Happy Birthday to Pat!

Regular readers of this blog might notice that not too many entries ago   I wrote about  my birthday.   Now, so soon, it is Pat’s turn.

The amazing place Pat took me for my birthday last year - Roy's Peak. After sleeping in, of course. And eating a fancy breakfast.

That our birthdays fall three days apart has been the source of much tension in the past. I am not shy about admitting that I want a “princess” birthday. You can imagine just how crestfallen I was when, on my first ‘special day’ within the context of our relationship, Pat came home, dropped his stuff on the couch and said, “So, what do you want to do tonight?”

What? Did you really just ask me that? Have I been pining away all day in this new town that I moved to FOR YOU where I have NO CLOSE FRIENDS waiting patiently to find out what wonders you have planned for my special evening and you actually just walked in the door and asked me WHAT I HAVE PLANNED FOR MYSELF?! Oh no you didn’t.

Recollecting the aftermath — Pat fumbling, suggesting options that require reservations, me flying off the handle and hissing sarcastic, cutting responses — is comical now. But at the time, I was LIVID. Couple my expectations with the fact that I am a  planner of the highest order, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Staged shot to capture the walk-in-the-door-to-a-dark-house moment of the surprise party I planned for Pat when he finished his military service.

Planning and anticipating is in my genes. Of course I screw up. But mention to me that you’d like to visit me in SE Asia and in about five seconds I will mentally have you on an elephant ride, a hill-tribe trek, at a floating market, lazing with a tropical drink on a beach, and snorkeling at a marine reserve. All in geographical order, of course, to maximize our time. A few moments later I’ll have concluded when we should take night buses, in which order we should see the sights of a city, and what time we’ll need to be back in town for your flight home. All of this will require about the same amount of effort as most adults would put into studying for a sixth grade spelling test.

I don’t intend to toot my own horn here. I genuinely believe that my luck at being born into a middle-class family, my genes, and my upbringing deserve far more credit for this quick trick than yours truly. I’m simply explaining how effortlessly I can whip up a fun fiesta, complete with an automatically memorized list of back-up alternatives, schedules, and options should we change our minds or get stuck. And since this is so easy, requiring basically only a degree of affection for the person in question, shouldn’t anyone who loves me do this by default  on my birthday?!

Well six years later, the annual answer for Pat, bless him, is a resounding “Yes!” In turn, I unbridled my best planning steed on his behalf.

The gorgeous courtyard at Pat's birthday digs

The plan: Get him out of Bangkok to quieter Kanchanaburi. Stay at the Jolly Frog right on the river. Take him to Erawan Falls, Hellfire Pass, Hellfire Pass Museum, on an elephant ride, to have his first Thai massage, to the War Cemetery, out for a fancy dinner, and then out for drinks and a night on the town. Make sure he has all the curries and fruit shakes he can handle all day long. Stargaze on the banks of the river before turning in for the night.

Given that this plan requires about three hours of driving and fifteen hours of “participating,” obviously it didn’t work out quite like that. We did eventually get most of it done though.

The Thai massage was probably the most interesting part of the day, and our dinner at a floating restaurant was the most romantic.

One of many awkward positions the Thai massuse assumes

Thai massage has not so very much to do with soothing sore muscles, and pretty much everything to do with aligning and balancing energies in the body. As such, it is often cheekily described as “passive yoga.” Having a handful of Thai massages under my belt I can tell you they are a form of mild torture worth experiencing. Let me back up here and say that almost always the massage takes place on the floor of a room filled with wall-to-wall mattresses. It is not a private affair. You do not disrobe. Aside from this, why isn’t it the sedated-bliss-inspiring experience we normally attach to the word “massage?” Because just when the gentle pressure lulls you into a pleasantly relaxed state — WHA-BAM! Suddenly your arm is torqued behind your back, your joints are ruthlessly “popped” or “cracked,” a limb is stretched beyond capacity… the options for unexpected discomfort are numerous. But interesting. And it’s just relaxing enough to keep you coming back for more.

Our birthday dinnertime vista

After Pat’s massage (I opted out — my ankle doesn’t need any sudden bone-jarring pressure), we headed out for a romantic birthday dinner. The floating restaurant on the shores of the wide River Kwai was spectacular. Atmosphere, amazing food, live music, and unexpected entertainment. Before our appetizers even arrived, the entire restaurant next door just up and left. Not all the patrons of entire restaurant, but the restaurant itself. Just untied, hooked up to a tiny little motor boat, and floated away!

We spent the meal admiring the sun setting over the mountains, loving the hues of the sky reflected in the river, making conjectures about the flower garnishes, and having the kind of comfortable, laughter-filled conversations I’ve come to treasure.

Happy Birthday, Honey! ♣

More pictures of awkward Thai massage positions, flower garnishes, and floating restaurants are here.

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