AUGUST 24 - IN THE AIR TONIGHT
At LAX my mother, Uncle Ton, and I ate some leftover Chicken McNuggets and fries we brought from home. I also added a nacho chili cheese dog from Pink's for dinner. My mother and uncle split a 2-item combo from Panda Express. I enjoyed a grape and strawberry Crush to wash all of that down.
We boarded a 11:30 pm Thai Airways flight en route to Bangkok, Thailand. My mother and I flew premium economy. Uncle Ton got an upgrade to business class. This flight was far from full. There were only 12 people in our section so we really spread ourselves out. I occupied an entire aisle section which made it more comfortable. Our first meal was chicken panang. I then got some shut eye.
Six hours later I awoke and watched Limitless. Next I tried to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 but fell in and out of sleep due to fatigue. I then watched Sucker Punch. After shrimp fried rice for my second meal, I played some Metroid II and Mario Tennis Academy. I foregone the third meal because I was starting to feel a bit nauseous.
AUGUST 26 - MEET THE SUCKHASEMS
Due to crossing the International Date Line, there is no August 25th. We arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok at 5:30 am which was an hour ahead of schedule. My dad picked us up. On, Uncle Ton's brother-in-law, picked up Uncle Ton. My dad drove us to Aunt Ting's. We had a breakfast of rice soup with fried fish. I then visited my grandmother. I learned her new personal caretaker is Jai. My grandmother does not remember much, not even me. A year ago I was the only thing she remembered vividly. That's OK. For all she has done for me, that I will never forget and will eternally be grateful.
My folks and I had lunch at Nai Ngiab Bahn Suan. It took awhile to find it due to some bad information but eventually we got there. I had some smothered noodles (guai tiaw rod), pork satay, and tiny chicken wings. My folks had boat noodle soup (guai tiaw reua). Towards the end of our meal it rained hard.
We then went to Aunt Taew's. She is my mother's eldest sister. Also there were Uncle Ton and Aunt Tim, my mom's younger sister. We all caught up on old times and such. By 5 pm I felt incredibly drowsy as the jet lag had hit.
We had dinner at Ruean Punya. It rained really heavily that night along with flashes of lighting and thunder claps. We enjoyed some haw mok, crab fried rice, fried fish cakes, fried shrimp cakes, three-flavored fish, and mango with sweet rice. Due to the jet lag, I literally fell asleep in my seat at the restaurant. We waited for the rain to subside before leaving.
All in all it wasn't that bad weatherwise in that it was mostly overcast. It was still humid as heck and there were spotty showers all day.
AUGUST 27 - LAST NIGHT OF PRAYER
I had some rice and steak for breakfast. Later for lunch my father and I walked to a nearby eatery on Ramkamhaeng. I had duck noodles and rice chapo. On the way back we bought some fried bananas and quail egg treats from a curbside vendor. Both were really good.
That evening we attended the last night of funeral prayer for my late Uncle Singto. The reason we all came to Thailand this time is to pay our respects to Uncle Singto. The prayer was held at Wat Tadtong. First I saw Uncle Ton and Aunt Taew. Also there was Grandpa Toon who I have not seen in years. Because Uncle Singto was a top exec at Honda, there were lots of Honda folks in attendance. There is an aisle leading to the salas where the prayer took place. Honda folks lined both sides of the aisle and greeted everybody who came. Aunt Ting and her daughter Paega came a bit later. Aunt Tim, Uncle Singto's widow, was busy meeting and greeting the various guests.
Top left: Uncle Singto. Top right: Aunt Tim with mom, Aunt Ting, and Paega. Middle left: Uncle Singto's coffin. Middle right: Picture of Uncle Singto's book. Bottom left: mom, Aunt Ting, and Paega. Bottom right: Dad, Grandpa Toon, Uncle Ton, Aunt Taew
Grandpa Toon, Uncle Ton, my dad, and my mom in front of Uncle Singto
We had dinner at Took Lae Dee restaurant which is inside of Foodland Supermarket.
AUGUST 28 - CREMATION OF UNCLE SINGTO
At 6 am my dad went to pick up my brother Van and his wife Konie at the airport. Once they arrived, soon afterwards a rented Urvan picked up my mom, Van, Konie, and me to Wat Tadtong. This morning we went to make offerings to the monks there.
Top left: Van and Konie. Top right: mom and Uncle Ton. Bottom left: monk giving sermon. Bottom right: mom and Uncle Ton and monks in the background
Aunt Ting came a bit later. She took Van and Konie somewhere. My mom and I had lunch at Wat Tadtong. We enjoyed some good homemade coconut ice cream.
After lunch, we came back to Aunt Ting's. Earlier that morning we learned that my dad's only remaining half-sister passed away. My father went to Chachoengsao upon hearing this.
In the afternoon after the Urvan picked up Aunt Taew, it came to pick up mom, Van, Konie, and me. We arrived at Wat Tadtong at ~3 pm. There were hundreds in attendance. There were also cameras from Channel 7 and Grand Prix Channel. I had to find spots to photograph while avoiding them plus other picture takers. At 3:30 pm the coffin holding Uncle Singto lead a ceremonial procession that went around the cremation altar for 3 revolutions. Afterwards it was placed upstairs near the cremation chamber. Nearby were pictures of Uncle Singto and his book. Aunt Tim, Uncle Ton, and VIP's and Honda executives were the ones to place monk robes and flowers beneath the coffin. Then all in attendance had their opportunity to place a corsage-like thing consisting of a flower and candle beneath the coffin. When coming down the stairs, a bag with three books were passed out to everyone. Once everyone was done, soon Uncle Singto was cremated. My father, Aunt Ting, and Dr. Uan made it in time.
Left: Van and Konie. Right: right to left - Van, Uncle Ton, mom, Aunt Taew
Left to right: Aunt Tim, Aunt Taew, mom, Uncle Ton
Left: Honda dignitaries. Right: Mom and Dad
Flowery things and monk robes to be placed at coffin by select people
Left: an inkling of the multitude that attended. Right: a couple of celebrities
Left: Aunt Koi, Grandma Paw, Aunt Taew, mom. Right: Aunt Koi
Left: Grandma Paw. Right: a rare photo of me
Left: mom. Right: mom, Dr. Uan, Van, Konie
Aunt Tim, Van, and Konie
Some of the masses in attendance
Afterwards the Urvan dropped Van, Konie, my folks, and I off at Aunt Ting's. Then it dropped off Aunt Taew and lastly Uncle Ton. Van and Konie were tired from getting no sleep on the long flight, severe jet lag, and the oppressive heat and humidity of Bangkok. Admittedly I was drained, too. It was really humid. Also it's not fun for Van and I to wear black suits in Bangkok.
Top made dinner. This night concluded with heavy rainfall amidst a thunderstorm.
AUGUST 29 - SATTAHEEB AND THE SANCTUARY OF TRUTH
The same Urvan from yesterday picked us up at ~8:10 am. It took my mom, dad, Van, Konie, and I to Sattaheeb. En route, when we got close, the driver asked for directions many times from several locals until we finally located the pier. When we got there, there was no sunshine. It sprinkled amidst muggy, overcast skies. It was also quite breezy. Our boat had not arrived yet so we killed some time. I ate a bag of Snack Jack and washed it down with an orange Fanta. Honda's contingent were already there and some killed the time via cards.
Left: Honda contingent killing time via playing cards. Right: Pier at Sattaheeb
Van and Konie
Because Uncle Singto worked with Honda's motorcycle division, the Honda contingent lined up some motorcycles on the pier and posed with them with Uncle Singto's picture in the middle. It made a most interesting picture.
Finally the boat arrived. It could accommodate ~60 people. While most people descended down some stairs to board the boat from the bottom where they were supposed to, my dad and I hopped the upper level's barrier. I think it was actually easier this way. The boat took us out to sea to a section where we would be shielded from the wind via some islands. At that point the captain began the ritual. There was lots of prayer and ritual. Just when I thought it was going to be done, there was more prayer and ritual. It kept going on and on and on. Considering how much there was, I thought this captain should have been wearing a monk's robe. Egad! I was videotaping at the front of the boat. Due to the length of this ongoing ritual and the boat constantly swaying from the waves, a couple people quietly snuck to the front where I was and commented in Thai "I'm getting sick. I can't take this much longer." I told them to look at something far from us.
FINALLY the ritual was done. Uncle Singto's ashes were floated out to sea along with flower petals. The boat made 3 revolutions around where the ashes were released. It was our final farewell to our beloved uncle. We then headed back to shore.
Farewell Uncle Singto
Back to shore
We had lunch in Sattaheeb not too far from the pier. It was an outdoor eatery that was very close to the water. There was plenty of food. Afterwards, I walked around and snapped some photos. It was a very attractive eatery location.
Our lunch spot
While everyone headed back to Bangkok, my father felt that since we were passing Pattaya that we should visit the Santuary of Truth. He thought it would be something we would all enjoy. Personally I had never heard of it so did not know what to expect. It was my mom, dad, Uncle Ton, Van, Konie, and I.
Once our van arrived, I beheld a tall, large wooden temple-like structure that simply blew my mind. I was awestruck at the size and how everything from the walls, poles, roofs, and doors was so ornately crafted. We took a guided tour. Our guide is both informative and funny. I came to learn that this was a completely wooden structure that has been under construction for the last 30 years. It is still unfinished and will take another estimated 20 years until completion. Regardless, what is there so far has been simply awe-inspiring. Due to it being under construction, we had to wear hard hats before entering. The architecture combines imagery from several religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Brahmin beliefs. The inside is as impressive as the outside. There is so much detail in everything. This is one of the most magnificent structures I have ever beheld. I would love to come back to see it once it is complete.
Sanctuary of Truth: the outside
Sanctuary of Truth: the inside
On the way back to Bangkok, our driver was driving very fast. Bridges in Thailand are not smooth. When you get on a bridge and get off, it is typically a hump with bumps you will feel. Construction of these are pretty shoddy. Due to that, it would be best to slow down a tad so to not go airborne or at least have a smoother ride. Not our driver though. Every bridge we crossed was like KITT from "Knight Rider" after hitting Turbo Boost. Uncle Ton was terrified. After we got to Aunt Ting's, Na Ton told him off and refused to ride with him any further.
For dinner at Aunt Ting's, it was a night of trying some western delicacies. Paega and Dr. Uan were present along with their friends First and Note.
AUGUST 30 - TO CHIANGMAI AND TIGER KINGDOM
Van, Konie, my mom, and I went to Suvarnabhumi Airport. We had breakfast at McDonald's. I had a double sausage and egg McMuffin. My mom instead had ramen at another eatery in the food court.
We took off via Air Asia at 11:20 am en route to Chiangmai. It was a short but memorable flight. This Air Asia flight has cute flight attendants and one smoking hot one. She should be in magazines or on TV or the silver screen. I should have snapped a photo or two of her.
Konie's aunt Lek picked us up at the airport via her pickup truck. We checked into the Shangri-La Hotel. This place was fabulous. Great view of the rest of the hotel. Luxurious bathroom. Air conditioning! Man, I could have slept here joyfully for the rest of this trip.
View from our room at the Shangri-La
Room at the Shangri-La
A little later on Lek picked us up and took us to Central Airport Plaza Mall. Inside we had lunch at MK Restaurant. This is a widespread chain serving Thai suki. Afterwards my mom bought some new shoes because hers had a broken string and was coming apart.
Van and Konie wanted to go to Tiger Kingdom so Tiger Kingdom it is. The appeal here is that visitors get to be inside enclosures with real live tigers. We are always accompanied by a caretaker at Tiger Kingdom to ensure our safety. We first went to see the big tigers. My mom was the first to rub her hand on a tiger lying on its side. She was apprehensive at first but finally did so. Konie went next, then me, and finally Van. Admittedly I was a bit nervous considering this powerful creature can kill me in an instant. I then got descended onto my knees and slowly and gently placed my hands on the tiger's side. Its fur is so soft and very smooth to the touch. For my mom, this first tiger was enough. Van, Konie, and I went to see the other 2 big tigers in this enclosure. I kept videotaping but was wary every time one started to move towards me. We got some decent photos.
Next up the three of us went to the baby tiger enclosure. We had to change out of our shoes and wear the sandals they provided to enter this enclosure. This one had the most people since most people are drawn to cute little tigers, though personally I preferred my time with the big ones. Konie went first. She petted a little tiger and even fed it via baby bottle. I was next and lastly Van.
It was hot. After our time with the tigers, we reconvened with my mom and Lek. My mom had bought some cold beverages. While drinking it, I watched some people dipping their feet into fish tanks. These little fish would nibble away at the dead skin and other stuff on your feet and in essence a pedicure. I kind of thought about that but in the end deferred.
Examples I pulled from the internet
In the evening, we walked to a roadside stand that sells rotee. Van tells me that every time they come to Chiangmai Konie always frequents it. We then rode in the back of a rot krapong (covered mini-pickup) back to the Shangri-La Hotel. We had dinner at a restaurant inside called Kad Kafe. It was a buffet. I had an assortment of things including some red curry. My sausage pizza wasn't what I expected as the sausages were actually hot dog wieners. The cheese was good though.
One thing about Chiangmai that I noticed quickly. It wasn't as congested as Bangkok. Still hot and humid.
AUGUST 31 - TO MAE HONG SON
In the morning my mom and I snapped some photos of the Shangri-La.
The Shangri-La Hotel
All of us then took a taxi to the airport. There we had breakfast at Burger King. It was pretty pricey there. At 9:50 am we took a flight aboard Nok Air to Mae Hong Son, a city near the Burmese border. The flight was only 30 minutes aboard this propeller-powered plane. When I got off the plane, it was really hot.
Mom with cutouts at Chiangmai International Airport
Our ride to Mae Hong Son
A gentleman named Ma picked us up. My mom wanted to eat so Ma took us to Kaimook Restaurant. I ate hoi jaw. Afterwards Ma took us sightseeing. First he took us to a temple called Wat Jongkam. It is a pretty temple and very representative of Burmese-style stupas. Van and I snapped photos quickly because the sun was scorching. This is the hottest we felt in Thailand on this trip. Being out in the sun and in the shade felt like a 20 degree difference. In the background we could see another temple, Wat Phrataddoigongmu atop a hill. All of us but Konie had been there before.
Ma took us up the hill to Wat Phrataddoigongmu next. As our vehicle ascended the hill, I noticed the sunlight decreasing. Once we were up there, it was completely overcast. My mom was tired so she stayed in the car. Van, Konie, and I went to check out Wat Phrataddoigongmu. It began to rain lightly. From here we could see the view below including Wat Jongkam and the lake across from it. This is my third time here but the most in depth I had spent here. I allowed me to more closely appreciate the beauty of this temple.
View from Wat Phrataddoigongmu
Ma next took us to Fish Cave. Once got there, it was raining cats and dogs. Van and I have seen the Fish Cave but not Konie. While in this torrent Van asked if it was a long walk to the Fish Cave. I said half a kilometer which is considerable in this rainstorm. We then returned to the car figuring perhaps some other time.
We finally arrived at Wat Pa Tum Wua Forest Monastery. We were greeted by Abbot Venerable Luang Ta Saiyud. We talked to him and he gave us a Phra Sungkajai charm. I thought about checking out the premises but did not as it poured again and again and again. It rained all day all night.
Van about to snap picture of Venerable Luang Ta Saiyud, Konie, and mom
Wat Pa Tum Wua
Van and I stayed at one kuti and my mom and Konie in a separate kuti. Being a kuti, there is no television, chairs, nor beds. We were provided with sleeping pads. Van covered his with his handy portable mosquito net. I got to admit...a mosquito net is a person's best friend in this part of the world. There's nothing like peace of mind when sleeping. For a forest monastery we had electricity and hot water. That is more than most can expect. Unfortunately there was a period when power went out. It meant Van took a cold shower.
We had dinner at 5:30 pm. The diet here is vegetarian though it's one of the best vegetarian food I've had - tasty and spicy. The drawback is the dining hall is open air. Being in a mountainous jungle, the place is full of mosquitoes. Van and I got bitten numerous times while eating. When washing the dishes I noticed a couple more bites on my face and head.
Left: my stuff inside our kuti. Right: Van's mosquito net
All this rain made everything cooler but extra humid. Van and I turned on fans to cool things down once power returned. Van hit the sack first. I had my laptop with me but with no internet, I just played Monopoly and Scrabble against the computer.
SEPTEMBER 1 - MORE OF MAE HONG SON
After breakfast Ma will take us sightseeing around Mae Hong Son. My mom decided to remain at Wat Pa Tum Wua. It will give her a chance to rest physically and mentally. Since Van and Konie will not be back here, they bade Luang Ta Saiyud farewell for they will not see him again on this outing. First Ma drove us through a village called Banh Rung Arun. He explained that this is a village established by immigrant Chinese people. When driving through, it did look like we were in China.
Entranceway to Bahn Rung Arun
Then Ma drove though us back to Fish Cave. It was no longer raining but the entire place was still drenched from the rain the night before. We watched our footing on the muddy path to the Fish Cave so not to slip. At the Fish Cave there is a subterranean river where all the pluang hin fish are. They are of decent size and there is an abundance of them. There was still lots of wetness dripping from the trees and rocks from the rains. I had to be extra careful filming and photographing to avoid the cameras getting wet. Van and Konie bought some food to feed the fish. When they tossed some into the cave, lots of fish came up. This was when they were most visible for photos.
Van and Konie feeding the fish
On the way back to the car we had to cross a bridge. There so many ants on it and a nearby sign.
Bridge to Fish Cave
We then went to another village called Bahn Ruk Thai. It was established by immigrant Yunan Chinese people. Once again it looked like we were in China. Normally there would be more tourists but it's the rainy season and after heavy rains, there was nobody.
Bahn Ruk Thai
Ma then took us to Phasuea Waterfall. It was quite a sight to see. I'm guessing with the heavy rainfall last night, it added to how much water there was. It roared with white fury. I definitely enjoyed seeing this.
We returned to Mae Hong Son and had lunch at Fern Restaurant. The food was very good. We had banana leaf-wrapped fried chicken, salted chicken, egg rolls, chicken and mushroom tom yum, sauteed vegetables, and rice cakes with a tasty dip. It was a large restaurant. Ma said that when tour buses come to Mae Hong Son, they tend to come there. We dropped off Van and Konie at Fern Resort, their residence for the night.
Ma ran some errands in Mae Hong Son and then returned to Wat Pa Tum Wua. Since it wasn't raining, I wanted to check out the Ox Cave. However my mom wanted me to walk with her. She met up with the cooks and other people at this retreat. They walked to the vegetable garden. I reluctantly walked with them and snapped photos. We then walked to another section of the monastery grounds where there were other kutis. Soon after it rained again. I was very upset because I wanted to go to the Ox Cave. I don't give a damn about vegetables!
Wat Pa Tum Wua
Mom with chef and other meditation attendees
Wat Pa Tum Wua
I sat with my mom at the outer patio of her kuti to avoid the rain and just tried to cool off. I showed her photos of Fish Cave, Phaseua Falls, and Bahn Ruk Thai.
During dinner my legs were ransacked again by mosquitoes. It was then back to my kuti for more Monopoly and Scrabble.
SEPTEMBER 2 - TRAVELING BACK TO BANGKOK
On this morning after the rain subsided to a light sprinkle I located Luang Ta Saiyud and asked him permission to peruse the Ox Cave. After he gave me permission, I hurriedly scaled the path leading first to the Meditation Cave. Due to the humidity, once I was there I was covered in sweat. This cave is not for lay people. I stuck my head in and saw a monk in sitting meditation. Here sitting meditation goes on 24 hours a day. The monks take turns. I then went to Ox Cave and snapped whatever photos I could. I then hurried back to get things ready. We bade farewell to Luang Ta Saiyud. At 9:13 am Ma picked up my mother and I. Luang Ta wasn't as available as he usually was because throughout our stay there was lots of construction going on which he was overseeing. They are preparing the monastery for a visit from members of the Royal Family in a month or so.
Mom with chef and other meditation attendees after last meal at Wat Pa Tum Wua
Left: Meditation cave Right: Way to Ox Cave
Ox Cave imagery
Bamboo around pathway between Ox Cave and Meditation Cave
We arrived at the airport a little after 10 AM and met up with Van and Konie. We thanked Ma for all he has done for us. I gave him 1,000 bahts as a show of gratitude.
We took off via the Nok Air propeller plane from Mae Hong Son and arrived in Chiangmai at around 11:30 am. Lek picked us up once again. She drove us to a Tesco Lotus. There we had lunch at the food court.
Later we went to an old style market called Waroros. Konie and my mom were shopping for stuff. Van and I found this place to be congested, stuffy, and hot. I had to pay to use the john (though it's only 3 bahts).
Van and Aunt Lek
Later on we stopped at another marketplace. Here Van and I stayed in the car. We were not interested in shopping and had enough of the heat.
Once done, Lek took us to Wat Pa-Ngiu. Only my mother and I went to see sightsee this temple. Van and Konie declined. I don't really blame them. The heat was getting unbearable. This temple features a lying Buddha statue of which the robe consists of thousands of satangs (coins). I couldn't tell from afar but when I came up close, it was quite apparent. Aunt Lek said she saw a featurette once on TV about this.
Mom scaling steps to check out Buddha statue at Wat Pa-Ngiu
Buddha robe up close. It consists of coins
We stopped at Lek's place. There we repacked my travel bag to fit all the stuff my mom bought. Konie went to peruse her family's house next door. It didn't take us long to organize everything. There was time to spare before our flight. Lek and her husband Pong were watching something on TV that I initially thought was "Anaconda". It turned out, it was a Thai movie featuring a giant snake called "Boa: Giant Snake". The snakes in this flick were so huge, one of them took down an airborne helicopter!
We bade Lek and Pong farewell. Lek dropped us off at Chiangmai International Airport. It was a 7:55 pm flight via Air Asia. We arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok at around 9 pm. Sadly that smoking hot flight attendant wasn't on this flight. However, most of the ones there were still pretty cute.
Van and Konie wanted to ride the Airport Link high-speed train back as an experience. My mom had it with trains and the likes so we just caught a cab back.
SEPTEMBER 3 - FAMILY REUNION AND SECOND FUNERAL
My mom, Aunt Tim, Uncle Ton, Aunt Taew, and I went to Uncle Paiboon's place. Another relative, Oat, joined us as well. It's very rare for my mom and her siblings to all be together at the same time. Due to this, Uncle Paiboon felt it was an ideal time to have a reunion.
At his place he showed us a family tree of my mom's family. He took quite some time to piece it together. It was a wonderful things to see who is who and so forth. His son Tong was there, too.
There was plenty of good food. What I recalled were miang, rice cakes with dip, little fried chicken wings, sae ua, rodchong, and duck noodles.
Everyone chewed the fat for a long while. Can't blame them due to the rarity of everyone being here. Oat showed me his iPad. I got to play Angry Birds for the very first time. Later on we took a group photo since who knows if this reunion will ever happen again.
We dropped Aunt Taew. At her place we all quickly changed into funeral attire. We then headed to Chachoengsao for Wat Panitaram. This is the funeral for Jae Sup, my father's last-remaining half-sister. There were lots of relatives present from my father's side of the family. The entire altar was full of people. We arrived in the middle of proceedings. Everyone had a chance to lay a flower in a tray. They will be taken to the coffin during cremation. As people exited the altar, everyone was given an umbrella.
Snapshots from Jae Sup funeral
Left: Aunt Ting Right: Mom and dad and Uncle Tienchai
After the cremation, we returned to Bangkok to pickup Grandpa Toon. On the way there, I thought to myself that on this trip to Thailand we had already attended two funerals and hopefully this will be the last. Once we picked up Grandpa Toon we then went to an excellent eatery called Niranam. The food here is absolutely wonderful. We had crab, shrimp, au suan, and deep water pomfret. By the way, it began to rain again.
When we returned to Aunt Ting's, the soi where it is located was flooded. Fortunately Top opened the gate so we could pull the van up the driveway where it was dryer.
SEPTEMBER 4 - SEAFOOD FEST
My parents, Aunt Ting, Keng, and I returned to Chachoengsao to have lunch with some family. We were invited by Uncle Putt who paid for everything. The restaurant is Bahn Loong Yen which is situated on the banks of the Bangpakong River. It's owned by a member of my father's side of the family and is next door to the house where my father grew up. Van and Konie were picked up by Konie's friend Nun. They would join us later.
Bahn Loong Yen
Mom next to Bangpakong River
Left: Just caught Right: another view of the river
If you love seafood, this is a feast to die for. It is stuff that's fresh from the river. When we got there, a woman emerged from a small boat with a net full of crabs. They were still kicking. We had meaty fish, fried fish, seared shrimp, meaty crabs, and another fish dish. I ate a lot, even for my standards. It was so good! Present were Uncle Putt, Aunt Pojana, Uncle Tienchai, Uncle Piak, and 2 other relatives Eed and Orawan. Aunt Ting had to return to Bangkok to teach so she left before us with Keng, Van, Konie, and Nun. The rest of us just kept talking and eating.
Top left: fried fish and plate of crab in background. Top right: seared shrimp. Bottom left: another fish. Bottom right: very meaty fish
Once done we returned to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to see Uncle Ton off as he will return to the States. Aunt Tim and her friend Tut joined us there via the Airport Link train. Uncle On was the one who drove Uncle Ton at the airport. I saw that he was wearing one of my old Hawaiian shirts. I'm glad it fits him. Sadly I've outgrown it.
Afterwards we had dinner at Nai Ngiab. Then it began to rain. We dropped Aunt Tim and Tut at the Huamark train station. We then returned to Aunt Ting's. Later Van came back during the torrent.
SEPTEMBER 5 - SUSHI NIGHT
I essentially did nothing on this day. Admittedly I was tired of always being on the move so it's nice to just stay put for once. I spent some time with my grandmother. I also killed time via facebook. On this idle day I slept a bit more.
At night Aunt Ting treated us to dinner at Mugendai Sushi and Tempura Bar. Present were my parents, Van, Konie, Paega, Dr. Uan, Keng, and his friend Pieak. Konie had her hair done so came with a new do. She got considerable praise. This place had terrific sushi but man, it was expensive! Aunt Ting treated. Once again, I'm stuffed.
Dr. Uan invited whoever was interested to hang out with him and Paega at a bar called Scirocco. Van and Konie went. I declined because I felt I needed time to pack for the next day.
SEPTEMBER 6 - TO KHAO YAI
Van and Konie were invited to join First for some dim sum. I wouldn't see them for the next couple days. The three of them went with Paega to Phuket.
It turned out my parents, grandma, and her personal nurse Jai wouldn't actually leave until 10:30 am. They headed for Aunt Ting's house in Khao Yai.
I went with Aunt Ting at 1 pm. In retrospect, especially seeing how late I left, I regret not going to Scirocco. I should have just ordered my usual fruit juice and water and spend some time with Paega and Dr. Uan whom I don't see everyday being half a world apart and all. That night I asked myself how and why did I become such a stick-in-the mud.
A few hours later we arrived at Aunt Ting's place at Khao Yai in Wood Park. This home was initially built for grandma to live in but she preferred being in Bangkok. The last time we brought her here, it seemed like her memory was better and she was stronger. Due to this, I wanted to bring her out here again.
Mom and dad at Aunt Ting's place in Wood Park
At around 5 pm my dad, Jai, and I took my grandma walking around Wood Park. We took turns pushing the wheelchair around. In the distance we saw some rain clouds. My dad and I thought it would take about 20 minutes before the rain would get to us and thought that's ample time to get back. However, 7 minutes later it got dark real quick and we were in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. We tried to rush back but took a wrong turn. My dad off his shirt and we used it to shield grandma from the rain. Later he would put his shirt back on and I would use my shirt to cover her. We finally came across a home with a canopy where two golf carts and a vespa were parked beneath. We went under the canopy to get out of the rain. We made some calls to arrange a ride back. Several minutes later a gentleman named Sayon, the overseer of Wood Park, picked us up with his golf cart and drove us back to Aunt Ting's.
It was good to be dry. We were all worried about grandma. However, for her age she's pretty resilient. That night we just had some dinner and watched Thailand beat Oman 3-0 in World Cup qualifying.
SEPTEMBER 7 - KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK
We waited for grandma to wake up from her post-breakfast nap. Once she did, we all went to Khao Yai National Park. Upon entering the park we went to ask permission from the park's spiritual guardian to tour the grounds. To do so we chanted and lit five incense.
Going to ask for permission to tour Khaoyai National Park
Figurines at this place
First stop was a viewing point. It overlooked a valley with green hills in the distance completely covered with vegetation.
Left to right: me, dad, grandma, Aunt Ting, and mom
Dad, Jai, grandma, Aunt Ting, mom at first viewing point
Onward we went. We had to dodge several monkeys on the road. When we got to the visitor area, there were three deer to our right. We slowed and snapped some photos.
Afterwards we went to Haew Suwat Waterfall. It began to rain. We chose to wait it out because the reason we came was because of grandma. My dad and I agreed that we should wait out the rain because for grandma there may not be a next time. At around 2:15 pm when the rain turned to a light sprinkle, we felt there would be no better window so out we came. We trudged grandma in her wheelchair down a slope and over several tree roots and rocks. Finally we got to the viewing area. For her it was the first time she had seen a waterfall in a very long time. Most of the time these days she just sleeps. While beholding this waterfall, she uttered "Waterfall!" in Thai with considerable excitement. She pulled at the guard rail at the edge of the viewing area to get a closer look. At times she looked like she wanted to get up from the wheelchair to view the falls. We were happy for her.
The top of Haew Suwat Waterfall. Jai checks it out
Haew Suwat Waterfall
At viewing area for Haew Suwat Waterfall
At 3:15pm we dropped grandma and Jai off at the residence. Aunt Ting and I went to Krua Khao Yai to order food. As I was perusing the menu, Aunt Ting was walking back from the restroom when her feet slipped on the wet ground and fell. I heard a shriek to my left and saw her on the ground. I, along with everyone else at the eatery, rushed towards her. She was in considerable pain as she hit her left arm very abruptly and her head against the concrete. Initially she feared her arm was broken but after laying in place for an extended moment, she slowly got up. My folks arrived shortly afterwards. She washed off a wound on her left elbow. There we ate ham, chinese flower buds, hoy jaw, curry and rice balls, and mushrooms.
I parents and I then went to Bahn Raitawsee in Pakchong while Aunt Ting sought medical attention. Our trek was ultimately fruitless because nobody was at home. This place is a Buddhist meditation retreat where my mom was seeking a tape or CD on meditation.
On the way back to Wood Park my mom bought guava and bajang. My dad bought khao larm.
At the residence, grandma was quite strong. She walked via walker from the bedroom to the balcony on her own. When Jai came to assist her, she waved her off. She did not want the wheelchair. I found this very inspiring.
A while later Aunt Ting returned. Nothing was broken but the doctor put her arm in a sling as a precaution.
That night I had Mama and khao larm for dinner.
SEPTEMBER 8 - BACK TO BANGKOK
Aunt Ting and I took grandma walking around Wood Park for a bit. We turned back while grandma wanted to see more. I think she enjoyed seeing new surroundings.
After breakfast we returned to Bangkok. All rode in one car and my dad and I in Paega's Mini Cooper. My dad forgot his watch and necklace so we drove back to Wood Park just before we got on the highway towards Bangkok.
Last look of Aunt Ting's place at Wood Park
Once we got everything, we were finally on our way. We stopped by Suwan Sweet Corn to get some delicious corn juice. However they were sold out. Instead we got some corn. I bought a corn ice cream which I ate on the way back. It was pretty good.
Left: my corn ice cream. Right: giant corn at entrance of Suwan Farm's Sweet Corn
About two hours and fifteen minutes later we arrived at Aunt Ting's place in Bangkok. We didn't do much at all the rest of the day.
SEPTEMBER 9 - MEETING THE SINGERS
I woke up in time to watch the opening game of the 2011-2012 NFL season between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. It was a fabulous game with the Packers winning 42-34 after their defense made a goal line stand at the last second. I then took a dip in the pool for about an hour. I was quite weary afterwards.
I then spent some more time with grandma.
That evening my friend Todd Nontavarnit dropped by with his girlfriend Ooh. For about an hour we chewed the fat and caught up on some old times. I gave him something his mother entrusted us to give to him. Afterwards, they left for dinner.
At around 11pm, Jimmy picked me up in a taxi. He was one of the Suntharaporn singers I guided around Disneyland last year when they came to perform in LA. He said we are meeting up with other singers Jap, Pahn, and Sun at a bar in Silom where they are celebrating one of Sun's friend's birthdays.
Once there I was cordially greeted by Jap, Pahn, and Sun. They were happy to see me. I gave them all Oscar statuettes with the engraving "Best Musician". They were all pretty stoked.
This place was small but had lots of energy. The singers that were on stage were all quite good. Also there was another singer named Yui and another friend of theirs. I looked around the place and wondered, "Hmm...there are plenty of guys here but where are the girls [other than the ones at our table]?"
That's when I realized...
SEPTEMBER 10 - SWAN LAKE ON ICE
I got back to Aunt Ting's at 3 am. Fortunately Dr. Uan was still up to open the door.
After waking up my mom and I went to Siam Paragon, a new mall in Bangkok. We met with Aunt Tim. After she took care of some personal matters at the bank, we ate at the food court. I then bought key chains and refrigerator magnets as souvenirs to give to folks in my department. Afterwards we took the train to Huamark station.
My father picked us up. Once back at Aunt Ting's, we quickly changed into formal wear. That evening my parents and I went to the Thailand Cultural Centre to attend "Swan Lake on Ice". Aunt Ting really wanted us to watch it. It's basically Tchaikovsky's renowned ballet "Swan Lake" but instead of the performers being ballet dancers, they were figure skaters. There was an ice rink on the stage.
We had a little time before it began so we had some rice and curry.
It was a good show though personally I felt sleepy. It was more due to sleeping late the night before as opposed to the show itself. Since photography of the show was not allowed, I do not have any pictures of the performance. In the background was the familiar music to "Swan Lake". The encore was quite exciting as all the performers displayed their very best stuff on stage at the same time.
Swan Lake on Ice at the Thailand Cultural Centre
When we left the Thailand Cultural Centre, surprise surprise...it was raining.
SEPTEMBER 11 - BIRTHDAYS
My mom and I had lunch with Aunt Tim and Aunt Taew at Foodland Supermarket. Later on while everyone shopped I bought some kanomkrok, my favorite Thai dessert.
We returned to Aunt Ting's. Van and Konie returned from Phuket. Konie started making lemon cake for tonight's birthday celebration for my mom and I. The housekeepers, Aunt Ting, and pretty much all the women were busy in the kitchen getting food ready. This night we were going to have an overabundance of food to devour.
That evening we had a real good turnout. Present were Aunt Ting, Paega and Dr. Uan, my folks, Van and Konie, her friends Nun, Muay, and Oay, relatives Pann, Pod, Jim, Jam and the rest of their families plus my friends Todd, Jap, and Sun. There was more food than I can recall. What I do remember is the pork satay, catfish with turmeric, kanomjeen, and Konie's delicious lemon cake. There was a lot more food than that. Jap and Sun are Suntharaporn singers. It turns out that housekeeper Ann and Top's daughter Wanjan are fans so they got their pictures taken with them. Many people who came also went to visit grandma in the guesthouse she stays in. All were happy to see her. My grandma also likes being around people. Aunts Ting and Tim both gave me money.
Getting food ready for tonight's feast
Left: me with Pee Pann, Jap, and Sun. Right: Jap and Sun
Left: Ann, Wanjan, and Top with Sun and Jap. Right: Ann with Sun and Jap
Left: present for mom. Right: Fruit
Afterwards Sun and Jap took me to karaoke. Todd initially drove us to his residence which is not far from the karaoke place. Jap, Sun, and I then caught a cab from there on. Jimmy and Pahn joined us later after they were done from a singing gig. They looked worn out from the concert. A friend of Sun also joined us. As it turned out, I did most of the singing. The others were impressed. I came home at around 2:15 am.
SEPTEMBER 12 - AIRPORT LINK
This was a lazy day. There was nothing to do so I wanted to take the Airport Link to Suvarnabhumi Airport just to check it out and find a shot glass that someone in LA requested. This rail line was not yet open the last time I was in Bangkok. My dad came with me, too. We found it so incredibly convenient to have a train that leads in and out of the airport. We didn't ride the super fast express line that Van and Konie did a several days back. We couldn't find a shot glass so we went back. I actually wanted to ride to a noted mall Maboonkrong (MBK) but my dad wanted to go back home so we did.
SEPTEMBER 13 - MABOONKRONG
I first watched the latter part of the New England Patriots' 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins. I then watched the first half of the Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos. Oakland took a 16-3 halftime lead on Sebastian Janikowski's record-tying 63 yard field goal to end the first half.
Aunt Ting dropped my folks and I off Huamark station. We rode the trains to MBK. I found a place that sold shot glasses and got a deal for two of them. That completes all the things I had intended to obtain on this trip. We then had lunch at the food court. I had chicken with yellow rice (khao mok gai) and coconut ice cream.
Huamark Train Station
View from station
Mom and dad
After all that walking my mom's feet have had it so we took a cab back. While in line waiting for a cab, a tourist ahead of us was confusing the attendant. When asked where he was headed, he kept saying "Pattaya" which is a separate city. My dad and I then asked him where he wanted to go. When he said it's a train station that leads to the airport, we figured out he meant "Payatai". We clarified it to the attendant so all was good.
Back at Aunt Ting's, I was happy to learn the Raiders had opened the season with a 23-20 victory. Van, Konie, Dr. Uan, and Paega returned from Hua Hin. Spent most of this day replying to Facebook birthday wishes.
SEPTEMBER 14 - FAMILY TIME
On this day my dad went to play a round of golf. Fortunately it did not rain this day. I took a dip in the pool. My mom and I then took a cab to Aunt Tim's. My mom was sick. In truth, she never should have come. We ate at Jiang. We had sui mai, har gow, fish dumplings, and shrimp won tons. We then hung out at her place for awhile. We headed back at around 4:30 pm.
Back at Aunt Ting's, I spent time with grandma and Jai. They were watching the TNT TV show "Leverage".
At 6:30 pm I went with Aunt Ting to JW Marriott's Tsu Restaurant Buffet. Other attendees were Van, Konie, Keng, Paega, and Dr. Uan. There was lots of good food and a good variety. It was pretty fancy as there was a station where foie gras was being cooked on the spot. Keng really likes foie gras.
After dinner, while waiting for our car, Van and I felt it was extremely humid this day. After all this time we never got used to it.
Back at Aunt Ting's, the air conditioner in my mom's room was busted. She was then moved to Kongpat's art studio which has a working AC.
SEPTEMBER 15 - TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
Aunt Ting dropped Van, Konie, and I at Huamark station. It would be the last time she would see me this time so we bade each other farewell. I thanked her for everything. We took the trains to Central Chitlom. We joined my folks and Aunts Taew and Tim at The Terrace. It's an eatery there. I had beef kao soy and shrimp cakes.
Lunch at The Terrace with folks, Van and Konie, and Aunts Taew and Tim
My dad and I took the train back to Aunt Ting's to pack while my mom went shopping with her sisters. It turned out I couldn't find my keys which royally infuriated me considering the number of times I had traveled I had never misplaced my keys. I then borrowed my mom's.
I gave Top 2,000 bahts. I gave Ann and Jai 500 bahts each. It's a small token of appreciation for all they have done for me during my stay.
I went to the guesthouse to spend some time with my grandma one last time. When it was time to go, the last thing I told her was that I'll see her next time.
My parents and Aunt Tim drove me to Suvarnabhumi Airport. After checking in my luggage, we ate at Tate Cafe. It was a very pricey fried spring rolls and chicken satay we had.
My Thai Airways flight took of at 7:30 pm. On board I watched X-Men: First Class. Then I fell in and out of sleep during Hanna. I then watched Sucker Punch, paused it and slept for about six hours, then finished it. Then I killed time with Red Riding Hood and Thor. My first meal was chicken with rice (kao mun gai). The second meal was noodles with barbecue pork.
The flight arrived at LAX around 8:38 pm which was an hour ahead of time. It allowed me to really take my time making my way to customs, using the restroom, and getting my bags.
My friend Prapan picked me up. We ate at El Puerte Escondido for some good Mexican food. Got home that night at 11:45 pm.
All in all this was one of the lengthiest stints I had ever spent in Thailand. It was nice to get a chance to relax and take my mind off or work for a stretch. I also told myself that since this stint and the last one to Thailand were for funerals that hopefully the next time I come here it will not be for a funeral.
It turns out that will not be the case. Though I told my grandma that I'll see her next time, there will not be one in this lifetime. On October 6th, my grandmother passed away. She just turned 94 less than a week beforehand. I knew this day would come but never knew how I would deal with it. As it turned out I did not cope with it well at all. This was the most difficult thing I ever experienced. Besides crying several times throughout the day I felt cold, alone, worthless, and that my soul was ripped out of me. As I am writing this, it's been two months since that fateful day and I still am tearing up. The next time I return to Thailand will be for her cremation. They say that time heals all wounds. For me, I will need a whole lot of time. At least I know that she is in a better place. Hopefully she, Jae Sup, and Uncle Singto are doing well in their new place.