We had a three hour drive East and wanted to take it easy. Not least because an hour of that journey would be trying to muddle through the insane traffic of Bangkok's outer ring road. I'm not a great believer that Thai drivers are all mad, they know what they are doing, it is me that doesn't know what they are doing.
I'd looked up Phaya Thai on Google maps and prodded a finger at the cheapest hotel and said "This one will do love". Then used Agoda to reserve a room. I felt melancholic that I was going to be a few stops on the BTS or a hundred Baht taxi meter ride away from Nana. Mournful because a friend of many years who lived in Bangkok had moved to Manchester in the UK. Waan said she'd go with me drinking but I told her 'Dahling that's really nice of you but my wife doesn't belong in that district'. Although without a crystal ball I wasn't to know in a few days time how wrong I could be.
We stopped twice en-route because it was getting late and we were hungry, thirsty, and tired. I confess the first stop was at the McDonald's Services on the motorway and I don't think I have ever enjoyed a quarter pounder so much in my life before. The second stop was at a Japanese restaurant called Shimi Shabu where I gambled on whether the car would get a ticket for parking. Though in Bangers you have to be aware they do clamp cars I didn't need to worry. The restaurant wasn't where it was supposed to be which is normal for Bangkok and was in a side street called Pradiphat 19 Alley. The whole experience was really good and Waan loved it.
The hotel was only two soi's along Pradipat Road and turned out to be a bit of a surprise. So much so that we plan to go back again. Mansion Sarasinee is in Soi Pradiphati 25 (and yes they do keep spelling the same word differently with each transliteration despite it being spelled only one way in Thai) and I wondered if I was going the right way with the alley being so narrow but yes it really was at the end of this soi that runs parallel to the BTS skytrain.
You could access the hotel from both Pradiphat Road and from the unpronouncable Phahonyothin Road we found out the next morning and so we walked down the tiny alley to look for coffee and breakfast. At the end of the alley facing us was a red street stall selling iced coffee and hot coffee and the loveliest Thai lady who could make coffee exactly how I like it and yet she didn't speak a single word of English. Not even imported words. So when I said 'Please' and nodded to the question of 'Want sugar' she replied 'Huh' and this is what I love about Thailand. The way it can switch from tourist area to real Thailand in the space of a few streets. Less than a kilometre up Phahonyothin Road is Chatuchak market where at the weekend will be about ten thousand tourists. Ten minutes the other way and you are in the heart of tourist attractions like Dusit, MBK, and Yowarat Road which is more commonly referred to as China Town and usually has more backpackers than Chinamen.
I suggested we go and have a look at the temple. Coffee lady said it is called Wat Phai Tan. I have no affinity with Buddhism nor Temples but we didn't really have anything to do. In fact I would go so far as to say I loathe all religions and their sycophantic use of words like 'faith' and 'truth' when they preach no faith in mankind and none of it is true but my newfound family are all Buddhists, which kind of pushes the unwelcome belief into my life. I don't dislike their belief, though some of it is clearly nonsensical, and I like talking to monks. But honestly, I don't travel Thailand to look at temples, and yet I seem to spend an awful lot of time doing just that, and Wat Phai Tan from the outside looks exactly the same as all the other temples. But inside is a wow factor. This isn't like any other temple I have ever seen. The artwork on the walls and the guilding and the images, some of which are familiar to anyone who has travelled Thailand a lot, of King Mongkut, the defeat of the Burmese, the move to Bangkok. It looked like Thailand's entire history explained by the use of its' mythology. This tiny little temple in a back street of Bangkok was fascinating.
I was feeling hungry so we wandered down to the main road and started looking for anywhere that was open. There were one or two of the usual Thai take-aways like red duck and bbq chicken and papaya pok pok but I wanted to sit. We were going to head back to the hotel and ask for suggestions but in the same alley is a Thai favourite. Khao mun ghai is ginger flavour rice with chicken on top that has been roasted and boiled served with a cube of jellied chicken's blood and a clear soup with a piece of fuk tong and the roasting remains swilling in the bottom of it. I know that doesn't sound very appealing but it is a must try. It tastes really good, fills you up, and is very cheap. I don't like the blood so I give that to Waan and she doesn't like the soup so she gives that to me. If you're still hungry you can ask for more, they don't mind, and this great breakfast with a small bottle of Coke cost 40 Baht.
It was barely ten o'clock in the morning and already it was forty degrees and not a cloud or breeze in the air. Waan wanted to go to Chatuchak Park for a walk round so we got on the skytrain at Saphan Kwai station and went one stop to Chatuchak. In this heat I wasn't walking there and in this heat Waan quickly changed her mind. The market only had garden centre traders and we did have a good look round for ideas for our house up in Udon but we could only window shop. We wouldn't be able to take trees and garden benches on a domestic flight and everyone kept telling us the market is only open at the weekend. I guess that's why it is called Chatuchak weekend market!
She did something I have never done before and I have never seen her do it either. She stopped a taxi meter and asked the driver to take us somewhere. "It's very hot," he replied, "how about a shopping centre with air-con?"
This proves that most of the time the taxi drivers are very helpful. It also proves they know their way around their city. People complain about the drivers and I once had a run-in with one who took us to a massage when he knew damn well we wanted to go to our hotel, but this is rare, for the most part they are very honest. And yet people like to complain about them all the time as if they are a bunch of criminals or mafia. The latest craze is Uber "Because they are so much better". Uber do not employ anybody, pay taxes, provide legal cover or insurance. They do not vet the driver or do any kind of criminal checks nor licensing. They invest nothing into Thailand and take 25% of every fare out of the country back to the USA. No doubt Donald Trump would describe this as "Isn't America great" because he can't pronounce 'financial rapists'.
The driver dropped us off outside the Baiyoke Sky Hotel and looking up it didn't look all that high. I have read it has 88 floors, it does not. I read it is the tallest building in SEA, it is not. The food is rated, it is not, the Chefs are medal winners, they are not. The views are breathtaking, in the same way smog and low cloud is yes. In fact everybody feels the need to big this place up. Here is the truth about Baiyoke; It is very expensive, the food is ok, the room maids are dressed up as nurses, the Sky Bar is indoors with a balcony outside, the cocktails are pointless, and the service the same as you get anywhere else in Thailand. It is only 250 Baht to be granted entrance to their bar and you can see a very long way and it is very high up. But if your price tag for a room is 4000 Baht a night then there are much better hotels in much better locations than Baiyoke.
Pratunam is popular with tourists and the market is always busy with them but the tourism is mingled in with the locals, Thai visitors, and other Asian tourists. You don't really feel like it is on the beaten track even though it certainly is. I have done the night market here before and didn't want to go home because I hadn't seen it all. It is worth a visit if you like night markets.
What had slipped by unnoticed is that Baiyoke is nowhere near where we thought the driver was taking us. He went out of his way to get us on the right side of the road so we could use the walkway to get across the road and straight into the shopping mall. But Waan commented on how she was disappointed that so many Indians are now taking over the shops and stalls and the fact that virtually all the shoppers were also Indians. She doesn't mean anything by it even though she can be vocal and offensive but she had a point when she said Thailand is for Thai people not Indian to come and take over the shops. But what we had done was go into the Indra Shopping centre by mistake, which is fine if you want Indian goods, which of course is what all these Indian tourists wanted.
Why would you want to travel thousands of miles and look for shops that sell things that you can buy in your own country I wonder. But if you go to China town there are Chinese tourists, in PatPong are Japanese tourists, in Lumphini are Mauy Thai tourists, in Siam Paragon are Arabs and everything they can spend their money on they can do in their own country.
Next we went to the much more sensible Platinum Fashion Mall, had something to eat, had a wander, bought some Thai treats like peanut crackers and dried young coconut, then got back on the BTS skytrain to Saphan Kwai. There is nothing about Platinum or any of the other multitude of shopping malls in Bangkok that is 'Off the beaten track' but they are still worth a visit. But we had missed a trick, a much better place and could be described as 'Off the beaten track' in Chatuchak is the JJ Mall Market and is where I would suggest you should go for shopping. And don't ask the taxi driver to decide for you.
After a much needed shower the time had come for our appointment with Laemgate Infinite. I knew Waan really wanted to try the food which she had seen on a Thai documentary on TV in the UK. Being opposite the Chatuchak market and in a business complex doesn't indicate this place being off the radar for tourists but it seems only Thai people go there. It is a sort of upmarket 'all you can eat' but is not a buffet. Lunchtime is 555 Baht and dinner is 666 Baht which I suspect may be because 555 in Thai is like LOL with the addition of happiness and 666 is Thailand's luckiest number and if you do not book in advance you will be un666. You can go on-spec and wait for a table but we saw a queue a mile long and it wasn't long before the security were turning people away.
Waan is Thai. Thai love seafood. Waan is seafood expert. I trust her opinion and asked what she thought of the seafood so far to which she said yes very good and ordered some more. Reviewers on Tripadvisor are a different breed to any normally adjusted sane person which means their opinions are not normal. I can prove that by pointing out that about half of the Asian (sample is Singapore, China, Malaysia, and Thailand) reviewers of Laemgate Infinite on Tripadvisor say it was an excellent experience, excellent service, excellent food, and excellent surroundings and yet they still give it four out of five. This my good reader is not normal behaviour.
Many on Tripadvisor do give it five out of five and I suspect deservedly so. Those that do not point out that if you order a dish and do not eat it you have to pay 200 Baht. I would say "Ask for a doggy bag like we did". Some say it is expensive. I'd say "Why did you go and eat in a restaurant you could not afford?" Some complain about you having to sign a disclaimer. Yeah OK I thought that a bit odd but can see that the proprieters do not want some muppet eating 16 plates of oysters and then being sick. And I can say that if they sold you dodgy raw seafood they would have to pay compensation regardless of their disclaimer. My problem was that I couldn't find much on the menu I could eat. I'm not a lover of seafood, and I'm definitley not eating raw prawns. The chicken is ok and so was the pork steak and the red curry, ooh and the crab in panang sauce.
OK the truth is I eat myself stupid and still tried more but the non-seafood dishes were not especially good. I'm not saying they were bad, it still gets a five out of five from me but I could get the same dishes anywhere in Bangkok or come to that, at home. The wife could have cooked this food.
Waan on the otherhand assures me that if you like seafood you are going to love Laemgate Infinite. I agree with her, and it is off the beaten track.