Twenty years passed in a flash

Some of you may be familiar with the story of how Tawn and I met. It is a good story, one that should be made into a movie or written into a book. It is also a story that took place a long time ago. Twenty years ago, to be exact. So this weekend, we flew to Hong Kong, where the first meeting took place, to celebrate our twentieth anniversary of meeting.

To celebrate, a friend arranged a harbor cruise aboard the Aqualuna, a Chinese junk with vibrant red sails. It was a bit chilly but pleasant to spend 45 minutes viewing the city lights, sipping sparkling wine and munching snacks. This city holds many memories for us and it has changed and grown over the past two decades, just as we have.

Because the friend who arranged this cruise had connections, we were treated to a bit more than the usual level of hospitality and felt very welcome aboard. By the time we disembarked in Tsim Sha Tsui, navigating the step from the bobbing boat to the solid shore was a bit more challenging.

A short walk up the street, we arrived at our dinner destination, Aqua, located on the 28th floor of One Peking Road. Part of the same group as the cruise, we had a romantic table overlooking the harbor below. The service was attentive and the staff surprised us with a dessert platter to celebrate our anniversary.

On a trip to Hong Kong a few years ago, Tawn and I tried something different in the way of dinner conversation: to act as if we didn’t know each other and to ask the questions we would normally ask when first meeting another person. It was a fun way to re-introduce ourselves to each other and to learn a few things that we hadn’t known.

Similarly, Tawn had prepared a list of a dozen or more questions that served as the spark for our dinner conversation Friday night, ranging from questions about our earliest memories to what our family lives were like as children to who our more influential teacher was. While many of the questions covered ground with which we were already familiar, the context felt new and I think it was a chance to rediscover what shapes each other and makes us who we are.

The rest of the weekend was spent visiting friends, including some former colleagues, and wandering around the city seeing familiar sights. This is a city that has always appealed to us, a place that we would love to have the chance to live in. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but it is certainly a place we enjoy getting away to every so often.

As for the twenty years together, what reflections do I have? Twenty years is a long time and so many things have happened that it seems a challenge to make sense of it. When my grandparents celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary two years ago, I asked for some wisdom about how they made it. My grandmother laughed and said, “You take it one day at a time.”

That was a wholly unsatisfying answer but I recognize the truth in it. At every step of the relationship, there have been moments of challenge and frustration that make you wonder how you can stand each other for another minute. And there are moments of joy and bliss when being together seems fore-destined. And those moments sometimes follow one right after the other.

Over dinner, we talked about the secret to our relationship’s longevity. After discussing a few things, we agreed that the biggest factor was that both of us were willing to learn and grow. Relationships don’t work when you expect the other person to do all the changing. Even when the other person has some significant changing that needs to happen, to only thing you can really influence is yourself, so you need to see what change you are capable of – and willing to make.

Who knows what the future holds? But if my grandparents’ genes are any indicator, we could have another forty years or more years ahead of us. So that’s something like 14, 600 days, one at a time. Happy anniversary, honey.

Tea with a Stunning View: Ritz Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong

In August 2014, Tawn and I journeyed to Hong Kong for a long weekend, celebrating the fifth anniversary of our marriage. (Yes, I realize that it has taken more than two months to actually post the details of this trip.) While there, we decided to splurge on an afternoon tea at The Lounge and Bar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

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Perched on the 102nd floor of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon, The Lounge and Bar offers one of the more stunning views for afternoon tea and at HK$598 (about US$78) for two people, it is not unreasonably priced.

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Having indicated on my reservation the reason we were coming for tea, the hotel thoughtfully decorated our tray with a white chocolate “letter” wishing us a happy anniversary.

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The amount of food is generous – plus two full pots of tea. The savory sandwiches were a truffle egg mayonnaise on brown bread, shellfish and dill cream on white bread, and smoked salmon with lemon curd on rye bread. There were also duck foie gras pate mini puff pastries with freeze-dried passion fruit.

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The sweets included blueberry cheesecake, mango choux, and peach vanilla verrine (not pictured here).

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There was also hazelnut lemon cake and orange ginger canneles. I love canneles!

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And of course you cannot have tea without scones. Two types were served with belberry jam and clotted cream.

The teas come from Marriages Frères, the Parisian tea company that offers so many high-quality flavors to choose from. And the china is beautiful. It was a very relaxing two hours with attentive service, amazing views, and too much tasty food. For the price, it was actually quite reasonable.

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Happy anniversary honey! We should make this an annual tradition to celebrate.

Seventh Anniversary in Bangkok

Would you believe that it has been seven years since I moved to Bangkok? Sure enough, Halloween marks the anniversary of my one-way THAI Airways flight from New York to Bangkok (a nonstop long since discontinued), and 2005 was the departure date. Now I look at New York, cleaning up from severe flooding, from an ironically dry Bangkok.

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It is hard to believe that so much time has passed but at the same time (and I know it is a cliche) it seems like the time has flown by. I was having lunch yesterday with another expat, a Chinese one, who commented that most foreigners living here don’t last that long. Then he told me about another guy, an American, who has been here for something like fifty years. Maybe he was trying to tell me that seven years really isn’t so long! 

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In either case, Halloween marks a milestone and Tawn and I are at a point in our relationship where a decisive majority of our time together has been spent living in Bangkok. I’m sure this has had some effect on it, although I would have to think a lot harder to identify what that effect is. Topic for a future blog post.

In other news, we are scheduled to fly to Shanghai for five nights starting Saturday. The Chinese embassy has approved Tawn’s visa but, strangely, has rejected mine citing lack of proof of financial means to travel. Say what? I suspect they are just yanking my chain because I’m an American. Have sent the travel agency back with a raft of documentation proving that I will not under up on the Communist Party dole while traveling there.

 

A Year After the Protests

A year ago today, mobs set fire to various parts of Bangkok in the wake of the breakup by the military of a 40-day long anti-government protest.  Those events, along with a related confrontation in April 2010, resulted in the death of 92 people (13 of those deaths have been attributed to “action by government forces” and if I recall correctly, four journalists were killed including two foreigners.)

The fires, set in at least a dozen locations around the city, resulted in an estimated 24 billion baht in damage (about US$ 950 million) and destroyed several structures including shopping centers, a department store, and one of the city’s oldest cinemas. 

As of today, there are more than 130 people identified as participants in the protests who remain jailed, charged but not tried for their crimes.  A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was unable to draw conclusions on many of the points it was asked to examine, including what role the military had in the deaths of protesters.  The commission complained of the military not being forthcoming in providing requested evidence.

About a week ago, the Prime Minister dissolved Parliament and elections will be held 45 days from today.  The only thing that seems certain is that, regardless of the outcome of this election, there will be further unrest from one side or another of the political spectrum.  Whether the unrest is expressed in the same way is unclear.  Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.

In my coverage of the protests last spring, I received comments from various people passing by my blog, accusing me of being blatantly pro-government or blatantly pro-protesters.  Of course, I have no horse in the proverbial race.  I’m a foreigner living here over the long run, a person who loves Thailand and the Thai people and who wants them to be able to continue to develop as a country and not end up getting caught in the middle income trap.

I leave you with some before and after pictures borrowed from this Bangkok Post story.

The Central World shopping center at the Ratchaprasong intersection, where the protests had been centered.

The burnt-out remains of the Siam Theatre, one of the oldest single-screen cinemas in Bangkok.  Today, the property sits empty, awaiting a redevelopment plan by its land-owners, Chulalongkorn University.

Along Rama IV Road, barricades of tires were set aflame and buildings were looted and burned.

Also along Rama IV Road near the Lumpini Boxing Stadium.

Related reading from my blog:

Winner of the United Retro Jet Contest

This year marks the 85th anniversary of United Airlines.  In a post last November, I mentioned that they were holding a contest for employees to vote for their favorite previous livery.  The winning livery would then be painted onto a “retro jet” to commemorate the anniversary.  Five previous color schemes were presented, voted on, and I recently saw that the Airbus A320 painted in the winning colors recently took to the sky:

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Sigh…

I’m quite excited because of the five liveries, this was my favorite.  It is the one I associate with my early childhood in the 1970s.  I remember drawing airplanes when I must have been in my early elementary years and this was the color scheme I could recreate from memory.

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The other four liveries that represent the different eras of United Airlines.

While I’ve had my rough patches with United over the years, it is the company that my father, my husband, and I (not to mention countless friends) all worked for at various points in our lives.  Happy 85th anniversary to the Friendly Skies.  May the merger with Continental make the skies friendly once again!

 

Would you believe five years alreday?

After more than a year of planning, my move to Bangkok occurred the morning of Sunday, October 30, 2005.  I departed from New York, spending my final two nights in America there.  As with most of my trips, visiting friends and eating food were the main pastimes.  Saturday evening was a 5-course tasting menu at Blue Hill just off Washington Square.  The fantastic menu and wine pairings were a perfect goodbye gift from the land of my birth.

Thankfully, Daylight Saving Time ended at 2:00 Sunday morning, giving me an extra hour’s sleep before having to head out to the airport.  The friend with whom I was staying flagged a taxi while I pulled off a minor logistics miracle and got my three large/heavy suitcases, one heavy trolley bag, and fully-stuffed backpack down three flights of stairs and through the front entry doors.

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A few hours later, I was situated in seat 44D aboard a THAI Airways A340-500 as we rolled down the runway for a more than seventeen hour flight to the capital of Thailand.  Since the flight crossed the International Date Line, it arrived on October 31 at 4:20 pm.  Exactly five years and fifteen minutes ago.  My, how time flies when you’re having fun!

If you’re curious to read all the details of that flight, which has since been discontinued, check out my trip report here on airliners.net. An interesting bit of trivia, that picture above is of the actual flight I was on that day.  Through sheer coincidence, a member of airliners.net was taking pictures at JFK airport that morning and shot my flight.  After reading my trip report, he emailed the pictures to me.