Bangkok, Part II: The Return

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December 10th 2006
Published: December 12th 2006
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Back to Bangkok on the Sleeper Train

Kris: We caught the overnight train from Nong Khai to Bangkok in an air con sleeper carriage. AT first it was quite exciting. We had food served to our seats, then at 8ish the guard came down the train converting our seats into bunk beds. We'd booked two upper bunks opposite each other and ended up nestled in our beds reading while the whole train drew its own little personal curtains and went to sleep at 9. We closed our little bunk curtains at 11ish......and I basically lay there all night wide awake staring at the ceiling (only 3 foot above my face) and listening to the bloke opposite snoring. Great. Dunno if I like sleepers.

Kate: I thought it was cool. It was really cosy and I slept really well, but then I couldnt hear the bloke snooring and I was the right length for the comparment. Kris is abit taller than your average Thai.

The Other Side of Bangkok

Kris:On this, our second time in the big city, we decided to try a different bit - the other side of town from the back-packery bit we were in when we 1st arrived and pretty much away from the old temples. We stayed in the modern bit where the skyline was dominated by enormous shopping malls, neon lights, 21st century skytrains and elevated pedestrian walkways. It's a completely different world and it's just oozing money. This is particularly obvious when you arrive by train and pass shanty towns of DIY homes made of rusty corrugated metal sheets.

We took a room in the White Lodge Guesthouse up a little alley directly by where several bright glass, ultramodern shopping malls jostle for attention. The MBK Centre, Siam Discovery Centre and Siam Paragon are packed with everything from markets to cinemas, restaurants and even an aquarium. But more on that later.

When we took a room in the White Lodge we were told we could leave our bags, but the room needed cleaning and would be ready mid-morning. It was 8.30am so we headed out to find breakfast. With the shopping centres closed till 10 and the coffee shops till 9, we went on a little wander. It was then we became open game for tuk-tuk drivers. I'm sorry I whinged about Vientiane tuk-tuks now because the ones in this
Reindeers at the Siam Paragon CentreReindeers at the Siam Paragon CentreReindeers at the Siam Paragon Centre

They have fountains behind them to keep them cool cos its bloody warm and there's no snow.
part of Bangkok are in a different league. All we did was walk down the road - killing time till we could buy a coffee - and 4 tuk-tuks screeched to a halt one after the other with the drivers chasing us shouting "where you go?? There's nothing that way!! I take you good shopping!". It was an ordeal. Once we managed to get into a coffee shop we found sanctuary, but spookily we could sit and watch more and more tuk-tuks accumulating outside like wolves waiting for us to leave. It's like predator and prey. You're more likely to be nabbed in the open without a herd of other foreigners.

We stayed slurping coffee until the MBK centre opened and then slipped through the back door into the mall. Ha ha, that'll teach 'em.

Consumer Heaven

The MBK Centre is a crazy place - particularly after a night of insomnia on a sleeper train. It's got everything. There are huge department stores, AMerican style restaurants, coffee shops, a gigantic cinema/games area, massive indoor markets and open food courts (I think the aquariums in it's neighbour Siam Paragon...but I could be wrong). I guess westerners do a lot of shopping there as Christmas had certainly arrived for the 1st time since we've been away. There are trees and extravagant decorations everywhere. There's even a fast food restaurant called "Santa's". Then you step outside the air-conditioned shininess of it all onto one of the elevated walkways...and immediately start pouring with sweat in the tropical sun, standing in front of a giant icicle-effect Christmas tree.

We spent all day exploring these conjoined malls and didn't go back to our room till teatime.

The Stinky Department Store

There's a department store in the MBK centre over several floors called Tokyo (I think...or it may have been Tokyu..). Each floor's linked by escalators down the centre and it's a bit like M&S or Debenhams or something. With the added difference that it stinks. We thought we were losing it as if only we could smell it - particularly around the escalators. Sort of like a blocked drain or rotting fish. Not a smell you associate with department stores. We think it may have tracked down the cause on the top floor. They have fruit stalls and one of them seems to be piled with sliced durian fruit. We'd heard that
Around the world in 80 English pubs #2Around the world in 80 English pubs #2Around the world in 80 English pubs #2

The Londoner Brew Pub. It brewed its own beer which it served in those glass tankards that old men drink out of in pubs, and sold English food at the same price you pay for it in England, but apart from that it wasnt very English.
this stuff absolutely reaks - but tastes great - but didn't expect it'd be this bad or far reaching. Weird thing was, no one else seemed to notice. Maybe to the trained nose it smells like fresh oranges or apples. Couldn't bring myself to try any. I'll stick with deep-fried cockroaches.

How to beat a tuk-tuk

We had a strange meal in one of the MBKs food courts that night. It was the size of several footy pitches and little waiters in red hats wouldn't let us do anything for ourselves. Meanwhile, a covers band played easy-listening in the corner. We decided it was time to get out of the air-con and hit the balmy streets and find a bar. Easier said than down. We couldn't find one anywhere. We circled the shopping streets near the malls several times but found not one place to have a beer. Add to this that every now and then a man appeared insisting we got into his tuk-tuk and it all got a bit much. Then while we were stood on a corner deciding what to do we discovered an ant-tuk-tuk strategy. Regular as clockwork a guy appeared and asked what we
Kris with a tashKris with a tashKris with a tash

As Kate is poorly in bed, Kris decides to entertain her by shaving in a large moustache. She is more scared than amused and the tash is soon removed and washed down the sink...
were looking for, where did we want to go, etc..Tired of repeatedly refusing and walking away only to be chased, we calmly said we were "just standing there" and we did just that. He asked again and we repeated and stood there. Suddenly, in record time he just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and walked off. Nice one. I'll add that technique to the one I mentioned on the Chiang Mai blog for avoiding the attentions of jangly hatted trinket sellers.
***Actually there is a nice little bar restaurant away from the hustle and bustle and decently priced just by the White House Guesthouse. It's called the Pisces and we recommend it!

The Entertainment District and English Outposts

On our second night in this end of Bangkok, we hopped on the skytrain a few stops to the "Entertainment" district where we were promised (by our guide book) bars galore. Obviously, heading into Bangkok bars in the entertainment district you are not sure what you're letting yourself in for, but Kate was determined we visited some British-theme pubs.

The first was called the Robin Hood and was an odd experience! It really is an English pub. You walk along a humid street, past street vendors cooking squid and questionable bits of meat on sticks - then open the pub door and step into an air-con, wood panelled room with a brass-edged bar and footy on the tv. To add to the effect, the room was rammed with English blokes in suits. Given this was Friday night we assumed it was the ex-pat/foreign businessman after-work pint. We could have been sat in any pub on a Friday in Leeds, except there was waiter service by Thai women in uniforms and a bag of Walkers crisps would set you back a quid.

We visited one more English bar that night, but apprently there are many more. The one we chose was the Londoners Brew Pub, just along the road from the Robin Hood. This one brews it's own English-style beer. The beer was quite nice actually, but the pub was a bit less like a real English pub than Robin Hoods. Probably to a similar extent that O'Neil's represents a typical Irish pub. We were met at the door by a gaggle of uniformed Thai women who quickly overwhelmed us and herded us to our seats. One of the uniformed waitresses in question was dressed in a skimpy sort of "sexy santa" outfit. We guessed she was the hostess as she was overly smily and ordered all the other waitresses around. We left after a drink because these places are just too expensive! Well, they are now we're used to Thai prices. Maybe when we've been here longer we'll return to that Robin Hood one and have a banger n mash dinner. We'll see...

Other Stuff

While in Bangkok we also confirmed where and how we get Japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccinations - at the Thai Red Cross travel clinic (for a fraction of the price we'd have paid in the UK). We'll be back to get them in January before we leave for the monkeys.

Plus we confirmed that the snake farm visitor centre, also at the Thai Red Cross, where they make anti-venom, is closed on Saturday afternoons...cos that's when we tried to visit. Oh well, next time...

Three days in Bangkok is as much as we could take so we hopped on a train to the south and hopefully desert island paradise. However, Kate has been struck down with our first bout of whatever the Thai version of Delhi belly is (Bangkok Bum?) so we have stopped off until she is better at Krabi, the fishing town where you get the boats to the islands from.


13th December 2006

I like the tash Kris, think it's a look you could definitely pull off! Kind of Sherlock Holmes, suits you. Hope you're feeling better soon Kate xx

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