Monday, 31 December 2012

Thailand – The first Thai New Year

December 30-January 2

Another year of globetrotting is coming to an end, which means it is time for the world’s biggest party – New Year’s Eve. After the cold celebrations in Almaty last year, I opted for the warmth and wonder of Thailand, and an unforgettable night in Bangkok.

I had told many people that I was going to see the final seconds of 2012 in Kuala Lumpur. This was not true. The reason for this white lie was to maintain an element of surprise. You see, it has been a long time since I sprung a surprise on an unsuspecting familiar face. Surprises have been few and far between in 2012, in part due to expending so much energy on making sure my parents had no idea that their peaceful trip to Thailand was about to be hijacked by a Welsh-Kazakh hurricane.

My sister, being the sneaky so-and-so that she has become partly due to the influence of her two older brothers, was in on the plan for a while. Our powers of persuasion were even enough to overcome the fact that I was tagged in a Facebook photo which clearly stated ‘Thailand 2012’ whilst I was in Myanmar, and unable to delete it before my Dad had logged on and seen it.

Consequently, I arrived in a sweltering Bangkok thinking that the game was up. On the bright side, I also touched down knowing I had a place to stay. The sofa in my sister’s room in the Shangri-La. 5 stars and then some. The comfiest bed I had for my entire trip. We were on one of the highest floors, which offered tremendous views of the river.

My parents have stayed in this place a couple of times, and my familiarity with the events in the Shangri-La Bangkok, due to a previous stay in 2007, allowed me to plot my big surprise. Between 5.30pm and 7.30pm the top floor of the hotel offers certain guests drinks and nibbles, which is rarely, if ever, missed by my folks. It was thus on this first evening that I sauntered up behind my Dad – who, clearly still oblivious, didn’t seriously query why my sister had a beer, which she despises, in front of her – and whispered in his ear.

Though irritated that he had been duped, Daddy Cool seemed happy enough to see me. His ire was saved for my poor sister, who didn’t get the sufficient credit she deserved. He enacted a measure of revenge by quite forcibly suggesting I hide under the table for my mother’s arrival. She was shocked to say the least. Mission accomplished!

With the main shock out of the way, my parents then became concerned about their NYE plan. Their tradition for a Thai New Year is to go to a lavish restaurant in the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The angst was due to the fact that the place would undoubtedly now be fully booked. Alas, I had rectified the problem on my initial, pre-Myanmar visit to Bangkok, so the status quo was maintained.

The setting is rather formal, meaning that the filthy threads I had been sporting in Myanmar were not fit for the occasion. New Year’s Eve was thus spent doing something that would not have been a priority for me – shopping. I opted to make it more entertaining (or annoying, if it’s from my Dad’s perspective) by spending time relaxing in a very thorough massage chair.

Soon it was time for the grand night ahead. Midnight was a while away when we entered the restaurant, but the thought of seven courses suggested that time would not pass particularly slowly.

The food was simply divine – I have never eaten beef so tender and flavoursome as the chunk of juicy meat that constituted just one of the courses. As for the dessert below, it takes the expression ‘Death by Chocolate’ to a new, stratospheric level…

Bangkok’s main attraction when the clock strikes twelve are an assortment of extravagant fireworks fired from boats along the river. Each hotel sends out its own vessel in an attempt to out-illuminate her rivals. The competitiveness leads to a spectacular display.

A fun-filled night ended at approximately 3am, when our hotel inexplicably decided to close their bar. Well, that is how I felt at the time. The following day, of which I spend much of hiding in bed nursing a horrific hangover, led me to think that they had done me a favour.

I thus spent my final day of warmth for six weeks cooped up inside. In spite of this, Bangkok was a fantastic place to bring in the New Year, and it was wonderful to surprise my parents and bring in 2013 with the people I love.

Happy New Year!


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