the shelves, I thought I’d create a rather humorous post to remind people that our mindset impacts our health, so please don’t forget to enjoy life and find the humor in each day. Everything is contagious, including laughter, creativity, and joy. 😄
Side note: As a child of the 80s, that bottom picture totally reminds me of the cult classic, Weird Science. 😂
Overall, keep calm and heck, even crack a cold one. 🍺
Oh wait, on second thought…be careful which brew you choose. Hah! 😂
Seriously though, since there is such a link between a healthy body and mind, it’s really important to smile and have a positive attitude. Not only is it considered the best medicine, but it’s also contagious as well. 😄
To practice what I preach, I decided to take a laughter yoga class at Prem Yoga & Ayurveda. 🧘
The instructor explained how smiles and laughter, even if they are forced, cause the same chemical reaction in our brain. The class performed a series of laughing exercises where everyone was forced to laugh, which also sparked tons of spontaneous and authentic laughter as well. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much! Highly recommended!😄
Side note: The class was free and didn’t include any actual yoga, so anyone can participate.
For a few good laughs, I also went to Stagetime Comedy Club and Tapas Cafe to see a few comedians.
One of the nights there was an all-female lineup and the women comedians talked about the utterly laughable dating scene in Bangkok. I can totally relate from firsthand experience…just look at the actual photos from the dating app I took off my phone shown below. 😱 Aside from a few needles in the haystack here, the majority of eligible men are either creepy locals…or LBH.
The term LBH means “Losers Back Home” and is given to any guy who was most likely a nerd back in their home country and came to Thailand only to find young Asian women swooning all over them. Obviously, this does not mean the women are stupid. They didn’t come up with the term, “no money, no honey” for nothing. Hah! Anyway, this usually means that overtime here, the men have a SUPER inflated ego. The comedian said that these LBH should really be obligated to fly home every six months for a reality check, otherwise you have situations like the one below. 😂 Warning: some things cannot be unseen. 🙈
Anyway, although that beefcake above may have been slightly unappetizing, I thought I’d move on to another delightful factor that total affects your happiness and mood: food!🍔
Bangkok is blessed with a plethora of food options, and I’ve been lucky enough to check out a few new spots in the city that I thought I’d share. One of the front runners for me is Pala Pizza. Walking by their storefront feels like you’ve been transported to Italy, and their quaint restaurant offers a unique variety of homemade pizzas and pastas at affordable prices. I ordered the Lago Verde, which had eggplant, zucchini, pesto and mozzarella, and my friend got the arancini rice balls with pork and the orzo salad with barley, carrots, pine nuts, raisins, and balsamic, which was delicious as well. 😋
After this comes the next stand-out dining experience: Gold Curry, a Japanese restaurant near Bang Rak.
Then comes Cali-Mex Bar and Grill, a Tex-Mex chain restaurant offering a casual dining atmosphere and a unique variety of Mexican-inspired dishes. I had a taco salad with seasoned chicken and my friend got beef tacos with sour cream and cheese. Dairy products are not common here, so this was a treat! I also saw some Thai fusion items on the menu, like their pork larb tacos. Yum! 🌮
Next up is 1881 by Water Library at the Groove Central World. The ambiance is hip and trendy, and they have a wide selection of burgers and pasta, like this BBQ pulled pork burger with fries. 🍔
Another highlight for me based on its incredibly charming decor was B-Story Cafe. The current theme was Christmasy, but I’ve also seen the place decorated for Halloween and Chinese New Year as well. 🎅
My friend and I shared veggies, egg fried rice, papaya salad (a.k.a som tam), and Cesar salad. Som tam is made with unripe papaya, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and a flavorful dressing of chilies, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and lime. 😋
Som tam is notoriously spicy, and even when you say ‘mai phet’ or ‘not spicy’, you’ll still get some chilies thrown in there. The dish was too spicy for my friend, but that was fine by me! 🌶️
Speaking of Thai food, I’ve continued to try new Thai dishes both at school and at nearby food courts. Food courts are a very popular and affordable way to eat homemade meals here. They are NOT like food courts back in the States with lots of processed fast food items. Most dishes cost between 2-3 USD. My new favorite is The Seasons Mall and Samyan Mirtown. Starting from the top left, I tried drunken pork noodle with bok choy and soy sauce, fried egg salad with cucumber, rice, and spicy fried chicken, and Taiwanese pork belly with pickled mustard greens, bok choy and a hard boiled egg over rice. The pork belly was simmered for hours in soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, and garlic. 😋 On the bottom row you’ll see a cold pork salad with lime, curry paste, lemongrass and turmeric alongside stink beans, green coconut curry, and rice, an incredibly eye-appealing tofu pad Thai with extra peanuts, and fried noodle soup with pork, Chinese broccoli, and a thick, flavorful gravy stock. 😋
Here is a yellow curried egg dish stir fried with octopus, shrimp, calamari, and spring onion. I ate it at this Thai-style restaurant on colorful orange stools for only 2 USD. 🧡
Here you’ll see Chinese bao buns filled with pork and veggies, bamboo wrapped sticky rice, and in the bottom left is miang kham, a street snack of peppery leaves filled with dry shrimp, shallots, ginger, lime, chilies, sugar, and tamarind sauce. This tiny parcel packs a mean punch! 💙
And my school food options continue to be endless, but the highlights have been pineapple turnovers, white dragonfruit, stir fried morning glory, glass noodle salads with cabbage, pineapple tofu BBQ stir fry, and Thai omelets stuffed with pork and green beans. 🧡
Also, the new products and cute cafes here continue to amaze me. I’ve found unicorn donuts, strawberry KitKats, heart shaped burgers, curry chicken buns, curry potato chips, and even WTF soda. 😂
Casual eateries like Mihimihi serve deep-fried cream puffs filled with matcha and chocolate, CoCo seves taro root milk teas, and Make Me Mango appeals to mango maniacs with mango sticky rice, mango ice cream, and mango shakes. 🧡
And I can’t forget my new favorite find: Sloth Coffee Bar. Being such a lover of sloths and after seeing baby sloths in Costa Rica, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this cafe. Their coffee was very balanced as well. ❤️
In terms of actual convenience meals, on the top row you’ll see that I tried spicy red curry catfish with fried egg and rice, Thai chicken red curry with omelet and rice, Japanese pork buckwheat noodles with pickled ginger, veggies, and a sunny side up egg, and Japanese BBQ chicken meatballs with egg, crab and rice. On the bottom row you’ll see fried chicken meat salad with cilantro and lime, BBQ chicken, Japanese curry with potato, and Indian curry beef ribs with rice. 😋
You may notice I have a fondness for Japanese food, and my ultimate favorite dish is okonomiyaki: a savory cabbage pancake topped with crab, BBQ, nori, and a sweet Japanese mayo. The word actually means, “to your liking”, so you can top this pancake with just about anything. Most recently I even found it on a stick with egg and even cheese! 😋
I did get a bout of food illness a few weeks back, so in that case I opted to eat more bland foods from the grocery store for a bit, and hold back on the laughs. 😂
Grocery stores like Tesco Lotus, Tops, and Big C make shopping easy. You can find fresh veggies, whole grains, and apples bigger than your head. Some of the imported foods here come at a premium though, like these strawberries for 25 USD, so choose wisely and buy local when you can! 💸 🍎
When I did get better, after many nights in bed watching TV, you best believe I took full advantage of being social again! 💃
I went to check out a cool venue near Chinatown called the FooJohn Building. They have a vintage French atmosphere with a wide menu of crepes and cheeses to match. I went there for their live jazz music and creative cocktail menu. Highly recommended! 🎷
Another fun bar to check out with live music and reasonable prices is Beer Republic. Alcohol is surprisingly expensive here relative to the cost of living, so it’s possible to find a good deal, but you’ll have to do your research. 🍺
For example, they have ladies’ nights on certain days of the week in Bangkok. At Felicita Rooftop Bar, I found a 3-hour free-flow of cocktails, wine, beer, and sangria for only 10 USD. Deadly, but delicious! 🍹
And feeling fearless after recovering from my food illness, I did head down to Chinatown to check out the market scene as well. 🇨🇳
And of course, I’m also on the lookout for menu mistranslations that give me a little chuckle. Steamed Crap…get it while it’s hot! Hah! 💩
Speaking of humorous oddities in Bangkok, I feel like I’m always seeing things here that leave me scratching my head and nearly always laughing. 🤣 For example, I found toy cats dressed up as nuns sold in capsule vending machines, shiny purple cabbage masks, dino-snore jammies (which I bought), blue jean thongs sold for over 100 USD, a fully dressed Spiderman on a bicycle (NOT during Halloween), a chin lifter, snake oil, tiger medicine with opium, and Donald Trump as the Stranger Things monster. 🤣
Next up there were couples that coordinate their outfits, quirky sculptures, unexpected architecture, like this bank that looks more like a royal mansion and an art deco hotel, scandalous street art, and an overwhelming amount of adorable soi dogs and cats. 🐶
And the piece de resistance might be this sign I found in the bathroom. You know they only take the effort to make a laminated sign when it becomes a repeat problem. 🤣
Now don’t let all the trash in that last bottom right picture put you off. Thailand recently banned plastic bags in January 2020 in an effort to cut down on its trash. Thais have a serious sense of humor about it too, and are bringing literally everything they can find into the stores to use as an alternative grocery carrying device. 🤣
Side note: In Thailand, people often type the message ‘555‘ when they are laughing. That’s because the number 5 is pronounced ‘ha’ in Thai.
And when humor isn’t enough, I’ve turned to spiritual ways to keep my mood elevated. I was able to watch a lovely Nordic mass at the Christ Church in Bangkok, and visit a few temples, including the awe-inspiring Wat Arun.
Wat Arun means ‘temple of the dawn’ and I found the attention-to-detail in this temple to be absolutely jaw dropping! 💚
I was able to visit a few venues around Bangkok, including the River City Bangkok art gallery, the event Beautiful Bangkok, which featured a life-sized kaleidoscope, and Bangkok Design Week, where they showcased a house mapping light projection. Sorry grumpy cat, you can’t get me down. 😀
Feeling inspired by all this artistic expression, I decided to pass on this contagious creativity to my students as well. During the holiday season, we created salt clay ornaments.
In the new year, we experimented with slime, made our own parachutes, clouds in a jar, volcanoes, and ice cream in a bag for the school science fair. We also made crafts and dumplings for the Chinese New Year. ❤️
The students then showed their gratitude to us on Teachers’ Day where they bowed, sang songs, and gave us endless amounts of flowers and even chocolate. 💮
Anyway, I hope you caught some of this positive energy, and I think I’ll wrap things up with a laughable recap video of my last month in Thailand. 💜
Up next my mom will be visiting Thailand for some bonding time. Although I’ve been lucky enough to receive some incredibly heartfelt letters from back home over the last few months and see a few reminders of home, like this motorbike expo featuring Oshkosh B’Gosh, having an actual visitor makes me absolutely ecstatic! 🧡
I’ll also begin planning for another international trip this spring. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then! 🧡