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Chinatown at night Bangkok Thailand

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

Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic BTS Skytrain tracks

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 BangkokSo 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
Hmm, 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

Dubai creek abra boat passengers afternoon ride

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 1: Flying to Dubai, shopping, Burj Khalifa at night

Date: 12th November 2010

On Monday the 8th of November, 2010, I got a bunch of missed calls as I was preparing to head to office. When I finally did speak to the person, it turned out it was someone from VH1 India informing me that I had been shortlisted as finalist in their Linkin Park Ticket to Ride Contest!

But before that, she had a bunch of questions to ask: “Do you have a valid passport?,” “Can you fly at short notice?” and then asked around 9 questions about the band itself. After answering most of the questions, said she had to speak to the others and that she would call back in some time.

After the call, the only thought that came to my mind was: “HO-LY SHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the 60-plus times I took part in the contest on Vh1 India’s Facebook page paid off!” I eagerly awaited the return call and 5 minutes later, it came.

She told me I was selected as the final winner because I answered the most questions!

Jeff Gerstmann Woohoo fistpump
"Woo-hoooooooooo!"

She told me I could take a guest too and so I chose my elder brother Nithin, who had never been to UAE. She also told me she would send me details on tickets, where we would be staying and how we would be going to the venue. First, we weren’t going to staying in Abu Dhabi, where the Yas Marina Circuit is located. Instead, we would be in Dubai.

Hey, I wasn’t going to complain. From there, on the day of the race, we would get picked and dropped via taxi. Cool, works for us!

After we hung up, I couldn’t hold my excitement and fist-pumped “Yes!”. This was the first time in life I actually won something big! Anyway, I headed to office and also prepared to get our visa arranged (we still had to do that ourselves).

For our Dubai visa, we approached DVPC by VFS Global, the exclusive service for all Emirates flights. We rushed all our documents to their office on Cunningham road on Tuesday afternoon and hoped we could get our visas by Thursday, since our flight was on Friday early morning.

Long story short, we managed to get our 96-hour/4 day visit visa (costs Rs. 3000 per person) processed by then.

On the dawn of Friday 12th, December 2010, we were in our Emirates flight from Bangalore to Dubai.

Star lit sky night from Emirates plane
It was a very star-lit night sky
Emirates breakfast India to Dubai flight
Early breakfast was pretty decent

We landed in Dubai at 7am.

Dubai airport tarmac terminal 4 construction
As if three terminals weren't enough
Dubai airport Emirates planes arriving in morning
We rode on the tarmac for nearly 5 minutes before finally stopping

We descended into one of those airport buses to get to the terminal. That ride took another 5 minutes — and my god was it cold inside that bus! It was mobile freezing chamber!

We finally got into Terminal 3 and made our way to immigration.

Dubai airport inside terminal 3 arrivalsI was a bit worried about visa because we didn’t get any official copy prior to our departure since everything was so ‘last minute’. But it was in our ticket and we faced no issues at immigration.

Dubai airport inside arrivals interiorsDubai airport inside terminal 3 walkalatorOnce out, we hailed a taxi and headed to Deira where our hotel was located.

We were put up at Fortune Hotel. We had breakfast and checked into one of our rooms (we got two individual rooms). First thing I did after stepping out was call up my parents and then inform my friends in Dubai that I had arrived. We didn’t rest for much because we only had one day to roam around Dubai.

We briefly caught up with my good friend Azhad, walked around Deira a bit and then made our way to the creek.

Dubai creek abra boat passengers afternoon ride

Dubai creek abra station Deira afternoon rideDubai creek trade boat afternoon skyDubai creek abra boat afternoon sky

Dubai creek trading ship
Though not the main port anymore, trade still goes through these waters daily

Dubai creek view afternoon Rolex towersDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque afternoon

Dubai creek Bur Dubai abra dockDubai creek Bur Dubai abra dock afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque abra speedThe abra ride costs just AED1 is one of the must-dos when in Dubai, be it in daytime or at night.

Once in Bur Dubai, I showed my brother the souq.

Dubai creek Bur Dubai market souq afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai market souq entranceI’ve covered the souq a lot more in my trip from April. We went around a bit, bought some chocolates and made our way towards the Bur Dubai bus station.

Plaza cinema theater Bur Dubai
One of the oldest theaters in Dubai

We were in Bur Dubai to meet my friend Jassim, who had invited me and my brother over to his house for lunch.

He picked us up in his Mitsubishi Pajero.

Dubai inside Jassim's Mitsubishi Pajero

Dubai inside Mitsubishi Pajero dashboard interiors
With a mileage like that, it's a good thing petrol is cheap in UAE

Once at home, we were treated some fantastic mutton biriyani Jassim’s mother-in-law prepared. It was brilliant! Oh, there was chicken too. Equally delicious.

Dubai Jassim family
Our gracious hosts (the adults i.e., the kids didn't care much for our presence)

After an extremely satisfying (and heavy) lunch, Jassim offered to drive us to our next destination.

Dubai Jassim driving PajeroDubai construction progressingDubai Al Riyadh street overpass

Dubai Raffles pyramid hotel
Dubai skyscrapers buildings skyline shadow
Never tire of this sight

Dubai building for sale

Dubai festival city building
We were on our way to Festival City

Festival City was the only major mall I didn’t visit the first time I came to Dubai, back in April.  Also, the mall houses Dubai’s IKEA store.

Dubai Festival City parking Pajero vs Hummer
The Pajero faces off with the soon-to-be-extinct Hummer
Dubai Festival City Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant
Popular British chef Jamie Oliver is opening a restaurant here

Festival City is another mixed-use development, comprising of a mall (of course), residential apartments, offices and even a marina.

Dubai Festival City marina panorama
(Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Dubai festival city marina yachts

Dubai Festival City Intercontinental Hotel
Dubai Festival City water canal
A water canal offering boat rides as well
Dubai Festival City water boat rides
Plenty of eateries by the water canal too

Once inside, the store offerings weren’t that different from any other major mall in Dubai.

Dubai Festival City mall water wires panorama
This was pretty cool though
Dubai Festival City water wires long
Water trickles down these wires and makes a sound when it touches the ground

Dubai Festival City mall storesDubai Festival City floors

Dubai Festival City Ikea store
Why we came to Festival City mall--IKEA (There is no IKEA store in India, yet)
Dubai Festival City lit up trees
After nearly an hour inside, we were done with our shopping

Jassim quickly took us around to show us some more unique ‘water fountains’ inside Festival City.

Dubai Festival City water fountain streaming

Dubai Festival City water fountain structure
But this big one takes the cake
Dubai Festival City unique water fountain closeup
That's a thin stream of water flowing all the way down

Dubai Festvial city inside eventsWe were running late and Jassim had to head back home. So after quick stop at an electronics store, we headed back to the car parking.

Dubai Festvial City Lacoste Paris galleryDubai Festvial City at night moonDubai Festvial City Intercontinental Hotel nightDubai Festvial City water canal at night

Dubai roads driving night
Next stop, Dubai Mall
Dubai clock tower roundabout at night
Dubai's old landmark
Driving on Sheikh Zayed road at night
Sheikh Zayed road, where all of Dubai's new landmarks are
Dubai Pajero sky roof open
Sky roof open...
Dubai Jassim driving Pajero night
... volume up!

Jassim dropped us off at Dubai Mall and we said our goodbyes.

Dubai Mall entrance NithinWe had booked our entry to Burj Khalifa’s At The Top for 8pm. But we quickly went around the mall before that.

Dubai Mall aquarium world record
First we passed by Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium Guinness world record plaque
The Guinness Record for the World's Largest Acrylic Panel

Dubai Mall Aquarium world fishes diverDubai Mall Aquarium ceiling decorationMy brother wasn’t really interested in going inside the aquarium. So we continued up.

Dubai Mall Christmas decorations

Dubai Mall Denon LG showrooms
My brother instead wanted to check out home theater systems

He was tempted to pick a unit which cost half of what it costs back in India. But given the size of the entire package (and fearing customs,) he dropped the idea.

Dubai Mall digital runway screens
Funky runways huh?

When it was time, we made our way to the At The Top counter in the basement.

Dubai Mall Burj Khalifa model At The TopDubai Mall At The Top experience NithinMy brother isn’t staring at a white screen, watch this video for what you really see.

Dubai Mall At The Top observation deck which floor
I didn't get it the right the last time but this time I vowed to point to where exactly the observation deck on Burj Khalifa is

Once we reached the top via the fastest elevator in the world, I switched to video:

This is the view at night in photos.

Burj Khalifa At The Top view at night Dubai

Dubai Mall from top at night
Dubai Mall's roof goes green at night

Burj Khalifa At The Top view highways

The Address hotel Dubai at night
The Address hotel
Burj Khalifa At The Top view financial centre at night Dubai
Dubai's Financial Centre

Dubai Financial Centre buildings at nightBurj Khalifa At The Top observation deck at nightDubai labour camps at night

Sheikh Zayed road offices at night
Drive up further you reach Dubai Marina
Burj Khalifa At The Top observation telescopes
You can use these to get a simulation of how the same view looks in daylight

Dubai Sheikh Zayed road flyover intersectionDowntown Dubai The Address residences at nightAfter 30 minutes on top, we made our way back down.

Burj Khalifa elevator floors fastOnce down, we walked past the other displays as you make your exit.

Burj Khalifa ground displaysBurj Khalifa vision inspiration peopleBurj Khalifa ground video displays

Burj Khalifa escalator downBurj Khalifa exit walkalatorThis was the second time for me ‘At the Top,’ a more detailed description of the experience can be viewed here.

Once out, the Dubai fountains were on show.

Dubai Mall fountain show at night
The shows are every half an hour
Dubai Mall Christmas tree decorations
Islamic country, but they still deck a heck lot of lights for Christmas

Burj Khalifa in the dark Dubai
The tallest X'mas 'tree' in the world

We took the shuttle bus from Dubai Mall to the metro station. Even though we were tired and sleepy, we still decided to quickly check out Mall of the Emirates — four stops from Dubai Mall.

Mall of Emirates shopping mall nightWe were here mostly to check out the Virgin Megastore. Last time I was here, I spent quite a bit on video games. This time, we just picked up some blu-rays, a music CD… and then some more video games.

Mall of Emirates Ralph Lauren storeBy the time we were done with everything, it was 10:30pm. We had to get back, have dinner and then figure out how we were going to pack all our IKEA goods.

Dinner was shawarmas, which though better than the stuff you get in India, wasn’t as good as the ones I grew up eating in Bahrain. The Egyptian joint we picked it up stuffed it with french fries and wrapped it in kuboos instead of Lebanese bread. These were the kind of shawarmas pretty much everywhere. I don’t know, they were inferior in my opinion.

After dinner, I roamed around a bit in search of empty carton boxes big enough to hold our IKEA purchases but despite asking just about every cold store in our vicinity, the best I got were water bottle boxes. I came back with one but realized it was grossly insufficient.

Next morning, I had to call up my friend Azhad for help.


Next post in this series:

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 2 – Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi F1 and Linkin Park concert

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