How to drink, eat and dance like the locals
MARK Reinecke has lived in Bangkok since 1982. The stockbroker loves the city ''despite the pollution, traffic jams and masses of people . . . because it is totally undisciplined, and you can get away with virtually anything. Few cities entertain such shameless, wanton, debauchery as Bangkok.
''You would expect the pace of life to be hectic, but it is actually rather relaxed. Thais have a very optimistic outlook on life and endless patience when it comes to the rigours of everyday life'', of which the traffic situation is perhaps the most trying.
Traffic: Forget the tuk-tuks. ''The only way to travel,'' says Mr Reinecke, ''is by motorcycle taxi - they are very inexpensive and very exciting and often a lifesaver when trying to make business appointments.'' Avoid the non-meter taxis.
Hotels: There is The Oriental, and for backpackers, the havens on Kao San Road.
''Despite the oversupply in hotel rooms, luxury accommodation is outrageously expensive,'' said Mr Reinecke. ''Visitors should know that much better rates can be negotiated through travel agents or corporate bookings.'' Food: Bangkok has more restaurants than you could hope to eat in over one weekend. But for the best Thai food, medium-priced, Mr Reinecker recommends: Lemon Grass on Sukhumvit Road, Soi 24; Thanying in the World Trade Centre on Silom Road; and Tham Nak Thai in Ratchadapisek Road. If you are feeling flush, there is Benjarong at the Dusit Thani hotel, or Sala Rim Nam at The Oriental.
Sightseeing: ''Temples, temples and more temples'', which are beautiful and all worth seeing, said Mr Reinecke. Hotel-organised tours are a good way of seeing Bangkok because, you will ''not be hassled by touts''. As for the famous floating market, ''it's a total scam, entirely choreographed for the tourists''.
''A cruise on the river, however, is a must - especially at dusk.'' Shopping: Markets, which sell just about anything that can be faked or pirated include Patpong night market and vendors along Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 1 and 21, and Silom Road. The wares at Chatuchat weekend market, however, range from live gibbons toWorld War II memorabilia. And remember - bargaining is the norm.
After hours: invariably turn into Late nights: ''Bangkok never seems to sleep . . . nightclubs and bars are officially required to close by 2 am.'' Contrary to popular myth, the seedy red light district of Patpong is not the only nightspot in the city.
For Bangkok yuppies the hottest place in town is BIX on Sukhumvit Soi 11, a nightclub-come-restaurant with live music.
The Rome Club on Patpong II, on the other hand, is ''one of Asia's best videotheques, and the hottest club for the wealthy and weird'' with nightly transvestite shows.
In fact, whatever your musical leanings, you will find the right venue: jazz lovers go to Brown Sugar; Metalheads to the Rock Pub and for reggae, skank on down to Cobongo.