Thursday, 20 April 2017

10th Tea Cup and Mug Exchange reveal!

Hello, hello have you got time for a cuppa, as I want to share something rather gorgeous with you today? I have been participating in the 10th Tea Cup and Mug Exchange organised by Stephanie at The Enchanting Rose

I'm a newbie and just love the way that Stephanie is so thoughtful and kind in organising this and clever in her connections for participants to make new friends around the globe.

You can either choose to exchange a tea cup or a mug or as many do, both. This year there were over 200 participants. You send one package to one person (and you don't need to be a Blogger) and receive from another, and in that way, you make two lovely connections. 

At this time in my life having recently left family and friends for our new Thai life, this seemed a wonderful idea and I couldn't wait to be involved. I was a little uncertain whether anyone would want to send a parcel to Thailand but they did, thank you, Andrea, in Canada! 

You can imagine the smile on my face when I received details of who I was sending my parcel to and it was Lily from Home of a Lil'needlecrafter just down the road, so to speak in Malaysia. For a Wandering Wren, I had visions of mugs flying all over the world and just loved it!

Not only that but the previous week I had actually visited Lily's very town on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur when I had been attending the Malaysian Open Tennis tournament. How about that for Stephanie's amazing connection? I so could have dropped it off, had I known!

However, there was only one small problem. I was so new into life in Bangkok, I had no idea where my local Post Office was, or how to post a parcel here!! Such challenges are all part of the fun of learning to live in a new country but I'm afraid I took the easy way out. I packed everything up and took it to the UK, where I was visiting family and friends.  

Easy problem solved. Mr Wren thought I was absolutely bonkers, but I told him it was a VIP parcel and in the UK I knew where the Post Office is, and I knew it would get to Malaysia! 

Here are the things I choose for Lily, all represented the countries I was associated with, starting with an Aboriginal artwork mug from Australia with a koala. There was a tea-towel from New Zealand which said "unable to make a decision, Cecily made a cup of tea instead" A tea canister with the words 'Lily's favourites', I was mighty happy with that find! British Twinings Tea and Tea from London, with a touch of Thailand, a tuk-tuk fridge magnet. I decided against sending Thai Tea, given that Lily is from Malaysia, I figured it might not be that different. In the background are the orchids I took over from Bangkok for my Mum's birthday!

On the other side of the world, Andrea from My Everything Corner was kind enough to be packing up a parcel for me in Thailand! She must have got the most difficult destination, I love that she was up for the challenge! Her Canadian Post office told her it could take up to three months for the delivery to Bangkok and that customs were very strict! 

To add to the challenge of the distance, the destination is the fact that we have just celebrated Songkran the Thai New Year where everything shuts down for almost a week. Just as soon as the package arrives I will share it will you all. A massive thanks to Andrea in advance!

So what a lot of fun I've had participating in my first Tea Cup and Mug Exchange. I am slowly making friends here in Bangkok, everyone has been very welcoming and in the last few weeks, I've added two new friends from Malaysia and Canada, thanks to Stephanie's exchange. 

Thank you so much to Stephanie, Andrea and Lily!
You can read all about the other 10th Teacup/Mug Exchange reveals 
here at Stephanie's The Enchanted Rose Blog

Has the kettle boiled yet?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Wet, wet, wet! Our Songkran Happy Easter from Thailand.

We had no idea what to expect heading into our first Songkran celebration living in Thailand, but we knew it was all about water and that we needed to be like all good scouts, be prepared. 

A trip to the local supermarket, yes the Brits amongst you will laugh, the not very Thai sounding supermarket, Tesco Lotus Bangkok finds us suitable weaponry. These mother of all water guns come with their own protective glasses and waterproof bags for phones. Some indication of the ferocity of what is ahead, when Thais "play water"

Songkran is the celebration for the Thai New Year, often called the water festival. It has its roots in the religious celebration of cleansing Buddha and is a three-day holiday. At its heart, is a time for families, for cleaning the home, and new beginnings.  We're very happy to have a special family time ourselves as all three of our adult children will join us from the UK and Australia. We are keen to see how the three days of Songkran, the world's largest water fight, will play out on the streets of Bangkok.

Day One we escape relatively unscathed. After months of seeing Thais dressed in the dark colours of mourning for their late King's passing, the first thing we notice is the bright shirts everywhere and music. It makes us realise how subdued life has been, but arriving in Thailand after King Bhumibol Adulyadej's deaths we knew no different.  The authorities have requested that certain Songkran events be more muted, out of respect at this time. If this was the case, I wondered what it was like on previous occasions. 

Planning our route carefully, walking as far as we can inside the "no play" shopping malls. We reach the water and take a canal boat ride and find that it is free as part of the Songkran celebrations - that's a nice touch. It's lovely cruising through the small canals looking at life on the water. Those already back from Songkran festivities are drying their clothes on the canal banks!

Our canal ride finishes close to the Khao San Road, a popular backpacker and party area and from a safe'ish distance, things looked in full drunken swing. Hmmm, not really my sort of cup of tea. I soon find I have double standards. If any of those drunken western lads-on-tour types so much as fire a few droplets at me, I'm not so impressed and glare with disdain. However, when jettisoned by a local Thai, I'm equally unimpressed, but to be honest, happier to cop a fair gotcha!

Walking on quickly by, we stroll (ok puff our way) up the 300 plus steps in the heat of the midday sun, to the top of Golden Mount. Inhaling a deep breath of frangipani trees and mix with the vibrations of the gongs of the massive drums which people ring as they pass, we are back in the more spiritual world of Songkran. I like it more. As some zen calm returns, we find ourselves amongst the orange clothed monks, all with umbrellas. Is that for the sun or the water? Whatever, good idea. I make a mental note to be more monk-like in the 2017 New Year, more zen calm, or at least carry an umbrella!

By the end of the day, I'm waiting at the end of the road to direct my son's taxi into our apartment block, I was well caught out, from behind. My son arrives after months of not seeing me, to find me looking like a drowned rat! 

'Hi, Mum, whatever happened to you?!'
Thailand 1 - Foreigner 0.

Day Two we are invited to join some Thai friends to their Songkran celebration, They take us to Silom road. Sorry no pictures, it was not safe to get a camera out!

As we descend from the SkyTrain into the roaring crowd we are an easy target, taller and drier than most. This is much less touristy, more local than yesterday. All ages mixed together. We discuss tactics, anyone who goes for us, we ALL go for them! It's a lost cause.

Within seconds we are drenched in icy cold water. It feels like the whole of Bangkok has come out to play water. It's not quite an even playing field as some people are literally throwing buckets of icy water at us. 

Thailand 10, Foreigners still 0!

We shuffle amongst the crowd, water everywhere. I am happy that cliff jumping, perforated ear-drum son has come prepared with his ear plug and wonder whether I will ever hear from my own waterlogged ears. It's impossible not to swallow any water as weeks of religiously brushing my teeth in bottled water are superseded by one massive drink from a Bangkok water festival - Oh for goodness sake ignore Wren, and find your inner Zen Wren! We slosh through the water-logged streets and hooray we've reached Lumphini Park and we can walk home!

Day Three we are determined to stay dry, and whilst we're clearly over it, the rest of Thailand is happy to party on. We escape down to the river and in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, we find Easter Eggs! Easter is not a big celebration here in Thailand, in fact, it is fair to say it has been totally eclipsed by the Songkran festival... It is a jolt to remember the rest of our family are sitting down to their Cadbury's and a Sunday roast!

We take to the water the way we like it, out on a James Bond long-tail boat whizzing around the Chao Phraya River and into some of the smaller canals at sunset. Yep, I've decided for my Songkran I much prefer to be on the water rather than under it!

I'm glad I've experienced my first Songkran but give me chocolate rather than a water fight any day! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend festivities however you were celebrating.

Linking with thanks to all the hosts at

Monday, 10 April 2017

Orchid Queen at the races!

They're off today at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. 
It's horse racing Bangkok style.

We decided to walk there from our new apartment, an easy twenty-minute walk, well it would be if it wasn't so hot. 

Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that... 
We've regretted this decision by the time we walked down the first Soi. 

Luckily, it's Sunday and the roads in our neighbourhood, primarily a central business and embassy district, are very much quieter than normal. 

Just us and a few hundred thousand wires and no traffic jam - Yay! 

The racetrack runs around the edge of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. It's the only racecourse I've been to that has golfers playing in the middle. Mr Wren
mutters something about how he wouldn't have the confidence to hit a ball with both a full grandstand and the line-up of valuable thoroughbreds galloping round the outside!

Once inside the Club, we're not conforming to the dress code which is long trousers for men and blue, black or grey colours as a mark of respect for the late King, as Thailand is still in a period of mourning. We are looking quite a sight by this stage dripping in sweat, despite lots of dabbing of our foreheads.

Even given our 'spot the newbies who haven't acclimatised yet' appearance, the locals are terribly polite and no-one seems to stop us. We find ourselves track side, amongst the journalists and caddies waiting to cross the course. The stands are full, and there appear to be good beer sales, the crowd roars with enthusiasm, as the horses thunder past. The perfect grass course is declared fast unlike their loading of the horses into the starting stalls.

The horses are held for an inordinate amount of time in the starting stalls and Mr Wren wanders off to check out the delay on the television screens. The race is already twenty-five minutes behind schedule, we smile. This would never happen at the Victorian Racing Club, in Melbourne.

Looking at the line-up, one of the horses, waiting to race in the starting stalls is Orchid Queen. One of the Journo's tells us she's good. 

"Quick, get a 100 Baht on that one", I suggest. 

Orchid Queen!
Remember our visit last weekend to the Orchid Farm? Well, bless her, number 10 Orchid Queen thunders home a short head in front. But wait, a stewards enquiry involving three horses. Our new Journo mate tells us we'll be right and we were. I'm off to pick up my winnings! She was 9-1, shame I only bet 100 Baht!

Still, I'm doing well this week, earlier in the week I'd won two British Airways flight tickets to the UK, how good is that? Maybe I should go for third time lucky and buy a lottery ticket!

Linking thanks to Darren at Photolife for My Sunday Photo 
and to all the hosts at Our World Tuesday

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The hidden charms of Hua Hin!

There was only one answer to the message that our Bangkok moving-in date was delayed, due to trouble in Singapore and of course, it's too rude to print here.

Don't you just love it when everyone blames everyone else? Even better, when another country is at fault! I did have a wry smile though as when I was asked by Mr Wren whether I had a preference to live in either Bangkok and Singapore, I said Singapore, but 

"the Company said No!" 

They said, it was too expensive to move us there. So when our furniture ended up in Singapore, I felt like saying a big fat "see!" But I decided to take the more grown-up approach, and say 'let's go to the beach instead".

So here we are, we've driven just over two hours out of Bangkok to Hua Hin. We left at 7 am to beat the endless traffic jams, but it was still a slow at times, bumper to bumper drive. At the moment we're in the hot and dry season and so it feels like every Bangkokian and their dog, had the same idea to escape the heat. 

Hua Hin has been popular with the Royal family since Rama Vii built his Summer Palace here in the 1920's.  The 8 km sandy beach became popular, not only with the royals, but within Siam's nobility, and is clearly still a much loved holiday spot for all Thais escaping sultry, humid Bangkok. 

If you drive the other way out Bangkok you find further sort of torrid, arriving at another once sleepy fishing village, Pattaya the town that sex built. 

So I have chosen royalty over the later - just call me boring.

We booked our hotel room at the last minute. We'd already got an idea about how popular a destination it was, finding it tricky to find a room, but also we couldn't get over how flippin' expensive it was. Don't forget this is the third room we are paying for this Saturday night, after our temporary apartment, our new apartment, which we can't move into without the furniture, and now a hotel room! We were working to a tight budget.

We were very happy to find Ruen Kanok, a local Thai guest house at the south end of Hua Hin Beach that would do us just nicely. After a lovely frozen lemongrass welcome drink, quick swim in the pool and a Thai massage, we head for a stroll along the beach to see the Cicada night market, setting up. The band were warming up and the Hawker food market looked amazing! However we had a date with a sunset and cocktails as it was definitely sundowner time! 

The Hua Hin beach is busy and whilst we had a great girls weekend there a few years ago, after the vast expanses of Australian beaches, it feels crowded and nothing special. The next morning, however, we saw the magic of the place. We were up with the lark, ready to walk to the Big Buddha statue.

We enjoyed our walk past the standing Big Buddha, without the crowds and hike to the top of Wat Khoo Takiab. Just us, some playful monkeys and a couple of monks. It was ten times better without the tourists! As we climb higher up monkey mountain, being careful to hide anything that the cheeky monkeys might want to pinch, we start to see the Gulf of Thailand in all it's glory. 

On the way back we spot a man having driven a cart onto the beach, throwing barrels of liquid into the sea.

'Oi, Oi, Oi what do we have here?'

He sees our suspicion and calls us over to show us the baby crabs he is releasing back into the sea. We're feeling pretty bad that our western natural assumption, was one of scepticism. Instead of local pollutants, we have stumbled upon the local environmental protection brigade and hello 'save the crabs' at work... Ok, so they will eventually be eaten by the tourists, but clearly, all is not what it may have at first seemed. 

We later read that the local 'Cha-am Municipality regularly gives baby blue crabs to local fishermen to release them into the sea to promote the conservation of traditional crab catching methods' For more click here

We returned back to our guest house for breakfast
and more time by the pool. 
Royal Hua Hin, has charmed the locals for a long time,
and we're beginning to see why.
We will be back!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dear William: Not all those who wander are lonely!

'I wandered lonely as a cloud...

Well, that’s as maybe in my new life, but since our arrival in Bangkok, 
a month ago, it’s been fun to wander around on my own. 
When you move countries your senses are on high alert. 
You feel life more. You hear more, smell more for sure, not all great!
 You definitely see more when you are not walking along chatting with friends. 

By the way, the finding friends bit is looking promising, 
I’ve met some lovely ladies in Bangkok. 
Phase two of the search for friends is do they have nice husbands? For Mr Wren!

We have high hopes we won't be wandering lonely for too much longer. 
Ermm, actually, have you seen our diaries? Even if we never meet anyone here,
it appears through the non-stop visitors arriving, 
that the world is coming to us! Yippee.

In the meantime, we took a quick trip to the UK to fill our lungs full of fresh air and to recharge ahead of the move into our longer term apartment... 

British countryside outside Henley on Thames
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 

Well, I normally prefer to fly, 
but right now I quite fancy floating gently along, 
not much of that happening at the moment… 

I have no idea when are furniture will arrive, it's on its way but...  
We’ve just had a note from the removal company saying our container, 
you know, the one last seen broken down at the end of our Australian street is stuck in Singapore! At which point I was going to say, 
what the bleedin’ heck is it doing in Singapore? 
But that seemed rather pedantic. 

We get our new Bangkok apartment this weekend 
but I’m already suggesting with nothing to move in, 
we please excuse my French, Phuket and head to the beach.

Every cloud has a silver lining and all that… even lonely clouds!

The Queens daffodils are looking good at Windsor Castle
When all at once I saw a crowd, 

hello, hello is that ship ahoy, or just wishful thinking? 

Swans on the River Thames
A host, of golden daffodils; 

It has been lovely to be back in the UK these past two weeks. 
Yes, it’s chilly but that’s great, 
brushing your teeth under the tap of safe drinking water, 
eating an apple with only a cursory rubdown. 
All that great British food, 

What are you on they say? What about that wonderful Thai food? 
'Tis true the food here is great,
 but a good Pad Thai still can't compete with Mum's home cooking! 

It is a wonderful time of year in England, 
everything appearing bright and cheerful from a winter under wraps...

Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 

argh beautiful

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze...'. 

Hey, ho here we go again. 
Suitcases packed tick, passports packed tick, resilience packed 
and off we go dancing in the breeze, Bangkok-bound
See you on the other side of the world!

Linking with thanks to all the hosts at Our World Tuesday


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Keep Calm And Birthday On!

So far I'm onto my fourth country celebrating my birthday. Usually, I don't fuss much about birthdays, I'm not one for the big girls night out, or to treat myself with a big splurge...  

But this year is different. I've moved country. I now have a new visa in my passport enabling me to stay in the Kingdom of Thailand until May 2018. I'm away from the kids and the dog and Mr Wren looked at his work calendar, scratched his head and declared a meeting with dinner on my birthday.

I thought for a moment about pulling the old 'I can't believe you've got a meeting with dinner on my birthday AND it's International Women's Day' complaint, but wait a moment, no... That's a perfect excuse to celebrate with everyone, everywhere! 

'Hey, but I thought you said 
you never bothered much about birthdays...'

I can hear him call out as I am part way to booking a flight to Malaysia and using all his Airmiles for a return trip to the UK!

He's right, I've never made a fuss about birthdays, but that doesn't mean I never will. It's not a special birthday, except that it is a special birthday because everything's different...

Well, no worries. You can't keep a good Wren down and all that and if it's going to be, it's up to me... and so with a little help from my family and friends, including Mr Wren, who is now forgiven as he has given me the best birthday ever! Here is a run down on my amazing birthday week!

1. So this time last week I was cheering on my favourite tennis player, Irina Falconi at the Malaysian Open, exploring Kuala Lumpur and having a massive watermelon cocktail! Yes I know I hardly ever drink, but it's blooming thirsty work being the US official cheer squad, especially when the opponent is an on-fire Aussie, who eventually wins both the singles and doubles tournament. 

2. Then it was back to Bangkok for a few days. We celebrated my birthday early at an amazing restaurant with an opera singer between courses, not your traditional Thai restaurant, but a chance for me to forget my new Sweaty Betty lifestyle and pretend to be cultured. Even if I had to arrive in my flat shoes as you can't walk anywhere in high heels in Bangkok unless it's indoors on a nice smooth shopping centre or posh hotel floor!

3. Next, I ended up passing through Hong Kong, having just enjoyed the upgrade to Business Class hence the champagne. Thanks, Cathay Pacific and I didn't even mention my birthday. That flight was two hours of stretching out because you can, you know pushing every button and seeing how many ways you can get the chair to recline. Until the air hostess appears at my seat with her jolly "you called" voice... Oops did I?

I'm loving this life and having sadly been thrown off the plane for my connection in Hong Kong, I'm at the Tom Ford counter buying a ridiculously expensive replacement for my four-year-old Boots No 7 lippy! Well, it's my birthday splurge... 

I like the Tom Ford brand he describes the Tom Ford customers as "international, cultured, well travelled and possessing disposable income... for females" he adds: 

"strong women, ... intelligent women,
 who know how to enjoy their birthdays". 

Noo, he didn't,  I added that bit.

I only knew what he meant about having the disposable income once I'd done the currency conversion! Hmmm, maybe I'm not a typical Tom Fordie after all! Oops too late.

4. So final stop the UK and it's "fresh" here as the lady in front of me on the plane called it as we disembarked the aircraft. 

"Oh yes, it is and it's wonderful all that fresh, fresh air!" 

I sang as I leapt off the plane. Oh my golly, gosh what a massive relief to be back in all that cool air! So finally time to catch up with Mum and Dad and have a little time to stop and smell the daffs!

5. Then last but not least, someone else had a birthday this week. Our Crazy Poodle turned eight. He must have been having a lot of birthday cake because he put on over half a kilo in weight, this week. So clearly, he's back to being on good form after his illness: Happy Birthday Big Boy! I'm missing you, even if you're not missing us!

Thanks to everyone who has made my birthday so special and for all the lovely Happy Birthday messages on my Little Wren Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages! It has meant a lot.

Love, Wren x

Linking with Five on Friday 
thanks to Amy at Love Made My Home

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

I come from a land Down Under…

Where women blow and men plunder, or even chunder!

Mr Wren was away last weekend with his new Bangkok work colleagues. It was the annual office team bonding event.

I had to smile in sympathy when @verybritishproblems tweeted their four-word horror stories: 

Team Building away day 
Tell us about yourself 
We’ve run out of milk!
At this event, every new employee is invited, the sort of invitation you don’t refuse, to introduce themselves to the broader team of over 250 people, in an entertaining manner. 

My Wren failed the audition to join an existing group of newbies who clearly were going all out to make a great first impression. They politely told him he wouldn’t have the time to catch up as they’d been working on their performance for months. Which considering that most Thai’s will never say no to anything, was a gutsy move! 

So poor old Mr Wren was in a right flap. I was sensing he’d be more comfortable standing on stage announcing a 2017 50% reduction in bonus payments than doing his solo performance! 

He’d decided to sing the Men At Work song: 'I come from a land Down Under'. Do you know it, it's a catchy little tune? How wise this decision was and how well known the song is in Thailand remains to be seen. It’s one of those infamous Aussie songs like Waltzing Matilda, come to think about it, that would have been better… He could have waltzed around the stage, more visually appealing!

I come from a cork-hatted, blow up croc land with a big knife!
Luckily no worries mate, his old Aussie office rallied, determined not to see him back out and produced the above props. The big knife in case you were wondering was for Paul Hogan ‘that’s not a knife, this is a knife’ quote from the movie Crocodile Dundee.

Sensing the possibility for it all to go horribly wrong with an at best mass silence, no laughter, lost in translation moment... Or at worst, being the shortest secondment in the history of Thai expats. I stepped in as Executive Producer.  

My suggestion was to change the words, 'no-one will have a clue what the plunder, chunder lyrics mean'... I was sacked quicker than a Leicester City football manager for that proposal!

So I can’t wait to hear how it went 
Let’s hope that no-one chundered*!

PS Chunder means to be sick, in case you were wondering!

Linking with thanks to Tamar at Randomosity