As I sit here, happily munching on a GI-normous Fuji apple which has the sweetness that is Thailand imbued in its white crispy pulp, I thought I’d make a brief mention of the older antique area of Bangkok, away from the new Asiatique. A little further up the Chao Praya, as equi-distant north of the Taksin Bridge as the ‘Tique is south of it, lies the indoor mall and surrounding environs of River City. A place where, so the guidebooks claim, you are liable to pick up a genuine antique purchase. It all sounded rather intriguing as I thumbed through an “Eyewitness Travel Guide” so I donned a rucksack (note to all wannabe cyclists in Bangkok. Always take either a spare top or a small towel with you. You will sweat if you are out in the sun for 10mins or more and perusing stalls in such a state isn’t terribly pleasant), cycling gear and set off down Rama IV, then Thanon Si Praya, heading straight for the Chao Praya river.
Getting there is terribly easy outside rush hour and you’ll find yourself suddenly in a mix of soi which go off in all directions on the strip of land between the Charoen Krung road and the river. There is a jumble of buildings there, a mixture of old and new, gleaming faux marble with tired concrete, weeds and flowers fighting for cracks in the pavement. The road is a patchwork of tarmac, drain covers, sewage openings, jumbled hexagonal cobbles and block cement. Amongst it all the traffic slows markedly, a lazy slip and slide of one taxi past another; the groaning rumble of an ancient truck hauling Hudson St goods to a warehouse.
I arrived at the glistening entrance to the mall which lies right next to the Si Phraya pier (number 3 pier if you’re interested in a map of all the Chao Phraya piers) and found these chaps having a “Waiting For Godot” moment. There is a certain sweetness and leveling up of karma to have Sir Winston so casually ignored by a man in blue socks and sandals. Coupled with the enterprising humour of whomever stuck a cigar in his fingers, this made it a snap almost worth having as the Featured Image of this blog. I parked my bike in the usual spaces for mopeds in the underground car park and then ambled into a mall that was so quiet I had to double check if it was closed. I’d say half the shops were shut but it made little odds as you could easily window shop. The entire place is given over to antiques. The proper stuff; they export internationally as well as domestically. It’s a glut of all things ancient and a must-visit for anyone wanting to buy a true piece of South-East Asian history.
I spent a lazy 45 minutes ambling around; I can see how a lover of antiques could spend half a day and a few tens of thousands of $$$. As is the Bangkok want it was cool, empty of people and luxuriant in its taste.You almost felt you were in a museum with the way some of the shops were laid out like galleria. It wasn’t just Thai. Plenty of Chinese and Japanese antiques, one shop given over to Burma, another to Buddhist monks. A bit for everyone. That done, I went back out into the bright sunshine, hunted for the “Rare Gem Museum” which turned out to be shuttered and permanently closed, and decided to cycle back home in a forgetful mood. Is it odd to say I feel most at home in Bangkok when I am on the road with its other subjects? Probably. As I mentioned on a FB entry recently, cycling is getting more press in Thailand; becoming a mode of transport of choice. Old fears about horrendous, choking traffic, crazy driving….I have to say that in six months I’ve seen none of it. Cyclists are always ushered through first. Thais on mopeds at the traffic lights always smile at you, wave you ahead. Cars pay attention and give you a wide berth. You’re not seen as a nuisance here. Without thumbing a nose at Fate, I have to say, cycling in London is far, far more dangerous than in Bangkok…..
Short blog today, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. On a separate note, tomorrow I am finally about to go see what I can do about learning Thai with a trip to a local school with Canada’s Finest Jazz Vocalist…who knows, one day I may even blog in Thai! Now, wouldn’t that be something to see? 😉
I’ll leave you with this picture. It seriously impressed me, this antique. I reckon Sir Winston should amble over from his seat and take a look as well…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?