Dropping Baht in Bangkok
Although our visit to Bangkok was largely rest and relaxation-oriented, we did get out a bit, seeing the sights and, at times, walking aimlessly. Our first stop was at the Narayana Phand a local crafts market. It is enclosed, and covers several stories; it contains just about anything that is made in Thailand -- silks, clothing, furniture, woodcarvings, & lacquer ware. We spent the time between breakfast and Tracy's massage (funny how you measure time on vacation) looking for gifts and remarking on the store's one size policy (everything comes in "medium"!) The photo to the left captures one of the stranger juxtapositions of merchandise at Narayana Phand: Thai masks on display next to a painting of -- what's that? Mount Rushmore?
Our next stop was a tailor's shop suggested by the helpful and knowledgeable staff at the Banyan Tree. Bangkok is a tailoring Mecca. The quality is good, the prices are low, and the turn-around time is nothing short of amazing. We were collected by a driver from Thai Square Fashions and taken to their shop (photo to the left). Once inside we were treated to tea by Sonny, the salesperson, and discussed what clothes we would like to have made. As you can see from the photo to the right, the shop, while small, is choc-a-bloc with material of every sort--cotton, the famous Thai silk, linen, and it comes in nearly every conceivable pattern as well. After presenting them with a few items we wished to have copied, we were paraded around the store to pick out fabrics. This took a while, as neither of us really has a clue what fabrics go with what styles, and there were no evident fashion consultants available (!) The variety of textiles was staggering. Eventually, we moved on to the all-important bargaining phase, as Tracy and Sonny began negotiating for a "reasonable" (as if we had a clue!) "best price" (photo to the left). When this was completed (you could tell because both Tracy and the tailor were smiling), the measuring process was completed, in less than 5 minutes and in three languages (photo to the right). Back to the hotel, with the understanding that we'd return for a morning fitting, and our clothes would be completed (12 pieces in all) by 8 that evening. I wish Singaporean drycleaners subscribed to this schedule!
The van showed up at the Banyan Tree at 8:30 the next morning and we were off to see what progress had been made. There were the garments-to-be, all with white preliminary stitching, awaiting the "first fitting." Tracy and I each told the tailor how they felt, and the alterations were under way. Where things were too loose pins were placed, while where necklines were too high, white chalk marked the changes. After trying them all on, we were taken back to the hotel, where we would have our "second fitting" in our room at 8:00 that night. Sure enough, around 8:00 p.m. Santosh arrived to oversee the final adjustments. He took out the 3 dresses, 5 cotton shirts, 3 linen shirts, 3 dresses and 3 jackets, and we began trying them out. The photo to the left shows Santosh with Tracy, who is modeling an almost-finished dress. Last minute adjustments were made for shirt length, dress neckline, and dress length, and then Santosh returned the garments to the tailor's shop. When we finished our meal about 10:30, the altered clothes were finished and brought to our room. It was a total of about 32 hours from walking into the Thai Square Fashion shop until the fourteen items of custom-made clothing were in our possession. And they looked great. The tailor's shop keeps customer's vital statistics in the computer for five years, so you can simply phone or fax them to place additional orders. If you are planning a visit to Thailand, their website is www.thaisquarefashion.com. They are worth a look!
Another place to "drop baht" is at the night market, located along Phaya Thai Road. I had always thought of a night market as something along the lines of the night souks or bazaars in the Middle East. This night market consisted of an endless series of small booths set up "after hours" along a busy street in downtown Bangkok. It was an odd mixture of the crafts we saw earlier at the Narayana Phand, as well as every type of "knock-off" good available--designer clothes, watches, DVDs. You name it, and they had it. It was fun just cruising through the sea of humanity, occasionally stopping to bargain for gifts. Tracy even ran into some friends from her teaching days at JIS, as teachers were in town to attend the EARCOS conference. A few bahts lighter, we headed for the serenity of the Banyan Tree. In the photo to the right, Tracy bargains with a vendor displaying kickboxer trunks and gloves.
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