Over the years I have stayed in many Bangkok hotels.
I have been there as a newbie-tourist, as a visiting business man, as a recruiter interviewing potential students and parents, meeting colleagues or friends, attending education trade fairs, travelling en route to somewhere else … and simply for pleasure to attend a concert or a theatrical performance, to do some shopping, or just to get away from it all.
As far as I can remember, my first Bangkok hotel experience was in the late 1970s when I was backpacking from Australia to London, and I had a room at the then infamous Malaysia Hotel. I do not know if it is still infamous. I was assigned a room there, but several strange people seemed to come and go to and from “my” room throughout the night. I was glad to greet the new day, and to find that my belongings and my virginity were still intact.
Since then I have stayed in slightly better places including the glorious and historic Writers’ Wing at the Mandarin Oriental. At one time I was a guest of a past student who was then GM of the Royal Orchid Sheraton overlooking the Chao Phraya River. I had several enjoyable – if rather quirky – stays at the wonderful and eccentric Old Bangkok Inn in the Khao San Road area, and was a frequent visitor to the Four Seasons. On a recent visit I spent a night in quarantine in the splendid Grande Centre Point Hotel Ratchadamri overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club’s golf course and horse racing track (below).
But nothing quite equalled that first night in the entertaining Malaysia Hotel.
On almost every occasion of every visit I was able to see something of the nightlife of this vibrant and exciting and chaotic and fun city. Bangkok, “City of the Angels”, is home to about eleven million people and in better, non-COVID times, another eleven million tourists. And at all times home to about eleven million motor bikes and scooters.
Night bazaars, Opera Siam, great eating from street food vendors or at Tee Kachonklin’s wonderful La Table de Tee in the Saladaeng area, or the many other fine restaurants, avoiding the touts in Patpong and Soi Cowboy offering exotic – and apparently erotic – delights of all kinds, having a massage, watching an impromptu Chinese street opera performance, seeing young men beating the breath out of other young men in exciting and sometimes bloody muay thai battles in the ring: all are on offer for a visitor to experience during a night in Bangkok.
My most recent night in Bangkok was a short overnight visit between flights and I stayed at a modest hotel near the airport. On this occasion I had time to spare and chose not to stay at the airport Novotel which is just a short stroll from check-in counters or arrivals. The Novotel rooms currently range upwards from US$125.00 per night and are comfortable and convenient and handy. In contrast, the Mariya Boutique Residence, about fifteen minutes by taxi or shuttle bus from the airport, offers rooms at about US$22.00 per night.
I had a slightly crooked bare-breasted woman in my bathroom.
Nope – not a story from the infamous sexy Patpong district – just a pretty reproduction of an old Thai country scene from times when Siamese men and women were all bare-topped: see featured image LEFT. Unfortunately, the picture was slightly askew and despite all my efforts to straighten it, it stubbornly refused to be straightened and stayed slightly askew … so I was stuck with my crooked bare-breasted woman in the bathroom.
The room (I was in 308) was spacious, clean and comfortable. It offered a good double bed, a small kitchen (refrigerator, microwave, kettle, sink), a compact bathroom with a good shower and a naked lady, and a small balcony overlooking the rather scenic rubble of the next-door building site. Thai artworks featured on walls, and the work desk and room lighting were good. Really – apart from the US$5.00 taxi fare from the airport and the lack of a swimming pool – the hotel represented superb value and convenience.
But the night life …
Across the corridor from my room came incessant squeals and cries from what seemed about a dozen infants. As I ventured out to find some dinner, I found that the room (same size as mine) was the temporary home to a Russian man, his Thai wife, and three small children. As I was looking forward to a quiet night before an early morning flight out of Bangkok, I was pleased to see that they were checking out … and from then onwards the hotel was quite silent until my 0500 wake-up call from Reception.
- I am sure HM Queen Elizabeth II has never had a wake-up call at 0500. Ahh – the benefits of having one’s own aeroplane / train / yacht at one’s own disposal! Question: How can I become a queen?
My excursion to find dinner was the result of an interesting chat with the Room Service person at the other end of the telephone:
- Hello – this is Chris in Room 308. Could I have the green chicken curry please
- Yes sir. What number is that on the Room Service menu?
- Ah … Number 3
- So sorry sir … We only have Number 1, 5, 6 or 2 available
- Umm … let me see … OK … No thank you … I will go to the 7-11
- Yes sir. Thank you
Curiously, he seemed quite familiar with people who chose to go to the 7-11 rather than to use Room Service.
In a recent visit to another Bangkok hotel I had also had fun with Room Service. Using my very best Thai language, I asked for some ice cubes only to be told that No sir, we do not have any ice cream.
Out into the busy Lad Krabang Road, where major roadworks were happening. I found later that this was not a new branch of the super Bangkok Skytrain or even of the equally efficient Bangkok Metro – merely a rather unexciting long bridge to link one road to another road to avoid one set of traffic lights. Among the many labourers working on this massive construction site were four men straddling girders of a huge iron tower they were building. Occupational Health and Safety be damned! These guys had their legs wrapped around a rusted beam or two, and were without safety harnesses or hard hats … but all was OK … as they were wearing genuine safety rubber flip-flops.
As with much of Bangkok, quite a few shops and a dance hall or two in the area were closed due to the fun and games of COVID, but it seems that street vendors will survive just about anything. I had a choice of char-grilled chicken or squid, fresh watermelons or coconuts, or red white and blue striped shopping bags. There were five 7-11s within a two-minute walk of my hotel (sorry – Boutique Residence) and a place with the curious name of Lotus’s.
I am not sure if this was a miss-spelling of “Lotuses” (or many lotus flowers) or was in fact quite correct and showing that this shop was owned by Miss Lotus.
In either case, while it did offer to sell me some gin and a sharp knife to cut my newly purchased lemon to go with my G&T, it did not offer any tonic water. I was then quite surprised to find that the next-door 7-11 (Number 32 of them in the street) did offer tonic. This is quite unheard of. No 7-11 in the history of Thailand has ever before offered Schweppes tonic water.
- Yummo! A G&T with fresh lemon was then available
This marvellous, innovative and widely acclaimed 7-11 also provided me with my gourmet dinner. No green chicken curry (aka Room Service Number 3) and no Anantara Siam Sunday buffet, but two micro-waved pork and cheese burgers, complete with tomato ketchup and sesame seeds. The burgers were filling if slightly gristly – pigs’ trotters, anyone? – and not particularly nutritious, but the sesame seeds joined me in my bed for a jolly night’s sleep.
My room offered cable TV, free-to-air TV, a library of almost two hundred DVDs, and a guide to local attractions, including two that were, respectively, twenty and forty kilometres away. I did not visit either, but spent my last night in Bangkok with my bare-breasted lady, and the sesame seeds in my bed.
Text and photographs © Christopher Hall March 2022
* Table de Tee, Old Bangkok Inn and Roadworks images from Internet
(*) For another “One Night in Bangkok” story please scroll down below
In my blogs I try to present a snapshot of the places I have discovered during a brief visit. I am not trying to present a detailed picture of the whole city or the whole region or the whole country.
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If a man ascended into heaven and gazed upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself. And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight.
- Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero – On Friendship