Here to Make Friends

Unlike many a tortured prima donna entering a reality TV showdown, Gloria apparently did come to Thailand to make friends. She couldn’t help it, really – the Thais seem to love love love babies, and it’s probably pretty rare that a farang baby as young as ours ventures from the US all the way to Thailand. Everywhere we’ve been, hotel and restaurant staff have been eager to hold and play with the baby, usually while chanting “cha eh, cha eh,” which we’ve been told is a meaningless baby talk phrase, similar to “goo goo gah gah.” It’s become a common occurrence for the waitstaff at a restaurant to drop off our food and then offer to hold the baby for the duration of our meal – free babysitting, not a bad deal!

Black Canyon Coffee
At Black Canyon Coffee in Chiang Mai

Poon Restaurant
Mr. Poon’s wife insisted on holding Gloria, singing to her, and soothing her to sleep when she was fussy and jet lagged

German couplePoon Restaurant
Baby holders at our guest house (breakfast) and on the beach (lunch)

TreauTreau's daughter
Treau and her daughter, at our guest house in Mae Hong Son, both sang Gloria a chorus of “cha eh”s on our arrival

Guest house neighborAnother neighbor
Once the word got out at our guest house that there was a farang baby about, all of the neighbors wanted to meet her

Fern RestaurantSon and Mum Restaurant
New friends at Fern Restaurant and Son and Mum

Rom JindaGreen curry
Our server at Rom Jinda, and the bowl of green curry that she traded for our first born

Aum VegetarianWe's Restaurant
New friends at Aum Vegetarian and We’s Restaurant, both in Chiang Mai

Our friend M at Pat's
Gloria bidding adieu to her friend M at our guest house, shortly before heading to the airport to start the long journey home

Gloria Highlights, Week 20

Our final week in Thailand was filled with excitement. We made sure to finish up our stay in MHS with the requisite photo shoot at Jongkham Lake and we spent more time volunteering with our Burmese sisters – we even taught them a last-minute crash course in basic accounting. On Thursday evening, we shared some emotional goodbyes. Then we boarded the 30-minute puddle jumper to Chiang Mai on Friday morning – Gloria was a bit fussy on the flight but fortunately it was over in the blink of an eye (if only Gloria knew, she’d be thankful not to be on the MHS->CM bus). Gloria seemed to have mostly recovered from her cold by the time we left Mae Hong Son.

Back in Chiang Mai, we took Gloria to see the sights. We checked out several wats, the famous Chiang Mai Walking Street, the produce market, and a few favorite eating spots. The city was all lit up for the king’s birthday, which made for some fun evening walks and people watching. We took G to visit one of our Burmese friends who is now working in Chiang Mai. Because we couldn’t convince any songthaew drivers to take us to the part of town where she lives, we hailed a tuk-tuk, and Gloria enjoyed the view out the side from her perch in the baby carrier. We rode a songthaew back to the city center, checking off another new transportation experience for Baby G.

We departed Chiang Mai on a red-eye, and had a day-long layover in Seoul. We’ll provide more details about our sojourn into the city in another post. As for Gloria, she was (understandably) super sleepy, and she spent the better part of the day asleep in the baby carrier. We hadn’t planned for the harsh cold of Seoul in December, so to keep Gloria warm we dressed her in two layers of clothing plus her sleep sack before we nestled her into the carrier. It was unorthodox but it worked great. We took the train back to the airport in the afternoon, caught a quick nap in the airport, and then boarded the long-haul flight back to Seattle.

My angel
At the office, shortly before bidding adieu to our Burmese family

Bath time!
Bath time fun in our MHS guest house (we were grateful that they loaned us a basin)

Jongkham Lake
Photo shoot at Jongkham Lake

Riding a tuk-tuk in Chiang Mai
Checking out the view from a tuk-tuk, on the way to visit a friend in Chiang Mai

Naga
Posing with a naga at Wat Chedi Luang

Reclining Buddha What wat?
Touring the wats with mommy and daddy

Breakfast Breakfast
Breakfast at our guest house, on our final day in Chiang Mai

Napping at dinner
Catching a few ZZZs during dinner at Aum Vegetarian before heading to the airport

Sleepy in Seoul
Sleepy in Seoul

Gloria Highlights, Week 18

What a week! Of course, this week’s major highlight was the start of Gloria’s first international trip. We started our week in Seattle, spent a long time in transit, stayed one night in Chiang Mai, and are currently sunning ourselves on Nai Yang Beach, Phuket.

Baby G has been a rock star traveler so far, although she was certainly thrown for a loop by the time change. She’s been waking up several times a night, clearly convinced that it’s daytime and wanting to play/eat/cuddle/etc. Fortunately it hasn’t been too difficult to soothe her back to sleep on each waking, but the fractured sleep has definitely prolonged my jet lag recovery. It seems to be getting progressively better, so hopefully she’ll be fully adjusted within a couple more days.

In other news, she has turned into a drool monster and she constantly wants to munch on her hands. Our pediatrician warned us that these signs would be coming soon – and that they wouldn’t necessarily imply teething. Still, I can’t help but wonder – is she teething?

OMG
OMG, I can’t believe we’re going to Thailand!

Good morning Chiang Mai
Good morning Chiang Mai

Three Kings
Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai

Napping
Catching a nap in the carrier at Chiang Mai airport, en route to Phuket

Baby G finds her thumb
Baby G has been gnawing on her hands for weeks, but on our flight to Phuket she found the elusive holy grail of hand munching – the thumb!

SunbathingSunbathing
Sunbathing

Naptime on the beach
Naptime on the beach was a nice theory; but who can sleep when there are so many new things to see?

First dip in the oceanFirst dip in the ocean
Taking her first dip in the ocean

Tongue of the Dragon

On our return to Thailand, it was paramount to commence our tropical fruit indulgence. Courtesy of the Chiang Mai morning market, our bellies are the happy recipients of a coconut and a mango (in fruit shake form), three rose apples, a green mango (with chili/sugar of course), and a pink dragon fruit. The last one made a particularly lasting impression on us.

Preparing a fruit shakeEnjoying the fruit shake
This enormous fruit shake contained a full coconut (meat + water) and an entire mango

LL eating dragon fruit
This time we had dragon fruit with pink flesh rather than our standard white innards…

Pink tongues
…and we have the stains to prove it

Glow Worms on a Plane

After Gloria’s successful test flight to SFO, we figured she must be ready to cross the Pacific (yes, we are crazy). Today’s destination: Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a very short layover in Seoul, Korea. We were a little nervous about the flights, but after they were over we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Baby G was fascinated by the airports, and she slept for a good portion of the longhaul flight to Seoul. When she was awake, she was happy and smiley. As with the SFO flight, she was unfazed by takeoffs/landings, even if she wasn’t nursing. When the other babies around her were crying, she showed them how to be a good traveler by remaining calm and happy (or asleep). The only thing we found a bit tricky was managing diaper changes with a squirmy baby in the tiny airplane lavatories, but we were thankful that they were equipped with changing tables.

Korean Air turned out to be an excellent choice for traveling with a baby. Per airline policy, seat assignments are not made until 30 days before the flight, in order to prevent passengers with mileage plan status from gobbling up the bulkhead seats before families with babies can get a crack at them (only the bulkheads support the bassinet attachment). The flight attendants set up our bassinet immediately after the ascent, they were excited to play with the baby, and they checked in with us frequently to see whether we needed anything. There were a couple of odd things as well: for some reason, our reservation reflected that we had ordered an “infant meal” (i.e. a bottle of formula), and at each meal time we had to remind the flight staff that our baby only consumed breast milk; when we boarded, our flight attendant gave us a huge duty free shopping bag, empty except for a box of tissues, and told us that it was for the baby.

After a long travel day, we arrived at our favorite Chiang Mai guest house, settled in, and got to sleep around 1am. All things considered, Gloria slept reasonably well in her new Peapod, although I did need to soothe her back to sleep a few times and remind her that it was nighttime. We’ll see how the adjustment goes over the coming days – I’ll write up my thoughts about baby jet lag once I get some insight into it.

In the terminal
In the terminal, ready to board

Takeoff
On mommy’s lap for takeoff

Trying out the bassinet
Checking out her sleeping quarters

Sleeping
I was jealous that there was no bassinet in my size

In Chiang Mai
Quiet playtime in Chiang Mai before heading to bed

Our Babe in Thailand

Today we are leaving to help Gloria fulfill her fortune:

Fortune

We fly to Thailand this afternoon, via Seoul. After a night in Chiang Mai we head south to spend a few days on our favorite beach in Southeast Asia, Nai Yang. We are then spending the bulk of our time in Mae Hong Son reconnecting with friends, enjoying the slow pace of life, and gorging on delicious Thai stir friestropical fruits (including mango and sticky rice), and spicy Burmese hill tribe food.

Gloria going to Chiang Mai
Guess where I’m going?

Live from TPE

Here’s Lauren about to board our flight to SFO, with Little Vid and a mango we picked up in Chiang Mai this morning. We’ll see the real Vid in about 12 hours!

Heading out of TPE

Due to the magic of time zones, our flight out of Taipei leaves at 11PM tonight, and our connection in SFO also leaves for JFK at 11PM tonight. It’s going to be a long day…night…whatever it is.

Bon Kitchen

Rating:

When we were last in Chiang Mai for orientation, Lauren looked at TripAdvisor’s restaurant recommendations, even though they are usually a bust for restaurants. While most of the top-rated spots sounded underwhelming to us, the number one restaurant at the time got raves for fresh, tasty, organic food. Bon, the owner, was frustrated with the difficulty in finding healthy Thai food without MSG, so she decided to open her own restaurant to fill that gap.

Enter Bon Kitchen, a small, informal restaurant with simple decor and some of the most artfully presented food in Thailand. Our first dinner there consisted of a spicy three mushroom salad and penang curry, both of which were delicious. The mushroom salad was a variation on yam talay, with mushrooms instead of seafood. We ordered our penang curry “spicy,” and Bon delivered. Her penang had a generous portion of kaffir lime leaves, a modest hand on the coconut milk, and used a homemade curry paste that is Bon’s family’s recipe.

During AJWS orientation in February, we took the other volunteers to Bon Kitchen for a huge family-style meal, where we got to sample most of the food and fruit shakes. While some people raved about the chicken teriyaki, for Lauren and I, the great new discovery was the wing bean salad. We ordered ours with tofu instead of pork, and really enjoyed the sweet and smoky dressing of tamarind, and burnt chilies. A sprinkling of peanuts on top added extra joy and crunchiness. The rest of the dishes were good, but not in the league of the spicy three mushroom salad and penang curry.

This afternoon, even though it was just the two of us, we had to order all three of our favorite dishes for a mid-day feast. They were just as delicious as we remembered, and we lingered over the meal and took advantage of Bon’s free wi-fi. Overall, we’ve enjoyed a lot of tasty, and artfully presented food, at Bon Kitchen. Definitely stop by when you’re in Chiang Mai, we always will!

Kenny enjoying a fruit shake Lauren enjoying her fruit shake
Enjoying fresh fruit shakes before our meals

Spicy mushroom salad
Spicy three mushroom salad

Wing bean salad
Wing bean salad with tofu in a tamarind, coconut, burnt chili dressing

Penang curry
Penang tofu

Organic brown rice
Beautifully presented organic brown rice

Bon Kitchen
71/10 Sridonchai Road
Chiang Mai, Thailand
+66 08-7800 5410

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The Long and Winding Road

Our minivan ride to Chiang Mai this morning was across one of northern Thailand’s most infamous stretches of road. It is well paved, but renowned by motorcyclists for its innumerable curves. I took a few videos along the way to capture the memories. The footage was too jarring for Lauren to review while we were en route, as the curves from the video were out of sync with the real world. Overall, it was an easier trip than I expected, soothed as we were by multiple podcasts of This American Life and Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. That said, other passengers didn’t take it as well, and the smell of them vomiting did make us a tad bit nauseous.

Now we have a few hours to relax and take care of some errands here in Chiang Mai before continuing on our journey to Phuket.

Lauren at the bus station
Waiting for the bus

Curvy road
A standard stretch of road during our journey

Road sign
I guess the hundreds of other curves we’d passed already were the dull ones


Here is a 20 second taste of our morning experience, get your Dramamine ready

Rose Apple

Lauren and I first had a rose apple in the Mekong Delta on our 2007 trip to Vietnam. We didn’t encounter them again until our return to Nha Trang, where we had one on our hotel room fruit plate. I was excited to revisit the refreshing crunchy, watery taste and took a bite (the Vietnamese eat them in very much the same way we eat regular apples). I was happily enjoying my first bite until I looked down at the inside of the rose apple – there were little white worms inside! Ick! I spit out that first bite and had a hard time looking at a rose apple for a few weeks afterwards. Lauren’s response: “What’s worse than finding a worm in your rose apple?” I was still a bit in shock from the worm and replied “what?” To which she excitedly quoted her father: “Finding half a worm!”

By the time we got back to Thailand my stomach had steadied again at the sight of rose apples. At Doi Suthep we introduced one of our fellow volunteers to rose apples, conveniently pre-chopped up, pre-inspected, and served with chili-sugar dip.

We’ve been eating a lot of rose apples lately, mostly at breakfast time. Our local fruit lady sells rose apples for about $1/kilo, and they provide a nice textural contrast to other fruit in oatmeal or yogurt. Inspired by a tasty local som tam fruit salad we have also used them in salads of our own. I still haven’t fully shaken my Vietnam experience though, so I always chop my rose apples up carefully into small cubes to make sure they don’t contain any unexpected protein sources.

Mark trying his first rose apple
Mark trying his first rose apple in Chiang Mai

Rose apples
Rose apples

Cut rose apple
The first slice: no worms!

Breakfast
Breakfast