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Overheard in Bangkok

December 19, 2015

We’ve been living here for close to 3 weeks now, and it’s almost feeling like we can live here forever. We love the food the people and the affordability. Guess the only thing we aren’t really loving are the crazy Bangkok jams, but hey, they didn’t call this amazing Thailand without them I am sure. This city has been so kind to us and we’ve had too many wonderful memories here, the funniest things ever said and heard (amongst ourselves) included.


Day 1

Ben: Why are there so pictures of this man?

Becks: What man?

Nat: The man wearing spectacles!

Ben: He’s everywhere! On buildings, on roads, on street sides and even inside shops!

Me: Erm, the Thais call him king, kids!


Day 2

Ben: Why do they have a king and we don’t?

Becks: We have! Mr Lee Kuan Yew, remember?

Me: -_-

(I had to explain constitutional monarchy and democracy to the kids, but I don’t think I did a very good job. Anyone wants to volunteer?)


Day 9, at Platinum Mall

Me: Ok, today’s shopping day so we’re going to be shopping non stop. Every floor has something for us to explore. I will need to get a lot of things.

Ben: Yes, like my pants. I have no more pants.

Nat: And my socks! And t-shirts!

Becks: And a hat! I want a hat.

Me: Ok, great! Let’s go.

Minutes later, after a few dizzying rounds of going up the escalator to find the food hall (which meant we saw what every floor of the mall had to offer)…

Becks: Mama…

Me: Yes?

Becks: I have only one wish.

Ben: What? Change your mind again?

Me: You want to buy dresses, is it? You must have seen enough Frozen dresses to last you a lifetime?

Becks: No…

Ben: You want shoes, is it?

Becks: No…

Me: Scrunchie?

Becks: My wish is to have a tiara. So I can be a princess!

Me and Ben: -_-

Wearing the tiara every day

Wearing the tiara every day


Day 12, at Asiatique in the day, walking past Juliet’s Garden

Me: This is what we visited in Verona when we were in Italy, kids.

Ben: Who’s she?

Me: Juliet. Well, we were told in Verona that when we rub Juliet’s left breast, we will find love and good luck.

Becks: What? We need to touch her left BRA????

Us: -_-

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

Verona's Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Verona’s Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet's Garden Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet’s Garden
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?


Day 13, at Bangkok Railway Train Night Market

Me: I finally found it after searching for so long!

Ben: What?

Me: Good ol’ entertainment for 20 baht!

Ben, Becks, Nat: YAY! We have iPhones!

Me: We call it the Blackberry.

Ben: Ok, mine is.

Becks: Mine’s pink berry!

Nat: And mine’s green berry!

Me: -_-

New "phone"!

New “phone”!

Nat's new Greenberry

Nat’s new Greenberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Becks and her Pinkberry

Becks and her Pinkberry


Day 14

Becks: See, I have an iPhone and I can play iPhone games.

Me: Yes, that’s right. Best ever.

Becks: And I can even take selfie!

Me: -_-

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive


More ‘Overheard in Bangkok’ coming your way soon. Till then, here’s the reason we are here, and how we are eating like the locals.

Becks Kao Milestones and growing up

Words of gold, Becks Kao style

November 13, 2015

At bedtime one night…

Me: Oh, it’s Dada’s turn to read you all a story.

Becks: Ok, I’ll choose a book and ask Dad.

Minutes later…

Nat: Erm, Mom… Dad says he will read it tomorrow. He’s tired.

Becks: Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Always saying tomorrow.

Me: -_-


One afternoon…

Me: Let’s go through some words today, Becks. Let me look at your worksheets from enrichment class.

Becks: Erm, maybe next time?

Me: Next time, next time, I may not be free next time.

Becks: Then you make time, ok!

Me: -_-


At bedtime, some nights ago…

(Becks makes it a point to spread everyone’s blanket at bedtime, like a turning in service she provides. I know, she’s such a sweet soul.)

Fatherkao: Becks, are you going to spread my blanket tonight?

Becks: (clearly in the midst of something else) You got to learn some patience, ok!


Becks, the sweetest, loveliest thing that happened in our lives

Becks, the sweetest, loveliest thing that happened in our lives

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Settled and happy

October 15, 2015

It’s been past a month since we’ve moved, and everyone is settling in our new place quite well. It’s now really cosy (hurhurhur, smaller, that it), and because we’ve spent a bomb on carpentry to stow and tuck things away and created a wooden, earthy feel to the new home, it very much feels more like HOME than ever.

And it’s great – so, so, very great – to be living near amenities again! Oh, the happiness to find a taxi stand 2 minutes away; the MRT station – fully airconditioned – 5 minutes away; cafes, restaurants, coffee joints, ATMs and even an ice creamery in our vicinity just a stone’s throw; and to be living near cheap and good hawker fare where we find good ol’ local folks take pride in the food they make that it’s almost a guarantee to have to queue for my bak chor mee, lor mee, kway chap, lei cha fan and carrot cake at lunch time and breakfast on weekends (which I’m really not complaining to be eating at $2.50 a meal). I now can proudly say that a 24-hour Fairprice is behind me and a 24-hour Cold Storage is in front of me, and that I will never have to rummage the larder for a snack or a cup of ramyeon ever again.

We’ve been spending our weekends exploring the ‘hood and just scooting to places. The Kao kids are all too thrilled to be on their kickscooters and bicycles doing that. I am happiest with good food, having zi char one day, claypot rice the next, and then get thrilled by the thought of Nakhon Thai near me, as well as Gastronomia, Crystal Jade and Baker & Cook, and there’s also Phoon Huat (my favourite Red Man), and being next to a community centre (where in the past I am near nowhere and every where we went we had to drive) where my kids can finally enjoy the good ol’ PA courses at less-than-a-hundred-bucks-a-term and play at an indoor basketball court for free. It gives a whole new meaning to being in the heartlands.

Keep guessing where.

Ben tells me he misses the northeast where we used to live, and to be frank, I miss the prata and teh tahriks at Jalan Kayu and to be able to buy my eggs from the wholesaler at $5.50 for a tray of 30. Not forgetting the ribs at Jerry’s and the bak kut teh and chilling out at Cedele’s at Greenwich V. But then I discovered the gem of the wet market that’s only 50 steps away from me selling eggs cheap too and even baked wares like tarts and pies and steamed baos and I quickly stopped reminiscing the quaintness that’s in Jalan Kayu and started seeing my new neighbourhood with a renewed sense of hope.

House-moving was previously dreaded for the unknown, but I think I am one happy gal post-move.

More importantly, we’ve hit a milestone in this family – sourcing, renovating, packing, relocating – and adjusted to the move as one. No tears. No ‘I wished we were back there’. No regrets. And this new place feels more homely than ever, because the family has become tighter making this move, and that’s all that really matters.

This Family

P/S: One of the best things about this move was that we de-cluttered. Like MAD. It’s like a good detox on a whole new level. We’ve never felt lighter and better.

Becks Kao Fatherkao writes

daddy’s girl at last

July 30, 2015

Blog-01-Pic (1)

Once upon a time, God sent an angel down.

She had the sweetest smile and her father’s heart stirred.

The closest of angels whispered she was sure to be her daddy’s little girl.

But her father said, “I have two other children and love must be fair.”

Blog-01-Pic (2) Months passed and she grew strong and well.

She had the strongest of spirit and her father’s heart stirred.

The closest of family whispered she was sure to be her daddy’s little girl.

But her father said, “I have two other children and love must be fair.”

Blog-01-Pic (3)

 Years passed and she grew pretty and sensitive.

She had the most beautiful of hearts and her father’s heart stirred.

The closest of friends whispered she was sure to be her daddy’s little girl.

But her father said, “I have two other children and love must be fair.”

Blog-01-Pic (4)One day, when her father was asleep, she snuck onto the bed and lay next to him.

When he woke, she turned and smiled at him and her father’s heart melted.

God whispered she was sure to be her daddy’s little girl.

And her father finally said , “I only have one daughter and love will never be fair.”


 To all fathers, who have succumbed…

Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up Nat Kao The darndest kid quotes and antics

My littlest, 3 years, 4 months

June 30, 2015

Nat Kao_3years4months

Someone’s got a pretty good brain that’s been doing lots of quick thinking lately, not to mention the really glib tongue.

Someone who’s just barely turned three.

Someone who’s the apple of my eye.


Me: So Nat, shall we skip the diaper today?

Nat: Yes! Gimme my monster underwear!

Me: Remember to go pass urine in the toilet bowl, k. You have no diaper on.

Nat: Ok, I am a big boy now!

A while later, a yellow pool floods the sofa …

Ben: Ewwwww! Nat passed urine!!!!

Becks: (running away) Yucks! Nat passed urine!

Me: (running to the sofa) Oh no, Nat! Thought you said you would go to the toilet? Haiyah!

Nat: Haiyah! Why you didn’t wear diapers for me?

Me: -_-


Fatherkao: Who wrapped masking tape on the blind’s string? It’s all so sticky now!

Kao kids: (silence)

Fatherkao: Better own up now, whoever did it.

Nat: Dada, maybe the lizard did it?


Nat: Mama!

Me: Yes, my dear Nathanael?

A while later…

Me: Nat Nat!

Nat: Yes, my dear Elizabeth?


At the USS Gift Store

Me: Nat, check out your favourite fruit.

Nat: Come on, everyone, let’s do it!

Kao kids: Ba-ba-ba-ba-bu-na-na!


Banana Kao Kids

(Self) Examination Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Mommy guilt

Great expectations

April 19, 2015

Being the firstborn almost always automatically means that there are more expectations of you than your siblings.

You are expected to share.

To be obedient.

To set an example.

To be sensible.

To understand.

At least that’s what I went through as a firstborn. And it’s something I have unconsciously put my firstborn through.

Six seems to be the age of meltdowns, emo-ing and lots of scowls. I get these almost on an hourly basis with my firstborn who turned six earlier this year.

He gets hurt easily by unkind words yet sometimes say the unkindest things without realising it; he polices everyone around with that tremendous sense of right and wrong; he balks at injustice and asks the most existential questions. He’s growing from baby thoughts and talk to being a boy, and is beginning to develop a personality and flair of his own, complete with warts and quirks.

And sometimes this mother is many steps behind in understanding what is happening to the child she first rocked in her arms.

Tonight I received a timely reminder to grow and change as my firstborn grows and changes.


It was time for bed. Our bedtime routine usually consists of a bedtime story before tuck in. Ben asked me while I was brushing my teeth if we could have one. I mentioned I was quite tired and joked, “Hey, why don’t YOU read us one?”

Excited at the thought, he went to choose a book – 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (for the tenth time now, maybe) – and waved it at me. To his disappointment, his sister had fallen asleep and Nat has chosen another story and refused to listen to any more of 10 Little Rubber Ducks again.

I tried to get the brothers to compromise. Look, let me take you all to Paris with Everybody Bonjours and then in the morning, when Becks is awake, Korkor can read ALL OF US his Ten Little Rubber Ducks! Nat was pleased but my eldest was starting to sulk.

By the time I finished reading Everybody Bonjours and declared it was time for bed, I had a full meltdown from a certain somebody. There was a scowl on his face, a high pitched ‘I DON”T WANT TO SLEEP, I WANT TO REAAADDDD, PULEEAASSEE…’, complete with some foot stamping.

That was when I lost it.

This is what happens every day. Things don’t go your way and you throw a tantrum. You don’t get to go somewhere, you whine. You don’t get to buy something, you whine. What happened to my sensible boy, my eldest child, who’s older than everyone else and should be able to understand things more? Why can’t you just try to see what I’m getting you to see? Your sister is left out here and she hasn’t had her story. And it’s 9 and it’s bedtime. Just understand that, say, ‘Yes, Mama’ and go to sleep. Simple, right? We can do a story tomorrow, with all of us, that’s fair, isn’t it? Why can’t you just listen and understand? Why can’t you just behave like a six year old should?  

And then there was the sound of silence and gentle sobbing under the blanket.

Was I being too harsh? Every child would want a gazillion stories at bedtime, but if we can’t, we just can’t, right?

Wrong. I was so wrong.

I asked Ben who was sobbing under his covers to get up and talk to me.

Me: Tell me, why was it so important that YOU had to read the story tonight and not tomorrow that you had to throw a tantrum?

Ben: Nothing.

Me: Don’t tell me nothing. You never say nothing if you feel something. Please think about it and tell me.

– Silence –

Me: Please, tell me. Don’t keep things inside you.

Ben: I wanted to show you love, Mama. I wanted to read to you to show you love.

Me: (I am choking by now) You wanted to show me love by reading me a book?

Ben: (in between sobs) I don’t know what else to do to show you I love you.


I held my firstborn close tonight. And after he fell asleep, I cried.

Because I was a fool of a mom to be always correcting behaviour but never tuning in to my child’s heartbeat, never once sensitising myself to his feelings as he grows.

Because I am doing what I’ve always known to do as I’ve been raised, never once stopping to listen to what my son is really telling me, always just expecting him to be the one that understands.

I’m the one that needs to understand tonight. That my firstborn’s heart is searching for ways to love his mother as he realises he is no longer that baby in her arms. That when I do peel away all the layers of tantrums and meltdowns, I see a child growing up because he is beginning to understand that love is no longer taking but giving of himself.


Post Script: 

Me: I’m sorry that I’m the one not understanding things. I’m really sorry.

Ben: It’s ok, Mama. (kisses me on the cheek)

Family life as we know it Happy days Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Birthday ramblings

April 2, 2015

I turn a year older today, and as usual, birthdays put me in a pensive mode.

Turning a year older when you were younger was always an exciting affair. Who’ll remember my birthday? Am I going to get cake? Oooh, presents! Oh yes, party! Let the feasting begin!

But turning a year older when you are now older always makes you think about where you are in life, what you have done these few decades you’ve been living on earth, and how do you move on and age better from here.

At least that’s what I think about.

I take stock of the time I have wasted being immature and willful. I remind myself that I can improve as a human being and be better – in and at where I am. I tell myself that I am now 34, and for crying out loud, not 14 or 24 any more, and I’ve got to take responsibility for the words I say, the emotions I feel and the choices I have made. Which mostly means I need to lower my expectations when it comes to mothering my children, and increase the expectations I have of myself being a better mate, a better colleague, a better friend, a better daughter and a better human being.

Because time gets more precious from this point forward.

And most of all, on birthdays, I take some time making wishes. And every year, I wish for more of God and less of strife; more of plenty and less of lack; more of love and laughter in my home and heart; and to live for others more than myself.

I have done nothing to deserve this, but this year, I’ve received some of the best presents I ever had all the three decades of my life put together.

Happy Birthday to Mama, Becks says, and she drew me like 5 of these girls on a card,"because that's you, Mama!".

Happy Birthday to Mama, Becks says, and she drew me like 5 of these girls on a card,”because that’s you, Mama!”.

Ben writes me many sweet notes, while Nat draws me eggs (his favourite shape right now)

Ben writes me many sweet notes, while Nat draws me eggs (his favourite shape right now)

My three-year-old and his 'ovals'

My three-year-old and his ‘ovals’

My coolest present ever: cards from my eldest son which I can use to redeem free hugs, kisses, hugs AND kisses, drawings, and check-this-out - free money!

My coolest present ever: cards from my eldest son which I can use to redeem free hugs, kisses, hugs AND kisses, drawings, and check-this-out – free money!

Milestones and growing up Nat Kao What to Expect... As a Mother

Terrible Twos, delayed

March 8, 2015

It’s finally here.

I had thought this was a child who would breeze through toddlerhood with a wonderfully perfect disposition and personality. He was cute, endearing, charming and affectionate at one and for a good part of the second year. He ate when it was time to, slept when it was time to, and although there was the occasional tug-of-war when it came to the battling of wills, it was usually easy to distract him and win each battle.

Until now.

Nat, my littlest, has got his Terrible Twos way, way delayed. And man, am I so exhausted now having to deal with the hugest streak of stubbornness yet. Cos’ even Ben and Becks weren’t like that.

Think sitting on ground (any ground – wet, muddy, flat, hilly) kicking his slippers off his feet and throwing the hissiest of fits. Think grabbing onto your leg and not letting you budge an inch when you refuse to do what he wants. Think shouting into your face and pinching you with all the might his little fingers can muster until he gets his way. And throwing things out and away when he doesn’t want them, screaming the moment you start scolding him and creating a scene everywhere  – at home, at  restaurants, inside the wet market, on the escalators of shopping malls, in the carpark – when he is that mood.

Yep, that’s what we’re looking at now. A three-year-old who’s testing every boundary, challenging authority and showing us what he’s made of.

Someone's throwing a tantrum here because he wants to go swimming but it's time to go to school

Someone’s throwing a tantrum here because he wants to go swimming but it’s time to go to school

I do now know. Nat’s personality, that is. Much is revealed when every child goes through this stage – what kind of a person he is when he’s tired, stressed, hungry, bullied, which is a pretty accurate gauge of the personality he would possess when he’s older.

He’s one helluva feisty, persistent and obstinate boy, I tell you.

Every day he needs to be with his scooter. And we have to lug it everywhere for him, or risk a meltdown

Every day he needs to be with his scooter. And we have to lug it everywhere for him, or risk a meltdown

But even so, there are moments of tenderness. He is quick to apologise and move on, and clever enough to use his charm to sweetly ask for things and plead with you. He’s extremely intelligent and would use all that wit to say something silly to make you laugh in your anger. And he would cry the piteous of cries, complete with those tears flowing freely.

Charming pose #14567

Charming pose #14567

Nat Kao_TT_04

Showing you the contents of his mouth so he can laugh when you feel grossed out!

Nat Kao_TT_03

Giving his cheeriest grin because he is eating his favourite… EGG!

Nat Kao_TT_07

And another charming smile with those huge eyes

Ah, Nat…

This boy’s just turned three and it looks like I am not seeing the end of the tunnel yet. So I’m going to be brainwashing myself with the “this too shall pass” chant a great deal to soldier on in this delayed phase of the Terribles.


And this post is going to end with this photo, which pretty much sums up my life right now, with him.

Nat Kao_TT_05

At the count of three, he decided to grab my hair! Oh well, gong xi fa cai!

Ben Kao Getting all sentimental now Happy days Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids


February 26, 2015

My firstborn occupies a special place in my heart.

He is creative, spontaneous, imaginative and curious.

He is sensible, kind-hearted, and always eager to learn and help.

For the longest time ever, I have yet to handle a meltdown or a tantrum from him. He understands and listens to reason, and always chooses to love and obey. He is affectionate all the time and hardly has a mean word for anyone.

Yet these are not the reasons why I love him so.

This boy was my very first. The very first baby I carried in my womb for 38 weeks. The very first human being I held in my arms to say, “Hello, I’m your Mama.” The very first person that my world has known that was flesh and blood.

I love him so because … just because.

He’s mine, that’s why.

Ben turns 6 today, and I am giving thanks for all these beautiful years of having him as mine.

Ben's 6th_1

Ben's 6th_2

Ben's 6th_3

Ben's 6th_4

Happy Birthday, Son! You’ll always have that special first place in my heart.

Ben at 6

(Self) Examination Happy days Milestones and growing up The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids

A lesson on beauty my children taught me

February 20, 2015

When there’s Chinese New Year, there’s always Miss Universe.

On free-to-air TV, that is.

I don’t know if anyone has realised this, but for the longest time, I’ve always caught snippets of this beauty pageant on Chinese New Year, since I was a kid.

Yesterday afternoon, after an exhausting stint of going from northeast to central to northwest and back to northeast of Singapore (also known as Chinese New Year obligations visitations), we went home to rest for the evening and I told the kids that the free-to-air channels sometimes show really hilarious Chinese movies about mahjong and kungfu during Chinese New Year.

We were curious, so we started flipping channels. And that was when we met the five finalists of the Miss Universe pageant.

Miss Universe 2015

Me: Ukraine. Miss Ukraine. She looks so perfect, like a Barbie doll.

Becks: Yucks. She’s not pretty at all.

Me: I don’t think we can even use the word ‘pretty’ to describe these women. They are beautiful. Oh, look! Miss Jamaica! Beautiful?

Ben, Becks and Nat: (in unison) No, not beautiful.

Me: How about Miss USA?

Ben: No lah, not beautiful.

Me: Miss Colombia? Oh my gosh, her teeth are so white. My goodness, such gorgeous curls.

Ben: Eeee…Why this girl doesn’t tie up her hair? So messy.

Me: Oh man, Miss Netherlands. Beautiful, right, Nat?

Nat: No. Not beautiful at all.

Me: Ok, guys, seriously. If you can’t call these women beautiful, I don’t know who you can call beautiful. These are the best in our world, you know. That’s why there’s this thing called beauty pageant. Tell me then, who is beautiful to you?

Ben, Becks and Nat: (in unison) YOU, Mama! YOU are beautiful.

Me: *speechless*


How pure the worlds of children. We all started grasping our idea of beauty through the people we love, until the media and our society defines what beauty is for us.

Last evening, I wore an invisible crown in the comfort of our home. No pageant, no competition, no gruelling Q and A, no swimsuit parade.

Just a simple declaration from the mouths of babes.

That I am the most beautiful in their universe.

Have an unbleatable Goat year, y'all! From the most beautiful mom to her kids and her three darlings

Have an unbleatable Goat year, y’all! From the most beautiful mom to her kids and her three darlings