Planning a wedding is a huge job. Add travel, cultural, and language differences, and it takes heroic effort – in our case graciously performed (to the gratitude of all) by the wedding principals.
They arranged for vans, lined out sights to see, and planned festive dinners. It was a show-up-in-the-lobby-ready-to-go sort of tour – except you knew and liked, and were delighted to see, everybody in the group.
The group included our son’s friends (a tight, long-lasting bunch, spread out geographically but coming together for important events), their wives and two boys three and nine, and our six stalwart friends who’d made this long journey from London and Washington. We numbered some 30 farang. (Farang being the Thai word for foreigner, maybe from the French word for foreigner, but maybe also from the Thai word for a white-fleshed guava.)
There we all were the first morning – amazed to be in Thailand in a hotel lobby fragrant with the scent of lemongrass, a kind staff greeting us with wai (head dipped, touching hands held flat together next to the chin), and sawadeeka (hello said by a woman) or sawadeeclap (said by a man).
We were ready to hit the decks (literally, the deck, the seats of traditional long-tail boats) for a ride on the Chao Phraya River, the watery artery of Bangkok. A river the size of the Thames, but oh so different the sights, with tall skyscrapers and elaborate hotels beside glittering temples. Other long-tail boats sped by decorated with colorful pompoms and flags, engines roaring, water churning. We sat low in the water, two people to each bench seat, a curved and striped-with-color canopy protected us from the sun.
Back in the boats, we entered a lock and waited with a bobbing and jostling flotilla of boats as we lifted up into a klong a Bangkok canal – like a side street to the river’s main street. Houses on pilings with corrugated tin roofs, in cobbled together shapes and sizes, lined the shore. Steps led down into the river, and laundry hung from porches, racks of colorful t-shirts and quilts.
Vendors in small boats found us, customers for their carved elephants, sun hats (one that turned from hat to fan), beer, water, and bread to feed (and cause a frenzy of) river fish.
Back at the dock, the sweet bride pointed the way to the Skytrain – Bangkok’s modern transportation artery. Elevated, cool, fast, the Skytrain whisks tourists and locals above the constant traffic gridlock.
That first night – while the others took taxis to a dinner spot on the river, Lady Baby (who’d spent the day with her parents recovering and swimming in the hotel outdoor pool on the 21st floor) and I stayed in.
It’s embarrassing to admit the pleasure of that evening. Lady Baby investigated the basket of fruit left to welcome us (dragon fruit, rose apples, mangosteen), listened to her three familiar bedtime books, and lasted barely a verse of one of our songs and a few back and forth paces before falling sound asleep.
Room service, a Singha, my book, and sleeping Lady Baby – a perfect Bangkok evening!