Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 New Year in Bangkok!

A very meaningful 2017 New Year in Bangkok!
29 Dec 2016 - 1 Jan 2017

The Video...

"Papa I will meet you all at the airport ok," requested Ah Sing Jiejie.
"Ok no problem," I replied.
All readied for the trip
Day 1: Making our way to the airport right after work...
Nai nai loved the Killiney Kopi Tiram kopi.

It was interesting how we all arrived at terminal one at different timing, as most of us were busy right up to the departure.  Departure time was the usual 5:05pm at Terminal 1.  And I finished work at 3pm.
It had been a long time since we all travelled together with 爷爷奶奶. And in many ways we were happy that they both came.
"你们到了吗?我口渴。" texted Nai Nai. As Yeye and Nainai arrived first.

"Ok ok. For this trip we are all going to take it really relax. No 紧张 no rush one. Even if we miss our bus or what, we are also going to take it easy. That's the main purpose of Free and easy travelling," I told everyone.
Yeye was happy taking the Air Asia flight, I think...
FD 354 departing Changi to Don Mueang Airport. [Photo: Ah Li]
It was a rather last minute decision to travel to Bangkok yet again and I packed he itinerary a little more structurally as Ah Sing would like to revisit the Floating market and would love to go ice skating in Central World. Meanwhile Yeye was hoping to enjoy his pilgrimage to Yaowarat for his seafood dinner. Personally I would be happy if we could squeeze in some time to have some shirt and trousers tailored for Yeye and myself, and still let those who are yearning for a massage fulfill their wishes.
"Massage 啊?好啊好啊。我的肩膀很酸," said 奶奶.
Waiting at the arrival at Don Mueang Airport.

The Flickr Slideshow.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Click here for Flickr photos for the above Flick album.
 "Alamak.. where is my Arrival card ah?"
"别担心,你看,你爸爸就是做好一切准备,连 Arrival card 都有 extra 的!" said Nainai.
Sadly, during super peak periods like these even the cheapest of airline would be almost twice the usual price, not to even mention the hotel room prices.
So at the end of the day we booked the Golden house hotel which came up to about $90 a night.
It was supposed to be a boutique hotel but frankly it ended up more like a budget hotel.
At the immigrations.
 As I travelled with the family more and it became obvious to me that certain things could not be saved - and a data SIM card for each and every member of the family was a must.  And at 299 Baht, the Traveller's SIM available right on board the Air Asia flight really was one of the reasons why this trip was such an enjoyable one.  Everyone was immediately connected and in constant contact and Google map and directing were all so easy.  Not to mention the constant chatter on the thread.

Nevertheless it was still closest to the Four Face Buddha and was exactly where we wanted to stay for this trip near Central world near the shrine near all our eateries.
Describing how the bus conductor tears up the tiny tickets...
"Here is Mo Chit BTS station."
Wefie by Ah Sing as we were about to move out. Our timing is perfect.
Fortunately for us on the bus A1 wasn't packed tonight and that MRT was not crowded so we were able to have a very smooth journey from the Don Muaeng airport to Siam.
Nai nai the bus ticket inspector. [Photo: Ah Li]
We arrived at Siam station in less than 40 minutes and in such a relaxed state that the short walk to Inter restaurant was seemingly so effortless as compare with the previous round.
BTS tickets at 42 Bahts apiece from Mo Chit station to Siam station.
[Photo: Ah Sing]

"Ok let's just order ok?" Said I.
"不够吃就再叫多一点," Serene was forever reassuring.
It was a very brief wait for the waiters and waitresses to find us a seven-person table.
Waiting to order at Inter Restaurant. [Photo: Ah Sing]

So we whacked lor: squid lah, oyster egg omelette two servings, fried chicken wing mid sections four servings, pad Thai, deep fried cat fish with chili that turned out to look like pork but we still ate it anyway, five servings of pineapple rice, Kang kong chili, tom yam, and a whole host of food that I couldn't remember.. oh yes and a sweet green tapioca ice kacang. Their oyster omelette was much more tastier than the last round, and even Yeye liked it. We ended up ordering about 15-16 dishes. And plus drinks and all we spent 2230 Baht (around S$90). Somehow among seven of us, we swept up all the food, and I still wasn't feeling that full.
[Photo: Serene]

"Inter restaurant really is good," said I. "Luckily we could make it here in time. See, it's now 10pm and they are closing already."
The sweet fresh raw Chao Phraya river prawn.  They looked quite black and dead to me.. but Fann, Ah Li
and Serene loved them to bits and pieces.
The pineapple rice that Yeye and Nai nai loved.
The deep-fried chicken wing mid section that Serene, Ah Li and Fann couldn't get enough.  And the deep-fried
spicy catfish that turned out like the top, as a confused Yeye was trying to look for it.
The fried garlic squid that I liked.
The roast duck that got lost in the jungle of food.

"Let's just use the Skywalk to walk from this Siam Station to Chit Lom station for the experience of it," I led the troupe down the overhead walkway, finally finding the correct connection after a security guard pointed out the correct direction.
Very rarely did I have the chance to walk and listen to Ah Sing talk and share her thoughts.  It was a really enjoyable
experience walking along the SkyWalk and listening to the young lady tell me more about Liberal Arts and
how it shaped the world.

"哇,这么晚了还有这么多人啊!" wondered Nai nai.
”奶奶,这不算晚啦!" said Ah Sing.
But soon the answer to Nai Nai's question revealed itself- its was a most beautiful Christmas lighting and landscaping outside Central World that was the attraction to all the local people flooding to this part.
"Uncle, won't it be nice if we can run through the decorations?" said Fann jokingly. "But then as you run your head will pok-gong pok-gong like that keep hitting the decorations lah."
Fann, Yeye and Nai Nai were fascinated by the Christmas decorations outside Central World.

Golden House was really more like a budget hotel than a 'boutique' hotel. The difference between this budget hotel and our usual Centara Grand during this super peak New Year season was a whopping $300 a night per room. Thus for four rooms over three nights, it made sense, I felt, to have the S$3600 savings in our pocket for other expenses.
The boutiquely budget hotel.
Fann pointed out a sign beside the hotel: "Thai Massage.  No extra service allowed."

"哎呀,你每天花在旅馆房间里面的时间有多少?倒不如省下这比钱来慢慢用。" Nai Nai's wisdom must have been ingrained in my genes.
Simple, no-frills hotel room.

This budget hotel didn't have a restaurant. And we needed to leave early at 6:45am the next day. So Fann accompanied me to the McDonald's across the Skywalk at Amarin Plaza and we grabbed some burgers for breakfast. A burger that was appreciated by Yeye the next morning.

Day 2: Damneon Saduak Floating Market
The 99km journey from Bangkok to Damneon Saduak
Early early 6:45am the minivan was already here.

"哇,我从来没吃过这么好吃的麦当劳!" exclaimed Yeye the next morning of the overnight soggy Fillet-O-Fish.
The sleep was good for all of us except for Yeye who complained that the mattress wasn't comfortable. Hahaha.. he old man lah.
Nai nai at the rest point en route to Damneon Saduak.

This local half day tour was 3850 Bahts which worked out to be S$22 per person including the transport to and fro and the long tail boat ride.  This was a local tour company that we booked online before our flight out to Bangkok.
We were pleasantly impressed that the driver of the minivan was so punctual.   At 6:45am zhun zhun we boarded the minivan and went on our ways to pick up some more guests from other hotel for this half-day Damneon Saduak Floating market tour.
Ah Sing resting at the toilet point.
The journey from Central Bangkok to Damneon Saduak was 99km. And it took us about two hours van ride to reach it. Thankfully Fann had the foresight to buy some chocolate brownie and coffee cookies from the 7 Eleven the night before to fill up our mouth on the van ride.
The nice cool air on a Friday morning refreshed us.  And for the first time in a long time, it felt like a holiday again with the family - the low hum of the engine from the waiting vehicle, the sight of a petrol station rest point, and.. the stench from a petrol station toilet.  We made the best out of it by drawing our attention away - what other better ways that to start shooting rare portraiture shots with the new iPhone 7Plus with its powerful twin-lens bokeh function.
Both Ah Li and Fann laughed themselves silly upon discovering that each had brought the same
kind of wet towels for the trip.

 "I smell the toilet I dare not go in and use it," complained Serene at a rest point while the minivan filled up on petrol.
"Compared with the toilets in Sri Lanka," said Fann, who only two days ago just returned from a 10 day trip to Sri Lanka. "The toilets in Sri Lanka were much cleaner!
Hahaha... of course one couldn't compare the toilets of a petrol station with anywhere else mah. Chay!

A sense of deja vu struck me as we alighted at Damneon Saduak.
Our local guide explaining a little of the Floating market to us.
 "There are about 17-18 canals that make up the floating markets," the female guide introduced. "The local people will just move around, sell their vegetables, go shopping, go to the hospital, and all forms of transport will be on the boats."
"The floating market is really nice!" remembered Ah Sing.
In actual fact she was absolutely right.  Over the years we had been back a couple of times to the Floating Market.  There were a few Floating markets  around but apparently Damneon Saduak was the better one.  Since it was Fann's first time to Bangkok and upon Ah Sing's high recommendation, we decided that it would be a good idea to do that half-day trip.  The convenience of having a transport pick us up and drop us back was most reassuring.
It was 9:57am. "Ok, our long-tail motorized boat ride will be at 11:20am. Now you can either walk around the market place to shop or you can take the paddle boats at 150 Baht per person. That is better because you can see the floating markets better ," announced the guide.
Waiting to board the paddle boats.

Oh, so the 'boat' ride was indeed included. But I was really blur blur. So should we or should we not do the paddle boats?
"还有多一个钟头半 leh!" Said Yeye. "来啦!坐啦!"
The Video...

Ok lor. So we did. And we're we glad we did. Amidst the cacophony of high-pitched shouting from boat rowers to each other and the straw-capped ladies perched on sampans calling out to potential customers to look their ways, we spotted swirly smokes from sampans rising from stoves (on the sampans! Egad!) selling food.
The smoking Sampan.
"Catch the smoke! Catch the smoke, Uncle!" called out Fann. "Did you manage to catch it?" Well, I didn't think I did. This thing about the new iPhone 7 plus, although the bokeh function was good, the autofocussing especially in lower light conditions took a while. So oft, by the time the shutter sound snapped, the moment had passed. But still this was a most remarkable handphone, far exceeding my expectations.
The paddle boats and motorised boats bumped against one another, criss-crossing the narrow waterways, leaving hardly any space in between. The passengers on the boats ended up smiling at each other.
"You shoot me, I shoot you," said Serene, of what everyone was doing on the boats.
Natural sunrays hitting the water. [My iPhone 7 Plus ok!]

Although the sun was beating down on our faces, the wind that hit us were cool.
"It's like aircon Air, but the sun still is hot," said Ah Li.
I personally found the floating market to be more intriguing this time round. Perhaps as I was in a much more relaxed mood despite my fever and sore throat, and I think the company was just as influential.

I loved the paddle boat. The slow ripples of the waterway as the boat parted the water created an almost hypnotic lullaby, broken episodically by the rattling roar of a motorised vessel speeding pass, making our boat swirl a tad wilder when the waves struck our sides, and crashed into a splash of E.coli infested foams. The children reeled laughingly from the splash and screamed.

We saw an old lady slowly rowing back to her sampan berth as she returned home.
"其实 hor... 你阿公的姐姐就是好多年前带了孩子从中国来到曼谷的水上市场买菜。她就是这样赚了很多钱。她老人家后来老死了,孩子们和孙子们都留下来泰国了。" said Yeye as he suddenly felt historically sentimental.

Yes, I still remembered when I was much younger we did visit the relatives here. But we had lost touch since, because her offsprings could not speak nor write Chinese.
The canals slowly opened up to the quieter and more peaceful sections, framed from both sides by brick houses, palm trees, scattered with shrines.
"Sometimes if we are lucky, we can see some of the local people washing their plates and clothes at the water banks," I said. But on this day, none of the villagers was ready to demonstrate.
The Damneon Saduak Flickr Slidehow

Created with flickr slideshow.

 Click here for the photos of the above Flickr collection

The 40 minutes paddle boat ride ended on a happy ending, all of us refreshed and in joy. Once back on the bank for 5 Bahts I got to share the toilet with an Ang Moh lady. Not bad lah. At least a nice and clean toilet out of Central Bangkok.
The queue for the long-tailed boat was quick despite the large number of tourists there.
"We can retire here leh, then everyday we can sell vegetables," suggested Serene.
"Yeah. Of course we can. Sure. You want?" I asked.
"Eeeee.. don't wan. I cannot tahan the toilet here."
"Can lah. Every day you can sit under the coconut trees and play Pokémon Go..." I said.
"Yes yes and you can cycle around the fields and I can run around here," said the young lady.
Frankly I was glad we did the extra paddle boat ride. The 40 minutes ride at 150 Bahts (S$6) was more entertaining than the included 15 mins perfunctory motorised long-tail boat ride that took us around the bigger canals.
The one and a half hour van ride back to Central Bangkok seemed quicker. For S$22 per person, and added on top of that the extra S$6 paddle boat ride, it was really value for money. I would do this again at the drop of a pin if I ever wanted to visit Damneon Saduak again.

Lunch at Terrace Restaurant
The Terrace at Central World Plaza for lunch. [Photo: Ah Li]
1:45pm. Walking along the covered walkways of the overhead Skywalk we stepped into Central World for the first time since arriving.
And obligatorily we entered The Terrace. I explained to the family that whenever Serene and I didn't know what to eat, we will always end up in The Terrace.
Serene was clever again. She knew that the family would enjoy the deep fried sea bass, and the coconut ice cream, and she ordered a double portions of the deep fried sea bass and pad Thai with tiger prawns in addition to several other dishes.
It turned out that the children and Yeye Nainai loved the deep fried fish so much.
"哇,这碟油浸顺福太好吃了!比我们家里的还要来得好吃又便宜!" Yeye couldn't get enough, and he sputtered with the fish head in his hands and between his teeth.
The Flickr Slideshow...

Created with flickr slideshow.

Click here for the photos of the above Flickr Album.

Ah Li loved the deep fried fish too. But in addition, she totally enjoyed the coconut ice cream.
"The fish is so delicious!" this Ah Li really appreciated them.
Even Ah Sing tried to 'chng' the deep fried fish head, but only managed to successfully sucked the flesh from the gills. The rest of the fish head was given back to Yeye to devour.
This Terrace meal was meant initially to be just a fill-in but it became a highlight. Shucks... never mind. They will still somehow have enough spaces in their stomachs for the Korean dinner tonight.
Walking back to Amarin Plaza. [Photo: Ah Li]

Tailor at GMC Tailor
No go at GMC Tailor. [Photo: Ah Li]

We walked back to Amarin to check out the highly-acclaimed GMC Tailor. But at 1500 Bahts for a shirt and 2500 Bahts for a pair of trousers, we decided to forgo the experience and go back to Singapore.
"For S$68 I can easily get my tailored shirt from my regular Singapore tailor," said Yeye.
Ok lah. I guessed GMC Tailor is a tad more high class than your usual man-on-the-soi run-of-the-mill tailor dotting the streets of Bangkok.
Well, we saved ourselves a huge chunk of money. Now we could go enjoy more.

Massage at Foot Master

Serene was lucky. She managed to get her senior therapist Nid for her two hour session.
Yeye, Nai nai and I were consigned to regular junior therapists but on this day even the junior therapists were doing a great job, despite the massage Centre being so fully booked that the receptionist had to turn away many Ang Moh customers.
"Sorry, we are full already," I kept hearing her apologies to the walk in customers.
Nai nai could not tahan the message and decided to skip 20 minutes of torture with the masseuse.
"我看他帮我按摩到那么幸苦,又一直喘气。我就可怜他 lor!" she ah.. excuse liao liao.
Yeye had a tough time. His masseuse was kneading at his muscle full strength but yet he didn't know how to tell him to soften up. "哇,我以为是要这样大力的嘛!" aiyah he 傻傻 lah.
Korean dinner at Siam Square.. and a rectangular MESS of water & melted ice
Ah Sing spinning her stuff at the Ice skating ring, Central World. [Poto: Ah Li]

5:30pm. Our massages done we met up with the girls outside Amarin Plaza.
Fann and Ah Li decided to skip their manicure pedicure today and went shopping around the bazaar, after being around the ice skating ring in Central world to accompany Ah Sing.

"Haiyah this ice skating ring in Central World is so lousy," complained Ah Sing. "I only did 30 minutes and gave up despite paying 290 Bahts (around S$12) for the one and a half hour. The ice was wet and was so poorly maintained and the shoes were old, blades were rusty and didn't have the front shoe picks. I couldn't even do my usual spinning."

The Flickr Slideshow

Created with flickr slideshow.

 Click here for the photos in the Flickr Album above.
Fann said later: "Ah Li and I were trying to go up to the floor with the ice skating ring. We were expecting something in the shape of a ring. But it turned out to be a rectangle.. a rectangle of water!"
Well, I guessed life is like that lor. Never ventured never knew mah.
I could see the excitement in Fann and Ah Ali's eyes as they showed us around the bazaar of street food and bags. But we had plans for Korean buffet dinner on this night. So we had no choice. We would come back for the food another time.
We were so disappointed to discover that the wait at Kimju Budaejjigae Korean Shabu restaurant was one hour with a long waiting list. I wasn't able to find the number to call earlier. Sigh.. this was the second time we were not successful in coming to eat in this highly reviewed buffet restaurant.

Dak Galbi Korean Restaurant

The Video

The Slideshow

Created with flickr slideshow.

Click here for the photos for the above Flickr album.

200m away down the street we found our alternative, an ala carte Dak Galbi Korean restaurant. Here we ordered family portion chicken and pork and individual sets of beef and bacon and extra rice and ramen noodles and cheese and they would literally served us by cooking everything on the hot plate for us. Very attentive and polite staff made this place such an enjoyable experience.
The seaweed soup was delicious and Ah Sing, Yeye and Serene asked for more servings. The kimchi was unique, with a tangy aftertaste that was different from our usual. And we had refills for that too.
"Wah I am very full!" said Ah Li.
"Huh? But I am sure later we will still have enough space for Bingsul!" I said, determined to get our Korean Bingsul dessert on this most memorable day.
Dinner at Dak Galbi

Although we didn't end up with our Korean shabu buffet dinner, we left with no regrets because we were totally floored by this wonderful Korean restaurant.

Time Lapse of the Erawan Shrine by Fann
The Erawan Shrine from the Skywalk. [Photo: Ah Sing]

Ok Bingsul at Central World

The Video...

Such a wonderful day must always end with a bang, our big bang here referred to a highly calorie-loaded Bingsul, the famous Korean powdery ice dessert.
Everyone had trouble deciding which one to eat.
"I can't decide between blueberry or brownie," said Ah Sing.
Despite selling the stuff at S$7 a bowl the stall was full and we had to wait a while for seats to be vacated. Still, a wait worth the while it was, and even Yeye Nai Nai dug in and enjoyed their red bean Bingsul while Fann and Ah Li walloped their Cheese Bingsul.
"为什么我们家里的红豆冰店不会用这么幼的冰呢?要是他们肯用这么好的冰,那肯定非常好吃的," reasoned Nai Nai.
"哎呀,在家里那些会用这么好的幼冰的红豆冰店都已经转换成卖 Bingsul 的店咯," I explained. "在新加坡,一碗可以卖$14-15还是很多年轻人趋之若鹜呢!还有,你们老人家看... 那间小店卖着的是现在最流行的cheese tart,一小粒新币4块,还是这么多泰国人排队等待购买!"
"哇,泰国人的消费能力真的这么强吗?" wondered Yeye aloud.
"我看这些应该是泰国上流社会的有钱人吧...” I replied.
"哎哟,现在年轻人的价值观完全不一样了。" said Nai Nai. "你们这一代还会省钱。你们下一代就很会花钱啦!"
"没法子,妈妈。" I shared my opinion. "现代社会奢侈品众多,加上传播媒介的影响,大多数年轻人都变得追求物质享受。变得非常自我。一切都是以自我享受为主。他们都抛弃传统生儿育女的思想。除非他迟吃结婚生子,那他们才会够成熟开始节省开支来养下一代。"
So, with a sense of bewilderment at the Thai's spending power, we again made our way back towards our hotel.
"我的眼睛开不得了!" said a tired Nai Nai.
"You see Ah Fann's eyes. They are so red and so tired," said Serene.
Better walk back home and quickly shower and sleep.
"Ok ok tomorrow don't wake up early. Take our time to sleep little more. Wake up at 9am then we go 拜拜." I declared.
The Video...

But classic my style, before I allowed them back into the hotel lobby, I bought four fresh coconuts for the whole family to hydrate themselves.

Day 3: A Day of 拜拜 and Indulging on New Year's Eve!

8am. we were already woken up by a group of noisy guests outside the corridor.
That was for staying in a non-5-star hotel lor. It was just as well because we were mostly up and ready to go.
Yeye managed to contact his long-lost old friend Mr Lampong and was very happy to find him sounding still strong and humorous at 85 years of age.
"Thirty years ago, a group of educationists from South East Asia spent three months in The Phillipines for an educational programme. Mr Lampong was one of the representatives from Thailand. He was the director of a university and we kept in touch ever since. But he has grown older and less able to walk," shared Yeye.
So we were all eager to meet up with Mr and Mrs Lampong for it had been years since we last saw them.
"You must let me buy your whole family dinner," insisted Mr Lampong on the phone Yeye. "In Thailand it is against the law if the host doesn't pay for the meal." He was still as humorous as ever!

The Christmas and New Year Bazaar at Amarin Plaza

The girls discovered this most intriguing bazaar selling all kinds of street food and their local bags and straps and were already eyeing them since last night.

The first chance they had on this morning was to make a beeline for the bazaar on our way to the Four Face Buddha.
The bazaar was only just waking up at 9:45am. But they already knew what they wanted to buy.
"Ok ok. We go pray first," I instructed. "Then we will come back and buy."
The Green Tea Thai Milk tea at the Bazaar.  That shop did a lot of business - at least ten cups from the girls.

Our original plan was to have lunch at Mo-Mo Paradise and then after that dinner at Yeye's favourite T&K Seafood restaurant in Yaowarat. But now all plans had to be put on hold in view of our meeting with Mr Lampong.

It was quite alright, as it was truly a free and easy trip. I just pitied the Mo-Mo-Paradise waiter and waitress who had to attend to me three times by call and by physical presence, to change our reservations again and again as our plans changed.
Yeye's personalised pouch!

拜拜 at 四面佛 Erawan Shrine

10am. The usual crowd at the Four Face Buddha. I explained to the family the procedure of the prayer in the simplest way.
"Mommy Aunty and I will first ask for eight dancers to dance and give thanks to the Four Face Buddha. They will chant the names of all our family members as they dance," I related. "Then after that we will buy a plate of garlands, candles and joss sticks and we will go clockwise around the four faces of the Buddha and make our wishes. Every Face represents a different aspect- health and well-being; family and interpersonal relationships; business, studies, work and prospects; and wealth. Yeye Nainai just follow me. Ah Sing Ah Li you all can make your prayers at the respective Face too."
The Video...

So we went round. Fann managed to capture Serene and myself offering our thanks to the Four Face Buddha. And then when we went on our rounds, Ah Sing asked:
"How do I say my prayers to the Four Face Buddha?"
To which Yeye very patiently took her through the detail process.
With every pilgrimage to the Four Face Buddha, it became more and more meaningful for Serene and myself. Like many devotees, our wishes were none other than those asking for blessings for the family and for the children. Delightfully it was our honour to be able to return time and time again to give thanks to 四面佛 for each blessing that had been bestowed upon us. Apart from years ago when Yeye and Nainai brought my sister and I as young teenagers to pray here, the rest of our trips back were just Serene and I. And sincerely it was a great great fulfillment to us to have our ageing parents and our children accompany us for this significant part of our pilgrimage.
This trip was made, at least for me, specially to ask for blessings for our children's education and future. I didn't think the children would be even remotely aware of the importance this was to me, until at least a couple of more decades later.
"Ok now let's come wash our faces with the holy water," I said.
And all guai guai followed. Ah Li was the first one to eagerly run the cool water from the golden pot down her forehead and cheeks, as if by doing so it would remove all the blemishes on her face. Laughing, I did the same for myself. For the second time in my life, I almost wanted to gulp a sip of the holy water. But last minute the medical in me took over and I resisted the urge.
Buying the fun stuff!
A trip should have something for everyone. Glad was I to find the girls and even Nainai Yeye getting excited with purse, pouches, bags and luggage tags that were customised with names and personally chosen tokens.
"Uncle, Yeye, Nainai, let me show you all the different stalls," Fann chut-pattern again and started showing everyone around.
The cups of ice green tea beverage with pictures of cows on the container seemed to be their favourite drinks, and that stall did plenty of business with us. Sharing the same amount of success were the mango sticky rice stall that especially Ah Sing craved so much for. Ah Li and Fann totally dig them. Seeing the girls flit from one stall to another, it gladdened my heart.

Local Thai Boat noodle breakfast

Trips like these hardly had a moment not centred around food. Fann's suggestion to have the 18 Baht Boat noodle in the stall just beside Dak Galbi was well-received. And the waitering staff were so hospitable even for a small simple joint like this, perhaps this was the simple reason we ordered bowls after bowls of the spicy (and some non-spicy) noodles with fried wanton and we ate their coconut agar agar.

The portions were really small. 18 Bahts was well, 70 cents. But it was 70 cents of something that I could gulp down in three tiny mouthfuls. They were flavourful I must agree. And I was glad to have tasted local Thai Beef Boat noodles.

Siam Square One

This Siam Square was already an ageing shopping centre. The layout and the tenant mix were certainly in stark contrast to the posh up-market boutiques in Siam Paragon. However it was places like these that harbour little secret pockets of really special deals.
Ah Sing discovered that her Acuvue contact lenses were going at 3400 Baht (S$137) for four boxes. Back home two boxes would usually cost S$118 already.

It was also in the same shop, and the adjoining one most likely owned by the same boss, that Fann found a pair of Raybans for herself and for Questal.
Not to be outdone, Yeye bought two frames and one more with the Lao Hua glasses fitted in twenty minutes for himself and I, each piece going at 999 Bahts (S$40).
Ah Li's quest for the polar bear T shirts brought us back to PB shop (3rd floor) across the overhead bridge in Siam Centre. Disappointingly the well-trained service staff pointed out to us what was left were only the long sleeve ones.
Too bad no more short sleeve bear T-shirt
Luck was on Yeye's side as he found trousers and shirts from the X-act shop (2nd floor) to make up for a failed trip to the tailor the day before.
The grandparents were quite lost with the directions although the relationship of each shopping centre was time and again explained to them. But I did not blame them. It took me a couple of visits before I myself got familiarised.
I was quite sure the old folks had not seen this part of Central Bangkok, or could have forgotten how it looked like. I pointed out how calibres of the boutiques got higher as we moved from Siam Square across to Siam Centre and then next door to Siam Paragon.
"There is an aquarium at the basement of Siam Paragon leh," I told Ah Sing and her eyes lit up. "But on this trip we decided not to pack everything in. So perhaps on the next trip we would try that."
Ah Sing's selfie stick really came in very useful when I wanted to do a wefie for the whole family right outside Siam Paragon.
A mid-afternoon meal ensued and we once again ended up in The Terrace for very specific orders- three servings of the Deep fried Sea bass (we almost ended up ordering one more because Fann in her typical tardiness in eating, only managed to grab the tail of the deep fried fish. The Pad Thais were procured, this time round with shrimps instead of tiger prawns, and the coconut ice creams were dutifully picked.
What was supposed to be a fill-in meal became another main course, however it was one that was well-loved with the deep fried fishes as highlights.
Round about this time, we received a call from Mr Lampong. He was so excited about meeting us that he bought many gifts, ready for us. But alas, it was New Years Eve and the roads around Central World were closed for the New Year celebration! And tried as his daughter might, she could not drive him anywhere near Central world, near enough for his wheelchair to access. Very very sadly, the meeting was called off at the very last minute.
This was really unfinished business, I jokingly told Yeye and Nainai. "爸妈,没法子了。这样真的是表示我们跟 Mr Lampong 的缘分还未了的呀!我们可以等他,但是我们绝对不能让他老人家等太久。"
And that was how the seed for the next trip was planted, much to the delights of some of the children, and the annoyance of others. But that was just life. Karma is the one force that links everything and everyone together. If certain events could not come true it just meant that it wasn't the time yet. The Principle of Karma meant that one should do one's best to prepare for it, but whatever the outcome, even after reasonable attempts, one would be wise to accept it. If it was meant to be, the opportunity would arise yet again.
Nail Wonderland

So Serene and the girls had their chance to book their pedicure and manicure and they spent one nice hour at the salon on the fifth floor of Central World.
"I've never done manicure nor pedicure before," remarked Fann. In fact, none of the girls had done any of these 'cures'. "So it's going for be quite an experience for me".
Fann was most careful in reading through the reviews of every one of the nail salons, telling us which one was notorious for causing nail infections. At the end of the day, Fann herself kena-ed a bleeding cuticle on her finger, and Ah Li gotten a bleeding toe nail. So funny.
"I kept laughing when I think back of Fann's expression when she was doing the pedicure," said Ah Li. "She looked like she was going to cry."
"I was so pitying the young girl doing my pedicure," said Fann. "You know the states of my feet after all those rock climbing.  They are terrible.  I felt so sorry for her, trying to pick the dead skin from all over my feet.  This young girl was good.  But her boss had really terrible attitude. If we had a choice I would not have chosen this Nail Wonderland but the other one in Amarin Plaza."
The burning question I had in my head that I wanted to ask Ah Li was: "Was it ticklish?"
"Yes it was!" she said later. "But I just made faces lor."
I must admit the aesthetic effects were really nice. If I were a girl I would go crazy over these fun things right in in Bangkok.
Meanwhile Yeye managed to get his green hand carry luggage at 1550 Baht (S$60) and the old folks found their Hush Puppies at a great discount of S$80 per pair, and despite being the last pairs, they fit them both just nice. It really was meant to be.

The Video of Manicure and Mo Mo Paradise
"Let's walk back towards Amarin Plaza," I said after gathering the troupe at around 5:30pm. "We will go grab a T-shirt for Zheng Ang, and you all can go and collect your straps as they should be ready at the Bazaar."

Road closures!

I was both impressed as well as aghast at the extent of the road closure. Pedestrians were already beginning to walk on the main road, now deprived of traffic, but I was worried because there went my plan to take a bus 25 or 40 for that 25 minutes ride to Yaowarat. Even calling in a taxi was not possible because they were held out of this boundary. Well we could still make our way to Yaowarat if we walked some distance out and grab a taxi.
"Mai lah, mai lah! 不要啦," said Nainai. "我们赶到那里,也是一样人山人海的!" Certainly Nainai made sense. And Yeye further joined the chorus and the plan for Yeye's Yaowarat T&K seafood meal was shelved. Poor Yeye, he didn't get his shirts and trousers tailored, and now his favourite Yaowarat meal was scrapped.
"Ok ok no fear. I will book reservation at a highly-reknown seafood restaurant called Lam Cha Reon seafood. We wanted to come here the last time but we couldn't make it," I reassured. My reassurance was short-lived, because a few minutes later, the receptionist informed me that the restaurant was fully-booked for the evening.
"You better call Mo-Mo-Paradise to tell them we are coming back to eat," laughed Yeye. "But don't tell them your name as Lim again. Use Serene's name."
Definitely. I didn't know how to face the waiters and waitresses if they found out that it was 'Lim' who flew them aeroplane thrice. Hahaha!

The Hair Cut

Yeye was adamant about having his hair cut at the hair salon besides the Boat Noodle shop.
"今早我走过的时候那个人说剪一个头 250 Baht. S$10 lah. Ok lah. 省得我麻烦回家剪头发。"
And he tried asking us the way to and fro the hair salon. We looked at ourselves and immediately Serene, Fann and I decided we'd better bring him there. Ah Sing, Ah Li and Nainai would go roam the Bazaar and make their ways there to Central World on their own later.
Walking on the closed main road. [Photo: Fann]
By the time we started walking back towards Siam Square One, the sky was darkening at 7:15pm and many pedestrians were sitting on the now-empty main road and having selfies taken of themselves. It WAS quite a sight. Interesting indeed. The search for the hair salon took longer than the walk to that traffic junction.
When we came to the the hair salon's swirling blue, red and white barber pole, Yeye found to his astonishment that what the 250 Bahts he was told earlier this morning referred to blow and dry.
"Huh?! Wash my hair I pay S$10 already?! No cutting yet?" we all laughed at the shocked Yeye. "Let's go let's go!"
So towards Central World we walked, through the human-packed overhead Skywalk, and finally back to more familiar ground.
[Photo: Fann]


It turned out that the waitresses and waiter DID recognise this troublesome 'Mr Lim' who called three times to book, cancel, and rebook and then re-cancel, AND then re-called to re-book the resevation under the disguise of another name Serene. One look at me and the man laughed and said "Mr Lim!".
We all roared in laughter. And I didn't know where to put my face. See beh jiaklat. But true to Mo-Mo-Paradise traditions, the waiter who was assigned to our table served us with so much patience, with so much courtesy and was so attentive, that even the old grandparents were impressed.
Ah Sing was impressed too, as she compared the service rendered here and back at home.
"Many of these service staffs are from the provinces around, and they come from poor families. So to have a steady and good job here in the city is something they will work hard for. An analogy is like in China, where many of the 外省人 took the places of menial jobs and worked very very hard," I voiced my opinion.

Sincerely, I had not had one meal in the course of a year when we all sat down and conversed so much, not having any one looking at his or her handphone, or catching Pokemons frantically. It was a downright simple and warm food-and-thoughts-sharing session. I personally relished this meal, as one singularly warm and quality-family time. In real life, we were all so caught up in our own duties that we spent next to no time with the other family members all at the same time. The sad fact of life in Singapore as in many modern societies was, we placed so high a priority on our interactions with our co-workers, associates, business partners, clients, customers and friends that the first peope to be conveniently put on hold and yet who would not utter too much of a rebuttal at that, would be our very own loved ones. I myself was guilty of that. For a long long time.

I hadn't seen the look of simple happiness in Yeye and Nainai's faces by just having their offspring around them for a meal. One in which no one was in foul mood, but all in pure appreciation of each other's presence. A reaffirmation of the familial support that was so commonplace in the societies of old. As much as I took delight in the joy of the moment, I quietly felt the pang of self-reproach for not having performed my duty in ensuring this over the past years.

This shabu shabu and Sukiyaki steamboar style dinner was so enjoyable. I looked around the table.  Everybody was in a comfortable and relaxed mood and Yeye talked and talked about what we did in the past when we travelled, and Ah Sing talked about what she did working as a waitress in Changi City Point. And Fann and Ah Li simply just acted their usual playful selves.
Me and Serene? We just ate non-stop. And Nainai was awe-struck by the enormity of our appetite. "哇, 你们这么会吃!吃了这么多盘肉,还可以再吃?!"
“当然,只要你们肯运动那就没问题。”said Yeye.
"So was the food good?" I asked Fann much later.
"It was ok, but it was just shabu shabu yah," replied the rock climber.
"But hey, the quality of the beef, pork and chicken was really good, and the service was tip top!" I defended.
It was really the memory of the dinner that defined one's experience.

Of Happy People
"Oh Papa, I can't stand it!" Quietly exclaimed Ah Sing to me as we stood by the side of the corridor. "The Happy boys are just so good looking! They really look after themselves well."
with a background of Happy Boys up the escalator to some Happy Boy Party.

I absolutely agreed with this observant young lady. For the first time we all saw many fair-skinned and super-muscular male specimens walking in singlets and net tops with squeezing-tight hot shorts and long knee-length socks swaggering up to the 8th floor conference hall.
These Happy men were attending a White Military Party, a party specially for the well-endowed males from all walks of the Thai, Ang Moh and Asia lives. Unmistakable in their orientation from their gaits and demeanors, it was really refreshing to not only the children, but to ourselves too. Imagine, right in the midst of a unique party in ultra-tolerant-Bangkok.
Ah Sing's comment kept recurring in my mind, about how good looking these Happy men were. I stole a look at myself in the reflection off a wall panel and instantly I felt ashamed. Hahaha!
By the time we walked back from Central World at 10pm, we were launched right into the crowd amassed on the huge thoroughfare outside central world waiting for the count down to the New Year. On this year of the old Thai King Bhumibol's passing on, the celebration was said to be much toned-down.
We were too tired, and it was too late, for us to join in the fun. It was a pity that we could not join our good friends the Kaan's and the Ng's in Bangkok for the countdown dinner. But the day will come.
The weight of this unforgettable trip didn't escape me, neither the grandparents. The discussion for the next Bangkok trip had already started ever since the seed had been sown. And Yeye and Nainai had twinkles in their eyes when the suggestion of making the same trip three weeks later was mooted.
We all missed meeting Mr Lampong. And we would really really want to make that the highlight for our next trip.
"Let us plan for the next trip. We would do one local easy meal a day coupled with a heavier more luxurious dinner, so that we will it end up over-eating. We will also try to explore some other parts of Bangkok."

And the stage was set for our next Bangkok trip... and it would not be long.  That I was sure.