I HAVE just returned from a three-night-four-day stay in Bangkok, Thailand, leaving last Tuesday morning and coming back here Friday evening already.
For me it was pure R & R time, but in the same city for our sepak takraw team, it was gold time.
Since I brought my wife, my youngest daughter and my apo in this trip, do not think I have money, my wife worked for a long time with PAL and earned a lifetime travel benefit for me and herself, discounted rates for our kids. That is the reason why we were able to afford the vacation, but it was not really a rest and recreation time for me but rather Return & Re-market time.
You see we opted to stay at the First House Hotel right in the midst of the Pratunam shopping district where once you get out of the hotel lobby, shopping can begin already all the way to night time, and it was good that my other kids, both working already, gave their mother and bunso some spending money of their own.
And believe me, Pratunam easily beats Divisoria, size alone and in number of visitors, both locals and a lot of foreigners, including many Filipinos looking for a bargain.
And it turned out that bringing Livi had its advantage, Thais are very fond of babies and with her smile, our 10-month-old grandchild can charm the local sellers, and she did.
For the first two days, as long as the little money we had could stretch, we shopped for our Christmas gifts for friends and relatives, and they are a lot, especially on my wife’s side.
On the third day, we decided that would be the time to be real tourists for once, opting to visit Thailand’s famous floating market in Damnouen Saduak in Ratchaburi Province, around 100 kilometers southwest of the capital, past the new and impressive Suvarnahumi International Airport, the country's second one after Don Muang.
We paid the taxi 1200 baht for the trip and another 1000 baht per head for the boat that would take us to the floating market, after all, what is the use of paying the cab and not paying the boat fee?
It was a motorized boat that passed waterways only big enough to accommodate two boats coming from opposite directions, and since even from early times, communities were built on river sides, it was not surprising to see a lot of houses on the way to the main market.
Of course, along the way, there were already stalls on both sides of the waterways, and we even had a stop over at a big shopping area featuring coconut sugar and other native products, but it became more interesting when we reached the main market where local sellers peddled their wares both from small boats and on the floatting market itself, fruits, vegetables, food and native handicraft items and colorful souvenir items were available.
On the way back, we stopped at a Buddhist temple where there was a footprint of the Buddha inside the beautiful temple where we also saw monks, in fact, we were blessed by an old monk while we were there.
It was only me and Jemi who took a tuk-tuk ride to another Buddhist temple a few kilometers away from our hotel. We could not go to the Grand Palace as Thailand’s well-loved King Bhumibol was lying in state, for a few months from what I read in a newspaper.
A lot of the local people were wearing black to show their love for their departed king.
Time sure flew past as the following day, we had to go back to the airport for our Friday flight back to Manila.
Ironically, it was in Manila already when I learned that our men's doubles team, composed of Jason Huerte, Rheyjey Ortouste, and Mark Gonzales won the gold medal at the 31st King's Cup Sepak Takraw World Championship.
I knew of the event before I left for Bangkok as I was in touch with our sepak takraw NSA president Karen Caballero who told me before that she felt we had a good chance for a medal finish in the event, her boys having trained for a month in Thailand prior to the competition.
In 2015, we won a silver in the hoop event and a bronze in the men's doubles.
But this time, our athletes were more prepared and fired up, and one factor I believe is the way Karen handles her athletes, providing hands-on leadership and physical presence to cheer them on, and in the elimination round, the team disposed of Singapore, Australia, Chinese-Taipei, and Indonesia en route to the semi-finals.
That was the test as the team met a local team, we lost in the first set but took the next two sets, 15-21, 22-20, 21-19 was the final score,supposedly, it was the first time ever that a Thai team lost in the semifinals in that division.
Then it was on to the finals against another powerhouse team from Myanmar, but there was no stopping Karen’s boys as they duplicated their feat, beating the favored Myanmar team, 12 - 21, 21-19, 21-17, earning well-deserved praise from their opponents and event officials.
Karen shared through FB that she spent a lot of money buying ice cream for her boys as they were betting on the results but the athletes kept on winning and Karen had to keep on paying, happily at that.
It was a double celebration for Karen as she herself won as vice president of the Asian Sepak Takraw Federation, a tribute to her leadership that some old foghats here were questioning saying she was too young to vie for the position, and this is what ails Philippine sports.
I am glad that POC president Peping Cojuangco will have an opponent this time with football's Nonong Araneta giving way to boxing's Ricky Vargas, who in turn may give way to Manny Pangilinan as head honcho of ABAP.
But even then, odds will still favor the crafty Peping, the consummate politician in sports as I describe him.
For MVP, I believe he will only be convinced to run if he is 100% guaranteed that he will win and at this point in time, I do not belive any one or any group can give that guarantee. Now how I wish that on his own, Peping gives way to younger people to be at the helm of Philippine sports, but sorry, I will not bet on that.