Our friend D came out to Bangkok last week. Bjorn and I were more than delighted to have a familiar, friendly face around. However, I just might be the best, worst-tour guide ever.
We had made plans to meet at D’s hotel. Of course, we promptly got lost. We took the bus with the right number — but it was going in the wrong direction. No matter. We had Google maps to guide us — except it led to a college campus and called that his hotel. We took a taxi, thinking D’s hotel had to be close — and watched in dismay as the meter ticked ever higher as we speedily got stuck in traffic. Finally we jumped out and hoofed it to a nice-looking hotel. The concierge provided a map and 10 minutes later, we finally arrived at D’s hotel which was near the BTS Ploen Chit stop.
We headed off to the MBK mall (BTS stop: Siam) and managed to snag some food with just minutes to spare. (Pro tip: Even though signs say the MBK food court closes at 9 p.m., many vendors shut down at 8:30 p.m.) MBK is one of the older malls in Bangkok and looks like a bunch of street stalls got crammed into a building. I have doubts as to how good the deals are as MBK is always full of tourists and I’ve seen cheaper prices on the street (however, MBK’s prices are generally lower than that of other malls). After eating, we took a leisurely stroll around MBK (read: we got lost trying to find our way out to the BTS station).
MBK is a hop, skip and a jump away from the Siam Center and the Siam Paragon malls so we walked that way. Inside the Siam Center I oozed and gushed over its neo-goth/industrial/hipster interiors. I extolled its arty exhibitions and pretensions, the generously cool setting of its thermostat (the air-conditioning is on so high and cold that you need a sweater in there.) I jubilantly pointed out seating areas with convenient electrical sockets to charge laptops/tablets/phones (Siam Center encourages some serious hanging out.)
D listened politely and then said, “Um guys, I’m not really a mall pers–”
“Ohhhh,” I said in hushed, reverential tones, cutting him off. “There’s my favorite place to take a nap.”
Then we hit the streets, which are alive with activity at night. We walked on sidewalks choked with people and vendors selling touristy schlock, showed D our favorite cheapie movie theater, went past the many bars with Thai women out front trying to entice customers inside.
I proved spectacularly unhelpful at navigating (in Northern California, I was known to have said, “Oh, I’ve never been this way before” the first FIVE times I traveled Durham-Pentz Road) or knowing anything about what D really wanted to see (Me: “They have local bands here?”).
After so much walking, I was direly in need of refreshment so we went to a nearby 7-Eleven. Whereupon we were so inspired that we HAD to go to Bjorn’s favorite 7-Eleven, a curiously L-shaped shop near D’s hotel.
Once inside the store, I was a fount of knowledge. I showed D some of my favorite snacks, just in case he, too, feels peckish every quarter of a mile/half-hour (whichever comes first).
“This taro bread is so good,” I said, holding up a mini-loaf with purple swirls.
“Eh, I’m not really into taro,” D said.
“That’s because you’re probably thinking about poi, a popular dish in Hawaii, which is also made from the taro plant but tastes pulpy and bland. Taro in bread and cakes tends to taste sweet, like candied sweet potatoes, but not as sugary and doesn’t have the same consistency.”
I spotted another snack and snatched it up. Seeing one left in a 7-Eleven late at night is a rarity. “Here, maybe you’ll like mamon more. It’s a Filipino butter cake with cheese on top. What’s incredible about this product is that it’s actually made by Goldilocks, a famous Filipino bakery, so I suspect this really is from the Philippines.”
I picked up another packet. “You should definitely try the mocha roll, at least. It’s coffee-flavored cake. It’s really good. The cake is light and fluffy, but the filling tastes and has the texture of butter, so you might want to watch out for that.”
D, probably in shock that we had deemed 7-Elevens worthy of not just one, but 2 stops within the space of an hour, nodded and listened in silence.
To those thinking of coming out and visiting us: Please do. We’d love to see you. We’d love to hang out.
We just can’t guarantee that the touring won’t be a whole lot more than snacking.
(Thanks for putting up with us, D!)