If you ever find yourself in Bangkok, even if it’s just cooling your heels on a stopover like Monsieur and me, you should go on a Bangkok date. In our typically conservative style, there were no lady-boys or she-hes involved in our Big Night Out in Bangkok recently. Nor did we see the need to visit Patpong for a “Thai massage”, if that’s still what you call a rub down with all the very tickly extras. Did we miss out? Not a jot. As the details of our date will testify, Bangkok boasts far less talked-about, more sedate but thoroughly cosmopolitan options for visitors.
First, we dressed up. Off came the Fit Flops that would barely leave my feet for the next couple of weeks and on went the ballet pumps. We enlisted the advice of the team of concierges in the lobby to help us choose a fine place to dine Thai-style but first followed their directions to reach the nearby State Tower. Taking a deep breath we dodged our way across two busy roads messy with every sort of conceivable wheeled vehicle, including Thailand’s famous tuk tuks, stopped briefly to look at the State Tower’s shiny shrine, then left the muggy air behind as we entered the cool lobby which was disappointingly devoid of interest, apart from the presence of Razzbuffnik‘s favourite global coffee house: Starbuck’s. Is it possible to find a city that doesn’t have a Starbuck’s?
We crossed what felt like an acre of marble floor to the lift lobby entrance, where two women changed their shoes to comply with the dress code as their partners tapped their feet. Thank heavens I hadn’t worn my Fit Flops! Once our attire had been deemed passable by the doorman, we waited with an escort for a lift to arrive, and were then whizzed up some sixty something floors to the top of the second tallest building in the city.
The Dome at the State Tower is a landmark on the Bangkok skyline, largely because the tower is capped with a dome which lights up like a beacon at night. It’s also home to a cluster of chic eateries and bars. On the advice of my colleague, Irish Architect, here we were to drink some serious cocktails at a bar with one of the best views in town.
When we got out of the lift, a greeter efficiently guided us past a bar and dining room to a terrace where the Cool Crowd were already sipping on lusciously alcoholic concoctions. No dinky umbrellas in the drinks here! As we kicked off our shoes and tucked our legs up on the super deep sofas at the terrace edge, we checked out the patrons. There was a couple who’d frolicked shamelessly that afternoon in the hotel pool, now decked out in designer gear and obviously quite accustomed to this sort of scene. Then there were the young business people setting up their friends with potential lust interest, but most of the people were incredibly self-important looking, wearing their Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? sunglasses in spite of the fact that the sun went down a few hours ago and tweedy flatcaps that may be trendy somewhere in the world right now but are laughably unsuitable for the heat of Thailand. It was all quite entertaining.
As Monsieur and I lounged and tried in vain to snap the twinkling lights of the city, we sipped on Martinis. Ah, divine decadence. My first was a chocolate version, but looked clear in the glass because it was made with creme de cacao, and was served with a chocolate-coated rim. Then I went all lemon with a lethal concoction of vodka and limoncello. I so seldom drink cocktails that this felt incredibly James Bond, but there was also a financial reason behind the choice of beverage: wine in Asia is exhorbitantly priced and cocktails prove much better value.
The waitress made us giggle when we ordered the second (and final) round of drinks; she furrowed her brow, looked at us directly and said “are you sure you want another drink? They’re very strong.” In fact, they were just normal cocktail strength, but as most travellers in Asia will attest, many cocktails made in this region taste quite unalcoholic, they are that weak.
We left our comfy sofa to ride the elevator back to terra firma, where a man in a top hat hailed us a cab and instructed the long-haired driver (who’d look less out of place DJ-ing in a nightclub) to take us to The Blue Elephant, the home of the international group of Thai restaurants by the same name. In the London Blue Elephant, I’ve heard reports that girls leave with orchids. Would they do the same here? What would the food be like? Would its reputation hold up? Would Monsieur, a born restaurant critic, rate it well? We were about to find out.