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Bangkok is an extraordinary place of contrasts. Once through the state-of-the-art airport, you quickly hit the heat and smog- drenched world that is this famous central Asia city, the capital of Thailand. The airport staff are so efficient at processing large volumes of travellers that we were through customs and out in less than an hour and in a taxi where our memorable journey really began. The taxi ($15 plus tolls) driver was a robotic-like old man who didn’t smile, speak English or look at us. He had a preference for straddling two lanes on the freeway at 120kmh while on the phone and with the petrol gauge well below empty! But not just straddling two lanes, he had a lean to the left so the car tended to skate across the six-lane freeway like a ball in a pinball game in slow motion. But just before it hit the other side, it would miraculously head back in the other direction. Scary. And did I mention there are no seatbelts in the back? At one point another driver got annoyed with him and hit the horn, which thankfully seemed to wake him from his stupor. On a friend’s recommendation I made an early morning trip to the local flower market which was by the river and less than 1km way. Thinking the streets would be deserted, was I in for a surprise when I realised there was a market lane almost across the road from our hotel. Street market at 6am The architecture was something to behold, and this about 100 metres from the river! Old House I soon realised I wasn’t the only one out to see what I could find. These guys had slightly better equipment than my little iphone! Photographers capturing teh sunrise over Bangkok from the river. The flower market was amazing, what the Thai people do with flowers most prepared for religious ceremonies – is amazing. Flower market at 6.30. Everyone, working seemed to be working so hard, and enjoying their labours at such an early hour. This lady wanted to hi-five me! Kids making peace offerings Teenagers making peace offerings I was really taken with how families pull together everyone, young and old has a role in the family unit. Family washing the car at 7am. I bought John a bunch of 30 red roses and a huge bunch of orchids for 150 baht that’s about $5! No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Jim Thompson House. A fine example of a modern American architect’s version of a Thai home, but far more significant for what this mysterious man who disappeared in more mysterious circumstances in 1967 is what he did in reviving the dying Thai silk industry. Jim Thompson house the gardens are stunning. Last time we were in Thailand a restaurateur in Chiang Mai recommended we go to the Oriental Hotel for the buffet lunch. It is so far booked ahead, that when we tried with our three days in Bangkok, we couldn’t get it. So on this visit, we tried to book in the first morning we arrived and was told they could take our reservation. Even at more than 2000B per person (about $66) we weren’t going to say no. It was just a short ferry ride down the river from Chinatown. The best mode of transport in Bangkok, if you are near the river is the river ferry. There is a tourist one (it’s orange that is 40B a ride) or the usual one that is 15B, both are great value. And it intersects with trains if you need to head inland. But taxi’s are very cheap it’s just the traffic can be horrendous! Beside the grand architecture of the 19th century like the original Oriental hotel are slums like this. Once at the Lord Jim’s buffet at the Oriental, we felt we had died and gone to heaven. The service really was extraordinary. They would ask if you would like a drink and as soon as you said yes, the drink was being poured by another waiter. On talking to the manager Krit Subannarate we were told the buffet is served seven days a week and is always booked out well in advance, with 60 per cent of the clientele being regulars. The 16 chefs prepare the 120 savory and 100 desserts daily. Mandarin Oriental Hotel buffet in Lord Jim's We were fortunate to get the booking as the head of the Buddhists in Thailand died this week aged just over 100, so the Thais had been asked to be in mourning and not go out and celebrate this week. – We’re we the lucky ones! We met an elderly Thai gentleman at the table next to us who seemed to be having a business lunch as he seemed to mention figures in excess of $500,000 constantly. He was very friendly and chatted with us as he was leaving. The manager later told us he had been having lunch there at least once a month since before the manager started 29 years ago. We always stay in Chinatown on the recommendation on a friend and have not been disappointed. It is such a buzzy spot. At the door of our hotel they were filming a Bollywood movie called – Is that what love is. Video coming! (But it’s on my facebook page) There are some charming little nooks in the lanes around Chinatown. Door to lane   And what about this. Can you spot the beauty parlour? Beauty parlour My favourite street seafood eatery – that has been popping up on the footpath each night for more than 20 years is right outside the door – T and J Seafood. Famous footpath seafood eatery And the coolest jazz band Siam Sling, that seems to be straight out of the 1920s – apart from this rendition of Whiter Shade of Pale. It was soooo cool

The Jazz band Siam Sling playing at the Shanghai Mansions Hotel in Chinatown Bangkok.

The Jazz band Siam Sling playing at the Shanghai Mansions Hotel in Chinatown Bangkok.

For the music, you will need to cut and paste the link below because I’m such a luddite. http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDgQuAIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fvimeo.com%2F83448736&ei=NB9fU-bYCs-5kAWSqoC4DQ&usg=AFQjCNFOU4TdZO4wBJF5EqfkOw9cxgLIfA&bvm=bv.65397613,d.dGI (sorry I didn’t catch the start of it). They are all good, but the saxophone player was just so talented! Away from the crowds, the dirt, the wonky footpaths, and they street hawkers, this seems like a great note to end on. Siam Sling

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