I arrived in Bangkok just shy of midnight under a blood orange moon. After I’d passed through immigration (easy) and found my luggage (much delayed), I met Moddang and her brother Moo at Gate 3 and the three of us made our way to their car. I’d been told/warned of Thailand’s suffocating heat, but I’d planned my arrival in a twofold operation: 1) I arrived at night, and 2) during the cool season. Outside, it was as pleasant a night in early summer Chicago – nice breeze, no mugginess. When we got to Moddang’s parent’s house, I went right to sleep (I had decided not to sleep at all on the plane from Chicago to Hong Kong – a 16 hour trip – and managed a quick nap from Hong Kong to Bangkok).
On Sunday morning, I woke without any effects of jet lag. I was very happy. After family introductions and a small breakfast of soy milk with added goodies and chom poo (a dark green fruit that has a pear-like taste, possibly called a “water apple”), we all drove to Pattaya, south of Bangkok for lunch.
Mum Aroy was a beachside restaurant on the Gulf of Thailand. It was a light and breezy day; I thought that if this were the cool season, that’d sit right by me and perhaps the hot season wasn’t so bad as everyone said. Moddang’s parents ordered a feast for lunch. The first that came was a whole cooked fish bathed in lime juice, cilantro, and chili peppers. I was offered the fish’s cheek, an honor because it is considered the best part of the fish; and it was: sweeter than the rest of the fish, the flesh melted on your tongue. We also had a plate of fried pork fat, clams and fish balls that was very good; a similar dish consisting of fried pork fat, mussels, and fish eggs was much spicier but just as delicious. There was spicy tom zap (which, to Moddang’s family’s surprise, I ate without coughing or turning red), a vegetable dish with water lilies, and of course a bowl of rice. For dessert, I had rambutan on shaved ice; Moddang had creamed corn on shaved ice, which was, I must say, much tastier than I expected. All in all, it was a great welcome-to-Thailand lunch.
Between lunch and dessert, Moddang, her mother, and I took some photos on the beach:
We drove to Nong Nooch Village after lunch to watch the elephants. Before the elephants, however, we caught a show of traditional Thai dancers which Moddang described as “lame” and “for tourists.” The elephants, however, were cute and dusty; how they loved those bananas. We were back in Bangkok by evening, and settled in for some quiet conversation and KFC (Moddang wanted me to experience Thailand’s version of the famous chicken franchise).
Although I hadn’t experienced any jet lag yet, I was pretty exhausted and by 9pm we had gone to bed; Moddang had to get up early on Monday, anyway. So we woke at 5:30am and the two of us drove to Salaya, west of Bangkok, where she works at Mohidal University – Salaya Campus as a music therapist and teacher. Even at six o’clock in the morning, traffic through Bangkok was crushingly congested. Salaya is about thirty miles from Moddang’s home but it took us a good ninety minutes to get there. While she worked I sat beside a pool filled with fish and finished Cat Rambo’s Near from her Near + Far collection of short stories. It was yet again another beautiful day and not hot in the least.
After Moddang finished work, we drove two hours to the south of Thailand, to Cha-am, for the night. We stayed in a luxurious hotel right on the Gulf. I drank Singha; it’s true what they say: beer from the source is so much better than exported. We swam in a freezing cold pool. In the morning, we woke before dawn and went down to the beach to watch the sun rise. We saw a beached jellyfish. There were fishing boats out on the water. The sun rose from behind a fog, then broke through, bright and golden, and I pretended to eat it. It was my thirty-third birthday.