Expat Life in Bangkok
What a week it has been! Another long haul flight, another set of tough goodbyes and another lovely re-union with my Saint Mick of Thana. For the next ten days I will be back to living life as an expat!
Dad and mum constantly make me proud to be their daughter. They manage what seems to be one thing after another, digging deep and always encouraging me to focus on my life and not to worry about them. “Your place is in Bangkok with your husband” is a phrase I’ve heard more than a few times in recent months! As such, I’m having a quick visit (longer than the two days I managed in January before dad’s accident!) to my Bangkok home.
I’ve mentioned before how living with one foot in the ‘expat world’ and one foot in (Miranda alert), what I call the ‘real world’ has alerted my senses to reflecting on the pros and cons of both lifestyles. Luckily for me I feel immense gratitude, that in both worlds, are family I love being with. That’s not to say that I don’t wish the flying time between Bangkok and Broughton was a little bit shorter!
Benefits of Expat Life
Disadvantages of being an Expat
Summing Up Advantages and Disadvantages of Expat Life
Overall, I think the advantages of expat living outweigh the disadvantages. This particularly applies in professions such as teaching where, during the holidays, there is time to explore exciting travel opportunities and seek adventure, or alternatively spend time with family back in home number one.
I continue to be torn between ‘expat life’ and ‘real life’. I do miss my Saint Mick a lot and not having my strong female friends close by is pretty hard when I’m back in the UK, but on the other hand, being away from my parents is hard when I’m back here! I love the lifestyle expat living affords and coming back to Bangkok feels like coming home. However, I also love being back in my other home - the same village I grew up in where I have a shared history with family, friends and neighbours, that an expat can never really have. (I’ve even heard myself being gossiped about in the post office!) Weirdly, although I enjoy all the perks and benefits of expat life, which I’ve highlighted above when I’m here, I don’t really miss these perks when I’m not. A large portion of fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop makes up for a lot!
Travelling with a Family Tips
Choosing a Hotel
Choosing a hotel, a guest house or a B and B ican be a challenge! During our Northcoast500 adventure we’ve experienced the ‘same same, but different’ features of the guesthouses we’ve stayed in. From luxurious window seat views in Myrtle Bank at Fort William; to characterful local warmth and hospitality offered at The old Manse in Lochcarron; to the efficiency of the tartan carpeted Corriness House at PoolEwe, by Loch Ewe; to the spaciousness and comfort in The Old Surgery in Ullapool; to the magnificence of the scrumptious breakfast and stunning scenery at Aiden House in Durness; all the places we’ve stayed in have been good. Some have been excellent, going the extra mile to ensure we’ve had a very enjoyable stay. Drawing on our experiences of this holiday here is my checklist of what a good guesthouse should have. It is important to me that we find great places for all the family. Whatever the age of kids, it still feels important to be a great mum to them. Talking of which, check out this post here from the Human in Training Blog.
Travelling the North Coast 500
Day 2 of our ‘Northcoast 500 in Scotland trip has started fairly well. We’ve waved off MrytleBank Guest House in FortWilliam. The staff were very friendly, with their ‘wee this’ and ‘wee that’; the view from our room was stunning; and the facilities were excellent (just as well as we were all obliged to stay inside yesterday afternoon and channel hop between the cricket and the tennis.) The tyre swing was a hit with my kids (yes, I know they are allegedly grown up), so all is well in our world. The locals keep telling us to enjoy the beautiful weather, but I did nip into the town this morning to buy a new, very reasonably priced fleece, just in case the breeze picks up. We are in Scotland after all. We are really enjoying travelling the North Coast 500 with our grown up kids.
My plan had been to wear my landrover t-shirt (a gift for Mick that was too small!) for a departure shot each morning in front of Lazarus, but I’ve realised that this will create a whiffy rather than cool vibe so I’m having to rethink that idea. I’m feeling a little nostalgic as I love this time with just the four of us, and travelling the North Coast 500 is great, but I'm wondering how much of this ‘same same’ we can have with the kids before the ‘different’ starts. I’m starting to wonder if we are quirky ‘holiday makers’ or if all families are like ours. What do you think?
It’s time to dump Tim. Mick picks out Sexy Serena as our new SAT Nav Guide. I object and choose the more straitlaced Jane, she has a direct, no-nonsense, trust me voice. I think she sounds reliable until I hear her lilting and teasing ‘roundabout’ inflection. Can we really count on her to get us to our destination? Our first family trip for a while and our first road trip in the UK for absolutely ages. We’re in Mick's new Landrover. No comment!
We’re leaving Broughton in Lincolnshire and heading to 'Broughton Place' in Edinburgh for two nights. Home from home perhaps, perhaps not. Mick announces that he is unimpressed with the bed and breakfast we are going to. I agree. The reception staff’s clipped English pronunciation phone voices and ‘the computer says no’ approach to changing the date of our trip was not the Scottish welcome we were hoping for. Our stoicism, or is it stubbornness, is admirable. Fine - if we can’t change the booking we’ll bloody use it, even if it means listening to Mick’s Scottish accent all the way there.
Jane claims it is only a four and a half hour drive to Broughton from Broughton, but the AA Breakdown Insurance, prudently joined prior to departure, claims it is six. Time will tell.
It is, of course, peeing it down with rain.
We’re four minutes into the journey. I have eaten a bag of prawn cocktail flavoured Walkers crisps and I’m halfway through my first cheese and cucumber sandwich. Delicious, though already a little squashed. I’m not greedy, it’s just that whilst the rest of the family lingered over coffee, muesli and yoghurt, I was forced to frantically tidy the house. Everyone knows that towels need to be straightened and the toilet bleached just in case burglars pop by. We do have standards. I wish we had some wholenut chocolate to munch on. How far is it to the first ‘pit stop?’
Eight minutes into the journey. We’re greeted by a flurry of traffic cones closing off two lanes of traffic and get stuck behind a big yellow van driving in the remaining single lane. It’s driving slowly, very slowly. Time for another sandwich.
The kids are bickering: “She’s lying to you.” High-pitched squeaks and giggles.
I’m making factual observations about the new (23 years old) car.
“It’s steamed up in here.”
“Well open the window.”
“Surely it has a de-steamer thingy.”
Annie announces she will take music requests later but she is starting us with a ‘chill’ playlist. I’m not sure what a playlist is, but it is soothing. So far we’ve listened to Stop This Train by John Mayer, Beyond by Leon Bridges and Top of My List by Lime Cordial (I’d never even heard of them before!).
Twelve minutes into the trip and Mick asks for a can of diet coke. He has to shout above the engine noise, though he denies this. Perhaps it will settle down into a purr soon - the car, not Mick, though the idea of a purring Mick amuses me. The request for the can of coke is relayed to the back and the can is retrieved and passed forward from the big green eski-bag. It is refreshingly cold. I silently reflect that even the ’50s perfectly coiffured housewives, unlike me, probably didn’t always remember the eski-freezer packs. A fleeting sense of smugness coarses through my veins. Mick delights in having found a little spot in the dashboard to keep his can of diet coke in. And he raves, “as it is in front of the vent, my drink will stay cold as well as upright!”
He loves his car. I almost smile.
Jane tells us to take the exit and meet the motorway. Delay signs flash aggressively at us in orange text.
As a family of four we’ve had hundreds of road trips. Our first ones were also in a landrover back when we lived in Tanzania twenty odd years ago. We gave it a name – Larry. This isn’t like us, we’re not the car naming types, but in memory of Larry, it seems only right that we give our new landrover a name too. Lazarus fits.
I remember distinctly breaking down in Larry, near Morogoro National Park. I was left with my parents and a six month old baby as Mick headed off into the unknown seeking help. His final action before he left was to pass my dad an extremely large, heavy spanner, “just in case”- in case of what? Eventually, we were towed home in the dark on a busy motorway. The car lights gave up the ghost and my poor mum waved a flag out the back window of the car alerting other traffic of our presence for the duration of the journey. My parents didn’t visit Tanzania after that. This trip down memory lane makes me worry a little bit about Lazarus’ reliability, though to be fair, so far we are bombing along.
We have now got things ‘off to a tee’, so whether you’re travelling with a seven month old or a seventy year old, if you follow these tips you will be guaranteed a good journey, even in a landrover as old as time itself.
I just asked Mick for more tips about how to make journeys smooth and enjoyable. From his sarcasm soaked driver's seat (and why does he always insist on driving anyway?) his response was to suggest that the driver requests silence from the passengers. I’m not sure if that is because of the racket the karaoke queens are now making in the back seats. He’s now trying to back track and claim he was joking! We’re an hour into the journey, so it is definitely time to stop for chocolate and to remember that we are on holiday!