On Thursday evening our second and third guests arrived in Bangkok. Two months ago Tawn and I visited Otto Fong and Lai Han at their home in Singapore and this week is their reciprocal visit.
Otto and Han are regular visitors to Bangkok, once or twice a year, so they don’t require any significant attention from us. In order to stay a bit closer to some of their favorite attractions, they declined our offer of accommodation and instead are staying near the Saladaeng/Silom district.
Friday was a very rushed afternoon for us and it was fortunate that we had not made plans to meet up with Otto and Han for dinner. Tawn returned home late, about 7:30, frustrated with the additional work that his boss had scooped onto his plate in the final hours of the day. This is a three-day weekend here in Thailand, and Tawn has a major project that needs to be on his boss’ desktop on Monday.
We were invited and, culturally, obligated to attend a gathering of Tawn’s friends on Friday evening. It seemed to me that Tawn was very exhausted after work so I suggested that we needed to just call and let his friends know that we were going to not make it. Instead, we spent an evening at home just relaxing quietly.
There is an interesting social dynamic to friendship here in Thailand that is different from the United States. Fairly typical of an Asian culture, there is more of a group-think mentality as opposed to an individualist mentality. As such, when a group of friends is getting together, the individuals are expected to be there, regardless of how they feel or what else they have going on. “You need to be there for your friends” is a major driving force.
Interestingly, there seem to be some exceptions to the rule. You can, for example, show up several hours late for your own birthday party dinner at a restaurant, leaving friends sitting there sipping drinks and munching on appetizers. But to not show up at all, even if you’ve called, is taboo.
This dynamic may be particular to Tawn’s group of friends, given that they mostly have similar social circumstances. Few of them have made the decision to place careers as a priority, so at the end of the week they seem to have a lot more energy than people who have been stoking the flames of a career.
Anyhow, Tawn was reluctant to bow out of the social engagement – meeting at a wine bar to open a very nice bottle of wine that one friend had been saving for a special occasion. Given the chance to sample fine wine, I was a bit hesitant to decline, too! But Tawn was exhausted and sometimes we need someone to play referee, blow the whistle, and say, “time out!”
That turned out to be a very good decision, as Tawn had to pick his parents up at 5:30 am to drive them to the airport for a weekend trip to Singapore. He was able to get a few more hours’ sleep upon his return while I straightened up the house a bit. Once we were both awake, it was a hugely productive day, running errands and getting many things accomplished. By the end of the afternoon we were rushing a bit to meet a 7:00 appointment with Otto and Han. Thankfully they were running a bit behind schedule!
I met Otto and Han at the Metro station and we walked back to our condo, so we could show off our living accommodations and eat some cheese, crackers, olives, pate, and cherry tomatoes. We also opened a bottle of Prosecco, a nice Italian sparkling wine, to toast Otto and Han’s official recognition as permanent residents by the Australian government. Australia is another one of those governments (not including the United States, I’m afraid) that will recognize domestic partnerships for purposes of immigration. All the more reason to move to Australia, I say.
We had dinner at Crepes & Company, a short ride away. Having made reservations, we had a very nice table set aside and the “reserved” sign was a long blade from some lush piece of tropical vegetation, on which was written “K. Chris – 8:50 – Party of 4” in white Liquid Paper correction fluid. The “K” is short for khun, an honorific that stands in for mister or missus in the Thai language. The reservation was originally for 8:30, but they had cleverly modified the 3 to become a 5 when we called and said we’d be running a few minutes late.
At the end of a lovely meal, our friend Masakazu was able to stop by on his way back from dinner with some of his Japanese friends, and joined us in time for Chocolate Cointreau Crepes Flambee. Afterwards we piled into a cab – five people in a four-seater cab – for a short, bumpy, and fast ride to I-Chubb near Lumpini Park.
I-Chubb is a very niche bar, focused specifically on gay men who are carrying a few extra pounds and the men who like them. It is also a karaoke bar. Very interesting combination, and I’m inclined to theorize that a larger bellow lends to better singing skills – better acoustics in the chest cavity perhaps? The bar is very much a friendly, “neighborhood” bar, free of the pretense and posing that plagues so many gay bars in this and other cities.
We stayed for about an hour, talking over the loud covers of Thai pop songs, before calling it a night.
Otto and Han were off to Pattaya early Sunday morning and Tawn and I slept in a bit, continued to organize the house, sign holiday cards, etc. and didn’t head out for our errands until noon.
The big “to-do” today was to finalize a decision on a wine cellar (refrigerator). This has been an interesting research process for me, because I’ve been somewhat of the opinion that – at least back in a temperate place like the US – a wine cellar is an unnecessary luxury. Most houses have closets and other places where your wine maintains a fairly regular, cool temperature. So for a long time I was resistant of the idea of spending any money on such a luxury.
Then I tasted a bottle of wine that had been stored in 80 degree weather for a few months. It had passed its prime at the speed of sound and was on its way to becoming a passable red vinegar. Given that wine is heavily dutied in Thailand, a decent wine cellar costs less than a case of okay-quality wine. And since I have two dozen bottles of fairly nice wine that I’ve moved over here and more that will arrive in the next few trips, I’m not willing to lose that investment just because of my pride of not having some “useless toy.”
So after shopping around for the past four weeks, I identified a 72-bottle cellar at the Home Pro Plus (kind of like Home Depot without the construction materials) that was about the same price of the 24-bottle cellars at the department stores and other high-end locations. It is about 1/2 the size of a regular (USA) sized refrigerator and will fit nicely in the storage room. So it should arrive Thursday afternoon and my collection will be on its way back from the warm edge of oblivion.
This evening we went to the local spa for a one-hour Thai massage. Thai massage is a therapeutic art form that is kind of like doing yoga but you have someone pulling and pushing for you. There’s one stretch for the front of your legs where you’re lying face-down on the massage pad. The masseuse stands on your legs, one foot on each leg just above the back of your knees. They then wrap your foot around their legs for resistance and then lean forward, lifting your legs off the pad and their knees leverage against the top back of your pelvis.
Difficult to describe but it really opens up the joints, stretches the muscles, and increases the energy flow.
Tomorrow, Monday, is the King’s birthday. More about that afterwards.