What I actually have done so far in Bangkok apart from making friends and creating a huge wishlist is quite interesting too. Not all the ventures had been in good taste, in fact some had been downright naughty, but they were harmless fun and done with my airline friends. Thailand has always and still is my favourite travel destination and my numerous visits have helped me create a Topfun list of the country. Bangkok, however has been mostly touch and go, but they have been memorable in their own ways.
I have stayed mostly at the lovely Oriental Residence and it used to take a lot of effort for me to leave its chic Parisian luxury. For all my responsible traveling ethics, at times I do like to sink in a marble bath tub and lie down on feather soft beds in hushed pretty rooms.
While the gregarious Chatuchak market (a sprawling weekly open air market which actually has Sois/ streets selling a mind boggling variety of stuff), Pratunam (nice cheap clothes), MBK (cheap clothes and accessories) and Siam Paragon (nice, glitzy mall for expensive branded stuff) malls were great ways to idle Bangkok hours and escape the muggy heat, their crazy evening rush repelled me back to my room. Although not a very big shopaholic, I have picked up great bargains in Bangkok, especially during the Shopping Festival.
I am a big retro fan and have stumbled upon some amazing little shops during my Bangkok shopping trips. The Classic Movie (Mon-Fri 0200 pm-0800 pm and on weekends 0200 pm-0700 pm) poster in Siam Square deals with (Thai) movie posters and is nearly a museum. A must visit shop for vintage movie poster lovers, ssome my biggest travel treasures are a few obscure late 50’s original posters I had picked up from there. Thai auto vintage is a very unique garage I discovered on Onnut Road, Prawet where you can get your own pair of exotic shiny retro wheels or take photos of/with them. Run by vintage car lovers, they also sell spare parts, restore privately owned old cars and sell cool hot wheels like Chrysler 1949, Alpha Romeo Spider 2.0 and loads of glamourous retro Mercedez Benz (restored with chrome fittings, shiny leather upholstery and even a sofa).
The much renowned Dasa book cafe (on Sukhumvit Road) is one of my favourite places in Bangkok and I have spent many hours poring over their rare travel book collection. Siam TLR on Mahatun Plaza Building had been recommended to me by a local photographer and while I had seen better such shops in Mumbai, I had spent an afternoon there going through its vintage cameras (Kodak, Polaroid etc), retro desk phones and big radios. I especially liked their shelves of camera tinkerings and rarest of the rare, film rolls.
Apart from that I had paid the palace and rose garden a visit, did the usual floating market tour, watched a Calypso cabaret show at the Asiatique and splurged on a ringside seat at a fantastic Muay Thai tournament. The cabaret show was pleasant with dazzlingly beautiful lady boys mimicking Cher and with a glass of champagne, it seemed more heady. The floating market trip was with a small group and we spent a nice morning cruising down the waterways, taking in its colourful bustle and digging into some really good food sold by made up ladies in bamboo hats, from boats. Although touristy, Damnoen Saduak flaoting market was one of the nicest things I had done in Bangkok. Inspired by the floating market, I explored the Thonburi klongs by boat and fell in love with Klong Mon. Quaint, charming and way much sweeter than Bangkok, and Thonburi in fact was the old capital, before King Rama I moved it to its present location.
Bathing children, lilac hyacinths, silent monks, mobile shops and stilted wooden homes completed its picturesque beauty. Women stopped washing clothes and waved as we passed by and cycles strained under heavy load of freshly picked lotus blooms. We paid the unique Royal Barge National Museum a visit and checked out its bevy of ornate beauties before returning back to the city. This was perhaps most peaceful prelude ever to the energetic high powered action sport that is Muay Thai boxing. I watched it at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium one rainy evening and it was totally worth the trouble I went through to reach there.
Taxi was hard to get, rain made me soggy and horrendous traffic tore my nerves to ribbons. Blazing lights and cheering wave of men filled the arena and shouting resounded as action got faster. The match started with a traditional teacher reverence ceremony and a short dance showcasing each boxer’s techniques. The no 5 match is supposed to be the best and huge gambling money passes hands on boxing nights. It was exhilarating, amazing and prompted me to sign up for a few introductory lessons, which were absolutely invigorating too.
My naughty Bangkok nightlife were mostly concentrated around Patpong night market area where all of us on night halt would go to shop, eat, walk around and gape at the go go bars. Patpong is one of the world’s largest red light area, and its action had been immortalized by one James Bond movie. Although Soi Cowboy is supposedly the top naughty nightlife area of Bangkok, we used to love buying excellent cheap remakes of designers bags, gorge on amazing and adventurous local street food (from snails, geese, insects to chicken claws and more, we had sampled all) and chilling out with beer and music at one of the endless bars there.
It was funny how even the sexy massage sellers started recognizing us later and actually became friendly. They would chat with us for a few spare minutes, have a smoke and give us gory insight of their dark sad world. It was one of them who pegged us on to watch a pingpong show and it was not a memorable night for us watching balls shooting out from unimaginable places, all over the neon, smoke filled bar. In spite of the discount we got, that night sat heavy on our conscience.
However those were not the only nightly Bangkok activities had participated in. One lovely weekend I had watched a play at the beautiful Patrawadi Theatre by the Chao Phraya River, indulged in the stunning Thai Traditional Puppet show at Aksra Theater (King Power Duty Free Complex near Victory Monument) and experienced the beauty of Thousands Hands of Buddha dance. Although a dance of Chinese origin, it was breathtaking and superbly choreographed. These were my Bangkok chronicles; some memorable, a few forgettable and most ending up with making good friends. Good, bad, ugly; there is an energy about Bangkok, a positive vibe which is undeniable. It starts from the sappy Sawasdee at the airport and circulates around the city like a happy virus. Needless to say, I heart Bangkok.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE