x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Home for the holidays

It was a bright June morning, and I was crying on the cab ride from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Imperial Queen's Park hotel.

It was a bright June morning, and I was crying on the cab ride from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Imperial Queen's Park hotel. "Mom's at it again," said Calvin anxiously. "Oh, enough already," snapped my husband, but I couldn't stop the tears. The smell of steamed rice that for some reason pervades the interior of every taxi, the fragrance of the fresh jasmine hanging from the rear-view mirror - everything was a painful reminder of the fact that I miss living in this beautiful city, even though I last called it home more than four years ago.

"Don't cry, mom!" said Calvin. "We can go visit the church where you and dad were married. And the hospital where I was born. That will make you smile!" For Calvin, who was about four years old when we left, our annual trip to Bangkok triggers half-forgotten memories of friends, food and fun: "I want to play with Paam. Do you think he remembers me?" "I want to eat satay." "I want to go on a boat in Suan Luang Park and feed the fish."

As for my husband, he claims he misses Bangkok only for the food, which he can never get enough of, and Chatuchak Market, where he spends hours hunting for rare keepsakes. This time, after a bout of skilful bargaining, he acquired a dozen vintage photographs of the city. "You know, I think we spend way too much time in this city," he said on the second-last day, carefully stowing away his priceless pictures while I gazed out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of our 36th-floor room. "It's totally pointless. We need to find new, exciting destinations."

That evening, we had dinner with old friends at Sip Sam Lien, a seafood restaurant in Bangna that is one of my husband's favourite haunts. Over yam thalay (mixed seafood salad), fiery tom yum kung (prawn soup) and pla nung manao (steamed fish with lemon), we listened to the live band belting out Thai songs and caught up with Khun Boy and his wife, Jum, while Calvin went off with their two girls, Boss, 11, and Bess, six, to check out the huge tanks full of crab and catfish.

"I told Bess I'm going to marry her when we're all grown up," said Calvin on the last day of our stay. "Good for you," said my husband. "What happened next?" "She smiled and nodded," said Calvin. Then, after a minute: "She didn't understand a word of what I said, did she?" The ride back to the airport that night was uneventful - except for me, blubbering away in the back seat. After a while, my husband turned round and, instead of telling me to shut up, said: "What about returning in December?"

"Hurrah!" shouted Calvin, dropping his packet of satay. "That's ridiculous!" I spluttered. "We've only just visited. Besides, we can't spend Christmas here." "Why not?" asked my husband indignantly. "To me, Bangkok will always be home. It's a shame you don't feel the same." ciyer@thenational.ae