Bangkok, Thailand – 15 & 16 October 2017
A mostly uneventful flight from SGN to BKK. I say “mostly” only because when we were served a box of spaghetti as our snack onboard, I suggested we ask for fresh parmigiana – and Ak found this unamusing. So humorless!
Made it through immigration quickly and immediately spied one of my favorite sights at any airport – a driver holding a sign with my name on it, waiting to whisk me away. And soon enough we were climbing out of the cab at my usual home in Bangkok, Le Méridien. As we’ve come to expect, the staff recognized us as soon as we got out of our car and welcomed us back – despite our last visit being six months ago. I could honestly quibble with some aspects of the hotel – mostly related to the room decor feeling like it could be refreshed despite it being as comfortable as ever – but the staff here are delightful, delivering service that is excellent, genuine and effortless. It’s absolutely my favorite hotel in SE Asia for this very reason.
We were quickly settled in and then grabbed a bite to eat before it was time to take care of the first glamorous order of business: schlepping a couple of bags of dirty drawers and stanky t-shirts to the laundry. It was exhausting! So much so that we dragged ourselves to Dahra Spa for a couple of hours of massage therapy…
Feeling much revived, it was nearly time for dinner. First stop was at Above Eleven, a rooftop bar with a nice view of Bangkok by night. Then downstairs for dinner at Charcoal, an Indian place that specializes in tandoori – and amazing cocktails.
I had the Muffety Mai – described as “a whimsically floral and refreshing combination of Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh cucumber, tarragon, lemon, jasmine, and chat Masala.” It was sensational – some of my absolutely favorite flavors all in one cocktail! Plus it was gorgeous, with a lattice of decorative spice adorning the glass.
As for dinner, it was great! Seekh kebab were pretty good, though perhaps a bit softer than I care for – but the flavors were great. Tandoori prawns were meaty and delicious. But the two standouts were the chicken biriyani – tender and fragrant – and the special dal. This was the best dal I’ve ever had – our server explained that it’s cooked for 14 hours to bring out all the richness of the ingredients. The spices made the dish complex and so tasty. Even Ak, who’s not a big fan of legumes declared it fantastic!
Monday we headed first to Nightingale Olympic, a store that’s been on my list of places to see in Bangkok since my first visit. It’s an old department store housed in a cool, somewhat brutalist looking structure. Once you walk inside, it’s a literal time capsule of products from 60s and 70s: faded hairdo accessories, rusting “vibrating belt” weight loss machines, weirdly out-of-date clothing, wooden tennis racquets. The place is theoretically an actual business, with plenty of sales clerks there despite the dearth of customers. I actually wanted to buy something displayed in one of the dusty showcases – but the clerk could not be bothered to interrupt her phone call. The place is weird and amazing and I hope it’s around for another hundred years.
Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering Chinatown and the Sampheng Market – which literally sells everything: phone accessories, fake flowers, toys, notions, designer knock-offs. It goes on for what seems forever and it’s kind of a madhouse and it’s pretty fun.
Also in Chinatown are tons of shops selling car parts and various metal rods, slats and other fabrication materials. It was hard to winnow down all the photos I took of them – the colors and shapes at each place seemed more amazing then the last. Same could be said for all the shops selling LED lights.
This was all very exhausting of course, so we also needed to break for lunch, stopping for dry tom yum noodles and fried wontons at Tock Long Moo Noodles, one of Ak’s favorite places. It was delicious – of course! We also managed to find time to pop into Siam Center and have a bit of dessert.
As I write this, I realized that I’ve visited Bangkok enough times (this was my fifth visit!) that, while there is still plenty for me to see and do, I spend a great deal of time doing my absolute favorite thing: eating! I really do think Thailand has the best food in the world and I’m lucky that my friend Ak is there to take me to places I’d never know about as a farang.
Anyway, that evening, we ate a little neighborhood place specializing in Isaan style food called Larp 3. Dinner was great – we had larb (natch) and som tom tai and moo krob – plus they were playing one of the many fascinating Thai soap operas on the TV inside.
Walking home afterwards, we got caught in a crazy downpour – so we had no choice but to duck into Eat Me down the street and wait out the rain with some drinks: a couple of very good cocktails for me and some excellent craft beer for Ak.
A fine way to wrap up our evening. The rain had let up after a couple of rounds, so off we toddled back to the hotel. Tomorrow: more food!