Snapshots from Moving

So we moved. We were living in a condo which was so boring that we never even mentioned it here, I think. We have moved into a house that is near Kim’s school; you can, weirdly, see a picture of it here, though the cricket pitch has been removed.

This is a more exciting house than before – it is what is called here a black-and-white. It is also, properly speaking, a bungalow, sensu stricto. The Hobson Jobson explains the etymology of that word:

I don’t know exactly when out house was built, but the British were building them in Malaya in the 1920s to house officers and whoever else needed houses. The Japanese took them over during WWII, and then the Singaporean government acquired most of them after the Japanese left. They are kept up in traditional style, which basically means that the management company slathers layers and layers of black and white paint all over everything. There are a fair number of these houses available: Singaporeans are sensible and don’t want to live in them because they are full of snakes and ghosts. Here is what the back of the house looks like:

I don’t remember why I took that picture. But moving has been eventful! Here are some pictures. We woke up the first few days and discovered that the house was full of bees. The neighbor assured me that these were Singaporeans bees that don’t sting but that is not actually true (that they sting – they probably are Singaporean bees). Here is what the bees in question look like:

We called the people in charge of the place to tell them the house was full of bees, and they wondered if we had somehow filled in with bees in our first few days. No. The bees were living in the roof, which is very high up:

What happened is that the sent a guy over to look at the bees. He decided to deal with them in the Singaporean fashion, which means putting a can of bugspray on a stick and hoisting it up to the bee hive:

This killed all the bees in the corner (as shown in the first picture). But the bees regrouped and two days later there was another swarm of bees coming from under the roof about ten feet down. Another guy came and killed those bees (this time by going out on a balcony), but he assured us that it was all one massive bee hive under the roof tiles and that there would be more bees, and that someone would come back with a plan. There have not been more bees; no one from the exterminators has returned.

We have a trampoline, which looks like this:

The humidity is maybe too much for my telephone. Here is what it looks like with a small child on it:

I took the trampoline apart and put it back together and somewhat astoundingly it has not fallen apart even when a huge number of children were jumping on it for Harriet’s birthday party. Also there is a swimming pool which is basically constantly being filled with leaves:

Harriet has that stuffed dinosaur not, as you might imagine, because of some assignment on the taxing responsibility of having a baby – I think they are supposed to be writing stories about their adventures? Anyway, cleaning the pool is still novel.

We now have a piano with built-in candlesticks, like it was waiting for Liberace to show up:

All of those boxes have somehow been unpacked, which is pretty close to a miracle. The movers took away some of the boxes, but then we had this enormous pile and we had to get a guy – very suspicious of my motives in having so many boxes – to come and cart it away because that is how Singapore works:

Also there was some drama as the neighbors had stolen our garbage can and we had to steal it back:

That has worked out so far. Here are the guys who made a rattan bed for us hoisting it up to the balcony because it wouldn’t fit through the stairs:

I have spent an immense amount of my time dealing with the local internet company trying to get us internet access here. It is too dumb to go into, but I have spent an immense amount of time in the offices of Starhub, trying to figure out exactly what the problem is. It turns out that once a long time ago someone was running a school out of this class, so it was not zoned for residential internet. Anyway, I took a lot of pictures of cable boxes so that various functionaries could figure out what was going on here:

(The perceptive observer will note how the renovators helpfully painted over some of the wires.)

Here is an extremely sad meal I had while dealing with movers:

Here is a very dead lizard who turned up while we were moving out of our old apartment:

Moving out of a Singaporean condo, for what it’s worth, is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. There appears to be no concept of depreciation in Singapore, or the idea of wear-and-tear, and the idea when you leave an apartment is that you have to return it to the exact state of decrepitude it came to you in. This is fiendishly complicated, especially if you have a small child who destroys things in passing. Cushions, it turns out, don’t stand up to the humidity in Singapore very well:

In the background of that, you can see our old curtains – Singapore tradition demands that curtains be dry-cleaned before you return them. It turned out we have 18 kilos of curtains, which seems like a lot? I don’t know. Also in the background of that: our movers managed to chip one of the old apartment’s cabinets, which we have to fix somehow or I guess buy the whole crummy apartment. The movers managed to break this glass-fronted drawer:

I did manage to find a glazier to replicate the broken glass panel and so this is now fixed.

It will probably be months before we have managed to extricate ourselves from the old apartment! But that is what we are up to lately.

Regarding the Complaints

Regular readers of this internet thing may have noticed that first, there is nothing to regularly read here, and second, that the name of this internet thing has changed. A reasonable assumption to make based on these observations would be that we had died and are now ghosts. No. We are not ghosts; rather, we moved to Singapore. We were thus immediately confronted with the matter of the truthfulness of the title here. This had, actually, been an ongoing problem. Much of the time we were writing of the banner We Are in Bangkok, we in fact were not in Bangkok and were writing about things that were not happening in Bangkok. We Were in Bangkok has the virtue of being true now and for the foreseeable future. We hope that your trust may be regained. At the very least, we are not lying to you and saying that we are in Bangkok when we are not in Bangkok. Maybe someone will give us an award for truthfulness?

That said: there is not a lot to say about Singapore! You can’t just go around the corner and inspect the hog who lives at the local wat. People have been writing Singapore off as boring since at least Alfred Russel Wallace, who spends barely six pages of The Malay Archipelago wandering around it, marveling at the extremely large number of beetles and how a tiger ate someone once a day before leaving for Malacca because there weren’t enough birds for his taste. Now no one even gets eaten by tigers. It is a bad situation, but we will make the best of it somehow. Not yet though.

Goodbye Rosella!

Regular readers of this Internet newspaper will be familiar with Rosella, a turtle, first described here when she was much smaller – in those photos, she was probably about two months old. In the eighteen months we have had her, she has grown considerably larger (she went through two larger tanks) and more vicious. She has eaten:

  • Many, many guppies, some of them pregnant.
  • Serena, a crayfish.
  • Mrs. Primrose, a suckerfish, and Button, a replacement suckerfish.
  • An enormous number of glass shrimp.

And I feel like I’m forgetting some other of her temporary tank-companions (was there a second Mrs. Primrose?) who she also ate. Softshell turtles are, it turns out, very easy to keep, but they are also ferocious and it is a real wonder that Rosella never bit anybody, even on her probably ill-advised trip to show-and-tell. A triumph of animal husbandry!

But: in another month we won’t be here any more, and we needed to find a home for Rosella where her antisocial behavior would not count against her. As is the Thai way of disposing of pets, we decided to leave her at the wat – in this case, Wat Prayun, previously discussed. Wat Prayun has a lovely turtle pond, full of a great variety of turtles, including some softshells. Since we first visited, they’ve decided to try to make the turtles vegetarian, and you now can get bananas and papayas to feed the turtles instead of fishballs. Rosella is almost certainly uninterested in having a piece of banana on a stick poked at her. But the pond is also full of an enormous number of fish that she will happily tear to pieces.

So we put Rosella in a mixing bowl (with a top) and took the hotel boat to the express boat and walked over the Memorial Bridge to Wat Prayun. We had a lot of ideas about showing Rosella the various places where she could go and explaining the different options and having a teary photo sessions, but that didn’t happen, Rosella escaped, and I was lucky to get these pictures:

That was the end of that! Probably she is even now eating all the other turtles.

Various Disasters

First, it turns out the Cara Meow Cat Café, the closest cat café to us – and as far as I know the only Italian-themed one in the greater Bangkok area – has closed. Who knows why! The space is empty. Presumably the cats were released to the wilds of Chan Road, which at least has a lot of fish soup restaurants. They’ll probably be okay?

Second, things in the aquarium are in a fairly savage state. Two of the three remaining fish have disappeared, and I have not seen Button in a while. Rosella is larger than ever; Serena looks to be about the same size. I went to the fish store and bought ten baht worth of glass shrimp; now there are probably about three baht worth of glass shrimp, which is still a fairly large number of glass shrimp.

We went back to Cambodia over the weekend, but things are too busy to write about that right now.

Who Is Living in the Aquarium Today

When last we posted, we noted the depravity that the aquarium sunk into over the summer. Well. Things have gotten even more complicated. Because the old aquarium is leaking (this is maybe what happens when you buy an aquarium for $3), we bought a new one; here is a terrible shot from above:


The sharp-eyed will note Rosella, the turtle, over on the right, trying to hide under some rocks. (The turtle in the top center is made of plastic and is not dead.) The long orange smear on the left is Button, the new suckerfish, who is no longer afraid of anyone. And just to the right of her is Serena, the blue thing that looks like a lobster. As far as I can tell, she is actually a blue crayfish. But Rosella is deeply afraid of her, hence her attempts to hide under the rocks. This is pretty clearly a baseless fear, as Rosella could almost certainly eat Serena, though that is how things are now. They have divided up the tank between them.

The fish struggle on: on last cleaning, there are four of them, and I don’t know what their names are. The one who survived the summer appears to have been eaten, though whether that was by Rosella or Serena I do not know. Here is a closer view of Serena and Button:


You might note, over on the left, a black dot with a tail: this is one of a number of tadpoles we borrowed from the local wat in the hopes that we can bring back frogs to feed to the local catfish and thereby make merit. This plan may not work: there appear to be less tadpoles than there were this morning. I don’t know who’s responsible. Nature is ever red in tooth and claw, even among the toothless.

We Are Back in Bangkok

So we went to Mexico City for a good chunk of the summer but I don’t know if there’s very much to say about that. But after several twists and turns we are back in Bangkok for another year! Here are the important things that have happened, in bullet-point so that you can read them faster:

  • First, I am sure you all want to know about what happened with the aquarium. You may recall that when we left it consisted of Rosella the turtle (previously), a suckerfish named Mrs. Primrose, three long-suffering guppies, and several shrimp. We returned to find a scene of carnage: nothing was left of Mrs. Primrose but some bones, and even less was left of the shrimp and two of the guppies. The one remaining guppy was missing most of his tail. Rosella was larger than ever. I don’t know whether Oi fed the turtle over the summer (she appears to think that the idea of feeding fish is the height of farang lunacy); perhaps Rosella just developed more of an appetite. We went to the aquarium store and bought another suckerfish (named “Button”) and some more guppies. Who knows how long they will last!
  • Second, the cemetery down the street is flooded again, as it usually is during the rainy season. Something curious though: Mr. Henry Alabaster Who Died (previously) seems to have acquired, after 132 years, a new grave:
    I have no idea who might be responsible for this marble and astroturf – the British government? some minor Thai functionary somewhere in the government bureaucracy responsible for keeping up the graves of people who once helped the old kings? It is a great mystery. But it’s nice that Henry Alabaster Who Died has not been forgotten.

And that basically is all there is to report here.

Frog Season Is Here Again

Hello. We have not died, contrary to what you might think if you get all of your news about us from this. I keep meaning to tell you about our trip to China and Macau and then about what happened on Songkran, but I haven’t finished (or particularly started, if we’re being honest) writing those up. Right now we are in the midst of a heatwave (ostensibly the worst one in Thailand since 1960) which means that everything is hot, but also that all the frogs are out at night. Here are some from right outside the Chatrium:

Note that these are city frogs recorded on my phone – probably there are plenty of other places where they would be louder. But they’re still pretty loud.

Goodbye Flower Market

One of the things that’s most astonishing about Bangkok is how quickly it changes: new buildings seem to sprout up like mushrooms at night. It’s nice to be in a city so dynamic, though often the changes seem rather poorly thought out: new buildings tend to be ugly condos or unnecessary malls. The sole criterion for permission to build would appear to be having money; and while Bangkok is a very densely populated city, it’s easy to kick out residents if they’re in the way of your plans.

So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when it was announced that the Pak Khlong Talat flower market near Saphan Phut (previously) was going to be closed at the end of March; developers have belatedly realized that riverfront property might be where it’s at. A little bit further up the river the malodorous shrimp paste market near Wat Pho was kicked out last year; the fish market up the street from us is living on borrowed time. It’s hard to tell what’s actually going to happen at the flower market: the city would like vendors to move to other areas, including a sanitized and undervisited new mall along the river.

The market does most of its business in the night, as there’s an enormous demand for fresh flowers in Bangkok. But plenty of vendors were still there this morning:





It’s not all flowers. There are a fair number of fruits and vegetables on sale:


Here are some flowers: