a peek inside the fishbowl

02 May, 2020

Arrival at Phi Phi

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

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

In my previous post, we had just taken the ferry to the Phi Phi Islands.

We were excited about the promise of island living for a few days.

Disembarking wasn’t nearly as tranquil as promised by our first views from the ferry. I have zero photos of those initial moments on the pier because it was utterly chaotic. There were hundreds of passengers milling around the pier, getting off and getting on, all of them with luggage. There was an additional bottleneck as every person who got off had to pay some kind of surprise tax upon arrival. (I was grateful that I had some cash on hand!)

I was pretty sure our hotel was nearby and I was prepared to hoof it and make an educated guess but the youngest thought we should hold out for a hotel pickup since we really didn’t know the area. Amazingly, we found our guy in this immense crowd.

He came with a big cart for our luggage, but we were travelling light so we didn’t really need it. (But my backpack got a ride anyway.)

On our way to our hotel on Phi Phi Island

I think this part of the island is fairly new. Phi Phi was greatly impacted by the 2004 tsunami.

I was very surprised to see one of the things that greets new arrivals on Phi Phi was a Burger King!

Early view of Phi Phi Island was a.... Burger King

We were booked at a place called Phi Phi Nice Beach Resort. Excitement was running high as we made our way there. It turned out to be a 10 minute walk from the pier, almost at the very end of Ton Sai Bay. The walk was incredibly pretty and we oohed and ahhed the whole way.

Here’s what our “resort” looked like upon first approach. That’s the reception desk on the right. Small cabins face the beach, with more rooms tucked in behind them, “motel” style.

Phi Phi Nice Beach Resort

Here’s another view of Phi Phi Nice Beach, taken standing further back on the beach (the water was at my back here, obviously):

Right outside Phi Phi Nice Beach Resort

This central area is beside the main reception desk. Later we found out that this was the only place we could get a wi-fi signal:

Phi Phi Nice Beach resort

We were happy to learn that a sliver of the aforementioned beach was ours to use. (“Private beach” was a big selling point.)

This was our view from those beach chairs in front of the resort. We liked it, a lot:

View from our beach

View from our beach 3

View from our beach 2

The views, they were A+. Our rooms? They were bleak. (I suspect the only nice rooms were the cabins at the very front of the property, the ones pictured on the Phi Phi Nice Beach TripAdvisor page.)

Our first room (there’s a story here) was a disappointment, to say the least. It was tiny, although the size of it didn’t bother me as much as the the total sum of other issues. The power outlets didn’t work, the wi-fi was non-existent, the overhead lights buzzed, the overhead fan was dusty, the bathroom was smelly and dingy, and there was nowhere to put or hang our clothing (or wet towels!). Everything needed a coat of paint. There was paint where there shouldn’t be paint. There was also an issue with the air conditioning, although that wouldn’t be made clear until the middle of the night.

It looked like it could have been the winning entry for World’s Worst Hotel Room, or a set for a movie about a mother/daughter duo who were undertaking The Adventure Of A Lifetime with Many Comical Hijinks Along The Way. (During the movie, their dream resort loses their booking and after many hours of searching and calling, the pair are given the last room on the entire island, the room no one wants, the room that’s used as a Last Resort at the Last Resort and for errant clients of the bar next door who are drunk and afraid to go home to their wives. There’s a comedic close up as they grimace and look at one another when the door opens and it’s revealed to them, but they’re desperate. After they check for bed bugs they collapse with exhaustion into the crisp sheets.)

I have more photos of the room but do you really want to see the toilet and the hand shower? I think not.

Phi Phi Nice Beach Resort

Our second room at Phi Phi Nice Beach Resort

We consoled ourselves by telling ourselves that this was only temporary. We could do this, right? After all, it was just a place to sleep, right? And it was cheap! And considering it was right on the beach, well, we could try to turn our frown upside down!

And so, if you can believe it, (as I write this, I can’t believe it either) we decided to stick it out. We went for a swim and explored a bit, capping the evening off with a nice dinner at a beachside restaurant that had good food and impressive views.

Solo dining in Phi Phi

Is this the best restaurant view or what?

I ordered a large beer, which was larger than I had imagined when I ordered it. It was warm before I could finish it. The ice in the soft drink melted almost immediately. But I was ok with this, because we were on a gorgeous island off the coast of Thailand, after all.

Pad Thai dinner!

Despite the chaos of the pier earlier, there were surprisingly few people around. When we first arrived I was worried that we’d dropped into the equivalent of Banff in July, but the people disappeared. I have no idea where they went.

We retired to bed (and yes, we checked for bed bugs), hot and tired after a long day.

I don’t remember what time it was, only that it was dark, when the youngest awoke with a very loud yelp. My first thought was that there was an animal in the room (?) but I quickly learned that the wall-mounted A/C unit had just dumped a bucket of cold water onto my daughter as she slept. Her bed was soaked and she was livid. She marched right out to the reception desk and her fury set off a chain of events which had us moved to a different room. It was bigger, and marginally better.

We eventually fell back asleep, not knowing that this mother-daughter duo was on the cusp of having the best adventure, ever.

29 Apr, 2020

All the breads I’ve eaten

By andrea tomkins in - iKnead,Recipes and Food

Pandemic baking! It’s all the rage. So is pandemic eating… at least around here. Sigh.

Yesterday we picked up an order from the Ottawa Bagelshop. (Curbside pick up!) Cue the angels:

Bagels have been acquired

I have officially entered the world of the no-knead breads. Frankly, it’s miraculous how such a lovely loaf can come together with so little effort. All you need is time!

A longtime blogging friend shared her recipe on Facebook. The resulting loaf was enormous. It’s hard to tell by this photo but it was bigger than my head.

Pandemic baking

It was delicious. Next time I make this I’ll probably shape two loaves and store one in the freezer.

This was her “no-knead” recipe:

You need a 6qt cast iron Dutch oven. (Or in my case, I used a vintage oval with a lid that is just under 6 qts.)

6 cups flour
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp salt
3-1/2 cup warm water

  • Blend together dry ingredients. Add water a bit at a time until dough holds together.
  • Cover with plastic wrap. Leave for 15-18 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450F. Place covered Dutch oven inside and preheat for 1 hour.
  • While oven is heating, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 min. (I let mine rest for close to an hour, and I scored it before baking.)
  • Place dough into Dutch oven and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread is around 210F.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack.

Let me know if you try it! (I might also try this no-knead loaf, as it’s smaller.)

Let’s see… what other breads have I eaten. (THERE ARE MANY.)

– The youngest made banana bread from the Joy of Cooking (it’s the best recipe in my opinion). Recipes for apple fritter bread have been going around but we’ll have to wait until we have apples again before we try it.

– I made naan bread for the first time and it was very good! Here’s the recipe I used. It’s a keeper for sure.

This recipe for hamburger buns is excellent.

– If soft sandwich bread is more your thing, this recipe was good.

– We had pretzels for dinner the other night. This is a good recipe, and you can’t beat the novelty factor of soft pretzels (especially if there are kids on the scene). You can eat pretzels as part of a ploughman’s-type meal, with cut up veggies and cold meats.

– I bought a very nice loaf at Piggy Market in Westboro. (And I heard Mamie Clafoutis is opening again!)

– Of course, making our own pizza dough has always been a regular thing around here! I like to make a double batch so I always have extras on hand.

If you have a bread recipe you like, I’d love to hear about it!

On the nightstand: February, by Lisa Moore

18 Apr, 2020

Ferry to Phi Phi

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

I’m feeling a bit bleak my friends, so I’m picking up where I left off re: Thailand diaries. To read past posts in this series, click here.

At this point I would like to share a few points I jotted down in my paper journal I was keeping during this time under the heading Lessons Learned:

  • Drink more water than you think
  • Any clothing with more than one layer is too hot for Thailand [I’m pretty sure I had my sports bra in mind when I wrote this, ugh]
  • The best outfit is my “temple dress” – flowy and white, covers shoulders and down to the ankles. Remarkably cool, and with BONUS POCKETS

Me and the dress

Getting to the Rasssada Pier in Phuket Town was a mini adventure in itself. We were on our way to spending a few nights on Phi Phi Island, which required a ferry ride so this was part one.

We ordered a cab to pick us up from our Air BnB and I nearly suffered a panic attack waiting for it to arrive. I was really worried about making it to the ferry on time because we’d already bought our tickets online and could NOT miss it.

There was another hiccup when we arrived and checked in. We didn’t have a print out of the tickets, which that was ok for this leg of the journey but would create an issue in Phi Phi when we were departing because they don’t accept a digital confirmation. Surprise! We had to figure out where/how to print something out ON AN ISLAND. (Note that our hotel eventually did it for us, but it was a pain in the butt.)

The youngest bought fries from a kiosk while we waited to board. This was the scene around us (clearly I wasn’t the only exhausted traveller):

Ferry terminal, Phuket Thailand

Boarding the ferry to Phi Phi

In case someone is Googling “ferry to Phi Phi Islands” you should know that it has comfy seating for all, A/C, and plenty of washrooms (just bring your own toilet paper). There’s also a counter to buy snacks and water. Here’s a view:

On board the ferry to Phi Phi Islands

The ferry ride was totally uneventful, which is perfect, for a ferry ride. There was lots to look at:

Leaving Rassade Pier, Phuket

Taking in the view from the ferry to Phi Phi

View from the ferry as we leave Rassada Pier, Phuket

Ferry to Phi Phi

View from the ferry to Phi Phi

Ferry to Phi Phi

Lil' island, off Rassada Pier Phuket

I assumed we’d spend a lot of time soaking up the sun on the top deck during the journey over, but I was mistaken. It felt like a broiler up there and we couldn’t hang out for more than a few minutes without feeling like we were marshmallows being roasted over an open campfire:

Top of the ferry to Phi Phi

We wandered around the ferry but always returned to our seats. There was a movie playing for those interested (although Pirates of the Caribbean was a strange choice for any sea-faring vessel) but I was really grateful for the comfortable seating and the air conditioning!

It took about two hours to get to Phi Phi from Phuket Town. We passed a few areas that were obviously tourist destinations on the way to in to the pier. This was Monkey Beach (more about that later):

The long view of Monkey Beach II

And this was the view when our ferry pulled in to the dock:

Pulling in to Phi Phi Island

We grabbed our bags and waited to disembark. We were brimming over with excitement. What adventures would await us here? Little did we know that there were thrills, spills, and some disappointments to come… and much beauty as well.


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  • andrea tomkins: I'm glad you find it restful Bonnie! I didn't on that day. :)
  • Bonnie Upton: I have a true love of this place. I drive to and from Ottawa from the NewmArket area to visit my sister snd now my son who attended uOttawa and has c
  • Amy: That sounds fantastic! As with most travelling, parts are much more comfortable when you're telling them afterwards, but they make a good story.
  • andrea tomkins: If I had to pick, Grundy wins! :)
  • Shawn: What did u like more, Restoule or Grundy? Thank you Shawn
  • andrea tomkins: Yes! I've seen the boiling water method! I never really bothered with it because I am a lazy baker. :) It is worth finding a recipe that uses less ye
  • Amy: I made a no-knead version that didn't use a Dutch oven (I don't have one and didn't feel like investing in one just for that). You put a small contai

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.

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