"爸爸妈妈，其实我们索性就来曼谷过年吧!" I suggested a few weeks ago, while we were having a swell time enjoying a short holiday in this lovely city.
|Nowadays we knew. When we took Air Asia, there is never a 'too late'. Just steady steady made our way to|
the airport by bus and MRT and we would arrive just in time for boarding.
"Wah lau, 哥! You hijack 爸妈 for New Year!" jokingly protested Ah San. Hahaha... she was quite right. Ok lah. We would make it up with an early reunion for everybody lah. Haha...
"Uncle, my work schedule is so tight the days leading up to New Year. And I have a class to attend on the 26th Jan afternoon even," said Fann, who had become so entangled in the web of work cum post-grad studies cum personal hobbies cum devotion to her best friends. "I had to negotiate with him to submit by Saturday day one of Chinese New Year. Luckily he didn't insist on Friday. If he had, I won't even have time to sleep and poop already." This Fann was really a poor thing.
"My professor wanted me to do so many reports, that I think I will be so busy working even when I am in Bangkok," declared this workaholic-climbaholic young lady.
"Uncle, my friend told me that we have to go Chatuchak market very early because there are so much to see there," said Questal.
The VIDEO Number 1: Arriving in Bangkok
"Papa, will you do pedicure?" asked Ah Li.
"Of course I will, if you all are doing." I replied.
"爷爷，你答应我你会做一副老花眼镜给我的!"Serene reminded Yeye of his promises.
"Ok, 这一次 Mr and Mrs Lampong 会在年除夕当天跟我们一起用午餐。" announced Yeye. That was great news! Hadn't seen the old friends for a long time.
Missing school for a couple of days? BLAH!!
"I'm sorry, Sir. We didn't load up the Traveller's SIM card on board this flight," the smiling Air Asia Thai stewardess words jolted me from my reverie.
"Papa, this time round our bus trip and our BTS trip seems to be faster than the last time round,"remarked Ah Sing.
"Papa let's just order one shot everything," said Ah Li. "Their last order is at 9:30pm."
"Let's order four Pad Thai, four fried chicken wing mid section, two of the fresh dead prawns, one Kway Teow for Yeye Nainai, one Tom Yam, two oyster omelette, one Kang kong, one Kai Lan which Ah Sing loves," rattled off Serene.
"哇，一共十五道菜," said 奶奶. In fact the waitress, who Nainai recognized from our last trip, laughed at the way we ordered... possibly amused by the quantity of the dishes. She must be thinking these Singaporeans must be 从监牢里放出来的!
"Wah this Eng-chai is really nice! The wok-hei is really good!" I announced.
"Tonight the Tom Yam is delicious," said Serene. "I like it when it is it so full of coconut."
"这个生虾好吃 meh?" asked 奶奶. "我就来试一试吧！"
"Dar, take a shot of the dead prawn and tempt Fann,"said Serene, knowing how gian Fann was of the fresh dead prawn. So I did just that.
"Nowadays the younger generation are very good," I mentioned of Ah Sing and Ah Li. "They can remember directions and routes very well and you just need to show them once and they will know exactly how to go the next round."
"哎呀，可惜那个卖椰子水的小摊不在旅馆外面！" said a disappointed Nainai, obviously missing the fresh coconut.
"现在几点了？" said Yeye. "人家回家啦!"
"妈妈，别担心。接下来几天肯定会回来买给您老人家的!" I reassured her.
”Dar, outside our hotel got two massage salon leh!" exclaimed Serene excitedly. Ok lah ok lah. We will go massage tomorrow lah.
"Don't eat too much first. Later we are going to eat Boat noodle one," I told the family.
The VIDEO Number 2: 拜拜四面佛
|Probably once and that would be enough.|
A very relax stroll along the Skywalk brought us back to the Boat Noodle store. It was 9:30am. The stal was opened but the nice lady gestured that they didn't have the noodles yet. Oh what a shame. We were too early. Next door was the little Kin Ramen restaurant. Good ramen, especially the Cha Shu ramen and lovely tasting fried potato balls. But the let down was the non-smiling service of the pretty young waitress, whose facial muscles only managed to lift up a notch to break into a half-smile kind of grimace upon my reminder that we were from Singapore, and not from China.
"奶奶爷爷你们讲华语嘛，难怪他们会以为我们是从中国来的," said Ah Sing.
"Ah Sing, Ah Li, I want to take portrait shots of you all!" I told the two young ladies.
Ah Li also went crazy. And Ah Sing went crazy too.. in a slightly different way.
I appreciated the vibrancy of this place, as I stood in the middle of the pavement.
|Ah Sing was clever. She bought a nice golden frame at S$8, quite a bargain.|
"Should I make a pair of lenses for this frame?" Asked the young lady some time later.
"It all depends on the quality of this pair of spectacle frame. Usually cheap ones like these will have peeling of their golden layers and tarnishing after prolonged usage. And fixing a pair of prescription lenses on them may not be worth while," I explained. "You can wear them as fashion pieces for say, six months first. If after that period it is still in good condition and you still find that you love it, then by all means fix the lenses on."
And my gift from Yeye? A S$153 pair of prescription progressive lenses for my Korean Star spectacle frame. To be collected three days later. Meanwhile, Serene and Nainai waited in the clothing shop next door.
"Wow this place is packed.. with school children!" was Ah Li's first words when the escalator reached Basement.
"Ok we can spend as long as we want inside here or as short as we wish, then we will go for lunch," I said.
And the PRCs were at it again!
"I was so angry with the China Chinese just now," complained Ah Li. "The signage already indicated 'NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY PLEASE' (and in Chinese too), and I told them cannot use flash, but they just kept flashing their cameras."
I tried to explain: "Well I guess can't be helped. Many of these PRC's are ignorant of the proper social behavior."
|[Photo: Ah Li]|
|Again, Ah Li made us do all kinds of pattern, leaving Yeye the only one sitting 傻傻 like that.|
"Wait, I want to buy a yam pie," suddenly announced Yeye on the ground floor of Siam Paragon. So we all waited while he made the purchase.
The Video number 5: walking to The Terrace
Street shots in Bangkok
"Let me bring you all walking on the street level for once instead of going by the Skywalk," I told them. It was a short walk and one would definitely see more on the street level than if one was on the Skywalk.
"Aunty Serene, Papa... quick let me take a picture of you all like this," said Ah Li as we went up the escalator to The Terrace, comfortably within the air conditioned environment of the Central a World.
"我看我们就索性去 Central World shopping 后，回来 Amarin Plaza 这里的 Bazaar 吃他们街边卖的小吃当晚餐吧!" Suggested Yeye, to the girls' delight.
And we did end up having street food. Well, street food from the not-so-street-like Bazaar stalls that sold the same fares at a slightly higher fare.
Ah Li said: "It is very much worth our money it to eat here."
Ah Li: "Because all the food come with free flies."
"Sin Jia Joo Yee. Sin Nee Huat Chai!"
"Heng Heng Ah!"
"Eh why you walk here today?" asked Serene.
"Oh I thought we would walk on the road for a change today mah," I replied. "It's just a short walk away."
|I really like the way the iPhone 7 Plus captured shots like this [Photo: Ah Li]|
The Video number 6: Wat Pathum Wanaram
Wat Pathum Wanaram
Now, trapped in its own time capsule, it sat serenely amongst the bustling modern skyscrapers. I read on the Trip Advisor that this was a peaceful and quiet but yet architecturally classical class three wat built by King Mongkut (Rama IV) for prayer near his own palace.
|Yeye Nainai slowly kneeling down on their arthritic knees to pray.|
On this morning, Fann was still frantically trying to finish off her report submission in the hotel, and Questal was still trying to catch up with some sleep after a whole night of high decibel pounding outside her hotel room window.
Admission was free and there was no tourists but local Thais here - elderly ladies here for their morning prayer session with the monks, young men and young ladies who were here for their short prayers before going to work. And of course us, this group of clever foreigners who stumbled upon this lovely Wat.
"妈妈，你来看你来看。这里和尚们在做早课叻!" I pointed out to Nainai.
"Quick, the whole world waiting for you already!" texted Serene as the two ladies rushed down.
The Video number 7: Meeting Mr & Mrs Lampong
|"Uncle, don't take my photo! I didn't sleep well last night and my nose is red!" the camera-shy Questal at it again. Hahaha..|
"How, how are you?" inquired the gentle old chancellor of me, in his old glazed eyes the signs of a wise man was still apparent.
"Mr Lampong is only 15 years old," joked the ever-jovial Mrs Lampong. "15 years to 100." she added.
"For more than two months, I was being fed on the tube," said the well-travelled Mr Lampong, who remembered everything in the past, and couldn't say enough of Yeye's daily cooking back in Manila 39 years ago, that kept all of the principals well-fed. Fond memories of their three months together during training and the subsequent friendship that blossomed flowed as the two old men slowly chatted.
"I spend most of my time sleeping," joked Mr Lampong when I enquired how he spent most of his time nowadays. A fact that we soon understood when we arrived at his home.
"She is still very active," said Ah Li later. Certainly she was. Not a single year older than when I last saw her, despite her being also another '15 years to 100'.
|The toilet exactly the way I remembered it as an 11 year old child.|
"Wah those days, Ah Meng lah, Larry lah.. whenever we came we must always come over to Yaowarat to have the birds nest and seafood. They were always cheap and delicious," recounted Yeye.
|Threading of eye brow in preparation for CNY. [Photo: Serene]|
We were amused to find suddenly a couple of police officers stopping the traffic of motorbikes and cars in the middle of the road. Just like that. Smack right in the middle of the road, for no reason nor rhyme. The motorists just patiently waited with their engines humming, legs at standby while the police officer held up their hands, and tourists and locals alike swarmed the streets and took selfies and pictures of themselves in the middle of the empty road with the horde of motorbikes waiting in the background.
|A most lovely panoramic shot of the bewildering traffic stoppage by the Thai police officer by Serene.|
"What on earth are they doing?" wondered Questal.
"Yah lor.. no reason one right? Mo-tuen-tuen like that no announcement like that just stopped the traffic," I said.
"Yah lor, and the motorbikes also guai guai patiently wait there like that," added Yeye.
"Why so many people want to buy gold on CNY eve?"
"Don't know. Maybe they have special discount on the eve," suggested Yeye.
"Ok we were saying we wanted to come here to look for四典金 for Questal one mah, right?" joked Serene.
"Hahaha yah yah.. I like the Dragon lah, the Phoenix lah, the elephant and the pig designs.." I said.
|Reaching The T & K Restaurant just beside Nam Sing.|
T & K Seafood Restaurant
|The narrow staircase of T & K Seafood Restaurant.|
|Chao-dar crab with roe.|
|Taste-less and hardened gong-gong.|
|Fresh dead prawns|
We had a whole selection: crabs with roe, steamed snapper, deep fried sea bass, grilled spuid (squid), Gong-gong, oyster omelette, Sharksfin, fish maw, several dishes of vegetables... all came up to 5400 Bahts with drinks (S$218). For 8 persons, and for the amount of food, that was really very reasonably-priced. Only things was, the taste of the food was quite a let down- crabs over done and chao-dar-ed. Gong-gong tasteless. Sharksfin and fish maw so-so only.
"Why? What happened?" I asked her.
"Just now I was holding the sliding glass door opened for a bunch of PRC Chinese and they as they came in they kept pushing and pushing against me until I fed up and let go of the sliding door and let it hit them."
The Video number 8: Reunion Dinner at Yaowarat
"哇，阿豪， 还好你有先见。尽快到 Yaowarat 这里先到餐馆用晚餐。不然的话，你看！现在这么拥挤。一定等到我们笑的！" said 奶奶.
|An unbelievably packed T & K Restaurant on CNY Eve. [Photo: Serene]|
"Fann, you just use your Google map to navigate to the bus station," I instructed Fann, knowing how good she was when it came to navigation.
A trip of learning for myself and Yeye...
|Our Uber came!|
In addition, on our way back from Mr Lampong's home to Yaowarat, I demonstrated to him how to use the Google Map navigation App and for the first time he realised that he no longer needed the outdated built-in dashboard GPS set in his car, which had been bringing him to all the wrong places.
As much as Yeye learned from me, on this trip I learned from Questal and Fann how to make use of the Uber and the Grab App to book taxis to bring us back to the hotel.
And on this evening at the bus stop at Hua Lamphong, the elder sisters did a great job by booking two Uber cabs to bring us back to our hotel, at about 86 to 103 Bahts each.
"You all see, Uncle is now so excited about the Uber and Grab App," laughed Serene. Indeed she was correct. I could easily book a taxi wherever I was.
As I explained in summary to Yeye some time later. Travelling nowadays was like this: "一机在手，全世界走。“
|Buying breakfast for the next morning|
DAY 4 (28 Jan CNY first day): A exciting day ahead at the Weekend Market
|Another night of little sleep, and (most likely) anxiety (seeing the way Questal was biting her nails) ...|
|But Nainai had a interesting dream...|
"Uncle, I read that you can cross the bridge or walk across the park," said Questal.We ended up just following the crowd. And boy, was it so easy to arrive at Chatuchak once out of the BTS station. I still remembered years back when Yeye Nainai brought me here as a child, it was quite troublesome. We had to take taxi from our hotel to here and then we walked a little more. The train had really simplified the journey and naturally brought more businesses to the retailers at Chatuchak.
|奶奶 must have been bored because all the BTS stations named either sounded like food...|
|... or sounded like money to her!|
"There is an original coconut ice cream stall with green shades that we must look for and try." I instructed. Because some reviews said that this coconut ice cream was the best.
|The ORIGINAL coconut ice cream just outside Toilet number 3.|
|Our first stop into Chatuchak was a coffee and coconut ice cream break.|
|My eye brows were on their way there.. almost like Yeye's already. Almost.|
It was no longer hot and humid inside the covered compound. Fanned breeze and much-improved ventilation took the heat out of roaming the wooden thatched cubicles, and brought in a new level of enjoyment. Made even more fun by being able to bargain down the prices.
I even found knock-off, huge 75 litres North Face and Deuter trekking backpacks at about 1300 Bahts (S$52) and would had bargained RBM down even more, but for the fear of not having enough space in the luggage to bring them back, and, more reasonably so, for worry about their quality.
"Ah Li, we will go back home and check out Decathlon's backpacks once again and if I ever come by then I may get some for our year end trip," I told Ah Li.
What caught my attention was a nice little wallet with coin compartment with a smooth texture that Serene discovered. So I made it mine for 225 Bahts.
"我们才走不到十分之一！” said Yeye. Which was very true.
"要走 Chatuchak 要至少两天的啦!" Serene correctly pointed out.
"下次我们再来。但是我们拜六礼拜都过来吧!" Said Nainai.
|My favourite shop. Ran by this very steady and very friendly man.|
This shop was really good. I even took down a picture of its exact location.
Ah Sing was lost somewhere deep and she managed to grab herself some food inside. So did Questal and Fann, these two cleverly skirted the outer ring of Chatuchak before deciding which entrance to attack.
|Ah Sing very independent already. She already knew how to walk around and feed herself.|
The Video number 9: Chatuchak Weekend Market
"Wah like this hor, for our next trip let's do not only Chatuchak but also the Rot Fai night market," I said. I heard the night market is a great place for young girls to shop.
"我要按摩肩膀和颈项。" said Nainai. Yeye and Ah Sing also wanted. So the appointment for Foot Master was made for them at 3:15pm. It must have been a busy Saturday for they only had enough slots for three persons, and Serene booked a two hour full body traditional Thai massage at the massage below our hotel, which turned out to be fantastic.
"Ah Li, let's go to eat Happy Food!" I said.
That was exactly what we both did. We went to SnowTree to share a small 170Baht Bingsul and we went down to the Terrace to share a Deep Fried sea bass.
Jiaklat. One family trip, didn't know how many sea basses we have killed. But one thing for sure. My weight jumped from 75kg to 78kg. And that was about right - the amount of sea bass and pad thai and ice creams and Bingsuls all thrown in.
AKA Japanese Restaurant! YES!!!
"今晚的晚餐我请!" Announced Yeye. Wah, that was great!
|The Japanese restaurant and the Korean man.|
|Busy ordering while Yeye Nainai rested their tired feet.|
"Wah lau, Yeye really ate so many prawns!" said Questal afterward. "I was sitting next to him and I saw him kept whacking the prawns, and you all just kept cooking and passing him prawns!"
"哇今晚这顿饭真的是很值得。吃这么多虾和肉，一个人才大概 $20." Said Nainai. "我问 Lampong 一个平均泰国人的日入多少。他告诉我大概 300泰铢。哇，这样子我们一个人吃到来500多泰铢，对他们来说应该是很奢侈的啊！下一次我们一定得回来这里吃！"
|Back at the hotel... thinking of what she would buy the next day at Chatuchak.|
The Video number 10: AKA Restaurant & Flying home lor...!
DAY 5: Home sweet home for everyone except for Ah Boy and Ah Girl.
Ha nor. How I wish I could stay for a few more days.
While everyone was still sleeping... I set off at 7:30am to walk around the neighbourhood and to do some street shooting.
|The Mercury Ville just across the road from Central Chidlom|
|I wonder if these public rental bikes were indeed regularly used or not.|
|Outside the Big C.|
|Nainai and Ah Li went for their very own McDonald's coffee breakfast.|
And then we went home.
|Both Serene and I failed to book any Grab taxi cos our traffic here was too jammed. No one wanted to come in to pick us up to go to the airport.|
|... and like what I told Yeye Nainai: "Some days you would be lucky to have the bridge to walk through. Other days you gotta take the bus to the plane. That's the budget way of travelling."|
As for Questal and Fann, well... they had another two more days of sisters' days together in Bangkok. They literally shopped Chatuchak again, played and ate.
They ate at Inter restaurant another two times, the first time tom yam was not so good. But the second time round, the tom yam was fantastic...
|Yes Questal... the fresh dead prawns again!|
|Questal: "I couldn't believe how small a portion each bowl was. I had to eat THREE bowls of them!"|
They did rock climbing at Phrom Phong...
... and they ate again. This time round at Forever Hungry just down the road...
And finally, two days after we arrived back home, these two girls touched down on the soil of Singapore.
FINALLY back to reality
Yah. It was either spending CNY back at home, and totally tired out after five days of celebrations and feasting and gatherings and such... or spending that five days relaxing on a holiday. After this second consecutive year away from home during CNY, I was even more certain that this was the way to go.
And as staunchly traditional as they might be, Yeye and Nainai also seemed to be sold on that idea. And we were planning for our next CNY trip even on our flight back.
It had been a swell time in Bangkok. And truth to be told, Bangkok never disappointed us. We would be back again.