Tag Archives: Bangkok

So, We Got Married…. In Vegas

Bangkok, Thailand

I met Sarah in a bar at one of the cheapest hostels in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city.  I’d been travelling for a year and a half and was staying at the old share house (Baan Falang, which loosely translates to Foreigner House in English) that I’d stayed previously while taking a few weeks off from the craziness and dramas of the islands in the gulf.

We met at the Overstay... classy...
We met at the Overstay… classy…

I’d helped out a bit at the hostel, named The Overstay – working on the website and helping tune the sound system, but this time around I was just there hanging out and enjoying a few cold Leo beers with Suzi, and Austrian girl who was also living at Baan Falang and was studying at Thammasat University on exchange. Suzi had invited a few friends from the exchange programme to show them that there was life outside of Khao San Road, of which one of them was an Australian.

Now as a Kiwi, it’s my patriotic duty to take the piss out of any Australian I come across, especially when drinking is involved. So, over a few beers I told everyone about how this girl was descended from convicts, and she talked about how all Kiwis were sheep fuckers – standard practice when Kiwi’s and Aussies meet up and joke over a few beers, something which confuses travellers from other countries – all in good fun and part of the sibling rivalry that goes on between our countries.

Thanks Suzi, we owe you a beer when we see you next!
Thanks Suzi, we owe you a beer when we see you next!

It was at this stage that Suzi’s American friend butts into the conversation and says “But you don’t look like you are Australian” to me.  Drunk as I probably was, I had no idea of where this particular conversation would take me and how it would completely and utterly change my life.  I spent some time chatting to this girl, who seemed completely different to anyone else I’d met on my travels (or anywhere else) – this conversation covering her interest in Buddhism, teasing her about her being a vegan, arguing about Atheism, talking about Thai politics and eventually human trafficking. Somehow I got to talking about an article I’d read about human trafficking and slave trading that was going on in Southern Thailand and we ended up talking for hours.  I found out that this girl was volunteering at an NGO in one of Bangkok’s red light districts helping to teach english to Thai, Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian sex workers.  At the end of this conversation we exchanged numbers and I’d promised to take her for a bit of a tour around the parts of Bangkok that aren’t in the tour guides.  This American’s name was Sarah. It was September 4th, 2013.

Beer. It makes marriages.
Beer. It makes marriages.

We eventually ended up doing our little tour of Bangkok, starting off by finding Sarah a copy of the Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok (and essential for anyone spending a while in the city), exploring the seedier parts of the city before ending up at a favorite drinking hole in Thonglor – Brew Bar. At this stage I find out that Sarah isn’t really a beer drinking – I open the menu and there is a page titled “Beer for Ladies who say they don’t drink beer”, and Sarah orders a belgian fruit beer, while I grab an IPA.  She enjoys it so we decide to order food and some more drinks.  I go up to the bar and order a beer that I hadn’t tried before – a Deschutes Brewery Summer Ale from Bend, Oregon. I take the beer back to the table and Sarah completely freaks out, I start to think I’ve committed some horrible faux pas, before she pulls out her cell phone and shows me a photo. The photo is of the exact same river thats on the label of the beer bottle, and is right next to her mothers home in Terrebonne, Oregon.  Around 30 minutes later a group sits down next to us including a Singaporean guy wearing a black T Shirt, with Deschutes Brewery – Bend Oregon on it.  This was all too much of a coincidence and at that stage Sarah even wondered if it was a set up, but it wasn’t.

No one believes our story until they see the photos.
No one believes our story until they see the photos.

We spent the next few days sending text messages back and forth and communicating via Line, a popular messaging app used by many in Thailand and South East Asia, and I asked one of my best mates back in New Zealand, Vitaly – for advice on this particular girl who seemed to be really different.  The next few weeks were spent with us checking out parts of Bangkok and getting to know each other before one evening where a group of our friends were partying in a bar on Khao San, Happy Bar where one of my mates was over from New Zealand. I won’t go into much detail, but the night ended with the two of us going home in a Tuk Tuk, and the next day was spent shopping in Ikea for her place and my place back in Koh Phangan. It didn’t take much convincing for me to join her and Suzi three days later on a quick flight down to Krabi, which was our first trip as a couple, hanging out on a deserted beach and relaxing together.

Baan Falang in Bangkok
Baan Falang in Bangkok

Eventually I had to go back to the islands, and the next couple of months were spent with each of us making the 9 hour bus trip and 2 hour ferry ride to visit each other and hang out on the island. In November I left Thailand for a brief trip to Malaysia to play paintball for the Tahiti team and DJ at the Paintball World Cup Asia, where I got a phone call that things had gone downhill with a venture I was involved in down on Phangan and it would be best for me to return to Bangkok – Sarah flew me back up, and by that stage Sarah had moved into my old share house, Baan Falang on the floor above where I used to live, which is how we came to move in together.

Her dad came over in December, and we got to know each other travelling to Cambodia together and exploring Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as well as spending new years down in Koh Tao, where I hope I made something of a good impression on him.

Things were getting a little sketchy in Bangkok at the time.
Things were getting a little sketchy in Bangkok at the time.

The next few months were spent in Bangkok, where we tried to live as normal of a live as possible while the protests were going on around us.  Sarah’s classes were cancelled and it became impossible to visit parts of the city as our local bridge was occupied and taxi’s would refuse to travel to our area.  We waited for Sarah to finish her Semester’s studies before booking a flight to New Zealand.  We’d planned to celebrate my 30th birthday with family and friends, as well as spending time working at Asylum Paintball, whom I’d been working for remotely since November.  Two day’s before we were scheduled to leave the country the Army overthrew the government in a military Coup.  TV Stations ceased broadcast, the internet was censored, and the country was put under martial law. We spend the day destroying Sarah’s school books and study notes, which could potentially breach the law – which doesn’t look too favorably on the accurate teaching of history and politics in the Land of Smiles. Since then some of her professors have gone into hiding or exile fearing long prison sentences under laws that are designed to silence dissent. Fearing a repeat of the 2006 occupations of the airports, we booked a hotel by the airport and decided to get out of the city and wait it out in Bang Na. We got on our flight from Thailand to Malaysia, and it felt great to be back in a country where we had a comparatively higher level of freedom of speech before boarding our plane to Auckland. The next three months were a blast, working at Asylum Paintball and watching it grow then touring around New Zealand on my days off to do as much touristy stuff as possible before we headed off to explore the USA.

Terrebonne, Oregon

Fast forward a few months.  It’s now September, 2014 and we are driving up to Terrebonne Oregon to visit Sarah’s mum.  We spend a few days hanging out there, walking about and generally getting over Jet Lag, before going for a walk to Smith Rock. We try to get to the top, but I’m tired, and struggling with the dryness and heat, so we go back down to the base and decide to hike along the river.  We get to a bend in the river and I have to tie my shoelaces.

Does this look familiar?
Does this look familiar?

It’s September 4th, 2014. Exactly one year to the day since we first met in that Bar in Bangkok, but Sarah hasn’t realised this. We are standing right next to the river that’s on the Label of that beer we drank together at Brew Bar in Thonglor on our first date. That’s where we got engaged, one year exactly since we met, at the exact location that caused such a weird conversation in Bangkok – and no, it wasn’t even planned, it just sort of happened spontaneously.  Because, here’s the kicker, I did plan to propose to her that day on the summit of Smith Rock, but I hadn’t clicked onto the significance of the date or location at that stage. At least not until we were right by the river, then it all made sense.

We got home and told our family and friends, and started planning our wedding, which was to be in Malta in July, 2015.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Fast forward a little longer and Sarah’s cousin from Australia came to stay and travel around the states for a bit. We’d just dealt with a massive family health crisis, and stress levels had hit their peak, fuck it we thought.  Lets get married now.

So off we went to Las Vegas.  We hired a car, or at least attempted to – when we got to the hire place our car wasn’t there, so after a, ahem… heated discussion we got the car we’d ordered before relaxing for the night.  Sarah had a class in the next morning and it wasn’t until around 1pm the next day that we’d get to hit the road.  We decided we’d go the “traditional” Las Vegas route and get married in the Little White Chapel. Yes, that one, the one that all the celebrities got married in. So the night before we got married, I call up and book the wedding and manage to get a time slot where we can get a limo and a wedding – at 10:30pm.  This might sound weird for those who have planned something traditional, but seriously – once you’ve gone through all the insane things we’ve experienced travelling organising something like this at the last minute is just normal.

Paperwork time
Paperwork time

It’s around 1pm on the day of our wedding and our friends are running late, meaning we don’t get to set off until around an hour after we’d plan to leave for the 5 hour drive from San Diego to Las Vegas. As we are driving I have a strange feeling not to stop at the shops in Primm for last minute shopping or anywhere for dinner – I still don’t know why, but that decision pretty much saved the wedding!

We drive through the desert, the sun sets and it’s dark.  We’ve still go to get to the Clark County office and fill in our marriage licence paperwork.  We get there at around 7pm and go to fill out the paperwork. $60 in cash (they don’t accept credit cards) and we have our licence to get married.  Time’s running out and we’ve got to get to our hotel.

Keeping it classy
Keeping it classy

We eventually get to the hotel that we’d booked two rooms, The Stratosphere. Only there’s a problem, only one of our bookings is in their system and the prick on the front desk is trying to charge us an extra $175 per night on top of what we’ve already paid in advance to secure a room that we’ve already booked and paid for.  I try my best not to lose my shit and get arrested on the night of my wedding and keep it together before we eventually get in front of the manager. I put on my best angry Kiwi face and explain that in all the years I’ve dealed with hotels I’ve never had this type of service, before we eventually get the rooms we’ve paid for – without so much of an apology, in fact we are left with a warning that if our story doesn’t check out we’ll be billed for the rooms. So much for service with a smile.

10659188_10152814433856346_6472422562217624601_nWe rush to our rooms, and get ready. I literally crack open a bottle of beer in the shower for my pre drinks. Luckily we are all ready in time and rush to the front door to wait for the limousine.  The driver picks us up, and is an absolute legend, getting us to the Little White Chapel on time.  We are met by the staff from the chapel who give us a tour of the venue, and tell us stories about the history of the place before going over our vows. We’d expected the place to be tacky, being in the old part of the Vegas strip and well, being a place that does drive through weddings. Instead they give us an amazing, fun and memorable stress free wedding.  As we are taking photos, a few mates from New Zealand who have been holidaying in Vegas turn up and join in without wedding party, they can’t believe what we are doing.

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We go through the ceremony, have some laughs and before we know it – we are married. We go back to the hotel and plan some drinks, except a friend of ours, who is on exchange from Thailand and was in the same classroom as Sarah, is under 21, so we can’t drink.  We go to a 50s themed diner for some dinner, and the waitresses are singing to us for the wedding. The whole thing is surreal and by the time we are finished we are completely shattered and need some sleep.

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We are still planning our family wedding in Malta next year, but now we have a lot of paperwork to fill out.  I’m waiting for my paperwork to be sorted out for the states, which should hopefully be sorted in a month or two. It’s been a crazy year and life throws you some real curve balls, but if I hadn’t have gone travelling – I wouldn’t be sitting here married to the most amazing person I’ve ever met, in a country that I never planned to visit, let alone go through the immigration process.

Wine Connection Wednesdays – All You Can Drink For 300 Baht

We’d been meaning to give Wine Connection a visit for a while, but between the Bangkok protests and university exams we just hadn’t had the time or ability to get to the area on a Wednesday afternoon. Wine Connection 4We’d heard about this place from students on the international exchange programme at Thammasat Univeristy, there was a bar in Suhkumvit that had all you can drink wine and all you can eat tapas for only 300 Baht! Expect to see lots of expat locals, foreign teachers and international students taking advantage of the cheap food, drinks and networking opportunities.

(Excuse the shaky photos, thats what happens when one is taking pictures at an all you can drink event!) Wine Connection 3

How It Works

Wine Connection offer free flow red and white house wine and tapas (including cheeses, cold cuts, bread and pastas) for 299 Baht + Tax from 5:30 until 8:30pm every Wednesday night.  Wine Connection 6It is strictly limited to 250 spaces, and it sells out every single week.  To guarantee your spot you will need to pop in early to grab your tickets in advance (we got there at around 4pm and it was fine, but by just after 5 they’d all sold out). Wine Connection 5I’m not really an expert on anything wine related, so I have no idea what the wines are like or how they compare to what else is out there, but even to me this seems like a great deal, especially when you consider you are paying at least 100 baht for a glass at most places, it only takes a couple to make it worth while.

Me, I was there for the cheese and cold cuts, which can get pretty expensive (I will happily spend 400 baht on a cheese and meat platter elsewhere, heck I even paid 195 baht upstairs for cheesy fries!).  Where else can you find all you can eat parma ham, salami, cheese, bread, cured meats, fish balls, sun dried tomatoes and more!

If like me, you aren’t too much of a wine drinker and prefer a beer, they still have a reasonable choice of imported beers, mainly from Belgium, I managed to grab myself a Bar Bar Belgian Strong Ale and a Lefebvre Floreffe Blonde for around the 160 Baht mark each.

How to find Wine Connection

Take the BTS and get off at either Thonglor or Phrom Phong stations then walk towards Soi 47 (which is roughly in the middle of the two stations), you’ll it on the lower floor in the Rain Hill Plaza.Wine Connection 2

Wine Connection, Rain Hill Plaza, Soi 47 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok

House of Beers – Loads of Choice For Sukhumvit Beer Lovers

We ended up at House of Beers quite by accident.  Sarah had wanted to check out Wine Connection’s free flow Wednesday, and had just picked up her Burmese Visa so was in the area.

We’d come in via the BTS, had purchased our ticket (Wine Connection is limited to 250 people) early and had an hour or so to kill.  Walking upstairs for something to do we spotted HOBs and walked in for a bar snack.

I hadn’t heard of the place before, and was impressed the minute I saw the fridge – full of imported beers from Belgium and beyond.

The Beers

House of Beers carries a wide range of beers from various breweries that are now being imported into Thailand including BrewDog, St. Bernardus, Chapeau and Krombacher.

If you’ve read any of my previous beer related posts, you’ll be aware that I’m a beer drinker who loves IPAs and beers with high IBUs while Sarah isn’t too much of a beer drinker, but is partial to Lambic fruit beers and a crisp lager. HOBS6 I grabbed a Brew Dog Hardcore IPA, while Sarah got herself a Chapeau Pêche Lambic BeerHOBS4 Followed by a Mikkeller The American Dream lager which was perfect in the hot Bangkok afternoon sun. HOBS3 Sarah grabbed herself a Krombacher Radler, which while too sweet and weak for me, was a nice and refreshing primer before we went downstairs for Wine Republic’s all you can drink free flow event. HOBS22 and a half hours of wine and we were ready to go back to the beers (I’m not a wine drinker after all), with a couple of new friends we’d met downstairs, they tried Lambics and Brewdog’s Punk IPA while I tried the Tokyo, which unfortunately just wasn’t my think and ended up getting ditched, a reminder of why I stick with the IPAs.

Beers ranged in price from around 195-430 Baht depending on the beer, with the Brewdog beers being at the top end of the scale.

The Food

The food menu is mainly bar snacks and pub grub, we weren’t really looking for too much with the all you can drink/eat downstairs later on, but grabbed the cheesy fries which were tasty, but quite pricy at 195 Baht.HOBS5

All in all, I like the place – its a little pricy, but you get a wide selection of imported beers (which a considerably amount of their cost is excise taxes) and its a really nice atmosphere.  They didn’t appear to have any proper vegetarian meal options, so that would be a nice addition to keep Sarah happy – I’m pretty sure we’ll be back again if we are in the area.

You are charged a 10% surcharge in addition to the standard 7% VAT which seems to be a habit in many of the hi-so type Bangkok bars (Wine Connection downstairs does it, so does Brew – I think the only place that doesn’t at the moment is Mikkeller Bangkok, which actually has the best service out of any place I’ve been to!), which quite frankly is silly considering that you are merely paying a 10% premium on a beer for them to open it with a bottle opener – then again, this seems to be the norm in Bangkok nowadays.  Bars should either give additional service to justify the surcharge or include it in the cost of what they are selling – I have no problem with tipping if I receive good service, but having it forced upon you is a bit strange for a kiwi.

How To Find House of Beers (HOBs)

Take the BTS and get off at either Thonglor or Phrom Phong stations then walk towards Soi 47 (which is roughly in the middle of the two stations), you’ll find it above Wine Connection in the Rain Hill Plaza.

Rain Hill Plaza, Soi 47 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok

Bangkok Street Art – 18 Stories Up

It was November 2012  and my 2nd or 3rd day in Bangkok after travelling throughout Europe and Malaysia.  I’d just caught up with my mate Matt and within 2 days had moved into a spare room in his flat (which I moved out of in March 2013, he moved out of in October, then my girlfriend moved into In December, and I moved into shortly after) and his Brother was visiting from New Zealand.

I’ve known Matt for years, when he used to DJ a radio show before me on Boosh.FM and hosted parties under the Dubtub brand.  Nowadays he was basically unemployed and painting the odd commissioned piece of street art while doing the odd sneaky piece around Bangkok. This night however he had other plans – he was going to paint an abandoned tower in Bangkok.MDE1His brother John had brought some abseiling gear with him from NZ on the yacht that was dry docked down in Phuket, so we started to test out the equipment on the roof of our 5 story shop house, with a few large bottles of Leo (Thai beer) no less. Just to make sure we knew what we were doing.MD2The next day the boys grabbed their stuff, including climbing gear, spray paint, cameras and the like and we all jumped into taxis to the building (which they’d recon’ed earlier and set up all the climbing ropes ahead of time).  Of course, Bangkok traffic being what it is, we ended up ditching the taxis half way and taking motorbikes.  Bear in mind this was the second day I’d been in Thailand and I had absolutely zero clue regarding motorbike taxis, so had my first experience barrelling down sois at full speed, driving the wrong way down the street and getting lost in a foreign country.MDE4Everyone got into position to start filming, and they boys to start climbing and painting.  We shot footage from the ground while the official videographer shot it from the roofline, all was going well as the guys started to climb out the window, lighting was perfect and we were going to get something great before dark hit. Then, security arrived. MDE5

In broken English and Thai they explained to us that some VIPs were coming in a motorcade and the guys had to get down straight away.  Messages went back and forth on the radio and everyone started to get worried.  It turns out that the issue was more that the guys were in a position that was above the VIPs and this was considered disrespectful, as opposed to any problem with them painting.  The security guards even said it was ok to start painting after they passed or come back in the next morning.

So they cracked right into it, Sasha videoed from above while we shot footage of our mates from below, as the boys tried to finish it as quickly as possible.

You can read more about it on Matt’s Bending Lifes Rules blog, or check out his street art on his Diamond-One website, or Facebook page.

Find it:

Take the road down towards the southern bus terminal (Sai Tai Mai), on the left hand side you will see a massive abandoned building which often has buses parked outside.  Its a common street art/graffiti hang out and theres always something fresh getting painted on the walls.

Urban Exploring Bangkok: How to Find An Abandoned Mall Full of Fish

If you’ve lived in Bangkok for a while, especially anywhere near the Kho San Road area, you’ve probably heard stories of an abandoned shopping mall thats been flooded and full of exotic fish. I had, but managed to spend at least a year until I got around to checking the place out – that was until today.

We’d heard stories it was really hard to find, and even harder to get into as well as the story behind it. It turns out that the story behind the place is pretty straight forward, and finding out how to get to this abandoned shopping mall full of fishes isn’t that hard either!

The legend goes something along these lines:

  1. In the 80s a property development company built an 11 story shopping mall in the Banglupmhu district that was in breach of certain building laws and apparently 7 stories too high! The area is a historic area for Bangkok with many old government buildings, so code doesn’t allow the skyscrapers and malls you see elsewhere.
  2. The mall was forced to shut in 1997, caught on fire in 1999, someone died there in 2004 after the building started falling to pieces
  3. The offending floors were removed, reducing it from 11 stories back to its original 5, and of course, the roof was never replaced.
  4. During Bangkok’s annual rainy season, the building flooded, and the water went stagnant, creating an excellent breeding ground for mosquitos. Rumours are that the upper floors are flooded, but its kind of sketchy getting around the floors and I wouldn’t want to venture upstairs!
  5. Fish such as Koi carp were released into the flooded building to keep the Mosquitos under control. Without any predators, the fish bred like underwater rabbits.
  6. The building was officially closed to the public in 2011, but its pretty easy to sneak via the back doors (locals are even selling fish food) and its easy to find if you know how.

How to find the New World Mall Fish Pond

New World 6First find the abandoned mall on the intersection of Thanon Phra Sumen on Samsen Road (Banglumphu Junction), just down the road from Kho San and Rambutree Roads.  Usually theres a few cops hanging around the area, or a police tow truck parked up. New World 5Take a right down Thanon Phra Sumen and walk for a few hundred meters until you find the Krungthai Bank (This is the bank with blue signage and what looks like a Dragon on the logo). Turn right into the soi. New World 4Follow Soi Kraisi about 50m, past various food vendors and take a right, you should see some green netting. Don’t get lost and end up following the Soi all the way onto the other street (we did that!)New World 3 While you are at the green netting, stop and buy some fish food for 10 Baht, leave the money in the container. New World 2 Thais often feed fishes or release them into the nearby Chaopraya river to gain merit.  Feed the fishes, check out the cool abandoned building – but be careful, it is falling apart, and of course the building is basically condemned and private property. New World 1Its worth checking the building out sooner rather than later, the whole area seems to be getting a bit of a tidy up recently, with some buildings on Ratchadomnen road being demolished while others getting fenced off (not to mention the local protestors being around).