15
Sep 11

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Date: April 23rd 2011

After yesterday’s grueling photo session, I enjoyed a really good sleep. A little too well I suppose. I got up around 11am and only had ‘breakfast’ by noon. Given it was officially half-day, it was too late for me to go to Mount Pinatubo, which I thought of doing today. Because for that, I should get there early since it involves trekking up to the now dormant volcano.

I could have stayed another day in Angeles City and checked out Clark, but in the end, I decided head back to Manila. Figured if I ever come to Philippines again, Angeles City isn’t too far from Manila and I can do Mount Pinatubo & Clark Duty Free then.

I checked out of Red Tulip Hotel and took a trike to Dau bus terminal.

Bus ticket Angeles City to Manila Philippines

They punch the ticket. Notice the 100 and the 8 on the top right (₱108 = $2.5/€1.8).

Bus journey Dau to  Manila mountain Philippines

Was that Mount Pinatubo?

Bus journey from Dau to Manila farm land Philippines

Bus journey from Dau to Manila farm countryside

The journey to Manila took less than one and half hours

I reached Manila by 2pm and I had no clue where in the city I was. All I told the bus folks were that I needed to go to Pasay. They stopped under a big flyover and asked me to get down, saying I can easily get to Pasay from here.

SM Megamall Shangri-la hotel Manila Philippines

Hailed a taxi, passed by an SM Mall and even Accenture's office

Inside Manila taxi to Pasay Philippines

It was one straight drive, but it cost ₱140 ($3.2/€2.3)! I was NOT happy about spending more on a short drive to Pasay than I did getting to Manila by bus!

I had booked a dorm bed for two nights at Kabayan Hotel, a place I liked a lot. I had to catch an early morning flight to Cebu, so I was going to check out by 5am on Monday.

Kabayan Pasay dorm room bed cupboard Manila Philippines

I got the upper bed. A/C dorm, ₱550 when I booked it. Website lists ₱610 ($14/€10) now. I still think it's worth it. You get all the usual Kabayan inclusions like set breakfast AND lunch, with complimentary wi-fi.

Kabayan Pasay dormitory room cupboard Manila Philippines

Pillow and towel inside the locker. The locker came in handy, since I could keep my camera bag inside it and go out. Most hostels charge extra for lockers, and they are usually outside your room.

Kabayan Pasay dorm room restroom Manila Philippines

They have a well kept toilet and shower inside the room

Kabayan Pasay hotel dormitory hall Manila Philippines

The hallway looks like every other hallway on the other floors. Kabayan doesn't make you feel cheap even if you are staying in the dormitory.

Kabayan Pasay hotel male restroom Manila Philippines

If the toilet in your room is occupied, there are many toilets and shower rooms on the floor

Pasay MRT station Manila Philippines

I stepped out with just my 7D and the Tamron lens attached. I wanted to travel light for once. This is the scene just outside Kabayan and the Pasay MRT station.

I boarded a jeepney and decided to check out Mall of Asia, which was very close by.

Jeepney to Mall of Asia Manila Philippines

I don't remember how much the fare was exactly, but I believe it was around ₱10

SM buildings near Mall of Asia Philippines

The journey takes just 5 minutes from Pasay MRT

Mall of Asia jeepney drop off point Manila PhilippinesWhen it opened in 2006, Mall of Asia was the largest shopping mall in Asia, but has since moved down to third place after Dubai Mall‘s arrival.

Mall of Asia entrance Manila Philippines

I had to take multiple shots using the Tamron lens to get wide shots like this

Mall of Asia Panorama shot

Merging three shots to create this wide shot unfortunately cost that white man his head. Sorry dude, blame Photoshop.

Mall of Asia entrance Filipino crowd Manila

Today was a Saturday, so it was expected the mall was going to be crowded

Mall of Asia store directory guide Manila Philippines

The virtual mall directory assistant

Inside Mall of Asia shop levels

Mall of Asia SMDC property exhibition Manila

There was a small exhibition of properties by SMDC (SM Corp. is the largest property company in Philippines).

Being curious as to how much the cost of apartments were in Manila, I acted as a potential buyer and checked out the properties on offer. A lot of the apartment sizes (compared to India) were pretty small. ‘Large’ flats were 1000-1200sqft, while there were plenty of studios on offer. Prices for apartments ranged from 2 million to 4 million pesos and higher. Expensive, I initially thought. Maybe its because most of the buyers they target are OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), who earn higher wages.

But then I realized that it’s 2,000,000-4,000,000+ Philippines pesos. I mentally re-arranged the zeroes into the Indian numeric system and realized that’s 20,00,000 to 40,00,000 (lakh) rupees! It struck me as affordable — and that too in a city like Manila, which has far better infrastructure than most Indian cities! (Yes Filipinos, complain all you want about Manila. Visit Mumbai/Bombay and then compare the two. You’ll appreciate Manila a lot more.)

It pissed me off (not the first time) thinking how over-priced and unjustified the Indian real estate market is. For a minute, I even considered moving to Manila. Then I thought about the lack of Indian food here, and the frequent typhoons.

Back to the mall.

Mall of Asia Ace hardware store Manila Philippines

They have an ACE Hardware outlet here

Mall of Asia ice skate rink Philippines

Inside Mall of Asia ice skating rink Manila Philippines

People watching other people skate

Mall of Asia SM ice skating rink Manila Philippines

This is an Olympic-sized ice rink

ABC music store Justin Bieber 2AM poster Manila

The Biebs was going to be in Manila. Unfortunately, I would miss the opportunity to see 2AM live as I would be travelling that day. They're really good! Loved 'Saint O'Clock'!

Mall of Asia cinema movietime multiplex Philippines

They also have an IMAX screen at the multiplex

Inside Mall of Asia trees Manila Philippines

Mall of Asia roll coin rolling faster Philippines

A novel contraption that makes you curious how fast some coins take to reach the hole. Also a novel way for the mall to get free change.

Mall of Asia bridge to promenade

I decided to walk to the promenade

Mall of Asia balcony baywalk Manila PhilippinesMall of Asia baywalk road Manila Philippines

Mall of Asia esplanade road Manila Philippines

There are over-bridges to get to the Baywalk

Manila baywalk restaurants parking Philippines

Plenty of restaurants by the bay

Manila baywalk evening sun Philippines

Watching the sun set by the bay is a popular activity

Manila baywalk Saturday evening crowd Philippines

Scores of people visit the Baywalk in the evenings. More so on weekends.

Manila baywalk children's playground Philippines

Packed with families too!

Mall of Asia promenade bay restaurants Manila Philippines

Mall of Asia baywalk music Manila Philippines

They have band performances here

Manila baywalk local sitting Philippines

Manila Port bay Philippines

Manila Port

Mall of Asia baywalk zip line Manila Philippines

They also have fun zip line activities

Mall of Asia zip line baywalk Manila baywalk zip line mall of asia PhilippinesManila baywalk zipline end Philippines

Mall of Asia Manila panorama

Panorama comprised of 11 shots

Philippines working heroes statue Manny Manila baywalk

A stature paying tribute to hard working Filipinos -- and Manny Pacquiao, the most famous Filipino in the world currently.

Filipino jabbawokeez dancers Manila baywalk Philippines

Faux Jabbawockeez preparing to do... something

Manila baywalk bungee fun Philippines Manila baywalk sunset PhilippinesBaywalk Manila crowds Saturday PhilippinesFilipino couple watching sunset Manila baywalk PhilippinesManila Baywalk filipinos sitting sunset Philippines

Manila baywalk Jabbawockeez mall of asia Philippines

People had gathered to see faux Jabbawockeez perform. Though these guys seemed like a mime act.

Mall of Asia convention center Manila Philippines

The convention center, where Maroon 5 was also scheduled to perform in a few days

Manila baywalk zipline Filipino mall of asia

"Hello to you too!"

Manila baywalk zipline above crowds Philippines

I decided to walk back to the mall and come back once the sun had set

Mall of Asia sunset view baywalk Manila PhilippinesManila baywalk mall of asia zip line queueManila baywalk mall of asia road PhilippinesManila baywalk evening crowds PhilippinesMall of Asia Justin Bieber poster Manila Philippines

Mall of Asia stores Manila Philippines

The interiors of this big mall aren't all that impressive, but then nothing is, compared to Dubai Mall

Mall of Asia led globe Manila Philippines

This globe apparently lights up at night

Mall of Asia interiors stairs panorama

Back outside...

Evening sunset baywalk Manila Philippines

Love the colours!

Given it was really humid, I craved for some ice cream. Bought one, which began melting by the time I tore through the paper wrapping. Had to gulp it up quick.

Mall of Asia baywalk Manila at night

Left the baywalk once it had gotten dark

SM mall of asia at night Manila Philippines

There was little else left to see

Comics Alley Camerahaus Mall of Asia Manila PhilippinesMall of Asia Stoked The North Face branch Manila PhilippinesMall of Asia evening crowds Manila PhilippinesDespite being one of the most famous malls in Philippines, Mall of Asia still offers a lot of affordable shopping. It isn’t one of those glamorous malls that draws a lot of people in but where you hardly see any of them actually shopping. There’s something for everyone at Mall of Asia.

Mall of Asia Globamaze LED advertising Manila Philippines

The LED globe was lit, and was showing ads among other visuals

Mall of Asia globamaze led at night Manila Philippines I really didn’t have anything else planned after this. My friend Aimee and I had initially thought of catching up, but we decided to push it to Sunday as she was going to show me around Manila tomorrow.

I took a jeepney and headed back to Kabayan Hotel. I left the camera in my locker and decided to take a stroll camera-free for a change.

Pasay pedestrian bridge Manila at night

I decided to explore the Pasay area a bit more, which wasn't a very clean area to be honest

Pasay market under MRT track Manila Philippines

I began walking under the other line of the MRT and came across what looked like a street market

Pasay flea market under MRT track Manila Philippines

Hawkers selling everything from fake goods, toys, fruits, clothes, t-shirts, pirated CDs and other fashion accessories

Pasay street market under MRT track Manila Philippines

It extends a fairly long way

Pasay market end of MRT track Manila Philippines

I walked all the way to the end of the track

And then I walked all the way back. Quite an unexpected discovery this was for me. I refrained from buying anything though, as I decided I would keep all my shopping for the last two days of this trip.

When I got back to the main Pasay junction, I decided to try out Chowking, the Chinese food offering from the owners of Jollibee.

Chowking pork fried rice root beer combo meal

Ordered their pork fried rice, dumplings and root beer combo meal for ₱80 ($1.8/€1.3). How was it? Bleurgh! Probably the worst fried rice I've ever tasted. The momos were alright, but then again, how hard is it to screw that up. Sorry Chowking.

After the poor dinner, I went back to my room and decided to spend a few hours on the internet.

Kabayan hotel Pasay recreation hall Manila

The dormitory floor has a recreation lounge with a big screen TV, comfy chairs, and a few computers. You can bring your laptop here and use the wi-fi. Even though the speed wasn't great, I wasn't complaining. I have never experienced such a value-for-money hotel anywhere!

If I ever decide to start a hotel of my own, I would look to Kabayan for inspiration. I really appreciated the quality of service Kabayan offers its customers.

So this what I did today. Basically, nothing much.

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)


17
Jul 11

Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok — Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market

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).

Pattaya to Bangkok highway house Thailand

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.

Pattaya to Bangkok concrete highwaysContainer cargo Pattaya to BangkokPattaya to Bangkok hills ThailandPlus Mall Tesco Lotus Bangkok highway ThailandPattaya elevated expressway BangkokBangkok to Pattaya highway apartment buildingElevated expressway to Bangkok templePattaya to Bangkok highway buildingBangkok highway Thai village river

Yamaha factory outskirts Bangkok Thailand

Yamaha factory

Nissan factory Bangkok highway outskirts Thailand

Nissan’s factory

Metro Caterpillar factory Bangkok Thailand

Caterpillar’s factory

CPF factory Bangkok highway Thailand

Err…someone else’s factory

Bangkok Thailand highway expressway

Central City mall Bangkok Thailand

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 Iceberg lounge Siam mall Bangkok

Absolut had set up a ice bar at Siam Center

Siam Paragon mall interior Christmas tree decorations Bangkok

Siam Paragon mall levels lights

Decided to go for a movie to pass some time

Krungsri IMAX Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand

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.

Siam Paragon food court aquarium Bangkok

The Siam Ocean World aquarium is beneath the food court

Siam Paragon Christmas mall decorations

The mall was all decked up in preparation for Christmas

Siam Center Christmas decorations Thais Bangkok

Even though less than 1% of Thailand’s population are Christians

Siam Center mall fountains Bangkok

Ribbee Botique ukelele paradise shop Bangkok Thailand

There’s an exclusive ukelele store in Bangkok

Siam pedestrian skywalk Thais Bangkok

But as I tried to get to MBK via the pedestrian overbridge, none of us were allowed to… by the police

Sukhumvit road Siam MBK junction Bangkok Thailand

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.

Thai king cavalcade Siam junction Bangkok Thailand

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.

Bangkok buildings air condition vents

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.

Mosburger rice burger Bangkok Thailand

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.

Getting to Chinatown Bangkok by taxi

Took a taxi, cost ฿60 from Siam Center

Chinatown at night Bangkok Thailand

Took around half and hour to get here

Bangkok Chinatown at nightBangkok Chinatown alley street foodChinatown Bangkok street lightsChinatown Bangkok fruit vendors night

Roasted Chicken Chinatown Bangkok Thailand

As with any Chinatown, plenty of food to go around

Chinese shops Chinatown Bangkok ThailandChinese store food items Bangkok ThailandChinatown fruit vendors eateries Bangkok Thailand

Chinatown spring rolls Bangkok Thailand

Yum

Chinatown signs Bangkok Thailand

From all I could tell, there wasn’t much else to see besides the well-lit shop signs

Chinatown shop signs neon Bangkok Thailand

I kept walking down

China Town sign Bangkok Thailand Chinatown lights Bangkok ThailandChinatown main road BangkokWhen 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.

Chinatown alley night Bangkok

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.

Chinatown building Bangkok Thailand 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.

Patpong night market entrance Bangkok Thailand

The Night Market

There wasn’t anything seedy about the place (at first)

Patpong night market sign Bangkok Thailand

Patpong night market stores Bangkok

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…

Patpong night market Kiss bar Bangkok

…you could see the other side of Patpong

Patpong night market tourists

Which made me wonder if the ‘night market’ was just a cover up :)

Patpong night market live bar Bangkok

There are a few good bars with live music though

Patpong night market tattoo studio BangkokLike 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?

฿3000.

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.

Thaniya plaza Japanese clubs bars Patpong Bangkok

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 BTS station Patpong Bangkok

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.

Thaniya Plaza clubs bars Patpong Bangkok 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.

Siam Absolut ice bar concert Bangkok Thailand

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 arab restaurants Bangkok Thailand

Nana has a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants, which was great for me (given how much I miss this cuisine)

Foreign exchange shops Gulliver's Nana Bangkok

You get really good foreign exchange rates here, far better than the rates the banks in the malls give. I exchanged a few dollars.

Sky Inn Nana Sukhumvit Bangkok Thailand

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.

Krispy Kreme Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand

I couldn’t fathom the locals’ desperation to bag Krispy Kreme donuts. There were huge lines everyday at the Siam Paragon outlet.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts sold Bangkok streets

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.

Sukhumvit road Bangkok city traffic skywalk

Pedestrian overbridge Bangkok city ThailandBangkok city river boat ThailandOn Petchburi road, the girls wanted to check out Platinum Mall, which claims to be Thailand’s largest fashion mall.

Platinum Mall shoppers Bangkok Thailand

Boy, was it crowded inside

Eight floors of fashion goodness… well, mostly for women anyway. Hardly anything for men in here.

Platinum mall shops Bangkok ThailandDespite 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.

Platinum mall women fashion clothes Bangkok Thailand

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).

Chatuchak park way to market Bangkok Thailand

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).

Chatuchak market entrance 6 Bangkok Thailand

Took a deep breath and went in

Chatuchak market crowd Bangkok I have already written a lot about JJ market in my first visit.

DHL courier shop Chatuchak market Bangkok

In case you buy more than you can carry… there’s always DHL

Palm fap chatuchak market Bangkok Thailand

Palm… fap?

Doner kabab Turkish ice cream Chatuchak weekend market Bangkok

Plenty of food to energize you for all the walking you’ll be doing at Jatujak

Bags shop owner Chatuchak weekend market Bangkok

The famous bags salesman calling every foreigner “Michael” was still at it in 2010 :)

Chatuchak weekend market home furnishings Bangkok

The reason I like JJ market a lot is because they sell *everything* that can be placed inside a house

Chatuchak weekend market lights store Bangkok Thailand

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 puppy Chatuchak weekend market Bangkok

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.

Choconana vendor Chatuchak market Bangkok

Had one of this: cold banana on a stick dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts

Mo Chit BTS station at night Bangkok Thailand

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


14
May 11

Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Last November, I decided just a few weeks earlier to go back to Thailand. The main purpose of this trip was to witness the Loi Krathong (or Loy Krathong) festival, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals and one that I always wanted to cover. Although it’s a national festival, Thailand still doesn’t get a public holiday for it.

Usually falling in November, I first booked my flights in October via Cleartrip.com which had a really good offer:  a return ticket from Thai Airways (direct flight) + Indian Rupee ₹2,000 hotel voucher + Indian Rupee ₹1,000 worth of credit for a Uniconnect Thailand SIM card + an entry to DreamWorld theme park… all for Indian Rupee ₹16,742 ($375/€262). Awesome deal if you ask me!

But, one week prior departure, I won the chance to go see Linkin Park in Abu Dhabi! So I delayed my departure by a few days, and then again after I read Jay Park was going to be performing in Bangkok. I left for Dubai on a Friday early morning and returned to Bangalore late Sunday night. I then went to office on the following Monday and then left for the airport in the evening for my early morning flight on Tuesday!

Inside Thai Airways flight TG325

The flight wasn’t full, so I had an entire row to myself

Thai Airways flight TG325 inflight chicken meal

The Thai chicken curry meal was yum

Unlike my first visit to Thailand, in which I tried to cover the entire country in 9 days (I did it, but I didn’t quite enjoy the experience), this time around I was only going to focus on North Thailand. Most of my time would be spent in Chiang Mai covering the Yi Ping Festival (as Loi Krathong is called in Chiang Mai), after which I planned to go to Chiang Rai & then a day in Pattaya before heading back to Bangkok.

Arriving Bangkok at dawn

Arrived in Bangkok at dawn

Inside Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand

Hello Suvarnabhumi!

Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand travelator

Sigh, the many travelators you have to cross…

Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand moving walkway

… to finally get to the visa-on-arrival section

Once I did get to the Visa-on-arrival counter, I submitted my form, showed them how much currency I was carrying and got my visa-on-arrival without having to pay the usual ฿1000. After that was customs and then collecting my bags. Last year, I took a taxi from the airport into Bangkok city which cost ฿320 but this time, I decided to take a shuttle bus.

Suvarnabhumi shuttle bus to Bangkok

The private bus going to Sukhumvit cost ฿150 (Rs. 222/$5/€3.5)

Thai Airways office near Suvarnabhumi airport

Suvarnabhumi airport from afar

That’s Suvarnabhumi airport

Sukhumvit from afar Bangkok Thailand

Getting near Sukhumvit took only 20 minutes

But then, Bangkok’s infamous traffic soon began. And my god did it last long! It took the bus nearly an hour just to get into Sukhumvit road.

I finally got dropped at Nana BTS station. I chose to stay at Thai House Inn, a place where I spent two nights at last year — because it’s 30 seconds walk from the metro station (literally) and its not far from all the malls. I needed to stay here because first on the list of things-to-do was to buy some camera equipment, so I had to have quick access to the shopping centers, especially MBK. Those whole followed my Singapore & Malaysia series must have read that I couldn’t pick up a good camera tripod while I was there. So this time, I just couldn’t go to Chiang Mai without it!

But first, I had to get some sleep! After a whirlwind trip to Dubai and then hopping on to another flight to get to Thailand,  my body needed some proper rest.

I got up at lunch time, took the BTS SkyTrain and headed straight to MBK Center, one of my favourite malls in Bangkok.

MBK Center Mahboonkrong mall Bangkok

From Nana, the Siam station is only 3 stops away; costs ฿25

(Here is the map of the BTS service in Bangkok)

MBK houses Fotofile, the store from where I bought my Canon 7D and other accessories last year. Fotofile also manages the official Canon store and two other stores in MBK! List of things to buy included a 70-200 f2.8 lens, another 16GB card, an interval remote, and a good tripod. I went to all of Fotofile’s stores, a BIG Camera branch and jotted down the prices for all that I wanted.

MBK Bangkok food court

I had lunch from the food court which offers a lot of variety (though mostly Asian cuisine & fast food)

I left MBK and thought I’d check out some other stores.

Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic BTS Skytrain tracks

I never walked on that pedestrian bridge below the Skytrain tracks

Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic

The traffic is like this from 8am to 8pm

Ratchaprasong skywalk Sukhumvit BTS bridge

The skywalk bridge connects to a lot of the malls along the Ratchaprasong area

Centralworld mall Bangkok Thailand

I didn’t even step into Centralworld last time

Ratchaprasong BTS skytrain Sukhumvit Bangkok

Ratchaprasong BTS skywalk Sukhumvit pedestrian bridgeRatchaprasong walkway Sukhumvit pedestrian bridgeSukhumvit Bangkok Renaissance Hotel Thailand

Ratchaprasong pavement Bangkok

I got down from the skywalk

I decided to head to the parallel Petchburi Road where Pantip Plaza is located.

Centralworld Bangkok mall

The side section of Centralworld Mall

Ratchadamri road bridge Bangkok ThailandBangkok river boatride SukhumvitPetchburi road steps to overbridgeRatchadamri road Bangkok ThailandBangkok Petchburi road shopsBangkok city bridge wayBangkok Petchburi road traffic Thailand

Amari Watergate Hotel Bangkok Petchburi road Thailand

Amari Watergate Hotel is located on Petchburi Road

Platinum Fashion Mall shopping Petchburi road Bangkok

Right across Amari Watergate is Platinum Fashion Mall

Platinum Fashion mall Petchburi road Bangkok

Petchburi road is also famous for the Pratunam market area

Pantip Plaza is essentially Bangkok’s equivalent to Singapore’s Sim Lim Square and Kuala Lumpur’s Low Yat Plaza.

Pantip Plaza ground floor shop

Bangkok’s most famous IT mall

Pantip Plaza inside floor storesI came to Pantip Plaza because none of the camera stores in MBK (and the Siam malls) sold tripods from the brand Vanguard. I had a particular model in mind but even after stepping into pretty much every Pantip Plaza shop that sold camera equipment, none stocked products from Vanguard.

Pantip Plaza ground floor stores

I left Pantip Plaza disappointed

I wanted to try and buy everything I wanted from one store, so that I didn’t have to swipe my card three or four times and incur additional charges for each transactions.

Ratchathewi station empty land Bangkok

I decided to head back to Sukhumvit road

Ratchathewi station graffiti walls Petchburi Bangkok

It was nearing sunset and my body was telling me 4 hours of sleep wasn’t enough

Ratchathewi station platform BTS Bangkok

Ratchathewi station is at the far end of Petchburi road

Sukhumvit traditional Thai dance night

By the time I stepped out of the train, it was already dark. The sun sets rather quickly out here.

Sukhumvit Ratchaprasong skywalk lights Bangkok

I decided to check one last mall before heading back

Centralworld Mall entrance Bangkok Thailand

Centralworld mall interior decor Bangkok Thailand

Centralworld is actually one of the biggest malls in Thailand

Centralworld mall Aunt Annie's Bangkok ThailandUnfortunately, Centralworld was quite badly damaged during last year’s ‘Red t-shirts’ protests and an entire section of the building was off limits because they were renovating it.

I looked up the store directory and saw that BIG Camera had a bigger branch here but unfortunately, it was in the part of the building which was under renovation.

Centralworld mall Christmas tree BangkokAfter checking which ever stores were open, I left CentralWorld.

Siam Paragon IMAX Novotel BTS Bangkok

Bangkok Sukhumvit skywalk christmas lights decorationSukhumvit road at night BangkokPresident Tower Holiday Inn hotel BangkokThe one good thing I liked about the area I was in is that it’s actually full of Arab visitors, and therefore plenty of businesses exist catering to tourists from the Middle East and Africa.

Bangkok Nana Sukhumvit Arab area

Bangkok Nana Sukhumvit Arab restaurants

Which meant, plenty of Middle Eastern cuisine for me to eat!

Nana Sukhumvit Dubai center Bangkok Thailand

Yeah, it’s *that* Gulf-y!

I picked up a beef shawarma (฿50) and a drink from a 7-11 and made my way back to my room. I had kept the air conditioner on for a while to ventilate the room and rid it of the Bangkok ‘stench,’ which takes a little getting used to. (The ‘smell’ of Bangkok city is essentially the smell of fish sauce emanating in the air.)

I needed more sleep and I had to wake up early the next day. I assessed all the camera products and all the prices I made a note of. I had to pick up everything tomorrow itself and then leave early enough to get to Mo Chit bus terminal.

Next day

After waking up and breakfast at Au Bon Pain in MBK, I waited for the Fotofile stores to open.

MBK mall bags clothes small stores section Bangkok

Walked around the ‘street market’ stores on the 6th floor to pass time

Fotofile camera equipment store MBK Bangkok Thailand

I picked up an additional 16GB card, the interval remote and an extra battery for the Canon 7D from the Foto Thailand store on the 3rd floor

Fotofile MBK used lenses store Bangkok

Lots of second hand lenses for sale

The telephoto lens I was keen on picking up was the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS Mark 1. Unfortunately, that model was recently replaced by the newer Mark 2, which was obscenely expensive and thus made finding the Mark 1 a challenge.

MBK mall escalators advertising Bangkok

So I ended up picking up a brand new Canon 70-200 f2.8 non-IS lens and using the substantial savings to purchase a good tripod instead. I needed one anyway.

Official Canon store MBK collection display Bangkok

I picked up the lens from the official Canon store managed by Fotofile

Canon camera store MBK collection display Bangkok

None of these are for sale, just on display

The Canon store had a few Manfrotto tripods on sale and I considered the Manfrotto 055x Pro B but it was too pricey. I went down to the BIG Camera store and picked up a Sirui tripod for around 7k baht. The model was very good value for money and complimented my newly acquired 70-200 lens well.

With all my shopping done, I went to one of the two main food courts in MBK.

Fifth Food Avenue food court MBK mall Bangkok

Fifth Food Avenue is the name of this food court

Nasi Goreng MBK mall food court Bangkok

I was still on my Malaysia high, so I had Nasi Goreng (although they went overboard with the soy sauce) ฿160

After lunch, I still had some time to kill, so I went to Siam Paragon to find out where the Jay Park concert was going to be held.

Siam Discovery mall interior decor Bangkok

Siam Discovery, which is the older and slightly more wallet friendly mall

Strip Ministry of Waxing Siam Discovery mall Bangkok

Clever ad :)

Siam Paragon mall open area Bangkok

Siam Paragon mall is the more posh offering

Krungsri IMAX theatre Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand

The Royal Paragon Hall was on the top most floor, near the cinemas

Cool gel attack Thai film cinema poster

Hmmm, interesting

After finding out where Royal Paragon Hall was, I made my way out.

Siam Paragon conference hall BangkokSiam Paragon mall open lobby Bangkok

Audi showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand

Walked past the luxury car showrooms on the second floor

Lamborghini showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand

Last year, they had a ‘No Photographs’ sign on the glass

So this time, I went in and got up close to the Lamborghinis. You don’t realize just how big these sexy machines are until you stand next to them. I spoke to the sales girl and I asked her how much the import duties for these cars are and she told me it’s over 100-150%, including the many taxes on these luxuries… making them super-expensive in Thailand. She wouldn’t disclose how many they sell a year but at such prices, I’m guessing not many. I hardly ever saw one on the road in the two trips I’ve made to Thailand.

Porsche showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok ThailandOnce back in my room, I re-packed my bags and checked out. The lady who runs Thai House Inn asked me why I was leaving so early and assured me there would be plenty of buses, but I didn’t want to risk not getting a seat. Going to Chiang Mai early is what I essentially came for.

I took the BTS all the way to till last stop, Mo Chit station, and from there I took a moped taxi (to Mo Chit bus terminal, which caters to North Thailand).

But when I got to the terminal, a lot of the buses to Chiang Mai leaving that night were already full! Especially the luxury buses, and I had to go from one transport company to another to find available seats. Fortunately, I got a ticket in a regular push-back seat bus — it was their last for the night!

Last year I got a seat in a luxury bus which cost me ฿700, for which I just showed up at the station and got my ticket. Of course, the sold-out seats today were due to the Loi Krathong weekend rush. So word of advice, if you want the luxury buses during Loy Krathong weekend, buy the tickets in advance.

Not that the bus I got was  bad or anything, it was just one of those regular buses used on overnight long distance journeys, in my case an 8-hour journey.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus night journey

A seat costs ฿403 (Rs. 597/$13/€9)

The bus made a rest stop for toilet break and for picking up dinner/snacks. In a few hours, I would arrive at Thailand’s second biggest city, and my second trip to Thailand officially begins!

Next few posts in this series:

Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)

Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)

Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower

Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Thailand 2010: Pattaya — Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street

Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok — Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market

Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)

Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok

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