THURSDAY EVENING & FRIDAY MORNING
Tuesday through Thursday we were in Chiang Mai. When we arrived back in the capital city on Thursday afternoon, we were struck by the chaos, the heat, and the humidity. Chiang Mai is a lot different!
We got back from the airport, changed our clothes, attempted to freshen up a bit, and then were back out the door within 15 minutes. Sean and his Uncle David were meeting us for dinner at David’s apartment near the Siam BTS stop. It was really fun to meet up with David, whom my dad and I have known for much longer than we’ve known Sean, since he’s the father of my great friend, Alison! We caught up, talked about travel, and ate some delicious food.
After our good-byes, Sean and I showed Dad around Siam Paragon, which is a crazy big and crazy luxurious mall. Deciding that we weren’t tired (oddly enough), the three of us shopped at the grocery store for some exotic fruits for Dad to try later and then wound up walking to the Hotel Muse’s bar, The Speakeasy. The walk was along a skybridge between two BTS stops — Siam and Chit Lom. Along the way, Dad got some great views of hectic Bangkok nightlife, which includes the crowded Buddhist shrine where evening commuters stop to pay their respects on their way home.
The Speakeasy is an awesome 1920s Prohibition-style bar; the waitresses even dress as flappers, though we wondered whether young Thai girls fully understood their costumes! The bar is on the roof — the 25th floor — and so we sat sipping our cocktails beneath a warm and starry sky. The conversation somehow ended up on American politics, and while Dad and I still don’t agree 100%, we found that we have far more in common than we thought. I loved talking about things that matter with the two men that matter most to me!
Late that night, after we got back to the apartment, Dad tried durian, Thai mango, and mangosteen, three tropical fruits that should be part of anyone’s Thailand adventure. He had tried rambutan in Chiang Mai and liked it, and he found these other three to be good also. Well, I don’t know if “good” is an appropriate word for the complex flavor of a durian. Durians are infamous for being super pungent and for having an almost indescribable taste. I’ve heard people compare the initial taste to carmelized onions, and I think that the after-taste is like avocado. Yet it’s still a sweet fruit. You really just have to try it for yourself!
The next morning, Dad and I took a stroll through beautiful Lumphini Park. Sean and I really appreciate Lumphini and other Bangkok parks for being natural havens away from the traffic, smog, and general craziness of the city. Lumphini is the biggest one, and during the coolest parts of the day it’s busy with runners, walkers, cyclists, and tai-chi practitioners. A bit later in the morning, when most people have cleared out, it’s hotter but also more peaceful. Dad and I found giant monitor lizards enjoying the quiet. It was our goal to see just one, but we lucked out with three!
We walked across the park to the Sala Daeng BTS stop, then rode the train to National Stadium and walked down Soi 2. At the end of the lane is the Jim Thompson House, one of my very favorite Bangkok attractions. For 100 baht (about $3), tourists can go on a guided tour of the home of this American designer who helped revitalize the Thai silk and textiles industry in the 1950s. The tour is fascinating because one learns not only about the interesting life of Jim Thompson (and his mysterious disappearance in the Malaysian jungle in the early 60s), but also about Thai culture, architecture, and spiritual beliefs. The house itself is made of gorgeous teak wood and is full of Thompson’s eclectic collection of Thai, Chinese, and European antiques. The gardens are equally beautiful, and outside the house docents of the museum perform traditional Thai dance and even show how silk is extracted from the cocoons of silkworms. Dad really enjoyed this part of our tour of Bangkok, and I was happy to return.
Our morning in Bangkok concluded with some Korean bibimbab. I need to amend my list of favorite restaurants by adding The Bibimbab on Soi 24, just off the BTS at Phrom Phong. Bibimbab is rice, veggies, and meat or tofu served in a hot bowl. You add some sesame oil and hot sauce, and then stir the food around so the hot bowl stir-fries everything and crisps up the rice on the bottom of the bowl. I love to add lots of kimchi, too!
After lunch, we repacked our bags, met up with Sean, and then headed to the airport to catch our flight to Phuket!