Bangkok was one of the cities on our trip I was the most excited for. Not because of any cultural sites or temples, but rather the "shoppy shoppy". When I had originally planned our itinerary I actually thought 3 days would be a bit too long, but it turned out to be much too short.... maybe that was a good thing on our wallets, and on our luggage weight.
We arrived at our hotel after an hour of sitting in traffic and a ridiculous rain storm. At this point it was already nearly 9pm. However, commuting in a taxi, ferry, bus, taxi was not going to deter us from enjoying our first night in Bangkok. After a quick shower we made plans with some local Thais. Yes, that's right. I was introduced to Yok by a fellow USF law student, Allen, who showed Yok around when he was in San Francisco studying at USF Law as an LLM student. Allen sent an email to both Yok and I to introduce us and possibly give me some suggestions on exploring Thailand from a locals perspective. We ended up deciding to meet for dinner that night at a local Tepenyaki spot that I had read good reviews about online. Yok brought one of his best girlfriends and we all enjoyed a fun dinner and found out that Yok's dad is an "ambassador" for his province in northern thailand and therefore a highly ranked government official of some sort. Kind of hard to understand with the limited english.
He ended up graciously paying for our dinner after our repeated requests to let us pay. After we finished dinner we made plans for a few nights later. We went back to the hotel relatively early around midnight but not before stopping at the pat pong night market to grab a few movies to watch in our room including Hangover 2 (when in Rome-- or should I say when in Bangkok, right?)
I want to take a moment and talk about my impressions of Bangkok and how it has changed since I was here about 3 years ago. Bangkok has gotten even sketchier then I remember. At first I thought it was our hotel location, but it turns out it wasn't. The sex tourism like ping pong shows and "special massages" is 100 times worse then I remember. I also think this has made the Thai people living in Bangkok a lot rougher around the edges and no where near as nice as in other areas of Thailand. We didn't always feel the most comfortable whether it was a taxicab driver trying to rip us off, or some rude comments from vendors. I really hope it doesn't continue on this path, but if the sex tourism and exploitation of young, and I'm talking way young including many ladyboys continues, Bangkok will not be a welcoming place for tourists who are interested in anything other then the sex scene.
BUT, there is the shopping. Oh the shopping. We woke up and originally planned to make a quick stop at a local tailor I had discovered through flyertalk called Tailor On Ten. He had several glowing recommendations and I brought one of Brent's best fitting shirts in order to get it copied relatively inexpensively. After meeting Alex, who was some kind of nomad traveling from country to country throughout his youth, with perfect english and an unrecognizable accent, he lured us in with amazing quality and friendly service. His shop was never NOT busy. Filled with locals and foreigners smiling from ear to ear and ordering dozens of pieces, we were hooked. Kirstin and I each ended up getting a full suit made and dress shirt. Unfortunately, had we known we were going to end up being in his tailoring shop for nearly 6 hours, we probably would not have gotten it made on this trip. This was not Alex's fault, rather ours for not knowing that it takes quite a bit of time to get real quality perfectly tailored work. This also involved 3 more fittings the next day, and one final one this morning before we left for Chang Mai. At least he kept giving us beers and waters to keep us happy and hydrated.
After spending nearly all of Wednesday in his shop, we went for a local Thai dinner set outside in what seemed like a secluded, almost serene part of Bangkok. It was delicious and we ended up going back to the hotel and watched a movie before bed.
Thursday morning we went to see Alex again for our fittings and finally got to do what we were the most excited about, Shopping! We went to MBK which was the most amazing yet overwhelming shopping mall ever. At least it was air conditioned! We had a feast in the fancy food court and attempted to set out with a task list of items we wanted to get in order not to become too overwhelmed and run out of time. We had another fitting and we needed to make it back there about 5 hours later so we know we had to pick up our pace. I know 5 hours seems like a lot but you have no idea. This mall was 8 floors filled with everything and anything you could ever want at ridiculously low prices. However, we easily became distracted from our task list when I saw a wedding dress shop. I couldn't resist and tried on a couple dresses. None of them were "the one" but it made me realize how much cheaper it would be to have a dress custom made for me here at a fraction of the cost of a dress in america. I've even begun to rationalize that the cost of a plane ticket, and the dress, would still be cheaper then what it would cost in america just for the dress. Another shopping trip to Bangkok in my future?
Next we went to the electronics floor where we bartered our way to get ipad cases with built in keyboards. Hence the long blog post today since I can type MUCH faster on this then the touch screen. We also bought a bunch of headphones since I always lose them and they are way more expensive in america. There were several booths where phone numbers were posted and people could buy the ones that weren't crossed out which was a cool visual.
After that we explored another floor and realized that 3 hours had already passed and that there was no way we were going to cover even 10% of this shopping center on this trip. We bought some beautiful tapestries for my future king sized bed hopefully! (they only had king size, no queen) and a super colorful hand sewn tablecloth that could also be a throw blanket.
We returned to Alex's shop yet again to get another fitting but the stuff wasn't close to ready so we went back to our hotel to shower up and get ready for our big night on the town with Yok. I had always wanted to go to the Lebua State Tower. I know, I know, very touristy but the views looked incredible in all the photos and it really was a sight to see!
Normally, you need reservations in order to get a table and have appetizers. However, since we got there so late they gave us a table that had just opened up. After being totally shocked by the prices, we settled on a delicious chocolate lava cake and drinks. This time, Yok let us treat.
We got tons of amazing photos and after a few drinks Yok and his girlfriend pointed out a famous Thai movie star across the bar. Since I was a drink or two in, I had no shame at all and asked Yok's girlfriend if she wanted a photo with him and she seemed embarrassed but clearly wanted one. Kirstin and I marched right over to him, asked him his name, he said his english name was Jesse, and proceeded to chit chat with him for about 10 minutes. He was so nice and humble and appeared to feel really special that people recognized him, unlike I think most celebrities in America. He had also told us he hopes to one day go to Los Angeles for movies there. Very cute. Here's a photo of us with Jesse the Thai movie star.
We had our final fittings this morning at the hotel before leaving for the airport. Everything fit Kirstin perfectly and all my stuff was almost perfect except my suit jacket. Alex knew I wasn't 100% thrilled with the jacket so he agreed to do another final alteration on it and send all of our stuff through the mail and also offered to pay all the postage in order to get it absolutely perfect for us. Now that he has our measurement we may just order stuff online in the future since its cheaper then most dress shirts and suits in America. We are now on our way to Chang Mai a city in the north of Thailand. We have been in Thailand a total of one week and have one more week to go in this great country. I can't wait! Elephant trekking and custom artisan shops here we come!