After the church camp my wife and I, her brothers -Simeon and Kenneth, and Kenneth’s wife Maggie. extended our stay in Bangkok by eight days. We stayed with Jack and Baby Lee in Bangna, about fifteen minutes’ drive from the airport. We did lots:
We went to the Amphawa Floating Market and took a boat ride.
We went to Khao Yai National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice the size of Singapore, where we visited Palio Khao Yai, a Tuscan themed shopping village, the little Italy of Thailand.
We visited the UNESCO World Heritage site called Ayuthaya, the ruins of the capital of an ancient kingdom called Sukhothai.
We went to a local beach area south west of Bangkok on the way towards Pattaya. It is called Bansaen beach and is frequented by locals.
We went to a few large shopping malls around Bangna.
I had time for lunch fellowship with Leslie, the camp preacher, as he resides in Bangkok.
Whatever is charming
I reflected on the activities and it dawned on me that I enjoyed most those times when there were interesting, beautiful or unique things to see and take pictures of. That was why I enjoyed being in Palio Khao Yai, that Italian themed village in Khao Yai National Park. It was like a part of Italy landed north east of Bangkok. There were many pretty and charming spots.
Whatever is unusual
Another place was the floating market with its vibrant colour, the crowds of people, the intense humidity, and continuous rows of stalls selling food, clothes, fruits, snacks, footwear, amulets, containers, toys, beverages, stationery, bags and cutlery -anything you would need to wear, eat and drink, or use at home. There were lots of interesting scenes to video as well as take pictures of. I liked it. I love taking pics with my mobile.
Whatever is interesting
A surprise unplanned visit to the ruins of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Sukhothai kingdom was a thumbs up for me. I could not stop taking videos and pictures and found the red and orange and brown and black of the ruins absolutely stunning . Why did this ancient city become ruins? What happened? My curiosity was piqued and I did some research afterward: Looks like a Myanmese kingdom invaded and destroyed the city.
Whatever is beautiful
And the apartment that we were staying in had all kinds of interesting household and decorative items that fascinated me. I took many photos of them. They were beautiful; they were unusual, exotic, and most were made locally and bought from local markets or given by Baby’s friends. I enjoyed photographing those items.
Capture them in pictures or buy them!
In fact, of late I noticed I have been attracted to beautiful objects like crystal cross (which I bought at half price for church use), a charming wooden botonee cross which I bought from a thrift shop for $8, and a ceramic set which could be used for Holy Communion for $15. The idea of buying beautiful items, useful or purely decorative, at a bargain price is growing on me. This is a new facet of myself I never knew. I feel like this could be another hobby! Should I be worried it grows into an obsession? Yes! Therefore, I must not get carried away. Moderation. Moderation.
Edwin and Lydia enthusiastically offered to orientate my daughter Elaine to life in Washington DC. They were the most qualified to do so being Singaporeans who have lived and worked there for more than a decade. Lydia has written a useful book about living in America. So my wife and I were relieved to know that Elaine would be in good, wise hands. She stayed with them before we arrived to stay with her in their house (another act of hospitality from the Tans). While we were there, the Tans were in Singapore. They even allowed us to use their cars -which we did!
We went for this free walking tour that gave us interesting information about the monuments. The wonderful thing is that the major monuments are within walking distance of each other. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much from this tour about the history, culture and values of America. Fighting for freedom is a top, top value for USA. Quite a few memorials are to the war dead: the second world war, the Vietnam war, the civil war. This country has shed a lot of its children’s blood for freedom in their land and elsewhere. I cannot help but feel beholden to them, even if they did it with “enlightened” national interest. If not for their contribution to the war in the Pacific, Singapore may still be under the Japanese, and I would be speaking Japanese, and eating Japanese food (which may not be too bad), or be second class cheap labour for Japan industry. I had lost two uncles who disappeared during Japanese army occupation of Singapore in the late 1930s, and these are memories that still embitter our older generation against the Japanese military occupation. I am rambling.
Elaine brought us out for some Ethiopian food. Washington attracts people from all nations so it is no surprise you can get authentic Ethiopian food. We enjoyed it because of its similarity with Indian food. I would definitely go for it again and again if I do visit Washington again.
THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS
Its amazing that these museums do not require any entrance fees. They are wonderful large museums with interesting and sometimes spectacular exhibits. A few require payment of an entrance fee. We went to a few of the free ones over a period of two days. They are all within a grid of several square kilometres. We drove to the park and ride, and took the metro to the station nearest to the museum we wanted to go. Very convenient and accessible.
VISITING THE WORLD BANK
A friend of Elaine was able to get visitor passes for us so we could have a look at what it would be like for Elaine. Since it was on the way to the museums and her friend was willing to show us around, why not. It looks like a United Nations – employees from different countries working together, security conscious, and bound together by the one common English language. I also discovered they had several buildings all within walking distance of each other.
WORSHIPPING IN AN ASIAN CHURCH
The church my hosts attended was founded by Asians – Taiwanese and Hong Kong immigrants. So the English service I attended on that wet Sunday was full of people of Chinese descent, both young, the middle aged, and the old. The worship used familiar songs and choruses and the odd hymn, and the sermon was treading carefully around the spiritual gift of tongues. There were quite a few Malaysians and Singaporeans there too. So after the service we went to a huge reception/fellowship hall where we were hosted by the greeters. A pastor of many decades sat beside me and we had a long conversation about work, theology and life experiences. He told me that nowadays the church receives more and more Mainland Chinese converts! This gives the church fresh blood.
After the service, a Singaporean, Florence, one of the church members, brought us to a mammoth warehouse discount store. We were wowed by this megastore and the prices were also very good but you had to buy bulk. This was fun. This was my quick introduction to the consumer culture of America.
Later we went to Florence’s home and were amazed at the lovely paintings in her newly purchased townhouse home. She is a florist but painting was her hobby and she found it therapeutic. We had a dinner of salad and baked chicken before we headed for home.
Elaine was hunting for an apartment and over several days we went house viewing with her. We saw about seven apartments with her. It was reassuring to see that the surrounding streets looked safe and good. I realised there is a strong rental market (US $1,500 to $2,500 for a studio or one bedroom apartment) in and around DC. Most residents seeking work in DC would begin with renting an apartment or house. After they know that their jobs are stable, and get to know the city better, they may then go on to purchase a house or apartment. Since transience is part of the working scene in DC, rental still trumps buying a property.
MEALS WITH OUR DAUGHTER
We were together for all the meals when we were there and that was a luxury we did not have when she was living in Singapore, what with her work, ministry commitments and her friends. So the time together was precious. All the more sweeter for we knew we would be missing her for some years. This was easily the highlight of the trip.
We did a lot of walking. We had no choice. We enjoyed walking anyway. We are hikers. Therefore with proper footwear, walking is a piece of cake for us. We walked the most during our visits to the museums. We also walked a great deal while hunting for apartments and looking at the surrounding neighbourhood.
Shopping can be inexpensive in America. There are many good food stuff, household stuff and clothing and shoes that we could buy at good prices. Branded goods at the premium outlets carry shocking price tags. If I were into brands, this is Paradise. However, I bought sparingly because I am not into branded stuff. If I already have so many watches why should I get a Fossil watch just because it was cheap. If I do not need it, why buy it? Things in America: houses, cars, clothes, supermarket food and household products are inexpensive when compared with Singapore. What hits you between the eyes is the health insurance!!!
We were in Boston and had gone on a Freedom Trail walking tour. Boston has a rich and significant history. Momentous events took place there and some of the buildings and graves testify to the fundamental way America has been shaped by those events. I loved the tour and would recommend it to anyone.
We then wanted to have fantastic hot chocolate at a popular café near the park where the Freedom trail ended. On the way to the café, I spotted a statue in front of a huge church building. I went nearer to look and saw an interesting thing.
Rt Rev Phillips Brooks
It was a sculpture put up in memory of Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks, the famous preacher whose lectures on preaching I had read when I was in seminary. Phillip Brooks gave the “Lyman Beecher Lectureship on Preaching” at the Divinity School of Yale College. The lectures now seem outdated but he had said some great, classic things about preaching. One of his often quoted sayings was his definition of preaching: “Preaching is the bringing of truth through personality.”
After tea, we went to take pictures in front of the sculpture. The sculpture was of Phillip Brooks preaching with his hands stretched out to make a point. There is a strange hooded figure behind him, with his hand on Phillip’s shoulder. Clearly the sculptor meant to indicate how Jesus anointed the preaching of Brooks, and how his effectiveness as a preacher depended on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then we went inside the church to have a look. However, we needed to pay to go in and walk among the pews, the volunteers from church had told us. So I said, Forget it. Ping, my daughter in law, told the volunteers that I was a pastor and had read his lectures in seminary when I was young, and would love to be able to go in. That must have moved them to allow us to go in for free. Thus, we sat there inside the church, among the pews, and in silence I prayed for a fresh anointing and that I would give my whole heart to preaching.
That night I searched for a free download of Brook’s lectures on preaching and downloaded it. The next few days, I would open those pages and read them on my smartphone. I have gone back now to these lectures, but on my iPad so that I could highlight striking sentences and thoughts. God willing I will post these sayings of Brooks once I have finished reading the lectures.