‘Marmite Houmous???’ I exclaimed to anyone who would listen in the shopping aisle at Tesco! So far, I’d found marmite cheese, marmite peanut butter, marmite flavoured rice cakes, and now marmite houmous! (Recent update, I have now discovered Marmite Cream Cheese at M&S!)
Don’t get me wrong, having lived in Asia for the last ten or so years, the best food in the world is to be found in the shacks of Thailand and the vegetarian restaurants of Delhi, but a veritable marmite wonderland?! This takes it to a whole new level.
As someone who intensely dislikes looking, western food options in the UK are just one of the things I’ve missed living overseas.
Skips (with marmite houmous by the way – yum!), Mini Cocktail Sausages, Fish & Chip Shops, Sunday Roasts, with mint sauce & Yorkshires no matter your meat option (although there are a few restaurants in Phuket who do a lovely roast), fresh, affordable fruit & veg as far as the eye can see, and simply the fact you can come out of a supermarket with an entire meal you can just put in the oven. No cooking required.
Having had to hotfoot it back to the UK a couple of months ago, due to my dear old 82-year-old Mum having a fall and breaking her hip (then would you believe it falling again in the hospital and breaking the other hip), it’s been a rapid and slightly unwelcome transition from thirty degrees, shorts & tees, beaches, a great bunch of friends, my beloved Panang curry and my husband and dog!
And why aren’t any of the car windows tinted over here? It is so unnerving to be able to see inside everyone’s car window! You can see them swearing at you, singing along to songs, picking their nose, the whole shebang!
Thai drivers may be demons behind the wheel, and they may be some of the most dangerous roads in the world, but at least you can’t see each other!
However, the road etiquette over here is definitely something Asians could learn from. It’s so nice to have someone wave you out in front of them rather than speed up and try to cut you off.
This is primarily due, I suspect, to the fact, there are no driving lessons or tests as such in Thailand. A short quiz is given, then a person is seated in front of a screen with a mock road in front of them, a lever, and a driving wheel. As long as they can understand the traffic light system, with around 1000 Thai baht (£22) and a nod of the head, a driving license is awarded. Bless those Thai drivers!
The third thing I didn’t realize I missed until I could take advantage of it, is Amazon Prime!
Woweee! As an Amazon seller, my husband and I have always been on the other side of Amazon, dealing with manufacturing, shipping, and promotion. We’ve rarely been able to take advantage as a shopper, and boy have I taken advantage!
No wonder Amazon is the biggest ecommerce company in the world. Sometimes things arrive the same day you order them!
And don’t get me started on the movies available as an Amazon Prime subscriber. We can see the movies on the home screen in Thailand, but invariably as we excitedly settle down to watch the latest and greatest, ‘this title is not available in your region’ pops up on the screen, causing a frustrated groan and another try, to no avail I might add, with a VPN.
But here in the UK, as the evening draws in, I’m settling down with my skips and marmite houmous to watch a smorgasbord of awesome movies!
Talking about the evening drawing in, what a delight it is that it’s light until so late! In Thailand, it gets dark at 6 pm, and the sun comes up at 6 am (there or thereabouts) every day of the year.
And while we get the benefit of it still being lovely and warm no matter how dark it gets, the body clock reacts, and I’m regularly starting to feel tired by 6 pm and heading for the sofa. I always thought it was just my age, but now I realize the effect the darkness has on your energy levels.
As I write this, it’s the middle of June and heading towards the longest day. It’s not getting dark until gone 9 pm! As opposed to feeling tired, I’m still busying myself before I suddenly realize it’s 8 o’clock, and if I want to catch one of my previously unavailable prime movies and settle down with my marmite houmous and skips, I need to be grabbing a cuppa and hitting the couch pretty darn soon.
What a thrilling life I do lead!
I must confess, however, as an early riser, I seem to have had no problem sleeping through the early sunrises and am regularly not waking until around 7. I can only put this down to the fact it’s so bloody cold (something I categorically do not miss!)
At 5ft 10” with big bones (that’s what I like to call my current weight situation), it’s extremely difficult to find nice clothes that fit in Thailand.
Interestingly when we arrived on Asian shores back in 2010, there wasn’t an overweight Thai person to be seen. However, over the years, with more McDonalds, KFC’s, Dunkin Donuts, and the like popping up around the country, obesity is becoming more of an issue, which is very sad to see. However, they are all still relatively short, so it hasn’t made much of a difference to the clothing industry for tall girls like me!
All hail, Asda’s George, Matalan, Primark & M&S.
To gently run my fingers through the rails of size 16 tees, shorts & jeans. To lift with wonder the five packs of high leg comfy pants and decent sized sports bras. To behold the cotton threaded nightshirts & shorts.
It’s like all my Christmases have come at once. Last week my daughter & I went for a day trip to Primark. Yes, I said a day trip.
Marred slightly by the need to queue to get in (seriously!), some 3 hours later, we left, multiple bags in our hand, new wardrobes and accessories abound, all for the princely sum of just over 100 quid! Gotta love Primark, or as we like to call it, pree-mark-que.
You know what I’m talking about ladies!
I’m not going to lie. I have been a lazy ‘farang’ (Thai slang for Western foreigner) in Thailand and cannot speak the language fluently. I can hold a conversation, order food, go to the supermarket, ask for directions, chat with a masseuse, etc., but I’m not at the level of understanding & therefore getting involved in general conversation yet.
My sense of humour is lost on most Thais, and I suspect they simply think I’m a big smiley odd woman saying the weirdest things in my faux Thai.
What fun it was then to laugh out loud with the cashier & my Sister at Tesco yesterday over a pack of batteries. I won’t tell you the conversation as it won’t translate very well from a comedy moment to a story on paper, but hasten to add all our minds were in the gutter, and we all said/thought the same thing at the same time, which resulted in the cashier wiping away tears of laughter.
I went for a walk on the beach last night and struck up a conversation with a lady about her daughter and friends surfing in the freezing seas, had a chat with a man about his dog (truly), and stopped to converse with a group of friends drinking wine in their front garden.
For a chatty person, as I am, it’s so nice just to have a yarn and a laugh with random strangers about your day.
Note to self – Put more effort into my Thai language learnings!
I’m not talking about quality or taste, simply the fact we can!
The plastic water bottle industry stands at somewhere around $200 billion. This equates to roughly 500 billion plastic water bottles being used every year.
Of course, we attempt to do our bit in Thailand by having a water cooler & filter, etc., to limit the number of bottles used, but in Asia, you have to drink filtered or store-bought water as the water supplies are teeming with parasites and all sorts of nasty things.
Before I started using the filtered water in my kettle to wash veg, etc., I had multiple tummy issues. Even boiling it didn’t seem to kill everything!
It’s such a pleasure just to head to the tap and fill my water bottle, and I urge you, wherever you live, to do your research to test if the water in your area is safe to drink and, if so, get yourself a reusable water bottle, drink from the tap and step away from the plastic water bottle!
In January this year, I started doing Muay Thai boxing at a gym in Thailand. I wish I’d found the sport years ago!
A good friend of mine who is a Muay Thai fighter, over a fairly drunken conversation at New Year, convinced me to go with her. Honestly, the things I’ve committed to after a few Chang beers.
I nervously and reluctantly showed up a few days later and loved it!
Coupling the mental stimulation of learning new techniques and trying to read your opponent with the physical exertion of punching and kicking is a winning combination for someone like me who can’t abhor boring, repetitive sports, which I won’t list as I’m sure to get lambasted by swimmers or cyclists the land over (oops).
However, the challenge in the UK is that Muay Thai isn’t a hugely popular sport here; go figure.
The closest class to me is 45 minutes away, which I have been attending every week to keep up my training. Plus, I’ve installed a punching bag in my Mum’s garage, which gets a daily pounding, and I’m happy to say at the time of writing, I’ve just found a kickboxing coach 15 mins away.
Other than that, however, if I want to do Yoga, Zumba, Badminton, Squash, HIIT classes, Pilates, Body Pump, Spinning, Aqua Aerobics, Circuit Training, Swimming, you name it, it’s on every street corner.
Everywhere you turn, there are yoga studios, gyms, health clubs. It beats me why we’re a nation of obesity with the number of activities available, most within walking distance!
This one speaks for itself. It’s very nice to know that all the power isn’t suddenly going to cut out mid an Amazon Prime or Netflix nail-biting scene;
Imagine, mid high action thriller, the central baddie is dying and giving up the person behind the whole thing, which is undoubtedly a total plot twister “it was………”,
BANG. Everything goes black.
Me: “It was who? It was who????? Come on, you have to be joking me!!!”
Or when you’re just about to head to bed and it’s 30 degrees and even opening the windows won’t cool the room down.
Here in the UK, it would be worse! It would be 5 degrees, and keeping the windows closed wouldn’t warm the place up!
And god forbid you miss the end scene of ‘Calling the Midwife’!
Last but not least, it’s so nice to be able to grab a bottle of Campo Viejo Rioja for £8 (with a Tescos clubcard – oh, how I love my Tescos clubcard).
All the wine in Thailand is imported and therefore extortionate! A cheap and pretty yukky bottle of red in our local supermarket will cost upwards of 600 Baht (£13). A decent bottle in line with Campo Viejo (I can hear all the wine aficionados groaning), you’ll be looking at 900 baht upwards (£20+).
Hasten to add, I’m not a big wine drinker in Thailand, preferring a nice cold bottle of Chang at the beach.
Ahh, the beach….
I’ve noticed some other things since being back, such as how comfortable UGG boots are, beautiful English gardens, the cloud formations in the sky (English skies are gorgeous when the sun is shining.)
But of course, the biggest thing I’ve missed, obviously with total realization, is my family.
How lovely it is to sit in my sister’s back garden with a cup of tea and chat away with my Niece and Nephew, with their beautiful dogs running around and slobbering all over your face.
It was a joy to catch up with my 77-year-old Aunt, who’s as active now as she was in her 50’s, and a total surprise and brilliant evening spent with my 55-year-old cousin (who we haven’t seen in 20 years) just back from South Africa where he’s lived with his family the last 15 years.
And of course, it’s wonderful to spend time with my dear old Mum, who, aside from two hip breaks & two operations, has spent the best part of the last 18 months on her own due to covid.
The best is yet to come Mum, and I’m certain I’ll be enjoying Marmite Houmous and Amazon Prime for quite a while longer yet!
Nothing thrills me more than landing in a new country, knowing a unique adventure lay ahead.
However, sometimes it’s just nice to come home. To experience the comfort you grew up with and to spend time with the ones you love. If you are visiting the United Kingdom soon, make sure to stop by Marks and Spencers to purchase marmite houmous! Let me know what you think.
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things. – Robert Brault