Bangkok Bars

Woozy from his flight, David Whitley parks himself at one of the tiny streetside bars that brighten the Bangkok night 

The posh type on the next table is braying about how he used to be his school’s top dope dealer. It’s clearly an attempt to impress; this sort of misguided bragging turns into a competitive sport when the sole female is outnumbered five to one.

Earwigging on such fumbling courtship is one of Bangkok’s delights. It’s not a city in which to bother trying to find an authentic locals’ bar. That’s not where the people-watching is at. It’s best to embrace what Bangkok is – an international beast where travellers, waifs, strays and the highly dubious end up brushing against each other.

But it’s also a city where the stories are not kept behind glass. Sure, there are upmarket bars where air-conditioning bills and style outweigh fun, but they could be anywhere in the world.

After a long flight, a frankly terrifying taxi ride and a quick freshen up, we didn’t want to go hunting for the best spot in Bangkok. We just wanted a few drinks that would hopefully keep us up late enough and then knock us out sufficiently for our body clocks to be set properly.

A stagger down the street took us past sure signs of expat central – a couple of semi-swanky four star hotels, an Australian pub, a German beer bar.

But on the corner was a little cart with fairy lights around the top. Bingo. These are where the gold lies in Bangkok. The cart, in this instance, was called Anna Bar. But it has cousins all over the city with different names. Painted in as many lurid colours as possible and pumping out loud commercial dance hits, it had little to offer but a few plastic chairs and a stash of spirit bottles.

It’s a one man operation. The chap sat next to the cart makes all the cocktails, hands out the bottles of beer and collects the money. It’s deliciously small scale, with room for maybe twenty people sat around it at a push.

But that cast changes, both in personnel and temperament. When another four arrive, Cartman pulls out another plastic table and four more chairs, sticking them in the middle of the lane for traffic to negotiate. One car attempts to get past and the chair ends up scratching a long gash in the paintwork.

The cocktails are potent, though. They loosen tongues. The table to our left starts exchanging sexual confessions. They’re the sort that are tame to older, wiser heads, but racy to 19-year-old backpackers who know the people concerned.

And going by are more confessions waiting to be made. A bald man in his fifties comes past, hand in hand with his new love. She’s Thai, in her early twenties, and clad in the sort of tight lime green miniskirt indicative of profession. Her Adam’s apple is equally indicative.

They slip away into the hotel opposite. We stay where we are, drinking, watching and listening until alcohol and jetlag slam into each other with irresistible force. A better introduction to the city would be hard to find.

You can get 
Bangkok, Chiang Mai or the Islands included as a stopover in the Navigator RTW