Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Random musings about Bangkok.

This is not a lifestyle blog but I spent the last 3 days in Bangkok in a fairly intense but fun trip.

Here are some random thoughts from my trip.

a) Singapore is losing on many fronts to Bangkok in retail and entertainment

The retail situation in Bangkok is really so much larger in terms of scale and variety. The first thing you notice is that there is no "Capital Mall" effect and each mega-mall is able to develop its own character. We shopped at the Siam Paragon which is like a larger version of Takashimaya but had an exhibition which was running a Comics Convention at the same time. Terminal 21 which was located near our hotel had a different national theme on each different floor. One floor is modelled after Shibuya Tokyo and another was modelled after London.

However it is the Night markets that really shine in Bangkok, we went to Rod Fai 2 which feels as if its 20x the size of Bugis Street but had terrific rock bands which played our favourite english songs from the 90s. You can listen to rock music, eat seafood, and have a beer at the same time. At least for me, I would probably not bother with hipster markets in Singapore for quite awhile after this experience.

I don't know what this means for us given that we've been reporting on the impending demise of our retail sector in Singapore for a while. If you've been to Bangkok, I think the death of Orchard Road was well-deserved because retailers and landlord inflicted quite a lot upon ourselves.

b) There are two price-tiers in Bangkok so do spend with proper planning.

[ It was a 3 day 2 night trip and even though there was no "night firing", I managed my finances rather badly spending the equivalent of 70% of my budget buying role-playing games in the first night and then relying on my friend's excess cash for the rest of the trip as they did not want me to use my credit card and rack up miscellaneous fees. I paid them back in SGD when I reached Changi. 

Don't be like me.  ]

Another observation is that there are two clearly distinct pricing tiers in Bangkok. If you stick with what foreigners eat, expect to pay closer to Singapore prices. We've has a fantastic steak meal at El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse but it cost us $120SGD each. I also paid around $8 SGD for a simple croissant and coffee breakfast next to the hotel.

On hindsight this is silly because Bangkok street food is so cheap and so good. A teriyaki chicken stick can be bought for 40cts and a bowl of noodles, around $1.80 SGD.

A smart tourist would be wise to mix and match the street food with the high-end restaurant to get a great experience for the trip.

c) Is Bangkok is becoming a cooler place than KL for Singaporeans ?

My last trip to Bangkok was not as good because there was alway folks on the streets harrassing me and asking me to go to some lucky temple or offering "free rides". As such, I always felt that the Bangkok experience has always been inferior  to that of KL.

But after this trip,  I seem to get the impression that the situation has turned around. Public transport over Sky Train and MRT is really cheap and convenient so we can avoid the rude private drivers. Thais are also a lot more orderly and well-behaved when taking their public transport.

The convenience, mega-malls, night markets and cheap eats may push more Singaporeans to choose Bangkok over KL instead. And this includes better security as Bangkok malls now feature security gantries at all their entrances.

Anyway, these are my observations, feel free to comment if your experience differs from mine.

[ Our most hilarious encounter was a taxi driver who refused to switch on his meter, tried pimping some services to us and failing to do so, tried entertaining us with racist jokes about his Indian Passengers and demonstrating how much he knows about Singaporean stereotypes while making an illegal turning.

If you get offended easily, Bangkok is not the right place to be. ] 

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