a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Aug, 2019

Weekend roundup: August 10 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Magic Hour, by Kristin Hannah

04 Aug, 2019

Finding heaven at the 7-11

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

In my previous update, I was trying to put on a brave face and hold it together.

I had lost all sense of time. I had no clear idea what day it was, or what time it was. Patong, our holiday destination in Thailand, is 11 hours behind Ottawa time and I think our brief stint in Paris only added to my very confused internal clock.

We were exhausted but we knew we had to pick up a few food items to tide us over and fuel our very weary bodies. We had passed a 7-11 on the way in, so getting there became our top priority. We learned later that there is a 7-11 on almost every blog here in Phuket.

Our neighbourhood 7-11 in Patong, Phuket

I didn’t know if we could trust the drinking water so bottled water was at the top of the shopping list.

We walked down the hill, somehow managed to cross the street (seriously, every little thing was a big challenge at this point), and as the automated two-tone electronic tone signaled our entrance we quickly found ourselves in a heavenly state of air-conditioned bliss.

We went up and down each aisle slowly and deliberately, filling our lungs with cool air and letting the sweat that had been pouring down our bodies and magically evaporate. I could have spent a long time here, not just to cool down, but to examine all the products on the shelves.

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: omg this was delicous

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: twin pack of boiled eggs

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Banana milk

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: an individually-wrapped banana

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Crispy silkworm snacks

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Shrimp burger

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Dead clown cake

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Beauti Drink

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: Corn

Some of these we tried during our stay, some we didn’t, but it was so different and interesting. The raw eggs were on a shelf, not in the fridge. Milk containers were tiny compared to our giant 4L bags. What is “Beauti drink”? I was fascinated by all of the potato chip flavours. If you followed our adventure on Twitter you already know how many we sampled. :)

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: chips on display

Found in the 7-11 in Phuket: potato chips

There was a cold food section with all kinds of packaged dishes but my stomach wasn’t up to experimentation. Later I would buy onigiri here for a quick dinner (it’s a triangle of rice wrapped in seaweed and sometimes features a filling that is Japanese in origin ) but I didn’t know what to trust.

We each selected ramen noodles for dinner. We thought those were a safe bet, and we didn’t have much of an appetite. We also bought sliced bread and what I thought was a block of butter but was actually “butter product” a.k.a margarine. The soups were 20 baht each (less than a dollar) and so were the big bottles of water we bought.

Something about being at a 7-11 on the other side of the world was absolutely surreal. The brand is so familiar and iconic but it was as if someone took the store we knew, turned it upside down, shook out the contents, and replaced everything with something entirely different. Yet the sound of the register, the gum on the counter, the transaction itself, were still the same. It sounds strange, but there was comfort to be found there.

We took our groceries home and made our dinner. We ate, unpacked a few things, experimented with the A/C settings, and watched a minute of Bugs Bunny’s Thai cousin on a snowy TV before we collapsed into bed.


03 Aug, 2019

Weekend reading: August 2 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

29 Jul, 2019

Paris to Bangkok

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

What else can I say about an 11+ hour flight other than it was uncomfortable and I hardly slept? On the bright side, I watched Colette, which I quite enjoyed. (You can watch the trailer on YouTube right here.) The Bangkok airport took me by surprise. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what I expected. When we deplaned and had to walk 1.2 km – mostly via moving sidewalks – to our connecting flight to Phuket. There’s a lot of concrete. Rows of floral displays. Religious motifs and tributes to the king and Thai monarchy.

Bangkok airport

The area around our gate seemed, what can I say, lower budget with a mild military flavour. We were fingerprinted, posed for a photo, and caught our connecting flight. Amazingly, the food here was the best airline food we’d had thus far.

Thank goodness our Airbnb hosts gave us an option to hire a driver to pick us up at the airport. I took them up on it but then debated the wisdom of my decision after finding out that mini-buses cost a quarter of what I had paid. (Which was $1000 Thai baht, the equivalent of about $42 dollars.) As we searched for our driver through bleary eyes, collapsing with fatigue, heat, and likely dehydration, I realized my money was well spent. We found our guy, climbed in to his SUV, and savoured the air-conditioned bliss. I tried to take in the scenery. The youngest was so tired her eyes were rolling back in her head and was barely coherent.

The driver was very nice, and a skilled one at that, which was comforting because the traffic was wild. Most drivers there are on mopeds and small motorcycles, oh and surprise, people drive on the left!

The drive to our place took about an hour. I dreaded it at first – the thought of sitting in a car for an extra hour was pushing me a little too close to the edge of my sanity – but it was 1000x better than taking a bus, given our state.

He dropped us off.

I had, of course, done a walk-through of the neighbourhood around our Airbnb before we booked it but I was wholly unprepared for how busy it was here. The main road was a near-constant stream of cars and motorbikes. The get from our Airbnb, which was actually in a hotel complex, we had to walk down a steep hill and pass through a block of multi-unit residential buildings. The units on the ground floor had big windows in lieu of a front-facing exterior wall and were very exposed. Sometimes men gathered outside, sometimes kids played. There was always a stray cat or dog.

Everyday stray

The road leading from our AirBnb

The walk to our AirBnb

Bayshore Ocean View in Phuket

It was only our first day and I’d already been outside my comfort zone a hundred times. Adding to this, it was so hot I felt like an old wrung-out face cloth in a George Foreman grill. What would the rest of our stay be like? I could only wonder. Would you think less of me if I confess that I was worried and afraid?


27 Jul, 2019

Weekend roundup: July 27 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Black Rabbit Hall


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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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