After almost 4 months of living in Bangkok I am feeling a sense of permanence in my temporary state. The month of September in particular has been slightly quieter compared to the previous three in terms of big projects, discovering the city, and travel. I have fallen into a simple routine that brings me so much joy each day because it is so completely different from what I was doing back home. There are two large differences between these two points in my life. Firstly, I am living out of my parents house and in my own apartment for the very first time (with my wonderful intern partner/roommate Jennifer). Secondly, I don’t have a car here in Bangkok, which I’ve come to realize I was largely dependent on back home.
My routine, independence, and transportation have largely shaped my experience here because of my own design.
Partially due to money and partially due to waste, I cook my piece of toast in a frying pan each morning. I will admit before living somewhere with no toaster, it never occurred to me that toast could be made with any other appliance. So why is it a staple in seemingly every Canadian and American home? Living in Thailand has taught me that when it comes to material possessions, less can be more. After spreading on my peanut butter to get some extra protein, I head out the door.
I time when I leave my apartment to go to work based on when I hope the Fruit Man will be passing by my building. He essentially pushes a large clear cooler around the neighbourhood and honks a bicycle horn to let the residents know he is coming by. Somedays I time it perfectly and smile to myself thinking it’s going to be a good day. It gets even better when I see he has papaya in addition to my favourite pineapple and watermelon. This fruit never tastes so good in Canada and for only a dollar I doubt it ever will. After collecting my second breakfast, I walk the 250 meters, down the street, turn right, and just walk straight ahead, to the GAATW office.
We are located in an extremely residential and Thai neighbourhood. Although the lines between residential, commercial, and industrial neighbourhoods don’t really exist, nevertheless ours happens to be a bit more residential with houses and gardens than perhaps the big downtown skyscrapers of Bangkok you (and certainly me) were expecting. I really had no idea what to expect when moving to Bangkok. The only people I knew that had been to Thailand were my two aunts who visited the city on a weekend 15 years ago. I hadn’t seen The Hangover Part II and I had never been to any South/Southeast Asian city before (or country for that matter). This experience has completely shaped my perception of Bangkok, Thailand, and Southeast Asia from nothing and I am so thankful for that. To me Thailand is not a run down by the backpacker’s trail, or a sex tourism destination, or an endless beach party. It is my little residential neighbourhood in Bangkok with large 2 floor houses that have hardly any grass (if any) for front yards that are almost hidden away by large gates, it is the people I interact with on a daily basis who may simply know me as the “white girl that lives in that building over there” and yet still shape my perception of this place as positive and secure.
The GAATW office is technically a converted two bedroom apartment in an apartment building which gives it a more home-y feel. The wood floors are covered with a thick layer of varnish that we walk across either in bare feet (which I love) or indoor shoes. There are several different rooms that all employees (all 1 of us) work out of. My room is the first one you enter after coming through the front door. I like sitting there because I can say good morning to everyone that comes in. There are four of us working there fighting with the a/c that gets extremely cold for a reason no one can figure out. Jennifer works in a different room which I’ll occasionally pop my head in to say hi, but most days we message each other at our desks asking when the other is hungry and what they feel like for lunch. More often than not we end up at P’Ning’s who probably thinks she is cooking the most bland meals since neither of us like particularly spicy foods. These days I have been ordering a simple meal of chicken, rice, and broccoli (I told you it sounded bland) but let me tell you she has some million dollar secret ingredient or something that makes it extremely flavourful so everytime I come back wanting more.
On the way to and from the office is the local 7-11 where after we’ve eaten I pop in for my dessert treat. I get the same thing almost every time (I’m beginning to notice I’m a bit of a creature of habit), a coconut flavoured wafer cookie, and if I’m really lucky, since they often run out, a caramel macchiato flavoured coffee drink. What can I say, it’s all pure sugar but I’m unsupervised.
After work, my evenings can look different from day to day. Sometimes I go to the market next to the MRT station and buy a rotisserie chicken, a portion of cooked rice, and a vegetable to bring for the resemblance of a home cooked meal. Other times Jennifer and I go into town to an event, or maybe to a mall to pick something up. But on Thursday nights I head a whole 13 kilometers away to an English pub in a rather Japanese area of Bangkok’s expat neighbourhood to go to choir rehearsal. Despite the seemingly short distance, it takes me an hour to get there since I use public transportation. I love riding the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit, think subway) because it is so convenient (most of the time) and connected. After my fifteen minute walk to my local station the train takes me right into town where I can connect to either the BTS (skytrain) or take a motorcycle taxi right to the front door of my final destination. Although the public transportation may not be of the highest standard worldwide, to me it’s pretty darn good compared to Victoria because it gives me options. There are modes of transportation I take less frequently such as walking long distances, riding a bicycle and taking the busses, but just the availability of options makes me feel completely independent and that I will always have a way to get where I need to go.
Those are some of my favourite parts about living in Bangkok; the simpleness of everyday life that is recognizable, yet different from my own upbringing and experiences. This time and this place in Bangkok is what I try to treasure everyday because if at any point I return in the future, it will never be the same. I am living right here, right now in a chapter of my life that has been made more special by this incredible opportunity completed by the people and year that I’m here. You never know where you’ll end up so make the most out of every opportunity. We have so much to be thankful for.