Oct. 29-Nov. 1
The last few days of our sojourn in Bangkok were OK. They were fun enough, but Bangkok just isn’t as interesting or as inviting as Chiang Mai or even Chiang Rai.
Traffic is loud, dirty, pretty brutal in fact. Sometimes it’s much easier (and safer) to climb the equivalent of three flights of stairs to use an overpass to avoid the crosswalks of a major intersection.
But there is still plenty to see on the street: Shops, restaurants, massage parlors of all kinds, shopping malls, and hotels.
The highlight of the end of the trip, though, was a 16-hour stay in Hong Kong.
On Sunday, the 29th, we took a late morning walk that brought us to Soi 8. This street is familiar to us from our last stay in the area. We stopped for breakfast at a place that may be called Viva.
It’s a bar with a vast deck around it, where you can sit to watch the activity on the soi.
The utility company was working on power lines. Men on bamboo ladders were working on wires in the tangle above the street. How they could tell one from the other wasn’t clear to me.
At one end of the block the man on the ladder was pulling wire out and handing it to a colleague on the ground. At the other end, the ladder man was installing new wire.
We decided to go for health food. I had a waffle with jam and whipped cream. It also came with some fruit and honey, which made it healthy.
Joanna had a similar plate, Hers had two small pancakes and even more whipped cream. More fruit too, so it was balanced.
Later we went to dinner at a place we knew from a year and a half ago. Larry introduced it to us.
It’s called Cabbages & Condoms. It is run by the Population and Community Development Association, which began as an advocate for the use of condoms for birth control. In Thailand, as in many countries with high birth rates, families are often so large that they lose all chance of emerging from poverty.
More recently, though, the group’s message has focused on disease prevention.
Part of the message is to overcome stigma. The gift shop includes rolled condoms on sticks meant to be used as artificial flowers.
At the entrance to the dining room, mannequins made up to look like superheros wear clothes made completely of condoms.
The name of the restaurant, I once read, is intended to suggest that condoms should be as comfortable a subject to discuss as vegetables.
The food in the place is excellent. We split a grilled fish and some stir-fried vegetables.
I hope the fish in the pool next to our table didn’t mind that we were eating their cousin.
When you get the check, instead of after-dinner mints, you get complimentary condoms.
Monday, our last full day in Thailand, we took it easy.
We had a date to meet Larry and Noi at a restaurant called the Fat Cow, about a half-hour metro ride from the hotel.
Joanna was thinking about adding a Thai-themed charm to her Pandora bracelet. We found a department store called Emporium, one stop east of the hotel on the SkyTrain, that had Pandora merchandise.
We left for Emporium in mid-afternoon. It was easy enough to get to. The Asok stop for the train is around the corner. We take that one stop to a station called Phrom Phong. You can walk right from the station into the store.
Joanna wanted an elephant. It’s the national symbol of Thailand, and done right it could be quite interesting.
Well, Pandora just didn’t get it. The store had an elephant charm, which looked like a fugitive from a Walt Disney cartoon. For some reason, the store had nothing else relating to Thailand.
The Fat Cow, on the other hand, was a winner. Larry told me it’s Noi’s favorite place.
The place is run by an ex-pat. I think his accent is British.
The menu has various options, but the emphasis is clearly on hamburgers.
Like most of the beef we’ve seen in Thailand, it is grass-fed and imported from Australia. It is delicious.
I had mine medium rare. I know we’re not supposed to do that, but hey, I love beef when it’s red inside.
We had a big platter of fries to share and, when that was gone, ordered more.
It was perfect bar food to go with another of the emerging collections of interesting beer. The bar had no taps, but otherwise it was like drinking beer at some of the better places back home.
There were brands I didn’t know. I had an interesting IPA called Showdown from Outlaw, which may may have been developed by a Thai company but for legal reasons is brewed in Laos.
The big brewers in the country have backed laws penalizing the manufacture, sale, and possession of craft beer.
There was an American style pale that reminded me of a milder Sierra Nevada. Joanna liked that one, and finished it for me while I went on to another.
We had to get up early on Tuesday, even though our flight wasn’t to leave till 3:15.
The early rising was my fault.
When you enter Thailand, you fill out two forms. One the immigration officer keeps; the other you keep to surrender on your way out.
I lost mine, and had no idea what kind of line I’d have to stand in to get a replacement.
When we went to check in, before noon, I asked the lady at the counter what I should do.
Just fill out a new card, she said.
Where do I get one?
Oh, I can give you one.
As a result, the wait at the airport was longer than the flight. We were in the air for about two and a half hours. As Gregory put it when we met him in Bangkok, long enough for one movie and a TV show.
Hong Kong International on Lantau Island is one of the better airports of the world.
It’s efficient; service is great. It’s well marked.
We had a 16-hour layover. All the United flights leaving Bangkok on the afternoon of the 31st had layovers in Hong Kong.
Most were four or five hours. The longest, 16 hours, would let us rest for the night between flights. It would also put us into the Regal Airport Hotel.
We had stayed there for a night at the end of our trip to Hong Kong in 2012. We loved the place.
After we entered the terminal at Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, we didn’t go outside until we had cleared Customs at Newark. The Regal is connected to the terminal in Hong Kong by a corridor.
We followed a half dozen monks who were apparently also rooming at the hotel.
Hong Kong time is an hour later than Bangkok. That put us at the gate a little before 6. Less than two hours later, we had cleared immigration, checked in, and were in the restaurant sampling a local craft brew.
There is a Hong Kong craft brewery called Gwei Lo, a Cantonese term of contempt for Europeans. As far as I can tell, that translates as “Ghost Guy.” But it is usually rendered in English as “Foreign Devil,” which conveys a better idea of the connotation.
If I see anything called “gwei lo,” I have to try it.
The bar had two ales, a pale ale and an India pale ale, from Gwei Lo.
I had the pale first. It was good. Not a strong mouth-filling flavor, but a good bitter edge and some perfume.
I could have enjoyed more than one of them, but moved on to the IPA, which was more to my liking. The flavor and fragrance were not very different from the first, but were more intense.
Joanna liked the pale ale better. She liked it so much that she actually ordered a bottle for herself. That’s unheard of.
I thought she was reordering for me. But no, she was ordering one of her own—and she finished it. She had never done that before.
She brought the bottle home as a souvenir.
We had gotten used to the smaller portions served in Thailand, so we ordered too much food.
Had we known how much was going to be on each plate, we would have asked for one and divided it, the way we do at most American restaurants.
I managed to get through half of the bangers and mash on my plate. They were tasty enough, and I probably ate more than I needed, but even so I had to waste too much.
Our flight out the next morning was scheduled for 11:15 with a 2:45 p.m. arrival in Newark. The plane was late getting to the gate, and the doors didn’t close till almost noon.
We landed in Newark around 3 and were back at Joanna’s house around 5.
Gwei Lo beer in Hong Kong. Who knows? Maybe by the time we get back to Thailand there will be craft beer called Farang.
I’m sending this on November 2, the Day of the Dead. Think well of the ghosts, gang.