Thailand, Fall 2006

This is an account of my trip to Bangkok in October and November, 2006. Click one of the links to jump to an individual chapter or back to the photos page:
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Chapter 1

Friday – Monday, October 20 – 23, 2006

I started my adventure with a peaceful flight from Eugene, Oregon to Ontario, California where I was met by my Dad and my sister, Cindy. We made a brief stop at Cindy's abode to have a cold beer and say hello to her husband, Joe. About halfway through the beer, I got a call from my other sister, Leslie, letting me know where and when we were having dinner. Unfortunately, we arrived a little late for dinner at a Mexican restaurant because we had to stop at Dad's to drop off my luggage, it not being a good idea to leave things in the car while we ate. Cindy beat Dad and I there.

We had a good meal in the pleasant company of Leslie, her boy friend Keith, and several of their friends. I was invited to accompany tem the following day at a local shooting range where they were holding one of their regular events they put on for local youth. I was offered a chance to try out a 38 special on the pistol range and, as luck would have it, one of the fellows was an NRA certified instructor. He gave me a short course in gun safety, proper handling, and the finer points of aiming at a target. I actually didn't do too badly. I am generally not a big fan of handguns and have some serious differences with the politics of the NRA, but still, it was fun.

The remainder of my visit in southern California was spent just hanging out, mostly with Dad. At 81 he is slowing down a bit and tires more easily but is still sharp. He claims that he is getting forgetful but I saw no sign of it, though my sisters concur with his assessment. It is always a treat to just spend time together regardless of what we are doing.

I am sitting now in the Taipei airport on what is Tuesday night. This morning Monday morning actually Cindy and Dad drove me to an L.A. Metro train station where I hopped a train to the station nearest LAX and took the free shuttle the rest of the way. It is a convenient way of letting my chauffeurs avoid most of the L.A. traffic while still not having to take four different trains to get to the airport. On my way home, we'll reverse the process.

Upon arriving at the Tom Bradley terminal, all checked baggage, two in my case, had first to go through an X-ray screening. That took about ten or fifteen minutes. Then a TSA employee wheeled them to a secure area adjacent to check-in while I got into the check-in line. I had planned to be very early and able to avoid most lines but I guess everyone else on my flight had the same idea. I stood in the check-in line for over an hour and a half but at least I was able to procure an aisle seat. Alas, it was not much help because the seat pitch (the number of inches between rows of seats) was such that my knees were up around my ears for almost all of the thirteen and a half hour flight to Taipei. Well, it felt like I was a contortionist wanna-be. I've now been in the Taipei airport for about forty five minutes and my knees still hurt. Not only was there no room for my legs and straightening them was impossible, the seats are very narrow. Needless to say it was a very uncomfortable flight. Still, I keep telling myself that it beats shelling out a couple thousand dollars for first class or business class tickets. At least I think it beats it because I've never sat in first class. I can live with a few hours of discomfort for that kind of money although I was having second thoughts about that somewhere around hour seven.

It is now 21:11 and the flight to Bangkok leaves at 22:30 (we international travelers are too cool because we are facile using 24 hour clock times). The flight crew just arrived and promptly disappeared down the wormhole to the plane. Oh, I mean the jetway to the plane. I am a too-cool international traveler, after all. Luck fell my way and I was able to switch seats to an emergency exit row which translates to more leg room.

I'm going to pause in my narrative now because my body thinks it is about 6am, I haven’t slept, and I've run out of things to say. Hey, what happened to Tuesday? I think it got lost somewhere around the International Date Line. Oh well…

Ok, I'm back; did you miss me? The flight from Taipei to Bangkok was only three hours and I managed about an hour and a half of fitful but much needed sleep. I walked off the plane into Bangkok's brand new Savarnabumi (pronounced sah-wanna-boom) at 1:10am and was in a taxi with all my luggage by 1:50. Another forty minutes and I was ringing Barry's doorbell. Ringing and ringing and ringing because he fell asleep and forgot to leave the door unlocked. I unpacked, showered, and read a chapter before turning off the light at 3:10.

Bangkok – Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I awoke feeling quite rested at about 9:45am. Following my morning ablutions, Barry and I embarked for lunch at the Landmark hotel where we met Rudy, a delightfully crazy German chip designer, and Steve, a new acquaintance. The Landmark has a spectacular buffet and I ate enough for the whole day, though I probably won't think so later this evening. After lunch, Barry returned to his apartment and I went shopping for some food and supplies for my stay.

Later in the evening, I met with John, a friend who practices international trade law here, and Steve. Hard core drinkers all, we downed our Diet Cokes and John had dinner at the Silver Dollar bar in Washington Square. I'd heard about this locale as having some good restaurants and a couple of theme bars (Cajun and some others I cannot remember). The three of us went in search of entertainment and I continued my boozing with another Diet Coke in one establishment, soda water in another, and orange juice in the last. Feeling a little jet lagged, I quit early and was walking back to Barry's apartment when I met him on the way to get something to eat at one of my favorite places so I joined him for a plate of Kow Pad Gai, literally rice fried chicken.

Barry is packing for his move to Pattaya in a couple weeks. His rent here was increased and since his teaching schedule is now more limited, he will commute to Bangkok once or twice a week. He is moving in with Rudy. Rudy has a big house in Pattaya and as soon as his ex moves out, he will be moving in. Unfortunately, she and her family trashed the place so there is a lot of work to do on it before they move in. So far, I've only seen pictures but the place is spectacular. I may stay there or in a Pattaya hotel for a while if my schedule here permits.

Bangkok– Thursday, October 26, 2006

I woke up around 6am tired and unrested yet unable to sleep. I tried for an hour then gave up and read my book for a while before finally getting up and ready for the day's activities. This was to be a big one, bigger than I had expected. I had an appointment scheduled with the Silom Dental Clinic for a CT scan. I figured that they would then analyze the results of the scan and schedule my implant surgery for another day. Instead, they told me to return the same evening at 6:30 for the surgery. Well, at least I would get it over with.

I spend the intervening time at the MBK Center, a very large shopping center. I bought a couple of small items but I was their mainly to have dinner at their fabulous food court. Like food courts the world over (ok, Bangkok and U.S. shopping malls and a few airports is all the experience I have) they comprise a collection of small specialized eateries. At MBK, there must be at least fifty of them serving up the fare from all over the word. I started with a delicious spicy shrimp and rice dish from one booth, continued with crispy pork over rice at another, and finished with fresh mango over sweet sticky rice for dessert. I made a new life resolution: eat more mango with sticky rice. It is pure heaven. There is only a small window of time where we can get decent mangoes in Oregon and I try to take advantage of if but haven't perfected the sticky rice yet. When done right as it is here, the sticky rice is served with cocoanut milk and toasted sesame seeds. It's sweet, slightly salty, and buttery tasting. It would probably also be wonderful with caramelized bananas, another of my favorite desserts.

Also while at MBK I stopped in to a very nice furniture store owned by the mother of a Thai friend I had made in Oregon. Madee was studying at OSU for a year and is now back in Bangkok. Her other friends, Nut and Bat are also back and at the same university as Madee. Duranee, Madee's mother, called Madee for me and I got to speak with her. She said she would talk to her friends and we could get together some night. I am looking forward to seeing them again, they are such nice and pleasant folks.

Well fed, I arrived back at the dental clinic about fifteen minutes early and they first had me pose for a panoramic X-ray of my mouth and skull. The bone grafts they did on my last visit in May had grown in nicely and the surgeon was very pleased with the thickness and depth of bone, a prerequisite for stable dental implants.

I won't go into the details of the surgery but it was not pleasant. I did fall asleep for part of it and awoke groggy and in considerable pain. Both persisted even after completion of the almost two and a half hour surgery and even as I left the clinic for my sky train ride home. Alas, the always present motorcycle taxis at the head my street were not in attendance this night so I walk the final quarter mile or so back to the apartment. With Barry gone to Pattaya for a few days to help Rudy get his house in order, I didn't even have anyone to sympathize with my condition.

I power up my computer with the intention of writing this journal but with the drugginess and mood tainted with pain, thought better of it and worked on a software project for a short while then called one of my staff in Oregon. Have you used Skype? It is very cool, and allows me to talk for free to any other Skype user anywhere in the world. I can even call land lines for about two cents a minute. Not only that, but Skype itself is free. Anyway, enough commercial, I didn't actually use Skype this time because I didn't feel much like talking. Instead we used instant messaging and I let my fingers do the work instead of my mouth.

This is one day I am glad to see the back of. Fortunately for me, it should be the last really painful part of the entire process. The surgeon said that this one would be less painful than the bone graft surgery had been but it was the opposite for me.

Bangkok– Friday, October 27, 2006

Feeling like I'd been run over by a bus, I had a hard time getting going this morning. I stayed in bed and read for awhile but had a hard time concentrating. Then I watched some TV but kept drifting off so I went back to bed. I finally dragged myself to the shower about 11:30 and felt much better and with enough of an appetite to lure me out for some food. Most of the pain is gone now and is manageable with ibuprophen.

On my last visit when I was limited to soft foods, I found wonderful fare at the Sheraton just up the street. For about $10, I had a delightful breakfast that was soft enough for me to eat without much pain. In one of the accounts of my previous visit, I may have expounded the virtues of the manner in which they serve tea at this restaurant but it deserves another mention. Instead of the cup of hot water and a tea bag you get at almost all U.S. restaurants, here one is served a tall cylindrical pot with built-in tea strainer. It is similar to the European style coffee pots with strainers now commonly found in the U.S. It is sufficient for about four or five cups.

After my meal, I walked across the street to the grocery store bakery and bought some soft sweet things I could eat later. Now I'm back at the apartment where I just got a call from Madee about getting together for dinner next week.

The rest of the day was not very exciting; I mostly read, watched TV, and worked on my computer. I actually got some productive work done in addition to writing in this journal. Around 11:30 I text messaged and called (remember Skype?) my office. I wanted Joel's input on a new product I'm working on. Joel does technical support for my company and I like to bounce ideas off him. He offers lots of good insight from working on the front lines helping customers use our other products in the same product line. During and after talking to Joel, I made a few changes to the program.

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