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Day 12: Nothing Good Happens After 5PM

The day started well enough. A songthaew picked us up and drove us to the market, where in twelve minutes we learned about more ingredients than I'd heard of in my entire life. Do you know the Thai use three different types of basil, none of which grow in Europe? Carrying baskets of fresh herbs and vegetables, we were driven to a Thai cooking school where we spent the next five hours chopping, seasoning, frying, and most importantly tasting two dozen dishes, all under the supervision of a young chef looking uncannily like the hyperkinetic boxer from Ong Bak's nightclub fight. It came out universally delicious, so I am now confident that, given an army of assistants and an authoritative supervisor constantly yelling at me to add the chicken and turn down the heat and stir and simmer at all the right times, I can cook a very decent Thai meal.

Our bellies stuffed, we went back to the hostel, said goodbye to Phil and Jubib, who stayed one more night before flying to Kuala Lumpur, and took a taxi to the airport. This brought us the day's first aggravation: the taxi came slightly early, interrupting a very important session of photo sharing and transfer that will now have to wait until July. To be fair though, that's still nothing to e-mail home about, and a swift drive to the airport, seamless check-in and delicious cappuccino while discussing Jared Diamond seemed to announce a very relaxed afternoon of traveling followed by a night out in one of the world's best places to be out at night.


We went through security and things immediately started to turn sour. AirAsia is by far the best low-cost airline I've ever flown, and its planes are never late. They are, however, very often "rescheduled". Our flight to Bangkok was rescheduled by about an hour forty, so by 9PM, i.e. the time we'd hoped to be digging in our entree at a posh restaurant, we were barely leaving Bangkok airport. I had a cold and was ridiculously tired, having woken up at 4:20 for no reason I can fathom, barely more than an hour after going to bed, so I spent the entire journey to town huddled on the floor of the metro hugging my backpack like a homeless drunk.

I did manage to regain consciousness long enough for a short but important conversation with Gaia and Cathy. We weren't entirely sure that our chosen hostel actually had rooms for us — we'd tried to book by phone but the owner spoke little english and the call had ended in some confusion. On an unrelated note, Jubib had that morning raved about the Lebua, a very chic, very posh Bangkok hotel that we planned to visit at some point. Someone (not me!) floated the idea that, if it so happened that the very reasonably priced hostel treacherously refused to honor our reservation, a sensible course of action would be to divert to Lebua and book a room there. Someone else suggested that, in the sole interest of efficiency, we might want to assume said reservation was bound to fail and go to Lebua directly. (I confess that this latter person might just possibly have been me.) In the end though, wisdom and thrift prevailed and we elected to try staying at the hostel if at all possible. A few hours later, that would prove a crucial mistake.

When we eventually got to the hostel, nestled in the backyard of a flower shop in the relatively unvisited neighborhood east of Siam Square, it became apparent that the owner was indeed fully appraised of our need for accommodation, and that she had empty rooms that we would hopefully find agreeable. One thing she was much less clear on was whether we needed two rooms or three. We spent about twenty minutes trying to convince her that yes, indeed, we would be perfectly fine sleeping three in a room with a spare bed, an information we rephrased about a dozen times while she repeated the same question: "Yes. Ok. So, two rooms or three?" In the end she eventually confessed that the hostel didn't actually have spare beds, so we needed three rooms whether we liked it or not. I hoisted my pack while grumbling a few insults at the universe in general and walked into the single room, which I shared for a few minutes with a small but hardy and streetwise cockroach before he met a sad, untimely death and left the premises for a posthumous tour of Bangkok's sewers. A grammatically challenged sign inside the room made me seriously question the hostel's hygiene standards: "If you make our blanket/sheets & bedclothes dirty from normal used. You should pay an extra charge of Baht 200." Presumably they only wash the sheets if it looks absolutely necessary. It didn't look absolutely necessary to me, but for a while I wished I had packed a blacklight. Then again, maybe that oversight was for the best. Stress kills.

Famished, we boarded the skytrain towards CentralWorld, where Lonely Planet tells us they sell very good sushis. Our salivating spirits sadly sank as soon as we got there and glimpsed a very dark, very empty central mall, framed by a light portico being worked on by a three-men crew. After a failed homicide attempt by one of them, who let a very large light fixture go only slightly too early for it to land on our heads, they told us that all the malls in the neighborhood close at seven, and we'd probably be better off on the streets. Before we even made it there, through the vast stairway system that separate Central's elevated walkways from the more plebeian food stalls on street level, we learned, again from Lonely Planet, that getting street food in Bangkok is hard on monday nights because most streets ban stalls on that day in order to clean the pavement. We walked for almost half an hour but quickly lost home and diverted to a McDonalds, which claimed to stay open until 11PM. It was, sadly, 11:03PM, but the guard assured us there was another McDonalds, still open, just down the street. We never found it. There is of course a 24/7 McDonalds less than a block away, but this won't be revealed to us for at least two more hours.


Getting somewhat desperate, we walked inside a Novotel lobby, just to find out their restaurant had just closed. As we left, a cabbie told us we wouldn't find anything still open nearby, and we should go to another neighborhood where bars and restaurants stay open until 2AM. He offered to take us there for 60Baht. That is a suspiciously good price, especially without doing any bargaining whatsoever, but we accepted for lack of a better idea. He dropped us five minutes later in a seedy side street with a single restaurant. The owner came out and opened our taxi door, flashing a toothy grin and surely giving our cabbie a hefty commission. It was one of those seafood places where you choose your fish from an aquarium or an iced stand, usually a good sign. The fish on display here, however, looked unusually ill, even compared to other dead fishes. A plate of steamed white fish cost 400BHT per 100g (120BHT is a decent price.) Not yet hungry enough to throw away good money while risking food poisoning, we left.

Walking further down the street, we found a stall selling stir-fries, presumably laden with cockroaches and rat droppings, but very reasonably priced. We sat down and ate. The drinks menu was a bit short for our taste though, so Cathy and Gaia left for a 7-11 across the street, where they picked up the last three remaining cans of Singha and a couple additional bottles. As they queued up to pay, a guy who'd previously left a bottle of Vodka on the counter cut in front of them with additional beers. He was told he could buy the Vodka but the beers would have to stay in the shop, because they weren't allowed to sell alcohol past midnight. It was 0:02AM, so Gaia and Cathy got back to our table empty-handed.

At this point it seemed apparent to all of us that this night was unlikely to be remembered as an unambiguous success, but at least we now had something to eat. Julie got chicken cartilage with random herbs and didn't enjoy it at all. My thick noodle stir fry was little more than overly spicy dry tasteless chicken on a bed of whitish dandruff. The pepsi tasted good enough, and that made the meal ok by my now abysmally low expectations.

In a desperate attempt to suffuse what remained of the evening with a little class, we asked for a taxi to the Millennium Hilton, which has one of my favorite bars in the entire world. The cabbie told us it was very, very far, and he wouldn't take us there for less than 200BHT (the metered fare should be about 70). He shouted at all the other cabbies that we were a bunch of dimwitted Europeans, stupid enough to get stuck in this shitty neighborhood at half-past-midnight on a monday night, and they shouldn't accept anything less than 200 to pull us out of that hell-hole we gingerly dug for ourselves. Or so I assume: I don't speak Thai, but his tone and the other cabbie's reactions left little to the imagination.

Feeling somewhat cross at the idea of effectively giving a 200% tip to a random jerk with a car, we turned to Lonely Planet for an alternative. (Because, obviously, it'd been remarkably helpful up to this point.) We found the address for Wong bar, a reportedly nice place with cold beer and live music. We walked down a couple blocks to a bigger thoroughfare and flagged a cab. We gave him the name of the bar and its address, and he confidently told us to hop in, which we did. About two hundred meters further on he turned around in his seat to ask: "Where are you going ?"

It soon became apparent we'd cunningly chosen the one cabbie in Bangkok who just moved there, knew the city barely at all and spoke no english whatsoever. He seemingly forgot to reset his meter, and when we pointed that little oversight to him he dutifully did. This ensured we wouldn't be paying for his preceding patron, but apart from that was of very little help since we were now committed to a completely random drive through the city. After two rounds around Lumphini park, Cathy asked politely but pointedly whether he would mind going directly to Lumphini station, because we really didn't require a scenic tour of Bangkok by night. We tried to intimidate him somewhat and make him realize that screwing with us would have severe consequences. This proved quite difficult on account of the uncontrollable hilarity that had taken the entire group in the face of the sheer hopelessness and absurdity of our situation. Eventually he stopped, and we again showed him the map, which he seemed to understand vaguely. Ten minutes later he stopped in front of a five star hotel and had a chat with a guard, who told him precisely where to go. We got there 3 minutes later and were asked for the full metered 91BHT fare. We gave him 60, wished him good night and left hoping never to see him again.

We still had a few blocks to walk before reaching Wong bar, which we managed in about 25 minutes with only a little backtracking through leafy residential streets and a short and uneventful walk through the grounds of the local Ibis hotel. It was about 1AM when we got to the bar, possibly later, and we found out it was closed on mondays.

At this point we finally gave up. Walking back to Lumphini, we flagged a random cab and finally got absolutely perfect service: the cabbie started the meter of his own accord, stopped on the sidewalk to read the map and confirm the location of our hotel, and got us there by the quickest road. We left him a hefty tip and went to sleep.

References (2)

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  • Response
    Response: superiorpaper
    This blog looks like a chefs blog and everything is about cooking. Here we can see the pictures of different chefs. Its about the cooking schools and these chefs are the students of that cooking school and all they are enjoying in making their best dishes.
  • Response
    Response: till-morning.net
    This blog seems to be excelent choice for a newbie chef or for a person with passion to cooking. I greatly recomend deeper investigation in blog posts.

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