Feb 14, 2008|
When it comes to getting away for the weekend, Bangkok is a favorite destination: an easy two-hour flight, then you’re shopping at Loft, eating at Blue Elephant and buying tons of cheap chic at Chatuchak Market. Who needs a guidebook? But hey, been there, done that. So this time we broke the mold and went looking for something different, and found it in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, fine dining, designer boutiques and a fifth-floor cottage with its very own treatment room.
Mmmm... chicken rice. Midnight Kaiton (30 Phetchapharop Rd) allegedly serves the best in the world. For about USD$1.30 you get a bowl of rice cooked with chicken fat and broth, topped with steamed chicken breast, chicken blood cubes and “secret” sauce, which turns a plain dish into something truly amazing. We tried a bowl at 1am and frankly we think their world-beating claim is probably spot on.
It’s hard to beat Bangkok for street eats (we also had delicious soup noodles with fried Thai sausages, not unlike the Chinese variety, in a hole-in-the-wall behind the Royal Palace on Th Maharat). Which is just as well because it’s worth saving your baht for a superb upscale meal at least once while you’re there. We splurged on dinner at Cy’an in the uber-chic Metropolitan hotel (27 Sathorn Tai Rd., 02-625-338). This is Mediterranean haute cuisine at its best, so it seemed only fitting to order the eight-course wine-pairing tasting menu. The feast started with exquisite black kingfish sashimi and avocado and a glass of Moët Brut Impérial, followed by such dishes as foie gras with grilled banana, Barron Point oyster in vodka tempura, pearls and sea vegetable broth. It came with a price tag of USD$150, but this is one of the best meals we have ever had and good value compared with similar fare in Hong Kong.
That checked the boxes for cheap and expensive meals, now we were looking for a bargain. We found it in the Erawan Tea Room (2/F, Erawan Bangkok, 494 Ploenchit Rd., 02-254-1234, ext. 3171), a comfortable room with modern Thai décor and windows overlooking the Siam Square shopping area. For just USD$6 a person, the tea set comes with at least 12 snacks, including mango sticky rice and Thai-style dim sum created by Chef de Cuisine Sarawut Imsap. He’s one funny guy – calling himself Chef Fat (because of his size), cracking jokes with customers and stopping by to check if you love his food. Why yes, we do.
Time for a massage. Usually we do what most Hong Kong people do: book a cheap rub-down at Body Tunes. But this trip we got lucky, bagging one of the six cottages at the i.sawan spa on the fifth-floor podium of the Grand Hyatt. Chic little white cubes, each decked out with a living room, bathroom, bedroom, patio and spa treatment room, the cottages are in an exclusive enclave, separate from the hotel. Playing house there is fun. We booked a package deal through Cathay Pacific Holidays and got the full treatment: lavish breakfasts prepared on the patio, evening cocktails each night, and a daily treatment. The fridge was stocked with healthy juices and frozen yoghurt, soothing music played all day, and we got to pick the massage of our choice, from traditional Thai to aromatherapy, performed by the spa’s skilled staff. Let me tell you, nothing beats the buzz of a cocktail immediately after a super-relaxing massage. And then, next day, we got to do it all over again. Looking back, the real challenge of our weekend was just leaving the cottage.
But leave it we did, and went in search of some top Thai fashion. It’s been a while since Thai designers emerged into the fashion limelight (think Thakoon Panichgul), so perhaps Keven shouldn’t have been such a revelation. But I was amazed to find fashion better than back home in Hong Kong. I’m a sucker for Martin Margiela’s deconstructed clothing, with sleeves draping in usual ways. Keven (2/F, Siam Center, 02-255-3925) plays a similar trick, and is sure to be a hit with fashionistas. He even has a menswear shop.
Feeling a million dollars, I decided to satisfy one of my darkest desires (let’s face it, I wouldn’t be the first to do that in Bangkok). Cheeze Studio in the heart of the Siam Center (1/F, 02-658-1744, www.cheezestudio.com) will produce a portfolio of photographs for literally anyone with USD$11.50. That buys you 10 minutes to strike as many poses as you can while a professional photographer snaps away on his digital camera, before burning them onto a CD. Embarrassing? Oh yes. But it also turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. After I stopped giggling and learned to ignore the passers-by staring through the window, I followed the snapper’s instructions: pouted my lips, raised my chin, sucked in my stomach. For a brief few seconds, I did think maybe I had a gift for modeling. But then I saw the pictures, with my awkward limbs, stiff poses and double chin. At least I had some pictures to send to my dating agency.