Bangkok: March Visitors
26 March 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
March has been my own mad month - of visits and visitors: Ngoc Vi and Thao My; Moon and Kevin; Mai and Mark; Luisa and Dolly; DeeDee and Richard.
Ngoc Vi came to Thailand on a four-day tour with her daughter Thao My. They live near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
I met Ngoc Vi seven years ago near the cathedral in HCMC (Saigon). After a brief chat, she invited me to her sister's wedding the next day.
Ngoc Vi is a specialist in agricultural productivity. She has worked as a consultant to Vietnamese farmers. This year she left her job and is enrolled as a full-time student. She expects to earn a Master's degree in Business Administration.
Thao My is an energetic, talkative, irrepressible four-year-old girl. Her goal was to ride an elephant here in Thailand. She did just that, all alone, according to her mother, at an elephant park south of Bangkok.
And she never whined or complained when we all walked and walked together one afternoon. Although at one point she said in a very mature manner, "I am tired now. Can we please sit down?" We stopped at the local Subway sandwich shop where she chose a bottle of orange juice over a can of Pepsi. Later, after a trip to a supermarket, we met my friend Noy and we all had dinner together.
And Thao My is so cute! Ngoc Vi told me that when they visited the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Thao My wondered aloud, "Mother, why did you bring me here? To punish me?"
Moon and Kevin flew up from their home Karratha, Western Australia.
I met Moon when I first traveled to the Isan area of Thailand more than six years ago. Moon worked at the Honey Inn where she assisted her cousin Phanna - the owner of the inn. Moon was also a sought-after dressmaker. Phanna and Moon and their family have been my good friends ever since.
Moon and Kevin were introduced through a mutual friend. They married in Buriram, near Moon's family home. I knew Kevin but one day, yet yours truly was Kevin's "Best Man."
Moon has become quite the entrepreneur in Karratha. She began with her dressmaking business but it has expanded to "Moon's Resources." Her business card reads: "Supply & Repair of Webbing Nets, Cargo Nets, Professional Seamstress, Pattern Making." Moon also runs a catering business for the local Aussies who want to celebrate their special events with Thai food. (Moon confided to me that since she is more of a dressmaker than a chef, on occasion, she calls her friends in Thailand to be sure she uses an accurate recipe.)
Moon and Kevin plan to retire to Buriram, but they will not remain idle. Moon is supervising the construction of a couple of small shops where they will rent and sell outdoor athletic equipment.
Moon and Kevin and I arranged to meet at a café in Buriram. (I took the bus from Nang Rong.) After a few minutes, Phanna's son, my friend Keow showed up. Then Keow's wife Thae and her colleague also joined the group. We enjoyed a festive lunch together. Phanna is not well, so I missed seeing her on this trip.
Keow is in the Thai Army where he serves as a musician. Thae is a nurse in the Radiological Department in Buriram Hospital. They also have a delightful four-year-old daughter.
My confidant and good friend Mark is originally from London. He has lived in Nang Rong with his wife Mai for fifteen years. Mark makes movies. He works as a Second Assistant Director on the set of feature films: "Defiance," "Phantom of the Opera" for example. On occasion Mai also works on the set as a makeup artist.
Molly is their sweet and beautiful two-year old daughter. Of course, she understands both Thai and English. To take off her shirt before her bath, Mai says to her, "Raise your arms!" and in a flash, up go Molly's arms. She smiles when I mention "ice cream."
Luisa and her cousin Dolly were here from Bogotá, Colombia. They are on a two-month self-guided tour of Asia. Luisa and her husband Luis are world travelers, but Luis needed to stay home this time to manage his retail shoe business.
I met Luis and Luisa in Guatemala four years ago. And two years ago, I stayed in their home in Bogotá. They were wonderful hosts and we traveled together in the Colombian mountains.
Luisa is a retired executive with a Colombia oil company. She and Luis have two grown children. Sebastian works in the hotel industry in Canada. Valentina is also studying hotel management in Canada. And what a Latin beauty she is!
Luisa and Dolly and I had a brief tour together here in Bangkok. Dolly's son is a physician so she was particularly interested in the facilities of Bumrungrad International Hospital - always a stop on my customized itinerary.
Luisa was a bit adventurous and curious about Bangkok's notorious night life. She insisted on seeing what she called "The Red Light District." So off we went to the Beer Garden where we had a drink and a snack. The Beer Garden is a well-known and popular "meeting place."
Then we took a taxi to "Soi Cowboy," one of three raunchiest areas of Bangkok. We just took a quick stroll down the avenue that is lined with bars and dance shows. All the scantily, yet tastefully-clad girls wear buttons with a number.
Of course, not everyone in the world is pleased with the activities at Soi Cowboy, or the other "entertainment" areas of Phatphong and Nana. (That's a serious discussion for another time and another place.) But Soi Cowboy is quite safe with a colorful, bright, carnival-like atmosphere. It's just fun to visit. And if you are so inclined, there is something for everyone.
I am looking forward to welcoming my nephew Jason's in-laws, my friends DeeDee and Richard from Aventura, Florida. They will arrive in a few days after their two week Tauck guided tour of the highlights of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
Richard is a retired partner with an international accounting firm. DeeDee founded a celebrity speakers' bureau. Although they are retired, they seem to be busier than ever. They have a very active lifestyle in South Florida and also love to travel.
DeeDee and Richard are enthusiasts of contemporary world art. We are planning to attend an opening reception at the La Lanta Fine Art Gallery where there is a showing by Vietnamese artists.
For DeeDee and Richard, traveling comes with a bit of a sacrifice. It means that they are away from their devoted daughters Candace and Carrie. Carrie is the mother of their three young, darling grandchildren, my grand niece Chloe and my grand nephews Maxwell and Myles.
Before she left Miami, DeeDee wrote and asked me if I needed anything. So, she is bringing me photos of my late sister Paula's grandchildren - "suitable for framing."
I was so pleased this month to act as host, guide and translator. (After living here for five years, I have managed to learn a few Thai words - mind you, only a few.)
For me, it all began with my own three week visit nine years ago. Then another visit and then another. I have learned to confront, to accept, and to embrace life in Thailand.
I love it here in Thailand. I love it here in Asia. I can't imagine living anywhere else.
I am home.
Please come visit.
Links to my March Visitors:
For Ngoc Vi:
For Kevin and Moon:
For Mark, Mai and Molly:
For Luisa and Luis: