Low key build-up in Bangkok
#41 and counting. Pablo Bateson's pre-game Socceroos blog from Bangkok14 November 2016 | Pablo Bateson
In the aftermath of the death of their beloved King of Thailand, an extended period of official mourning has set the context for fans of the Socceroos converging on that nation's capital for the World Cup qualifier tonight.
To help show respect for the host nation's loss and grief, I arrived on Sunday morning with a pack of black armbands and ribbons for our small group of "independientes" supporters to wear during the stay in Bangkok.
Our base is a locally owned boutique hotel set in a quiet side street of a culturally authentic neighbourhood in Bangrak. An abundance of street food and culinary delicacies, fresh produce sellers, small cafes, markets, bakeries and local traders complement the residential apartments and original terrace type dwellings.
It is always a joy to return to my favourite 'hang out' precinct in Bangkok, where the methodical pace of normal life seems to soften even the most busy traffic flows of Charoen Krung Road.
After a mid-morning early hotel check-in, the nearby famous Pan Lee bakery cafe beckoned for a 'recovery' brunch. This family owned and managed establishment has been operating continuously since at least 1950. Its freshly baked traditional soft buns offer a choice of over 20 fillings (sweet and savoury), with my favourites including green Pandanus custard. For only 10 baht each (around 40 cents AUD) they go down particularly well with the excellent coffee or one of the many signature teas.
Though driven very largely by local patronage and orders from all over Bangkok and even beyond, in recent years lots more intrepid tourists have also found this institution which bakes '24/7' on the premises.
In renewing contact with friends and comrades, one of the highlights is always sharing conversations, news and of course opinions on football topics and more. We met at the nearby Jack's Bar, an iconic small establishment right on the Chao Phraya riverfront with the tidal influx water quite literally lapping just under the tables and timber floorboards.
With an open kitchen, quirky furniture and retro background music, the amiable Jack and his wife offer budget priced Thai beers, cocktails, juices and more than acceptable traditional local cuisine.
Chilling out watching the sunset and then the gradual light changes as the river craft traffic increases after nightfall is an experience of unique pleasure. As a frequent returning patron, this time around it has been further enhanced by the extended good company and camaraderie of fellow supporters.
Away trips to support our Socceroos are so much more than just football and the game. This also includes Thai therapeutic massage, following the advice of local people as to where they go, and at such low comparative prices it encourages this indulgence on a daily basis.
I need to report that the finest coffee ever experienced anyway in the world (sorry, move over Melbourne, Milan, New York, Vancouver etc) is "Salotto" on Thanon Si Liang (street) in Bangrak. For 30 baht (just over AUD1) this tiny coffee shop with only two tables on the footpath serves hot and iced coffees.
No food served here, this is a serious place for the most discerning coffee connessieurs or purists. It's a little hard to find off Charoen Krung Road, the left turn being one block away from the corner of Silom Road.
The pick up of tickets pre-purchased via ThaiTicket Major outlet in Central Chidlom went well this Monday afternoon. Thailand is one of only two nations for Socceroos away qualifiers that offers efficient online sales. The Fan Engagement Manager from Football Federation Australia (FFA) was available in the afternoon to speak with any supporters needing assistance or with questions for the game.
There was no open training session for fans, not surprising given the local situation within the mourning period. The rainy season is all but over, with maximum temperatures around 33 degrees and moderate humidity.
Most Aussie fans expect that the Socceroos will secure the three points to consolidate their top two position in Group B. Having recently reached the milestone of attending 40 consecutive World Cup qualifiers since 2008, I am quietly confident of a win also.
Let us hope this encounter at the 'sell-out' Rajamangala Stadium produces a good game worthy of an occasion that enhances our close relationship with the wonderful people of Thailand.
socceroos, world cup qualifier, thailand