Stickman Readers' Submissions February 19th, 2003

Thailand Trip Report

Anonymous Submission

After the 30-hour flight, I arrived in Bangkok at about 2:00 a.m. in the morning local time. I was finally able to find Thoy. Her sister had left a few hours earlier and headed back home, since it was getting so late. We went to the airport taxi service and paid a set fee for a ride out to Nakhon Pathom, a city about 30 miles west of downtown Bangkok. In hindsight, we probably could have done much better haggling outside for a freelance price. I think we paid about $35.00.

He Clinic Bangkok

Just as a bit of background, Thoy is my first true love. I met her about eight years ago after my divorce. She was born and raised in Thailand and came to the States when she was about 27 to help take care of an American couple’s children. She went to school at night, got her associates degree and is now a dental assistant with the state dental school.

She also worked some nights at Dang’s Restaurant, where I went for the monthly rock climbing meetings. I tried desperately to get up the nerve to ask her out. When I got home from the meeting in October, I started dialing up the restaurant, but hung up before it started to ring.

In December, I got a moment to talk to her and told her the last time I was there, I had forgotten something. She looked quizzically and asked what it was. I told her I had forgotten to tell her that I would love to take her to dinner. She looked up at the ceiling, rolled her eyes to the back of her head, like it was the dumbest thing she had ever heard, looked back at me and told me she would love to. She had been waiting patiently for me to ask her out for the last two months.

CBD bangkok

By the third date, I had not even gotten a kiss. I told her that I was a bit behind schedule, that usually I got a kiss at least on the second date. She told me I could kiss her hand. I told her I wouldn’t kiss her hand, though I might bite it. I finally got a kiss that night. And the rest is history.

Back to our trip to Thailand. Thoy is notoriously bad with directions, and I was getting increasing nervous when we arrived in Nakhon Pathom and she didn’t know exactly where to guide the taxi driver at about 3:30 a.m. But she pulled through and found her sister’s house. The long driveway to the house fronted on one of the busiest streets running through Nakhon Pathom, but thankfully the house was set back quite a ways off the thoroughfare.

Thoy and I had the whole upstairs to the house, which was great, with our own bathroom. Pi Nan has a very nice house. Her husband was in the road construction business locally until he passed away. Pi Nan took over the company for a while, but she said there just wasn’t that much profit left over after certain expenses to the local officials. Later she pointed out the roads they had paved with great pride.

Back to the house. It had a fence/wall all the way around the compound with an iron gate at the front. It was a nice two-story house, with a very nice covered patio/covered driveway, where breakfast was had, and then an additional living area/house (which I never entered) on the other side of the patio. This is where one of Pi Nan’s daughters lived, together with her husband and two children.

wonderland clinic

The living quarters were on quite a large lot. The yard had a nice variety of trees and shrubs, including a jackfruit tree. Very interesting…I had never seen one before. It was kind of like bundles of fruit within fruit, the outside being about the size of a pineapple.

Next to the jackfruit tree was a cage where they had their “pet” bird. It was a black bird that looked something like a grackle, I suppose. It has an extremely distinctive, vibrant caw/screech that would start at about 4:30 in the morning. I could hear this caw occasionally throughout my visit to Thailand, but I was never able to see the actual bird. I at first found this cawing quite irritating, but Pi Nan liked it, and I actually became quite accustomed to it.

The downstairs bathroom was basically Thai style, with the basin of water and the ladle to give yourselves a bath/shower of sorts, but with a regular flush toilet. There was also a portable shower nozzle to get yourself wet. The floor of the bathroom was the drainage. There was hot water, which was installed in the not too distant past by one of the relatives that was handy. But it was not straight forward and a bit cantankerous. There was a whole series of knobs one had to adjust to get it to work. Thoy and I could never figure it out, so there were no warm showers for me there. No big deal. The upstairs bathroom was a bit more modern, with a Western-style bathtub and toilet. There was no shower spigot, however, just the tub, and no hot water. I wound up just taking cold birdbaths in the tub.

The upstairs bedroom was very spacious, with large windows and no curtains. From the smaller bedroom upstairs, one could see the largest chedi in the world a mile or so away, which we were to go visit that first day.

Next to their two living quarters was a large lot with a number of commercial vehicles parked there. This lot was rented for the storage of these vehicles and helped maintain Pi Nan’s lifestyle. A maid helped with the workload, as a lack of modern conveniences, combined with lots of dust from traffic, makes upkeep quite a project.

Just like in the northern provinces, there were large vessels of water in the backyard. I have a feeling this was done out of habit from an earlier time, since I couldn’t think of any real use these could be put to in a modern household.

The family members were quite friendly, and I was spending my first day in a foreign land. The weather was perfect and I was anxious to go visit the chedi. If you type chedi nakhon pathom you can see pictures of it on the Internet. By the large Buddha statue in the front is the main worship area. Thoy, although not overly religious, showed her devotion while there. We started by giving a donation and receiving what I believe was an unbloomed lotus flower, incense and gold leaf sheets. The flowers were put in front of one of the images, the gold leaf was applied to one of the golden Buddhas and incense was lit and offered while prayers were had.

There was an interesting array of statues and worship areas in the upper level. There was a cavelike entrance and Thoy and I decided to explore it, while Pi Nan stayed in the upper courtyard. After a few twists and turns, we ran into a small room carved out of the rock with a Buddhist priest sitting on the ground with his young assistant. The priest, in his orange robe, looked up, smiled and said in fairly fluent English: “Hello. Where you from?” It still makes me smile thinking about this, being greeted in English by a Buddhist monk in a cave in the middle of Thailand.

We wound up making another donation, putting more gold leaf on the Buddha statue. We kneeled before him, and he took what looked like a short broomstick, dipped in water, and swatted us with it on various parts of our bodies. He then tied an orange cloth bracelet around our wrists, which I assume was made from retired monk robes. Attached to the cloth was a shimmering spherical crystal. Oh, my Buddha! I just realized….I may have been married and not realized it!!

There was a whole separate complex of buildings and structures on the lower level, but Pi Nan had seen it all before, so we didn’t get to explore it. I was a bit disappointed, but I was to be all “templed out” by the end of the trip.

We then were ready for lunch, and it was trial by fire. Another first in my life: I was going to eat food prepared under a tent in a third-world country. In my mind it was do or die. Go native, or go scouting for the nearest McDonald’s in Bangkok. I forget exactly what we had, but it was quite tasty and seemed thoroughly cooked. There was a noodle-type soup and chicken. I just assumed I would get the Montezuma’s revenge that I am so familiar with from Mexico, but amazingly I never got sick on this trip, except for sinus problems. The meal was actually quite pleasant, with the restaurant being next to a small creek. I began to realize sometimes simple is better. Being a true-blooded American, I had always assumed restaurants needed walls. Not true. Sometimes simple is better.

There was a young lady who came by selling bamboo leaves woven and formed into grasshoppers for 20 baht. At first I was going to practice saying no to the sales folks, but it suddenly hit me that this was an extremely unique item. I was very impressed with the artwork and ingenuity that went into creating this bamboo creature, and it wound up being my favorite souvenir/gift of the trip.

Next Pi Nan had decided we would visit the wax museum in Nakhon Pathom. I thought this sounded quite dreary, but it was interesting seeing the various famous monks being honored in this museum. They also had a variety of characters from the 1800’s, one display showing a man pushing his son away to his new owners and a life of slavery after losing a gambling wager.

Outside was a vendor with fresh coconuts. Now I have tasted coconut milk before and I found it quite bland, but this was different. This was FRESH from the trees and well-chilled. The Thai lady was expert with her hatchet, whacking open the tops of the coconuts with exactly three strikes. (I would hate to be her husband and be caught cheating. Scary. Even Thoy’s gestures with her large cooking knives put me in fear.) The coconut juice hit the spot, extremely tasty, with the lady helping to scoop out the coconut meat for us after we finished the juice.

In true Thai fashion, we stopped again for another meal on the way back to Pi Nan’s house. I still remember this meal vividly. This restaurant was in a little, tucked-away corner near a group on nondescript stores and right next to a beautiful river. I am sorry I don’t know the name. I couldn’t find my way back there if my life depended on it. We ate out on the deck next to the river. There were so many fish in the river (not just by the restaurant) that there was a constant wake created by the fish jumping near the surface. Thoy told me there was no fishing allowed in this river. I got the impression somehow the King had decreed that this was a holy river, but Thoy says the King has better things to do than to make such decrees. Occasionally a fish would jump onto a lily pad and get stuck for a while before it could flop back in the water. The seafood was great at the restaurant, my favorite dish being the fished fried in garlic. The meat is peeled straight off the bone in mouth-watering chunks. Total perfection. It was also quite entertaining feeding the scraps to the fish swimming up next to our table.

Now, I am not going to give a blow-by-blow on every meal I had in Thailand, but after this meal, I began to see a pattern. Cheap, good food! Laid-back atmosphere! Friendly people in an exotic culture! A comfortable, yet simpler life! All of this was such a refreshing change from the mind-numbing sameness of American culture. You can travel 3,000 miles from coast to coast in the States, and you would never know you were in a different town. I was beginning to fall in love with Thailand.

And on this point, if I may comment briefly on some of the contributors’ comments as to whether they would still come to Thailand without the famous nightlife. I feel that, yes, you are not deceiving yourselves. You would return. Thailand is a beautiful, alluring country, even without Nana Plaza.

After returning to the house to rest for a bit, it was time for dinner. (I felt like a hobbit with the breakfast, middle breakfast and late breakfast.)

We returned to the area of the chedi and this large, vast area adjacent to the chedi was turned into a “flea market” of food. Vendor after vendor prepared their specialties, and I was in awe. Multiple motor scooters zipped up, got dinner for the family, and zipped off. One particular tasty dish was a vast amount of mussels prepared in a batter of fried egg and other varied ingredients. Yum!

Day one ended, and a cool breeze slowly worked its way through the open windows into the upstairs bedroom. I was glad it was December, as I don’t remember the house having air conditioning. (Thoy reminded me they had air conditioning, but we didn’t need it during the trip.) I slept like a baby my first full night in Thailand. Life was good.

We got up early the next day to drive to Pattaya. Pi Nan hired someone locally who worked for Pi Nan’s son-in-law to drive us down in her small pickup. I have no idea what she paid, but Thoy and I insisted she take 1,000 baht to help with the expenses of driving us down.

Since Pattaya is southeast of Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom is west, we drove through Bangkok on a nice freeway system that gave me my first daylight view of Bangkok. Big, impressive and a bit smoggy. As we headed east after passing through Bangkok, we watched the sun rise directly ahead of us. The sun through the smog looked like an orange stoplight suspended above the highway. It didn’t hurt the eyes as you looked at it. I have never seen a sunrise quite like it.

We stopped at a 7-11 grocery store, where they had clean restrooms. This was my first view of the squat toilets. There was a basin of water next to the toilet that you would scoop water from, pour into the toilet to flush down whatever needed flushing.

We passed Pattaya proper and kept on driving until we got to this nice seaside restaurant. I am not sure where we were. Perhaps closer to Jomtien?? There were a number of large tanks where the fresh seafood was swimming around. Talk about fresh! The restaurant was totally open-air, with a very clean appearance and a sheet-metal roof to keep off the sun, and large swaying palm trees.

We ordered a tableful of various types of seafood, including octopus, shrimp, and that delicious garlic-fried fish, rice, fruit and vegetables. I was the last one still eating before I gave up on trying to finish this feast. The bill came out to about $20. Delicious food that was amazingly cheap — this is my idea of heaven!

Next we went to a couple of tourist attractions that I have a feeling many patrons of Pattaya don’t even know exist. The first was a park about 10 miles from Pattaya next to a smooth-faced mountain with an image of Buddha laid atop of the rock face in what looked like gold-colored rope. The image, I would guess, is about 300 feet tall. The park was very-well maintained, beautifully landscaped, much better than the local parks in my community.

Resting at one of the covered sitting areas was a Buddhist monk. Thoy engaged him in what appeared to be a pleasant conversation. He told her he thought we made a handsome couple.

We wove through the hilly/mountainous terrain until we got to what looked like a temple, but it is more so actually a museum, although there were monks at the site. This museum was recently built to house an enormous collection of Chinese Buddhist artwork, which I believe was obtained from China, thank goodness, before being destroyed by the Communist regime. In an upstairs plaza was a number of statues in different kung fu positions. Thoy poised among these chess-like warriors in her own karate chop pose for a great pic.

On the top floor of the museum were beautiful, giant murals depicting the life of Buddha. It was actually quite educational.

We then headed to Pattaya. We had no idea where to stay and kept driving around until we found a hotel that seemed appropriate. The first hotel looked quite nice but was booked up. The second hotel, the lobby was beautiful, but the rooms were a bit run-down, which was okay, but one thing Thoy doesn’t like is that “musty” smell. Even though Thoy was willing to stay there (and I was happy with the $35 price), I insisted we move on, because I know what her minimum standards are.

Everyone was getting tired, Pi Nan and the driver needed to get back to Nakhon Pathom, so we went across the street to check out the new Hard Rock Hotel. It was beautiful and pricey. The rooms were 4,000 baht a night, and Pi Nan was pleasantly impressed when I agreed to get her sister a room there.

Thoy, having becoming somewhat Americanized, was thrilled to death to escape into a little piece of Americana and luxury. We were very happy with our stay there. Thoy loved watching her CNN news and snoozing on the crisp clean sheets.

That night, we went shopping at what I think was the main mall in Pattaya. Right across from the mall was a long strip of open-air beer bars, which there must have been hundreds of them in the city. What a great setup if you are young and single. Go shopping and bring home a friendly bargirl for less than the price of a new pair of jeans. I know it’s old hat to most of these readers, but it was quite a sight for me. Thoy graciously joined me at one of the beer bars so I could take in the sights of what I had heard so much about.

We sat down and I ordered a beer and just observed the flow of traffic. There wasn’t that much seating in the little patio area between the bar and the street, so eventually a young blond Norwegian joined our table. He seemed nice enough, and soon a cute young lady was giving him her undivided attention. A saleslady came by with shirts and he bought her one of the tiniest shirts I have ever seen. She slipped it on, then slipped her other shirt off from underneath.

The nice Norwegian lad then pulled out what I guess is called an automatic switchblade, but it is the kind that the blade springs right out of the end of the knife, not opening sideways. He then took the knife, still in its sheath, and slowly ran it across the girl’s neck. She looked a bit startled, but then laughed like it was great fun. Call me old fashioned, but I thought that was a bit much for a first date.

With that, Thoy and I called it a night to an interesting day two in the LOS.

The next day, Thoy was feeling a bit under the weather, so I went out exploring the Pattaya beachfront on my own that afternoon. About 100 yards from the Hard Rock is a small go-go right on the beach. Curiosity getting the better part of me, I went in for a brief view of the beautiful young ladies within and a quick drink.

There were a number of girls doing a very simple but effective jiggle on the stage, and I spotted the sign that said Bar Fine, 500 baht. I thought to myself, Oh! I know what that means!! There was this one extremely innocent looking lass sitting with her friend at the table. Well, not exactly sitting, but they were kneeling, with their knees on the seat, leaning over, facing the mirrored wall, giving a great view of their cute little butts jiggling to the beat of the music, and seeming to be having a great time.

I went over to their table and another girl helped translate a brief exchange with the cute young lady. I asked how old she was and she said 25. She asked how old I thought she looked, and I honestly said 15. She cracked up laughing. To this day, I have no idea how old she really was. I do know that one of Thoy’s nieces looks 20 and she is in her thirties. I can see why ID checks are so important. Just out of pure sociologic curiosity I asked how much it was to “go out.” It was a 1,000 baht short time. Even though I had read a bit about the nightlife, it was still totally shocking to me that one of the cutest young ladies I had ever seen in my life was available for 1,000 baht. When they further inquired if I was interested, I explained I had a girlfriend at the hotel. One of the girls said something in Thai, and I replied that, no, I didn’t think my girlfriend would go for a threesome. She looked at me quizzically asking: Do you speak Thai? I just laughed and said, no, but I could read her mind.

They then explained there were rooms available upstairs. And it was like, oh, now that is American ingenuity and convenience. But all I could think about was sitting on a 30-hour plane ride next to an enraged Thai tiger of a girlfriend who would somehow know with her sixth sense if I had strayed. I thanked them for their company and continued on shopping. Deep sigh.

I was heading back toward the hotel and was walking again in front of the gogo bar I had visited, but on the far side of the street next to the ocean. About six of the girls were outside and all started yelling and screaming for me to come back. I was just smiling, waving, dumbly enjoying their attention, when I walked straight into a three-foot tall cement block and wound up doubled over on the top of it. They had a good laugh and I continued on my way totally embarrassed.

If you ever see this concrete barrier about 100 yards from the Hard Rock Hotel in front of a gogo club, please give a brief pause to think of the humble gringo who bumped into it!

And to this day, I admit, I still think occasionally about the cute little Thai girl jiggling her butt to the music. I wonder if she was just there visiting her aunt…

Early on day four, I was a bit touristy and tried the rock climbing wall next to the pool. They had state-of-the-art rock climbing shoes and gear. I had always wanted to do that. I failed to get to the top. They had really tough routes…honest!

Thoy and I had a nice buffet breakfast, then stopped by the local pharmacy and got ourselves some over-the-counter antibiotics. We both felt like we had sinus infections. It could have just been the pollution irritating our sinuses. I asked for Zithromax, and I think I got a generic equivalent. Neither of us got sick the rest of the trip, and I wonder if it was from the antibiotics. The price was extremely reasonable.

We decided to be adventurous and take the train back to Bangkok. It was a very long four-plus-hour trip, but very interesting. The trip started at a small, open-air train station. Various vendors pedaled up with their food offerings, but most were a bit too authentic for me. The chicken was scary looking. I got some peanuts and was very disappointed to find they were soft. Thoy explained that they were boiled. Yuck! Eventually I got hungry enough to eat them. The train arrived at the small station and we took off through the countryside. There were countless small fish ponds, coconut trees and rice patties. There was a good bit of country poverty to be seen, interspersed with beautiful temples. The poverty got much worse once we got closer to Bangkok.

It must have been late mid day, as the trained picked up a number of what appeared to be junior high students. They had gotten gifts at school that day because of the Christmas season (??) and were showing each other their presents. It was just like being in America. Then the train would stop in the middle of the country and the girls would go walking off onto muddy, unpaved roads to their homes in their nice, clean uniforms.

As we went further, we came across shantytowns built above the swamps. They had wooden walkways built across the swamps. The uptown shantytowns had swamp water below them. The ghetto part of the shantytowns were built above swamps filled with garbage.

As we got into Bangkok proper, the density of population increased dramatically. This is what I had envisioned from movies I had seen of third-world countries. Their tin-sheet walls and narrow alleyways sectioned off extensive labyrinths of living quarters. Rain was kept off by tin roofs. Rats crawled through the living areas, rooms openly visible from the train. It would have been insane to stick your hand out of the train window, as the tin shack roofs would have sliced an appendage off. The congested living conditions were that close to the tracks.

Electricity had found its way to this area. There was no shortage of television sets. I am sure there are different problems facing city poor and country poor, but the living conditions in the city appeared abysmal.

As it got dark, the train parked for a while next to this huge deserted train station/factory area. It was really creepy. Thoy thinks it might have been a switching station for the trains.

Pulling into the Bangkok train station, I was beginning to suffer a bit of culture shock.

Getting out of the train, we were enclosed in this long corridor that you had to walk down with hundreds of other passengers to reach the “outside world.” I was getting a bit claustrophobic, a combination of the closed-in area with the massive crowds swarming around. When we got to an area where there was a restroom, Thoy used the facilities while I stayed put, daring not to move an inch for fear of getting lost in this mass of humanity. It would have been a genuine crisis if we had gotten separated. When Thoy finally returned, I paid a few baht to use the facilities and then we carefully worked our way toward the exit.

In Pattaya, we had already bought tickets to transfer to another train, where there was stand-up room only – no seats available. I vetoed this idea and, heroically digging into my wallet, opted to take a taxi back to Nakhon Pathom. We made arrangements to be driven directly with the taxi driver for about $25, $30 with no meter.

It was probably a combination of rush hour traffic and Friday night traffic, but we then got tangled up in the worst traffic I have ever seen in my life. I was incredulous. It was one giant, unending downtown of four-story-tall buildings with gridlocked traffic. I felt sorry for the taxi driver, that he was losing money on us, but he seemed quite content and calm. I was thinking in no uncertain terms that I NEVER wanted to come back to Bangkok again. This was utter madness in a dark, chaotic third-world city. This was future world and the world had gone insane.

(Note: I later changed my attitude about this once we discovered the sky train!)

Let me say, in hindsight, I truly enjoyed our train ride for the adventurous aspects of it. We saw parts of the Thai countryside and culture we would not have seen otherwise. From a comfort standpoint, though, you would definitely want to take an air-con bus!!

Saturday morning, we awoke to the sounds of Pi Nan’s pet bird in nice, peaceful Nakhon Pathom. It was time to go visit stepmom in Ratcha Buri, about 30 miles south of Nakhon Pathom, not far from the Floating Market.

Pi Nan drove and I got to meet stepmom. Not much to say. I wai’d and then hung out, read books and watched really bad Thai TV while they visited. I was having flashbacks to some of the stories I was told about Thoy’s childhood, which I won’t repeat, some of which were quite harsh. But that was past history. Thoy feels she is a better person now because of the struggles she has gone through, that one needs to experience bad times to appreciate the good things in life.

Sunday morning, we were treated to an extensive Thai breakfast out on Pi Nan’s patio. Our favorite fish was served, along with pork-stuffed squid. (Pass on the latter.)

Through a series of hit-and-miss phone calls, we had arranged to meet up with an old farang school teacher friend of Thoy’s in Bangkok. “Fred” had been living in Bangkok for a number of years now and appeared to have gone native. I know Fred isn’t Stickman in disguise, as he doesn’t even have a computer, much less an Internet service! Sometimes I wonder if he even uses toilet paper anymore.

We met at another train station west of downtown Bangkok. I almost got run over once or twice crossing the street, with vehicles whipping around the curving lane in front of the station. It gave me pause. In a split second, I could have been another statistic to Bangkok traffic madness. I recommend keeping your wits about you, especially since Americans are used to cars coming from the opposite direction.

Fred and his teeruk then guided us to the Than Puying Hotel, where he and Nu were going to also stay for the duration of our visit. Like I say, I think he had gone native, had reasonably humble accommodations and never took us by their apartment. He did mention that their apartment only had Thai restroom facilities and he was used to taking Thai baths. I think he inferred their rent was about $150 a month.

Than Puying is about 20 minutes from the airport north of downtown Bangkok. Fred explained it was an out-of-the-way place that people that prized their privacy would visit. It is in the middle of nowhere near – University, right in the middle of a nice residential neighborhood, about ten stories tall. It was extremely nice, a very pleasant stay, with three nights costing us about $100. Very budget friendly! There are a number of twists and turns to get there, with narrow streets and lazy dogs blocking access at times. A choice of American or Thai breakfasts were included, available on the fourth floor restaurant. The restaurant had a great setup, very unique. Basically, the high-rise structure had a big giant hole cut out of the middle of the building, from one end to the other, so that you had a nice, shaded breezeway to enjoy a lazy, late breakfast.

The first day was to be a typical touristy showfest. I loved it! We went directly to the Grand Palace, and I am to this day still in awe of the majesty of the temple grounds. I am convinced there are more photographic opportunities in Thailand than anywhere else on Earth! And I haven’t even been to Patpong yet!!! The large guardian warrior creatures guarding the palace – nothing like that in the States! From the moment I saw the large golden chedis, I was begging Thoy to stop for photo opportunities, but it was kind of old hat for her. I also enjoyed the miniature of Angkor Wat, which had turned into a haven for the local stray cats. They were feisty. It appeared that this replica of Cambodia’s number one wat was guarded and controlled by the crankiest felines.

From the temple area of the Grand Palace, we walked to the river and hopped on a river taxi. We missed the main exits and wound up getting off in an isolated area on the far shore from the Palace. We were waiting in the dark at an isolated dock and I was thinking, I am in a third-world country and I feel perfectly safe! My culture shock was wearing off from the previous train trip. Sometimes you just get a gut feeling about things, and I felt very secure in this exotic land. Besides my feelings of being overwhelmed by the congestion during our train/taxi trip a few days before, I was having nothing but positive experiences on my trip.

When we finally got back to the right dock, we walked to the sky train to the Siam shopping district area and ate at the cook your own soup in the middle of the table setup – which is a chain of franchise restaurants in Bangkok. Sorry I forget the name of it, but it has 3 initials in the name.

From there, we were going to see an exhibition of traditional Thai dancing that just happened to be at an extremely upscale hotel. Thoy and I quickly realized we were sweaty, a bit underdressed and feeling somewhat uncomfortable when we saw that the area where the Thai dancing was going to occur had limited seating with extremely well-dressed Japanese couples ready to be entertained. Thoy and I were extremely relieved when we were told they were booked up and we could not join the festivities. What I remember and appreciate is the hostess being extremely cordial, polite, (extremely beautiful), and not being the least bit condescending about our appearance.

From here we took the sky train until it terminated to the north, then boarded a bus going a bit further north, and finally took a taxi back to the hotel. Fred told us usually he would have just taken a taxi from the end of the sky train, but he was demonstrating the various forms of transportation in the city.

Monday was shopping day. It was great, and gave me a different impression of Bangkok than I had encountered previously. Countless thousands of young Thais were crowded into the large shopping areas. It was just like being in America, except not as many fat women. I got the feeling that Thailand truly was a “developing” country.

From the Siam shopping area, we walked to and through the World Trade Center and then on toward Panthip Plaza. Thoy stopped to buy some overripe, browning bananas from a vendor, and I was a bit confused, as Thoy knew her fruit better than that. She was talking in an animated fashion to the vendor when all of a sudden the bananas disappeared from her hand! I looked to her side and there was an elephant chomping on the bananas. I never even saw it!!! Guess I was too busy checking out the other nightlife. Thoy’s animated conversation with the vendor revolved around how she was going to curse him if he didn’t take good care of his pet.

Panthip Plaza was a dream come true for a computer gamer like myself, with endless cheap pirated software. I was in hog heaven. Yes, I was morally challenged and, I must confess, weak and partook of the “other” forbidden fruit of Thailand – pirated media!! The rest of the trip, and especially going through customs, I was paranoid I was going to get busted and thrown in jail for buying a few of these games. I think Thoy got some entertainment value from this.

I only bought a few games because, unfortunately, we arrived right around closing time, so at 8:01 (or whenever closing was) there was no way in hell they would take my money. It was incredible.

For dinner, we again went to the soup bowl in the middle of the table type restaurant. At this restaurant, though, you ordered a la carte what you wanted to throw in the broth, shrimp, octopus, squid (as opposed to the all-you-can-eat type of setup we went to the day before.) Thoy ordered duck and Fred ordered the fancy fruit drinks. I knew it was about time for me to be generous to my hosts and I anxiously awaited the bill. It totaled about $12 for all four of us, and I graciously offered to pick up the tab.

Throughout the day and evening, Thoy, Nu and I were begging Fred to take us to Patpong. We ALL wanted to go see what all the fuss was about, but Fred was a real pooper, got all self-righteous and wouldn’t take us. Probably because he knew a few of his past associates would recognize him.

After we got back to the hotel, I discussed with Thoy heading to Patpong by myself, just to check it out. She wanted me to go and get it out of my system, and suggested I get Fred’s cell phone in case something strange happened. But it was already past midnight, I was a bit intimidated going out into the night solo – plus I really didn’t want to leave Thoy by herself at the hotel. So I wound up not going. Next trip, though, Patpong here I come!

Tuesday, Fred was a bit under the weather. They had already checked out of their room, and Fred had need to use the facilities on an emergent basis and headed back to our room. A bit later, he came back with the little water nozzle in his hand that was located next to the toilet and explained to the receptionist that it had broken off during use. I had no idea at the time what that funny water nozzle was for. Now I think I am beginning to figure it out. That’s why I think Fred has gone native.

Fred and Nu headed back to their apartment, and Thoy and I set out on our own. We headed toward the museum near the Grand Palace, but it was closed on that Tuesday. Not sure what the schedule is, but that was a bit disappointing. We decided we were “templed out,” and spent an enjoyable day shopping for our last full day in Bangkok.

I am totally sold with at least the “illusion” of what Thailand has to offer. I look forward to going back for an even longer vacation this coming Christmas, and I constantly fantasize about retiring there. From reading Stickman’s columns, I know fantasy and reality can be two different things, but I hope to get to know the language, the culture and the lay of the land much better in the years to come.

Stickman says:

Comments to follow when I get a chance to read it.

nana plaza