Consider Wisely – Regrets May Follow Part 3
Krungthep, Saturday 04 December, 2004: Wan and I have just flown down from Chiang Mai and are riding a taxi along Rama I in very heavy traffic. One week ago I was a man separated from my wife with no thoughts of even looking for a partner – but here I am with this beautiful person at my side. How quickly things can change and the complete dynamics of life alter with one decision.
At Siam we turn right into Phayathai so we can make the left turn that leads into Soi Kasem San I, where The Pranee is located. Soi Kasem San I is narrow and usually lined with food stalls and barrows so it is one-way and The Pranee is nearly at the corner where it joins Rama I – tucked in behind The Muangphol Building. Soogunya is at the desk when we check in – she's friendly but seems surprised that Wan is with me as the last time I was here was when I stayed here for 10 days while Natalise went up to Surin to attend the Thai Court custody ruling to get her two girls to bring back to Australia. But today, having already booked ahead before going to Chiang Mai, we are shown to the room and it is good to get into air-con once again. This is a massive come-down in accommodation standard from The Sheraton – it has its own toilet and shower, basic wardrobe and mirror and twin beds but Wan doesn’t seem to mind as all she wants to do is remove her make-up, freshen up and lie down. I give her a couple of Tylenol which she takes and then we lie down together on one bed to try to get a little sleep. She lies with her leg resting on me and her head on my shoulder as I kiss her on the forehead. We fall to sleep together.
Sometime around 3.30 p.m. we woke and Wan seemed better after sleeping so I asked her how was her headache – pointing to her head.
She smiled – “Mai-jep – sabai-dee, korp-khun ka.”
We dressed and Wan carefully attended to make-up in the mirror before we were ready and went downstairs to the noise that is Rama I at 4.30 on a Saturday afternoon. On the flight down from Chiang Mai a light snack was served but neither of us were hungry at the time and, to be honest, the quality of the food on domestic flights is not very good. But now it would be good to walk around for a while and maybe find somewhere that would be pleasant for a meal a bit later on. I suggest taking the Skytrain along to Chidlom and that will put us in the heart of one of Krungthep’s busiest shopping and eating areas near the intersection of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri – close to Gaysorn Plaza and The World Trade Centre.
After changing to the On Nut line at Siam we ride the short distance to Chidlom where you can go down to the street level, where it is crowded, or stay on the upper walkway that gives access to Gaysorn Plaza – a very up-market shopping facility filled with exclusive boutique stores, coffee shops and is air-conditioned. This also leads to a walkway that crosses Ratchadamri to give access to The World Trade Centre.
Time slips by as we stroll around, looking at the shops and at some of the market stalls on the eastern side of Ratchadamri and it is then that we return to the overhead walkway through Gaysorn Plaza and onward toward Chidlom. To the right is a restaurant that looks like it might be pleasant for a meal as it serves Chinese, Thai and Western meals. This is The Amarin Food House and we are welcomed by the mature female Maitre d' who shows us to a lovely corner table overlooking Ploenchit down toward The Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
We do not order wine as Wan is happy with nam-cha yen and I have my usual Bia Singha while we select from the excellent menu. The Christmas season is approaching and, although Thais do not observe Christmas, there is a highly-noticeable presence of the Festive Season in the many light displays and decorations that festoon Ploenchit and the buildings alongside. Down below, the traffic is chaotic as cars and buses move slowly, bumper-to-bumper toward the lights at the intersection of Ratchadamri and Ploenchit.
“Chohk-dee Khun Wan” and we clink glasses.
“Chohk-dee Khun Mark” – and I know that I already am feeling what I know is love for this woman.
Down below, tour buses are arriving and departing from the concourse at the front entrance to The Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel and I wonder how this traffic ever manages to resolve into some sort of order – yet it does. The Christmas season is starting to make me feel quite home-sick and my thoughts travel back to Australia and the last Christmas with Nat and the two children. What I would give to have that back again. But, I am here and I am very grateful to be in the company of this lovely woman at this table.
After the meal we leave and walk down past The Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel and purchase candles, lotus buds and gold leaf to make merit at The Erawan Shrine – a revered place renowned for bestowing good luck on those who pray before the shrine. I follow Wan’s movements as we place the candles on four sides of the shrine and spread the gold leaf in similar fashion while praying to Buddha. This is a moving occasion and I feel it is quite important and a sign of the close bond that is developing between us. When I think about it, Wan is the only person whom I have ever gone with to The Erawan Shrine to make merit.
Back at The Pranee I am first to shower and prepare for bed and then Wan is ready to do the same, after removing her make-up that was so carefully applied earlier. We have pushed the twin beds together so that we may be close all night. While Wan takes her turn in the shower I take the opportunity to write some correspondence back to Australia but I seem to be stuck for words to write so, shortly after starting, I put the paper down and lie back under the covers, waiting for Wan.
When we finally come together it is different to anything I have experienced with a woman before this – as if we have been husband and wife always. We make love then fall asleep lying in the spoon position covered with a blanket and joined in spirit – we are one and at peace.
Sunday morning comes and I wake to find Wan lying with her head on my shoulder and my face buried in her soft, sweet hair. I am at peace as I whisper softly near her ear.
“Arun Sawat, Khun Pirawan.”
She looks at me, still half-asleep, and kisses me softly.
“Arun Sawat, Khun Mark.”
We fall together just like last night and it is so hard to believe that we have only been together two nights and one day for this experience to be as strong as it is – it's not just the sex – it's more like a spiritual bond that has existed for a long, long time.
“Wan, you are my ‘mee-a’ – my Waanjai, my Wife”.
She whispers softly – “Korp-khun ka, Mark my Sarmee”.
The Pranee Building is quite noisy during this stay as workmen are chiselling up the tile floor in the reception area and exposing the concrete underneath prior to laying a new tile surface and renovating the whole area. From about 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. the noise continues each day and it is about midday when Wan and I decide to rise, shower and dress before heading out to find a place to eat breakfast.
Walking through the café adjoining reception we step out onto Rama I and we decide to turn right then walk along to the corner of Soi Kasem San II. There is a hotel on the corner, “Krit Thai Mansion”, which appears to have a downstairs restaurant so we decide to go up the short, steep flight of stairs and through the swinging doors to find a well-set-out restaurant with good waiter service and are shown to a table near a window that overlooks Rama I. The prices are reasonable. This little restaurant becomes a regular breakfast place for us as the food is good, service is fine and the beer is cold. I seem to have taken the habit of drinking two Bia Singha yai at breakfast but Wan still will not drink alcohol and normally orders cafe´ yen.
After breakfast, the time is spent looking at Bahn Jim Thompson’s down the far end of Soi Kasem San II and I decide to pay for a guided tour of the site with a Thai speaking guide as I want Wan to understand what is being said because I have already seen this attraction. We need to wait for about 30 minutes for the tour to begin and spend that time inspecting the lovely gardens that surround the house. When the time arrives there are only three of us for the tour – Wan, a Thai girl tour guide and myself so we set off after leaving our belongings in a locker at reception and off we go. The girl is beautiful in her traditional Thai sarong and matching top and she goes to great lengths to explain everything to Wan – asking me in English if I understand.
I smile at her.
“Chai, korp-khun krup – I have been here before.”
We are half-way through the tour when things are interrupted by Wan’s cell-phone ringing so she takes the call and walks a little distance away, leaving the girl and I alone.
I smile at her.
“Excuse me, I am sorry for this interruption. She will not be long on the call.”
The girl wai’s to me and smiles – “Mai-bpen-rai.”
I feel a little embarrassed and, maybe, a little angry that Wan is so long on the phone so I look around at the artefacts on the shelves and try not to look too often at the girl.
Wan finishes her call and returns and we then complete the tour and thank the girl and give her a tip for her services. I'm wondering if it was a waste of time coming here as I feel that Wan was not really interested in the tour. We wai to the girl before walking back up Soi Kasem San II to Rama I and go up to National Stadium Skytrain level and decide to walk through Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre. That seems to take forever. I really have the feeling that, although Wan may not have been very interested in Jim Thompson’s House, she certainly is interested in shopping. However, the afternoon passes quickly and we return to The Pranee with quite a bundle of items of clothes – then we have a short rest until it is time to go out again to find a restaurant for the evening meal. Of course, we return to Amarin Food House – and that becomes our regular evening meal venue.
Wan tells me that she wishes for us to go to Chinatown this week so we can visit Yaowarat Road to look at the gold shops. That’s OK.
“Wan, we can do that Tuesday, wan ang-kahn, because tomorrow morning I must go to The Australian Embassy as there is some business I must attend to.”
Wan looks surprised.
“You go to Embassy to take me to Australia?”
“No, mai – I not take anybody to Australia again. Thailand is where I want to stay but I must find out something for friends in Australia (Khun Loong and his panrayar) who are trying to bring her lukchai to Australia as a resident and also to get Visa papers for somebody so I can fill the papers out for them – Khun kow-jai?”
She looks confused, so I guess she really does not kow-jai.
“You get Visa papers for another lady and take her to Australia?”
“No – mai, Teeruk – I not take anybody to Australia and I not sponsor anybody to go to Australia.”
Wan does not look convinced and I feel a little uncomfortable – wishing I had not elaborated on my visit to The Australian Embassy – but I will not let this spoil the time we have together. The meal is great, my beer is good and I love Wan’s company. Down below, the traffic groans along amid the thousands of Christmas lights and part of me is away in Australia, wondering what Nat is doing tonight. How I wish I could stop thinking about her – but I cannot.
Monday morning I am up early and dress quietly as I wish to be at The Australian Embassy when the gates open so I kiss Wan and tell her I will be back about 11 a.m. She smiles, kisses me and goes back to sleep as I close the door and make my way out to Rama I and up to the Skytrain station from where I will ride as far as Chong Nonsi and then walk the remainder of the way to the Embassy on Sathon South Road. Security has increased substantially here since my last visit and there are several armed guards on the gatehouse. All personal effects such as cell-phones must be left at the gatehouse and any belongings needed inside must be placed inside a clear plastic bag to be carried inside through further check-points. Before any visitors were allowed through the gates at the check-point a Thai Army truck dropped off three Special-Services soldiers armed with automatic weapons. The soldiers disappeared into the foliage inside the grounds and we saw them no more – but you can be sure they could see us.
Once inside, after obtaining a sequential number and talking with an Embassy Official it appears that my friend's application is almost ready so I pick up the Visa application forms for Siriporn, Nat’s younger sister, and I walk back down to Silom Road to see Nat’s elder sister, Amorn, intending to give the papers to her for Siriporn. Nat has told me she will sponsor and pay for the Visa for Siriporn to go to Australia to be with her.
Amorn seems surprised to see me.
“Chalermchai, you come back from Chiang Mai already?”
“Yes, but I not come back alone – I have lady with me from Chiang Mai.”
I tell her about Wan and that we are staying at The Pranee and she seems a little surprised that I have brought her to Krungthep.
"You like her? Is she a nice lady?"
"Amorn, she is a really beautiful person."
“Do you love this lady?”
I look at Amorn and I remember all the times I have come here to talk with her in the past and somehow I wish that things were not as they are at this time.
“Yes – I think I really am starting to love her. She is a lovely lady and so easy to be with.”
Amorn looks at me and she has that sad look in her eyes that I can feel in my own.
“This lady – what is her name?”
“Wan – her name is Pirawan and we met Friday evening.”
“How long will you be in Krungthep?”
“I am not sure – maybe a week or more and then Wan wants me to go back to Chiang Mai to meet her parents – I don’t know what to do.”
Amorn sits down and looks at me then motions me to sit beside her.
“If you love her you should be with her.”
I shrug my shoulders as if this is all too much – yet I know that I really have feelings of love for Wan but I know that I still love Nat.
“Amorn, I still love Nat – I never wanted things to be like this. I came to Thailand to be away from Australia for Christmas but I feel just as bad here.”
Just then Siriporn comes along and joins us and I give the papers to her for the Visa application. Siriporn is having her morning break from the jewellery shop where she works and I decide to leave as I think I should head back to The Pranee as Wan will be wondering what is taking me so long.
Wan is already up and has showered by the time I get back so we decide to go for breakfast after she is dressed and has attended to her make-up. The rest of the day is mostly taken up by a visit to The World Trade Centre and looking around Pratunam, selecting clothes for Wan to buy – the pile in the room is growing larger.
Tuesday morning we sleep late and take breakfast at Krit Thai Mansion and then catch a taxi to Yaowarat to try and locate Hing Sing Gold Shop. While in the taxi, my cell-phone rings and it is Nat calling me from Australia. She asks me if I can talk for a while and I say “yes” – but I guess something in my voice causes her to ask me if I am alone or with somebody.
“I am in a taxi right now and I am with somebody.”
“Are you with a lady?”
“Yes – I can’t talk a lot right now. Can I call you back later?”
She sounds very distressed.
Between sobs through the phone she asks: “What am I supposed to do?”
Wan is looking at me but trying not to intrude – she looks away.
I really don’t know what I can say to Nat.
“I don’t know, Love – what can I say? I will call you back later today and talk about it. Is that all right?”
“No, it’s OK – goodbye.”
The phone is dead and she is gone.
I feel dreadful that Nat has found out like this. What have I done? What sort of a day will this turn out to be? I tell myself that I tried every way I could to go back to her before I left Australia but it doesn’t help the things I am feeling.
Chinatown, or Ratanakosin area of Krungthep, is always crowded and today is no exception. There are many gold merchants here yet the shop we seek is easy to find but is crowded with people trying to get the attention of the attendants behind the counter. Wan has a photograph of her parents inside a locket that they have given to her and she wants to have it mounted as a pendant with a chain. It takes a long time to have the work attended to and then seems to take even longer to go through the process of selecting a chain that is appropriate. While here, I suggest that she look at a bracelet for her left arm and a gold ring to go with it.
A large part of the afternoon is taken up by this exercise but Wan is very happy with the results and I am also pleased to see her so happy. Late in the afternoon we called into a digital photo studio at Siam Square and had a whole set of shots taken of the two of us by a professional photographer. After about 30 minutes the shots were ready to be viewed on computer and we picked about 30 of the ones we liked and ordered two sets of prints. They were really nice and Wan was so pleased with them – then we returned to the room to freshen up, change clothes and go out for the evening meal.
Sitting at our table in the restaurant I cannot even begin to describe the feelings of loneliness and estrangement that seem to be made worse by looking down at the Christmas lights in Ploenchit below. Here I am in the company of the most lovely woman I have known yet I have this oppressive sense of dread that I have made a very grave mistake in coming back to Thailand this time. In spite of the unstable past 6 months being married with Nat and the frequent arguments over things I cannot even remember to identify, specifically, I have this feeling deep within my soul that I love Nat very much and wish I could be with her. Nat, I never wanted things to be like this. Why did you keep rejecting my offers to try reconciliation before I left Australia? I tried so hard to come back to you – asking you every day for several weeks but you continued to say no – why?
The next week seemed to pass by so quickly as Wan and I walked around markets and boutiques looking at clothes and sometimes buying what she wanted. She has been putting pressure on me to return to Chiang Mai with her so that I can meet Mamma and Pappa but I feel that Australia is where I really must be and the urgency is growing in me to change my departure date to return from Thailand to be in Australia – even if it is just to be close by – so I can see Nat and the two girls for Christmas. My 90-day visa runs until the end of February and it was then that my Yearly Ticket was validated for return to Australia – but I have a Non-Immigrant Type “O” Visa so all I really need to do is a visa-run to get another 90 days in Thailand and change the date of the return leg on my ticket with Thai Airways. Nat knew this before I left Australia.
I don’t recall the day when both of us went to Thai Airways to book a seat to Chiang Mai for Wan but I guess I had already made up my mind that I was going to go back to see Nat so I changed my ticket date to leave Krungthep on Wednesday December 15 and got Wan’s ticket to go back to Chiang Mai on Monday December 13.
Wan was not happy about returning to Chiang Mai without me. She cried and threw the ticket across the room – but I told her I would not be long in Australia and I would come back as quickly as possible. Of course I was not even sure that I was telling her the truth but to stay in Thailand without having tried one more time to resolve the differences with Nat was more than I think I could have endured over the Christmas period. Once again, here I am, trying to buy more time in the hope that I will see things a little clearer. Seems like all my life I have been trying to buy time.
On Monday I went to Don Muang with Wan and made sure she was checked in safely, made sure she had enough money to last until I return and then I saw her off at the departure gate barriers – with a heavy heart as I watched her walk away toward the security checkpoints. One last wave to each other and then I turned and walked back to the taxi zone and rode the Tollway back to The Pranee. Wan, you have left a large, empty space in my heart that longs to have you back there in it but what am I to do – Dear God, what am I to do?
Monday evening, as arranged, I went to Amorn’s home in Sathon to help Siriporn fill out the papers. The family was just getting ready to prepare the evening meal. Tep, Jut and I went down to the local store and I bought beer, whiskey and Coca-Cola and a bag of ice then we went back to the home and we set up mats on the rear balcony and sat around in a circle – very much like we used to often do when Nat and I visited them back when we lived in Krungthep.
Amorn is the first to speak.
“Where is your lady friend?”
I look at her and shake my head.
“Today, I put her on a flight back to Chiang Mai. I will go back to Australia and see if I can talk with Nat over Christmas. Amorn, I have to do this for Wan as well as Nat.”
“When do you go to Australia?”
“I leave Krungthep Wednesday night.”
Looking out over the balcony wall I can see a building that was left uncompleted for a long time because of the Asian financial “crash” of 1997 but I can see now that it is finished and there are lights on in many of the floors. Malee, Jut’s wife, is here and so is Siriporn, Nat’s younger sister, with her boyfriend, Gop. Nuk – Amorn and Tep’s daughter – is here too, so it is almost like it was except that Nat is not here. I like being with this family and it is nice to share time and a few drinks with them. Amorn brings out some photographs for us to look through. Some of the photographs I have not seen before but there are so many that I remember that bring back a flood of memories that I wish so much were not just memories. It is so hard not to show emotion and I don’t think I am doing a very good job of hiding feelings.
Time moves on as does life and I am conscious that it is getting late and these people must work tomorrow so I decide about 10.30 that I better leave. Tep insists on taking me on his motorcycle through the back sois to Narathiwat where I thank him, hail a tuk-tuk and go back to The Pranee.
I don’t remember much about Tuesday except going to World Trade Centre, Panthip Plaza for DVD’s and the rest is just a hazy memory. In the evening I had this need to go down to Sukhumvit and I wandered up Soi 7/1 to the bar that was once operated by Neville – an Australian ex-pat, back in 2000. I sat talking with the new owner or mamasan – a lady from Surin named Bia. It was nice just to sit there and talk about life, Krungthep in general and to listen to some of her stories. There were a few Farangs in the bar and some of the girls were trying to hook up for the night as they danced to the music from the stereo system. I was happy just to sit and have a few drinks and buy a few for Bia as well. I suppose if you are going to be miserable it might as well be in pleasant surroundings and with pleasant company. I enjoyed the evening although I really felt like I was being split in half by other matters.
Wednesday I checked out of The Pranee late and rode the Tollway in the taxi to Don Muang about mid-afternoon even though TG 983 does not leave until late evening – but it is good to avoid the traffic snarls around Ratchathewi and the Din Daeng interchange as late afternoon approaches. I stowed my luggage in the “Left Luggage” room and strolled around for a while before heading to the brewery bar upstairs in Terminal II for a few beers.
Time seemed as though it was standing still until it came time to board the aircraft and I don’t recall much of the flight home. I don’t even remember much about the time I was in Australia except for the fact that Nat was not in town for Christmas Day and I didn’t manage to talk with her until after Christmas. She was still unwilling to talk about reconciliation. She told me that she had been waiting for me to come back to Australia on the original schedule per my ticket so we could talk again – but now it was too late. I tried to understand why she hadn't said this to me earlier – I can't read a person's mind – so now I was left with a sinking feeling that I had now failed two people – Nat and Wan.
To be continued.