This blog will start in Thailand, although I am now in Kathmandu. There will be few pictures until we get to Nepal and, if I can’t transfer them from my phone, there won’t be any.
So here we go.
SEPT 1, 2016
Barcelona – Helsinki—Bangkok
What joy when all falls effortlessly into place. The Meals on Wheels man, who delivers to my downstairs’ neighbor, arrived just as my tenant, another neighbor and I exited the elevator. He kindly hauled the monster black bag down the stairs and we three women trotted down with the rest, including the ever-annoying trekking poles. As I opened the street door a free taxi passed but backed up at my shout and I was off.
Across the aisle from me on the plane to Helsinki was a family whose father, immediately upon taking his seat, called the stewardess over to order a bottle of white wine. He was a small, balding, slender man, desperately nervous and trying to stay in control. Although he asked repeatedly, he didn’t get his bottle until we were air borne. His wife was warm to him but not solicitous.
Between Barcelona and Helsinki he consumed 3 airline bottles of white wine that I saw but I slept a lot of the trip. Just before they announced our landing he ordered another but didn’t get to drink it all. Then he lurched to the bathroom, but was stopped because we were in steep descent. He barely made it back to his seat.
Getting off the plane the son and I locked eyes. His gaze was defensive. I gave him my best full, warm smile. The least I could do after having stared so much and I am sure judgmentally.
Waiting in Helsinki for the flight to Bangkok I was delighted as my world shifted west to east. Darker, smiling faces with lots of children being fed, rocked, entertained and the music of Thai swinging in the cradle of its tones.
I had a good taxi driver to the A One Inn. He presumed I was a new visitor and was suitably surprised when I was greeted by my favorite driver who hauled my bags out of the trunk with a big grin and put them down in front of the reception desk with a flourish.
They are still serving their humungous breakfast at the A One but don’t have the wonderful Thai coffee they used to grind individually for you. Having eaten and deposited my laundry at Wendy House I took off.
The Sky Train, a haven of sanity considering the traffic in Bangkok, has TV in each car, continuously showing ads. My favorite this year features a glamorous young western woman, made up to the arch of her eyelashes and dressed in an amazing, shining, green silk evening dress that wraps her back so as to show an upper and lower triangle of faultless, pale skin. She reaches out daintily to pick up a six inch long grey sausage inserting it between lips, shiny and red as a lacquered apple. I crack up every time I see it.
At Taksin I left the train to ride the river bus. The Chao (Cow) Phaya (Pie-ah, the tone goes down on the ie and the ah should be up in tone ,elongated, singing a little) is beautiful, carrying the many boats, little and big, upon its fullness with calm. The only disturbers are the Tiger Boats, marine adolescents, with their long yellow banana shape that come roaring along on their V8 engines (the engines we abandoned during the Vietnam War were adapted to this new purpose.) with flowers dangling from their prows. I adore the boat trip up to Wat Artit. I love how the bus boat comes up to the pier stop, pushing in with it sharp snout like a determined dog at a rabbit hole.
Mr. Thai, surely not his name, is a most un-Thai man, loud and brassy, maybe thirty years old, with no fingers on his right hand. The shark only left him his thumb. He is my travel agent. His sister was in the office with a delightful baby girl, less than six month, not hers but her other brother’s who is helping in the agency and seems willing but jejune.
This is a decidedly Thai arrangement. There is usually one member of the family with real savvy and ambition. Everyone else lines up behind him and does what he says. Once in a while someone gets an idea of his or her own which is always a disaster. It took him under an hour to get me a round trip train ticket to Chiangmai, a flight to New Delhi, another to Kathmandu on the same plane as my grandson Ethan whom I was to meet in Delhi, another flight to Bangkok and a round trip to Hong Kong.
He offered me lunch, pad thai, in a street restaurant and told me his plans to open a guesthouse next year. So glad the shark only took four fingers.
On the boat trip back we passed deep-breasted rice barges of dark teak, being pulled by a determined little tug, as they rode high in the water because they were empty, going up stream to be loaded with harvested grain.
I raced back to the A One, picked up my small, orange suitcase, took the Sky Train back down to Taksin and walked to my dress maker on Chaoronkrung Road taking shelter from a monsoon down pour with a bunch of Boy Scouts under an awning.
Moon, my dressmaker, and I sorted out this year’s blouses, trousers and dress while I asked her how her sister, a very clever dressmaker, was. She said, “Too often sick.” I inquired further and was told a tale that I found muddling but Thai. It goes something like this.
Her sister, I’m not sure which one, is married with a son. Either the husband or son took out a loan from a bank on the family business which he put into a girl friend, or friends, not the business, also giving a large chunk to the other person—husband or son. The business collapsed. They could not repay the bank. Someone went off with a girl friend and money. All through this Moon kept saying, “But he good boy.”
Finally, I said, “Maybe he’s a good boy to his father but not to his mother.”
With tickets and clothes all sorted out I went home to the A One, dinner and bed.