Monday, May 4, 2015

Revisiting a dear friend - Bangkok city.

When was the last time I was in Bangkok? My mind suddenly began to drift into nostalgia....

The last time I was in Bangkok was in 2006 - the time when I took that scandalous modelling assignment.

During that time, social media wasn't accessible to everyone yet. There was no such thing as a smartphone, the Internet was still confined at cybercafe shops and I don't even have a compact camera of my own! But with the advent of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my growing audience base - the pressure to produce pictures was staggering. That was the beauty back in 2006. There was simply no pressure! Everything was come as they go. I didn't need to carry any smart gadgets - only a backpack of my clothes and clean underwear.

This time it was for an international commercial shoot. Personally, I wasn't too excited about the trip for I have been there before. But it's always refreshing to visit an old friend - at least that's what Bangkok is to me. Bangkok is indeed a friend for how friendly, soft-spoken and similar it's cultural background with myself.

This trip was the one I nearly missed. I received my ticket itinerary which stated my flight time at 8am, flying with Malaysian Airlines. Then at the VERY last minute, my flight time was changed to 9am by the production people all across the Indian Ocean. In the end, I flew with Thai Airways and was equally surprised. Yes, surprises never ends for a globe-trotting artiste.

Flying is much more direct and clinical as compared to taking a long train ride to Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur. With the train ride, you can walk anywhere you like in the train and see all kinds of folks from the very poor to the rich. But in the plane, most of the passengers think they're better in one way or the other. I took a long train ride to Bangkok for my modelling assignment and LOVED every minute of it. I get to cross over miles of paddy fields and green hills and valleys. Totally loved the view. But of course, the hours are long. But with a plane, it took exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes, more or less.

The air stewards in Thai Airways was different.

Their uniform is not as tight-fitting as say, Malaysian Airlines. I noticed one of the air stewardess uniform resembled a lot like a hospital nurse because of how loose it was! But just the way the Thai Airways air stewards speak is comforting enough to put me at ease that they won't have even the slight potential to be rude ..... unlike some the Malaysian Airlines stewards would be with their condescending tone. Interestingly, the Thai Aiways stewards aren't as young looking as they should be. Or maybe because I was in the economy class and they intentionally shifted all the pretty young things to the first class? But nonetheless. the service was actually not bad.

Upon arrival, all the passengers are taken to the main terminal by a shuttle bus. There were renovations taking place everywhere! As usual, after the customs and Immigration - I looked for my name among the crowds of people holding their placards with names of different nationalities. I spotted one with the name "Kris", but when I enquired further, discovered it was for another Kris from a different continent. I waited for more than an hour for my pick-up to arrive. Upon entering the Column Hotel room, I needed to charge my smartphones quick to anticipate any calls from the Thai production team. But the hotel didn't have any adaptors left! So I immedaitely went to Terminal 21 shopping mall - which is huge. I walked to the shopping mall from the hotel, and within a few walks I've already began to sweat - that's how humid Bangkok is.

My trip to Terminal 21 was my first. I started to enquire where I could buy an adaptor, and one of the salesgirl told me to go up all the way to the 6th floor! The escalators was the longest from the ground floor up. Here was where I got a see a bird's eye-view of all the shops at all the floors. But the purpose of my trip there was only to get that adaptor - not shopping. After getting my adaptor and back i my hotel room, my whole body just dropped "dead" on my bed - with the comfort finally in my mind that my smartphone is charging up.

Half-way through my half-dream state, I decided to wake up because of the heat. (strangely, the air-conditioning was working). Usually, when I woke up like that, I knew something was going to happen. Then my phone rang, and I was instructed to take a cab to Srinakarin Market. Take a cab? Hurriedly, I changed my clothes, shaved and informed the concierge to book me a cab. I hated surprises, because I was expecting a ready driver. But I am ever flexible and willingly have to endure a slightly high-tempered cab driver. He simply refused to drive into the market because of the jam! I called the production manager and passed the call to the cab driver to let them sort things out. Already my head was swimming from lack of sleep and now I have to deal with transportation issues. This is unbelievable.

One word to describe Srinakarin Market. Retro. At least that was the section I was visiting because of all the shops. It was actually more like brick houses - many quaint shops selling retro furnitures and equipments and toys. There is also a few bars that double acts as furniture shops. There is also a food court where I noticed a few mixed-food stalls that resembled very much like the mixed-rice buffet-style Chinese food back home. I was tempted to buy some of the food, but I don't want to look bloated before I go in front of the camera! I wasn't starving exactly but my good senses won me over eventually.

That was only daytime. But when the night comes, this market was bustling with music, alcohol and plenty of young Thai patrons. There was plenty of music bands playing at the bars and restaurant type establishments situated mainly at the side of the road. But I was too exhausted already after filming to visit any of the places and decided to hire a motorist to take me back to the hotel. It was nearing midnight and tomorrow I've got a plane to catch!

The motorcycle trip back to the hotel really opens my eyes to my friend Bangkok. It's a huge city and at night can looked scary too. But on the motorbike, I caught glimpses of many night activities in the city - a group of transgender drinking alcohol, construction work on the road and other food shops selling interesting foods I wished I could taste! Seriously, I need to watch my weight. As the motorbike entered more into the city centre, I could see how much the buildings resembled like Tokyo city - all the high-rise are so close to each other or maybe it was night time and my mind was a bit blurry to make any definite comparison due to exhaustion?

In my hotel room, I watched as much Thai television as I could. The commercials they produced are really one-of-kind, very much similar to the Japanese. I don't need to understand the language, just the editing and characterisations of the actors were enough to keep me entertained! There's also one TV channel in the Thai channel that kept me glued - full of black magic, half-naked bodies, deception and mystery. That's the beauty with Thais and Japanese. They're actually quite similar in many aspects. The way they treat their guests are impeccable. They are polite, cultured and full of respect for each other.

As I bid farewell to my dear friend, my mind is full only of fond memories. And lots of interesting stories to share with my acting students.

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