Chinatown and Chang's
4.9.10 83 °F
After the previous night of scandalous insanity, I decided that it would be wise to sleep in and recuperate.
After a slow morning filled with water bottles and TV reruns, I was ready to get my butt in gear and head out into the three dimensional world.
One of the things I wanted to see while in Bangkok was Chinatown. It was raved about in my guide book as a bargain shopping Mecca and I am always game for a bargain.
In order to get to Chinatown we would have to take a new form of transportation; the subway. I've never even been on a subway in the United States, so I was just excited to find out what was in store for me.
Just like the sky tram, Bangkok’s subway system was incredibly easy. A few pushes of a bilingual touch screen and we were issued our tickets. We only had to wait a few seconds before our subway arrived and I watched as people exited and entered in a leisurely, polite manner. The inside was pristinely clean, not a piece of trash in sight.
There were TV screens inside showing ads one minute and verifying your location the next. It was a breeze.
We hopped off the subway and started walking toward Chinatown. With the way it was described to me, the market seemed like something that would be clearly visible. To quote Lonely Planet, “[Chinatown] is a confusing and crowded array of jewelry, hardware, wholesale food, automotive and fabric shops, as well as dozens of other small businesses". I walked up and down the streets looking for some form of life and couldn't find a trace of any market. I stopped and asked one of the locals who told me that the market was closed until 6pm. Great. The one thing my guide book did not mention was that it was a nigh market. That's what I get for trying to save money by buying a guidebook published in 2001.
It was around four and we had two hours until the action started. We decided to grab some food at a restaurant that overlooked the river. It was overpriced for the skimpy serving of spicy glass noodles that arrived, but the quality was pretty good. That killed a little bit of time but not enough. We hung around and soaked up the air-conditioning as much as possible before we headed back out.
We were a little early, but we saw people setting up shops and opening their street stalls so we moseyed up and down the aisles checking out the goods. They had everything from fake Rolex watches and Ray Bay sunglasses to fresh fruit and raw meat. Huge woks simmered soup next to fresh roasted corn on the cob. The aromas were overwhelming. As I wandered from one stall to the next my hunger turned to nausea as my smell receptors detected putrid fish and ripe durian.
I walked along and poked my head into a few places to inquire about handbags and jewelry and to my surprise, no one seemed interested. I had heard that this was the place to bargain, but when I asked the price of an item they seemed to be annoyed as if I was pestering them with my silly questions. This was a far cry from India, where all I had to do was glance at an item and I was thrown into an auction. I walked into one purse store, asked for a price quote and the salesman finally responded "800 baht" just before he walked away from me. He ducked into the back and after waiting a few minutes for his return, I finally left.
Another odd thing was how they priced their items. They would not allow me to buy just one of anything. I looked at a tag which read "100 baht" and when I went to pay, the woman said "No, that wholesale price. You buy six and 100baht." What the hell do I need six purses for? I could not find a store to sell me just one item. It was bizarre and definitely not what I was expecting from this grand market.
After about two hours of walking around, I finally threw in the towel. I don’t particularly like shopping anyway, but his was just too much work. If you have to work that hard at spending money, you probably shouldn’t be spending it. Chinatown was a bust.
We hopped back on the subway, both pretty peeved about the day’s events. When we got to the part of our journey requiring us to switch from the subway to the sky tram, we decided that we were in no rush and we should find a bar.
The only problem with the area we were staying in is that there is not much nightlife close by. In order to get anywhere fun, you have to take the sky tram. We decided to take advantage of our location and chill out somewhere fun.
We got off the sky tram and wandered into a simple bar filled with dim lights, smooth jazz and beer specials. We ended up chatting with a nice couple. Thomas and Tana were both Americans living in Bangkok on business. It wasn't long until we noticed that we had traveled to a lot of the same places. They also had been to India and actually lived there for a few years before taking jobs in Thailand. We chatted for a while and exchanged horror stories about India that made us all laugh.
They suggested that, if we were looking for some nightlife nearby, we could follow them to a place called Soi Cowboy. They were meeting a friend there anyway, so we gladly tagged along.
I read about Soi Cowboy before and my guidebook described it as a toned-down Patpong. I was relieved. Not only because we wouldn't have to travel far, but also because I knew it couldn't be as crazy as the night before. I was ready for an easy night of bar games and beer pitchers.
A toned-down Patpong was the perfect depiction of Soi Cowboy. It looked the same only on a much smaller scale. Instead of ping-pong shows and go-go girls, there were pool tables and drink specials; right up my alley.
We said thanks and goodbye as we split up from Thomas and Tana. They went to meet their friend and we wandered down the street checking out the scenery. We found the first bar that wasn't swarming with scantily clad Asian women looking for a play date, and wandered inside.
We ordered some whiskey and chilled for a while and eventually the manager came over and introduced herself. Kiko was her name; she was visibly intoxicated, and had squeezed herself into a tight little black tube-top dress. She was less obnoxious than most drunk women and quite entertaining, so we chatted in short bursts until something new grabbed her attention. This woman had the attention span of a three year old.
Where you from?
This was her only reply. We all laughed. She walked away.
We engaged ourselves in a new game we found called Jackpot. We clearly had no idea what we were doing as we fumbled with the box like cave people. The bartender looked over and laughed at us before she came to help. After we learned how to play it was much more entertaining and we kept rolling the dice until Kiko came back for her encore performance.
How old are you?
How old you think I am?
Ooooh me love you long time! I 44!
That was our conversation verbatim. I laughed my head off for a good five minutes. Then she proceeded to give me the slurred cliffs notes version of her life story and walked away again.
We finished our drinks said goodbye to Kiko and headed down the strip in search of a bar with a pool table. As we were stumbling along, we ran back into Thomas and Tana.
We decided to grab another drink together and shoot a few games of pool. The bar had a mellow ambiance, low lighting, a few pool tables and a stage.
Right as we walked in the band started their set with a cover of "Hotel California" and I knew we had picked the right bar.
We jammed along to the music, shot pool, drank Chang's and enjoyed our new friends.
We talked at length about their travels and what it was like adapting to living in a new country. Toward the end of the night the conversation turned from Indian food and bathroom humor to nostalgic foods from back home. We salivated over taco shops and burritos and whined about how long it had been since we'd had good Mexican food. They told us about a place, just a sky tram away, called Los Cabos that has the best Mexican food around. We were there! Since this place was a little hard to find they offered to go with us and share some margaritas.
Los Cabos turned out to be everything they promised it would be. Along with a giant pitcher of margaritas, I feasted on a massive carne asada burrito that put me right at home.
Thomas and Tana were awesome! Not only did they give us good tips on Thailand and where to party, they took us there. Not only did they tell us where the Mexican food place was, they took us there too, AND they paid for our drinks! These are the type of people all travelers want to meet!
Thanks Thomas and Tana for an amazing night of inebriation!
- A funny thing I've noticed about Bangkok, is the abundance of hot young women I see walking around with older, unattractive men.
What is the deal? For every 10 couples I see, at least half of them have an age gap of about 30 years. If you're a lonely retired white man, with a little pocket change to spare, Thailand is the place for you!
- SIDENOTE: The show I was working on at AMS Pictures in Dallas TX, entitled "Ma's Roadhouse", premieres on September 15th at 9pm! http://www.trutv.com/shows/mas-roadhouse/index.html
From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home You guys rock!