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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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.





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.





Chatuchak surprise

11 08 2017

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In a corner of Chatuchak Park, this monument recognises two hundred years of friendship between Thailand and Mexico, Chile and Colombia. Below, another surprise (of a very different kind).  Look what I almost tripped over while jogging.

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Teutonic flair

11 08 2017

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Nothing speaks more to Bangkok’s open-mindeness than its latest culinary crush, haute German cuisine diner, Suhring. Yes, you read that right. In a city home to one of the world’s finest, and fieriest, cuisines, German food is the latest “in” thing. And franky, the restaurant does not disappoint. The meal we ate there was perhaps the best we had in the city: surprising, hearty yet delicate and recognisably German dishes served up with an interesting wine selection in a sprawling Sathorn villa surrounded by tropical greenery.

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Greetings from Planet Bangkok

5 08 2017

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Bread and heartache

5 08 2017

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Holey is a stylish-looking artisanal bakery on Sukhumvit Soi 33. I had passed it earlier in the week, and waking up craving crusty European bread, I decided to make my way back. While googling for directions though, I turned up more than I had expected. First of all I was surprised to read that the hipster haven was an import from Bangladesh. In fact, the business is a refugee of sorts – having originally started in Dhaka it opened in Bangkok following a harrowing terrorist attack in 2016. ISIS-inspired militants had burst in, killing 20 customers (after torturing those who could not recite a passage from the Koran, including seven Japanese aid workers). I read this munching on my baguette in the cafe’s stylish and friendly Bangkok space, pondering what would have happened had I been in Dhaka that day. Why had a bread shop been a target? Was it simply a place where foreigners congregated, or was it more an scathing comment on the life of leisure enjoyed by expats in a country where few could afford 100 baht (or the equivalent) for a just-baked bread loaf?  The Bangkok bakery that day was certainly full of the fair and the moneyed, Phrom Phong beautiful people, Australian and European expats. And was I then “the enemy” too? Lots to chew over as I enjoyed my bread and butter.