Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Night in Bangkok

I’ve been to more than my fair share of party cities (such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Ibiza); and to a decent number of “special” parties in cities not really known for their partying for the rest of the year (ranging from Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to the San Fermines in Pamplona, Spain). Volumes have been written on any of these destinations. What I want to discuss today are the five best non-party-party cities that I’ve stumbled across in my adventures. By that, I mean, none of the following cities is a “destination” and I would never suggest that anybody go out of their way to visit any of them. In fact, a couple of them are downright uncool. But all five of the following cities exceeded any expectation that I may have had about enjoying them, and I had an exceedingly good time in each one of them (some more than once), and some I enjoyed far more that cities that I have visited with higher sense of expectation – for instance, on each of the three times that I have been in Baltimore, I have had a much better time than I have ever had in the half-dozen or so times that I have been to Washington, D.C., although D.C. is the “destination city” and I’ve never met anyone that actually wanted to visit Baltimore.

In chronological order:
  1. Chihuahua, Mexico. Granted, I was 18 years old, couldn’t legally drink in the States, and it was my first real trip out of the country, but I partied like a rock star in Chihuahua when I found myself there in the Spring of 1995. Despite the sound of it, the city was pretty cosmopolitan and the nightclubs were better than anything I’d ever seen. The girls were pretty, the beer was cheap, and the nights never seemed to end.

  2. Setúbal, Portugal. There’s nothing quite like finding yourself in a strange city in a foreign country after everything’s closed when you realize that you have no money in the proper currency, no knowledge of the local language, and no real plan. I faced that reality along with four friends during a failed attempt to get to Lisbon for a three-day weekend in the summer of 1997. The Setúbal locals proved to be collective guardian angels and their city proved quite the playground. We never made it to Lisbon, opting instead to spend the weekend hitting the beautiful local beaches by day and enjoying the Portuguese generosity as they showered us with fish based foods and round after round of wine and beer by night. I may never return, but I definitely salute the Setubalese for their commitment to the good times.

  3. Baltimore, Maryland. My college roommate lived in D.C. after we graduated, and I had never been there when I visited him in 1999. Imagine my disappointment when he told me that one evening we were going to meet up with some of his friends in Baltimore. I didn’t fly to our nation’s capital to live some sort of knock-off of Diner. When I woke up on a strange couch covered by a strange afghan in somebody’s apartment with no real memory of how I got there and only patches of memory involving shots at bars both on the inner harbor and not on the inner harbor, I realized that the town had potential. I’ve found myself there two more times since, and the locals are just as awesome as they were that first time. I can taste the Old Bay and the cold beer as I type this.

  4. Salt Lake City, Utah. I felt like I had been punished when my boss told me that I had to spend a week in Orem, Utah in October of 2003. The bosom of the Mormon religion is not exactly where you’d expect to find a good party, and the state of Utah makes getting one’s drink on a challenge, but the non-Mormons in SLC are more than up to it. My favorite memory of Utah from that trip was the overwhelming smell of marijuana permeating the (non-smoking) bar/private club that I found myself in as I enjoyed the live music of Michael Franti and Spearhead.

  5. Tucson, Arizona. I’ve partied in Tucson twice – once in 2001 and once in May of 2007 when I was out there for a wedding, and hit the town with Laz and Frankie the night before the ceremony. Back in 2001, I woke up fully clothed in my hotel room on a Saturday morning with no memory of what had transpired the night before, but a pocket full of credit card receipts attesting to the good times that I’d had and the rounds of shots that I had bought. The consummate experience from the last time I was there was the out-of-body experience I had at a bar called the Meet Rack where a guy named “God,” who appears to be the owner, happily brands willing patrons with an image of HIS FACE. That pretty much summarizes what drinking in Tucson has been for me, and why it has to make the top five of my non-party-party cities.


Blog said...

You may never return to Setubal, but how about a weekend night out in Lisbon's Bairro Alto? ;-)

Jack Gordon said...

I never made it to Lisbon, MR, but I fully intend to see that city eventually!

bonnie said...

I'm glad Bawlmer made it to your list. I live 15 minutes from there, south towards DC. Do you watch "The Wire" on hbo? NO???? Oh my God, you HAVE to rent it from Netflix. Start at the beginning. It's way better than "Big Love." P.S. I would think trying to impersonate a Jewish playboy would be incredibly painful and not very "rewarding."

bonnie said...

Oh woops, one more thing..... I'll take Scottsdale over Tuscon any day and never remember a day (or night) of it.

Jack Gordon said...

Bonnie, (1) never watched the wire -- I'll put it in my queue and report back to you; (2) being Jewish for an evening was actually pretty fun, albeit not very "rewarding", although the gig would have been up long before the reward kicked in . . . and (3) Scottsdale is much more of a "destination" party-party city . . . Tucson's well . . . Tucson!