'Kok of the north
One night in Bangkok: makes the tough guys crumble, apparently. Lucky, then, that I was there for two nights, where after an admittedly crumbly start I could slowly reassemble yourself. Around 25 journalists were flown out by the tourist board to witness the fact that Bangkok is back to normal after its bi-annual bloodless military coup.
I used to go all the time, but I hadn’t been to Thailand for three years. Within minutes of leaving the airport, though, it felt pretty normal – i.e. you sit in traffic for about half a day while moving three blocks.
I like Bangkok a lot. Despite the horrendous traffic, there’s an energy and a buzz about the place and it’s a cliché, but the people that live there (that would be the Thai people) DO seem genuinely happy. I figure it’s the Buddhism, one of the few religions where you don’t need to fear fundamentalists (What would they do? Excessive meditation? Force you to go meat free?), and where serenity and peace are promoted rather than guilt, judgment and killing people who disagree with you.
The first night we were taken out to a fashionable but gimmicky restaurant, Long Table, which is the kind of place where people wear sunglasses indoors and has the spurious boast of “what is thought to be one of the longest tables in the world”.
Hell, my bedroom desk could be “thought to be” one of the longest tables in the world – let’s have some official documentation, or at least lie to us – who’s going to check? (It reminded me of when I was being driven through Poland and my guide pointed out excitedly – “Look! It’s our country’s fourth largest Police Museum!” Like, thanks.)
The next day, half of us – the misguided half – went for Thai boxing classes, which was essentially a remedial workout in a sweaty gym full of hard looking Thais and slightly less hard looking, though certainly harder looking than me, Europeans. After being taught the basic stance and a couple of kicks and punches, we sparred with our trainers in the blistering heat and humidity. Luckily, my trainer was about a hundred years old, and thanks to his slow reactions, I didn’t look like the complete physical wreck that I coincidentally am.
The afternoon was slightly less hard work, but in some ways more painful. We were hosted at a Thai Massage school, and given a demonstration and then complete massage. I like Thai massage a lot, but I always forget how much they worm into your joints and cartilage – as trained fingers poked at some of the more inaccessible knots, I thought that this is how crabmeat must feel when diners stick their tiny forks in to get those last few atoms of meat.
We all had dinner at the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, the biggest excitement coming when we found out that the philandering Crown Prince (kind of like the Thai Prince Andrew) was there as well. Well, it was exciting until we found out we couldn’t go anywhere near him or take photos or trade bawdy tales over a couple of tequila shots or anything.
Then it was into Pat Pong for a highly cultural evening, or at least that was the plan until we found out that the city’s best bar – Radio City (daily bill of Thai Tom Jones, Thai Elvis and Thai Tina Turner) – was closed for a refurb. Then it just turned into trying to find way to drink without getting coerced into bars called things like “Pussy Connection”, which is exhausting in that part of town. I stayed out too late considering my 4am start the next day. Bad me with my stupid staying out.