Bangkok Trip Report
I visited Bangkok in February. I didn’t manage to write about it until now. I lost a bit of enthusiasm because someone who ended his visit about the same time I started mine wrote a trip report that was similar to the one I intended. If I agree with him why would I write my own? Good point. Having said that I agree with most of Geoff K’s points I’ll write mostly about other things.
The trip got off to a bad start. I’m lucky in life in that I can generally travel up the front of the plane. That gives me access to the immigration Priority Lane to enter Thailand. I remember a recent submission (Jan, Feb, Mar?) saying the author had problems & had to produce his boarding pass to prove he was entitled to use the facility. I’ll admit if I decide not to use a Priority Lane pass I’ll keep it so I can use it sometime in the future. Maybe that’s not right but it doesn’t feel like a crime. This time, though, I was in the front of the plane so I was “entitled” to use the lane. But I encountered a guy who can only be described as Thailand’s immigration Nazi. On the plane they gave us the Priority Lane pass saying it was a new form. But my Nazi friend, who was probably having a bad day because he was frustrated, angry & shouting, told me it was an old form, not the new one & it couldn’t be used. I told him it was the form they gave me on the plane I had just on and showed him my boarding pass from the flight to prove I was entitled to use it. His shouted response was “I don’t care. Old form, cannot use here”, which he said a couple of times, and told me to go to the regular line. I was the first person from my flight to get to the desk and his was the only desk active at the time. He then told every passenger the same thing — well, as many as the 3-4. I stayed to see if he’d change his mind. He didn’t, so we all had to go thru the regular lines. I’ve attached a photo of the old and new forms side by side (the new form is the smaller of the two; the old one was valid in August 2018). If I believe my Nazi friend it means they changed the form twice in 6 months (once to the one the airline gave me & once again after that); that’s hard to believe. OK, it’s not the end of the world, and some of you are probably gloating about equality and karma — but it’s still frustrating. Honestly, the way this guy behaved was a disgrace. How many times do I read about Thais and Thailand that no one can lose their cool and show anger? My Nazi friend failed big time.
I guess we all have our interpretation of air quality. I don’t agree with the comments I read about pollution in Bangkok. It wasn’t the worst I’ve seen. Maybe I didn’t see the worst of it but when I was there (middle two weeks of February) it wasn’t too bad. I was in Beijing in the winter of 2003. That was bad. Back then I worked in a tall building on level 20 or so. On some days you couldn’t see the buildings across the road. That was appalling. Bangkok wasn’t that bad.
Now the bars. I only went out on one night but have some thoughts about it.
After reading about the Lighthouse happy hour on Wednesdays I had to give it a try. I went there on the right day of the week and was ready for a few drinks and looking at, maybe even chatting to, some nice ladies. I’m not much of a drinker so I started with a soda water. When I was drinking it I thought I wasn’t getting the best value from the night. Not being a beer drinker I figured I’d change to apple cider as I’d be getting “a better deal”. But they told me the apple cider on the menu wasn’t available. I thought the worst — that they wouldn’t sell it to me during happy hour because it was too expensive. I spent a minute or two stewing about being screwed again, and not in the way I wanted, when someone else from the bar came across to tell me they didn’t have the apple cider shown on the menu but they had a different brand. I think it was from Sweden. I ordered that and it was charged at Bht 100. So it turned out well and they honored what was advertised. That was good.
What wasn’t good was the line up of ladies in the bar and the overall atmosphere. There were 18-20 ladies which sounds like a lot. But they had them dancing in two rotations of 9-10 at a time. It provided no continuity. Of the 18-20 there were perhaps 3-4 who I thought were OK, so 1-2 per rotation. Overall it meant there wasn’t a lot to look at. Nothing to keep you riveted to the seat. The guy next to me — younger, better looking, a better target for the ladies than me — had one of the nice looking girls sitting with him doing the normal things to entertain him. But every 15 minutes / every 3 songs, they changed rotation. The poor guy was happy half the time & the other half he spent talking to me. I’m sure that’s not what he had in mind. I felt there was no time to bond with a girl the way they were rotating them.
Lighthouse. Good value for Wednesday night? Yes. Good times & good atmosphere? No. Did I stay for long? No. Even with cheap drinks I wanted something higher on the fun scale.
I’m not one to sit down & watch the passing traffic so the Country Road & Corner Bar type of places don’t do it for me. I went to Nana Plaza instead because I wanted to visit Billboard & Butterflies.
I went to Billboard first. Yes, lots of girls; a good number of customers. But it seemed too big and somehow lacked atmosphere so I went to Butterflies. It was quieter & you’d think it would be less fun. But no. I met one girl there who was entertaining & she made all the difference. I bought her several lady drinks — nothing more than that; it was a relatively innocent time there but she was fun and turned out to be the highlight of the evening.
The music was terrible. People talk about the music all the time but you had to hear it to believe it. I’d like to provide samples but there were too many challenges. Stick suggested I provide links to YouTube so after some Internet searching (and probably ruining my Shazam profile forever) this is what was played:
Lighthouse Five More Hours, Deorro & Chris Brown
Butterfly Run It Up, DDG
Billboard #1 a song so bad that Shazam didn’t recognize it
Billboard #2 Happy, Pharrell Williams; OK, this one is pretty good
If these tunes are all-time classics of readers, I offer my apologies for being so old.
I generally stay at hotels around Soi 11. Some readers might lament the demise of Cheap Charlies which was knocked down for a “much-needed” new development (presumably more hotel rooms, commercial space & perhaps another retail arcade). I saw a possible replacement on this trip. It’s in Soi 11/1 (near the corner of Soi 11 & Soi 11/1). The photo implies everything is Bht 79. What I found interesting is the menu has quite a few items (one page?) priced at Bht 79 and another section or page with drinks at higher prices. So not everything was Bht 79 but I guess everything in the Bht 79 section was. Like I said before, I don’t drink a lot so I didn’t try it out.
Do you remember the third weekly article authored by Stick on his return, A Day Out Thai-Style? The place sounded good so I thought I’d give it a go. I went with my partner & her family, five of us in total with me the only farang. The food ordered by Stick & Co seemed good so we mostly ordered the same. And the food was good. We enjoyed it. I had a different idea of the restaurant / café in my mind; I was surprised it was on a busy road. Somehow I thought it was on a quiet street or back road but it was on a main road. The restaurant is set back from the road so you’re not disrupted by traffic — it was just a different setting than I imagined. To demonstrate taste buds vary from person to person the only dish we didn’t like was the one Stick’s ladies rated as their dish of the day, the gang leuang (spicy & sour curry with seabass). This wasn’t my farang taste buds, this was feedback from my partner & family. We enjoyed all the other dishes. (Again, I’m not complaining, only noting that people are different.)
What was frustrating was my family decided to make an event of the day — you’re not surprised, right? On the way to Khao Yai they decided to take a detour to … a restaurant! Damn, it was frustrating. Taking a detour on the way to a restaurant to eat at another restaurant. Yes, I know, “This Is Thailand”.
I want to talk about the BTS. It’s really crowded. It’s crowded all the time but really, really crowded during peak hours. And now the network is expanding to cover more than downtown it’s getting worse. But here’s what I don’t understand. From what I can see the BTS is built like a cookie cutter. Every station is the same. The trains stop at a designated place at the platform & the locations of the passenger car doors are conveniently marked indicating where to board. There are 4 doors per car. There are 4 cars per train. Have you ever noticed there are 8 other spaces marked as places for doors? There are 6 at the front of each platform & 2 at the back. So each station can support trains with 2 more passenger cars. (8 designated door locations divided by 4 doors per car gives 2 additional cars.) Why don’t they use them? Why aren’t BTS trains 6 passenger cars and not 4? Are the engines underpowered & therefore can’t handle 6? Is there another reason? Because I’m sure 6 cars would 1) allow the BTS company to carry more passengers; 2) therefore earn them more revenue; & 3) result in less crowding. Does someone know the answer? Sometimes now it’s more of a cattle car than a passenger car.
As I said BTS stations are built using a cookie cutter design. I think someone gave them bad advice about accessibility when they were built. Why put steps in front of an escalator? Here are Nana & Asok BTS stations; others I’ve seen are the same.
The cookie cutter is comforting, though. When you use the stairs each flight has 16 steps. All except the one to the road (first or last depending on whether you’re entering or exiting). That first / last flight has as many as needed to get to the road. Sometimes it’s 15, sometimes 12, sometimes less. And yes, I count the steps as I go up & down. Why? Who knows, I just do.
The summary of my “trip report” is I mostly agree with Geoff K. Like him I’m not so much going for the Thai experience these days but more for family reasons. And to do the things I miss when I’m not there. I only visit a few times a year & I’ll more than likely keep that cycle. Thailand isn’t mysterious or mystical for me any more but I enjoy going there.