Up too late to catch the wet markets, Bangkok's Chinatown was still a nice little excursion, bustling and busy, but without the tiny alleys being clogged with people as they would be later in the day. Bigger than I expected, there was a lot of common zoning going on - If you ever need a couple of hundred stalls all selling Hello Kitty merchadise, this is the place to come to. Wandering up Soi 11 off Sukhumvit, checking out a hotel I was considering for my return to Bangkok, I stopped for a cheeky Chang in a really nice open sided restaurant down an alley - all low tables, no chairs, shoes off, overhanging greenery, etc etc. Sat down, looked around and noticed a common theme amongst the other customers - they were all 40 or 50 something-old white western men, yet each of them was sitting with an exquisitely beautiful Thai woman in her early 20s - my first sight of THAT side of Bangkok.
Ready for a break from the noise and traffic, so time for some Siam mall-ratting. In the upscale malls, no real bargains to be had on Western brands, but as usual was blown away by the quality of the food halls in Asian malls - in England you only go to eat in a mall if your dumpster diving expedition comes up empty. Here though, had a tasty Ika (cuttlefish) teppanyaki which really hit the spot - got to stick to food like this and stay away from the 7-11s - as nice as the Lays Nori Seaweed and Hot Chili Squid crisps are, they're not exactly healthy.
A good day - the riverboats are fun, and the subway and skytrain both slick and fast, though they don't always go where you want them to. Leaving the tuk tuks to one side (not worth the anti-scam haggling and energy), the only public transport I didn't try were the meter taxis - tho am loving the colours - big bright pinks, green and yellows - all very acid trippy.
Dinner was a real trek. My hotel sits 90% down the riverside dead end that is Soi Samsen 3, so I went the extra 10% (all of 100m or so) to a really nice upscale riverside restaurant which sits just south of the Rama 8 bridge - nothing special by day, but lit up at night, the suspension cables look gossamer thin - very pretty. 90% of the customers were middle-class Thai - not a cheap place to eat but pretty cool. Either side of the entrance courtyard are tiled fish tanks to peer into. One of the sea bass tried giving me a look, so I ordered the cheeky little bugger to be slaughtered, salt encrusted, char grilled and served to me with two types of sour chilli dip.
Beside the restaurant the river had changed with the sunset as well. Commuter ferries had given way to vast dinner cruise boats pumping out high decibel 80s US soft rock (perfect!) tho I'm sure there were a few farang onboard who had been expecting a lazy romantic river meander - some disappointment involved there, methinks.
Ended up on the Khaosan again searching for tourist tat to take home. 2nd night in, am starting to see differences between the bars and areas. Soi Rambruttri West of Khaosan was a bit nothingy, but Thanon Rambruttri running parallel to KSR had some nice music focused places. Prices vary widely from bar to bar, and smart doesn't necessarily mean good - by far the best sounds were coming from a collection of cheap plastic stools on and off the kerb around a tiny barrow stacked with whisky, ice and sodas where 15 or so travellers were happily grooving around to some really nice tunes - why can't I find mix tapes of this stuff at home?
Back at hotel, Thai language 101 not going to plan - in Thai my room number has a K at the end which is somewhere between silent and not silent.
Every time I ask for my key the receptionist giggles. At least I hope it's a giggle - that might be a snort of contempt - who's to say laughter is panlingual?