Thailand's megalopolis capitol city is but a 1 hour flight from the bucolic streets of Chiang Rai, but once you land there, it might as well be a different planet. Where most large cities have a defined skyline consisting of the largest buildings clustered together, Bangkok has several skylines, depending on where you are and in which direction you turn. Skyscrapers abound and beneath them lie countless smaller, but still large buildings that seem to stretch out in an endless sea of humanity. For most Montana guys it may represent the 5th level of hell, but somehow I find myself in love with Bangkok. Perhaps because it's in Thailand and full of Thai people.
We landed there on a Friday afternoon and grabbed a taxi to our centrally located hotel, where we took a quick dip in the pool and then hit the streets looking for action. With the exception on Suni spying a rat and having a major freak out right in the street, there wasn't much action to be found. We ate and returned to the room to relax. But Saturday was our day to party!
On Saturday it was shop till you drop, but since we tire easily of shopping that was about 4 hours. We found an area that is famous for inexpensive clothing and tried our best to find something that we couldn't live without, but had limited success. The one thing we apparently couldn't live without was a giant box of scarves which we purchased and mailed home - so check your doorsteps Montana peeps. We didn't send it to ourselves, so one of you will have to look out for it for a month or two (Thanks in advance).
Saturday night we met our dear Bangkokian friends for a memorable evening at Asiatique - a fancy shopping/dining/fun park on the waterfront. Here we boarded a huge yacht that brought us up and down the Chao Phraya River as we sat on the top deck and ate a variety of delectable dishes while grooving to the musical stylings of a duo of top 40 Karaoke-like singers. The multiple skylines of Bangkok glided past, lit up in technicolor glory. Bow and Ake were lovely tour guides, pointing out the major temples, hotels, government buildings and other attractions as we stuffed our faces. Over dinner they asked, "So, what do you guys want to do tomorrow?" "What!?" I thought. "You want to do more cool stuff with us?" We decided to take a drive up to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand. Awesome - we couldn't wait.
Sunday arrived early when Bow and Ake pulled up at the hotel with their little angel of a daughter and Bow's dear sweet mom. In just over and hour we were out of the new and into the old. Ayutthaya is a step back into the past - like 700 years into the past, when it was founded. You can see the remains of an early kingdom many miles up the Chao Phraya river away from the Gulf of Thailand that traded with merchants from India, Japan, Indonesia and even as far away as Portugal all when the U.S.A. was still a colony of the British. The old kings were forward thinking pragmatists who respected all religions and cultures, so long as they wanted to trade. Here, Buddha's wisdom was practiced and his images worshiped. As you walk along the crumbling remains of ancient temples and palaces, you can almost still feel the vibrations left by the centuries of chanting and meditation that took place here. It all amounted to the contrast of the millennium with the place where we ate dinner that evening: An entire little German town recreated to host and feed a parade of tour buses filled with Chinese tourists, though, to be fair, the food was excellent.
But parting is such sweet sorrow! We had to say good bye to Bow and Ake for the last time in Thailand (at least for this trip). Thanks for everything guys! We had a blast! Off to bed because the next day was sure to be just as eventful - or more so.
Monday morning and it was to be another special day - this time a very emotional one. We had made plans weeks earlier to meet Suni's foster mother, with whom she lived for about 2 years before we adopted her. Since Radd had already reunited with his foster mother on the trip where we adopted Suni, we thought we'd just give Suni the same opportunity. That's what we thought....
When we made our way to the adoption agency, we met with a social worker and a liaison who would translate and take photos for us. Then we all packed into a minibus and headed off to meet Yai Jah (Grandmother, in Thai). But when the van pulled up to a row of old houses and we got out, the first person my eyes focused on was Radd's foster mom. My jaw dropped. What are the odds??? She just happened to be walking by in the neighborhood, on this day, at this time? Well, no. The agency decided that they would arrange for Radd to meet her again too. Except they forgot to tell us, I guess.
Then it was back in the van and off to Grandmother's house we went. Yai Jah was also emotional to see her little Teng Mo (Watermelon, in Thai - and Suni's nickname). We looked at old pictures and told stories and had a Coke. It was just like a commercial. But we wanted to see the house where Suni lived when she was young, as we were visiting Yai Jah at her son's house.
Our last stop of the day brought us to the subway, which we took to the end of the line, which was the big old Bangkok Train Station. And here, finally, we boarded an overnight southbound train for phase two of our summer vacation: 8 days on Koh Phangan.