When I told Mum and Dad that I had got the job in Bangkok, their faces contorted through several expression - Yes we are finally getting rid of her - will she survive on the other side of the planet and finally HOLIDAY!! Since about September Dad has been trying to sort out a time to come and visit. We were having a bit of a clash on dates I was away, they were busy, we settled on February half term.It turned into one of the busiest weeks I have had in years, in 8 days we went to Singapore, Hua Hin, Kanchanaburi (River Kwai) and fitted in 3 days in Bangkok to some sight seeing and cooking school.
Took Mum and Dad to Singapore for 2 days, couldn't believe our luck we were there during the rainy season!Never seen a drop of rain in Singapore on all my visits and it threw it down.We headed out to the zoo in the sunshine and ended up buying umbrellas, only two because Dad was too British to need an umbrella in the rain.He succumbed and Mum has to share with him (see the photos).Despite the rain we really did have a good time, except when I promised the indoor hot house and had never thought that being about 70 miles from the equator they didn't actually need a hot house.As we walked in I realised it was still raining and that the roof is a net, duh!We stayed at the Swissotel, next to Raffles with a fab view across the city and the harbour front, best of all it had a spa and we all enjoyed several hours hot tubbing and saunering (use that for 10years and it might make it into the dictionary). I think Mum and Dad liked Singapore, they spent an afternoon making the most of their travel cards whilst I did a bit of shopping.
The Hua Hin trip had come around in a very bizarre fashion.Several years ago Dad had found out that my Great Aunt Mary had been in contact with a guy called Frank Robinson, helping him with the Robinson family tree. Frank is my Grandad's cousin, who my Dad had never met.When Aunt Mary died Dad took up the correspondence, to cut a long story short a couple of years ago Frank moved to Thailand.So when Mum and Dad came over we went to met him, he was definitely a Robinson - they have a distinctive nose, I like to think mine is from another branch of the family.We had a lovely day; both Dad and Frank had photos of the family and stories to swap.Grandad was a bit older than Frank and Frank remembers meeting him when Grandad was about 14 (I think that's what he said).Grandad had had an accident on his bicycle - doesn't surprise me, but it was weird meeting someone who knew my Grandad when he was young. He also remembered bits about various Uncles and Aunts and Dad was able to fill in a few gaps for him.Having spent some time with my Nan looking at her family is was good to build a better picture of the Robinsons.
Mum teaches history and Dad has taken us to enough parts of Brittany and Normandy to know that they both have a passing interest on WWII, so I arranged a trip to Kanchanaburi where the bridge was built over the River Kwai as part of the Japanese Burma railway.I found a cycling tour, which was brilliant. Lesley joined us for the trip and we had a really good day cycling round various places.We went to a Buddhist temple in a set of caves, which was at the top of a very steep and long hill. Cycled along parts of the railway itself and walked our bikes over the reconstructed bridge on the River Kwai.We were taken out to what I think is the only part of the Death Valley railway still in use.It was eerie, the POWs built this section around a cliff face.A few weeks later I swam in that section of the river during an adventure race.We spent some time in a very thought provoking museum, it was entirely based on evidence from the founders research.The photos of the POWs when they were handed back was just gob smacking, they looked like the people you see on the news, dying of starvation across Africa.They were scarily thin, all their bones were visible and these guys were still made to work long hour's everyday doing, literally, back breaking work.It really makes you appreciate the sacrifices that our armed forces have made for us throughout history and to the present day.I had actually met a lady at the British Embassy on Remembrance Sunday whose Dad had died building the railway here in Thailand.She had been 5 when the family were due to be posted to Singapore, but because she had chicken pox she had to stay behind with her Mother.That was the last time she saw her Father, he headed out to Singapore and was captured by the Japanese and put to work on the railway.She came out here 10 years ago to see the area for the first time.She had done loads of research and managed to track down guys that were out there with her Father, including the doctor who treated him as he died.Seeing the pictures in the museum brought her story back to me, these were all real people.They believe around 16,000 Allied POWs died working on the railway, on top of that it is estimated that 90,000 Asians worker, forced by the Japanese to work also lost their lives.Trips to places like Kanchanaburi, Hiroshima, Auschwitz and Yad Vashem (Jerusalem) make me realise how luck I am and at the same time astound me at how cruel man can be to their fellow man. I am not out to change the world (although it would be nice) but hopefully it something I can actually do something about in my classroom.I settle for teaching a bit of tolerance.
As you can see Mum and Dad had a very mixed week, they topped it off with a morning at the Blue Elephant cooking school, where they cooked up an absolute storm, whilst I went for a good old fry up at Lesley's.I think by the big grins and 100's of photos they enjoyed it, watch out if you go for dinner!
The best bit about the whole week, apart from having my parents here, was the freedom we had with food.Mum is a celiac and normally eating out involves studying the menu and making sure there is something she can eat, and then sometimes she only has a choice of two or three things.In Thailand because most things are made from rice or rice flour we ate everywhere, little stalls in the market, random restaurants and even in the famed Cabbages and Condoms, which I think rates in my Dad's favourite restaurants in the world.Seriously he loved it and didn't stop grinning all the way through the meal, not sure if that was the food or that he had spotted another lampshade or display that was made out of condoms!It was only on the way out that they spotted the flowers on the trees were also condoms.
It was weird seeing them off at the airport because I knew I wouldn't see them again for 6 months, but we had a good week and seriously couldn't have squeezed anything else in. We were up and out by at least 7.30 everyday and most days didn't back in until after 8pm.It won't really be 6 months, because of the joys of skype in reality I will see them again next weekend when we talk.It will be nice now they know where things are when I talk about my everday life.