“There’s a dead squirrel in the car, mama” said Cleverly. We were traveling from Vang Vieng to the Capitol of Laos, Vietienne, in a minibus, passing rice fields in various states of harvest, rivers, towns. We were listening to a Lao version of Taylor Swift which the driver played from his cellphone attached to- covering, actually- the rear view mirror. This might have been alarming but I reasoned that he didn’t need to look back since the road was so twisted he couldn’t see far behind him anyway. Better to see in front of him- the potholes, cows, sudden drops, slow cars, and other obstacles as we went about 30 mph on a road that alternates dusty and paved. The driver had just stopped so he could buy a dead squirrel from a roadside stand. We made several stops like that, dropping off or picking up riders, getting a snack at a stand, picking up a package.
“There are now three dead squirrels in the car, mama.”
We must not have taken the express.
We eventually reached Vietienne and made our way to the backpacker area and the English language bookstore where we would meet Mr. Fantastic. It was a kind of miracle that my texting app worked up until the moment I told him of our location, and hasn’t worked since! He found us at a fancy coffee shop where there was wifi and cheesecake. And it was a lively reunion!
We decided to go to Bangkok right away since he had an apartment for us. We took a bus, crossed into Thailand, then took the overnight train from the border. The train staff had a military-style inspection before we could board the train. It wasn’t overly militant, more like orderly. The participants weren’t averse to anyone taking pictures, and there were smiles and bowing passed between the guy in tan and the line of train workers. Inside the train was our most comfortable sleeping arrangement on trains/busses yet. Large beds compared to the others we’d had, little green curtains, soft pillows. The upper beds folded down from the ceiling of the train, while the lower ones were made from seats and tables. One complaint was that they left the lights on all night! Other than that, it was a nice way to get to Bangkok.
We got in at around 7am. We got on the “sky train” to the Sukhamvit part of town, down some side streets and to a little one-room apartment we’d found on Airbnb. It was a unique place, full of antique hardwood and with a back porch kitchen. There were banana trees in a small backyard.
It was too small for us, and though we hated to leave the cozy place with its sweet kitchen, a few days later we moved two blocks away to another apartment owned by the same landlady. This one had three bedrooms, a less exciting kitchen, and a lower monthly rent- about $480/month including utilities. It will be home for a couple of months. Below is outside and inside our apartment. We have a yellow gate and we’re the lower floor of a two-story house.
Our landlady is quite a character! Nim is a Thai language teacher as well as a landlady and speaks fluent English. She collects antiques and has an affinity for worn teak shutters and panels from old country houses. It is a nice break from the modern high rises all over the city. She loves our kids and had us over right away to swim in the pool at her apartment building where she lives. Below: selfie out Nim’s balcony, the pool, Nim pouring us a sweet iced herbal tea
One of our first days in Bangkok, I took the twins on a kids excursion by a local company. It was about Thai monks, and we went to several related places around Bangkok. We started on a long tail boat on the Chao Phraya River to a flower market.
We got into a tuk tuk and went to Wat Suthat, an historic temple famous for its giant swing that was used in ceremonies until the 1930’s.
A monk met us at the temple and told us about his daily life. He answered questions about his schedule (up at 4am, meditation, alms collecting, studying, two meals a day, bed at 10pm), hair (buzz cut once a month for efficiency in grooming and for humility), and why he became a monk (his parents wanted him to become one). He led the kids through lighting candles and incense, offering these and garlands, bowing, and meditating.