My European adventure continues...
—and it gets really exciting. For those who have been following my weekly diary post, you will remember that I spent the previous weekend visiting my son in London. On Monday I was due to travel back to Paris—the reason I was in Europe in the first place—to attend the L'Art et L'Ame de Thailand event. I had taken the Eurostar from Paris to London and was doing the same for the return. However things didn't go quite as smoothly on the way back.
At St Pancras, the London terminal for the Eurostar, I found it packed with people and had difficulty finding a seat to wait for the boarding announcement. So when I did find one, I was loathe to give it up even when I had to go to the restroom. Sitting next to me were two Asian ladies and I asked if they could watch my luggage while I went to relieve myself. They said yes, and I took off. Just as I was finishing I heard the boarding announcement and rushed back to the seats. You can't imagine the shock when I found no luggage and no Asian ladies.
I looked for a security officer and told her what happened. She told me to go and check with the security desk outside the immigration area and scolded me for leaving my bags with strangers. I was scolded again by the immigration agents for trying to go back through a secure area. And my bags weren't there. So I went back in and was about to reconcile myself to the fact that I would not have a gown for the gala when an Asian lady came up to me. Yes, it was one of the two I had left my bag with. It seems in the rush to get back I had come down the wrong row of seats, all of which looked alike! I was so relieved I forgot to get mad at my stupidity.
At Paris I was to be picked up by a Foreign Affairs officer who had accompanied the others in the group from Bangkok for the event. So on the train, which had a good wifi connection on the way to London, I tried to send him a message to reconfirm my arrival time except on this trip there was no wifi, as this train was changing its service provider. So I arrived at Gare du Nord with no way of contacting my pickup as I couldn't get wifi at the station either (I'm too much of a cheapskate to use roaming when I travel). For the second time that day fortune was on my side. In a train station with loads of people coming and going I managed to find this one person waiting to pick me up. Amazing!
When I caught up with the rest of the group, on a tour of Notre Dame cathedral, one of us got pickpocketed and I decided not to tempt fate. In spite of being in incidents where things could go wrong and warnings from friends about the dangers in Paris from do-badders and con artists, I had escaped unscathed and I wasn't about to change that. No more sightseeing for me. I went straight back to the hotel and did some work before getting ready for the event.
L'Art et L'Ame de Thailand
L'Art et L'Ame de Thailand was presented as a showcase of the best of the country from handicrafts and products to food and culture through the eyes of a new generation. Initiated by HRH Princess Srivannavari Nariratana, it was Thai ambassador to France HE Sihasak Puangketkaew who worked on it and brought in not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also the Ministries of Commerce and Tourism and Sport.
The private sector pitched in with floral artist Sakul Intakul doing his magic with spectacular displays in the ballroom of the InterContinental Paris and on the tables. The seven-course Thai menu was created by chef Vichit Makura of Khao restaurant while the show of Thai culture was provided by King Power. With the arrival of the Princess guests from the creative community of Paris entered to view Thai products at an exhibition area which was followed by HRH's Sirivannavari fashion designs in the next room, before entering the ballroom for dinner. The Princess moved gracefully among the tables so as to meet all the guests and it was early morning by the time the last of them left.
We flew back the next day and with three ministers, directors-general and other VIPs on the Thai International flight, one would think the service would be top notch. But perhaps precisely because the cabin crew were all concentrating on the first class passengers, the rest of us had to wait our turn, especially as far as the food was concerned. It took more than three hours to finish the meal service leaving us with not many hours left to sleep.
We arrived back in Bangkok in the morning and after dropping my bags off at home I went straight to the office—and stayed for the whole day. There were several events that evening but even I had to draw a line somewhere. I decided I should go home instead of embarrassing a host by falling asleep at her party.
But the next day I did attend a performance of Carmen by the Teatro di San Carlo Opera, part of Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music at the Thailand Cultural Centre. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the show featured top opera singers Saimir Pirgu, Veronica Simeoni and Vito Priante with the orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta. Now if the Thailand Cultural Centre could provide spectators with seamless parking and quick exit at the end, this would truly be a world-class act.
(Previously: Naphalai's Diary: September 3-9)