The thing I like the most about traveling in Southeast Asia is the connection to my father, his past, my present and the way in some ways I am putting down a marker that my son and daughter can follow some day should they choose. Of course, I wish some of the places that my father actually saw and enjoyed were still here – but in some ways now, to me, that doesn’t matter much anymore. (And it’s also why Burma is so special.)
Nick’s N0 1 Hungarian Inn, so named because it is at Number 1 Sathorn Road in Bangkok, well, that explains the No 1 part, I have no idea what a Hungarian Inn is to be honest – was one of my father’s favorite places to eat in Bangkok. He, as the ad suggests, would have been drawn to the best of steaks and the ‘dryest of martinis.’
In 1962, he went there for dinner and then returned to the Hotel Rama on Silom Road. My father always traveled with his typewriter, Hemingway-esque if you will – the typewriter a valued companion in a leather travel case.
He wrote my mother this after that night at dinner:
The Hotel Rama is a Holiday Inn now. Nick’s is well, as you can see below, it’s a bit different now – this is the spot in the ad it says where it used to be.
When I started my journey that turned into the book, Bangkok was my first place and things like Nick’s No 1 being gone, or the Hotel Rama which I could almost feel the slow wooden fans barely moving the air over my father as he sipped his drink in the bar, the destruction of those places bothered me so – it was as if they had ripped a bit of my father from me – and at the time, it seemed as if they were pulling the reason for my trip away from me.
But, of course, that wasn’t what happened in the end – and so now today in Bangkok, on the way to try and see about getting the book in the stores here, I stopped by One Sathorn road. And this time, unlike the last, I smiled. It’s 8,517 miles from Boston to here – and fifty four plus years later but still standing on that street, if I close my eyes, I can see my father leaving the restaurant and saying good bye to the hostess. I see him heading back to the hotel and pulling out his typewriter and writing my mother – and just that feeling is enough now.