We arrived with Austrian Airlines via Vienna, booked via Ebookers, and wondered whether we should take the bus, where to get a taxi, tired, but finally we did take a taxi from a booth where they had written down our destination on a piece of paper. The driver read the piece of paper, nodded, and started to drive. I waited, but he didn’t switch on his meter. I waited some more, and then pointed it out to the driver. He said that the guys sending us in had agreed to 500฿. But that wasn’t true. The lady had said something of around 400฿. So I insisted on the meter again. Then he showed me a semi-official piece of paper where it said either 50 or 50.00 or something. But I again insisted on the meter. So he switched it on, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. I paid the two toll fares when necessary and towards the end the driver even offered us two mint candies. Having read about tourists being drugged and robbed, and having seen him trying to cheat us, we happily accepted the candies, openened them, and hid them in our backpack.
The hotel upgraded our room and we loved them for it. In fact, we enjoyed all of our nine nights at the Novotel Siam Square, which we had booked via Asia Rooms after spending hours comparing rates and locations and websites.
I liked the live music – a girl playing some sort of instrument all night long.
We did in fact return to this restaurant towards the end of our stay…
Breakfast was good. I settled for a routine of waffles with mapple syrup and some Miso soup. Claudia settled for hash browns and white beans in a sweet red sauce. Yuck!! That’s what hotel buffets do to you. Mind tricks!
On our way along Soi 7 to Mah Boon Krong Center we met a Thai who said he was teaching law at Chulalongkorn University. Note the little “English” link in the title bar when following the link and clicking through the intro. Or check out the Chulalongkorn University history page. In the end he recommended we take a Tuk Tuk to the domestic Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and then we should buy a suit in some mall or outlet he knew was having a sale, and I think it was connected to his sister who importing textiles from Thailand to the USA, having a shop in Manhattan, and she was living in our hotel and he had just visited her, and so on. We declined the suit stuff but let him tell a Tuk Tuk driver about the TAT. There we booked a tour to Ayutthaya for 2000฿ for the next day.
After verifying that I still liked MBK Center and showing the food court to Claudia, we asked the two friendly persons at the information booth for the bus to Chinatown.
Yes, I love travelling by public transport. And I enjoy bus rides in Bangkok. So we took bus 73 from Siam Square to Chinatown. We asked our seat neighbour where to get off and ended up somewhere in the middle of Yaowarat road. Perfect!
After exploring the alleys and seeing our first Thai and our first Chinese temple (see the Flickr set), we headed home, showered, slept for an hour or two, and spent the evening exploring the shopping malls, saw the cinema complex at the top of Siam Paragon, noticed the Siam Ocean World at the bottom, and decided to come back to see The Banquet (2006) one of these days.
We ate in the MK Restaurant by the BTS station. Since we didn’t know what it was all about, we ordered some stuff and noticed it was all based on soup. Then we realized that everybody else was ordering pieces of meat and vegetables and putting them into that boiling pot of soup that our waiter had just removed. Aha, we thought! “Fondue Chinois!” – That’s what we call it here in Switzerland, and it is a very traditional thing to eat on Christmas eve. And here it was called “Suki”. The Chulalongkorn students seemed to love it; we had to wait for a table.
We promised ourselves to be back. And to bring an extra jacket because it was freezing cold due to the air conditioning.
Next, the bus drove us back to the winter- or summerpalace in Bang Pa-In. It had a very nice looking Chinese house, a museum showing the interior of buildings in Western style (not too interesting for us), and a few buildings that were closed to the public. The guide suggested we take Golf buggies to get around. They cost 400฿, which was a total rip-off. Don’t do it.
We drove down to Ayutthaya with a bus (had to get up at 6:00!), and returned on a ship. I don’t recommend the cruise – it’s still hot, I find ship cruises boring, and I think I would have preferred to see more Wats in Ayutthaya, now that I know how much I missed. I admit that the pictures of our approach to Bangkok might look impressive. But the fact remains that it was a boring cruise. I’m too young for this kind of thing!
In the evening back in Bangkok we went to see The Banquet (2006). I sort of liked it, even though I could not explain the source of the last dagger in the final scene. The gore was too much for Claudia. She was expecting something like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). What she got was a story were everybody dies and every swordfight involves spraying blood and evil blades. (Somehow, Claudia has a strong aversion against blade weapons. I don’t know why.)
When we got out, we realized that there is practically no food to be had in Bangkok after 22:00 and thus we ordered California rolls and pizza at the hotel lounge. The pizza was ok, but there’s better Sushi to be had in Zürich.
Then we crossed the street over to Lak Muang and looked at the Bangkok city shrine. This is the first time we saw a shrine dedicated amongst other things to fertility, ie. it had lots of young women and men praying and big wooden penises on display. There was also a little play being enacted and a small group of poor people watching.
We walked down the street down to Wat Po and saw some more golden temple buildings, and tons of stone guardians. I loved those! (Images:Wat+Po) If you’re wondering about the foot diagrams amonst all the images, you need to know that Wat Po houses a famous massage school.
On the way back we wanted to catch a bus home but it was quite a walk back to the bus 15 stop we had come from. I asked a bystander and he started talking to us and ended up by suggesting we go see the “Happy Buddha” that was only open today and that today was 250 years Bangkok and I hadn’t heard of it! He was definitely overdoing it and getting on my nerves. By then a Tuk Tuk driver had joined the discussion saying that the Happy Buddha was closing at five and that we would have no time for a bus… We thanked them all and said we wanted to take a little stroll and walked. After covering a few bus stations on foot, I had determined that bus 47 would take us home and asked somebody about the correct direction. And that’s how we got home.
I had talked to Claudia about Bangkok nightlife fifteen years earlier, where the highschool students used to meet in Goldfinger in Patpong and had mentioned the listless movements of the girls in their bikinis. (Images:Patpong) I hadn’t mentioned the live fucking show, the girl pulling razor blades on a string from her vagina, the other girl opening a soft drink bottle using her vagina, and the show where the girls would shoot peeled bananas from their vaginas into the public. Yuck! I think I went twice, once with my parents and a friend, and once with friends from school, just to know what it was all about. I think I was quite traumatized back then. Nothing obvious, but I rarely spoke about this to anyone. I could barely bring myself to speak about it to Claudia.
But Claudia hat heard of Patpong from other people and decided that she couldn’t just not go. And today was going to be the day. With a heavy heart I agreed. We took the Skytrain to Sala Daeng and walked through Patpong Soi 1 to 3. It seemed very tame from the outside. We got asked several times whether we wanted to see that “Ping Pong Show” which must be all the rage at the moment, but at least nobody offered me a girl or a boy or a child… Most of Patpong was just bars and shops and a bustling night market. There were only a few Go Go bars, and they looked like they always did: Bored women in bikins vaguely going through the dancing motions. I bet the back alleys and second floor shows are as bad as they used to be, but at least we didn’t see anything.
I felt much better.
Patpong seemed so much tamer than I remembered it.
Well, to tell you the truth, we got up late, ate breakfast, slept some more, went to the pool, and then we went to the weekend market; we took the Skytrain at about 15:00. We didn’t buy anything but we noted tea sets (well, I did), little porcelain elephants to hold salt and pepper, Japanese style straw sandals, trousers Claudia wanted to use for her dancing, funny T-shirts, elephant pouches, and Chinese lions. When we came back, it was still hot.
Chatuchak (or Jatujak) market is along Pahon Yothin Road – we used to live around here from 1989 to 1991: Soi Ari 5! But we didn’t get off at Aree station because I was already tired.
When we came back, we changed clothes, rested for a bit, and decided to go back to the MK Restaurant for some Suki. It poured! Our only confrontation with a tropical downpour. We borrowed an umbrella from the bell captain at the reception and went anyway. MK was full of students again, so we had to wait. This time we knew what we had to order and we loved it. It cost 286฿. Then we went to Starbucks and ordered two Tofee Nut Latte, Butter Scones, and a Butter Fly Biscuit. That already cost 305฿, however. Amazing!
Soon after we went to the Hardrock Café. They had just finished building it when I was about to leave in 1991, so I only remember coming once or twice. Getting in cost 500฿ for the two of us, with the first drink included. The day just kept getting more expensive. Two extra Colas at the end of the day cost 195฿.
These guys must have understood all the Make Money Fast emails I kept deleting a few years ago…
Then we ate breakfast, slept some more, and got up at 13:00. We took the cab to Vimarnmek Palace for 90฿. The taxi meter worked. No problem! (Mai dai!)
We got stuck in the traffic and arrived there at 15:00. We got out shortly before 16:00. Things were already closing again! We slept too long.
We walked down Thanon Rajasima, and came to Thanon Ayutthaya. It was blocked with what looked like old buses. Military stuff! There were soldiers taking a nap in the shade, looking bored. But the road was blocked. Why?
It took me a while to realize that this road led straight to the parliament, and since Thailand was under military rule after the coup – these must be the troups “occupying” the centers of power! Eek!
Half way to the King Chulalongkorn Monument, we noticed a market on our left. “What is this?” I asked a policemen at the insistence of Claudia. As expected, he pointed towards the market and said: “Yes, yes!” There’s a lesson for Claudia.
We walked around and there were many Thai women with head scarves, and the food stalls all had big blue signs saying “حلال”. I knew immediately what this was all about: Halal food that satisfies Muslim religious requirements! As I looked closer, I noticed that this label was issued by the Muslim Committee of Thailand. It’s official! I don’t think there is anything like it here in Switzerland. But then again, the Muslims I know around here don’t buy their meat at the ordinary food outlets. They buy them at the Turkish butcher’s. And those are the only butchers still left. Most of the others had to fold as food distribution changed in the 1990s.
At the back of the market we were able to see the big square where King Chulalongkorn Monument stands. There was a parade going on! The reality of the coup was creepy. I lived in Bangkok at the time of the last coup about fifteen years ago! Creepy.
We walked to Wat Benchamabopit – the Marble Temple. It was late. The tourists had left, only a few professional looking photographers remained behind. The priests were chanting inside the main building.
We took another cab to Wat Indraviharn. There’s a huge 41m Buddha and various other statues. The big Buddha looks upon some old wooden houses outside the temple grounds. I took a picture and a few grinning kids approached. I smiled. One of them shouted: “Fuck!” What the fuck? Then more of them started shouting: “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck you!” We left.
Later I read in our guidebook that the Buddha is overlooking many poor brothels. I guess the kids thought I was interested or something. Brrr!
Elated by the positive Taxi experience, we took a Tuk Tuk to Thanon Samsen Soi 2, looking for a restaurant recommended in the book. We agreed on 20฿, but it turns out that we were somewhere around Soi 8 or 10, so it was a really short trip. Damn crook!!
There was no good-looking restaurant to be found, however. So we took out the map and noticed that Khao San Road (Images:Khao+San+Road) was nearby. We decided to walk there and find another restaurant in Thanon Rambutri. We were looking for the Au Thong, but I think we got the wrong one. The food wasn’t awesome, but it was expensive none the less. Oh well.
We walked down Thaon Rambutri and up Thanon Khao San, and to the Democracy Monument, where we got our favorite bus: Bus 15!
Back at the hotel, Claudia suggested we watch Inside Man (2006) using the video-on-demand system of the hotel. It cost about as much as going to a good cinema would have (385฿), but audio quality was lousy. Oh well. The movie was ok entertainment…
Went to the Giant Swing area. Later we found that the Giant Swing was gone, but we saw everything else we wanted to see: Got out one station before Democracy Monument (by the small old tower) and walked towards the Golden Mount, which is part of Wat Saket. We saw smoke rising from a fire as we were looking down upon the surroundings from up there. We heard sirens come and go and saw an occasional tiny fire-truck racing through the street maze. I felt queasy.
We looked at Wat Ratchanadta containing a Lohaprasad, a copy of Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka). It was being renovated.
We looked at the Amulet Market in the Wat Ratchanadta backyard and walked down Mahachani Road and up Bamrung Muang Road (where they sell golden statues and everything else you might need to build your own temple) up to Giant Swing. But it was missing. How strange. We looked at the little Vishnu Mandir, and went to see Wat Suthat.
By then the sun was hanging low in the sky and the light was marvelous again. After that we walked to Romanni Nart Park and spent half an hour watching Thais exert themselves in the evening heat.
Then we walked back to Giant Swing, accross the big square in front of the town hall and up Thanon Dinso to Democracy Monument, where we ate a terrific dinner at the Sorn Daeng Restaurant with two women singing Thai evergreens.
On the way back I didn’t want to walk to the bus station on the other side of Democracy Monument and decided to look for the next bus station. As there were so many roads leading in the general direction, we ended up missing the right one and had to ask a young man for help in choosing the correct bus to take us back to Siam Square. No more bus 15. This time we needed the 79.
We got ourselves a Thai massage at Chang in Soi 6, Siam Square. Excellent. We paid 250฿ + 20฿ tip each. Upstairs, were we were given two simple pyjamas, we heard another customer snoring through his massage I almost felt the floor vibrating.
By then the effects of the arm, shoulder, and back massage we had gotten at the hotel had worn off.
We also went to see an IMAX movie about the underwater world, because the entry to the movie came with our ticket to Ocean World. And we stopped in Starbucks and Claudia discovered Scones which she had eaten as a small child when the family had spent their holidays in the UK. At 15:00 Claudia feels like some Western Food. Ugh! We end up in “Holy Pizza” at Siam Square. Quite the Western Revival.
Later that evening I felt like going to MK, but we ended up in Baan Khun Mae Restaurant on Siam Square Soi 7 again . Rather fitting for the last night in Bangkok…