As an expat, one of the Choose Your Own Adventures you have to engage in is finding stuff. There is no Trader Joe’s here. Huge bummer but there you have it. So you have to use your Thai language skillz, map reading abilities, and unpack your sense of humor and rub on a little patience cause you, my friend, are gonna need it.

I remember when I decided I wanted witch hazel in Cuenca Ecuador. Yeahhhh. A fine idea if I may say so. I even brought my dear compadre Jamie whose Spanish skillz are muy bueno on my broomstick pursuit. Afterall, I went with her on her strange quests for hair thickeners and hamburgers the size of football fields. We were companions in medicating ourselves via Tutto Freddos and sweet oreo cookies, I miss their ice cream. The best.

On the other hand I remember when the ex-‘s aunt asked if Thailand had toothpaste. Yeahhhh. I guess that was not unlike the time when someone asked if Hawaii had electricity or if we had recess on the beach. In any toothpaste case, Thailand has a lot modern conveniences. (Who knew?) You just have to pick and pluck what is considered important to you because there are differences.

If you like neat and tidy (smooth sidewalks, garbage in trash cans, etc) and are very much attached to your brands (of food, clothing, etc), then you might not do too well over here (see brain aneurysm). Although Thailand not only has toothpaste (Thailand has toothpaste! Honey, bring the kids!) but mouthwash and floss too.

So besides missing Trader Joe’s, Target (okay I said it!) and Cheez-its that don’t cost their weight in gold and a few other important things that I have forgotten (*pause here*), what I do miss is Punchbowl Cemetery. I can’t see my father’s grave. I can’t sit down on the grass or dig up the flower vase that lives upside down just below his headstone.

I can’t simply hang out in one of the most scenic cemeteries and well, my favorite place in the world. I can’t do the ritual drive up the dead volcano, stoppover at Chinatown, the Airport or the grocery store for flowers. It is of no surprise then that I started to get a hankering for a good old fashioned graveyard or sù-săan สุสาน. (my new favorite Thai word)

This hankering started back in April during Songkran before I fully appreicated that travelling anywhere during that time would be ludicrous. Without consciously realizing this, my last cemetery fix was when I was in Ecuador visiting Biblian’s 200 year old church. I was fascinated by the wall burials, especially the empty one but for fear of being disrespectful I didn’t take any photos.

When life slowed down I headed to Chiang Mai’s Foreign Cemetery. It wasn’t the same as Punchbowl but my heart felt so happy that: a) I finally made it (such a procrasinator), b) I was around dead people (some folks prefer pets because they don’t talk back but that’s not true), and c) who the heck knows? Why do cemeteries give me joy?

My Thai teacher thought I was SO weird. This led to an interesting discussion on why you don’t see Thai cemeteries. In a bla bla word, ghosts. He’s terrified of them. Ghosts. Graves. Etc. But he thinks there are many individual or family graves next to homes out in the countryside. (Yea! Three propositions!) Although I must say I was a little saddened by the fact that there were not any more cemeteries to visit. Maybe you know about the so-called archaeological dig going on by the bus station?

Anyway I can’t say why I enjoy plots of land set aside for the dead. I’d like to say it’s the “soft scientist” in me, but honestly I think it must be all those childhood visits. (Some people go to grandma’s and we went to. . .) Of course, I hate going to the dentist but when I walk around a final resting place, I will feel like a thirsty person who has just been given a glass of water.

A lot of expats miss particular food like cheese (see Cheez-its), and friends and family. I miss a particular place. But not enough to go back there to live. I feel my father here more in Thailand as it is. This is where he wanted to retire. This is where he breathed his last exhale. And this is where I want to live.

11 replies on “What I miss most. . .

  1. Lani, Yeah, there are certain things I miss a little like a good old fashioned meatloaf dinner with mashed potatoes but we have a lot going for us as well. All kinds of cool festivals and stuff.I find myself hanging out in Thai cemeteries from Time to time…there is a really good one near the floating market near Bangkok. It's all the way at the back of the markets at an old wat. The monks thought it odd me hanging around there and snapping pics I guess but I like it.Really though I haven't missed too much from my past life…


  2. What a sweet post Lani. I too enjoy cemeteries. If you ever come to Bangkok stop by the Bangkok Protestant Cemetery. I was there not too long ago. There's an unsuccessful missionary who brought the first printing press to Thailand (Bradley), the women who wrote the first Thai-English dictionary that never got printed (and there is no copy in existence), and many more.Walking around the graves spooked my Thai friend terribly.


  3. HI, Lani, first time i've read you blog. Its damn heartbreaking to be honest. You write like your hearts on your sleeve.As for the graveyards it must be the teenage goth in me but i love em! In fact i haven't even arrived in Chiagn Mai yet but i already know about the expat cemtary and the statue of the queen (Not very patriotic usually!)I look forward to reading more posts!Colin


  4. @Talen: Meatloaf and mash potatoes is not difficult to make. And the next time I'm in BKK I'll have to make a point of checking out the cemeteries! Thanks!@Catherine: Yes. I'm happy to hear of another grave site to visit. I too enjoy reading the epitaphs and names. Fascinating stuff.@Colin: Thanks for stopping by. Heart on me sleeve, eh? Well, I believe effective writing requires an open heart and an open mind…


  5. Hi Lani, I can't say that I share your fondness for graveyards. When I was a kid I'd have to pass one most days and I'd always run as fast as I could. I suppose it kept me fit. Graveyards for me are cold places so I'll be going to a nice hot crematorium given the choice.


  6. I hear ya on the Cheez-Its Lani. My son and I are crazy for them, and I have a box in my pantry right now! (sincerely not meant to rub it in) When I lived in Bangkok, I'd get the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. They don't quite compare, but they're darn close and not quite as expensive. I remember missing REAL brewed coffee every morning. I couldn't go out for Starbucks everyday so I had my instant with milk.


  7. Hey Amy: I'm using a French Press and it has revolutionized my life. I have REAL coffee every morning and I use this brand a friend recommended and then there is Akha Ama Coffee…Bring one over when you come back!!! It's easy peasy. Oh, and Cheez-its too please. For me. Only me 🙂


  8. So did you find the witch hazel in cuenca? I tried to find it in Chiang Mai but it does not seem to exist in Thailand. Back in the US today I can find it easily.


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