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Consider Wisely – Regrets May Follow Part 2


Friday 13 January 2005 on this A330 Airbus is a fine day with fair skies and just a hint of cloud building up toward the north-west. The flight was a little late leaving Krungthep as early morning congestion almost always delays departures because of the peak demand for runway space at Don Muang but the cabin crew have served refreshments and have now cleared away when the cabin intercom comes alive with the announcement in a very clear voice with just a hint of Thai accent: “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Kittysak, welcome aboard Thai Airways flight TG 102 to Chiang Mai. We are presently over Phitsanulok and have just started our descent to Chiang Mai International Airport. The weather in Chiang Mai is fine and the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. We expect to land at Chiang Mai at approximately 9.35 local time and we hope you have had a comfortable flight. Thank you for flying with Thai Airways.”


Down below the hilly terrain is clearly visible and the thin outlines of roads snake through the countryside. As we descend and come closer to Chiang Mai orchards (probably longan/lamyai) appear everywhere and houses become closer together. We are coming down lower over hilly country now and I will be glad to get off this aircraft after having spent 9½ hours overnight from Australia, on a 777 before transiting in Krungthep. The flight from Krungthep to Chiang Mai is only about 65 minutes but the flight from Australia arrived at Don Muang about 5.30 a.m. and I had to wait in transit until this flight, scheduled out at 8.15 a.m. I never sleep well on aircraft and the night before departure from Brisbane was one of restless sleep and I rose in the morning of January 12 feeling as if I hadn’t been to bed.


Almost a month has gone by since I last saw Wan and I am looking forward so much to being with her again when she meets me at the airport.


Chiang Mai International Airport is relatively small, nestled at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain and sits remarkably close to the city centre. It has one runway that is capable of accommodating aircraft of the size of a 747 or A380 in any weather and Immigration, Customs and baggage retrieval are most efficient. Passenger arrivals and departures are normally by air-bridge directly into the terminal. This is my second visit to Chiang Mai.


As I trolley my single rucksack, guitar and cabin bag out into arrivals I see her – just as beautiful as I remember and her smile says it all as we greet each other in a warm hug. She has five people with her – Mamma, Pappa, Pappa's sister Nok, younger sister Tai and Nok’s daughter Phu. We wai to each other in acknowledgement after introductions then head out of the terminal to where Wan has organised a sawngthaew to take us to The Sheraton Hotel. There, we leave the other family members who continue on in the sawngthaew while Wan and I attend to the formalities of check in and make our way up to the suite. I really need a shower, shave and a short sleep. But the sleep has to wait because Wan wants us to join Nok and Tai for lunch after which Wan and I go for a short walk in Buak Head Park and find a quiet spot where I can lie down and close my eyes for a short rest. All I really want is to be with Wan back at the hotel but Wan has plans for us this evening so she tries to make me rest here for a while. I am really quite tired.


Buak Head Park is on the south-west corner of Chiang Mai Old City and is shady and popular with Thais who come here to picnic or feed the fish in the meandering waterway that is teeming with life – turtles, fish, ducks and the many pigeons that wait, trying to steal food that is thrown for the fish. The Old City is the original Chiang Mai, often called “The Rose of the North”, and is surrounded on all four sides by a deep moat about, 25 metres wide, that was part of the early defence line against invaders from Myanmar in the period after King Mengrai established the city at 4 a.m. on 14 April, 1296. Parts of the original earth walls that were the early main defence can still be seen along Thanon Kampaengdin. The impressive, beautiful brick walls and the moats were built much later, in 1800, along with the five heavy wooden double gates that gave access to the Old City – part of the defence built by Chao Kavila – Viceroy of Northern Thailand who was appointed by Phaya Thaksin. We are on a rattan mat which we have hired and laid out on the grass under a shady tree and I have my head resting on Wan’s lap as I stretch out and try to rest while she strokes my face and hair. I can’t take my eyes off her as I look up at her and think to myself how beautiful she is.


“Sarmee, you try sleep, yes?”


“Yes, Teeruk, but I just want to look at you.”


She smiles that beautiful smile and bends down to kiss my forehead as our hands join together. I feel like I could be with her forever.


Wan is wearing the gold bracelet, the gold ring on her left hand and the pendant and chain we had crafted in Yaowarat Road, Krungthep. My thoughts go back to December just gone and I remember the 9 days we had together in Krungthep as sleep overtakes me.


****


It was a Friday evening, 03 December, 2004 and my last night in Chiang Mai. I had arrived on Wednesday 01 December to stay three nights at The Sheraton Hotel after flying in from a week at Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Krungthep. So much of Krungthep had changed from when I lived there back when I met my wife Nat, yet there are things that could never change for me as I recall Krungthep, then. People always would say to me “Have you been to Chiang Mai, yet?”


I couldn’t see any reason to go to Chiang Mai as there was so much that I loved about Krungthep – she had cast her spell over me as she had done over countless Western men, or Farangs as the Thais know us. Who are we to imagine we could resist her mystery and charms? “And you, mere mortal Farang, do not even imagine that you are remotely capable of resisting the seduction. The surging hordes will easily carry you along – the beautiful slim, brown seductresses will hypnotize you with bodies that promise pleasures you have only dreamed of. Anything you want you can have – it is all there for the asking. Heaven is here on Earth – even if it is for a short while”. Oh, Natalise, how easily I fell in love with you then. So easy to talk with and a feeling that I had not known before. How did something that was so strong all come undone?


After checking out of Baiyoke Sky and riding the taxi out along Viphavadhi-Rangsit Tollway to Don Muang it was like reliving a dream that had happened not so long ago yet could have been a thousand years in the past. It was a little like I imagine it would be to be locked in some netherworld where there are no reference points, only intangibles that float through the mind in the form of memories – faces and places. In a little over an hour I would be 700 kilometres north in Chiang Mai and, once again, riding a taxi from the air terminal to the hotel – only this would be a new experience – my first visit to Chiang Mai, the Lanna Capital of the North.


The Sheraton Chiang Mai Hotel is impressive, on the eastern shore of Mae Nam Ping adjacent to Mengrai Bridge and I have an upgrade suite that overlooks Mae Nam Ping and the city that lies between here and Doi Suthep mountain. This was called The Westin Hotel before Sheraton took over the property. I am on floor 27 and, standing looking north-west over the city – I'm feeling alone and really quite lost.


The first afternoon and evening I did very little but tentatively explore the edges of Chiang Mai and had an early night at the hotel after a room-service meal. I think I slept well and was up early and had a simple breakfast in the River Terrace Restaurant before setting off on foot to try and find my way to the main Post Office near Chiang Mai Railway Station on Charoen Muang Road. Little did I realise the walk for which I had committed myself. I found the Post Office and decided to catch a tuk-tuk back to Changklan near The Night Bazaar. Of course, at this time of the morning, everything is closed but I found an Internet café and sent off a few e-mails and then decided to see what Chiang Mai was really like. By late morning I was clackered so I found a Thai Massage shop and had a 2-hour Massage then went back to the hotel.


About 4.30 p.m. I caught a tuk-tuk from the hotel to Changklan and walked around for a while before heading up Thapae Road toward Thapae Gate. The traffic is very heavy and the sheer volume and congestion reminds me a little of Krungthep. The sun has sunk down behind Doi Suthep and dusk is settling over the city and the bars are open and waiting for the tourists who will start coming soon for food and drink – (and girls). After pottering around a few of the shops I stop in a small bar and order a Bia Singha and try to unwind and make sense of why I am here and where I should go after I check out and leave Chiang Mai on Saturday morning. Of course, accommodation is arranged in Krungthep but the loneliness is making me feel as though I should not even be here. One of the girls has come to sit beside me at the bar and I buy her a drink while we chat for a short while. I think her name was Sarah but I’m not sure because I seem to be functioning on automatic and not a lot is registering with me so I pay the bar bill and get up and walk out into the night of Kotchasarn Road and turn left.


The traffic is still very busy as I note the time – 6.30 p.m. – and see that the bars are starting to draw a few customers as I head south down Kotchasarn with no particular destination in mind. On the corner of Kotchasarn and Loi Kroh I pause, trying to decide which direction to take when I see her standing in the doorway of one of the bars. She is tall, for a Thai, slim, dressed elegantly in a form-fitting dress, long black hair that falls freely around a very beautiful face with classic high cheekbones, eyes that sparkle and a smile that could melt the hardest heart. She waves to me and wai’s:


“Sawat-dee ka – you like to come and have drink?”


I smile back at her and return her wai, not knowing what to say.


“No, thank you, I go back to my hotel – I'm very tired.”


It is hard to break my gaze with her but I turn left and continue on my way down Loi Kroh to Changklan where I buy a couple of Bia Singha cans at a 7-11 and catch a tuk-tuk back to The Sheraton.


In my room I have a room-service snack and the beers as I look out over the lights of Chiang Mai but I cannot stop thinking about Australia and what lies back there in my home city. Looking at my watch I can see it is now 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. in Australia, East Coast – and Nat will now be asleep. She will have the letter I wrote to her from Krungthep sometime Monday or Tuesday – and the one I posted this morning will take another week to get to her.


I woke early on Friday morning, took breakfast in the restaurant but my sleep was filled with dreams and it was not a restful sleep. The face of the lady in the bar doorway on Kotchasarn came to me in my sleep and it is as if her memory is burned into my consciousness forever. This will be, I feel, the longest day I can remember – just trying to fill in time until I can go back and look for her this evening. I must see her again and talk with her because I know that I have seen her from somewhere before.


“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


That is how MacBeth described his feelings and that is how Friday seemed to me as each second dragged its feet around the watch face. I don’t recall much of Friday except for the urgency to go back to Kotchasarn – almost as though some force was pulling me there.


Around 6 p.m. I walked into the bar and there she was – that beautiful smile welcoming me as she wai’ed and said “Sawat-dee ka – welcome.”


I just looked at her and gave her my most reverent wai.


“Sawat-dee krup – korp-khun krup. Will you have a drink with me please?”


She came closer and I was lost in those beautiful eyes.


“Korp-khun ka – chai, lek.”


I motioned to one of the two bar stools to the left of the bar and waited for her to sit before taking my place on the stool next to her on her left.


“What will you have to drink?”


She smiled, “Orange juice, please.”


The lady behind the bar smiled at her and exchanged a few words in Thai.


I ordered a Bia Singha and the drink for her and asked her “Khun cheu-arai krup?”


“Wan, my name is Wan” – and she started to write a number 1 on a bar coaster.


I looked at the 1 and smiled at her.


“Your name – your name is one – number one?” – as I pointed to the 1 she had written


She just laughed and smiled at me: “Wan – Wan – you just call me Wan.”


Then she handed me a business card and showed me her name – Pirawan and she placed her finger under the “wan”.


“You see – Wan, short for Pirawan.”


I laughed too and felt like a first-class dork: “Now I understand – kor-thort krup.”


She squeezed my hand and smiled – “Mai-bpen-rai.”


“My name is Mark – pleased to meet you, Khun Wan.”


“Ah, Khun Mark, welcome to Chiang Mai.”


The bar lady placed the two drinks on the bar for us.


We clinked glasses and Wan smiled as she raised her glass: “Chohk-dee, Khun Mark.”


“Chohk-dee, Khun Wan.”


Two Farang tourists were playing pool with two of the other girls in the bar and another older Farang was sitting further along the bar to the right with another girl, not saying much to each other – they both looked perfectly bored.


The bar lady came over and started talking with Wan and me – better able to speak English than Wan but she started playing a few games of noughts and crosses on a vertical board with Wan and me in between serving drinks and talking with us. Wan didn''t seem to have the knack of playing this game as she kept losing each time – so I deliberately lost every second or third game so she would not lose face. I wanted her to be happy.


I started to order shots of Jack Daniels straight but Wan would not drink alcohol – only Coca-Cola or orange juice.


“Khun Mark, how long do you stay in Chiang Mai?”


“Three nights – this is my last night and I stay at The Sheraton Hotel. I leave tomorrow to go back to Krungthep and I don’t know how long I stay in Krungthep.”


After the third drink and more conversation I knew I wanted more time with this beautiful woman.


“Khun Wan, would you like to go somewhere else to dance, or maybe to have something to eat? Would you like dinner?”


She looked at me and smiled.


“Up to you.”


“We could go back to the hotel and have dinner. I could order room service – or we could eat in one of the restaurants.”


She looked into me with those beautiful eyes – soft and warm.


“You take me with you to Krungthep?”


“Yes – if you want. You stay with me tonight, please? I want to be with you.”


“OK – up to you. Tomorrow I come to Krungthep with you, yes?”


“Yes, we go Krungthep together!”


Wan called the bar lady over and spoke to her in Thai and a Thai man came out and spoke with us, shortly after.


“You take lady to Krungthep with you?”


“Yes – we fly tomorrow morning.”


I paid for the bar tab and 500 baht bar fine.


The man shook hands with me.


“Good luck – enjoy Krungthep.”


I took Wan’s hand in mine and we walked out into Kotchasarn where we hailed a tuk-tuk and rode on back to The Sheraton. The warm air blowing through the tuk-tuk ruffled her hair against my face as I leaned close to her so that our heads were touching. The sweet smell of her hair filled my senses.


Walking through the hotel lobby toward the elevators I can sense the attention this beautiful woman is attracting and I feel proud to be in her company. Once in the hotel room I draw the curtains back and we stand for a short time admiring the grand view of the lights of Chiang Mai and the reflections in the river – me, close behind her with my arms around her waist and my face resting against her hair. She snuggled back against me and I whispered to her – “my waanjai”.


“Shall I telephone room service and order food, now?”


She turns to face me.


“Up to you, Khun Mark – I am happy.”


The dinner was a selection of different dishes, delivered on a mobile table with dessert and Bia Singha – Wan deciding not to have any alcohol or soft-drink but water instead.


During the meal I tell her we will need to go out and purchase a suitcase for her so she can carry her clothes to Krungthep in the morning as the flight leaves Chiang Mai at 10.15 a.m. and there will be no time to shop in the morning. After a quick trip by tuk-tuk to the Night Bazaar we find a medium-size Polo suitcase and hurry back to the hotel by tuk-tuk where I make inquiries at Reception if the hotel can book an extra ticket for Wan to Krungthep with me on TG 103 tomorrow morning. Yes, they will attend to the booking early in the morning.


The ice cream on the dessert plate has melted but neither of us is able to eat any more from the meal so I wheel the table out into the hallway and close the door.


After we have both showered, slipping between the crisp, clean sheets beside her is so wonderful. Wan has such fair skin – not brown like many Thais. Feeling her soft sensuality against me is more than I can resist and we are one.


Next morning I am the first to wake and shower before waking Wan with a light kiss and asking her if she would like to come down for breakfast.


“Mai, Khun Mark, for you – I wait here for you.”


It is very early and the restaurant has only opened a short while ago so I have a quick breakfast and return to the room to wake Wan again because we must pack, get dressed and organise her ticket to Krungthep and then we must call on the way to the airport to pick up a few clothes for Wan to pack in the suitcase we purchased last night.


Down at Reception I paid the fare in Thai baht and the hotel has arranged for the ticket to be delivered to us by 8.30 a.m. Now all we must do is call at an address on the way so Wan can get more clothes and other essentials. By 8.45 a.m. the ticket has arrived and I have settled the hotel account and we are in a tuk-tuk on our way to somewhere en-route to the airport. I wait with the tuk-tuk driver while Wan hurries in and takes about 15 minutes to get the things she needs and we are at the airport by about 9.30 a.m.


Flight TG 103 is a 747 today and check-in is routine for us both so we have about a half hour to wait in the upstairs departure lounge to relax and wait for the call to board.


The flight down to Krungthep is smooth and the weather fine but smoggy over the city as we make a smooth landing and taxi to a hard-stand to be taken by bus to the domestic arrivals area where we wait to collect our baggage. As usual, baggage collection is fast and Wan and I head for the taxi queue and get a chit from the kiosk before heading into the city. Krungthep heat is noticeable as the humidity hits you the moment you leave the air-conditioning of the arrivals hall. In the taxi, Wan looks tired as I put my hand in hers and she smiles as we speed along Viphavadhi Tollway toward the exit ramp to Ploenchit, where the traffic is banked up waiting to turn right into Ploenchit. A traffic cop is doing his best to keep things moving in spite of the congestion but Wan doesn’t look well by the time we get onto Ploenchit and are crawling our way toward Rama I.


Before going to Chiang Mai I had made arrangements to stay at The Pranee Building on my return to Krungthep, so that is where we are now headed. It's fairly basic accommodation but friendly and I figured it would be a nice change to stay here again after 3-star and 4-star properties. The big thing going for it is that it is central to everything. I know the proprietors and have stayed here before, after having it recommended by a friend, Khun Rick, a New Zealander who lived here when he worked on the concrete for the construction of The Baiyoke Sky Tower. I just hope Wan does not think it too down-market.


Khun Wan, sabai-dee reu?”


“Puat hua, nawy, chan sabai-dee, Khun Mark.”


She lays her head against me and I hold her close.


“Not long, Love – we be at hotel soon. I have Tylenol for you.”


To be continued.



Stickman's
thoughts:

Ah yes, Miss Wan. I do believe Dana once wrote about her…