Consider Wisely – Regrets May Follow Part 4
Having shared 9 days in Krungthep with Wan, I flew back to Australia on December 15 after seeing Wan onto a flight back to Chiang Mai on December 13. It is now Friday 13 January after having just arrived back in Chiang Mai today from Australia – and I have booked return tickets for Wan and me to Krungthep again so we can stay there for another 5 nights. We are under a shady tree in Buak Head Park and I'm waking from a short nap, my head resting on Wan's lap.
The afternoon sun has shifted as Wan rests her hand on my forehead to shield my eyes from the light. I am awake now and I look up at her and reach to touch her beautiful hair.
She smiles down at me.
“Sarmee, you have pak – sabai-dee-reu?”
I look into her beautiful eyes.
“Nit-nawy – sabai-dee.”
The park is busy as many people enjoy this quiet oasis – lying as couples or groups on rattan mats like us or feeding the fish from the small bridges that arch over the waterways that meander through the park. Not far from us a Farang is stretched out on a park bench, sleeping, as Wan and I get up and begin collecting our belongings and roll up the rattan mat to return it to the vendor where we hired it. Wan is keen to show me the Winter Fair this evening so we start making our way back to The Sheraton Hotel to shower and relax for a short while.
I have to say that I am not over-enthusiastic about going anywhere tonight considering the time I have been without proper sleep but I will go and make Wan happy. I would much sooner we went for a quiet meal at a good restaurant and went to bed early. My desire to sleep beside her and make love is very strong but so is my love for her and my desire to bring her happiness.
Wan and I took Tai, Nok, Nee (Wan's daughter) and some “drop-kick” teenage Thai lad with us in the sawngthaew to where the Winter Fair was playing. I thought we were never getting there as we seemed to be driving forever and I had totally lost my bearings on the way out there. Before we got there I had made up my mind that I was not about to play “Mr Bountiful” and pay for everything for all and sundry – I was only going to pay for whatever Wan and Nee wanted. I don't think that was too well received. I have since found out the fair is held in a field within the “700-Year Stadium” precincts out along the Canal Road toward Huay Teung Tau. It was a predictably drawn-out evening of noise, crowds and a longing for the time when we could head back to town and get some sleep. I was cold and very tired but Wan insisted we watch what seemed like a never-ending series of contestants competing in a beauty parade. I've never been remotely interested in fashion or beauty contests – so this was a test of endurance for me. It was after midnight by the time we got back to The Sheraton – but it was so good to be alone with Wan again and I began wondering why I had even bothered to go back to Australia for those past weeks.
Saturday morning we both slept late – something that was to become a pattern for the rest of the time we were together. Next door to The Sheraton stood a high-rise block of condominiums where we were interested in inquiring about renting on our return from Krungthep, so we inspected three Units after breakfast and decided that we would make a booking for one that appealed to us for when we returned next week. We shopped The Night Bazaar for a larger Polo suitcase for Wan to take to Krungthep and the rest of the day was fairly low-key. Sunday afternoon we travelled in the sawngthaew to the house where Mamma and Pappa live where we exchanged pleasantries before taking the family to a nice restaurant on a small artificial lake just off the Chiang Mai-Lampang highway. This was to be a place where we would come many times in the following months. Tonight would be the last night at The Sheraton and we would fly to Krungthep in the morning for a five-day stay at The Baiyoke Sky Tower – something I wanted to give to Wan to make up for the previous stay at The Pranee, which I saw as below what she was worth to me.
We flew Thai Airways by 747 out of Chiang Mai and our room at Baiyoke was an upgrade suite with a wonderful view from Lat Phrao and all the way around to Sukhumvit and Ratchadamri. The furnishings were comfortable – most of all the bed – and the bathroom was as large as a small apartment – sheer luxury. Really, though, I have to admit that it would not matter much to me where we were – just so long as we were together.
The days were mostly occupied by forays into Pratunam and the back sois looking at clothing bargains with the occasional trip to World Trade Centre for a chance to escape the heat of Krungthep and a chance to check out the boutiques and Department Stores of Zen and Isetan. Mostly, it was just a repeat of the previous 9 days we had shared in Krungthep last December.
The days passed quickly in Krungthep and we were booked to fly to Chiang Mai on Saturday but, somehow, I got a day ahead of myself and we checked out on the Friday and checked in at Thai Airways only to be told we were a day early. No problem really, because there was space available on the same flight on Friday so the check-in lady just changed the date and issued us with boarding passes and baggage checks. In Chiang Mai we rode a tuk-tuk to Riverside Condominiums and encountered what appeared to be a misunderstanding over the rental arrangements. Wan and I were not happy so we insisted on a refund of the deposit we had given them a week ago in cash. Then we made our way to Veerachai Court – just down Soi II off Thapae Road. Wan suggested this place and it looked OK so I agreed, considering it was my intention to stay there no longer than 1 month during which time we would suss out somewhere more permanent. There was a choice of rooms available at a cheaper rate than Riverside Condominiums and we were closer to the many things we needed in Chiang Mai.
Veerachai Court was just a short walk down Soi II Thapae from the beauty salon for Wan, Internet services for me and any number of places to eat or shop for things we needed. We had multi-channel satellite TV, private bathroom, refrigerator and air-con and we settled in to make this home until the way for the future seemed more certain. That first month we waited for Khun Loong and his wife May to arrive from Australia as I really wanted them to meet Wan – I just knew they would love this lady. They had made a booking to stay at another Guest House, on the Mae Ping side of The Night Bazaar but no confirmation ever came back to them so they ended up booking in for 1 month at Traveller Inn on Loi Kroh Road. This was about a half-kilometre walk from where we were but it was a walk we did quite often on our travels each day. Later, we were to stay at Traveller Inn ourselves after Khun Loong and May left Chiang Mai to return to Australia.
Setting up home with Wan was exciting and made the bond that held us together even stronger. When you spend 24 hours of every day with someone it is a real test of compatibility – it will either make your bond stronger or it will drive you apart but it was clear, very early in our relationship, that we were supposed to be together. Our first shopping trip to buy cups, saucers, coffee, coffee-mate, sugar, spoons etc was to the Chinatown area which was a short walk down Thapae Road and then left down a series of narrow sois filled with shops and an endless bottleneck of sawngthaews, motorcycles and street vendor carts. I don’t like shopping but this really was setting up our first home together and I find it hard to find the words to describe how wonderful this felt. That day Wan saw an electric kettle and she wanted me to buy it.
"Sarmee, you buy for to make your coffee, yes?"
Wan's parents live on a flat area south of Chiang Mai – part of the flood-plain that was section of the old settlement of Haripunchai that extended down to Lamphun. Established by Queen Jamathewi, around 1100, this area today is where Wan comes from and her parents have a small holding on which they grow lamyai fruit. The house is a modest wooden high-set building set back amongst the trees and on a corner block of land where the chickens run freely during the day, foraging. I gain the impression that Pappa has been an educated man who held a responsible job before retiring as there are many framed photographs of him in suit and waistcoat as well as various members of the family hung in the downstairs part of the house. All Thai families make visitors welcome but there is something that is different about people from the northern part of Thailand that distinguishes them from other Thais. The people are “warmer” – not so guarded but more open and honest – I think.
One of our first family dinners on a Sunday evening at the restaurant near the highway is attended by a couple of Pappa’s neighbours and Pappa asks me a question.
“Khun Mark – do you love Wan?”
I looked at him and smiled.
“Yes Pappa, I love Wan very much.”
Pappa then continues.
“Do you wish to marry with Pirawan, Khun Mark?”
I suppose I am taken a little by surprise by this – gob-smacked, actually.
“Yes – I would be proud to marry with Pirawan – I would like that very much.”
At this point I speak with Nee, the young woman of the family (Wan's daughter), and I explain to her that I am still married to a lady in Australia but we are separated and the divorce will not come through until early next year. Until then, I cannot marry with anyone else. After that I will be happy to marry with Pirawan. Nee translates this for Pappa and this seems to be satisfactory so the meal continues and we enjoy the evening.
The sun is setting to the west behind Hang Dong and we are seated around a long table in the covered area that is built upon a platform that juts out over the large artificial lake. The lake is filled with fish of all description, swimming close to the surface of the water in anticipation of the pellets and scraps that will be thrown into the water by us and other guests. In the centre of the lake is a fountain and beyond that a small island that is reached by a small wooden and rope suspension bridge from the northern end of the main part of the restaurant. It is so peaceful here and the sunset enhances the beauty of this place with its orange and gold hues reflecting on the few tiny clouds that float in the distance and off the water in the lake.
In those first weeks when we lived at Veerachai Court we waited for Khun Loong and May to arrive from Australia and we would regularly walk through the back sois to Loi Kroh Road to have breakfast. This morning, Khun Loong was having breakfast in a small restaurant facing us as we crossed Loi Kroh Road and I introduced him to Wan. Khun Loong told us that May was out at the home with the family and would probably be back tomorrow so we arranged to meet him later to go and have lunch at The Gallery Restaurant on Thapae Road, down near the corner of Changklan. They had booked in for the month at Traveller Inn just a few doors back up Loi Kroh. It was so nice to catch up with him and I was looking forward to seeing May tomorrow when she returned – she is the most lovely lady you could hope to meet and it is nice to see that they are so happy together.
May got along very well with Wan and the four of us would often go walking in the evenings through Talat Wororot looking for clothing and food bargains to take back to our rooms. We had dinner together one evening at a nice restaurant on Thanon Moon Muang — just the other side of the moat near Thapae Gate – and it was very enjoyable. May brought her two sons back from her home out of town for a day or two and they seemed to enjoy the time socialising. It's strange, but we always had our breakfast in the Traveller Inn dining room and the staff would play music DVD's on the big 106 cm Plasma TV for us. The first one we saw there was "Hell Freezes Over" by The Eagles and this took me right back to Krungthep with Nat, when we saw this DVD while it was playing at an Italian restaurant where I took Nat for dinner at The World Trade Centre. Sometimes, the staff at Traveller Inn would play "Acoustica – Live" by The Scorpions. Khun Loong liked this DVD and I came to love it also because it seemed to be a very symbolic link that Wan and I shared and became a common theme in our lives.
One thing that really bothers me is the number of calls and text messages that Wan gets on her cell-phone. Some of these come late at night after we have gone to bed – or even in the morning before we wake up, often before daybreak. She always makes some lame excuse or says it is “young sister”. Quite often she will not answer the phone when she sees the number displayed on her phone. I am convinced they are calls coming in from former male acquaintances trying to set up another rendezvous for the next visit to Thailand – or even some that are probably still here. Considering the circumstances in which we met I guess I should expect this – but I would have expected she would have told people she was now in a permanent relationship and not to call. I have done that with any former female friends that I had – they don't call me. There have been times when I have got a bit stroppy with her about it – but there is not a lot I can do. The thing with our relationship is that it has never been like a P4P arrangement – no money has ever changed hands for company or sex between us. I pay for everything either of us does or wants – accommodation, food, drink, clothes – everything, no questions asked. Consequently, I consider Wan to be my mee-a or, at the very least, my girlfriend. Yeah, I know – I am still paying in other ways.
It is a Saturday morning and we are driving out to pick up the family and we will have a day together visiting a few of the major attractions around Chiang Mai, ending up at Doi Suthep Temple (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep) – the most hallowed Buddhist Temple in Northern Thailand – as Wan’s parents would like to visit there with us.
The day starts off by picking up Wan's family and then we call at Wiang Kum Kam – the excavated ruins of a series of temple sites dating back to The Haripunchai period of Lanna Thai. This area was severely inundated, repeatedly, by Mae Ping flooding, resulting in the site being abandoned for the higher ground that is currently the site of the old Walled City that was the original Chiang Mai. We ride to inspect the principal sites in pony-and-carriage procession, paying respects at each of the wat ruins where we stop and it is quite a romantic and gentle way to move around the narrow roads that wind through the groves of trees and private homes nearby. Wiang Kum Kam is really quite close to Chiang Mai – just south of the city off the Chiang Mai–Lamphun Road.
After that we head back out along the Mae Rim road to visit Mai Sa Elephant Nursery where Wan and I rode an elephant for about an hour. I think that was about an hour too long. We then called in at The Snake farm further down the road and then stopped to have lunch at a small restaurant set in a lovely background of garden flowers. After lunch we head back to the intersection of Huay Kaew Road and Nimenheimin, turn right and begin the long and steep climb up the winding road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the summit. From here you can either walk up the long Naga staircase that ascends to the Temple or you can ride the cable tramway which is easier, as Mamma and Pappa are not fit for the walk up the staircase – neither am I after that elephant ride.
From the top of the Temple grounds the view is quite outstanding but there are so many tourists and the touts are really intrusive by trying to sell their merchandise so my patience is being sorely tempted. All I really want is for Wan and I to be able to pay our respects to the monks and purchase a couple of identical Buddha amulets – but the opportunity to speak with a monk does not present itself although we did purchase two Buddha amulets. By the time it came to go I was really eager to be out of there – and that is not a good way to feel in such a sacred place. I made a mental note never to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on a weekend or holiday again.
That day we also visit Bor Sang to look at the crafts, Shinawatra Thai Silk and several boutique outlets at Sankampaeng before wending our way back to Mamma and Pappa's home and dropping off the family. I guess my feelings are mixed about the day’s events. You know, there was the feeling that I was being led to part with money that would have incorporated a good “commission” for the sawngthaew driver but I wasn’t buying – yet there was the good feeling of being with Wan and that she seemed happy I had involved her family in the day’s activities. That was good I had made her happy.
Wan always wanted to make our room at Veerachai Court as homely as possible and we always would place fresh Lotus garlands at the head of our bed each evening before praying together and crawling beneath the sheets. I loved the part of praying together as it seemed to strengthen the spiritual bond between us.
Sometimes, after returning from dinner with the family, we would walk on a Sunday evening through Thapae Gate then through the markets along Thanon Ratchadamnoen, looking at the amazing variety of wares on sale, the food stalls and the street performers who always seemed to attract huge crowds. One evening we found a ring-maker engraving names on the silver rings he had sold to buyers. I picked out one and I asked him to engrave “Wan” on my ring and I have worn it ever since. Wan asked the man to engrave another ring with my name on it also for herself.
Wan wanted to buy picture frames for our bedside – and we did that – and she also wanted to buy light fittings to enhance the mood in our room but I told her that was not a good idea as we might not be long at Veerachai Court. Although I love Wan dearly the future still seemed unclear to me. We now have a new sawngthaew driver – Phibun – as the other man proved unreliable and left us stranded one Sunday evening for the trip to Mamma and Pappa's. I said to Wan: “No more – I don't want somebody if he is that unreliable.” We have shared a few nice times with Khun Loong and May and met her two sons – but time goes by so quickly and their month was up before we knew it.
The end of the month came and we decided to try Traveller Inn for a few nights for accommodation – and it was fine – however, we moved to Thapae Place Hotel in Soi 3, after negotiating a good monthly tariff. It was more expensive than Veerachai Court but it turned out to be a good decision and we were happy at Thapae Place Hotel as the room was large, the bed comfortable and the air-conditioning was good – but best of all the place was quiet and close to everything we needed. This was where we stayed for the whole time up until September.
We have purchased a DVD player and most evenings when we come back from dinner we will put on one of a growing selection of Thai and Western discs – mainly music live on stage. Although Wan does like her local live performances on disc recorded at the local Chiang Mai TV station – mostly comedy which I get a little lost in, sometimes. Wan and her family love ITV. Usually I will shower first and then Wan will go after me as she does take quite a while in the bathroom but I don’t mind as she is happy doing that and I am happy just to watch a DVD or one of the many Satellite channels we have here until she is ready for bed. In the afternoons we can also play music low on the TV music channel while we sleep cuddled together under the blankets. This is especially nice when it is raining and you can see the drops falling against the windowpane.
All the staff at Thapae Place Hotel are very good to us and I am so glad we made the decision to move here. I am very happy with the way life is going right now – but I wish I could get my head straight about how things are with life for Nat. I cannot stop worrying about her – perhaps it's some feeling of misguided guilt – but that doesn't seem logical because I have done all in my power to resolve the problems with her. What else can I do? I posted a letter to Nat this morning at Mae Ping Post Office and spent nearly 2 hours on the Internet before Wan got up. Mostly, in the mornings, I am the first to wake and I give Wan a kiss and tell her where I am going because I usually go first to the hotel restaurant and have a light breakfast of toast and tea then do the Internet and anything else that I need to attend to. Then I always return to the hotel room, shower and climb into bed and cuddle up to Wan. She is always receptive and we make love before falling asleep again. Never have I loved a woman the way I love Wan – she is me and I am her – we are one.
From the very first week we were together it was as though we could read the thoughts of each other. I would be thinking something and Wan would do what I was thinking even before I said anything. It was the same for her – I would do something without her even having to say anything to me or ask me to do it. That was quite uncanny – and it is always like that. I know what we have is really quite special and I guess it is the side of this whole complicated equation that keeps me balanced.
Still, I worry a lot over how this is all going to unfold – it is so easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and miss the big picture. When I say this it is not about me – I've been around the traps for long enough not to place too much store in security. Nothing is permanent, with surprises hidden along the road that can change the journey unexpectedly. My concern is for Wan and for Nat. The trip back to Australia in December has given me a fresh 90 days on the visa page that will give me until April before needing to do a visa run. My Non-Immigrant Type “O” Visa is multiple entry – but only time will tell.
To be continued.