On the way to the airport: the expressway rockets you there in 25 minutes by taxi, sizzling above the great bulk of Bangkok; the silvery granulation of the city heaves and festeris in the heat-white morning, a fabric punctured in each direction by the eery refrigerated towers of who knows what agencies, their shimmering glass dispassionately reflecting the chaos of the uncorporate world. As we approach the airport I look back down the Expressway and see the shimmer of pollution and the dark bulks and improbable profiles of the 50 story towers that punch the skyline. We streak past one shimmering silver tower which has, set into its centre, a display panel the size of a cinema screen, rippling from left to right with an uninterrupted ribbon of the exquisite Thai script; the little golden pixels dance and glitter across the glossy black; so beautiful, so eery.
"Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here serene pavilions bright,
In avenues disposed; there towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars-illumination of all gems"
Back to Krung Thep in 2000 and again in 2002; the audacious Sky Train is finished, the sidewalks seething; I am (willingly) coopted by a local colleague first into a tuk-tuk then into an intensely lubricious Patpong club. Drunk I allow my credit card to be removed from me and sign whatever slip comes my way. Back in London I dread the arrival of my credit card statement. How much will I have been ripped off? But even here Krung Thep remains benign: it could have been much, much worse: for this is the (albeit embarrassing) entry on my statement: "Superqueen Bangkok £35.00"