Great Food But What About The View On The LAST Night In Bangkok With An Alternative For The Budget Conscious
For a start it is only fair that I tell you a little about myself. I am 41 years old & have had a fascination with Thailand since my parents & their friends visited Bangkok & Pattaya in the mid 70's. From the old home movies to the stories
about Mary's (so named because of his long hair) haircut with benefits before going to Singapore to the time the boys arrived at Bangkok airport while the military was assisting with a change in Government. It appears some things never change.
I learnt at a young age if I wanted to find out about something, particularly something I wasn't supposed to know about, the best thing to do was sit at the back of the room & say nothing. Alcohol consumption would take care of the rest. Consequently I knew about the delights of Patpong Road before I was even sure what those delights were.
My first visit to LOS wasn't until 1989 when I stayed in Bangkok & Phuket. I have since travelled the same road in 1991 & again this year. I hope to make a submission on my observations of Phuket at a later date. In 1998 I stayed in Bangkok & Koh Samui. The only comment I will make on Samui is it seemed a fine place to go if you wanted to attend "full" moon parties & get wasted on illicit drugs. I am conservative by nature to a certain degree & confine my substance abuse to alcohol & cigarettes.
Let me state at this point that my conservatism does not extend to horizontal folk dancing. On the flight to LOS in 1989 I became acquainted with the 2 guys in the seats next to mine. What I had intended to be an easy 1st night instead found me meeting them in the old Loveboat Bar before they took me on an educational tour of the bars of Patpong. Most of the night is remembered through an alcohol induced haze but within 6 hours of my arrival at the airport I was back in my hotel room engaged in a bout of the bedroom Olympics with a bargirl acquaintance of one of my new found friends. Apparently she & her friends were up from Pattaya for a couple of nights. As my travelling companions were leaving Bangkok the next morning, one for Pattaya the other for the north, I have seen neither since. If by a long shot either are reading this then I thank you for a great night. The next night the Pattaya bargirls took me out for drinks. They were friendly & included me in their group. I was not treated like a walking ATM. This was just the beginning of what was honestly the time of my life.
It is fair to say that subsequent trips to Thailand never quite matched the magic of that 1st trip. By the time I returned to sleepy old Adelaide in 1998 I was convinced that my travelling days were over. The purchase of a new home, a substantial mortgage & 9/11 reinforced this opinion. I'm not frightened of flying but terrified of crashing. All thanks to a take off years ago from Hong Kong shortly after a typhoon. Then, during coverage of the Boxing Day test in 2004, the news of a disaster in Asia started to filter through. Over the ensuing months I thought about Phuket often & decided to visit my old stomping ground again. Other commitments prevented me from making this trip till August thus year.
The simplest way for me to get to Phuket requires a stopover in Singapore or Bangkok. I don't really like Singapore all that much. In my opinion one night in Bangkok is not enough. This time I opted for 4 nights. Towards the end of my stay in Phuket in 1989 I bought a little book by an Alan Dawson on the history of Patpong. It was titled Patpong-Bangkok's Big Little Street. In it he gave a run down on possible successors to Patpong such as Nana, Cowboy & Washington Square. Previously I had stayed at the Manohra on Suriwong Road. I always found it difficult to go past Patpong so I hadn't visited any of these other areas until 1998 when I spent a couple of nights at Nana. As it was to be my last stay in Bangkok I was keen to spend a night drinking in the bars of Cowboy. This time the plan was to spend 1 night each at Nana, Cowboy & Patpong. The last night to be spent at whichever area I found most enjoyable. I therefore opted to stay at the Bel Air Princess in soi 5 as it is of a more central location to my intended itinerary. It turned out to be an excellent choice. I could not fault the hotel or its staff.
While reacquainting myself with Bangkok via the wee wee wee prior to my trip I came across a review for the Vertigo Restaurant in the Banyan Tree Hotel on Sathorn Rd. That's right, this is in part a restaurant review. In is not quite the right word. It is on top of the building. 61 floors up. In the open air. This is where I decided to eat on what was to be my last night in Bangkok. I dressed up for the occasion. I wore my best shoes, a proper button up shirt with a collar & my cleanest shorts. Silly farang. Trousers are mandatory. Fortunately they have trousers that you are able to borrow. As the ladies that greet you upon arrival are not good judges of size the first pair finished around my ankles. Another pair was found that were a better fit & I made my way out to the restaurant proper. I assure you that Vertigo is an appropriate name. As it was raining lightly the staff wasn't sure if the restaurant was going to remain open so I opted for a drink at the bar in the meantime. This gave me the opportunity to adjust to being so high up. Two of the first things I noticed is how quiet & cool it is up there. No street noise at all & the night I was there a gentle breeze. Soon the rain cleared & I was shown to a table. The food was great. I had a truffle infused cream of asparagus soup for starters followed by the 5 spice minced duck for mains. Both were served in what can only be described as quality & quantity. A nice touch was a small cup of complimentary cream of mushroom soup. I have enjoyed this common, simple dish in many places. I love soup. This was simply the best mushroom soup I have ever had. The place is expensive. All up for a 2 course meal, 3 Singhas & a glass of water the bill came to 3,800 baht including service charges & tip. If you are planning on having a bottle of wine they start at 2,500 baht. Living within an hour's drive of 2 premium wine districts that is a price I would not consider paying. While the food is high quality, the true magic of this place is undoubtedly the view. A 360 degree panorama of Bangkok. Sitting 61 floors above a carpet of lights with the Chao Praya River discernable in the dark is a memory I will carry with me. The Vertigo Restaurant is well worth considering for a romantic dinner or a special occasion. I would suggest you get there just before the sun goes down in order to view the city in the transition from day to night. By way of comparison in a city with many good dining options I also had an enjoyable meal at the dining area of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar on an earlier night. A large number of stalls on 1 side serving food with bars on the other side for your drinks. Table service is provided for the drinks & there are enough beers available to keep most guys happy. The only complication is that coupons need to be bought first before ordering your food. Drinks can be paid for in cash. For the budget conscious this meal set me back 200 baht.
As this was to be my final night in Bangkok & I had not yet visited Patpong it was to there I headed after leaving Vertigo. I didn't stay very long. The market in the street seemed to have more stalls than I remembered & it was a real hassle moving around. There also didn't appear to be as many bars as before. I had a couple of drinks at different bars but really couldn't wait to get out of the place. Now at the risk of committing sacrilege I have never really taken to Nana though I can see why others like it. So it was off to my new favourite place in the world – Soi Cowboy. To Baccara Bar & number xx <Sorry, removed it out of respect to the lady – Stick>. Not the prettiest nor the sexiest girl in the place but still attractive, kind & attentive girl whose conversation I enjoyed. She also clearly enjoyed & had an aptitude for between the sheets exercise. For the first time in Bangkok I was going back for repeat business. Luckily I was leaving for Phuket the next day or I may well have been putting on the armour, mounting the white steed & charging off to rescue the young lady. As any reader of these pages knows that would be absurd.
A good night out for me is a good meal, a few drinks & off home with an attractive female companion. That is the same for wherever I am be it home or elsewhere. Bangkok provides just that. I thought I was finished with Bangkok & this was to be my last night. However, Bangkok is not finished with me. I realised this about a week after I got home. I think it was Homer that wrote about the Sirens calling the sailors in the Odyssey & I am experiencing something similar. Bangkok calls me & I am planning to visit again next August. It is just such a long time to wait.
Any readers that feel like sending me an email I can only apologise in advance if I don't reply as the next 7 months are very hectic at work & I won't have a lot of spare time.
Eating out in Bangkok is indeed very good. There are so many options and so many really good restaurants, both affordable, and "less affordable".