The ones that got away

12 08 2017

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Even with a relatively long vacation, I couldn’t see and do everything I wanted. Bangkok is not a beast that can be easily tamed. Here are some of the ones that got away:

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Most crushing disappointment was a near miss with the Mustang Nero, an instragram extravaganza of an airbnb with rooms named after individual animals (The Flamingo, The Wolf, The Octopus’s Garden) and fitted out with outrageous taxidermy ( a full sized giraffe, the interlocked skeletons of two deer fighting) and luxuriant tropical foliage. My boyfriend, who was staying an extra night, managed to secure the last available booking while I missed out, so I only have other peoples’ pictures to post… Also:

WAON Piano & Scotch: an “acoustic karaoke” bar on a Sukhumvit side street where an elderly Japanese gentleman plays requests on the piano while you sing along.

Chooseless: An artfully mixed-up bi-level multi-brand boutique/cafe in Ekkamai.

12 x 12: For African music (see above)

A new “underwear only” gay gym where hunky Caucasian intructors teach you how to “wrestle” (which I declined for obvious reasons).

The newly opened-to-the-public Bang Khun Phrom palace

A ‘secret” dive bar serving brewksies inside the city’s US intelligence headquarters (!)

And finally the interesting architecture of the 1971 Thailand Islamic Center, which has been on my hit-list for ages. I’ll make it one day :

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The writing on the wall

12 08 2017

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Sounds of a city

12 08 2017

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It impossible to separate a city from your subjective experience of it. Fifteen years ago on my first European tour I arrived in Barcelona depressed and as a result, I found the city cold and unwelcoming. I’ve never warmed to it since. So for me, Bangkok will always now be intertwined with “Despacito” (I was slow to catch on to that one), memories of Games of Thrones watched on computer screens on hotel beds, and the strange discovery of a youtube channel full of deep house remixes with Japanese animation montage video clips – the soundtrack to morning jogs and Nice Palace days.





New vs old

12 08 2017

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Chinatown

12 08 2017

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After a few weeks at the trusty Nice Palace, my boyfriend arrived in town and we decided to relocate to Chinatown for a different Bangkok flavor. We had chosen an airbnb above a tapas bar (!) in a hundred-year-old Chinese shophouse on Soi Nana, the newly hip and happening core of ‘cool’ Chinatown, where old buildings have been turned into cocktail bars ( Tep, Teens of Thailand) and art spaces (Cho Why) and a sprinkling of flat-white-serving Melbourne inspired cafes had opened. I was worried – was Chinatown about to be gentrified? Wasn’t “hipsterfication,” afterall, essentially homogenization? Didn’t all these “cool” cafes look pretty much…the same? Chinatown already character and soul. It didn’t need a new one.

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As it turns out though, my worries were premature. On long, loping nocturnal wanderings it quickly became clear that this cool and farang-friendly “new” Chinatown was confined to almost a single block, while the old untamed Chinatown stretched on for miles – miles of tangled alleyways and sleeping cats, chillis drying in the sun, motorbikes roaring through tiny lanes, dusty shops fragrant with herbs, Monkey King shrines, bubbling woks and vendors selling camphor wood and sea slugs, monkfruits, spices and herbs I couldn’t identify, with shoppers haggling in Teochew.

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And street food. Visiting Chinatown with a Chinese person was a new experience: my boyfriend knew exactly what he wanted to eat. We had beef and duck noodles by day and at night, along a brightly lit Yaowarat thronged with festival-like crowds, grazed on chestnuts and pineapples, whole coconuts which has somehow had their husks removed to leave only a juicy white orb, and in the decayed foyer of a porno movie theatre, slurped on pigs tongue noodles.

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This was the Chinatown we had come for.





The skinniest building in Chinatown

12 08 2017

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The prostitute’s temple

12 08 2017

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At the Empower Foundation sex work museum I had been intrigued to read about Wat Kanikaphon, literally “the temple built from the profits of the prostitute”.

It was constructed in the eighteenth century and paid for by notorious madam Grandmother Faeng, from the profits of her “green lantern house”. A bust of the unconventional Buddhist benefactor stands on the grounds.

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Today the temple stands in an interesting corner of Chinatown, directly facing a police station (and a Hindhu shrine to Ganesha) and next to the Poh Teck Tung Foundation and its “body snatcher temple”.

When I visited, it was busy with cross-dressing fortune tellers, stalls selling cardboard credit cards for the dead, emaciated temple dogs, orange robed monks and cars reversing in and out of the temple yard, now utilised as a seemingly profitable pay parking lot.