Return to Thailand, Part 1
• Eversunshine Hotel
• Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai
• Grand Hyatt Shanghai
• Green Garden Hotel Shanghai
I heard her footsteps and they were not the deliberate strides my wife usually makes before bursting into my home office. When I saw her face it was very sad and dejected, and then she said, “My Dad, he passed”. As I hugged her I thought about all the plans we had made for the summer; a long trip to Thailand, meeting her parents for the first time, a Buddhist wedding, trips to places I had never been to before, and I knew they were all gone. My wife left immediately for Thailand and her home town of Bang Saphan Noi in the south. I would follow a few days later but little did I know it would still be a trip filled with new adventures and new experiences.
Traveling to Thailand is nothing new for me although it had been four years since I had last visited the Land of Smiles. Back then, I was living in Singapore and making many business trips to Bangkok. Later, when I started dating a Thai woman, the trips became more frequent and the places I visited became more diverse. I had visited Koh Samui and Koh Phuket in the south but I had never traveled through the land in between where Thailand and Burma are squeezed into a very narrow isthmus. What was this area like? How different would this be from the Isaan land and people I knew years ago? More important, what was my wife’s family like and how would they respond to her farang husband of three years?
The trip started as all my other trips start; with a panic. As I am gathering my last items to pack, I realize I am not wearing my wedding ring. No problem, I took it off before working out the day before so it must be around here some place. I looked in my usual places but no luck. Now it is 10 minutes before the taxi arrives and the panic sets in because I have been alone for 4 days and 4 nights while my Thai wife has been in Thailand and I really believe her when she says if she ever catches me cheating on her she will feed my most valuable body part to the soi dogs. Frantically racing through the house produces no results so glumly I get into the taxi.
The flight is through ANA and it goes directly to Narita Airport before the last leg to Bangkok. A quick shower at Narita doesn’t help with jet lag so I slump in front of the large TV screen in the waiting area. After a few minutes I see a dancing George Bush trying to keep pace with some African host. I start to laugh and notice all the other people in the lounge, mostly Asians, are laughing too. But it is not a “laugh with you” laugh, it is a “what a jerk” kind of laugh. So now the rest of the world knows what an idiot our president is. It was sure different when I used to travel the world when Bill Clinton was president and Asians would ask me “are you really going to impeach the best American president over a blow job?”
I arrive at the new airport at Bangkok around 10 PM local time. It is very slick and way different from the old one at Don Muang. I marvel at the upscale shops then turn the corner for Immigration and see many long lines. As I approach, I see the Thai lines are empty. I guess some things have not changed from the old airport. After a 40 minute wait, I am through Immigration and looking for my friends. I am meeting my wife’s friends Gek and Pui who will take me to my hotel and entertain me for a couple of days before I go to see my wife and her family at Bang Saphan Noi. I have remembered to buy gifts for them at duty-free and they open them eagerly. They say they found a hotel for me from a friend of theirs but, of course, let’s get something to eat first. Sounds good to me.
I can’t quite make out where we are driving but suddenly Gek parks the car in front of a modest restaurant. We walk in and it looks like the staff is getting ready to close the place. No worries, my friends plop themselves down at a table and order a ton of food. When it arrives along with my first of many Singha beers I will have on this trip, I notice another group of Thai patrons sitting close by. I also notice that the biggest guy there is staring a hole though the back of my head. Why is he doing that? I suddenly realize that I am sitting with some very pretty Thai girls in a restaurant that caters to Thai people. After 15 minutes of pretending I don’t feel the stare, they get up and leave but not before the big dude gives me a snarl as he walks past me. I ask my friends what the problem is and they smile and look away.
We arrive at what looks like a building of condominiums near the Victory Circle, very close to the Sanam Pao skytrain station. My friend explains that it is really long and short term apartments. Everything is very new and very well decorated; almost Japanese in style and quality. On the way to our apartment, we pass by the 3rd floor pool and exercise room with real free weights. It was like having the Stamford Hotel in downtown Bangkok. Anyway, I stayed there for 4 wonderful nights and I highly recommend it to those looking to be close to the action of Bangkok via the skytrain yet far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet. It’s called the Bangkok Patio and I highly recommend it.
The next day, after another wonderful visit to the Imperial Palace and Wat Po, I embarked on my one night of naughty delights with my wife’s permission to look but don’t touch. My first stop is good old Patpong, the place I was first introduced to Bangkok’s night life some 7 years ago. I went into several bars, drank many Singhas, talked trash to the girls, and left feeling empty. So, let’s try Nana Plaza and see what the action is there. More of the same except the girls were a little friendlier, and then I wandered into Angelwitch. There the girls were more aggressive but the shows were more interesting. I had a nice chat with the ladyboy mamasan who seemed really dedicated to providing the best show possible. I enjoyed it as a cute little thing sat next to me and promised to take me to a much better show someplace else if only I would only barfine her. I explained why I couldn’t and she became quite pissed off and I barely escaped. As it was a Monday night I will chalk this up to having the second team at bat. But I will say this and I think a few others have said it before me, the bar girls of Bangkok are now much more business oriented and much less interested in having a good time. Personally, I am glad that I have moved on to a more domestic life with a wonderful Thai woman than to experience this all-business attitude that now seems to infect the Bangkok nightlife.
The next day I had to get up early and start heading towards my wife’s family in the south. Lucky for me, I would not be driving and could sleep in the back seat. Although I prepared myself for a funeral, I did not know that I would experience a part of Thailand I had never seen before.
Your wife is going to freak when she sees the wedding band missing…