I liked Bangkok quite a bit
Apologies for my somewhat melancholy maudlin mood in the last post, I am back now upbeat after 36 hours in Bangkok. This is definitely not a city on which to waste time staring at ones own navel, there is just too much fun to be had.
So where the hell do I start? I haven’t had time to write the blog while I have been here not had a moment, but a plane journey of three hours should give me plenty of time to try and give you a flavour of Thailand because there is quite a lot to get through.
Got into our taxi at the airport and then the fun began with the taxi driver who decided we look like mugs and wanted to charge us 1000 Baht (£20) to get to the hotel. He claimed to speak no English when we said switch on the meter buddy your not getting 1000 out of us. He just kept shouting and gesturing his ten fingers to indicate the price. We decided to give him a hand gesture of our own and pointed frantically at the meter. He got the message and then gloomily hit the button on his meter and we were off. Quite miraculously in his gloomy mood he suddenly found he could in fact speak English as he asked for the money for the toll payment on the motorway about five minutes later. When we got to the Hotel he tried it on again but decided this time he thought he would try and go for 400 Baht – the meter said 297 so he got exactly three hundred and told to keep the change (6 pence) we could still hear him muttering to himself loudly in Thai as the bell hops whisked us into our special Hilton Honours check in lounge.
It pays to be loyal
Now I don’t know if you bother signing up to these loyalty schemes when you book in chain hotels, but for the few minutes it takes it is really worth it. For a couple of minutes and the setting your junk mail to dump the e-mails they will send you in future we got; a special check in lounge and priority service, free papers and water – a late checkout at no extra cost and bonus points on your hotel spending (well you know our liking of cocktails on the hotel bar don’t you!)
So to the Hotel - its a Hilton so you kind of know what you are going to get an Amercianised Thai hotel. And that is exactly what we got. Good room and nice bathrooms, excellent toiletries for me to hoard, good service and the best pillows and linen I have ever had - all puffy (and I don’t mean the covers were flamboyant) . But Traders in KL still remains the dogs bollocks in hotels still.
There is one very very very annoying thing about Hilton Hotels is the dickheads who do their marketing - you get little promotional leaflets and cards everywhere. One by the phone, one by the internet port , one on the bed, three on the bedside tables, two on the dressing table, more hiding in the wardrobe in a nice little tray and one stuck in the card slot in the door everytime you come back to the room. I am sure if I stood still long enough they would shove one up my arse.
I collected these into a little pile for you and took a shot of them. Now listen Hilton if I wish to avail myself of one of your additional services I will ask you or I will happily read a Hotel directory. I do not need them stuck in my face in my hotel room on my holiday get it. The real reason I hate all this shit is I like clean clear surfaces and these little friggin cards do bad things my Karma and I have to move them all into a neat pile out of the way see – I am a bit strange like that.
So after spending an hour clearing away all the Hilton cards we venture out to try and get to Chinatown. . Now one lovely thing about the hotel is that it has a little shuttle boat service that takes you to the ferry piers opposite that connect you to the river boats or the Skytrain station. My favourite thing though is the captain and little shipmates wear popeye the sailor man outfits to add to the cuteseyness which amused me everyday, yug yug yug .
So we get to the other side courtesy of Sailor Siam and then wait for the public river Boat. As ten minutes pass I wander in to look at the timetables and then realise its Sunday and we have missed the last boat. So plan B is invoked and we set off in search of a taxi.
You know in London they say you are never more that 6ft away from a Rat. Well the same holds true for taxis or tuk tuks in Bangkok. They are just everywhere. So we jump a taxi – word must have got out from Taxi Jack not to mess with us and he flips the meter immediately no negotiating.
Chinatown is fab for a bit of light shopping if you need some herbal medicine, or some Chinese night attire, but we went for the nosh and boy was it good. You know Chinese is tasty at home when you find a good one – well here it is Chintastic. We had a wander up and down and found one that all the Chinese were eating at and then went to town working our way down their menu (by dint of pointing at photos - not much English spoken here) but it did the job - my favourite was twice fried pork absolute heaven; and I also got my first taste of Thai beer too, a tasty one called Singha.
One other taste we tried while there was a Durian Fruit. These are the funny looking fruits that smell like a builders arsehole but are supposed to taste yummy and they are all over Asia. So we bought some from a stall and sniffed (yes they do smell like that) and then tasted – at first all you can taste is the smell then you get a nice pleasant creamy taste and they do in fact taste quite good.
Then another taxi ride back this one the driver was hilarious. When we said we were from Manchester he got very excited and spent the rest of the ride home saying man united, man shitty riverpool and then cackling to himself. He got a generous tip we liked crazy taxi guy.
Taxis, Tuk Tuks and Trains and Temples, oh and Automobiles
The next day we started what can only be described as a day of multiple modes of transport. First shuttle then the public transport riverboat to see the temples and a multitude of buddhas (lying down, standing up and sitting – and one described as the black Buddha which wasn’t black so I was a bit confused with that one) – which are all beautiful I cant think of anything amusing to say about them so we will skip that bit and I’ll leave you with a picky instead. Then we decided to brave a tuk tuk.
Now before I tell you about Elvis, (yes he is alive and happily driving a tuk tuk in Bangkok - see above pic) a word about Bangkok transport system. It is brilliant. All the boat piers connect up with skytrain or underground services and buses; as I have already said there are more than enough taxis and tuks around (and journey never cost us more than a quid around the city). If you are feeling even braver motorcycle taxis where you hop on the back of a bike and they whisk you in between the traffic. The trains have aircon and special seats that You are supposed to give up if a monk gets on the train (seriously they are by the doors and above is a little sign that says please give up your seat for a monk). But the traffic is also fucking crazy.
Most of the major roads in central Bangkok consist of 8 or 10 lane beasts with all of these bikes, taxis and tuk tuks lane hopping as soon as one begins to move faster than the other. So imagine us two in the back of the tuk tuk pelting in amogst this crazy traffic. Seriously dangerous but it wouldn’t be as much fun if it wasn’t so we liked tuk tuks – a lot. I have posted a short video of us taking a night time journey with our friend we met up with in Bangkok. It will give you a flavour of the scariness.
We kept Elvis in our service for the rest of the early afternoon ferrying us between temples and mounts and grand palaces (they do like the King and Queen here pictures of them plastered on billboards and lampposts everywhere – some the size of a building).
Our next mode of transport was a longboat which is a very long boat (Go figure Craig) with an old car engine attached to the inside of the boat with a very long propshaft and a propeller. The boat is manoeuvred by moving the engine around to steer and raise or lower the propeller in the water. But it works even if it is a little noisy as we weaved into the small rivers and canals off the Chang Phray river. So we got to see some traditional that houses and living, but sadly no river market apparently this one not on Monday!!
Then back to our Hotel for a freshen up a quick lounge by the beach (they made one of the 5th floor!!) and pool and get ready to go and meet a friend who was passing through Bangkok.
We ended the night in the red light district didn't we, well when in Rome you don’t not go to the Coliseum do you? We first stopped by a treatment centre and John decided he wanted to have a go at this strange therapy whereby you pop your feet and hands into this tank of little fish and they peck away at all your dead skin for half an hour. I would rather spend an evening with Jordan discussing horses and make up than put my extremities in there. He put his first foot in and then yelped he claims because he felt something touch his hand which was not yet in the water but we weren’t believing him. We decided we would play safe and instead I opted for a foot and leg massage instead of watching John squirm while these greedy little buggers ate bits of him. I think he just wanted to muscle in on the Foot Fetishits calendar enterprise.
Then we go drinking in the red light district. Now I cannot provide any more details of this part of the evening for fear of causing offense but I will leave you with this. You know in a previous blog I said that there are Universal rules for gay bars and their operation? Well let me tell you the rule book in Bangkok has an appendix with lots of additional rules just for them!! If you think you have an open mind prepare for it to opened quite a bit further if you wander into this area of Bangkok.
Big Nose Long Life (even if you spend all of it having the piss taken out of you)
After such a frantic day we decided to take it a bit easier on our last day so opted for a bit of a lie in and a visit to Jim Thomson’s house, this is not another friend we dropped in to say hello. He was an in fact an American architect who moved to Bangkok after the war and did lots of good stuff for the local traditional arts and crafts so the Thais like him and the Foundation now runs his traditional Thai houses as a museum displaying the stuff he collected. Quite interesting, but if you only have limited time in Bangkok your life wouldn't really be missing anything if you skipped this one. However, one highlight was the Thai tour guide telling us that in Buddhism if you have long ear lobes you will be lucky and if you have a big nose you will have a long life, then she turns to this guy in our group who has an enormous hooter and say s “so you Ssir will live a very long life as you have a very big nose” and smiles pleased with herself. The poor chappie was mortified and did not join in with smiling – he has obviously spent his whole life being ripped to shit because of his conk. There was lots of biting of lips from the rest of the group though– I had to turn around and pretend to look at a nice Thai silk drawing while I giggled.
We then started to shop – first as Pantip Plaza - mecca for electronics – Now I had a look and the prices for regular branded stuff was not that much cheaper in my mind so we stayed well clear of that and headed for something I knew I was after. I am now the proud owner of a very powerful laser that I will be happy to demonstrate to anyone that asks upon my return, providing customs don’t find it. I am not talking about any of that weedy red laser pointer type crap either – My laser can do very special things and for a very long distance oh yes (as you can see I am very pleased with it). I love my laser toy a lot. I have also bought some watches for my collection no fakes yet going to do that in Temple Market.
Then onto some of the bigger shopping places where John went into action bartering with the Thais. All of whom “give you good discount” on their opening price and show you a price tag affixed to the back which obviously bears no relation to the true value of the article being bartered for– which John then immediately halves and then they spend the next ten minutes tapping in figures to the calculator, them telling him they need to make some profit, telling him with a facial expression likes he’s just insulted their mother that he’s a “very hard man”. Personally, I just cant be arsed bartering but they don’t play the ‘give me your best price’ shit; they like the chase so I give John all bartering responsibilities. Which he is very good at, he got me my special laser, did I mention that already?
However, I am once again very disappointed at the etymology of a word –this time the word is Barter . I had hoped its origins be related to the Thai currency Baht but sadly it is not. I thought this would be the origin because everything is negotiable in Bangok, the price of batteries, a bottle water a taxi/tuk tuk fare. Unless you shop at 7/11 or buy something at the Hotel you don’t go with the first price.
All the shopping away and our last night so we go for a meal and few drinks in this traditional Thai food which was brilliant and will feature in the top meals during the trip – in fact that food I have had here bears little resemblance to stuff I have had in That Restaurants at home. We have been very good and despite many temptations of familiar branded fast food, and having the opportunity of getting it delivered to you in Bali, we have eaten nothing but local authentic food except for breakfast . And a chip has not passed my lips since December 5th.
Although tonight on the plane to Hong Kong we both did hover over the hotdog option, but remained true and went for noodles n ricey stuff. I fear though we may succumb to a bit of Maccy D’s or KFC in HK though.
So for our last night what do the boys do – of course they go to the rooftop bar and get a bit tipsy on cocktails (which were so strong) and admire the view. Now the view wasn’t as fantastic as KL Traders bar (well they don’t really have any iconic skyline in Bangkok just lots of tall buildings scattered across what is a motherfucker of a city – it is just enormous) but the Bar was nicer and they played nice jazzy type tunes so was very mellow. Pics don’t do this justice so a short video of John and I dicking with the camera will give you a second multimedia treat in this blog.
Now some quickie ones as this is getting ridiculously long
Wifi –Bangkok – sort out the frigging wifi coverage Bangkok it is Bangkak, One its not very good and you get charged for it everywhere, I got better coverage in Bali up in the bloody mountains. The Hilton took the piss at £12 per day which made me even angrier than the stupid frigging marketing shit, and even at Starbucks £3 pound an hour- fuckers its supposed to be free when you are buying an overpriced cup of coffee. Its not the actual cost money, but the proportions and it cost the hotel nothing to provide it so its a nice little earner. A nice meal in Bangkok at a decent restaurant costs you about £12
Ice with your beer sir – Now everywhere we have been with the heat and humidity your beer gets warm very quickly so my solution is to drink it very feast and get a fresh cold one! But the Thais have a different solution – they put ice in their beer glass. How disgusting is that ? Beer with Ice Yuck yuck yuck and thrice yuck – you DO NOT repeat DO NOT put ice in beer.