After spending an entire morning strolling around Dusit, we headed back to the hotel, to check out. It was our last day, but there was more to see.
We stopped for lunch at an eatery along the soi that leads to the hotel. We saw this place everytime we passed by, going out of the hotel and into the street. We didn’t know what exactly they served, but noticed that the place was almost always full. It must be good, we thought, and so we went inside, and discovered the world’s simplest menu. They have roast pork with rice, and roast pork with noodles…that’s it. Can it get any simpler?! My wife had the former, I had the latter.
The noodle soup was served bland, with no flavorings apart from the inherent taste of meat. However they had a very generous amount of condiments on the table…sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chili, and even lots of garlic. It was basically a “flavor as desired” affair. With a bit of Soy Sauce, a little sugar and some chili, I started to enjoy my bowl. The whole meal, including softdrinks, cost only 100 hundred Baht. There’s no way to know if the locals pay the same amount as we did…the price isn’t displayed anywhere, at least not in Arabic numerals. But anyway, it was still worth it.
We hurriedly walked to the hotel after lunch, to change clothes one more time, take out our bags, and check out of our room. However, we weren’t due at the airport until 8 hours later so we left our bags by the front desk, and then stepped out of the hotel again to wander some more. We haven’t had enough of Bangkok yet.
Our first stop for the afternoon was the Pantip Plaza, a short walk away from the hotel. It’s an electronics megastore that would put Manila’s Greenhills to utter shame. Everything electronic – laptops, digital cameras, MP3 players – was there on that 4 storey geek haven. I just window shopped, since I didn’t really plan on buying anything to begin with…unless I found some discounted Olympus lenses. Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t find any. There were only two shops that sold Olympus gear, and what were in stock were the back and wallet breaking high grade lenses…not for me. CaNikon folks could have a field day there though. There was a dearth of lenses from both brands, plus the third party manufacturers.
We strode out of Pantip after going through all four floors, but not before having a sip of that rootbeer float that has been missed in Manila for such a long time now.
We then took a taxi to one of their most popular malls, the venerable MBK, where we were able to find a few items on sale. Similar to other large malls in Manila, the place is noisy, crowded, but the number of shops are endless, including small stalls similar to the ubiquitous “tiangge” back home.
From MBK we walked a short distance to Siam Square. I’ve read about Siam Square in a lot of places, but couldn’t quite understand what it was, until I saw for myself. It’s not a square in the likes of Tiananmen in Beijing or Place de la Concorde in Paris. There is no wide open space lined with historic structures. Instead, it’s collection of shops and restaurants arranged side by side in the inner area of downtown Bangkok. It’s still wide open alright, wide open for food and shopping.
We went through Siam Square in search of our next destination, the Siam Paragon mall, which I heard was Thailand’s ritziest. Along the way, we again met someone who tried to dupe us into a scam. A man introduced himself as a teacher, and pretended to help us poor tourists get to a place where we could get the best bargains in the city. He described a place called the “Expo Center”, where all Bangkok locals supposedly go shopping to get basement bargain prices. He also suggested that we pass by a so called “Lucky Buddha” to pray for good fortune, and even volunteered to get a tuk-tuk for us, and assured us that the trip to the Expo only costs 20 Baht.
As if reading from a script, Mr. teacher told us everything that was posted in various websites as the “modus operandi” for this scam. The 20 Baht tuk-tuk ride, the “lucky buddha”, and the Expo…all the ingredients were there. Polite as we Filipinos always are, to a fault, we still didn’t want to offend him. We just told him that we will go around Siam Square for a while just to see the place, before getting a tuk-tuk to go to the lucky buddha. The guy was a good actor and sounded sincere, it’s no wonder the scam works on uninformed visitors.
Anyway, we didn’t really know where Siam Paragon was (Mr. teacher didn’t help), so we decided to just go inside the first mall we could go to and grab a snack instead, while biding time. We saw one across the street, and so we went up a Skytrain station (which also doubled as an overpass), to get to the mall on the other side. We got inside the mall and found that, lo and behold, the Siam Paragon was just next door. We were starved, again, and so before marching to the Paragon, we decided to grab a bite.
Our curiosity was roused when we saw a DQ resto with chicken, fries, and other meaty meals on their menu. We thought DQ (Dairy Queen) was all about ice cream, and ice cream only, such as in Manila. Apparently, here in Bangkok DQ doesn’t only chill…they also grill!
We briefly relieved our hunger with some fries and chicken tenders, before striding to the Paragon mall next door.
True to what was written about it, the Siam Paragon is indeed a very upscale mall. How else would you describe a mall that has a indoor ponds, as well as Lamborghini and Lotus showrooms, and a large aquarium (similar to Manila’s Ocean Park), at the basement. It was Manila’s Greenbelt on steroids!
Unfortunately, there were signs posted inside the mall that said photography was not allowed. I didn’t want to break rules, (well, not by much), so I was only able to get a couple of stolen shots of the interior.
Before we left the mall though, I had to try another Thai classic at the food court…
We took the Skytrain back to the hotel after dinner, and hailed a taxi back to the airport for our flight. It was still quite a bit early when we arrived, and the check-in counter for our flight was closed. To pass time, we strolled around the multi-level airport, marvelling at the very modern structure that surrounded us.
Looking at the grandiose of the airport, I couldn’t hide the envy. How can they build something like it , while us, their brown brothers from the other side of the South China Sea, can only manage our own little NAIA-3, which we couldn’t even open to everyone after so many years. A few decades ago we were just teaching them rice cultivation at IRRI, and now they have the fanciest airport this side of the planet. How can they and how can’t we?
Envy aside, I felt a connection with Bangkok, for a reason. It’s modern, but not as high-tech as Shanghai. It’s 21st century urban, yet hardly a model city like Singapore. It’s got a lot of history, grand palaces and temples, but so does Beijing, plus the Chinese capital has that very long wall to boot. So why did I like Bangkok? It’s because…..from the tight and congested streets, to the street food, to the overhead railways, to the street vendors, to the fruits, to the big malls, to the beggars, to the old buses, to the people who try to lure us into scams, and to the tiangge stalls…..it felt a lot like home.
And as we boarded our flight back home, I knew there was something I missed – an authentic Tom Yum Goong!
I need to come back one day.
*This trip was taken August, 2010. All photos were taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6