Bangkok Revisited

Revisiting Bangkok's Ratchadapisek Road and vicinity; Din Daeng district, for the fourth time in as many years. Some new experiences awaited me this time around.


Bangkok Revisited

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 20, 2007

I returned to Bangkok for the fourth time in as many years this January for a 28-day trip less than 3 weeks after the New Year’s Eve bombings. The police presence in and around the city was visible but not uncomfortable to cope with. I felt safe returning to a country in the midst of political crisis and political controversy, especially surrounding the condition of the new airport. Although the new airport’s taxiways were already beginning to show signs of cracking, we managed to land and take off without incident. The Thai Baht was strong, so my American dollar had lost a little of its buying power, but was still strong enough to earn 35 Baht per dollar, which didn’t seem to make much of a difference in my spending habits.

I made many new observations on this trip and tried new things. Eating insects had always been something I’ve wanted to try, and now I can say I have. I was almost a victim of a scam artist who tried to squeeze 2,000 Baht out of me for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, but was saved by my wife, who spoke Thai and questioned him and let him know that is not how tickets or fines are paid. I journeyed to Chang Mai with 10 other family members in a chartered Toyota van. I enjoyed two trips to one of my favorite beaches in the world: Bang Saen. I rode on the largest Ferris wheel I have ever seen at Bangkok’s Night Bazaar. I had a vasectomy at Praram 9 Hospital for 9,250 Baht (US$250). I gained even more affection for the local 7-11 store and their predictable prices.${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} By far, the best way to get around is the metered taxis. This is not true during the heavily congested times when the subway, if available, is running to your destination.

Tuk-tuks are fun, but prices vary from driver to driver, and from customer to customer.

Oishi's Express

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 21, 2007

A few years ago Oishi’s introduced its bottled brand of green tea to the Thai people. It has been a huge success. Oishi’s now has expanded into the dining market.

Oishi’s Express, located at the Jusco department store on Ratchadapisek Road, is a great place to sit down and enjoy a Japanese buffet. It is there that you can eat all you want in an hour and a half. But be warned, if you leave too much food on your plate, you will be charged for wasting.

As you are seated you are given a clip with numbers on it. These are to be used for ordering food, which is first chosen by you to be cooked by the chefs. It is basically Mongolian style. As you wait for your fried food there are dozens of appetizers, soups, salads, and snacks to nibble on. As we started our meal we loaded up on an array of sushi and raw fish, and of course, the wasabe and soy to dip. If sushi isn’t your thing you can custom order most anything to be dipped in tempura and brought to your table using your number clip. It is best to eat tempura while it is hot so try not to let it get cold on you.

The main courses, so to speak, are up to the customer. This is where the clips are the most useful. Aside from beef, chicken, pork, squid, salmon, and prawns, a host of other meats are displayed along with whatever vegetables the customer wants to be fried. I chose a healthy amount of garlic hearts, onions, mushrooms, and small tomatoes to be fried in teriyaki sauce.

The drinks are free with the meal and the customer has several choices. Aside from Pepsi products there are several teas to choose from, including the green tea, which has made the Oishi name so famous in Thailand. As your meal winds down there is an espresso machine, which grinds the beans just seconds before your drink dribbles into your cup. You can choose an espresso, cappuccino, latte, or just plain coffee from this machine. It compliments the small but exquisite desserts, which are made European style. Unlike American cakes, they are less sweet, and are topped with the butter cream frosting.

This place was one of our favorite places to dine with friends and family while in Bangkok. In the US, Chinese buffets cost about the same amount of money to eat food which all begins to look the same from one buffet to another, as it cost us to eat here, approximately $10. I would highly suggest this place as a must do dining experience while in Bangkok, if not for the sushi alone. Bon Appetit!
Oishi's Express
Ratchadapisek Rd.
Bangkok

Siam Beverly Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by smallplasticman on March 4, 2007

Hidden away on the third floor of the Siam Beverly Hotel is a cozy, quaint, and reasonably priced place to eat Thai buffet. Between 11am and 2pm The Siam Beverly knocks your socks off with a variety of sushi choices, Thai salads, soups, and sautéed to order meats and herbs. Priced at 180 baht per person ($5 USD) it’s also an incredible bargain. Drinks are extra.

Though the view isn’t beautiful, it is nice because it is air-conditioned. The view offered is an eight-lane road and people going about their business down below.

Like Oishi’s, the Siam Beverly delivers on the sushi. There are several choices of sushi, including the more exotic blends. One could dine on sushi alone and leave everything else if so inclined. But, you would miss out on the soups and salads. Several soups and Thai salads are available. About seven main courses are pre-cooked and available in the food foyer. The foyer is also where the side dishes and desserts are waiting.

Similar to Mongolian style, there is a sauté area where vegetables and seafood, and other meats can be chosen in some sort of order to be cooked with your choice of sauce. I chose the squid and pork roll fried with onions and herbs, with chili pepper and lime.

After the main meal there is a small assortment of Thai desserts available. Many are made with bean curd and tropical fruit. There is also Thai ice cream. I suppose the hot ginger drink, which is free, is the best drink besides water to wash it all down with. It’s made with real ginger and it feels great going down. I suppose if you’re looking for an air-conditioned place, with great sushi, hot and sour soup, Thai salads, and all-you-can-eat seafood and meats, the Siam Beverly Hotel serves it up with style.

From the subway, take the Huay Kwang exit. The Siam Beverly Hotel is located at 188 Ratchadapisek Road. The buffet is located on the third floor.
Siam Beverly Hotel
188 Ratchadapisek Road.
Bangkok, Thailand, 10320
+66 (2) 2754397

Bang Saen Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 21, 2007

I love Bang Saen. The first time I visited this beach town I fell in love with it. I don’t know if it was the lack of foreigners or the trip up the hill to where the monkeys sit by the side of the road looking for food to be thrown from the windows of cars. There is something appealing about it, and even my children found it to be captivating.

When you first go to the beach there are umbrellas and seats and tables all set up for you. The cost is 30 Baht per person to rent the seats and table. After you get situated, and often before you have had a chance to settle in, the many different vendors swoop down upon you. Without leaving your seat an array of food items can be purchased and delivered to you. Mangos, jackfruit, pineapple, papaya salad, and watermelon are just a few of the several fruit items that can be purchased from your chair from one of many different vendors.

Beer and alcohol are available and are not much more in price than the going rate in Bangkok. Without leaving your seat the other seafood and meat dishes are offered and available on the spot. This includes: deep-fried small crabs, shell and all; squid; chicken satay; prawns; crabs; and small, raw oysters. The bag of raw oysters was a steal at 40 Baht and included French-fried onions and an herb and sauce to compliment them. Cotton candy vendors usually make a quick sale by placing their bagged treat in the children’s hands before the parents can say no. The cotton candy sells for 20 Baht a bag and is worth the investment rather than having the child start throwing a fit for taking candy from a baby.

Other non-food items and services are available. Vendors will offer the tourist or local Thai person an array of necklaces, fortune telling services, lottery tickets, noisy handmade pinwheels, toilet paper, and clothing. The restrooms at the beach charge to use them. so having a small handful of 1-Baht coins available is always a good idea. It was 3 Baht per trip to use the restroom, and of course a little more for the toilet paper and other hygiene supplies.

Just a short trip from the beach is a place where dozens, if not hundreds, of monkeys congregate. I’m not sure of the street name, but most anyone local should have easy directions on how to get there. The hill where the monkeys are begins to take on its own identity as you approach it. Vendors are eager to sell the small bananas for the visitor to throw to the monkeys from their car window, or you can do like we did, which was to throw pineapple we had purchased earlier at the beach to the eager and sometimes aggressive monkeys.

Bang Saen: enjoy the beach, the food, the vendors, the monkeys, and most importantly, enjoy yourself.
Bangsaen/Bang Saen Beach

Chonburi, Thailand

Chatuchak Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 21, 2007

Welcome to the world’s largest weekend market. Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market, or JJ’s Market, is a must see for any shopper of anything you can imagine. Thousands of vendors from all parts of Thailand and around the region are eager to sell and negotiate prices of their items to you. You will rarely find prices listed on most objects, as it seems it really depends on how you are sized up by the individual vendor as to what the starting price will be. They expect the tourist and the locals to haggle over the price, regardless of how good of a deal the item first seems to appear.

There are signs everywhere warning the large crowds to beware of pickpockets. It is for this reason I carried my wallet in my front pocket while shopping there.

There are myriads of individuals playing instruments or singing, hoping you will toss some Baht in their container or open musical case. The children singers seemed to always draw a crowd. Getting to JJ’s is easy. The metered taxis are a good choice when the local traffic isn’t backed up to far, but the subway is always the best way to get there. Depending on your starting location the price will vary, but usually doesn’t stray too far from fifty to sixty Baht.

There are hundreds of food and drink vendors scattered throughout the place so taking time to refresh and revitalize is always just a few yards away, or you can just grab a quick snack and a drink and keep walking and shopping.
Has shopping got your feet tired and sore? Not a problem. Foot massage places are scattered around and can usually be performed for less than 200 Baht an hour. I highly recommend that every traveler indulge in this activity. It feels incredible and offers a chance to be off your feet and get pampered. Whether you’re looking for Hill Tribe silver, trinkets, incense, pipes, scorpions, sarongs, Thai silk or crafts, everything under the sun is… under the sun at the Chatuchak Market.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
Paholyothin Road
Bangkok, Thailand

Suan Lum Night Bazaar

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 21, 2007

Suan Lum Night Bazaar is the place to see and be seen if you are of the trendy Thai people and an excellent place to shop and drink and be entertained if you are a visitor.

The prices here are a little more inflated than the Chatuchak Market but it is less crowded and cooler. The beer garden is more like a beer forest; a huge area with hundreds of tables surrounded by beer and food vendors. The entertainment here seems to try to appeal to the visitors. On the three occasions I have visited here the bands played covers of American bands. Regardless of the music there are usually very attractive, scantily dressed women gyrating and dancing to the music.

The beer menus are incredible, but beware, the wait staff deliberately open the menu to the most expensive beers. Look through the menu and decide what it is you’d like, quality beers or a good bargain beer. Chang beer is least expensive and one of the highest octane, although because there is entertainment, you will pay more than the average market price for any of the beers. This last time there I saw something not available two years ago; huge beer machines with an ice core in the middle, delivered to tables. They were made of plastic and proudly displayed the beer’s name on them. I’m going to guess they hold two to three gallons, but I’m not sure, and I’m not sure of their price.

The Ferris wheel was an incredible bargain, just one hundred Baht per person for the adventure. Although the ride was not long it was spectacular.

Also, available here for 100 Baht, are many movies on DVD format which have not yet been released in the U.S. I don’t believe they’re legal, but they are available.

Getting here was easiest by subway, but if you stay too late, taxis will be about the only way to get back to your room or residence.
Suan Lum Night Bazaar
Rama Iv And Wireless/sathorn Roads
Bangkok

Saxophone Pub and Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 28, 2007

The Saxophone is a great place to listen to rhythm and blues and have a few drinks. Three years ago I patronized this place with my brother-in-law, and on this last trip I did so again. On both occasions the music was very good. Whether it’s a Stevie Ray Vaughn cover or an old Robert Cray song, the artists who perform there seem to enjoy producing this style of music, and they do so in English.

The beers and drinks there are not cheap. A twelve-ounce Singha will set you back 150 baht. Judging the crowd here, and how they were drinking, it didn’t seem to have much of an effect on their alcohol consumption.

The Saxophone usually has a drink special. On this last trip there it was a one-liter bottle of Finlandia Vodka for 1,200 baht, which also came with a Finlandia body bag (whatever that is…). On my trip, three years ago, it was a one-liter bottle of Jack Daniels for 1,100 baht. The Saxophone’s sign on the front of the building also carries the Jack Daniels logo. I suppose they figure this is a whiskey, which represents the American rhythm and blues culture and perhaps, America itself. They are probably not too far off on that assumption.

There was a mixture of people in the bar both times I patronized it: Thai college students, Europeans, Americans, and well-dressed Thai businessmen. It seemed to have a universal appeal. In fact, on this last trip there was a Thai celebrity in the crowd. She is a lesbian musician who was there with her partner, probably to see the second band to play that night, an all girl band.

Despite the high prices, by Thai standards, the Saxophone is off the beaten path from many of the tourist activities most people take part in while visiting Bangkok. If you’re looking for great rhythm and blues sang in the English language and don’t mind spending a few baht more for a good time the Saxophone should be placed on your to do list.
Saxophone Pub and Restaurant
3/8 Phayathai Road
Bangkok, Thailand, 10400
+66 (2) 246 5472;

Dusit Zoo (Khao Din)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by smallplasticman on March 15, 2007

Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo is a great place to visit whether you are a tourist or a Thai person, and it is reasonably priced. The entrance fee is 50 baht for Thais and 100 baht for foreigners.

The family-friendly forty-seven acre park offers many things to see and do besides watching the animals. To start with, a small tram circles the park, making it easy to get an overview, before setting on your path by foot. This is a great thing to do if you are with kids. There are several play areas for kids scattered throughout the park and a lake where paddleboats can be rented cheaply.

Also scattered around are many places to eat, including a food pavilion. Whether you’re looking for Thai ice cream, fruit, or traditional Thai food, it’s available somewhere in the park.

If you’ve forgotten your camera or just want a professional to take your picture, photos can be purchased cheaply near one of the many photographic shops for about 30 baht. This includes a second copy. For 100 baht you can have your picture taken and placed on a small plate with the Dusit Zoo logo. These little plates are great souvenirs.

You won't be disappointed if your trip was to see animals. The average person probably could spend about four hours to see all the mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The coin-operated play land is a great diversion for the kids, and its location to the big food court offers the parents a chance to eat while the kids entertain themselves. Games are available for pre-schoolers through probably high school age in the video consoles, which are only 10 baht for ten minutes.

Compared to the United States this zoo is an incredible bargain. For less than twenty dollars an entire family can go to the zoo, have a meal, play some games, and record their adventure with a photo plate.
Dusit Zoo (Khao Din)
71 Rama V Road
Bangkok, Thailand, 10300
+66 (2) 281 2000

The Art of Eating Bugs or...Sects in the City

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 20, 2007

I’ve always wanted to eat grasshoppers. As a child I used to catch them and let them go after my jar was full, but as I grew older I learned that these strange bugs were also snacks for some people in the world.

My first week in Bangkok I was able to eat four different types of insects and/or bugs. The bugs I ate were purchased from a transient vendor whose cart was parked in front of my mother-in-law’s driveway gate. The cost varied by the amount of insects you ordered, but usually about a cup of bugs were about 20 Baht. The first bug I tried was what I believe to be a cricket. Thai people call it a Manga-see-on. It was fried and flavored with some sort of spray and light powder, as were all the other bugs. To eat it properly the legs were ripped from the body, along with another sharp part, and put to the side of the plate or in a tissue. This was my favorite bug to eat. The texture and flavor went well with the Leo beer, and it just appealed to me compared to the others. The second bug was called a Ting-lee. I have no idea what it would be in America, but it was smaller than a cricket and somewhat oval shaped. The Tug-tow appeared to be in the beetle family and I only tried one of them. It was just a bit gross to me in appearance and took too much time to peel and eat. The texture was not pleasant either. The last one I tried was a grasshopper, or what Thai people call a Tuck-uhh-tan. Like the Manga-see-on, it’s best to tear the legs and sharp parts off first. The vendor said it wasn’t necessary for the smaller ones, but I pulled them anyway.

As my time passed I saw other bugs in the cart, which I did not try: scorpions, grubs, and other insects that I could not name, nor really cared to.

I was amazed at the different types of people who ordered bugs. I saw kids purchase them and watched as their faces lit up as their snack was placed in its plastic bag. I saw beautiful Thai women in mini-skirts ordering these snacks on several occasions. I saw the elderly grabbing grubs. It seemed it didn’t matter your age, gender, beauty, or income, these snacks were popular and desired.

My wife said they are more popular in the northeast part of the country, but I saw no lack of appreciation for them in the big city of Bangkok.

Smoking and Drinking in Bangkok

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 26, 2007

I love a good beer and enjoy cigarettes wherever I go. I especially like when the prices are affordable and there is not a huge amount of social stigma attached to my indulgences. In Bangkok, especially in the Din Daeng neighborhood where I stayed, smoking and drinking is a regular part of daily life for a large majority of the men after a long day of work. I rarely saw women doing either of these activities. This has me believing that women are the smarter of the two genders. Aside from that, sitting down with the local men and sharing a beer while swapping stories and getting a crash course in Thai-speak, was, and will always be for me, one of the highlights of visiting Bangkok.

I usually buy my beer and cigarettes at the neighborhood 7-11. I do this because the prices are always clearly marked and I feel I am paying the same price as everyone else does for the same items. I then bring my bag of goodies to Mr. Poo’s café, where I am quickly greeted with a glass of ice. Beer is always drank here with ice and nobody drinks it straight from the bottle. I am quickly offered something to eat, and regardless if I am hungry or not, food and snacks are brought to the table.

My favorite Thai beer is Singha. I hadn’t paid much attention in the past when I drank it, but aside from the taste, it has a whopping 6.0 alcohol %. Singha beer sold for 50 Baht a bottle. The bottles are about the same size of an American twenty-two ounce bottle. The favorite beer in this neighborhood was Leo. Perhaps it was the lower price (38 Baht) or the lower alcohol content, 5.5 %, either way, this was the local favorite. Heineken was available at 60 Baht a bottle, but was considered by these gentlemen to be “too much money!” Chang beer was 36 Baht a bottle and carried with it a hefty 6.5 % alcohol volume. I suppose in America this would be an ice-beer and only would only have one purpose, to get the drinker drunk. I tried a few one night and experienced my first hangover the next day. I don’t recommend this beer at all.

Thais love their Scotch whisky too. 100 Pipers is the preferred Scotch of most of the gentlemen I met, but Johnny Walker and Chivas Regal are also highly coveted. 100 Pipers sells for about 380 Baht for one half a liter. Because of it’s price it is not drank all the time, but when it is sipped in the neighborhood, you might as well through the cap away, because the sit-down Scotch session is not over until the bottle is empty. Scotch is served here over ice and topped with Singha soda water. Once again, nobody drinks it straight from the bottle

Drinking beer with your meals while out dining in the more established restaurants and fine dining places will cost about twice as much as the regular retail price of the beer, but sometimes places offer beer specials which are comparable. It didn’t seem to matter how nice the place was, most dining places offer beer on their drink menu.

By American standards cigarettes are cheap. Marlboros are only 55 Baht a pack, but like the Heineken, are considered to be “too much money!” The favorite tobacco in this neighborhood was L&M, which sold for 46 Baht. Even the poorest smoker paid the extra few Baht for a tasty American blend. After trying the 40 Baht Krong Thip and the 35 Baht Wonder brand, both Thai tobaccos, I can see why. Thai tobacco is awful. British tobaccos are also available, and after trying a few packs I acquired a taste for the London 555s. But, at 80 Baht a pack, they were not the cheapest but they were the tastiest.

Just a word of good advice; don't throw your cigarette butts on the sidewalk or street. The fine for littering is 2,000 Baht in Bangkok. Also, only police can fine you and the fines are paid at the police station. From my own experience I came close to being a victim of a scam-artist who resembled a police officer and insisted I pay him the fine on the spot. Thank goodness my wife was nearby and I had her assistance in avoiding this scam.

In order to curb the smoker’s habit or to stop future smokers, there are graphic pictures displaying the deadly side effects of smoking printed on every pack. This seemed to have no affect on the locals or myself from my perspective. If you’re a smoker the duty free cigarettes offered on most airlines are twice the price you’ll pay at any 7-11 in Bangkok. For this reason tobacco is a much better deal after you touch down and get settled in, wherever you are in Bangkok. As for alcohol prices they are similar, but I think you will save a few Baht my purchasing at the local 7-11 or small shop in your neighborhood.

Medical Tourist

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by smallplasticman on February 27, 2007

Bangkok is known for so many different things: the beautiful temples, the great travel deals, incredible food, Buddhism, and brothels. Bangkok is also gaining a reputation as a place for foreigners to travel for elective surgeries. Bumrungrad Hospital claims they receive 350, 000 international patients a year. Medical tourists come to Bangkok for face-lifts, heart surgery, hip surgery, and other medical procedures for bargain prices. On average medical procedures here are about one sixth to one eighth the price as they are in the United States. The attention given to those who have received them have defined the procedures and the patient care as first class.

My first experience with Bangkok’s medical community was in December 2004, just three days before the tsunami, which devastated much of the surrounding region, when my son was born in Praram 9 Hospital on December 23. Praram 9 is a private hospital located in Southeast Bangkok. My wife had a cesarean section delivery. The first thing, besides the incredible care given to my wife and son, that grabbed my attention, was the price of the entire procedure from beginning to end. The entire cost for everything was about $1,200 (USD).
Unlike my daughter’s birth in Silverdale, Washington, where she was brought into the room to be cared for by my wife just hours after giving birth, my son was cared for in a nursery while my wife healed from the cesarean. This was a tremendous service in my wife’s recovery, and gave her time to heal. Overall, the entire experience was first class and reminded me of what medicine might have been like in the U.S. before the lawyers started running rabid.

Having seen first hand what medicine was like in Bangkok I decided to have an elective surgery on this last trip. I chose Praram 9 Hospital to have a vasectomy. The process was simple to set up. All I had to do was show up, talk to the physician and have a mandatory blood test for HIV/AIDS. The procedure was performed less than an hour after first walking into the hospital. Two and a half hours after walking in, I was walking out. The procedure was complete. The entire cost of the procedure, including the antibiotics and non-narcotic pain reliever, was 9,250 Baht. ($250.00 USD). Throughout the entire procedure I was treated with respect and dignity.

If ever I need any life-saving surgeries or medical procedures, which are not covered by insurance companies, I would not hesitate to have them done here in Bangkok again. Both of my experiences were fantastic and I’d recommend them to anyone.

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j64574-Bangkok-Bangkok_Revisited.html

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