Four Nights in Bangkok

General Disclaimer: I’m trying to blog from Thailand. Given the limitations on time, bandwidth, attention span, air conditioning, sleep and sobriety, you get what you get for the duration. My checking of spelling and facts will be even more cursory than usual. Also, I’m not sure what the deal is, but some of these computers are not at all interested in loading the comments section of the Posse site, so if I don’t reply it’s not for lack of trying.

Anyway, I’ve fallen in love. It’s no huge surprise, I guess. Bangkok stole my heart. I know, I know — Bangkok’s fickle. We’re in the honeymoon period. I’m sure a long-term relationship would be filled with a lot of mixed feelings. Friday (? I am no longer sure what day it is) I smelled a fragrance at the Givaudan show called Magic Mushroom, and that would pretty much sum up the Bangkok experience for me. Bangkok has that New-York level of insanity that is pretty much everything I want in a city — only more so. From the street vendors to the over-the-top malls and the roadside shrines, it’s all happening, 24 hours a day.

Noy and I met up to smell the Givaudan show — a collaboration between 13 in-house Givaudan perfumers, 13 artists who designed the fragrance flacons, and as it turned out various Thai clothing designers who did matching dresses. I wish like hell I had photos to show you, but by the time I got all the technology together it’d be 2008, and so you’re just going to have to Use Your Imagination.

We started off our get-together with an excellent lunch (which included the Big Cheese), during which we ate one of the best meals I have eaten in recent memory — five (six?) different dishes selected by Noy to allow us to sample a range of flavors. Heaven. Then across the street, where I, addled by lack of sleep, too much stimulation, etc. was reduced to taking notes on the perfumes on the back of our tickets to the Grand Palace — which in its own way is just perfect.

Givaudan-specific Disclaimer: I am winging this entirely, with no listed notes and no further information, based entirely on our own biases and opinions. We rated each fragrance on wearability (W) and artistic merit (AM), and I provide the averaged results below. As you’ll see, we found most of these extremely interesting to smell, even if they smelled revolting — they were clearly not designed to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum of sniffers. All typos, incorrect spelling, poor reportage, omitted information and general idiocy are my sole responsibility. Enjoy.

The show was in the first floor of Gaysorn, a typical Siam-Square mall, by which I mean every store was a designer store (Chanel, Dior, etc.) along with, for example, a Ferrari dealership or a 1,500-person theatre or Sea World in the basement, and enough air-conditioning to refrigerate meat. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no mall equivalent in the U.S. It makes the Galleria (Tysons or Houston) look like the strip mall with a dying K-Mart as an anchor store.

In no particular order, we sampled:

Entre Chien et Loup (Between Dog and Wolf) — Twilight: Noy captured this perfectly with the phrase “between the dryer sheet and the laundry detergent.” About as far from the wolf-dog as you could possibly get, unless you’re sniffing the wolf-dog in the stuffed toy section of the Disney Store. Fresh and fake. Wearability: 2.25 (out of 10). Artistic merit: 2.

Parfum de Brume — I need to look that word up, unless it’s “brune”?, one of you French speakers chime in — burnt, smoked, with a lapsang/tea thing going on and Noy was getting a licorice-like note she wasn’t loving. W=2. AM=6.5

Lumiere/Light — this was fascinating. Started off with a tame citrus note and became boozier over time, with a tobacco note. Ultimately it … glowed. The name’s perfect. W=9. AM=6. perfumer: Gilles Romey.

Voiture A-9 — Noy says “car cheese.” A very chemical smell, including car parts and exterior pollution. We were simultaneously fascinated and disgusted. I would never want to wear this; it’s like sniffing new carpet, you can feel your brain cells dying. W=1.75. AM=6.5 perfumer: Pierre Nuyens.

Syn — smells like static and hot ozone. Dryer sheet. Dead ringer for “Clean Laundry” in my recollection. Meh. W=2, AM=1.

Odure de Femmina. Heh. You bet your undies. Ladyparts par excellence — a surprisingly fresh rose dries down to what I think Voilette de Madame should have smelled like. Matching fabulous rose-covered torso sculpture. W=3.75, AM=8.5

Magic Mushroom. This was just the most amazing fragrance. Noy and I spent the entire time we were there trying to decide if it was attractive or repulsive, and if that’s not a hallmark of a fun sniff, I don’t know what is. A weird “fresh” top note dries down rapidly into a coriander/pepper spice mix with the mushroom-y dirt smell you’d expect. perfumer: Michel Girard. W=6.5, AM=8.

Sakura — cherry blossom and incense, the sort of thing you’d expect from Kenzo, actually, with a stunning glass flower cherry-blossom flacon. And I’d kill for a photo of the dress to put in here — it was all pleated with the blossom part framing the face. Grassy and delicate. W=6.5, AM=4.

Parfum de Larmes (tears) — seemed completely wrong for the name and flacon, which was a lovely abstract tear in a glass inkwell-type design. Grassy and meh. perfumer: Louise Turner. W=7, AM=5.

Eightball — the knockout of the show. I am still kicking myself for not having an empty vial to spray into. Are you ready? A metallic orris smell reminiscent of Andy Tauer’s Orris, an Armani Cuir-Amethyste-like violet leather, powder, sandalwood, drying down several hours later (when I sniffed) into Sacred-Tears-of-Thebes incense, only stronger. If they sold it, I’d be in. perfumer: Sebastien Lienhart. UFB. W=9, AM=9.

Entre Toi et Moi — if only I could read my handwriting. Herby duck? Herby cheese? No, herby dude. Mainstream, stop by Sephora and you’ve smelled it. W=5 (snooze!), AM=4.5

Nuit Blanche — Null. Totally generic man “fresh” cologne. W=5, AM=2.

Rose Bouquet for the Princess (written in French) — A grape-fruit rose, fresh squeezed and extremely appealing to this non-rose-lover, sorta Rosine-ish, dries down into an animalic rose over several hours. You rose fetish people would be into it. W=7.75, AM=6.75

Have I mentioned how much fun Noy was? She’s a riot. I love perfumery — here I come, halfway around the world, and I’m chatting her up like my best girlfriend in 15 minutes while we giggle and sniff. She was a doll. I’m hoping to wangle some more time with her on the way to Siem Reap. Maybe she’ll get me to eat that durian after all.

  • Emotenote says:

    I know I’m waayyy back, but I just had to say, as I read through these reviews I kept thinking, “If I enter my name will she NOT send any of these?” The thought makes me queasy.

    Give the Durian a try if you haven’t yet. Just stay away from the outside while you eat it. Strawberries can put off a rotty smell sometimes to the point that I have to get away, but once they’ve been popped in my mouth, it’s all over, smell or not.

    Hope you are still having a most amazing time.

  • Devon says:

    March – fascinating is all I can say. We have to get eightball. I hope they start selling it. $-)=d>

  • Tigs says:

    I’m so proud of your dedicated posting. Keep it up! Joining the others in lusting after Lumiere/Light (particularly interesting to me for some reason) and, of course, Eightball.

  • You are having all the fun you need to have in the Big Durian! I can’t believe how much you are keeping us in the chien and loup!
    I wanna eight ball–also the name of a very hip motorcycle I long for.

  • Lavanya says:

    oooh..this sounds like soo much fun.I am glad you are having such a good time,March!..(I want to smell Eightball too!!)

  • CH says:

    Speaking of Givaudan….
    I would never EVER want to work around Givaudan’s popcorn scent/flavoring. I’ve only recently read about the phemononon called “popcorn lung” and it certainly isn’t pretty. ūüôĀ

    Read all about it here:

    http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070527/BIZ01/705270303/1076

    • March says:

      Oh. My. God. That is DISGUSTING. I had no idea.

      Sometimes when I sniff things like Voiture, I do think: I wonder if you worked in an environment where you smelled weird stuff like this all day, would it be bad for your health?

  • Patty says:

    I want that Eighball!!!! I’m also a gorgeous shade of green.=:)

    • CH says:

      Eightball….weird name for such a wonderful sounding fragrance. Yes, I would love love love to try this. I probably would like the last rose scent, too. Oh, March, you sound like you’ve found a hidden treasure or two!!!

    • March says:

      P, you would LOVE LOVE LOVE Eightball. Still trying to think of SOME WAY to get my hands on some. There MUST be a way!

  • Robin says:

    Nothing new to add, just wanted to say thanks for the detailed report — sounds fabulous, and wish the exhibit would travel to the US. Please, a detailed report on the food, soon! And hope you haven’t lost the kids yet ūüôā

    • March says:

      Still have the kids, although we’re struggling to find things they’ll eat. We love the food, but (unsurprisingly) they don’t. We’ve solved breakfast and lunch, but dinner is problematic.

      The fruit here is amazing. But you already knew that.

      • Robin says:

        I am not joking when I say that my sister & I refused to eat anything Thai the entire time we were there.

  • evilpeony says:

    oh, and perhaps if we distract the Givaudan host with `shrooms, we can make a run with the eightball? just a thought…. :-”

    noy, if you’re coming to san francisco, please give me a holler! we’ll raid jacqueline’s together :d:d:d

  • evilpeony says:

    March, i’m glad the weather, the food and the fruits are treating you quite prettily in bangkok. i’m so envious (make mine forest green to color-match the envy brigade), i wanna go home RIGHT NOW!!! (i used to live in the philippines… and boy do i miss the sweltering heat, the smells of the street, the lazy afternoons, faint whiffs of dried jasmine sambac at church, stronger whiffs of jasmine sambac layered with ylang-ylang when vendors shove it right at your face…*sob*)

    • March says:

      See, I wish I’d been to more countries over here. They must all have a slightly different smell, right? I could use a little less car-exhaust note, but the ripe-heat part works really well for me. Even the sewage smell doesn’t bother me that much. Thanks to my D.C. upbringing.;))

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Wow March, your fashion show/perfume adventure sounds amazing. Not to mention the sights & sounds of Bangkok! Add me to the pea-green with envy contingent. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us as they happen!

  • noyna says:

    I had the best time with March — she is just as vibrant and witty as her writing, and the Big Cheese is wonderful, too! Lunch, sniffage…and if that wasn’t enough, she gave me some perfume, including her decant of Worth Courtesan. This sniff-starved gal is grateful — that stuff smells like spicy deliciousness. Can’t. Stop. Spraying.

    Yes, perhaps we can work you up to the durian, March! We can try it in ice-cream form first, if you like.

    Remind me to tell you about the sniff-kiss when I see you next! Thais didn’t traditionally kiss on the lips, you see…they sort of sniffed each other. Thus the Thai word “hom” can mean sniff, fragrant, and kiss…

    Would love to meet you, Louise! I lived in DC for four years before moving out here for a research grant, and I’m sure to return within the next year.

    • March says:

      Please. PLEASE. TELL ME ABOUT THE SNIFF KISS. You have no idea, but that is the most intensely interesting/erotic sounding thing to me. Everything should be a sniff kiss. how does it work?

      Glad you are enjoying Courtesan!

  • Lee says:

    So pleased that you managed to a) love Bangkok and b) fit perfume into the equation (they knew you were coming).

    Now, stop flirting with those stoned Aussie beach dudes and get writing some more.:d

    • March says:

      Lee:

      1) Why do I get the CAT URINE ODOR ad up there when I log onto the blog? Nobody else gets the pee ad.[-( Is it trying to tell me something?

      2) Dude! (as Diva says) I am NOT flirting with the Aussies, they can barely see me as I am only 5’4″, the size of their children. I am flirting with the ladyboys. Heh. Wonder how many drunk Aussies have had a big surprise in that dept? Coupla pints of lager and how far do you get before you discover something’s a bit off?:-?

  • Bryan says:

    March,
    I am almost too jealous for words. Shame on me for practically glowing in the dark here, the color of the lunesta butterfly! I’m totally kidding and loving your reviews (as always girl). I am impressed and grateful too that you find time on this magical voyage to fill us in on the goings on. Brava!

  • Maria says:

    Eightball! Eightball! Eightball! We must have it! Wouldn’t it be nice if Givaudan had employees tasked with checking the blogs for trends and they saw this one? [-o< I'm so glad you're having fun! I'm joining everyone in feeling green, perhaps a mint green that coordinates well with my lavender bathrobe. I'm glad you didn't get arrested for discarding a durian in an air-conditioned (?) place. :d

    • March says:

      Tomorrow’s fruit-tasting day at our hotel. I’m wondering if they’ll have durian? There are big piles of the shells (husks? rinds?) in the trash, in its own rude way it’s an oddly appealing smell. In small doses, I think it’d be an interesting addition to a fragrance.

      See, this is why I don’t have my own fragrance company.:d

  • Amy says:

    “Brume” = mist, but “brune” = brown, so could have been either one. And “voiture” does mean car, so sounds like they got that one bang on. Faskinatin’ stuff, March. So, what — they don’t sell these at ALL? That’s just mean.

    • March says:

      I looked at my handwriting again and I’ve decided it’s “brume” — so it is mist, although in a way brown makes more sense. But mist is more mysterious, isn’t it? Brown perfume just sounds wrong./:)

    • March says:

      PS — no, there was NO information whatsoever about the exhibit, and nobody to ask. So far as I know, that’s it. No further production.

  • Marina says:

    Oh I wish I could smell them too!!

    • March says:

      Marina, I really would have loved your feedback. I didn’t test most of these on my skin because (to be honest) several of them didn’t smell exactly skin-friendly. The Voiture one smelled like it’d remove a layer of skin, actually.

  • Arhianrad says:

    WOW.

    Awesome sniffings…I’m with tmpoo…who do we kill to have eightball made? And utterly, utterly green. Oz witch green. Watermelon green. ooh, to be there!!

    • March says:

      Why do I not know someone at Givaudan? Why can I not buy Eightball, but I can buy Britney Spears Curious everywhere? BTW our contributions to perfumery at the dept. store seem to be: Britney, FCUK, and SJP. Sigh.

      • pitbull friend says:

        Oh, my, that is embarrassing. Thinking about the most aggressively marketed US perfumes makes me want to do that cheaty thing where one puts a Canadian flag pin on one’s lapel. ‘Course, I don’t know that any actual Canadians do that, so perhaps it’s a giveaway. Thanks for telling us about this, March. It’s a great public service! –Ellen

      • evilpeony says:

        bet we can make the people at IFF to replicate it. :-” Victoria (BdeJ) works at IFF, yes?

  • Judith says:

    Ohhhh! This sounds so fabulous! All your readers are now coordinated shades of green (which, fortunately, is my favorite color!)

    “Brume” means mist or fog.

    And I’ll take Eightball, Magic Mushroom, Lumiere and Lady parts.:) And maybe the Rose Bouquet as well.

    • March says:

      I feel like my comments about Lumiere are insufficient, rereading them. It was not that interesting at first, and the matching “flacon” was this ugly-looking UFO-lamp thing (the fragrances weren’t actually IN the flacons, and several of the “flacons” didn’t, so far as I could tell, really work to hold anything.)

      So at first it was not that interesting, but it was one of those stealth things — over the course of the hour or so we wandered around in there, it really grew on us.

  • Elle says:

    Definitely chartreuse w/ envy here. And I *want* Magic Mushrooms and Eightball. I hadn’t even heard of Sebastien Lienhart before this. Must keep an eye out for anything else he might do. Hope that the powers that be read your post and realize the advisability of actually marketing Eightball.

    • March says:

      I wanted that thing so bad it hurt. It still hurts. The idea that I can’t have it causes me pain. I’m trying to get past feeling so greedy about it, because I’m thinking that, maybe on this item, I’m not getting my way, you know?

  • Louise says:

    Wow-March on ‘shrooms! Just wish I’d known you in college…What an adventure you’re having! And I want to meet Noy-have you invited her back here yet?

    I think I’d love that mall…though it would be dangerous, given my spending habits. But Seaworld and Chanel? Oy!

    Amongst all those fragrances, I’d think I’d like Brume (maybe-I do licorice well enough), Lumiere, and certainly 8-ball. Not the rose, just can’t do it. By the way, what do the Thais sniff between perfume courses? Coffee, or tea, or what?

    Most burning question-what happened to that stinky durian you were carrying aroung last post? I am a little frightened to know…

    • March says:

      Noy travels back and forth — she was in D.C. before. I am certainly hoping I’m given the opportunity to host her in the states.

      I threw the durian in the trash in Starbucks.:-” Don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities for durian. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking the smell out way before you ever see them — the rinds are piled up in the trash, it’s durian season. Unsurprisingly, all the fruit here is amazing.

  • Divina says:

    I’m joining Tom in bright green jealousy! Wish I was there!
    This was a joy to read, thank you March ūüôā Keep having fun!

    • March says:

      Well, I wish you were all here, too. We’d eat some excellent food and discuss how we felt about the gowns and their relationship to the fragrances. And then we’d go sit in the Ferrari.:-“

  • carmencanada says:

    Sounds too fabulous for words, but keep the words coming !
    Few notes on the French: “Brume” means “mist” or “light fog”, so it could be correct (either smells of mist or of a brunette).
    “Entre chien et loup” does indeed mean twilight.
    Enjoy it all, dear!

    • March says:

      Well, I’m going with mist or light fog… what an interesting idea, it makes me think about the fragrance differently.

  • tmp00 says:

    Soooo jealous…

    Who do we have to kill to have eightball made?

    • March says:

      I am still trying to figure out how to get my hands on some Eightball. BTW if you click on the link, the weird red footed bowl-things are the perfume “bottles” for Eightball.

  • lissakv says:

    wow,what a trip! I am surprised you can smell anything after all the yummy food and street smells. You have supernose!

    • March says:

      Well, thanks — I’m not sure how super my nose was — yes, it has a lot of competition for smells!:d I was surprised how similar the fragrance notes seemed to smell to me and to Noy. But I’ll totally admit it was one of those occasions I’d have loved a trained perfumer to walk us through it.