Sunday, 11 December 2011

Welcome to Bangkok

That's us in the rearview mirror. We are worried we're about to die in a fiery crash...

I have a confession, when we decided that we would break up our home flight by stopping over for a few days, I didn't actually care where it was. I had no burning desire for anywhere in particular really, my only half baked thought was I wanted somewhere with night markets because I love this Canon ad. And it's funny how accurately we replicated it bouncing through the steamy Bangkok nights. 

We arrived heavily jetlagged at around 6 in the morning. I think it was dawn, but it was hard to tell as the smog over the city is quite thick, held in tight by the incredible humidity. We had come from a particularly bright and frosty morning in Paris, watched a movie marathon and eluded sleep in a freezing plane and it was amazing we could tell which way was up. So we found the cab rank and let the helpful bossy woman there direct us to our cab and tell the driver where to go. And so, about 45 minutes later we were deposited at the Banyan Tree Hotel, on the outskirts of the Bangkok city precinct. 

First, sleepy impressions were good. The lobby was as lovely as we were dishevelled as the porter whisked off our bags and the concierge directed us to the 19th floor so that we could be checked into our Club Room. Once the forms had been sign we asked our smiling hostess if it was possible if we could actually go to our room or if we'd have to wait. I could have cried and only just restrained myself from hugging her when she said we could. 

So at 7 o'clock in the morning, which would have been about 2am in Paris, we walked into this room and saw the bath. I nearly burst into tears, so much did I love it. The bathroom was ridiculously large, larger than our lounge room. 

As you can see, massive. That's just the bath and one of the sinks. One. Of. The. Sinks. Behind me there was the rain shower which was also ridiculously over sized. Not that we noticed much as we were too busy stripping off slimy travelling clothes and jumping in to get clean. By this stage I was so tired that I couldn't work out how to get out of the shower (um, push the door), and after being rescued and finding my bathrobe I properly inspected our bed.

Big doesn't quite describe it. In fact, in the picture because it's so massive in all directions it doesn't look so big, but I could lie sideways across it with my arms above my head and still not reach the edge. I'm 170cm tall, so yeah. Huge. Bingley and I jumped in and slept for 4 blissful hours. Or maybe it was 5. We weren't counting. It was lunch time anyway, and being as I'd refused to eat any of the plane "food" I was ravenous. A quick glance at the room service menu told me I wasn't THAT hungry, and I hollered over to the other side of the bed to Bingley and asked him if he was hungry. He was still jetlagged out of his mind, and not being so used to waking up randomly as I was from shiftwork he had no idea.

While he woke up a little by walking around the room and occasionally into the furniture I had a good look at the view from our 31st floor room. I was pretty impressed.

Then we logged onto the free wifi and tried to work out where one could buy food in Bangkok. The answer, for anyone who doesn't know, is everywhere. We hit the foot path and they were already cooking at little carts all along the road. But being as Bingley was feelign queasy from having succumbed to airline food earlier, we decided to eat at a proper cafe. These were a bit trickier to find, as obviously the Thais are a bit less fastidious than airline-food-regretting-jetlagged-westerners. Eventually though I put my foot down after walking for 20 minutes in the midday heat and said I didn't care where we stopped but if we didn't get something cool to drink soon I was going to melt on the pavement.

So we followed some office workery looking people as they exited their skyscrapers and found a little group of restaurants hidden in a courtyard and ordered soup and noodles. By this time I was wide awake and chatting and cheerful and asking Bingley about where we should go and what we should see next while he looked like this.

After realising that his lack of enthusiasm had nothing to do with being a grumpy miserable bum, and everything to do with the fact that he actually was a zombie, I decided to take pity on him and we walked back to the hotel with the plan to jump in the pool.

The pool was on the 21st floor and overlooked the city. A fact that we enjoyed as we sat on the cabanas and felt very smug. Though we did notice, as we had when we had driven in that there were a lot of sandbags everywhere. This hadn't really registered properly (see: jetlagged) but as we lay out there being smug Westerners, it occurred to me to actually read a news report about Bangkok where we discovered that Bangkok was preparing to be inundated. That day. This could have been a very bad thing, but being as we were safe and high we instead did terrible crass things like swimming in the pool for a few hours. We did see the irony in it.

After the swim, we were both well woken up and looking forward to the main reason we had decided on the Banyan Tree Hotel - its famous roof top bar. We went back to our room to get ourselves prettied up so that we could enjoy sunset on the roof with a few beverages.

New Chanel Lipstick from Galeries Lafayette, Paris
Being a little while off sunset, we decided to avail ourselves of the club lounge and drank the complimentary beverages and a million and one tiny canapes on spoons, sweet and savoury, feeling like we got our money's worth out of the room upgrade. I also enjoyed staring at my pretty shoes and bouncing them around as we excitedly anticipated the roof.

The path up to the Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar involves taking the lift to the top floor and then ascending 2 flights of stairs (one indoor and one outdoor) which was a good test in 5 inch stiletto heels with a few complimentary wines under the belt. By the time we reached the top there were already a few other tourists milling about, and we were shown to the couches behind the bar, but decided we liked the secluded table in the corner better as we ordered mojitos to celebrate.

The bar was amazing. If you have clicked on this link because of references to the Vertigo Bar/Grill then I can tell you that it was absolutely worth it, the view over Bangkok just indescribable. At the time we got up there, it was mostly just grey and humid, playing havoc with my carefully done hair. But as we mellowed in our chairs, the sky began to illuminate. First the clouds turned impossibly pink, then the lights of the city came on like little neon stars.

Bangkok by twilight is not quite the same as Paris

Mojitos and fairy light cities way down below

The bar

The restaurant with the bar in the background. This is my photo and if my dodgy skills can make it this good you can imagine just how spectacular this is in real life.

After we'd eaten our fill of complimentary snacks (the honey pumpkin chips were amazing. I want them right now) and sipped the last mouthful of drink, we changed out of our dressed up clothes and I took off my Louboutins and put on some short shorts and sensible trainers so that we could go explore by night. Although quietened by the floods, Bangkok still had a crazy energy that you just couldn't help but be caught up in.

This is Bangkok for me.

It was hard not to feel self conscious a little as we walked around. The impending floods had obviously devastated tourist numbers, and it wasn't until we happened on the seriously Western shopping centres that we saw any other tourists. As we wandered the night markets it was all about the locals, fresh food and "big eyes". Stalls with Hello Kitty plastered on everything, buckets of fresh produce, so many clothes, random boxes of spices. It was everything that the Canon ad had promised, as we bartered for some clothes and thought about eating. But we were simply too tired after a few hours and decided we would need to take a taxi home.

OHS officers must faint away when they visit Bangkok

Being brave and spontaneous (some would say fool hardy) I was fascinated by the tuktuks that wheeled through the intersections at dangerous speeds, cutting each other off and honking their horns while the grinning drivers flashed brilliant white teeth. One cocky boy with a bit of bumfluff on his chin grinned at me winningly and asked "you want tuktuk?" and named his price. Now I know that in most SE Asian countries you are supposed to barter, but we were tired, and just didn't feel up to it. Plus the price he'd asked, the wildly optimistic price? It was less than $10. Now I know there is fun to be had in bartering, but for a dollar either way? I was happy for him to have it. And so we jumped into the most pimped up tuktuk I'd ever seen and careened into traffic.

Disco lights, baby!

Feet jammed in because that was the closest thing we had to a seat belt

Warp speed
Not sure if we'd make it out alive. 
Having offered to pay his king's ransom of a price, our tuktuk driver was keen to impress us. He zoomed faster than anyone else. He didn't brake. He cut off other drivers and smiled as he passed them. The disco lights above us flashed pink and purple with every acceleration as we zipped through traffic at terrifying speeds. Cars seemed to liquefy beside us, so quickly were we moving. It was without doubt one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life. There is nothing quite like the sensation that you're cheating death as we hurtled around corners and finally to the street outside our hotel. We offered to jump out there, but there was no way our genial driver was having us walk - we had paid good price! So he insisted on taking us all the way in to the valet parking bay and then helping us out of the back (which was handy, as even though we were exhilarated, our legs didn't work so well). We couldn't stop grinning. We were jetlagged, tired, discombobulated and in a land that was like a crazy snowglobe all shaken up and lit with mirror balls, but that somehow made it all the more fun. It was a giant welcome banner, Welcome to Bangkok.


Melissa said...

Wow! You know, I've never had the slightest urge to travel to Thailand, or most S.E.A countries - the crowds I think is a bit much for me.

But I don't know. This made it tempting.

The BED makes it more than tempting! I can't believe it's really that big.

Jenn said...

It was amazing, Liss. I loved it all - the heat/humidity/people/colour/dirt/grime. It all works. Perfect after Paris. It just has this energy that makes you want to go back.


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