For American Jew in Thailand, work means eating, drinking and partying

bangkok, thailand | You’re on a visit to Bangkok and already have seen the obligatory sights. You’ve marveled at the glittering spires and splendid temples of the Grand Palace; you’ve watched young dancers in conical golden tiaras perform an exquisite traditional ballet.

You’ve even braved a bumpy ride through notoriously congested traffic in the back of a motorized tricycle rickshaw, known locally as a tuk-tuk.

What now?

Aaron Frankel can help you out.

Creator of the Groovy Map, the American-born, Jewish Bangkok resident has carved out a niche in highlighting the funky and the hip, the exotic and the outlandish. His handy, pocket-size guide — waterproof and laminated — combines a city map with recommendations listing Frankel’s favorite funky local eateries, nightclubs and “secret haunts,” complete with his tongue-in-cheek commentaries on each site.

And it’s not just for the “Big Mango,” as Bangkok is known: Frankel has made Groovy Maps for Singapore, Shanghai, Bali, the Thai trekking paradise of Chiang Mai and other destinations across Southeast Asia.

In the works are maps for Beijing, Manila, Tokyo, Sydney and Vietnam. There are Japanese, Chinese and German versions of his maps as well.

“We produce orientation maps by emphasizing activity-loaded areas in a city and blanking out others,” Frankel explains in his Bangkok offices inside a teakwood townhouse. “If you know where you are, using our map you can find a nearby bar, a club or a fine restaurant within seconds.”

Let’s assume that you’re killing time in downtown Bangkok. Enter any 7-Eleven or bookstore and pick up a Bangkok Day & Night Groovy Map for about $5.

Does the idea of feasting on gastronomic creations while lying supine in the manner of a lounging potentate appeal to you? If so, head for the Bed Supperclub.

The popular restaurant-nightclub welcomes diners to a surreal all-white realm bathed in a meditative penumbra, with a disk jockey providing lounge melodies in the background. The place features high among Frankel’s recommendations.

Of course, you may want to treat yourself to a rejuvenating, traditional Thai massage by expert hands at Being Spa. Or how about luxuriating in the olfactory pleasures of herbal aromatherapy at the Chivit Chiva? Frankel dares hardier spirits to pit themselves against seasoned local Thai boxers at the Bangkok Fight Club.

Thanks to such party-like-the-natives tips, the Groovy Map Bangkok guide — which first appeared in 1996 and now is in its seventh edition — is still Frankel’s best-selling map. In the past year alone it has sold around 50,000 copies, he says.

Not bad for a product that was conceived entirely on a whim.

Frankel has lived in Bangkok since he was 2, when his environmentalist father relocated the family to Thailand on a U.S. government posting in 1969.

A self-described oddball with a shaved pate, a goatee and a cultivated air of eccentricity, Frankel studied drama at the U.C. Irvine but had difficulty keeping a job after college.

In 1995, tired of reciting the same tips on Bangkok hot spots to visiting friends, he decided to draw them a map illustrated with his own cartoons. They loved it.

Then the idea hit him: Why not mass-produce the map and sell it? Groovy! he thought. So was born the Bangkok Day & Night Groovy Map.

“A decade later, I’m still an amateur in all aspects of my business,” Frankel says. “My wife jokes that I was a clown who became a businessman.”