Bangkok. Downtown Bangkok. If you've ever been
there, you know what I am talking about.
How could I forget the rampant sightings of middle-aged, fat, Western men surrounded by half a dozen beautiful teenaged Thai girls? The pushy street vendors and the constant noise?
For what I'd like to talk about here, I'll tune out the fact that Bangkok truly is the red-light district of the world, and yes, if you're like me, it does get pretty shocking. But on the flip side of the coin, Bangkok is also a place of tranquil private gardens where every pebble has its exact place, where the most exotic orchids grow like weeds and where the food is to die for.
Last time I was there was last Spring, following the landfall of Hurricane Nargis into Myanmar. If you know a bit about Myanmar, then you know how bad it is there... but I am not going to talk about that, not here.
Back to Bangkok. You know that I can go just about anywhere and love it? The beauty that is life itself is ever present wherever I go, and it makes everything beautiful to me. To me, beauty is people. People drinking coffee, slowly, sip by sip. Friends having lunch. People growing orchids on their porches. The sweat beads on the street vendors' foreheads as they make me a cup of jasmine tea while preparing my 25-cent meal to a level of perfection known only in the heavens.
During the six weeks I spent there last spring I never experienced a minute of silence or stillness. When you're connected to people, you're very alive, don't you think? Life, good or bad, is what Bangkok is full of and life is what I love. In a very strange way, I found a comfortable level of solitude among the 8 million people I shared 3,000 square miles with.
Many people associate Bangkok with shopping. Bargaining, bargaining, bargaining. I love shopping as much as the next person and I am as expert at it as they come. And yes, Bangkok is definitely one of those places where you'll end up buying an extra piece of luggage (fake Louis Vuitton for $150, anyone?) just so you'll have something to take all your treasures home in. I keep telling people, the fake-brand-name thing is so rampant there, even beggars wear "burberry" shirts and "bvlgari" watches.
So, while some tourists were going crazy over the $20 fake Prada shoes, there was one shop that was love at first sight for me and the only one I care to promote here.
It is owned by a beautiful Japanese girl, Yukiko. The store is called "BLOOM" and it is in downtown Bangkok, in Silom Village. If you're ever in Bangkok and if you want to find this shop, just tell the cab driver to take you to Silom Village. The shop is a showcase for high quality handbags that are sewn together from combinations of primitive looking tribal style handmade patches of fabric and very high quality leather. Just as I like it, tribal mixed with the highest quality luxury. I just love her gorgeous handbags. While two doors down you can easily buy fake Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags for under $30, a Coach or even Prada for under $15, her handbags are the ones that represent true style and beauty to me. They run around $100 - 200 a piece and the very large ones are around $300.
Like everyone else, I own a lot of handbags. Some are brand names that anyone can recognize from a mile away. I guess that's the point of carrying a brand name piece. I hardly ever wear those. My favorite bag by far is the one from Yukiko's store. Strangers walk up to me asking where I bought it. I had a stranger wanting to buy it off my shoulder. My second favorite purse is a vintage leather bag I bought for $12 at a thrift store by the harbor near my house. It never fails to get at least two compliments per day when I wear it. My third favorite handbag is a handwoven one from India I bought for under a dollar to put the tiny Mysore bananas in that I had just bought. To me, no $2,800 Chanel logo can replace the feeling of holding onto that woven bag on tiny bananas while fearing for my life on the backseat of a local's questionable motorcycle cruising through the heaviest traffic in the world on Mysore's dusty dirt roads.
Thanks for reading :-)
P.S.: Yukiko's online store is at http://www.bloom-bangkok.com