We cap off our day in Bangkok with another meal at a street stand. I try not to watch as a mangy cur picks what looks like a turd off the street and settles down at our feet to leisurely munch on this tasty morsel. Nick orders all sorts of mouth-watering dishes: a hot, spicy tom kha gai coconut soup, red and green curries with rice, a plate of sautéed dark-green morning glory vines gleaming with oil and flecked with bits of red chile.
We wash it all down with Cokes, pay the bill, which is five dollars for the four of us, and hail a taxi. We’re going to splurge on a drink at the Dome, on the 63rd floor of the State Tower hotel, where Hangover, Part II was filmed.
At the hotel, we zoom upwards in the elegantly appointed elevator. At each stop, there’s a bevy of slim, gorgeous Thai girls wearing floor-length traditional costumes dripping with gold brocade that smile and bow as the elevator doors slide open, evidently welcoming us to that particular floor. “Elevator greeter” must be an actual job here. Good money if you’re young and beautiful! When we arrive at the Dome, with its various open-air bars, we’re inspected by similarly-dressed employees to make sure we’ve met the dress code. I breathe a sigh of relief that we all wore close-toed shoes as I watch a family of disgruntled tourists being quietly but firmly turned away.
It’s a different world up here! I feel like an impostor, a small-town rube, in this swanky place. We walk out into one of the patio bars to take in the panoramic city-lights view. In spite of the chest-high transparent plexiglass barrier, I feel dizzy with vertigo as I look at the ant-size cars crawling by on the streets so far below. We find a seat and study the drinks menu. Each fancy cocktail costs at least three times what we just paid for dinner for four.
The bar is full of young, beautiful foreigners, though I spot a few paunchy old white men in the crowd accompanied by attractive Thai women young enough to be their daughters (or granddaughters). I’ve already been told by Pam, Nick’s Thai fiancée, that these older European and American men who come to Thailand to prey on young women are referred to as “snakeheads.” I reprove myself for my uncharitable thoughts as I take tiny sips of my yummy, fruity fifteen-dollar cocktail, trying to make it last. Maybe they’re truly in love, I tell myself.
This rooftop bar, as elegant and exclusive as it may be, has one unpleasant feature: it’s buffeted by gale-force winds. One of the several open-air bars up here is appropriately named Sirocco. Our hair’s whipping our faces hard enough to sting, but the hilarity continues unabated among the guests. Personally, I find it unnerving. It seems entirely possible that a sudden gust of wind could pick someone up and just flip her over the plexiglass barrier and out into endless space. I wonder if that’s ever happened?