It started out as a vacation; we just needed to get away. It turned into a life-changer. Here’s what happened to me and Virginia for three and a half weeks in June.
All of my posts began as emails from Thailand to my incredibly talented and loving daughter, Layla (think I’m only saying that because I’m her father? Check out her website www.laylaangulo.com then come back here and apologize). She not only house-sat for us, but six days after we left had to deal the death of our 21 year old Persian cat, Luna, who took the opportunity to spare us from the ordeal. I loved her dearly, but she was my wife Virginia’s animal soul-mate.
(Don’t forget to hold your cursor over the photos — most have a caption, except the slideshow.)
Luna hung around for several years longer than was required, using up a record-breaking number of cat lives (at least 14 by our count) to rally back from death in order to stay with V and give her the comfort she so came to depend on. But when we left for Southeast Asia, she knew it was her best chance, and quickly made the transition while we were half way around the world.
She was one special creature. I dedicate this journey to her, as her death made me look more closely at my own life. Thank you, my dear Luna. And, as always, I know you don’t care. I’m doing it anyway.
June 2, 2011
Bangkok Has Us
Writing down thoughts while we wait for Yah, our travel agent from Vieng Travel, to begin our day.
V’s checked bag never made it to Bangkok; it is still in Seattle, probably visiting Aisha (our granddaughter) there. We reported it and they should be sending it soon, but luckily the driver who was to pick us up stayed the extra hour while she filled out paperwork. It was sometime in the middle of the night after a 20+ hour flight when we stumbled into his van.
They drive on the opposite side of the roads here, and inside the cars, too, English style, so that needs getting used to. But the highways are big, wide and in good repair — they have to be with something like 12 million people on them; that’s what Nin, our driver, dressed in a beige bellhop’s uniform we would soon see everywhere, said in very broken English. Some of the worst traffic in the world attempts to drive these roads.
Nin got off the freeway and he pointed out places he and many other locals finished working on the movie ‘The Hangover 2.” We drove down the same road with the open air market where they shot the chase scene where Ed Helms got hit in the face with the hanging pig. Nin told us he helped out on the scene where the car went over the canal and landed back on the street.
Nin said a stunt man died during filming and many were injured, some during the monkey scenes — at least that’s what we think he said. Nin’s English was only slightly better than my Thai (yes, we still know not a single word yet). The movie poured a lot of money into this city, put a lot of people to work and I expect we will be talking to a lot of folks who were somehow touched by the production.
What a huge and sprawling city! Like a L.A. or New York City, but with the Chao Praya River and it tributaries at every turn it is like a steaming jungle in the midst of a city, green with plant life in front of every storefront, house, and structure.
The elegant, almost fractal designs of the Grand Palace; the serene magnificence of Buddhist temples in golds and reds, and all of Bangkok overflowing with food vendors with entire kitchens arranged on a motorbike; abandoned concrete shells of buildings; alleyways filled with rotting garbage; canals with dead floating fish and the remains of ancient debris tossed from bridges by generations long dead.
Constantly shifting from grandeur to squalor on every block, sometimes several times on every block, we walked the city struggling, and failing, to take it all in.
The humidity is stunning in its ferocity. When I first stepped off the plane onto the tarmac — they had to bus us to the terminal — my glasses immediately fogged up and my pant legs burst into flames. Or at least felt like it as the wet heat made my clothes wrap themselves around me — I was steamed like a dumpling. This may take some getting used to.
The most striking features of Bangkok? The ones most likely to slip through this vast metropolitan, cosmopolitan, primal, fetid, intoxicating and vexing city? For one, the web of canals that weave through the city and contain lifestyles on the water that haven’t changed for centuries.
Same with the market places; the produce, the flowers, the spices, and the meats — from the ‘normal’ to Western eyes, to the unforgivably strange (I will spare you the sight of row upon row of pig faces, three deep, which was in one stall, the faces all with the same inexplicable expression, like they had met their end with a laugh.) It was here where V and me were filled with a heady mix of being in the moment and existing in a timeless space. All at the same time. You figure it out while looking at the photos, I could not.