Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Their Money is Called 'Butt'??"

Bangkok
October 2006


That's what Wey asked when we told him we were taking him to Bangkok, a city which you either like or dislike.

Hongkong has the best food and shopping and a beautiful skyline, thanks mainly to the Bank of China building and the South China Sea, Kuala Lumpur is all messed up and only looks good from a distance because of the Petronas Twin Towers, Shanghai is interesting for its history, food and two different skylines viewed from The Bund, Singapore is well-planned, clean but characterless, Tokyo's pleasant because its combines old and new perfectly, with tree-lined boulevards like Omotesando and Ginza and little streets of hidden restaurants and shops, Beijing's another ugly contender (but is worth going to for the amazing historic buildings), and so is Seoul. LA is surprisingly boring except for the outskirts and factory outlets and the amazing houses in Beverly Hills. Boston and Philly are both historic yet modern, San Francisco is beautiful with landmarks like The Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 and breathtaking stretches along the Pacific, Vancouver is a very pretty but boring city, while Toronto is more cosmo yet very liveable despite its size. New York's all skyscrapers, international headquarters buildings and people are either very rich or very poor, Perth's got King's Park and that's it folks, Sydney's got that iconic but rundown Sydney Opera House, beaches, nice houses on the hills, very good restaurants, Melbourne is pleasant especially around the Crown-Yarra River surrounding, is not too big or small and has been voted for many years running as one of the top 3 most liveable cities in the world. Kota Kinabalu is..... called a city but really its not so I'll spare it my comments.

My prize for The Ugliest City in The World goes to......Bangkok! Architect students, make it a case study of what not to plan and design. For example, the main street, Sukhumvit Rd, is not walkable because of the traffic and the broken, loose and uneven pavement (they can build the world's biggest airport but not fix the main shopping road?). So they built a double-storey walkway (1st level) and light transit rail (2nd level) over the whole stretch of the road. This ugly structure completely hides the view of the new buildings on that road, and it gives you a vista of the whole ugly city. What had/is the government done/doing?!

However, the fantastic food (very colorful radioactive-looking but yummy desserts and a large tasty variety of Thai-indochina dishes), exciting blend of exotic culture, nightlife and cheap shopping (as in cheap useless stuff you buy and then wonder why) make it still a better place to visit than, say, Kuala Lumpur. My only advice is: don't take the tuktuks ! Just don't. They take you round and round and rip you off and all the while you breath in Bangkok's toxic oxidating gases. The taxi drivers aren't better too. Friends highly recommend a Somboon Restaurant but the two times we tried to go, we were brought to the same tourists-only restaurant that charged us 300 Bhat for one small plate of fried kangkong (a veg). The drivers get a commission for bringing tourists there.

We ate 5 meals a day in Bangkok and didn't take many pictures but here are some:


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Sukhumvit Road

All the newest and glitziest shopping malls are on both sides of this street but the concrete walkway hides everything.

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Wey deciding on a toy.

This is at the largest night market, a good alternative for those who don't want to melt in the heat in the world's largest weekend market, Chatuchak.

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Night shopping on the streets.

At 8pm everynight, these makeshift stalls will spring up everywhere, even in front of 5-star hotels.

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Chinatown

More dense and chaotic than any town in China!

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Wat Pho

One day we told the tuktuk driver we wanted to go to the old palace. After two hours, I wondered what the fuss was about because, frankly, it was boring and not really pretty. When we left in a taxi, the driver told us that that wasn't the palace, but a wat (temple) that we'd just been to. The name? Wat Pho. Yes, what for did we spend 2 hours there??

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Flowers for the wats


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Bbq fish, obviously


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Street food stall

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Typical Thai dishes

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Fried bugs

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Super supermarket, 7th Floor Cental Mall

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This has got to be the best supermarket in Asia in terms of quality and variety of international food. It has a large classy food court too.

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At the floating village


An hour away from Bangkok, the floating village survived just because of tourists so its very commercialised and phoney. Don't waste your time.

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Girls with flowers for Loy Kratong

We were lucky to witness one of Thailand's big festivals, the Loy Kratong. The Thais float these environmentally-friendly (base made from dough or banana stem) flower arrangements into the Chao Praya River with their wishes and prayers. The top hotels like The Oriental Hotel are lined up on both sides of the river, and we took a boat cruise which gave us a great view of the fantastic fireworks display given by these hotels.

We tried four different hotels in 7 nights. The last night, we wanted to sleep luxuriously and managed to get a room online at a boutique hotel, The Davis Bangkok. However, when we checked in, they were full so they put us into, not their ordinary suites but, their Presidential Suite! At no extra charge!

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The master wing's on the left and the kids' wing on the right. Taken from the study/kitchen.

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One of the bedrooms.


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Part of the spa.


Thank you Davis Bangkok!


6 comments:

hongyi :o) said...

I have to remind myself that it's not a good idea reading your blog in the architecture computer lab, where everyone's so focused on doing their assignments.

I had to cover my mouth with both my hands and try very hard not to laugh out loud while reading your latest post about cities. You are hilarious!

I wonder why it doesn't run in the family though...I tell the worst jokes :(

hongyi :o) said...

Oh by the way, my lecturer's into this building called 'Kunsthaus Graz' in Austria. Check it out. :)

Looking forward to seeing my portfolio yet? :P

Terri Hong said...

Did u read about tt black cube they built in Hamburg? hey, can u help me w my pic size? Ming's on strike b/c i wouldn't let him use the comp.

the lunch guy said...

as someone who has chosen to live in BKK for the last 17 years i fully understand your "amazement" about the place, and your comments are pretty much spot on. but like anywhere, the pros balance the cons (at least for me a former new yorker who hates nyc with a passion), and the food is this city's saving grace.

i am sorry to hear that you had all the typical problems with getting around and getting the run around form tuk-tuks and taxis. all i can say is its a good thing you did not go to pattaya and get on a song-tao (pic-up truck with benches in the back), they are by far the worst livery service in the country and the most menacing of people too.

relative to your comments on the skyline (what, you don't like 5 styles of architecture in one building?), did you know that despite all the crap they have built over the last 20 years, bkk is famous for its art deco structure (though few remain)? back in the day when they were first building the government area deco was the rage and they did build some very nice examples of it, most of it only 2 or 3 stories tall which was also a plus. but times change, and so do cities.

i spent new year's eve at the davis last year with some fiends, we simply wanted a nice place to get together and no one would have to clean it all up after we were done (as in baked, cooked, fried...). we had a smaller suite than yours, but it was perfect. decorated in traditional thai style (they are all different motif) and more than adequate. we brought a lot of fresh food and we all took turns cooking throughout the night in the little kitchen that was there. they also gave me a good discount for showing one of my old hotel food and beverage manager's ID card.

thinking of going back this year.
skip the breakfast buffet though, it is very basic and not like some you find in bkk that are just plentiful and out of this world. (sunday brunch at the sheraton grand as one example of total food immersion.)

i enjoy reading your blog, i just discovered it. and i will make my way through the past posts when i have time.

i enjoy your style and your verve for food.

good luck

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

hey lunch guy: from nyc to bkk? fire into the pot? but yes, the saving grace is the food. if i ever go back, it'll be for the food.

i've been to ur blog n enjoyed it. now u have made my week for putting this blog right under chez pim's. for tt, u get a place on my links :DD

i look forward to more cooking posts frm a REAL chef, retired or not. with all tt's going on in bkk, let's see some food survival posts for days when you can't get ur supplies or am i being ignorant.

swadee kha (or smthing like tt)!

the lunch guy said...

you said: "let's see some food survival posts for days when you can't get ur supplies or am i being ignorant."

i thought that is what leftovers were for?

i hope to get a few fresh posts during the holiday break. so maybe i can do something on that angle. typically i keep a good pantry of all the essentials so running out of food is not really something that happens often.

i guess that is a habit i acquired from working in mountain and island resorts where circumstances can turn against you and your expected deliveries don't show on time (sometimes for days on end), and you must be able to feed your guests and not let them think you were not prepared for such eventualities.

freezer packing is another great way to avoid such travails. and they think its fresh ... little do they know.

have you ever read anthony bourdain's kitchen confidential, he gives his readers a peak at all of these kinds of "secrets" and tricks of the trade. i suggest you grab a copy if you haven't read it yet. i think i know all the characters in his book from my years on the range, especially the baker he writes about.


http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Confidential-Adventures-Culinary-Underbelly/dp/0060934913

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