I have been fascinated by urban abstract in different cities like Mexico City and Tokyo. Contrary, it took a long time for me to properly explore and take photos of this Bangkok neighbourhood, where I have been living and spending time (on and off) in almost a decade. I guess I just took home for granted.
There are a lot more stories about it. Shopfronts and urban development are just surfaces. The communities and people are the ones that make it vibrant. That is on my pending lists to share the experience.
One thing I have witnessed over the years living in Phra Khanong area is its gradual transformation. Although several new residential buildings are apparent (including my place that used to be a cinema), there is obscure evidence that changes could be traced from its past glory to what it might become–they are shopfront signs.
These signs are from shops in the patch that is now known as W District. But, to be exact, they are on Pridi Banomyong 3 Alley, a small bit of Sukhumvit 71 Road, Edison Alley (Pridi Banomyong 1 Alley), and Sukhumvit 69/1 Alley. Map below.
The collage is roughly arranged in a matrix.
The vertical arrangement shows how old I guess the signs would be. Signages of closed shops and stores that are fading and frozen in time from decades ago are in the bottom. And ones that are running and new business (as of September 2019) are towards the top.
Whereas from left to right is ordered by the languages used. The most left is only Thai on the shopfronts. There are some only in English. Then there are dual-language signs that don’t have to be in Thai. And to the right, there are three in one: Thai, English, and either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean.
Phra Khanong is going through another transformation. And it is not certain that any of this shopfront sign would last for how long in years to come. Old ones might even stay longer than the new.
To me, these different uses of styles, typography, and languages on these signs show the glimpse of its diversity and history of this area.
Something came back to Dump of the Day collections—Abandoned chairs. There were enough of them in Washington DC, mostly in my neighbourhood, to compile them as a gallery.
They have a special place in my heart. My fascination with street rubbish started with them. From that, it transformed into my early personal project in Sydney—Anywhere Chair. I will not replicate it but still enjoy spotting them.
To wrap up the trip to Mexico City, no topic would be more appropriate than drinking. I drank every day during the eight-day stay. Each day was different. How cultivated was that! Let’s go through it.
I arrived at the hotel late in the night. There was no restaurant, only a fridge with basic food and beverage. I took a couple of Modelo Especial and paid for them at the reception. I came down for more later. That was enough to wind the night down.
There weren’t many choices at lucha libre. I had Tecate to drink with the show. However, they stopped selling just when the final match started, which was fair enough. Arena México was already rowdy by then.
After the show, despite a low lit street, I decided to walk to the hotel and stopped by at a convenience store for some Bohemia to drink in the room.
The day tour to Teotihuacán was tiring. My original plan, an underground music concert, wasn’t convincing. (The tour guide didn’t know anything about the venue and it would be too soon to go offbeat then.)
So, after freshening up, I headed to Zona Rosa. I pick a bar that wasn’t too much for the night and got some long island ice teas to start with. The music caught my ears. It was the first time I heard contemporary Spanish pop-rock (not sure they were all Mexican), which I’d never heard in Mexican bars in DC. Listening by the sounds of some tracks, I guessed they could date back to the ’90s. There were a lot more to learn.
Then I switched to Indio beer and moved to another bar, the Babilon Club. I got to try chamoy (not a fan of having a sticky and sour thing on the tip of a beer glass though.) Later on, I joined locals on the next table. They were a Mexican gay guy and an American girl, who identified herself as a Mexican. Finally, there was someone I could talk to in length in English. The night went berserk. I went along with them around the area. We almost ended up at her place but decided to call it the night and parted.
Those first few days in the city were already intense. I needed to take it easy on the following day. In the evening, however, I was being brave and got myself to a real local diner in the neighbourhood. The moment I entered the shop, other customers turned and looked at me. But once I sat down on a table, they went back to their drinking.
It didn’t freak me out. It even reminded me of the typical diners in Thailand, with a different language. Spanish was a great barrier for me. But I managed to order something. The plan for the evening was just dinner and moderate beer. But they only have 1.2 litres of Victoria beer. That became an unexpected bloat.
It was a big day at Iztapalapa and I needed a beer after an exhausting photo shoot. There was no alcohol sold at the event. I commuted back to the hotel to settle. I got to another local bar, which wasn’t too far from the one I went to on the previous evening. But it was for a very different customer group. They got a range of beers that I could try. Then I started to order some tequila along with beer. The combination got me hooked that I’d pay the price later. Ultimately, I was just grateful they still open on Good Friday.
Around 11 pm, they closed the front door but I could still sit there for 45 minutes. On the way to the hotel, I stopped by a convenience store for more beers. But they didn’t sell them. That was probably a good thing.
With a hangover, it was another easy day for me, visiting museums and stuff. Then I revisited Zona Rosa in the evening. I got to another gay bar in the area and back to the Babilon club. The staff recognised me and he seemed to be glad to see me again. I noticed that Indio beer had different label designs. Again, I was having beers and tequila. Then I hopped in and out some dance clubs but didn’t feel like staying there any longer.
Of course, I got a hangover but the second last day was flexible. I took advantage of the empty city on Easter Sunday to photograph the city’s streets. Then I got a chance to have a good session on Mexican independent beers. Finally!
I still wanted to check out the underground music scene as intended on the first few days. So I took a train to a music event. I didn’t know any of the line-ups but it didn’t matter. The music was pretty cool. The audiences were engaged. To get myself immersed in the scene wasn’t easy even though those youngsters were nice and harmless. I had a good time nonetheless. Checked!
I went back to Zona Rosa. It took 10 minutes on foot anyway. But the Babilon Club was closed. So I ended up at a dance club for a couple of drinks. Enough!
The last drink destination was another craft beer venue. I ordered beers on the board and sat down to write a travel journal. While I was jotting down my experience so far, the group of people on the next table greeted. They asked where I was from. I replied I was from DC but not an American (I didn’t even expect them to know where Thailand was.) But once they found out I was originally from Bangkok, their eyes simultaneously wide opened with cheer. Apparently, they all used to live in Bangkok, became friends there, and got together again in Mexico City for a wedding. What a co-incidence!
To be honest, there was a melancholy vibe on the last day. Yes, it was a classic feeling of saying goodbye to a new love interest that you started to get accustomed to and wanted to find out more about it.
There were some uniquenesses in the drinking culture such as chamoy and salt & lime with beer. Craft beer movement was exciting. Drink prices were affordable. And, most of all, the hospitality was just wonderful. I’d say it was quite a ride, drinking in CDMX.
It was Easter Sunday in Mexico City. I got back to the historic centre where I wandered on the very first day. The streets were quiet since most people got out of town. It became a good opportunity to examine its city street textures.