Bangkok, Thailand


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For the last four days, we’ve been staying in Bangkok. Kelly had a training session there, so we flew out together. I had no trouble getting time of work ;P but did take the laptop in case I had work to do. In the end, I spent a few hours working, and the rest of the time visiting my tailor to get some more short-sleeved shirts, visiting some galleries, and generally wandering around taking photos.

Our digs

We were put up in the Mandarin Oriental, a five-star hotel rated one of the top 10 hotels in the world. It sure felt like it too. When we arrived I was wearing my camo shorts and black t-shirt (not a shock to many), and I felt underdressed. In fact, when we went out to the buffer dinner on the first night, I felt I had to wear my cleaner, black, pinstriped shorts, black shirt and leather sandals. But this was not enough. This was a hotel where you had to wear pants after 6pm! Even for the buffet dinner outdoors! They got me a pair of back trakkie-dacks to wear (the shiny kind). I felt like a chimpo. Kelly thought I looked respectable. Respectable in tracksuit pants? Must be the country girl in her.

A different seasonal fruit was placed in our room each morning (mandarin, mango, and mapran, in that order), complete with a small card describing the fruit and a beautiful watercolour drawing. I’ve collected a few of these cards and asked the concierge if they had a few of the others, to which they responded immediately by sending a guy running upstairs to find me some more1

That’s another thing, it felt like you could pretty much ask for anything, and they’d be able to organise it for you. It’s like a hotel version of Harrods in London. Of course, we didn’t ask for anything special — other than our eggs poached, which they did — but I reckon they’d’ve2 got us an elephant if we’d asked.

The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is somewhere I’d recommend staying. If you can afford it. Thank god we weren’t paying.

Raj

Bangkok has many tailors. They line the streets and try to pull you in entice you in to their particular store. They all have great prices and it’s quite difficult to know who’s good and who’s not. Last time we were in Bangkok, we walked up Sukhumvit Road and got some prices for a few items. Prices did vary a little, but the first guy we saw gave me the best gut feeling. This guy was Raj, from Raj Designs. He offered us a cold drink upon arrival (water or beer [!]), was very pleasant and not pushy, and quite negotiable on price. As he was the first tailor we saw, all other tailors had to measure up to my gut instinct of him. An none did.

On this visit, I made sure I went to see him to get some more shirts made up. The shirts (and pants and jacket) I had commissioned last time fitted perfectly, and according to my mum, the craftsmanship was A1. Double stitching all-round, stripes matching up on front and back panels, very high attention to detail.

Raj had all my measurements on file (he does international orders too if he has your measurements [or maybe if he doesn’t, you could send them to him?]) and it was a fairly painless meeting. I say painless, because there’s always the haggling aspect of commerce in Thailand. I’m not very good at haggling, and knowing Raj can deliver the goods without issue, it was even harder this time around. However, I selected my cotton and linen fabrics, took a sip of my ice-cold water, and asked him for his best price.

The short version, I got 10 shirts for ~AUD$250 (down from about AUD$330) with 4 of them linen. That might not sound too cheap, but I feel 25 bucks can’t buy a decent shirt in Oz, especially one that fits perfectly. That was it. We shook hands, and he said they’d be ready by 6pm the next day. The whole meeting was maybe 15 minutes. Due to my previous success with Raj, I didn’t need to go back for a fitting.

One more thing, the buttons he uses are small and thick. They feel sturdy. I like them. I recommend Raj Designs if you’re in Bangkok, you’re male, and need some stuff made up.

BACC

The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is a large gallery with many floors, showing contemporary exhibitions. I’d been here before, and the design and architecture enchanted me again.

I saw a exhibition advertised in the Thais Airways inflight magazine, and I had to go. It was called Trans-Cool Tokyo, and showcased 70 pieces from the collection of the Museum of Tokyo. A great range of work from installations, video pieces, sound, painting, drawing, and even a taxidermy deer covered with thousands of multi-sized glass marbles. Cool indeed :)

The BACC is a gallery I’d like to visit often, and it might even be worth an Air Asia AUD$140 flight to visit for the day. I’ll have more photos going up soon. You can check my South-east Asia Flickr set labelled with the Bangkok tag for more as they go up. Or follow me on Twitter, where I post links to my new photos.

18½ inches

Detail of our new stainless-steel bowl

Literally minutes before we left for Bangkok airport, we bought a stainless-steel bowl from a store around the corner from the hotel. It was a small store, with unsealed wooden shelves and display boxes. (What looked like) A family was sitting at the back of the store, writing stuff down, surfing the internet and enjoy the air-con. Bare-bones is what I’d call it. Bare, except for all of the stainless steel kitchen goods. Bowls, utensils, platters of all shapes and sizes. It was awesome. We saw the bowls, and decided we had to have one. I think I was immediately drawn to the bowls because they resembled high-quality hand-hammered cymbals.

Meinl hand-hammered cymbal

There was a giant 22-inch bowl, costing 5000 Baht (less 10% if we paid cash). 5000 Baht is roughly 170 Aussie bucks. That’s really cheap for a 100% stainless steel, hand made an unique bowl! (Well, we really have no frame of reference, having never seen a 22-inch, 100% stainless steel, hand made an unique bowl before), but we were pretty sure if we had seen one before, it would’ve cost more than $170! In saying that, 22-inches was way too big, so we settled for the 18½ inch version, which we think is still quite impressive to see, but a bit more useful.

Full pic of our new bowl
Side view of our new bowl

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  1. When my scanner arrives, I’ll scan the cards and post them. They’re worth it.
  2. Yes, that’s two apostrophes in one word. They’d’ve. It works. I’m starting something. Jump on board.