Landing in Bangkok
Economy class airplane seats are not comfortable. It's not nice that they have screens that only tilt enough at view at at 45° angle — clearly discrimination against long people! After the ten-hour flight from Zürich to Bangkok your migrane-like headache (probably caused by staring at tiny tilted screens) had subsided, and it was five in the morning. You headed for Dani and Ulf's condominium near the middle of the city beside the river by taxi. The driver must have been an aspiring F1 driver based on the speed he was swerving. Traffic in Asia sure is funny. The lack of seat belts is not.
Being early Friday morning Ulf was still asleep and Dani still at work in Taiwan. The security guard put extra gusto into alerting your presence — ringing the doorbell five times in quick succession — until Ulf finally got out of bed. When he opened the door (about 30 seconds later) the security guard clicked his heels and saluted to attention. "They just do that", Ulf explained.
After breakfast people hurried off to work, while you and Meike had a nap and then went for a walk along the west side of the river. It was interesting to wander the streets taking in all the noises and colours. Everything smelt like seafood and curry. Mmm! You passed some small temples and crossed the bridge to the flower market. Here a good kilometer of footpath had been enshrouded in flowers stall tents. In Thailand everything is decorated and presented with orchid flowers. They grow really well in the hot, humid air. You passed the electronics district and then walked through a park with an outdoor weights lifting gym. From there you walked to a pier where people were feeding catfish in the river, and took a cheap boat back (free, since crowded).
After dinner people started pouring in. First was Basil — a German friend of Ulf who you found swimming in the pool downstairs. Next came Basel's two lady friends who had been out getting massages. Everyone sat out on the balcony to wait for Dani to arrive. The view from the 15th floor was great and the weather was hot, even at 1:30am when she finally got home. It was a full house for the weekend.
The Grand Palace and Street Seafood
The next day you visited the Grand Palace: a big group of flakey gold buildings full of ten thousand Chinese tourists and about four monks. The complete inner walls' circumference was painted with a story. You didn't understand much; it was something to do with monkey-men vs. Indian gods vs. everyone else. Outside the palace were streets of amulet sellers. The Thai are really into their charms, Ulf explained. Also for sale were tasers, knuckle dusters, flip knives and old — you assume stolen — mobile phones.
That evening all seven of you met in China town for massages and seafood. The dude you got was a bit rough, pulling the hairs on you legs and grinding bones rather than massaging muscles. Dinner was on a street corner on a fold-out table. Eating right on the street was strange at first — cars honking past, people bustling along, dishes being prepared, eaten and washed right on the curb — but you enjoyed the spectacle. After a waterfront beer at Jack's Bar and several offers to visit a ping-pong show, you headed home.
Scaling the Sathorn Unique
For the last two days you had looked from the balcony towards the city and saw a dark skyscraper just over the river: The Sathorn Unique. Planned to house 659 luxury residential units and 54 shops, construction of the 49-story building was commenced in 1990 and continued until 1997 when the Asian financial crisis led to its abandonment at 80% competition. Locals consider it haunted, and chunks keep falling off it. Dani and Ulf's condo is even considered to have bad fend suei just because their balcony looks at it. You were very interested in adventuring inside. The morning before Basil flew out, you two went on a mission to climb the abandoned tower — ghosts or no ghosts — armed with flashlights. You had heard rumors one may bribe their way inside for a few Baht and some food; you were a bit worried how dodgey the situation would be.
You caught the condo's ferry over the river and walked past the park to the base of the tower. The ground floor was piled with rubble and construction machinery, and the perimeter vaguely barricaded off. Beside the building was an abandoned parking tower. From the fourth and sixth floor spanned two makeshift bridges over the street to the Sathorn Unique. You could easily walk up the parking tower to the first bridge but its entrance was welded tightly shut. You went one floor higher to see if its roof would work as a bridge. It certainly wasn't the safest way into the abandoned skyscraper: clambering through a 50cm gap near the ceiling, dropping down onto the roof and then shimmying across a wonky six meter long meter-wide sheet of metal four stories above the street. Getting caught in the gauze on the other side didn't help either, but it got you inside.
You two were right pleased with yourselves! You had made an heroic entrance to an exciting abandoned skyscraper, risking life and limb... and had just met two prissy girly posing for a professional photographer. What!? Apparently most people just take the stairs. God damn it! Now, with a far more relaxed attitude, you took the stairs.
The stairwells were mostly intact and fee of debris on the lower levels. However, they were in complete and utter darkness and there were a lot of open shafts. You ascended a few levels at a time, exploring through the hallways and rooms of each floor. It was surprising how complete the rooms were; wooden flooring, bathtubs and some rudimentary kitchen structures had been installed in every apartment. Even the balconies looked quite smart with their ornate ballastrads and corner reliefs, although most were now shallow swimming pools of green algae.
The building tiered inward at the top, exposing space for trees to grow. The higher up you went the more the view increased, as did the rubble and general untidiness. Near the top the stairs became decrepit and dangerous with steel bars poking through. Unperturbed, you climbed past the elevator shafts and (hopefully not) asbestos fibers to the roof. There you met three nice Thai dudes taking photos (swapped emails for photos). The bar at the top would have been something indeed if completed. Now, it was just a mess of concrete and steel. From the highest platform you signaled to everyone in the condo across the river, waving with your headlights. Satisfied with your accomplishment you headed back down with a rooftop tree you'd carefully uprooted as a present for Ulf.
After Basil left, everyone went for icecream in Siam Center — a fancy Bangkok shopping centre — and dinner in a nearby tented market. It was nice to try eating like a local, even if you couldn't really identify what you were eating. The coconut icecream served in a coconut with condensed coconut milk was a very tasty desert after such an adventurous day.
On your last morning in Bangkok you enjoyed a late, slow breakfast before pottering off to see an flooded shopping centre full of fish. You circled past Wat Arun, and then took a taxi via Dani and Ulf's condo to Don Mueang airport. In the plane to Phuket the air conditioning condensed the humid air and looked like it a humidifier.
The flight was uneventful, unlike the bus to Phuket Town which was confusing. After a forty minute ride, you were dropped off with two other equally confused Spaniards behind a shopping centre with the instructions "that way". The local taxi mafia ensured that a metered ride or negotiating was out of the question but you found your accommodation in the end. After encountering a very excited Thai lady and some bedbugs at the backpackers, you booked a scuba diving trip, had some pad sie ewe and a Pipsi, and went to bed.