Bangkachao, Pra Padaeng District, Thailand, January 2016

  The lung of Bangkok? Yes please! We spent a day in Bangkachao, as seen by NASA about a year ago here. I had heard of it, but only through kinda pricey bike tour companies that charge for bike rental and a guide. We did it on our own and I wanted to write this stuff down so it’s easier for others to check out this delightful green space just across the river from bustling Bangkok.  

  The hardest part was getting to the Bangkok pier. The taxi driver wanted to drive us all the way to the area, which is unnecessary and less fun. The bike rental place wrote this for me to show the taxi driver “next time”. 

 Also, here is a map with pier shown: 

 There are bike rental places on both sides of the river. There are also other piers to reach Bangkachao, but I believe this was closest for us. We took a taxi from the Phra Kanong BTS station to the Khlong Toey Pier. From there, we took these long tail boats across the Chao Phraya River.  



 Once there, we rented these adorable, sturdy bikes from a small rental place that had only been open 3 months and was eager for our business.  They even loaned us baseball caps since we had forgotten ours. Oh, no helmets were available BTW.

 Bikes were just 90 baht ($2.51) per day. The Bangkok bike tour places charge 700-900 baht per person for a guided 3-hour tour, so this worked better for us.


We headed off onto small roads with almost no car traffic. 

There are wats to see, and something called a fighting fish gallery but we mostly just biked along, enjoying the quiet, green surroundings. We stopped at this lovely park, Sri Nakhon Khueankhon Park:


The paths here were even nicer than the ones outside the park. There were bridges and wooden walkways, and this amazing  Nipa Palm everywhere. Apparently it has many uses for food, roof material, and fencing.


We also checked out the birds from this viewing platform.  

The bird songs were a wonderful background to our day. 

Following a random path, the kids found this little barge to cross a small river: wow!!

 We had an excellent lunch out of someone’s garage, or so it seemed.    It was a mom-and-pop place which seemed delighted to see us. Thais in general love kids, and our friend K, 11, is half Thai and fluent in the language, so with all 5 kids we got a lot of love!

   There were a few homey little places like this for lunch. It was a weekday, so some things- such as the floating market- were not open. It was a quiet, sleepy little area with people waving to us now and then as we biked along.

 We biked to the other end of the area and found another pier, this one with a larger ferry and larger bike rental shop. 


Not too far from there was the eco-hotel we kept hearing about, the Treehouse. It really is a neat design. 

 After that, we went back to the pier. We went down a few of the elevated cement pathways we had been seeing. 


Some are a little scary since they are a few feet off the ground but have a rail only one one side, or no rail at all.


When we returned the bikes, the rental shop owner gave us all these cute handmade key chains.  

 On the way back, the taxi driver took us to the Phrom Phong BTS station, which he thought was closest. There was a lot of traffic at this time of day, around 5pm. It was a shorter ride than in the morning, since it was easier to describe where we were going. We were a little tired, and we headed home. What a great day!! 


Our last few weeks in Bangkok, January 2016

  Bangkok, you’ve been good to us! Homeschool community, easy transport to beaches and Cambodia, some income, a nice apartment, excellent field trips. I’m not sure what comes next, but it will be hard to beat the past few months. Anyway, here are our last few Bangkok weeks.

We spent a nice afternoon at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center, right off the Siam BTS station. The building is so sleek, all white and modern, and there is so much natural light. You can walk up a spiraling ramp to the top floor! 


The admission was free for all of us, and we saw the two large exhibits in the galleries (photography by the popular Thai HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Thai abstract artist Ithipol Thangcholok) well as a hallway exhibit of adorable Czech children’s book art. The kids spent most of their time coloring beautiful coloring pages in a nice area set up for just that. 


We ended up at the Museum of Siam kind of by mistake. A tuk tuk driver brought us there despite our  request to “turn RIGHT!” in two languages several streets before. It was so hot and the museum had been on our radar anyway, so we went with it. It is an interactive museum about Thai history and identity. Only 200 baht each for us parents, the kids were free.  

   It is housed in a beautiful 19th century building that used to be the Ministry of Commerce. The exhibits seemed very modern and possibly even recently installed. There is an introductory video with several silly, engaging characters that reappear in monitors as one tours the museum. I think we learned a lot!  I especially liked this exhibit on the diversity of ships and people that shaped Ayutthaya, the ex-Thai capital whose ruins we visited last month.

 The kids liked the 19th century dress up clothes mixing European and traditional Thai styles. 


We went back to the vegan food court, took DH this time, and spent some time at the boisterous Chatuchak weekend market again, with its 15,000 vendors. It was very hot and crowded but we knew we didn’t have many more chances to go. Afterwards, I could persuade only Cleverly to continue adventuring with me, and we went to the Thailand Tourism Festival at Lumpini Park.  

 I am so glad we went! It is a 5-day festival in which they make the park into a mini Thailand, with 5 areas representing different regions of the country. There are even little roads to direct you among the regions.

 We saw traditional dancers that brought to mind the apsara dancers carved on Angkor temple walls. They moved slowly and posed with precise hand and foot movements to recorded traditional music.


We also saw a performance of all men dancers accompanied by live music including a choir! They had elaborate costumes and performed in front of a traditional style house erected for the festival.

 It was wonderful to watch, and the music was haunting. It was all in Thai so we didn’t understand the story. At one point, there was a king riding a golden elephant. 

 Aside from the performances, there was so much else to see. We saw a ‘floating market’ on land with traditional boats housing the vendors. 


There were also modern rock’n’roll musicians, regional crafts like fabric art, and a lot more things we didn’t see.

A few weeks ago was Children’s Day! We had heard about one in Japan years ago and the kids felt ripped off. “Why don’t we have that here???”. The standard adult response of ‘every day of children’s day’ is not very satisfying. Anyway, in Thailand it meant kids riding free on the BTS, free entry and special activities at some government buildings, and Ponies at the mall:

 And we also went to the teak mansion Vimanmek Palace on Children’s Day. It was built in 1900 by King Rama V, used for such diverse purposes as royal residents and storage until 1982, then renovated that year by the current Thai Queen Sirikit. These are not my photos; we had to check our bags and photos are not permitted on many places so I don’t have any of my own. It was a gorgeous building.


I had a day by myself and I went to the National Museum. I’m glad I didn’t bring the kids so I could geek out on all the artifacts at my own pace. It’s not interactive or very modern, in fact it’s almost shabby in places and had a dusty forgotten feel at times, which only made me love it more. I did not take a ton of pictures but I couldn’t resist taking some of the funeral chariots. There have been used in very elaborate processions going back centuries and even current times, see photos and video from a 2012 funeral here

The place had maybe 15 buildings, some under renovation during my visit. The artifacts go back to prehistory and through different manifestations of Buddhist culture such as Lopburi, Sukhothai, Bagan, and the Khmer of Angkor Wat fame. I became interested in Buddha footprints, which we had seen at shrines here.

 New to me was the Wheel of Law, which often had a sitting deer statue nearby.  The deer represents the location of the Buddhas first sermon at a deer park.

 They had a nice stone Ganesh, flanked by two smaller ones. 

And there were smaller statues of various other  dieties, like the 12th century Kali goddess below. A statue I saw of a kneeling Buddha statue looked so lifelike, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure it hadn’t moved. 


This post is getting long, more to come in part 2!

Day-to-day life in Bangkok, Nov-Jan, 2015

 Every day must be thrilling because we are traveling around the world, right? Well, not so fast. There are still laundry (above), dishes, sibling disputes, homeschooling, differences of opinion on how to spend time or money… you get the idea. Once, I looked back on the previous six days and realized we hadn’t done anything we couldn’t have done a year ago, so we immediately planned a tourist day, but still. I decided to write about our behind-the-scenes life traveling long term.

Search for a pool

It is so hot here, even though it is the dry/cool season. We don’t have a pool where we live so we have spent a lot of time looking for places to swim. We never found one close by, so most days we did not swim. Our excellent landlady let us use the pool at her apartment building, which was nice. 

We have been to several rooftop water parks at malls. None are close to where we are staying, but they have been nice with excellent views!  And the water slides go right out over the city!



I’ve been to more malls than I care to admit. The malls are actually very nice- clean, nice bathrooms, a/c, interesting lights and displays- but I did not come here for the malls darn it! That said, we end up there for one reason or another more than once a week. The malls sometimes have waterfalls, ponds and fish:

Live entertainment:

Many Christmas displays and an occasional parade:

 Illuminated meerkats:
 Looooong escalators:   
Weird sidewalk art outside:

  Enthusiastic doormen: 
We also have seen a few movies at the malls. I personally saw Star Wars and the epic Thai historical drama Panthai Norasingh that clocked in at over 3 hours long (fascinating story of a Thai moral hero during the time of Ayutthaya). Movies cost under $3, a bit more for 3D and 4D, the latter of which involves moving seats and getting sprayed by water, etc. here are the kids with friends and 3D glasses:



A definite perk about Bangkok is the affordable massages. For about $6 usd, you can get an hour massage. There is nothing sleazy about it; it is part of the culture going back thousands of years. Some temples we have seen have wall paintings about massage, and several temples have massage schools onsite. Massage businesses are at malls, small and large stores, and they are offered by wandering practitioners at the beach. For solstice, the kids and I all had foot massages! 



We joined a wonderful group of homeschoolers who meet weekly for classes and socializing. Here’s part of the group at an ice-skating activity that also happens once a week: 

 and here is the Christmas show the homeschool co-op kids put on: 


I already mentioned the English library in another post; we go there about once a week. 


Our Neighborhood: 

There is a shrine and also these random statues we see here and all around Thailand:        

More homeschooling

We try to get it done in the mornings, with varying success. I won’t lie, Mr. Fantastic does the bulk of the homeschooling. He does a great job and I try to help out.



There are enough western-style grocery stores for cereal, pasta, canned goods. They are usually in malls, so we go when we are there.  

 Our local outdoor market has great produce, fresh tofu at times, and many herbs and spices I am at a loss to identify. 

 And lots of flowers! These are everywhere for the garlands they make to decorate shrines, statues, taxicab rear-view mirrors…
And in the mornings, you can buy food plates for monks, and you can get a blessing as part of daily alms-giving.



We had a mosquito-net ‘tree’ and homemade decorations. I loved it! The kids initiated a ‘secret Santa’ gift exchange so we wouldn’t get bogged down with stuff in our backpacks.

We went to a buffet on Xmas day with another traveling family we met.     


It was at an Indian restaurant, complete with karaoke and Santa in sunglasses!


Little random things:

People bow here- there are different ways to bow that have different meanings, and I didn’t get them all but I did bow and get bowed to, which I really liked.

You can buy cold towels for those really hot days in the refrigerated section at the 7-11. BTW, there are 7-11s all over Bangkok, sometimes two on the same block!


We have a mildly eccentric next-door neighbor who walks around shirtless (very rare here) and feeds street cats. He actually has litter boxes out for them as well. This results in much cat drama on our roof and outside our door.

Speaking of cats, the kids found a place called the Cat Cafe where you can pay 50 baht (about $1.40) for a drink or piece of cake and time in a room to play with six healthy cats. They said the local young women love to do this and take many selfies with the cats.

I have a love/hate relationship with the sky train BTS. It is a beautiful, clean, efficient way for us to get around, but it eats a lot of our budget. The kids get no discount, so we usually spent over 600 baht (close to $20) just getting to and from somewhere. An interesting part of riding the public transportation here is that people are so polite about giving up their seats. The twins usually get seats from this polite custom  which extends to children, monks, pregnant women, and the elderly. Thais seem so eager to give up their seats, it seems they take a seat just so they can graciously give it away. Must have something to do with Buddhism merit, or just a sense of decency I seldom see in the US.

Buddhas and bikes, Bangkok, December 2015

  Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

I had been wanting to visit this place since we arrived in Bangkok over six weeks ago, and finally we were there! I was standing next to the 46-meter long golden reclining Buddha, amazed by its size and enchanted by its calm expression. Many important government structures and the above temple are in the same area in Bangkok near the Chao Phraya River.  The streets were decorated in yellow for the king’s birthday.


 The kids were uninterested so this was just DH and me. 


Bike tour

Another thing the kids did not want to do: bike around Bangkok. So again we parents went and we had a great time! 


This is the old customs house:
We went with the amazing Go Bangkok rental and tour company. I don’t like to mention businesses but this place was great. They have tour guides but you can also opt to use a tablet with GPS and one of three wonderful tour options. Raymond the owner was so welcoming and helpful. We took the 17km two hour day tour. We went slowly and took about twice that amount of time. It sent us on a labrynth of old Bangkok, including Chinatown, a mosque, many temples, and twice crossing the Chao Praya River by ferry boat. Mr. Fantastic described the experience like looking at a pop-up book; every turn showed a new, colorful, unexpected tableau of this vibrant city and its hidden corners.

Apparently, the tower below is called a chedi, this particular one was restored recently, and it received a UNESCO award for the restoration!  

 Here we are attempting a selfie on the ferry:


We went back and did the same tour with another family. Since their kids went, ours were excited to go this time! 


We went back to the same giant Buddha, also through the market, and I tried to take different pictures this time around.

We went up and around and inside the giant white stupa this time around. There was a museumthere and you can go out to the balcony and also see up inside!

 Like most wats, it also has an active shrine. People can buy little squares of gold leaf and put them on statues and walls. The gold flutters and sparkles from the walls.

   We biked on some dedicated bike lanes, like this one next to the river.   And we biked through so many wats and little alleys. I did not get most of the names.

 We passed this game of hacky sack- meets-tennis-meets-basketball. There was a commentator with a microphone and everything! 

At the end of the tour, we could see our route on the GPS tablet thingie: 

And it was a great day! 


Bangkok and Cha Am, November 2015

 Bangkok is getting more familiar. The sky train is simple to navigate, we found a wonderful homeschool group, we are relatively settled in our apartment, we’ve been to a beach, we mostly figured out how to eat (vegetarian is a challenge!), and we know how to order the delicious cold orange-colored Thai tea.  Im not sure what makes it orange but they add condensed milk- yuuuuummmmm.

  Bangkok sunset and a view near our station, both seen from sky train platform:


  A rare vegetarian dish, not sure where we got this but I took the photo to help communicate that we eat eggs but no meat:

 We went to the science center for education a little run-down but very affordable and we liked the ‘zero gravity’ slide experience. 




 The kids also liked the arts area where they painted ceramic piggy banks and cartoon horses on silk frames. 


 Another day we took public transportation in the form of a canal boat, kind of like a bus on the water. There are stations and tickets and a bold driver with a roaring motor. You have to move quickly to get on and off, and it got very crowded later on the way back. We could see the backs of houses on the canal. 





 Ridiculously, we went ice skating in Thailand before ever setting foot on a beach! There is a weekly homeschool meet up at one of the several (?!) ice rinks around the city. It was great to meet homeschoolers and to be somewhere cold! 


 We also joined an English-language library in town, the Neilson Hays Library. It is a beautiful space with wooden cabinets full of books for kids and adults. They also have art activities in Saturdays.  



 The kids made beautiful floating flower baskets with candles for Loy Krathong, a festival to honor the goddess of water.  This was a library activity and we hope to release the baskets on a body of water on the festival day later. I was happy the craft used cross sections of banana trees for the base of the basket, rather than styrofoam as we hear is sometimes used.



  The day after ice skating, we went to a beach recommended by a coworker of Mr. F. It is not too far from Bangkok, tends to be frequented by Thais rather than foreigners, and is not crowded during weekdays. We took a minibus to Cha Am and stayed overnight.   

Cha Am beach was about half covered by umbrellas with beach chairs and tables underneath. You rent a chair and vendors come by selling all types of food, souvenirs, foot massages, you name it. Weekends they say can be quite crowded, but the weekdays we spent there were quiet. 


Back in Bangkok, we visited the Jim Thompson House. This is an interesting historic building comprised of six traditional Thai houses of teak which Mr. Thompson bought, had disassembled, and had reassembled on his Bangkok property.  




 Jim Thompson is an American known for reviving the Thai craft of silk fabric and for collecting Thai artifacts, some over 1,000 years old, over his 25 years living in Thailand. He is also known for his mysterious disappearance in Cambodia at the age of 61. His house is now a museum where visitors can see his collections and the house itself. It is  a beautiful oasis in bustling Bangkok.

These are traditional dancers that performed, and some silk-making displays: 

The big kids were at a movie, and though the place was not designed for kids the twins did alright during the 40-minute tour. Afterwards, the tour guides seemed to enjoy making tiny origami sculptures with them! 

That is some of what we are up to in Bangkok, more to come!