"Papa I will meet you all at the airport ok," requested Ah Sing Jiejie.
"Ok no problem," I replied.
"你们到了吗？我口渴。" texted Nai Nai. As Yeye and Nainai arrived first.
"Ok ok. For this trip we are all going to take it really relax. No 紧张 no rush one. Even if we miss our bus or what, we are also going to take it easy. That's the main purpose of Free and easy travelling," I told everyone.
|Yeye was happy taking the Air Asia flight, I think...|
|FD 354 departing Changi to Don Mueang Airport. [Photo: Ah Li]|
"Massage 啊？好啊好啊。我的肩膀很酸," said 奶奶.
|Waiting at the arrival at Don Mueang Airport.|
The Flickr Slideshow.
Click here for Flickr photos for the above Flick album.
| "Alamak.. where is my Arrival card ah?"|
"别担心，你看，你爸爸就是做好一切准备，连 Arrival card 都有 extra 的!" said Nainai.
|At the immigrations.|
Nevertheless it was still closest to the Four Face Buddha and was exactly where we wanted to stay for this trip near Central world near the shrine near all our eateries.
|Describing how the bus conductor tears up the tiny tickets...|
|"Here is Mo Chit BTS station."|
|Wefie by Ah Sing as we were about to move out. Our timing is perfect.|
|Nai nai the bus ticket inspector. [Photo: Ah Li]|
|BTS tickets at 42 Bahts apiece from Mo Chit station to Siam station.|
|[Photo: Ah Sing]|
"Ok let's just order ok?" Said I.
"不够吃就再叫多一点," Serene was forever reassuring.
|It was a very brief wait for the waiters and waitresses to find us a seven-person table.|
|Waiting to order at Inter Restaurant. [Photo: Ah Sing]|
So we whacked lor: squid lah, oyster egg omelette two servings, fried chicken wing mid sections four servings, pad Thai, deep fried cat fish with chili that turned out to look like pork but we still ate it anyway, five servings of pineapple rice, Kang kong chili, tom yam, and a whole host of food that I couldn't remember.. oh yes and a sweet green tapioca ice kacang. Their oyster omelette was much more tastier than the last round, and even Yeye liked it. We ended up ordering about 15-16 dishes. And plus drinks and all we spent 2230 Baht (around S$90). Somehow among seven of us, we swept up all the food, and I still wasn't feeling that full.
"Inter restaurant really is good," said I. "Luckily we could make it here in time. See, it's now 10pm and they are closing already."
|The sweet fresh raw Chao Phraya river prawn. They looked quite black and dead to me.. but Fann, Ah Li|
and Serene loved them to bits and pieces.
|The pineapple rice that Yeye and Nai nai loved.|
|The deep-fried chicken wing mid section that Serene, Ah Li and Fann couldn't get enough. And the deep-fried|
spicy catfish that turned out like the top, as a confused Yeye was trying to look for it.
|The fried garlic squid that I liked.|
|The roast duck that got lost in the jungle of food.|
"Let's just use the Skywalk to walk from this Siam Station to Chit Lom station for the experience of it," I led the troupe down the overhead walkway, finally finding the correct connection after a security guard pointed out the correct direction.
|Very rarely did I have the chance to walk and listen to Ah Sing talk and share her thoughts. It was a really enjoyable |
experience walking along the SkyWalk and listening to the young lady tell me more about Liberal Arts and
how it shaped the world.
"哇，这么晚了还有这么多人啊！" wondered Nai nai.
”奶奶，这不算晚啦！" said Ah Sing.
"Uncle, won't it be nice if we can run through the decorations?" said Fann jokingly. "But then as you run your head will pok-gong pok-gong like that keep hitting the decorations lah."
|Fann, Yeye and Nai Nai were fascinated by the Christmas decorations outside Central World.|
Golden House was really more like a budget hotel than a 'boutique' hotel. The difference between this budget hotel and our usual Centara Grand during this super peak New Year season was a whopping $300 a night per room. Thus for four rooms over three nights, it made sense, I felt, to have the S$3600 savings in our pocket for other expenses.
Fann pointed out a sign beside the hotel: "Thai Massage. No extra service allowed."
"哎呀，你每天花在旅馆房间里面的时间有多少？倒不如省下这比钱来慢慢用。" Nai Nai's wisdom must have been ingrained in my genes.
|Simple, no-frills hotel room.|
This budget hotel didn't have a restaurant. And we needed to leave early at 6:45am the next day. So Fann accompanied me to the McDonald's across the Skywalk at Amarin Plaza and we grabbed some burgers for breakfast. A burger that was appreciated by Yeye the next morning.
Day 2: Damneon Saduak Floating Market
|The 99km journey from Bangkok to Damneon Saduak|
|Early early 6:45am the minivan was already here.|
"哇，我从来没吃过这么好吃的麦当劳！" exclaimed Yeye the next morning of the overnight soggy Fillet-O-Fish.
|Nai nai at the rest point en route to Damneon Saduak.|
This local half day tour was 3850 Bahts which worked out to be S$22 per person including the transport to and fro and the long tail boat ride. This was a local tour company that we booked online before our flight out to Bangkok.
We were pleasantly impressed that the driver of the minivan was so punctual. At 6:45am zhun zhun we boarded the minivan and went on our ways to pick up some more guests from other hotel for this half-day Damneon Saduak Floating market tour.
|Ah Sing resting at the toilet point.|
|Both Ah Li and Fann laughed themselves silly upon discovering that each had brought the same|
kind of wet towels for the trip.
"I smell the toilet I dare not go in and use it," complained Serene at a rest point while the minivan filled up on petrol.
Hahaha... of course one couldn't compare the toilets of a petrol station with anywhere else mah. Chay!"Compared with the toilets in Sri Lanka," said Fann, who only two days ago just returned from a 10 day trip to Sri Lanka. "The toilets in Sri Lanka were much cleaner!
A sense of deja vu struck me as we alighted at Damneon Saduak.
|Our local guide explaining a little of the Floating market to us.|
"There are about 17-18 canals that make up the floating markets," the female guide introduced. "The local people will just move around, sell their vegetables, go shopping, go to the hospital, and all forms of transport will be on the boats."
In actual fact she was absolutely right. Over the years we had been back a couple of times to the Floating Market. There were a few Floating markets around but apparently Damneon Saduak was the better one. Since it was Fann's first time to Bangkok and upon Ah Sing's high recommendation, we decided that it would be a good idea to do that half-day trip. The convenience of having a transport pick us up and drop us back was most reassuring."The floating market is really nice!" remembered Ah Sing.
It was 9:57am. "Ok, our long-tail motorized boat ride will be at 11:20am. Now you can either walk around the market place to shop or you can take the paddle boats at 150 Baht per person. That is better because you can see the floating markets better ," announced the guide.
|Waiting to board the paddle boats.|
Oh, so the 'boat' ride was indeed included. But I was really blur blur. So should we or should we not do the paddle boats?
"还有多一个钟头半 leh!" Said Yeye. "来啦！坐啦！"
Ok lor. So we did. And we're we glad we did. Amidst the cacophony of high-pitched shouting from boat rowers to each other and the straw-capped ladies perched on sampans calling out to potential customers to look their ways, we spotted swirly smokes from sampans rising from stoves (on the sampans! Egad!) selling food.
|The smoking Sampan.|
"Catch the smoke! Catch the smoke, Uncle!" called out Fann. "Did you manage to catch it?" Well, I didn't think I did. This thing about the new iPhone 7 plus, although the bokeh function was good, the autofocussing especially in lower light conditions took a while. So oft, by the time the shutter sound snapped, the moment had passed. But still this was a most remarkable handphone, far exceeding my expectations.
"You shoot me, I shoot you," said Serene, of what everyone was doing on the boats.
|Natural sunrays hitting the water. [My iPhone 7 Plus ok!]|
"It's like aircon Air, but the sun still is hot," said Ah Li.
I loved the paddle boat. The slow ripples of the waterway as the boat parted the water created an almost hypnotic lullaby, broken episodically by the rattling roar of a motorised vessel speeding pass, making our boat swirl a tad wilder when the waves struck our sides, and crashed into a splash of E.coli infested foams. The children reeled laughingly from the splash and screamed.
"其实 hor... 你阿公的姐姐就是好多年前带了孩子从中国来到曼谷的水上市场买菜。她就是这样赚了很多钱。她老人家后来老死了，孩子们和孙子们都留下来泰国了。" said Yeye as he suddenly felt historically sentimental.
Yes, I still remembered when I was much younger we did visit the relatives here. But we had lost touch since, because her offsprings could not speak nor write Chinese.
"Sometimes if we are lucky, we can see some of the local people washing their plates and clothes at the water banks," I said. But on this day, none of the villagers was ready to demonstrate.
Click here for the photos of the above Flickr collection
The 40 minutes paddle boat ride ended on a happy ending, all of us refreshed and in joy. Once back on the bank for 5 Bahts I got to share the toilet with an Ang Moh lady. Not bad lah. At least a nice and clean toilet out of Central Bangkok.
"We can retire here leh, then everyday we can sell vegetables," suggested Serene.
"Yeah. Of course we can. Sure. You want?" I asked.
"Eeeee.. don't wan. I cannot tahan the toilet here."
"Can lah. Every day you can sit under the coconut trees and play Pokémon Go..." I said.
"Yes yes and you can cycle around the fields and I can run around here," said the young lady.
Lunch at Terrace Restaurant
|The Terrace at Central World Plaza for lunch. [Photo: Ah Li]|
"哇，这碟油浸顺福太好吃了！比我们家里的还要来得好吃又便宜！" Yeye couldn't get enough, and he sputtered with the fish head in his hands and between his teeth.
Click here for the photos of the above Flickr Album.
Ah Li loved the deep fried fish too. But in addition, she totally enjoyed the coconut ice cream.
"The fish is so delicious!" this Ah Li really appreciated them.
|No go at GMC Tailor. [Photo: Ah Li]|
We walked back to Amarin to check out the highly-acclaimed GMC Tailor. But at 1500 Bahts for a shirt and 2500 Bahts for a pair of trousers, we decided to forgo the experience and go back to Singapore.
"For S$68 I can easily get my tailored shirt from my regular Singapore tailor," said Yeye.
Massage at Foot Master
Serene was lucky. She managed to get her senior therapist Nid for her two hour session.
"Sorry, we are full already," I kept hearing her apologies to the walk in customers.
"我看他帮我按摩到那么幸苦，又一直喘气。我就可怜他 lor!" she ah.. excuse liao liao.
Korean dinner at Siam Square.. and a rectangular MESS of water & melted iceYeye had a tough time. His masseuse was kneading at his muscle full strength but yet he didn't know how to tell him to soften up. "哇，我以为是要这样大力的嘛！" aiyah he 傻傻 lah.
|Ah Sing spinning her stuff at the Ice skating ring, Central World. [Poto: Ah Li]|
"Haiyah this ice skating ring in Central World is so lousy," complained Ah Sing. "I only did 30 minutes and gave up despite paying 290 Bahts (around S$12) for the one and a half hour. The ice was wet and was so poorly maintained and the shoes were old, blades were rusty and didn't have the front shoe picks. I couldn't even do my usual spinning."
Click here for the photos in the Flickr Album above.The Flickr Slideshow
Fann said later: "Ah Li and I were trying to go up to the floor with the ice skating ring. We were expecting something in the shape of a ring. But it turned out to be a rectangle.. a rectangle of water!"
Dak Galbi Korean Restaurant
Click here for the photos for the above Flickr album.
200m away down the street we found our alternative, an ala carte Dak Galbi Korean restaurant. Here we ordered family portion chicken and pork and individual sets of beef and bacon and extra rice and ramen noodles and cheese and they would literally served us by cooking everything on the hot plate for us. Very attentive and polite staff made this place such an enjoyable experience.
"Wah I am very full!" said Ah Li.
"Huh? But I am sure later we will still have enough space for Bingsul!" I said, determined to get our Korean Bingsul dessert on this most memorable day.
|Dinner at Dak Galbi|
Time Lapse of the Erawan Shrine by Fann
|The Erawan Shrine from the Skywalk. [Photo: Ah Sing]|
Ok Bingsul at Central World
Such a wonderful day must always end with a bang, our big bang here referred to a highly calorie-loaded Bingsul, the famous Korean powdery ice dessert.
"I can't decide between blueberry or brownie," said Ah Sing.
"为什么我们家里的红豆冰店不会用这么幼的冰呢？要是他们肯用这么好的冰，那肯定非常好吃的," reasoned Nai Nai.
"哎呀，在家里那些会用这么好的幼冰的红豆冰店都已经转换成卖 Bingsul 的店咯," I explained. "在新加坡，一碗可以卖$14-15还是很多年轻人趋之若鹜呢！还有，你们老人家看... 那间小店卖着的是现在最流行的cheese tart，一小粒新币4块，还是这么多泰国人排队等待购买！"
"哇，泰国人的消费能力真的这么强吗？" wondered Yeye aloud.
"我看这些应该是泰国上流社会的有钱人吧...” I replied.
"哎哟，现在年轻人的价值观完全不一样了。" said Nai Nai. "你们这一代还会省钱。你们下一代就很会花钱啦！"
"没法子，妈妈。" I shared my opinion. "现代社会奢侈品众多，加上传播媒介的影响，大多数年轻人都变得追求物质享受。变得非常自我。一切都是以自我享受为主。他们都抛弃传统生儿育女的思想。除非他迟吃结婚生子，那他们才会够成熟开始节省开支来养下一代。"
"我的眼睛开不得了！" said a tired Nai Nai.
"You see Ah Fann's eyes. They are so red and so tired," said Serene.
"Ok ok tomorrow don't wake up early. Take our time to sleep little more. Wake up at 9am then we go 拜拜." I declared.
But classic my style, before I allowed them back into the hotel lobby, I bought four fresh coconuts for the whole family to hydrate themselves.
Day 3: A Day of 拜拜 and Indulging on New Year's Eve!
"Thirty years ago, a group of educationists from South East Asia spent three months in The Phillipines for an educational programme. Mr Lampong was one of the representatives from Thailand. He was the director of a university and we kept in touch ever since. But he has grown older and less able to walk," shared Yeye.
"You must let me buy your whole family dinner," insisted Mr Lampong on the phone Yeye. "In Thailand it is against the law if the host doesn't pay for the meal." He was still as humorous as ever!
The Christmas and New Year Bazaar at Amarin Plaza
The girls discovered this most intriguing bazaar selling all kinds of street food and their local bags and straps and were already eyeing them since last night.
"Ok ok. We go pray first," I instructed. "Then we will come back and buy."
|The Green Tea Thai Milk tea at the Bazaar. That shop did a lot of business - at least ten cups from the girls.|
Our original plan was to have lunch at Mo-Mo Paradise and then after that dinner at Yeye's favourite T&K Seafood restaurant in Yaowarat. But now all plans had to be put on hold in view of our meeting with Mr Lampong.
It was quite alright, as it was truly a free and easy trip. I just pitied the Mo-Mo-Paradise waiter and waitress who had to attend to me three times by call and by physical presence, to change our reservations again and again as our plans changed.
|Yeye's personalised pouch!|
10am. The usual crowd at the Four Face Buddha. I explained to the family the procedure of the prayer in the simplest way.
"Mommy Aunty and I will first ask for eight dancers to dance and give thanks to the Four Face Buddha. They will chant the names of all our family members as they dance," I related. "Then after that we will buy a plate of garlands, candles and joss sticks and we will go clockwise around the four faces of the Buddha and make our wishes. Every Face represents a different aspect- health and well-being; family and interpersonal relationships; business, studies, work and prospects; and wealth. Yeye Nainai just follow me. Ah Sing Ah Li you all can make your prayers at the respective Face too."
So we went round. Fann managed to capture Serene and myself offering our thanks to the Four Face Buddha. And then when we went on our rounds, Ah Sing asked:
"How do I say my prayers to the Four Face Buddha?"
"Ok now let's come wash our faces with the holy water," I said.
"Uncle, Yeye, Nainai, let me show you all the different stalls," Fann chut-pattern again and started showing everyone around.
Local Thai Boat noodle breakfast
Trips like these hardly had a moment not centred around food. Fann's suggestion to have the 18 Baht Boat noodle in the stall just beside Dak Galbi was well-received. And the waitering staff were so hospitable even for a small simple joint like this, perhaps this was the simple reason we ordered bowls after bowls of the spicy (and some non-spicy) noodles with fried wanton and we ate their coconut agar agar.
The portions were really small. 18 Bahts was well, 70 cents. But it was 70 cents of something that I could gulp down in three tiny mouthfuls. They were flavourful I must agree. And I was glad to have tasted local Thai Beef Boat noodles.
This Siam Square was already an ageing shopping centre. The layout and the tenant mix were certainly in stark contrast to the posh up-market boutiques in Siam Paragon. However it was places like these that harbour little secret pockets of really special deals.
|Too bad no more short sleeve bear T-shirt|
"There is an aquarium at the basement of Siam Paragon leh," I told Ah Sing and her eyes lit up. "But on this trip we decided not to pack everything in. So perhaps on the next trip we would try that."
This was really unfinished business, I jokingly told Yeye and Nainai. "爸妈，没法子了。这样真的是表示我们跟 Mr Lampong 的缘分还未了的呀！我们可以等他，但是我们绝对不能让他老人家等太久。"
So Serene and the girls had their chance to book their pedicure and manicure and they spent one nice hour at the salon on the fifth floor of Central World.
"I've never done manicure nor pedicure before," remarked Fann. In fact, none of the girls had done any of these 'cures'. "So it's going for be quite an experience for me".
"I kept laughing when I think back of Fann's expression when she was doing the pedicure," said Ah Li. "She looked like she was going to cry."
"I was so pitying the young girl doing my pedicure," said Fann. "You know the states of my feet after all those rock climbing. They are terrible. I felt so sorry for her, trying to pick the dead skin from all over my feet. This young girl was good. But her boss had really terrible attitude. If we had a choice I would not have chosen this Nail Wonderland but the other one in Amarin Plaza."
The burning question I had in my head that I wanted to ask Ah Li was: "Was it ticklish?"
"Yes it was!" she said later. "But I just made faces lor."
The Video of Manicure and Mo Mo Paradise
"Let's walk back towards Amarin Plaza," I said after gathering the troupe at around 5:30pm. "We will go grab a T-shirt for Zheng Ang, and you all can go and collect your straps as they should be ready at the Bazaar."
I was both impressed as well as aghast at the extent of the road closure. Pedestrians were already beginning to walk on the main road, now deprived of traffic, but I was worried because there went my plan to take a bus 25 or 40 for that 25 minutes ride to Yaowarat. Even calling in a taxi was not possible because they were held out of this boundary. Well we could still make our way to Yaowarat if we walked some distance out and grab a taxi.
"Mai lah, mai lah! 不要啦," said Nainai. "我们赶到那里，也是一样人山人海的！" Certainly Nainai made sense. And Yeye further joined the chorus and the plan for Yeye's Yaowarat T&K seafood meal was shelved. Poor Yeye, he didn't get his shirts and trousers tailored, and now his favourite Yaowarat meal was scrapped.
"Ok ok no fear. I will book reservation at a highly-reknown seafood restaurant called Lam Cha Reon seafood. We wanted to come here the last time but we couldn't make it," I reassured. My reassurance was short-lived, because a few minutes later, the receptionist informed me that the restaurant was fully-booked for the evening.
"You better call Mo-Mo-Paradise to tell them we are coming back to eat," laughed Yeye. "But don't tell them your name as Lim again. Use Serene's name."
The Hair Cut
Yeye was adamant about having his hair cut at the hair salon besides the Boat Noodle shop.
"今早我走过的时候那个人说剪一个头 250 Baht. S$10 lah. Ok lah. 省得我麻烦回家剪头发。"
|Walking on the closed main road. [Photo: Fann]|
"Huh?! Wash my hair I pay S$10 already?! No cutting yet?" we all laughed at the shocked Yeye. "Let's go let's go!"
It turned out that the waitresses and waiter DID recognise this troublesome 'Mr Lim' who called three times to book, cancel, and rebook and then re-cancel, AND then re-called to re-book the resevation under the disguise of another name Serene. One look at me and the man laughed and said "Mr Lim!".
"Many of these service staffs are from the provinces around, and they come from poor families. So to have a steady and good job here in the city is something they will work hard for. An analogy is like in China, where many of the 外省人 took the places of menial jobs and worked very very hard," I voiced my opinion.
Sincerely, I had not had one meal in the course of a year when we all sat down and conversed so much, not having any one looking at his or her handphone, or catching Pokemons frantically. It was a downright simple and warm food-and-thoughts-sharing session. I personally relished this meal, as one singularly warm and quality-family time. In real life, we were all so caught up in our own duties that we spent next to no time with the other family members all at the same time. The sad fact of life in Singapore as in many modern societies was, we placed so high a priority on our interactions with our co-workers, associates, business partners, clients, customers and friends that the first peope to be conveniently put on hold and yet who would not utter too much of a rebuttal at that, would be our very own loved ones. I myself was guilty of that. For a long long time.
Me and Serene? We just ate non-stop. And Nainai was awe-struck by the enormity of our appetite. "哇， 你们这么会吃！吃了这么多盘肉，还可以再吃?!"
"So was the food good?" I asked Fann much later.
"It was ok, but it was just shabu shabu yah," replied the rock climber.
"But hey, the quality of the beef, pork and chicken was really good, and the service was tip top!" I defended.
Of Happy People
"Oh Papa, I can't stand it!" Quietly exclaimed Ah Sing to me as we stood by the side of the corridor. "The Happy boys are just so good looking! They really look after themselves well."
|with a background of Happy Boys up the escalator to some Happy Boy Party.|
I absolutely agreed with this observant young lady. For the first time we all saw many fair-skinned and super-muscular male specimens walking in singlets and net tops with squeezing-tight hot shorts and long knee-length socks swaggering up to the 8th floor conference hall.
"Let us plan for the next trip. We would do one local easy meal a day coupled with a heavier more luxurious dinner, so that we will it end up over-eating. We will also try to explore some other parts of Bangkok."