Bangkok weekend

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I flew back to Bangkok on February 24th to spend the weekend before heading to Hanoi. I planned for it to be largely uneventful—restful, if possible. And so it was. Dinner, beer, music, rest. Except.

On Saturday I got a Facebook message from new Chiangmai friend Brian. He was on his way to Singapore on business, was in Bangkok for the night, and wondered if I'd join him for dinner. I agreed. Brian was staying in the Sukhumvit area, and I was far away in the Khaosan Road area, so we planned to meet somewhere near Nana Station on the Bangkok Transit Service line, and then we'd decide where to go for dinner.

I started out a bit late, but I'd planned my route carefully—I'd take a motorcycle taxi to National Stadium Station, get on the train, transfer to the BTS line, and end up at Nana Station on time. All went perfectly, for about five minutes. I contracted with a motorcycle taxi driver, an older gentleman, to take me to National Stadium for 100 baht, and off we went. But early in the trip, just past Democracy Monument, I realized I'd left my phone in the hotel. And I couldn't go without it, because there'd be no way to connect with Brian. So back we went.

As I emerged from the hotel with phone in possession, my motorcycle guy had an interesting suggestion: Why not let him drive me all the way to Nana Station, it'd be faster, and he'd only charge 350 baht. Given that I was already starting to be a bit on the late side, I accepted eagerly.

I then had the kind of motorcycle taxi ride that creates legends. My guy was an excellent driver, could drive his vehicle through the eye of a needle, and didn't mind going really fast when the occasion called for it. We were at Nana Station in about 15 minutes, and I was only 10 minutes late. Wow! I was busy giving him an ample tip when he pointed out that, since we'd discussed that I was to meet people for dinner and drink, perhaps I should buy him his first beer that night, and took another 100 baht. I thought he had a point, and would have agreed that 350 baht was under-paying him, so let him.

When I connected with Brian, he was accompanied by friend Yon, who turned out to be quite a character. He's been in Thailand for about 13 years, and is an advocate for the Thai version of Ayurvedic therapy, which has brought him back to relative health after a devastating automobile accident. He's also an art and jewellery appraiser, and also studies palmistry. Something about my left hand drew his attention over dinner, and, before I knew it, he was having a close look. He thought he'd seen a "wealth" line, but he'd been mistaken. There was a definite line that indicated I should be famous, he said, and I'm sure all would agree that it's an indictment of our culture that I'm not.

We ate at Gulliver's Travels (there's one in the Khaosan Road area as well), an expat-oriented place, myself from the Thai part of the menu, had some beers, then went home.

A lot of the weekend was spent sleeping—I must have needed to after all the running around in Chiangmai, I suppose. But I did walk a few kilometers as well, not all of them intentionally. On Saturday morning I went looking for "King's Antiques," a shop that had been recommended to me by my colleague Robin Sears. As usual, I planned my route as carefully as I could, given that I was working with a map that has its flaws. For instance, it shows the railway routes, and where there are stations are, but not the names of the stations. For those, you have to turn the map over and look at the box at the top of the page. Also, one side—the part that zeroes in on "downtown" Bangkok—is oriented with the north at the top, while the other side, the large view, is oriented with the west at the top. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the names on the map are sometimes notional, in many cases not the same as the names at street level.

I never found King's Antiques. As I'd wanted to walk through Lumphini Park, I went to Lumphini Station, emerged, had a good time walking through the park, and then, somehow, somehow, despite having a map in my hand, and asking directions, went off in a completely wrong direction. I was absolutely convinced that I was walking up Wittaya (Wireless) Road, in the direction of Sukhumvit Road, a little perturbed that I wasn't finding Ploenchit Road, but passing signs pointing to Ploenchit this and Ploenchit that, so convinced that I was on the right track, when suddenly I found myself, quite unexpectedly, in the shadow of Khlong Toei train station, when I'd expected to be nowhere near a station at all. I'd apparently been walking down Phraram 4 Road, which was definitely not Wireless Road, though the two did intersect at a point, for some time. As by this time I had walked several kilometers, and was hot and exhausted, I figured there were worse places to discover you were lost, boarded the train, and headed back to Khaosan Road. Had a good nap.

Sunday morning I decided I'd better do at least something touristy, so walked off in search of the King's Palace. No misdirections this time, found it, and the zoo between it and me, quite easily. Didn't see much other than the moat, however—the palace itself was locked, and guarded by heavily armed troops.

Though I'd intended to head to a train station and a market not far away, I had by this time (34C) drenched my t-shirt thoroughly, and so decided I was no longer fit to move in Thai society (Thais are used to the weather, and don't sweat very much at all), hopped on a motorcycle taxi, and went back to Khaosan Road to dry off and have lunch.

All this walking left me a trifle sore for the next few days—I suppose I'd forgot how little I'd walked in Chiangmai, and overdid it a bit.

Later, dinner and a coupla beers, and I felt I was ready for Hanoi.

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