Today may have been the best experience I have had in Bangkok thus far.
It be short. I have this friend. JP, he’s half Thai and Half French, and he has an artisan way of going about things and appreciating life. It must be the French in his blood..
“Si quelque chose en vaut la peine , ce est la peine de faire droit – if something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well”
It all started when I met him one night and he over heard me talking to someone close by about how I wanted to have a suit made while in Bangkok. I didn’t want to get ripped off, and I wanted quality – I needed a local’s help.
Fast forward – JP and I had made plans to go down to the city and see his mom, who is a tailor and get sized up. After we would go check out Chinatown. He mentioned that his mom was part Chinese and quite familiar with the area so she would make a list of places for us to go and checkout.
Needless to say I headed to JP’s place this morning for coffee and some breakfast, which is where he mentioned that his mom would be coming with us and guiding us around Bangkok Chinatown. We finished our coffees and hopped in a cab down to Rama III. When we arrived we went up to his parents tiny apartment on the 8th floor. I opened the door and was so excited to meet his parents. “sawadeekrap” to his mother and “bonjour” to his Father. We hit it off well and talked for a bit and talked about their history in Bangkok. After a few minutes JP’s mother Tee sized me up for my soon to be 3 piece suite and we were out the door.
We walked down the road a bit and hopped into a cap headed for Chinatown. Theres always traffic during the day pretty much everywhere in Bangkok so we chatted more about odds and ends and soon we scooted down an alley and hopped out of the cab. Next thing I knew were were sitting down at the most amazing hole-in-the-wall traditional Chinese Dim Sum restaurant I had every been worthy of being inside of. Every person was either a Chinese or Thai local enjoying their Saturday afternoon fix of hangover curing dumplings. Round after round we enjoyed various dumplings, buns, roasted duck, and noodles. It was absolutely fantastic and I was so grateful to be there.
JP’s mom is kind of what I expected based on his character. She’s a short little Chinese woman, with a strong personality, she’s assertive with a bit of charming sass to her. She walks fast and knows what she looking for – Keep up or get lost.
After the dim sum we walked down the road a bit to a fabric market to pick up some fabrics for a couple of her clients as well as choose the fabric for the suite she was going to make me. We entered this unsurprisingly cramped market with dozens of vendors all selling fabrics ranging from wool to the finest silks, Italian and English blends etc. We meandered our way through shoulder to shoulder with everyone else and made it too a smaller stand under the likes of a very old middle eastern man with a white beard.
I decided to go with an Italian Wool fabric, navy blue in color. I wanted to get something classy yet versatile. I didn’t want to go overboard on my first go at it. Plus i’m pretty confident that if it comes out well I will be getting one or two more before I return home. After we chose the fabric we headed out of the market into a store to pick out some buttons.
Little did I know that choosing buttons for your own suite would be quite the escapade. This was my chance to give my suite some flare and stick out in a subtle way. I decided to go for a brownish pearlescent swirl thing – I’ll make sure you see. After checking out, I was satisfied with my choice and It was off to the next area. the wholesale markets.
Have you ever gone online to ebay or amazon and typed in “iPhone Cable” or “USB Cable”, or “iPhone Case” and been greeted with thousands of results of real and generic products in hundreds of pages online? Well thats where I went to today. Thats where I was. I the wholesale mecca. The place where the people who sell you these goods come to actually buy them. Straight from the Chinese factories. We walked through the stores for quite some time and they were littered with goods. Hundreds of cables and cases and fake beats by dre headphones, battery chargers, phones, tablets and anything you could think of. All for whole sale prices. I was completely in shock. It is something so unfamiliar in the states.
After she took us into the jewelry section. dozens of shops side by side stuffed with young woman making jewelry, packaging and selling goods – there really wasn’t a farange in site, other than the white guy being touted around by this small Chinese woman and her son. These shops were even crazier than the electronics. Hundreds of crazy pieces of jewelry everywhere. Fake Chanel, D&G, Swarovski Crystal and just random stuff. 24 pairs of earrings for 240 Baht or about $8.5. Necklaces that could be worn my the craziest movie characters and old time flappers. You dream it they had it. Any woman could have literally gone insane in a place like this. I didn’t even really care about the stuff and I was overwhelmed.
After a few more hours of walking around, running errands, and seeing the sites. We hopped in a cab and headed to K Village to meet JP’s father John for dinner as a family, and their farang guest – yours truly.
We went to a traditional Japanese restaurant – the moment I walked in I was greeted by the entire waitstaff yelling irasshaimase! it was fantastic. Traditional Japanese places like these have a very aggressive and friendly waiting experience and anyone will help at anytime by yelling sumimasen! to get some help. We ordered a couple rounds of sushi, had a delicious sashimi salad, a couple rounds of beer, and of course some sake to top it all off. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience both the dining experience and my time with them throughout the day. After dinner were left the restarunt – arigatou gozaimashita!! – and walked around the village a little more.
We stopped in a market and JP bolted out of site for a moment and came around an aisle holding a bottle of Ricard – French Pastis an absolutely delightful alcohol made from anise and served ice cold mixed with water. I had first experienced this during my trip to France this past summer. If serenity could exist as a drink it would be Pastis.
After we walked down to the road, said goodbye to his parents. Back to Salaya we went.
Its experiences like these that make me travel. Its meeting people and sharing culture and experiences with things like food, drinks and stories. Its what life is all about. Its why I do these things. Being taken in by a group of people you have just met and being treated as one of their own. Its a wonderful thing this life. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to go anywhere and see anything. Never say no, and start living more.
Tags: Chinatown, Dim Sum, Electronics, French, Jewelry, Naps, Suits, Tailor, Thai, Wholesale