The Hedonist: Bangkok
What to see and where to be seen
Saturday 26 March 2011
I'm in Bangkok atop the Lebua Hotel on the 63rd floor of the State Tower, where the appropriately named Sky Bar (00 66 2624 9999;
lebua.com) is proving to be the perfect launch-pad for an evening of Asian-style hedonism. The sprawling, traffic-choked city spreads out like a sleeping spider around us, the fading sunlight flickering behind the haze and smog as it sinks in the south. Then, all at once, as if by the power of some gigantic master switch, a million neon lights illuminate the city.
It's this electrifying 360-degree backdrop that pulls in the surprisingly mixed crowds here: Asian businessmen talking more to their BlackBerrys than to their Chanel-clad, pearl-loving wives; chino-wearing Euro families with big hair and even bigger bank accounts ordering thick slabs of Wagyu beef for children who've been eating sushi since birth; Brit couples smooching over cocktails, poring over torch-lit menus and pretending they eat like this all the time; lost travellers who look as surprised as everyone else that they've made it through the door with their backpacks and string beads... and us, of course.
We sink a couple of cocktails – the Eastern-influenced Sky Cosmo goes down particularly well – before sweeping up the staircase towards the dome that crowns the building and dining within the clean, contemporary confines of Mezzaluna restaurant instead of al fresco Sirocco. On such a balmy night, air-conditioned interiors are a welcome respite from the warm breeze outside.
It is here, amid floor-to-ceiling glass windows and against a backdrop of a classical quartet, that we are treated to a sumptuous six-course tasting menu designed to please the palette of even the most well-travelled tongue. And it does, with highlights that include a starter of osetra caviar with radish, watercress and robiola cheese paired with a 2009 Riesling; and a main of Wagyu beef tenderloin with beets, shallots, cherry, raddichio and ponzu matched with a 2005 Rioja Reserva. Berlin-born twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Suhring certainly know what they're doing, with enough Michelin-starred experience between them to deliver a thoughtfully choreographed culinary experience that has global gourmands talking.
We plummet down to ground level and grab a cab to the Banyan Tree, a razor-thin tower whose rooftop credentials are as famous as Lebua's. On the 61st floor is Vertigo (00 66 2679 1200; banyantree.com), another of Bangkok's panoramic princesses. The vibe here is just as sceney as Sky Bar, if not scenier, and is a no-brainer for those with baht to burn and alcohol units to exceed. We opt for mojitos and Long Island iced teas at the Moon Bar before once more zipping down in the lift and hailing a cab to catch the tail-end of the Thai boxing match we've got over-priced tickets for.
It turns out we've got ringside seats at Lumpini Boxing Stadium ( muaythailumpini.com) and we're ushered into a pseudo-underground space that's more industrial than industrial-chic: concrete floors underfoot, exposed metal rafters overhead, splintered plastic bench seating on all four sides and a central, blood- and sweat-stained ring dominating the whole thing.
The spectacle runs from 8-11pm, with seven matches in ascending body weight running every half-hour or so. We're here just in time for the final bout, and they've saved the best for last as two hulking, muscle-bound Thais in surprisingly flamboyant fluorescent hot pink and acid green shorts mount the ring, cruel scowls plastered across each of their faces.
The bell rings and they waste no time in slamming fists and feet into each other. It goes on for a gruelling 15 minutes before the larger of the two finally overwhelms the other and he collapses to the floor, the smell of defeat and Tiger Balm lingering in the air. We slink out to grab a tuk-tuk before the crowd fills the street outside.
We wind up at DJ Station (00 66 2266 4029; dj-station.com) at Silom Soy 2, where a disco ball dominates the dance floor and where Western boys come to meet Eastern lady boys. It's a sweaty, heaving affair, with vest-clad revellers pumping their fists in the air like they just don't care.
One round of cheap, badly made drinks turns into six, and before we know it the gloss and sheen of tonight's earlier scene is replaced with something altogether grungier. That is, until we return, stumbling and incoherent, to our ludicrously luxurious suite at the small, colonial-style hotel The Eugenia (00 66 2599 0117; theeugenia.com) and wake up the next morning between fine thread-count sheets. And, as is expected of this city of such exotic style, we're not alone.
Breakfast-in-bed for three, please.
A Hedonist’s Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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