If you’re reading this, you might also want to read the previous post in this series – Part 2.
Visitors to Bangkok will be spoilt for choices – be it upscale malls such as Gaysorn or Central World; or night markets and weekend markets (such as Chatuchak). Most visitors simply head to MBK.
MBK (Mahboonkrong) is the mother of all malls. Think of it as a “Spencer’s Plaza” (a Chennai shopping hub) on steroids. It is a chaotic maze that’s difficult to make sense of. One can buy literally anything under the sun in MBK – luggage, electronics, clothes, shoes, toys, pirated DVDs, watches, food. We read that on an average 100,000 people visit MBK everyday. There’s no concept of fixed price in MBK: You have to haggle. This naturally means that most of the big name labels sold here are fake. If you don’t mind buying a fake Fendi bag for $50, MBK is your kind of place.
Like most parents we bought our child things she didn’t need: more clothes, toys, shoes, bags and other paraphernalia that kids these days can’t live without. Being a woman, I naturally gravitated towards handbags and found unbeatable bargains
The best part of MBK is its food court that offers a wide variety of international cuisines – including Indian and Vegetarian, to Sana’s great relief.
After 2 hours of roaming around in MBK, the women (me & my kid) wanted to get back to the hotel, while the sole male in the household felt peeved. “What gives? We haven’t shopped enough! We haven’t bought half the things on my list!” he whined in an aggrieved voice. The stereotypes around gender and shopping simply aren’t true these days. We dragged a reluctant Sukumar back to the hotel, where he spent the next hour bleating about the treatment meted out to him.
We always try to see a local music or dance performance, wherever we travel. We were lucky enough to catch the “Mukteshwar Dance Festival” when in Bhubaneshwar. Likewise, we wanted to see “Siam Niramit”, a popular dance program in Bangkok. But, our guide asked us – “Why not a Thai Classical Dance program at the Ruen Thep Dance Center in Silom Village?” It’s a good idea to listen to locals, so we unceremoniously dumped Siam Niramit from our plan.
We were glad to know that the program featured live music and was based on the “Ramakien”, the Thai version of the Ramayana.
Silom Village is not far from our hotel as the crow flies. But we were not crows – clearly a disadvantage – so we took a taxi. We spent a nerve-wracking hour in the taxi while the traffic moved languorously. By the time we reached our destination, I was foaming in the mouth like I had a bad case of rabies and felt like destroying the entire solar system.
The wonderful dinner served at Silom Village fortified me and brought out the best in me – and the worst in Sana. “But I want Maggi noodles”, she pleaded with me. “Keep quiet and eat the curry”, her mother hissed. “Else, I’m exchanging you for a pair of Baboons tomorrow”.
Thailand has a rich repertoire of dance forms – the most famous being “Khon”. Usually a dance drama, Khon dances were performed earlier solely by men wearing masks. Nowadays, women are part of the performance and not all men wear masks. The dance is performed with the traditional “Piphat” orchestra/ensemble – which included a Xylophone, a Drum, a small drum, an Oboe and Cymbals.
All the dancers were dressed beautifully – they were glittering from head to toe. They danced gracefully in a style reminiscent of Odissi. Perhaps facial expressions aren’t that important in this dance form. Phra Lak (Lakshman) was smiling cheerfully at Hanuman when Thotsakan (Ravan) and Phra Ram (Rama) were battling fiercely.
The color of the mask depends on the character – Thotsakan always wears a green mask and Hanuman always wears a white mask. This reminded us of Kathakali and the importance given to the color of the face paint.
Taxis in Bangkok are metered. They’re supposed to be. On our way back from Silom Village, the Taxi driver told us “200 Baht for Rembrandt hotel, OK?” “What?” I snapped. “I’m getting down now!” The driver looked uncertain and asked nervously “150?” This kind of behavior shouldn’t be allowed, I thought grimly. “We gave 100 on our way in! And that’s all we’ll give you!” we said. “120?” he asked piteously. “Fine!” we agreed graciously. Buddy, we are used to the Auto drivers in India. BTW you won’t last a day in Chennai, we thought mercilessly.
I’ll nag Sukumar till he does a photo blog on the temples, so stay with me – OK?