A Mellow Friday in Bangkok

Despite Thursday evening’s large and fancy dinner (accompanied by wine and cocktails, duh), I was up and at ‘em pretty early on Friday morning. I wanted to get to the Jim Thompson House when they opened at 9AM in hopes of avoiding the crowds.

And so I did! Today’s Skytrain ride was uneventful, insofar as I was able to get to my destination without any detours or wrong stops. I got a bit turned around getting from the station to the JT House, but still managed to present myself at the ticket window promptly at 9! Oh, and speaking of JT House, when I’d been texting with Aek the prior evening about how excited I was to visit JT House, I told him I couldn’t wait to meet Justin Timberlake because I am a dork and also hilarious.

ANYWAY, my early arrival wasn’t all that helpful given that the first tours don’t start until 9:30. But I spent my time wandering about the grounds outside the house, which are just marvelous, filled with beautiful plants and trees, small ponds and fountains and beautiful flowers. And it’s relatively unassuming – not a huge plot of land, and with traditional Thai structures that are of nice size, but by no means palatial. It’s a quiet little oasis in the middle of bustling Bangkok and it was undoubtedly one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited.

The tour of the place was short but quite interesting. No photos permitted – which is kind of good for me every now and again. I think I’m OK at putting down my camera regularly, but it’s always good to have it occasionally enforced. The interiors are an amazing mix of authentic Thai and Western antiques. It felt genuinely comfortable and homey – this guy knew how to live. In fact, take a moment to read a bit about Jim Thompson – including the surprise twist at the end.

After this wonderful start to the morning, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I had a three-hour spa treatment scheduled for 1PM, so not a whole lot of time to kill. I consulted my map and discovered I was not too far from Siam Paragon (IKR?) so this seemed like the perfect spot to grab lunch.

And it was! I had headed over there with the intention of trying the ramen place I’d spied on my last visit. But in addition to having some difficulty locating it (I’ve been to casinos in Las Vegas with more easily navigable floor plans), I came across the “street” food section. All the usual suspects on offer, so I went with classics: chicken & rice, then som tum tai. The lady who prepared my som tum asked how spicy, so I said spicy. She raised an eyebrow and grabbed a huge handful of birdseye peppers. “Spicy?” Jeez, OK, I’m not Thai! “How about medium?” She laughed – but with me, not at me! Or so I told myself…

Now off to Divana Spa, recommended by my friend Nicolas. I made it there with time to spare – but lucky for me, I was just outside Terminal 21, another one of BKK’s super-cool malls. And this place was no exception. There was some kind of crazy bra sale happening on the main floor, so I headed upstairs to “London.” Oh, did I mention that each floor is named after a different world city? And decorated to match? And the top floor is San Francisco and includes a replica Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (cleverly called Pier 21? Because it’s all true.

“London” was really great – all tiny pop-ups with groovy t-shirts and such. There was one place in particular that had a fine assortment of designs – but apparently stocked only size M. Asian size M. And I’d already learned my lesson in that regard, so I didn’t even bother. Sigh… But I still enjoyed my amble.

Divana was lovely. I sat and relaxed with some tea while they had me smell the different fragrant oils to choose the one for use during my treatment. I had reserved for “Gentlemen Exclusive Care” with scrub, steam, bath, massage and facial. Oh, boy – it was great! The scrub was with some kind of mud which covered me from the neck down. They left it on me and sat me in a steam room for 15 minutes to let it soak in. This was followed by a nice soak in a milk bath replete with bright pink flower petals. Next a relaxing massage and finally my facial treatment (to what little of my face is accessible behind my hobo whiskers). I must say my hamstring injury was still bugging me, so this very relaxing and gentle treatment was a nice contrast to the rather intense series of Thai massages I’d had earlier in my trip. I walked out feeling like a million bucks – despite the disappointment of assuming that my post-treatment snack was balls of fresh pineapple sorbet, when in fact it was just fresh pineapple…

Back to Siam Paragon to meet Ak at the Kinokuniya Bookstore. This would actually be my first time in the mall above the ground floor food hall. Well, this place is even crazier than I thought. In addition to the usual Gucci-Tiffany-Vuiton and their ilk, there was also a Rolls Royce dealership – complete with floor samples. Oh, and another for Bentley. And one for Lamborghini, because why the hell not? I’m going to have to perform a much more in-depth investigation of this mall on my next trip to BKK…

I’d read several accounts of the amazing yellow crab curry at Krua Apsorn before I arrived in Thailand and I really didn’t want to miss it, so Ak agreed to accompany me. It’s over in the older part of town, closer to the river, which means Skytrain isn’t really an option.

“I’m beat, let’s just cab it,” I said.

“No, we ought to take the canal boat. It’s faster, “ Ak replied.

Yes, please! Not only was it faster, it was another bit of adventure. We waited at the stop along with the other folks and along came our boat. It kinda stopped at the pier – I mean it definitely slowed way down and came quite close to stopping. Everyone scrambled on (standing room only!) and grabbed onto something, because the fellow at the wheel was doing whatever the nautical equivalent of putting the pedal to the metal is. A couple of stops later and there we were. And no dallying! I’m pretty sure that boat was already throttling back up to full speed while I had one foot on land and the other still on the boat. Happily, despite a bit of teetering, I did not wind up in the canal.

As for Krua Apsorn, Ak led us there directly. Very crowded, formica tables, bright fluorescent lights and well-worn laminated menus. In other words, the ambiance was nothing to write home about. But, oh that crab. The yellow crab curry was several crabs-worth of large meaty chunks – and nary a shell to be cracked. I mean, who doesn’t like crab? But the normal process back home involving hammers and tongs is a lot of effort for very little reward. At Krua Apsorn, it’s all reward! Ak also ordered a crab omelette – I was almost going to complain about a surfeit of crab and was so glad I didn’t, since this dish was as delicious as the other. This was certainly one of the best meals I had in Thailand.

Also in the neighborhood was Nuttaporn ice cream, another place I’d read about. Been making ice cream for 60 years and supposed to be amazing. Ak told me they close at 5PM, but I insisted we find it anyhow, “just in case.” Well, it does indeed close at 5PM. So, to the bars!

We actually had a nice walk until we wound up back near Wat Pho and then wended our way down an alley across the street to the Sala Rattankosin, a little boutique hotel. Climbed up five stories to the roof where we settled in for a couple of cocktails along with a lovely view of the river and the Temple of Dawn. A fine way to wrap up another marvelous day in Bangkok.

N.B.: Yes, I realize I’m waaaay behind in wrapping up my trip to Thailand – I’ve been back in SF for nearly a month! But this is my penultimate entry. And part of the reason I’ve been too busy to write is that I’m already planning my next trip back to Thailand. Yes, I loved it that much.


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