My blog is late in coming because I’ve had internet issues during this trip; also, I’ve been very busy playing the roles of being a martial arts teacher, baby-sitters for adults, tour guide, entertainer, and interpreter. Finally, I got the internet working properly, and some downtime to write the blog.
On the Road Again
I had exhausted most of my vacation time with Acelin in our trip to Mexico and Eastern Canada/USA, and it was time for her to go to her mom. For the remaining holidays, I had arranged for some of my Canadian and overseas martial-arts students to meet in Thailand and China. The Canadian group consisted of David, Rafael, and Albert (who had come from Spain earlier). David is my most senior student by age and rank. He is 72 years old, and had become my student in February of 2013. Rafael was initially my grandstudent. He had started learning from my student, James, when he was going to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario in the latter part of 2013. Albert also started initially as my grandstudent; he had learned it from (another) Rafael in Spain. He started learning from me in the summer of 2017 when I conducted a workshop in Switzerland.
Our long-awaited journey began at the Toronto Pearson Airport. Taiwanese Flight BR35 left at 1:45 a.m. after midnight of July 18. We were all in good spirit; however, in spite of the good food, movies, and service on board, the 15-hour flight to Taipei took a toll on the new travellers, who’ve never flown this long before. We had a 4-hour lag at the Taoyuan airport. To keep them from being lethargic, I got Rafael and Albert to do Chisau–a martial art’s sensitivity-training drill, at the airport lounge. (Click the image below to see our trip start.)
Bangkok – The City of Angles
From Taipei to Bangkok, it was a 4-hour flight. So, not counting the ground travel and airport time before and after the flights, we had traveled 23 hours. My student, Zee, picked us from the airport, and brought us to his home, then split the group in two. David and I stayed in his townhouse, Albert and Rafael stayed in separate apartments in a conveniently-located condominium nearby.
For lunch we ate at an open restaurant near Zee’s house. It was David’s first Thai meal. Albert wasn’t quite ready yet. Rafael eats it all the time in Toronto, and loves it. I made sure that David was served non-spicy food. I ordered Ladna, a sauted flat rice-noodle dish with meat and vegetables; he liked it very much. Rafael and I had Pad Kapao (rice with fried chicken and basil). Albert took a taste of it, and had to drink lots of water to wash the spice off his tongue.
For the evening, I stayed in Zee’s house to connect with Acelin, while Zee took the three to visit a nearby night market and a shopping mall to get a sense of Bangkok’s nightlife. Albert brought back some videos of the walk. (Click the picture below to see images of our first day and night in Bangkok.)
Zee is my student from New Zealand. He’s married to a Thai. They recently moved to Bangkok to help his mother-in-law run an eco-tourism business. The headquarter is in Singburi, a province 2 hours north of Bangkok. He took a few days off work to train and look after us while his wife held the fort.
Our first day of training began at Richy’s house in Central Bangkok. Richy began training under me in Bangkok from 1999 or 2000 until 2012 when I returned to Canada. He had learned all the Wing Chun Gongfu forms except for the Twin-Swords Form. He was a bachelor when I left, but is now married to Mu, and has a 9-month-old girl named Leah. We went to train in his house because he has a Wing-Chun Wooden Man. I was there to teach my group the first (out of eight sections) of the form. I first check to see how well Richy did the form. Except for some details, he did the whole form well. I then taught the rest, and had them take turns trying out each move. Click the image below to see the Wooden Dummy class.
On Sunday, Ben, Dominik and his sister, Xenia arrived from Switzerland. We spent the day sparring at Zee’s townhouse’s gym. Ming, my Bangkokian student joined in. It was great for my students from different countries test their skills against others they’ve never sparred with before. All of them wanted to test their skills against me. In Canada, I’ve got only beginners in my classes, so I don’t get the chance to sharpen my own skills. The only time I get to do that is in the summers when I travel overseas to train my students there. Nonetheless, the skills are never gone, just like bicycling; however, they do get rusty and need to get polished up. Didn’t take long for me to get in the grove again. Click the image below to see some sparring done amongst us.
When I lived in Bangkok, I traveled extensively around the region. One of the places I had gone to was Nongkai, which bordered with Laos. Selene and I had stayed a few of times at a guesthouse ran by an Englishman and his Thai wife. The last time I was there was when Selene was seven. The couple had a son named Benny who was nine years old. The two kids got along and played on the swings, played chess, and played with insects in the garden. The two kids stayed in touch with each other through the various social medias, even after Selene left Thailand. Benny made an effort to come meet me. He is now 23 years old, studying International Hotel Management at a university. He was very helpful since he read, wrote and spoke Thai fluently; plus he was more familiar with Bangkok than I am now. He hung out with us for the next two days.
Since this trip was mainly the gathering of my students worldwide, I didn’t have time to see all my friends in Bangkok. I contacted a couple of co-workers from days I had worked for the US Embassy. In the ten years I worked there, four of us went to lunch together everyday without fail. They were friends who helped me out in times of need because of my lack of knowledge of the country and language in the beginning. Unfortunately, two of my friends were not able to show up for our meeting. One was Junior; he was given that nickname by the GIs during the Vietnam days because of his small stature. He is still called that in spite of being 72 years old. He couldn’t come because his blood pressure was up that day, and he wasn’t feeling well. The other person was PV, (also a nickname); he was on kidney dialysis treatment. Both of these gentlemen developed their ailments after retirement. I spoke to them on the phone to tell them how much I missed them and appreciate all the help they had given me in the past. The two friends who showed up was Sakol and Suradet; both of them were on medications; Sakol for blood pressure and diabetes, and Suradet for heart issues. Suradet had two stent implants and one by-pass operation. They were surprised to learn that I wasn’t on any medications.
I arranged for my group (minus David, who wanted to catch up on some sleep) to meet them at one of the chain restaurants that I had ran in the first three years of stay in Bangkok. I had hoped to meet the owner who was my friend and partner in the supper club we had co-owned in Vancouver in the 80s, but he wasn’t in town.
At the restaurant, we ate Sukiyaki, a version of the Chinese hotpot. The meal consists of a boiling broth where meat and vegetables are dipped into it to cook and eat individually. In our case, we had two hotpots; one for meat eaters and one for vegetarians. We had an enjoyable time talking, laughing, and reminiscing the past. Click the picture below to see a few more of our evening with friends.
After dinner, my friends went home to their wives, and I took my gang to have a peek at Bangkok’s nightlife just two blocks from the restaurant. We were in the thick of the downtown bars and red-light district. The infamous streets Patpong 1 and Patpont 2 had blaring music blasting from the Go-Go bars that had bright and colorful lights. The doors were wide open for passersby to see the multitudes of young, shapely, and beautiful girls dancing on stages. Vendors were set up in the middle of the streets selling fake designer watches and clothes, electronics, and house furnishings; others solicited the tourists on going into the bars and sex-show venues. It was such a candy eye for my students that some insisted on going into one of them. Of course, I was jaded from living in Bangkok for 18 years, so the scene didn’t faze me at all. Since I’m responsible for the gang, albeit they’re adults, I didn’t want to take them to the sex show. Sometimes, trouble brew in these joints; so, I took them into one of the Go-Go bars instead. There, you can have drinks and watch the girls dance, or buy drinks for one of them who will sit with you for awhile, or negotiate further activities. The drinks cost between CAD$5 to $10. We had planned to just have one drink and get out; however, the gang enjoyed the scene so much that they kept reordering the drinks. Two of them decided to have girls sit with them. The girls knew how to entertain them. They acted like affectionate girlfriends. I was getting tired, so asked who’d like to go home with me. Only Ben volunteered. I asked Benny to stay with the rest to help them get back to their premises; however, the gang preferred to be left alone. They were confident that their GPS would take them home.
Around the World in 80 Days
Ben, Benny, and I left at 11 p.m to catch the skytrain. Bangkok’s traffic is horrendous … even on a Sunday night. One thing we found out later from Benny is that he has very poor sense of direction. He took us in the wrong direction on the skytrain. I wasn’t paying attention because I had trusted him; it wasn’t until I noticed that one of the stops we had passed was where I used to live in the early days in Bangkok, and it was the opposite direction of where we were suppose to go. By the time I told him that, we ended up looping around and getting back to where we started at midnight; by then, the skytrain lines stopped working. So, we had to take a taxi. After dropping Benny off at his condo, Ben pulled out his phone and directed the driver to follow the GPS; however, something went wrong, and we ended up at a wrong location. We had to contact Zee at 1:30 a.m. to send us his GPS location. By the time we got to his place, it was 2 a.m. Dominik and Xenia had already arrived at the outside of their condo waiting for Ben because he had the keys for it. These are the adventures of travels.
On July 23, After four days of training and four nights of partying, we boarded AirAsia Flight FD3017 bound for the island of Phuket in southern Thailand. More adventures to come …