Returning from Overseas
I woke up this morning to a typically wet and drizzly English day. The sky is a blanket of grey cloud and there's a chill in the air. When I don't need to go anywhere I quite enjoy a rainy day. Settling indoors with a book and, ideally, a bar of chocolate is pretty close to heaven for me.
Today the weather made me feel gloomy so my thoughts went immediately to Bangkok. It doesn't drizzle there. The rain comes down in torrents that flood the drains. It make everyone late for work, ruins shoes and then disappears as quickly as it arrives. I laughed at myself to think that I was actually missing Thai rain as I've cursed it often enough!
Nostalgic for Bangkok
I am missing Bangkok, and at some point, no doubt I'll go on to create a sensible article on managing change, addressing closure and so on. There is lots to miss - some of it heartfelt, most of it people based, but some of it just plain bonkers and as shallow as an English puddle of rain. These are some of the things, in no particular order, that I'll miss.
Things I Miss in Bangkok
My friends. I've posted loads of times about it being people not places that are important. Thank goodness for social media as my friends are all in Bangkok. They are, by and large stranded over there, until the corona virus is sorted out, so are all spending their summers renting villas on beaches, doing huge road trips across Thailand and generally living the travellers' dream. Not jealous at all!
The pool. I'm not a particularly good swimmer, but going to the pool was my number one stress busting activity in Bangkok. I can't imagine ever ever having such a lovely place to swim again. During those times that I was living, but not working in Bangkok, I'd get up for a swim and once finished be spoiled by the restaurant staff bringing me a pot of tea as I reclined next to the pool watching the golfers. That was the life! I like to walk now, as it serves a similar purpose, but .it isn't quite the same.
Having a full time housekeeper. When Khun Nong came to work for us we struck gold. She is a lovely person who helped us run our house like clockwork. She became a friend who I miss each day. Prior to Nong working with us I have so many funny stories of housekeepers who weren't quite so good. I think the story that tops the bill was coming home from holiday to find that one lady had painted several rooms and random bricks in our house bright pink. To this day I don't know why!
The weather. It isn't just the Brits who discuss the weather. I love the drama of Bangkok storms. I never quite got used to leaving a shopping mall and being hit by a wall of heat. I miss the conversations amongst my library team as they buttoned up in scarves and cardigans (if the weather dipped below thirty degrees!) about how chilly it was. I guess as an English person weather has to feature in what I miss.
The quirks. All cultures and societies have 'norms' that seem quirky to outsiders. I often noticed different ways of living as Mick drove us all to school. I miss seeing people in the street making their offerings to monks in a morning; I miss seeing old ladies walking to the early morning markets in their PJs; I miss the wais that Thais offer as a sign of respect; I miss having to stand stock still as the anthem was played at 6.00 pm and the flag was raised on a morning. I miss seeing adults going to university in what is essentially a 'school uniform'; I miss watching people meticulously sweep their patch of land outside their house; I miss the old man we drove past every day sat outside his house in a sarong and a deck chair and ample midriff showing. I miss it all.
The traffic. I don't really miss the traffic and I'm glad that roundabouts don't pose the problem in the UK that they seem to in Bangkok. Getting my last driving license was a bit of a drama that, now I'm not there, I can think back fondly to! It didn't seem to matter so much if I occasionally forgot to indicate. Seeing cars and motorbikes laden with people and belongings, coming up a dual-carriageway the wrong way was simply normal. I kind of miss it not mattering if I didn't follow the rules!
Shopping. I miss the madness of shopping in Bangkok. From early morning flower markets to top end designer shopping, it was all like entering a parallel universe. I miss the ladies marketing expensive products, shouting through loud microphones in glamorous outfits.
Restaurants. Living on the edge of Bangkok I didn't often venture to the restaurants in town. I do miss our old favourites though, especially having the salmon at Wine Connection, or pizza on a Friday night. The Green and White was an institution! We spent a lot of time with the kids playing 'word games' and chatting in restaurants, or when they were a bit bigger, sitting drinking coffee and beer (back in the days before I was teetotal) whilst the girls met their friends and we were hanging around to collect them.
Learning about a different culture. I got myself into 'hot water' so many times when I didn't understand how Thai culture works. From 'saving face' to 'land of smiles' to 'everyone being involved in every task’ the nuances of learning about a new culture is never dull and kept me on my toes. It is this learning about culture, learning about your own unconscious (or conscious) bias, in your interactions that is one of the fascinating things about living overseas.
Our Dogs. Who would have thought that I'd have ended up having two dogs! Fizz sadly died in 2018. Everyone is super sad that we can't bring Wizz back, but she is too old to travel. Wizz is happy though as she is happy is going to move to live with our lovely housekeeper's mum. She already knows her well As she sometimes stays in the summer with Nong when we have visited the UK.
Adventures. Mick has been coming across old photos whilst he has been packing up our lives in Bangkok. We've had some fantastic adventures and trips. My friends with small children have been reminding me how, when travelling with little ones, you basically need to pack everything except the kitchen sink. It's hard work, but what memories are made of.
My library colleagues and friends. It's a good job I said in no particular order as this should be near the top of my list. I still miss my library colleagues and I've made friends for life there. I've also collaborated with the wonderful Khun Duang on our books. (I really must do something about getting the drafts we still have completed into a finished format!) I learned a lot about leadership when I took on the library role and it is testament to my colleagues that they gave me a chance and forgave all the mistakes I made!
Khun Lyn and Pang. When I go into my kitchen in Bangkok I have a view out to the temple that Khun Lyn was cremated in. Lyn and Pang from the library both sadly died from cancer whilst I was there.. Seeing the sun set over Lyn’s temple each evening always reminds me of Lyn. I miss her.
The brunches. Oh my goodness, we have had some great brunches, especially at the Sheraton Grande. I've wonderful memories of Christmas days there too. Back in the day they were boozy affairs with a ton of eating and free flow bubbles. I haven't found a similar place in the UK yet.
Unwanted visitors. As I write my friend just sent me a text of a snake and the caption "the only thing I had to share the beach with today." I miss the unexpected of never quite knowing what you might come across just outside your door. In our case it was often monitor lizards that came calling.
Day trips. For most of our time in Bangkok we were just getting on with life. Going to work, helping the kids with their homework and activities, such as music lessons dominated our time. Every now and then though we'd make the effort - be tourists for the day and go off exploring the city. This sometimes extended into a staycation with a 'sleep over' in one of the fancy hotels in town. Whether with Mick, Mick and the girls, or my friends we had some great times.
Turning 50! I had a ball. My dear friend Rachel coordinated a wonderful afternoon tea, followed by a trip on the river, and cocktails. Mick had then arranged a very swanky night in the Shangri-La where we had the most fantastic suite you could imagine. I turned 50 in style!
The Kids' Achievements. The kids had a ball at school. There's too much to write about. Plays, musicals, sports teams, charity groups ... another post beckons!
The beach. I should say the beaches. My memory is shocking and I couldn't begin to say which beaches we've visited when. We've taken a lot of walks, made a lot of sandcastles (less so recently) and used a lot of suncream. I miss going to the beach.
The view from my soon to be ex-apartment. This matters more to me than I expected. I love our view. However nice your neighbours are waking up to their front lawn isn't so exciting.
Moving Forward when Relocating
The rain has stopped so I think that it is time that I stop reminiscing. I think it is ok to miss things though. It doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to our next adventures as I really am. I've not mentioned missing Mick as he is going to be back with me next week. :) I'm looking forward to our shipment arriving which Saint Mick has just packed up. Having my Thai belongings around me will be lovely reminders of a fantastic time living overseas. I'm sure there were bad bits too abut living in Bangkok, but today I can't remember any of them!
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
Having used these travel tips for packing our cases, I felt confident that we would be well prepared for our Northcoast500 adventure. I hadn't realised, though, how challenging choosing a hotel, a guest house or a B and B could be. If only we had rDuring 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?