Date: 26th November 2010
After a good night’s sleep, I went downstairs to have the buffet breakfast at the hotel. Then spent an hour browsing the internet on the guest computer at the lobby. After feeling quite relaxed, I checked out as the clock struck noon.
I took a moped taxi to the bus station (฿50) and bought a ticket for a bus heading to Ekamai bus terminal in Bangkok (ticket cost ฿113).
Since it was dark when I left Bangkok to come to Pattaya, I sat by the window to see what I missed
In the bus, I also wondered where to stay in Bangkok. I wanted to stay on Khao San Road, Bangkok’s popular backpacker hub. I really wanted to check it out as it’s a preferred joint for backpackers, but unfortunately located on the other side of Bangkok (some even call it Old Bangkok) — which isn’t connected via the skytrain service (BTS). Trouble is, tomorrow I am to meet up with a friend arriving from Bangalore and the day after, I had a ticket for the Jay Park Fan meet in Siam Paragon Mall. Commuting back and forth by taxi, that too with Bangkok’s mid-day traffic was the last thing I wanted to do in the last 3 days left in Thailand.
Err…someone else’s factory
One and half hours later, we were in Bangkok city
Traffic slowed down (a lot) from here on. It took half-an-hour more for the bus to reach Ekamai bus terminal. The terminal is on Sukhumvit road and is easy to get to because the BTS station (also named Ekamai) is right in front of the bus terminal. So if you are staying in the Sukhumvit or Silom area, and want to head to Pattaya, don’t go to Mo Chit bus terminal, head to Ekamai instead.
In the end, I decided to stay on the Sukhumvit side itself, which meant Thai House Inn again. I paid for two nights in advance and checked into the same room I stayed before. I probably should try and find another place to stay in since Thai House Inn isn’t the classiest of places, but at ฿700 a night, the proximity to Nana BTS station (a minute walk), for a single guy there’s no better deal like it anywhere else.
Absolut had set up a ice bar at Siam Center
Decided to go for a movie to pass some time
Watched ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1′ in IMAX
Post-movie (which I thought was a bit of a drag), I decided to go to MBK.
The Siam Ocean World aquarium is beneath the food court
The mall was all decked up in preparation for Christmas
Even though less than 1% of Thailand’s population are Christians
There’s an exclusive ukelele store in Bangkok
But as I tried to get to MBK via the pedestrian overbridge, none of us were allowed to… by the police
I looked down and I saw the roads all clear, which usually implies some VIP was passing through
I got back down to the street to see if I could cross the road but there were policemen there as well. I asked them who was passing by, and they said: “The King”.
Tidbit of valuable information when in Thailand. King Rama IX is the most ‘beloved’ man in Thailand. I put beloved in quotes because there is a law which makes it a criminal offense to say anything bad about him in public. So you have no choice but to praise him. His photos are everywhere in Thailand and his birthday is a national holiday. He is credited for developing Thailand, his influence has stopped many political coups and reportedly, he’s the richest royal in the world. (But my point is, if people truly love him, why have a rule criminalizing lèse majesté?)
Sadly for the Thai people, the King hasn’t been in the best of health lately and isn’t seen much in public because of that.
The King’s cavalcade zipped past us and in a matter of minutes, we were allowed to move again
I obviously didn’t get a glimpse of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, but then again, nobody would have. Nobody could identify in which car the King was. Maybe it was a security measure.
Anyway, I was hungry by this point and decided to go back to Siam Paragon because their food court has better options for fast food.
Tried MOSBurger’s rice burger (yes, that’s rice pressed together to make the ‘buns’) :)
In the evening, I decided to check out Bangkok’s Chinatown.
Took a taxi, cost ฿60 from Siam Center
Took around half and hour to get here
As with any Chinatown, plenty of food to go around
From all I could tell, there wasn’t much else to see besides the well-lit shop signs
I kept walking down
When I was doing my research, I read there is even a small community where Indians reside. You could call it Bangkok’s ‘Little India’ as Singapore’s popular community is called, but don’t try asking for it here. I tried it with some Thai locals, and they looked at me with a smile… which implied they had no clue what I was talking about. I wanted to find the area mostly because there is a large gurdwara here in Bangkok (since the Indian community here are predominantly Punjabis). I knew asking for a ‘gurudwara’ would get me more puzzled stares but I did ask if anybody knew where the ‘Indian temple’ was. No luck with that either.
I kept walking in search of ‘Little India’ but no signs of anything remotely Indian
But just as I was about to give up and walk back, I saw a woman who looked kinda Indian (I’m guessing she was a second generation Indian resident of Thailand) and asked her where the gurudwara was. She told me I needed to get to Pahurat Road, which wasn’t very far from here. I thanked her and noted down the name of the road.
Figuring the gurudwara would be closed to the general public at this time, I decided to come back the day after. I hailed a taxi and headed to Patpong.
Patpong is famous for two things: one, it has a night market; two, it also houses Bangkok’s red light district.
The Night Market
There wasn’t anything seedy about the place (at first)
The usual offerings sold here, nothing special
But as I went to the side street to get a glimpse of what the other stalls were selling…
…you could see the other side of Patpong
Which made me wonder if the ‘night market’ was just a cover up :)
There are a few good bars with live music though
Like on Pattaya’s Walking Street, here too you will find a few touts soliciting tourists (quite aggressively) to come watch a peep show. Most them say it’s free but having read people’s experiences on Tripadvisor, I knew these are just tactics to pull you in and then slap you with a huge bill as you leave.
One of the touts, even held my hand and dragged me into one such place. Figuring I wouldn’t be coming back to an area like this again, I followed him. He was rather in a hurry saying the ‘ping pong show‘ would start soon. He led me upstairs into a bar where the girls and the mamasan welcomed me in. There weren’t many others in and the setting wasn’t what I was expecting. While I was expecting a more quiet, dark and sensual setting, this joint was just another typical low end bar with dim red lights, and where every song plays at 2x speeds blurts out from the sound system.
As soon as I was seated, I was surrounded by 3 or 4 smiling girls all of whom tried to chat me up, and when it came to ordering drinks, there was no menu. I ordered a vodka drink and insisted on knowing much it cost. The waitress said ฿100. Fair enough. I also made it very clear I was told this show was free and that I wouldn’t have to pay anything to see it. The mamasan assured me with a “yeah yeah”.
When the performance did begin, it was the amusing act of seeing the two girls shoot objects like bananas, darts (at a balloon), and ping pong balls (of course) — all using her nether region. And that’s exactly what it was, amusing… it was the least bit erotic, surely not in the setting I was in The most amusing act was when one of the performers pulled a series of blades on a string out — and she cut a paper using the very same razor blades to prove they weren’t blunt. Now, only women know the true potential of their inner workings, but I’m sure even women in far more respectable professions would squeal if they saw this. As a guy, my face looked more like this: None the less, I had to praise these performers for their, erm, talents.
After 15 minutes and my drink nearly done, I had seen enough and wanted to leave. I could see the other patrons arguing with the mamasan over their bills and I knew what was coming my was as well. Besides the ฿100 for my drink, I wanted to tip a ฿100 each for the two performing women, so that was a total of ฿300. The bill they handed over?
I told the mamasan I wasn’t going to pay it and ฿300 is all she will get. She raised her voice (she had to, they wouldn’t turn down the crappy music) and threatened to call some men to rough me up if I wouldn’t pay. I replied: “Call them”. When she did, I knew things were only getting easy for me. She spoke in English to her Thai “baddie” saying there is an Indian who refuses to pay and that he better come. Now if there is one thing I’ve learned about Thais is that, you’ll never see one Thai speaking to another Thai in English. Very few in Thailand know how to speak English, that too fluently. So I knew this was just an act.
After she hung up, she said they’re coming. I replied: “Okay, I’ll wait”. I could see some of the working girls try and hide their smiles, so I knew I was going to win this one. After waiting around 2 minutes, the mamasan finally said: “Okay, give 1000!”. I said: “No, 300″. More standing still ensued. Finally she gave up and said: “Ok give!”. I handed her the ฿300 and told her ฿100 each were for the two performers. She didn’t say anything and I walked out.
And that was it
In hindsight, it made me wonder if I should have gone for all this in Pattaya’s Walking Street as the Tourist Police was right there and by now, I’m sure they heard countless such experiences from other visitors. But even if this happens to you, follow the same advice: just keep your foot down and refuse to pay. What’s the worst they’re going to do? Stab a tourist?
Walking out, I noticed there wasn’t even a name for this bar, so it surely was one of those clearly intended to scam people and only remain operational by paying off the right authorities.
This alley looked like it mostly catered to Japanese
What I just experienced didn’t change my opinion of this wonderful country. If your sole purpose of visiting Thailand is just to hang out at such venues, you will most likely leave with many such stories. Even if you don’t, as with any other country in the world, shit happens — you just have to be on your guard.
The so-called ping pong show is one of those “When-in-
RomeThailand” things-to-do. Many tourists, men and women alike, are eager to see it. In fact it was a girl friend of mine who told me “not to miss it,” with a laugh. Now I know why — it’s more a laugh than sensual Trouble is, many use that eagerness tourists have to run scams like this.
Sala Daeng is the name of the BTS station if you want to get to Patpong
Patpong doesn’t seem as big a seedy place, not based on some people’s descriptions calling it Bangkok’s largest red light district. Maybe there’s more to it, who knows, I wasn’t bothered to explore anymore of it now.
If you plan to come to Patpong just for the night market, don’t. There’s nothing here you can’t find anywhere else in Bangkok for the same price (or maybe even cheaper).
I took the BTS back to Siam.
Absolut’s open-air concert event at Siam Center
Once back in my area, I decided to grab dinner first and then go back to my room.
Nana has a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants, which was great for me (given how much I miss this cuisine)
You get really good foreign exchange rates here, far better than the rates the banks in the malls give. I exchanged a few dollars.
Picked up a few shawarmas and a drink from 7-11 and called it a night
Date: 27th November 2010
Today, I met up with my friend Sawmteii and her friend, who had just arrived in Thailand. We met up at the Siam BTS and since it was their first time in Bangkok (and came with very clear intentions of shopping – a lot!), I showed them around the malls.
I couldn’t fathom the locals’ desperation to bag Krispy Kreme donuts. There were huge lines everyday at the Siam Paragon outlet.
So much was the demand, there were street hawkers who sell them in ‘black’ outside after doing the tough job of waiting in line just to bag these boxes of doughnuts.
After Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon, we walked towards Petchburi Road.
On Petchburi road, the girls wanted to check out Platinum Mall, which claims to be Thailand’s largest fashion mall.
Boy, was it crowded inside
Eight floors of fashion goodness… well, mostly for women anyway. Hardly anything for men in here.
Despite advising the girls to keep all their shopping towards the end of their journey when they return to Bangkok, they couldn’t help but feel like kids let loose in a candy store
Who can blame them? Even as a guy, I could appreciate the stuff being sold here. Really good looking dresses and accessories at prices anybody can afford. Dresses which would easily cost upwards of Rs. 1000 in India could be had for Rs. 500 or less. You could buy one, two, three, ten or more — and prices vary accordingly.
A lot of bulk buyers too
We spent quite some time in here. And when I saw ‘we,’ I mean Sawmteii and her friend Mimi. I loitered around wondering if there was anything for guys. It wasn’t until we got up to the 4th floor that I found a store selling some pretty nifty t-shirts.
After walking past pretty much every floor, the girls decided to dedicate their last few days in Thailand in here and we went up to the 6th floor to have lunch at the food court.
Post-lunch, I took the girls to Chatuchak (disembark at Mo Chit BTS).
We sat at the park for a bit before embarking on more walking through hundreds of shops
Sorry, make that thousands of shops!
Jatujak weekend market is the largest flea market in Thailand and sees most shops open on Saturday and Sunday (It is open on weekdays too, just not every shop).
Took a deep breath and went in
I have already written a lot about JJ market in my first visit.
In case you buy more than you can carry… there’s always DHL
Plenty of food to energize you for all the walking you’ll be doing at Jatujak
The famous bags salesman calling every foreigner “Michael” was still at it in 2010 :)
The reason I like JJ market a lot is because they sell *everything* that can be placed inside a house
Bought three kinds of lamp shades
After much walking around and being clueless as to where exactly we were (it will happen), eventually it was time for the puppies to come out. (Real puppies). You’ll only see them being sold once the sun sets — which means they’re probably doing it illegally.
Sawmteii couldn’t help but pick one up
And at the prices the puppies were being sold for (around ฿3000-฿5000 depending on the breed), she didn’t feel like putting them down either. We were seriously talking about how to bring dogs via airplanes.
Eventually we decided to call it a day.
Had one of this: cold banana on a stick dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts
Mo Chit BTS station
We got down at Nana so that the girls could check out my area (they were staying a few BTS stations further down). Got some currency exchanged and had dinner at an Arabian restaurant before wishing each other goodnight and parting ways.
Tomorrow was going to be my last full day in Bangkok.
Next posts in this series:
Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)
Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok
Previous posts in this series:
Thailand 2010: Pattaya — Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street
Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower
Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai
Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep
Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai