Saturday, October 1, 2011

In Bangkok Again

I'm back in Bangkok and hanging out with my sweet girl. Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane I felt at home. Considering how enormous this city is and how little of it I actually know, I'm conscious of the fact that that statement hardly makes sense. Yet that's the feeling I have. We went to the Phranok Market Saturday for my 68th birthday celebration. Nut's sister Aouw cooked khao soi while her brothers, Moo and Muk, and I worked on a bottle of Chivas Regal. Some nieces and nephews and Nut's daughter Dui Dui and her boyfriend Krit were there too. Her family is wonderful and they treat me really well. Her brother Muk told me as we hugged hello, "I've missed you." "Me too", I replied. We always have a lot of laughs despite the language barrier. It was a cool celebration and a fine welcome back.

Birthday Bash (L to R, Nut, me, Nut's brothers Muk, Moo & daughter Dui Dui, nephew Ice in rear)

Nut & Dui Dui with twin nieces Bam and Bo

I missed Nut pretty bad at times while I was in Alaska and being back with her after our long separation has me all giddy with happiness. While I write she is listening to, and with her charming Thai accent, singing along with her favorite music -- American oldies popular during my high school days. (One of my all time faves "Sea of Love" is playing. Calling Wild Bill: can you tell me who does that one?). We treated ourselves to haircuts and pedicures and a two-hour massage session on my first full day back. Then the birthday party, and the other night a tennis match at the Impact Arena where the Thailand Open, an ATP Tour event, is being played out.

In typical Thai fashion the air conditioned arena was just too damn cold for comfort. I should have known better. Nut donned the  jacket I'd made her bring while I was mentally kicking myself for not throwing an extra shirt into her handbag. We watched Frenchman Gilles Simon take a tough 3-set win from a talented guy from Taipei, Yen-Hsun Lu. I was surprised by Nut's reaction to the match. She's never played tennis (or any sport for that matter) and I had fully expected her to be bored to tears by it all. But she totally loved it! Seeing a pro tennis match is quite cool and nothing whatever like watching your run-of-the-mill club level play. Those guys cover a lot of ground in a 2-3 hour match and Simon made a few absolutely amazing passing shots after some lengthy, fast paced rallies. Before long Nut was cheering and clapping along with me after a good point. By the end of the match I was chilled to the bone and politely suggested we could make our break if she wanted to leave early. Even though the tickets had cost $100, I was willing to forego the night's second match because I was freezing my butt off.

She said, "Oh no. Let's wait to see if next match boring or not. If boring, we go."
"Okay, sure", I said, even though I was the one ready to leave.

During the break between matches I went out for hot chocolate and to get my blood flowing again. It had never before ocurred to me that I'd be ever be trying to get warmer in Bangkok yet here I was killing time outdoors hoping the warm night air would raise my temperature back to normal. I brought the hot chocolate back to an appreciative new tennis fan who was eagerly awaitng the next match, which also turned out to be pretty good.  In the event, Robin Hasse (Dutch) was defeated in straight sets by Jaarko Niemenen of Finland.  We left the arena at about midnight. In the taxi on our way home I asked the driver to turn off the air con. Naturally, it was much too cold for (my) comfort in the cab.

Next day we went over to Pinkao Central Plaza where I bought a tennis racquet for Nut. We haven't played yet but it will be interesting to see if she takes to it as she thinks she will.

"I'm very clever", says she, "I can learn to play quickly. No problem". She's not lacking in confidence, that's for sure. We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know how it turns out.

We went back to Pinklao Central for a movie but the big attraction was the food. It's Vegetable Month in Thailand and the lower level of the Plaza was literally jammed with stalls selling all manner of exotic vegetarian foods and treats. You're probably saying to yourselves about now, oh no, more photos of food. Yes, I'm afraid so. Nut and I are both crazy about food, her even more than me if that's possible to believe. We hardly finish one meal before she's thinking about the next, a trait that we constantly joke about at my family gatherings.

Here are a few shots of the food stalls at Pinklao Central Plaza. The scene was more chaotic than these stills show - people were everywhere buying, eating and selling food. I love the way the Thais obsess about food. You see folks eating everywhere, on the job, in the theaters, on the roads and street corners of the neighborhoods. It's a perfect place for a food junkie like me (and Nut).

BTW, all of these last photos were shot with my new Android smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S. I often wish I had my old dumb phone back but at times like these when I've forgotten to bring my "real" camera, it comes in handy.

We bought some food to take home for next day and then adjourned to Fuji, a high end Japanese restaurant, a chain no less, to eat dinner before the movie. It wasn't cheap by comparison with the usual places we eat but the food was sublime.

Sashimi plate and remains of the grilled asparagus
Stuffed broiled mussells, garlic grilled mushrooms
I can tell you, this meal was scrumptious. It cost about $30 USD, not including my beer and a small decanter of hot sake. We will definitely return to this restaurant for more.

I've returned to my studies of Thai. But that's a story I'll save for another post. I must share just one thing about that though before I go. The other day we went to a local bookstore where I bought a few Thai children's books, books with no English translations. Last night as I was slowly working my way through one of them, a book about two elephants, I recognized a word, dee jai, ดีใจ, which means happy! And then another popped into my consciousness, and another. I was actually reading Thai! Sheesh - I've a long, long way to go but I was thrilled nonetheless.