It has been a while since the wife and I ducked over to Bangkok for a bit of R and R so last Tuesday we parked the kids at mum’s house and jumped an Air Asia special over to Sin City for 4 days. I booked the number one “most romantic” B&B on Trip Advisor and two hours after walking through the departure gates at Ponchentong we were walking into Baan Pra Nond ( BPN ) in Silom. A former home of a Supreme Court Justice of Thailand, the 70-year-old home was built and constructed for a mere 8,000 baht (approx 235 US$ or 170 Euros) in the architectural style that was popular for the day and what is now considered Thai Colonial. The former three-bedroom home was a family residence and in its original state, the property was much more expansive, surrounded by fruit orchards and several canals. Additionally, the surrounding homes were the residences of a vast extended family that pretty much made up the majority of the community. These days it sits on a block of land that sees an elevated concrete highway soaring over the top of its rear wall and a dual carriageway / 6 lane road at its font door. This might seem a little off-putting to some but the room we were assigned ( #5 ) was dead quiet once inside and at any rate, being from Phnom Penh….noise levels are all relative.
After unpacking and showering we headed out to a Thai restaurant recommended to us by BPN. A short walk took us across the 6 lane RAMA 1V Road that saw cars hurtling past at light speed and over the BTS Surasak walkway and we finally arrived at XXXXX, an old teak house brimming with character and jam packed with foreigners. We opted for the spicy duck salad and the yellow chicken curry and this didn’t disappoint. Throw in a mai-tai for the wife and two beers for me and we came to USD$30. Not bad.
The next day was shopping day. I came with basically the clothes I was wearing so I REALLY needed to shop and the wife is a woman so she REALLY needed to shop too. After a hearty breakfast we jumped the BTS to MBK Mall (where else!) and I handed the wife a wedge of cash and said “see you in three hours”. I cannot do the husband-wife-together-shopping thing when I have a clear list of what I need. Call me selfish but that shit drives me nucking futs. People have different agendas and different walking / browsing speeds and it is a recipe for marital discord IMHO. Avoid at all costs! I needed two main items – t-shirts/polo shirts and boxer shorts. I had 15 new t/polos under my arm within 30 minutes but cotton boxers were proving elusive. I did see some at USD$16 a pair but they looked a tad small and seemed expensive. I had a very strange interaction with one vendor who was making very nice custom leather watch straps. I picked one out and was inspecting it’s quality when I mentioned I was a bit worried about the way the strap ends had been glued and could she add some stitching to secure it ( as my watch is er……on the expensive side ). Well….you would have thought I had asked her if I could take a dump on her foot. She took the strap off me and snorted “I make these strap seven year I never have problem I not sell you! “. Ok….fuck you too. I was going to buy several ! When I hook up with the wife severl hours later she is empty handed “everything too expensive!” so we head to the food court and nosh out.After an afternoon nap we head over to Kao San road via the Chao Praya express river boat and on the way to the pier we pass a small market set under the expressway. There in front of me is a lady selling cotton boxers at USD$2.80 a pop !! Struth ! I buy two pairs as a tested and tell her if they fit I will be back for more. Leakhana and I jump on the express boat and by express…..i do mean express. These long thin ferries pull up at the piers for about 30 seconds maximum during which time everyone needs to get on and get off before they fire up the diesel engines, blow the shrill whistle and take off at warp speed down the river. Hesitate and you are fucked ! On arrival at KS Road we find a bar on the back street that has two guys pounding out some INSANE blues on two guitars so we stop and drink a few beers. They are truly awesome and it is great to hear some live music. We then head over to Pumpkin tattoo to have chat about further work on my sleeve and after a few more drinks it is home to bed via tuk tuk.
Thursday is designated “ MAC “ Day. Leakhana has standing orders from several girlfriends for MAC make up and she is raring at the bit to spend so we head to Siam Paragon which houses all the luxury brands. To her dismay the MAC shop is out of bronze toner so we are directed to SIAM Gallery just across the courtyard. On our way out of Paragon Leakhana spies the CHANEL shop and tries to divert us there but with sheer muscle I steer her away and we are soon buying enough MAC to sink a ship. I am sure I have diverted a near CHANEL financial ruination and am quite smug however that soon turns to shit as we walk out of SIAM Gallery and Leakhana wields her wily womanly charms on me. I cave in and agree to a quick look and a couple of hundred dollars (and one very happy wife) later I walk out wondering what the hell just happened? I have to admit…it IS quiet nice buying CHANEL for the wife 😉 From MBK we head to Central World and Toys R Us where we stock up on bubble guns, water pistols and nerf boomerangs for the kids and we then try and find a suit for me. The day before I had left Phnom Penh my MD informed me that the following week we have a huge function at Sofitel for our clients and “ you should buy a suit”. Great. Thanks for the heads up. I actually have tailored several suits but I don’t wear them that often and they are in various states of …er…fit. Basically….they don’t ! Anyways we visited several more malls and then gave up on the suit idea and headed home for a nap. While Leakhana slept I popped over to the little market where I had seen the boxer shorts and the owner was stoked as I line-wiped her stock of XL. In all I buy 14 pairs from her. Anyone who lives in Phnom Penh with it’s constant over 30c++++ temps and its 104% humidity knows why a huge supply of boxers is a necessity. On the way back to BPN I spy a funny little hole in the wall that looks suspiciously like a dive bar and I poke my head in. Sure enough there are rock posters on the wall, a set of drums on the corner and a jukebox! The Thai owner tells me he opens at 7pm but “no live music till Saturday” and I tell him we will see him later for a beer. The skies open up with brute force and I take refuge in a tiny little corner shop just near our hotel that I had kept spying each time we passed it. They had all these eclectic little toys in the windows and I kept meaning to go in there and have a look see. I ordered up a tall cold bottle of Chang beer and explore this little treasure trove. I end up buying all manner of little toys like bubble robots and rubber jin joks and masks. None of which are any more than 25c or so. I then spy what look suspiciously like airsoft pellet guns and sure enough…the owner shows me some replica 9mm plastic models. I can’t resist and buy 4 at USD$2 each ! The one I buy for myself even has a laser site on it. SCORE! That night we had back to THE SMALL ROOM dive bar and we are welcomed by the owner and a few young Thai guys drinking whiskey and coke. The jukebox is fired up, I order a half of Sing Thip whiskey and some soda and the fairy lights and rock memorabilia make for a great ambience. The food is awesome as is the music and we have a great few hours rocking out with the locals.
Friday is our second last day and over breakfast I happen to ask the staff at BPN if they know where I can get a suit off the rack. They tell me they can recommend a tailor and they make a quick phone call to check and I am told they have some suits they can alter and they will send a car for us. I am highly skeptical but in the end decide what the hell let’s see what is possible in this town and Leakhana and I are soon being whisked away in a brand new 12 seater air-conditioned van. On arrival at the tailor we are greeted by no fewer than 12 smiling Pakistanis and we are led upstairs to the men’s section where I am asked “what material and design would you like?” My alarm bells start ringing and I ask them where the ready made suits are as I have to fly out the next day? The manager, a very affable chap called MD says…“Oh sir we have nothing like that. We will make one for you. We have 200 tailors at work!” It is 10am and I am told I could have a final fitting at 5pm that afternoon for a delivery the next morning. I ask how this can be possible and MD says to me with a cheeky smile “Sir… what….you think this is my first time making a suit?” We both laugh and he has me hook line and sinker. I choose the material and style for the suit and get upsold to a couple of shirts (with a free tie for each) and I negotiate from 12000BHT down to 9000BHT – USD$300 which I think is pretty damn good if this all comes off *gulp*. MD takes my number and a 50% deposit and says he will call me around 5pm and he tells his car to take us wherever we want to go. It is tattoo time so that would be back to Kao San road!
Leakhana heads of for massage and hair straightening and I head to Pumpkin where I intend on getting some further work done on my existing sleeve. I want the cuff finished properly and the colors lifted and an hour later I am in the chair for 4 more hours of sheer pain. I get a lot of dark, Japanese style clouding done across the top of my shoulder and this means the shoulder bone which means sheer agony. The cuff gets more of the same attention with some darker definition and the tattooist does an awesome job lifting all the colors. I am left with a completely “new” tattoo that is now a seriously nice half sleeve and it costs me a total of USD$450 for close to 5 hours work. Stoked. Just as I finish around 5pm the tailor calls bang on time and says “please come for a fitting” and I tell him I will be there at 7pm. I meet up with Leakhana and we have some steak and pizza at a large beer garden behind Kao San Road and then we head over to the suit shop where a smiling MD is waiting. The suit fits like a glove but the shirts are way off with sleeves that are an inch to short and collars that are way too tight. MD assures me he will alter the shirts and” we will deliver around 11pm tonight – you will wake up and they will be there!” and I hesitatingly pay him the remaining 50% balance, select my free ties and bid him farewell. “Come see us again!” he says.
The next day I wake up and walk out for breakfast and before I can sit down the receptionist brings out one perfectly made and tailor fitted suit and two superb shirts – also now a perfect fit. Well roll me over and dip me in pig shit. If that was not just the most amazing retail experience of my life I don’t know what was! These guys delivered in spades at a reasonable price, with good humor and smiles and with pick up/ delivery and a free ride across town thrown in. All in 24 hours. I am left stunned and I would/will definitely go back to this tailor in future. Leakhana and I spend the next couple of hours packing and repacking our huge hauls and I get a tad nervous about the guns I have bought but pack them right next to all the toys so there is hopefully no confusion! Soon enough we are speeding out to Don Muang airport, checking through customs (no worries!) and tucking into a quick Subway before boarding AirAsia back home to Cambodia.