In Bangkok, there are certain things one should and should not do between 2pm and 5pm.
One should not, for instance, visit the Grand Palace, lest one risk a scalding by the shimmering midday sun, and a trampling by hordes of scurrilous tour groups suckered into a midday scalding, fresh from their bloated buffet lunch of the blandest proportion.
Between two and five in the afternoon, one should not attempt to purchase alcohol from a convenience store or a grocery store or other retail operation, because one cannot. Mai dai. Strict regulations exist in Thailand restricting the sale of alcohol between 12am and 11am, and again from 2pm to 5pm, though in a pinch a friendly mom-and-pop shop on a neighborly soi could probably help you out. That said, you may need a different sort of help if you’re that desperate for booze before 5pm.
While normally I would be positively chuffed to continue on with such tips until they’ve blossomed into a proper top-10 list, like any decent travel writer worth his or her salt surely would (“The Top 10 Things One Should Not Do In Bangkok Between 2pm and 5pm”), today I must shirk my top-10 responsibilities, with sincerest apologies and regret, for I’m short on time and must get straight to what one should do.
At some point, between two o’clock and five o’clock in the afternoon on any old random Bangkok day, one should tenderly pleasure themselves on Phetchaburi Road. Oh, not in that way, dearest reader—kindly remove your head from the filthy-filthy gutter, for this is an honest travel article—but rather in a way that indulges two of Bangkok’s sweet, sweet lures. To assist you with this Phetchaburi pleasuring, allow me to lend a gentle, guiding hand.
In truth, this is a rather straightforward endeavor—get a foot massage, and then eat/drink street refreshments—but as I’ve already given you the shaft on top-10 formatting, I feel it’s my duty to, at the very least, more clearly elucidate how to properly pleasure thyself on Phetchaburi. I assure you, as well, that while I understand if my lack of top-10 talent makes you question my credibility as a travel writer, I have indeed pleasured myself many, many times on Phetchaburi Road over the years in the ways in which I will soon describe, for when I have lived in Bangkok I have lived on Phetchaburi Road. I am certain that what I have found pleasure in, so too will you.
As I say, it’s really quite easy to unwind on Phetchaburi Road, specifically on that stretch of Phetchaburi Road that falls within that part of town called Pratunam (or Pratu Nam, if you want to get picky). This is a curious part of town, curious in that on any given day, on every given day, here one might see multiple traffic attendants standing in the middle of the road, waving onward motorists and tuk-tuks and taxis flowing through traffic moving in perfect, normal cohesion, except for when it clutters as drivers slow down to puzzle at the flailing traffic attendants waving them on and blowing piercing whistles indiscriminately from 6:45 in the morning to 8 o’clock at night without regard for the neighborhood or the people that live in it and fraying their already frayed fucking nerves even further until they finally fucking snap and take to the…. Pratunam, yes, is a curious part of town that I love dearly and call home.
Start pleasuring yourself by heading to Phetchaburi Soi 15 and allowing a masseuse to pleasure you, but no, not in that way—seriously, get your fucking head out of the gutter. Here on Soi 15, which for the purposes of this article I’ll refer to as “Foot Massage Alley,” lies a vortex of above-the-board spas clustered on the first block between the main road and the first sub-soi; if you see Pakdee Hotel on the corner you’re in the right place, and if you don’t, well, you are not.
While I cannot attest to the veracity of body massages offered at any of these establishments, the foot massages range from “perfectly relaxing, if not a little annoying” to “my god that was amazing.” It’s worth rolling the dice, in that even if your 60-minute foot treatment ends up a bit underwhelming, it still only cost 300 baht; that is, 250 baht for the massage, plus a 50-baht tip that should be handed directly to the therapist, regardless of how pleasurable the service was or was not.
Here on Foot Massage Alley there are seven spas from which to choose, plus two beauty salons, one which scores originality points for its name (Hairrods). There is Malatee Massage & Spa and Lavender Spa, MB Massage and Smile Massage, all of which you are free to choose, though the three at which I am pleasured most often are iSabai Massage, Number One Massage, and Foot Haven.
Now, like how the string of Indian restaurants on East 6th Street in New York all draw their foods from one central kitchen, so too do the Foot Massage Alley spas pull from a similar pool of therapists. All are proficient, some are quite good, some seem to forget what they’re doing 20 minutes in and seem to have forgotten to trim their fingernails, too—again, it’s a roll of the dice, but when you hit it you really hit it. To that end, I encourage you to pleasure yourself in the same places in which I pleasure myself regularly.
What sets these three spas apart?
At iSabai Massage, which recently was remodeled and furnished with cushy leather lounge chairs, you will get a solid foot massage, maybe even a great one—this is a safe pick. Ditto at Number One, though the ambiance here occasionally suffers due to the size of the place, i.e. a high probability of sharing it with jabbering tourists. The Number One therapists do, at times, also have a tendency to eschew pleasurable foot-and-calf rubbing in favor of attempts to rupture leg tendons. Worry not, they have not yet succeeded in doing so, at least to me. My favorite is Foot Haven, where the silly, amiable staff tends to stay focused for the entire massage (and to give a good one), where the lounge chairs are exceptionally plush, and where the visit ends with the luxurious application of hot compresses to one’s back—brilliant final touch.
Each of these places offers free Wi-Fi, all foot massages start with a foot bath, and as the spas sit right on the soi, the soft, droning lull of passing tuk-tuks and motorbikes somehow makes the experience even more relaxing; I think so, at least.
Afterwards—after you have tipped your masseuse at least 50 baht and thanked him or her for cleaning the Bangkok grime from your feet and rubbing them for an hour—continue pleasuring yourself by walking back up to and taking a left on Phetchaburi, then refreshing yourself with as many street pleasures as you can stomach, for here the culinary treasures are displayed in abundance.
Bangkok’s street-food splendor is luminescent between Soi 15, on one side of Phetchaburi, and the Platinum Fashion Mall, just a few short blocks down on the other. To wit, between Foot Massage Alley and the pedestrian overpass at Pantip Plaza alone, one can find sweet fish, stir fries, fruit juice, bite-sized sugar donuts (I can eat these like popcorn at a cheesy movie), fried pork, pork sticks, coconuts, peanuts, taro, and coffee. (If you like coffee without tons of sugar, like Thais generally like it, try saying “mai sai nam than,” though don’t be surprised if the vendor looks at you like you’re speaking Jawaese.)
Cross Phetchaburi at the overpass, and in front of Pantip Plaza one can pleasure themselves with steamed corn (try it with sugar and sliced coconut), Thai salads, Thai larbs, curry paste with seafood steamed in bamboo leaves, grilled bananas, grilled meats, grilled squid, sandwiches (seriously), fried chicken, fried pork, fresh fruit, orange juice (stellar), lime juice (ditto), coffee, and coconuts. It’s a pleasure to snack on the Pantip Plaza steps, watching the glorious swirl of humanity that swarms Phetchaburi Road during these late-afternoon hours.
Oh, and if you want fuzzy slippers you can get those there, too.
There’s still more food with which you can pleasure yourself, post-foot massage, on Phetchaburi Road, for between Pantip Plaza and Grand Diamond—about a block—choices include ice cream (try it on a hot dog bun with sticky rice), sugar cane juice, orange juice, grilled chicken, fried chicken, som tam, assorted stir fries, assorted grilled meats and grilled fish balls on sticks, Thai omelets, waffles, fresh fruit and coffee.
Oh, and if you want to dip into 7-11 there’s one of those, too.
By this time, the magical early-evening hours of Bangkok will have almost arrived, and with them, countless other ways in which to enjoy the city’s many pleasures. My god, I love this city.