Breathtaking Bangkok city vistas, a colossal swimming pool, and a soi crammed with street food stalls were all bonuses. Space for both of us to spread out and set up office, fast reliable Internet access, a kitchen where Terence could cook on the evenings we had to stay in, and a good building in a living-breathing neighbourhood rather than a tourist ghetto – those were our priorities when it came to looking for an apartment to base ourselves for a month. Or four as it turned out!
We’d hoped to find something in the hipster ’hood of Thonglor, with its scores of restaurants and bars, its ‘Japan-town’, its cool shops, and countless street food stalls, but the building we had our heart set on was booked solid. We have a little boutique hotel we like on Soi 1 where we usually stay when we’re in the city but its snug rooms make it unsuitable for longer than a few days.
So a compact studio apartment at Somerset Lake Point, near the Asok BTS, furnished in clean contemporary lines, and with enough mod cons to keep us satisfied, has became our ‘home’ in Bangkok. So much so that we’ve left our things there when we’ve had to go on assignment to Saigon, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap – travelling light for the first time in years, which has been heaven! – and the staff have welcomed us back so warmly it’s as if we’ve lived there forever.
The set-up is what they call ‘serviced residences’. It’s a building with furnished apartments and some of the services of a hotel – smiling reception staff, a guest services person to book you on tours, a cleaning service, and porters and doormen to help with your luggage and hail you a taxi, and in Bangkok make sure that the taxi driver knows exactly where you’re going. Although of course rarely never do, no matter what they say.
The arrangement has suited us perfectly. The Internet was slow when we arrived, and both of us couldn’t connect at the same time, so the staff called the service provider and sorted it out straight away. We upgraded our service at the same time and they fixed it so that we could both have access at the faster speed. We would’ve hated to have had to deal with that ourselves. It’s been enough to simply do the work we came here to do, and then all the extra stuff that has come in. We’re happy for a cleaner to come once a week (although they’d come twice if we wanted), as the apartment starts to look like student digs after a few days. As I said, we are very busy.
So busy that those stunning skyline views that were a welcome ‘extra’ have become essential to maintaining my sanity. We’ve spent much longer at our desks than anticipated, as more and more magazine commissions have come in, and those gorgeous vistas of the lake and park, and the interesting views immediately below us in the surrounding streets of our neighbours houses – from ramshackle corrugated iron constructions to grand villas with overgrown gardens.
We’ve grown to love our neighbourhood, centred on and around Sukhumvit Soi 16, and the many personalities it takes on as it transforms itself multiple times over the course of a day. We’ve become fond of the familiar faces we see whenever we step out our door, from Noi, our favourite street food seller who serves up Bangkok’s best fried pork, to the scarred ‘soi dogs’ (one missing an eye) who may look homeless and abandoned but are actually well cared for and loved by the local residents and shopkeepers, who leave them big bowls of biscuits and rice twice a day.
Yes, our stay here has been great. It’s the longest time we’ve spent in Bangkok in one hit – it’s going to be hard to leave – and over coming weeks we’ll share more with you from our time here.
Down sides? Terence would have liked a proper oven instead of a microwave but they only come with the larger apartments. He’s still appreciated having the kitchen where he’s been exploring Thai cuisine and conducting all sorts of experiments with everything from pork belly to prawns. Though I’m sure I’ve appreciated his creations even more.
I would have liked to have used the swimming pool more. But that’s my own fault. I did start to do laps and have done them from time to time, but as usual I’ve let work get in the way of getting fit. We’ve walked around the park that we’ve dubbed ‘Swan Lake’, for entertainment more than anything. Wait until we tell you about that!
It has felt good to be back in Bangkok. After an icy winter in Europe, I haven’t minded the heat and humidity one bit. Our first day in the city, I finally understood how Europeans must feel when they arrive in Dubai in March, pale from their long hibernation, yearning for nothing more than a week on the beach to soak up the sun and add some colour to their skin. No wonder they wander about with so little on.
It’s only recently, now that the rainy season has started, and every day is a sultry one in Bangkok, that I’m actually looking forward to winter again. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…