At the height of Bangkok’s anti-government protests that shut down the airports late November, I was given no choice but to spend the remainder of my second visit to this vibrant city gleefully basking in its wonderful fluorescent glow. Very eager to test the slow shutter speeds of my Horizon Perfekt, I wandered the ‘City of Angels’ camera-armed to discover a glimmering labyrinth as amazing at night as it is under the midday sun.
As news of the local pandemonium blared from CNN at the hotel, the ruckus of city life unabashedly continued at the heart of the urban sprawl: the night markets were alive and kicking, shoppers were a-splurging, Skytrain commuters were shuffling, tuk-tuks were vrooming through rush hour, and the lady boys still a riot of their own.
Bangkok burns at night. Just outside the hotel, the shopping malls of Siam Square were bright and busy in holiday spirit. At beer-sponsored outdoor concerts in Central World, performers played the latest hits with gusto over tables of alcoholic beverage coupled with spicy food, alongside the solemnity of Buddhist and Hindu shrines adorned with red incense and garlands of marigold offered by prayerful passersby.
Meanwhile, at the infamous sois (sidestreets) of Patpong in Silom district, night market stalls and go-go bars offer their own lustful bargains side by side under the tempting iridescence of neon lights.
But the best way to top-off this Asian capital’s night scene is not on ground but more than 60 floors up above one of its snazzy skybars like Vertigo on Banyan Tree or Sirocco on State Tower. For a calmer route, relish the sights and savory tastes aboard a dinner cruise up and down the Chao Phraya, which dazzles with city lights reflected from riverside hotels, restaurants, churches and temples.
Night or day, Bangkok is breathtaking. Airport shutdowns or otherwise, it’s almost impossible to part ways with such a captivating place. And days later, as the bus shuttled us out of its chaos to Chiang Mai where all the stranded Filipinos were to be flown home, I was so hungover its exuberance and charm I wouldn’t mind getting stranded for another week. Until next time, it’s bye, bye Bangkok for now.