Seeing the world, one country at the time

Thailand Blow by Blow

We first arrived in Bangkok in July and moved into Soi Ruambuttri, near the famous Khao Sarn backpacker’s street. We met up with our Israeli friends the Zukbars and headed straight down to the island of Koh Phanghan, where we spent two weeks working on our website and living the beach life. Upon our return to Bangkok, we were welcomed and shown around by Khun Sue, an old friend of my parents. We said goodbye to the Zukbars who were heading home to Israel, and moved into the home of another friend of my parents, Khun Chavivan’s. Suddenly, it felt like being home again. I was reunited with Hap Pierce from Foremost, Aaron Frankel and Rene Feddersen from ISB, Gaysorn our former cook and Boonsoong our former driver. I was in an area I knew well and life was as I had known it. Bangkok has changed a lot in 17 years, but I still recognized the core of it.

Khun Chavivan was the hostess with the mostest, offering her a bedroom, her car and driver and delicious home cooked meals. Through her and Sue we met some wonderful people, notably Khun Maam and her sister Khun Pan who often came to dinner and stayed to chat about their busy international lives, Khun Tem, Khun Dang who runs a Buddhist retreat in the north and Khun Pio and her family, who often had us over to dinner and opened their homes to us. Through them we learned so much about Thailand’s culture, history and politics that no guidebook could cover.

One weekend, Khun Dang invited us to her home in Khao Yai. On the way up she bought every fruit in season for us to try and spoiled us with delicious meals at restaurants and the best massages we’ve ever had. She taught us about her Buddhist practice and took us to Pimai, the Thai version of Angkor Wat. Our last morning we attended the birthday party of a Canadian monk who lives as a hermit in a cave and in the afternoon we visited Khao Yai National Park and suffered our first leeches.

We spent another weekend at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club (RVYC) in Pattaya as the guests of Aaron and Beverly Frankel, schoolmate and teacher, respectively. That is where I had learned how to sail as a teenager and had spent numerous weekends hanging out with friends on the beach. It was good to be back in a place so familiar, even with all the renovation done to it.

Shortly thereafter we headed to Laos and Cambodia for a couple of months and returned to Thailand in time for me to fly to the US for a wedding. Lars went to see his family in Norway while I attended the wedding of my college and grad school roommate, Lee Katherine Schoettler (now Thornburgh). The ten days away were just what the doctor ordered. I saw so many friends in the San Fran area and felt refreshed. Our relationship benefited from the break too. After a year of being together 24/7, our flame had dulled. We met up again in Bangkok before heading to Vietnam and came back a month later to meet my parents who flew in for three weeks to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary. We socialized, celebrated Thanksgiving, stayed at the RVYC, traveled to Chiang Mai together and capped off their stay with a surprise dinner party at the Four Seasons where eighteen of their old friends toasted their 38 years together.

When they headed back to the US, we made our last trip in Asia to Myanmar, but cut our stay short in order to return to Thailand to attend a high school friend’s wedding. Ben Van Roy and Wanjira Jirajaruporn were married in Cha-Am, just south of Bangkok in a semi-traditional Thai wedding. It was great to see the old gang of ISBers. Khun Pio offered their condo to us while we were down there, so we stayed through Christmas. It was my first without my parents and without decorations or music, so all in all quiet and different. We loved having a place all to ourselves to cook and hang out in for a few days.

We returned to Bangkok only to get a bus down south to Krabi. After several transfers by taxi and boat, we ended up on Railay beach, where I had celebrated my 30th birthday five years earlier. We stayed a week to climb and snorkel and kayak around the beautiful islands. New Year’s was celebrated with dozens of people on the beach lighting up Chinese lanterns and sending them with New Year wishes into the sky to join the stars. We lay on the beach drinking champagne and watching the warm lights disappear into the ether. It was a beautiful and peaceful sight. More than a vision, it was a feeling that everything was alright with the world. Only the next day did we find out that it wasn’t. We heard about the bombs that went off in Bangkok killing three and injuring others.

We returned yet again to Bangkok to celebrate my birthday, see old friends and wrap things up before leaving for India. Due to a visa issue and a wish to squeeze in some Habitat for Humanity time, we had to postpone our departure a week and used that time to travel to Pattaya, where Eva Sopompanich, a friend of my mother’s has a beach bungalow. We spent a few days there trying in vain to catch up on our website. It was a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle and a place to call “our own”, where we could recharge. Preparing for India was beginning to feel stressful as neither of us knew what to expect.