On Thailand 2008 – Random Notes
I was very surprised at the lack of tourist visa information in the wake of the Bangkok Airport turmoil.
I was in a restaurant just south of Udon Thani and I had a good natured disagreement with the waitress over the price of a bottle of Tiger Beer. She insisted it should be 35 baht – I thought it should be more. After all I had been in Nana, Soi Cowboy and Patpong. The interesting thing is that this was a large bottle of Tiger.
Internet rates there were so low (15 baht for an hour) I didn't believe them at first.
At kilometre 16 south of Udon in the town of Non Sung, 800 meters off the east side of Highway 2 is a small guest house that is a wonderful surprise. There are only two bungalows and a main house but it is owned by a lady who is building her small dream place. As someone said to me (comparing it to the rest of Isaan) it is like being in a different world. It is called the Bamboo Garden. The sign is a bit hard to see on the service road beside HWY 2. 800 meters down that road there is another hard to see sign – the Bamboo Garden is maybe 50 meters on the right on that road.
For all the talk about the high quality of Thai food I am stunned at the number of 7-11's, small shops and, in Udon, large shops, that sell nothing but alcohol (that's OK) and packaged junk food.
It amazes me – rows upon rows of petroleum-based food like substances.
In Udon the area between the shopping complex and the train station is a growth area for the entertainment industry. Although they demolished the shops and bars across the road from the complex it has been replaced very well by new venues near by. In addition to Soi Farang (your expression) there is another small Soi with farang bars as well as a large Thai market, beer garden etc
I have noted (sadly) that going to the bars etc is not nearly so much fun when you are not drunk and horny. (As I said I am married – and I take it seriously)
The ancient city in Samut Prakan is well worth the visit – my Thai wife and the Lonely Planet people are impressed. It is a bit of an effort to get there – maybe 250 baht by taxi from the end of Skytrain line but it is a great way to spend the day. For all those who do not want to travel all over to see the historical sites this is a great way to do it all in one day and then hit the bars in BKK. For those serious about the historical sites this is wonderful primer.
A traveller once told me that every time he travels to Thailand something surreal happens at least once.
In Patpong 2 (near Suriwong end) there is a small friendly, family owned bar (The Other Office) that has been there at least 20 years. It has a cowboy, western motif and is quiet, friendly and reasonable. I would not visit Thailand without at least one drink there.
This last time I did not get to Misu (Japanese steakhouse) on Patpong 1. Another place I loved for character. Always eat upstairs as the downstairs has an odour of being old. I hope it is still there.
Walking from Soi Cowboy to Nana, around Sukhumvit Soi 21 there is some construction. There were some teenagers doing the pickpocket thing. It is a small area near a construction site on the street. They pretend they are horsing around but they “bump” into you while caring a plastic bag filled with other air filled small plastic bags. The purpose is to bump your body with a verity of sensations at the same time so that you don't notice the pick pocket taking your valuables.
For any tourist, or even resident, the very best value activity in Thailand is still the river taxi on the Chao Praya. For a few baht you get to see the entire river in Bangkok. I thought that 20 years ago and I still think it now.
A few years ago I was really impressed with Bangkok traffic signals having clocks counting down the time to the change in the traffic signals. This year I have noticed that Thai maintenance standards have left many of them not working.
In this last stay, on occasion, I would stop in for a beer at the Big Mango off Soi Nana. I tend to sit by myself, not talk to many and read a newspaper. I did this maybe 6 times. One evening (it was more crowded than most) I walked in and the owner (I assumed from seeing him before) walked up to me and said “Stickman?” On seeing my questioning reaction he realized his mistake and made a hasty retreat. Apparently you have some reputation. On the other hand, for your benefit, I hope to God that you don't look like me
In Pattaya's The Bay Breeze Hotel – Soi 10. Good value, good location etc. Ask the staff about room 805. They do not go in there alone – years ago a guy is alleged to have chopped up his Thai girlfriend in that room and later discarded her in a vacant lot. The staff at the hotel still think about the “spirits”
As I am reviewing this email I am reminded of something I learned the hard way – do not ever, ever, ever send an email, letter etc without reviewing it at least once, and better yet, 10 times.
Where is Q Bar?
On the issue of mobile phones – I seem to remember years ago a Canadian professor developed some part that is integral to mobile phones. Himself, he refused to carry a mobile because he termed them “too intrusive” – a perfect description for all affected
I was the sole customer in a restaurant when a youngish Asian couple came in. The guy's mobile rang, and in a gesture of consideration for the lady he answered the phone and, in an overloud voice, walked away from the table deep in conversation. He kept walking and talking until he was within 12 inches of my ear – where he stopped and continued his loud, one-sided conversation. He was very surprised that I asked him not to scream in my ear. I think he was more surprised at me interrupting his mobile conversation than at any notion that he was being inconsiderate or even unknowing about his surroundings.
The best advice for all the love-sick nut cases who fall for the wrong type of girl in Thailand (I was one at one point) is that there is always a better girl in the next bar. That and a few beers should help put any dysfunctional relationship in a better perspective.
It amazes me that, whereas most guys will not choose a pair of socks to wear while in the dark, there are many who choose a wife or girlfriend in the dark.
In the same vein it appears very few of the sad cases reported in your column do not use the biggest advantage they have when they deal with a Thai woman. That is, that for every woman who is a problem there are many, probably better looking and cheaper to maintain, that are willing to take her place. Subtly using that fact from the very, very beginning of any relationship should help keep all involved thinking clearly.