The Gang Goes to Thailand: Not THOSE Americans (Part 2)
Written by on February 7, 2023
Welcome back, friends.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve returned to the states now, and while the details are blurring, they were never all that clear in the first place. In that spirit I’m going to run the rest of this chronologically, utilizing the handwritten notes I scribed along the way. The last part ended with our first night, and focused mainly on my excitement about being in Thailand… here’s where we start to dig in.
Our second day in the country began with a bang. A series of them actually. Let me paint the picture real quick:
It’s 11 am but the room is still dark thanks to effective blackout blinds. You are surrounded by snacks and empty drink bottles scavenged from the night before. It sounds like an elephant is trying to get into the room. You hear shouting and thumps on the door as you awaken from your stupor.
*Remember, I had just time traveled, and thus hadn’t seen a bed in days. We smoked dozens of blunts after landing, and were on our feet for like a 10 hr day. I was OUT out, and I assumed the rest of the party would be as well.*
Turns out everything was fine, the guys just thought I was dead because I hadn’t woken up yet. [Honestly, how did you? Y’all just did the same journey I did – Jimi’s zeal never ceases to amaze me.] They’ve already eaten, and are ready to explore. All I could think about was needing a smoke, but I wasn’t there yet. I told them I’d come find them in a few hours. I tucked back in.
An hour or two later (or longer, who knows) I finally got my shit together and joined the herd. I met them at the largest outdoor weekend market in the city – I don’t remember the name, but it doesn’t matter. It was a zoo. Like most markets in Thailand, they have some things you need and absolutely everything you don’t. From hilariously bootlegged high-fashion staples to original designs deifying pop culture icons, to “gold” and other precious jewelry, to cell phone cases, to some actually incredible vintage home goods from American brands, it’s all in there. Right across the street was a mall that had more of this that’s open all the time. There was another on the other side. I guess the weekend markets have better wares, but I couldn’t tell the difference. The only thing that felt special about this one was it had a mix of shops every step you took, whereas in the malls for some reason they section the types of shops off. It’s weirder than it sounds – let’s say you’re looking for a cell phone. There will be a village of cell phone shops all right next to each other. They’re all selling almost exactly the same thing, and they all look almost identical. They’ve all got guys out front trying to persuade you to come in. I have no idea how they all stay in business. And it’s like that for everything. The electronics are in one section, the jewelry in another, the clothes in another – each with dozens of competitors lining the walls around them. It made no sense to me then and still doesn’t.
I was glad to see once I met up with everyone that the consensus was clear: we needed more weed. I always hate to be that guy, so I was glad to be traveling with other addicts. I know I’m going to get shit for that but hey, I’m calling the spades. Regardless, we’re the *fun* kind of drug addict, so piss off. I’m just celebrating the fact that I wasn’t the only one itching.
We scoured this god damned market for weed. People kept telling us (though we’re not entirely sure if they ever understood or cared what we were actually asking for) different directions for a supposed pop up dispensary in the market that we never managed to find, and while one or two vendors did have jars with some more earthy looking buds, we kept looking for something more… acceptable.
So, over to the nicer mall across the street. For some reason our hosts thought that would be a better place to score than the shanty market, and while we didn’t find a vendor there either, we did find a friend who had some on him to smoke with us. We went to this nice little rooftop coffee shop and smoked a few bones overlooking the city while a man played funny songs on his keyboard from the street below.
Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Adventures on the River
After this it was time for a boat tour. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know Bangkok had a river, but if you’re reading this and thinking that you want to book a trip, make this the top of your must do’s. It is absolutely surreal to see the city from this perspective. You see, Bangkok has EVERYTHING, and there are skyscrapers everywhere. But there are also slums everywhere. Often right next door. So to take in the city from the water is amazing because you can more clearly see just how many influences built this city, and how close everything is to its neighbor, while being entirely different – both aesthetically but also more generally, culturally. There’d be a futuristic looking skyscraper, and then an ancient temple right next to it. Or Louis Vuitton stores next to for-real slums. And you could see the influence from all of the other Asian countries making their mark here. It was such a wild change from what we’d just experienced in the market.
I should probably take this time to introduce our hosts. I mentioned in the first part that this trip was planned by Bangkok Urban Green, but I didn’t tell you much about who they were. This group is a newly formed collaboration between both American and Thai operators that is generally looking to help proliferate the fledgling industry. The group includes Americans Judah, and Ron (of Kingston Royal), and Thai native Oliver, the proprietor of the dispensary Phandee in Bangkok, among other operations. Along with us on the trip was JT, one of Judah’s partners from back in the states, and a slew of Oliver’s friends and employees. Oliver’s gang met us at the dock with a bunch more weed and a homemade mason jar bong to take on the river.
Our first stop on this boat tour was an incredible Buddhist temple. Very little information about this place was provided in English and you could tell by how quiet and respectful everyone else visiting was that this was a special site. We did our best to be polite and not be THOSE Americans, but we got some incredible footage and had a good deal of fun. I will say we didn’t smoke at the temple though, which is I think saying something favorable about us, despite that being the bare minimum for most everyone else.
Photo taken post-mid-water-maneuvers, on a Tuk Tuk boat. Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
After the temple we got back on the boat, and after a quick detour jumping onto another boat to take some pictures for our gracious hosts, we started the journey back up river to find dinner. Along the way though one of the super malls on the water seemed to be having an event. We pulled our boat in closer and soon realized there was a full-fledged Muay Thai fight about to go down. We were hyped. It took us about 5 minutes of watching from a distance after the fight had started before we realized it was kids that were fighting each other. Not teenagers, children. I still don’t know how to feel about it but I will say they made it a hell of a show, and it was very well attended.
Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Next we headed to a Chinese village to find a dumpling spot that our host Oliver said was incredible. Unfortunately this was Sunday night and it was already late so after stumbling around this very dark and spooky village we found the restaurant was closed, so we just smoked some blunts about it and went back to the boat. Solid detour if I’m honest – it at times felt both like we were explorers, and about to get murdered. We ended up getting dumplings anyway. Soup dumplings in fact, and they were delightful.
After dinner, and because our hosts were now keenly aware that the jet lag was hitting us, we headed to get traditional Thai massages. In case you don’t know, in Thailand you can get a massage anywhere (remember I said this), and they’re CHEAP. Although usually much more intense and painful than the one we got, the two hour experience cost about $22 USD. They put all of us in a room together on beds about a foot and a half apart. As my masseuse started working on me I briefly considered staying an extra night in Thailand and just getting an 8 hour massage as that would cost about the same as a hotel room. It didn’t take long before I fell asleep.
I don’t know how many of the others fell asleep, but I know Jim did, and he snored. We were all in such a state at the end that the last masseuse leaving the room turned back before exiting and giggled at the sight of us. It was both humiliating and hilarious.
When we got back to our hotel it turned out there was a wedding happening. We would quickly learn that our hotel was the hot spot for upscale events in town. While it didn’t affect our stay in the slightest, it did just so happen that Oliver knew the wedding party. As such, we crashed this very fancy wedding in tank tops and shorts, and the groom for some reason bowed to us as if we weren’t completely out of our gourds. Soon after I was approached by a woman in a pantsuit who asked me where I was staying tonight. When I told her here in the hotel she told me ‘her room’. It took a solid three minutes for me to understand she was saying she owned the place. I quickly thanked her for the existence of her wonderful establishment and escaped before I could find out if there was an additional meaning there.
I got back to my room to find candy and a quote from Steve Jobs waiting by my bed. Thailand is cool, man.
I think the first thing I said to Jimi when I saw him that morning was ‘Should we stay longer?’ We hadn’t even gotten into the real weed journeys yet, and despite the jet lag I was feeling grade A, and ready to dig deeper. Although we couldn’t extend long because we had to be back for Emerald Cup’s Harvest Ball the following weekend, we agreed to stay an extra night en route to our first dispensary of the tour: Best Budz Bangkok.
Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Best Budz was the closest thing we saw to what I expected a Thai dispensary to look like before arriving. Complete with a bong made out of bamboo hanging across the wall, this spot felt like the Tiki bar of weed shops. The crew that runs it were super excited about the products they could offer and the wares they carried, and honestly, so were we. All of the products they had on display were actually what they were labeled to be – which was the first time we’d seen this in this country, having mostly dealt with delivered and street vendors so far. They even had a Rainbow Sherbert on display that I think the OG’s back home would be proud of. In fact, Jimi and I believe they had gotten the real thing during the highly-coveted clone drop last year, and gave it the proper care it deserved in its new home. While I’ll admit most Thai-grown is still significantly lower quality than what we get in California, these guys gave me real hope for the dispensary scene out there.
We bounced around to a few more shops that basically tried to custy us, but we bought at least a little something at every real shop we went to. It’s worth noting that Best Budz did not do that to us – in fact, they comp’d us all, and they were actually fun to hang out with and talk to. The first stop of the day turned out to be the best, in my opinion.
Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
It’s also worth pointing out that most of these shops had a pretty heavy merchandise presence, almost feeling sometimes like a dispensary and a headshop combined. You expect there to be some items to help you use your newly acquired fix of course, but this usually seemed more sectional – the way we’d normally see pre-rolls next to flower, which is next to concentrate, which are next to edibles.
In dwelling on the different GRAV and Puffco products available abroad in one of our last stops of the day it occurred to me that many of these shops only had 5 or 6 actual THC products available, so this was likely more about filling-out the floorplan. The most unique example of this I saw on this day was a walk-through flower room at the front of one of the shops, directly facing the street. These were pretty small plants, and likely mostly about display, but even here you don’t often get to see living plants in the retail environment, unless someone’s selling clones. And it’s a cool, easy way to communicate to the world that you’re pushing dank.
After hitting another mall, this one even more expansive, where each floor was dedicated to a particular ware – I didn’t bother to look at how big the building was – we sat down for what was my favorite meal of the trip. A wood-fired Korean BBQ spot. These guys treated us like we were children and cooked for us – which was helpful if I’m being honest because we were really, really high – and for the first time since arriving in Thailand I felt full. I wish I wrote down the name of this spot, because I would love to tell you to visit them, but alas, I was stoned.
Dipping Our Toes Into Nightlife
We stopped at our hotel to change, and gobble up the new candy they had left in our rooms for us. Although not everyone was feeling the rage, a few of us then went to the coolest bar-type spot we hit that week, Smalls.
This entire multi-story establishment was like a maze. Or a half-completed puzzle. There were multiple ways to get up to the rooftop where we hung out for awhile, each of which felt like you were climbing an Escher painting, but although our hosts supposedly normally could, it was a bit busy that night and they told us we couldn’t smoke there. Cigarettes were fine though. It was a bit surreal, but they let us roll up at our table while we finished our drinks after we profusely promised we wouldn’t light it there. I eavesdropped on some expat crypto bros analyzing the FTX collapse, and the opportunities it presented. Even in Thailand you can’t escape someone pitching their next NFT project. We bounced from there to light up, and hit two more clubs that we thought were going to be cool.
I should clarify here that I used to work in nightlife in New York, and I’ve grown a bit jaded to club life. This admittedly sounds pretentious, but I’m not going to pay a cover charge to get into your bar to pay you for drinks, or weed. I don’t care about your dress code. I’m coming to spend money with you, you should make it as easy as possible for me to do that. Doesn’t feel like asking too much.
Anyway, at both of these next two clubs my east coast came out a bit. The first place didn’t like Josh’s sneakers, and wanted $10 USD to give him something else to wear. Fuck that, it’s an off night, and only weed is that expensive in this country. I wouldn’t let him pay it, though I should note he was happy to. The next spot wouldn’t let us bring in outside weed, which we had a lot of.
So, we headed for Nana, which we knew would be happy to let us consume, and take our money as we were.
*Those of you that have been to Bangkok likely know where we were headed. Those that haven’t will have to wait until Part 3 to find out. I’m doing my best to properly explain the experience without risking cancellation, so bear with me. Hope you’re warmed up.*
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