Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Our First Month

Time flies really fast. I just realized that it's been a month already since we first came here, but it still feels like it was only last week.

I'm happy to say that we are adjusting well to our new surroundings. I have also established a daily routine that will keep me and Yan busy at least until she starts going to school. We also brought in things from our old house to make our new house feel more like home.
Family photos.
Richard's good luck charms.
Sacred Heart, Holy Family, Mama Mary and a Crucifix to watch over our family.
I still miss our family and friends back home though, so keep those emails and chats coming!

We Heart Ice Cream!!

Yesterday was another shopping day for me and Yan, this time at MBK. After walking all afternoon, we decided to look for a place where we can rest our tired, aching feet and grab a quick bite at the same time.

Our stop: Swensen's for yummy ice cream! :)

While waiting for our ice cream...
For Alyannah, the kiddie special -- strawberry ice cream with a chocolate dipped cone on a bed of whipped cream. Yum!
I got one of their sundaes -- vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, butterscotch, banana and whipped cream. Sarap!
Shopping + ice cream = my idea of a perfect afternoon :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting Addicted to Hotpot

Our first hotpot experience as a family was at Healthy Shabu-shabu in ATC. Richard and I thought that it would be a nice experience for Alyannah and she loved the idea of cooking her lunch on the table! From then on we were hooked. Good thing that there are plenty of restaurants here in Bangkok that have hotpot. I noticed that there are a lot of Japanese and hotpot restaurants in the malls. Looks like Thais have a thing for these two.

We had hotpot for dinner last Saturday at the the MBK mall (can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it's at the 5th floor near the food court), eat all you can for only Thb280 per person and Thb140 for kids. Sinulit talaga ni Richard yung bayad! He kept ordering beef and fish. If I didn't tell him to stop ordering, he wouldn't stop! It's healthy naman daw since you just boil the meat in the broth. Sure it's healthy, but three orders of beef?!

The next day, we went to Central World Mall after hearing mass and guess what we had for lunch? Hotpot again! This time, at MK Gold restaurant and I must say that their broth tastes better! We brought our camera along so we can share our hotpot experience with you.

I like MK Gold because they're kid-friendly.

Check out the kiddie plate.

We ordered the Gold set, which consists of prawns, prawn dumplings, MK balls, seaweed roll, pork and salmon cake. Another thing that I like about this place is the waiters take your order using a pda, which takes the info straight to the kitchen in zero time. Hindi pa nakakaalis yung waiter, dumarating na yung food. Perfect if you're super hungry.

We also got grape juice...

...and mango juice. Now, let's cook!

First, you wait for the broth to boil...

...when the broth is ready, you can start adding the meat, seafood, balls, etc.

There are different arguments on the right way to cook hotpot. Some people say that you should put in the ones that take longer to cook first then leave the veggies for last. Others put everything all at the same time. For the Valdez family, the only rule is dump everything all at the same time and consume immediately. Haha!

Let's dig in!
Check out the lights...

...it changes color.

Busog na kami!

Simut sarap!

As an added bonus, the waiter gave me a discount card. Yey! Looks like we will be coming back to MK Gold for more hotpot adventures!

This brings me back to the days when I used to work at Highlands. My officemates and I would often eat shabu-shabu at the Golfer's Lounge and those were really good times! So when the nyoras come over to visit me here in BKK, I'll take them to MK so we can relive our good old Highlands days. Hope to see you soon girls!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Hidden Talent of Thai Women

They say that when you're at the mall, you can tell if a woman is a local or a foreigner just by looking at her shoes because Thai women wear heels while foreigners and tourists wear sandals or flip flops. How these women manage to walk around the mall in high heels still baffles me. It's a talent! Seriously, it's like going to the gym in heels! At least for me, because I consider shopping as a form of exercise. Come to think of it, it is my only exercise. Ha!

There's nothing wrong with wearing high-heeled shoes. In fact, they are one of man's greatest inventions. They add extra inches to your height, they make you feel and look sexy, they make your legs look longer and they add that extra oomph to any oufit. What more can you ask for? I used to love wearing high heels. I remember when Charles and Keith had a crazy sale in ATC years ago -- shoes for Php500-800 -- I bought five pairs! I believe that it's my duty as a consumer to take full advantage of these promos. Especially the kind that's hard to come by. Nowadays, Charles and Keith only gives 10-15% discount at most.
Then I discovered the comfort of wearing flip flops and flats. I went crazy over these too. They're perfect for shopping marathons, giving you the extra mileage vs. high heels. If you had a shoe for every activity, like rubber shoes for sports, work boots for well, working, then you must wear flats or flip flops for shopping.

Yesterday, I tried putting myself in their shoes (literally and figuratively) by going to Paragon mall in heels. I traded my beloved flip flops for my new Thb250 1-inch suede round toe shoes that I bought from Platinum Mall. As expected, my feet hurt like hell. To make matters worse, my right heel broke when we were on our way to the taxi stand. I stepped on a crack and the rubber end of my heel got stuck in it. I'm not sure if I can still have it fixed. Haven't seen any shoe repair shops here ala Mr. Quickie. Besides, it might be cheaper to just buy another pair at Platinum Mall. Again, I find myself in a situation where I'm glad I bought duplicates (have another pair in purple!). With this predicament and the taxi situation that I posted earlier, I was definitely having a moment that should be making me cry. What kept me going was the fact that these are cheap shoes (no wonder they broke that easily! Wore them only twice!).

Bye bye heel!

Bye bye shoes :(

Thai women should be admired for being able to shop in high heels. As for me, that's probably the first and last time I will be wearing heels to the mall.

The (In)Famous Bangkok Traffic

Last night, I got a taste of the legendary Bangkok traffic -- and it was worse than I imagined! It normally takes us 15-20 minutes to go from Siam Paragon to Oakwood but last night it took us an hour and a half! Average cab fare is around THB70-80 but last night I paid THB120. It was that bad.
Worse, Yan and I had to stand in line for an hour just to get a taxi! There was a shortage of taxis at the Paragon station and the ones that were there refused to take us to Naradhiwas because of the bad traffic.
Much worse, my cellphone battery died just when Richard told me that he'll be sending the driver over to pick us up. I asked him earlier if he can ask his driver to pick us up but they were also stuck in traffic on the expressway so I decided to take the taxi instead. At that time, I had no idea there were no taxis available (good thing I took a bathroom break before we went to the taxi stand!). After standing there for over an hour with bags of groceries on both hands (I swear I tried my best to keep my purchases at a minimum because I'll be carrying them myself, but I still ended up with four bags!), with a tired five-year old who is fast becoming impatient, I had to call my husband for an S.O.S. Luckily, he just arrived at the restaurant so he can send Sangkom over. At that moment, my phone died. It felt like one of those sad movie scenes where the forsaken lover runs after the bus or car in the rain. All the elements were there except for the lovers part: the rain, the car that won't let us in, and the feeling of helplessness.
The drama queen in me wanted to rush back to the mall to do more shopping to make me feel better because nothing produces endorphins in the body faster than a brand new pair of shoes, but that would be crazy since the line wasn't getting any shorter. Suddenly, I heard the guard shouting "Naradhiwas" over the megaphone. It was like the heavens opened up and a beam of light shone on us -- drama queen again (guess I'm watching too much HBO and Star Movies). We finally got a taxi that will take us home! Bless the kind driver who took us in.
Lesson: never leave home without a fully charged cellphone!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alyannah's School Update

She's in!
We went to New Sathorn International School (NSIS) yesterday to submit Alyannah's requirements and she's now officially a student! Yey!!
We paid for the application fee (Thb20,000 -- ang mahal! Good thing TMAP-EM's paying for Yan's tuition or else goodbye shopping!) to secure the slot. I had to use my credit card though because the company has yet to process the payment. With only five slots remaining, we had no choice! The school will reimburse us anyway once we give them the full payment from Toyota.
Tony took us to the K2 classroom so that Yan can meet her future classmates. I'm proud to say that my little girl was not afraid to mingle -- she said hi to everyone she met! Her social skills have greatly improved (thanks to Kidcore, teachers Dee and Manet!). She's no longer shy, she's more talkative, she can express herself better -- a far cry from the girl that I met last year. She also met Ms. Sharon, her future Kinder3 teacher.
The NSIS staff are very friendly and accommodating. No less than the Deputy Executive Director himself, Mr. Walter Wright, was there to give us a hand. He's a nice fellow - reminds me of the actor James Cromwell. Hehe!
Yan will attend summer school starting 09 June to 04 July. Then, the first semester will begin on 18 August.
Big thank you's go out to our friends in Manila for helping us with Yan's requirements. Thank you, Pat for bringing the transcript to TMP! Thank you, Tony and Venus for getting Yan's medical certificate from Dr. Crespo and for sending the docs to Thailand. It's great to have great friends like you :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our First Weekend Getaway

We ended Richard's week-long holiday at the Sea Sky Resort at Chaosamran Beach, Petchaburi, a two-hour drive from Bangkok. It's a nice place, very quiet and perfect for families. The rates are very cheap -- 1,800baht per room on weekdays (Sunday to Thursday), 2,400baht on weekends (Friday to Saturday), breakfast included.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The first thing that we packed was Alyannah's all-pink gear.

Don't forget Becky!

And we're finally here! We left the apartment at 11:30am and arrived at around 1:30pm.


One picture of mommy and daddy at the poolside restaurant.

Can't wait to swim!

Richard cools off with a bottle of cold beer...

...and a glass of cold water for Alyannah. Cheers!

That's our driver Samkom.
While waiting for our room to be fixed, we ordered lunch from their restaurant. For our first lunch, this is what we got...

The menu said "fried rice with seafood" and this is what we got -- steamed rice with stir-fried seafood.
It wasn't what we expected, but Yan liked it!

We also ordered "fried rice with squid and thai basil". Again, we got steamed rice with stir-fried squid and thai basil. No sign of fried rice, but it tasted good!

This dish is called shrimp with sweet chili sauce. Super yummy!

This is funny: the menu said "American Fried Rice" but the Americans don't eat rice, right? It meant rice fried with ketchup (weird but tolerable), with hotdog and fried egg. Yan liked this one better than her seafood dish.

Don't forget the fried chicken! I love their fried chicken because it's really crispy.

After lunch, we went to our room to unpack.

Check out the cute details on the walkway.

This is our room - unit A7.

Love the headboard!

Nice details.

This is the view from inside our room.

We like this place already!

After a short rest, it was time to hit the pool!

We had dinner at the resort's restaurant again. We didn't have any choice since we're not familiar with the place.

Fried pork with garlic. Sarap!

The resort was fully booked but during this time, we had the place to ourselves. Maaga yata matulog ang mga Thai.

Like father like daughter.

Parang may dwendeng nakatingin sa fountain. Haha!

Friday, 18 April 2008

The next morning, we had breakfast al fresco.

This is what we ate.

The resort's garden.

After breakfast, we went back to our room to change and went swimming again!

Having ordered almost everything on the resort's restaurant menu, we decided to have lunch somewhere else so we asked the only english speaking staff for the nearest eating place. She pointed us to this eatery which is a couple of houses away from Sea Sky resort.

Again, this eatery is for locals only because the staff could not understand english and the menu that they gave us was written in thai! We were about to leave the place when another lady approached us and gave us another set of menu. This time, with english translation. But...

...would you order this?

Lungkot tuloy kami.

Good thing there were other items on the menu that looked familiar so we stayed. Here's to our first real street food meal!

Grilled squid. Not spicy. Not good. The meat was tough!

Fried snapper with spicy garlic sauce. Good but super spicy! It probably had five kinds of chilis in it! I saw red chili, yellow chili, orange chili and green peppercorns. The spice will start to kick in after a couple of bites. It was really good, but I had to stop eating because it was starting to burn my tongue. Gumuguhit sa lalamunan hanggang sa tyan yung anghang! Para akong uminom ng gin!

Prawn tom-yam soup flavored with lemongrass. This dish came in last. I thought this would help take out the burn in my tongue but it was spicy too! But it tasted good.

Pinagpawisan si Richard sa anghang ng pagkain!

After lunch, we went back to our room to chill. Sobra init sa labas! Maanghang na yung kinain namin tapos mainit pa!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Richard woke up early today to walk on the beach and catch the sunrise.

Breakfast again - this time we wore our swimsuits so we can swim right after eating.

Yan met a new friend - Daena (dow-na). She speaks english and so does her family. Sa wakas, may nakausap na rin kaming ibang tao! Here's proof of Alyannah's kadaldalan.

They were talking about school, where she came from, she even mentioned the names of her teachers!

Yan and her new friend, Daena.

A couple of souvenir shots before leaving...

After checking out, our driver took us to a restaurant for lunch. I can't remember the name, though.

We ordered...

Grilled pork thai style. It tasted like pork tapa with a hint of cilantro that was fried and grilled.

We also ordered prawns with chili sauce. Moderately spicy but very, very good!

Sea Sky Resort is perfect for families who want to relax because it's not crowded and quiet. We also noticed that the resort is really for locals hence, it's not foreigner friendly. The staff do not speak and understand english -- with the exception of one who mans the office, most of the signages inside the room and around the resort are written in thai and do not have english translation. It seemed like we were the only non-thais staying at the resort at that time so the other guests were probably wondering how we managed to survive. But we did!

The food was great! The restaurants/eateries might not look much, but the food is really good. Some may be super spicy, pero masarap pa rin. One thing I also noticed was the resort and the restaurants around it did not serve any dessert. No cake, no ice cream, no fresh fruits. Weird... That was the only downside of the trip -- three days with no dessert pero buhay pa rin ako. Haha!

For our next weekend trip, Richard said we'll go to a resort that's more foreigner friendly -- and hopefully, sweet tooth friendly too!