Monday, March 3, 2008

Bangkok - Nth Time's The Charm

Green Bangkok suburbs from my Air Asia seat.

I took a walk along Moon Muang the morning I was to leave the city. I sat at a bench near the moat, just observing the minks gathering alms around the city. By 6AM, I spotted the “Nice Kitchen” and ordered a Super Breakfast @ 120B and stuffed myself. After gathering my stuff from the laundry (B30 a kilo) and returning my room key to Steve, I took a sangtheaw (B50) that would take me to the Chiangmai International. I was a little anxious coz this particular ride first took me to a market (the other commuters had local produce, vegetables) near the Main Bus Terminal first before taking me to the airport. It was a minor tour of Chiangmai.Under different circumstances, I would have been grateful for such detour. I saw a Far Eastern University along the way. Then when we got near the airport, I noticed the cascading mountain at the horizon, and I saw Wat Doi Suthep glimmering like a gem in a sea of blue and green. My morning schedule left on time, from a small pre-departure area.

My third time to set foot at the Suvarnabhumi (pronounced “
suwanapoom”) this month. I noticed that my luggage has grown from an 8.5 kg (from Manila) to a 15kg toddler (in Chiangmai). Air Asia has a baggage limit of 15 kg. I rushed to the Metered Taxi Booth outside – between entrance 3 & 4- and once again faced this morose-looking lady I’ve met twice before. She had this irritating smirk that made me wanna disembowel her. Geez. Don’t they ever replace her? I took a coupon that would take me to the Banglamphu area, soi Rambuttri. I handed my coupon to a lady driver who kept apologizing for the smallest of things. She ever so politely asked for 25B for the first toll, then another B40 for the second (we have to take the skyway or we'd catch the infamous Bangkok traffic jam). My flagdown reached B230 by the time I got infront of the 7-11 along Rambuttri. I gave her B300. The sun was hot and the temperature change from Chiangmai was obvious.

I checked in at Lamphu House which I reserved and paid a week ago. I also paid my key deposit of B500 (which gets refunded upon check out). The same “bell boy” took me to my room (108). Last time, I tipped him B100. I gave him B60 this time. After having settled, I went down and booked a tour worth B600. It would take me to Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok. I was warned against wearing anything colourful. “No pinks, no yellows, no red, no oranges,” said the Ms. Tour Countergirl.

I went back to the Four Sons Lodge restaurant and once again ordered my favorite
“stir fried chicken in garlic and pepper” (B80). From there, I went to the nearby sari-sari store to buy stamps (ranges B12 to B16 depending on the destination and the size of the card). Then I dropped the postcard at the nearest mailbox. I crossed the street and enjoyed the beautiful Tha Chang park facing Chao Phraya River. Phra Pinklao Bridge is readily visible from the riverside. I soaked on its serene beauty and took some photos before taking a taxi to Panthip Plaza.

The Nikon SLR D40x that I was looking for was worth $885, compared to Manila’s price of PhP 28,500 @Island Photo in Megamall (roughly $700) – or Hanoi’s $650. Way too much. I turned to the DVD shop at the 3rd floor and bought half a dozen mostly local titles, most of which were worth B99, some were B125 only. At the ground floor of the Plaza is a smattering of stalls selling bootleg DVD’s. The trouble with buying bootlegs in Bangkok is that you can’t test them if they play well or not, then the price! They are worth B100 each. Obviously, they’re more expensive than when you buy originals. If you get 4, you’ll have 1 free. Another downside to this, once you pick a title, they will get their “serial number” then radio somewhere to deliver them to you in 30 minutes. Meaning, you have to wait for a MINIMUM of 30 minutes for an order, which is ridiculous really, especially if you’re only buying one.

In terms of bootleg DVDs, Bangkok is the most expensive city for them, so really, why bother? Buy the original instead. Trouble is, maghahanap ka talaga ng titles. (You’ll have to search hard for titles.) I was looking for the local title,
“Season’s Change” which I saw at a local Bangkok Cinema 2 years ago, and it can’t be found anywhere. During this trip, I found myself with some 50 titles, 75% Thai films with English subtitles. I am crazy. Haha. A dozen of these were “International Titles” (foreign films) thus pricier, at B250 each, bought from a DVD shop in MBK somewhere at the 5th floor near the escalator.

From Panthip Plaza, I walked several blocks to the nearest MRT station ( a looooooong walk). I couldn’t get a taxi coz rush hour was kicking ass already. I paid 20 baht, Ratchathani to Siam (zone 2). I went straight to the luxurious Siam Paragon and bought a ticket (140 baht) for a movie called
“Handle Me With Care”, a romantic comedy about a good-looking guy Kwan who was born with 2 left arms. MBK tickets cost 100 baht unless you watch them in the evening when tickets cost a little more. What I didn’t like about watching at Siam Paragon was that they made me leave my 2 cameras. I was scared, I couldn’t concentrate.

After the movie, I went to MBK and bought more DVD’s – must have spent 3,500 baht! I bought some shirts @ 99 baht and a gift for my niece (280 baht). I went down the basement, where the food court is. Their Ocean World costs 750 baht per adult. After Paragon, I walked to the other Siams (Square, Discovery, etc.) then crossed the street to watch a Japanese film called
“Sky of Love”, a bittersweet tale of an undying first love between a class toughie and an innocent girl. It was close to midnight when I got out of the theatre. I took a taxi (60 baht) back to Lamphu House. Once again, I had to tell him that I am at soi Rambuttri, NOT Banglamphu’s Khao San Road! Geez! These taxi drivers!

Flight information screen at the Chiangmai pre-departure Area.

Chiangmai Check-in Counter.

Chiangmai from my Air Asia seat.

The sight as we neared Bangkok. It's so green!

Bangkok's skyway.

A view from the Cinema Lounge of Siam Paragon. (Cameras are prohibited inside.)

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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