Shop till You Drop (Thailand Day 5: Wed 27 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Monday 30 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

The Shows would continue!  

And they did …

Our usual morning routine whilst on holiday was to get up at about 09h00, complete the 3 S’s (more S’s!) and then to proceed to the breakfast terrace, which at the Regent was open until 10h00 and in Phuket was open until 10h30. (In future, wherever you read breakfast, the procedure was basically the same as detailed here.)

So on our second day in Bangkok, we had breakfast at 09h30 on the Garden Terrace on the 5th Floor. Breakfast generally consisted of juices, fruit, cereals, various fish dishes, local Thai dishes, western dishes, eastern dishes, eggs in various varieties, pastries, cold meats, cheeses, breads, coffee, and as the King says in “The King and I” (or otherwise known as “Anna and the King of Siam “) “etc, etc, etc”!

Today was a shopping day, so the ladies headed off in one direction and we headed off south along Rajprarop Road in the direction of the Central World Centre. We were to meet up at 13h00.

On the map, the CWC is just about 2 kilometres south from the Regent. If you have been to Bangkok you will understand what one sees in those 2 kilometres. If you have not been there, let me try and explain (and please forgive me because no explanation can do any justice to the reality of this experience.)

The roads are filled with vehicles and the gaps between the vehicles are filled with scooters (something like filling a container with stones and then pouring sand into the container to fill the gaps between the stones!)

Working outwards from the centre of the road (and duplicated on both sides of the road), you get the traffic and then the sidewalk. On the sidewalk, with their backs facing to the road, you get stalls facing towards the sidewalk. The pedestrian section follows and then you have stalls facing towards the road with their backs towards the shops behind them, which also face the road.

In other words, the pedestrians – crowds of them – walk down a pathway in the centre of the sidewalk between two rows of stalls that face each other. Behind the inside row of stalls you find the open-faced shops that face the road, and often behind those shops you find tall high-rise shopping centres, and in those centres, you often find floors and floors of more stalls!

If you are confused, then that’s what the novice shopper is. Rows and rows of stalls (shops) working outwards from the road and for kilometres in front of you and behind you and left and right of you as far as the eye can see. And along every road that you can see, the scene replicates itself! 

So to walk two kilometres takes quite a while. Because you have lots to see and many merchants to bargain with … for clothing, electronic goods, souvenirs, materials, food, etc, etc, etc! (It’s no wonder the etcetera phrase is used so often in the play!)

The Central World Centre is a modern air-conditioned shopping centre similar to those that we are used to at home, but here you pay for the convenience of the air-conditioning, the assurance of the genuine brand-name, the price marked on the article and the absence of having to bargain! We spent time watching the latest 3-D TV equipment, looking at sports clobber, being massaged in elaborate lounge furniture and … and …

The unit of currency in Thailand is the baht and a convenient (though now inaccurate) method of conversion to our Rand is to divide the baht price by 4 to get the rand price. It makes things so much cheaper than they are here at home!

We strolled back to our rendezvous point with the ladies at the Platinum shopping centre. This centre is a 7-story clothing wholesaler and the girls had been here all morning. The boys climbed into the clothes, too!

Then we had a quick drink and proceeded west down Petchburi  Road and south down Phayathai Road to the MBK Centre – another more upmarket conventional shopping centre. Eight floors packed with 2,000 shops that sell everything from clothing, fashion accessories, handbags, leather products and luggage to furniture, cell phones, electric appliances, cameras, stationery and DVDs. MBK  is a beehive of activity, especially on weekends, when half of Bangkok converges to shop for bargains.

On the way there we passed a zillion stalls and popped into a 5-storey high electronics shopping centre. It was 15h30 and it was from there that I did my radio programme back home (at 10h30 SA time). Lance phoned me from SA and I chatted from the quietest place I could find in the Centre. It was also there that we had to buy an additional suitcase in order to bring back all the new clothing that was being bought. (All our SA clothing was far too hot and, anyway, everything is so much cheaper!)  

At MBK, the boys were starving and we did the unthinkable – we stopped in at a Burger King and a Starbucks – all so American and western!

Then it was home-time, and we had done enough walking. So we proceeded to the taxi rank and hailed two tuk-tuks to take us back to the Regent: a ride that also left me wondering in what direction we were actually going. The local drivers know all the backstreets and in order to avoid areas of traffic congestion, they often take side streets and alleys, making it very difficult to try and follow where they are going!

Back at the hotel, we had a swim in the pool on the 4th floor. Then at 18h30 we met in the foyer to visit the Baiyoke Sky Hotel – just a block from the Regent and the tallest building in Thailand with 88 floors. We went up to the rotating skyroof on the 84th floor and had a …. Singha, as the sun set over Bangkok and the darkness of the night and the brightness of the lights took over from the previous grey dusky urban scenes that we had witnessed from this magnificent vantage point.

Then taxi-time again! This time two proper vehicle taxis and we set off – who knows where and in what direction – but we were headed for the infamous Patpong Road (an “entertainment” district and night market), where we had supper (gross), did more … shopping (grosser) and watched a “ping-pong ball show” (grossest)!

It was just past midnight when my petrol ran out, and reluctantly I had to admit that I needed my bed. The rest of the group were hopping mad that I was breaking up the party so early – after all, the night was still a pup and they wanted to party some more!

The taxi ride back to the hotel seemed so much shorter than the ride there. I’m sure Patpong Road was far closer to our hotel than I had imagined!

It was already Thursday morning when I put my head down on the pillow. We had to get up earlier, as later on Thursday we were flying to Phuket and needed to get to the airport.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Taken for a Ride (Thailand Day 4: Tuesday 26 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Thursday 26 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

At 06h00 local time on Tuesday morning 26 June we disembarked and entered the ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi International Airport – straight into passport/ customs control and what would be our sauna for the next two weeks.

We were promptly met by our Royal Orchid Holidays tour representative, taken to our two air-conditioned mini-bus taxis and then left the airport.

As would become the norm throughout the trip, I sat in the front passenger’s seat next to the driver. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

The trip to our hotel in early morning rush-hour traffic took about an hour. Along the freeway into the city (driving on the left), as would also be the norm throughout the trip, there were pictures of the King and Queen of Thailand on elaborate bulkheads over the road, Shrines, Temples, run-down buildings juxtaposed by tall modern high-risers, green lush tropical vegetation, signs in the curvy Thai alphabet (usually also in English), and just more and more roads with more and more traffic!

The 40 year old Indra Regent Hotel was somewhere in the midst of a sprawling, busy Bangkok. At 07h00 we could not check in yet, so we completed the documentation, left the luggage and “hit” the City, hot and tired and in dire need of a shower.

First, we apprehensively ventured into the market in front of the hotel. This was our first taste of Thailand, and we reluctantly took those first bites.

“U wan t-shirtttttt … u wan t-rouserrrrr … u wan T-hai massaaaaaage … u wan t-ailormade soooot …  u wan ping-pong ball shooooooowwwww … u wanna buyyyyyyy … wha tju waaaaan t?” would be the ongoing chant of the next two weeks, coming at you from all angles and from all sides wherever you went – a high-pitched cacophony choir of Thai merchants selling themselves and their every ware everywhere!

I think it became a bit much for us and, after a short while, we retreated from the shopping and regrouped at the hotel to plan our next move. (More and more and more and more … and much more shopping would come later as we became more acquainted and more adventurous!)

And so, against all advice we had read in the books, we negotiated a “good” price with the owners of two “tuk-tuks” right in front of the hotel to take us to our list of the “temple, the Buddha and the river.”

I sat with my map in the front, but decided very quickly to close it. There was no way that I could follow where we were going, what direction we were going or where we were headed! I’d rather just savour the ride and look at the City!

Every picture tells a story and all the pics we took will tell far better what we experienced and saw.

But for a long while, we did not see “the Temple, the Buddha or the River.”! We saw the clothing shop, the suit shop, the jewellery shop and any other shop that we later learnt were the obligatory stops on any such “well-priced, negotiated” rides. The bulk of the payment received for such a trip came in the form of petrol coupons from the owners of the establishments to which we, the gullible tourists, were taken!   

But we were seeing Bangkok, and loving it!

It was only after some hours that we became emphatic and insisted that we had not yet seen what we had arranged with our drivers to see.

So we were then taken to the river, and to another “mate” of the tuk-tuk drivers who was just another component in the tourist supply chain – the boat owner!

Our ride continued – down the river and along the canals. Squalor interleaved by opulent temples and shrines were the sights of the morning. And in the quietest parts of the dirty canals we were introduced to the next cog in the tourist shopping experience – the floating shops that arrived from “no-where” and tried to sell us their wares – from beer to pot-plants!

The beers were passed into our boat (and would have been welcome given the heat and our jet-lagged thirsts!) but as novices to the bartering and negotiating skills required, we could not agree on a price and all the beers went back onto the “floating shelves”! (Later, some in the group, especially Phillip, became quite adept at negotiating “good” prices for anything and everything that one would possibly want to purchase!)

When we were dropped off to disembark at at a pier on the river, we were even approached by the “pier owner” to pay for those landing rights! It almost ended up in a scuffle when we refused to pay, and suddenly when people started appearing on the decks of all the boats moored there, I had visions of a Bruce Lee kung-fu fight taking place! Luckily not, and we were spared to continue to the Reclining Buddha and seeing one of the many temples and palaces.

 

Our weariness soon got to us and after two pm sometime we hailed a taxi (two) to take us back to the hotel to check in. We bargained a price (as one does for everything) and the children left in the first taxi and the adults in the second. I must say I felt a little bit anxious as I saw our kids drive off into bustling Bangkok!

What were a mere few kilometres on the map took forever, and at one stage we didn’t move for almost forty minutes. We just took in and savoured the traffic jam, the lanes of brightly coloured Japanese cars, trucks, taxis, bakkies, buses, tuk-tuks and scooters; the buildings; the parks; the shops and the seething mass of humanity that make up this smelting pot of human existence.

At last, in our room 1419 on the 14th floor, we had a shower, had a brief power-nap, and then ventured into the hotel shopping precinct, the Indra Shopping Arcade offering heaps of ready-to-wear garments and souvenirs, had our first Thai lunch, shopped and slept a brief while more.

Later that evening, we headed safely down a darkish street to find a suitable Thai eating place (always very tasty and very inexpensive), Singhas (many), red wine (from SA) and our many “cheers” on the survival of our first day in Thailand!

On our way back to the hotel, the traffic continued into the night … and the shopping continued in the night markets which had seamlessly sprung up and replaced the day markets when darkness descended upon the City.

At that stage, my humour left me and my surly side stepped in. No more for me … I returned to the hotel (bumped into and chatted to the Gotz’s from PLett in the lobby) and then crashed into my personal queen-sized hotel-bed. No wonder! It was Tuesday night and since waking up in Pretoria on Monday morning, I had been on the go for 45 hours (ironically, the number of ordinary hours allowed by law in South Africa for a whole week’s work)!

Thailand was called Siam in the past. The letter S seems to prefix many words that I could write much about. Suffice to say:

At an average temperature of 30 degrees and a humidity of 80%, we had sat, sauntered and swum on Day 1 in the steambath which is the society of Bangkok.

We had seen, smelt, sweated and savoured just some of the sights, sounds, splendour, sky, streets, signs, scooters, sidewalks, suburbs, swamps, skyscrapers, sunshades, supermarkets,  shops,  sanctuaries, sacredness, spirituality, security, salesmanship, service, salutations, speech, sincerity, spirit, sandals, shoes, shorts, suits, skirts, sarongs, satins, silks, sapphires, scenery, scents, smells, shelters, shrubs, suppers, soups, stir-fry, shrimps, sauces, Singhas, schools, scholars and souvenirs.

The shows would continue!  

 

 

 

Going East (Thailand Day 3: Monday 25 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Tuesday 24 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

Monday morning was an early wake-up and then we were dropped off by Samantha at the Oliver Tambo airport round about 09h00. The journey was about to begin!

First, we had to find Terminal B and the Bryants. We would be travelling together with Alison and Nick, and Sean’s friend and schoolmate David, his girlfriend Victoria and Phillip’s hostel mate Richard.

Finding Terminal B was not easy. In the process we found Tony Reeler with whom we would be staying on our return to Pretoria. He and his Pretoria Boys High rugby team were heading off to Zimbabwe on a rugby tour.

Then we found the Bryants, checked in, passed through passport control, declared our equipment and ended up in the duty-free shopping area. The shopping began with a few bottles of red wine, Amarula and whiskey! (We had been advised that this was expensive in Thailand and our alcohol allowance was 1 litre per person.)

Thai Airways International Flight TG992, a Boeing 777-200/300, was slightly late but when boarding began, per my arrangements with the airlines, we were allowed to board first at 12h45.

At 13h40 we took off – headed east from Johannesburg to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) over Madagascar and the Indian Ocean.

We were scheduled to land at BKK at 06h00 their time and in the process we would lose 5 hours of the day. When we landed it would be only 1am in Johannesburg – just about time to go to sleep. But I did not sleep a wink.

After lunch, I settled in and watched Brave Heart and The Iron Lady. That took up some four hours of the 11 hour flight. Sleep was out of the question, and I spent a great deal of time watching our progress on the map in front of me.

I had boarded with my leg-brace on and was sitting on the aisle with my leg in the passage (this despite having arranged with the airline to seat me in a row with extra legroom!). Needless to say, everyone passing by bumped into me and the trolleys carrying the meals and the SINGHA beer had very little room to manoeuvre. So I had taken my leg-brace off some few hours into the flight and stowed it away in the overhead locker.

Then it was breakfast time and time to “embrace”!

 It was dark when we saw the lights of Bangkok appear below us – extending in all directions.

At 06h00 local time on Tuesday morning 26 June we disembarked and entered the ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi International Airport – straight into customs control and what would be our sauna for the next two weeks.

Money and the Boks

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 19 June 2012: 5 years 9 months on … Deuce

Last Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day by having lunch at Old Grey Club together with two hundred other people doing the same! The food was great, the atmosphere jovial , the music good and the weather played along, too.

There was no TV to watch rugby, which is what we seem to have been doing for the last few weeks.

Two Saturdays ago the Boks beat England in Durban. Last Saturday, we joined the Stapes’s and the Scholtz’s and watched the Boks on the box beat England in Johannesburg. By doing so, the Boks also won the series of three matches against England.

But now, it’s the third game in Port Elizabeth this coming Saturday. England is hoping to save face by winning this last test. We are hoping for a series white-wash!

The Springboks are in town.

Yesterday, five thousand people (including our whole family) watched the team practice at Grey High School. Today and tomorrow they practised again – this time behind strict security cordons keeping the public at bay.

England is coming to town. This time not to colonize Africa, but to play rugby against the Springboks.

The whole country appears to be in town or coming to town – to watch England and South Africa do battle against each other.

The rugby gees is in town.

It’s a scene reminiscent of the Football World Cup of 2010!

And as everyone comes to town, we are planning to leave town. We will not be at the Stadium on Saturday, as we will be flying out to Johannesburg on Saturday morning (in a near empty aeroplane, I guess!).

And, in order to get ready for our trip of a lifetime to Thailand, I have spent the last few days getting everything in order. The checklists and the checklist for the checklists get longer and longer.

Overseas travel is not for the feint-hearted and when you have a degenerative brain disease, it becomes even more difficult. Thank goodness, the international arrangements have been taken care of – but there’s still the rest …

Passports – check. E-tickets – check. Itinerary – check. Map – check. Vodacom – check. Blackberry – check. IPad – check. Charger – check. Plug – check…

Wheelchair – check. Assistance – check. Seats with legroom – check. Walking stick – check…

Winter clothes – check.  Summer clothes – check.  Swimming gear – check. Snorkel – check…

House sitter – check. Dog – check. Newspapers – check. Gardener – check. Security – check…

Insurance – check.

Bank card – check.

Baht – check.

Now that the money’s in my hands, it’s all starting to look real.

Krung Thep – City of Angels – here we come! And who cares if the rugby players get heated under the collars on Saturday. At 31 degrees and 80% humidity, we will surely be getting hot as well!

And my money (Baht that is!) is on the Boks.

P.S.

Thursday is international MND/ALS day – check.

Thursday:  speak at Grey High: write speech – check!

Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 11 June 2012: 5 years 9 months on … Advantage CBD

Last year this time, in my blog “Who Painted the Moon Black”, I wrote:

And to ourselves, we need to remember that the moon did not stay black forever. After the darkness, it turned to the most beautiful red and then slowly returned to its normal bright shining self (and maybe even looked just a tad brighter after the darkness than before!)

We, too, must now look forward to the next exciting era in our lives that begins today.”

The last twelve months have been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, and always seen against the background of a disease that continually takes more and more of my self – physically and mentally.

Yes, a lot has happened in the last twelve months – most of which is documented in my previous blogs.

A lot has happened in the last few weeks.

A lot has happened in the last week!

No, I did not make the Wine Festival on the weekend; but, thanks to Good Fellas, I did make Dean’s 40th birthday spitbraai on Saturday night (despite the pouring rain and howling wind!) Ironically, it was exactly one year to the weekend that we received all the rain last year that broke the drought!

Yes, after AlgoaFM and Bluewaters café, I also made the hairdresser, the oral hygienist and a meeting at Old Grey on Wednesday; my hydrotherapy, my admin with Nadine and my massage with Julian on Thursday; lunch at The Brewery under the Bridge with Charles and Sean and Helen Harris’s overnight visit on Friday; and the rugby test and Dean’s party on Saturday!

Sunday was, as the Good Lord intended, a rest day, and it was good!

 And, today, I cancelled the swimming but had the gardener, the lawn mowing crew, lunch with Sean and Sevé, a visit from Isaac and some more rest! My walking is becoming increasingly affected and the brace and walking stick almost my constant companions – one or the other!

In between all this, I have been putting the finishing touches to the plans for our trip to Johannesburg and Pretoria during the upcoming school holidays.

The opening lines of my website read as follows:

I am Ed Lunnon, and Ed Lunnon is a happy traveller. On Thursday 8 February 2007 I was in Cape Town, South Africa, but this time on a very different journey. At 9h00 I walked into the neurologist’s office and when I walked out, it was the beginning of a trip unlike any other I had previously undertaken.”

So, our trip to Gauteng, is a trip within that trip.

As the shadows grow longer and longer in my life, this Gauteng trip was originally planned for the family and me to spend quality time together and to meet up with friends in that part of the country. Over the years, we have spent many happy times at various places around the world and with many friends with whom we have been privileged to share our journey.

 The time has come, whilst I still can, to personally say thank you and au revoir to as many of my travelling companions as possible.

The last ten years of our family life have been difficult ones for us all. Each one of us has, in very different ways, had to contend with the challenges that life has thrown at us. We have not always been able to do the things that “normal” families are able to do.

Hence, the reason for the Gauteng trip. But then it all changed.

Thanks to that silver lining – one that wishes to remain anonymous – an opportunity arose for the Gauteng trip to be extended just a little bit further! It took a while to sink in and even longer to actually decide to “just do it”!

Was it the right thing to do? Are there not other priorities? Will my health stand up to it? Even after making the final decision to go and knowing that it may not happen, I have insisted that no-one would talk about it, and that it was still the Gauteng trip!

However, my family (and me, I guess!) have found it very difficult to keep this secret. Whenever they get asked what they are doing in the holidays, the give me a curt glance and promptly answer “we’re going to Johannesburg!” Later, I get asked “Dad, when can we say something? This is just too difficult and it’s not true!”

Lest, I therefore be held responsible for them telling untruths, we agreed tonight to lift the dark cloud.

From my website:

“These activities, and the public support in reaction to them, have sustained and encouraged me along the difficult steps of that journey and the act of saying farewell to a beloved world in and through which I have so enjoyed travelling.

Hopefully, the time you spend travelling through this website and blog site accompanying me on my final journey, will encourage you to live Life each and every day, and to remind you to embrace the delicate, transient moments of your lives.

After all, our lives and the precious moments we share with the people we love are gone so soon.

But we never need lose the time we spend enjoying them. It is the memory of those times that can assist us to conquer our fears of our final earthly trip – of facing death and leaving behind those whom we have loved and with whom we have shared that time.

“And if we can conquer our fears, we can conquer anything.”

In exactly two week’s time we will be heading eastwards to the lands from where the Star and the Wise men came. We will be  landing at Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand en route to Phuket International Airport.

We are so very grateful and thankful for this wonderful silver cloud and the opportunity that has been afforded us to travel yet one more time as a family in this magnificent world of ours.