Saturday, 20 January 2007

The Adventures of Tomato In Thailand - The sights and sounds of Bangkok

The following day Chris was back at work so for the next five days it was my job to show Tom the sites and sounds of Bangkok.


I decided that the first place I should take him was to Jim Thompson's House (and not just because they have the same surname). The story of Jim Thompson is really interesting - He was a trained architect who turned his attention to the Thai silk industry after being stationed in Thailand during WW2 (He was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services which was the forerunner of the CIA). He gained worldwide recognition for his success in rebuilding the industry, for generating international demand for Thai silk (He was responsible for providing all the fabrics for the film The King and I) and was awarded the Order of the White Elephant which is a decoration bestowed upon foreigners for having rendered exceptional service to Thailand. He was also very well known for combining traditional Thai architecture with western lifestyle ideas and for his collection of Asian antiques. What makes his story the stuff of legend is that he had his fortune told by a Monk who said that disaster would befall him in his 61st year and during a break with friends in Malaysia he went out for a walk in the jungle and was never seen again (There was an extensive search but it failed to reveal any clues about his disappearance) - he was 61 - so the house and all the stuff in it is pretty much how he left it. Tom loved it - there are six teak houses that were brought from various area's of Thailand to form a complex, a beautiful garden (Honestly, you would never believe you were still in the heart of Bangkok) and some amazing antiques including a mouse house (Very cool idea to keep kids occupied and stop their mouse from dying of boredom - don't know why they don't still make them!!). The best bit about Jim Thomson's house - it is a stones throw from a very good shopping centre called MBK (Mah Boon Krong). This is the best place to go for shoppers who love shopping in a market-style atmosphere, but would prefer to do it in air-conditioned comfort. It is very Thai and is positively packed with stalls - You don't want to know how much money Tom spent.....let me put it this way - we left with a lot of bags!! (Tom was also traumatised - he went to the toilet and was at the urinal when a woman wondered in with a cup of tea, knocked on one of the doors and handed the guy inside the cup of tea then wondered back out)

The following day we went on a trip to Ayuthaya which is the old capital of Thailand (Well, one of them anyway...). We had been told to be at the pier at 7am - at 6.15am my phone went and this was the organiser calling to say that we didn't actually need to be there till 7.30!! We were already on the Skytrain. (Tom was starting to understand our 'Only In Thailand' thing after being told the day before by a taxi driver that 'No I'm not going to take you. I don't want to go that way - you will need to get a different taxi'). I thought it was the same trip that Chris and I had done when we came for a look at Bangkok prior to moving here but the tour actually went to different temples in Ayuthaya as well as the Kings Summer Palace (Bang Pa In) - we got some fantastic photo's and Tom really enjoyed wondering round the ruins as well as the boat trip back to Bangkok. (Not sure if that was the actual boat trip he enjoyed or the fact that they were playing Abba in the background (Which he sang along to - I was sitting next to him at the window so couldn't even pretend I wasn't with him!!))

On Wednesday we decided that a pamper day was in order after the rigours of the Ayuthaya tour (Your out all day and it is an early start). We headed down to a place called 'Take Care' on Soi 33 for a manicure and pedicure - I could not stop laughing!! There is no nice way of saying this.....Tom has freaky feet - His toes look like they have been made from playdo and stuck on the top of his feet rather than where they should be. The girl who was doing his pedicure looked at them then said in Thai to her colleague, whilst wiggling his toes and laughing, 'Ling Lek' which means little monkey. (Can you guess who got teased for the rest of his stay about his little monkey feet??). We then went for a spot of lunch and I introduced Tom to the delights of a Miang Kam starter which consists of betel leaves that you fill with dried shrimp, onion, chilli, peanuts, ginger, toasted coconut and a sweetish sauce (Which I think is honey based) - you wrap the whole thing up in the leaf and pop it in your mouth - flavour explosions!! (They may sound horrible but are absolutely gorgeous I can assure you!!). After lunch we went up to Soi 11 to Suk Spa (You may remember that this was the place Chris suffered the embarrassment of having his boxers removed!!) and had a foot massage (again there was much hilarity caused by Tom's 'Ling' feet), a herbal steam (Which involved sitting on a wooden stool in a very small room, completely naked, having my eyes burned out by whatever herbs they were using), followed by a cold shower (Which was OUTSIDE!!.....I could see people walking down the Soi - don't think I have ever showered so fast in my life. Is this was Thai people call relaxing???), followed by a back massage which was divine (just as well after the shower experience!!). Anyway, we then headed back over to the river where we had cocktails in the Authors lounge at the Oriental Hotel (It is housed in the original Oriental building and was a favourite stop-off for writers like Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Graham Greene) then went on a night cruise along the Chao Phrya River, known as the River of Kings, aboard a “Maeyanang” rice barge.

We then had a shopping day and I took Tom to Siam Square which houses the Siam Centre, Siam Paragon (huge shopping mall) and is only a short walk from Central World (even bigger shopping mall - actually it is so big that it contains two beer gardens and Chris has not found either of them yet!!) That evening we went out to Cheap Charlie's (Yes, Tom loved it as much as we do and actually asked if we could go back) and met up with an old friend of Chris's, who he used to work with at Coopers but had not seen for about 10 years, called Tony (Who I have to say is completely bonkers!!.....very nice.....but completely bonkers!!). I have to say that I started to feel very unwell during the course of the evening - I had a raging temperature and a sore throat (I had gone over to Jenny's apartment before Tom arrived and her daughter was off school with the dreaded lurgy!! I think that is who I got it from - she was getting me back for telling her a story about a dead cow that then gave her nightmares)

Friday I felt pretty awful but didn't want to spoil Tom's holiday so we headed out anyway, me doped up to the eyeballs with cold and flu tablets, and went to Chatuchak Market which is not only the largest market in Bangkok but is one of the largest markets in the world. It has nearly everything you could ever wish to buy and many things you would never want to!!. The prices are amazing and you can buy clothes, animals, books, plants, artefacts, wooden items, ceramics, antiques, jewellery, and so many other things it would take too long to list. We had a lovely morning (the market is really quiet on a Friday but some of the stalls are open) and went to a great little restaurant that Chris and I found when we first visited the market and we go back every time. I kind of wilted in the afternoon and ended up in bed so we had a very quiet Friday night - Chris ended up working till after midnight (Client from hell was acting up again and since we were going on holiday he wanted to get everything finished) and I was really ill. (Poor Tom ended up sitting watching re-runs of Midsummer Murders - what can I say.....Thai TV is really bad!!)

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