a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Oct, 2019

Weekend reading: October 12 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

06 Oct, 2019

Buying coffee in Patong

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

It probably sounds ridiculous, but it took me a couple of days to get comfortable with crossing the street. I thought about this as I crossed “our” main road to get to “our” 7-11. I was finally looking the right way before stepping out into the street! Yay me!

It was early, 6:30 a.m., but I’d given up trying to sleep and was on my way to get coffee.

I spotted a gecko hanging out by the elevator and the local stray dog, who we started to look out for whenever we passed by this spot:

Stray dog in Patong, Phuket

Since I was in a new lowered state of fear/panic/anxiety I actually I took the time to take in the views around me.

Sign in Patong, Phuket

… which included a public/open air coin-operated laundromat. (I had just found out that our Air BnB had no laundry. Sigh.) I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to figure out how it worked, but I was willing to try.

Public washing machine, Patong, Phuket

I walked in the 7-11. I was pretty sure they knew me by now.

“Coffee? Coffee?” asked the girl behind the counter. I must have looked desperate. Or tired. Or both.

I should point out that Canadian travellers who are coffee addicts might be disappointed in the lack of coffee availability in Thailand. In Canada, or at least in Ottawa where I live, there is a coffee shop on practically every corner. Sometimes you can throw a stone from one coffee shop and hit another coffee shop. We love our coffee! In Thailand, or at least in Patong, there’s a restaurant or massage parlour or bar on every corner, but not coffee. It’s just not a thing.

In Canada, I wouldn’t venture into a 7-11 to get a hot cuppa joe unless I was weeping from caffeine withdrawal, but it’s different in Thailand. The coffee machines at the 7-11 I observed are large steel appliances that are automated, but still use freshly-ground beans. Staff punch in a code that matches your order, tuck a cup under the spigot, and the machine spits out your choice of caffinated beverage.

I quickly learned to consult a large double-sided laminated (and bilingual) menu with many different offerings but I wasn’t into the fancier drinks (matcha shakes etc.). For the first few days of our stay I opted for espresso, which I brought back to our place and poured it into a mug along with a good amount of milk to make a cold coffee of sorts. Later on during this trip I asked for a regular coffee and it caused a lot of confusion – maybe they’d never made a regular coffee before – but on this day I asked for “a double” … two espresso shots in one cup.

“Two?” she asked, holding up two fingers.

“Yes, two,” I replied, because double is two, right?

Well, as you have probably guessed, I got two cups with two lids. And of course, the disposable cups are massive compared to the small shot of espresso in each one. Oh well.

Interestingly, every time I bought a coffee the staff tried to put it in a small cup-sized plastic grocery bag. And of course, I always had to ask them to please not put my coffee in a bag. I thought the coffee in a bag thing was really strange until I realized that customers would buy drinks and carry them home in a bag dangling by their moped handles. I guess drinks are easier to transport that way.

Related: Throughout our trip I was continuously shocked and surprised at the many single-use plastics in regular use here. And there no recycling I could see. It was an eye-opener, to say the least.

That day I also bought powered laundry detergent (at least I think it was detergent), potato chips, and shrink-wrapped corn on the cob for dinner.

When I got back we had breakfast. Our usual included toasted white bread with margarine and jam. This was far from my usual Canadian breakfast but this is what we had and it would have to do. I had scored some oranges at the 7-11 the day before and we had one of those too. My coffee was The Best Coffee and I put the other one in the fridge for later.

We spent the morning in the pool (again) and that afternoon we did totally different and weird and new (to us). Something that I later regretted, a little. We got dressed, slapped on the sunscreen, and made our way into the bustling core of Patong for our next (questionable) adventure.

Stay tuned!

05 Oct, 2019

Weekend reading: October 5 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

29 Sep, 2019

Weekend reading: September 28 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Clockmaker’s Daughter: A Novel

23 Sep, 2019

New friends by the pool

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

We bought snacks to eat on the plane. Who wouldn’t? Among these snacks was a sizeable bag of honey-roasted mixed nuts from Bulk Barn that the youngest splurged on but never got around to eating.

One morning, like every morning so far on this trip, we were by the pool. We’d established a bit of a routine in terms of poolside lounging which included someone bringing supplies such as sunscreen, water bottles, books, towels etc.

The youngest daughter reached into her purse to grab something and instantly recoiled. Hundreds of tiny red ants were milling around inside her bag and were streaming in and out, as ants do. They were so small they were barely visible.

The bag had been lying on the ground next to her pool chair.

By the pool

“Do you have any food in there,” I asked.
“Are you absolutely certain?”

Sure enough, that bag of honey-roasted nuts had fallen down into the deep recesses of her bag and just stayed there, forgotten.

She pulled it out with the tips of two fingers and held it up, disgust written clear across her face. She tossed the bag into the garbage and tried shaking the ant colony out of her purse. Some ants instantly fell upon a stray almond that had rolled under the chair (how do they survive a fall from such great heights??) while others held on for their dear lives.

By the pool

The purse was left on our balcony overnight in hopes they’d abandon it. (There was no way we were keeping that infested thing in our room.) The next day there was bidirectional trail of ants leading from the purse to an unknown destination down the side of the building. These guys were relentless but clearly some crumbs remained and were keeping them tethered to the area.

View from our balcony

I had the idea of giving the interior of the purse a light spritz with bug spray, which did the trick. After a bit of airing out it was as if it never happened, but our uncomfortable brush with bugs never truly left us.



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  • andrea tomkins: Thanks Lynn! I'm all about keepin' it real here. :) There's no point glossing over the fact that it took me three days to get over our jet lag, but I
  • Lynn: Last time I was at the one in Kanata, they didn't have any of the giant popcorn (which I am embarrassed to admit, makes up at least 25% of my at-home
  • Lynn: I'm really enjoying your Thailand series but I have to say, it is not inspiring me to travel at all. I am a terrible, stressed out, freaked out travel
  • Lynn: And this is why I just cannot bring myself to leave Canada. You are superheroes!
  • Jinjer: OMGgggggg I would've died on the spot I'm so terrified of bugs. YOur daughter is brave, reaching in there to remove the bag of nuts. And she must REAL
  • barristers: I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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