Now that we’ve been here for a day and a half, I really can’t think why it’s taken us 15 years to come back. Well, I guess we keep finding other places to visit and other things to take up our time, but it’s so nice to be here again.
We’re spending our week in Bangkok staying at the Sawasdee Hotel on Soi 8, Sukhumvit Rd. Sam and Brianna recommended it to us and it’s perfect. Quiet but not too far from all the action on Sukhumvit, nice room on the 6th floor with views down a tree-lined street, breakfast in the open-sided ground floor cafe. And cheap. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that we take the German view when it comes to accommodation – don’t pay a lot of money to sleep somewhere!
On our previous visits to Bkk, we stayed at the Somerset Hotel on Soi 15. It had originally been recommended to us by the travel agent we used to use, back in the day before booking everything online became the norm. The Somerset had been very popular in the 60s and 70s with soldiers on R&R during The American War as it’s called in Viet Nam, and while it did show some signs of ageing (don’t we all?!), we loved it all – the rooms, the breakfast, the huge luggage room where we could store excess stuff while we went off to other places, and the proximity to Sukhumvit Rd and the Skytrain. Unfortunately the hotel was demolished a decade or so ago and a new ‘concept hotel’ has been built in its place with rooms starting at AUD$120 per night. We don’t pay that much unless we have no choice.
The ‘soi’ roads I keep mentioning are side-streets off Sukhumvit Road. Even numbers on one side of the street, odd numbers on the other. It’s a good system and makes it easy to work out where things are.
We caught the Skytrain to Tesco on Sukhumvit Soi 50 yesterday morning. Only taking carry-on bags meant we needed to get a few things we couldn’t pack – some razors for Greg, for example, and a few other things including morning tea. It has taken us no time at all to get into the Thai mindset of wondering what we’re going to eat next … about an hour after we’ve last eaten!
We took our goodies back to the hotel, then went for a walk up Sukhumvit to see the places we remembered from previous visits – the Times Square shopping centre near the Somerset used to have a good internet cafe, but that has gone now that everyone has a smartphone, and the shopping centre has been renovated and spiffed up. A bit further up Sukhumvit is Terminal 21, which is about 9 floors of shops selling mostly clothes and food. We hadn’t been there before as it opened in 2011. Greg wanted to get a local SIM card from a phone shop on the top floor of T21, so we caught escalators all the way up and then all the way back down.
I was a bit excited to find Hawker Chan, whose original Singapore stall won the first Michelin star for a street food stall in 2016, and offers the cheapest Michelin-starred food in the world. We had lunch there – 3 dishes plus a can of soft drink cost a total of $11. Chicken & rice, chicken & noodles and crisp fried tofu. The food came quickly and tasted good, not huge serves but that was a good thing because we’d just eaten Hokkaido cheese tarts, kinda like little cheesecakes, and then probably went looking for something else shortly after lunch anyway, I just can’t remember what.
We wandered along Sukhumvit and down Soi 15 to where the Somerset Hotel used to be. The same cafe is on the corner of Sukhumvit, with the same framed pictures and certificates on the walls as when we wandered past and occasionally dropped in all those years ago. Georges, the tailor and luggage shop a bit down Soi 15 is still there. Greg finally got some shirts made there, after the guy out the front had pestered him dozens of times over our strolls along that street. He still has the shirts so they have worn well. Some are still in their original bags, so he probably doesn’t need to have any more made this time.
The Dream Hotel which replaced the Somerset is a lot more upmarket than its predecessor. We remembered that the Somerset had a hair salon on the ground floor, and that we never ever saw any customers there, the women just seemed to spend all their time doing each other’s hair. There’s a Hooters restaurant and a Sheraton Hotel on Soi 15, a bit closer towards Sukhumvit and they definitely weren’t there 15 years ago.
Then we walked along the other side of the road, back towards where we’re staying now. More fancy hotels where there had been vacant lots and street stalls, but some shops are still the same.
We wanted to visit one more place on this trip down memory lane. The last time we were here, I broke my arm a few days before the end of our holiday. I tripped up an unlit step in a cinema and fell onto my outstretched hand. My arm felt a bit sore, but I sat through the movie, and then through dinner. While I was sitting in the cinema I kept holding my wrist up to the light to see if there was the classic dinner-fork deformity of a Colles fracture, but it all looked okay. When we got back to the hotel, I thought maybe I should get it checked out, so Greg and I walked the 1.5kms from the Somerset to Bumrungrad Private Hospital on Soi 3. Even back then, it was fancy, but now it’s incredible! Much more like a 5-star hotel, with concierges, cafes & shops in the foyer and at least 3 multi-storey buildings full of clinics, wards and special medical departments.
As it turned out, I had broken my arm, but up near the elbow, not near the wrist. I had a plaster cast put on and we went back to the hotel in a taxi ‘cos the cast was very heavy! The next day I went back to the hospital and saw an orthopedic surgeon who took the cast off, gave me a sling and told me to see someone when I got home. The break healed well and I’ve never had any more problems with it.