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Trip Report BANGKOK, BURMA, SHANGHAI, HONG KONG--ASIAN ODYSSEY 2010

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Before I attempt to provide a brief sketch of my recent trip I would like to thank all who assisted me and withstood my obsessive questions with good humor. This trip had its genesis when two older friends, a married couple who had never been to Asia, professed interest in a trip to the continent, specifically to Vietnam and Cambodia. I had visited Vietnam two years ago and Cambodia a few years before that, so by taking advantage of one of my friend's interest in ships, I convinced them to travel with me to Burma and cruise the Irrawaddy with Pandaw. I had visited Burma in the early 1980s when tourists were limited to one week in the country and I had long ached to return. After disembarking from the Pandaw ship, we would fly to Inle Lake, where I had not been previously. From Heho, the airport nearest Inle Lake, we would proceed by air to Shanghai and, finally, by overnight train, to Hong Kong. My trip would begin in Bangkok, where I set aside two days for relaxation and recovery from jet lag.

And so, here is the abbreviated tale, which will come in small increments.





BANGKOK--Three nights, Four Seasons Hotel


After the relaxing flights from JFK to Bangkok, on KoreanAir via Seoul (business class; my first ever award ticket), I arrived at the gleaming new Bangkok airport close to midnight on Tuesday, February 23. I was glad to have booked an airport pickup from AAC Limo; they sent me instructions and, as described, the AAC person was waiting with a yellow sign just as I exited the baggage claim area. (The price from the airport to my hotel was 990 TB plus 70 TB toll; the car was a Mercedes, although this detail was unimportant to me). Payment had to be made in cash to the driver, so before we stepped outside, I stopped at an ATM near the exit gate. Unfortunately, insertion of my car did not produce the desired result, so I changed a small amount of cash at a nearby exchange booth. I was then led by my guide to the waiting car, and we were off.


The transfer was smooth, and after we arrived at the hotel, I booked a transfer back to the airport in 3 days time.


My last visit to Bangkok found me at the Peninsula Hotel, which proved to be excellent, if somewhat removed from the action. This time I wanted to stay closer to the center city and, after extensive dithering, I selected the Four Seasons Hotel which I booked through www.AsiaReservations.net at the rate of $214 for a Deluxe room (the second least expensive category) with buffet breakfast and all service and taxes included. I was charmed by the hotel as soon as I stepped inside. The Four Seasons is a low-rise structure, in contrast to the soulless modern towers that house many other hotels. One of my first questions to the receptionist at check-in pertained to the swimming pool hours. I knew I had come to the right hotel when she told me that the official hours were 6am to 10pm but that I could swim at any time—“just let the front desk know and we will alert security that you will be swimming”

By this time it was well after 1am so after a quick look at my room, which looked out onto the Skytrain tracks and the vast greens of the Royal Bangkok sports Club beyond, I tucked in for my first sleep in Asia.


http://www.fourseasons.com/bangkok/


Here I will mention that, after my last three-day visit to the city, I vowed to make better use of my time. But once again, Bangkok was my first stop after a punishingly long pair of flights and for the first few days after arrival in Asia, which coincided with my stay in Bangkok, I was way off my usual schedule and therefore, was up very early and wiped out and ready for sleep long before dinnertime. Happily, I have visited the city on several occasions and, therefore, there were no mandatory “sights’ on my itinerary. And that proved to be a good thing, because I did next to nothing but relax during my two full days in Bangkok.


After a long and wonderful swim in the hotel pool (NOT, in contrast to the Peninsula and many other Asian hotel pools, cooled to a ridiculously cold temperature) I did my best to make a dent in the lavish hotel buffet breakfast spread. After a quick stop in the small Jim Thompson shop in the hotel shopping arcade (I had intended to visit the main shop later in my stay; this never happened and I, therefore, have another reason to return to Bangkok!) I set off on the Skytrain for the river, where I hopped the boat to the River City mall, intending to peruse the antique shops there that had been recommended to me. There were, indeed, many tempting looking shops brimming with treasures from throughout the region. It was far too overwhelming for me to take in so early in the trip, so, instead, I made use of an internet site in one of the shops, made one last pass though the nearly deserted mall, and headed back to the hotel, anxious to firm up my dinner plans.

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