24 hours in Bangkok
First published 15th September, 2009
Two opposite worlds exist within Thailand's capital, depending on the presence of the sun. Busy yet relaxed, this city is bustling at all hours. I didn't quite realise the extent of it until I spent 24 hours awake in a city that lacks the desire to sleep. The day began by cruising through the city in the modern, comfortable, affordable (40 baht), and delightfully air-conditioned Bangkok SkyTrain. Thanks to our guesthouse'send-of-the-line location, we were even guaranteed seats, a luxury no longer available at further stops.
It took about 20 minutes to arrive at Mo Chit Station, located directly next to Chatuchak Market. The place is sprawling and enormous, and although we ended up walking for hours, we really only saw a small fraction of the shops. Hitoshi, a vagabond expat who is staying at our hostel, wanted a mudskipper to take home to Japan, so the extensive live animal section was where we began.
Creatures were everywhere; most shops specialised in either aquatic or mammal. For the former, large plastic bags and tubs were partially filled with water. Packed in tight were all varieties, shapes, colours, sizes, and species of freshwater life. Piles of tiny turtles sat next to dozens of solitary bagged fish, while crabs scurried about shrimps and lobsters stayed motionless a foot away. The air was a subtle eau de aquarium, and shoppers were often restricted to a solitary walking line as people constantly pulled to the side to stare, admire, and perhaps purchase. Unfortunately, despite exhaustive searching, Hitoshi came up empty -- but only because he needed a sneakably-sized fish.
As for the mammals, the amount of clothing alone was impressive. Caged squirrels wore skimpy shirts, so did rabbits and numerous breeds of panting dogs. Those animals without accoutrements were the lucky ones, as the heavy humid air lay over us all thick with its monsoon weight. Skunks lay on top of one another, blissfully unaware of the tarantulas directly above them. Of course there were bins of maggots and other insects, wriggling about relentlessly in contrast to many of the shopkeepers, relaxed and seated when not dealing directly with a customer. For we tourists this is a place of infinite amazement, for them it's merely another day of work at Asia's largest outdoor weekend market, as the free map available at the entrance boldly claims.
Anyways, after working up an appetite perusing the fauna, we paused at a restaurant complex for a respite. Surrounded completely by the market, old women at carts cut vegetables and cooked meat amid plenty of sauces, noodles, rice, and people. A waitress, fluent in English and most helpful, coordinated the delivery of our meals from each different stand, depending on the cook's specialty. The Bee Gee's entertained on a giant video screen, although our hopes of hearing "Staying Alive" were dashed by the speedy service.
We meandered onwards, alternating between main paths with plenty of walking space and the cramped alleyways that I always imagine it truly would be possible to get lost in. Fifteen minutes of endless clothes and shoes were followed by some impressive artwork, both modern and traditional. Paintings hung on walls, in art galleries that practically lacked walking space. Vendors sold food of all types; frozen popsicles and fresh squeezed orange juice certainly helped counter the heat. Surprisingly the market had few overwhelming smells, perhaps going on Saturday instead of Sunday was a good choice where our noses were concerned!
There were plenty of musicians, some sedentary but others, often blind, walked and sang into amplified microphones. None sang in English, all Thai -- while this is a tourist destination the vast majority of shoppers are locals getting the best price in the city in an atmosphere Tesco can't beat. The best performers were the Blue Mountain Boys, a bluegrass duo performing live over their own recordings.
Facemasks were prevalent, not only for sale but also in use. A magician entertained a decent crowd, and sales of his invisible thread, which he demonstrated by grabbing soda cans and pens without touching them, were brisk at a mere five baht. Children were in awe, as were we by how quickly time passed and our still jetlagged legs grew heavy.
Deciding to return to our hostel, we paused for a few minutes in the Sky Train station to sit down with cold ice cream and water. So much of a traveller's life is food -- when you're moving for hours on end, often short on sleep, you need to consume almost constantly it seems.
After resting up, eating dinner, and debating on whether or not to actually "go out", the time was finally right at about 1 am. Sounds late, but we weren't looking for your average bar, but rather one of the go-go variety: our touristic curiosity in full control.
We found what were looking for, the unexpected, at Screw Boy. Escorted to the club by a tout, his proposed payment of 100 baht was negotiated down to 40, after all we were expected to cough up 300 for the promised Big Cock Show! We literally walked into a plethora of penis on stage; Thai men swivelled their hips to club music, naked except for condoms or cock rings. Evidently we arrived right at the climax of the show, it was the only fully nude part of the performance. Afterward, maybe for another hour, a rotating cast of white-underwear clad men mostly stood on stage, often awkwardly, clearly just at their job.
Meanwhile one or two lead performers, designated by their coloured bikinis and visible ass cracks, danced enthusiastically to tunes such as "Boom Boom Pow," "Hot N Cold," and "Poker Face." They all wore numbers, and could be purchased for table companionship for only 200 baht, or whatever you could imagine back at your hotel for up to 1,900 baht. We passed on that, drinking our Singhas amid relief that the bathroom was surprisingly not sketchy. Towards the end I was chatted up by a well-spoken performer, who kindly gave us directions to our next destination -- a club called Spicy.
The late-night party, in full swing, took place in a giant sweaty concrete box. The DJ mixed between tracks quickly on a computer, his fast cuts and the somewhat dilapidated sound-system's lack of true bass no matter to the throngs of dancers. Walking meant practically pushing, and once we'd obtained a soon-to-be-devastating 1,200 baht bottle of whiskey we found a table right near an elevated dance-spot. Too tall to stand completely upright beneath the not-designed-for-Western-men ceiling, we danced and drank, drama abounding on either side.
First, two girls were kissing frantically, practically on top of us, while their respective female friends watched with high emotion. One friend shook with rage, stormed off, and then the face-sucking continued. Next, a smooth-looking Ghanaian footballer danced with Christine, provoking his wife to give him a slap across the face. The fact she was making out with his team-mates later was apparently irrelevant.
We danced until dawn, as in 6am, but well before then the quickly emptied whiskey bottle, surrounded by all-too-few Pepsi bottles, had done its damage. Apparently loud and happy, we went to an after-after-hours party for another hour or two. I say apparently because I don't quite remember all of the specific details :-).
It was an appropriately awesome "Bangkok" evening, and somehow even our hour-long taxi ride home -- it's tricky to remember an accurate hostel address at times -- didn't manage to ruin that. The hangovers lingered as the next day changed to night, a small price to pay for completely letting loose of our inhibitions for an evening in this modern but multi-faceted city.
An edited version of this story first appeared on Holiday Fu -- Like Kung Fu for holidays. We'll be running a new entry from Anderson and the team every Wednesday for the duration of their trip across Asia. We hope you find it an interesting view into what another's journey through Asia can be like. There's a delay of a few weeks between where they are and the story appearing on Travelfish, so if you want to know where they are right now, be sure to check out their blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.
Story by Anderson Muth
Related readingAn introduction
Muay Thai night
Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma ()
- Cambodia (14)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Indonesia (4)
- Laos ()
- Malaysia (1)
- Singapore ()
- Thailand (66)
- All stories
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Ko Chang's east coast
- Ko Lanta's best budget guesthouses
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Loy Krathong in Thailand
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Songkran festival in Thailand
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The changing face of Ko Lipe
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Trekking in Thailand
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay DIY
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay midrange budget
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Ha Long Bay: Which tour is right for you?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (4)
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (17)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (9)
- Cycling Asia (12)
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (5)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.