20 September 2012

One Night in Bangkok ....

Yes, yes I know it was actually one day in Bangkok, but that doesn’t sound as exotic as a heading.  And anyway, if I discuss our night in Bangkok I’ll be talking about a whole lot of sleeping going on, because we got in late and went straight to bed - and in a Blerk I’ve got Jetlag sense, not an Ohh, one night in Bangkok sense. 

And I know once I’m on a buying trip I’m meant to put the shop behind me for a while, but I have to tell you about this:  a woman came into the shop wanting a ceramic teapot.  It was two days before we were heading off so I only had two left in stock to show her.  Both date from the 1940s and both are $38 and $48 respectively (ie. utter bargains – they’re both on the website, so you can see for yourself). 

Oh look at the prices, she said, you know I don’t need an antique teapot. 
You’ve come to the wrong shop, then, I said. 
What do you mean?
You know you’re in an antiques shop?
A blank look:  Yes? 
So all my things are vintage and antique. 
Oh, everything? 
Yes, everything. 
Oh ….

And off she wandered without another word.  Honestly, it was enough to drive me screaming from the country.  So off I went.
There are lots of lovely temples
along the River ...

The flight to Bangkok was as pleasant as you can hope for when you’re in Economy.  There is plenty of room on Thai Airlines and the food is excellent so that was a good start.  I get horribly tired on long-haul flights (even though this was only 9.5 hours) but our room had a seriously enormous and comfy bed so a good sleep-in mostly cured my woes.  From our room we had a nice view of the Chao Phraya River, which flows through Bangkok, and seeing how there was a dock right down stairs we decided that a river cruise would be a nice way to spend a few hours.
all of them beautifully maintained ....


We caught the local commuter ferry as far as it would go down the river and back.  A two hour return trip for $A1.20 was somewhat cheaper than the official cruises and as the ferry criss-crosses the river we saw pretty well all there was to see.  Then we returned to the hotel for a very nice long, leisurely lunch just in time to watch the afternoon monsoon lash the river – and everyone unfortunate enough to have not anticipated that those whacking big black clouds might have indicated that rather a lot of rain was about to fall.

.... other places are
a little more ramshackle


Then it was off to the River City Centre to look at what is described as the largest collection of antiques shops in Bangkok.  Almost a third of this Centre’s shops are now empty, and looking at the prices we could venture a guess as to why.  OMG they were clutch-your-throat-and-fall-down-gagging high!  I have bought and sold many beautiful Buddhist artefacts over the years, but by golly I can tell you right now I won’t be sourcing any in Bangkok.  So that was disappointing because I saw plenty of lovely things that I quite wanted but had zero prospect of affording.
People are still living in this once gorgeous house.


One excellent find, though, was a wine bar/tea house/café nestled among the antiques shops and overlooking the river called Tête Quarters. It has only recently opened and is owned by some interior decorators so the décor is vintage and stylish (noice, different, unusual). It has silent movies from early 1900s Paris, plus some Charlie Chaplin movies, projected nonstop onto one wall, comfy leather couches and old upholstered chairs, vintage china, an eclectic collection of bits and bobs everywhere and large and mismatched chandeliers. It sounds odd but the overall effect is quite pleasing.

A thing I liked but couldn't afford -
marble buddha, about 4 feet tall, c1700
So we wiled away another few hours over drinks and snacks, watching the huge amount of river traffic undertake a complex ballet which involved everyone getting everywhere real fast and all missing each other. We lingered long enough to watch the lights up and down the river turn on, and then off to the airport. We expected a good flight with Swiss Air, but how wrong we were.

A really fabulous thing I liked but
couldn't afford - Thai wooden figure of
a horse, about 6 feet tall on its stand, c1600


Yep. another thing I liked but couldn't afford -
small Bronze figure of a Deer, c400AD

Our flight from Bangkok to Manchester via Zurich was almost indescribably bad. Almost - but not quite – indescribably bad. So I've found it within myself to provide a few observations:

-   The seats were minuscule.  Where were we heading – Lilliput?  Everyone commented as soon as they sat down on how small the seats were, and some poor blighter ahead of me had to spend a good deal of the trip with one arm draped over his head so there was room for the person in the seat next to him.  Granted he was a big lad, but that he had to sit like that for most of an 11 hour flight was ludicrous.  Doug and I raised the seat arm between us to give us a tiny bit more room, but it was horribly, HORRIBLY squashed and uncomfortable for the entire flight to Zurich.
Inside Tête Quarters - one wall has nonstop
black & white silent movies projected onto it

-   The food was awful.  Dinner was an exercise in stodge, harking back to the bad old days when airline food had a deservedly terrible reputation.  Most other airlines have upped their game considerably these days, but not Swiss Air.  Despite significant bragging in their In-Flight magazine about how damn scrumptious their Business and First Class food is, it appears that what happens in Business and First Class stays in Business and First Class, and nothing remotely scrumptious trickled down to the poor schmucks in Ultra Sardine Class.
Watching the boats light up from our vantage
point in Tête Quarters
-   And just let me just harp on about how truly bad the food was for a minute – how can you get tomato or orange juice so seriously wrong?  By buying the cheapest possible, that’s how.  Black & Gold and other generic brands have their places, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between them and name brands, but other times you need to step up the quality and Swiss Air has clearly gone for the cheapest possible option with its Economy class food and drinks.  Even their cheese was hard and dry and awful and came without crackers – just a lump of cheese.  They’re Swiss!!  How can they get cheese wrong??  But okay the itsy-bitsy chocolate squares they hand out after meals were what you’d expect from Swiss chocolate.
-   The headsets provided so you can watch movies were those hideous tiny ones that fit into your earholes and which don’t actually let you hear much over the ambient noise of the aircraft and which give you a horrible ear-ache in no time.  In our experience only Turkish Airlines also uses these entirely unsatisfactory headsets, and it was a surprise to see Swiss Air was equally penny-pinching, to the intense discomfort of their customers. 
And seeing how movies and meals were to be our only form of entertainment over the next 13 hours (11 hours to Zurich, then another 2 hours to Manchester) finding them to be respectively inedible and unusable – and on the Zurich-Manchester leg totally non-existent - was seriously aggravating after spending so much on fares.  When you spend that much money on an airfare, and even in Economy you’re forking out thousands of dollars, then there are basic standards you should be able to expect.  Swiss Air didn’t deliver in any sense.

One last thing I liked but couldn't afford -
seated gilded Buddha, 4 feet tall, c1800

We have the same torture in store on the Manchester to Bangkok leg on the way home with Swiss Air, but we have another month before we have to face that. So anyway, now we’ve reached Manchester after an unnecessarily exhausting flight, and all going well the shopping will start tomorrow.

One last thing I have to mention before I collapse into bed for a few hours is Mischka’s attempt to help me pack for this trip.  We always leave packing until the last minute, and the night before we left I threw some things in my bag and shut the lid but didn’t zip it up.  On the morning we left I opened the bag to pop in a few final things and found that Mischka had crawled in overnight and left her favourite toy among my clothes.  How sweet was that?  Just in case I need something to play with while I’m away and missing her, she donated her all-time favourite toy, which is a fabric ball filled with some type of grain and festooned with feathers.  Then it occurred to me how I would go trying to explain it while going through a bag search with Customs and Quarantine.  I swear the cat packed it!  Yeah right, lady.

Mischka is notoriously difficult to photograph nicely because she just won't sit still,
but what a sweet-heart assistant bag packer she is. 
Or is she planting suspicious objects to get me arrested?


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