Saturday 20 June 2015 – Bangkok
Walked somehow from the hotel to Siam Square (on Google Maps it didn’t look far, but through heavy Saturday morning traffic via major highways it was a bit of a hike, as the heat of the day increased. Made it after only one or two false turns on the way, over railway tracks, under freeways and across huge intersections.
Eventually found MBK mall where I’d spent a lot of time in 2001, having stayed at a guesthouse just across the road. The guest house appears to have vanished under brand new Ibis and Holiday Inn hotels. Level six of MBK has a find food hall. One buys a debit card for purchase and gets it refunded on completion (regulars presumably hang on to theirs). 300 baht bought me pad thai, pineapple juice, two iced coffees and another dish (spread, I might add, over breakfast and lunch).
Wandered through the rest of the mall, including the whole of the level 4 IT floor. Prices appeared to be no cheaper than at home for new items, but some bargains on (presumably) second hand older model iPhones.
On the corner opposite was a very new Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre. Very odd place it was too. Some small foyer exhibitions, some Thai ladies doing traditional dance for a media crew. Couldn’t see signs of any major collection; there were some small shops and cafes and some small offices for arts and cultural organisations like photography groups and film archives.
Found Jim Thompson’s house which has a gallery and shop attached, in addition to the café – each of which is bigger than the house. The gallery had an interesting exhibition of contemporary short film and video art from around the region. Had a look around Siam Square before getting a taxi to the Grand Palace. Donned the requisite long pants and bout a ticket (TB500). Crowded and lacking interpretation, but still memorable even in the baking heat.
From the Palace I wandered up Khaosan Road before catching a taxi back to the hotel where, after a quick dip in the pool and a shower, I went to the foyer to join the Intrepid Food Discovery Tour of Thailand. We are 12, plus local guide Soon. We were a multicultural bunch:
- Elaine and Jeffrey from Washington state, USA
- Jeevan and her mother Charanjeet, from Canada
- Harold, from the Netherlands
- Andrea and Jasmine from Switzerland
- Leonie, Nicola and Jacqui from Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane)
- Liz, a musician from London
After an hour of chatting and housekeeping we set off in a songthaew to Bangkok’s Chinatown where Soon ordered up dishes from a variety of street stalls for snails, noodles, more noodles, fantastic roasted duck, amazing ice-creams in local flavours, and more. We enjoyed these morsels wherever we could, squatting on tiny stools where available, but more often perching on a kerb or at the edge of the street. It is street food, after all! It’s going to be a good week.
The taxi drivers of Bangkok
The taxi drivers of Bangkok fall into two camps; 1) those who haunt tourist areas and try to rip people off by not using their meter, and 2) those who are honest and obliging, provided they know where you are going. An address card in Thai is helpful. Tuk-tuk drivers will try it on with anyone, even locals. Being patient and saying you are prepared to wait seems to be the best option.