On Nut Night Market- an alternative night out

On Nut (pronounced oh noot) night market is located just beside On-Nut BTS station on Soi 50 in Bangkok. It’s a great place to hang out for the evening if you don’t want to venture too far into Bangkok.
It kicks off around 5pm but the later you get there the busier it is. At least if you get there earlier you can bag a seat. There are seating areas surrounded by market stalls (it is a market after all) where you can buy the usual stuff- clothing, souvenirs and the like. But there are also food stalls where you can buy anything from somtum and chicken or pork, to chicken with cashew nuts and rice, or something to satisfy your sweet tooth- whatever you fancy really.

On Nut Night Market

On Nut Night Market, before the crowds arrive

When you have chosen what you want and ordered it just tell them where you are sitting and they will bring it to you. Excellent!
I have been there a few times, and one time with friends, we arrived at around 6pm, ordered our food and had a few drinks. We didn’t leave until around 1am and we wondered how much the bill would be. Don’t think that because you are at a night market, and not one of the plusher establishments in town, that things will be cheaper, because they are not. The beer prices are almost the same as what you would pay on Soi 11- 100 baht for a large tiger. The food prices, however, are much cheaper than proper restaurants (around 35 baht for somtum for example).

Drinking with a friend

Drinking with a friend

Fruit Stall

Fruit Stall

Nevertheless it is a great place to spend a few hours. They have local bands, playing on two stages that they have rigged up, and there is a constant hive of activity, with people coming and going.

 
They also have toilet facilities situated at the back which cost 5 baht. You can get change from the toilet facilitators to use in the turnstile to get in, and there is toilet roll, which is an absolute bonus. Not the cleanest, but as long as you can put up with the squat style toilet, they are right there for your convenience.

So all in all a different night out away from the bright lights of central Bangkok as long as you don’t mind the resident rats that occasionally run under your feet, I totally recommend it to get more of a local experience.

 

Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre

Bangkok is not a destination that you would normally associate with art and culture centres. But there are quite a few dotted over the city, so I decided to put my cultural hat on and visit the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and I was happy I did, it is well worth a visit.

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The centre is located at National Stadium BTS stop and opposite MBK centre, so you can’t really miss it. I got off the BTS at Ratchthwei and walked back towards the centre and was almost disappointed when I saw that there was scaffolding all over it and barriers surrounding it. I thought it was closed but I walked around and found the entrance and realised it was open.

There are five floors that circle around the main foyer, and on the ground floor there are a couple of coffee shops. The Art Café is a chic little place decorated with beautiful murals and there are easels, magazines to read, and funky jazz tunes playing.
On the first couple of floors there are more cafes. Most of them sell crafts or books, and some of them you can go to share ideas, read books, or just have a coffee. There are also little stalls selling homemade jewellery and handicrafts, and there were painters painting caricature portraits. There are ice cream cafes which sell a weird and wonderful range of flavours- cigarette (yuk), wasabi and global warming??!!

 

On the second floor there are a couple of rooms displaying different art and one of the exhibitions was the “Illusion of the Human Body”. Large painted canvases showing parts of the body stitched together. It was meant to represent how people turn to plastic surgery to achieve beauty when there is natural beauty in everyone.


Wandering up and around the floors there was more art- paintings, sculptures and hand-made jewellery displays. Floors seven, eight and nine are used for the main exhibitions with new ones each month. The day that I visited there was only one main exhibition. A collaboration of Thai and British artists called MD III- Monologue, Dialogue. The idea behind this exhibition was fragility and monumentality. The explanation was it illustrates nothing. It is a continuation of a conversation started eight years ago between the artists.
“ failure and nothingness are key words in art and ones that can be embraced resulting in fragility and a vision that is unexpected. Monumentality is about presence, and can be about the awkwardness of being”- quote from part of the exhibition.
Whether you understand the meaning behind this or not the pieces displayed in the exhibition are impressive. I had to guess at what “The Ghost of Jimmy the Nail” meant. It wasn’t until afterwards when doing some online research that I realised that the cotton sheets were hung in the shape of a nail and there were rusty spots on the sheets, which I think are meant to represent blood. I still haven’t fathomed the meaning, so if anyone knows please enlighten me.


The creativity and foresight these artists have is incredible. I am certainly no expert,  in fact I would say I know nothing about art , but I was definitely impressed, although a little bemused, at everything I saw there.


The centre is open Tuesday to Sunday 10.00am to 9.00pm. Admission is free.
Address
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
939 Rama 1 Road, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330

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Back in Bangkok- City of Angels

I took the bus from Pattaya back to Bangkok which takes two hours and cost 124 baht (about 2GBP). Once back in Bangkok I wanted to go to one of the big shopping malls, MBK, to see if I could find a new laptop battery, so I took myself on the BTS (my new way of getting around) from On Nut to Siam as I knew I could walk the rest of the way to MBK. So one of the reasons I wanted to go by BTS is because I did not want to find myself in the middle of a political demonstration, which had been going on in Bangkok for quite some time. So, of course, once off the BTS I found myself smack bang in the middle of a demonstration. The whole of the main roads were cordoned off and people had set up stalls selling stuff. Directly outside one of the entrances to MBK a stage had been erected and there was peaceful talks going on, with the supporters camped out everywhere you looked.
Just a few weeks ago there was a bomb set off in a busy shopping district killing two and injuring quite a few more, so I didn’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but as I walked through the swarm of people I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe. Their cause is not with foreigners but you still wouldn’t want to get involved.
Having only used the BTS once before I am on a mission to explore Bangkok (BKK) by this method of transport. Once you know what you are doing- get change for a ticket, choose where you are going, and put the correct money in and hey presto your ticket comes out- easy really- it is so cheap (42 baht from On Nut to Mor Chit (takes about 30-40 minutes), taxis or tuk-tuks would be so much more expensive and they would take so much longer.

View from On Nut BTS Station

 

So on the way back to my hotel I decided to get off at Nana and go in search of a beer or two. On the way along Sukhumvit Road a guy walked passed me and said “hi”. I said “hi” back and carried on walking, I looked back and he started to follow me. Eventually I stopped and we chatted and agreed to meet later in the evening. He was an airline steward for Sri Lankan airlines and, although I don’t make a habit of meeting random guys, we ended up having a good night. (I was recently sent a book to give feedback on and one of the things throughout the book was the guy wanted to say “yes” more to experience more things than if he had said “no” and gone with his “I want to but I dare not” side). So this was my “say yes more” and I am glad I did because, like I said, I had a great time and I dare say a new friend has been made.
On the way back to my hotel I had missed the last sky-train so I walked to the end of the soi and tried to get a taxi, but no one wanted to take me because Sukhumvit Road between sois 19 and 23 had been taken over by some of the protesters, and my hotel was quite a long way away. Eventually I found one but no sooner had he taken a turn into soi 19 he said he didn’t want to go and could I get out. So I walked a couple of sois and eventually found a motor bike taxi to take me the rest of the way. I gave in and paid the over-priced (150 baht) fare home because I just wanted to get home. There are so many people around at that time of night, a few of them drunk, I didn’t feel unsafe but you just need to keep your wits about you- like anywhere. Needless to say I was happy to get back to the hotel.

The next day I went for lunch and afterwards I wandered around seeing places I recognized and new places that I hadn’t seen before in the two years I have been gone. One thing I love about Bangkok is it is so diverse-modern, high rise hotels and apartment blocks; run down shops and houses; bars and restaurants; locals, tourists and stall holders amongst a whole host of other things.

And even though Bangkok is quite a dirty, smog filled city there are trees, plants and flowers planted along the sois making it look relatively pretty- especially at night when all the little fairy lights come on.

When I first came to Thailand in 2008 the place I knew the most was the Khao San Road area, in Banglampu but a friend introduced me to Sukhumvit and I am slowly getting my bearings in that area as well. Whereas KS Road attracts a lot of backpackers and a younger crowd, Sukhumvit has an older crowd and there are some very nice, albeit more expensive, drinking holes and places to stay. I will get to know the whole of Bangkok before I am done, but it is so big it might just take me a while but I am not planning on going anywhere anytime soon so I have plenty of time to explore this City of Angels.

A Little Bit of Songkran

Songkran is Thai New Year and occurs mid April, and it just so happened that my friends were arriving from the UK for a holiday. The first to arrive was Nikki, but me and Tri had decided to go for a couple of drinks before heading off to the airport and we got absolutely soaked through. Basically Thai New Year is bedlam, everywhere closes for 3 days (10 days in other places such as Pattaya) and everyone tries to soak as many people as possible with water guns, buckets and hoses. In the beginning Thai New Year was a calm ceremony where monks would use water to bless people but, somehow, over the generations it has turned into a massive water fight. There are so many people- Thais, Westerners, young, old, children and adults walking around or in trucks soaking everyone in sight or covering people’s faces in flour. Everyone has fun and takes the soaking in good spirits (can you imagine doing that anywhere else? I think not) but after three days it’s a little too much.

Khao San Road Songkhran

Khao San Road Songkhran

Me and Nikki

Me and Nikki

We arrived at the airport, soaking wet, met Nikki at arrivals and got a taxi back to the Khao San Road. As soon as we arrived, Nikki dumped her stuff, got changed and we went back to join in the party. We went to DJ Station, which is a European disco in the Silom area of Bangkok- a gay club with a mix of Thai and foreign party-goers. It is a great place to party, although it gets quite overcrowded at the weekends.

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DJ Station

DJ Station

 

Anyway we girls were having a great time dancing with the guys but we had to go to the airport again, this time to pick up one of my best friends, Hayley. By this time it was around 4am, and as we had to leave at 5.30am we decided it would be better to stay up and go straight to the airport from the bar. I have had better ideas before this point! Anyway we had a few more drinks before leaving, once more, for the airport. When we arrived Hayley was already through immigration and waiting for us. We were absolutely pissed, something that she found quite amusing (well I hope she did). We got back to the hotel and had some much needed sleep ready for another afternoon of Songkran.

Songkhran- got to be experienced

Songkhran- got to be experienced

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Later that day we emerged from the hotel into the throng of people on the Khao San Road- the amount of people that were partying was ridiculous, there was no room to move- so much so that we lost Hayley within 30 minutes of going out. It was actually quite scary because if any one of us had tripped and landed on the floor I am sure that we would have gotten trampled over. In fact we saw a couple of people being carted away on stretchers. Today was much the same as yesterday- it was crazy, getting soaked and caked in flour whilst drinking our way through the day. It was so much fun.

 

Me and Hayley

Me and Hayley

 

Later we all got dressed up and got a tuk-tuk to go to DJ Station again. To this day I really do not know why we got dressed up AND got a tuk-tuk, in the middle of Songkran, because Silom road was busier and crazier than the Khao San Road and the tuk-tuk dropped us quite a way from the club and we had to walk. On the way we stopped at traffic lights and promptly had a bucket of ice cold water thrown over us- we were absolutely soaked and had to go into a small bar to dry off a bit before going into DJ. We had a great time in there as usual and left at the end and went to bed at 5am.

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Water and Flour Drenching

Water and Flour Drenching

The next day we went to the Grand Palace and shopping at MBK centre and decided to stay away from any Songkran festivities, so we walked along Silom road but there was still people partying so we walked the other way away from them and found a nice restaurant to have dinner in, followed by a few drinks in an Irish bar until we thought it was safe to return to the Khao San Road (1am being the curfew for Songkran soakings).

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Muay Thai-Part 3

At the beginning of March, Anders and I were staying at the gym after the afternoon session because we were off to watch Chewey (one of the younger boxers) in a fight in Bangkok. He was fighting at Rajadamnern Stadium, which is the “Wembley” of Muay Thai boxing. We had normal training sessions but felt very lazy and only managed to run a short distance before running back with little Mook. She had come out to follow us on the motorbike with Lunglit and decided to accompany me on the way back. Even though she could pack a good punch and did so frequently, she was really sweet that day and kept picking flowers for me. After the other guys left I had a shower, which was in a small room at the back of the kitchen. There was a big tank like structure full of water and a smaller bucket which I used to pour the water over me with. I have got used to the Thai way of showering, and I quite enjoy it, but that first time I shared the bathroom with a dead cockroach and two dead fish that were for dinner! We had dinner and Ewan (Wan senior’s friend and business associate) took us back to his house, which was a short truck ride away and we stayed there for the night. We watched an hour of Thai TV and then went to sleep on the floor with only a cover and a duvet for comfort.  Apparently I snored and both Anders and Ewan found it very funny because, in the morning when Ewan explained to us that he had opened his door in the middle of the night, wondering what the noise was and thought it was Anders who was the one snoring.

 

Me and Anders

Me and Anders

The following morning we got up at 3am and went back to the gym to pick up Wan (senior), Maue (another young boxer) and Chewey. We arrived in Bangkok about 6am and Chewey weighed in and then went to check into a hotel, that the family had arranged. We were to spend the day there because Chewey wasn’t fighting until the evening. However, when we got there I had forgotten to take my passport so they wouldn’t let me into the hotel. Wan and Ewan stayed at the hotel, and Anders and me left with Chewey and Maue and basically walked around for the whole day. Actually thinking back, whilst writing this, Chewey was fighting that evening and he had been instructed by Wan and Ewan to look after us all day, while Wan and Ewan slept in a nice cosy bed. We went to a nearby temple and sat a while watching the fish in a small lake and then we walked a bit further to Dusit Zoo. We wandered around looking at the animals, had something to eat and then sat down in a shelter by the lake. We had a really good laugh with the youngsters, we kept getting Maue to say the word “shorts” but he couldn’t get his tongue around the “sh” and kept saying something like “chartsh”. Maue was a very funny kid and was always making me laugh, and even though he was only 15 at the time, me and him ended up getting on really well and having a real laugh together. We stayed in the zoo all day long, and even had a couple of hours sleep having been up so early.

Me and Maue

Me and Maue

Me and Chewey

Me and Chewey

Earlier that morning, when Chewey was weighed in, Anders and I put an order in to have some custom made shorts done, with our names in Thai and the name of the gym we were training at, which is traditional in Thailand.  When we arrived back at the gym later I found out that my name had been spelt wrong- apparently my name was now Jim!

Custom Made Shorts

Custom Made Shorts

The first fight started at 6.30pm, there were 10 fights and Chewey was no. 9. The atmosphere in that stadium was electrifying; the trainers from both the red and blue corners were going crackers, egging their boy on to win. The art of Muay Thai is spiritual as well as physically powerful. Before the fight begins, the boxer comes into the ring, adorned with a mongkon headband.  They then move along each side of the ring, bowing to each corner and perform the Ram Muay ritual, which is a dance like ritual and done with a series of gestures and movement to the rhythm of ringside music. Each of the movements represents a spiritual prayer to hopefully overcome your opponent. This ritual is done as a mark of respect to the trainer and to the parents, and at the end the trainer is the one who removes the mongkon from the boxers head. We enjoyed watching the fights leading up to Chewey’s and when he came into the ring with Maue, who was his coach for the fight, we cheered as loud as we could. After a valiant effort, he unfortunately lost.

Chewey being encouraged by Wan and Maue

Chewey being encouraged by Wan and Maue

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During the whole 8 weeks training the days were mostly the same with some random excursions thrown in.  I loved the whole experience and something that I will remember for the rest of my days. I wholeheartedly recommend anyone thinking of doing something like this to go for it. You won’t be disappointed, and you will leave with some very special memories.

Muay Thai- Part 2

I got used to the intense workouts because in the weeks that followed I managed to run 10k most days, as in I didn’t stop or walk as much. Those of you who are into running know that it is much harder to stop then start, stop then start again, so it’s best just to carry on, even if it is a slow jog. I had quickly come to the conclusion that the boxer boys don’t take to girls training as much they do with guys, which is, I guess, pretty standard as Muay Thai is predominately a male sport and in some provinces they don’t even let females train. Anders and Seb were getting far more attention than I was, in that they always used to get to train on pads first and for longer and they used to get massages to each aching limbs. Not that I was expecting that, being in a society where it is offensive for males and females to touch each other in public, but this was serious Muay Thai training. I was sure I wasn’t doing perfect kicks or punches but they tended to leave me to get on with punch bag training. I decided that if it carried on I would say something the following week to Aek as I wanted to get as much out of the training as possible and wanted to learn everything there was to learn. One of the guys, Seb, (20 years of age) left training one morning because it was all too much for him. Anders, who was suffering as well, was 24, and then there was me who, at nearly double their ages, was still going for it, even though I was aching all over.  I am so competitive, and I really wanted to push myself in order to gain a sense of achievement by completing the full 8 weeks training.

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 My fellow boxers and I had been invited by the family to go and watch Lunglit fight, so we stayed at the boxing camp after our afternoon session. They made us dinner of rice and chicken but the family didn’t eat with us, apparently due to the fact that Lunglit had to be weighed in the next morning. We were in bed by 7.30pm which we didn’t expect it to be so early, and had to share a bedroom.  Chewey and Maue, two of the younger boxers, found it hilarious that we were all sleeping together in the one room and kept coming in and laughing until they retired to bed in the boxing ring.

The reason we were in bed so early was apparent the next morning when we got awakened at 3.00am. At 3.40am we all piled into the truck, me inside in the back seat and the boys in the back of the truck, headed for Bangkok. When we arrived there were already a few people at Songchai Boxing Stadium. Lunglit weighed in and he was over by a few kilograms so he spent the next hour running round the building in a sweat suit. Another weigh in, still over, so he went into the sauna. Eventually his weight was ok and we got back in the truck and made our way to Suphanburi, which is where he was actually going to fight.

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Because we were with the family, who are actually well known in the world of Muay Thai we were allowed into the cordoned off area, where the boxers where getting ready by being massaged head to toe in deep heat.  We watched the first 2 fights and then it was Lunglit’s turn. When we were wandering around, we came across a temple and in there we decided to pray for Lunglit to win his fight. But obviously no one was listening to us, because he lost. We didn’t know whether to say anything, like “oh we are sorry you lost” or something like that so we didn’t say anything but he seemed ok about losing. You win some, you lose some right? He still got paid for his efforts though, something around 60,000baht (around £1200).

Me and Lunglit

Me and Lunglit

We left Suphanburi and went back to the training camp for some food and then we were off again to watch another fight, this time Chewey and Maue and Ap (pronounced ape). Whenever you get invited to go on these random little jaunts with Thais, you never quite know what it going on, we didn’t even know we were watching more fights, but these types of experiences are what makes traveling all the more memorable. It took about an hour to get to the fight location, we had to pick up Chewey’s family on the way and we arrived about 9pm. Basically we were in the middle of nowhere and outside the fight arena, I say arena- it was a boxing ring with a makeshift wall of tarpaulin, there were stalls set up selling food and drinks. The reason why it was in the middle of nowhere has actually just occurred to me while I am writing this. Gambling in Thailand is illegal, the cost of which will get you a hefty fine or even a prison sentence and there was plenty of gambling going on amongst the boxing camps, betting on their guy to win. We were in the minority in that arena and we heard people saying “farang, farang” (“foreigner, foreigner”) and staring at us. The thing with the Thais is, especially in more rural areas, which are not on the so called tourist trail, they don’t get to see a lot of foreigners, so what they do is stare and sometimes it is a little disconcerting. But, they are just interested in who you are and where you are from, so it is best just to take it in your stride and smile at them. 95% of the time you get a wonderfully huge smile back, which is typically Thai. However, at first we did feel a little nervous as most of these people were drunk, on cheap Thai whiskey and kept glaring and saying stuff to us which we mostly didn’t understand. But we knew that the family we were with would look after us so we started to relax a bit and enjoy watching the fights. By the time that Chewey and Maue fought, we had been standing for 3 hours and if you include the early start and long day we had already had, our ankles became swollen. But we thought that we couldn’t complain as 1. we were experiencing something not many tourists would, and 2. we weren’t the ones who were getting the crap beat out of us.  Ap won his fight and the prize money was 60,000 baht, to be shared out amongst the family. This is how they make their living, no one works as such instead they train to compete in Muay Thai fights which provides the income for the family. Maue won and so did Chewey. Both kids were pretty good fighters and easily over threw their opponents and at least they earned their keep. We left at 2am and got back to Singburi at 3am after spending an excellent 24 hours with the boxers. Up to that point that was actually the best day that I had spent in Thailand so far.

My Fellow Boxers

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