Landing at Suvarnabhumi (SavanaBANNApo, I practiced saying it a lot!) Airport Bangkok, Thailand was a huge culture shock.
It was hot in spite of the air conditioning, HUGE, noisy crowded and (esp after homogenous Seoul, Korea) packed with all kinds of strange languages, sculpture, costumes and people. It was complete chaos that Friday night.
“Wow” I said to my Daughter. “We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Who knew South Korea would seem homey and familiar compared to this?”
We walked miles, surrounded by herds of people, through all sorts of duty free shops, getting to passport control. Then we stood in line for an hour to get ‘stamped’ into the country and finally got disgourged out to baggage pick up.
Waiting for us with a big ol smile, was our gracious host, Gary. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited and relieved we were to see him. That is one honkin’ big, noisy, crowded, overwhelming place. Thank you so much for collecting us at the airport!
The cabs in Bangkok are candy colored – bright pink or daffodil yellow. We were charmed for 10 seconds. The ride to the compound zipped at horrifying speed in truly terrifying traffic. Gary sat up front chatting in Thai with the driver – steering wheel on the right, so not like home – and laughing at us. Les and I occasionally stopped gawking to squeak in terror at the driving.
We drove past the Four Seasons Hotel. Landmark!! I’ve read so many spy novels with scenes there. Suddenly we screeched to a halt in front of a gate in a 10-foot wall topped by 2 feet of barbed wire.
Gary pushed a button and the gate rolled back, revealing guards and the ritziest place in Bangkok, dead center of the best part of town. We surrendered our drivers licenses, got visitors passes and suddenly! There was my beloved Miss Peg. Hugging her was like coming home.
I didn’t know it that Friday night – but the compound was an oasis of quiet and calm in a completely foreign city of 13 million. (Perspective: New York is USA’s largest, about 8 million. DC is 500,000, my suburb 78,000).
There was a BTS (sky train) stop right ‘outside’,we were near the swanky Central Shopping District and the fabled Erawan Shrine.
It had a fab French bakery around the corner, a charming Villa Market AND was right down the street from the famous and lovely Lumpini Park. Talk about winning the lottery!
I was among my dearest friends, in the nicest house I ever stayed in. We had a bedroom suite with a fancy bathroom including a seated shower, swimming pool tub, bidet and gecko scurrying along the wall.
“If you decide to open the bathroom window,” Miss Peg said, “Be careful as snakes can climb up the trees.”
Um – good to know.
That first night Leslie and I walked up the teak stairway to our bedroom saying, “It is so good to be Queen.” Peg and Gary lived in Brideshead Revisited.
My entire lovely, upper middle class home could fit in their formal living rooms. There were silk sofas, fancy drapes and lovely artwork. I quit counting kitchen cabinets at 40 because I was giggling too much to continue.
“Pinch me,” Leslie said to me as we lay in bed in the dark. “We’ve landed in Oz. You shut the bathroom window, right?”
“Oh yeah,” I told her. “I’m freaked enough about the gecko. I’m not ready to worry about a cobra.”
Pictures again soon – I just wanted to remember my first moments in Thailand first….