When in Bangkok, it’s tough deciding what to do each day

By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer

Columnist’s note: Some things don’t change much! I wrote this in February of 2016 and it is, yet again, with minor changes, a description of this last trip and what people ask us after every trip to Bangkok.

Several times when talking to people back home about spending some time every year in Bangkok, they have asked, “What do you do when you are there?” That question requires some thought, and one time my first response was “the same thing we do when we are at home — not much of anything!” I guess I thought that because it is what it often seems like: we manage to stay busy at something but I don’t always feel as if I am accomplishing much. After all, there are still boxes to be unpacked.

Here in Thailand, I am happy to report that we don’t have to accomplish anything unless we feel like it. After all, we are on vacation, which still seems like a rare event. For the first almost 30 years of coming here, it was always for work. But since retirement, while I have also sometimes done some work, our trips here are to visit friends, see interesting things, and eat good food.

On a typical day we get up early — just like at home — and usually walk to a newsstand to get the daily paper. We read some of it at the table out on the patio, cooling off from the long and brisk walk, and finish it while eating breakfast. The news is always interesting, because we get reports of items and events that never hit our papers in the U.S. The letters to the editor give us some insight into what local people are thinking, at least the English-speaking ones who read and respond to the English-language newspaper. To make sure we get a well-rounded viewpoint, this paper also reports on what is making news in the Thai-language newspapers.

One of the highlights in the newspaper every day, I must confess, is a word game. I have never seen this one in any other paper anywhere, so it is a treat. We both do it, but separately. If it is a particularly hard one, we combine our answers to at least make the minimum score. After we have finished that one, Spouse Roger goes on to the Sudoku, but after the first game, it doesn’t hold as much interest for me as it does at home!

We most often have a date for lunch with friends, and we usually go to some new place that none of us have tried before. Believe me, in Bangkok, we could never run out of new places to try. At one luncheon, our friend insisted we try a particular dessert. It was shaved ice piled high on top of a slice of bread in a bowl. It was then drizzled with Thai iced tea, nuts and whipped cream. It looked like a miniature version of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. The way to eat it was to let it melt a little and then spoon it out as liquid at the bottom. Delightfully refreshing. I am sure that we will add more exotic dishes to the list of what we have consumed so far.

Twice this last week it was French restaurants, one of which we will take off the list of places to revisit, and the other we will recommend to friends if they are feeling flush. It was just outstanding on all counts, but above what we would like to spend for a meal. On the days when we don’t have an appointment for lunch, we try to get a massage in the late morning, which is a treat and like a mini-vacation all on its own.

If we are in the city, we might spend some time checking out various new shopping spots, or seeing what is available at familiar ones. Like restaurants, there are always plenty of new ones to try. Sometimes we take in an art gallery, or some new entertainment spot. We even try to see a movie while we are here, something which we do at home only about once every five years.

This trip, we are only making one foray out of the city because our stay is so short. Last weekend, friends from Minnesota arrived to spend two weeks. We had dinner with them the first night — at a previously untried Irish restaurant — and we all went to the weekend market on Saturday morning. On Sunday, they left to visit two upcountry spots for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, shopping, and other sightseeing. On Friday, we will meet up with them at the airport as they pass through the city and we will all go to a beach for Valentine’s Day weekend. It is also our last weekend here, so it will be special.

I wear a pedometer every day, and we are really racking up the steps. I guess we could call that some small accomplishment! And though it may not seem as if we “get much done” while we are here, it is very relaxing. It is a good time to recharge our batteries every year. And just maybe when we get home I will have the energy to finish unpacking those boxes.