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Bangkokok

January 20

Long plane ride from Chicago to Bangkok via Hong Kong. Time to read all of Priestdaddy: A Memoir, by Patricia Lockwood, a very funny, interesting and well-written book (and one of the ten best of 2017, according to the New York Times Book Review).

Time to play with your iPhone X, taking photos of your wife, and even of the flower they’ve put in your little cubicle.

Part of the time is consumed reading material relating to the trip, which contained this warning from our travel company (highlighted among various dos and don’ts):

Both the former and the present King of Thailand are revered by the Thai beyond any comparison with other countries. Never EVER make a remark about the King or the Royal House that can even remotely be interpreted as critical or disrespectful. The Royal House with the King as head is a very sensitive subject for the Thai. Any criticism, however small or well intended, will not be tolerated by any Thai. Disrespectful behaviour towards the Royal House or the Buddhist religion is punishable with imprisonment.

Never ever start a conversation about the King or the Royal House by yourself. Should a Thai start talking with you about the King, then just only talk about how good the King is and has been to Thailand and the countless good things that the King has done for the country.

Thailand has a strict Lese Majeste law that includes extremely high penalties and fines and even imprisonment on everything that can be interpreted as defaming the King or the Royal House. This goes very far. For instance, if a bank note blows away by the wind, and you run after it to get it back, then NEVER step on the bank note to prevent it from blowing further. Because banknotes have the image of the King. If you step on a bank note, that means that you put your foot on the face of the King, one of the largest insults that a Thai can imagine. Never step on a coin for the same reason.

My reaction to all of this was that I hope to hell that Trump or Generalissimo Kelly don’t read this, or we’ll all soon be subject to the same constraints, and Trump, appropriately enough, will be pictured on the fake three dollar bill, which he’ll declare to be a tremendous bill, and the largest denomination, ever.

Our connection in Hong Kong is too tight to go to the business lounge, so we go straight to the gate. Arriving in Bangkok three hours later, we have some difficulty finding our ride at the airport, but eventually succeed and driven to our hotel, The Siam Heritage, which is some 45 minutes away. We check in, shower and go right to bed at 1:30 AM to get some rest.

Up early for breakfast (because neither of us sleeps too well) at the hotel, which our itinerary, taking great poetic license, describes as “the beautiful Siam Heritage”. The place is certainly adequate, but nobody will mistake it for a Four Seasons or Oberoi.

We’ve elected to arrive a day early to shake the jet lag and to see a bit of Bangkok. We change money in an ATM and I damn near leave my card in the machine. I’m not awake yet, really. Our first stop is the Jim Thompson House which we get to by taxi. (All three taxis we take during the day come to a total of $9.). One of the taxis has medallions of Buddha and the king dangling from the rear view mirror.

Thompson was an American businessman who fell in love with Thailand and decided to live there. He built a beautiful house and grounds, and had an absolutely exquisite collection of antique sculpture, porcelains and paintings. Young guides wait to show us around.Thompson was largely responsible for developing the Thai silk industry. His house was completed in 1959 and in 1967 Thompson mysteriously disappeared on a trip to the jungles in the highlands of Malaysia. The house and grounds are now a stunning museum, which currently has a beautiful batik show.

We resist buying some of the beautiful silks on display in the store there.

in our next taxi, we drive by large portraits of the king that appear in front of buildings.As Mel Brooks said, on the 2000-Year Old Man, “its good to be king.”

From there we go to the Susan Pakkad Palace Museum, which contains very ancient art and artifacts. Eight Thai houses are scattered through lovely grounds. The Lacquer Pavilion from the 17th Century, previously located in Ayudhya was brought here and restored in 1959as a 50th birthday gift to the then princess.

The palace and museum are interesting, but we needed explanations to fully appreciate them.

We return to the hotel, where we have a good, simple lunch, with a very cold beer!

After a much-needed, long nap, we meet our group in the hotel lobby at 6:30. Carol and I already met Karl Grobl at his photography exhibit in Lisle a couple days ago. And we’d had dinner with Robert Cook and Joseph Henson at our friend Dee Dee Sandt’s house in Atlanta. Robert was a patent lawyer for Amgen Pharmaceuticals, has a PhD in chemistry, is fluent in French and Spanish and loves photography.  Joseph was a real estate attorney.  Both were born and raised in Atlanta, but have traveled extensively. They’ve vowed, with us, not to discuss photography technicalities at meals. The rest of the group includes a couple from North Carolina, Tom and Julie, a couple from Denver, Mike and Judy, Isabel from Phoenix and Meredith from Connecticut..

We all go out to a nearby Thai restaurant, which has some dancers.

Carol and I then taxi over to Chinatown to take in the colorful scene there.

We taxi back to the hotel, Blog and retire.

2 comments to Bangkokok

  • Wendy

    Great– you guys aren’t safe anywhere! I’ve gotta worry about Maz being eaten by a lion in Ghana because lions are her friends. And I don’t see any way Dadz is making it out of Thailand without imprisonment. It’s just a matter of how many years they’re gonna give you.

  • arnie

    As long as I can blog, no problem.

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