At last! After ten months in country, we finally reunited with our wonderful “Thai son”, Top. Both Drake’s and Elli’s volleyball teams were invited to play in a Bangkok tournament and we decided that this would be a great time to all go so that we could see Top.
We arrived in Bangkok early Friday morning. The kids were scheduled to visit the tournament site at the school, have lunch, and go to the mall before tournament play at 5 p.m. Top had arranged for him and his father, Suchai, to pick Ron and Cissy up and go to lunch. They picked us up at the school and off we went.
Lunch was at the “Dairy Queen” restaurant – but this was no ice cream shoppe. A floating restaurant on the Chao Phraya River, it featured fabulous seafood (riverfood?) and other Thai delicacies. Suchai was a most generous host! He kept ordering dish after dish until we pleaded with him to stop. The food was delicious and the conversation was just as good. Top’s dad is a well-learned man and we discoursed on many topics including Ron’s favorite: politics. Now we know how Top got to be so smart. Like his son, Suchai’s English is also excellent so there was no communication gap at all.
After lunch, they drove us back to our hotel so that we could catch the team bus to the tournament. Saturday we spent the whole day at the tournament so we didn’t see Top or his family at all.
Sunday morning, Top and his father and mother, Wipa, picked us up at our hotel at 9 a.m. We were astonished that they arrived in a beautiful touring van with a driver. This was unaccustomed luxury! Top’s parents insisted on taking us to see whatever we wanted. We assured them that we would be happy just to spend a few hours with them before heading to the airport but being the “hosts with the most” they asked if there was anything we wanted to see. Not being familiar with Bangkok, Cissy mentioned that she had heard of a “floating market.” That was it … off we went to the floating market. And what a market it was! Stall after stall of food, flowers, clothes, goods, wares, lotions, potions, knick-knacks, and anything else you could imagine. Of course, being from Hawaii, we concentrated on the food …
This place put Costco to shame, folks. You know how some people go to Costco for a free meal? Well, here, you can fill up on a 9-course buffet before getting from one end to the other. Every food vendor had a sample tray or practically grabbed you and put something in your face to try. Now, to be honest, many of the things we ate that day we had never tried before and – had it not been for Suchai and Wipa handing it to us – we would most likely not have tried it on our own. But we were surprised time and again by how delicious everything was. We found that the best strategy was to eat first and ask questions later. Sometimes, too much information is not good for one’s digestion!
The floating market was a blast. Just think of the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet combined with the weekend fruit and vegetable market combined with Rainbows Football tailgating and you start to get a glimmer of what this place was like.
After walking what seemed like a half mile and back, we were stuffed. So naturally, Top’s parents said they were taking us to lunch! But first they wanted to show us the Siam Paragon, one of the largest shopping malls in Asia and the largest in Thailand, covering 21 acres under roof. (This place even has a special parking lot for “Platinum Members” – excuuuse me!) Where do you begin in a place like that? In the food court of course! I’m not sure how many restaurants this mall has (I do know it has 5 Starbucks scattered throughout), but after seeing every imaginable type and quality of food – McDonald’s to gourmet French – we adults had a hard time deciding where to eat (probably because we were still full from the floating market). So Top took charge.
Leading the way, Top took us right out of this humongous mall and down the street to one of his favorite Bangkok eateries. Of course, it turned out to be an all-you-can-eat shabu shabu restaurant. Protesting that we could barely eat another bite, Suchai and Wipa suddenly forgot their excellent English and had us seated for the buffet. Although we started off a bit slowly, as the cooking pots in front of us started heating up, we picked up steam and soon were engaged in a wonderful time of fellowship and … eating.
Everyone who knows Cissy knows that she is a take-charge kind of person. Few have the energy to keep up with her pace. But she has finally met her match! In fact, she is no match for Wipa. Top’s mom ran circles around Cissy. At one point, she actually took Cissy’s bag and grabbed her other hand to pull her along through the crowded mall! I had to take a picture of that or nobody would believe it.
Lest you think this blog is about food and eating food, I must gently correct you. This is about spending time with someone we’ve grown to love since he became a member of our family in Hawaii. This young man, Top, is a shining example of youth in a world where far too many young people have lost their way or, perhaps more accurately, have never been pointed in the right direction. After meeting Suchai and Wipa, we can understand why Top is such a fine, courteous, intelligent, responsible, generous, and loving young man. It was certainly a great pleasure to meet Top’s wonderful parents and be united with our Thai son once again!