What do Rambutans, Rain Makers, and Wooden Trains Have in Common?

Living in Thailand with my two blonde-haired tots, we encounter some interesting opportunities.  A few cases in point . . .

Exhibit A:  Just last week when Katelyn and I took a little shopping trip to Lemon Farm, the organic grocery store down the street, a booth set up outside the store was promoting the sale of organic rambutans.  As we exited the store, their photographer asked if he could take pictures of Katelyn holding a rambutan in front of the booth.  Organic rambutan modeling?  When in Rome . . .

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First solo photo shoot

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What Not to Miss During the Holidays

Although we are headed back home to celebrate the holidays this year, I felt it obligatory to share with my readers what not to miss in Bangkok over the next month or two.  After all, Christmas trees are already going up all around town and the weather is starting to cool off.

Logan last Christmas

1.  In search of Christmas toys?  Plan Toys has their unbeatable semi-annual sale throughout the month of December.  Make a morning out of visiting their factory store on Sathorn Soi 10 and you will find discounts from 50-70 percent on some of their finest toys, from doll houses to pull toys to wooden firetrucks, tractors, and more.   There is a crazy awesome train table set up in the front of the store, as well as toy kitchens, cars, trucks, etc.  Bring your little ones along and they will be so busy playing they won’t even know you are buying for them.  Seriously, this is the sale.  Buy for Christmas and stock up for birthdays (both your child’s birthday and his friends birthdays).  You will be happy that you did so.  More about Plan Toys in one of my previous posts – The Land of Wooden Toys.

2. Do not miss the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra’s “Concerts in the Park” at Lumpini every Sunday evening at 5:30pm from December-February.  This is an awesome opportunity to let the little ones roam free with their friends while you nosh on bread and cheese (and maybe – gasp- bring a little wine) and listen to the Orchestra’s renditions of famous tunes from the Indiana Jones to the Phantom of the Opera to Christmas music and more.  The concert dates for 2012-3 as listed on the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra’s FB page:

Sunday 16, December 2012
Sunday 23, December 2012
Sunday 6, January 2013
Sunday 13, January 2013
Sunday 20, January 2013
Sunday 27, January 2013
Sunday 3, February 2013
Sunday 10, February 2013

Concerts are free of charge.  Bring your tots, some food and drink (they sell popcorn, soft drinks and a few other snacks), friends, bikes and trikes, rent a mat or two to sit on, and enjoy.  This is a beautiful time of year to be outside.

3.  Hit up an enjoyable and delicious Christmas buffet.  There are only a gazillion options in Bangkok – so choose a location that seems family-friendly, is reasonably priced, and will make your tummy happy.  Our favorite is the Sukothai Chocolate Buffet.  While the Chocolate Buffet is offered year-round, the Sukothai is decorated so beautifully at Christmas that we venture to the buffet once a year during the holidays.  Don’t worry, there is a savoury table to match the sweet one.  In the event of a sweet headache, just start altering between the two (my husband has the method down)!  The buffet runs about 1200 baht/person (and half that for children) over the holidays.

Sukothai Chocolate Buffet last Christmas

Logan loved it!

Oh, there is so much more to do in Bangkok during the holidays.  If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments.  We’re all looking for new ways to explore a city that offers so much, and the holidays are a great time to explore.

The Land of Wooden Toys

Go wooden or go home.

If you reside in Thailand like we do, this place is a mecca for affordable, locally-made, wooden toys.  The best wooden toys are durable, chemical-free, inspire imagination, and evoke a sense of nostalgia in those of us who grew up with wooden toys ourselves.  Other than the Melissa and Doug brand, it is a rarity to find wooden toys in the U.S. anymore.   Specialty stores like The Land of Nod and Pottery Barn Kids sell beautiful wooden toys (many of which are made in Thailand), but charge exorbitant prices for them.  For example, the snail pull toy pictured below will put you out USD 21.95 plus tax and shipping if you order it in the U.S. (Land of Nod).  I bought the same toy this Christmas in Thailand for 345 baht, approximately USD 11.50.  If there is ever a time to start your child’s collection of wooden toys, Thailand is the place!

Baby Pull Toys

Wooden baby pull toys

Plan Toys (http://www.plantoys.com/home.php), PINTOY (http://www.pintoys.com/), and Wonderworld (http://www.wonderworldtoy.com/) are the most popular and reputable Thai wooden toy brands.  All of the brands are featured at upscale toy fairs across the U.S. and Europe.  Most major department stores in Bangkok, like Central Chitlom, Isetan, and the Emporium, carry the brands.

The Plan Toy Factory Store is located on Sathorn, Soi 10. Although prices at the Factory store generally parallel prices at the major department stores (a strange concept for those us from the U.S.), beautifully-made dollhouses, farm houses, train sets, drums, and trucks can be bought at a 50-70 percent discount at the Factory Store throughout the month of December every year.  Now that is an awesome sale!  The sale isn’t well advertised, but is definitely well-worth hitting in order to buy for Christmas or stock up for birthday parties.  Although we haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit,  the Plan Toy Factory, which I have been told offers excellent discounts, is located in Trang.  As a plus, street-side vendors in Trang also sell wooden toys at deep discounts.  Pair a family trip to the beaches of Krabi or Trang with a drive to the Plan Toy Factory and your kids will love you for it!

While our home certainly has its fair share of plastic toys to go along with the locally-made wooden ones, Thailand raises the bar when it comes to the availability and affordability of what now seem to be vintage relics in the U.S.  Yet one more score for those of us fortunate enough to live in the land of Smiles!