Checking in with the Dogs

As we’re approaching one whole year in Thailand, I thought it might be nice to check in with the dogs and see how they’ve found the whole experience.  How have they survived the rainy season? Have they made any new friends? Do they miss the rolling green fields of Northamptonshire?

 

Charles the laziest dog in the world…

Let’s start with Charles. Now he is the older and larger of the two, and definitely, the dominant one, which quite frankly is a good thing as goodness knows what would happen if Siale had to take the lead!

Charles is more greyhound than any other type of sighthound. He looks very athletic, he’s very agile – able to jump very high and very precisely from a standing start.

He’s a complex character, sometimes behaving aggressively towards other dogs (which actually works pretty well to keep the soi dogs at bay) but also loves nothing more than being spooned on the sofa. He is obsessed with cats but is constantly battling his urge to chase them with being truly terrified of them.

The main problem with Charles is that he is the laziest dog in the world, and living Thailand has done nothing to improve the situation. Other than when we take him for a walk, Charles barely engages in any voluntary physical activity. When I open the back door, he will run to the gate to see what’s there, but then he will just stand there staring at the world outside. He might join Siale in the initial chase after a squirrel, but he will quickly find his central position and let Siale do the legwork. And if you can get him to engage in a game of fetch, he will lose interest if you throw the toy more than a metre from him and then just wander off. And the Bangkok heat has only added to Charles reluctance to move.

Charles taking it easy…

So the result of this is that Charles has started to gain a little weight – I think at worst he was probably 1.5kg heavier than he really should be. A lot of people move to Thailand and put on weight because they want to try all the delicious food – this hasn’t been a problem for Charles as he just gets kibble and a few dentistix. No, Charles’ problem is that he lies down for around 22 hours a day.

So poor Charles has been on a little diet – this always feels like quite a mean thing to do to a dog as they just don’t understand. I do keep trying to explain to Charles that if he ran around a bit more he’d be allowed to eat a bit more, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through.

Snuggle time!

So other than being a bit hungry, Charles is pretty content with life. The sights, scents and general hubbub of Bangkok seems to stimulate him sufficiently and he’s pretty happy that Rena (dog nanny/maid) strokes him and plays with him for most of the day.

 

Siale, the puppy who wouldn’t grow up…

They say opposites attract and the best couples are often those that balance each other out in terms of strengths and weaknesses. If Charles is the laziest dog in the world then Siale is happiest, bounciest and generally craziest dog in the world. Siale typically seems to find himself behind the curve and is always rushing to catch up so seems to run everywhere. Rena describes as always being ‘busy’, running to see what Charles is sniffing or fetching his favourite toy from the box.

He is also incredibly inefficient with his style of walking and running, putting an unnecessary gap between his feet and the ground that means he resembles a horse doing dressage. One man in a pub once made the infamous comment ‘that dog thinks he’s a horse!’ which in my memory was in the voice of a Victorian-era street urchin, prefixed with a ‘cor blimey guv’nor’.

And it seems that Siale uses up even more energy in Thailand so has lost weight – he’s now on a weight gain programme although giving him more food just seems to be making him run around even more.

Siale is also the friendliest dog in the world – he wants to be friends with every person, every dog and probably every cat. If we see another dog on our morning walk, he will strain to get closer, simply fascinated by the existence of another canine.

Happy dog!

For some reason, motorcycle taxi drivers, security guards and ‘men with whistles’ have taken quite a shine to Siale. Some Thai people are quite scared of dogs but I normally have to stop several times to allow people to stroke and fuss Siale. They don’t seem quite as interested in Charles and he’s definitely not interested in them.

Dog-Friendly Bangkok?

I think I wrote in my very first blog post that the biggest factor in our decision to move to Bangkok and also our house-hunting criteria was whether we could make it work with the dogs. At the time, there was quite a lot of negative things written about the impossibility of owning a dog in Bangkok, even now I read horror stories of people with dogs finding it very difficult to look after them in Bangkok and sometimes being met with hostile neighbours who really object to dog ownership.

But the truth is that I just haven’t experienced anything negative in terms of the dogs being here. You can walk them along the streets – yes you might have to manoeuvre around street food vendors and motorcycles but it can be done! And the streets are not filthy as some people say – they are constantly being swept and hosed down so I really don’t worry about anything nasty getting on their paws.

Walking in Bangkok

Dogs are not allowed in most Bangkok parks but there are places you can take them; like Nong Bon Lake which is absolute paradise in terms of space, peace, and scenery.

We took him to the lake but he just lay down!
Siale slightly more interested in the great outdoors.

Contrary to popular belief, there are not packs of aggressive, territorial soi dogs on every street corner. There are plenty of dogs around but generally keeping your distance and walking by purposefully means that they won’t bother you. Actually, I’ve found that they’re normally more intimidated by Charles and scuttle away. But we have at times amended our walking routes if we know we’re venturing too close to another dog’s territory – it’s just a case of being sensible.

Many of our neighbours have dogs and, other than the fact that they are just allowed to roam the streets, they seem pretty well looked after. I think Thai people do like dogs really!

Maybe we’ve been lucky, at the very least we made a great choice in terms of house and area, but Bangkok is as dog-friendly as any other major city.

 

 

 

Year of the Dog

So far my blog posts have focused on my personal experience of living in Bangkok, my frequent faux pas and general mishaps. But how has life changed for Charles and Siale, the two dogs who had no real say as to whether they moved to Thailand or not?

Aside from the initial trauma of being stuffed into crates, put in the hold of a plane and flown 6000 miles, their whole environment has completely changed.

The first major difference is obviously the climate. Lurchers do not have an awful lot of fur (with what they do have being shed onto our furniture on a daily basis) and they also have comparatively thin skin so they really feel the cold. I remember when we first adopted Charles and Siale, the lady at the rescue saying that we probably needed to get them some pyjamas for the winter.

So you’d think that a move to warmer climes would suit them? But no, they actually don’t seem to have any ability to regulate their own body temperature, or at least they didn’t when we first arrived. During the first few weeks, they’d do their normal routine of zoomies in the garden but get so hot that we’d quickly have to usher them inside and switch the air conditioning on full blast to stop them exploding.

What we’ve seen in the last few months is them learn new techniques to keep cool. Whilst we haven’t quite got them in the swimming pool yet (apart Charles’ back legs slipping in whilst he rushed past, chasing a squirrel) they have found the cooler spots in the house. Before we lived here, they would never have laid down on a tiled floor. Now, they frequently find the coolest spot and stretch out, just like Thai dogs. When we first started taking them for a coffee on a Saturday morning (coffee for us, water for the dogs), they would never settle, always wondering about not understanding why they were so hot. Now they have a little drink and then lie down.

IMG_4422.jpg
Just chilling under the carport…

 

IMG_4151-COLLAGE
A quick drink and then a lie-down!

As described in ‘Walking in Bangkok’, we don’t have the rolling hills and fields of Crick to wander in, we have big roads, street food vendors, and karaoke bars!

IMG_2593-COLLAGE
Karaoke anyone…?

Strangely, the dogs seem completely unfazed by the general hubbub of people and vehicles. They are much more interested in the various dogs and cats that seem to line our daily route. Despite Bangkok being a seemingly unfriendly city for dogs, there are plenty of domesticated dogs where we live. Even the soi dogs tend to have some sort of affiliation with the motorbike taxi drivers, so although they are still territorial, they’re not really fully feral.

IMG_2606-COLLAGE
Left to Right: One of the weird little dogs that only sticks its top half through the shutters to bark, a crazy golden retriever behind the black railings, one of the two black dogs (one with a missing leg) that live at the end of the road.

There also seems to be no shortage of feral cats in Bangkok. Unfortunately, I have already seen four dead cats since I’ve been here, all presumably hit by cars. Normally someone moves a dead cat but there was one that was left in situ and we actually witnessed it’s total decomposition in just a few days. Nature is a wondrous thing!

We see many a live cat on our daily walk, which tends to prove exciting for the dogs and traumatic for us as we try to encourage the cat to run away from us, but not into the path of traffic. Fortunately, most of them scramble up a tree or into a nearby shophouse.

IMG_4170
The cat making its escape….!

The good thing is that nobody in Thailand is bothered by dogs barking at other dogs or cats. In the UK, we would frequently be subjected to disparaging looks because our dogs were big and a bit noisy. In Thailand, it’s useful to have Charles giving other dogs a firm warning not to come near him. And he needs to be very firm because Siale has continued to think every other dog is a potential playmate, which leaves him pretty exposed on the mean streets of Bangkok.

As dogs are allowed to be dogs in Thailand and there is no end of things to chase I don’t think there could be a better a place for them! And they even have their favourite sofa!

IMG_4416.jpg

 

Home Alone…

It was always going to happen at some point, I just didn’t think it would come around in what was only our third full week in Bangkok. One of us was going to have to go away leaving the other to fend for themselves and the dogs in the scary Bangkok house. I know I’m being a bit melodramatic, but you quickly get used to doing everything as a tag-team, particularly when it comes to the dogs; it’s never a good thing to be outnumbered.

Chris was going to Phuket for 2 days, allegedly for some sort of work team-building thing. I thought it sounded dubious as the whole team is based in Bangkok so why they all needed to fly to an island with glorious white sandy beaches is beyond me, but I didn’t question it. It sounded like a total jolly though.

Chris’ absence meant that I was going to have to perform my first solo dog walk. Now, for those that have read the earlier post ‘Walking in Bangkok’, this was never going to be easy, dodging all the various obstacles that the Bangkok streets have to offer. In future, our maid Rena will be roped in to help with this sort of task however she’d only been with us for a week and I didn’t want to totally scare her off! The dogs also keep barking at her, but I think that’s mostly because they’re scared of the various cleaning paraphernalia. They seem to get over this when she gives them their tea though.

And before you, all start thinking ‘Ooooh Emma and Chris have got a maid, who do they think they are?’, it’s quite normal to have a full-time maid in Thailand and once I start work we will both be out of the house for at least 10 hours every day, so we’ve really got a personal maid for the dogs. Maybe that’s worse?

Not only would I have to contend with walking the dogs solo, I was also going to have to manage the bedtime routine which in recent days had started to include fun and frolics with the frogs and toads in the garden. We’d had a bit of rain recently which seemed to have drawn out our amphibious friends. They’d probably been there the whole time and the dogs hadn’t noticed, but now they’d discovered them they had started to hunt them, which is not conducive to getting them to do their business before bed. The frogs are small and seem to appear out of nowhere and then hop across the grass. The toads (I think that’s what they are, but I am no expert in amphibious creatures) also appear from nowhere but just sit there motionless. They totally freak me out, like they will pounce on me at any moment.

IMG_3610.jpg
Is this a toad? Makes me shudder just looking at it!

Rather than leave them at the mercy of Charles and Siale, Chris had commenced the Frog Relocation Programme (FLP) where he captures them and relocates them to a section of foliage down the street. Whilst I’m not keen on letting the dogs torture and eat the frogs (I don’t think they’d be good for the digestion), the FLP is futile, as far as I can see they all just get run over later in the evening. My tactic is to usher them into the trees and put a plant pot to conceal and protect ‘Toady’ when he refuses to move.

To top it all off, Siale had decided he was no longer house trained at night, so we’d been waking up to a total mess for the past few mornings. We thought he was probably a bit poorly so hoped it would be short-lived. But don’t you worry Chris, you go build that team in Phuket, we’ll be fine here.

My chosen approach for the dog walk was to avoid the busier streets where there would be a lot of passing cars. Trying to persuade the dogs to walk in a single file formation was never going to happen so we’d probably just end up bringing the whole of Bangkok to a standstill if cars couldn’t get passed. I also didn’t want to get on the wrong side of “The Men with the Whistles” having cultivated such good favour with them up to now.

I was just going to stick to the little sois (streets) which were mostly dead ends but traffic free. Yes, it wouldn’t be a nice, neat circular walk but I felt we could achieve the same result. The challenge with the sois with no cars is that they are a favourable environment for all sorts of other menaces and we would be walking into the unknown, maybe never to return!

We set out, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (not literally as I don’t have a tail and the dog’s tails are quite smooth), ready to take on whatever Bangkok would throw at us that morning. Back in Crick my morning dog walk involved bumping into the same people at the same time most days, people you were only acquainted with because you walked your dogs on a similar route, and later referred to them by the descriptions or names of the dogs e.g. ‘Millie the Pug, “The Black Lurcher” and “The Two Evil Spaniels”. In Bangkok, it was fewer dog walkers, more loose dogs, men with whistles and elderly people doing light exercise. The first of these acquaintances was our neighbour going through his morning routine. This involves walking up and down our street, sometimes slowly, sometimes briskly and normally sporting a fluorescent short and vest combo. I’ve seen quite a few people take this approach to light exercise (but fortunately not exercise attire) walking back and forth over a short distance near their houses.

IMG_3617.jpg
You can just make out ‘Mr Motivator’ in the background!

We walked out of our street and meandered along a little soi. There as a surprising amount of greenery which the dogs loved. Having moved from Crick which is the epitome of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’, they miss real grass and vegetation and will be automatically drawn to a modicum of shrubbery. This street had plenty, so we did lots of sniffing and general foraging with me obviously on the lookout for frogs, discarded takeaways, and other perils. We reached the end of the line so turned back and did it all again.

IMG_3612.jpg
Green stuff!!

We then crossed over a semi-busy road and into another set of streets that we’d never been to before. The streets looked like ours, however, there was one significant feature we didn’t have, a large detached house made entirely of corrugated iron! I’ve seen much smaller structures constructed in the same manner on the outskirts of cities like Paris and Sofia, but I’d never seen a full-on house. On closer inspection, the house was contained within a full corrugated iron compound comprising several separate buildings. They’d even fashioned a separate, gated area for their bins!

IMG_3615.jpg
This doesn’t do it justice but there is a corrugated iron mansion behind here.

Moving on from this feat of engineering, we continued to pass other more traditionally constructed houses. The problem with these seemingly unassuming houses was that they all had dogs in their yards, and territorial dogs at that. Charles and Siale fit in well in Bangkok as like every other dog here, they bark when someone else comes close to their domain, the only difference being that Charles and Siale’s domain is wherever they happen to be. Unlike the UK where people can get judgemental when you have a reactive dog, nobody bats an eyelid here, so we’ve just let the dogs stand their ground which has made them remarkedly more chilled out.

We have several local dogs who Charles and Siale have become acquainted with (at a distance) and are not bothered by. This includes the two black Labradors (one missing a front leg), next door’s howling dog and these two yappy terriers who pop just the upper halves of their bodies out of the shutters, so they look like they have no back legs.

The issue comes when we enter new terrain and pass new dogs. I am afraid to say that the number of new dogs on this walk was probably overload, and we triggered what can only be described as a Mexican wave of dog barking and howling, that possibly continued to the other side of Bangkok and maybe even the World. This isn’t an unusual sound to hear where we live and would have been fine if it hadn’t been 6:30 in the morning. Fearing that we had undoubtedly woken up a lot of people, we made tracks and re-joined our luminous neighbour in the safety of our own street, with only a few feral cats to contend with.

IMG_3613.jpg
Keeping you up are we Siale?

Walking in Bangkok

I suppose it’s probably about time I started writing about living in Bangkok instead of yammering on about nice walks in the Northamptonshire countryside. In fairness, I have only been here for 5 days, although, as is often the case in these kinds of scenarios, familiarity with my surroundings has developed at such a pace that I feel like I’ve been here for a few weeks.

Having landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport nice and early on Sunday morning, I was able to beat the Bangkok traffic (for once) and get to the house for 08:00. The most obvious thing to do after a 12-hour flight was to take the dogs on their first walk in Thailand. Chris had quite rightly opted to allow the dogs to settle into the house and garden for a day or so, rather than attempting to take on the soi dogs and whatever else Bangkok had to offer, but there was no avoiding it now. The roads were quiet, the temperature was relatively mild, and we had two pairs of hands.

We set out equipped with a good supply of doggy water and a craving for coffee. In the UK, we’d often walked the dogs to Costa to pick up a takeaway coffee and we knew that Ekkamai (the area we’d chosen to live in Bangkok) had many an artisan coffeehouse to choose from, so thought this would be a nice little activity to do at the weekend.

Where we live the streets are very narrow; only just wide enough for two cars to pass each other but with no pavement, and with any additional space on the road often occupied by a street food vendor. Some of these streets are nice and quiet but these quiet streets inevitably lead to slightly busier streets that then lead to a very busy four lane road! But it was Sunday morning so although there were a few cars around, the usual swarm of motorbikes was absent for now. We did, however, struggle to find a coffee shop that was open before 10:00 – it doesn’t look like Thai’s are quite a caffeine-dependent to function in the morning as we are! After a few failed attempts, but an otherwise nice tour of the outside of coffee shops in the area, we found a place that was open. To Chris’ disdain, I insisted on ordering a hot coffee. I just can’t get my head around the iced versions – something that has the taste of a drink I normally enjoy hot but is now cold – what’s that about? Chris reckons I will have no credibility with the locals if I insist on ordering hot drinks but I’m sticking with it.

IMG_3536.jpg
Our street!

Nicely refuelled and with the dogs having glugged down some water, we headed home, pleasantly satisfied that we had succeeded in completing our first walk without issue. We took the boys out again in the afternoon, got more coffee (I was starting to run on empty by this point) and again got them home without anything more than a few woofs in response to dogs in the gardens we walked past.

A lot of people where we live have dogs of varying shapes and sizes. Thai’s often favour smaller breeds but there are Labradors, Retrievers, Terriers to name but a few. One thing that people don’t seem to do though is walking their dogs. Chris and I have had a lot of strange looks from people as we’ve been walking around with the boys although, as Chris has pointed out, we must look quite a sight – a 6ft5 blonde, pasty, western bloke accompanied by possibly the only two lurchers in Thailand and a translucently pasty western woman with curly orange hair. But seriously, even though every house has a dog (including the one next door that barks at 2 am) I have only seen one other dog being walked so far. I think they just get left outside to run around in their gardens or in the street which I think might be what everyone in the UK did in the 50s & 60s. Anyway, Charles and Siale have come from a routine of two good walks a day so we must persist!

Monday morning came, and it was time to see what we were really up against. Unfortunately, a combination of jetlag, general nervous anticipation and that stupid dog next door had kept me awake for most of the night, so I wasn’t really feeling that fresh. We set out again, Google Maps on hand to guide us through the maze of streets that all look the same.  Things were certainly more frantic this time around and whilst I don’t think we were in any immediate danger, cars were passing slowly but close and motorbikes were zipping past at what felt like inches from our bodies. The dogs were great though! We kept them on the inside but weirdly they seemed unfazed – maybe having now experienced a plane taking off, cars and motorbikes didn’t seem so scary. We managed to carve out a 45-minute walk and made it home, all ready for breakfast.

IMG_3528.jpg
Charles isn’t worried about two lanes of approaching traffic…

We’ve experimented throughout the week and our current preference is to get onto the busiest road we can find – Sukhumvit 71 which is four lanes of traffic and fairly bustling with pedestrians but, most importantly, it has pavement! I would say this road is exactly what I’d pictured Bangkok to be like; lots of people, various food vendors operating out of run-down buildings or carts and the whole area just being a little bit grubby. Chris pointed out one of the ‘newer’ buses earlier and it was still a chugging, exhaust fume bellowing beast, certainly not compliant with the London Low Emission Zone!

IMG_3530.jpg
A little pit-stop…

There are a few schools along this road and you get the classic sight of a father dropping off his three children on a motorbike – this is by all accounts quite tame and I will no doubt see more ridiculous things being carried on motorbikes. My favourite sight so far has been three deep fried chickens still with their heads on looking quite animated, as if they were plunged into the fryer alive and in the throes of death their last pose was preserved.

I had read that walking in Bangkok was to be avoided, but generally because of the stifling heat and humidity. It’s Winter now, so although it’s still 30 degrees, you don’t melt as soon as you start moving. The main challenge really is either the lack of pavement or the complete inconsistency of whatever pavement there is. I walked along one street where the trees had grown so large I had to squeeze through tiny little gaps to get by – it made me think of those people in Sheffield protesting the felling of mature trees as part of a highway maintenance programme.

Crossing the road is also quite a predicament at times. There is never a time when no cars are coming, even if you are waiting at what appears to be a zebra crossing. Chris has now perfected the art of timing it just right to get across, but this still involves stepping out in front of traffic. I was out on my own the other day and genuinely contemplated getting a taxi because I didn’t know how I was going to cross the road.

So, we’re taking it one day at a time for now. It’s doable but I think I’ll be looking at the dog park for the weekend….

Journey from Crick to Bangkok

As October progressed, the departure plans were shaping up nicely. Chris was returning from Bangkok on the same day I was saying a tearful goodbye to my Halfords colleagues, and we had various other farewells to make over the weekend. We had managed to find tenants to rent our house & they were keen to move in a week before we were flying to Bangkok, so we saw this as a rare opportunity to take a relaxing break with the dogs. We booked a little cottage in the South Northamptonshire countryside and looked forward to a week of long walks on crisp winter mornings, the dogs taking in new sights, sounds, and smells; and then us all snuggling in front of an open fire, exhausted from our adventures. We’d arrive in Bangkok impossibly fresh and ready to experience what would, in all reality, be almost the complete opposite of our week in a cottage!

Everything was going to plan on Monday; we moved the last of our possessions out of our house although this did ultimately involve slinging random stuff into our cars, so we would not be in the house when the tenants arrived. We took a slight detour to scatter the ashes of our much loved (yet now deceased & cremated) dogs Maisie & Milo in their favourite park – yes, we are those kinds of people! We could never bear to part with them before but as we weren’t allowed to take them to Bangkok it felt right to finally say goodbye, although I think Charles may have inhaled quite a bit of Maisie so maybe not?

We then headed to the cottage, via winding country lanes with Chris leading & enjoying the twists and turns, and me following trying desperately to keep up in spite of my elderly lady style of driving. The village seemed deserted but after a bit of ingenuity, we managed to gain entry to the cottage. It was perfect in a basic sort of way and not too pokey so the risk of fatal head injury to Chris with his 6ft 5” height was much reduced.

On the first day, we planned a nice little circular walk to a neighbouring village and back – I even drew a little map to guide us. As we crossed the first style we were confronted with a horse, and then more horses in the next field, and then sheep beyond. We’ve got history with livestock having nearly lost Siale to a herd of cattle in the first week we had him. Having got ourselves stuck in a field with cows in front and cows behind, for some reason we’d decided to divide the duties with Chris guiding the dogs to safety, and me taking on the cows. As Chris got the dogs through the gate, Siale slipped his collar and ran back into the field. Time seemed to slow down, and it felt like an eternity that we stood in the triangle formation of me, Siale and the cows at each corner. I’m not sure how it happened but I somehow managed to beckon the now naked Siale close enough to me to grab him by the scruff of the neck and drag him through the gate, where we all collapsed in a panting heap. So, it was clear to say that we weren’t up for taking on any more animals!

We turned back and took a different path, my carefully crafted map now rendered completely useless. In the end, we managed to carve out a pleasant, livestock-free walk with nothing more than a few squirrels and pheasants for the dogs to chase, dragging us along with them.

In the afternoon, I swanned off to the hairdressers for what might be my last proper haircut for a while – I’m not sure what the Thai hairdressers are going to make of my curly mop! Chris spent the afternoon indulging in daytime TV and the dogs slept off their morning exertions. The pub in the village opened infrequently and only served food at the weekend so we became connoisseurs of the various ‘Dine in for 2 for £10” deals the supermarkets were offering.

The week continued pretty much in this way, more walks in the countryside including one particularly exciting meander through the woods, crunching through leaves, climbing under and over fallen trees but then having to crawl under some barbed wire and briefly trespass on a golf course when I got scared!

For various boring administrative reasons, it became clear that one of us was going to stay behind to tie up some loose ends. As one of those ‘ends’ was my Thai Visa and Chris needed to start work in Thailand it had to be me. We were able to change my flight pretty easily and also, we put the dogs’ flight back by a couple of days meaning we would all be arriving in Bangkok separately – at least Charles and Siale would have each other though!

We still went ahead with the dogs being collected on Saturday as planned. As my parents had kindly agreed to put me up for the week, we didn’t think their cat Stanley would be too happy about sharing his home and all available human attention with two lurchers, so the boys would spend a few more days in the kennels in Windsor waiting for their flight.

On Saturday morning the van arrived to collect them, and we saw the crates that they would be travelling in for the first time – they were massive! We’ve never crated the dogs before so didn’t really know how they’d react and, on reflection, this could have been a bit of a showstopper. Charles saw his crate and jumped straight in – no issues there. Siale then followed suit, but unfortunately jumped into Charles’ crate instead of his own. My heart did break a little bit when we had to take poor little Siale out and put him in his own crate. Secure in their crates and with some manky towels thrown in to “comfort” them, we waved them off, knowing that the next time we’d see them would be in Bangkok.

Without the dogs we were at a loose end, so we headed down to Franklin’s Gardens to watch the mighty Wasps beat Saints in their own back garden, showing a major step up in form and giving us a nice send off. We bumped into our buddy Lawrence Dallaglio at the pie van, and as it was late, pies were free! We broke the news that we were moving to Thailand although Lawrence seemed more interested in getting some gravy for his free pie. Please note, we are not really buddies with Lawrence Dallaglio – he just asked us for advice on pies.

IMG_3448.jpg

It was Chris’ turn to depart on Sunday and nicely fuelled with my Mother’s roast lamb and a load of red wine, he was deposited at Heathrow and I returned to my childhood bedroom! Divide and conquer was the name of the game so whilst I made trips to the Thai Embassy and went back to Crick to pick up an important document, Chris focused on moving into our new house and getting things ready for the arrival of the dogs, with a bit of work thrown in for good measure.

The dogs were due to fly on Thursday afternoon and just before lunchtime, I got a message to say they were fine and had been checked in for their flight! At this stage in the proceedings, there was not much I could do about the dogs who may or may not have been wondering where we were and what on Earth was going on?! I knew they would be delivered to Chris at around 14:00 Thai time which was 07:00 UK time so I went to sleep hoping that when I woke the next morning it wouldn’t be long until I got the update that they’d arrived safe and sound. I did wake to a message from Chris to say that he’d had word that they had landed, were fine and had been taken for a walk – so good so far.

And then it came, what I’d been waiting for all along, a photo of the dogs in our house in Bangkok, having already managed to bag themselves a sofa! This was swiftly followed by another picture of them both fast asleep.

Obviously, we’ll never know how they found the flight, Chris said they did both seem shell-shocked when they arrived, just not quite themselves. He even said he was close to shedding tears of relief when he first fed them, and they wolfed down their food!

So, with 3 out of 4 of the unit now in Bangkok, it was just me left behind and I couldn’t wait!

Are we there yet?

Back in the Nest

According to the Office for National Statistics around 1 in 4 young adults live with their parents. Although at 34 I am at the top end of this age band, I have now found myself temporarily in this situation. Now, I actually quite like my parents so this shouldn’t be too testing. I am enjoying being generally looked after. Where else do you get a casual smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on a Tuesday morning?

What is mildly irksome though, is their constant need to know “what I’m doing” or “where I’m going”! As I type this I can hear my Dad downstairs quizzing my Mum on what I had for breakfast (a selection of fruits, greek yoghurt, and honey if you must know). After 16 years of being an independent adult, it is strange to need to provide a commentary on my every movement! How are all these young adults not going absolutely crazy?!

A New Opportunity

Anyway, I’ll get back to the actual point of this post as it doesn’t yet seem to have any relevance to Bangkok nor lurchers. In itself is a strange combination. I guess it’s best if I provide a bit of background to explain how I’ve found myself temporarily unemployed and homeless at the age of 34.

The story begins in April 2017 when my boyfriend (now husband) Chris set off for work. Chris had been in his role for around 9 months, was making good progress but wasn’t loving it and had started thinking about alternative employment options. I remember he had a meeting scheduled with his boss and I expected to get some sort of update on how that meeting had gone. Partway through the day the update came through via text message and read something along the lines of “They’ve offered me an assignment in Bangkok. Are you up for it?”.

I think sometimes it can be good to receive some unexpected news when you’re at work. I guess I was too busy to properly process it because I just responded with “Yeah, why not?” and carried on with my day. Interestingly enough, now we’re many months down the line and it’s actually happening, my attitude hasn’t particularly changed, maybe just evolved to more of a “what’s the worst that can happen?”.

The Dependents

My thoughts then turned to what was really the biggest consideration for us, our two beautiful (yet bonkers) lurchers. We’d rescued (in the sense that we got them from a rescue rather than saved them from drowning) Charles & Siale only a year earlier. We’d probably only just really got to grips with them.

Like most people, we weren’t particularly familiar with this breed of dog. I think most lurcher owners would agree that you will experience the best and worst of dog behaviour from them. They are incredibly affectionate, loving nothing more than a big snuggle on the sofa. But they’re also pretty needy and likely to miss-behave or wee all over your house if they become slightly unsettled.

They also have bursts of energy and like to do what is known in lurcher circles as “zoomies” where they run around in circles as fast as they can. It’s like they literally burst with energy and excitement and can’t stop themselves. It’s awesome to watch but when this happens in your own back garden and/or house there is usually a wake of destruction!

IMG_1690
40 mile per hour couch potatoes!
Research, Research, Research

What on Earth were we going to do with these dogs? Could we take them? How would they get there? What’s Bangkok like for dogs? Is there anywhere to walk them? How would they cope with the heat? Do they eat dogs in Thailand? These were just a few of the questions that were racing through my mind. Obviously, I did what everyone does when they have a question; I turned to the internet! I spent hours reading blogs, Facebook posts & expat forums. The information I found was patchy and contradictory.

The internet is amazing but it is also a dangerous, un-validated source of information where some people are just downright mean! Some people said it was completely impossible to own a dog in Bangkok yet others were much more positive and said it was fine. I was encouraged when I read about the BMA Dog Park and also places designed specifically for your dogs like Barkyard BKK and Ozono as well as some of the shopping malls that allowed dogs. I concluded that it was perfectly feasible for them to live there but we would need to find the right accommodation and we would need to put in some effort. But owning a dog does require effort so nothing massively new there.

Transportation

Moving onto the next minor detail, how would we get them there? I was lucky to come across a fantastic blog called 8milesfromhome.com where they basically explained step by step how they’d brought their dog from the UK to Chiang Mai. Whilst there was quite a bit of form filling and different fees to pay, it actually sounded in straightforward. I actually enjoyed telling people that we could check the dogs in as excess baggage when they asked how they would get there!

Reassured that it was feasible to take the dogs and that we were up for going, Chris progressed things with his company. What followed was months of what I can only describe as faffing around. At times I wasn’t sure if we were actually going. I’ll skip to when things got interesting again in mid-August when we got to go an do a “Look-See” visit to Bangkok.

House-hunting

Now, I should probably mention that I had never been to Bangkok, Thailand or anywhere in Asia before. I guess there was every chance that I would completely hate it! Our main priority for the trip was to find somewhere to live that would allow dogs and also ideally had an enclosed garden. This sounded like an impossible task in a busy city! Fortunately, Chris’ company had hooked us with a property guy who was able to find us a load of different houses to look at. So, on the first morning, I happily jumped in a car with a complete stranger in a city I’d never been to. As you do!

We were pretty fortunate in our timing as we were in Bangkok during the Mother’s Day weekend. It seemed there’d been a mass exodus from the City and the roads were ‘relatively’ quiet. This meant we were able to see 11 houses in one day!

My expectation was that in order to find a house with a garden we would probably be living pretty far outside the centre of Bangkok. What we actually found were a lot of different houses in nice, relatively well-connected areas like Ekkamai & Phra Khanong that had various sizes of outdoor spaces. Whilst we are fortunate enough to be well supported by Chris’ company, our budget isn’t bottomless & I was pleasantly surprised that we actually had some options. As is always the case you look at 11 houses &, end up going with the first one you saw which is exactly what we did!

IMG_0568
Happy house-hunting!
Working in Thailand

For the rest of the trip, Chris did actually need to work so I tagged along with him which allowed us to meet Expats and Thais living in Bangkok. This was actually really beneficial in terms of visualising what life would be like.

I also managed to squeeze in a job interview of my own. Whilst just chilling in Bangkok for 2 years sounded appealing it probably wouldn’t support any future career aspirations I might have! I did also experience what I am calling “tequila poisoning”. Others might call an epic hangover after one too many margaritas! All in all, I had a pretty intensive induction into Bangkok life and it was great!

So that was it, full steam ahead, nothing stopping us now! Apart from we weren’t married & I hadn’t been offered a job so I think a tourist visa was probably my only option. Unless we got married? We had been together for 10 years so it wasn’t really out of the question to expect us to get married. We thought it was a nice excuse for a big party so we did it. Eight weeks after we returned from Bangkok, we got married & it was awesome. I will save the details for another post!

But why am I still here?

This probably now brings me to the point where I explain why I’m still not in Thailand at the beginning of November when this whole story started in April. One word – administration! Getting married, changing your name & leaving the country can require a ludicrous amount of administration, particularly if like Chris & I, you’ve made your lives very complicated with lots of bank accounts, credit cards, finance agreements etc.

We were almost there but two things have kept me in the UK for another week – selling Chris’ car & also getting a new Non-B visa for me as I have now been offered a job. As much as a 3 day trip to Laos sounded appealing, it seemed more sensible to just get it done in London & delay my flight. Chris is already there in the house, the dogs will arrive on Friday & I will be the last to arrive on Sunday. Not quite the plan but not the end of the world & I am getting used to smiling through these situations..!