Back Home in Bangkok, Part I

After Florida

May 7-13, 2005

Saturday, May 7, 2005


Sunday, May 8, 2005 (Pre-journal)

Undoing what was done on Friday.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Watcharee and I celebrated our first night back in Bangkok at the Thai restaurant conveniently located in our next door neighbor's property ... the Shangri La Hotel ... with our friends Pom and Golf.

Monday, May 9, 2005 (End of the Great Patriotic War Day - former USSR)

Looking southwest from our porch I can see that not much has changed along the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

That office-to-condo conversion that was promised to be ready for occupancy in December still appears to want a zillion man hours of work. Who knows how long it will be before the first 'lucky' owners can experience how novel architectural modifications turned a never-occupied aging office building into a residential tower.

The owners of the two arboreal penthouses ... (Khun Ultimate and Khun Penultimate) ... are still going at it with their surrogate bits of living wood. THOCBDC, of course, has followed this war for many years and from several angles.

One thing is reassuring; The Peninsula is still in its same beautiful and convenient spot: right across the river from us.

What was formerly known as The Sofitel ... and what will sometime be known as The Hilton ... is still in the grinding mechanics of reconstruction. THOCBDC took you there a few years back when the place had been abandoned to the ghosts and the unpaid bankers. But, most people believe that The Sofitel never finished the job because everything about it ... from dirt to ceiling ... was thought to be haunted by malcontent spirits. For a short time ... during this awkward period ... the Patpong Corkscrew Club owned the property; in fact CB3 (another THOCBDC subsidiary) was frequently seen docked on the roof of the building's would-be revolving sky-top bar.

PS: Today is the 60th anniversary of the end of what the Russians call The Great Patriotic War. Twenty years ago today I was in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of that war. Now I have just a luggage sticker to show for it. At that time I was engaged to Anna. But for a Catch-22 situation we would have been married later that year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (pre-journal)

It's pretty obvious, retrospectively, why I did not make Law Review at Berkeley.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Kevin's former bar, the place he owned here in Bangkok ... "Old China Hand" ... is still on Soi Cowboy. But it now goes under a different name: "Sam's 2000".

Though the street on which it fronts hasn't changed too much over the years ... well, what happened to its just-over-the-shoulder competition ... oh my God, a nuclear device couldn't have wished for a better outcome. On one evening a few months ago half a choice city block from Sukhumvit Soi 21 to Soi 23 was a rabbit's warren of tiny flourishing bars ... there must have been dozens of them, tucked together tight as ticks ... and each night they were squeezed with customers keen on maximizing pleasures of the flesh.

The next day everything was gone. Totally! Sometime during the post-midnight hours 'maverick' wrecking crews moved in, gave the boot to any night watchmen and systematically reduced all standing stone, steel and wood to flat rubble (*). Since the bar owners were just squatters they couldn't squawk. The working girls, forever used to never having a say about anything, just moved on. Now the ruins are surrounded by a 'hillbilly' fence and all potential trespassers are bilingually warned to stay out. The only saving-thing on this former corner of sin and fun is a hastily erected shrine. But, to what?

Who is next?

(*) The unflattering rears of the buildings that you see in the background belong to the cosmetically correct faces of the bars of Soi Cowboy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 (Royal Ploughing Day - วันพืชมงคล) [*]

Construction continues.....

Brennan Beer Gorman Architects to Design Luxury High-rise Bangkok Residence Facade
Athenee Residence, a new luxury residential building in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand, will have its face carefully sculpted by NYC-based Brennan Beer Gorman Architects (BBG). The new 41-story residential tower will have 219 apartments, including seven penthouses. BBG is working closely with building architect A49 and interior designer Leo Design Group. The tower, scheduled for completion in 2007, will be clad in a sleek composition of glass, metal, stone, and masonry. An aspect of the city's culture comes into play also as Yann LeRoy, BBG's Design Partner, notes, "The tower's signature swooping roofline is inspired by hand gestures used in traditional Thai dance. The hand not only evokes a sense of protection for residents, but the gentle curve also offers a soft counterpoint to the tower's linear and vertical dynamism."

Brennan Beer Gorman Architects

[*] Royal ploughing is done every year by Brahmanic priests. This event happens in the front of the temple "WAT PHRA KAEW" on the big field called "SANAM LUANG".

This ceremony symbolizes the beginning of the sowing period. Brahmin priests bless seeds and make symbolic furrows using a plough pulled by buffalos. Once the ceremony is over, all the watching people run to the furrows in order to get the blessed seeds. Those ones are supposed to bring good harvests. This is a public holiday.

Thursday, May 12, 2005 (pre-journal)

Reader S. R. from Khatanga (located in the northern part of the Central Siberian Plain), Russia, writes:

"Sir, I have followed with great interest the ongoing construction that is taking place on land adjacent to Bangkok's Skytrain Siam Station: the interchange station that allows passengers to switch from the Sukhumvit Line to the Silom Line, and vice versa. I believe the property in question was formerly occupied by the Siam Intercontinental Hotel."

THOCBDC's camera is at your service. If you compare today's photographs with the ones taken on December 15, 2003 and on November 10, 2004 you should be pleasantly surprised at the progress of the construction. We may even have a few more 'snaps' lying around that could further 'flesh in' the gaps.

Incidentally, your request slightly implied that riders on the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line had the choice of either making a line transfer or of ignoring the transfer by continuing forward to a further station. Actually, they have two additional choices. They could exit the station completely or they could make a turn-about and retrace their route on the same line. Remaining in the Siam station indefinitely is not a legal option.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Not quite Baghdad; but not Beloit either.

Three bombs explode in Thai south
Thursday, May 12, 2005 Posted: 12:05 AM EDT (0405 GMT)

Police inspect a bomb blast at a motorcycle shop in Southern Thailand's Yala province, about 1,200 km (745 miles) south of Bangkok on May 12, 2005.

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) -- Three bombs exploded in Thailand's restive Muslim south on Thursday, police said, wounding at least nine people in a region where more than 600 people have died in 17 months of violence.

The first bomb went off around 7:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) at a food stall near a train station in Songkhla province, wounding three people.

An hour later, a second blast outside the home of the provincial chief judge in Yala province wounded five police officers, police said.

A third bomb hidden under a pickup truck parked near Yala's City Hall wounded a female passenger, a witness said.

"The victim, a Yala health worker, looks seriously injured and was rushed to hospital," the witness said.

The largely Malay-speaking southern region, where separatists fought low-key insurgencies in the 1970s and 1980s, has been rocked by almost daily blasts and killings since the violence erupted in January 2004.

Friday the 13th (May, 2005)

Reader M. A. from Suakin (on the Red Sea) in Sudan writes:

"I do not wish to take anything away from your seminal coverage of the Siam interchange station. ... BUT, in my opinion, it is the interchange stations at Sala Daeng / Silom that deserve the most attention. For it is here where passengers can transfer from the Skytrain to the Subway and vice versa. Since the Subway did not become operational until more than five years after the Skytrain took on its first customers, Bangkok Mass Transit System engineers had to build a skybridge that would permit transferring passengers the option of moving from one station to the other without having to dodge Bangkok's notorious motor vehicle traffic. You would do your readers a great service by devoting as much photographic attention to this 'interdisciplinary' interchange as you lavished on the Siam station."

I think we can do that.

Friday, May 13, 2005 (Post-Pre-Journal)

SUN Headline: PJP2 goes to the head of the queue! Hots for MTofC?

ROME/MALTA (di-ve news)--May 13, 2005 -- 1140CEST Updated 1155CEST--Pope John Paul II is on his way to sainthood as his successor Pope Benedict XVI has started the process to beatify him.

During a meeting at Rome's Basilica of St John in Lateran, he personally told priests present, "The cause for the beatification of John Paul II is open."

Thus he did not heed the usual Church rules which say that five years must pass before such a process can start. His predecessor had done the same for Madre Teresa of Calcutta.

Pope Benedict XVI did however heed to widespread calls that Pope John Paul II should be made saint as soon as the latter died on April, 02, 2005.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friends at dinner...

Next: Part II

Search WWW Search