Following five days of executive apartment comfort spent at the generous behest of our former Mumbaiker pals Harry & Talei, twas soon to be time for the main Bangkok event – The Grandparents.
Over the past days, and for the first time in his young life, “The Boy” had enjoyed getting to know a dog, as Talei’s pride and joy is a 2 year old pug who has been given the most superb dog name of all time.
“The Boy, meet Botox”.
“Botox, this is The Boy”.
Weighing in at 11Kg both dog and child are of similar mass and similar length.
They also both totter around the apartment in unballetic fashion, display their hunger in similar and simple ways, and both look up beggingly for food as if a pair of prize dopplegangers.
With an ability to bark “I love you”, Botox’s linguistics are however, somewhat more developed than The Boy’s.
1-0 to the pug on the evolution front.
After three and a half months apart from his paternal grandparents, it was always going to be an intriguing spectacle when “The Boy” saw them for the first time as a walking, talking toddler outside of the 2-dimensional confines of a Skype call.
Having made good time despite the disruptions caused by the mass walk out of public sector workers that had threatened to cripple Heathrow on the day of their flight, the tired triumvirate of parents and sister (“The Bim”) cleared immigration at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok a little after 8pm local time to be greeted by us in the arrivals hall.
The recognition on “The Boy’s” face was clear even if his confusion was running deep.
Uncharacteristically he was showing signs of what might be taken for shyness, or perhaps more likely it was uncertainty; After all, it’s not everyday the stars of the screen jump out to greet you in real-time 3D and start giving you hugs and kisses.
With just three days and nights to make the most of the unique charms of the Thai capital, we set out the next morning to take an express boat along the still swollen Chao Phraya river.
I’d planned a soft-launch for my folks (An Asia-lite intro day if you like), this being their first trip to the orient, so the idea was to avoid the midday heat and humidity by getting out early-ish and not over cramming our itinerary.
It was an unexpected surprise therefore at sometime shortly after noon, to find ourselves clambering over sandbags and teetering along temporary wooden walkways in order to access the Chao Phraya ferry piers.
The interim entranceway did not offer the ideal footing for a septuagenarian with a walking stick, let alone for a sleep deprived couple currently suspending their toddler in a buggy above some deep, fast flowing water.
And as could be predicted, by now it was HOT.
As they say, the best laid plans etc etc.
Finally reaching our destination on the west bank of the river, we took a walk around the spectacular and spectacularly named Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan.
In the same way that the Welsh village of llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is usually shortened to a thankfully less spit inducing “Llanfair PG”, so the riverside temple is also commonly referred to as the less tongue-twisting “Wat Arun”.
A long-standing architectural favourite of the 0.5, the towers of Wat Arun are built of brick covered with stucco. On closer inspection the towers are also decorated with a mass of Chinese porcelain, resembling tea saucers of the kind that we have waaaay too many of stashed inside a storage unit near Swansea.
It is in essence, her dream building.
The central Khmer-style tower or “prang” of Wat Arun thrusts upwards eighty or so metres into the Bangkok sky and dominates the surroundings on this part of the river.
Having climbed up Wat Arun a few years back, I was aware that the steps up the prang were very steep indeed and so taking my advice, my parents happily baby-sat as The Bim, The 0.5 and I ventured up its stone steps.
Belying my age and bounding upwards like a young, fit mountain goat, I got my camera ready in good time to smugly capture the faces of the girls as they hauled their way from below with slow, tentative footsteps.
Each panted with fear and dared not look down, each clung for dear life to one of the metal handrails as if it were their life-support system.
Towards the ever-narrowing top of the spire, the highest balcony of the main parang commands an impressive panorama of central Bangkok.
From this vantage point we would overlook the Grand Palace and its surrounding temples on the far bank, the spread of urban life in all directions, and directly below us, a small slowly moving figure we could make out to be my mother pushing the buggy.
I’m not sure what my parents made of Bangkok by day, though at night there were a couple of distinct highlights for my dad.
First up, a middle-aged barmaid in a pub off the red-light Sukhumvit Soi 2, castigating The Bim in no uncertain terms for declaring that my dad was old.
Correcting her she announced that “He not old, he just been alive long-time”, a positioning which I consider to be positive spin of the highest order!
Then the following night, the absolute highlight, when a he-she character became our server in a restaurant and somehow charmed his/her way into the affections of my (by now slightly inebriated and somewhat jet lagged) father.
I hesitate to use the phrase “ladyboy” here, because “Lola” as we Christened her/him was more of a “birdbloke”.
I say in the sense that I would have most definitely have lost out in an arm wrestle to those hairy forearms (attached as they were via some muscular biceps to a pair of stout shoulders), and even though I have never in my life worn face paint outside of a nativity play, I would likely have trounced Lola by a country mile in a “most subtle use of make-up” contest.
Lola was clearly a confused individual, but not nearly as confused as my Dad was right now as he struggled for consistency, referring to our server firstly as him, then her, then he, then she, before finally settling on the politically incorrect catch-all genius of “It”.
Lola was nonplussed though, and as another Beer Singh slipped down by dads throat, the unlikely pair became rather cosy together, hugging and cwtching for a few photo opportunities.
With sexual orientation still undecided, Lola helped with our orientation, kindly pointing us towards a nearby bar where both my parents then popped their Karaoke cherries inside a private booth furnished with a large vat of beer and a pair of silvery microphones.
We sung badly and, I guess, a bit drunkenly, though my hugely appropriate rendition of the 1970 Kinks classic off the album “Lola versus Powerman and the moneygoround” chronicling an encounter with a transvestite “down in old Soho” went down rather well.
I’m glad my family stepped out of their comfort zone and embraced some of the local flavour, even if my dad embraced it a little too literally.
Bangkok and Baglan may be like chalk and cheese, but when in Rome…