Readers' Submissions

Bangkok Nights

  • Written by G W Stern
  • November 30th, 2004
  • 9 min read


One of the things that I find most scandalous about the average Farang tourist is that he is usually ignorant of the things to do and see outside of the usual sexual pick-up spots in Bangkok. It seems that the average farang male no matter how many times he has been to LOS can only tell you about Sukhumvit in Bangkok and the various sois of Pattaya as places to go. This is a shame, not only because there is even more out there to enjoy than pleasing your balls, but because in the interest of pleasing your balls it might be a good idea to know something else about the country.

In case you haven’t noticed, recent regulations passed in Thailand have restricted nightspots to midnight closings in some zones and 2 am closings in other zones with nothing after 2 am. Can even more draconian regulations be in the works? Probably not because it might affect the Thai economy adversely and even in a society that is used to having policy shaped by those above there is some degree of sympathy for the businesses which would be affected. But beyond that it is sure that the Thaksin government wouldn’t have implemented these policies if there wasn’t some degree of empathy for them in the public as a whole.

Given this situation it is one more reason to be at least a little bit versed in other places and aspects of the country. It helps everything to go out and enjoy the regular tourist sights and nightlife of Thailand, preferably adding ones that are visited by regular Thais. I have been lucky enough to have a Thai girlfriend in Bangkok who has been able to show me around some of these places (and we’re only just getting started). She and I both enjoy going out to nightspots to enjoy music, good food, great sights, and people watching among other things. So when I expressed an enjoyment in looking at Buddhist temples Ooi suggested the next day over breakfast that we go to the new Erewan Temple. That sounded fine to me. “Ok, what’s the best way to get there?” I asked. She told me that the Erewan Temple is way over on the west side of the city and not off the regular Skytrain stops. A taxi fare would run up quite a bill and she knew that I always watch my money. So she said, “Follow me—I show”.

With that we walked down Sukhumvit Avenue and to the nearest bus stop. Now this is something I never would have been able to do on my own. How many of you have taken a bus? Remember—if you have a Thai woman with you when you go out she can show you things you’d never do on your own. Not only can she speak the language, but she’s familiar with the getting around, the customs, and the cheapest ways to do things. That’s just one way she can save you money.

When the bus came I followed her and looked at the bus driver like “Where do I pay you?” “No, here…”, said Ooi as my gaze switched to her pointing to a woman in the front holding what looked like a long tube with a glass case with rows for the different Thai coins. Above it were places to put Thai currency. It’s been a few months since I’ve taken that trip so I must confess that I don’t remember how much I paid, but I remember that the 100 baht note for the two of us got change back. With that I went up two small steps to the seating area. In the seating area there was a row of two seats on one side and a row of one seat on the other. The aisle was narrow–although I guess it was big enough for Thai people. With curtains drawn at the windows and good a/c the bus was quite a contrast to the noisy, hectic, and smoggy streets outside. The quiet inside almost made it seem like a shelter. Some eyebrows were raised as I, the lone Farang, followed Ooi to our seats. I would learn later that there are different kinds of bus transportation in Bangkok with different prices. There were air-conditioned and non-a/c (with the windows open) buses, and this one was the second best.

Looking out the window one is looking down on the car rooftops and at motorbikes weaving in between the cars. The bus would be constantly starting and stopping in the traffic and a passenger would close his eyes and be thankful he was inside. As we went on the traffic began to break up and the scenery began to change. We would pass and then we would pass the City Hall, the Stock Exchange, and Ekamai Bus Station where you can get a ticket to Pattaya for less than $3 US. Then the neighborhoods became less crowded with buildings right against the sidewalk. Finally we would get out where there were grass lots between the buildings. Most of the buildings seemed to be new factories. Then finally Ooi reached for the bell and rang. We would get off on a wide road where the cars were fewer and going quite fast as on a highway. We had to use a passenger crossway above the road below which tired me climbing all those steps.

It was on the crossway that Ooi pointed enthusiastically and said, “Look there”. My head turned to the left and there was a huge statue of a three-headed elephant. At the top where his eyes would be there were windows. I stood and gazed at this and wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. Then I saw the wall down below us that was set back about six feet from the street. Down below in the bus I couldn’t see it and the tall-gated entrance that we passed looked like it could be to a new factory or something. Walking in the gate we had a wide white-pebble path to walk up to Erewan Temple. All around on these beautiful grounds there were other lesser shrines, statuary, living quarters for the monks and so forth.

Inside the elephant we ascended several staircases to get to the elephants’ eyes—a testament to how big the structure is. On each floor there was still construction going on, and I will say that there were already enough shrines, Buddhas, friezes, etc. to keep you occupied for hours if you go to see that sort of thing.

While the grounds were nice to look at from above there was nothing to compare with being on them down below. Beautifully tended lawns (it’s nice getting out of Sukhumvit for awhile) were bordered by topiary, shrubs, and flowers. There were also picturesque little streams criss-crossed by small bridges and by stepping-stones that were cooled in the midday sun by the shade of numerous trees. And we took some pictures beside stone figurines of Thai mythology—the most spectacular being the half-man, half-bird one. All in all it made for a very pleasant day.

* * * *

The next night we went out to a place called The Brew Pavilion. I don’t know the address, but only remember saying to the cabdriver “Brew Pavilion” and off we went out of the Sukhumvit area and turning a large circular driveway somewhere on Ratchada. Remember–one advantage of having a Thai girlfriend with you is that she knows how much the fare should be and how much to tip. Inside, the Brew Pavilion reminded me of the inside of an airplane hangar. It was a large cavernous hall with long rows of many tables facing a large stage with a promenade protruding well into the audience. On the stage were band instruments and amplifiers and chairs. Obviously they were into serious entertainment.

As we had arrived early we ordered dinner and a pitcher of beer. I was glad we waited to eat dinner there. I ordered a veal dish and everything on it was well-prepared and reasonably priced. Gradually more people began arriving and a light buzz would change into a din of noise with bustling waiters and waitresses, people being seated, and at least one pitcher of beer at every table. I noticed that there were Thais and farang groups (almost all came in groups) and many of the groups were mixed. There were at least two groups of boisterous women with one group sitting near us. They looked to be late teens or early 20s although I’m a lousy judge of a Thai woman’s age. This group seemed much more sophisticated and wealthier than the Sukhumvit women. And I guessed they were college students and probably from well-off families. A couple of them were quite beautiful and at ease in this place so that I thought they might frequent Brew Pavilion. Their roving eyes landed on me a couple of times and I would have liked to signal more in return. I was thinking that they could be picked up by some good-looking young guy and anything you did would be for fun and not involve money.

Eventually the band came out on stage to loud applause and the lights were dimmed. A young man and a young woman were then introduced in Thai, but not in English. They were to trade off songs between them with each holding an electronic microphone. Most of the songs were contemporary songs in English, but there were some in Thai. Everyone clapped and sang with the music, but truthfully the quality of the singing didn’t seem to match the bigness of the place. The singers weren’t bad, but they made it seem a bit like a large karaoke place. However, it didn’t hurt the woman when she began prancing up and down the promenade in a short skirt while singing. Music is still music and it was altogether a fun and entertaining night. There was a line of taxis out front when we left.

* * * *

In conclusion, my point in relating all this to you is that there is a whole other world out there that Farangs can enjoy and benefit from and leave the LOS even more satisfied. Going out with your girlfriend and feeling like a 20-year old again is part of the fun of being in Thailand. And you’re getting great entertainment at a very reasonable price and making new friends and allies in the Thai business community. And I can tell you this too—it doesn’t hurt you with Thai women when you can relate to them those other places and things you’ve done. It will make you even more desirable than you are now. Think about it.

Stickman's thoughts:

Yep, having a local to show you around is a great way to see things you wouldn't otherwise see.