Hello from the rainy California.
We are indeed back. I’m suffering a bad case of jet lag, having gone to bed around 11 p.m. last night to wake up at at 1 a.m. and take a nap from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We’ll see if I could go back to bed at the usual time and wake up tomorrow morning.
A little more on what we did on the trip. More details now that I have more time to write. And the eternity of internet connection!
We were up early, so we joined mom for a round of shopping at Lalai Saap, a tiny stretch of street and a few indoor bazaar areas literally mean “dissolve the wealth”, on Silom Road. Mom and I did some damage shopping there. Got more shoes than Emelda Marcos, and 2 wonderful dresses to go to weddings next year. And some local fruits for Brandon to try. Mom called on her friend Aunty Suparb, whose Lexus SUV has an executive parking spot at the Bangkok Bank, next to Lalai Saap, for lunch. We dined a luxuary Chinese feast, and were driven home in the Lexus to our 1 p.m. appointment with Pann, the massage/nail lady. The rest of the day was just that, manicure and pedicure, and traditional Thai massage.
Joy came to pick me up in her company’s new luxuary van (with driver, of course) to go meet up with Tong, Sam (living in Australia, in town for work), and Sam’s holidaying Aussie hottie of a friend, Tim, at BED. BED is the hottest club in town for foreigners and elite (or “HiSo” in Thai lingo, for “high society”) younguns alike. Tuesday night is hip hop night with guest DJ. And DJ that night was so into his craft, so he spun some obscure/old school stuff no one had heard of instead of Top 20 or something Thai people would know. It could’ve been more fun. But us girls were too busy eating and catching up and marveling at Tim’s hotness too much to care. Poor Tim. The only boy in the posse. Brandon was supposed to come with us but he was out of it after a nice and relaxing massage. Sam and Tim left our gang briefly before the place started to really get it going…even to those mundane tunes, Tong, Joy, and I still had a blast getting jiggy with it. I got home almost at midnight.
Second round of dentist appointment for Brandon. Mom and I waited until the mall next door, Amarin Plaza, opens, then we were off getting our hair cut while waiting to get my eye exam for new glasses. We went back to pick up Brandon and we had lunch at the mall.
We caught a taxi out to Jim Thompson’s house. JT was an American silk king, fell in love with the SE Asian cultures esp. Thailand, built a great big Thai style home, and later on in life, disappeared into the Indonesian jungle. We caught the BTS train back. Brandon and I went of separately to Central again to buy Brandon a few more books. Dude has gone through the 3 books he bought like they were nothing. We didn’t do too much for the rest of the day.
*Addition* Bah! How could I have forgotten Wednesday night!
Remember the hunky Aussie Tim from Tuesday night? Well, Tim was in Bangkok for a few days and haven’t really gone anywhere. So Sam and I plotted to have Tim and Brandon roam around the infamous red light district Patpong while she and I shopped the night bazaar on the same street. The plan worked out wonderfully. The boys went up to see the “ping pong show”…which according to both of them, something they didn’t really need to see in their life times. And according to Brandon, “So, I found out where the ugly fat Thai chicks go to hide”. The boys lasted about 15 minutes–enough time for Tim to finish his beer–in the hidden room upstairs before running for their lives down to the comfort of the good ol’ go-go bar. An hour later, after Sam and I had exhausted ourselves shopping and bargaining, we called the boys out from hiding. Tim and Brandon were just ready to leave…and somehow in desperate need of a shower. Good times!
We were just finishing up breakfast with Aunty Suparp came to the house to take us to lunch with the rest of the aunties. Aunty Aor joined us at the house a little later, and the gang packed into the Lexus and off to the Royal Bangkok Sports Club for lunch.
There we met with Aunty Pu, Aunty Jim, and Aunty Rae, for an international buffet feast with an awesome view of the race track and golf course of the RBSC. The restaurant is in their newly added wing, a new plan to renovate and modernize the old, snooty/stuffy self.
After lunch, our gang packed back into the Lexus to get dropped off at the Temple of Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace while the 2 aunties go shopping down in Old Town for a few hours. Unfortunately, the Grand Palace was off limit because the royal guests, Prince of Norway and his entourage, had taken up residence there. Fortunately, we got to go and pay our visit to the Emerald Buddha for free. (Well, usually free for Thais, a few hundred bahts for foreigners.) While waiting for our charriot to arrive, mom sent us running to pray at the City’s Foudation Column. (Saan Lahk Mueng). When the city was built, this column was erected as the foundation of the city. We risked our limbs crossing the road to get back in the car. The police were waving the cars through, as we found out, because the royal motorcade was coming through.
Suddenly, I developed a case of Norway hatred.
We got back in time to get cleaned up and go to dinner with my dad, my brother Ake and his girlfriend, at the RBSC Polo Club, the sister club to the RBSC. We did have turkey for Thanksgiving after all! We waited around after dinner for dad’s friend Ray to join us. Ray, the dean of architecture school at the University of Hawaii, was in town earlier that evening for some family business, so he was coming to join us for dinner. He didn’t make it there until dessert. And he rode with us to the hospital as my dad’s throat was getting sore and he was going on the trip to Dubai the next day. An odd way to spend time with your friend I dare say, but it was a good time. We dropped Ray off at a BTS SkyTrain station.
Another round of dentist appointment for Brandon. With mom, we did a walking tour through Gaysorn Plaza, THE high end mall with Louis Vitton, Prada, Channel, and what not, then to Central World Plaza (formerly the World Trade Center), and back to the Thai handicraft mall, Narai Phan. We had to send Brandon away, of course, to go make our bargains at the wholesale bazaar on the underground level of Narai Phan, and we scored a few items.
After this point in time, Brandon has learned the way to shop at these bazaars. Having him around will definitely drive up the price. So he mastered the art of hanging behind or running ahead, and catching up with us later to tell us what he wanted and mom would go back to get it.
We returned home to have lunch with my dad and sending him off on his business trip to Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and on to survey a possible site for a new project in Djibouti, a small French colony African nation on the mouth of the Red Sea.
Off we went to Chiang Mai. We were picked up by Nohm who is the husband of Kam Lah, Aunty Aor’s housekeeper in Chiang Dao. Both of them take care of Aunty Aor’s mountain hideaway. We first headed up the mountain to Doi Suthep (mount Suthep), and the famous Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the golden temple atop the mountain. As featured in Rambo III. While mom waited down at the market place with Nohm, Brandon and I hiked up the stairs to the top the way the folks do as a pilgrimage to the Wat, pausing for picture with mountain tribal girls and for some breaths along the way. Same thing on the way down. A monk blessed us with holy water, and tied blessed strings on our wrists in one of the chapels.
After than Nohm took us on a Wat (temple) tour. We marveled at the ancient Wat Suan Dok, and were blessed again at Wat Phra Singha. We had lunch at an authentic German restaurant. Authentic as in a German owner said Sawadee to us and headed to the kitchen to cook lunch and brought us unfiltered beer. Yum! Then we were off to the mountain retreat in Chiang Dao.
On the way to Chiang Dao, we stopped at the amazing newly built Wat Baan Denn, and trekked through the tunnel to the 200 years old sleeping buddha image at Wat Tumm Chiang Dao. Aunty Aor’s house is more of a compound of 6-7 small buildings. 2 houses of the other aunties, one of Aunty Aor and one for the guests, one of the housekeepers, and one of the open air all purpose area they use as party central. We went to the house to relax for a while, then busted out our sweatshirts to have dinner. It did get cold up in the hills.
The restaurant is just a little shack at a small operation bangalow-and-breakfast. The owner is an American with a Thai wife. The wife has attended a culinary institute while in the US. The food is usually western fair with the ever changing menu on a blackboard according to what the chef feels like cooking today. It was so home made we had to wait about 20 minutes while someone was out in town getting a second tank of propane. Meanwhile we were thoroughly entertained by the owners’ cat hunting the small, white geckos (“jing jok” in Thai), and the chocolate lab who likes to lay down by diners’ feet.
Brandon and I didn’t hear my mom’s first 2 tries at waking us up at sunrise to go feed the monks. At dawn, the monks trek down from their temples to go through town with their alm bowls. As a way to make good karma, people give food to the monks, and that was what we had planned to do…except for the fact that we were a little late waking up. So after the first few monks, we hopped back in the car and chased the monks down on the way to town and all the way in town. We came back to a great homemade breakfast ourselves.
We didn’t get to enjoy the house too much as we rushed off to the Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center for the elephant show. We left before we got to ride the elephants. Brandon didn’t want to do it, and neither did mom. On the way down from the hills, we visited the Mae Sah Waterfalls. Of 11 levels, we only gotten to 4 because Brandon wasn’t doing too hot. He felt as if he was coming down with a cold, or something worse, as it turned out, he was just dehydrated and exhausted. We stopped at Pong Yaeng Resort for lunch, and then headed to town and checked into the Royal Princess Hotel. Brandon crashed out for the evening. Mom and I went out to enjoy shopping at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and scored more loots.
Mom’s birthday. We were up and went down to international breakfast buffet. What a feast! We packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. Nohm picked us up and we headed out to Sahn Kampang village, where they make paper umbrellas and other handicrafts. We didn’t get to see the umbrellas being made, but we saw some magnificent paintings on gigantic silk fans on display for sale, and other wonderful creations. Then we went to another village, Baan Tawai, where the woodworks are world famous. Hidden in the Baan Tawai bazaar is a handmade jewelry store with their silversmiths demonstrating how they create their works right outside. Awesome craftsmanship.
Still have time to kill, we swung into Viang Kum Kaam, a recently discovered ancient city. We bought the tram ride (paid for 5 people instead of waiting to have 15 people for the regular priced tickets) with a Thai tour guide. Mom asked an Australian tourist and his Thai girlfriend to join us, and I did the translation for Brandon and the Aussie. (BTW – The Aussie doesn’t speak Thai and his girlfriend doesn’t speak English. Twice a day they’d call up her friend to translate for them. What a relationship!)
Viang Kum Kaam was built over 700 years ago by King Meng Rai, the King of the ancient northern Thailand. It was flooded every year for 10 years before the King moved the capital over to Chiang Mai and left VKK behind. VKK later on was occupied by the Burmese, but they too gave up the city because of the flood. The city suffered one last big flood and mudslide, and it was left abandoned until people started to settle on top of it later on. The first ruin was found accidently as one of the temple was digging foundation for a school about 30 years ago. The real efforts to dig up the whole town and to renovate it hasn’t really gotten underway until about 4 years ago. They have found about 28 remnants of temples in an about 59 sq. km. so far and they’re not done yet.
After the Viang, we went to the Central Chiang Mai Airport mall to have lunch and to kill time until our late flight. And we ran into the Aussie and his girlfriend again! Hahah. Nohm dropped us off 3 hours prior to flight so he could head back up the hills before it gets dark. We sat around until our flight time, it sprinkled while we taxied out, and before we knew it we were home.
Aunty Suparp and Aunty Aor struck again. They picked us up to go to lunch at a fancy Japanese restaurant which happened to have all-you-can-eat lunch. After that Aunty Aor led mom, Brandon, and I through Fortune I.T. Mall for some really “cheap” softwares and DVDs. Good to know the pirates are alive and well in some certain sanctioned places in the city while there are reports of other counterfeiters getting caught and punished in the papers every other day. Anyways, we are not complaining!
When we came back from the mall, Brandon helped Aunty Aor installed her brand new legitimate virus scan program. And that was it for that day.
Daddy’s back from Dubai! Yey! We had breakfast with him, and hung out long enough to just head over to Brandon’s dental appointment. Aunty Aor picked us up from the dentist, and then picked up her laptop from the house. Brandon got a few hours of rest then we headed up on the BTS to Joy’s house at the edge of Bangkok. She picked us up at the station for dinner at her house with her husband, Ruj, and Tong and her boyfriend Gob.
Dinner was great! Joy’s house is awesome. Just over $120,000 for a 2-storey 5 bedrooms house (which Ruj turned one into the awesomest home theater with a digital projector and pull down screen and kick ass sound systems) plus the piece of property in a gated community. Huuuge house. And Joy has done a great job decorating the rooms. We were there so late that Gob had to drive us home in Tong’s brand new Mercedes. No traffic at that time of night anyway.
The evening put me into a slight depression considering I’m still living in an apartment scraping by while everyone seems to be going places with their degrees and money. *sigh*
We rose bright and early to go to Karnchanaburi with Aunty Aor and her friend Aunty Mary, a Thai expat from Austin, TX. We made a pit stop in Nakorn Pratom so Brandon could take a picture of the great Patom Chedi. Huuuuge chedi (pagoda) covered in orange tiles that glow golden at sunrise/sunset. Then we were off to the Allied Force Cemetary where they buried the bodies of POWs who perished building the Death Railway for the Japanese army, going from Thailand to Burma, and other soldiers.
Then we went to the big kahuna of WWII icon, the Bridge of the River Kwai itself. It happened to be that time of year that they set up the annual light-and-sound show so the bridge was covered in cables and other props. The light and sound shows are held at night with narration about the history of the Death Railway and the bridge, with actors running around, pyro effects, and fireworks. We also paid our visit to the war museum which turned out to be more of a tourist trap than anything else.
After waiting around for the aunties and mom to shop for some gem stones, we took a long breather at Aunty Aor’s house on the river which runs off from the dam nearby. We were there in time to see the river full of water. Beautiful wooded retreat reminded Brandon of his parents’ New Mexico home. There Brandon also bonded with the housekeeper’s dog, an almost full blooded traditional Thai hound named Gai Yang (means “Grilled chicken”…I think that was his favorite food or something.) Smart puppy that was playful but not hyperactive, just the right size, short haired, and cute as a button! If we were to have a dog, Brandon wants one of these. Haha.
Off we went in the car again to have Pad Thai for lunch, and then to make a drive to King Naraysuan the Great monument which marked the actual place where the King did an elephant battle against Burma and won our counrty back some hundred years ago. In the past, that battleground was mistakenly reported to be in the next province, Supanburi, where they built a grand monument marking the spot. In the past few years, the historians had found out that Supanburi had it wrong, but not to steal the glory from them, Kanchanaburi quietly built a monument honoring the King himself instead of the battle.
On the way back to Bangkok, Brandon got to feel the wrath of Bangkok’s traffic. It was the day that the new batch of Royal Guards swearing in. They marched through the square outside the throne hall for the royal family, and for the King to inspect. This event, plus the motorcades, caused the jam all over the city even before 5 p.m. rush hour. We were on the road for 3 hours where it took us an hour to go through earlier in the morning, an hour late to dinner with my dad and the aunties.
Brandon scored at the dinner. We snaked in our credit card to pay for the seafood feast with all the aunties from RBSC lunch (except Aunty Pu), plus Aunty Mary and my dad. All for less than $150. The aunties weren’t too happy about that. Hehe.
Then dad and mom took us on another road trip around the city at 9 p.m. to see the lights down at the Grand Palace, down Thai version of Champs Elyse, and outside the Throne Hall. The lights and decorations are up for the King’s birthday on the 5th. It was awesome.
Final appointment at the dentist for Brandon. I was packing the rest of the day while Brandon worked on dad’s laptop and the office computer. We had dinner with dad. And dad and I shared a bottle of wine through out the evening (mom was gone after a few sips). The 3 of us chatted well around midnight before Brandon and I headed back to the condo. Not enough time to spend with dad this trip around. Too much work for my old man.
Off to the airport. Aunty Aor sent her driver and CR-V to pick us up because of all the luggage. Our airport connection took my parents inside the departure area of the terminal (not to the gate). Aunty Pu scored for us the tickets to the EVA airline executive lounge so we sat and chat there until 11 or so. Dad has a noon meeting, and our airport guy was here on a Saturday so we wanted to get him home too. We parted way. I didn’t cry then (but on the plane though). Brandon and I stocked up on Oishi green tea (should’ve done it outside the airport. Usually B15 was B60 in the terminal!), and got on the plane.
Even with an hour delay from Bangkok which dominoed to the flight from Taipei to LA as well, and some shananigan at the airport, we got back home safely…and on the TV was USC v.s. fucla at 11 minutes left in 4th quarter.
Thank you god!