On our last day in Bangkok, which happened to coincide with the Thai mother’s day, we stopped and said hello to Sam’s brother-in-law’s mother before heading to the hospital so Sam could get a check-up (don’t worry, this was planned in advance). The hospital is (lucky for Thai people) probably the nicest, cleanest most modern place I’ve seen in the entire country outside of well-appointed private residences. The entire place was all white and thoroughly modern looking. Even the bathrooms were as clean as any at a Billionaire’s Orange County California yacht club (I’d visit one for business two days after we got back to LA, but that’s a story for another time). If hospitals in the US looked like this perhaps we wouldn’t have so many people with a fear of going.
Around lunchtime we were dropped off in a neighborhood of Bangkok I’d never seen before.
We were there to visit with (Sam’s friend) June’s husband Paolo.
Paolo was borrowing a second floor hosting space to cook a feast for a small group of friends (which, luckily, included us). The owner of the space (also a guest) is the proprietor of the bar/gallery across the alley called WTF (look to the left in the photo below).
How about a close-up of that mural over there…
Upstairs we found a wedge shaped room with windows on one side, a kitchen/bar on the other, and DJ equipment at the tip. The table had already been set before we (the first guests) arrived.
Paolo is a master chef (soon to open a new restaurant in Bangkok) who had generously offered to cook a multi-course gourmet meal for us and seven other lucky guests.
The space was owned by Paolo’s friend Chris, an expatriate from Vermont, who works professionally as a photo-journalist by day and hosts events in the little angular second floor space at night. Other guests in attendance were Chris’ business partner Jarek (Jared?), Jarek’s wife Candice, Jay, Apple, June and Giulio (Paolo and June’s son). We were not able to move the heavy window coverings on the long side of the room, so the only light came in through the far doors, making shots sans flash (I never use it) coming the other direction quite problematic. This is made even more troublesome when considering the native humidity in the country.
The food was fantastic, cementing Paolo’s validity as an expert chef.
Below (and above) is Jay (also a trained Chef) serving a portion of pasta. (Long Family – does she not remind you a little of Alice with that hairdo?)
The best part was the pork chops; served with fresh broiled tomatoes and an apple sauce. We could barely finish a single chop, despite it’s deliciousness. The food lover in me was legitimately sad that I couldn’t eat more of this food. After an endless supply of rice and fried fish in the preceding two weeks, this was a more than welcome departure back to the kind of cuisine I’m more accustomed to. It’s worth noting that I normally love fried fish, but there’s only one thing I can eat every day (not to mention TWICE a day) without getting tired of and it isn’t fish (it’s spaghetti!).
After we’d already been stuffed too full to breathe Paolo brought out a big Apple cake. It was basically a more complicated apple cobbler. It was moist and soft enough already, but Sam and I decided to pour our red wine on it. When Paolo saw this he admitted that his mother enjoys doing the same thing.
When we arrived at the space it was overcast alternating with pockets of bright sunshine.
As we ate monsoon rains came down, flooding the street and alleys around the building with at least a half inch of standing water.
After the lengthy eating session we went to the nearby market with Jay and Apple before taking a cab back to Sam’s sister’s house and preparing for our return to America later that night. Sam’s sister lives in the same neighborhood as a temple (although I suppose this no rarer than living near a church is in America).
Our flight was at 1:30am, but we left for the airport just shy of 10pm so as not to keep Sam’s sister and brother-in-law up all night.
At the airport we were greeted at our terminal with this monument to the “swirling milky air” or something like that.
After almost a week in the rainforest eating little that wasn’t fried, this sculpture was a good metaphor for what was going on in my gut that day.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the trip, I cannot sleep on airplanes. Our flight was delayed by an hour leaving Bangkok. Before even lifting off the ground we’d already had a nearly 20 hour day. Not getting any sleep on the ensuing six hour flight from Bangkok to Seoul didn’t make the situation any better. I attempted to watch The Artist on the flight, not realizing I was sentencing myself to a two hour SILENT BLACK AND WHITE film. After a quick shower at Incheon we boarded a short-hop (2 hours) to Narita airport in Japan. This was a frustrating bottleneck. We were forced to deplane the same aircraft we would take all the way back to Los Angeles, go through two different security checks with lines as long as any at LAX on a Saturday morning, walk to a different gate and finally reboard the same plane. All of this after being up for nearly 28 hours. A few hours into the ten hour flight to Los Angeles the crew dimmed the lights and I took sleeping pills. I managed to catch 90 minutes or so of shakey light “sleep.” Sam had more intelligently picked a window seat and managed about six hours of sleep on the flight. I should mention that none of this, unlike China Southern last year, was due to the airline; Korean Air is one of the best airlines I’ve flown, I’d consider it the Virgin Airlines of Asia. They even served “pizza” (cut into six inch by two inch sections) on the way to LA.
When we arrived at LAX, passed through security and retrieved our luggage we called LAX Hyundai to get picked up. After no less (but possibly more) than five calls, I finally reached a person who was brave enough to tell us they WOULDN’T pick us up and we’d have to take a cab. We’d had a problem when we came back from Seattle with their airport service (discontinued to new customers) when they couldn’t locate our car. This opens up a can of worms for any future long trips. Although there is ample parking at our condo, we have only one assigned spot and the rest can’t have the same car for more than 72 hours without getting towed. Keeping Sam’s car at the dealership allowed me to park my car in “her” space. In the future we won’t be able to do that, so the question is up in the air where I’ll be parking my car while we’re on the other side of the world for two weeks (or Ohio/Seattle/etc. for a long weekend). I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
After getting home and doing laundry we went to bed around 8pm that night. For me, 8pm on Monday night was the first sleep, aside from a 90 minute nap in the air, since waking up at 5pm Saturday (LA time, 7am Sunday in Bangkok). That’s over 48 hours. I believe that’s longer than the sleep deprivation of the previous Thailand trip, and therefore undoubtedly the longest I’ve ever gone without real sleep. It didn’t feel good, but the catch was that I got to be back at home, this time more “home” than last as we’d be returning to our new condo in the Hollywood Hills together. After travelling to all the resorts in Thailand I suddenly realized that our home was a bit like a resort itself. We’ve got a lush tree-lined complex with two pools, a jacuzzi, tennis courts, pool tables (Griffith Park next-door) and a gated entrance. The quality of the furnishings here is certainly above that of some (but not all) of the “resorts” we stayed in on the other side of the Earth. Now I just wish we could entertain some guests. (that thought makes Sam’s face wrinkle since we’re not finished “fixing up” the place yet)