SKYWHORES UNITE!!! BANGKOK, THAILAND
You’ve got your rich and you’ve got your poor. Who cares about what level of income you have as long as you can spoil yourself in some way. CEO’s or housekeepers, we all need a break. The problem is where? The average getaway costs in the thousands and sets you back a few checks or doesn’t bother you at all. Well let’s forget about the standard tropical retreat such as Jamaica, Mexico, Hawaii, or Bahamas. Let’s open our eyes to another area of the world that most North Americans have never thought about visiting.
Thailand has been on a huge commercial explosion. So if you want tranquility its now or never…
Population: 60.6 million
Location: situated next to Laos, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia
Currency: Baht; 1USD:30.69 THB
Capital: Bangkok pop: 6 million
Ok, enough of the boring stuff. Thailand rocks! That’s all you need to know. From the sandy white beaches with overhanging palm trees of the islands to the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle that is Bangkok. Thailand offers you everything with a quart of culture and a pinch of a smile. Here’s a peek at my recent trip.
We start off in Bangkok “ City of Angles” as they call it. Unfortunately the average person has a preconceived image of a backwards shantytown. Au contraire mon frere. How wrong you are if anything, you might be living in a shantytown now compared. This super modern city is an epicenter of culture, food, and especially fashion. Thailand is renown for its silk and has decided to promote itself as a world leading fashion center, as they should. February 2004 was the 1st installment of the Fashion City Parade. Imagine 800 models, 39 trucks, 200,000 people and dozens of mobile boutiques all along Sukumvit, one of the main thoroughfares in the city. What you had was the largest fashion runway in the world and a happening party. Pull out the Singha beer and let’s get buck-naked!!!! (At your own risk) This has changed and more focus is on Bangkok Fashion Week. Still highly impressive as the talent here is shockingly good.
Let’s not forget the luck of arriving during the Bangkok International Film Festival. Dozens of local, Asian, and foreign films are showcased here. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with one of China’s biggest stars, Michelle Yeoh (CroughingTiger, Hidden Dragon). After viewing a film, I participated in one of the many banquets held by the festival. Unfortunately I wasn’t careful and not aware of whom I could possibly meet. I commented on Michelle Rodriguez dress, insisted that Val Kilmer get a haircut, told Colin Farell blonde streaks were out, and inquired if Oliver Stone was just that…stoned!
Getting around Bangkok can be pretty interesting for the traveller. There’s Bts-sky train, Mrt-subway, taxis, tuk-tuk’s, scooter and your feet. Bts and Mrt’s are fast clean and efficient bringing you to all points of the city with no headache. The taxi is extremely cheap starting at 1$ U.S and rarely going over 3$, just make sure to always demand ‘meter’ or they will over charge you. Tuk -tk’s can be fun as it’s a traditional method of travelling but when clogged with traffic no one likes exhaust fumes in their face. My favorite method is the scooter where you negotiate a price and zoom in and out of traffic so that no matter what, you’ll always be on time. Just hold on for your life cause the scooter driver was never taught that the sidewalk was made for pedestrians.
If you’re a shopping whore like I am, broke or a little tight then Siam is for you. Just take the Skytrain to Siam and visit the surrounding malls, which offer a variety of high-end and lowbrow clothing franchises such as Greyhound and Playground, local Thai brands. Their malls are always liquidating, so make sure you go in the right season. Don’t be afraid to ask when the sales will start, you can save at least 50% on already inexpensive clothes.
Don’t spend all your money in the malls though because just across Sukumvit street is the Valhalla of shopping! Yes, blocks and blocks of independent designer shopping. Literally in the hundreds.
If your loaded or you got lucky and married right then Gaysorn Plaza is for you and what was Central World(partially burnt down during recent protests). Imagine 5th Ave in a mall. It makes Holt Renfrew or Barneys look like Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store.
However, don’t spend all your money because you have yet to experience the worlds biggest flea market with over 10,000 stalls. Chatuchak, or Jatuchak, or Weekend Market offers you everything you need, literally. There’s only one word to describe it… SICK!
As I like to think of my self as an expert shopper, I’d say Saturday walk around take name cards, write down prices try to do as much of the market as possible, then Sunday go back to these exact locations and buy your choices. Why 2 days? There is so much to see that if you buy something immediately, you might lose a deal, or spend money on something of lesser significance. Now when I say this market has every thing, I mean it. Fromt pet food, to pets, furniture, clothes, food, trinkets, and great fashion. You just need to be patient. Go as early as possible because by the afternoon it feels like all of Bangkok descends on this market. Considering its 35degrees, outdoors, and congested, the earlier the better. Prepare to hate society and tropical weather after this. But when you get home, you’ll have nostalgia attached to every item you purchased.
There’s also The Pratunam mall on Thanon Phetchaburi road where you can any software that exists for 5$. Yes I know it’s a crime but let’s face it, these companies are raping us! You can find 24 languages of Rosetta Stone on 1 disc, not that I would know. Anything for Mac or Pc can be found for your logistics need. So if you know anyone going, place your order.
The Mandarin-Oriental, now this is luxury! The Mandarin is top class, offering limo service, daycare, world famous cooking school and has rated #1 in the “Top 10 Hotel Spa’s” in Travel and Leisure magazine 3 times in the past 5 years. Also having been awarded a 5-Star Diamond Award both in 1999 and 2000. Need I say more?
The rooms are decorated in soft hues with spectacular garden and river views.
Personally what I enjoyed most was their service. Everywhere you went you were greeted with a smile (how genuine, who cares). After a hard day of shopping there’s nothing like a sweet old lady offering you a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice to ease your tension. After all shopping is hard work! Yes, every floor has a personalized butler.
Set on opposite banks of the Chao Phraya River it’s always a pleasure crossing over on their shuttle boat. One side consists of the sports center, cooking school and the renowned Sala Rim Naam restaurant and the other is the bulk of the hotel with a beautiful riverside terrace seafood buffet every night. Not your regular buffet though, its actually good and freshly made. Well not good, amazing!
After all of this you can sit in a tub and listen to your favourite CD (not local radio) on their Bose sound system. I cranked up the volume but it seems no one outside could hear it. Nice touch!
Don’t despair; Suk 11 saves the day. This hostel is made in the Thai traditional manner. This means numerous rooms elevated with multi-purpose. Some of you might cringe at the thought of hostel, but it is not the regular stock you would find. It is actually quite clean and an amazing experience. I highly recommend it.
If you’re the party person who likes to drink till you sleep and the 1st second awaking? Stay in the Khaosan road area.
You’ll meet with hundreds of Israeli, British, Aussie’s and Germans doing nothing but partying. If you can handle them, good luck! However, for budget travellers you can’t find a better price. Boutique hostels available for $20. Boutique, I say…imagine your single room with its own waterfall. But in all honesty Bangkok is a city where you can find anything for all prices. Lodging from 5$ to the thousands. A real city for everyone.
The local arts scene is nothing to scoff at. Whether visual or musical, there’s something for everyone. A good magazine to pick up when entering the city is BK. Definitely connected to the arts in the local scene and written in English by expats and locals. However, remember anything you follow in the print will most likely cater to the expats. So don’t be surprised if you go to an event and find few locals except for the wealthy lot or those educated abroad.
I can’t fit Thailand into one article so I’ll have to divide into parts. I’ve covered Bangkok pretty well and continue in the next installment.
Thank you to Koon Daniel for being my Thai mentor and for understanding what the 3rd floor of DJ can do to a person.