Monday morning about 4:30 I dropped my parents off at Suvarnabhumi, the last of our guests to head back to North America.
Life feels so empty now… what to do with all the free time? Kidding. There’s still plenty to do, especially since there will be more guests arriving this weekend.
Guests to Thailand fall into two categories (doesn’t everyone?): meal guests and guide guests.
Meal Guests are people who have visited Khrungthep before or have lived here, and so are very familiar with where to go, how to get around, and what they want to do. Otto and Han fall into this category, as do Peter and Paul (but, oddly, not Mary). So they are meal guests because all we really have to do is arrange to meet them for meals.
Guide Guests are those visitors who are new to the city of angels. They possibly have not traveled a lot, especially in Asia, and may or may not be very comfortable navigating an unfamiliar place. They require more time as at the very least arrangements need to be made on their behalf. The advantage is that it is very exciting to see how they experience the city from a first-timer’s perspective.
Both types of guests, of course, are very welcome. We love to have visitors as it makes it feel almost like we didn’t leave the United States. The Thai food is better, though.
Like their arrival and the loss of my hair, our guests’ departures happened gradually. Lilian and her mother left the morning of the 7th, the same day that the rest of us headed up to Chiang Mai. Jackson went to Chiang Mai with us but then left the morning of the 10th to go on to Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The morning after our return from Chiang Mai, I drove Ken to the airport. Then after a few days in town to wrap up shopping and sightseeing, Dick and Sandy headed home on Saturday morning, leaving only my parents in town.
Before Dick and Sandy left, we had drinks atop the Banyan Tree Hotel at Vertigo restaurant. It was Sandy’s birthday on Saturday, so we surprised her two nights early with a cake. Dick took some pictures – actually, the waiter and I both took pictures using Dick’s camera – that turned out nicely, so I’ll have to get those from him to post. While the drinks are pricey, the view is spectacular.
We also went for authentic pad thai at Thip Sa Mai, an old-city institution that does nothing but pad thai. I think I’ve written before that many local Thai friends readily complain about Thip Sa Mai, saying it is overpriced and not that good. None are able to offer alternatives, though.
Actually, Tod really likes Pad Thai Arii, which I took Tawn to Monday night. It is tasty but they are pretty light on the tamarind sauce, making a more Issan-style version of the dish. I prefer the tamarind version. They also have a noodle-less version made with crispy fried wontons. The shrimp they serve – two sizes – are really fresh, though. Two large shrimp still fully shelled, resting on top of your plate of pad thai.
Thip Sa Mai is a good destination to bring visitors, though, because it is outdoors and offers a good view of the fiery hot wok in which they turn out plate after plate of pad thai in omelet. Plus it is only a short walk from the Metal Pagoda and Thanon Ratchadamnoen, which is nicely lit up this time of year for the King’s birthday and New Year’s.
Above: Fire in the hole! Another plate of pad thai is turned out every seven seconds.
Since my parents were traveling on airline passes (my father is a United retiree) it looked like the best opportunity for them to travel was Monday morning, so they decided to stay for the weekend. Having pretty much exhausted sightseeing opportunities in the Big Mango, we decided to head for the beach for a few nights of relaxation.
Our destination was Cha-Am, a beach town about 200 km south of Khrungthep but about 35 km closer than the better-known Hua Hin. Cha-Am is popular with Thais. The beach is a gentle slope although not very wide and not the prettiest sand. But the weather is dry, the seafood is good, and the accommodations are reasonably priced.
We stayed at the Gems Cha-Am hotel, a slightly faded place whose glory days are behind her. It appeals mostly to Danish tourists and there was a good size group of them at breakfast each morning. The price was right, though: 1200 baht a night for a sea-view room on the 11th storey. The beach is just across the street, very convenient to us.
The weather was incredibly perfect: breezy with highs around 28 C (82 F) and lows in the evening down around 24 C (74 F). Thais do beach-going differently than westerners: they rent groups of beach chairs around a small table that are covered by a forest of umbrellas, ensuring that no sunlight fall on them. There are beach chairs with only a single umbrella available closer to the water: these were the province of already pink-skinned (and becoming pinker) Europeans.
For 20 baht a person you could stake your claim on a chair for the entire day, with “come and go” privileges. Vendors traipsed up and down the sand selling everything from fried calamari to cotton candy to decorative shell windchimes. It was a pretty relaxing way to spend the day. Above: We try a crispy crepe-like snack that is as light as meringue but slightly sweet. The umbrellas are all closed because the sun has almost set behind us.
The breeze was too strong – we were sitting on a beach-front table and almost were blown away, so we moved further back in the restaurant. We ate a lot – too much – and had a large platter of grilled seafood.
The seafood was really fresh but I’ve decided that cockles really aren’t very interesting to me, grilled or otherwise. The highlight was the curried platoo, small fish that are very tasty, in a sauce that was very, very hot.
Right: Relaxed Tawn. Below: Tawn with a sundae at Swenson’s.
So reflecting on the visit of my guests, it was such a treat to have so many people in town. I definitely need to do more advance work so that guests can do some more of their own self-guided tours. Make some maps, instruction cards, etc. This will give them more to do and ensure I have some more free time when they are here.
Give me a few weeks; I’ll get right on it!