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Trip Report Trip report

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I want to thank all of you Fodorites for helping us in the planning of our first Asian adventure which turned out to be a blast. The travelers are me, Peter and my wife, Linda. I am doing this in Microsoft Office and transferring, hope it works. Sorry for all typos in advance, hope I don't bore you all. Here is our trip report.

Day 1
We arrived on time at 11:40 pm Bangkok time and cleared customs rather quickly following a long flight from Honolulu via Tokyo on UA upgraded to business class. HNL to NRT flight took 8 hrs 47 min as we experienced 179mph headwinds which slowed our speed down at times to 395 mph. Landed at Narita and went straight to first class lounge. UA's lounge in Narita is about the biggest UA lounge that I've seen. Free showers and lockers. Full comp bar with small snacks (fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies, etc.). Waited our four hours of layover and boarded our 6.5 hr flight to BKK in which I mostly slept. After clearing customs we were met by our driver set up for us by UA. They took us via Mercedes limo to our hotel the Shangri La. Got a nice river view room in the main tower. Golden Circle member (thanks Bob). We were in the room by 1:10am. Showered and passed out at around 1:40 or so.
Day 2
We woke up late for us, 8:00 am. We got breakfast at the Coffee Shop which has an awesome new breakfast buffet display every morning. The usual cereal and bread spread but also all kinds of fruit, yogurts, Thai noodles, dim sum, meats, all kinds of eggs, salad bar, dessert bar, chocolate fountain, etc. Needless to say you could have anything you wanted except corned beef hash, lol. I had read somewhere on this board that before we left that the Golden Circle members only get 50% off their breakfast because of a rule change but during our stay in Bangkok 2/24-2/28 they did not charge us for breakfast. Needless to say we ate here every morning while we were at the Shangri La (4 nights). We then decided to walk off our breakfast and left our hotel for a 'short walk'. Well we ended up at the other end of Silom Rd. next to the park after about 2 ' hrs of walking ,gawking and dodging people (tuk tuk 20 baht :)) and at all the new and interesting sights and smells of downtown Bangkok. Welcome to Southeast Asia, wow!

We then decided we should head back to the hotel as we had booked our spa sessions at the new Chi spa in our hotel at 3:00 and we wanted to grab a bite of lunch before we did. Walked back to the hotel a little faster than we walked down as it only took us about an hour to get back. Freshened up in our room and headed downstairs for lunch at the Italian Restaurant in our hotel Angelini's. Good food as I had the Veal Scaloppini special which was wonderful. Linda had the seafood soup which in San Francisco they would call Ciopino(sp). She could not believe all of the seafood in the soup clams, fish, scallops, crab, shrimp, mussels, calamari and the saffron broth was excellent. Having lunch there instead of dinner really cuts down on the bill. Great food and atmosphere, would heartily recommend.

We then walked around our hotel for a couple of hours until our appointments at the spa. We shopped the shops on the street between the S La and the Oriental. A lot of shops with fake name brand shirts and copied general clothing mdse. I wasn't too interested in buying but was just fascinated by their street life style and just nosing around. Ohhhh the spa!!. What a beautiful place. All of the treatment rooms have everything in them so you never have to change rooms if you are getting different treatments. Linda and I both had the 'Enchanted Journey' treatment which consists of a Himalayan Bath Therapy, Mountain Tampa Salt Scrub and an hour long signature massage.

After the intro and filling out of brief health questions they whisk you away to your private treatment suite. There they wash your feet in flowered scented water while serving you an herbal tea of your choice. Its then off to your private steam room for a few minutes, then off into the Himalayan bath which is already drawn for you. You then have your MT Salt scrub which makes your skin feel so oiled, fresh and renewed. After a quick shower to wash off all the salt they finish with a 1 hour massage that just melted all my soreness and jetlag away.

I was now ready for Bangkok. So where was Linda? She's was still getting the rest of her treatments (nails, toe's you know lady things) that us men don't do:). So I piddled around the hotel for a bit (what an interesting neighborhood) until she was finished. I managed to find a pretty good tailor right outside the S La. The name is Stylist Tailors. I had brought a style of Aloha shirt that I wanted to have made with Thai silk. We can pay up to $185.00 per shirt here in Honolulu. I got 5 different ones made up at 1700 baht each. They finished them in 2 days. The contacts name was Miew, and she was very helpful and spoke excellent English. I was happy.

We then went out to our dinner at Sala Thip(sp) Thai Restaurant in our hotel. The food was fantastic along with the live entertainment that was shown throughout the evening. Ethnic Siamese dancing and local music was the entertainment for the evening and it did not disappoint. Early to bed after a great dinner as we were to meet our driver, Ratt, at 8:00 in the morning.

Day 3
Up early, 5:15 am (I always get up early) and watched the river come to life from our hotel window. Woke Linda a little later and went downstairs for an early breakfast 6:30am. Then back to the room to freshen up before our meeting our driver.
8:00 am we step into the lobby as Ratt is walking into the hotel lobby doors. Perfect timing! We are off to the Grand Palace in her nicely air conditioned Toyota green and yellow taxi. On the way to the GP she passes a Wat with the Golden Buddha inside and asks if we want to stop as we have time. I say ok, so while she is parking the car Linda and I notice that 2 Buddhist monks are being initiated that day at the temple with all the ceremony and family that goes with it. At this time Ratt pops up from I don't know where and starts explaining the Buddhist ceremony that is taking place right in front of us. She would end up always doing this it seemed on our 2 days with her which was part of her 'genuine' personality that we loved.

Then off to visit the golden Buddha, a few pictures and off to the GP. Traffic was getting bad around the Palace so Ratt dropped us of right in front with instructions on how and what kind of tickets to purchase. She also gave us a cell phone to contact her if anything went wrong. She went off to find parking. We pushed our way through the touts and went inside to buy our tickets. Once inside we got one of the audio tours and proceeded to do the tour. After about 20 minutes or so I noticed that Linda was off with the audio over my back shoulder as I was trying to figure out what gate lay in front of me. That's the East Gate said a familiar voice. It was Ratt who was now holding an umbrella over me to shade me and had given one to Linda for herself. She also had a small lightweight cooler over her shoulder with ice cold drinks and towels for us. She had a fan in the other hand which she was using to fan herself and me. WOW!

Our tour through the Grand Palace now became a treat as we walked through with (which was quickly becoming our friend) our driver. Our conversations were as in depth or as simple as we wanted on a subject. As we all know Ratt is a licensed driver and not a licensed guide so she cannot give tours. But she is a great companion and driver. After the last rooms (which were air conditioned) we proceeded to the car for the drive to Wat Po. A quick tour through this one as I was getting tired of talking on/off my shoes it was starting to get hot 96 F. We skipped the Wat Po massage as when we went it was very hot and noticed no seat covers on their work chairs. Everyone was sweating profusely and it did not look like a clean environment for a massage. Sorry. Ratt also recommended not to get a massage here as she just kept mumbling 'unhealthy'. So off we went to Jim Thompson's House.

Drove through China town and passed the Giant Swing(took pictures). Took the 35 minute interesting tour of the house. Had a very good Thai food lunch at the JT Restaurant. We had Chicken Satay, Shrimp w/noodles, spring rolls, 2 glasses of white wine and carrot cake and ice cream for dessert for 1100 bht. Good meal! Great price. Wine was 180 baht a glass. Then off to Hard Rock Café for some souvenirs(We've been doing this for years everywhere we go that has one. I have more HR Polo shirts than anyone I know, lol). Then off the JT Hose outlet that Ratt says is right outside Bangkok towards new airport. Prices there are better than the JT House Ratt tells us but selection is limited. Shopped for a while and bought a lot of junk. Back to hotel as it is now nearing 5:00. Ratt drops us off reminding me that she will be by at 7:00 the next day for our tour outside of Bangkok. Had dinner Angelini's as we were too tired to go anywhere else than in our hotel. The dinner prices are more than lunch. Food is the same, very good but the restaurant does get noisy and crowded as the bar seemed very noisy that evening. I loved it the food though. Had 1 bottle of wine that doubled the bill. Early to bed as needed to get up early for next day. More to follow when I can get more time. Sorry for the length.

Day 4
Ratt is two minutes late 7:02, she apologizes profusely as we enter her car. Off to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market which is in the Ratchaburi Province about 80km SW of Bangkok. We take about 90 minutes to get there passing salt farms and people constantly jaywalking across the highways along the way. As we enter the market Ratt parks and arranges a boat for us at 500 baht. Maybe could have gotten a better deal but not quibbling at this point. Ratt joins us as she is eating her breakfast she just bought from a stall at the beginning of the market. Some soup with vegetables and peppers. Smells interestingly good. She later buys us some fried bananas from a marketer on the river which was heavenly. Ratt advises us not to but anything unless we just have to because you can get everything they have here in the JJ market that we would be going to tomorrow. So we buy a few things anyway just because its infectious.

Take a lot of pictures and leave about 90 minutes later headed towards the Royal Thai-Handicraft Center. What a fascinating place. Made a major purchase here of a coffee table that was just so beautiful. Should be at home in 8 weeks (I hope). After about 90 minutes its off to the Elephant show. Drive northwest to the Elephant grounds. It's a zoo and show park where they have crocodile and elephant shows daily. The restaurant is the first place we head to as Ratt says they have a beautiful lunch place with cheap prices. The park restaurant is very clean with a lunch buffet which was very fresh with Thai and International Food both hot and cold dishes. I don't like buffets but this one seems very fresh and pretty busy. So I dig in to the Thai food and have seconds. Some Ice tea and dessert bar and the bill is 220 baht per person. Ratt eats with us and explains that she gets the drivers rate (40 baht). I offer to pay for her but she refuses profusely.

I pay the bill and we enter the park to ride the elephants. 400 baht per hour is what we are charged. They take you around a nice enclosed area complete with waterfalls and forest area. The ride was a kick and another guide follows you around and pops up at certain sights to take pictures of you with your camera. After our ride Ratt escorts us to the elephant and magic show which is just starting. I am a little tired but ok. This takes about 1 hour and by that time I'm ready to go back to BKK. It's about 3:30 and I wanted to be back by 5:30 because we have reservations at Harmonique at 7:30. As we are leaving Ratt says we still have time for the Rose Garden but I say no and we head back to BKK. Get back to our hotel right at 5:30 after stopping by to check out the Marriot Riverside Resort. Looked at some river and garden view rooms. Not bad, would definitely consider staying here on a next visit.

Crossed bridge to New Road where we pass by where Ratt lives and has also purchased a property she will be renting out as a B&B. She is having problems with her architect but talked to one that she new that we saw at the floating market in the morning and hopes to get it done by June or July. She will post info on her website that her daughter is doing for her, Web address is www.ratservice.com . when it is ready to rent. Ratt dropped us off after a long goodbye with hugs and kisses and pictures. She had become our friend in 2 days and like many of you know she just grows on you. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a driver in a heartbeat.

After getting ready we catch a cab to Harmonique. Food was ok but sorry for disagreeing with all of you but the service was a little more than terrible, it was non-existent. It was a real busy night , I guess because of all of your compliments the place but really, it was kind of ridiculous. Also we noted that a horrible smell kept emitting from the inner room every so often. When at the end of our meal I went to the restroom I realized what the odor was. They have got to have one of the grossest restrooms for a popular place that I have ever seen. Linda could not stand the fact that when the women would go they would have their faces the men's urinal. I used to work in a restaurant and I know that we were taught that if you can't keep a bathroom clean where everyone goes, imagine what the kitchen and other rooms look like that no one but employees go into.

They just got so busy that it took nearly 55 minutes for us to get our order after we ordered. People in the restaurant were freaking out. Don't know if they'll be as popular if they have many nights like this. And CLEAN THOSE BATHROOMS! Enough said, rant and rave over Sorry! Bed by 11:30. Next day transfer to Peninsula Hotel.

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