Travel Notes: My First 48 Hours in Bangkok, One Year Later
Bangkok end of November 2014. It has been twelve months since my last visit. My passport says that I am older but I actually feel better now than I did when I visited for the first time. That initial experience had been overwhelming, an unexpected assault to my senses brought about by the heat, the incessant din, the pollution, the traffic and mixed with sounds and symbols that I could not decipher.
At that time a search on Thai centric websites had returned this one among others and once I had managed to navigate my way around the maze of advertising banners, I had discovered the Readers’ Submissions; a unique collection of narrative exposing that perennial human condition of searching for something that perhaps does not exist and its many accounts detailing both the ecstasy and the agony of this often impossible to understand environment and yet uniquely mesmerising world at the same time while unveiling the fragility of it all.
I had missed the whole experience every time following my departure and, despite coming from a mongrel island inhabited by the most beautiful people on earth, I have returned year after year since 2006 and on some occasions more than once a year.
In due course, I have patiently read every submission and this has been a worthwhile investment which has actually saved me time and which has helped me to minimise the many mistakes we are all prone to make but from which we learn valuable lessons.
There have been multiple reasons that brought me back to Thailand every year including, among others, the warm weather, the tasty food, the seascape, the mountains, the reasonable and often lower prices for similar goods and services and, inevitably, they were laced with the interactions with the local natives which further developed an interest in a culture so different from mine.
The magnificent statues of Tosagirivan and Tosagirithorn, the twin giants identical but for their different shades of colours, green one and brown the other, used to be housed at the arrivals hall on the second floor but they now offer protection and greet passengers on the departure hall two floors above.
To me they serve as a reminder that there is no value in fighting local customs and I have neither illusions nor disillusions as to my reasons for being here. Either than an outline, I made very little planning for this visit, as I was aware of the many pitfalls of too much planning and I was determined to keep a cool heart and go with the flow.
My hotel of choice is conveniently located within a few steps of a BTS station and there is, therefore, no need to hire a taxi as the airport rail link first and the sky train after can safely take me to my chosen destination. All I need is to purchase a 45 baht token for the former and to use my re-loadable rabbit card for the latter.
Depending on how you may be wired, it could be argued that various demands on all of us to remain competitive often cause our bodies to run ahead and as a consequence our souls risk becoming detached. Although some work opportunities in the West remain reasonably profitable, I have formed the opinion that today’s fast pace lifestyle often causes this disconnection and partial detachment is for many inevitable and results in a lack of spiritual growth. The latter may be completely irrelevant to you but for me travelling to Thailand provided the opportunity of reuniting body and soul by taking things slowly for a change. I would not take work related telephone calls and emails would be deleted during my absence advising senders to contact me again on my return four weeks later.
Mountains, waterfalls and the sea all beckoned and, from the sky train, a glimpse at the sign on a Christmas tree opposite Central World read Universe of Happiness and I interpreted that as a hint that I had arrived in the right place.
Once at the hotel, I showered and changed my clothes. By the time I stepped outside, dusk was setting in and as far as I was concerned there was only one place I should be heading to at that precise time during my first evening in Bangkok.
Its red fluorescent sign had not changed over the years and the brightly lit staircases and the bespectacled toothless man at its footsteps did little to entice the first time punter but for the cognoscenti, this was immaterial. The women here were not known for their beauty but for their ability to deliver transient happiness as if the latter was an intermittent bulb and their expert hands the necessary light switch.
I had called prior to my visit to ensure M&M was on duty that evening. Personally, I did not see the point in trying someone new when previous services had been totally satisfactory. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand but according to the law men are permitted to admire the ladies taking a bath behind a screened partition, hence the term “Fishbowl” specifically created as to ensure compliance. Adherence to local practices keeps everybody happy but my choice had been predetermined the moment I had called their telephone number making the choosing just a formality. If you think that sounds demeaning you are right and if you think that we do not make the rules but just go along with them you are also right. The rest had gone as expected.
My opening line had been “Khun yang jam chan daai mai?”
Of course she remembered me she assured me as she removed her brassier proudly offering to me a first full sight of her magnificence albeit artificial breast. As the last garment was removed, she looked as good as the last time I had seen her. I suppose that by repeated visits I had partly contributed to M&M’s breast implant although I could not tell you precisely which area of her breast that involved.
The room was spacious but its interior design looked tired. Meanwhile, hot water began to fill the ample bath. Once disrobed I took my place on the lilo which rested on the floor and a few moments later M&M was lathering my back and then she began sliding her entire 46 kilograms frame against mine. The sensation provided by a young firm body, the elasticity of its skin mixed with lather felt unparalleled to anything else I may have wanted in that precise moment and I felt in need of a good wash. I made M&M work hard for her money and I heard her panting and puffing from time to time while she diligently soaped and scrubbed every inch in my body. The long hand on the wall clock completed a full circle and it was now well into its second lap when, aware that I had not yet requested it, M&M enquired:
“Khun Tom, you want boom boom now?”
Bars, Cabaret and all that jazz.
By the time I was back in the street, 9 pm had come and gone but this was Bangkok, the city, among others, of sleepless angels, daring skyscrapers, luxurious shopping malls, magnificent temples, great street food and smiling people but as a tourist I found myself in Nana, the heartland of the forbidden which also housed thieving whores, hardened drunkards, hopeless mendicants and tuk tuk fraudsters and I was not in the mood for retiring to bed just yet.
My next chosen place was not too far, possibly a ten minutes walk and I headed that direction. The white sign with the black writing was well known and many had thought that it was nonsensical of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to have ordered Check Inn 99 to take down its well known sign as a way of avoiding potential injuries to cyclists whose dedicated lane ran in lower Sukhumvit.
Given the narrow kerb and the shoulder to shoulder presence of street vendors, guessing how cyclists would get through required some vivid imagination that even the best Dana may not have been able to provide. There were many other signs causing similar concerns but the Local Authority, for some unknown reasons, had decided that the Check Inn 99 sign was the main offender and that it would have to go first. Although it was still there when I visited, it was scheduled to be taken down within days and, sadly, that is what happened.
I cannot profess to have a full understanding of life and the people inhabiting this planet and this was one of these occasions when it was best not to ask questions and go with the flow.
Chris, its affable Australian new owner and his Thai wife, have completely revived the bar’s fortunes over recent years. The professional and enchanting Music of the Heart quartet is still there, the bar and floor staff are attentive and accommodating, Mama Noi is still around and this is a bar-restaurant come Cabaret where it is possible to enjoy a drink or two with the option of a meal and without being hassled for ladies drinks although the staff there is so pleasant that it is a pleasure to buy them a drink.
A smart marketing presence on social media including Facebook and YouTube aligned with regular themed events and Sunday afternoons dedicated to Jazz have all contributed to enhance the profile of Check Inn 99 and I always find it pleasant to visit this venue.
My first night in Bangkok was no exception and by the time I had finished my drink it was nearly 11 pm. The short walk to my hotel followed and a good night sleep ensued.
There is someone calling me.
A telephone call shortly after 5.00 am preceded the alarm clock. It was Ploy welcoming me to Thailand and would I care to join her for something to eat? I explained that I was going to exercise in the park very soon but she insisted adding that she was in a taxi five minutes from my hotel and could we get together for a coffee or a tea at least as she wanted to speak to me?
I remembered Ploy as a superb looking ladyboy with a great sense of humour. A third gender unique specimen towering over six feet and who, by all accounts, is well in demand. During the day she holds a job in the cosmetic section of a well known Department store and two to three nights a week she dates executive men including, but not only, CEOs, professional consultants, affluent tourists all of whom have come across the simple profile she has created in a number of dating sites peppered with a few titillating photos. Some of the customers are married or with girlfriends and wish to try something different. Some just like beautiful ladyboys like Ploy. She does not need to walk the streets in search of business. She operates discretely through the internet. If she likes the client, she will talk to them on Skype for sometime before agreeing to meet them. She tells me that she has not had any bad experiences so far and if she becomes suspicious of anyone she just blocks them.
I had met her two years before when selecting a perfume for a friend. At that time she had just arrived in Bangkok, was not yet dating and had been working in the perfumery and cosmetic section for just two months. In these days she used to smile spontaneously and looked genuinely happy. This was prior to her breast augmentation and subsequent nose surgery. We occasionally messaged on Skype but I had never pursued intimacy with her not because she was a ladyboy, and you will have to trust me when I say that she is truly stunning, but because of her dubious practice of going bareback if she thought a customer was clean or the money was too good to turn down. That is how she put it to me.
I do not remember the name of the place she took me too but it was near Ratchatewi. On the opposite side of a metal table we looked like a complete mismatch. I was wearing, shorts, a microlite top and running shoes as I intended to exercise that morning. She was wearing an elegant black dress cut just below her knees, tights and black stiletto shoes. Her makeup was impeccable as always but her eyes looked a little tired. She had come from a dinner date and a night of fun. Her client, a barrister, had offered her a little “Ice” but not the type you use to make a drink colder. She told me that they had amazing sex and that he wore a c%*k ring and that he had fu**%d her ass many times and she now hurt but she liked it very much and she was now 9,000 baht richer. She also told me that she had gone bareback because he looked “clean”.
During the course of the next 20 minutes while sipping our teas she told me about some of her other clients, their fetishes and how that month, excluding gifts, she had already made 57,800 baht from dinner dating alone followed by a little fun. Some of the tales she shared sounded funny or perhaps Ploy had the ability to make them sound funny by denigrating the men who lusted after her and their various habits. With three days to go to the end of the month she wanted more. On the other hand, I wanted out. Ploy seemed to have changed from the friendly chatty late teenage person I had first met a couple of years ago. Her words made her sound greedier and calculated, there was a more absent-like look in her eyes and frankly she sounded disrespectful towards the men who paid her very good money for a few hours of what she called work. Her side business involved beauty and sex and the former had an expiry date. Right now she was only 21 and amazingly attractive but going forward I would not want to be in her position and for the first time I no longer felt any interest in what she was telling me.
Ploy often told me that competition among ladyboys was fierce and riddled with jealousy. Fights occasional happened, drama was constant and there were not many people, if any, that she could trust and call friends. Perhaps this was what I provided for her. A tolerant listener who tried to avoid being judgemental. We parted with the intention of getting together for another chat before I left but I already knew that this would not happen. As the taxi took me back, it was still relatively dark and I noticed the army of cleaners sweeping along Sukhumvit to make it presentable again. Sadly, bad memories could not be swept into the gutter in the same way. A new day was about to begin but new and old have this unique way of blending in Bangkok to make one lose the concept of time.
The local parks
Whenever I find myself in Bangkok, my nearest park becomes my training gym. The ones I have visited are kept clean and well maintained. Other than shirt, shorts and running shoes, the benches in the local park, the trees and the suspension belts I carry provide all I need for a daily work out.
This morning I am training in Chuwit Garden, which may be too small and repetitive if you are a serious runner but at least there are no soi dogs here, just a resident Garfield look alike cat. Music is played while people exercise, stretch or walk. There are a mixture of Thai and Westerners and small talk does happen from time to time.
It is now 7.15 am and the traffic in lower Sukhumvit is already building up. The air is gradually becoming thicker and the temperature is rising and that is a warning for me to complete a few stretches amidst this oasis of tranquility and then it is only a short gentle run back to my hotel for a shower. I look at the mainly cloudy sky through the tree branches and wonder what kind of day awaits me.
Money and Taxis
I have showered and enjoyed my first meal of the day and with one hour to go before meeting Pong, I think it may be wise to change some of my cash into the local currency. These days I carry pre-loaded cards and withdraw what I need from ATMs but if you happen to be in lower Sukhumvit and have legal tender, Vasu Money Exchangers is likely to meet your needs. They will ask for your passport and they use a number system. Thus, it may be wise to go early and avoid the queues.
On exiting the hotel, I am met by a “Good morning Khun Tom, where you go today?”
According to various forums, taxi drivers do not have a good reputation in Thailand. They are often described as money scammers, irresponsible drivers and chronically afflicted with impolite manners. They will not always be willing to use the meter and may even refuse to take the ride if unprofitable to them. If you think that is the case you are right. If you happen to think that several taxi drivers also work hard, aim to please and present their vehicle in good conditions, and even go the trouble of deodorising its interiors, you are also right. As for me, I am not here to judge. I am using a service which is up to me to accept or reject. Each situation is different but arguing is something I am keen to avoid. It is down to personal choices and if the first offer is not appealing there are plenty others who will accept the ride.
The friendly question came from Lek, an enterprising individual standing just over 5 foot and whose dark face is embellished by a warm smile and smart little eyes, perhaps too little to see the dollar sign in them but the glittering gold is there somewhere.
Lek is a welcome refreshing sight that women are now driving taxis here. She will happily put the meter on if driving you within Bangkok or to the airport. She is hard working and aims to please for a fee. She is also reliable and you will be able to negotiate a fixed fee for longer journeys. She possesses a good sense of humour and a good memory for faces and names and I have never been short changed by her. I tell her that I am only going across the road but how about a bar of chocolate? “You good man Khun Tom…have a nice day” she says smiling and accepting the bar of chocolate I intended to give to the receptionist, only that the latter was not on duty yet but Lek does not need to know that.
Thai-ness and looking good.
Pong arrives in the lobby of my hotel on time. He is in mid 30s, a reasonably successful architect who has plenty of work refurbishing hotels and has been a friend for a few years now. He has been with his teeruk for as long as I can remember and they are thinking of getting married in the foreseeable future. They have taken a long time to decide because she hails from Chiang Mai where she runs a successful flowers business while Pong is from Bangkok. Their dilemma has always been where to buy their house and start a family. These days Pong commutes to Bangkok on Monday mornings and returns to Chiang Mai on Friday evenings. Today I have invited him to lunch and he is going to take me to a newly opened shopping mall.
Central Embassy rises from the former grounds of the British embassy, hence its name. It is a new iconic landmark for luxury.
From the outside it looks like a shimmering futuristic space station. On the inside, the first impression is that of a chic, fresh, monochromatic interior with flowing sculptured escalators and a seamless ceiling alas the mall is empty of ordinary people. This is a high end indulgence of expensive designer stores catering for the seriously affluent who presumably will be staying at the 37th floor Park Hyatt hotel towering above Central Embassy.
I am interested in hearing Pong’s view. I am aware that he does not believe in the concept of equality. He has often told me that the word “exclusive” means exactly that; excluding most in favour of the privileged few. The acceptance of inequality is something that I have struggled with when first visiting Thailand but I have gradually come to accept it as something outside my control.
I open the conversation by throwing a little hook and posing the thought that perhaps we are unlikely to see the majority of Thais frequenting this place. He explains to me that trying to be politically correct is the only thing that keeps Thai people from other possibilities because being politically correct, he adds, is about Thai people looking good. Hence, no one here likes buying second hand unless they need to. Conversely, every new shopping mall must be bigger and flashier than any predecessors.
I counter jab by suggesting that if the need to look good is so strong among the people in this culture, could that possibly prevent them realising other possibilities? Pong takes care in explaining that when we look into Thai culture this looking good is the main structure for Thai-ness and it drives them to be politically correct. He agrees, however, that as a result Thai people may be limited by the possibility for other people and not the possibility of the possibility itself.
While we enjoy our lunch in the Food Halls of Central Embassy, I share with him that in 2014 growth in Thailand has contracted to below 1%. Various major events seem to have weakened Thailand as an appealing destination. There is now an oversupply of hotels compared to current demand and even long term rentals have come down 40% in price from their peak four years ago and yet investors keep pouring money by building exclusive condos and high end shopping malls. He agrees and points out that this is good news for visitors like me as I have more choice and bargaining power.
I have an interest in world economies and I share with Pong that from my understanding, the Government has tried to jump start the country’s economy by handing out up to 15,000 baht to more than 3 million rice farmers. The cash give away amounts to 25.4 billion baht. On the other hand this seems to amount to very little when compared to the Government expenditure of 570 billion baht disbursed between October and November of this year alone. To us Westerners, Thailand’s economic policies appear unsustainable.
Pong tells me that in his view the real danger lies in the enormous household debt most Thai people hold these days. Encouraged by the previous Government policies which allowed concessionary credit rates for people buying their first home and/or motor, there has been an unprecedented level of borrowing and for Thai people who love looking good this has meant being able to purchase new cars, the bigger the better, and many have borrowed to buy their first home without considering the long term impact of borrowing. Should the economy implode, banks will have to raise their interest rates and that will create domestic havoc. Thailand may face its most challenging phase yet as, despite the current relative calmness, the country remains politically deeply divided.
By the time Pong and I say goodbye it is mid afternoon and I decide to walk back to my hotel. I temporarily stop to take a look at the Christmas festive decorations by the Amarin shopping centre. I find it interesting how in the West we are gradually reducing festive decorations in the name of austerity measures while in Thailand, a Buddhist country, they seem to go to extremes to celebrate something that means very little to them.
Lower Sukhumvit is free of street vendors at this time of the day and it feels so different that walking there is almost pleasant. Of course the Rachaprasong shopping district is very different from the rest of Bangkok. There is no reason to feel unsafe here and plenty of shelters to repair to as a way of escaping the heat. I look at the flow of visitors to and from the Erawan Shrine. I will come back soon to buy my set of garlands and incense sticks and offer my thanks but first I am in need for an afternoon nap.
Terminal 21, Asoke and those friendly guardians of law and order.
I wake up feeling peckish. Bangkok does that to me and I do enjoy eating little but frequently when here also because the food is often so incredibly tasty. Peer 21 at Terminal 21 sells a coupon for its food halls in the form of a re-loadable plastic card and I often put a few hundred baht in case I want something quick, cheap and easy.
I avoid the place at lunchtime as it is too busy with crowds of office workers joining us tourists.
Late afternoon before the offices close seems a good time and I enjoy a little mango and sticky rice or just a frappe’ of mixed berries.
In case you did not know, it is possible to register for free Wi-Fi at Terminal 21 and it is a pleasant enough place where to check personal mail, tell close relatives all is well while people watching at the same time. As I walk towards the busy intersection at Asoke, I am aware of the reported frequent police checks and indeed I see a number of police officers sprinkled at various points on my way to Terminal 21 but nobody stops me and if they did, all they would find on me is a copy of my passport, a rabbit card, my hotel key card and very grim pickings in terms of cash.
Law enforcement officers are understaffed, overworked and generally loathed by the public because of their endemic corruption practices and the Royal Thai police force is facing one of its most challenging periods in history. However, what it is not as well highlighted is that more than 170 Thai police officers have taken their lives between 2008 and 2013. According to statistics released by the Royal Thai police, law enforcement is reportedly the occupation with the highest suicide rates. With the recent case of high ranking police officers held in custody on various criminal charges including bribery and abuse of power and with an earlier suicide involving a Police Colonel, it is perhaps inevitable to wonder what is the actual cause for such pressure and stress.
I discuss this summarily with two friendly tourist police officers who have approached me while I am about to buy some fresh orange juice to hand me a blue information leaflet. They come across as non-threatening. They speak good English and appreciate my offer for a freshly squeezed orange juice as a way of cooling down from the heat. We begin with small talk and then I put some questions forward. According to them the reason for these suicides is mainly attributable to an involvement in some form of corruption. The fact that they carry guns makes it easier to use them on themselves. Low pay scales and financial issues at home exacerbate the problem encouraging some to commit first time offences. Once they get used to the easy money their transgressions become bolder. According to these rather friendly chaps, to combat corruption officers need to be paid a decent salary and/or given perks so that they can look towards a bright future but all they hear is a lot of talk and no action. Ultimately, one of them says, is living within one’s means. I do not wish to probe further. We shake hands and part ways with a smile.
I occupy myself by window shopping and doing absolutely nothing. When I step outside Terminal 21 is already dark but Christmas reminders are all around.
Street vendors have, by this time, taken over lower Sukhumvit. They sell garments, movies on DVDs, music on CDs, souvenirs, sexual toys and performance enhancers and various other trinkets. It is not even 9 pm and I am hungry again so I decide to enjoy some freshly prepared food at everyone’s favourite restaurant, the branch of Took Lae Dee inside Foodland in Soi 5 opposite the Amari hotel. I have been here several times and I have never been disappointed. You can meet all sorts here and impromptu conversations are often welcome as a way of passing time. The quality of neighbour is like a game of Russian roulette, you may be sitting down, among others, to a newbie, a jaded retiree, a back packer or a hooker. Apart from the food, it makes Took Lae Dee worth visiting for the free entertainment.
On the way back I pop into Check Inn 99 again to enjoy some music. I perch on my usual stool, buy a drink for my server too and one from Mama Noi. I like the new receptionist at the door. She looks deceptively younger compared to the others and she wears a lovely smile. I know one cannot bar fine staff here but exchanging numbers is perfectly all right as long as arrangements are made discretely and away from work. This is a much preferred option for all parties concerned and this feels more like standard dating. I exchange little pleasantries with her, buy her a drink and by the time I leave I know her name and a little more about her and I have her number on my phone. Text and calls will follow in due course but there is no need to hurry just yet and I look forward to a good night sleep first.
I wake up very early as usual and I go through my usual routine including a park run, followed by my usual exercises and then later a shower. This morning Jet is on breakfast duties. She is one of the original restaurant staff and hails from Korat. She is minute but energetic and with a beaming smile and friendly attitude that would make even Pattaya Gary return to Thailand pronto presto.
“Khun Tom…nice to see you again” she says and I smile back returning a friendly greeting while handing my breakfast coupon for two people. Jet looks at it and enquires “Madam not join you today?”
They all remember “Madam” here from the times she has visited with me. Difficult to forget someone like Madam. Elegant, feminine and slender with a softly spoken voice and gentle manner. Madam has an innate gift of gracing any room she happens to walk into. Madam made an excellent impression on me from the first time I met her several years ago in the most unlikely of places, a toilet within a monastery! Since then I have been partly smitten and partly convinced that this may be the first woman I may want to marry one day and the only woman so far I may wish to grow old with. However, life is both short and unexpected and while we concoct our plans, life is what happens in between and before we realise it we are getting older and Madam is leading by one year and a few months our reluctant but inevitable advancement toward our third age. By the time she retires, thanks to her high profile occupation, she will have access to a pension and a few other perks. In a country where social welfare is notable for its absence many Thai people are forced to work to an advanced age. Partly this explains the wide spread culture of intra-dependence and the resulting pressure families inculcate into their off springs from birth, daughters in particular, that they must provide for their elders. How else, apart from the miserly 500 baht paid monthly by the Government, could old people survive otherwise?
Despite we clock over a century between us, I still find Madam very attractive and when I am next to her she makes me feel like I would like to be a better man. Madam has recently entered early menopause and there have been a few mood swings while her libido has decreased. From time to time she has been concerned that I may be looking to replace her with a younger model. This is how women think of us men and they are not often wrong but I have no plans to desert her. Yes intimacy is an important aspect of a happy relationship but Thailand is also a courtesan based society and it provides many alternatives and solutions.
In my view, intimacy is not the overriding factor when considering a life partner at my current age. In my humble assessment, a quality companionship, an affinity and heading towards the same direction while pursuing similar interests are more important factors. Further, I am of the opinion that “Fun” as a healthy and enjoyable activity is also accessible in a multiple range of discreet options over here without the necessity to disturb otherwise well established relationships.
The fact that Madam and I both have demanding jobs makes us less needy. Our challenge is being able to carve quality time among the madness of our jobs as we still have a few good years ahead of us before considering retirement options. As a consequence I visit once or twice during the winter months and she reciprocates for a couple of weeks by visiting during summer time in Europe when the weather is more amenable for Thai people and the natural day light plentiful to engage and enjoy many outdoor activities. When she is busy I stay in Bangkok and I have now been enough times here and I know enough people to have what I consider to be a good time. When she is free from work, I take the first flight to join her wherever she is in the country. This works well for us but I recognise that it is not an appealing model for everyone. Therefore, what I do may work for me but it is unlikely to work for others.
I look at Jet and let her know that Madam will not join me today but she will probably appreciate a take away box filled with a few cakes. Jet beams me one of her lovely smiles and says “Chure…we have boobely today…just minute please.” She returns a few moments later with some blueberry muffins neatly packed in a take away box sealed with a transparent plastic lead. She knows what Madam likes and I will take them with me later this evening when I travel to join her initially in Khon Kaen where we will stay for the night before travelling somewhere else.
It is still early morning when I finish breakfast. Nestled between the back of Sois 6 and 8, just behind Lolita, there is a neat little shop with a few hardworking ladies providing a number of services including, but not only, shampoos, haircuts, manicure, pedicure, facials and waxing.
The team is led by Natty, an exceedingly friendly, witty and at times saucy woman. I have been calling her Natalie for some time and behind her amenable veneer lives a very hard working lady who has been creating her own opportunities with her own skills.
I booked myself here today for a facial and ears cleaning. If you have never done this before, I can attest to it being a very pleasant, as well as healthy, experience. Prices are competitive and certainly more economical when compared to my local shores.
By the time I am done, it is still too early for lunch but a great time for a Thai massage. Prices in lower Sukhumvit will average 300 to 400 baht but if you are prepared to take the BTS and travel a few stops to On Nut, alight on the same side of a tall building call the Verve, walk back towards the same direction you travelled from and take a right into a soi full of traditional massage shops for half the price.
There are no happy endings here but the masseuses are highly skilled and experienced and you are likely to leave equally happy. You may also wish to treat yourself to some delicious fried bananas on the way back. Oh well, it is a holiday for me at least anyway.
Hunger is good discipline
Lunchtime and I decide to visit a new place I discovered, courtesy of a friend. It is off Soi 14 and it is a delightful stand alone golden teak house which the owners have restored s couple of years ago in honour of Ernest Hemingway and called it by the same name.
The lovely and efficient Ning is on duty and I know I am in for good service and a pleasant time. The place is quieter at this time of the day which gives me the opportunity to ask Ning how her English is progressing. She is a positive and hard working young woman. There are plenty of those in Thailand, you just need to be patient and look a little harder if you are that way inclined.
Hemingway’s (the place not the writer) comes alive later in the day and it provides an excellent respite from those sultry nights in Bangkok. If you are entertaining a good friend for the first time, you are likely to make a good impression here. The service is attentive and friendly. You come here with friends and not to look for friends if you get my meaning.
It is early afternoon by the time I leave. My stomach is full, my mind content and I am looking forward to travelling this evening having stayed in Bangkok just 48 hours. Khon Kaen, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ubon Rachathani, the Mekong river and Mukdahan all await for different reasons along with more days planned in Bangkok seeing friends and exploring new sois further up into Thong Lor and beyond and also spend some time by the Chao Phraya river and a return to the madness around Victory Monument including a good old blast at Saxophone Pub.
As much as I would like to share these additional experiences with you all, I am not sure when I will be able to do so. At the time of submitting this entry, my holiday is now over for this year and I am back to my little island now and I have work to do. Thus, it would be inappropriate at this point to make promises unless I can keep them. Sorry if this comes across as disappointing and/or uncaring.
I hope this contribution may provide a few insights as there is so much to enjoy here besides and outside the bars. With Stick leaving soon, there may be a vacuum left unless he keeps to his word of maintaining this section of the website.
As for me, overall, it has been a positive experience so far. I have enjoyed the stories in this section of the website, met some good friends through it and contributed with some of my own experiences from time to time. Whether my writing was notable or not it is not for me to say. Half of it was nonsense for sure but I wrote it hoping the other half may reach those willing to find some meaning in it. It was with that in mind that I felt it would only be fair to contribute from time to time.
Nobody knows what the future will bring other that knowing that change is constant and if you have come to the end of this submission I can only wish that your own future is safe, enjoyable and healthy. Whatever you do make sure you do not run out of money so that you can continue to enjoy what Thailand has to offer.
Happy New Year.