One Day In Thailand
• Redwall Hotel
• Shatan Hotel
• Wang Fu Jing Da Wan Hotel
• Wangfujing Grand Hotel
I hardly know where to start because the many and diverse and wonderful experiences I have had in Thailand over the years seem to resist analysis and considered explanation. When I am in Thailand for my annual two to three month holiday, I have learned to just go with the flow, so to speak, and allow events to unfold as they do. I have made some wonderful friends in Bangkok and over the years I have been rewarded with their occasional company as they have shown me their country and culture. And so in this submission I will attempt to detail one of my recent experiences, trying to show and not just tell or report. Here goes.
It usually starts like this:
Over dinner one night, Nong says, "Dan…you like shoot gun?"
I say, "What you mean?"
"Gun…shoot." She then makes a gun using her forefinger and thumb. "You like shoot gun?"
I say, "yes, baby, I like."
"OK…I make plan and call you."
The evening continues as her girl friends, Nok and Jim, come to join in the gathering. I have no clear idea of where this plan will go, but have come to trust Nong and her friends that it will all be good. These girls are all college graduates and have regular jobs and they met one another in English classes which they continue to attend. (Nong is at level Nine in English and because my Thai is so poor she tells me I am pre-level) A few days pass and I get a call from Nong saying she will pick me up on Saturday at 7:00 AM.
Off we go: Nong drives a nice Toyota Camry, Jim sits in the front passenger seat with maps and computer printings and hollers out the instructions on where to turn and what lane to be in. I sit in the back with Nok and she goes over the Thai alphabet with me, you know Gor-gai, Kor-kai etc. We barely get out of Bangkok when we stop for food. This outdoor market has, perhaps, thirty stalls selling various foods. I wander off and buy a bunch of bananas. When we meet up with bags of foods, they look at my purchase of bananas and start laughing. "What?" I say.
Nok says, "Dan…not done! How you say English banana not done?"
Each girls takes a turn at pronouncing the word ripe. Nok then takes out her PDA and types in the word ripe and the girls all laugh at the new word and its definition and repeat together, "not ripe." They take me back to the banana stall and exchange my green bananas for ripe ones. Nok points to the various bunches of bananas and says, "this not done, this medium done and this well done." Everybody laughs.
Off we go sharing and munching on the various foodstuffs as they explain what I am being fed. "Dan…you try. Dan…do you like? Oh… Dan like." As Nong drives, the girls point out interesting sites along the way and we laugh and sing songs as we bridge the language gaps and culture gaps. About an hour an a half later or so we pull into what looks like a college campus, very impressive, but there are armed soldiers at the gate. Nong says something to the soldiers and we are escorted to the main building. I realize we have arrived at a military academy. We are escorted into a large three story building and as we enter an elaborate office and sit down on couches, cold pop and bottled water and cakes are served to us and I am handed newspapers, the Bangkok Post and The Nation. Nong sits down in some officer's chair behind a large desk and spins around and looks out the window, smiling her big beautiful smile.
About thirty minutes pass and the General arrives and he immediately apologizes to me for making us wait stating that the meeting took longer than expected. Nong begins the introductions. I am then asked by the General if I wanted to go to the firing range first or go to lunch first. When I said I wanted to go to the firing range he passed us off to one of his subordinates who escorted us to the range. As I walked with this soldier through the campus and complex of buildings he explained to me the purposes. Each officer candidate receives an engineering degree after five years and then serves in the military. "We serve the King," he said. I noticed that the girls were walking behind me and this soldier at a considerable distance. When I eventually got near Nong, I said, "You must be a VIP." She said, "no…Dan you the VIP."
And when we get to the firing range, we have the facility to ourselves. Three firearm instructors are waiting for us and in short order trays of cold pop and cold bottled water and cookies are served. My personal instructor introduces me to the handguns I will be firing. I put on the ear protection and shooting commences under his direction and guidance. Nok and Jim shoot at different stations with individual instructors. Nong does not shoot and as I later found out she asked that her allotment of ammunition be given to me so I could shoot more. Good fun! What a day! The girls and I stand together holding our discharged handguns and targets for photos with our instructors standing behind us. We look like a version of the Bonny and Clyde Gang in some ways.
We head back to meet up with the General and he takes us all out to lunch. As we go through the gate, the guards stand at full attention and salute the General. At the outdoor restaurant plates of food are ordered and consumed. The General is a very gracious and very polite man. He is fluent in both French and English. I came to find out that the General and Nong were classmates in some graduate school class some time back. And when it came time to pay the bill, I reached for my wallet to pay as I usually do, Nok saw what I was doing and grabbed my arm and whispered to me, "Dan…no." Glancing a quick look at the General and out of earshot to the General said to me, "He the big man…he pay."
As we return to the military complex some of the military people I met are standing at the steps of the building to say goodbye. I shake hands and I thank them for their many kindnesses, the girls are standing back.
We get into Nong's car and head out. We stopped at Dan Dam, no kidding, that's what the sign said, and this is one impressive sight and engineering accomplishment. And we stop at a beautiful park and stroll around and take pictures. And we stop for more food. And as we begin our drive back to Bangkok Nok goes over the Thai alphabet with me again and helps me write the Thai letters and we laugh and sing songs. I take the girls out for dinner at a top hotel on Sukumvit and we relax and regale in the wonderful day we just had.
And as we part, Nong leans in to me and says, "Dan…you like jump out plane?"
This is one of the great things about Thailand – almost anything is possible!