We were supposed to stay no more than a couple of nights before continuing on to check out the south of Thailand… but as with our last visit, Bangkok has sucked us in yet again. Riccardo has had some work to catch up on and his camera has been laid up at the camera hospital, so we’ve taken the opportunity to stay put at our awesome guest house and take it easy for a while. Some aren’t fond of this chaotic, polluted metropolis, but we have fallen in love with its energy, its food, and the way things just seem to make sense (at least, compared to the other places we’ve been)!
While laying relatively low has been our M.O. during the past few days, we’ve managed to occupy the non-work time with a number of leisurely activities, as well as a privileged status as “that cute straight couple” among our new Bangkok pals. An, along with assorted friends of his, has variously taken us to the gym (where I hung out at the gorgeous swimming pool); a fun bar at the Chatuchak Weekend Market; an even more fun bar by the river where a raucous hangover party was in full swing (for Montrealers: sort of like Piknik Electronik); a highly entertaining drag show; a fantastic roadside noodle shop; and even back (twice!) to the same dance club we ended up at on our first night. (The chic haircut An gave Riccardo ensured he almost fit in at said dance club – almost.) Last night, on our way back from our nightly 7-11 ice and mixer run, we found the crew sitting around outside the salon toasting one of their birthdays. The birthday boy generously invited us to partake of some drinks and snacks in his honour – it seems that in Thailand, the honoree is responsible for showing his friends a good time on his birthday instead of the other way round! Later, An took us (along with Klaus, a lovely gentleman from Germany) to Sirocco – that would be the posh 64th floor restaurant featured recently in a well-known film. The staggering perspective of Bangkok’s skyline wholly justified the outrageously priced and mediocre drinks (for example, my vodka with too much soda cost $15 CAD). Having not brought heels with me, I was worried I’d feel a tad underdressed there, but An came to the rescue yet again by generously lending me a new dress he’d just bought and a pair of earrings from his extensive collection! Sadly, or not, his shoes didn’t fit me.
I must also mention the most meticulous and perfectly-executed pedicure I’ve ever had. I was particularly awed by the polite and professional demeanor of the pedicurist, which stood in stark contrast with the snarky comments I can’t understand but am convinced are directed at me when I visit certain Montreal nail salons.
Amidst the fun, we also found time to squeeze in some respectable cultural pursuits. Today we visited the home of the legendary Jim Thompson, an American who essentially revitalized the dying Thai silk industry in the 50s (notably, via the costumes in the movie “The King and I”) – and then mysteriously vanished in a Malaysian jungle at the height of his success. This brilliant man went out and found four separate traditional teak houses in the country somewhere, took them apart, reassembled them into one huge mansion in the centre of Bangkok, surrounded it with a mini-jungle, and filled it with priceless artefacts he collected from all over southeast Asia. Can you tell I was thoroughly impressed? Photos weren’t allowed inside but we thought this silk demo was cool:
As we meandered towards the Jim Thompson House, a friendly guy approached us and chatted us up in a jovial manner that is really uncharacteristic among the exceedingly polite and timid Thais. Our scam radars went off right away – sure enough, he asked where we were headed and then proceeded to tell us in a grave voice that the Jim Thompson House, along with much of Bangkok, was closed today for an “important Buddha festival”. That’s a classic line here – the scammer’s next move is inevitably to helpfully direct you to a place that IS open, such as a gem store which he may or may not be affiliated with. We thanked him profusely for his sage advice which we then promptly ignored as we carried on to our destination, which was most certainly open. I was so hoping to bump into him afterwards to tell him how much we enjoyed it!
We got into some other cool stuff as well, such as the Bangkok Cultural Centre where we got some work done in the adorable café; the World Press Photo Exhibit (which Riccardo first stumbled across on his own but waited until I was with him to check out – awww!); and a number of sprawling markets and sophisticated malls (one of them, Central World, is kind of like our second home now.) On a couple of days, we bought day passes for the immaculate, efficient and futuristic Skytrain and just rode to random stations with cool names.
Our dilly-dallying in Bangkok has cost us a visit to the south of Thailand – we thought we could spend a day or two in a random town on our way overland to Malaysia, but decided against it as that would mean violating a Canadian travel advisory for that area. (It would appear that Muslim insurgents in the southern provinces have been [rather logically, I’d say] expressing their desire to separate from Thailand by detonating makeshift bombs in public places.) Instead, we temporarily suspended concern for the environment in favour of personal safety and bought a flight to Penang, Malaysia. We take off tomorrow afternoon. We’ll spend some time eating as much as we can there before heading to Kuala Lumpur to meet our friend Pierre, who’s joining us for his vacation from the Congo! Next destinations include Bali to meet our other friends Sarah and Oren; Malaysia again where we’ll hopefully track down Richie on his pristine island; perhaps a stint in Singapore to admire the cleanliness; and lastly, back to India to fly home (and bid farewell to Bevan and Eliza). I was trying to make this itinerary sound as not-awesome as possible for your benefit, but re-reading it, I’m sorry to say it does sound pretty sweet.
More soon – here are some more snapshots of Bangkok for the diehard fans. I’m sorry there are so many – I couldn’t choose!