Very soon after a day of discussion about ‘should we?’ ‘What else will we do?’ What about??” The decision was made to fly to Bangkok for the Bank Holiday Weekend. Flights were booked via Air Asia and the Dream Hotel in central Bangkok was to be the place that we’d try to sleep for a few hours a night.
I only took a small hand-luggage size suitcase, but I overpacked even so, with a pair of trousers and a long shirt (and a pair of more formal shoes) not making it into the daylight.
We finished work early for the day, dumped our gear at the hotel, picked up our weekend luggage and left for the airport, having cunningly checked in on line and printed our boarding passes off in advance.
Chennai customs had a short conversation about whether a piece of paper with:
- a seat number
- a barcode
- our respective names
- Air Asia in at least five separate places
- Oh.. and the words BOARDING PASS
Constituted an actual boarding pass.
Eventually, they agreed that we could indeed go through to security to receive a body search; as the electronic gates in a brand new airport are apparently only for show and then on to the ‘departure lounge’.
At this point, we made an interesting discovery, you can buy Tiger Beer in individual cans at duty free.
Apparently you’re not supposed to drink them in the airport, but it wasn’t like we could undrink them.
And so the relaxation began.
Approximately 30 minutes before the flight, an announcement was made asking the Thunderdog party to go to the gate.
This is verbatim.
‘Sir, we were worried that you would not be on the flight as you do not have boarding passes’
We duly waved our accredited pieces of paper and smiled happily, knowing that they had been stamped by Customs and Security.
‘Yes sir, but we do not accept those passes at this airport’
More happy waving of our passes, swigging from beer cans as we continued to smile at the increasingly agitated staff.
We were joined by somebody more senior, we knew that because he was male.
‘Sir, as my colleague has intimated, we do not accept pre-printed boarding passes at this aiport, so would you kindly do the needful and go to the desk and get new passes?’
We stopped smiling.
‘This desk, is it back out past security?’
‘No, we’re not going anywhere, we have stamped boarding passes and the airline accepts them because it issued them. This isn’t our problem, we’ll be over there until we board.’
‘You want them you go and get them.’
At which point, petty beuracracy turned to impotent anger and our new friend left us.
The flight was uneventful, on time and reasonably comfortable.
I bought a local SIM card on arrival, taking a reasonable amount of Germanic sarcastic abuse for wanting to be independent of wifi networks, we took a very cheap taxi and drove to the hotel.
Through wide streets with good infrastructure, dizzying towers and an incredible amount of scenery, the night air was vaguely tinged with flowers and the traffic moved in orderly patterns.
It was the Anti-Chennai – just as hot, but clean, gleaming and efficient.
And then it got interesting.
As we neared downtown Bangkok, the streets grew busier, more bustling, all after 3am.
Stalls lined the roads, street food and souvenirs, fried insects and T-Shirts.
Roadside bars everywhere, people milling and smiling, a true melting pot of races and nationalities.
By common agreement, we dumped our bags at the hotel and went out for ‘one beer’ before bed. I took this picture just before we bought the single, solitary beer that we were going to drink.
And so, some more beer, then gin and more gin and more gin later, we arrived at our final bar for the night. and it was getting noticeably lighter.
Which she matched drink for drink.
Sleep followed until 1030 and we grabbed a hurried breakfast and after a short stint at the pool, took a tuktuk to the river to pick up a ferry.
Which of course; didn’t happen.
After a significant amount of bartering, we eventually boarded a long tail boat and gave instructions to just take us around.
This lady tried for ten minutes to sell us a whold load of crappy souvenirs before unveling her trump card. A freezer full of beer.
It would have been impolite to refuse.
But, oh god.. The scenery and the smell of barbequeing food from the small boats that sold a whole range of items to both shore and river traffic.
After 15 minutes for a shower and a change, we got a taxi to a bar at the top of a tower.
Cloud 47 is the name and it was.. wonderful.
The jouney was a bit more eventful in that the driver didn’t know where it was – my local SIM and data now not so amusing as Google maps did the heavy lifting for the driver, nor would it be the next day when checking German football scores became important.
The views over the city were amazing and the staff showed the smiling helpful faces that I’d come to associate with Thai people by that point, nothing was too much trouble, everything was done with efficiency and a sense of care.
And the view….
After we left, we took a suicidal tuktuk back to the Soi Cowboy area and immersed ourself into the weirdness for a while.
It’s a strange area, both seedy and amazingly alive at the same time. There are very few rules and certainly no inhibitions, some of the ladyboys are actually incredibly good looking and in the bars anyway, helpfully identified by the name of the bar or a sign stating exactly what it is.
And sometimes they had a sense of humour too.
I do know that I had another couple of gins at a roadside bar before staggering to bed after 3am.
We’d been there for 24 hours.
Sunday started pretty gently, I had breakfast and then went for a walk, refusing the generous offer from the hotel for a rocket fuelled breakfast and another offer from a group of working girls? on the street. I only half heard the line that the nearest one used. It was either “I like big cock’ or ‘I have a big cock’.
An elevated railway runs above the streets, it’s cheap, fast and air-conditioned.
And everywhere you walk, you catch hints of flowers and citrus.
We did a bit of mall-time on Sunday and I was staggered by the fact that I could eat a huge lunch, with two fruit smoothies for £2.
The food was excellent too.
After lunch, my local SIM and Tripadvisor found us a spa and we whiled away a few hours being beaten and manipulated, stretched and pummeled by Thai masseuses.
Don’t go there you filthy pigs, my masseuse was middle aged, heavy set and had a nasty cough, which thankfully, she kept behind a SARS mask.
Excellent massage though, I floated out of there.
Just in time for the next ten-minute clothes change and a taxi to Khao Sang Road and a whole new set of nightlife experiences.
We had a quiet dinner one road back, idly watching the hippies and hordes of backpackers walk by.
An upstairs bar with live music was our first and longest stop, we had a good view of the street and the entertainment value of a group of Aussie backpackers, pissed out of their brains and lighting up (mostly female) pedestrians below with a laser pen.
It shouldn’t have been funny, but it was fucking hilarious, we obviously got involved and the biggest cheer of the night went to a Thai girl who slapped one of the Aussies and then threw her drink in his face. She REALLY wasn’t impressed with the laser.
More bars followed.
Quite a few.
And we decided to get a tuktuk back to the hotel area for last drinks before crashing.
Our driver offered us a ‘menu of services’ and THIS was the front of it..
I may get T shirts printed.
Monday was more sedate, we breakfasted, checked out and took a taxi to the Wat Pho temple.
Our driver negotiated hard for his fare, and I only laughed a tiny bit when we got pulled by a traffic cop in full Judge Dredd mode who fined him for no seatbelt.
It was double our fare.
The temple was amazing, go see it. The pictures don’t do it justice.
After that, it was lunch at the biggest mall in Asia, the Siam Paragon and a train back to the hotel to get our taxi to the airport.
We were running on fumes by now and had the misfortune (or vice versa) to meet some of our fellow passengers on the flight, a group of middle-aged Indian ‘gentlemen’ who tried en-masse to push in front of us in the queue. After some gentle remonstration, they decided to go to the back..
It was a reminder though of the culture of entitlement that some of the people here have and was a way of preparing us for the other side of the cultural mirror.
The flight was on time, there were lots of empty seats and the hotel car was waiting.
A couple of beers and some bar snacks later and the weekend was done.
It’s hard to say just how good it was, from my point of view it was pretty special. I went with two colleagues for a weekend away and returned with two friends, a ton of stories, some fantastic memories and some new laughter lines.
I honestly loved Bangkok, we only scratched the surface in three days despite doing our best to keep to 20 hour days or so.
It IS the Anti-Chennai, it’s vibrant and buzzing, friendly and open, the people are all smiles, the streets are clean and smell of jasmine and honeysuckle at night.
I’ll never forget it.
Thanks to Jens and Lars.
Founder members of the MBBK club with branches in Berlin, London and Chennai.