Dreamliner Birthday

On our trip to the states last month, I had my first ever birthday on an airplane. It might have been my longest birthday ever because of the time difference (UTC +7 to UTC -7), although I didn’t even really think about it until a couple of flight attendants came up and started asking about my birthday – one in English, and one in Japanese. I was really surprised at first, but it ended up being very dope. Apparently, Nam had asked ANA to do something after Mina and I had checked in and went through the first security checkpoint at Suvarnabhumi. Mina knew about it since Nam had messaged her and she thought it was hilarious.

The dessert plate they brought me “from Business Class”:

The dinner that preceded it:

Mina and her soboro (ground chicken bowl) dinner:

All in all, a surprise birthday celebration on an ANA Dreamliner is a great way to chase away the boredom of a 10-12 hour intercontinental flight, and I highly recommend it!

Both Kids Now Studying Overseas

I didn’t post here for the entire trip and actually didn’t do a lot of things I normally do… Some of them I just may never do again. We have new priorities and our lives are in a state of flux – preparing for a big move back home, etc. – and we are living each day with the immediate goal of joining our family together again. Standing in our way is a long list of big things like selling our house, getting Nam’s green card, finding new jobs, and transitioning to new cultures and lifestyles again… Adventure awaits!

Countdown

We threw a farewell party for Mina last night and invited her classmates and their families. She’s been going to school with some of them since they were two or three years old, so it was sad… Yet, she is ready to go off on her adventure. We take off in just over 10 days… The next week will be finishing work and school for us, and getting stuff ready to go.

When we got back home last night from the party, it was nearly midnight and starting to rain, and somebody rang our doorbell. It was a Grab (food delivery) rider who stopped to say he had seen a huge snake slithering into our neighbor’s yard (our neighbor doesn’t have a doorbell or a door accessible from the front street). The driver said maybe it was a boa, as thick around as his arm! I messaged our neighbor about it and went looking for it this morning, but didn’t see anything… I was kind of bummed because I’ve always wanted to see a wild boa here.

Highway rest stops in Thailand

Coming from Japan to Thailand 15 years ago, the state of the roads here was lamentable, and many of the streets/rural highways in the Issan region and around our city weren’t even paved – or had big enough holes to break wheels and axles, a common sight back then.

I used to go on university trips every term and we would often take the uni bus or minivans on long road trips, ostensibly for work, but more just to get out and travel. This was always a nice perk for government university work, because we could often take the whole family, as well. It also made me very aware of the lack of highway rest stops in Thailand.

Actually, the default highway rest stop in Thailand is fulfilled by large gas station facilities, most notably those run by the PTT group. PTT stations come in all sizes, from a few pumps and a convenience store to larger mini mall-type complexes. However, on the toll roads around Bangkok and central Thailand, there are a few privately run rest stops, most notably the huge one between Bangkok and Chonburi located here: ศูนย์บริการทางหลวง กรุงเทพ-ชลบุรี มอเตอร์เวย์ ขาออก. That ones been around as long as I can remember, and it’s huge (long, actually) and chaotic. It’s also got the most foreign food shops of any highway rest stop in Thailand, with a lot of western fast food joints like BK, McD’s, KFC (maybe even 2 branches IIRC), Indian food, pho, dim sum, sushi, etc. As a side note, it’s also very easy to miss the turnoff if you are speeding along the toll road there.

On our recent trip to Hua Hin, we happened along another private rest stop in Samut Sakhon called Porto Go. It was not as big as the rest stop mentioned above, but it was newer and cleaner (there’s also one in Ayutthaya, apparently). These new rest stops with clean facilities make road trips a lot more convenient than they used to be!

Tong Peng

At the beginning of our trip to Hua Hin last week, we boarded a plane for the first time since the pandemic started, and flew into Don Mueang. Nam’s older sister picked us up and we went to see a van we would pick up on the back end of our trip and have lunch. She took us to Tong Peng, a family-oriented Chinese restaurant in the Chok Chai area of Bangkok, south of Lad Prao.

As a sidenote, it feels good to blog about travels again – it’s been too long.

I’m always a sucker for roast ducks and meats on display.

So, no screwing around – the roast duck on rice was good but not great. The sauce/gravy was too sweet and… fruity.

Shu mai, yes! Delicious!

Pork + quail eggs + shiitake = Yes, I ate both.

Included to document the Saran-wrapped chopsticks that were legit a pain to unwrap.

The crispy pork was a visual disaster with the same fruity sauce. It tasted, again, disappointingly good, and not great.

“Tong Peng”

Included for future ordering purposes – we will be here again, but for something else, maybe a family dinner.

Google Maps link: Tong Peng ภัตตาคารตงเพ้ง

Toyota 2000GT in Thailand

Tucked somewhere in between a bunch of other cars in an underground parking lot in Bangkok, a true legend is waiting for Sumitomo/Dunlop brake seals that are probably impossible to find… Reading this forum post from 15 years ago reminded me why I had to change out my entire brake system for the Crown. There simply were no replacement parts to be had. My calipers were also marked Sumitomo, and I sent all of the parts to someone who needed them online.

It would be a real dream to see the king of Toyotas cruising down the tollway in BKK. Just like this:

(Photo borrowed from 70-80’s Thai Retro FB Page)

Sold my CRF today

Took some more photos and sold it for half of what I bought it for 8 years ago. It was fun to ride and served me well, and it was also the first vehicle I ever bought new… but I haven’t been able to ride it the past couple of years due to COVID, and the ethanol fuel mandated in Thailand just goes bad very quickly. I ended up having to replace the fuel pump and injector because the fuel had degraded into something nasty. Anyways, we put up an ad yesterday and got several interested parties calling today. A bike dude from Ubon Ratchatani made the drive out and bought it on the spot. I hope it serves him well.

I had replaced the decals with a more colorful set in order to appeal to a younger buyer, and it worked exactly as planned. This sort of strategy seems to work well for us.

My CRF250M originally looked like this:

I originally bought it used in this color and actually had a new one rush made for me in the same color at the Honda factory in Rayong when the old one didn’t work out. I liked this color scheme because it reminded me of my dad’s black 280zx with gold trim from the 80s.

My Dream Meal

A friend sent this to me. I don’t know who made it, took the photo, or ate it, but I want it.

I don’t know if I’d be more excited selling this or eating it – it’s damn near the perfect triple order of Thai Basil Stir Fry with Crispy Pork topped with Star Eggs. I spent a whole month perfecting this dish during lockdown, making the crispy pork from scratch with a different recipe each time. It was epic, and this is truly one of my top 10 favorite Thai dishes (of which basil stir fries occupy two or three spaces).

Online Teaching at Thai University

The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:

I removed all info except for one student who worked too hard on their name for it to go unappreciated. Please note the green article of clothing is not a vest, which I will have to ask about in a future session..

I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.

There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.

One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).

Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.

The flight controller is useful for navigating never-ending online meetings.

On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!

Bull

Somebody brought their bull to graze on Nam’s mom’s property. This is a fairly normal occurrence in rural Thailand.

And this is as close as I dared get to it.

I was wearing a shirt and tie because I’d just come back on the way home from teaching a training course at the Maha Sarakham Provincial Office of the Comptroller General, by far the longest name of anywhere I’ve ever worked (and even a long name by Thai standards). The first thing I had the trainees do was memorize their place of work in English.

Anyway, this bull was just normal. Not angry, not scared, but not indifferent to our presence, either. So that was cool.