The Desert Of Bangkok, August / September 2009
It's the quiet season. As I stare out of my Sukhumvit soi 1 hotel, it seems to do nothing but rain. I was not used to or expecting this. Should have read the guide books more closely perhaps. Still I have a fantastic view with Bumrungrad Hospital to my left, the backs of the buildings of soi 3 in the distance and non touristy Thai life in the middle which can be great to watch, seeing them scurry around several floors below dodging the rain.
On my previous visits to Thailand I had come in the high season of around January, February and March. This time I was curious how (especially) BKK looked out of season. Thought I would save money (perhaps) at this time too providing better value as BKK is certainly a lot more expensive than my first visit in 2004.
A few hours had passed now and as I had a room-only deal it was time to attempt to battle the rain and traffic for something to eat even without an umbrella. I get down to the reception area and look outside and think…even a short taxi ride to the Nana area is going to take forever : the traffic is backed all the way down Soi 1 so Sukhumvit Road must be especially crazy. Even the 'smart way' through Bumrungrad on to Soi 3 was looking crazy too. Even the crazy whistle blowing security staff and police can't move this traffic along. Watching Thai and farang alike darting for cover was quite a sight to see. Walking down the middle of the soi with no umbrella came 2 farang guys between the stopped traffic walking so slowly towards Sukhumvit Road. The laughter ; the applause ; the atmosphere. Brilliant!! The reception doors were now opened by the other farang guests waiting for the rain to stop and to just to soak this atmosphere up and show their appreciation for these guys. I just had to follow these guys. The jetlag, my Englishness just seem to disappear in that instance. Songkran 2? Welcome home. My love for Thailand now restored from the dismal start.
The walk to Soi 4 via Sukhumvit normally took around 10 minutes from the hotel but today I was lapping it up for about 30 minutes having shook quite a few hands on the way. It seemed unfortunate that the rain stopped en route or we might have taken an hour to get here!! The 2 farang guys continued on along Sukhumvit past Soi 4 while I wanted to check out my den of Soi 4 now I had just become a lion of a man through the rain. I soon discovered walking from the police box past Morning Night Bar then Big Dogs on this late afternoon that I was not the only lion here with more than a few drenched guys around. These 2 bars seemed a bit friendlier than usual. Perhaps due to business being lower than high season. Maybe the women just have to work that little bit harder to get the fewer customers that are around, hence the Thai smile maybe needs to be a bit wider than high season. Who knows. Apart from the morning and early afternoon in the hotel when I was a pussycat hiding from the rain, today had been a great start.
Now looking like I had been dragged through a hedge it was time to eat. Somewhere hi-so like the Landmark to eat? No chance, they would probably ask me to leave or give me a lot of strange looks at best so I settled on eating on Soi 4, just past Nana Plaza. This lion would need his strength to survey his territory which goes up to Soi Cowboy and sometimes slightly further down Sukhumvit Road but not so far as Pattaya. I leave that territory for other predators. Having had an excellent feed just past Nana Plaza, and mostly dried off, it was time to inspect my prides. Back up to Morning and Night bar then Cathouse, my initial inspections revealed that the best mating season was not necessarily around January to March as competition was simply intense from other lions. The attention I was getting was maybe a bit friskier.
Now early evening and not yet ready to mate, it was time to leave the Soi 4 den and head up Sukhumvit Road. Maybe I would return later, maybe not, but I was in great spirits. Across the road from the police box now going towards Soi 5 this is freelance heaven – or hell. Seems there are too many desperate souls here but the smiles were wider than usual. Businesses seem to be grim here. Too many businesses here seem to lack the acumen to survive the tourist drought. Too dimly lit with poor atmosphere or sleeping staff, some of these can barely muster a solitary customer. Time to keep walking, I am not here for the scraps. Reaching Soi 5, I can see some businesses who want to survive the tourist drought. The staff are making the effort to draw me in and the lighting is welcoming. These businesses have survived droughts before and will do so in the future. I am impressed and need to take on water (Heineken) at the corner bar.
From my vantage point I see in this desert some green and lush spots like the Landmark Plaza. I leave that one for another day but it is green and lush across the road at that point. The bright lights of Soi 5 have drawn me down there. I reach Gulliver's. Time for some home comforts with sport in this green part of BKK. After this, time to head back towards Sukhumvit Road. I now reach The Tunnel. From the outside this place looks dark and dingy but the staff are generally very welcoming. It is somewhere I like quite a lot. My lionesses should be particularly frisky tonight especially the ones I have conquered before. The heavens have just opened up again as I arrive so I decide to take shelter in The Tunnel.
Looking half empty but those customers that did make it being well looked after in all the businesses this place should survive but then again I thought that of Country Road 2 on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi 19. How wrong was I ? Then again BKK is full of surprises. This is what makes it interesting. I was so well pampered here in The Tunnel that tonight I needed to explore no further than this. Back to the hotel with my lioness. Meow!!
The moral of this to the guys who are thinking of coming to Thailand out of season is they should do so. To the lame business owners, wake up and look after your customers and you can survive the BKK desert during the drought. Even in the BKK desert there are green pastures. Your weekly piece Mr. Stickman from Sunday 5 September had me thinking about my last year's trip so I decided to write about it. I will be back in the high season of January 2011 to keep dry at least this time.
Happy hunting for all.
Indeed, there are many advantages to being out on the prowl in the low season.