What is the weather like now?

What is the weather like now?

Much the same as in Britain - give or take 15C of heat. October is the back end of the rainy season, but the weather isn't as predictable as that tag might suggest: some days will be bright and sunny - with perhaps the odd heavy burst to keep you on your toes - and others will remain boring, overcast and dull.

What are locals complaining about?

That global topic - the price of petrol, which has broken through the 15 baht (25p) per litre mark. Though it's hardly his fault, it's not going to help incumbent prime minister Chuan Leekpai in the forthcoming general election.

Who's the talk of the town?

Tiger Woods, the hugely popular half-Thai golfing phenomenon, who's due in town next month for an exhibition match.

What's the cool drink?

Seattle-style coffee houses are springing up in the trendy student stronghold of Siam Square, but you're quite likely to find the clientele sticking to the tried and trusted formula: getting leery on rice whisky, diluted with Coca-Cola or Sprite.

What are people eating?

Thais do eat insects - anything from red ants to juicy, deep-fried crickets. In the poorest parts of the north-east, they're a necessity to flesh out the staple, sticky rice, but in Bangkok they persist only as a delicacy. Most Bangkokians would rather be slurping on fat kuay tiao noodles in hearty soup - and preferably several times a day.

Any outrageous stuff on TV?

No - Thai TV is generally quite staid. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has hit town in a big way. The top prize is not as compelling as over here (a million baht is equivalent to £17,000), but it's difficult to get anyone's attention while the show is on - especially when viewers hit their mobile phones to place mid-programme bets with their friends.

Where wouldn't the locals dream of going?

The notorious Patpong district. Thais have their own red light areas, but Patpong is purely a foreign construct, developed to satisfy soldiers on R&R trips from Vietnam in the late Sixties. And at this stage in its evolution, it's one of Bangkok's most popular tourist sights. Although the degrading live shows still go on upstairs, at ground level, stall-keepers hawking fake watches and bags to the most demure of package tourists are now taking over.

Where are the locals going that tourists don't know about?

The house of the late Mr Kukrit Pramoj, recently opened to the public. It is less of a museum than a pilgrimage shrine to the "Grand Guru of Suan Plu" - prolific writer, philosopher, actor, occasional prime minister, Thai classical dancer and gardener, who endowed this sizable plot of land with statuary, bonsai trees and beautiful lily ponds.

Where are the chic people doing their shopping?

Some sashay along to buy big international names at malls such as the Siam Discovery Center, but the smart money heads next door for the hippest Thai labels such as Greyhound in the Siam Center. Queuing up across the road in the warren-like alleys of Siam Square are the stalls of up and coming designers, along with grungy students' favourites.

Where's the trendy place to escape for the weekend?

Not in Thailand at all, but across the border to Cambodia and the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat - especially as daily direct flights to Siem Reap mean you don't have to endure the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

* Paul Gray is co-author of the "Rough Guide to Thailand" and the "Rough Guide to Bangkok".

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