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There's nothing for it, so I throw caution to what little wind there is and duck into a tuk-tuk bound for Patpong.

The air rushes past as G-force thrusts me back into my seat, my fists clenched on the rails and feet planted at either corner of the disco-lit passenger compartment as the little three-wheeler goes full throttle up Silom, the main artery of the city's commercial centre. These two small streets that channel off Silom comprise the world's most infamous red-light district.

From Taksin pier, I step aboard the free shuttle and head along the river past elegant bulb-lit teak barges and raucous party boats, arriving five minutes later outside the vast open-air mall.

Once again, neon lights up the night sky, but this time it's a 60-metre-tall illuminated Ferris wheel that heralds my arrival.

The Patpong night market is one of Bangkok's busiest, flogging fake Prada bags, Diesel jeans, Ray-Bans, Hello Kitty T-shirts, Chang beer vests, Thai boxing shorts, fake watches and pirate DVDs.

"Nice price," the vendors chant, as I weave through the packed crowds of browsers.

The theory seems to be, sell it and they will buy – and we do, seemingly regardless of the provenance of the goods.

Still, I'm as cool as a cucumber as I sit at the chef's table in the Mandarin Oriental hotel's Thai restaurant, Sala Rim Naam.

Celebrity chef Vikit Mukura breezes into the refrigerated chamber of his vast kitchen complex to dish up a menu of innovative twists on familiar staples – a tom yum cocktail with lemongrass, chilli, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and soda; khow fu pla fu, an old-fashioned street snack made with puffed jasmine rice, shrimp, chilli, sugar and salt; red curry with a huge scallop; and a cool, milky ice cream made with rice from chef Vikit's paddy field in Pattaya.

Owned by a family of Chinese immigrants since the 1940s, Soi Patpong 1 and 2 were once innocuous strips of shophouses, but the wave of American soldiers arriving in Bangkok for R&R during the Vietnam War soon brought a more hedonistic attitude to the area.