Fortune Town – More from Bangkok

The view from my hotel room in downtown Bangkok.

When I first moved to Bangkok, I knew all about its nightlife and the great markets that it has. I was excited about the great food options and the variety of street stalls that sold freshly cooked delicacies all over the place. There were many things to be excited about coming here, but there was one that I was really excited about, the audiophile community.

When I used to teach in the United States, I had a turntable set up in my classroom with my collection of vinyl records in the corner that allowed me a vast variety of music to listen to. It worked great when I had my students settle down to write. I would randomly pick one of them to pick a record to listen to. They would get a little more culture while listening to something that might not listen to initially, and I would have some form of entertainment while I was given the mind-numbing task of watching students write their essay.

I missed this facet of my teaching style when I was living in South Korea, and I wanted to bring it back when I moved to Thailand. Before I did that, I needed to know that there was a vinyl culture out in Bangkok, and when I came out to visit in May, I was introduced to a record store in the neighborhood I was moving to. It wasn’t a great store, stocking mainly used records of bad 80s R&B bands, but it gave me hope that if a small record store could survive in a suburb of Bangkok then, there would have to be more record stores out there that would cater more to my style of music.

This set into motion a couple of purchases during the summer, namely a new record, and a travel case to bring out eight of my records to Thailand with me. I went on-line to find out if record player were for sale in Bangkok, and if I would be able to find better record stores. Both of these things were out here, and it made my move even more exciting.

When I finally landed, I bought a cheap turntable from Lazada, an on-line company similar to Amazon in the United States, and started to enjoy listening to two of my records. My plan was to slowly introduce more of them into my classroom so it became exciting when new music entered. What I did not expect to find was more audiophiles working on the same floor as me. Suddenly, new records appeared for me to listen to from other members of the English department, and we would bring the turntable into the break room during lunch once a week so we could listen to music. I was told about the best places to buy more vinyl, and during the first break from school, I went down to check out what it had to offer.

The place I was told about was Fortune Town, a mall outside Exit One on the Rama 9 stop on the blue line of the Metro. I was told that there are numerous record store scattered among the tech stores, and I would be able to find new records as well as used gems amongst the three floors. I was super excited about making it out there, and I finally got to go yesterday.

The two selections found at Hall of Fame Records

I was not disappointed in my find. The first record store I found was not that great because it only had mostly Thai pop music, and a couple of used soundtracks to movies that did not excite me that much. But I was told that there were various stores. I went up one more floor, and found Hall of Fame records. This was the heaven I was looking for. It was filled with a variety of music from rock to punk to pop to country to classical to jazz. There were new records mixed in with some nice used gems. I was glad that it was a week until my next pay check because I could easily have wasted the whole thing on new vinyl. Instead, I limited myself to two records. They were a little expensive, but it was nice to know that I would be able to find titles like this out here. It means that the small collection I have going out here will slowly grow, and it will be with great music that I can introduce to my students. It makes me feel like I will be a complete teacher again, not only exposing my students to great literature, but also to great music.

My only regret was I stopped to shop at this one store, and did not go further down the mall to other stores in Fortune Town. If I had I would have found a few more record stores, ones that cater more to used music that was little cheaper, but now that I know this place exists, I will make sure to make a stop down there every once in awhile to pick up a new record, and find a new record to share with my students. It is a must go place to any audiophile that makes it out to Bangkok, and I highly recommend the voyage there.

 

Our Private Porch

Did you know that we don’t need life so loud?

We can take a reprieve from all the mess
By getting away from the fighting crowd
And unwinding from society’s stress.

There is a porch that overlooks a hill
Behind which the sun will ev’ry night sink,
And you can feel the icy glass’s chill
As our relaxing cheers ring out a clink.

We don’t need to run in the rat race
If we don’t feel up to the competition.

In reality, there’s nothing to chase
Except the joy of our expectations.

For you, I have built this little retreat
Where we will find a life that’s more complete.

Landing in Taipei at Night

The waves collect the full moon’s reflection,
Banishing the darkness from the night’s sky.
I observe the ocean’s undulation
From where only birds were allowed to fly.
A man-mad glow comes from the horizon,
Guiding the way to my destination.
The on-coming land swallows the ocean,
Destroying nature’s own exhibition.
The bustle of the city lives on there,
A busy place I am destined to join,
But for now I will focus on the here
Instead of the collecting of more coin.
The moment was tailored made just for me,
The shining moon hanging over the sea.

My Memento

Our voyage is quite the amazing flight,
Taking us over vast mountains and seas,
So you want to make sure you travel light
In order to avoid the weary fees.
It is not always about the comfort
As you make your way in these foreign lands.
It should be more of what you can report
Instead of what you brought back with your hands.
It’s another piece for your collection
That weighs on your soul as you move forward.
The clutter will become a distraction,
Keeping you from how far you could have soared.
It is things that keep you tied to the ground;
Freedom comes from not having it around.

The Edge of a Storm

I like to stand on the edge of the storm,
Flirting with the danger it can portend.
One side, my chances look to be forlorn,
While the other presents a friendly end.
The way that things will go is determined
By the length it takes me to make a stride.
The choice of the way my future will bend
Is based on how I make this moment ride.
Will I face the biting wind and cold rain,
Looking for that one elusive rainbow?
Or do I avoid the path of harsh pain
By going down one easy to follow?
Or do I stand here in indecision,
Trying to pick a single direction?

Downtown Bangkok

Entrance to one of Chinatown’s various market streets

I have been in Bangkok for over two weeks now, and I have spent most of my time comfortably in my little suburb, Samakorn. I do really enjoy this place. There are some great restaurants, and great neighbors. I have still a lot of exploring to do in my own neighborhood, but I thought it was about time to fight the traffic of this great city and take in the sights of the downtown area for a night. I landed in Bangkok’s busy markets of Chinatown, and started to see some of what makes this one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.

A water bus on the Chao Phraya River

The easiest way to reach Bangkok’s Chinatown is by hopping on one of the many boats that move up and down the Chao Phraya River and getting off at the five stop. The vast sprawling markets and street food is directly down the street from the station. You can also grab a cab but expect to sit in traffic a lot of the time, and be patient before you get to where you are going. I have found that this is just the way of life in Bangkok. If you fight against it, you will always be stressed out, and you still make it to your location at the same time as if you just went with the flow of traffic and quit worrying about it.

Artwork on the wall outside of the Tep Bar in Bangkok

During the day, the markets are the most interesting things to see. The small alleyways of this part of town are packed with shops filled with all of the cheap plastic, and junk that you never really wanted to have. But it is an interesting place to people watch and the shop owners are not pushy. It is also another place where you just need to go with the flow because you will find yourself within a stream of humanity as it winds its way through the various stalls, and every once in awhile somebody will stop to check something out, stopping the flow. When this happens, there is nothing you can do but wait it out until it starts flowing again. If you are looking for fresh vegetables, and fruit, there are great sections of the market where vendors are selling these as well as making various forms of street food.

Live music on a Sunday night in the Tep Bar.

At night, the shops close up and people head inside to the various restaurants and bars that can be found. A lot of these places offer entertainment, and even on a Sunday night, I was able to find a live traditional Thai band playing for the amusement of the patrons there.

The view from the roof at Wallflowers

The places are wildly decorated as well. My favorite that I saw on my short visit downtown was called Wallflowers. During the day, it is a cafe and flower shop, but at night it transforms itself into a five story eatery. The tables and chairs are a collection of whatever they could find which would make it seem like a chaotic mess, but actually gave it some charm. I had to walk up five flights of narrow stairs to get to the roof where I was able to enjoy the night’s sky and the atmosphere. The food was good, but nothing fancy. It was more just a place to avoid the bustle of the city down below. It was not one of the famous rooftop bars that I have heard so much about from Bangkok, but I think it was the perfect speed for me on my first venture out to the more exciting parts of the city.

I know I will make it to this part of the city again soon because I do not live that far away, but I am glad to finally get out and experience why Thailand is on a lot of people’s bucket lists of places to visit. I know I didn’t hit the touristy spots yet, but I will eventually get down to those place as well. Until then, this was the perfect adventure as I ease myself more into this city’s lifestyle.

Until next time.

Graduation

Has there been so much change these last four years,
Or is it a matter of perspective?
No one can prognosticate where life steers
Because it does so without a motive.
It does not play against out deepest fears
Even though we may believe it is so.
It does not care about our shedding tears
Because those feeling don’t cause it to slow.
It does not listen to our grateful cheers;
It considers it nothing more than noise.
The troubles of man do not reach its ears;
It won’t even move its elegant poise.
Yet these four years have tumbled on past,
And the first day was diff’rent than the last.