This was my third visit to Bangkok and I decided to revisit the area around Rama I Road where I was last time in 1994. After hanging out for a while on Khao Sarn Road and having a breakfast, I got a tuk-tuk that dropped me in the Pratunam market close to Baiyoke Hotel for 100B, quite a lot but I did not have the energy or the time to haggle. I gave him $3 that was roughly what he asked for and I found myself near the tallest building in Thailand. I checked the market that was selling mainly for locals and I went on the streets and alleys nearby that are like a bazaar, lots of stalls selling tons of clothes mainly foreign brands counterfeit or possibly extra stock. I went back and forth, doing some shopping and I walked up latter to Ratchadumri Avenue where is a grand mall, Central World Plaza, adorned with huge pictures of Mr. Bean right in front of a Ganesh shrine where lots of people come to pray in a continuous flow. I wanted to see and shoot a little in the grand hotels, and first I went to Bai Yoke Hotel, the tallest building in Thailand, that has a restaurant on its 84th floor, but the time of the day was wrong and I planned to come latter in the evening, a thing that did not happen. Latter I walked on to the Grand Hyatt and further to the old Hilton, bought recently by Raffles, that has an interesting linga fertility shrine on its grounds. Obviously, when you are in that area you cannot leave without doing some shopping so I bought lots of gifts from the streets stalls, maybe too much.
I walked on Rama I Road and took the metro to Oriental and Shangri La, where I hang out in their restaurant and lobbies to cool from the outside heat and after a short walk in the area I took the boat on Chao Phra, a ride that I always enjoyed that brought me to a restaurant on the riverâ€™s shore, close to the main temple area, a place where I spent some hours every time when I was in Bangkok, where I enjoyed the sunset with a cold bottle of Singha beer. The clock was ticking and I had lots of things to do back on Khao Sarn Road so I had to start going but on the way I passed through Sarang Luang, that was full of people running kites in the sky, a famous pass time in Asia, in a show of carefree living and enjoyment that hardly you can see in the West. I watched it mesmerized for a while, flying kites with the palaces and temples lit on the background and reluctantly I had to rush to pack and make the final arrangements for departure. This was a smart move, because there were many things to prepare and last minute purchases and, I found out in shock that the ride to the newly built airport, that I did not know about, takes now 90 minutes. So instead of 10pm I had to leave the city at 9pm and I rushed through everything I had to do, skipping dinner and most of the last moment shopping but still I went to buy a new Paul Auster book for the 18 hours direct flight to NY. The hourly airport minibus from Khao Sarn Road drove very fast at 100-120km/hour on the newly built and glitzy highway that connects the city to the airport and we arrived at the airport in 50 minutes due to lack of traffic at that time of the night. The airport was packed like I never saw before.
The line to the Thai check-in was as long as the size of the terminal and I was really lucky that I came one hour earlier because I had to wait more than one hour to do the check-in, that trickled down to a huge line for passport check and a last one for security, at the gate. So, no matter that I left Khao Sarn Road at 9pm I was able to enter the plane at 12:15am and all this time I kept waiting in linesâ€¦â€¦At the check-in, being obsessed by the long flight, I asked for a door seat and, by miracle, I was able to get one and this saved the day for two reason: first I got a great seat to stretch my legs and second I got a very pleasant travel partner in Tasha with whom I chat a considerable part of the flight. After dinner with a little wine and a shot of scotch, the previous sleepless night on the bus from Vientiane kicked in and I was able to sleep for 8 straight hours being awaken by the steward who was bringing breakfast. Tasha was coming from Bali, another 4 hours flight, and was going to Boston, another 1.5 hours with some 4 hours layover in NY. Quite a journey! She is a jewelry designer her work being shown and sold in her mom’s gallery in Ipswich, MA and she works as a bartender in Boston to make some money trying to find her pace and sense in life. We had a great conversation and the time passed like they were just 3-4 hours. Thanks Tasha for the great time we had in this flight! I watched the movie The Queen that was great and soon they announced that we are landing on JFK where the temperature was 37F and we were still in sandals and silk pants..Wake up. The dream is over. Back to reality!