but i'm getting too far ahead of myself. since i'm here for work, i've apportioned my weekends for fun with friends. i have quite a few thai friends whom i met when i lived in singapore way back in 1997, and with whom i continue to keep in touch. but serendipitously, i received a facebook message from jay, whom i know from high school. i always knew he was half-thai but i had no idea where he was until i received that message, just shortly before i learned that i would be going to thailand. so i sent him a message asking if he'd be willing to host me for a day when i'm not checked into my hotel. and he very willingly said yes. his last message to me before i flew to the city of angels was: be ready to party.
my jansport messenger bag fits nicely into my TNF sidetrack's wide ambidextrous handle
i don't know why people complain about our airports; NAIA2 is small, but it's pretty
so i hurriedly bought a red TNF sidetrack luggage. i have a lot of bags, but they're suited for adventures and backpacking trips, but definitely not for business when i also need to pay extra attention not to wrinkle my clothes. i arrived at the NAIA 2 terminal at around 8am and had my very new bag cocooned in plastic wrap. there is a new service available only in some australian airports and in manila that wraps your bag in several layers of plastic, much like the one used to cover food. for anyone with expensive luggage, this is a must. when i got there, i almost did not realize that the centennial terminal actually has duty free. my last international flight using PAL -- in november last year for SG -- was far too early in the morning, and i must have been a little groggy that i didn't notice.
duty free standards
i got into my philippine airlines flight and when i turned off my phone, i suddenly realized that the information i had given jay was wrong -- i was scheduled to arrive about 3 and a half hours after my 10:30am flight, but i hadn't accounted for the time difference. so when we flew into BKK's showcase terminal -- the suvarnabhumi (pronounced soo*bahr*nah*poohm) airport -- i lounged around the duty free area to look at face products for men. haha. besides, i was just so amazed at the airport. from the air, it looked like a featureless interconnection of tubes that formed an odd 'h', but upon closer inspection, it was an industrial masterwork with high ceilings, clever scaffolding interiors, concrete, metal, and glass. it had a sombre, impersonal feeling, due probably to its hue and its size. all of a sudden, i took one look at the immigration and it was jam-packed! like seriously full of queuing foreigners, one might think the lines at NAIA 1 were not unreasonable! i gasped at the sight and then i noticed that the diplomatic lane had less than 6 people lining up at 2 immigration officers. so i flashed my EC ID and i was out to claim my luggage in 5 minutes. and jay was already there to meet me! he has a special airport pass which can get him into the arrival concourse! is that cool or what?
german designed suvarnabhumi airport
i haven't seen jay since graduation day in 1993, but when i saw him, i immediately recognized him. he did not change, not a single bit, and i suppose he also recognized me immediately, since the only change i had was a goatee. he picked me up along with his mom (they both work for the UN system) and we drove through elevated highways to robinson mall not away from the airport to have lunch at zen -- a japanese concept restaurant. afterwards we went to their house, which is in the outskirts of the city, in a very quiet, upscale neighborhood surrounded by inundated rice paddies and a small golf course. it had just rained when we went home, and much like manila, there are also flash floods in BKK. so i am not too far from home, and i blend in pretty well: the locals speak to me in thai, until i reply with my ersatz american accent, and they smile profusely and courteously, sometimes with a slight bow.
my first meal in bangkok
pop expressway quiz: which one is bangkok, which one is manila?
jay's instructions were for me to get some rest because he'd planned to party the whole night. i didn't get an extra wink, instead, eagerly awaited what would transpire on our first night. he just said: dapat gwapo tayo. i immediately became self-conscious. so anyway, we left at around 8pm for sukhumvit road, passing through another elevated highway, where bangkok's skyline glimmered and sparkled. at ground level, this major artery is roofed by a mesh of concrete: stretches of 4-lane flyovers and the spans of the bangkok skytrain, it almost feels cloistered and stunted. after fetching jay's filipino friend raquel, we sped for la rueda, a latin-themed space with a bar for an hour of salsa. when we arrived, a beginner's class was ongoing, and after a while, the place was throbbing with salsa enthusiasts: locals and farangs, moving their bodies to the latin rhythms. and although many of the dancers were pretty good, i pitched in some time to dance: i have this habit of getting wild in places where no one knows me. and it always happens that when i begin to believe my anonymity, that the world in fact is smaller than a classroom globe. on my way out the door to buy a phone card, someone tapped my hand and said: alman. it was emerlynne gil, who was 2 years ahead of me in law school, and whose barops i was also a part of. of all the places where em and i would see each other again, it had to be a hole-in-the-wall, in bangkok, the city of angels, thailand.
a shade after 11pm, we decided to do another kind of dancing. so we all went to bed, also along one of the sois in sukhumvit road (to explain, in BKK, a soi is a narrow minor street which branches out of a main road). bed supper club (yes, supper, noun, an evening meal, typically a light or informal one, and not super, adjective, very good or pleasant; excellent) is one of bangkok's chic and ritzy places, where one parties to see, and naturally, be seen. as a result, there are always eye candies. jay has a VIP card, and he can bring in 2 more friends for free; and he's also quite well-known. but we got there to find the club in darkness: power was tripped somewhere and it suffered a brief outage. when the music and the lights went back up, we filed in and located a space inside the white room, across from the bar (bed supper club is divided into two spaces which on most days offer different kinds of music), where there are actual beds. as the area suggests, it is painted an immaculate white, has a second level, and features a european guy doing spinning duties. the white ceiling is accented by crawling black tubes with lights at their ends -- i can't say they serve any other purpose.
come to bed with me?
jay proceeded to get a bottle of absolut raspberi vodka, and the evening finally began. bed is filled with farangs/falangs, and bangkok, despite the high language barrier, has more of them than english-speaking manila. we claimed a corner near the stairs to the second level. and the party promptly started. i'm not much of a party animal, and i wouldn't even be able to draw distinctions between bed BKK and embassy MNL as my friend did because i haven't even been to the latter. one thing i'd say though is that unlike manila, bangkok doesn't seem too overly concerned about exclusivity, and there was no area for VIPs only. no ugly, burly bouncers who guard a small space behind a velvet rope. in fact, the bouncers look like normal people, puny compared to the ex-police, ex-army types back home.
nonetheless, it was a night of light boozing and a lot of dancing. there were some caucasians in costume up on the ledge (ledge was a generic term we used for the elevated portion, although it really was just a small stage in the middle), and ji said they must have missed the halloween party. we danced the night away, toasting to beautiful bangkok and its beautiful people. and i don't know why "bed" is so popular a name for a bar (aside from bangkok, there's one in malate, in makati, in kota kinabalu, and there's even a bedroom in baguio city) but i quickly discovered why the white room has actual beds: so drunk people can just sleep where they fall. as i did, despite the loud music.
in bangkok as well as in manila, and due most likely to the size of my camera, complete strangers ask me to take their pictures and ask: at which website will i see the pictures? what social climbers!
then, at 2am, raquel was waking me: the lights had been turned on and the music turned down. just like taguig, the whole of bangkok has a 2am lights up policy. no more party after 2am. the animals in manila would absolutely hate that. but just as we were about to leave for home, we stepped out to find jay's thai-french friend david outside, who dangled an invite to go to tunnel, near lumphini park. the tunnel is sort of an underground bar. it has no sign outside, and an outsider would not know it existed, although there were many many cars parked outside it. it manages to keep open because of some "special arrangements" with the police. it's filled with people wanting to extend the party till the sunrise. the bar itself is pretty dark and swims in smoke. for THB600, i got two vodka red bulls (made with absolut, at least), and more time to keep dancing on the ledge, in front of the DJ who too often played mixes that had to make me stop and wonder what he wanted to achieve.
playing with lights at the tunnel
but it was a lot of fun and i almost got taken advantage of. there was a really tall girl holding a bottle of water who kept telling me "i'm drunk. teach me to dance." and i had to ask my friends: "babae ba to?" there were trannies in the tunnel so i wasn't sure. there was a middle eastern man near me who realized too late that the woman he was locking lips with was in fact a man. at a little past 5am, and having had our fill, with my eyes in tears from the swirling smoke, we decided to leave for home.
and that was my first day in bangkok. right now, i am at the lobby of the very posh conrad hotel (strangely, internet in the room is THB750 for 24 hours. but it's free here at the lobby). the night is falling fast, and i have no plans yet, but i plan to do something interesting. i could take a dip at the pool, or maybe work out at the 24 hour fitness center, or run at lumphini park, or walk around wireless road, or take the sky train.
in less than 24 hours in bangkok, this much has happened. i wonder what the next 6 days have in store for me once work is over?