I’d left Wat That Thong and turned left up Sukhumvit for a block or two before I realised I was heading away from Ekkemai. An inaudible curse or two had me retracing my steps, past the BTS and turning right on the corner of the Beer Garden. An interesting place, clearly geared at the tourist, yet better than most “themed” watering holes I’ve come across. A mixture of jungle decor, rebuilt old red thin-brick walls, crumbling statues, street food style cookeries, bench table dining, and open-to-the-sky ambiance lent it an air of authenticity that was pleasingly eye-catching. Of course, the place is heavily sponsored by beer companies whom, in turn, sponsor football teams so you’ve got your usual airbrushed posters about live football everywhere. Talking of which, Bangkok does football posters on a scale I’ve never seen. If you drive into the city from Suvarnabhumi Int’l airport entire skyscrapers are covered in pictures of Barcelona FC, Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC. Some are out of date given the featured players have moved on, but you get the idea.
However, this wasn’t my destination. I had read in several other blogs and newsworthy websites that “Sauce” was a rather good bookshop attached to Vanilla Garden – a Japanese themed bistro-bar, patisserie, bookshop, and restaurant. The bookshop itself was niche, specializing in culinary tomes. Ideal, I thought for getting the Diplomat a little something. So, I headed up Ekkemai, preferring to walk the straight 1.6km that Google Maps and Navigator were telling me. It was an eclectic ramble. A glut of car show rooms, restaurants, sparsely hidden hi-so houses, glum tenements and forgotten artsy shops that forlornly stared at me accusingly as I strolled past.
For example I stopped and on the left side of the street was a peacock (part of a “supercars” showroom) and on the right was this statue in front of what might have been a closed night club. Then again, there was also the 1970s architectural post-apocalyptic house for sale…swiftly followed by the odd looking chimney/caravan house…
All of which made for an interesting wander as I moved north. I was getting closer. Soi 1 appeared, then 7 9 11. Google was bleating urgently at me, telling me my destination was three yards away.
I stopped and looked to my left at the splendour of arrival, whilst mopping my heated brow. This is what I could see:
Er…I double checked the coordinates. I was where Google wanted me. I found the cooling shade of a tree and tried to puzzle it all out. I found several websites referring to Vanilla Garden. All seemed right. Had the place been leveled the day before? Eventually, I spotted a Google entry for “Vanilla Cafe” – designated as being attached to the main place. This had a different location. I groaned. Spot the problem…
Unfortunately, that’s a 15 min detour in blazing sun and no sidewalks. Still, I had come this far so I was determined to press on, if only to get a drink at the Vanilla Cafe. I headed back south, turned left on Soi 12 and walked along the dusty road (no pavements here). The area is in what I’ll label “post-partum-construction”. A mix of brand new buildings with ramshackle lean-tos, but no real infrastructure around them. After a while, I followed the road as it bent gently to the left and saw my prize. Eagerly now, I skipped across the road, into the open carpark and onto a an open walkway that boasted bubbling fountains, plants and some quotes painted on the walls.
I spotted a guard. “อยู่ที่ไหน ร้านหนังสือ?” I said (ran nang su u ti nai is a phonetic translation – bookshop where?)
“Nang su close.” he said.
My world fell apart. What?
A lady emerged from the door that supposedly led to the bookshop. Her English was better than my Thai. “The shop closed forever. It is to be offices.”
I don’t remember thanking her as I turned, stumbling blindly away, hot tears coursing down my cheeks….well, not really; but you get the drift of the depths of my despair. After all this was the second bookshop that had been listed by many websites as “top 10 in Bangkok” which didn’t actually exist. Couple that with the difficulty in finding the place, I was all ready to send a snotty email to TripAdvisor and Google Maps.
So…there you have it. If anyone is looking for Vanilla Garden’s Sauce bookshop – IT DOESN’T EXIST!!!!
Still, I was determined to have a drink and sauntered into the cafe which was terribly nice. The decor (aside from the Foosball table as you walk in) is Japanese “bits and pieces” – items like books, a snow-globe of Mt Fuji (which I had to shake), old calculators, little toy robots etc. Take a look below. I did have a very nice Frozen Mint Tea ice drink.
I was all done. I had seen Wat That Thong which was fascinating, been steered out of my way several times by useless Google Maps, discovered a feted book shop that’s actually out of business, and had a very nice Ice Mint Tea drink. Not much else to do afterwards but hop on the back of a taxi moped to Ekkemai BTS and wend my chagrined way home.
Is this what diplomacy is all about?