Bangkok Then and Now

ScandAsia’s Agneta Bekassy has asked a two well-known Scandinavian residents in Thailand, who have lived in Bangkok for more than 20 years, what they think about Bangkok of the past and now. What are their favorite restaurants, shopping malls and things to do!

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Photos: Daniel Herron

Mrs Eva Sophonpanich, born in Bangkok to Swedish parents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eva knows Bangkok by heart and she remembers her first school and how they used to have lessons sitting outside by the khlongs, in the middle of Bangkok.

She said, in the 1950 the city didn’t have all the high skyscrapers you see now. The tallest buildings at that time were Dusit Thani Hotel and Narai Hotel. There were many more small khlongs (waterways) than today. Bangkok use to be called “the Venice of Asia. “

The streets were bordered with trees and no sky train or underground transit system.

She also points out what a difference the developing of Sky Train and MRT have done to the traffic and city life, the whole infrastructure has changed a lot, both for good and for the not so good Eva says.

We asked her if she has a favorite restaurant where she goes for lunch alone, or with friends, her answer comes quick:

“In this city we have plenty of lovely restaurants e.g. Ariya som Villa at Sukhumvit Soi 1, a genuine restaurant and small hotel that takes you away to the past, serving healthy dishes and with a huge choice of vegetarian dishes, which suits me perfect. If I want something more casual and modern I often chose Kuppa at Sukhumvit soi 16. They serve good Italian food, lovely salads and sandwiches in a modern atmosphere.

For dinner I like Rossano’s at Sukhumvit soi 19. That restaurant gives you a feeling of being in Tuscany and the food keeps a very constant, good quality.”

Last question, what is your favorite shopping mall in Bangkok? The answer is Central Chidlom.

Mrs Tina Zarlimee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mrs Tina Zarlimee, also Swedish, has been living in Thailand for more than 20 years. Tina is married to a Thai, has a 23 years old son and lives in Hua Hin, but is often in Bangkok where she has a successful travel agency “Nordic Travel” in Sukhumvit soi 20.

Tina came to Thailand due to her job. She didn’t know much about Thailand until destiny took her here. Today by looking back, she also points out the differences Bangkok has gone through during the years.

“When I first moved into my little town house at Sukhumvit soi 20, the area opposite our house, was kind of a slum area. With cock fighting games every Sunday and lots of motorbikes with black smoke just outside our living room, but today, this area has become exclusive and very popular.
To get from one place to another in a taxi took over 2 hours at that time, but I got used to it and learned the Thai way of accepting the situation without getting stressed. The word “stress” did not exist then, just had to follow the lifestyle, which made me feel good. Her feelings about Sky train and MRT are mixed, of course she sees the advantage with these conveyances, but she mourns the lack of old trees along the streets.

Tina also has noticed that during the last years, interest by her clients to visit neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Now she has to arrange customized trips for her customers to these countries all year around.

I asked her about her favorite restaurants, she also laughs and says:

“I have many, many, but if I go myself for a quick bite, I often chose Greyhounds at Emporium or Tong Lee, which is more like a hole in the wall, but with delicious Thai dishes and close to my office. Another very nice place is Kin Lom Chom Saphan by Rama 8 Bridge; from there it is near to the Khao San Road, an interesting road for visitors. I could mention many more, but these are among the preferred ones”.

What about shopping malls I ask.

“Well, I feel most at home at Central Chidlom, not so found of the big malls and if I have visitors I also like to take them to Asiatique, both for shopping and dinner.” Tina says.

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