TLDR: All of 2020 costed us approximately $23,000 USD each, our bird cam brings all the birds to the stoop, the riot at the US Capitol was an appalling start to the year, the COVID spike in Bangkok has been abating locally, the air quality was hazardous, we spent most of January inside, we were gifted a ton of tea, celebrated Chinese New Year, Jyn is a knitting machine, I am taking Thai Reading and Writing level 2, I am a certified freediver, Jyn is anti-frizzing her hair with gorgeous Thai silk, and we did 38 fun/borderline ridiculous things on my 38th birthday.
2021 is Here!
Welcome to 2021! We are super excited that 2021 is here. It can’t be as bad as 2020… And then a bunch of whack-a-doodles stormed into the US Capitol on day 6 of the new year. Hopefully justice will find ALL of them, including the ones who are/were part of the government. Such a disappointment.
Holy Awful Air Quality Batman
On a lighter note… Thankfully, the COVID-19 case numbers in Bangkok are dropping to acceptable levels and restrictions are easing again. Unfortunately, it is the burning season and the air quality is actually hazardous. We have avoided going outside most days. The skies are smoggy gray with pollution. Buildings in the distance have seemingly disappeared. The PM 2.5 count has been as high as 403! For perspective, the PM 2.5 particle count in downtown Los Angeles is ~60-70. To improve our personal air quality, we bought a HEPA air purifier for our apartment, and it helps (we measured). Now, we wear 2 masks when we go outside (one N95 mask and one other for “style”). Geez!
Total Cost for ALL of 2020 (2.5 months of traveling and 9.5 months of living in Thailand)
After crunching the numbers, all of 2020’s expenses costed ~$23,000 USD each (less than $2000 per month)! It’s hard to believe, but given that we have spent most of our time in Thailand during a pandemic, it is more understandable. According to the Backpacker’s Index, living in Thailand should cost ~35% of what it costs to live in Los Angeles ($29 per day vs $84 per day). The Backpacker’s Index ratio is pretty close to reality (within 5% for me!). In LA, I averaged ~$133 of expenses per day. In Thailand, we averaged around $52 per day each (includes everything, even a year of good health insurance). We are not trying to be particularly frugal, but we are mindful of frivolous spending. At $52 per day, you can have a comfortable life in Bangkok. Note: The average Thai salary is about $500-$700 per month.
For the entire year (all countries), we averaged ~$62 per day, per person. Monthly, per person, that roughly breaks down into…
How did we average ~$47 per month on tea/coffee? Have a look at this pile-o-tea to start the year. Gifts from family abroad, mostly.
She is a Knitting Machine
Jyn has been knitting a bunch and is about to run out of closet space. She, basically, completed six items in January alone, including making a sweater in one day! Some pictures below.
Freediving has Officially Started (Spoiler Alert: Not Free)
I am in the process of becoming a certified advanced or master freediver. So far, I have completed regular freediving certification and was the only person (that they know of) who held their breath over 5 minutes for the regular certification class. At my open water “final exam”, I went 20 meters deep (~66 feet) and only stopped because that was the bottom. After 1-2 more levels of certification (probably ~1-2 months away), I will surpass my goal of diving to 100 feet deep on a single breath and diving with a whale shark. I can already hold my breath well beyond the time required for 100 feet, my equalizing is adequate, and my technique is okay, but getting certified ensures that I can do it safely. Side Note: Jyn watches over me as I train at the apartment pool to make sure I don’t die.
Celebrating my Lap Around the Sun
For my birthday, the COVID restrictions were still impacting our plans so we came up an alternative. Instead of traveling far, we stayed local and did 38 fun things. This was a very fun busy 24 hours. What are those 38 fun things? I am glad you asked. Here they are…
- Start birthday on the right foot (literally, at midnight, standing on my right foot)
2. See the sunrise and the sunset
3. Bring ID and try to get free perks throughout the day (worked a couple times)
4. Breakfast at fancy place next door
5. Write Bangkok’s full name in Thai (it took me over 20 minutes because the name is over 100 letters long, and in Thai)
6. Buy cheese to have our own cheese night party
7. Buy something for a stranger (I purchased a Coco tea for a little girl and her guardian)
8. Have the delicious donuts that we pass frequently
9. Do a 15-minute guided meditation
10. Photoshoot fun
11. Pet cute animals
12. Pick up trash
13. Send postcard (now that we can send them again)
14. Walk over 15000 steps (did >21000)
15. Buy self gift(s) (bought Thai spoons)
16. Get blended coconut (my favorite. I did. Twice.)
17. Have a kakigori dessert
18. Read a chapter of a book (read a chapter of “What If?” and “Life of Basil” (in Spanish))
19. Communicate only in Thai for at least one hour (went fairly smoothly, from my perspective)
20. Poop in a public restroom (not something I typically do-do)
21. Get my free birthday Sizzler meal (I am a gold card member haha true story)
22. Make an unusual birthday “cake” with candles (Had pickled mangos, salted egg chips, and Squidies. Not something I will repeat)
23. Try a new food (ate an Indian Gooseberry fruit)
24. Learn something new about Thai culture (learned about the various Sak Yant traditional tattoos)
25. Dance party for two (bachata in apartment)
26. Watch movie with local popcorn (Lupin on Netflix. Didn’t know it was an unfinished series. We need closure! But Mr.-Bop popcorn was delish)
27. Go to new place (explored top floor of Siam Center)
28. Watch traditional dance at the Erawan Shrine
29. Get prayer animals (Make a prayer/wish. If it comes true, you give the shrine an appropriate animal offering)
30. Use camera throughout the day
31. Perform longest breath hold attempt (broke 5 minutes!)
32. Do what I want all day (Donesky!)
33. Get Coco bubble tea
34. Try KFC crab (Well, this is a stretch. We tried. It is not available, but we received bewildered looks instead)
35. Talk to mom
36. Wear nice clothes (we did for a few minutes, but too hot to wear all day)
37. Update FB picture
38. List top 5 goals for 2021
Jyn and Thai Silk
Apparently, silk pillow cases are instrumental in reducing hair frizz. Thailand is filled with high quality silk fabric (and high humidity for extra-frizzy hair). So Chinda went searching for reasonably priced silk, starting at Jim Thompson. Jim Thompson, while well known, is also very expensive. Who knew that something that comes out of a worm’s mouth would be so valuable. But I digress… She found a a few great lengths of fabric in the area near Chinatown and has given them to a local tailor to turn into magical antifrizz pillow cases.
Mike in Reading and Writing Level 2
Back in August, Jyn and I started Thai school together. Since she could already speak, she took three months of reading and writing while I was learning to speak (I’m still learning). Now, I am one week into level 2 of reading and writing Thai, which requires significant time. I am back to zoom class for three hours each day followed by an additional three to four hours of studying per day. It is going fairly well overall and is definitely helping my pronunciation. I know all of the 44 Thai consonants, all 32 vowels/vowel combinations, and about 60% of the reading rules. It is strange to look at a paragraph and not recognize anything until I sound out the words. At the end of this month, I will have all of the tools to read/write/speak Thai and will complete the 300 hours of study requirement for my visa. Visa-vie, I should be able to stay until mid-August, if needed.
2 Months into 2021
After two months of 2021, things are pretty good here and seem to be improving around the world, including the US. We will continue brainstorming options for getting the COVID vaccines as soon as we can, which is the key for us to resume travel safely. It is a bit of a race against the clock as we have to finish our travels by the end of the year for our Round the World tickets. In the mean time, Jyn will knit and volunteer at the cat shelter and I will continue studying Thai/diving.