3 nights in Bangkok make a guy…
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, as the lyric goes. I wondered what 3 nights would do to a soft guy from the home counties.
In film and literature the city is depicted as a tough, murky underworld – all drugs, cheap sex tourism and street salesmen not leaving you alone.
So I was slightly surprised by how tame it was.
Nevertheless, on sleep deprivation, in the second half of a 32-hour day, it is a slightly challenging city!
Here a five words I would use to describe Thailand and Thais so far (I’ve been here a week as I type this):
Tasty (the food)
Shit – that was six. Couldn’t miss out hilarious though.
The heat is perhaps no surprise (although the fact that we’re here in the cool season terrifies me as to the temperature in their summer). And everyone had told me the food would be fantastic. But I hadn’t expected such hospitality, such evident respect (not towards tourists exclusively but between countrymen) and such efficiency in a country that, in so many respects, reminds me of the mañana culture of other hot climate destinations.
We touched down in Bangkok at 6am local time – just about bed time by our body clocks – and were whisked to our hotel, where our room wasn’t available til later in the morning. We slumped on lobby sofas and wondered how we’d get through the day without at least a little sleep – which we eventually did get.
We met our tour rep at lunchtime and she tried to sell us various excursions, in addition to the Temples trip we were already booked on, and advised us that the temple tour leaves at 7.30am the next day and our transfer to the airport two days later was at 05:15. Bleugh. From then until I type this, we haven’t had a day of our holiday without an (early) alarm call!
At peak times, Bangkok’s roads are virtually gridlocked; four-lane highways thick with cars barely moving, tuk-tuks jostling for position, motor bikes whizzing down the pavements and endless red lights. It makes London roads look quaint, backward and genteel. In recent years the Skytrain has opened – turning journeys that took an hour into a few minutes. (I hate to think what the roads were like before the Skytrain)
We’d had visions of Japanese metro trains with staff employed to push people onto the trains – again making London’s rush hour tubes look positively abundant with elbow room. But it was nothing like this. Busy, for sure. But not hideous and they’re way ahead of us – air con on all lines!
After a quick visit to the local Mall’s (there are a tone of these) Food court – for our first Thai meal, yum – we took ourselves over to Jim Thompson‘s house. JT was the first prominent western settler and introduced silk (I think – should check) and it’s a museum/house. I now realise why it was that Whiteladies Road in Bristol used to have a Thai-themed bar called Jim Thompson’s (later Dragon Kiss, now another westerner of note, W G Grace) – I just thought it was a stupendously naff name! I feel a bit dim now. It was the days before handheld internet devices; I suppose now I would probably look it up out of curiosity on a walk-past.
(Sidenote: this trip, with its plentiful wifi – which also came as a surprise – coupled with revisiting a book I read 20 years ago in pre-internet times – returns me to a thought: what did we all do before knowledge was available at the tap of a keyboard? I just drifted ignorantly through my childhood never looking up anything, unless it was as easy a a dictionary look-up, because I didn’t know where to find answers.)
Exhausted we then asked a tuk-tuk driver to take us back to our hotel. He was very straight with us: he said “20 baht [£0.40] but I take you via my sponsor’s shop”. I describe this as straight because we later learned that it’s a common trick of taxis and tuk-tuks to take you miles out of your way to an out of town gemstone outlet or similar, and not taking you back until you’ve taken a look round and (probably) been intimidated into buying something.
As we’d already planned to do the when-in-Rome suit tailoring experience we didn’t especially object, although I had planned on leaving any purchases until later in the trip.
The tuk-tuk experience was awesome! Thai tuk-tuks are motorised, not as I expected like the London ones which are pedalled. The spaces they sneak through are incredible. You feel both nervous and very safe all at once.
The second you’re in the shop, the staff have no intention of letting you out without buying something. In theory this was fine but I wasn’t convinced my jetlagged and sleep deprived brain was in a suit-selecting frame of mind.
We eventually bargained a 3-piece suit, 3 shirts and 2 ties down to the equivalent of £200. Time will tell if the material and workmanship will last but it certainly looks good.
I’m determined to fit all of this first leg into one blog post but I want to get back to the pool (!), so the rest is a summary. Maybe I’ll come back to this later.
Day 2: temples tour
Highlights included the 5.5 tonne gold buddha and the 45m-long reclining buddha.
Day 3: cookery course. This was a Bangkok highlight. Learning to cook Thai food. And the instructor was hilarious. Amazing sense of humour seems to be a common trait amongst Thais.
Tom Yung Gooong (soup)
Mango and sticky rice
Evening 3: boat trip along the river
Then early to bed ahead of 5am alarm call and flight to Phuket.