A Bit of T L C - Part 1 Taking Stock in Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand November 2023
After arriving back in the UK six months ago with mixed emotions, we were more than ready to escape again and leave behind a country that was feeling more and more disconcerting by the minute. The summer had flown by and it was good to meet up with friends and family, grab a bit of culture in London’s theatreland and fill up on our diverse cuisine, but the mood of the nation soon took its toll and a change of scenery (and some TLC -Thailand, Laos and Cambodia) was much needed.
The “scenery” was certainly different as we arrived in Bangkok’s Chinatown where we’d chosen to base ourselves for a couple of nights to acclimatise. The area was thronging with tourists and locals alike enjoying the atmosphere and the copious street food stalls which filled the pavements. Dodging cars, scooters and people, we finally made it to our hotel, The Shanghai Mansion. Set in the heart of Chinatown, the building had an illustrious history, starting life as a trading house back in the 1890s before being transformed into Bangkok’s first Chinese Opera house. Several decades later it became the Bangkok stock exchange, followed by a conversion to a large department store selling herbal remedies before falling into disrepair. Now converted into an opulent boutique hotel, fronted by a jazz bar complete with a Thai Norah Jones banging out the hits, we stumbled our way through to the sumptuous lobby.
The rooms were stylish and oriental, but very dark and a little tired – much like us after our long journey. We braved the crowds and several dark alleys, and found a lovely little rooftop restaurant overlooking the twinkling lights of the Chao Phraya river for a much needed cocktail and a delicious pad thai. We were back!
Fighting the jet lag, we were up early the next morning for breakfast, and a visit to the Snake Farm. Not everyone’s first choice of tourist attraction, I grant, but we’d seen the main sights on previous visits, and it held a strange fascination for us both! As mentioned in my earlier blog, Bangkok seems to have a hospital catering for just about every ailment, and this institute devoted to obtaining anti-venoms was set behind the rabies and animal toxin clinic. We sadly missed the “venom extraction demonstration”, but the excellent snake handling display was scary and enthralling at the same time! I would say we were “charmed” by the young handlers as they introduced a variety of reptiles including the impressive King Cobras, explaining which were the most venomous, and what to do if encountered in the wild (run??!! – no, back slowly away, apparently, as most snakes have very poor eyesight).
We then explored the superb education centre which contained a wealth of “snaky” information and facts. Who knew that snakes can fly (and not just on a plane!), have legs, can store sperm and delay egg fertilization until they’re ready to give birth, don’t have to stay with the eggs once laid AND can even reproduce without having to mate (handy, especially for the short-sighted variety of snake!)? Thailand lays claim to the world’s longest venomous snake (at over 18 foot!), but as my resident snake “expert” pointed out, not the world’s longest – a reticulated python recorded at 32 foot…!
We had so far been lucky with the weather, but this was still “rainy” season and we were treated to a huge deluge as we set out for dinner that evening. We managed to get a taxi fairly easily (this wasn’t London after all!) and after a quick visit to the mall for a Thai sim card, found a nice Indian restaurant (already missing English food!!).
Back to the hotel for an early night before the next leg of our trip…westward bound.