No thunderstorm this time, as Bangkok was 37 degrees C. No change to Bangkok, hot and humid, though without the rain this time. (Except for one night, when it absolutely bucketed down.) Apart from the further development of the still nowhere near finished monorail system, Bangkok is exactly the same as when I went there last time. Some of the beggars are still in the same place, including the blind woman who "sings" and the man on the plastic bag covered keyboard who plays along. Luckily they have some taped musical accompaniment. The traffic seems worse this time though, and the pollution, though perhaps I'd just forgotton how bad it was from last time. Certainly the congestion on Sukhumvit Road (The main road in/out and across the city) is worse because the monorail contruction has now reached that far.
The same Kuoni rep met me as last time (in fact I went to the same hotel) She recognised me and was pleased that I'd chosen to go back to Thailand, and after talking to her again, I was pleased I had too. This was the first time I'd ever returned to a country, and it was a odd sensation. it was almost like I'd never left. I didn't get the same hotel room though, which was a shame. It's nice to have the benefit of instantly knowing my way around, instead of having to learn it. I still had to rely on my Lonely Planet guide sometimes, though not often.
There were two main tourist attractions that I didn't see last time. one is Wat Arun, (A temple) which had scaffolding around it last time, and suprise, still did this time, so I didn't see it again. The other was Jim Thompson's house, a Thai style hose belonging to some American guy who went to Thailand to promote their silk, and stayed there. The house is is all made of teak and sits at the bottom of an annonymous looking backstreet. It has a small garden with enough tall trees to obscure any view of the city, and it backs onto a canal. Because of these two things, its one of the most peacefull places in the city, and there are tour guides to take you around it for only about £2.50. I went to the grand palace again, 'cause its well worth a second look. More tourists this time though. After I left the grand palace I had possibly the most unpleasant experience I've had while being on holiday. I got into a taxi to go back to the hotel, and after about 60 seconds of driving, the guy demanded about 40 pounds, cos he'd fiddled the meter while I'd been looking at some landmark that he'd pointed out. Anyway, we had a massive arguement in the taxi, to which end I got out and ran away (after it had stopped moving). He had grabbed me the first time I went to get out (I was in the front), but the second time I managed to slip free, and I was right in guessing he wouldn't leave his taxi, so he didn't get anything in the end. After that I decided to walk back to the hotel, which took me about an hour and a half. I had had enough of Thai taxis to last me a good long time.
I was more lucky with the food this time, which was good. I found a place on Sukhumvit Soi 5, imaginativly called "Soi 5 food Center", which served good quality cheap food. Amongst other things I tried the spicy fried noodles (Which looked more like pasta), and they were certainly spicy as I had to take a drink of Pepsi with every mouthful. Just what you need on a hot day! There was quite a nice Thai curry on the plane on the way over, especially considering it was airline food. I have a theory about airline meals now, after having eaten so many. I know the main reason they exist is to use up time, but I think the act like pacifiers too, as they are like a Fisher-Price activity centre, with various pots, tubs and packets to open, play with, things to put in your mouth, and the stack neatly when you are done. Anyway, I didn't have to resort to McDonalds, the Colonel or Tacotime (A Mexican fast food place which was pretty good) too often. McDonalds is handy for getting drinks from when you're walking about though. I went into one to get a shake, and was given a spoon, instead of a straw. Now I know they're thick, but this...I took it outside into the heat, and within 10 minutes it was the consistency of water. There are hundreds of good quality cheap Thai restaurants around anyhow, providing much better food than McD.
Right around the corner near Soi 5 food center is a tailors (one of many) called Landmark Fashions. Most of the tailors in the area are ethnically either Chinese or Indian. Given half a chance, they'll be quick to run down tailors from the opposite ethnic group. "Indian tailors??" (Shake of head and laugh)". Landmark Fashions are in fact Chinese tailors, but I've tried Indian ones too and to be honest they are the same quality There really is little escape form these places, the "touts" hang out on ever bit of street waiting to entice touists with cheap clothes. I decided to get some clothes this time, and I got a tailor made cashmere suit, two silk shirts and a silk tie for 125 pounds, ready in about three days from the aforementioned Landmark fashions. The compares very favourably against Hong Kong or Singapore. Whilst by no means an endorsement of the place, I can say the clothes from there experienced none of the falling apart that far-east 24 hour tailors are reputed for. These places have a reputation for making clothes that won't last much longer than the flight home, but I've not had that experience, these suits I had lasted for many years.
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Copyright © M.F.Hughes 1997