And Some More Daily Adventures in Bangkok
Fathers Day, 2006. After 7-8 months of driving on a 4-5 year expired Thai drivers license I was now armed with my new five year license, a 13 year old son who was eager for a day together with his dad, a fully gassed and very dirty SUV, and wondering
where we could go that didn’t involve the heavy Sunday traffic and the normal headaches of going places in a busy city when most everyone has the same day off. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to get started for the day and decide
what to do, and when this happens we run the risk of just hanging at the pool, working out at the gym, and maybe watching a movie. Especially when we’re only 4-5 days away from heading to Siem Reap and Angkor Vat and Singapore.. Anyway,
we talked and decided to go see a movie.
In the states we loved going to the movies together but for some reason the only times I’ve went to the movies in Thailand has been when dragged there by a date and I’ve never really paid attention to the prices, procedures, and choices involved with this simple process. For some reason I had this mental picture of a 41c theatre packed with 1000’s of multi-coloured plastic kiddie chairs, sticky floors, large Thai subscript on the English speaking movies and 10,000 Hello Kitty cell phones all going off at the same time with some cute little stupid ring-tones as young girls chatted up their “sponsors” with sick buffalo stories and the usual course of conversation you can eves drop on at most any internet café or beer garden. Irrational fears? Ok probably, but it’s not like I thought of this stuff out of the blue.
So.. off to the Mall Bangkapi which is still my favourite mall and heading into a very busy car park and having a dirty SUV I paid the 200 baht to drop my car off at the cash wash place for a inside and outside wash and vacuum where they’d keep it nice and door ding free until I returned from my adventures inside the concrete village. The guy who owns and runs the car wash I’ve told you before is an interesting guy and I always get genuine pleasure out of chatting with him for a few minutes, more if he hasn’t customers who need his attention. Anyway, my son and I were off to the mall as we dodged and ducked between all the easy going Thai drivers who obviously didn’t watch the same video I was recently forced to watch part of over at the Land Transportation Office. Great reflexes and fast twitch muscle responses are built on activities like dodging rich ladies in their Mercedes Benz’s who are great at pretending they don’t see you or the taxi drivers who think they’ll earn that ten baht tip by making a person jump into a ditch rather than slowing down and getting their customer there a few minutes later. So it was with relief when we made it across the car park and through the door held open by the uniformed doorperson who I’m sure must be on Prozac or some chemicals to be able to stand there all day opening and closing the door and smiling while they do it.
We arrived about an hour before the show and I took this time to go pay my cell phone bill since my on-line banking information has yet to make its way to my inbox. Have you ever tried to find an AIS Paypoint in a crowded big mall? The potential for this taking a great amount of time was considerable but by luck we wondered into the place on the fourth floor and I presented my bill and for the heck of it decided to use my new Bangkok Bank Visa card to pay the bill and make sure everything was activated and working properly it being the first time I used it and all. You’re not going to believe this! The cute young girl immediately noticed it was a Bangkok Bank Visa and told the lady next to her that it must be a fake card and to call security. At least that’s what I thought she said in Thai (which I’m still very weak in) but in 3-4 minutes mall security arrived and confirmed I was correct.
“How is it that you have a Visa card from Bangkok Bank?”
“Umm.. I have an account there and they gave it to me.”
“It’s very unusual for a farang to have a actual visa from a Thai bank and this isn’t even an ATM card or debit card but a Visa!”
“Yes, it’s a Visa but it is mine and I assure you that if you run it through the little machine over there it will be approved to pay my bill!”
“Where is your savings passbook?”
“At home, where is your savings passbook?”
“I don’t have a Visa card but if I did I’d have my savings passbook with me!”
“Because you’re supposed to.”
“How do you know this if you’ve never had a Visa card before, do they teach you this at mall security guard school?”
Ok, so backing a dimwit into a corner isn’t a good idea but I was fairly certain he wasn’t going to beat me over the head with his radio in front of all these witnesses and I was starting to get a bit annoyed. Finally the AIS Paypoint manager
managed to get his butt out from behind his desk and out into the action and quickly offered to just run the card. He did, fortunately it worked and the account was set up right, and after checking my signature 10 times to ensure they matched
between the back of the card and the receipt he had the lady print me out a receipt and I was on my way, but not before being forced to show off my new five year Thai Drivers license which they also couldn’t wrap their minds around. Amazing!
Is it that rare for a farang to have a Visa card from a Thai bank?
Wondering around the mall a bit more we finally decided that we’d better go buy our movie tickets so up to the ticket counter we went. As I pulled out the Thai Visa again my son just shook his head and smiled while mentioning that if I didn’t have any cash he did. That wasn’t the point. Anyway, we learned that in Thai theatres all the seats are numbered and the only seats left for our movie were in the front two rows. Disappointed and having trouble communicating with the young lady the manager came over and suggested we buy tickets to the “VIP” show and enjoy the hospitality of the VIP lounge until the movie started. 500 baht for the both of us vs. 240 baht for the normal seats that have previously given me nightmares which is still cheaper than in the states so we went for it. The manager didn’t bat an eye at my Thai bank Visa card and soon we’d selected some nice seats from the ticket counter monitor and he showed us to the VIP lounge.
You have to walk up some stairs to get there, not many but enough for some separation from the masses and soon we were sitting in some very comfortable chairs waiting for our show to start. Within minutes two lovelies came over to rip our ticket stubs and served us a nice wine glass of some green lime drink that was pretty cold and my son just grinned. Great seats, great service, and at 13 he can’t help but notice the small petite 17-19 year old ladies who were giving him nice smiles. It makes you wonder what it would be like to be a half Asian farang only 13-17 years old in Bangkok.. a kid in the candy store? Hmm.. We talked and enjoyed our drinks and at exactly the appointed time the doors open and we were led to our seats which were very comfortable recliners with tiny attached tables for your snacks. There were also loveseats and couches available (I made a mental note about these) and the theatre held maybe 30 individuals total. While the coming attractions were playing nice young women making sure to crouch down so as not to obstruct our view took our snack orders and my son just grinned some more, nudged me, and whispered “Dad, I really like this place.” And I’m thinking that this is nothing at all like my preconceived notions and why the hell hadn’t I done this sooner?
Soon the snacks were brought to us and it was time to stand for the national anthem. I’d read about this part and remembered it from my previous dates years ago, but it was new to my son. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I very much enjoyed standing and paying respect to the Thai Anthem and the King and actually got caught up in the imagery of the King doing his humanitarian things but it ended before that single tear made it out of my tear duct. Compare this to my own country where kids feel its ok to sit and joke during the pledge of allegiance and will email the ACLU at the first sign they might be asked to stand at our National Anthem!
Call me old fashioned, but I spent 20 years serving my country so these American snot noses could turn up their noses at our traditions, and I had one of those “moments” when I know why I’m now living in Thailand. Sure, I bitch and grown and write submissions about the hard times Thais give me and the like. HOWEVER, Thais love their country and are proud of their country and frankly I wish the USA had a King (no, the drunken Kennedys are not royalty no matter how many DUIs they get or bridges they drive off) that we could universally put ABOVE politics and give us a common point of national pride and unity. I envy the Thais their King.. From all accounts he’s a very good King, scandal free, and isn’t the embarrassment that Charles has put England through (though I have high admiration and hopes for Price Harry, especially after having the guts to attend the strip club with his classmates and demand he be deployed with his men in Iraq) and over this last week watching the love and respect the Thai people had for their King I suppose the anthem just hit me at the right time.
We enjoyed the movie. The Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift was full of hot cars and hotter women and the perfect movie to enjoy Fathers Day with your son. We left the movie in high spirits and discussing how we could turn our ’99 Cobra (picture attached)
into a drift car. At the moment it’s a 512rwhp canyon carver (over 700 with the NOX at 150 pounds) and I promised the keys to my son IF he gets accepted into Annapolis and the keys to the ’68 Shelby GT500KR if he ever makes flag
rank. Until then they sit in very private and secure stowage where we occasionally take them out and do routine maintenance and either show them at a local show or play with the ’99 at the SPCA races or even a local drag strip.
After a piss break in some very nice and clean restrooms at the theatre we wandered around a bit and watched girls together, talked about the differences (physical) between western and Asian women and used several short short skirts and heads of long black hair to illustrate our points, walked downstairs to see the big fish in the pond and the exotic birds on their little island and then went and collected our nice clean car and drove home in the rain and despite the car being more dirty than when we left home it didn’t matter. We had a great day together, watched a fun if not Oscar quality movie, talked about women like buddies more than Father and Son, and had what had to be one of the most perfect Fathers Days ever.