Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Memories of a smoothie maker

Smoothies make me think of two things. I first discovered them, while travelling round Asia with two friends. I had known of smoothies before then, probably drunk quite a few. But these were different. They were fresh and lovely and cold and perfect for a hot humid day in Thailand. I went crazy for these smoothies. We had at least one every day, sometimes two or three. It was a real treat.

Enter the second memory. I got home from Asia and the taste of the smoothies lingered so I went out and bought a smoothie machine and got smoothie-ing. Bananas were a staple. They went into every smoothie because their texture was so fantastic and smoothie-able. The rest was anyone’s game. Strawberries one day, blueberries the next. Kiwis in the morning, raspberries in the evening. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it.

One morning, after a bit of a crazy night dancing on chairs in the flat I shared with friends and, inexplicably, waving towels in the air, I woke up parched. I needed a smoothie. Needed one. So I shuffled to the kitchen, bleary-eyed, threw two bananas, some yoghurt and a blueberry or two into the smoothie machine and whizzed.

It was the loudest bloody sound in the world! And it was 7am. Everyone was asleep. But it was important for me to have the smoothie. I needed it. I poured it into a mug, shuffled back to bed and lay, cradling the mug and trying to keep my eyes awake. On finishing the smoothie, I promptly fell asleep again.

Then one day, I felt ill. Quite seriously ill. I kept vomiting. I was weak and exhausted. I got in a taxi and headed for A&E and they ummed and ahhed and stuck needles in my bum and asked what I’d been eating.

“Smoothies!” I panted, exhausted. “It can’t be that. They’re really good for you.”

“Yeh, you’ve probably gone a bit too crazy with them, I think,” was the doctor’s scientific diagnoses.

Something to do with acid…? Too much citric acid…? 500 bananas a day isn’t good for you apparently…?

The time I won a dance competition

Firstly, I’d just like say a huge congratulations to myself for passing the 500 post mark earlier this week. Woop woop for me! To celebrate this, I have an apple and rhubarb cake in the oven.

In the meantime, I would like to tell you a story about the time I won a dance competition. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You didn’t realise I had so many skills. You knew I was talented but this was a side of me you hadn’t seen yet. Yes, I know. Calm down, calm down. Let me tell you the story.

My friends and I were travelling around Asia. One friend had been living and working in Thailand in a town called Khon Kaen so we spent some time there on our trip. In Thailand in April, at the beginning of the monsoon season they have a big street party called Songkran. In the whole country. And they seemed to be doing it in Laos too when we were there. It lasts about three days and the basic premise of it is that everyone throws water and talc at each other.

Yep. Talc. Talcum powder. People have it all over their hands and when you’re jammed in a big crowd, they will work their way around and smother everyone’s wet faces with talc. Not sure why.

It can turn into an all out war with the water throwing. People get high tech water guns and use water that’s had ice sitting in it. They soak everything and anything. People sitting on a bus. People just trying to walk to work. Anyone’s a target.

In amongst all this, there are bits of entertainment being put on in the streets, to keep the revellers happy. There are different stages with performances or competitions etc. And one of these, on the day we were there, was a dance competition. As we approached the stage to see, the man with the microphone was asking for one more participant.

Somehow, without consciously expressing an interest, I was being pulled/pushed/carried onto the stage. And I was the final participant!

Before I had time to realise what was really happening, the music came on and I was ordered to dance. And dance I did! They were screaming and loving it. I was dancing and loving it. And there was general lovage all around. I felt like a major Hollywood celebrity!

Whilst getting down with my bad self, I decided to do a little sideways lunge type of move, to mix it up a bit, you know? With being completely drenched from Songkran, the thin fisherman’s trousers I was wearing, stuck to my skin so that when I lunged, the seam on the inside of the leg just ripped.

There I was – dance, dance, dance, then RRRRRIP! Oops! My cool sideways lunge move stopped immediately and I changed to more standing-up-straight-and-not-bending-legs-moves.

Then the music stopped and microphone man asked the crowd to shout for their favourite. He pointed at each of the other three, who had been very good dancers. Then he pointed at me and the shouting was louder. Now I’m not fooling myself that I was the better dancer. I was, however, the only foreigner up there plus I had split my pants live on stage so I think it made me look a bit exciting and that got me through.

I was handed a t-shirt which read ‘YAMAHA’ and told that it was my prize. So I took my t-shirt and my broken pants and off I went, the official Dance Competition Winner!

He’s got a sweaty back

Emily at The Waiting has told me to write something again. So I must. I must do what she says. She says I should write about ‘the time we almost melted.’ So here goes.
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My first memory of extreme sweatiness is always the day two friends and I walked to the market in Laos. We were in Vientiene, the capital and travelling to Vang Vieng in a minibus in the afternoon so we decided that in the morning we would walk to the market. This journey turned out to be the most ridiculously hot journey I’ve ever taken in my life.

We walked and we walked and we walked. And we sweated. Boy, did we sweat! My over-the-shoulder bag strap was pressing my t-shirt tight onto my skin so that there was a bag strap shape in sweat when I took the bag off. That day was the first time I’ve ever felt sweat gather in the crease between my bum and my leg then break free and run down to my knee. I’ve never felt so disgusting in my life.

When we got to the market, I bought a new t-shirt because the amount of dry patches were so few it was embarrassing.

Later that same trip, the three of us were in a little cafe in Lopburi near the monkey temples and this man came in and sat down. Now, the three of us can get pretty childish if left to our own devices and this poor man had the same problem I had in the Laos story above – when he took his backpack off, the shape of the backpack was printed on his t-shirt in sweat.

Well! It was too much, we couldn’t contain ourselves. You know that Justin Timberlake song, Sexyback? It just so happens that singing Sweatyback instead fits perfectly and is much much funnier. So we sang it. Then we giggled uncontrollably. Then he stood up and left without having ordered anything.

I think he heard our song.

Last but not least, my most recent melting episode was on Monday, my first day in Ham House. I was wearing a top that wasn’t very breathable. It was yellow (I should have gone with safe black or white, given the high chance that I might be sweating) so I was quite clearly overheating for everyone to see.

I just had to ignore it and keep on like nothing wierd was happening and I didn’t feel like my organs were being cooked on a barbecue.

Just a normal first day on the job. Sweat and awkwardness. That’s me.

I can see now, why they wanted me on board.

A dedication to my childhood friend

My favourite friend when I was a little girl at school had blond hair, like me. She was a little bit short, like me. And we were always together. People used to mix us up.

One time we swapped shoes for fun at breaktime and forgot to swap them back. Our parents were quite annoyed at us when we went home with the wrong shoes on.

We used to play with two dinosaur shaped erasers, one blue and one green. The game we played consisted of us burying the dinosaurs at break time then coming back at lunch time and digging them up. It was a pretty good game, if I remember rightly. We were about six years old and inseparable.

When we were about nine or ten, my favourite friend said she was moving away. They were moving Wales, which was the other side of the world for all I knew! I now know that it was essentially just down the road, a few hours at most. But then, it was the most far away place I could imagine. I was pretty gutted.

A few years of letter-writing later and we planned a visit. My mum drove a friend and I to her house and we stayed overnight. It was hilarious. We ‘made’ a Ouija board and made out we were terrified of looking in the mirror at midnight. We giggled and pulled our stuff into the front room, away from the mirrors, to sleep.

A few years later, my friend came to Liverpool to stay over. Another friend was there too and we had great fun. The next visit was a few years later, when my friend came to look at the university in Liverpool on an open day.

Then I left for Africa and lost contact with most people. I then went to university in Glasgow for a bit and one day, I decided to try texting her old phone number. She was still using it! Amazing! A bit of catch up and lunch in Liverpool next time I was back re-established the friendship.

Next thing I knew, I was back and forth travelling quite a bit before settling into a different course in London and we start emailing again. She’s in Thailand, teaching! Perfect. I had just started sponsoring a little girl in Viet Nam and was really keen to visit her. So I planned a trip to see my little sponsor girl in Viet Nam and my friend in Thailand. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was such fun.

The next year, after she had returned to England, I went back to Asia with a friend and she came for two weeks of our trip. That was in 2007. She moved to Hungary for a few years next.

I don’t think we’ve seen each other since then. We’ve been friends a long time now. Over twenty years. I don’t think I’ve known anyone (excluding family) for that long!

And then, a few months ago, my friend Facebooked. She had a place on a postgraduate course at my old university, down the road!

This is very exciting. For a whole year, my childhood best friend will be living down the road, instead of across the world.

Tonight, she is coming for dinner. I am preparing a feast. When I get excited, I cook. I hope I don’t burn everything now, in a frenzy of excitement and forgetfulness.

Budgeting in Laos

A few years ago, some friends and I were travelling around South East Asia. We had just crossed the border from Thailand into Laos and were staying in the capital city called Vientiane, on the banks of the Mekong River.

When we first arrived there, I think we had come in by coach and it was quite late in the evening. We just wanted to drop our stuff somewhere and go and eat. We weren’t really big on the whole planning-ahead scene. We loved the carefree nature of just turning up and seeing what we could find. So we hardly ever pre-booked hotels or anything. Sometimes it ended us in some pretty sticky situations but, on the whole, we preferred it. It suited us because we didn’t always know when we would be moving on, or where to.

So this time, we got off the coach, wandered along the front and saw somewhere which looked quite nice (we usually made do with ‘a bit grotty’ but this time we went for ‘quite nice’ because we were too tired to keep looking).

We go in, ask for a room for three and are taken to a really nice, quite plush room with wooden furnishings and a generally lovely ambience. It was a bit pricey but we agreed that we would just stay one night and find somewhere cheaper the next day. We still had a few weeks of travelling left and not a lot of money to do it on.

So the next day, around midday, we packed up our bags again, shouldered our weights (mine was getting ridiculously heavy by this point as I kept collecting books faster than I could read them and pass them on), paid our bill and told the owners we were leaving. As we stepped outside of this lovely comforting enticing hotel, the heavens opened….

We trudged the streets, getting more and more soaked, looking in any hostels, B&Bs or hotels we could find. We walked for maybe an hour and found a hostel with a room for three people which already had five hundred fleas in it, another place with a cockroach in the bath and some other places more expensive than the one we just left. I think we saw a few which just looked quite old and about to fall down. The entire time, it rained.

Fed up and getting quite grumpy by this point, we stopped in a little cafe to dry off and get something to eat. The afternoon was arriving and we hadn’t had anything, having not suspected that finding a room would prove so difficult. We started arguing a little bit with each other. This person needed to stop being so fussy, they were only fleas. And that person needed to relax about the big crack down the wall, what’s the problem, it probably only lets a little draft in. What’s a cockroach in the bath? We won’t bathe then, no big deal. And who cares if the room smells like urine? You’re getting too fussy, we’re on a budget here!

After skirting around the obvious for a long while, we eventually all admitted it. We had nowhere else to go but back to the same hotel we left an hour ago. We’d come full circle in our search and as we left the cafe, we realised that we were just around the corner from the hotel.

Sheepishly, we shuffled around the corner and approached the hotel. We sneaked a look in the front and, sure enough, the same people were at the desk. Earlier, they had asked us why we were leaving and we had explained that we were students on a budget, we needed somewhere more affordable.

We hung around outside for a few minutes, deciding who should lead the walk of shame back to the reception desk. I think I was nominated in the end and we re-entered the hotel, quietly explaining that we would like ‘a room for three, please.’ Of course they recognised us. With huge smiles on their face, they took down a key and lead us back to the exactroom we had left an hour ago and told us to make ourselves at home….

When we left the hotel a few minutes later, desperate to put some distance between ourselves and our shame, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. And it stayed pretty sunny for the rest of our stay in Vientiane at that hotel.

The Hairy Dogmother

I haven’t done one of these in ages, so I thought it was time to check in with everyone’s favourite magazine. You guessed it! Chat!

You know it’s going to be a good one when the front cover has stories such as ‘Bow WOW! My dog’s got wheely ace skills’ (next to a picture of a dog on a scooter), ‘Filmed on the loo by PERVERT in LADIES’ PANTS’ and ’13 DAY PREGNANCY THEN I HAD TWINS!’

I’ve noticed they’ve got a real thing about animal stories. They ran a ‘Mystic Mutt’ feature for a while, which was amazing. The psychic dog would answer letters from troubled animals, who wrote in about their problems. That’s right. You read it right. Animals. Would write in. To a magazine. And the psychic dog. Psychic, that’s right. Psychic dog. Would answer them. With advice. Or messages from the other realm.

This week’s Chat has the fairly standard stories, you know, a sex change here, a brutal attack there, girl kept in a cage, I’m in love with my granddad, I’ve got/had a rare disease but am not giving up hope, all those type of things. But by far the best this week is a story called ‘Hairy Dogmother To Cute Cubs,’ and the summary is “Abandoned by their real mum, I’ve adopted a trio of tigers.” I read on, expecting it to be about a woman who was in Thailand on holiday, maybe, at an animal sanctuary or something, she loves animals, there were some tigers, she loved them, she stayed and adopted them and now they are her life, she loves them.

I’m reading…

“‘Meow,’ the hungry bundle of fluff beside me cried. I nudged their striped fur and gave them a lick..”

Hold on, she’s going to get fur in her mouth, that’s gross, that’s how diseases spread. Silly woman…

“You see, I’d recently given birth to a litter of pups, so I had lots of milk to go around..”

Wait a minute!! Woah there! The penny drops! It’s not a woman writing this! It’s a dog! Well, it’s not really. Obviously. But the article is written from a dog’s point of view!

This is mental. It’s mental. What was the author thinking. When I look to the end of the article, sure enough, there it is. “By Duoduo the dog, from Qingdao, China.”

So not only can the dog apparently write, he is also bilingual! He’s a Chinese dog who has written an article for an English magazine.

He’s also a funny dog. Check these little puns out = “You may think I’m barking mad…” “It could have been a complete cat-astrophe.”

I’m sorry, I can’t write anymore at the moment. My mind is reeling. I need to get a cup of tea and sit still for a while.