a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Dec, 2019

Weekend reading: December 7 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Quintland Sisters: A Novel

01 Dec, 2019

Beach day

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

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

I’m a little worried that if you’re reading this series of posts that you might think we’re not having a good time. Nothing could be further from the truth. The youngest daughter and I were getting along really well. Sharing this kind of experience with someone really brings you closer together (well, this was the case for us, at least from my perspective) and we were, despite appearances to the contrary, having fun. We spent a lot of time just hanging out together. For example, reading/writing/swimming/chilling by the pool. And just … being. I was really enjoying this aspect of our trip.

In a way, I am reminded of the time we booked a walk-in campsite and the youngest and I had to set it up together. It was horrible (for a short time) but it was, strangely, also super fun.

This might be a controversial statement to make but in a weird way, obstacles – as long as they’re not insurmountable of course – actually make for a good holiday because they make great memories. I feel proud that we did these things, and prevailed.

One part of me, the part that likes to be Efficient and Get Things Done was bummed that we weren’t jamming activities into every spare moment of the day, but the other part reminded me that holidays can be anything we want them to be. We can “waste” as much time by the pool as we want! We don’t HAVE to eat strange meats at food stands! We don’t have to go parasailing or scuba diving! It’s quite liberating, actually.

At this point during our trip, the youngest developed a weird rash on her skin. My stash of pharmaceuticals – many of which were primiarily intended to treat a broad assortment of intestinal issues – was insufficient. (But hey, I was covered for any gastro challenge Thailand could throw at us, ranging from mild bloat to raging runs that only a triple strength prescription from a doctor can treat!)

Fortunately, there are about as many pharmacies in Patong as there are 7-11s and we had no problem finding one with a friendly pharmacist to give us a tube of cream. (Sidebar: Imagine the trust required in this kind of transaction. You have a skin thing, you show it to someone behind a counter with a mention of cortisone cream, and they give you a tube of something that COULD be the right thing but you’re not sure. Ah well. This was all part of the adventure, right?)

Thai pharmacy

The day we picked up the “could be hydrocortisone” cream was also the day we declared it to be BEACH DAY. As we walked we heartily congratulated ourselves for getting so good at walking/navigating mopeds/crossing busy intersections, which can be hard to do, especially given all of the distractions:

Patong street view

tangle of cables!

Possibly the only cross walk in Patong

Caged bird, Patong

Patong signage

Patong street view

I cannot express how bloody hot it was. I felt like a wrung-out facecloth every moment I was outdoors.

When we got to the beach we made a beeline for the closest shade. It was simply impossible to lie in the direct sun and we noticed very few people doing this. The beach at Patong is lined with large trees, so we chose one and spread out our towels. We lolled around to our heart’s content. By this time we had learned that in order to survive the heat you had to do as little as possible.

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong beach - swim flag

The sand at Patong Beach is very fine, and hot, if you dare go barefoot. The water is as warm as the air. When it’s breezy, the air is as hot as a hair dryer. As I bobbed around in the water I thought about our experiences with Ontario lakes. When we go camping we spend a lot of time at the nearest beach. If it’s VERY hot, we swim, but on most summer days we plunge into the water for a brisk and bracing cool-down and emerge with goosebumps and a shiver as we rush to our towels to dry off. Then, we heat up and again and repeat the process. But not here! :)

We did have fun just hanging around though…

Patong Beach swing

After our initial dip we walked to the far south end of the beach, collecting a few little shells along the way.

Tiny sea shells, Patong Beach

We walked back the way we came and eventually made our way to the infamous Bangla Road, which we’d return to later. It’s tame in the daytime, but at night it’s the epicentre of drunken debauchery. Every other storefront is a bar, restaurant, or club.

We walked to Jungceylon Shopping Mall for some browsing and A/C. I might be exposing myself as a total wimp but the A/C was sheer bliss. AND, you won’t believe this, but we had dinner at McDonald’s. I KNOW. It’s awful. We’re in a country with endless amazing and inexpensive dining options! But I couldn’t go to Thailand and not eat at McDonald’s. (I don’t generally eat beef but I made an exception.) I haven’t had a Big Mac in years but I ordered one in the name of research.

Suffice it to say I have never had a Coke that tasted so good. (In hindsight I suspect I was mildly dehydrated, despite all the water I was chugging.)

McDonald's in Patong

McDonald's in Patong

McDonald's in Patong

McDonald's in Patong

After dinner I had a bit of a sinking spell while walking around the mall – clearly I don’t recover from jet lag very quickly – and after a bit of a rest we slowly made our way back home.

When we got there we hit the pool, and it was The Absolute Best. I drifted in the water and watched the sky change colours. Bats fluttered and swallows swooped to catch their dinner. It was heavenly.

When we got back to our room we discovered there was no running water. Sigh.

17 Nov, 2019

Weekend reading: November 17 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage

15 Nov, 2019

A bite of Thai food

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

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

After our extraordinary time with the elephants, we decided to chill out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

Poolside writing

In the afternoon I went back to our 7-11 to pick up a few staples, which included a cup of coffee for yours truly. I knew what I was doing now. I had it down pat! Unfortunately, I threw a wrench into the system by ordering a “signature coffee, hot” off the special laminated menu.

The young girl behind the counter looked puzzled when I placed my order. She looked at the menu, at the big machine, and back again. She pressed a few buttons and something brown poured into a cup. She consulted with her co-worker and the contents of the cup were whisked away. They exchanged a few words… the only ones I understood were “signature coffee.” Clearly I was the first person to order a regular coffee here! The second staffer scrolled through the options on the machine and made a second cup. It had less liquid in it than the first one, it was perhaps 3/4 full. She handed it to me with a single word: “Sugah?” I shook my head no. It was good, but not exactly hot. I was ok with this.

While I was here I also scoped out the beer options, and was surprised to learn about the restrictions on purchasing:

Trying to buy beer at the 7-11, Phuket Thailand

You can only buy alcohol between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to midnight. Later we also found out that you can’t purchase liquor on certain holy days.

I also bought potato chips. It started out as a joke but we made it a personal challenge to try as many Thai flavours as we could during our stay:

Exploration of Thai potato chip flavours in

Hot chili squid chips were surprisingly good!

Speaking of food the youngest and I talked a lot about street food while we planned this vacation – the variety, the price, how much we’d eat and enjoy… well, at this point our holiday was almost halfway through and I couldn’t honestly say that our appetites had returned. I wasn’t sure how much of this was a result of jet lag, or just the heat.

That evening we practically forced ourselves to eat a proper dinner out. We chose a restaurant that was down the road from our residence. I should point out that I am using the term “restaurant” very loosely. It was essentially a few tables and chairs between a few walls and open to the street, with a wall-size poster showcasing all the meal options. Interestingly, they were all meat-based dishes. I only mention this because I had assumed there would be plenty of vegetarian dishes available but what I was seeing here was a lot of duck, some seafood, and different combinations of pork (in soup, noodle, or rice format). I was ok with this, just surprised.

We ordered one dish to share: a crispy pork and rice dish.

It came with a soup. We were able to distinguish it from a finger dipping bowl by the bits of green onion floating on top.

When our main dish arrived we were a little disappointed to see that it didn’t match the photo on the laminated wall menu. But this is a universal thing, is it not? Your Big Mac will never look like the one pictured on tv. All this to say, the main dish didn’t look like much, but it tasted good. And it was only $3.00.

dinner at a roadside resto, Phuket

I think one of my favourite foodie experiences here was at the first true roadside food stand we were brave enough to try a couple of nights before the pork dish pictured above. These food stands are manned by one or two people and seem to return to the same spots during the day or night. This mango guy was parked on this corner almost every night (at least that I could see).

We were a little nervous about flirting with food stand foods, but mango and sticky rice seemed to be a safe bet. I’m glad we took the chance. First of all, it was cool to watch him prepare our dish. I was really impressed by how carefully this fellow prepared our dish, and how thoughtfully he chose the ripest mangoes and cut them up:

Sticky rice and mango, Patong

It was dessert to go!

Here is our mango and sticky rice dish, bathed in the unflattering glare of our hotel room:

Eating sticky rice and mango in Phuket

Half of the rice was dyed a bright green. Apparently this is typical but I’m still not sure why. The little baggy had sweetened coconut milk in it, which you cut open and pour over the whole shebang. The sesame seeds are sprinkled on top.

It tasted a lot like rice pudding, but with the addition of fruit to make us feel a little bit virtuous. They youngest wasn’t crazy about the sweetened sticky rice, so she ate the mango. I’d call it a win, regardless.

In my next post, I will write a bit about dealing with our first health-related issue (and no, it wasn’t a foot or toe infection!). More on that, later.

While many people in Ottawa were anticipating delays on the LRT or scraping the snow off their cars this morning, I was enjoying my usual commute a little bit more than usual:

Walk to work

I walked to work, admiring the scene, enjoying the fresh air, thinking WOW. This is nice. Aren’t I lucky?

What helped, of course, was that I was dressed appropriately. I had dug my hat and parka out of the back of the closet and donned my new boots and mittens.

The weather is a major topic around water coolers everywhere (even virtual ones, like Twitter). We LOVE to talk about it. And we love to complain about it.

I’ve decided to take a different approach to talking about the weather this year. I’m not going to complain about it. Here’s the thing: I don’t actually hate the winter! I like to ski. I like to walk the dog in the snow. I like to go on hikes. I don’t like being cold, that’s true, but you can dress for winter. Winter is a big part of where we live so I am making a concerted effort to reframe the experience.

Complaining about the weather doesn’t really serve any purpose. Sure, it brings about a small moment of connection between people (“OH my god! Can you believe all this snow? How many more days until it’s gone?”), but it might be more positive, more healthy, and more happiness-inducing to connect over something good instead of something negative. Does negativity breed negativity? Does complaining beget complaining? Does it leave a residue on my brain afterward? I have a feeling it does, so I’m not going to contribute to the conversation any more.

So the next time someone comes at me with a negative weather statement I’m going to find a positive counterpunch.

What I do know is that it would help my mental health if I lived in a society where were we all happily embraced the weather, no matter what the number was on the thermometer. Maybe if other people regularly expressed happiness about the weather it would subtly alter my happiness about it too.

What do you think?

p.s. Feel free to ask me about this strategy in March. ;)

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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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