Thailand, Summer 2007
Monday, July 2, 2007
I am writing the beginning of this chapter from Pattaya in the guest bedroom in the home of my friend, Rudi. Rudi is an interesting guy. He has both German and Russian roots and holds a Ph.D. in electronics engineering from a German university. At some point he moved to the U.S. and was a partner in a small firm that created custom computer chips. He now does the same thing in his solo company from his home here in Pattaya. Needless to say, he's a pretty bright guy.
His home is worth note. It sits on the outskirts of this beach resort town and is mostly surrounded by cultivated land. The house itself is a large, three story structure with tall ceilings on the first two floors. The floors themselves granite on the first floor and teak on the second and third. The stairway too is granite. In the U.S. we would describe it as having five bedrooms though only three are being used that way now. One is Rudi's office and another is being worked on to repair a water damaged ceiling but he said he would probably make it into another guest bedroom. There are balconies front and back on the second floor.
In back he has a large swimming pool where it is pleasant to cool off on a hot day. Actually, every day in Thailand is a hot day but I don't swim every day.
There are lots of gecko lizards here and I was surprised to discover that they make noise similar to a blue jay's chirping and almost as loud. Every other lizard of my acquaintance was silent. Because the doors and windows are often left open to bring in the slightly cooling breeze, sometimes these critters come into the house. There is one in my bedroom now and I think the same guy has been here the entire time I have. His noisemaking is infrequent but startling when it happens, sometimes in the middle of the night.
My return to Bangkok on the 24th was straightforward and little of note happened during my second stay there. I did pick up some shirts and a pair of slacks I had made and had a nice visit with George and his lovely wife at their tailor shop. Other than that, I ate a lot of good food, did a lot of shopping, mostly window shopping, and had my second dental visit where they took some additional impressions so they can make a preliminary wax model of what my eventual teeth will be like. Immediately after that appointment on the 28th, I had dinner then took the bus to Pattaya. It's amazing, it is a two hour plus ride and costs 117 Baht or about $3.50 US. I could have taken a taxi for about ten times that amount but the bus was air conditioned and it wasn't crowded.
The night after I arrived, I joined Rudi and some other Americans along with their Thai girlfriends for dinner at a fancy restaurant called Mantra. The menu was eclectic and included Japanese, Thai, and continental selections. Prices were very expensive by Thai standards though perhaps medium priced by U.S. standards. I had a delicious grilled sea bass with a spicy lime sauce. I am going to try to duplicate the sauce when I get home, it was wonderful. They served the fish whole. Because they price by the 100 grams, from the check I learned that it was about 600 grams or about a pound and a third.
After dinner we all went out for a progression of drinks at several local establishments. For me that meant a couple of beers before switching to Diet Coke. Diet Coke (or as it's called here, Coke Light) is good to order here because if you order plain Coke, it comes in a glass with ice and very little liquid but if you order Diet Coke, you get the can and a glass of ice and you get alot more to drink. I find this useful because of the amount of moisture I loose through perspiration in the heat, even at night.
The next day was Saturday and I had another dental appointment so I took the bus back to Bangkok in the early afternoon. It was a short appointment, just checking alignment, taking a couple more sets of impressions, and selecting the color for my new teeth.
While I was on the bus to Bangkok, John called me to say that the U.S. Embassy was having an Independence Day celebration that day and it went until 8pm so I caught a taxi to the Embassy and joined the crowds partying. It was much like a similar celebration back home except for the number of non-Americans present. There were several food and drink booths, an area for kid related activities, a big open grassy area though it was pretty muddy due to the recent rains. I think they were finishing a game of tug-of-war when I got there and were starting an egg tossing contest. After that contest, my friend John sponsored a hot dog eating contest which was a hoot. I helped a little but did not join the contest. While I enjoy an occasional corn dog, stuffing a bunch of wieners sans bun down my mouth is not my idea of a good time.
My days in Pattaya have been highlighted by the dinners I have eaten. Two nights ago, Rudi and I went to a German restaurant and I order something called Zigeunershnitzel or breaded veal in a Gypsy style. It sounded intriguing and turned out to be wonderful, one of the best tasting meals I have ever had. The schnitzel was covered in thinly sliced mushrooms and carrots (at least I think they were carrots) that had been cooked in this rich, somewhat tart sauce. Rudi had a roasted pig knuckle which was much better than it sounds. It was so big that he couldn't eat it all even with me helping.
Last night, the two of us dined at an Irish restaurant and I had fish and chips. The fish was a bit mushy but tasted good. Tonight, we went Japanese and I had Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and mixed Tempura. Both were excellent but especially the Tempura.
I haven't yet mentioned that last time I was in Thailand I visited Pattaya and wandered into one of the many art galleries here. They are filled with a few original works but mostly copies of paintings by famous and not-so-famous artists. The particular shop I was in specialized in renaissance artists and old masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Da Vinci, and others. I noticed a particularly well done Vermeer and asked if they had a copy of his Girl with a Pearl Earring. Of course they didn't but would be happy to have one painted for me. At the time, I wasn't going to be in Pattaya long enough for them to finish it. Rather than ordering one having them mail it, I ordered it via email and indicated that I would pick it up when I was here this trip.
When I stopped into the shop yesterday afternoon, the owner wasn't in but was expected in a few minutes so I browsed the other paintings until she arrived in the promised few minutes which in itself wa a surprise. Coincidentally, it was when she arrived and I made my way toward her that I noticed the object of my search. It was larger than I had requested but it was very well done and the somewhat larger canvas will better fit the place I plan to hang it. I will have it framed when I get home but I'm not sure whether to select a frame to match the period of the painting or the style of my house, probably he latter.
Alas, my last dinner in Pattaya, while with pleasant company, was somewhat lacking in the taste department. We ate at the Great American Rib restaurant in Pattaya and I had the Surf and Turn, a rare Filet Mignon with a pair of jumbo shrimp. The meat was prepared ok and was fairly tender but didn't have much flavor. The shrimp were good but I've had much better. At least the Onion Rings were really good.
The next day, Rudi dropped me off to I join Steve and Nee in the shuttle directly to the Dynasty Grande in Bangkok. Traffic was terrible and there was a lot of construction but the driver knew a cool shortcut through the huge Tobacco Monopoly compound that shaved about 20 minutes off the trip. With the combination of the poor roads and the way they drive in Thailand, it was a jerky couple of hours which made it hard to read. Why read you may ask? Well there is not that much interesting to see between Bangkok and Pattaya and I've seen it before, hence my desire to occupy my mind with the book I'd brought along for just that purpose.
I will end this chapter here and finish my trip in the next and final installment.