Our friend Jaa welcomed us at the airport in Bangkok and, after a brief visit to a local market, drove us to her house near the outskirts of the city.
We took a short break to freshen up, then headed over to her mother’s home, nearby, to meet the family and have dinner.
While Jaa’s mother and two sisters, Pak and Noo, were making final preparations in the kitchen, Jaa instructed the western barbarians in proper table etiquette, including the correct usage of the eating utensils, which consisted of a fork and a tablespoon. Thus, we were able to fumble our way through the delicious, all-out feast that was laid before us, and appear at least semi-civilized. That was good, as I noticed that Jaa’s mother scrutinized our every movement.
Karel had already visited Bangkok twice and was a guest of the family when he was best man at Jaa and Kelvin’s wedding, so he’s already one of the family, which means he was fondly and relentlessly teased until we bid them goodnight. Jaa’s house is a quiet refuge from the bustle of Bangkok. It has four floors, with a bedroom or two, plus bathroom, on each level. She and Kelvin live there only part-time, because Kelvin’s job is in Perth, and occasionally takes him to Hong Kong. So, Karel and I had a bedroom and bathroom to ourselves for the several nights we’d be there.
The next day Karel rested while Jaa took me downtown for a relaxing “day of beauty:” foot massage, haircut, manicure, and pedicure. I’d originally intended a full massage, but the traffic into to town was so bad, there wasn’t enough time for that. Jaa had booked my hair appointment with a famous beautician who runs a beauty school; apparently she has been hairdresser to the queen. A framed Christmas greeting from the royal family was prominently on display at the front counter. I gave her carte blanche and left with a trendy coif that takes one master stylist, a lot of high-tech equipment, and three assistants to create. Please don’t expect to see those smooth and shiny locks in any photos after the next shampoo, because the stylists and gadgets won’t be part of our entourage.
We also stopped at a department store to take advantage of a big sale. I learned that big department store sales in Bangkok are exactly like the ones I’ve been to in the US—sort of a feeding frenzy. I found a shirt for me and one for Karel, and Jaa found a suitcase for her mom to use on an upcoming trip to Australia, so the expedition was a success. We scooped Karel up from the townhouse and had a delicious dinner at a nondescript restaurant in the neighborhood.
Next day we tried a little touring with Jaa at one of the royal palace grounds. First we went into an exhibit hall. The main level contained a collection of thrones and palanquins used for various ceremonies and processions. These were generally big, showy things encrusted with gold and jewels. There were also some enormous carved teak panels, which Karel and I found more interesting. Downstairs, there were more of the royal props on display: jewelry, purses, tableware, and sculptures. There was a large display of exquisitely beautiful silk embroidery. The ancient Thai techniques had nearly died out, but were revived mainly through the queen’s efforts to support a village craft economy. The artists use many shades of silk to create a painting made of thread. Some of the works were almost like photographs.
A few more exhibits, then a late lunch, and we were out of time for any more museum stuff, so we decided to search for walking sticks that Karel and I could use for the rest of our trip. We have some at home, and that’s our one regret for items we should have packed, but didn’t. We thought we’d be going strictly carry-on for most of our flights, and you can’t take walking sticks with you on flights to and from the US. But the weight and size restrictions at each airline vary so much and can be so stringent, we’ve had to check some bags on every flight so far. Oh, well, live and learn.
Escaping the palace area was not so easy, though. Traffic was heavy and becoming gridlocked in certain directions. Jaa would try one direction, then make a U-turn when she saw a wall of motionless vehicles ahead. She also had to dodge the taxis and tuk-tuks, who are a law unto themselves and may pull out into oncoming traffic or drive down the sidewalks at any moment. This part of the city consists of wide boulevards cutting diagonally across narrower city streets, and sometimes it was hard to get into the correct lane at an intersection, so we’d have to loop back several times. It started to get absurd as we passed the same monuments (from different angles) over and over again. At the center of all this, there’s a huge loundabout (make that, roundabout, but by this time we were having too much fun laughing about the ridiculous traffic, the bizarre and confusing grammar errors on signs, our pronunciation of Thai, and Jaa’s pronunciation of English). It took two trips around the loundabout to achieve escape velocity, followed by some zig-zagging and a few alarming moments when it seemed like we were going to be sucked back into the vortex, but we finally got out of there. Phew!This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013