june 2011 100 baht
PHI TA KHON
over the border
food & drink
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Mantra Restaurant and Bar Beach Road Pattaya
Hua Hin circa 1957
The image you’ve been admiring on the cover was taken by ’Rong Wong-savun (1932-2009), and comes from the second edition of the ‘Seeking Forgotten Thai Photographers’ project being held at the Kathmandu Photo Gallery until the end of July. While later in life he was best known for his literary talents (he was named National Artist in Literature in 1995), Wong-savun began his career as a photographer in the mid-1950s, breaking with the conventions of the time when it came to both composition and subject – see our photo feature for more of his stunning work. In this month’s Festival focus, our intrepid travel writer Dave Stamboulis pays a visit to the spectacular Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost festival in Loei province. Once a year, the otherwise sleepy village of Dan Sai comes alive with colourfully masked residents bearing giant phalluses (you read that right), which they use to poke all and sundry. Elsewhere in Sightseeing, Simon Ostheimer makes the short ﬂight southwest to Penang for Over the Border, where he discovers an island in the midst of rapid and exciting change, though thankfully heritage is playing a large part in future plans. Build up an appetite with our bumper dining section, in which we head to high-end Italian restaurant Fuzio; discover Bangkok’s best samosas in Little India; check out new breakfast favourite Sweet by the ﬂower market; tuck into an American-style brunch at Roast; cycle on over to bike-themed café Pedalicious; and more. Then in Nightlife, we review popular new pub Humble’s 75/1 in On Nut, and make the trek up to the Crystal Design Center for a pint of homebrew at Singha-run bar Est. 33. In Shopping this month, we have an exclusive 1-On-1 interview with hot Thai designer Nisara Liptawat, the talent behind fashion label Dusk Till Dawn. We also venture out to the new Siam Paradise Night Bazzar, the replacement for the much-mourned Suan Lum, and roundup the must-see shops. For June’s Unique Boutique the focus is on renowned screenprinting specialist Khomapastr, established in 1948. June’s edition of Bangkok 101 is a bumper issue packed with a slew of fresh content and all your regular favourites. As such, there’s only one thing to do: Enjoy.
Mason Florence Publisher
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Photos taken from the actual site
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contributors Rong Wong-savun iconic Thai author Rong Wong-savun (1932-2009) began professional life as a photographer. In only ten years (1954-1964), Rong managed to stand out from his contemporaries with his unique perspective on the world, the same gift that later earned him the name of the ‘Eagle of the Literary Garden’ for his inventive use and mixing of Thai and English words. The retrospective on p.40 comes from Kathmandu Photo Gallery’s Forgotten Photographer series.
Philip Cornwel-Smith Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith is a writer, editor and curator specialising in culture and travel. He has lived in Thailand for over a decade, editing its first listings magazine and the Time Out Bangkok guides, updating Thailand: A Traveller’s Companion, presenting Noodle Box: Bangkok on Discovery Channel, and squeezing Bangkok into the city’s first phone guide for Nokia.
Howard Richardson Food and travel writer Howard Richardson lives beside the Chao Phraya River in downtown Bangkok, from where he’s spent 12 years exploring the city as magazine editor and freelance writer. He’s contributed to publications such as GQ, the BBC’s Olive magazine and the New York Times online, and written a monthly column on Bangkok events and trends in Sawasdee, the Thai Airways inflight magazine. He also wrote the travel guide Bangkok Step by Step, published by Insight Guides.
Mertens helped spotlight Thailand’s brave new wave of textiles and furniture in Bangkok Design. Previously he wrote Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Forms. He writes on culture, travel and news for the New York Times, Art Asia-Pacific and Forbes. A former resident of NYC and Tokyo, he has lived in Thailand since 1997, the year he won the Citibank Prize for Excellence in Journalism.
Dave Stamboulis Greek-born but Californiaraised, Dave Stamboulis resides in Bangkok where he works for numerous magazines, newspapers and stock agencies as a freelance photojournalist. His quest for stories and images has taken him to Borneo, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and other way out locations, often via bicycle, kayak, or on foot. His travel book, Odysseus’ Last Stand: Chronicles of a Bicycle Nomad, received the Silver Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers in 2006.
Steven Pettifor British-born writer-artist Steven Pettifor stopped over in Thailand 13 years ago on his way to Japan, but never left. An authority on contemporary Thai art, Steven is a commentator on the local art scene, contributing to international and domestic newspapers and journals. In 2004 he publishedc coffee-table book Flavours: Thai Contemporary Art. When not art musing, he is travel writing.
Korakot (Nym) Punlopruksa Native-Bangkok writer, photographer and incurable travel addict, Nym believes in experiencing the world through food. She can usually be found canvassing the city for the best eats around. Nym has been a host for music and film programmes, a radio DJ, a creative consultant for television and a documentary scriptwriter. She is the author of several travel narratives, and her work appears in myriad magazines including ELLE, Elle Decoration and GM.
Cheryl Tseng An avid epicurean, Cheryl’s foodie credentials can be traced back to L.A., where she was a regular fixture at the tables of Wolfgang Puck and Nobu before their rise to culinary fame. She later brought her experienced palate to Bangkok, where she thrives on the new and delectable in the night-out culinary experience. Cheryl contributes to numerous magazines and her website, www.chicasia. com, gives the latest on Bangkok’s hippest venues.
Publisher Mason Florence Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jesda M. Tivayanond Associate Publisher Parinya Krit-Hat Managing Editor Max Crosbie-Jones Group Editor Simon Ostheimer Designer Narong Srisaiya Jarmmaree Janjaturonrasamee Senior Editorial Assistant Pattarasuda Prajittanond Editorial Assistant Amornsri Tresarannukul Strategists Nathinee Chen Sebastien Berger Contributing Writers Cheryl Tseng, Noy Thrupkaew, Steven Pettifor, Nick Measures, Joel Quenby, Liz Smailes, Korakot Punlopruksa, Leo Devillers, Philip Cornwel-Smith, Cassandra Beckford, Chirayu na Ranong, Brian Mertens Contributing Photographers Darktemplar, Julian Ward, Jatuporn Rutnin, Christian Phongphit, Paul Lefevre, Ludovic Cazeba, Austin Bush, Leon Schadeberg, Marc Schultz, Niran Choonhachat, Frédéric Belge, Somchai Phongphaisarnkit Director of Sales & Marketing Jhone El’Mamuwaldi Director of Business Development Erika Teo Sales & Marketing Manager Haluethai Wattanapathomvong Administrative Assistant Peeraya Nuchkuar Circulation Pradchya Kanmanee Published by Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd. 113 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Bangkok 10330 T: 02-252-3900 F: 02-650-4557 email@example.com Designed by Letter Space T: 02-386-7181 F: 02-386-7182 firstname.lastname@example.org © Copyright Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written, prior permission of the publisher. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher, which accepts no responsibility for them.
snapshots 6 8 12 13 14 15
101 picks metro beat history chronicle of thailand customs very thai: massage
sightseeing 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 30
orientation riverside route101: charoen krung temples museums spotlight: yaowarat chinatown heritage centre historical homes & shrines parks & zoos hotel deals upcountry now festival: phi ta khon over the border: penang
32 33 34 35 36 37 38 40
art 1 on 1 art exhibitions performing arts cultural centres cinema books paradise found photo feature: rong wong-savun
food & drink 48 49 50 52 57 56 59 62 63 64
dining in bangkok meal deals street eats featured restaurant: roast isaan eats thai sweets restaurants brunch dessert wine
nightlife 66 68 69 71 73 74 75 76 78 79
one night in bangkok featured bar: humbleâ€™s nightclubs bars with a view hotel bars & nightclubs bars live music jazz clubs pubs nightlife areas
shopping 80 81 82 84 86 87
unique boutique fashion 1-on-1: dusk till dawn mall crawl jatujak market spotlight: siam paradise night bazaar markets
community 92 93 94 95 on the cover: Rama 1 Bridge, circa 1958
sports business 101 courses making merit
S N A P S H OT S
Before rushing off to a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand or the green mountains of Chiang Rai, scratch beneath Bangkok’s gritty surface to uncover these shining gems that’ll keep you here longer
■ Jatujak A huge, sprawling village of a market that sells everything under the sun. Cramped, steamy and lots of fun (p.84).
■ Making Merit Donate food to monks, release birds and fish, or light incense sticks at a temple – and pray for good karma (p.95).
■ Sunday Brunch Make like the Thais do, and spend your Sunday by lazing around with friends and enjoying a late breakfast (p.62).
■ Dusit District Filled with lovely airy boulevards, a zoo and the historic Vimanmek Mansion’s gorgeous green gardens (p.20).
■ Bars & Clubs Sleep all day, party all night and never grow old. The City of Angels has a night out to suit everyone (p.68-79).
■ Pak Khlong Talad Pick up more pretty posies than you know what to do with at this 24-hour flower market (p.86).
■ Thai Massage Though your body will thank you for it later, expect to be stretched to the limit by eager masseuses (p.94).
■ Food Courts Love cheap Thai food but love air-con more? Then these shopping mall stalls make for an excellent alternative.
■ River Boats See a different side of Bangkok and take a boat up north to Nonthaburi or explore the Thonburi canals (p.17).
■ Cabarets With performers that ooze grace, poise, and, ahem, Adam’s apples, you won’t see a better show in town (p.70).
■ Siam Square Bangkok’s young and hip gather at this cradle of cool to watch the latest flicks, and pick up stylish threads (p.82).
■ Thai Cooking Learn how to pound paste like a professional at one of the many Thai cooking classes held around town (p.94).
■ River Dining With plenty of restaurants lining its banks, the Chao Phraya River makes for an awesome dinner backdrop (p.17).
■ Cycling Tour Although unexpected, touring by bike can be one of the best ways to explore Bangkok and its surroundings (p.92).
■ Sky-high Drinks Become a high-flier for the night and enjoy a cocktail while looking down on the glittering Bangkok skyline (p.71).
■ Patpong Always busy, this small strip in the CBD is packed with market stalls and go-go bars.
■ Thai Boxing Place your bets and watch the brutal yet noble art of Muay Thai, or kickboxing (p.92).
■ Meal Deals Take advantage of these special offers to eat at the city’s best restaurants (p.49).
■ Ancient City Cycle round the fun museum park of Muang Boran and see Thailand in miniature.
■ Dining Cruises Enjoy a fine meal and even better views as you gently travel along the Chao Phraya (p.58).
■ Panthip Plaza Without doubt this is the ultimate computer geek mecca. If you can’t find it here, you haven’t looked hard enough (p.82).
■ TCDC Often hosting workshops and talks, the Thailand Creative & Design Centre fosters Thai designers (p.35).
■ Street Food Order up a dish, sit down on a plastic stool and prepare to taste the core ingredients of Bangkok life (p.50).
■ Lumphini Park This huge green space in the heart of the city. is perfect for jogging, picnics and boating on the several lakes (p.23).
■ Twist & Shout Whether you get wiggly on Khao San, jiggly at RCA or giggly on Soi 11, there’s a dancefloor for you (p.79).
■ Siam Paragon This mall is probably one of the swishest you’ll ever visit. Fancy a Ferrari? That’ll be on the third floor (p.82).
■ The Jim Thompson House This former CIA spook rebuilt the Thai silk trade from scratch, then disappeared. (p.22).
■ Affordable Gourmet Dining If you prefer foie gras to fried insects, the city has plenty of affordable fine dining (p.59).
■ Flower Market Located close to the river, this magical 24-hour market offers much more than just fragrant surrounds (p.86).
■ Thai Theatre Traditional Thai wooden puppet shows, classical Thai drama or breathtaking extravaganzas – no tux required (p.36).
S N A P S H OT S
Our man about town Howard Richardson presents the lowdown on what’s on and what’s in. Read on for the picks of Bangkok’s hottest news, trends, happenings and openings, plus all the essential events you can’t afford to miss
POP & ROCK
Kylie brings some loving to Bangkok on her Aphrodite Live tour, plugging Aphrodite, her latest album, which includes the tracks ‘All the Lovers’ and ‘Get Out Of My Way’. The Irish Independent says “It is unlikely you will see a more lavish event this year”. Catch her at Impact Arena (02-504-5050) on June 25. Tickets are B2,000B6,000 from Thai Ticketmajor (02-262-3456, www. thaiticketmajor.com).
FOOD There’s a Gala Dinner and Charity Auction at Novotel Bangkok with special guest Byron Kelleher, a former All Black rugby player. The auction is of sports memorabilia donated by stars of NBA basketball, Formula 1, rugby and football supports the recent natural disasters in Japan and Thailand. Tickets (from 081-811-8714 or 081-8203926) are B3,800 or B35,000 per table of ten. Meanwhile, the Square Restaurant of Novotel Bangkok (02-209-8888) has a Dinner With Salsa Dance Show every Wednesday, plus Salsa, Cha Cha Cha and Mambo lessons. The price is B850. Grossi Italian restaurant (02656-0444, www. intercontinental. com) continues its Dinner With Opera programme on June 29, this time featuring a selection from Mozart operas. The food comprises a four course meal inspired by Sicily, with dishes like pesto alla Trapanesi paired with wines. Price B2,499. 8
The jazz venue the Living Room in the Sheraton Grande hotel (02-649-8353) celebrates its 10th Anniversary with Jazztastic: The Living Room Jazz Festival throughout June. The line-up sees gigs by Hungarian sax player Tony Lakatos with the Michael Veerapen Trio from June 1-5; the Asian Jazz All-Stars Power Quartet (June 8-11); and the highlight of the month, Ernie Watts, a sax player with the likes of Cannonball Adderley and Frank Zappa (June 15-18). Thai guitarist Maew Chirasak Panphum plays on June 22 and 23, and the country’s highest proﬁle horn player Koh Mr Saxman closes the festival on June 24 and 25. Tickets are B1,100 net, including two standard drinks, except Ernie Watts (B1,300 net, including two standard drinks). Dinner and show deals are also available from B2,400, call for details. Belgian pianist Eric Legnini and his band play jazz and Afro beat at the Alliance Francaise (02-6704231) on June 11. The show will consist largely of tunes from his four albums, Miss Soul, Big Boogaloo, Trippin’ Trippin and The Vox. Show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are B400.
S N A P S H OT S
Adult-only comedy returns to the Bull’s Head (02-2594444) with the Punchline Comedy Club on June 24 and 25. The stand-ups this time are Stephen Grant, who is the resident compere at Brighton’s Krater Comedy Club, Jimmy McGhie, who The Scotsman says is “one to watch”, and Michael Fabbri who is “clever, sick and completely unrepeatable” according to the BBC online. Performance starts at 9pm, tickets are B1,500.
Afrojack, who won this year’s Best Remixer and Breakthrough DJ gongs at the International Dance Music Awards in Miami, is at Led (formerly RCA’s 808, 02-203-1043) on June 9. The Dutch DJ, producer and remixer has scored club hits with tracks like ‘Math’ and ‘Do My Dance’ on his own label, Wall Recordings; and has remixed Madonna’s ‘Revolver’, among others. Dance fans will head to Royal Paragon Hall on June 10 for a date with the UK’s electro dance pioneer Norman Cook, aka Fat Boy Slim. The producer, DJ and musician is known for albums like Palookaville; You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby; and Halfway Between the Gutter and The Stars. The local band Thaitanium open the show. Tickets are B1,500 and B2,500 from Thai Ticketmajor (02-262-3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com). The regular nights at Bed Supperclub (02-6513537, www.bedsupperclub. com) are interspersed with some nuggets and party nights this month. American DJ/producer Diplo brings electro, dubstep and dancehall on June 9; 70’s Vampire Circus is a Gothic party (come dressed as… well, you know) on June 18; and DJ Octo heads a Michael Jackson Tribute on June 24. Concept CM2, in the Novotel Bangkok (02-2098888) has a bunch of theme parties starting with Red Hot Crush Night on June 4, when little Red Riding Hood gives out free cake. On June 19, it’s La Petite Party, with the promise of “super-mini miniskirts”, and on June 25 they follow up with Beat It, Beat It. It’s a Michael Jackson tribute. The club also welcomes back the resident band Too Close in June.
EVENTS The annual Thailand Grand Sale has discounts at major stores such as Central throughout the country from June 15-Aug 15. Look out for hotel and tour deals, too. Discounted travel and accommodation packages will be the attraction at the Thailand Travel Fair at Impact Arena (02-504-5050) from June 8-12.
CLASSICAL The Thai German Cultural Foundation Auditorium (02-2872822) hosts Mozart a Recital on June 7. Pianists Juyeon Kang, May Phang and Sang Woo Kang will each also perform pieces by Liszt. Tickets are B500 from Robinson Piano (02-658-1080).
FESTIVAL The Asia International Guitar Festival and Competition 2011 from June 16-19 at the Siam City Hotel features guitar exhibits, master classes and competitions, ending each day with a concert. Performers include Jorge Luis Zamora, Pavel Steidl and the Kaizuka Guitar Mandolin Ensemble. For tickets call 02-247-0123 (the price for classes and competitions is B200, or B600 including concerts). For more details see www. thailandguitarsociety.com. 10
FILM The Moviemov Italian Film Festival 2011 is the ﬁrst of what is planned to be an annual celebration of the Italian silver screen. Along with the ﬁlm selection, which includes La Scuola E’ Finita (School is Over), La Doppia Ora (The Double Hour) and Io Sono L’amore (I Am Love), there will be an exhibition of the work of Italian couturier Fernanda Gattinoni and tributes to Italian director Mario Monicelli and Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Most events are at SFX Cinema, Emporium from June 8-12. Admission is free. For the full programme see www.thaitch.org. The Thai Film Archive Screenings, in Salaya (02482-2013, ext 114) include some ﬁlms with English subtitles this month, including the Chinese ﬁlm Aftershock, about the 1976 Great Tangshan Earthquake (June 5, 1 pm); Valzer, part of the Italian Film Festival (June 11, 1 pm); and The Convert (June 13, 5.30 pm). And on the last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the month are three ﬁlms from France, Spain and Germany, respectively.
ART The human rights group Amnesty International celebrates 50 years on the job with a series of worldwide exhibitions called Change This World. Thailand’s show runs until June 13 at WTF Gallery (02-626-6246, www.wtfbangkok.com), where there is a collection from half a century of campaign posters. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 3pm-10pm, admission free. Locution-(re)-locations is a solo show by Sydneybased Thai artist Phaptawan Suwannakudt at 100 Tonson Gallery (02-684-1527) until July 10. Her textile works consider the role of the outsider through layers of text from Buddhism-related sources, interwoven on semi transparent fabric with background facts about Sydney. www.bangkok101.com
Concealed lights cast a blue haze over the aptly named Fuzio, a design-by-committee mash of panelled Georgian study walls, industrial ceiling pipes, glass chandeliers, and fez-like lampshades with tassels from a grandpappy dressing gown. It’s a strangely fussy yet bare room, ﬁlled with pleasing individual elements that jar when they are lumped together. Unfortunately, the food is fuzio, too. Our opening dish of avocado, citrus orange, smoked salmon and almond had freshly crisp salad leaves and tasty single ingredients, but orange and avocado is really not a happy marriage. The spaghetti with mud crab in garlic olive oil, chilli, parsley and rocket, likewise, had good ﬂavour and a spicy kick, but the spaghetti was way too dry. And continuously picking crab shell from your mouth is just annoying. Diners in a restaurant pitched at this level deserve more care. For the main course – aged Australian Black Angus Beef wrapped with Italian speck and served with goose liver in porcini mushroom sauce – we weren’t asked how we wanted our beef cooked. We let it roll to see the result (extra rare) and it was good, but some diners like to be further removed from the blood of the animal; asking them how they want their beef cooked should happen automatically. Even if just for appearances. In sum, this is not a complete refuzio, but deﬁnitely a work in progress. Still, we hold hope for the future.
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S N A P S H OT S ee
angkok became the capital of Thailand in 1782, when the royal court relocated from the city of Ayutthaya, which had been left in ruins following years of conflict with the Burmese. After settling temporarily on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, the capital moved again, this time to the area of Rattanakosin in present-day Bangkok. Almost entirely surrounded by water, the new location was easier to defend against potential attacks. The final move marked the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty. Rama I named the new capital Krung Thep (City of Angels) in reference to the past glories of Ayutthaya, and he ordered the construction of two of the Kingdom’s most illustrious religious monuments at that time, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, to consolidate the new capital’s ruling status. During the subsequent reigns of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), the city developed rapidly, culminating in the modernisation and explosive growth of the 20th century. After visiting European capitals, Rama V moved the royal family to the leafy enclave of Dusit. The modern architectural monuments built in this neighbourhood include the Thai Parliament Building, the impressive marble Wat Benchama Bophit and the enormous teak Vimanmek Mansion. Greater Bangkok now occupies nearly 1.5 square kilometres and is home to some 12 million residents. Rattanakosin remains the spiritual centre of the city, graced by the dazzling splendour of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and nearby Wat Po. Modern downtown Bangkok stretches southeast of Rattanakosin and looks very much like many other Southeast Asian capitals, with the usual array of gleaming skyscrapers, deluxe apartment projects and lines of snarled traffic. The core of the new city
encompasses the Sathorn/Silom districts and Sukhumvit Road, which include upscale shopping plazas, leafy public parks and vibrant bar and restaurant scenes. These major downtown neighbourhoods are connected by the BTS Skytrain and the MRT subway systems. The gradually-
expanding public transportation networks, with their bright, snaking trains carrying wide-eyed tourists and weary commuters alike, have not only helped to relieve the city’s traffic congestion, but also given the City of Angels a modern, 21st-century feel.
It’s a Record Thais rarely call their capital ‘Bangkok’ (a name used mainly by foreigners), and instead refer to it as ‘Krung Thep’ (City of Angels), an abbreviated version of the full ceremonial and ofﬁcial name. This can be translated as ‘The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.’ It’s no surprise that Guinness World Records has registered it as the world´s longest name for a capital. snapshots
chronicle of thailand
13 JUNE 1992: FAREWELL TO THE COUNTRY MUSIC QUEEN
umpuang Duangjan, known to music fans as Thailand’s ‘queen of luuk thung’, died of complications caused by the auto-immune disease lupus. Pumpuang, one of the nation’s most famous luuk thung (Thai country music) vocalists, was born to rural peasants in northeastern Thailand, but was raised in Suphanburi. Her infectious musical sound first attracted notice in the late 1970s. Although she grew up illiterate, her lyrics recounted powerfully melodramatic stories largely inspired by the poverty endured by Thailand’s millions of blue collar workers and farmers. Among her contributions to popular Thai music, she adapted luuk thung into a more modern, dnace-friendly form known as ‘electronic luuk thung’. Her songs continued to be popular for many years after her death. Hundreds of thousands of people attend her royal sponsored funeral, as the nation mourned the loss of one of its most beloved singers. Chronicle of Thailand is the story of Thailand during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Beginning on the day he was crowned, 9 June 1946, the book presents a vivid eyewitness account of Thailand’s development through the major news events of the last 64 years. Alongside a grandstand view of events as they unfolded and quirky aspects of daily life that just happened to make the news, the book features thousands of rare and fascinating pictures and illustrations, representing one of the most comprehensive photo collections of Thailand ever produced. Every month in Bangkok 101, we serialise a major news story that sheds light on this month in the history of the Kingdom. Chronicle of Thailand – EDM Books | B1,450 | editor-in-chief Nicholas Grossman | www.chronicleofthailand.com www.bangkok101.com
S N A P S H OT S ee
oreign visitors to Thailand are not expected to understand all the intricate subtleties of Thai customs, but by learning something about them and trying to incorporate them into your behaviour while here, you will show respect for local people and avoid some potentially embarrassing situations. In Thailand, two institutions take on particular importance: the monarchy and religion.
DID YOU KNOW?
Every day has a corresponding colour in Thailand, and throngs of locals will don a yellow shirt to show their respects and celebrate the 80th birthday of the King, who was born on the yellow-themed Monday.
THE MONARCHY Thai people love their king, and have deep reverence for the monarchy. in general. By way of proof, portraits of their majesties are displayed in most shops and businesses. Like anybody else, you are expected to be respectful towards members of the royal family. Therefore, stand quietly and still when the national anthem is played, which happens daily at 8am and 6pm in parks and many other public places. SOCIAL HIERARCHY Age, social rank, lineal descent, salary and education are all considerations for social conduct. Such hierarchy is demonstrated 14
at every moment of the day, even the way of greeting. Unless meeting foreigners, Thais don’t shake hands but instead wai (a prayer-like gesture with hands clasped in front of the face). This action means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ but also shows humility. The higher the hands are raised, the more respect being paid.
LOSING FACE Thais are known to be patient and calm. Being jai yen (cool-hearted) is highly admired in Thai culture. Any impulsive reactions that may show annoyance (i.e. raising your voice) are considered unseemly, counterproductive and can make you ‘lose face’. Losing your temper should be avoided; things will work themselves out much better if you remain calm. Practise the words mai pen rai (“never mind”). BODY PARTS The head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body while the snapshots
feet are the lowest, hence the most impure. For this reason, it is impolite to pat or touch somebody on the head (this applies even to children) and it is particularly rude to point your feet at somebody or to place them on a table or a chair. Pointing the finger at other people is also considered impolite – best to gesture with an open hand.
As temples and Buddha images are considered sacred in Thailand, certain rules of respect should be followed when visiting temples: ■ Dress properly (long trousers or dresses, covered shoulders) ■ Remove your shoes at the entrance of temple buildings ■ Don’t step on the threshold ■ Don’t sit pointing your feet towards a Buddha image ■ Avoid touching Buddha images or chedis (funeral monuments) ■ Be considerate when taking photographs inside the grounds ■ Buddhist monks are forbidden to contact women. So, if a woman gives something to a monk, she must ﬁrst pass it to a man or put it on a piece of cloth
ANCIENT TECHNIQUES FOR HEALING AND RELAXING THE BODY
hailand has two massage cultures: clothed and unclothed. Don’t confuse the two. Enter a parlour signed nuad (massage) expecting nuad paen boran (literally ‘ancient massage’) and you get, ahem, ‘young’ massage. This might involve ancient techniques, but more likely oil, a towel, soap and something extra. To outsiders, mention of ‘Thai massage’ triggers nudge-nudge wisecracks about a notorious nightlife scene that’s bubbled for half a century. That cliché has been lucrative, yet limiting for the international potential for traditional Thai massage, a therapy that really heals. Dubbed ‘dancing meditation’ and ‘yoga massage’, nuad paen boran is like having yoga done to you rather than by you. Along with postures that stretch muscles, loosen joints and detoxify internal organs, it involves sometimes painful acupressure along 10 invisible sen (energy lines) to release blocked energy. This Vedic Indian science over 2,500 years old was imported by Buddhist monks around 18 centuries ago and, like herbal healing, historically centred on the wat (temple). A masseur “is practicing the physical application of metta, or loving kindness advocated in Theravada Buddhism,” Chamsai Jotisalikorn writes. “A truly good Thai masseur performs his art in a meditative mood, starting with a prayer to centre himself.” The therapy is reciprocal. The masseur needn’t be strong since they rock their body weight gently through precisely leveraged postures using knee, feet and elbow as well as hands. So the masseurs receive a workout as they massage. It can be painful when suppressed tension releases, particularly when masseurs crack fingers, loosen knots or tread on the patient’s back. A full session takes two hours, but casual massage moments permeate daily life. Mothers massage babies, teenagers knead grandparents, vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers squeeze the shoulders of colleagues. Roving masseurs pamper vacationers on the beach, while fairs feature open-air stalls of massage and foot reflexology. At nightclub urinals nationwide, customers suddenly feel a hot towel on their neck as an attendant begins massaging their shoulders. This well-meaning act can put people off. Whatever the embarrassment, you tip, for massage of all kinds is piece-work with meagre salary, if any.
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is a book that almost every foreigner living in Bangkok has on their bookshelf, a virtual bible on Thailand’s pop culture. For page after colourful page, city resident and author Philip Cornwel-Smith guides readers on an unconventional tour of the quirky everyday things that make Thailand truly Thai. From the 60plus mini-chapters, we present a different excerpt every month. Prepare yourself properly for the sideways logic in what seems exotic, and snap up a copy of Very Thai now at any goodbook shop. Very Thai – River Books l B995 l hardcover, with photos by John Goss and Philip Cornwel-Smith
Thewet & Dusit
Siam Square & Pratunam
city – steel towers, snarled traffic and snaking expressways – that is the face of modern Bangkok. Silom and Sathorn are busy business arteries linking the riverside’s old colonial style mercantile buildings and posh hotels to the city’s green lung, Lumpini Park. Seething Sukhumvit Road and its branching sois (where internationals tend to live, work and play) offer few sights but untold opportunities for drinking, dining and debauchery. And Pathumwan
meared over the flat, floodprone Chao Phraya river plain, Bangkok at first appears about as organised as a bowl of spaghetti. The fact that there isn’t one all-singing, all-dancing city centre doesn’t help matters. Delve in though and you’ll discover a sprawling megalopolis with a series of distinct neighbourhoods that have evolved over the centuries, and which all have different, intriguing tourist-luring attributes. On the west side of the river, glimpses of the Venice of the East survive down the criss-crossing canals of former capital Thonburi. On the east, historic monuments like the Grand Palace are sprinkled like gold dust through former royal HQ Ko Rattanakosin (p.19) – the city’s most revered neighbourhood by far. Fringing it are the old shophouse communities of Phra Nakorn and Banglamphu, the latter of which includes backpacker ghetto Khao San Road. South of Ko Rattanakosin is the city’s congested, chaotic and must-see Chinatown. And crowning Banglamphu is royal and government enclave Dusit with its grand, tree-shaded boulevards a la 19th century Europe. When temple fatigue strikes head east for the urban hurly burly of the
is where it’s at for shopping, be it at glitzy mall or gritty market. All these neighbourhoods (and the city’s intermittently interesting suburbs) can be reached using the city’s roads. But the affordable Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT) networks are much better allies – whiz above or below the gridlocked Bangkok streets in fridge-cool comfort. When these can’t help you (when heading from downtown Bangkok to the Old City for instance) hop on a river expressboat, accessible via Saphan Taksin Skytrain station (see opposite). Alternatively, seek out a pier along pungent Klong Saen Saeb and clamber (carefully) aboard one of its zippy boats. Other tips include avoid scammers (p.19), carry small change and, if visiting temples, dress properly. In a city as potentially aggravating as Bangkok, it’s also worth planning. Do you really want to be traipsing round temples all day? Exactly. For ideas check out the following Route 101’s – these itineraries introduce the most notable sights in the city’s most colourful neighbourhoods. Don’t follow them to the letter however – getting hopelessly lost as you wander down one interesting looking sidestreet after another is half the fun.
Silom & Sathorn sightseeing
N16-N30 Head north and concrete seques into greenery as expressboats sprint up to their terminus at Nonthaburi, a charming provincial town.
N13: PHRA ATHIT Bangkoks young bohemian types pensively sip coffee in the many cute shophouse cafes that line this leafy old street. There’s a quiet park and the hedonistic madhouse that is Khao San Road is around the corner.
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N1: ORIENTAL The old western quarter. Admire neglected neoclassical edifices and Oriental object’s d’arts at OP Place, then take tea at Bangkok’s most illustrious hotel, the Mandarin Oriental.
Wongwian Yai Rd.
Krung Thonburi Rd. KrungThonburi
N2: SRI PHAYA On the left is River City: 4 barren-floors of SE Asian antiques, ethnic reproductions, tailors and tat. To your right, the Royal Orchid Sheraton.
N6 Wat Arun
SAPHAN TAKSIN The hotel pier here is accessible via the Skytrain’s Saphan Taksin Station. Alight here for shuttle boats back to the Millenium Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula and Marriot. Or if staying in Silom, Sathorn or Sukhumvit.
Royal Grand Palace
Pak Klong Talad
N6: MEMORIAL BRIDGE/ SAPHAN POOD Venture left for decrepit godowns (warehouses) teeming with veg and flowers; i.e. Pak Klong Talad, the 24-hour fresh market. Head straight for Bangkok’s Little India, Pahurat. At night there’s a clothing market popular with teens.
N5: RATCHAWONGSE Bangkok’s Chinatown! Taoist temples, mazy backstreets, mottled shophouses and no end of Sino sights, noises Rd. ng Mua and smells make it a must. Bamrung
ai Rd. Sanam Ch
N15: THEWET Feed the catfish, peruse a flower and wet market, or dine overlooking the nearby Rama VIII suspension bridge. Stately royal district, Dusit, is a short taxi ride away.
N9: THA CHANG Thai icons ahoy! Turn left for Wat Mahatat and the Amulet market. Walk straight ahead for the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang. Hungry? The pedestrian area in front of the jetty is packed with old-school food stalls.
N8: THA TIEN Lovely King Rama V-era shophouses sell dried fish but Wat Po – home of the reclining Buddha – is the main attraction. Wat Arun (p.19) looms large on the far bank. Catch a cross-river ferry to it for B3.
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N10: WANG LANG Wat Rakhang, the macabre Forensic’s Museum, a teenfashion clothing market and Patravadi Theatre (p.34) are all in the vicinity.
A R GE PHRID ET B D O M LA SO K N PI
Though tall ships no longer sail into Bangkok, its churning river – the Mae Nam Chao Phraya – remains important to city life. Long tails, tug boats and pleasure cruisers ply the water, while sunburnt temples, neoclassic buildings, mottled warehouses, stilt homes and a fair few modern monstrosities (hotels, office blocks etc) look on. The best way to encounter all this is by expressboat, which courses a 33km route from Wat Rajsingkorn in the south to Nonthaburi in the north. Fares (usually no more than B13) are payable on board, and during rushhour the boats thronged with office-workers, students and saffron-robed monks. Read up on most interesting piers here then hop aboard! For more about routes, fares and timetables click on to www.chaophrayaboat.co.th
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nce plied by horse carts and rickshaws, this stretch of the city’s oldest Europeanstyle paved road, built in 1860, is now inundated by buses and tuk-tuks. Yet, despite the encroachment of the modern world, the lanes off Charoen Krung remain a treasure trove of ﬂaking colonial-style architecture, bustling street markets, multi-ethnic food, and eclectic places of worship dating back to the early 20th century, when the area was Bangkok’s main hub of foreign commerce. For this walking tour, perfect for a morning or afternoon, start by hopping off the Skytrain at Saphan Taksin station. From here, walk away from the river until you reach Charoen Krung, turn right and head for Wat Yannawa, with its unusual boat-shaped wiharn. The structure was built on the orders of King Rama III (1787-1851), who, as he saw steamships replacing junks, wanted his people to remember the old ships that had brought the kingdom prosperity. Back on Charoen Krung, stop to crane your neck at one of the city’s eeriest reminders of the 1997 Asian 18
Krung Rd. Charoen
Financial Crisis – a half-built concrete shell towering 47 storeys high. If its rounded balconies look familiar, that’s because they closely resemble those of the nearby State Tower. Next, turn left and head back the way you came, pass underneath the Skytrain ﬂyover and you’ve arrived in Bang Rak district (trivia: as its name means ‘village of love’, every Valentine’s Day the district ofﬁce is inundated by hordes of loved-up newlyweds seeking to register their marriages). Just off the main road, Bang Rak Market’s food stalls make for a great snack stop before you venture past the aforementioned State Tower (a 68-ﬂoor neo-classical behemoth home to one of the world’s highest open-air restaurants, Sirocco) and seek out the red-brick Assumption Cathedral. Built by French missionaries, it’s one of the ﬁnest Catholic churches in Thailand. Exit back onto Soi Oriental and you’re in the old European trading quarter, with its classical Venetian-style leftovers, such as the stately East Asiatic Company building, situated right beside the Tha Oriental river pier. If it’s late sightseeing
afternoon and you’re feeling parched, brush past the doormen of the Mandarin Oriental hotel opposite and make for the all-white, colonial throwback that is the Author’s Lounge, easily the grandest afternoon tea haunt in town. After a soothing spot of cha in the same setting that and Ernest Hemingway, head back out and away from the river, turn left and towards OP Place – a white, gabled, circa 1908 department store turned pricey objet d’art centre – on your right. However, if browsing Buddhist relics of dubious origin, while a haughty hi-so madam looks you up and down, isn’t your bag, continue on and turn left. Here, at the end of a narrow lane, you’ll spot the adorably shabby Old House, which used to be Customs House the gateway into Bangkok for foreign merchants long before the rot set in. Currently the Bang Rak ﬁre station, it’s ﬁne to have a nosey around, though a property developer’s sign by the front entrance suggests that may not be the case for much longer. Still some fuel left in your tank? From here, you could continue on to Haroon Village (a tasty little Muslim enclave) or head back onto Charoen Krung and towards the Bangkokian Museum (an early 20th century Thai home frozen in time; p.20). Alternatively, catch a tuk-tuk up to Chinatown (p.21) or River City shopping centre (p.82), where you can browse more antiques, hop on a dinner cruise or catch an express river taxi back to Saphan Taksin pier.
THE GRAND PALACE & WAT PHRA KAEW (map A3, #10) Na Phra Lan Rd, near Sanam Luang| 02222-0094 | daily 8:30am-4pm| B350 includes entry to Vimanmek Mansion | dress respectfully Bangkok’s most beloved temple (and top tourist site) is a fantastical, mini-city sized royal complex enclosed by quaintly crenulated whitewalls. Building began in 1782, the year Bangkok was founded, and every monarch subsequent to King Rama I has expanded or enhanced it. Today, despite being able to visit many sights on its grounds, much of it remains off-limits. The highlight is the Emerald Buddha – Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist relic – and the ornate temple purpose-built to house it, Wat Phra Kaew, where hundreds pay their respects each day. Remember to dress respectfully as a strict no shorts or sleeveless shirts policy is enforced.
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WAT ARUN (map A3, #12) Temple of Dawn | Arun Amarin Rd | 02- 465-5640 | www.watarun.org | 8am- 5pm | B20 Across the river from Wat Po is Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn, one of the city’s most important and beguiling religious sites. Before being moved to Wat Phra Kaew, the Emerald Buddha was temporarily housed here. The fivetowered structure is covered almost entirely in pieces of colourful porcelain and designed as a representation of Mount Mehru, the Khmer home of the gods. The temple is believed to have been named by Rama I on his first sunrise visit, but in contrast with its name, it is best visited at dusk when the setting sun forms a stunning backdrop.
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WAT SAKET (map B3, #7) Chakkraphatdiphong Rd, Sattruphai | 02-233-4561 | 7:30am-5:30pm | B10 Hike up its 318 steps and this wat offers great views of Chinatown to the south and the Old City to the north. The hill is all that is left of the fortifications for a large chedi that Rama III planned to construct on the site that gave way under the weight. Rama V built a smaller chedi on top, which was subsequently expanded to house a Buddhist relic inside.
WAT MAHATHAT (map A3) Tha Prachan, Sanam Luang, Mahratch Rd | 02-221-5999 | 9am-5pm| free This 18th-century centre of the Mahanikai monastic sect is also an important university of Buddhist teaching. On weekends, market stalls are set up on the grounds to complement the daily vendors of traditional medicines, amulets and herbal potions. Courses on Buddhism here are available in English.
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WAT SUTHAT and THE GIANT SWING (map A-B3, #8) Bamrung Muang Rd, Phra Nakhorn, | 02-222-9632 | 9am-5pm | B20 Wat Suthat is one of the most important Buddhist centres in the kingdom and home to some excellent examples of bronze sculpture, Thai and Chinesestyle mural art and a 14th-century Sukhothai era statue. The wat used to be the site for annual harvest ceremonies where brave men would swing up to great heights to catch a bag of gold coins in their teeth.
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temples WAT RATCHANATDA (map B3) Mahachai Rd, Phra Nakhorn | 02-2248807 | 9am-5pm | free This temple, a centre for buying amulets, features the bizarre multitiered Loh Prasat. Collecting amulets is popular in Thailand and many believe these miniature images of Buddha possess spiritual powers, protecting the wearer and bringing good fortune.
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WAT TRAIMIT (map B3, #13) 661 Hua Lamphong, Charoen Krung Rd | 02-623-1226 | 8am-5pm | B20 Housed safely in this unassuming Chinatown temple is the world’s largest solid gold Buddha. Weighing over five tones and standing over three metres high, its worth has been estimated at over US$10 million. Within the compound, the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre is an accessible museum detailing the history of the area and its settlers.
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WAT PO (map A3, #11) Reclining Buddha | Chetuphon/Thai Wang Rd | 02-226-0369 | www. watpho.com | 8am-noon, 1-9pm | B50 The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok. Originating in the 16th century, it houses the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand as well as the greatest number of Buddha images. Wat Po is also the centre for traditional Thai medicine and a learning centre for Thai massage, where you can learn this ancient healing art.
The National Museum
museums THE NATIONAL MUSEUM (map A3) 5 Chao Fa Rd, Sanam Luang| 02-2241333 | www.thailandmuseum.com | Wed-Sun 9am-4pm | B200 Previously a palace during the reign of Rama V, the National Museum features extensive displays of Thai artefacts from the main historical periods, encompassing the Lanna, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai kingdoms up to the present day. Thai culture is well documented in sections on dance, music and drama. The first example of Thai literature and the Thai alphabet, inscribed by King Ramkhamhaeng on a black stone during the Sukhothai period, is also on display. Free English tours are given on Wednesdays (about Buddhism) and Thursdays (on art/culture) which start at 9:30am. Photography is not allowed inside the museum galleries.
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MUSEUM OF SIAM (map A3) 4 Samachai Rd., Pra Nakorn | 02622-2599 | www.ndmi.or.th | Tue-Sun 10am-6pm | free A truncated history of Thailand unfurls through this down-with-thekids discovery museum, taking in prehistoric Suvarnabhumi, the foundation of Ayutthaya and the country’s modernisation. Design company Story! Inc delivered the content and conceptual design, replacing the usual ‘don’t touch’ signs and turgid text with pop graphics and interactive gizmos galore. Among the many edutaining activities, highlights include dressing up as a 20th century nobleman, mapping out the borders of your own Siam using a vibrant touch screen and firing cannonballs at Burmese war-elephants. Tellingly, the place teems with the usually museum-shy – Thai teenagers. Afterwards, enjoy the polished teak floors, open-sided corridors and elegant Renaissance stylings of this gorgeously 20
restored former government building, designed in the 1920s by Thailand’s best-loved resident Italian architect, Mario Tamagno.
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ROYAL BARGE MUSEUM (map A3) 80/1 Rim Khlong Bangkok Noi,Arun Amarin Rd,Thonburi | 02-424-0004 | 9am5pm | B100 (photo B100, video B200) This collection of royal barges, some of which are up to 50 metres long, is housed on the Thonburi side of the river in a series of elaborate sheds near the Pinklao Bridge. The barges are best seen in action during rare ceremonial processions on the Chao Phraya where the colourful crews can number up to 64, including rowers, umbrella holders, navigators and various musicians. Beautifully and ornately decorated, these magnificent long craft were completely renovated and restored to their former glory by the present King, who also commissioned the newest boat for his golden jubilee in 1996.
BANGKOKIAN MUSEUM (map B3-4) 273 Charoen Krung Soi 43 | 02-2337027| www.bma.go.th/bmaeng/bangrak | Sat&Sun 10am-5pm | free Bangrak is one of the most traditional districts of the city, bustling with traffic and markets. Smack in the middle of it, find this oasis of four traditional Thai houses, one of them lovingly converted into a private museum by the compound’s charming owner, Ms. Waraporn Surawadee. She decided to dedicate the place to the memory of her family and bygone daily life of Bangkok everymen – and open it to the public. While visitors shouldn’t expect breathtaking revelations here; the displays can nevertheless be surprisingly fascinating. They include antiques, traditional household utensils and items used in ceremonies. The real highlight is the owner herself who is willing to give you a highly personalised tour (if you call ahead), filled with anecdotes about a city long since vanished.
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Museum of Siam
n the streets of Chinatown this month, thousands of Bangkok’s Sino-Thais will see in and celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. There’ll be dragon dances, feasting, and, perhaps most importantly, time set aside to pay respect to their ancestors, those grittily determined emigrants who left mainland China centuries ago to forge better lives. For most of them, the story of how their forefathers ﬂed here on creaky junk ships and rose to become an afﬂuent and fully integrated force in Thai society is likely familiar, having been drip-fed to them over the years by their elders. But for the rest of us, the Chinatown Heritage Centre is the next best thing, presenting an expurgated history of Bangkok’s Chinese community and their bustling focal point, Yaowarat. Located beneath Chinatown’s Wat Traimit, an imposing marble temple that itself is worth visiting, as it contains a solid gold Buddha weighing 5.5 tons, it begins by tackling the early history of the Chinese community in late 18th century Siam. Panels explain how Southern Chinese – Hokkien, Teochew and Hainanese mostly – arrived on junk ships during the Qing Dynasty to escape destitution and famine, and how a labour-hungry Rattanakosin Kingdom was only too happy to let them work as coolies, traders or canal diggers. Other interesting tidbits include the story of how King Rama I, on founding Modern Bangkok in 1782, moved the original Teochew
YAOWARAT CHINATOWN HERITAGE CENTRE community south from their spot in the Old City to Sampheng: the dirt lane that served as the proto-Chinatown (and is today known as Soi Wanit 1). Engagingly, the museum also evokes what it must have been like to arrive in this fertile yet strange new land. A mock-up of the hold of a leaking junk-ship, complete with stacked shelves and a thunder storm crashing overhead, segues into a model Sampheng market replete with narrow alleys, touting vendors and stores peddling everything from porcelain to rice gruel. Next up, the museum traces developments from the reigns of King Rama IV up to the current King. These include the advent of Western-style steamships (which undermined trade with China, but also heralded a new wave of millions of Chinese immigrants via routes from Shantou and Hainan), Sampheng’s overspill onto newly built Yaowarat Road, and successes in the rice trade and other industries. Another compelling section is the room featuring scale model of Yaowarat during its Golden Age, complete with rows of merchant buildings and an electric tram line down its centre. Little plagues beside it impart little factoids about everyday life in the early 20th century: how the sightseeing
rich used to eat at drive-in restaurants at Ratchawong intersection, for instance, and people ﬂock here to wow at the city’s tallest structure, the Kao Chan (9 Storey) Building. There is also a room commemorating historic Sino-Thai diplomatic relations and, better still, a zone celebrating late ﬁgureheads. These pillars of the Thai-Chinese community include Phra Sri Songyot, a vegetable farmer who went on to own Sampheng Market, and Yi Guangyan, an illiterate Chinese orphan who worked his way up from coolie to business tycoon to ultimately become the leader of the ThaiChinese Chamber of Commerce. Embodying the wider, rags-toriches Sino-Thai narrative that gave rise to the Chinatown of today, their stories are among the most interesting details in this entertaining and accessible museum.
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WHERE 661 Mittaphap ThaiChina Road, just off Charoenkrung Road, 02-225-9775 MRT Hualumphong OPEN Tues-Sun 8am-4:30pm PRICE B100 or B140 (including visit to see the Golden Buddha) june 2011
historic homes JIM THOMPSON’S HOUSE (map C3, #16) 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | BTS National Stadium | 02-216-7368 | www.jimthompsonhouse.com | daily 9am-5pm | B100 (B50 students) The home of Jim Thompson, the American businessman l a r g e l y responsible for the global popularity of Thai silk, is a must see. In a sun-dappled tropical garden beside a pungent canal, six traditional teak houses brim with the art and antiques he rescued from around Asia: from limestone Buddha torsos to a cat-shaped porcelain bedpan. Regular group tours led by silk-clad female guides introduce you to these exquisite treasures and the life of the man himself. There’s also a shop selling his trademark designs, an art gallery and a café.
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M.R. KUKRIT’S HOUSE (map C4,#20) 19 Soi Phra Pinit, Sathorn Rd | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-286-8185 | Sat, Sun & Holidays 10am – 5pm, weekdays by appt. only | B50 (B20 kids) Kukrit Pramoj was one of Thailand’s most-loved statesmen of the 20th century. A natural all-rounder, he was a poet, a writer and even served as prime minister in the 1970s. His peaceful abode with its lovely gardens, now on show to the public and off the tourist trail is a terrific example of traditional Thai architecture.
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VIMANMEK MANSION (map B2,#1) 139/2 Ratchawithi Rd, Dusit | 02-2811569 | daily 9am-4pm | B100 The world’s largest teakwood building was originally built on the island of Koh Si Chang, in 1868, and then moved, piece by piece, to Bangkok for use
by King Rama V. Its 81 rooms, spread over three floors, overlook a beautiful garden. Inside, many of his acquisitions from international trips are on display, including possibly the first bathtub in the kingdom, antique photographs and fine porcelain. Regular tours in English are held throughout the day.
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WANG SUAN PAKKARD (map C3, #15) Si Ayutthaya Rd, Ratchathewi | BTS Phaya Thai | 02-245-4934 | www. suanpakkad.com | 9am – 4pm | B100 A former market garden that was converted into a residence and garden by Princess Chumbot. Consisting of five reconstructed Thai wooden houses, Wang Suan Pakkard pays testament to her dedication to collecting Thai artefacts and antiques. Of note are the examples of Buddhist and Hindu art, the ceramics from old Ban Chiang and the delightful lacquer pavilion depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
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SHRINES Apart from all the Buddhist temples, Bangkok is also studded with small shrines dedicated to Hindu deities, Animist spirits and even errant spooks. ERAWAN SHRINE (map C3, #17) Ratchadamri Rd, near Grand Hyatt Erawan | 02-252-8754 | 6:30am10:30pm | BTS Chit Lom The swarming shrine to the Hindu creation god Brahma and his elephant Erawan is filled with worshippers lighting incense, buying lottery tickets and watching the traditional dancing group, which performs for a nominal fee. Fancy making an offering? Buy a set from the surrounding stalls, and starting with your back to the main 22
entrance walk around it clockwise, offering 3 incense sticks, a candle, garland and a piece of gold leaf to each of the four faces.
TRIMURTI SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd If your love life is ailing then this shrine is for you: at 9.30pm each Thursday it’s rumoured that Lord Trimurti descends from the heavens to answer prayers of the heart. To maximise your chances, offer nine red incense sticks, red candles, red roses and fruit.
พระตรีมูรติ หนาหางอิเซตัน ศูนยการคาเซนทรัลเวิลด sightseeing
GANESHA SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd Quite possibly Thailand and the world’s most recognisable Hindu deity due to its distinctive appearance, a silent prayer in front of this potbellied gold elephant – the son of Shiva and Parvati – is said to help get the creative juices flowing, as well as protect you from harm. Aside from marigold garlands, Ganesha is thought to be partial to bananas, ripe mango and sticky rice-flour Thai desserts, so make sure you prepare the correct foodstuffs accordingly.
พระพิฆเนศวร หนาหางอิเซตัน ศูนยการคาเซนทรัลเวิลด
KIDS IN THE CITY
Negotiating Bangkok with kids needn’t be the nightmare many parents presume. The single biggest plus point is that Thais absolutely adore children, meaning there are always people around ready to help out. Skytrain guards will drop what they’re doing to help you haul that stroller down the stairs and waitresses will gladly whisk junior off for a tour of the kitchens while you enjoy a coffee. Most of the big shopping malls (see p.82) have play areas set aside for kids, with two of the best being Kiddy Land, which has slides, a ball pit and a balloon room on the 6th floor of CentralWorld; Jamboree on the 3rd floor of Emporium; and the huge indoor playground Funarium located off Sukhumvit. Plus, of course, most of the shopping malls have cinemas and enough ice-cream stores to sate a homesick Inuit. There are also a fair few attractions that appeal to wee ones. The city’s parks (see below) offer a chance to let off steam, especially Rot Fai Park near Chatuchak Weekend Market (p.84), where you can rent bicycles; and Dusit Zoo is a sprawling, chaotic afternoon’s worth of fun. Although expensive, Siam Ocean World is a great way to entertain the kids while you shop at Paragon department store. If you’re sticking around town for a while, Bangkok Dolphins (www.bangkokdolphins.com) offer swimming classes from three months old.
FLORA LUMPHINI PARK (map C4) Entrances on Rama IV Rd, Sarasin Rd, Witthayu Rd and Ratchadamri Rd | free Want shades of green instead of drab slabs of grey? For most in the city Lumpini Park, the inner city’s largest green lung, is the solution. Busy as soon as the sun rises and again around sunset, Bangkokians of every ilk take advantage of the relative cool and quiet to practice Tai Chi, do aerobics, hold hands or jog around the picturesque lakes. Other activities include taking a pedal boat out onto the water for a quick spin. The most reliable entrance is the one near Silom at the corner of Rama IV Road and Ratchadamri Road, at the front of which a statue of King Rama VI stands sentinel.
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RAMA IX ROYAL PARK (off map) Sukhumvit 103 Rd, behind Seri Center, Pravet 02-328-1972, 02-328-1395 | 5:30am-7pm | B10 This 200-acre park features a small museum dedicated to the king, set amongst pleasant botanical gardens with lots of soothing water features.
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JATUJAK & QUEEN SIRIKIT PARKS (map C-D1) 820 Phahonyothin Rd, Ladyao Subdistrict, Chatuchak | 02-272-4358~9 | 5am-6:30pm | free These two parks situated not far from the mayhem of the weekend market offer some respite. Chatuchak Park hosts some art exhibits and a collection of old railway engines and ancient automobiles. Nearby, Queen Sirikit Park has a pretty botanical garden.
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FAUNA DUSIT ZOO (map B2) 71 Rama V Rd, opp. Chitralada Palace, Dusit | 02-281-2000 | 8am-6pm | adults B100, kids B50 The city’s main zoo, situated to the north of Rattanakosin, is home to a large selection of mammals, reptiles and other animals. Spread over a large park, there’s also a lake to paddle around.
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QUEEN SAOVABHA MEMORIAL INSTITUTE (Snake Farm) (map C4, #18) 1871 Rama IV Rd, Thai Red Cross, Henri Dunant | 02-252-0161~4 ext.120 | Mon-Fri sightseeing
parks & zoos FUNARIUM (map D4) 111/1 Sukhumvit 26 | 02-6656555 | www.funarium.co.th | 8:30am-8:30pm | kids: B180/300; adults B90 Basically 2,000sqm of slides, ball pits, trampolines, obstacle courses, cycling tracks and basketball courts, with a decent on-site café for lunch and a small branch of Mothercare.
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8:30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am – noon (Shows at 11am & 2:30pm) | B200 A centre for developing antidotes to poisonous snake bites, this research facility is also open to the public. The idea behind this is to educate visitors about the dangers of poisonous snakes in Thailand and what to do with the victim of a snake bite. There’s an informative slide show followed by a display of live venom extraction from some of the deadliest serpents in the kingdom.
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SIAM OCEAN WORLD (map C3) B1F Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Rd | 02-687-2001 | www.siamoceanworld. com | 10am-7pm | B650/850 Such a pity that this tourist attraction – reputed to be the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia – operates a dual pricing policy. If you’re Thai you pay B350; if you’re not you pay B850. This irritating iniquity aside, there’s certainly fun to be had inside, with 8m-high tanks, glass-tunnel walk-throughs and shark-feeding shows – although a ride on a glass-bottom boat to see sharks and rays costs extra and is wholly unremarkable. Reckon on an hour to get round the whole thing.
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Until Sep 30 Stay Valued Package
Until Oct 31 Life is Good
Also known as the Ghost Festvial, every year locals wear large colourful masks made from rice husks or coconut leaves, hats made of rice steamers and a decorative robe. The Loei Palace Hotel’s Phii Ta Khon Special Package includes 2-nights accommodation in a Superior Room, including breakfast for 2 persons, a roundtrip transfer to Dansai District and 1-day sightseeing tour to experience Phi Ta Khon Festival. Rates start from B3,499 net per 2 nights for 2 persons. 04-281-5668; oamhotels.com/loeipalace
Holiday Inn Pattaya presents the ‘Stay Valued’ package for a refreshing vacation escape for the whole family. Make your reservation in advance at price starting from B3,600++ (per room per night) for a package with breakfast for 2, food and beverage credit of B1,000 per room/day and a 20% discount on Tea Tree Spa’s a la carte menu. All of Holiday Inn Pattaya’s smart guestrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies with enchanting sea views, while children love their Kid Suites with their own separate bedroom and Sony PlayStation. Make it a holiday to remember, and ‘Stay Valued’. 03-872-5555, holidayinn.com/pattaya email@example.com
A great vacation can be boiled down to a few simple essentials: superb service, generous accommodation, great food, and a private pier access to a stylishly shady pool (if you’re lucky), Hua Hin’s, most extensive wine list, and, most important of all, an ambiance that gently eases every iota of relaxation from your body, mind and spirit. Enjoy them all and more at Let’s Sea Alfresco Resort, a tiny slice of paradise, nothing more, and nothing less. The new ‘Life is Good’ package includes accommodation with gourmet breakfast at an unbeatable nightly rate start from just B3,999++ valid until October 31, 2011. 032-536-888; letssea.com
Until Oct 31 Thai Residence Rate
Until Dec 25 Be My Hotel
Ongoing New Executive Wing
hotel deals Jul 1-3 Phii Ta Khon Package
JW Marriott Phuket introduces you to a realm of indescribable beauty, flawless service and thoughtful touches. Daydream by spectacular pools or venture. JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa is now offering an easy and affordable deal for you to indulge yourself at this award winning resort. Getaway from it all at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa with ‘Thai Residence Rate’ of B3,999 per night net inclusive of breakfast for 2 persons, service charge and applicable gov’t tax, from now until October 31. 02-656-7707, bookmarriott@ marriotthotels.com; marriott.com
Dune Hua Hin Hotel invites family or friends in a group of 10 to grab this rare opportunity to relax from city life. Take possession of this small and cozy hotel with the ‘Be My Hotel’ package from now until December 25, 2011. Enjoy an unforgettable day and night in a homely atmosphere with your ‘gang’ or family at the exclusive Dune Hua Hin Hotel. The special price to book all the hotel’s five rooms – 2 Superior rooms, 2 Deluxe rooms and 1 Suite with a private pool – is just B24,000 on weekdays and B26,000 on weekends (per night rate). 032-515-051, dunehuahin.com
The Nova Platinum Hotel in Pattaya recently opened its brand new Executive Wing, which offers guests beautifully furnished rooms featuring fine beddings, balcony, spacious bathroom with walk-in rain shower and separate bathtub, flat screen TV, DVD player, free Wi-Fi and an array of modern facilities. Guests are invited to enjoy this oasis located in the middle of Pattaya surrounded by tropical gardens. Opening specials start at B3,090 net per night for 2 persons including breakfast. Quote ‘BKK1010511’ when booking to receive an extra discount. 03-871-1345; oamhotels.com
SAILING The Centara Grand Beach Resort is the HQ for the 2011 installment of Koh Samui’s Sawadee.com Regatta from May 30June 4. As usual you’ll be able to watch the ‘on-water’ action up close on spectator boats (B1,500 including lunch and soft drinks), and then party the night away at the legendary ‘off-water’ parties afterwards. Race entry forms, ticketing details and an event schedule are all at www.samuiregatta.com.
GOLF Lovers of the game should swing by Northern Thailand this month. During June’s Chiang Mai Golf Festival 2011 (053-249 604 , www. chiangmaigolffestival) you can play all the major courses in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lampun for only B800. There’ll also be golf tournaments every Saturday and Sunday. The price, B,1000, includes green fees, gift give-away, dinner and a lucky draw. Much closer to Bangkok, the Pattaya Tee off Cup, June 5-12, will be a weeklong competition featuring rounds at six of the area’s best courses. Green fees, seven nights’ accommodation (at the Sabai Empress hotel), hotel transfers, daily breakfast and more golf-related goodies are included in the B30,000 price. Get more details at www.thaiteeoffservice.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN BLOOM Pinkish-purple Siam Tulips, or Dok Krachiao, will brighten up the northeast’s Chaiyaphum province until the end of August. These much admired wild blooms are most easily spotted in the meadows of Pa Hin Ngam (Forest of Beautiful Rock) National Park (044-890 105, entry fee for foreigners B100). www.bangkok101.com
upcountry now FESTIVALS The northeast, Isan, is one of the country’s most dynamic and colourful but little understood regions. The Isan Food & Wine Festival Masterclass, June 10-12, will attempt to redress this with a weekend of food from the region, plus cooking demonstrations and workshops hosted by sage Isanophiles like Very Thai author Philip Cornwell Smith and the executive chef of Jim Thompson’s, Chokchai Saensimon. There’ll also be vineyard tours and tastings. Packages, which include accommodation at the host resort, Khao Yai’s The Greenery, start from B5,550. www.isanfoodfestival.com. Speaking of Isan, one of its strangest, most exuberant pagan festivals, Phi Ta Khon, takes place in Loei’s Dansai Village from July 1-3. See p.26 for more.
LIVE MUSIC The three-day Hua Hin Jazz Festival 2011 will bring jazz sessions fronted by local and foreign hepcats to the seaside resort town’s Phonkingphet Park and beach June 10-12. The lineup is still a mystery, but www.jazzfestivalhuahin. com will spill the beans when it’s announced. Shows usually run 3pm-midnight; free entry. Dashing Korean teenyboppers Super Junior M will headline a June 25 concert up in Chiang Mai organised by multimedia anti-trafﬁcking campaigners MTV Exit. Held at Chiang Mai’s 700th Anniversary Stadium, the free event will also feature Thai artists and is expected to mobilize over 20,000 local music fans in their ﬁght against human slavery. More at www. mtvexit.org.
festival Words & photos Dave Stamboulis
JULY 1-3: PHI TA KHON GHOST FESTIVAL
n front of the noodle stand I have been eating in, a man in a ghost mask wielding a huge colored phallus teasingly prods a young woman, who responds in turn by slapping him on the rump. Next to me, a bespectacled fellow with serpent tattoos on either forearm says “Welcome to Thai Mardi Gras.” I’m in the Isaan village of Dan Sai, which is the Thai equivalent to Podunk, Iowa, or as the Aussies would say, “back of Bourke.” Dan Sai is a tiny town in northeastern Loei province consisting of one main street fronted by a string of nondescript shops, a few restaurants, and a guesthouse that more resembles a garage. For 362 days a year, even lost tourists don’t show up here. Yet the other three days of the year, Dan Sai plays host to one of Thailand’s most bizarre and colourful festivals, the wacky Phi Ta Khon (July 1-3), giving locals and visitors alike one huge opportunity to party and let their hair down before the rains come. Phi Ta Khon, which can be translated as “ghosts with human eyes,” takes its origins from Buddhist and animist rituals. On one side, there are connections with the Buddhist Bun Phra Wet festival, a religious
ceremony of the fourth lunar month in which people congregate to listen to recitations of Buddhist sermons in hopes of making merit for the next rebirth. Phi Ta Khon also follows Buddhist legend, reenacting the scenes whereby groups of spirits came out to greet the Buddha-to-be upon his return home in his final incarnation. Yet the Dan Sai folks have added the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, which sightseeing
falls in the sixth lunar month, to the programme. During this festival which is a rain and fertility rite, bamboo rockets are fired into the skies in the hopes the heavens will respond in kind for the coming farming season. Additionally, as befitting any good fertility festival, Dan Sai’s version features colourfully dressed young men (and women) using wooden phalli and swords to prod and tease june 2011
each other as well as bystanders at every opportunity. Throw in mor lum Isaan country music, grilled chicken and som tum vendors, and lao khao (local moonshine), and you have the recipe for one fun-filled rump shaking weekend in true vintage Thai style. Though it begins with a monk invocation ritual before moving on to a bai sii (sacred thread) ceremony at the village shaman’s house, the first day of the festival is most memorable for the extremely boisterous parade that makes its way to the town’s main temple. In the other direction, from the District Office, come hundreds of people dressed in costumes made from rags and various pieces of cloth, as well as masks made from huat (sticky rice containers) with elaborate expressions, along with cowbells, tin cans, and other noisemakers tied around the waist to keep the spirits at bay. Almost everyone carries a palad kid (phallus icon), which gets waved, fondled, thrust, and prodded into everyone’s face, eliciting laughter, naughty jokes, and lots of flirting banter from all involved. The parade carries on through the next day, along with traditional dancing and music, mask making clinics, and dance contests. On the 28
second afternoon, everyone heads for Wat Phon Chai, where the dancing and merrymaking reach a frenzied crescendo. The village shaman, Jao Por Guan, arrives at the temple atop a bamboo rocket float borne by dozens of villagers, then the paganism reaches its wild climax, with bamboo rockets fired into the air in hope the skies will open up with rain. Devoted to Buddhist sermons and purifying rituals, the third day of Phi Ta Khon is sombre and quiet, mainly because by this point, a
massive hangover has fallen over Dan Sai. At this point, the streets get swept, the souvenir and food stalls close down, the city folk go home, and Dan Sai returns to its deserted former self – a ghost town. WHAT TO DO When Phi Ta Khon (and the debilitating moonshine hangover) is over, you’ll find that Dan Sai district – and Loei province at large – boasts a few points of interest to keep you in situ for a few days longer. Here, the highlights.
n National Parks Loei’s handful of rugged national reserves feature undulating mountains carpeted in deciduous or evergreen forest, high-altitude plateaus, and cool (for Thailand) weather. Climbing to the flat-top, 1,325m above sea level summit of the most famous – Phu Kradung National Park – is a rite of passage for many Thais; but unfortunately it’s closed from June to September (the rainy season) due to a high risk of flash floods. Others worth a visit include Phu Ruea National Park (38km from Dansai district, on Highway 203), which in addition to a 30m high waterfall, rock gardens and myriad caves boasts Pha Lon Nai, a cliff famous for watching the sun rise over a swirling sea of morning fog. To book a bungalow or campsite plot, see thaiforestbooking.com n Huai Nam Man Reservoir Besides spectacular views of an evergreen forest and scenic mountains, this earth-filled reservoir offers plenty of things to do – trekking, swimming, or just dining and chilling in the middle of the lake on a bamboo raft. Drive along the Loei to Phu Ruea Road from Loei city centre for 15km, then turn right at the reservoir sign and proceed for another 5km.
n Chateau de Loei Located on the slopes of Phu Ruea National Park, only about 40km from Dan Sai, Chateau de Loei is Thailand’s largest winery. Tour passes are available at the shop. chateaudeloei.com n Phra That Si Song Rak The most impressive of Loei’s many temples is this large Lao-style pagoda built by Laotians and Thai Kings in 1560 as a symbol of friendship between the ancient kingdoms of Ayutthaya and Si Sattana Khanabut (Vientiane). Situated on the banks of the Man River, it houses impressive relics of Lord Buddha. To get there, take Highway 203 and turn right to Highway 2013 at the 66km marker, and proceed for another 17km.
n Phunacome Resort A charmingly furnished resort built in a contemporary style consistent with a luxurious north-eastern Thai home. Located in the midst of breathtaking lush mountain ranges with peaks often shrouded in fog, it too is in Dan Sai district. 461 Moo 3 Ban Doen, Dan Sai, Loei, 042-892-005; phunacomeresort.com B4,200-B5,800
WHERE TO STAY n Phu Pha Nam Resort Stay in tropical teakwood rooms at an elevation of 620m above sea level and, when not out exploring, enjoy the swimming pool, spa and bounteous recreational facilities. It’s close to Dan Sai village, home of the Phi Ta Khon festival. 252 Moo 1, Koakngam, Amphur Dan Sai, Loei, 042-078-078; phuphanamresort.com B2,900-B3,300.
GETTING THERE The nearest hub to Dan Sai is Loei, accessible by bus from Bangkok’s northern bus station. Alternatively, fly or take the train to Udon Thani and catch the bus to Loei (3 hours). From Loei, it’s a 1.5 hour bus ride to Dan Sai, with 4-5 buses to Dan Sai daily.
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over the border
PENANG 5 Reasons to Go Now “B
y George, it’s pretty,” Captain Francis Light, the British founder of Penang, probably didn’t say upon sighting the island. The modern state that exists today was then not much more than a sparselypopulated, jungle-covered isle ripe with opportunity. In the 225 years since he established the city of George Town, Penang has undergone a remarkable transformation – from remote tropical outpost, to commercial jewel of the British Empire, to a global centre of IT and tourism. In 2008, the historic centre of George Town by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Then, following state elections, new Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was voted in. In the three years since he took ofﬁce, the local government has embarked on a major gentriﬁcation drive; restoring the shophouses of George Town, cleaning up the coast, sprucing up major attractions, and starting major infrastructure improvments. It all means there’s never been a better time to visit Penang – as Francis Light would no doubt be glad to hear. 30
Tourism Malaysia, E&O, Simon Ostheimer
1. Walk Around George Town Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, historic George Town is home to a remarkable assemblage of architecture, with Western and Oriental influences that reflect its past as an important trading outpost in the British Empire. To mark its new-found fame, the government has embarked on a major gentrification drive: cleaning the streets, sprucing up the sidewalks, and planting trees as part of the Cleaner Greener Penang initiative by the State Government; renovating religious buildings such as the 180-year-old Toi Shan Association, a Chinese ancestral hall and temple in the city’s Little India, and encouraging the renovation of derilict shophouses as cafes, restaurants, bars, galleries, and boutique hotels. 2. Head Up Penang Hill Where-ever they went in the Far East, the British always sought a way to escape the constant heat, whether it was sipping on gin and tonics to keep away mosquitoes, or
Penang Hill Train
building ‘hill stations’ on the highest land they could find. The colonial occupiers built a series of bungalows atop Penang Hill, actually a collection of peaks that rise in the centre of the island. Following Malaysian independence in 1957, the hill station gradually lost its lustre for locals, though the distinctive red and white funicular railway that takes you the 830m to the top remained a popular, if ageing, tourist attraction. Now, following one year of renovation, an improved train is in place that has cut travel time in half, with a new visitor’s centre, restaurants, and boutique hotel planned for the mountaintop. 3. Attend the George Town Festival Only in its second year, this annual festival is a month-long celebration of the inscription of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July, 2008. Co-ordinated by the George Town World Heritage Office, it incorporates theatre, music, Francis Light dance, film, art, opera, food, fashion, and photography elements. The inaugural edition included an exhibition on the governors of Penang, from Captain Francis Light in 1786 to the current holder, TYT Tun (Dr) Abdul Rahman Abbas; and the world premiere of The Blue House, a Malaysian produced film with a murder mystery plot that was shot at the island’s famed Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion. While it’s still early years, the festival promises to put the city on the cultural map. See www. georgetownfestival.com for details on the 2011 edition.
part of the Straits Collection boutique hotel. Occupying a former shophouse and coffee factory, it serves Italian and and Malaysian blends side by side, as well as a tasty line of cakes. Elsewhere there’s Soul Kitchen (102 Lebuh Muntri, 60/4-261-3118), run by Malaysian-German couple Michelle Yim and Tonio Neuhaus, who spent many years in Berlin before being drawn back to Penang. This relaxed spot serves home-style Italian food. Also worth a visit are Amelie (6 Armenian Street, next to Cheah Kongsi, 60/12496-7838) an eclectically Teh Tarik designed cafe where almost everything is recycled; and Sri Malaya (1 Rope Walk, 60/4-2613763) run by Ocean Teh, a bright yellow-fronted heritage shophouse with a menu full of Malaysian and Western favourites. 5. A Day with E&O The historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel (http://e-o-hotel. com), or E&O, is Penang’s grandest place to stay. Opened in 1885, it is one of Asia’s legendary properties, with the same founders as Singapore’s Raffles. Closed in the 1990s following a long decline in standards, it re-opened following renovation in 2001, and is now adding a 15 storey extension that will be finished in 2012. If you’re staying here, it makes a great place from which to explore historic George Town, but even you don’t check in, it’s your starting point for a day with the E&O company. First, stop by for breakfast by the pool. Once you’re done, board the newly introduced water taxi service that sails you up the east coast to the E&O’s Straits Quay complex (www. straitsquay.com), a lifestyle mall built in colonial style. Do a little shopping, including at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre & School of Hard Knocks, which sells the famous Malaysian pewter, then sit down for dinner. Finally, board the water taxi again and head around the northeast corner of the island, before arriving at the Lone Pine on Batu Ferringhi (www.lonepinehotel.com) for drinks and dinner by the sandy shore. Built in 1948, it was recently refubished, and now makes the perfect place to end a day with E&O.
4. Chill at a Cafe All across George Town, a new breed of cafes are opening up. Co-existing alongside the traditional kopi tiams (coffee shops), they celebrate the best of local tradition while introducing a little Western flavour. One of the first to open was Kope Cine (55 Stewart Lane, 60/4-263-7299; www. straitscollection.com.my), a charming corner cafe that is www.bangkok101.com
Lone Pine Hotel
A rRtT sS
Benya Hegenbarth was born in Bangkok 1979, to a German father and Thai mother. At a young age he left Thailand to attend boarding school in England, where his housemaster’s photography books sparked a passion for the medium How would you describe your portfolio and oeuvre to date? In terms of aesthetics I feel there is a brooding stillness in my work, with reﬂections of melancholy and nostalgia. The light and colours are soothing and soft, which makes some of the pieces look like paintings. Some people say my work has a northern European aesthetic, which I admit I am inﬂuenced by. Conceptually many of my landscapes depict conﬂict between manmade objects and nature. The clash is seen when manmade objects abandoned by their creators are slowly but steadily reclaimed by nature. It’s remarkable how alien manmade objects can appear when placed in a natural environment.
Can you explain the essence of the Disunion series on view at H Gallery? Disunion has two essential facets. The ﬁrst being the concept I described about the rupture between manmade What gets your shutter clicking? It is the unforeseen that keeps my shutter clicking, as I take objects and the natural environment. Secondly Disunion the most pictures in places I have never been to before. I was created during a confusing period in my life when I was experiencing a clash of interests have a habit of putting myself in places or within me. I was leaving behind New York situations that are unfamiliar to me, which to start a new life in Bangkok, and at the does not always mean travelling to far away “I feel I am in time was not so sure if I was making the places but could just be taking a stroll in between the right decision. Disunion visually translates a part of Bangkok I am not familiar with. tourist and the that transitional period when I was local because the feeling lonely, nostalgic and uncertain. Does being biracial and bicultural culture is not affect your outlook? alien to me nor is In what way do you hope visitors I think it does because I see things differently. it familiar” will respond to the exhibition? People fully immersed in their culture often I want to expose viewers to landscapes take for granted the visual stimuli they have that are not so commonly seen here. I want around them because they consider it the norm. A tourist on the other hand sees too much of this them to be able to see the poetry in the banal. I also hope visual stimuli and is overwhelmed by it. I feel I am in between viewers will sense the particular mood these images hold. the tourist and the local because the culture is not alien to On a lighter note, the chilly looking pictures should send me nor is it totally familiar. With this outlook in mind I think out a refreshing sense of cold for the hot month of June. one can make ﬁned tuned observations that can translate What photographers are you interested in? into interesting work. I have a long list of photographers I admire, but I recently discovered the work of American photographer Alec Soth. I Did living in New York contribute to can relate to his aesthetics and the subjects he chooses, and your photographic approach? Yes, it deﬁnitely did. My New York years were the years feel he has such sensitivity for capturing the essence of a place that shaped me as a photographer. Working as an assistant and its people. His bodies of work entitled ‘Sleeping by the to many different photographers enabled me to see Mississipi’ and ‘Niagara’ caught my attention. He represents what was possible with this craft and how I could apply a progression from great American photographers such it to my own work. Being exposed to different styles of as Diane Arbus, Walker Evans and Steven Shore, who also work deﬁned what I liked and did not like aesthetically. greatly interest me. Steven Pettifor At the time I felt I was on a crash course in professional photography.The learning curve was very steep; what was just Disunion runs June 2-30 at H Gallery, for more details see learned had to be applied a few minutes later. I was constantly www.hgallerybkk.com. For more information on the artist, being put to the test and this was good training for me. Benya Hegenbarth, see www.benyahegenbarth.com
Enjoy these selected highlights from the current issue of the Bangkok Art Map. BAM is a free-folding city map containing critical insights into Thailand’s burgeoning arts scene
Until Jun 16 LONELY LAND Pikture Gallery, 47/1 Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02-662-8359; thepikturegallery.com. Tue-Sun 10am-7pm. BTS Thonglor For her first ever solo exhibition, emerging photojournalist Cattleya Jaruthavee presents images that tread the familiar territory of rural to urban migration in Thailand. A subject much explored by various artists over the last decade, Cattleya, who is of mixed Thai-British parentage, explores the subject of socio-economic disparities of Isaan from both a local and international perspective.
Until Jun 27 HAVE WE FORGOT? Ardel’s Third Place,The Third Place, Thonglor Soi 10, 02-422-2092, 084-772-2887, ardelgallery.com. Daily10am-8.30pm. BTS Thonglor In his first solo exhibition, Thai photographer Charit Pusiri’s playful studio photos ponder Thai identity in the 21st century. The technically polished compositions are overt in their dichotomous plays on stereotypical Thai traits and international cultural imports. Charit’s youthful exuberance is apparent in the issue of globalisation’s affects upon local culture.
Until Jun 28 THE 3RD ART THESIS EXHIBITION Queen’s Gallery, 101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, 02-281-5360; queengallery.org.Thu-Tue 10am-7pm With a new crop of art school graduates hoping to be noticed and gain a foothold on the path to artistic recognition, graduate exhibitions provide a useful barometer of the creative pulse of Thailand’s next generation. The Queen’s Gallery presentation is one of the largest such displays, showcasing some 92 artworks from 26 institutions nationwide.
Until Jul 18 PHENOMENA & PROPHECIES G23, Swuniplex F2-3, Srinakarinwirot University, 114 Sukhumvit Soi 23, 02-649-5000; g23.swu.ac.th. Tue-Sun 11am-7pm. BTS Asok Throughout his career photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom has provided a viewfinder into his own vulgar dystopia – the avaricious and deceptive face of contemporary society. This is a repeat of his solo retrospective exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum last year.
Until Sep 30 RE-READING KHUN CHANG KHUN PHAEN Jim Thompson Art Centre, 6 Kasemsan 2, Rama I Road, 02-216-7368; jimthompsonhouse.com. Daily 9am5pm. BTS National Stadium Having recently been translated into English, the literary classic Khun Chang Khun Paen is brought to life as a multimedia experience of visual and performing art. Artists include Bruce Gunderson, Hem Vejakorn, and Kornkrit Jianpinidnan.
Until Oct 31 FLOATING WTF Gallery, 7 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-662-6246; .wtfbangkok.com. Wed-Sun 3-10pm. BTS Thonglor As part of their first year anniversary celebrations, What The Festival, WTF hosts a sculptural installation by Sutee Kunavichayanont. On the back of his politically charged exhibition Longing for Siam, Inventing Thailand, Sutee constructs life-size fibreglass sculptures of himself meditating. This is definitely one to see at night.
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RAM THAI (Thai traditional dance)
Bangkok’s performing arts scene may not throb like in other cities, but look under the surface and you’ll find it there, beating to its own rhythm. No, there aren’t many plays, stage shows or performance pieces being staged, and sometimes it’s as if mainstream pop and rock acts are the only things that captivate the masses. Still, fans of the performing arts can find diamonds and everybody will appreciate the low ticket prices. For more information on what’s happening, visit these sites for event information: www.thaiticketmajor.com, www.bangkokfestivals.com.
AKSRA THEATRE (map C3) King Power Complex 8/1 Rangnam Rd, Phaya Thai | BTS Victory Monument | 02-677-8888 ext 5678 | Tue-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm&7pm In this spectacular 600-capacity theatre located by the Victory Monument, with an interior lined with wood carvings, experience hypnotic performances by the Aksra Hoon Lakorn Lek troupe. Intricate Thai puppets, given life by puppeteers swathed in black, act out Thai literary epics. This is family entertainment of the refined kind.
โรงละครอักษรา คิงพาวเวอร คอมเพล็กซ ถ.รางน้ำ
PATRAVADI THEATRE (map A3) 69/1 Soi Wat Rakhang, Arun Amarin Rd, Thonburi | 02-412-7287~8 | www.patravaditheatre.com Outside of university art departments, this is one of the few places in Bangkok to watch contemporary performing arts. Its founder, the well-known Patravadi Mejudhon, created not only a theatre, but also an entire arts complex, comprising of classes, residencies and international exchanges. Performers are trained in classical as well as modern traditions: the shows are world-class because of it.
โรงละครภัทราวดี ถ. อรุณอมรินทร
SIAM NIRAMIT (map D2) 19 Tiam Ruammit Rd | 02-649-9222 | www.siamniramit.com A breathtaking, record-breaking extravaganza, the performance here is hailed as 'a showcase of Thailand'. Using hundreds of costumes and amazing special effects, more than 150 local performers journey whirlwindlike through seven centuries of storied Siamese history. Up to 2,000 guests arrive to experience this spectacle nightly. In shor t, it's a spectacular showcase of eye-popping poignancy.
Traditional Thai theatre and dance takes many forms. The most accessible is khon, which depicts scenes from the Ramakien (the classic Thai epic based on the Hindu Ramayana), in graceful dances. Originally reserved for royal occasions, it’s now performed mainly for tourists in five-star hotels or at cultural shows across the city. At the Erawan Shrine (p.22), pay the colourful troupe a couple of hundred baht to see them perform. When visiting Vimanmek Mansion (p.22), don’t miss the performances there. More popular amongst Thais is ligay, a lively blend of comedy, dance and music, often with contemporary subject matter. Due to its improvised nature, non-Thais find it very difficult to follow. Puppet theatre, which nearly died out, has made a comeback at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and Aksra Theatre. It also borrows heavily from the Ramakien (as do most soap operas on Thai TV), substituting human dancers with paper and wire puppets dressed in elaborate costumes. There are regular performances of contemporary theatre in Bangkok, predominantly at the Patravadi Theatre and the Thailand Cultural Centre. Also, though more influenced by Broadway than indigenous dance, don’t miss Bangkok’s gender-bending ladyboy cabarets (p.70).
NATIONAL THEATRE (map A3) 2 Rachini Rd, Sanam Luang | 02-224-1342, 02-225-8457~8 Along with the National Museum, the imposing theatre forms an island of high culture. Classical Thai drama, musicals and music performances – all elaborate affairs, sometimes strange to foreign eyes and ears – are staged on a small side stage and the open-air sala. The season runs from November to May, but you can catch classical Thai dance and music on the last Friday and Saturday nights of each month.
โรงละครแหงชาติ ถ.ราชินี สนามหลวง
CREATIVE & DESIGN CENTRE)
Perhaps the most active players on Bangkok’s arts scene are its cultural centres. These ensure that the scene stays booked with topnotch exhibitions (conventional and experimental) and performances from the world of visual arts, drama, dance, music, fashion, ﬁlm, design, literature and more.The foreign contingent regularly put on events showcasing international talent. Call or check their website to ﬁnd out what’s on.
ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE (map C4)
his hip design learning and resource facility, plonked atop the Emporium shopping mall, aims to stimulate creativity and innovation among young Thai designers. Everyone, however, is free to attend its workshops, talks by prominent international designers and exhibitions. These are particularly good at opening your WHERE 6/F, Emporium, mind and eyes to Sukhumvit 24 (map D4), 02curious international 664-8448, www.tcdc.co.th design concepts; be it BTS Phrom Phong OPEN Vivienne Westwood’s 10:30am-9pm closed Mon always fearlessly nonconformist fashions, or Le Corbusier-inﬂuenced Modern Thai architecture. Don’t miss permanent exhibition, “What is Design?” a look at how 10 countries have interpreted their cultural uniqueness to create 20th century design classics; or a peek at the swish, state-of-the-art library. With over 16,000 rare books, a large selection of multimedia, even a textile centre, this is where the city’s fresh-faced art, fashion, design and ﬁlm students rush to the day before their ﬁnal paper is due – only to end up distracted by the obscure arthouse DVDs and glossy tomes on modern Scandinavian architecture. Fortunately in-centre café Kiosk, with its strong Italian coffee and all-day-brunch, is on hand to keep the Kingdom’s next big things on track.
ดิ เอ็มโพเรียม ชอปปง คอมเพล็กซ สุขุมวิท 24
29 Sathorn Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-670-4200 | 10am6pm close Sun | www.alliance-francaise.or.th
สมาคมฝรั่งเศสกรุงเทพ ถ. สาทรใต
BRITISH COUNCIL (MAP C3)
254 Chulalongkorn Soi 64 Siam Square, Phaya Thai Rd, Pathumwan | BTS Siam | 02-652-5480 ext 108 | www.britishcouncil.or.th
บริติช เคานซิล สยามสแควร
GOETHE INSTITUT (MAP C4)
18/1 Goethe, Sathorn Soi 1 | MRT Lumphini | 02-2870942~4 ext.22 | 8am-6pm | www.goethe.de/
สถาบันเกอเธ 18/1 ซ. เกอเธ สาทร ซ. 1
JAPAN FOUNDATION (MAP D3)
Serm-mit Tower, F10, Sukhumvit Soi 21 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-260-8560~4 | Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-5pm | www.jfbkk.or.th
เจแปน ฟาวนเดชั่น ชั้น 10 อาคารเสริมมิตร สุขุมวิท 21
BANGKOK MUSIC SOCIETY (BMS) 02-617-1880; www.bms.in.th BANGKOK SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 02-223-0871; www.bangkok symphony.net THE BELGIAN CLUB OF THAILAND (BCT) www.belgianclub-th.com
BACC (MAP C3)
WHERE 939 Rama I Road, Pathumwan, 02-214-6630; www.bacc.or.th BTS National Stadium OPEN Tue-Sun 10am-9pm The 11-storey Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) structure is engulfed by neighbouring shopping malls. Best described as The Guggenheim meets a shopping mall, the parabolic white concrete design has an interior defined by a circular atrium accentuating smooth curves around which exhibitions are hung. Potentially an important player in Thailand’s contemporary cultural development, the centre is nurtures artists in a range of creative fields, including theatre, film and design, with the upper levels boasting 3,000sqm of exhibition space. Combine a trip here with a shopping assault at the nearby malls, which it’s linked to via a raised concrete walkway.
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APEX SCALA (retro 1960s) Siam Square Soi 1, Rama 1 Road, 02-251-2861. BTS Siam.
angkok boasts world-class, state-of-the-art movie theatres showing the latest Hollywood and Thai blockbusters. A select few cinemas, notably House and Lido and the city’s cultural centres (p.35), screen less common independent and international ﬁlms. Thai ﬁlms are usually, in downtown Cineplexes at least, shown with English subtitles; foreign ﬁlms with subtitles in Thai. Seats are reasonably priced at around B100-180.The best place to check screening times is on the daily-updated www.movieseer.com. Please stand while the king's anthem is Thai Movies Noy Thrupkaew played in respect to Thailand’s Judging from the city’s movie posters, Bangkok beloved visitors might assume that Thai ﬁlmic fare is limited monarch.
to elephantine historical epics, maggoty horror ﬂicks and the offerings of culture-colonising Hollywood. But sandwiched in-between the mainstream movies are a number of idiosyncratic indies that are winning a name for Thai cinema abroad. Thailand’s most internationally renowned director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, has made a career out of bending genres, as in his bewitchingly strange Cannes-winning feature, Tropical Malady (Sat Pralad, “Strange Beast”, is the original title). Other Thai ﬁlmmakers have emulated Weerasethakul’s bordertransgressing ways, steeping Thai tales in Western cinematic inﬂuences. Despite Thai ﬁlm’s increasing acclaim, impatient distributors often pull small pictures within days. Audiences eager to support emergent cinema should track movies at the Thai Film Foundation’s website www.thaiﬁlm.com or at Thai ﬁlm critic Anchalee Chaiworaporn’s www.thaicinema.org.
Thai theatres are notorious for their rapid turnover rates, making DVDs one of the best ways for visitors to explore Thai ﬁlm. Thai DVDs are readily available in Mang Pong outlets in major malls, but before purchasing check the back for English s u b t i t l e s a n d DV D r e g i o n compatibility, if you don’t have an all-region DVD player. Englishsubtitled versions are also often available as exports from Hong Kong at websites such as www.hkﬁlm.com or www.yesasia.com.
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HOUSE (art house) Royal City Avenue (RCA), Petchaburi Road, 02-641-5177.
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KRUNGSRI IMAX THEATER 5/F, Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Road, 02-129-4631. BTS Siam.
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MAJOR CINEPLEX RATCHAYOTHIN 1839 Phaholyothin Road, 02-511-3311. BTS Mochit or MRT Paholyothin, then catch a taxi.
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MAJOR CINEPLEX SUKHUMVIT 1221/39 Sukhumvit Road, 02-381-4855. BTS Ekkamai
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PARAGON CINEPLEX 5/F, Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Road, 02-129-4635 or Movie Hotline 02-515-5555. BTS Siam
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SF CINEMA CITY MBK (VIP Class) 7/F, MBK Center, Phaya Thai Road, 02-611-6444. BTS National Stadium.
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SURIYOTHAI Chatrilerm Yukol, 2001, B199 This bloated white elephant of a film isn’t good so much as grandiose – but it makes an interesting study of that old historic wound, the sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese more than two hundred years ago. One of the top-grossing Thai films of all time, this three-hour hog boasts royal intrigue, blood-spurting executions, big ol battle scenes, and acting of such stiffness that it seems that the entire cast is dreaming of leaving behind their woodenness to become real live actors some day. Fans of bloated epics such as Troy won’t be disappointed. At the heart of the film is the beloved Queen Suriyothai, brave Amazon, elephant-rider, martyr of the Siam resistance. After you’re watched Suriyothai, pay a pilgrimage to Ayutthaya and feel the burn.
Bangkok is home to an eye-popping array of excellent bookshops, large and small. Just head for any major mall – Siam Paragon, Emporium, CentralWorld or Central Chitlom – and look for a branch of Asia Books, Kinokuniya, B2S, or Bookazine JUNGLE BOOK: THAILAND'S POLITICS 96-08 Chiang Noi, Silkworm Books, 247pp
From The Economist to UN refugee torchbearer Angelina Jolie, barely a week passes when someone isn’t throwing stones at Thailand from afar. But before Thailand’s recent self-destructive streak made it a target for indignant pundits everywhere, there was – and still is – Chang Noi: a columnist for The Nation newspaper who does hot-button, sociopolitical commentary from within. This compilation presents a kaleidoscopic – and very readable – grab-bag of his best from the past 12 years; critiquing everything from moral hysteria over naked nipples to ham-ﬁsted culture bureaucrats, environmental scandals, PM Thaksin’s rise and the coup d’etat that followed. To these, and more, he brings long-range historical perspective, shrewd argument and dry humour. Of course, writing under a pseudonym probably helps.
MUSEUM OF SIAM GUIDE Institute of Discovery and Creative Learning, 200pp, B1,020
This chunky tome exploring the quintessence of Thai-ness makes a cool (if expensive) companion piece to Bangkok’s surprisingly funky Museum of Siam. Although it lacks the touch screens and digital games of this multimedia-driven learning centre, its no less a sensory feast: all pop-arty page designs, eye-popping graphic collages, cool little pull-outs and pithy paragraphs designed up to open up your mind. Like the museum, it spans the spectrum of Thai history, from prehistoric Suvarnabhumi through to Thailand today, and touches on big themes like religious animism, multiracial Ayuthaya and the Yankification of 1960s Bangkok. Hip and frothy, it’s about as 'down with the kids' as history books come. Unfortunately, it's only available for purchase at the Museum of Siam’s excellent bookshop.
books A CENTURY OF THAI CINEMA Dome Sukwong & Sawasdi Suwannapak, River Books, 112pp, B500
Thai cinema is crying out for a reelby-reel retelling, a book which does its history justice in the same way that Donald Ritchie did with Japan’s, thus introducing it to a new global audience. The case for such a book just got stronger too, what with Thai arthouse maverick Apitchatpong Weerasethakul having just snagged the prestigious Palmes d’Or at Cannes. Unfortunately, A Century of Thai Cinema isn’t it. It adds mere wisps of text to the very little already written in English on the subject, instead bombarding the reader with over 2,500 colour reproductions of Thailand’s zany film posters, promotion photographs, magazine covers, records and other memorabilia. Come to it looking for scholarly insight and you’ll be disappointed. Treat it for what it is though – a picturebook – and you’ll find it to be a superficial but enjoyable.
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Each month the crate-digging DJ duo behind 'Paradise Bangkok', Chris Menist and Maft Sai, delve into the more obscure corners of the Kingdom’s music. Their label 'ZudRangMa' showcases the best of Thai music: zudrangmarecords.com
rom the very ﬁrst time I heard it, ‘Mae Jom Ka Lon’ by molam vocalist Dao Bandon, was one of those instantaneously likable tracks. After it’s peculiar ‘circus theme’ horns intro, the rhythm kicks in and bumps along frenetically as Dao’s pained vocal criticises an unfaithful woman, driving the song forwards with only a jazzy trumpet solo affording some breathing space. It’s probably been played at every edition of ‘Paradise Bangkok’ so far and deservedly appeared on ‘The Sound of Siam’ comp as a result. The track is also rumoured to be on the soundtrack of the forthcoming ‘Hangover 2’. Next to Waipod Petchsuphan, Dao is probably my favourite Thai vocalist, always soulful and seemingly singing straight from the heart. Another great tune of his is ‘Tang Ngarn Si Nong’ – with its haunting vocal delivery it seems more in keeping with the music of Ethiopia than Southeast Asia. For the next ‘Paradise Bangkok’ we are looking forward to welcoming Dao onstage, to sing some of his killer molam for a live audience. Whilst we’ve been showcasing vintage Thai sounds since we started out, this will be the ﬁrst time we’ve had one of the performers in the ﬂesh, recreating their classics for the present day. Dao was born in 1947, in Yasothorn, Isan. The speciﬁc name of the village was Bandon Mayang, hence his surname. ‘Dao’, ﬁ ttingly, means ‘star’. His family were rice farmers, and whilst still young, he was sent to the
local temple to study as well as take the ﬁrst steps toward becoming a monk. The temple had a small backroom with a record player and a sound system with a microphone, and Dao would regularly sneak in there to listen to music and practice singing, something he grew to love. Outside of chanting, or singing ‘lae’, recreational singing was not allowed in the temple grounds, leading to numerous clips round the ear for Dao from the senior monk. Realising that music, not the monkhood, was where his passion laid, Dao left the temple aged 18 and worked to save up money to self release his ﬁrst single. Initially picked up on local radio in Roi Et, tours soon followed, eventually leading to a run of records with the Bangkok-based ‘Siam Sound’ and ‘Golden Records’ labels. Interestingly, ‘Mae Jom Ka Lon’ was never a hit in Bangkok, but he still performs it to big crowds when he’s back in his home province. Still in good voice, and still a gentleman, it was a genuine pleasure to ﬁnally meet Dao at our ZudRangMa record store in Ekkamai recently. I can’t wait to hear him do perform on June 24 at Paradise Bangkok – make sure you give him a warm welcome! Chris Menist After the June 24 event, Paradise Bangkok will take a break over the summer, but will return later in the year. Check out www.zudrangmarecords.com for details of upcoming events. Isan Dancehall will continue bi-monthly at Cosmic Cafe, RCA.
IS IT ART? FIND OUT WITH BAM! www.bangkokartmap.com
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Rong Wong-savun O
ne of the Kingdom’s few countercultural icons, Rong Wongsavun (1932-2009) tried his hand at many things during his long career but is best known among Thais for his writings. His newspaper columns, short stories and novels, many penned during the 1960s, were famed for their inventive wordplay, biting satire and unﬂinching social themes, earning him the sobriquet ‘The Eagle of the Literary Garden’ and recognition, in 1995, as a National Artist in Literature. After his death in 2009, there was an upsurge of interest in his life and work, but what still isn’t well known is the he began his professional life as a photographer – a trailblazing one. His 1954 series on the Rama I Bridge, seen here, used low-slung camera angles that ﬂ ew in the face of composition rules at that time. Immaculate naval men, stern bureaucrats, chatting schoolchildren, factory workers and elderly ladies – Rong captured them in a style that still looks fresh today. Featuring selections from Kathmandu Photo Gallery’s current exhibition, this month’s photofeature also revisits his hard-hitting pictorial Children of the Garbage Mountain. Raw social realism that captures the squalid existence of Bangkok’s juvenile underclass, this 1958 series made such an impact on its publication in Sayaam Rat Weekly magazine that it spurred the government into creating a welfare programme. Like so much of his iconoclastic output, these pictures are both honest social documents and evidence of an artist exploring both the limits and power of his chosen medium.
Rong Wong-savun, a miniretrospective of Thailand’s forgotten photography master, runs 4 June-31 July at Kathmandu Photo Gallery (Opening party on Saturday 4 June, 6.30pm-9pm).
Rama I Bridge, circa 1958
WHERE 87 Soi Pan, Silom Road, 02-234-6700; kathmandu-bkk.com OPEN Tue-Sun 11am-7pm BTS Chong Nonsi
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Rama I Bridge, circa 1958
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Din Daeng slum, 1958
P H OTO F F EEAAT T UU R ER E
MR Kukrit Pramoj, 1975
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dining in bangkok
ood is of the utmost importance here. Locals have been known to brave the beast of Bangkok traffic and make cross-town journeys with the sole purpose of sampling a bowl of noodles at a famous local shop. Thais often ask each other “Gin Kao Leu Yung” or “Have you eaten rice yet?”. This shouldn’t be understood in the literal sense, but almost as another way that Thais say hello. It’s how Thai people socialise. The true Thai dining experience requires that all dishes be shared with everyone at the table; real evidence of the importance of dining to the sense of community.
ataste of Bangkok doesn’t just stop at Thailand’s world-famous national cuisine; flags of all nationalities fly here, and the results can be amazing. Tom yum soup and creamy curries can be found alongside seared foie gras, crispy tempura and heart-stopping steaks. It won’t be a challenge to find some culinary dynamite for your palate. You’re bound to eat very well, whether it is at the sexiest, high-end locales, or at the origin of most local food - the streets, where you can get a very tasty, hearty meal at a nondescript stall, or even crackling grasshoppers and worms. Fantastic food is also available round
food & drink
the clock, although choices narrow as it gets closer to midnight. Many restaurants have closing times of 9pm or earlier. However, plenty of them feed late-night appetites. If you really want to bump elbows with the locals and get to the heart of things, Bangkok’s street food culture doesn’t acknowledge the concept of time, with many vendors carrying on into the wee hours. If a business can survive by trading when everyone is asleep, then it must be good, right? So whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, slightly picky or a try-anything-once, you’re in for a nonstop gastronomical journey.
June 3-12 Swiss Food Festival at Taste
All Month Best of Thailand at Saffron
Executive Chef Alexander Bez from Sheraton Davos Hotel Waldhuus, and Executive Sous Chef Michael Ritz from the Arabella Sheraton Seehof Davos present traditional specialties from the Swiss mountains, served with a modern twist. The Lunch Buffet is served from 12pm-2.30pm, and is just B990 net/ person, or enjoy the Dinner Buffet from 6pm-10.30pm for B1,295 net/person. You can also discover the secrets of gourmet Swiss cuisine at their special cooking class on June 4 from 10am to 1pm, for just B1,400 net/person. 02-207-8000, email@example.com; westingrandesukhumvit.com
At Saffron Restaurant, Banyan Tree Bangkok, experience an array of different dishes from different parts of Thailand in one meal at Saffron throughout June. Chef Renu Homsombat brings you the best of Thai cuisine within her carefully designed 9-course degustation menu, priced at B2,000++ per set. Saffron is located on the 51st and 52nd floors, and is open daily for dinner from 6pm to 11pm. In this sprawling metropolis, Banyan Tree Bangkok offers a ‘Sanctuary for the Senses’ with its unparalleled views, elegantly decorated guest rooms, renowned legendary service. 02-679-1200; banyantree.com
Ongoing Boccone La Perfecto
Boccone Trattoria of Ramada Hotel & Suites Sukhumvit 12 highlights Italian inspired cuisine and international favorites served in the contemporary cool surrounds of the trattoria, terrace or tropical garden. Throughout June enjoy all-you-can-eat pasta and salad lunch or dinner for only B199 net per person, with children B129 net. Plus, sip a glass of house white or red wine for only B99 net. Italian for ‘Bite’, Boccone is ideal for relaxing with friends or family during the day, or under romantic candlelight in the garden under the moonlight. 02-664-7000; ramadasuitesbangkok.com
Located on the 23rd floor of the Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park, with stunning views to match its stylish decor, Panorama is now offering a new menu concept: Fresh.Grill.Market, which reflects the excellent ingredients on offer, and the superlative range of dishes. As the evening progresses, move out to the deck with one of their refreshing cocktails, great wine and an array of tapas. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for a place to enjoy a sundowner, enjoy their new happy hour everyday from 5pm until 7pm. 02-632-9000, panoramabangkok.com
food & drink
meal deals June 1-30 Fresh Salmon at da Vinci Located in the Rembrandt Hotel & Towers Bangkok, da Vinci presents the finest Norwegian salmon. This satisfying meat is packed full of richness and flavor, while also offering servings of high protein, omega 3 and vitamin D. The pick of the month is the grilled salmon steak served with asparagus topped with a special recipe of herb butter. Discover this delicious dish and much more. Da Vinci is located on the 4th floor and can accommodate up to 80 guests. 02-261-7100; rembrandtbkk.com
Ongoing New Menu at Giorgio’s Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers have recently unveiled Executive Sous Chef Gaetano Palumbo, a dynamic and inspirational creator of authentic Italian cuisine. Now four months into his tenure at Giorgio’s, Chef Palumbo is ready to unleash his new menu in this picturesque dining establishment on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Add to the decadent cuisine the scenic riverside location – you can dine al fresco by the river or within the chic and stylish airconditioned interior. Open for dinner daily between 6pm and 10.30pm. 02-266-9214; royalorchidsheraton.com
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WHERE 103 Tripetch Road. Wang Burapha Phra Nakorn, 02-222-9611 OPEN Daily 6am-8pm PRICE B25-B100
SWEET The smell of sizzling bacon is not one you’d expect to ﬁnd drifting around the Pak Klong Talad neighbourhood, a market area more associated with the scent of freshly cut ﬂowers, but that’s exactly what hits as you walk past Sweet, an erroneously titled shophouse kitchen that specialises in all day breakfasts – with a Thai twist. Inspired by her mother’s no-fuss cooking, Thai proprietress Khun Saowaruk hit upon the idea of serving them in this bustling area full of people that work strange hours. Fast forward twenty nine years, and Sweet has achieved more fame than most shophouse joints, as proven by the constant ﬂow of people, as well as the framed photographs, hung proudly on both sides of its walls, of all the local celebs who count among its satisﬁed customers. Its success is hard to pin down, but likely has something to do with its unusual tweaking of the fatty fry-up. Sweet’s cooked breakfasts feature all the usual high cholesterol components – fried egg, sausage and bacon with toast – but in a quirky concession to the locals, they also serve them over rice, yes, rice. More experimentation can also be found at play on the spicy Thai fusion menu; the Phat Kraphao bacon for example marries ﬁery chili, holy basil with, yes, succulent bacon. If none of that tasty oddness appeals, more straightforward dishes offered for low prices include pork chops, steaks, burgers and salads. Now for the minus points. As with so much of the dining in Bangkok’s budget bracket, eating at Sweet can be sweaty (to cool yourself off slurp on one of their orange and banana smoothies). Also, don’t be under any illusions; this is a gobble and go sort of joint ideal for a quick refuel, not somewhere you lounge and linger, albeit one of the tastiest around. Amornsri Tresarannukul
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Our roving street-food eater Nym knows her local grub inside out – and thrives on the stories behind the dishes. Each month, she takes an offbeat tour in search of the next delectable morsel. From roadside vendor stalls to hidden restaurants, serious foodies are advised to follow her trail., and eat like Nym.
LITTLE INDIA’S SAMOSAS A walk through Bangkok’s Little India or Pahurat area is something I treasure. I love using my four senses to take in all the ingredients that make the area so intoxicating and unique,from the colourful saris and garlands to the wafts of incense smoke and the fragrant scents of the spices I buy to make my own chai at home. There are endless routes you could take through it, but my favourite ends, as all my trips here tend to, with food, namely samosas. To reach them, begin at Saphan Lek, with all its electric gear for sale, and head to the intersection with a KFC on the corner. From here take a short walk, past the shops selling everything from toothpicks and traditional costumes, to the local Sikh temple. Pop down the narrow alleyway next to it and that’s it, you’ve arrived at my Pahurat pitstop of choice. The stall here has been cooking up these curried pastry pockets for years, so many that I don’t have enough ﬁngers to count them all. And as you’d expect, they’re very good at making them, displaying an artistic touch as they mix the potato ingredients, ﬁll the pastry them load them into the on-site oven for baking. Even more impressive is the taste, which is about as exotic as the scene, yielding a pleasant slap of spiciness. Dipping each bite into their tamarind based sauce only takes the taste sensation to the next level. A little bag of these hot curried treats always fuels my forays into evocative Little India, and, as always, I strongly recommend you follow my lead.
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Samosa is on the corner of Soi ATM (the name of the fabric mall at the corner), tucked down the alley next to Pahurat’s Sikh temple. Open 9am-6pm daily.
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WHERE 2/F, Seenspace, Soi 13, Sukhumvit 55 Thong Lor, 02-185-2866; www.roastbkk.com BTS Thong Lor OPEN Daily 10am-10.30pm PRICE $$
Adding a sense of comfort to the Seenspace mall off Thong Lor, Roast Coffee & Eatery is brought to you by the same folks behind Japanese housewife favourite Ohana Cafe on Sukhumvit 24. The airy open-plan space has ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, making the space feel bright even on an overcast day; while the grainy birch wood furnishings, exposed beams, and hanging lamps help complete a look that wouldn’t feel out of place in the gentriﬁed industrial districts of Boston or Portland. The American feel of Roast is a deliberate attempt by co-owner Varatt Vichit-Vadakhan to replicate the chilled vibe of the east coast cafes he used to visit when living stateside. This theme carries though to the theme of the menu, which has been put together under a banner of ‘New American’. In recent months, there have been a number of places touting this style of cuisine, with many missing the mark in terms of ﬂavour and substance. While some of them can be accused of jumping on the latest Bangkok fad, the Khun Varatt has brought a level of authenticity to his menu. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, right now Roast is attracting a largely expatriate clientele for its brunch menu, including the Roast Breakfast (B350) of eggs any style, crispy bacon, roast potato, homemade sausage patties and duck hash. Between three of us, we ordered this with a banana-bacon wafﬂe (B220), Breakfast Croissant Breakfast Sandwich (house-made sausage, eggs over easy, Gouda cheese, B180), and sides of cheese grits (B80) and homemade honey yoghurt (B140). They try to make as much as possible in-house, a policy that extends to roasting their own coffee, hence the name – that retro-looking piece of machinery in the corner is the 430kg Giesen W6, a Dutch made roaster that equates heaven for hipster coffee hounds (Espressobased drinks are B80-B140, drip coffees range from B120-B200.) However, Roast is anything but niche, rather it’s a place to come for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a chilled café where you can surf the web all day, and sup on some of the ﬁnest coffee in town. In short, it’s a really comfortable place to be. Simon Ostheimer
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It felt wrong arriving at Pedalicious, Bangkok’s ﬁrst bicycle bistro, by motorbike taxi, as if we’d cheated somehow. Not that anyone minded. Though geared towards Bangkok’s cycling converts (a gutsy breed of local who many would label suicidal given the anarchic roads here) this two-storey Ekkamai shophouse works just as well as a friendly, come-as-you-are neighbourhood eatery as it does a pedal-er pitstop. In addition to all the bike bits and bobs – equipment, expertise, art, magazines, a small tv screening footage of famous tricksters – the six partners, all bike nuts with a creative background, have tacked on an eclectic menu of Thai and Western fare. And, though you may miss out on the cycler camaraderie, we bet it tastes just as good even if you don’t rock up on two wheels, looking slick in a skintight lycra bodysuit. Appetizers include good-to-share bites: onion rings, curly fries and little corns on the cob seasoned with coriander, etc. One of the more unusual offerings, laab tod, are moreish little balls of deep-fried spicy minced pork ﬂecked with fragrant lime leaf. There are also one-dish meals, including bowls of strongly seasoned fried rice, some fusiony pastas, as well as possibly the best reason for skidding up here, burgers. Ours was the best we’ve had in recent months: a juicy, ﬂavoursome home-made beef patty ﬂanked by some tasty wedges and topped with salad, cheese, runny fried egg and crisp bun. Desserts on visit included brownies and little shot glass panna cottas, and there are some good value signature cocktails too (including non-alcoholic ones for those who fear getting pulled over for their wobbly road maneuvers). Backing all this pedal fuel up are the people. On most nights one of the partners, Khun Jekky is on hand to serve and ﬂog you some retro cycling gear. And if you’re really lucky you might ﬁnd one of the city’s cycling clans kicking back or tightening up their bolts here. One of them, local ﬁxed-gear bikers, or ﬁxies, Jao Noo Singh Nak Pan, has even been known to give free bike advice when they’re in the house. Whether you’re looking for cycling tips, clobber or companions, or merely to clank your evening into gear with solid snacks and cocktails, Pedalicious is worth getting on ‘yer bike for. Max Crosbie-Jones
WHERE 38 Ekkamai Soi 12; 02-713-3377; www.facebook.com/pedalicious BTS Ekkamai OPEN Tues-Fri 5pmmidnight; Sat-Sun 11am-midnight; closed Mon PRICE $
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WHERE Noble Solo Condominium, 988/5 Sukhumvit 55 (Thong Lor), 02714-7623; www.whitecafecatering.com BTS Thong Lor OPEN Daily 11.30am-midnight PRICE $$
WHITE CAFÉ For more than 20 years, White Café has been building a reputation as one of Bangkok’s leading catering companies, supplying everything from weddings to private parties with Thai delicacies and international favourites. Now they have ﬁnally brought their culinary expertise to the dining masses, with this, their ﬁrst restaurant, located on notoriously ﬁckle Thong Lor. Obviously conﬁdent in their abilities to please, the design of White Café is bright and open, leaving almost nothing hidden – from the ﬂoor-to-ceiling glass frontage to the open, home-style Thai kitchen, everything is on display. Inside holds a mix of seating options, from comfy couches for a lazy afternoon snack, or sit-up dining tables for evening meetings. We began by ordering the best-selling snack of Lanchester’s freshwater prawn, deep-fried in spicy batter (B160). Served sizzling straight from the pan, the spice levels increased with every bite, with the addition of a deep-fried chilli to chew on if it wasn’t already hot enough for you. Next up was the superbly executed stir-fried Thai-French sirloin in green curry paste (B350), accompanied by mild portions of zucchini, asparagus and orinji mushroom to balance the intense spiciness of the dish (a recurring theme). The traditional 54
dish of fried rice with sweet chilli and kafﬁr lime, served with seasoned pork crackling and salted eggs (B220) took us to the heart of Thai comfort food, and had us thinking of grandma’s much-loved version. As well as the menu mainstays, White Café also serves a changing selection of seasonal dishes. On the menu when we visited was the salted deepfried snakehead ﬁsh, the dryness offset by slices of juicy watermelon. As with the rest, there was no compromising on spice levels – when it comes to the Thai dishes, this ain’t the place for the ‘mai kin ped’ type. If you are spice averse, there are also a range of Western-style pastas and salads on the menu, such as the crab and caviar rigatoni, spaghetti with clams and white wine, and buffalo mozzarella salad. Or if you just want to drink, White Café have an inventive line of well-made cocktails, including the ‘Fish Tank’ (Bombay Sapphire gin with tropical fruit, B200), and ‘Life’s Good’ (vodka, crème de cassis, lychee and blueberry juices, B280). In sum, if you're in the Thong Lor area, White Café makes the perfect place to sit back with family and friends to enjoy home-style Thai meals and snacks, but you have to love the spice. Pattarasuda Prajittanond
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restaurant WHERE 155/1-2 Sukhumvit Soi 11/1, 02-651-0498; www.mrsbalbirs.com BTS Nana OPEN Tue-Sun (closed on Mon) 11.30am – 11pm PRICE $$
MRS BALBIRS There may be progressive new curryhouses stealing the limelight, but Sukhumvit’s Mrs Balbir’s still has a loyal following among the city’s vindaloo-scoffers, especially those in the traditional camp. Inside, the fresh creamwhite dining room, with its marble ﬂoors, tall-back patterned velvet chairs, and furniture and ﬁnishes redolent of a Maharajas neo-classical palace, is an unexpectedly upscale setting for this gritty part of town, but the real coup here is the good old-fashioned cooking. Scan the menu and you’ll ﬁnd no mention of fancy-smancy state-of-the-art techniques whatsoever. No sous-vide, foams, emulsions or dishes that involved a blow torch or nitrogen oxide and man in white coat and goggles. Instead, friendly namesake owner, Vinder Balbir, a local celeb and former TV chef who divulges her secrets at her popular cooking classes upstairs, offers unswervingly traditional North Indian made using recipes and spice blends that she’s ﬁne-tuned over the years. Our starters, spinach cutlets, were soft, warm, fragrantly spiced bricks served with coriander chutney. They vanished in seconds. Following were lamb
tandoori kebabs with a diced onion and spicy dip and the meat done just right. Mains include a bewildering range of regional curries and tandoori dishes, including an elegantly smooth butter chicken, and a grittier, bolder, more complex Punjabi chicken kadai. A spirited vegetarian dish, we also enjoyed the Baigan Bhata (tandoori grilled eggplant mashed and sautéed and seasoned with spice and peas) though some might ﬁnd it too pungently spiced. Paratha and naans were hot and fresh and good for dipping, though it was an emblematic dessert – rasmalai, soft dumplings in a refreshing chilled sweet milk ﬂavoured with cardamom, almonds and pistachio – that had us itching to log on and check air ticket prices to the Subcontinent. All in all, Mrs Balbir’s is a reliable place for traditional Indian made with love and served ﬁnedining style. That said the views out of the plateglass windows, onto a grimy backstreet that you’d struggle to call salubrious, mean those out to impress on all fronts should think twice. Max Crosbie-Jones
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THAI FRUITS (polamai)
The word Kanom is much too schizophrenic to be summed up asThai desserts. Although most anything that’s sweet will be categorized as a Kanom, anything that you would normally snack on would be considered one as well; a pack of chips or crackers would qualify. You may not be too familiar with traditional Thai desserts as you’d often have to go to specialty stores or stalls to ﬁnd them. Restaurants often omit them from the menu, partly due to the speciﬁc ingredients and preparation time required and also because it isn’t customary to have a dessert to end your meal. To the uninitiated the sights of shocking green foods of any kind may scare you off but this is only a reﬂection of the age-old traditions of using ingredients, like pandan and coconut, which are indigenous to this region and provide to its intense colours.
It’s often a strange land for foreign eyes, but weirdness is all relative. To you those fuzzy, furry, spiky, hairy, sometimes humongous obscure items are just downright bizarre. But to the locals well, it’s just good ol’ healthy nutritious fruit. Having unfamiliar names like rambutan, mangosteen and durian only lends to the mysterious, perhaps even scary, stigma surrounding Thai fruits. Fruits are often eaten as a snack or transformed into a dessert, or featured in meals. Particularly coconuts. Street carts patrol the sidewalks with ice-chilled offerings of seasonal fruits. However these vendors don’t exactly uphold hygiene standards, so proceed at your own discretion. All fruits are almost always available year round in supermarkets, but some are better at certain times of year.
Seen as the “King of Thai Fruits” it would seem to be very forceful rulers, as everything about it is overpowering. Its humongous size, its intimidating spikes and that awful crippling scent. This fruit definitely divides the population with some reacting with ecstasy while others cringe till they cramp. Its meat, buttery and almost avocado like in texture can be consumed on its own, though other variations are popular, such as Kao Niew Tu-rian, Durian with Coconut Creamed Sticky Rice, Tu-Rian Guan, a sort of Durian Toffee, dried into little Durian Crisps, and sometimes Durian Ice Cream as well. Available all year. june 2011
Kanom Krok Mini coconut cream hotcakes Kanom Bueng Crispy crepes with coconut whip ﬁlling
KHAO MAO Rarely do you think of desserts when discussing cuisine from the northeastern Isan region. This treat involves pounding some young rice and mixing with sugar and coconut. The rice is often popped and mixed with nuts, sesame seeds, and a little hint of salt, resulting in a dessert not too dissimilar from rice-crispy-treats.
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Thong yip/yod/foi Golden Egg Pinches (Yip), Drops (Yod), Shreds (Foi)
Isaan food – northeast Thailand’s spice-filled cuisine – is everywhere. Bangkok’s streets teem with no-frills restaurants serving laab (minced meat salad), gai yang (grilled chicken) and som tum (spicy green papaya salad). Here, the city's best
on Soi Rang Nam is served at this no-frills shophouse just across from the King Power Dutyfree Complex. Explosive som tum, a memorable gaeng om moo (pork stew with dill) and lots of spice-flushed local faces. Look for the Thai signage.
BAAN SOMTUM 9/1 Soi Srivieng,near Sathorn Road,02-6303486. BTS Surasak. Daily11am-10pm. $ A smart townhouse serving 22 different types of Northeastern papaya salad, plus 80 or so other dishes. Highlights you might not have heard of include the gaeng hed poh (spicy popping-mushroom soup), and deepfried laab. Wallet-friendly prices.
Upmarket Isaan delights meet airconditioned mall. Posh office princesses flock here at lunchtime to enjoy classics and innovations like grilled lamb rack with nam jim jaew dip and wonton-style rolls of sticky rice. Perfect for when a sweaty you won’t do.
CAFÉ DE LAOS 19 Silom Soi 19, 02-635-2338. Daily11am-2pm & 5pm-10pm. $$ Who said you have to perch on a plastic stool? At Café de Laos you dine on rustic Issan nosh in a century-old teak house with – who’d have thought it? – solid tables that don’t wobble.
HAI SOMTUM 2/4-5 Soi Convent, off Silom Road, 02-631-0216. Mon-Fri 10.30am-9pm, Sat 10.30am-8pm. $ What it lacks in sophistication, Hai Somtum more than makes up for with plates of crispy-skinned grilled chicken, tart laab (minced meat salads) and, of course, somtum, all briskly served by efficient staff. Packed with office workers every weekday lunch and dinnertime.
CAFÉ CHILLI G/F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Road, 02-610-9877; cafechilli.com. Daily 11am-9pm. $
ISAN ROT DET 3/5-6 Soi Rang Nam, 02-246-4579. BTS Victory Monument. $ Probably the best northeastern fare
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SOI POLO FRIED CHICKEN 137/1-2 Soi Polo,Withayu Road, 02-655-8489 Golden-brown, succulent and blanketed in nuggets of crispy-garlic, the gai tord (fried chicken) here is the stuff of local foodie legend. Other notable Isaan dishes here include their nam tok salad with freakishly big strips of beef, and tom saep soup. Very busy at lunchtimes (and deservedly so). VIENTIANE KITCHEN 8 Naphasap Yak 1, Sukhumvit Soi 36, 02-258-6171. BTS Thong Lor. $$ It’s a proper restaurant but don’t come expecting high-backed loungers and silk napkins: Vientiane Kitchen wears its bamboo furniture and ramshackle layout with pride. Sat beneath thatched-roofs, guests dine on classics as well as daredevil dishes like boiled ants’ eggs spicy salad. Includes lively Laotian music and Beer Lao.
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RIVER DINING CRUISES
A cruise along the legendary Chao Phraya can only be topped by combining it with exquisite Thai food. Although touristy, a gastro-cruise is one of Bangkok’s most romantic outings, the chance to take in the river sights while getting stuffed. Most riverside hotels offer lunch and/or dinner cruises, some on large, modern ships seating hundreds (Shangri-La) or on smaller, refurbished antique rice barges (Apsara, Manohra, Oriental).Whether you are looking for a peaceful romantic sojourn, traditional dance shows or a blaring disco dinner buffet, you won’t be disappointed. Cruises range from B700 to B1,700 per person, depending on how well you dine, and last an average of three hours. Most include a full buffet or set dinner, though this should be conﬁrmed ahead of time. It’s also wise to make advance reservations. Manohra
■ CHAO PHRAYA CRUISE 02-541-5599 | www.chaophrayacruise.com ■ GRAND PEARL CRUISE 02-861-0255 | www.grandpearlcruise.com ■ HORIZON CRUISE The Shangri-La | 02-266-8165-6 | www.shangri-la.com ■ LOY NAVA 02-437-4932 | www.loynava.com ■ MAEYANANG The Oriental Hotel | 02-659-9000 | www.mandarinoriental.com ■ MANOHRA CRUISES 02-477-0770 | www.manohracruises.com ■ WAN FAH 02-222-8679 | www.wanfah.com ■ YOK YOR 02-863-0565 | www.yokyor.co.th
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THAI TONGUE THAI (map B4) 18-20 Charoen Krung 38, Bangrak, 02-630-9918. BTS Saphan Taksin. Daily11am-2pm, 5pm-10.30pm. $ Ignore the goofy name, and wind your way through the riverside streets near the Oriental to this charming two-ﬂoor shophouse, wee-decorated with rustic, old-Siam objects d’ar t. In a neighbourhood dominated by nosebleed-priced hotel dining, Tongue Thai offers a welcome alternative – affordable farang-sized por tions of zesty Thai food, without the farangsized taste. Take your time to page through the huge menu, and you’ll ﬁnd culinary representatives from all the major regions of Thailand – try the Isaan appetizer combination, with its
tangy sausage and chilli spiked green papaya salad. Also recommended: the huge helping of soft-shell crab stir-fried with curry powder, which replaces the graininess of many restaurants’ versions with an addictive savoury smoothness. Tongue Thai is proud of its unapologetic approach to Thai spicing, so make sure to inform the staff of any chilli susceptibilities from the very beginning.
ทังกไทย เจริญกรุง ซ.38
NAJ (map C4) 42 Convent Road, 02-632-2811. BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom. Daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11.30pm. $$ We admit we love eating Thai food in dignified surroundings, in old manors oozing past glories. It just adds something to the culinary discoveries
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you might stumble upon. A shor t stroll from Silom, this hidden mansion is an absolute insider tip. Spreading over two ﬂoors, the stylish restaurant kept a lot of the house’s charm but has been painstakingly renovated. Glimpse into Naj’s wine cellar through the glass ﬂoor. Sitting amid an elegant but informal crowd, you’ll be lulled by classical music before genuine Thai food arrives in healthy portions on ﬁne china. Anything you might want to try will satisfy your taste buds but beware of the tang of some dishes.This is no beginner’s course in Thai cuisine. For a great pre-dinner rub down, tr y neighbouring spot Ruen Nuad (02-632-2663), which is one of our all time favourite Thai massage joints.
o oOdD&& DD r iR n kI N K FO INTERNATIONAL SERENADE 264/1 Grass Thonglor Complex, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Soi Thong Lor), 02713-8409; www.serenadebkk.com. BTS Thonglor. $$. Mon-Thu 11.30am2.30pm & 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sun 4pm-1am Serenade is one of the newest upstarts on Thong Lor, an upmarket and ultra competitive restaurant mile that has seen a steady inﬂux of them in the past year (and so become our go-to for exciting upmarket food). A twostorey 80-seater on the corner of the Grass lifestyle complex, it’s the ﬁrstborn progeny of Timber Suwannakoot and Aaron Adler, two plucky young Cordon Bleu trained chefs who became disillusioned with cooking at expensive restaurants they were too poor to eat at. No surprise then that Serenade is ﬁrmly aimed mid-range – casual and affordable. Instead of starched white tablecloths and stiff service, Serenade sports a simple modern bistro feel, with ﬂoor-to-ceiling glass windows, paintsplattered concrete ﬂoors and plump daybeds gracing the loungey al fresco area. The menu of playful modern western is equally laidback, with, instead of coursed dinners, dishes meant to be shared tapas-style. Some of the less successful experiments need reﬁning – a cloying penne pasta with three cheese sauce and topped with roasted peanuts, for example – but all the ingredients for a Thonglor big-hitter are here: competitive prices, hip looks and, above all, talent. Lunchtimes are a good option, a three course menu starting at B240.
เซเรเนด สุขุมวิท ซ.55
FRENCH PHILIPPE RESTAURANT (map D4) 20/15-17, Sukhumvit Soi 39, 02-2594577; www.philipperestaurant.com | BTS Phrom Phong. Daily 11.30am-2pm, 6pm-late (last food orders 10.30pm. $$$ Tucked away on a side street near the Phrom Phong BTS station, Philippe Restaurant provides a welcome dose of French charm to an area thronged with Japanese eateries. Since 1998, Philippe Peretti has been feeding the city’s happy Francophiles with 60
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deﬁantly unfusioned, ﬁne traditional fare, including foie gras, served in great silky lobes, hearty country stews with oxtail and beef tongue, and raspberry millefeuille, layers of perfect pastry stacked with fruit and a gorgeous buttermilk crème. The décor may be a bit staid, but it doesn’t detract from the beauty of elegantly done French classics and the very correct service, which is attentive without being hovery. Come for the B350 lunch deal – a three-course steal, perfect for a leisurely business lunch.
ฟลลิปเป สุขุมวิท 39
JAPANESE IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE 9/9 Sukhumvit Soi 36, 02-661-5076. Daily 5pm-midnight (last food orders 11pm). $$-$$$ With decor inspired by the film of the same name, In The Mood For Love has a more feminine layout than many Japanese diners. Half-moon booths of ﬂowery banquettes and armchairs lend a parlour feel, and there’s a warm mix of old-time Eastern and Euro detailing, with Japanese on-cloth calligraphy, vintage tables and repro antique lamps. T he long room, with a bar at one end, is given extra width with a full streetside facade of windows and, opposite, a www.bangkok101.com
‘shattered mirror’ wall that throws fragmented reﬂections of the small sushi bar, busy with chefs. Overhead, it’s a posh warehouse of low-slung fans and bamboo birdcages hanging from a corrugated roof. Billed as traditional Japanese with modern signature dishes, the menu starts with ‘Originals’, including California-style rolls, like Sweet 16 (eel, spicy tuna and strawberries), which is best enlivened by the chef ’s smoky soy sauce. Other options include sliced rare duck breast with hits of wonderfully aromatic yuzu kosho relish, and not-sogood squishy chicken balls. T he loud enough funky electro soundtrack keeps conversation lively, making this cute bar-restaurant a good place to linger over sake and cocktails. And it’s just 50 metres from Thonglor Skytrain.
อิน เดอะ มูด ฟอร เลิฟ ถ.สุขุมวิท 63
MEXICAN LA MONITA TAQUERIA 888/26 Mahatun Plaza, Ploenchit Road, 02-650-9581. BTS Phloen Chit. Daily 11.30am-10pm (last kitchen orders). $-$$ San Franciscan Billy Bautista brings a little of his home city to Bangkok with the type of Mexican diner found all over California. The ﬁve tables, bench seating and windowside bar could have been knocked up in a school woodwork class; the food is served in little plastic baskets. It’s anti-chic; an eating (rather than dining) experience, where the warm orange interior sets a cosy, familial atmosphere for some really tasty food. The menu has burritos, nachos, wings and a choice of Mexi or Cali tacos – the Cali a bit fancier, with beans and guacamole – ﬁlled with ﬁsh, beef, chicken, or shrimp (one option infused with tequila). And there’s al pastor, spicy roast pork marinated in chilli and pineapple. The quesadilla – good to share – is a large grilled tortilla sandwich of melted cheese, whole beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and choice of meat. The guacamole is smoky and another nice touch is slightly fermented jalapenos on the side. Look too for the market-choice daily special. Drinks are Latin-style mojitos, beers, margaritas and caipirinha, but corkage is free if you want to take something different. Outside of Thai, ﬁnding good food at a decent price in Bangkok isn’t easy. La Monita ﬁts the bill: a neighbourhood diner due to become a destination because of its very rarity.
La Monita Taqueria
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WHERE Pullman Bangkok King Power, 8/2 Rangnam Road, Thanon-Phayathai, Ratchathewi, 02-680-9999; www.pullmanbangkokkingpower.com. PRICE B1,280. TIME 11.30am-3pm 62
No matter if you’re looking to cure your hangover, chill out to live music or simply soak up the sun, the 'City of Angels' serves up a brunch to suit all tastes; whether you're looking to have fun with the family, or simply soak up the Sunday sun.
CUISINE UNPLUGGED When it comes to leisurely weekend dining options, we’re increasingly spoiled in this city of ours. From upscale, highfalutin extravaganzas, to casual neighbourhood cafes, Bangkok, increasingly, gets brunch. This month, our quest for the best place to sit down for a glass of bubbly and a bountiful buffet spread led us to the Pullman Bangkok King Power, a high-end hotel northeast of Phaya Thai station on the BTS. While taxi is by far the easiest way to get here, the twin tuktuks that ferry guests from the Victory Monument Skytrain station make for a more stylish way to arrive. Brunch is taken in Cuisine Unplugged, the Pullman’s all-day dining outlet on the ground ﬂoor. As with much of the hotel, the restaurant’s design is modernist, with a mix of mauve, green and brown palettes. Standing in contrast to the smartly colour coordinated surroundings are wild bursts of neon green, in-your-face red spots, and kaleidoscopic prints. Did someone say send in the clowns? That’s right, every Sunday Cuisine Unplugged is transformed into a children’s playhouse, with balloon making, face-painting, cartoons, and plenty of games. Of course, while it’s undoubtedly kid-friendly, non-parents – such as our table – are just as much drawn into the fun of it all. The buffet options – which include dim sum, roast meats, pizza, salad bar, noodle hot pot, sushi and sashimi, cold cuts, pastas, seafood, chocolates and cakes, and fresh homemade breads and croissants – are more than enough to choose from without being over-the-top. The same could be said about the service, with roaming waiters making sure you’re topped up with the drink of your choice, leaving you free to enjoy a great meal and fun day out. Don’t leave without getting a balloon sculpture from one of the roaming entertainers, true artists who can create Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and even a splendid bouquet of ﬂowers. My wife couldn’t have been happier with the latter, or with the fabulous new familyfriendly addition to our Bangkok brunch options. Simon Ostheimer
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food & drink
■ BAAN PRA ATIT COFFEE AND MORE 102/1 Pra Atit Rd | 02-2807878 | Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm ■ CAKEWALK Natural Ville, 61 Langsuan Rd | 02-250-7050 | BTS Chitlom | daily 6am-10:30pm ■ CHERUBIN Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02-2609800 | BTS Asoke | Tue-Sun 10:30am-7pm ■ COFFEE BEAN BY DAO 20/12-15, Soi Ruamrudee, Ploenchit Rd | 02-254-7117-9 | daily 10am-10pm ■ IBERRY Siam Square Soi2 | 02-6583829 | daily Sun-Thur 10am10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10:30pm ■ JIM THOMPSON’S HOUSE 6/1 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | 02-612-3601 | BTS National Stadium | Tue-Sun 9am-6pm ■ KAKAO CAFÉ 99/361-8 Sukhumvit soi 24 (opp. Camp Davis) | 02-6611777 | BTS Phrom Phong | daily 10 am-10pm ■ KIOSK 6F,Thailand Creative Design Center, Emporium Shopping Complex | 02-664-8702 BTS Phrom Phong | Tue-Sun 9:30am–9:30pm ■ KUPPA 39 Sukhumvit Soi 16 | 02663-0495 | BTS Asoke, MRT Sukhumvit | Tue-Sun 10:30am11:30pm ■ MOUSSES AND MERINGUES 245 Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02 662-1290 | BTS Phrompong | daily 10am-7pm ■ RUEN KHUN NOI 71 Sukhumvit Soi 4 | 02-2556049 | BTS Ploenchit | daily 10am-6pm ■ SAFFRON… JUST BAKED 86 Phra Athit Rd | 02-2814228 | daily 8am-9pm ■ SOMETHING SWEET SATHORN 47/4 Soi Sathorn 8 Sathorn Nua, Silom | 02-235-4834 | BTS Chong Non Si | daily 10am-10pm ■ T42 4 Fl. Siam center Rama 1 Rd | 02-251-6197 | BTS Siam | daily 10am-9pm ■ THE ORIENTAL SHOP The Emporium, 5th Fl | 02664-8147~8 | BTS Phrom Phong | www.mandarinoriental. com | daily 10:30am-10pm ■ SECRET RECIPE La Villa, 1st Fl., Paholyothin Rd | BTS Aree, 02-613-0575 | www.secretrecipe.co.th | daily 10:30am-10pm
YINGDEAW HOMEMADE If you really want to know what’s cool in Krung Thep, you need to visit Siam Square, the destination of choice for Bangkok’s hipsters to play, shop and eat. Here, tucked amongst the many fashion and accessories stores you’ll ﬁnd a small bakery called Yingdeaw Homemade. With a gentle demeanour and welcoming smile, Khun Yingdeaw watches over every little detail at this second branch of her eponymous shop (the other is on Kaset-Nawamin Road). That probably explains why it’s love WHERE Siam Square Soi 5, at ﬁrst bite with her famous Hot Chocolate 02-658-0148 BTS Siam Pudding (B135). We closed our eyes and OPEN 10am-8pm PRICE $$ savoured the warm gooey chocolate, before discovering with surprise the hidden layer of homemade raspberry jam at the bottom. This divine-tasting pudding comes surrounded by vanilla ice-cream and topped with caramel sauce and almonds. Another must-try sweet at Yingdeaw’s is the melt-in-the-mouth heaven otherwise known as White Chocolate Mousse (B95), which comes served with Oreo and vanilla sponge cake. Other highlights include strawberry yoghurt mousse, banoffee and lemon cheese pies, and Panna Cotta. She also makes her own ice-cream, popular ﬂavours include coconut sorbet. In keeping with its stylish surroundings, the interior décor at Yingdeaw Homemade is vintage chic. Though we wish it had a little more room for the crowds that tend to throng here every day, Yingdeaw’s dessert shop truly feels like home sweet home. Pattarasuda Prajittanond
หญิงเดียว โฮมเมด สยามสแควร ซอย5 food & drink
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wıne bar WINE CONNECTION DELI & BISTRO This deli, bistro and wine shop rolled into one got off to a good start when it opened during last year's political troubles and locals with money to burn, but Ftheir o o dbeloved & D r i nmalls k in lockdown, began ﬂocking to the new K Village lifestyle mall instead. And they still are. On our Wednesday evening visit the place was rammed, every table taken, though not all with wine drinkers tellingly. And weekends are even busier, with demand so high that its walk-ins only. The unfussy venue has a semi-circle shape, with high and low tables lit by overhead lamps lining the plate glass windows outside, and lots more seating inside. In the centre is a deli counter ﬁlled with imported cheeses, olives and cold cuts etc, all available for takehome. And round the side, is the wine shop, where you can pick up a bottle of that spry pinot gricio you’ve just been slurping at wholesale prices. Complimenting the mid-range (B3,900 tops) and well-curated wine selection featuring several award winners from Old World and New is some reasonably priced bistro-ish fare; a lamb shank goes for B390 and pleasantly crispy thin crust pizzas for B160-220. Another nice touch are the build-yourown cheese platters, though the fresh bread WHERE 93,95, K-Village they’re served with was a little tough. Room A116-118, Soi Aree Serious oeniphiles may well come over (Sukhumvit 26), 02-661all sniffy – though there are several trained 3942 BTS Phrom Phong sommeliers on Wine Connection’s staff it’s OPEN Daily 10am-1pm not apparent how you’d ﬁnd them; it also lacks the intimacy and mingling and bonhomie of the best wine-bars, feeling a bit impersonal and, well, mall-like. And it’s loud, with ill-ﬁtting pop music from the likes of the Black Eyed Peas instead of the usual jazz quartet in the corner and everyone shouting to be heard above it. Still, though it could use reﬁnement, the concept clearly has legs. Try it and see what you think – everyone else is. Max Crosbie-Jones
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food & drink
‘New Latitude’ Thai wine Thai cuisine is considered one of the world’s best, and deservedly so – fresh ingredients, complex ﬂavours, and tangy, tongue-teasing dishes. One thing gourmets rarely expect to drink over a Thai meal is wine, for fear that the food’s piquancy would overpower any subtle ﬂavours. But in recent years several Thai vineyards have sprung up; and they are fast beginning to make their mark in a market dominated, as one would expect, by the usual array of old and new world wines. Thai-made “New Latitude Wines” are mostly blended from grape varieties like Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a tendency towards light to medium-bodied dry wines, which balance well with the richness of spicy Thai dishes. Several Thai wineries are within easy driving distance of Bangkok – around two hours away. Head for Hua Hin, or the favourable altitude, rich soil and microclimate around Khao Yai National Park. Discover more at: www.thaiwine.org www.bangkok101.com
food & drink
one night in bangkok
Goodbye 808, Hello LED Jazztastic: 10 years at the Living Room One of Bangkok’s best jazz venues, the Living Room celebrates its 10th bir thday with Jazztastic, a festival throughout June featuring a host of musicians from around the world. US sax sensation Ernie Watts returns;Tony Lakatos arrives from Hungary;Thailand’s Koh Mr Saxman will play; and the Asian Jazz All-Stars Power Quartet combines top talent from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines. The impact of the Living Room on Bangkok music since it launched in 2001 can’t be overstated. A great jazz venue buzzes around the community, and musicians from out of town drop in when they’re visiting. Guitar legend Pat Metheney came in to check out the house band. So did Latin-jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez. And top trumpeter Roy Hargrove and ex-Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine jammed with the band. Pianist Jeremy Monteiro has played the Living Room regularly since the beginning and books most acts. He says: “A jazz venue of this consistency and quality in a hotel venue? There’s no place like it in the world: not in London or New York, Hong Kong or Singapore. Bangkok should be proud.” As well as the Grammy winning Ernie Watts, who has performed with Cannonball Adderley and Frank Zappa, other nights have seen the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Orleans horn player Leroy Jones, and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who nearly blew the roof off with his celebrated high notes. It all started with Eldee Young, who led the ﬁrst house band here. Eldee died in 2007 and a giant black and white photo of him now hangs in the Living Room alongside greats like Billie Holiday and Art Blakey. No doubt a few glasses will be raised to him through the month. Jazztastic, at the Living Room, Sheraton Grande Hotel (02-649-8353). For the full line-up see Metrobeat, p8. 66
The big news on the club scene this month is that 808, RCA’s only nightpalace for proper dance music aﬁcionados, is now LED. Over the years this venue has seen peaks and troughs in popularity, ﬁrst as strippeddown Club Astra, then the slicker 808, but has never been able to match the crowds that pack out RCA’s more commercial, hip-hop and live music pumping venues night after night. Let’s hope new owner’s OP Worldwide have more success. The weekly line-up is still taking shape but Fridays night is currently mash-up night, with drinks going for B49 before 11pm, and local DJs spin electro on Saturdays. Look for the full review in a coming issue.
Head in the Clouds
In 2010 Ashley Sutton made his debut with not one, but two openings on Thonglor: steampunk wine bar grotto Iron Fairies, and upmarket ﬁsh & chips bistro Fat ‘Gutz. Now his Thonglor take-over looks set to continue with the arrival of new bar lounge Clouds, over at Soi 13’s lifestyle mall SeenSpace. Expect the unexpected. Whereas his previous ventures looked to the past, this one is straight from the future, albeit Ashley’s off-kilter utopian vision of it. “It’s a very simple and modern space,” he says, “that ﬂows around a big old tree stuck in the middle.” Food and drinks wise, there’ll be gas-ﬁred pizzas made with marinated ingredients and organic toppings, and cocktails by New York cocktail mixsultant Joseph Boroski. We’ll be taking a more in-depth look next month. www.bangkok101.com
HUMBLE’S We’re not afraid to admit it. When it comes to drinking in Bangkok, we rarely set foot east of Phra Khanong, on the far side of the toll road. Partly it’s the perceived paucity of nightlife options in the area (aside from the beer garden at Siam Paradise Night Bazaar, see Shopping), partly it’s to do with being on the ‘wrong’ side of the klong. That’s why when we heard about a new place called Humble’s out that way, we weren’t exactly on the next train headed east. However, once we’d established that Sukhumvit 71 was no further than On Nut, and would not require a cab to faraway Bang Na, we set aside a Friday night – and our prejudices – for a night at Humble’s. It was surprisingly easy to reach, and not what we were expecting. The bar occupies a two-storey teak house out the back of a relatively new serviced apartment complex. When we visited at night, the building seemed incongruous for the area; surrounded by lush foliage, ornamental koi pond, and a swimming pool (shared with the apartment residents). Most of the seating is outdoors, with a large covered terrace by the entrance and an upstairs balcony – it had the effect of making the place seem like some kind of suburban oasis, rather than a bar mere metres from busy Sukhumvit. 68
WHERE Sukhumvit 75/1, On Nut, 087-042-7067. BTS On Nut (take the BTS to On Nut station. Leave the station on the side opposite to Tesco’s, and walk back towards Soi 75/1. Humble’s is 80m up the soi, just behind the Baan Saran Nuch serviced apartments residence). OPEN Mon-Thu 10am-11pm, Fri-Sun 10am-midnight.
Much of the credit for the look and feel of Humble’s goes to its creator and publican Mike Humble, a South African of British extraction who previously ran The Pomegranate in Beijing (for anyone reading this who may have visited that popular Shunyi watering hole, expect more of the same here, but on a smaller, Thai scale). Having relocated to Bangkok with wife and daughter and ﬁnding himself at a loose end, he set about doing what he knew best – running a smart yet relaxed Western-style bar and restaurant serving a solid range of local and international favourites. We’re glad to report he’s mostly succeeded. Though still a work in progress – he’s planning to revamp the kitchen, transform the upstairs ﬂoor into a lounge, and add an outdoor bar – on a Friday night the place was busy with a mixed crowd, including international school teachers and residents of the adjoining serviced apartments. Food portions are generous (the house burger can feed two), and the prices reasonable. If he’s in the mood, Mike might even regale you with a song or two (a decent musician, he’s gigged in Zambia and cities all over China). In short, Humble’s makes you reconsider going to On Nut on a Friday night. We’ve been humbled... Simon Ostheimer
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Before you go clubbing in Bangkok, know that stand-alone clubs are required by law to close at 1am, hotel clubs at 2am. The legal drinking age is 20, and all patrons must carry proof. No ID, no entry, and absolutely no smoking inside
nightclubs and a late evening snack (including tasty meat wraps from a shawarma station).
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TAPAS (map C4) Silom Soi 4, 02-632-7982. BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom. Daily 8pm-2am On the groovy little enclave of Silom Soi 4, Tapas is a party institution and one of the few mixed hang-outs on a heavily gay strip of lively bars and clubs. For more than 10 years it’s been pumping out excellent house music and live, bongo-bangin’ percussion sets as well. Multi-levelled, with a dark, Moroccan feel, it’s easy to chill here, whether lounging or dancing your tail off! Like Soi 4 in general, weeknights can be hit-ormiss, but weekends are always hopping. Bed Supperclub
Q BAR (map D3) 34 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-252-3274; www. qbarbangkok.com. BTS Nana. 8pm-1am Long-standing, New York-style night spot Q Bar is well-known for pouring stiff drinks (there are over 70 varieties of top-shelf vodka!) and its strong music policy, with international DJs leading the way. Q Bar raised the ‘bar’ for Bangkok nightlife nine years ago and is still going strong, with a ﬂirty crowd every night and many big name guest DJs. Best nights: Sunday’s Gin
& Juice hip-hop party, Wednesday’s Block Party with hip-hop & funk classics (ladies enter free), and Friday’s Houseduction. Upstairs at Q a chic, remarkably different vibe resounds in the bar/lounge, especially on Mondays when jazz music rules the speaker system (and the downstairs danceﬂoor takes a rest). Some relative solitude and a choice pick ‘n’ mix of the expat and jetset scene can usually be found here and on the outdoor terrace, perfect for a breather, people watching
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BED SUPPERCLUB (map D3) 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-3537; www.bedsupperclub.com. Daily 7.30pm-1am With its über-modern elliptical spaceship design, Bed Supperclub is a hugely successful hybrid, and a Bangkok icon: ﬁne dining on what may be the world’s largest sofas on one side, and an adjoining bar on the other. For the past eight years, Bed has attracted a fashionable crowd, and with its à-la-page white interior, is deﬁnitely a place to see and be seen. The food is world-class on the cosy restaurant side, and the sleek design extends to an all-white bar on the club side, where bartenders blend cocktails using everything from local herbs to cutting-edge foams and sorbets. Bed has talented resident DJs and brings over topclass world talent (including some very eclectic art) for special events. Tuesday’s hip-hop party Pop Champagne packs them in while Wednesday’s Model Night throbs with Latin house music. Big-room house and mash-up hip-hop rules on Friday, and Sunday mixes 1980s pop hits with house music. It’s time to go to bed.
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Cabarets CLUB CULTURE (map B3) Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (behind Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall), 089-497-8422; club-culture-bkk.com. Wed-Sat 8pm-late Club Culture comes from the brains behind the city’s much-loved annual dance music festival, Culture One. After being evicted from its home, a former Thai theatre on Phaya Thai Road, it relocated to this faux-colonial, four-storey warehouse in the Old City back in early 2010, much to the relief of its regulars – a cross-cultural mix of hipster Thais and discerning expats. Like the old days they aim to promote new talent, while still bringing in the big guns, ensuring an eclectic roster of indie rock, drum n bass and house music of all genres.
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DEMO (map E4) Thonglor Soi 10 (next to Funky Villa), 02-711-6970. BTS Thong Lo. Daily 8pm-1am. Entrance free. Easily the grittiest discoteca in the swish Thonglor area is Demo – a former tenement building turned dark, grafﬁti daubed brick warehouse. Featuring a cool terrace and bar outside, and lots of space to throw shapes inside, not only does it look like a venue you’d ﬁnd teeming with hipsters in East London or, maybe, at a push, Berlin. It sounds like one too: instead of the usual mainstream hip-hop 70
and live-bands, Demo’s DJs blast zeitgeisty nu-disco, house and electro through a kicking sound-system. And when they do go hip-hop, on Wednesdays, they keep it old-school. Demo offers an impressive range of beers, shots and cocktails and on weekends packs in a much more ‘inter’ crowd than its nearest rivals.
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ROUTE 66 (map E3) 29/33-48 Royal City Avenue; route66club.com. Entrance free for Thais, B200 foreigners (including two drinks) On the strip for 16 years, ‘Route’, as it’s affectionately known, is RCA’s longest surviving superclub. Once you’ve ﬂashed your id at the burly bouncers, you’ve entered something akin to a brash nighttime themepark for the hard-ofhearing. There are three zones to explore (four if you count the toilets – probably the ritziest in town). ‘The Level’ is the huge, all-lasers-blazing hip-hop room; ‘The Classic’ spins house and techno; and Thai bands cover local and inter hits in ‘The Novel’. Rammed with groups of dressedto-kill Thais on weekends, most of them loaded on their drink of choice, whiskeesodaa, Route is not a good place to lose your mates after one too many but can be a blast if you all get crazy around a table, be it inside or out on the relatively chilled outdoors area. Drinking tip: do as they do and split a bottle between you.
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MAMBO (map C4) 59/28 Rama 3 Road, 02-294-7381. Show times 7.15pm, 8.30pm, 10pm (please reserve for 10pm). Price B800, VIP B1,000 The mother of Bangkok drag cabarets, tongue-in-cheek Mambo is still going strong, thanks to its fab ensemble of the city’s most glam kathoey giving their all amid rather drab décor. The very popular show is somewhat mainstreamy, but its professionalism keeps you entertained. The gals are so good they’ve even toured London. Be prepared for mimed pop tunes, Broadway evergreens, glitz and big, big melodrama.
CALYPSO (map C3) Asia Hotel, 296 Phaya Thai Road, 02-216-8937; calypsocabaret.com. Daily 8.15pm & 9.45pm. Price B1,200 (includes 1 drink) Bangkok’s biggest drag show cabaret features more than 50 kathoey (ladyboys) in a gender-bending and dazzling show twice a night. The show’s a rollercoaster of fun: envisage Madonna and Marilyn mimes, Nippon kitsch and the Paris Folies. Their Spice Girls are frighteningly good. Calypso offers an intriguing blend of the comic, the sexy and the bizarre. Don’t be afraid to take the kids along.
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Fed up with Bangkok’s fume-ﬁlled streets? Fancy a breather from the smog? Then take to the skies. Bangkok offers a clutch of dramatic high-altitude bars (both indoor and outdoor) from where you can survey the glittering skyline below.
bars with a view
Millennium Magic. And do check out the hotel lobby.
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THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am A beacon over Bangkok’s night sky is ablaze. Picture a gorgeously moody, sexy place with world-class jazz, awesome cocktails and heart-stopping views. Sprinkle this with the fact that you’ll be part of the international trendsetter scene just because you’ve managed to cross the Chao Phraya.
Sound inviting? Head over to the Millennium Hilton and take the glass elevator to the 32nd ﬂoor. Up in a glassed-in, UFO-like construction 130 metres high, Three Sixty perfects a circle. Soft couches and smooth cocktails enhance a dizzying view: Bangkok’s downtown and a row of riverside hotels spread out in front of you. Good thing this place doesn’t revolve. It’s a grown-up crowd which values Osetra on blinis with their drinks. Pure Post-
LONG TABLE (map D3) 48 Column Bldg, Sukhumvit Soi 16 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-3022557-9 | www.longtablebangkok.com | 11am-2am Top-end Thai food isn’t the only thing drawing Bangkok’s in-crowd to this impossibly swish restaurant-cum-bar in droves. There’s also the trendsetting twist: a sleek communal dining table so long it makes a medieval banquet bench look positively petite. However, it’s what happens at the end of the room that propels this place deep into the nightlife stratosphere. Where the long table ends, a tall plate glass window and huge poolside patio, complete with bar, begins. Out here, 25 ﬂoors up, you can glug signature “long-tail” cocktails or ﬁne wines with the best of high-ﬂying Bangkok: a glitzy hotchpotch of celebrities, models and power players; hair-tousling breezes; and – best of all – widescreen city vistas. A Sukhumvit high point.
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NIGHTLIFE PANORAMA (map C3) Crowne Plaza, Rama IV Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-632-9000 | crowneplaza.com.com | 11.30am2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm Ideal for interminably hot or drizzly nights, the Deck Bar is a low-slung little bar counter found in the partitioned area at the rear of the Pan Paciﬁc’s upmarket Panorama restaurant. Perfect for pre-dinner, the wine-list here is a facsimile of the restaurant’s (i.e. expansive and top-notch), and on cool nights the windows are open to the night air and a 23rd ﬂoor view across Bangkok. Plonk yourself on one of its stools, order in a scotch and tapas, and let your eyes wander.
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Niu’s on Silom Jazz Club Is Bangkok’s newest and brightest jazz club location, Where you can enjoy live performances daily, which include International musicians and some of the hottest local musicians.
V9 (map C4) 37F Soﬁtel Silom Hotel | 188 Silom Rd BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-238-1991 |6pm-2am Smart V9 is a funky space, one-third comfy bar, one-third slick restaurant, one-third huge wine retail shop. Oenophiles undergo orgiastic experiences once they walk past the dozens of wine crates lining the entrance. All of the wines can be bought at supermarket prices and consumed on the premises with no corkage fee. The in-house Sommelier’s pairings are exquisite, with 15 house wines to tempt you by the glass or short carafe. The French food served up is faultless (try their snack trees), as are the cocktails – dozens of signature blends in a long menu.
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Niu’s on Silom Jazz Club
Wine Bar & Restaurant 661 Floor 1-2 Silom Road (cnr Soi 19) Tel: 0 2266 5333-4 Daily 5pm-1am; Free valet parking firstname.lastname@example.org www.niusonsilom.com
MOON BAR (map C4) 61F Banyan Tree Hotel | 21/100 South Sathorn Rd | 02-679-1200 | www.banyantree.com | 5pm-1am As the name suggests, this is one place that will get you closer to the moon. The open-air bar lets you take in the urban Moloch from up-above in smart surroundings. Banyan Tree’s Moon Bar is a romantic hideaway. With stunning 360 degree views, the hotel’s rooftop
has been turned into a slick grill restaurant; one end is occupied by the bar. Nothing obstructs your view here, almost 200 metres high up. It’s the perfect spot for honeymooners – take a seat on the smart sofa stations, sip on a classy Martini or a yummy signature cocktail and feel romance welling up.
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SKY BAR / DISTIL (map B3-4) State Tower, 1055 Silom Rd | 02624-9555 | www.thedomebkk.com | 6pm-1am High ﬂiers hankering after a taste for the dramatic can head over to The Dome at State Tower. Among the world’s highest outdoor bars, Skybar – attached to Med restaurant Sirocco – offers panoramic views of the city and river below, earning its popularity with visitors new to the City of Angels and those intent on rediscovering it. Indoor-outdoor Distil boasts a roomful of comfy sofas, beyond-premium liquor and The Dome’s signature breathtaking view. These places are deﬁnately not spots for the casual beach bum; so be sure to leave your ﬂip-ﬂops and shopping bags at home – a strict smartcasual dress code is enforced.
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AMOROSA (map A3) Arun Residence Hotel, 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Young, Maharat Road (near Wat Po temple) | 02-221-9158 | www.arunresidence.com | 6pm-1am Balmy breezes, soft Latin Jazz, soursweet cocktails and passable wine list: all the ingredients for an agreeable open-air bar are in place at the Mediterranean-themed Amorosa. The show-stopper though is the view: perched on the roof of a fourstorey boutique hotel, it overlooks the weaving Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun, the stunning Temple of Dawn. Go before sundown and gaze out as the sun disappears behind it. Or instead come later, when spotlights make it glow against the night sky.
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CM2 (map C3) Basement, Novotel Siam Square, 392/44 Siam Square Soi 6 | BTS Siam | 02-2098888 | www.cm2bkk.com | 10pm-2am | facebook.com/conceptcm2 The Novotel Siam Square Hotel’s subterranean party cave still packs them in fourteen years after it ﬁrst opened, especially on weekends when it heaves with tourists and nocturnal beauties. A renovation a few years back made way for more lounging space overlooking the big and quite 1980s disco looking (black and metal and neon lighting rule) danceﬂoor, plus a sports bar with pool tables, smoking room, and Absolut Vodka Lounge. It’s mainstream all the way. DJs play what the crowd wants, when they want it, usually the latest electro, funky house or hip-grinding R&B tune, while the international live bands perform as if every song is a potentially life-changing audition (Simon Cowell would be impressed). Cheesy? It is a bit; but still a fun (and eye-opening) night out. International/Thai food and a huge cocktail list is served, as is what they claim is Bangkok’s strongest pour – all drinks feature double shots for no extra charge.
BEERVAULT (map D3) Four Points by Sheraton, 4 Sukhumvit Soi 15 |BTS Asok | 02-304-3200 |www. fourpoints.com|11.30am-12pm Lower Sukhumvit may be studded with noisy Brit, Irish and Aussie pubs catering to beer lovers but ironically none can match the brew selection of the Four Points Sheraton’s snazzy little hotel bar. Only 80 count ‘em paces from Sukhumvit Road, this snug glass and brick box with a colour-changing column lined with ﬂatscreens dangling over its central bar, serves no less than 48 bottled brews and six on tap (as well as wines and shandy and beer cocktails to keep the ladies happy). Many of them hail from Belgium, making the BeerVault the ﬁrst serious downtown alternative
hotel bars & nightclubs
to the ever popular Belgium beer bar Hobbs, over on Thonglor. Quite apart from its thirst quenching qualities, however, the BeerVault is a convivial spot, one we recommend for early evening drinks. Thanks to its streetside location and ﬂoor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows overlooking it, it feels more like a buzzy standalone boozer than your usual bleak hotel bar, and as well as happy hours from 5:30-7:30pm, there’s a free salad bar. Any chance of a lock-in?
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BARSU (map D3) Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Rd | 02-649-8358 | www.barsubangkok.com | 6pm-2am The informal yet sleek and minimally
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styled BarSu features the tagline “eat, play, dance,” and appeals to the over-30 Bangkok crowd who feel disenfranchised by the city’s current nightlife offerings. To this end, house, hip hop and techno are banned; inhouse DJs spin soul, funk, rock, vintage 70s, 80s and world music. An audacious dining concept features a menu of sophisticated bar snacks created by a Belgian two-star Michelin chef. In all fairness, calling this premium fare “bar snacks” is doing it a disservice: it’s ﬁnger food designed to be shared – sushi, sashimi, tapas and “wapas” (world tapas) – although not ﬁnger food as you know it. Ladies get a free standard drink on Wednesdays and the chance to win a bottle of Baileys.
bars CAFÉ TRIO (map C3) 36/11-12 Soi Lang Suan | 02-252-6572 | BTS Chit Lom | 6pm-1am; closed on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month Tucked into a narrow alley off Soi Lang Suan, this cozy jazz bar & art gallery is a welcome alternative to Bangkok’s raucous pubs and haughty lounge bars – a true neighbourhood place. Cafe Trio overﬂows with plush couches, the lighting delightfully soft, the music always subdued. The vivacious owner and bartender Patti holds court nightly and the walls plastered with her Modigliani-esque, Vietnameseinspired paintings – have a few drinks and don’t be surprised to ﬁnd yourself taking one home. To ﬁnd it, look for the Chinese restaurant across from Starbucks and 50m down the road.
CHEAP CHARLIE’S (map D3) Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02253-4648 | Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight This joint is a Bangkok institution, bringing the charm of a rickety holein-the-wall bar to one of Sukhumvit’s swankiest sois. A no-brainer meet-up spot, Cheap Charlie’s draws crowds of expats, NGOers and tourists in the- know to ﬁll up on B70 beers and pocket-change G&Ts before heading off to eat and party – though don’t be surprised if you end up here all night. Its location is a winner, situated as it is on a cool little subsoi (ﬁrst on the left as you walk down from Sukhumvit) packed with restaurants and a short walk from hallowed Bangkok ginpalaces Q Bar and Bed Supperclub.
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HYDE & SEEK (map C3) 65/1 Athenée Residence, Soi Ruamrudee | 02-168-5152 | BTS Phloen Chit | www. hydeandseek.com | 11am-1am | $$ This ﬂash downtown gastro bar with a spacious outdoors terrace draws the after-work crowd for pick-me-up cocktails and good food that doesn’t 74
break the bank. Heading the kitchen is Ian Kittichai, the brains behind New York’s successful Kittichai, while the bar is fuelled by regional cocktail consultancy Flow. The sleek, Georgian inﬂuenced décor has panelled walls, clubby chairs and a large central bar, where snacks like beer battered popcorn shrimps and baby back ribs glazed with chocolate and chilli go well with fancy, artisanal cocktails or Belgian ales.
THE IRON FAIRIES & CO (map E4) 394 Thonglor (Sukhumvit Soi 55) | 084- 520-2301 | BTS Thong Lor |www. theironfairies.com Bangkok’s most bizarre bar is a functioning iron foundry — yes, you can actually buy the eponymous iron fairies themselves — that just happens to serve booze. Drawing heavily from the steampunk genre, it has the labyrinthine otherworldliness of a Terry Gilliam ﬁlmset. Walls are daubed black, silent movies are projected on the walls upstairs, an in-house magician tours the tables, and Doris Day classics are belted out from the cast-iron spiral staircase. Beers start from B120 a bottle, a wellmixed dirty martini goes for B280 and the burgers, served pinned to a wooden chopping board with a steak knife, divine. It’s time to get with the fairies.
WONG’S PLACE (map C4) 27/3 Soi Sri Bumphen/Soi Ngam Duplee, near Malaysia Hotel | MRT Lumpini | 02-286-1558 | Mon-Sat 10pm till late It’s amazing how Wong’s Place stays in business. It’s not near any public transport; opens when it wants, closes when it wants; plays crackly videos from Top of the Pops in 1985; has a couple of serve-yourself beer fridges and is not much bigger than a living room. Yet it attracts a ﬁercely loyal crowd of expat journalists, English teachers and professional barﬂies who have been coming here for years and regard owner Sam as a kind of benevolent dictator, knowing better than to take advantage of the beer-fridges honour system. Come before midnight and it’s pretty dead (the nightlife
The Iron Fairies & Co
Wong’s Place at the wong time?). Come after the other bars close – it’s a mere hop skip and a jump from Silom –and watch the night unfold.
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WTF (map E4) 7 Sukhumvit Soi 51 |BTS Thonglor | 02- 626-6246 | BTS Thong Lo | www. wtfbangkok.com | Tues-Sun 6pm- 1am (gallery open from 3pm) This tiny shophouse – signposted by grafﬁti on a corrugated tin wall in the street opposite – has a bar on the ground floor, decked out with mirrors along one wall, old Thai movie posters on the other, and found items like wooden screen doors and chairs apparently salvaged from an old Czech café. Occasional leftﬁeld live gigs, art exhibitions (in two bare white rooms upstairs), and a mix of local indie hipsters, NGO workers, journos and art-scensters to chew the fat with, make this one of the hippest and most cerebral drinking holes in the city.
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AD HERE THE 13TH (map A2) 13 Samsen Rd, Bang Lamphu | 089769-4613 | 5pm-midnight Funky, jammy, bare – one of Bangkok’s coolest hangouts is nothing more than an aisle packed with ﬁve tables, a tiny bar and instruments. It’s a joint you’d expect to ﬁnd on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, except for the Chang beer. North of Khao San Road (ask for ‘Ad Here’, once in the quarter), the down-to-earth, bohemian hang-out packs ‘em in nightly.
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BRICK BAR (map A2-3) 265 Khao San Rd, Taladyod, Phranakorn | 02-629-4477 | Mon-Sun 7pm1am | free entry (Mon–Thu), B150 incl. 1 free drink (Fri-Sat) Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge shopping arcade, this dark and airy redbrick vault features benches downstairs, an upstairs terrace for people or band watching and plenty of nooks and crannies to party in. A magnet for young live music lovers, it’s jumping most nights of the week with freshy 20-somethings out to catch some of Thailand’s biggest ska, reggae, funk and blues bands, many of whom play their own material. Perfect for friends who’ve just hit town.
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RAINTREE PUB (map C3) 116/63-34 Soi Ruamjit, Rang Nam Rd | BTS Victory Monument | 022457230, 081-926-1604 | www.raintreepub.com | 5pm-1am This rustic Thai ‘country’ bar is a sort of all-wooden, pre-consumerist age timecapsule. Raintree hosts musicians playing Pleng Peua Chiwit (Songs for Life), the once phenomenally popular 1970s folk-protest music and soundtrack for Thailand’s politically disaffected. On a stage decorated with the movement’s trademark buffalo skulls, two artists strum nightly. Owner Porn Pimon opened Raintree 19 years ago and has changed little since. And why should she? The people are friendly, the beer snacks cheap and tasty, and the music, made famous by household names like Caravan and Caribou, often soul-stirring.
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PARKING TOYS (off map) 17/22 Soi Maiyalap, Kaset-Navamin Highway, Bang Khen (pier 135-136 on left hand side) | BTS Mo Chit (then taxi) | 02-907-2228 | 6pm-1am It’s quite unusual for a business to go out of its way not to be noticed, but Parking Toys seems to do just that. With a dark, dismal exterior, the venue’s “We Accept Visa” logo is surprisingly larger than the actual bar sign. Once you ﬁnally do manage to get inside the ex-garage (here the choice of name becomes a little clearer) it’s a pure sensory overload. Wall-to-wall retro furniture becomes instant eye-candy, while chairs without upholstery dangle from the ceiling. But if the funky furniture creates the space, the live music deﬁnitely deﬁnes it.
decent Thai, Chinese and German dishes. By 10pm though, when bellies are full, the lager’s kicked in and the Thai/Western pop, luk krung and mor lam performances by the famous Fong Nam houseband and guests are at full pelt, everybody is on the feet and the place going bananas. Tipsy tourists clink glasses with every stranger in reach, while middle-aged mums shake their tooshes beside ladyboys. In sum, it offers great, goofy, love-for-Bangkok reafﬁrming fun. Reservations are a must for large groups.
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TAWANDAENG GERMAN BREWERY (map C4) 462/61 Narathiwat Rama 3 Road | 02-678-1114 | www.tawandang.co.th | This humungous, barrel-shaped beer hall with decent micro-brewed beer takes its cue from Deutschland. But the live music and unchecked sanuk up to 1,600 lary revelers enjoy here each night here is something very Thai. Its laidback early on, with everyone chomping on plates of the famous deep fried pork knuckle and German sausage, among other nightlife
jazz clubs THE LIVING ROOM (map D3) Sheraton Grande, 250 Sukhumvit Road, 02-649-8888; sheratongrandesukhumvit. com. BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit. Daily 10am- 12.30am Perhaps the cosiest of all Bangkok’s luxury hotel bars, the leather couches at The Living Room are so snug it’ll be hard to get up again once you’re seated. It’s a stylish place, and the usually middle-aged patrons live it up on great wines, champagne and strong cocktails in a quiet way. The high-ceilinged foyer offers perfect acoustics for the fabulous jazz band. Be prepared to be well-entertained. World-class talents are booked in continuously, guaranteeing top-notch jazz and always a warm audience rapport. Currently The Living Room plays host to Trio Live, performing every Tuesday through Thursday nights from 9pm to 11:45pm, plus Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30pm to 12:15am. You can also catch them during the Sheraton Grande’s legendary Sunday Jazzy Brunch, a veritable institution.
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DIPLOMAT BAR (map C3) Conrad Bangkok, 87 Witthayu Rd | BTS Ploen Chit | 02-690-9999 | www.conradbangkok.com | Sun-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am An architecturally striking hotel bar, mixing a funky, stylish décor with soft
teak sofas and an arresting chandelier hanging over the massive round bar. Bronze silks and wood dominate this dark, contemporary, but always relaxed place. A boozy, high-proﬁle crowd ﬁlls the Diplomat Bar nightly, especially during the elongated, buy-
one-get-one-free Happy Hour from 4-7pm (standard drinks only). Very hip among the diplomatic corps (Witthayu is stuffed with embassies), trendy guys in suits and glitzy society ladies – ideal for people-ogling. But the main attraction at the Diplomat Bar is more aural than visual.
BAMBOO BAR (map B4) Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Ave | 02-659-9000 | www.mandarinoriental.com | Sun-Thu 11am-1am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am Situated in the city’s most fabled hotel, the former Oriental, the 50-yearold bar oozes class, sophistication and style. Reminiscent of a tropical ﬁlm noir-setting, it features a jungle theme – bamboo, palm fronds and furry patterns. Small and busy, it’s nevertheless romantic and intimate – balanced by the legendary Russian jazz band that’s been on the stage here for ages. Monday through Saturday nights catch the sultry sounds of their current resident. Everybody here sips on faultless cocktails, mixed by skilled old-school bartenders and served by superb staff. A deﬁnite big Bangkok must, even if just the once.
THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am Dizzying 32nd ﬂoor views across the Chao Phraya. Bangkok’s downtown ﬂickering in front of you. Well worth crossing the river for, Threesixty is Bangkok’s most jawdropping jazz venue. Each night its dressy crowd soaks up that cameragrabbing panoramic alongside the sounds of Cynthia Utterbach. Her sultry renditions – spanning bossa nova to RnB – make this glassed in, ﬂying saucer-like construction seem gorgeously moody. And the wan blue lounge lights, soft couches and smooth cocktails help. Requests are welcomed.
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NIU’S ON SILOM (mapC4) F1-2, 661 Silom Rd | 02-266-5333 | www.niusonsilom.com | 5pm-1am Located not far from the Chao Phraya, this New York-style wine bar – with its hot jazz, old leather armchairs and roses on candlelit tables – has a house band with some of Bangkok’s better local talent. They provide the backbone for international guest vocalists, and trumpeter Steve Lowry
and guitarist Dan Phillips, who rotate nightly. There’s also a jazz jam every Sunday and occasional concerts featuring overseas visitors. Niu’s is a class act, but still casual, comfortable for both beers or brandy; and you can eat bar snacks or dine formally in the impressive Concerto Italian restaurant upstairs. Pleasant outside seating is also available.
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BROWN SUGAR (map C4) 231/20 Sarasin Rd | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-250-1826 | Mon-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 5pm-1am Sarasin Road, bordering Lumphini Park, hosts a strip of teeming bars. The best one is definitely this long-standing, smoky jazz club. The joint evokes a jazz haunt of yesteryear with dark woods, tight benches and a tiny stage. Newsweek called it ‘Asia’s Number One Spot’ and to prove the point, it’s packed every night. If you care for seats, arrive early, before the brilliant band starts at 9pm. You can have some decent pub grub, but it’s pricier than one might assume from the look of the haunt – same goes for the strong drinks. Sunday nights are the best – it’s the night off for most hotel bar singers, who all congregate here to let their hair down and jam with local pros.
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Niu’s on Silom
EST. 33 EST.33, a modern industrial beer bistro marking a new chapter in Singha beer brand’s age-old story, is a tasty place to kick back after a day of work or before a night of partying. Located in Bangkok’s Crystal Design Center, EST. 33 has the rustic charm of cast-iron arches, massive WHERE Crystal concrete pillars, and a large Design Center Building E, glass centerpiece: the ﬁrst Praditmanutham Rd (Ekamai Crystal Brewing System Ramintra Road), Bangkapi, in Asia. One can witness 02-102-2096, est-33.com the fermentation process OPEN 4pm-midnight ﬁrst-hand or consult with PRICE Food B160- B350; the onsite “brew master”, drinks B120- B180 making it quite the educational experience. Turning out 500 litres of beer with each batch, the brewery rotates its selection every quarter to keep your taste buds happy. Currently you can ﬁnd “The Legend” larger beer, The “One & Only” copper beer, and the “Mysterious” black beer, all topped off with that creamy lace. The food perfectly compliments the beer. Home-smoked salmon with a spicy dressing starts you off light with a refreshing zest. Then onto the Chicken Quesadillas with spinach and mushroom melted together in a medley of cheese. Finally, bring on the German sausages, boiled in beer then grilled, and served with coleslaw and apple sauerkraut. Be careful: the food is a bit heavy, so wear clothes with forgiving waistlines and then dig into desert. We tried the signature parfait of passion fruit, kiwi, lychee and cheesecake, followed by the chocolate scream tart, which left us licking our spoons. With great eats and drinks, it’s not surprising that this spot is crowded, even mid-week. Best advice is to call ahead. Max Crosbie-Jones
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Cigar lounges are slowly catching on in Bangkok, with a small handful of venues now providing outstanding facilities for lovers of quality Coronas and ﬁne Figurados. As well as cigars from Cuba, Ecuador and beyond, the lounges feature luxurious leather sofas, rich wood accents, discreet staff and selections of wine and single malt whisky. Some, like Club Perdomo, operate on a members-only basis, with membership granting access to their worldwide network of lounges. Others, like the Balcony Humidor & Cigar Bar at the InterContinental hotel, are open to guests and the general public. The members-only Paciﬁc Cigar Company opened its ﬁrst lounge, La Casa del Habano, at The Oriental hotel in 1997, and now operates another four venues in Bangkok, as well as one in Pattaya. One of PCC’s more interesting venues is the P&L Club which incorporates a traditional barber shop and ‘Thailand’s largest collection of single barrel malt whiskies.’ BALCONY HUMIDOR & CIGAR BAR Lobby level, InterContinental Bangkok, 973 Ploenchit Road | 8am-1am | 02-656-0444 CLUB PERDOMO BANGKOK 3/1 Sukhumvit Soi 28 | 02-661-3220 | www.clubperdomobangkok. com | 6pm-midnight LA CASA DEL HABANO The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue | 02-267-1596 | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun: 10am-11pm, Sun and public holidays: noon-6pm | www.paciﬁccigar.com P&L CLUB GF Conrad Bangkok, All Seasons Place, 87 Wireless Road | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-11pm, Sun: noon-6pm | 02-685-3898 www.bangkok101.com
Hidden among the salacious delights of Silom Road, you will still ﬁnd some of the “grand old men” of libation locales. O’Reilly’s  is a slightly dingy affair whose décor matches its demeanour – grizzled, but down-to-earth. Even so, it’s popular due to nightly drinks specials, live music, and an outdoor seating area to view the exotic sights of Silom. Just down the street is The Barbican  a multi-level contemporary concoction of granite and steel where the mixed crowd of expats and locals enjoy superior food and a wide choice of imported beers. Molly Malone’s  offers a real taste of Ireland. Drop in during their extended happy hour (5pm-9pm) for live music and multiple big screens for sport. Friendly staff and excellent food (especially their Sunday roast) means this place is always busy. Opposite the infamous Patpong stands The Duke of Wellington . Its open plan layout makes it a bit sterile, but it does have good beer, a daily happy hour 4pm to 9pm and uninterrupted views of the four screens for sport. Jameson’s  sat under the Holiday Inn in the heart of the gem district is the newest kid on the block. It’s a cavernous place but still packs in the punters thanks to fantastic happy hours, including ladies’ night on Tuesdays featuring Margaritas for a ridiculously cheap B29 a glass.
BTS Surasak SATHORN ROAD
1 CONVENT ROAD
SILOM ROAD SURASAK ROAD
SILOM AREA PUBS
BTS Sala Daeng
SUKHUMVIT AREA PUBS
Sukhumvit Road, a haven for expats, is jammed with joints catering to ale aﬁcionados. Beside BTS Phrom Phong station, The Robin Hood  offers daily happy hour and drinks specials, as well as live music and sports. Even so, it can sometimes seem a little sedate. Down a nearby alley is The Bull’s Head , whose oak-panelled walls and low ceilings give off a cosy feel. It’s notable for a top jukebox and occasional comedy nights featuring international stand-ups. Sundays it’s “Toss the Boss”; call the ﬂip of a coin right and the pub pays for the round. The Londoner  is a vast subterranean hideaway that brews its own real ale and lager, has good food and a regular house band. Opposite is the ever-popular Dubliner , a three-storey ediﬁce. Though slightly pricy, the superb food (try the sausages), live music and Guinness pull in the punters. Just around the corner, behind the old Mambo Cabaret, Bourbon Street  backs up its Cajun/Creole dining with a well-stocked bar and good atmosphere. Up the road in the shadow of Asok BTS, is The Black Swan , a proper British booze abode. No bands. No happy hours. Just a snug escape offering a warm atmosphere and a wise-cracking landlord. Tucked down a dead-end street of Soi 11 is The Pickled Liver . A shrine to soccer and suds, the décor is unfussy with a focus on big screen sports. But with friendly staff and daily happy hour it’s not just the sport that makes it worth a visit. Finally, Hanrahans  offers a genuine reason to be seen in Nana. Light and airy it ticks all the right boxes with regular music, special drinks deals and daily happy hour.
BTS Phrom Phong
■ BOURBON STREET 29/4-6 Sukhumvit Soi 22 | BTS Asoke | 02259-0328-9, 02-2594317 | 7am – 1am ■ HANRAHANS Sukhumvit Soi 4 l BTS Nana l 02-255-0644-5l daily 9am-1am ■ JAMESON’S Holiday Inn Silom, Gr. Fl, 981 Silom Rd, BTS Surasak, 02-2667703-5, daily 10am1am ■ MOLLY MALONE’S Convent Rd, Silom | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-2667160 | daily 9am-1am ■ O’REILLYS 62/1-4 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom l 02-632-7515 | daily 9am – 2am ■ THE BARBICAN 9/4-5 Soi Thaniya Rd | 02-234-3590 | BTS Sala Daeng MRT Silom | daily 11:30am – 1am ■ THE BLACK SWAN 326/8-9 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok | MRT Sukhumvit | 02-2294542 | daily 8:00am – midnight ■ THE BULL’S HEAD Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-259-4444 | daily 11:30am – 1am ■ BULLY’S Sukhumvit Rd, btw Sois 2 & 4 | BTS Nana | 02-656-4609 | daily 11am-1am ■ THE DUBLINER 440 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-204-1841/2 | daily 9am-1am ■ THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON 323 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng l 02-234-2874 | daily 10am-1am ■ THE LONDONER Basement, UBC II Bldg. Sukhumvit Soi 33 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-261-0238/9 | daily 11am-1am ■ THE PICKLED LIVER Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-254-3484 | daily 2pm – 3am ■ THE ROBIN HOOD Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-3390 | daily 10pm-midnight june 2011
As clichés go, “shop till you drop” could have been written after a demanding spending spree in Bangkok’s sweltering heat. That said, with something for everyone in this city, you’ll probably not mind the rising temperature
ilk may be syonymous with Thai textiles, but at Khomapastr it’s all about durable, comfortable and cheaper cotton. This has been the case ever since it’s founder, his Royal Highness Prince Bovoradej, worked out how to screen-print traditional Thai designs onto the natural fibre back in 1948. Most famous of its designs – many of which were adapted from books on classical Thai motifs housed at Bangkok’s National Musuem – is the “Lai Pa Kiao”, or gold hand print, a complex design that was traditionally used for garments worn by the Royal Family. This Khomapastr signature has appeared in Thai theatre productions, and pops up left, right and WHERE Miracle Mall, centre in many well-to-do Thai homes, includSukhumvit 41 BTS Phrom ing the Royal Family’s Vimanek Mansion. And it Phong, 02-260-8889; remains a best-seller to this day at their three www.khomapastrfabrics.com shops, one down in Hua Hin, where KhomaPRICE B250-B360/yard pastr was founded, the other two in Bangkok, appearing on everything from cushion covers and head pillows to homeware items. But this design classic isn’t all they sell. Over the past 60 years, Khomapastr has created over 1,000 designs, ranging from twists on Thai motifs, literary characters and mythological creatures, to pastoral depictions of Siamese lifestyles. There are also lots of nattier European-style plant, animal, fruit and graphic designs available, some modern and Laura-Ashley like, others clearly channelling English textile hero William Morris. This may seem a bit odd to those used to seeing textile shops here packed with staunchly homespun silks, but makes perfect sense in the context of Hua Hin, a beach resort town that took on a breezy European elan back in the late 19th century. Don’t see a pattern you like among Khomapastr’s clothes, accessories and homeware range? Fortunately, all fabrics are available by the metre.
มิราเคิลมอลล สุขุมวิท 41
Demand for unique-to-Thailand fashion is on the rise. In celebration of this happy fact, each month we cross-examine one of the labels driving this long term trend, be it a rising star with a point to prove, or a local powerhouse
Dusk Till Dawn’s Nisara Liptawat After earning a Master’s degree in Fashion Design from London’s Istituto Marangoni, where she specialised in womenswear and handicraft, Thai native Nisara Liptawat was appointed assistant to the head designer at McQ by Alexander McQueen. Inspired by her childhood dream of establishing a cutting-edge fashion label, she later returned home and opened Dusk Till Dawn at the Siam Center. How did you get started in fashion? About six years ago I interned as an assistant designer for one of Thailand’s most famous boutiques, practicing how to make ladies’ evening gowns. It inspired me to design my own line of womenswear.
Describe Dusk Till Dawn’s signature style. Dusk Till Dawn is my own dream, concept and inspiration, with each collection revolving around a character. For instance, a prisoner featured in the ‘Love Convict’ collection, and a young grandmother in ‘The New Old’. These characters exaggerate my ideas, but I would rather customers mix and match than try to attain a distinctive Dusk Till Dawn style – my designs are theatrical yet practical.
How does living in Bangkok inspire your designs? Inspiration can be found anywhere, though sometimes a change of place helps refresh your vision.
Who do you consider to be your fashion hero? ‘P’Pakkard’, aka Prapakas Angsusigha, the designer behind Medium-rare, Hook’s, Bean of Jack and Blonde fashion lines. He’s my teacher, my brother, and my dearest friend in the fashion world. Without him, I couldn’t have come this far. Furthermore, he’s a genius! I haven’t seen anything he can’t do.
What is the future of Bangkok’s fashion industry? It needs to be pushed. And we need to push ourselves harder as designers.
Tell us more about your latest fashion collection for Dusk Till Dawn It’s called ‘The Mock Up Model’. We experimented with different cutting and sewing techniques to create new effects on fabric. As we looked through different techniques of folding, we came up with unconventional shapes and patterns. We then used paper to make our props, such as wigs, sunglasses and shoes, so our models looked more like paper dolls than real people. Apart from the conceptual pieces for the runway, we also put together reﬁned versions that can be worn in everyday life. www.bangkok101.com
Where are your favourite places to buy womenswear? I would actually suggest (if you’re not already doing it) that all women should go shopping for menswear instead. By doing that, you’ll be more open to experimenting with fashion.
What should ladies be wearing this season? Anything with a hint of caramel or a splash of vivid colour.
Dusk Till Dawn: Shop 344, 3/F, Siam Center, 979 Rama 1 Road, 02-6581101, email@example.com; dusktilldawnclothing.com june 2011
Visitors to Bangkok will be amazed at how prevalent mall culture is in the weave of modern Thai society; malls here are not just places to shop for designer labels; there are also restaurants, cinemas, bowling, aquariums and much more
mall crawl MBK BTS National Stadium Perpetually packed shopper’s paradise; a mind-boggling, onestop bargain. Always busy, on weekends half of Bangkok’s teens converge here, hunting for the latest mobile phones and more.
BTS National Stadium
SIAM DISCOVERY BTS Siam Light, pleasant and never too busy. Inside it’s international hip young brands (Diesel, Replay, Armani Exchange) and impressive interior stores (Loft and Mae Fah Luang).
JIM THOMPSON HOUSE
MAJOR HOTELS 1 Pathumwan Princess 2 Novotel Siam 3 Amari Watergate 4 The Four Seasons 5 Grand Hyatt Erawan 6 Intercontinental 7 Holiday Inn 8 Conrad 9 Plaza Athenee 10 Royal Orchid Sheraton 11 The Oriental 12 The Peninsula 13 Shangri-La 14 OP Place
U RI RO AD
SIAM CENTER BTS Siam The mall that started it all in 1973 hauls in trendy teens and young adults alike, who shop for Euro-fashion and innovative local brands like Jaspal and Soda.
BTS Siam Elevated RAMA 1 RDWalkway
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SIAM SQUARE BTS Siam Bangkok’s heart for trendsetters, this maze of narrow streets has heaps of tiny boutiques carrying local up-and-comers, gastrogems and indie cinemas.
PANTHIP PLAZA Bangkok’s one-stop shop for any and all computing needs: be it hardware, software and gadgets. It’s a loud, brash mecca for technology geeks.
SIAM PARAGON BTS Siam This gigantic shopping complex is legendary among Bangkok hi-sos. It’s also home to Siam Ocean World aquarium, too.
ERAWAN BANGKOK BTS Chitlom Posh boutique mall adjacent to the bright Erawan Shrine.
RIVER CITY Four well laid-out ﬂoors of stores selling antiques, plus ethnic and tribal art from Southeast Asia, with a bit of the South Paciﬁc, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan thrown in.
RATCHADAMRI ROAD 4
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To Emporium shopping mall, get off at BTS Phrom Phong
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EMPORIUM BTS Phrom Phong Very chic mall with the most amiable atmosphere, thanks to its airy architecture. Make sure you pay a visit to TCDC, the neat Thailand Creative Design Center.
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O PH CHA
CENTRAL CHIT LOM BTS Chitlom Seven ﬂoors of clothes, shoes and accessories from all the major labels, plus some eye-catching Thai designers. The Food Loft is one of Bangkok’s best food courts.
ALL SEASONS PLACE BTS Ploenchit The sleek mall in a skyscraper complex is known more for its battery of excellent eateries than its selection of shops; although the high-end retail range is impressive, including numerous art galleries, cigar shops, tailors and Euro-fashion.
GAYSORN BTS Chitlom All-white interior features glitzy, top-class brands – expect the likes of Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.
G WON SUR A
JEWELRY TRADE CENTER A treasure trove of gleaming gems and priceless souvenirs. 13
M S ILO
aking a wrong turn’s almost a given in this sprawling, citysized marketplace, upon which thousands descend every weekend, to trade everything from Burmese antiques to pedigree livestock. Originally a ﬂea market, Jatujak (also spelled as Chatuchak) quickly outgrew the conﬁnes of the insect world to become much more than the sum of its disparate parts. These days, young Thai
Forget designer malls. Jatujak weekend market is Bangkok’s true paragon of retail. This is shopping as survival of the fi ttest: only those with finely tuned consumer instincts shall persevere. The rest can get lost – quite literally
designers take advantage of the low onsite rent to punt their creative wares; if you so desire, you can peruse piles of customised Zippos that once belonged to American GIs; and tasty pickings conveniently punctuate every which way. Additionally, the exotic pet section supports the theory that Jatujak has evolved its own diverse eco-system (albeit one that periodically gets busted for illegal activites).
All this can be a bit overwhelming at ﬁrst, but persevere and a semblance of order should begin to crystallise from the chaos. Go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. Or come for a leisurely browse on Friday before the real deluge hits; although only the weekend gig gives ardent shopaholics the fully-blown, unadulterated Jatujak ﬁx they desire.
The Jatujak Market of Bangkok presents photographer Simon Bonython’s visual interpretation of Bangkok’s world famous weekend market, giving particular emphasis on candid snaps of the general public and the characters who work there. In spite of the dark alleys and typically poorly lit stalls, Simon avoided using a tripod or ﬂash, making for more spontaneous, natural shots that capture the heat, buzz and colour of this labyrinthine treasure trove. The Jatujak Market of Bangkok, Amber House Books, B1,950, hardcover 84
of the month Traps & Wana
This month in JJ, we check out cool new shop Traps & Wana, run by Bangkok-based Japanese designer Tepei Oue (with help from a few friends). The store’s first incarnation was in the Pratunam fashion mall, behind CentralWorld, before they moved to Suan Lum Night Bazaar. When that was bulldozed earlier this year, Oue found a new home in Siam Square (Lido Theatre), before opening a second branch at the Siam Paradise Night Bazaar (Area A165,166,170), and now in JJ. Traps & Wana is a hit with hipsters for its naughty but fun designs, and graphically matching T-shirts, jackets, pants, tank-tops, bags and shoes. Pattarasuda Prajittanond WHERE Section 26 (near MRT main road), 02-742-4790, 087-671-6966; trapsbkk.com OPEN Approx. 9am-7pm
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14. Clothing, miscellaneous 15. Pets and accessories 16. Clothing, miscellaneous 17. Ceramics 18. Clothing, miscellaneous 19. Ceramics 20. Clothing, miscellaneous 21. Clothing, miscellaneous 22. Home utensils and décor, furniture 23. Clothing, miscellaneous 24. Home utensils and décor, furniture 25. Home utensils and décor, furniture 26. Antiques
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1. Books, antiques, collectibles, food & drink 2. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 3. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 4. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 5. Second-hand clothing 6. Second-hand clothing 7. Art, food & drink 8. Handicraft, home décor and miscellaneous 9. Pets and accessories 10. Clothing, accessories, miscellaneous 11. Pets and accessories 12. Clothing, miscellaneous 13. Pets and accessories
Chatuchak Mo Chit Park Station Station
Every month, we throw a spotlight onto one of Bangkok’s markets, selecting the best stalls and shops you need to check out. what to buy from them, as well as all the information you need to know on how to get there and navigate around
Siam Paradise Night Bazaar When Bangkok’s beloved Suan Lum Night Bazaar closed last December, there was much sadness, followed shortly by whoops of joy as news did the rounds of a replacement opposite Sukhumvit Soi 101/1, Siam Paradise Night Bazaar. Currently the location of the market, between two yet-to-be-opened Skytrain stations, Udom Suk and Punnawithi, is handicapping its popularity somewhat, but fingers crossed this should all change when they come into service this August. Here are four stores that are already worth making the trip for.
INTENT DÉCOR One of quite a few Suan Lum stores that have relocated here, Intent stocks leather products made from crocodile and cow hide. They sell a varied range, from wallets and name card holders to cushions and, of course, handbags, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for there’s always their made-to-order service. The owner Khun Natlika, is there most weekdays and has been known to give good discounts to those who ask. Section 4 Soi 47/2; 084-115-2970 MONTRA SENSE Heavenly aromas drift from Montra Sense’s black shelves stacked with scented diffusers, room sprays, aroma oils, candle holders, oil burners, and candle trays. The Thai herb and flower scented products at this successful fragrance store, one of seven branches around the city, are said to last longer than the average. This is due to a special technique invented by their factory that uses 86
high density oil that burns slower, thus emitting a scent for longer. Section 17; Khun Tuck 081-489-0700 SENSE OF THAI (THAI HOME SPA PRODUCT) Who needs a fancy spa when at Siam Paradise you’ve got Sense of Thai? From herbal pou ch es and soaps, to a line of aromatherapy oils, moisturizers and salt scrubs, this do-it-yourself spa store has all you need to start dishing out rubs, massages, or other therapies in the privacy of your own home. The main ingredients of their products are extracted from Thai herbs, or samun phrai, and if you want to embark on a wrinkle, detox or skin whitening programme, but don’t know where to start, look no further than their good-value product bundles. Section 13 Room C041 THE VINTAGE GEN Girls into classic threads should not miss The Vintage Gen. The owner believes that good vintage clothing is much like good wine, gets better with age, and to prove her point she snaps up one-off items for her popular stall while on her travels. As shopping
the wall mural of vintage lady suggest, the racks here are especially well stocked with pieces that date from the classic 50s and 60s period. Particularly abundant are long, highwaist and maxi dresses printed with polka dots and flower prints, as well as classy shoes and accessories. Section 7 Room B057-058; www.facebook.com/Thevintagegen Siam Paradise is open daily from 6pm-11pm. The area is divided into nine zones: Apparel & Accessories, Spa, Souvenir, Restaurant, Home Décor, Furniture, Pet Shop, Beer Garden, and Exhibition Hall. GETTING THERE Take the skytrain to BTS On Nut then take a taxi (it should cost around B80). Alternatively, you could just wait until August 12, when the BTS skytrain extension should open to the public, allowing you to hop off at Punnawithi Station (E11) and stroll to the nearby Siam Paradise Night Bazaar with ease. WHERE Opposite Sukhumvit 101/1, 02-7448620; siamparadisenightbazaar.co.th www.bangkok101.com
While the fancy designer, air-conditioned malls of Siam grab much of the attention, when it comes to shopping in Bangkok, there’s no better way to discover the local retail experience than by heading to one of the city’s many interesting markets TALAT ROT FAI (THE TRAIN MARKET) Kamphaeng Phet Road, MRT Kamphaeng Phet. Sat & Sun 6pm-midnight This retro-inﬂected ﬂea market just around the corner from Jatuchak Weekend Market is well worth the trip, for its hipster vibes and camerafriendly setup as much as what’s sold there. Hundreds of antique hounds and retro-mad dek neaw (teen hipsters) ﬂock to this plot of State Railway department land on Saturday and Sunday evenings to browse and bargain for vintage collectibles, reproductions and fashions. And yet, the chance to pick up a beat up old Michelin Tyre sign, a vintage BMX, or a smelly pair of old trainers is only part of the appeal – ﬂanking Talad Rot Fai is a row of decommissioned train carriages. You can take a stroll through them at your leisure, even kick back on the dusty seats with a cold beer or rocket soda. Backing up the carboot side of things is Rod’s: a railway warehouse turned 20th century antiques wonderland. And there are lots of snacks and drinks stalls (retro-inﬂected, naturally), many of them operating out of customised VW vans. Hop aboard, while you can.
and women’s accessories, also squeeze into this small-city sized market; as does a live band, lots of local food and a mini motor show of classic cars and bikes (nope, those VW vans and pastel-coloured Vespas aren’t for sale unfortunately). Bring a ﬂashlight and your bargaining skills.
RATCHADA NIGHT MARKET Area from BTS Parking lot to The Criminal Court – Ratchadapisek. MRT Ratchadaphisek or MRT Lat Phrao. Sat night only. Vendors at this nighttime (and teenthronged) ﬂea market ﬂog all sorts of retro and secondhand stuff, from art deco lamps and ghetto blasters to Polaroids and vintage clothing. Somewhat like a country fair, it’s open-air and most wares are laid out on the ground, so expect to squat a lot. Besides the used items, lots of handmade products, such as paintings
KHAO SAN ROAD Along every budget traveller’s favourite sidewalk, stallholders do a sterling trade in ‘novelty’ T-shirts and cigarette papers, not to mention phoney degree certiﬁcates, driving licenses and press passes. And yes, if you must, you can still get your tie-dye and ﬁsherman’s pants, your hair dreadlocked, or eat B20 noodles from a polystyrene plate. However, these days post-millennial Khao San has been gentriﬁed into somewhere new, sometimes bearing scant resemblance to its humble past as a tropical haven for wandering hippies.
SILOM ROAD/PATPONG Both sides of Silom Road, just off Sala Daeng BTS station, offer day and night time shopping, but it really gets going between 6pm and 2am, when stalls set up here and along the notorious strip of sleazy gogo bars known as Patpong. This is a bizarre but uniquely ripe set-up that sees vendors plying busy nightly trade on the doorsteps of the bars concurrently plying an open trade in ﬂesh; and young families rubbing shoulders with a motley crew of pimps, johns and scantily clad strippers. Among the illicit booty of pirated DVDs and designer knockoffs, the market actually does offer some decent local crafts, t-shirts and souvenirs – although, with prices naturally tilted towards the tourist end of the scale, robust bargaining skills are deﬁnitely essential here.
markets And you’ll ﬁnd no better proof than night times here, when whole mounds and racks of young-at-heart stuff are splayed on the street for swift sale.
PAK KHLONG TALAD (FLOWER MARKET) Wake up and smell the roses, as next to Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) lies Bangkok’s main ﬂower market, a 24-hour hive of ﬂoral activity bristling with blooms carted in from around the country. Horticulturalists and those with a well developed olfactory sense will enjoy strolling around these rather fragrant surrounds.
THEWET Not far north from the ﬂower market is the riverside plant market. The street is lined with small shops selling a wide selection of tropical potted ﬂora. It’s easiest and most scenic to access Thewet by river taxi, thus evoking the waterborne glories of the days when Bangkok was once rightly hailed as the ‘Venice of the East’.
PRATUNAM Less than a ten minute walk north of CentralWorld, this sidewalk shopping maelstrom is famed for its bulk clothing deals and huge crowds. Loaded with a variety of knock-offs, you’ll ﬁnd textiles, fabrics, fancy dress (Catwoman mask ensemble anyone?) and great jeans at affordable prices (never pay more than B600). Spreading out from the base of the looming Baiyoke Sky Hotel, it attracts a multinational mix of fasttalking traders, all on the make, and continues around the intense indoor fashion market, Platinum Fashion Mall, where everything is available at discounted rates for bulk orders.
A C C O M M O D AT I O N
In every issue, we put our heads on the line to bring you the very best of Bangkok’s boutique lodgings, uncovering the very best quirky, elegant, and downright luxurious properties that fit under the much sought-after banner
hen bijou little boutique hotel, The Bhuthorn, opened back in 2010 we were smitten. A beautifully restored century-old shophouse ﬁlled with elegant antiques and with a hard-to-trump Old City location, it remains one of our favourites, the B&B we gush about to friends. Now, buoyed by its success (not least a prestigious architecture award and an enviable Tripadvisor ranking) the two architects responsible, Chitlada and Direk Senghluang, have again worked their magic with another, slightly more spacious old treasure a ﬁve minute walk away. “It only took us seven months to get The Asadang ready,” says Khun Chitlada, showing us around their latest project: a former Thai nobleman’s house with a quite grand, Italianatestyle exterior overlooking busy Asadang Road and the Khlong Lod canal that runs parallel to it. Even if it was found in much better condition than their ﬁrst, that’s an impressive feat given the sumptuousness that awaits you. The 9 rooms – each named after local canals, 6 currently operational – are high-ceilinged beauties, pairing LCD TVs with colonial-chic furnishings that evoke, and in many cases date from, King Chualalongkorn’s reign. In each, an elegant four poster plump with rich fabrics rises beside coat stands, brass lamps, teak furniture and, in the bathroom of the biggest room, the 45m² Asadang Suite, a claw-footed bathtub. This also has a balcony, though it’s the yet to be completed rooftop room, with its winding metal staircase (watch your step!) that has the best view in the house – of Wat Ratchabopit temple next door. Though a bed and breakfast, the attention to detail says otherwise. You see it in everything from the quality of the restoration work in the airy, evocative breakfast/reading room to the huge breakfast they serve in it. With its onslaught of salad, cooked eggs, tropical fruits, street snacks, toast, homemade jams and excellent coffee, all delivered with care by Khun Chitlada, the waiter and the sweet young daughter, you’ll struggle to ﬁnd another made with quite as much love. Unfortunately, the two things that made The Bhuthorn such a winner are missing – the silence (there is some noise from the road) and the neighbouring shophouse restaurants – but on the ﬂipside you’re even closer to the Grand Palace and only a short walk from other spots, like the Museum of Siam and Flower Market. Truly, Bangkok hotels like this don’t come along very often. Max Crosbie-Jones
รร. ดิ อัษฎางค ถนนอัษฎางค
WHERE 94/1 Asadang Road, Wang Buraphaphirom, Phra Nakorn, 085-180-7100; www.theasadang.com. Opening rates (until July 31) PRICES B2,800-B4,500/night 88
RUEN MAI SPA (OFF MAP) 467 Phaholyothin 54/4, 02-993-7887. Mon-Fri 9.30am-8.30pm & Sat-Sun 10.30am-8.30pm. $$$ If you can manage to ﬁnd this unassuming, two-room spa tucked away on a busy sidestreet past Don Muang airport, expect an abundance of personal attention and a genuinely knowledgeable coterie of staff trained just next door. Frequented mostly by locals in the area, this three-year-old spa boasts an extensive selection of treatments including ear candling (B5001100), which therapists say can ﬁx a range of problems from sinus troubles to eye bags. Instead of the health questionnaire favoured by the spas housed in chi-chi Bangkok hotels, welltrained staff members suss out individual kinks via a 10-minute “warm-up” before unknotting tired muscles with expert ﬁngers. Make sure to book on weekends, when the tiny space is ﬁlled to bursting with stress-addled customers.
Bangkok probably offers more places to indulge in massage than any other city on earth. In each issue we help you ﬁnd the best rub-down for your baht, there’s no need to break the bank in order to get a good treatment SIRI GIRIYA SPA (MAP E4) 4 Soi Sukhumvit 60, 02-741-5199; www.sirigiriyaspa.com. BTS On Nut (free transfer from BTS available with advance reservation, hotel pick-up possible with group of at least 4. Daily 10am-10pm (last appt. at 8pm). $$ Slipping into a steaming bath may be the last thing a traveler to hot and humid Bangkok may want to do – but then you’d be missing out on the joys of hydrotherapy, Siri Giriya style. Popular among Japanese, for whom bathing is an art, this homey spa is set just behind an elegant koi pond near the On Nut BTS station. Walk into the well-appointed room to ﬁnd a tub overﬂowing with fresh Thai herbs – plai, turmeric, ginger, countless others – the smell is delicious. (You may be tempted to drink the water – just let your pores do that for you.) Maternal masseuses will scrub you, calibrate the temperature, even proffer up a tantalizing tamarind sorbet when the heat gets unbearable. Not everyone can handle this level of intimate pampering, but if you do venture out this way, you’ll return with smooth, babysoft skin and that sweet, cool feeling of a detox well done.
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NICOLIE (MAP B4) 1041/5 Sun Square, Silom Road between Soi 21-23, 02-233-6957; www.nicolie-th.com. BTS Surasak. Daily 11am-10pm (last appointment 8pm). $$$. Reservations recommended Gorgeous Southeast Asian antiques, a family atmosphere, and back-to-themassage basics approach – Nicolie manages to combine seemingly contradictory elements into one sublime experience. More like an elegant museum than a massage centre, keeping your eyes open to soak up the rare antiques is a challenge, however, once you’re in the hands of Nicolie’s therapists. The focus is almost exclusively on massage – Thai, Shiatsu, Ayuravedic Abhayanga, a wonderful fusion. Rub downs are slow, exquisitely attuned, and followed by tea and herbal cookies. Using a curtain to partition two bed rooms into separate section can lead to a certain lack of privacy at peak times. But in all, the expert massages and genuinely warm staff found here make this spa a new favourite.
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$ under B600 $$ B600 – B1,000 $$$ B1,000-2,000 $$$$ B2,000+ All credit cards accepted unless otherwise noted 90
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Lavana with our 40 spacious rooms and individual private shower rooms exudes contemporary elegance. Its plush graceful interiors permeates the Spa creating an atmosphere of luxury and spacious ease. Unique to Lavana are our handcrafted herbal ball made fresh in our workshop every day. Enjoy our extensive menu including Facial treatment, Aroma oil and Thai and Foot massage. To ensure impeccable cleanliness and comfort, each client is provided with freshly laundered towels. This is truly luxury at affordable prices.
Daily the resident herbal ball creator demonstrates how she fills the Lavana herbal ball pouch with 18 different fresh herbs that will be used to massage along the energy lines of the body. Another exclusive treatment is the Shirodhara Indian head massage. This is an ancient theraphy performed by certified therapists. As you lie back a continuous stream of warm oil is poured on the middle of the forehead. The soothing cares of your ‘third eye’ lulls you into a deep sleep and balances the brain and calms the mind.
Breakfast at Lavana
Imagine leaving all the cares of the world behind and spending a slow leisurely morning relaxing in your own private room. Spend the hours lingering over a sumptuous American breakfast after pampering yourself with our exclusive massage treatment. Could breakfast at Lavana’s become your own secret escape? (free breakfast at Lavana everyday from 09.00 am.-13.00 pm. with any oil massage treatment)
Special Promotion June 2011
FREE2010 breakfast SPECIAL PROMOTION 1st 31st OCTOBER
and Facial Treatment at Lavana from 9.00 am. – 13.00 pm. with any oil massage treatment.
- 09.00 am.- 13.00 pm. Any oil massage. Free facial treatment - Aroma oil massage 60 min. 800 THB / 90 min. 1,000 THB / 120 min. 1,200 THB - 4 hand aroma 60 min. 1,400 THB / 90 min. 1,600 THB / 120 min. 1,800 THB - Thai Massage 60 min. 450 THB/ 90 min. 550 THB/ 120 min. 650 THB - Thai Massage with Herbal Ball 90 min. 850 THB/ 120 min. 950 THB
LAVANA BANGKOK LAVANA BANGKOK
No.4 Sukhumvit Klongtoey, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110 No.4soi soi Sukhumvit Sukhumvit 12,12, Sukhumvit Road,Road, Klongtoey, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110 Tel: 2294510-12, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:+66(0) +66(0) 222294510-12, email@example.com For ลาวานา ตรงจากปากซอยสุ ขุมประมาณ วิท 12 100 ประมาณ เมตรอยู านขวามื Fortaxi: taxi: ลาวานา ตรงจากปากซอยสุ ขุมวิท 12 เมตรอยู100 ดานขวามื อ ตึกดใหญ สีเขียว อ ตึกใหญสีเขียว Opening 09.00 am.-00.00 am.reception (last reception 23.00 pm.) Openinghours: hours: 09.00 am.-00.00 am. (last 23.00 pm.) Advance highly recommended Advance booking booking isis highly recommended
sports MUAY THAI (THAI BOXING) Thai boxing, or muay Thai, is very popular in Bangkok with most major bouts held at either the Lumphini or Ratchadamnoen stadium. This brutal but graceful martial art has been practised in Thailand for centuries. Past kings are reported to have been champion fighters and one, King Naresuan, introduced the sport as part of military training in the 16th century. Due to the high incidence of deaths during combat, the sport was banned in the 1920s but reintroduced soon after under the more safetyconscious Queensbury rules. Bouts consist of three five minute rounds during which the fighters use every part of the body (except the head) to bludgeon the opponent into defeat. Before the bout begins, a graceful and mesmerising ritual dance named ram muay is performed by both fighters to placate the spirits and show respect to the art and its teachers. Bouts are extremely boisterous, noisy affairs and should be witnessed for the spectacle alone. Be warned though, this isn’t the fake action of the WWF; here the blows are hard hitting, the blood real. AEROBICS It might be hard to imagine, but every day, busy Bangkokians find the time for some energising aerobics – out in the open. Many practise graceful, meditative t’ai chi moves just after
Muay Thai Institute
MUAY THAI VENUES LUMPHINI BOXING STADIUM Rama IV Road, 02-251-4303. MRT Lumphini. Fights Tue & Fri from 6.30pm-10.30pm, Sat 5pm8pm, 8.30pm-midnight. B1,000 B1,500, B2,000
สนามมวยลุมพินี ถ.พระราม 4 ติดกับสวนลุมไนท บาซาร
RATCHADAMNOEN STADIUM Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue, 02-281-4205, 02-280-1684. Fights Mon, Wed, Thu 6.30pm-11pm, Sun 5pm-8pm, 8.30pm-midnight. B1,000, B1,500 ,B2,000
sunrise. And head to any park in the city around 5-6pm and you’ll spot large groups of office workers, kids and the elderly doing a hi-energy, Jane Fonda style workout in synch with blaring pop-techno songs and an enthusiastic coach clad in spandex. The best places for the free classes are the centrally located Lumphini Park and the smaller Benjasiri Park (next to The Emporium, Sukhumvit Rd, BTS Phrom Phong). Others, a bit off the beaten path, include Rommaninat Park (Siriphong Rd, near the Giant Swing), Saranrom Park (Thaiwang Rd) near the Grand Palace and Santiphap Park (Soi Rangnam). Never mind the possibility of fainting – simply join in. BOWLING Bowling is a favourite pastime among Thais. Most shopping malls have topof- the-line tenpin alleys on-site and many of these teeter dangerously close to being a nightclub with full bars and closing times after midnight. During after-hours, bowling alleys often have a DJ blasting thumping tunes, and they’ll often kill the lights and flood the halls with black light for a particularly psychedelic experience. Great spots to get your bowl on include trendy Blu-O at Siam Paragon and Esplanade, which also has platinum rooms for rent for your own private area and lane for community
your party. Also worth mentioning is the Major Bowl atop posh J-Avenue in Thong Lor, and also SF Strike Bowl in MBK, by National Stadium BTS. CYCLING SPICEROADS 14/1-B Soi Promsi 2, Sukhumvit 39, 02-712-5305, 089- 895-5680; spiceroads.com This company has been organising bicycle tours across Southeast Asia for over 12 years, and it offers extraordinary day tours in the outskirts of Bangkok. The eye-opening Cycling SpiceRoads daytrips take you to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Koh Kred, around Bangkok’s old city, Chinatown or along atmospheric canals through Bang Krachao, an unspoilt rural peninsula just across the river. They usually start early in the day (pick-up from your hotel is included). The rides, organised throughout the week, are demanding but fun. Groups are held small (two to 16 participants), but private tailormade itineraries are also possible, even for seriously adrenalineparched mountain bikers who are up for a technical 30km nailbiter. SpiceRoads also offers two-and three-day trips around Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and in the Mae Khlong Delta south of Bangkok; it also organises much longer trips in other parts of Thailand. www.bangkok101.com
Part 3: Business Administration The purpose of this article is to guide you through Thailand’s bureaucracy, to save you time and money during your quest to do business in the Land of Smiles. Please conduct your own research, and secure the service of a reputable Thai lawyer to ensure smooth and secure progress with your foreign venture. Before transacting business in Thailand, it is necessary to clarify your role in the project. If you intend to act in the capacity of investor, overseer or non-executive director you do not require a work permit; but all foreigners working in Thailand should register with the Department of Employment. The Board of Investment (BOI) established the one-stop centre for visas and work permits (18th ﬂoor, Chamchuri Square building, Phayathai Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 | 02-209-1100 | visawork@ boi.go.th) to assist foreign businesspeople in Thailand. Registered businesses in Thailand fall into four main Legal Structures and four types of business: ■ The Thai Representative Ofﬁce is usually suitable for multinational companies intending to conduct market research in Thailand.This legal structure does not permit any trading activity, so few foreigners adopt this legal structure. ■ The Thai Limited Company provides limited liability for its investors (or shareholders) to the value of its share capital. Foreign investors must register minimum 2 million Thai baht of nominal share capital for every work permit required. Government duty is chargeable at the rate of 0.5% of registered share capital, so duty of 10,000 baht is payable for a two million baht company. Companies Directors are required to ﬁle audited accounts with the Ministry of Commerce annually. ■ The Foreign Business Act prohibits foreigners from speciﬁc business activities to protect theThai workforce.There are also restrictions relating to company names. All private limited companies must register their ofﬁce address and at least three shareholders with the Ministry of Commerce. Public limited companies require minimum 15 shareholders. ■ Foreign businesspeople wanting to establish a factory or to export Thai products may beneﬁt from incorporation of a Thai Board of Investment (BOI) company. Further information about the BOI (and its fair
on 10 – 25 November) is available online at boi.go.th. ■ Foreign company directors of Thai limited companies must pay income tax on a speciﬁed salary (which depends upon their nationality) regardless of actual remuneration or proﬁtability of the company. ■ Thai Partnerships are either limited or unlimited. Foreigners are permitted ownership (and share of proﬁts) of up to 49% of the legal entity. ■ Only Thai citizens can register Sole Proprietorships in Thailand, so associated foreign investors have no legal interest or recourse. The Thai proprietor is responsible for the payment of income tax on business proﬁts. Most foreign businesspeople in Thailand either establish a Thai limited company or sponsor a Thai sole proprietor. All businesses in Thailand should be registered using one of the above legal structures regardless of trading method (freelance consulting, franchising, and business transfer or start-up). Freelance consulting embraces all services exchanged by individuals for money, including website development, graphic design, photography, copy writing and editing, and management consulting. Franchisees are permitted to follow their franchisor’s proven business model in exchange for a license fee, periodic royalty, and agreement to abide by the operations manual and franchise agreement. Business transfer is the exchange of ownership of a going concern (including intangible goodwill). Typically small businesses transfer ownership at a multiple of 2 to 3 times adjusted annual proﬁts. Businesses need to register for VAT when annual receipts exceed 1.8 million baht regardless of trading method or legal structure. The Thai Revenue Department (www.rd.go.th) administers taxes. Philip Wylie
Philip Wylie, a chartered accountant from the UK who worked as a business advisor and broker in Northern Thailand, is the author of How To Establish A Successful Business In Thailand and How To Make A Living In Paradise. Both cover the minutiae of doing business in Thailand, from negotiating bafﬂing bureaucracy and legal peculiarities to cultural codes and social etiquette. Available at bookstores around town, they are published by FastTrack Publishing (www.fasttrackpublishing.com) and cost B595.
works at a personal cooking station in a spacious kitchen after short, informative demonstrations. Lunch consists of your own cooking plus additional dishes. No reason to limit yourself to just tom yam goong and phad thai – each session includes four innovative dishes; the selection changes daily. Perfect for tourists on a short Bangkok stint.
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COOKING CLASSES BAIPAI COOKING SCHOOL (map C4) 150/12 Soi Naksuwan, Nonsee Road, Chong Nonsi, 02-294-9029; baipai.com No sitting back and just watching at this leafy two-storey townhouse. Shortly after being picked up from your hotel, passed an apron and given a brief demonstration of how to cook four dishes it’s over to you. Fortunately the breezy open-plan workshop, individual cooking stations and pre-prepped ingredients mean cooking here is no chore. Plus the staff are smiley and professional, as they answer your questions (“But what if I can’t find kaffir lime leaves?” etc) and ensure you don’t singe your spring rolls. Later you get to feast on the fruits of your labour – so do your research on the seven set menus if you’re allergic to tom yum. Some takehome recipes and a souvenir fridge magnet featuring a snap of you in action completes the four-hour morning or afternoon experience; one so palatable and productive and, gasp, fun that many come back for seconds.
BLUE ELEPHANT (map B4) Thai Chine Building, 233 South Sathorn Road, 02-673-9353; blueelephant.com. Prices from B2,800 The class offered at this classy restaurant is very hands-on and easy to follow. The morning class is preferable since it starts with a visit to the Bang Rak market with the chef, where you’re shown the ingredients you’ll use later. Equipped with apron, knives and wok, each student 94
MEDITATION CLASSES INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST MEDITATION CENTRE (map A3) Wat Mahathat, Na Phra Lan Road, 02-222-6011; mcu.ac.th/mcu/eng. Free This is the most traditional, noncommercial meditation class, based on Vipassana (‘insight’) mindfulness. For Buddhists, meditation is essential to cleanse the mind and accomplish clarity and inner peace. Close to Sanam Luang, the atmospheric temple complex is the teaching centre of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of Thailand’s highest seats of Buddhist learning. Daily classes conducted in English (1pm-4pm, 6pm-8pm, 7pm-10pm) are mixed; you’ll find monks, locals and tourists here. Participants can stay on the compound in simple, quiet rooms; complimentary meals are provided. Bring offerings of ﬂowers, a candle and nine incense sticks for the opening ceremony. Donations are accepted. Retreats of three or more days are available as well, which are perfect for a serious, but short stint into the world of Buddhist meditation.
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MASSAGE CLASSES WAT PO THAI TRADITIONAL MEDICAL SCHOOL (map A3) 2 Sanamchai Road, 02-622-3551, 02622-3533; www.watpomassage.com. Daily 8am-5pm. B8,500/30hrs Any good spa therapist will have undergone their training in traditional Thai massage at this temple school. Constructed in a concealed building away from the tourist-infested but peaceful Wat Po temple grounds, the instruction community
area is more functional than stylish, but the efficient course run by competent instructors more than makes up for the missing luxury. Thai massage, an ancient form of healing, uses pressure application on the various body meridians. Your costudents will mainly be Thai and Japanese, along with the odd Westerner. The 30hour course can be completed in five, six or ten days; a foot reﬂexology course and other instruction are available too. The tired tourist can also get Bangkok’s best Thai massage in fan-cooled, opensided salas for just B360/hour.
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CHIVA-SOM INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY (map E4) Modern Town Building, 87/104 Ekamai Road, Sukhumvit Soi 63, 02-711-5270; chivasomacademy.com. BTS Ekkamai. Prices from B9,000 Asia’s premier training centre for spa and holistic therapies offers intensive courses covering all aspects of spa-ing, from anatomy and Thai massage to stress management. Held in peaceful surroundings and conducted by skilled international instructors, half the time is spent on theory and practice, the other half is filled with case studies. The academy takes its instruction seriously; all students receive internationally accepted accreditation on completion of courses. Prices range from B9,000 (two-day reiki course) to B59,000 (spa development course). Most courses are too long for a usual holiday (two to four weeks), but there are one-week courses in reﬂexology and shiatsu.
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Even if you’re only visiting Thailand for a short time, there are plenty of worthwhile local causes you can become involved with. Every issue we highlight the work of a worthy charitable organisation, and provide details on how you too can help
GOODWILL GROUP FOUNDATION Bangkok’s streets are not so much paved with gold, as ridden with potentially life-wrecking pot-holes. Undereducated women from the country’s poorest provinces especially struggle to survive in what can be an indifferent city. Many have left school at an early age to support their families, and many are pressured or see no other option than to work in the sex industry. Education is the determining factor for those who seek dignified employment. And it is this that the Goodwill Group Foundation, established in 2000, specialises in. Women walking into their office on Ploenchit Road, looking to better their lot, may find themselves learning a new skill within days – be it English, Microsoft Office or something vocational. However, they don’t just throw skills at students and see what sticks – they also provide career training and job placement services. Roughly half of the 400 students enrolled work in Bangkok’s sex industry, and many struggle with the decision of whether or not to do so everyday. For these women, the Goodwill Group provides an alternative – a place for selfassessment and learning, and the hope of a brighter future. If you’d like to help, they are always in need of reliable, dedicated volunteers to teach English. The minimum commitment is 3 hours a week for 10 weeks (if you’re interested, stop by the office for an interview). They also businesses consider recruiting one of their students. Many are highly trained and eager to prove themselves (past students have gone on to become maids, receptionists, nannies, retail staff and web designers). Despite their low-cost, volunteer-based operating model, they are also in need of funding. Being a lean, efficient training machine means a small donation goes a long way to advancing their noble mission. www.bangkok101.com
MORE INFORMATION 51/2, 2/F, Ruam Rudee Building III, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Phatumwan, 02-255-4172, goodwill@ goodwillbangkok.org; goodwillbangkok.org june 2011
Bangkok’s heaving trafﬁc is legendary, presenting a constant challenge for residents and visitors alike. However, river and canal boats, along with the BTS skytrain and MRT systems, offer some reliable alternatives to getting jammed on the roads or at the pier, depending on how much time you have. Boats depart every 20 minutes or so between 5.30am and 6pm. Cross-river services operate throughout the day from each pier for just B3. ROAD BUS Bangkok has an extensive and inexpensive public bus service. Both open-air and air-conditioned vehicles are available, respectively for B5 and B7.50-B23. As most destinations are noted only in Thai, it is advisable to get a bus route map (available at hotels, TAT offices and bookshops).
RAIL SKYTRAIN The Bangkok Transit System, or BTS, is a two-line elevated train network covering the major commercial areas. Trains run every few minutes from 6am to midnight, making the BTS a quick and reliable transport option, especially during heavy traffic jams. Fares range from B15 to B40; special tourist passes allowing unlimited travel for one day (B120) is available. BTS also provides free shuttle buses which transit passengers to and from stations and nearby areas. www.bts.co.th SUBWAY Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is another fast and reliable way to get across town. The 18-station line stretches 20kms from Hualamphong (near the central railway station) up to Bang Sue in the north. Subways run from 6am to midnight daily, with trains arriving every 5-7 minutes. The underground connects with the BTS at MRT Silom/BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asok and MRT 96
Chatuchak Park/BTS Mo Chit stations. Subway fares range from about B15 to B39. www.bangkokmetro.co.th
MOTORCYCLE TAXI In Bangkok’s heavy traffic, motorcycle taxis are the fastest, albeit most dangerous, form of road transport. Easily recognisable by their colourful vests, motorbike taxi drivers gather in groups. As with tuk-tuks, fares should be negotiated beforehand.
RIVER CANAL BOAT Khlong Saen Saep canal boats operate from Banglamphu across the city to Ramkhamhaeng University. However, you have to be quick to baord them as they don’t usuallt wait around. Canal (khlong) boats tend to be frequent and cost around B9 to B19. Tickets are bought onboard. Note that the piers are a little hidden away, which makes them sometimes difficult to find. Pick up a handy route map from any pier.
TAXI Bangkok has thousands of metered, air-con taxis available 24 hours. Flag fall is B35 (for the first 2kms) and the fare climbs in B2 increments. Be sure the driver switches the meter on. No tipping, but rounding the fare up to the nearest B5 or B10 is common. Additional passengers are not charged, nor is baggage. For trips to and from the airport, passengers should pay the expressway toll fees. When boarding from the queue outside the terminal, an additional B50 surcharge is added.
EXPRESS RIVER BOAT Bangkok’s vast network of inter-city waterways offer a quick and colourful alternative for getting around the city. Express boats ply the Chao Phraya River from the Saphan Taksin Bridge up to Nonthaburi, stopping at some 30 main piers altogether. Fares range from B9 to B32 depending on the distance, while tickets can either be bought on the boat
TUK-TUK Those three-wheeled taxis (or samlor) are best known as tuk-tuks, named for the steady whirr of their engines. A 10minute ride should cost around B40, but always bargain before boarding. Beware: if a tuk-tuk driver offers to deliver you anywhere for B10, it’s part of a setup that will lead you to an overpriced souvenir or jewellery shop.
Hua mak Ban Tap Chang Latkrabang
Wongwian Yai Krung Thon Buri
Airport Rail Link (SA City Line) Airport Rail Link (SA Express)
Published on May 31, 2011
Published on May 31, 2011
j u n e 2 0 1 1 b a n g k o k 1 0 1 PENANG ROAST food & drink june 2011 100 baht r o n g w o n g - s a v u n Experience the hottest dini...