The Belated Bangkok Diaries
In several status updates
Admittedly I have posted very little on the everyday occurrences in my travel. Here are some snippets, culled from Facebook.
Day 1: Two sleep-deprived people board a plane full of evangelical missionaries offering ‘free healing’ in the plane (true story), dinner in the streets and accidental romantic date at a blacksmith-themed cocktail bar with a toilet that was so awesomely creepy it freaked out the one half of us that actually writes horror fiction as a profession. Shai halip in Little Arabia, 24-hour tacos and the latest episode of Scandal.
Street vendors selling holographic pictures of puppies, kittens, Jesus and Mary, naked women and ferocious tigers, across from a fake Viagra/Cialis/ made-in-China sex toy shops.
Bangkok is my happy place. Tomorrow: at least two massages.
Day 2: In no particular order: grilled chicken hearts, the breakfast of champions; flashing at passengers on the Khlong San Saeb river taxi each time (not me, btw), having random thai men cat-calling us coz Sam is in a very sessy dress (they called us ‘black and white girls’. Um. Brown and yellow is more accurate); beef boat noodle carnage, talking security guards into letting us trespass private property so we can take a shortcut, Gibson-esque massive overhead bridges, stalker pandas and mushrooms, great crackling massages, pork cracklings;
Pork satay, dogs and teddy bears and dogs in frilly clothes; hanging out with exes, discussing whether one’s Portuguese ancestry is to blame for epic marine vessel conquering flag-planting fantasies (no: it’s just Sam); ominous Elliott Smith songs in hotel toilets, streetside mobile bars. Pork tacos in the fridge.
A swim is on the menu tomorrow. Pandas are everywhere.
Off my rockers/tits high on chilli padi. It was a beautiful yum poo dong – raw blue swimmer crab salad smothered in beautiful chilli – the cold raw crab tastes like crab ice cream. But so off my rockers chilli high coz I am so clever I ordered it extra extra spicy. I love chilli padi highs. So beautiful, this world
Day 3: Looking for soi Polo chicken and seeing random chickens and people wearing I ♥ Chicken T-shirts everywhere (surreal), having a crab-gasm over the raw blue swimmer crab in a yum poo dong, coffee in random little sheds in Lumpini, more great massages, Phra Athit jazz and beer and evil plotting, a knock-out pad thai.
Sam and I are at a girlie bar on Nana, showing bar girls pictures of fried crickets. We are looking for the Nana Cricket & Grasshopper street vendor. I don’t know how to say “where are the edible crickets” in Thai. Yet.
Apparently I accidentally cock-blocked an Italian dude at a bar in Bangkok. All I did was drink whisky and talk about apps and their project timelines. A thai MILF then decided to tell me she thinks I must be gay, and proceeded to tell me she used to be butch with many girlfriends until a guy drugged and raped her and she got pregnant. (all this happened in thai)
The Italian dude left, very sadly.
Must. Stop. Accidentally. Fang dian-ing
Note: ‘fang dian’ = a Mandarin term made up by some friends, meaning ‘to put electricity’. It refers to my track record of accidentally attracting unwanted attention through what they suspect is the sheer Cyclops-like, err, traits in my… eyes.
Day 4: jok moo! Pork porridge with salted egg, century egg, innards! Flip-flops and Hello Kitty (don’t ask) and cable shopping! Skyfall! Prawn bisque! Accidentally fang-dian-ing: me at people, Sam at buildings! Giant sea creatures! Girlie bars! Mobile bars! No crickets!
New Bangkok Notes
- I still love Bangkok as much now, as I did when I first started frequenting it… circa 2004?
- Oh gawd I feel old these days.
- That’s directly related to how all I want to do these day is have massages. My back creaks; my body creaks along with it. My new go-to place for a massage is at Ruen Nad massage studio on 42 Convent Road, off Silom. It really is one of the best massages you can have for that little money (1 hour goes for 350 THB). It’s a little pricier than the less fancy places but the masseuses are uniformly great, and the ambience — in a restored old house in a fancy part of Bangkok — is really unbeatable. Also, Convent Road has some of the best street food in that city.
- The row of street stalls next to Sala Daeng BTS station still has a curious mix of gay p0rn and pirated DVDs. The latter tend to be arthouse (non-p0rnographic) movies, including a great many films which are simply just not available online… or in your local video store. The range of movies is quite breathtaking. I love Silom.
- If you are ever in Bangkok, do yourself a favour and eat a meal — go for the degustation — at Bo.lan. Chefs Bo and Dylan create exquisite food — slow food — and are rather experimental whilst strongly grounded in the traditions. Every meal I have had there, which is still too few, has been revelatory.
- I like the northern neighbourhoods. Victory Monument is home not just to impoverished foreigners/English-teachers, it’s also home to Boat Noodle Alley, a massive Gibson-esque skywalk/pedestrian bridge, as well as to Saxophone jazz bar, which is a reliable spot to kick back with a beer and listen to some great music. I also like the neighbourhood of Ari, which has too many pleasures to name.
- If you like jazz with some fairy dust, Iron Fairies is a Dickensian blacksmith workshop restaurant and pub (seriously). It’s beautiful. Think Steampunk meets Dickens meets jazz meets industrial chic. There’s great live jazz featuring local musicians, some nights. We were there on a Monday and it was going strong. The Thonglor neighbourhood that it’s in is also chock-a-block full of great little spots. They tend to tend to lean quite heavily towards ‘hiso’ (the Thai equiv of the Singaporean ‘atas’, with regards to class).
- Hiso/atas is totally fine by me. I like my upper-middle class hipsterism in strong doses. I also need a bit more down low to counteract too much hipsterism, though, and Thonglor does dish out the down low in appropriate amounts too. soi 38 on the other side of the station is packed with great street food, but one of my favourite meals on this trip was at Jok Moo. Like the name suggests it specializes in pork congee. It was quite a battle ordering two bowls of pork congee in the specific configurations we wanted (salted egg and century eggs, one with innards and one without)… in my limited Thai, but my hunger prevailed and we succeeded. The porridge held its own against some of the best Chinese congees in Singapore/Malaysia. They also seem to have solved the age-old problem of never having hot-enough fritters: they have these little packets of fried fritters resembling you tiao but not really, and they’re always cripsy. There is nothing more disgusting than soggy you tiao in your congee, and nothing more wonderful than having congee with fresh, hot fritters as well. It’s one of the biggest conundrums I think I face as a Chinese person: would I rather eat soggy fritters or not eat any at all?
- Jok Moo is at the start of Sukh soi 38. Alight at Thonglor station and head for the even-numbered side. Locate soi 38. Jok Moo is the first corner shop on the right at the start of the soi, after some watch or hardware shops. It only has Thai words written on its signage. There’s some seating at the back. Have the lemongrass drink. Basic English is understood here. Pointing helps, if all else fails.
- The pad thai at Thipsamai on Mahachai Road really is what it’s cracked up to be. A tip: don’t order the version with the shrimp oil. I love my calories and I love my oily fried noodles in all shapes and sizes, but the shrimp oil really kicked me in the guts… after. They also have a new dish: pad thai without the noodles. If Mos Burger can do burgers with lettuce instead of buns, I guess Thipsamai can do pad thai without the noodles. Although both food concepts totally go against every fibre of my being.
- The fried chicken at Soi Polo, off Wireless Road near Lumpini. Run, don’t walk. Also order the yum poo dong — the cold crab salad that gave me the chilli high described above. Both are beautiful. The Star Trek movie dubbed in Thai, not so much.
- One day I will find the fabled coconut ice cream at Sam Yan.
- Did I do anything other than eat in Bangkok? We watched James Bond. Took photos with giant sea creatures. Introduced Sam to grilled chicken heart breakfasts, and to the river boat experience I love (the commuter Klong San Saeb, not the one on the tourist trail).
- Bangkok is still one of my favourite Asian cities and I don’t understand how anybody can ever hate it. Well, I do — it’s not for everyone. But if you like hulking, in-your-face Asian metropolises like I do, Bangkok is It.
- One day I will make a concerted effort to get better at my Thai.