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trip report: BANGKOK, GOLDEN TRIANGLE, KOH SAMUI AND BALI

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I RECEIVED SUCH NICE COMMENTS ON MY TRIP REPORT LAST MARCH FOR ITALY THAT I DECIDED I WOULD ATTEMPT ONE ON OUR 30 DAY TRIP TO S.E. ASIA...HERE GOES...

we are two 60 year olds who travel 3-4 times per year overseas...fodors.com has become a passion for me and i look at it at least twice daily and add info where i can be of help to people and write down things where people have been a help to me...

i began the planning for this trip to asia about 11 months ago...it was our 6th trip to thailand in the last 9 years...yes, we do love it....what do we love: the people are simply #1...the food is great (thai and all other varieties) and cheap comparitively, shopping has to be the best in the world and also cheap...its exotic, fun and interesting every day....the sites are simple in one place and magnificent in another...you have a feeling that it simply is a genuine place...

i have several prejudices about accomodations and restaurants and you will see them here--sorry... i also am a terrible speller so bear with me...i will proofread before sending and i will do this report in several installments over several days....

here goes...

we live in boston, ma, usa....we are 60 and have 2 grown kids...this is background to better understand where we are coming from...i am a retired banker, with a small part time job and my wife is a full time RN at an Harvard Teaching Hospital in Boston (she gets lots of vacation time based on years of service)..... the report..

we left needham, ma about 9:15 AM on may 22, 2004 in the care of our driver Hedley---he keeps trying to get us to go visit his homeland, the mauritius islands...thanks to all of you taxpayers we can now reach logan airport in about 25 minutes with the new ted williams tunnel which is the major part of the "big dig" which thankfully is winding down after 10 years or so of disruption....
we fly Northwest Airlines to Asia...they have very quick service which routes us through either Detroit or Minneapolis and then Narita (tokyo) and then on to Bangkok...total travel time about 30 hours with the two one hour + stops from our house to the bangkok hotel...
the flights were all right on time...they now load up very early and are ready to go before departure time...we always pick seats in rows 63-66 as they are the only 2 seaters on the 747's which fly the long legs...there is also a large space between the window seat and the window, where karen (my wife) has been known to lay down in...its also good for packages and general storage....keep it a secret please....i stay up late 90 days before the flight (first day to reserve seats) to call N/W to reserve these seats....
as usual i got them...
on the first flight my seat 63A was broken---back would not stay upright some of the time...i have had this seat before and had the same trouble--year and 1/2 ago....N/W CEO please note this when you read my report !!!... the longest flight is minneapolis to narita and on may 22 that was 11 hours and 54 minutes...UGH !!! food was tollerable--enough said...on the first leg of the trip: bos-minneapolis they sold food for $10--small salami finger sandwich or caesar salad ...we had brought nice thick ham and swiss sandwiches with us knowing this...
there were 3 movies on the flight...somewhat current...the flights were very full...there was a fair amount of turbulance on all of our flights this trip???
karen slept on the floor after a sleeping pill...i dozed on and off...no movies for me...
the flight from narita to bkk is 6 hours and 10 minutes...very easy connection in both places...so we arrive at bkk at midnight...
it is usually a busy time in immigration but we seem to be the first plane to arrive that night...we have landed, docked are through immigration and customs in less than 45 minutes...
we depart customs, and the AAC limo company is holding a sign for us to see...i had prearranged with them to pick us up and take us to the marriott resort and spa on the river...
AAC Limo (also called bangkok limo and taxi---booking@airporttaxithai.com or telephone 0-2982-4900)...the fare is about 1500B but they have a discount program at the moment for about 1260B or $31.50 round trip...the marriott charges $36++ one way...

++ in this report refers to the added costs of 10% service and 7% tax.. all hotels and some service agencies apply these costs to everything you purchase....

so we are whisked to the service desk to pay (cash preferred)---atm near-by...and into the mercedes for the 1/2 hour ride to the hotel at a very fast speed....

we use these cars rather than a taxi on arrival and departure because there is lots of trunk space...bangkok taxis are toyota corollas and have small trunks (boots)....

we are in our room at the marriott at 1:30AM...we did walk around to see what if anything had changed since we were last there...all the same basically...bed at 2:30AM...didn't even touch the fruit plate...

the marriott resort and spa is simply our favorite all around hotel in bkk....it consists of 3 5-7 story buildings in a horse shoe around a large garden with huge pool area....the propety is right on the river, which has lots of interesting traffic....attached to the hotel is a small mall with lots of conveniences: mcdonald, burger king, laundry services, a few restaurnats, swensons ice cream, drug stores, a bank, bakery, jewerly stores, tailors, etc... the pool area is the best in bkk...
the hotel has a number of very good restaurants: polynesian, chinese, american, japanese (benni-hana), bar, poolside, bufet al-fresco...there is a world class spa too and tennis and work-out facilities...
they provide a boat shuttle service every 15 minutes to the sky train---the major new (4 years old) transportation facility in bkk (subway opens in july, 2004)...this is a real plus having this shuttle and its free...runs roughly 6AM-11PM...
the rooms are nice but not lavish...the beds are very comfortable...the hotel has an american owner...the floors have all recently been changed to a dark wood from the green carpeting that had been there for several years...very clean feeling---one never knows about rugs????
we prefer the middle building (the one with the lobby), but we also like the one on the left as you face the water...all the rooms are basically the same....most have a river view...most have a balcony...we never use the balcony---its too damn hot....
the a/c is fabulous...you need it...
room service breakfasts are 350B-450B ...

currently the baht is 40 (june, 2004) to the us dollar...

we eat a small breakfast usually in the room...that is if we haven't a room that comes with breakfast...there is a bakery on the lower level where i go to get fresh pastry each morning and karen makes her coffee in the room coffee maker...about 85B for 4 pastry...

I SHOULD TELL YOU KAREN ALWAYS SAYS I AM CHEAP...

we do not like a large breakfast by the way...we find it slows us down...but we do have it if it is included...

so now it is monday morning---you loose a day travelling in that direction...

we are out at the pool by 9:30...our sleep clocks are all messed up...we seat ourselves under our favorite tree (white flowers with a lovely smell)...the plan is to take an easy day...
shortly we meet a family from Zimbawbe in africa...they are very nice and we chat about their home conditions---they are white and this is not a good time for them....

lunch is slated to be poolside....our favorite soup is gone from the menu so we decide on an alternative and share a chicken satay (skewered char-cooked meat) and lots of cold bottled water (110B for an evian---but we get the local bottled for far less)...$19.70 for the lunch...not bad, not good either....remember food is generally very cheap in thailand except at hotels...

about 1PM the clouds have started to appear in the cloudless sky and we have had enough sun for our first day...its in the low 90's with the ever present high humidity...the pool water was refreshing but not cool...i think that they cool it slightly from the intese sun...

we wander out to the mall after getting dressed...our room is on the 4th floor of the main building (a non-smoking floor)...perfect in every way except that at times you can smell smoke---usually times when people would be in their rooms...it must come through the air handling eqpt...not bad just annoying...

we drop in to our favorite tailor: jack at monet il sarto...he is on the 2nd floor of the marriott mini mall overlooking the parking lot...he greets us as an old friend...we really don't need anything but i decide on a new wool sports jacket...i also have interest in a new summer robe, but none of the fabric catches my eye....he will look around for something appropriate...i am measured up and we set a date in a day or so for the first fitting...from there we check out eye glasses, but the sales person turns us off and we walk....
jack had told us about an internet site just up the road from the hotel on the same side of the street as the hotel...about a 5 minute walk....50B ($1.25) per hour...quite fast and easy to use and get to....hotel charges 195B++ for 15 minutes...

we go back into the hotel and decide to ask about "family rooms" for two fodorites who asked me questions and i said i would check it out for them...the marriott has no such thing in bkk...no double/doubles or the like...they suggest adjoining rooms or a larger suite...we look at a deluxe suite but it is quite costly and not all that appropriate...

we decide to go over to river city shopping center (the marriott boat formerly went there but it no longer does) so we took a taxi... 70B for the taxi, 100 with a good tip...the driver is a nice young man who engages us in conversation and mentions that his wife works at the hotel and that he is available for special hires...we take his card (we use him later the day before we leave for home)...he is Mr Somphet Gunthon...his cell is 0-6040-9893...he owns his new toyota corolla yellow and green cab (owner driven cabs)...he charges 250B per hour around bkk and slightly more for gas outside....his english is good and he is very pleasant and agreeable...more about him at the end of this report....

River city...for those of you who do not know this shopping mecca....it is a 5 or 6 floor building on the river right next door to the sheraton orchid hotel...it is from here that lots of tours begin...many river boats stop here... the first two floors of the building are general merchandise and a large display area with changing shows...the top floors are most antique shops (high end)...
karen's favorite silk shop is on the ground floor right across from the info desk at the sheraton end of the building....it is JS Thai silk...its a small shop but ms yai takes good care of us and we are always very pleased with their custom work...karen looks at their materials and ideas for this year and says we will be back later in the week...ms yai greets us like a part of her family....she is a plain woman, but her style sense is good and she understands just what karen wants and often makes little suggestions about tailoring items which enhance the outfits....
we look around river city a bit and are starting to tire...

while there i decide to visit the sheraton to ask about family rooms too, but the woman there was abrupt with us and only suggests adjoining rooms or a suite--no offer to view any rooms...they have no family rooms...exactly my impression from past visits to this hotel...abrupt!!!! more later on them....
from there we walk over to oriental lane which is in back of the oriental hotel just down the river about a 10 minutes walk---that sounds easy but try it in that heat and humidity...and on your first day....nothing that catches our eyes there...we are tiring fast...
from there we head to robinsons dept. store, just next to taskim pier (terminus for the skytrain and location of the marriott boat pier)...in the basement is a large grocery store where we buy some beer, water (the marriott and most of the world class hotels do provide you at least 2 bottles of bottled water daily in your room---water in thailand is not drinkable from the tap) and snacks to take to the room...
back to the hotel by hotel boat...its so lovely to ride on the river...a new touch this year when you are heading back to the hotels is that the boatman hands out lovely ice cold face clothes to cool and wash yourselves from heat and city grime....after that he gives each person a chilly cold bottle of water....very nice touch...all done with a smile of course....we just love this hotel and its people....

we may have swam again but i did not write it down...

we had planned to eat out front as i call it....i had devised a master eating plan for lunches and dinners in bkk....karen laughed at me and gpanda told me i was very organized---i think he was being kind---he really thought i was anal and he is of course right---

eating out front means the thai family restaurant on the ground level of the mini mall....it's name is: Kaew Sabeoy or something similar....in the past we have really liked the food...this time we found it to be quite tasteless...we were however tired....we had chicken and cashew (our test dish to see how we compare thai/chinese restaurnats), lemon chicken, one water, one very large beer, 2 white steamed rice, 1 asparagus and shitite mushroom dish and shrimp and pea pods....it was 511B + or about $14....good but not delicious...
we bought some cake from the marriott bakery and took it to the room (after 6 or 7PM the bakery marks things down---20 or 30%)....

early to bed exhausted (king bed with lovely bed clothes)....a day we did just what we wanted....not much but relaxing after a long day of flights....

i'm falling asleep and must stop here for today....more tomorrow....it will move quicker i hope...

bob

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    Bob, thank you for the great detailed information. We are leaving on Friday for Bangkok and I have been reading this forum for months in preparation. We are also staying at the Bangkok Marriott (on your recommendation here).
    Looking forward to more before we leave.
    Thanks again.

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    BIZZ--i probably will post twice tomorrow if i find the time...if there is anything of particular interest before you leave send me an e-mail---rhkkmk@aol.com

    we love the marriott as you can see...we must have stayed there 10 or more segments....once we spent 13 days in a row there...its in particularily great shape at the moment...

    bob

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    Bob- great report- keepum comming. Please give me more info about what they had at the Jim Thompson Outlet Store the opne at the end of the sky train line. (Couldyou have walked from the skytrain to get there?). Want to know if they had purses, wallets, etc.
    (By the way- the answer to your question as to why Teddy keeps getting elected- well... besides being "American Royalty" he can really bring home the bacon for Ma. i.e. Big Dig!)

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    billT---you could walk from the skytrain at on nut, but we took a cab both times we went there...as i see it it is too hot to walk more than a block or so to anywhere you do not have to walk to....i would say that it was maybe a half dozen blocks from the skytrain to the end of soi 93 maybe a bit more and then the store was only down the soi about 2 city blocks on the right.. it is well marked with a classic jim thompson sign...they have the whole building---maybe 6 stories...

    goods: on the first and second floor it is fabric...the first floor seems to have mostly upholstery type fabrics and fabrics for the home....the second floor has more of theis plus dress fabrics and a few odds and ends...the third floor has a smattering of all JT goods....we went our first week and returned on our fourth week and there was a huge difference on that 4th week in what was there....maybe 25% different...
    there were stuffed toys, placemats, tablecloths, bedspreads, rugs, some purses (maybe not the most current), mens and womens clothing, a few kids clothes, pillow covers, lots of tote bags, fabric in rolls, napkins, hankies, t-shirts...there was silk and cotton selections
    all in all there was a very good selection....nothing in comparison to the big warehouse sales but adequate

    karen managed to spend a couple hundred dollars....savings seem to be at least 40% and in many cases more...

    you really missed out....

    the outlet on surawong has only fabric, but a very nice collection....if you were decorating a new house, it would pay for you to go there just for the savings---it would pay for your trip...

    hope this helps

    bob

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    Bob, I can't wait for the next installment. We leave for a 2 week road trip (Southeast US) on Saturday morning. I am going to try to avoid going on line for the whole two weeks, leaving my trusty laptop behind. This to me is part of being on vacation - although I will be tempted, knowing that future installments of your trip report are sitting on Fodor's waiting for me to read them :-) .

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    PART II

    Tuesday 25th

    we were up early...i had a bad sleeping nite--nightmares---don't eat rich chocolate before bed..

    pastry and coffee and tea in the room..

    we swam from 8:45 until about 10...changed and then off to town...we took the marriott boat to taskim (the end of the skytrain), a 15 minute ride....what a lovely way to start a day--a ride upstream on the chao pay. river...we bought a one day sky train pass---100B each..normally rides average from 35-45B each...we took the sky train to sala daeng (s-2 station) and walked from there to the jim thompson main store at the junction of rama IV and Surawong---or maybe we took a cab??....cab rides start at 35B and that last for quite a while until it increases by 2B increments....very cheap all around...
    we looked around and did some price shopping...
    our plan was to have lunch there in the wonderful cafe on the second floor...after our look around it was time to eat...karen had a delicious pasta with bacon combo (140B) and i had similar but pasta with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes (140B), plus we had water...very filling, but of course we had room to add one of their delicious desserts--we split a chocolate noir (a choc. steamed pudding/cake like combo with an apricot filling---i know, didn't i learn about chocolate from the nite before??)--the total bill was 410B or about $10.25---great lunch for that price

    we walked down surawong to #149 where there is a JT outlet...this store is clearly marked with the JT classic brown sign out front...it is a two story shop...on the first floor there is fabric, mostly for the home and on the second floor there is fabric for clothing mostly, including many silks...fabulous buys....you must know that JT is about as expensive as it gets in BKK, so it may seem expensive to some....my wife sews and is used to american prices so for this quality it is cheap....she thinks the price reductions were at least 50% and in some cases significantly more...we bought a couple of pieces of fabric including a lovely piece of silk for karen's youngest sister...she is a concert string player and always needs "dress-up" stuff to wear on stage--this was a 3 meter piece of lavendar silk...we saw another piece which we will e-mail her about and return to purchase it if she wants it...she did of course want it....the 3 meter piece was about $30-35...

    we left this JT outlet and walked through patpong I or II to silom road to get the skytrain to on nut so we could visit the other JT outlet...nothing doing in patpong...it's time is nite time....bad boys/bad girls...enough said...

    it was a pleasant walk, but hot of course...we did stop in a shop or two to look around...

    at on nut, we decended to the far exit on sukhumvit rd...there was a sign, or we knew for some reason, that soi 93 was 800 meters, it could easily have been 800 miles for the heat experience...we popped into a 7/11 and got a cold water, and to cool off...we continued down soi 93 for about 3-4 minutes and there we found the JT outlet on the left side...this store has both fabric and general JT merchandise...on floors one and two it is fabric primarily...very lovely stuff, not outlet style stuff at all....reductions were generally in the 50-70% range...the 3rd floor was general merchandise: clothing, bags, scarfes, placemats and napkins, some limited kids stuff, stuffed animals, rugs, tablecloths, bedspreads, t-shirts...don't go expecting to find anything in particular as you will be disappointed...go expecting to find bargains...karen managed to spend a couple of hundred dollars there...they accept cash, trav. cks and credit cards and do participate in the VAT refund scheme...we returned there again at the end of our trip and there had been about a 25% turnover in merchandise, so it changes often...there were many ex-pats in there buying so they often stop by to see what's new....

    from there we took a cab back to the marriott---the doorman at JT hailed the cab for us and instructed the driver where we needed to go...the driver was one of those unknowledgable drivers and unfamiliar with bkk in the larger sense...he made out fine, but put us in a terrible traffic situation and the ride took well over an hour--even with that the ride only cost 200B--$5...we just sat back and took it all in....i should note here that many traffic lites in bangkok take forever to change...maybe 3-4 minutes in some cases...its frustrating...plus the motorcycles and tuk tuks jut in and out of traffic and head up to the front of the line and hold things up when the lites do change...

    we swam....i went for my first jacket fitting with jack....i hate the fabric when i see it made up...i must have been in a bad mood---its all that chocolate....

    we went out and did internet ---15 min. for 10B...our kids love us to keep in touch when we are away...

    we had some beer in the room

    we took a taxi from marriott to harmonique restaurant....it is located on soi 34, new road....new road is the road parrell to the river and one major block in town from the river...the soi is right next to the main bkk post office on new road and is well posted....there is a huge decorated archway at the entrance to the soi...there is a huge mosque in this area and the arch leads into it i believe...

    harmonique is a uniqe experience...it is thai food....the food is great but the service is often slow--not the serving of the food, but the ordering, especially if you need more time to review the menu and the paying at the end...we always sit in one of the a/c rooms--there are two i believe --in there you sometimes are forgotten...the dining is a combo of these rooms and open air and other regular rooms with a miss-mash of weird asian decorations seemingly thrown up on the walls and in the corners...its eccletic to say the least...

    we were not disappointed...the food was fabulous...we started with spring rolls..we ordered fried morning glories with garlic---absolutely delicious and a huge portion (it would be similar to spinach with garlic only there is more structure to the greenery), 2 bottles of water, lemon chicken, red curry shrimp, cashew chicken (our tasting dish), sticky rice and steamed rice...the bill was 555B+ or about $14....it was fabulous...slow bill..the old ladies just take their time...

    we took a taxi to the hotel...they will summon one for you...67B+

    we were in bed by 10:30

    i was wide awake at 3:30AM so got up and did some organizing and paperwork...

    a perfect day!!!

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    PART 3

    Wednesday

    could not sleep, up by 6AM..out to the pool to sit for a while alonE while karen was still in bed...pastry fresh from numero uno--the hotel pastry shop, cum mini snack bar/bar....89.88B incl ++
    breakfast in the room

    out for a swim
    boat to skytrain...another one day pass..took train to nana stop...this area for those of you who do not know is a major "entertainment area"... if you have not seen your vietnam-era uncle for some months you might find him here in the company of a young thai girl or boy....they are everywhere...
    the reason why we go here is that our jewerler is located in the decadent Nana Hotel lobby...its located on soi 4, sukhumvit rd, just behind the gas station....

    the jewerler is fabulous and we have been dealing with them for 10 years and our best man has been dealing with them since vietnam times....

    the company is Thai Stone Jewerly and it is located at the back of the hotel lobby...it all is quite dark and shabby really...

    we usually see Amporn, a lovely middle-aged thai woman who has great ideas and understands exactly what karen wants...

    we buy mostly custom made jewerly from them....mostly yellow gold set with stones...they do have readi-made stuff in the case as well....

    we had been in contact with Porn, as she is know, before our arrival; because i remember that in spring she and the owner and some of the other staff (they are all related i believe)go outside bangkok to an area where international military forces meet for exercises annually....they set up a shop in a hotel and sell jewerly to the troops...they have been doing this for years...in any case she had answered us back to say that in fact she was going away and would not return until the first week in june but that mr lee in the shop would be glad to assist us...

    so we arrived at the shop and began our converstions with mr lee...he is a affable man about 40 or so....we had always seen him in the small shop but never dealt directly with him....he seemed to understand exactly what karen wanted...this was largely a pricing exercise as she had several things in mind and we had orders from friends and family for other things, some of which needed cost approvals before we could proceed...we also took with us a number of repairs to be done, which we left with him....we did all of this and wrote down estimates and told him that we would think about the prices and contact the individuals who needed to approve their purchases....more later on specifics...

    i need to stop now as i am told we need to go grocery shopping...

    MORE LATER...

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    This is exactly the detail and insight that we have come to love and expect from Bob and Karen. It both reminds me of past experiences and promises new ones. As a fan of the Royal Orchid Sheraton, the foreshadowing does not bode well. Abrupt, indeed.

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    i just lost a whole section i had typed...damn it...

    here goes again...

    after we left the jewerly store we wandered around the corner to the JW Marriott hotel where we have often stayed....i wanted to see the new Bangkok Baking Co which had opened at the front of the hotel on sukhumvit...it really is just a repositioning of the old bakery/ice cream parlor from near the lobby...it has taken space formerly part of the main dining area on the ground floor...

    while over there we notice the new security as cars approach the hotel...they are stopped by police/security people and barracades...they search in the trunk and open the rear and front doors of the auto, plus they use mirrors under the car--looking for bombs i guess...we felt it was about as effective as the usa airport screening...by the time you are this close to the hotel you could blow up the place....go figure...i guess it is appearances that count....we felt perfectly safe on this entire trip...i have forgotten to mention that the marriott resort and spa has a similar situation but theirs is just after you enter the property and away from the hotel proper....

    we used the restrooms at the marriott and crossed over the elevated bridge to the plenochit center....it is a medium sized shopping center next to the hotel...there is a good grocery store in the basement...
    karen wanted to look at Piklik, a small shop that sells white cotton garments...men's, women's and children...we did not buy anything this time...
    back to the marriott to get a cab to soi 23 where we were to have lunch at Baan Khanitha...this is a great thai restaurant that we have intended trying on at least two previous trips ...we had no reservation, but should have...the place was jammed but they fit us in....

    the first cab we got into was a red and blue cab...not our favorite situation...his meter was rigged...by the time we reached the end of soi 2, maybe 500 yards...the meter had already changed twice...i instructed him firmly to pull over....we should have been able to go about 1/2 mile before any change in meter...we got out and walked away without paying---he knew why...

    we decided to take the skytrain to asoke...we walked back to nana stop and got on....

    sorry i have to stop here...will continue with more this evening...

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    As you noted elsewhere, Bob, we all have different experiences. As someone who has stayed in the Towers (usually suites) for the last 20+ years, they wouldn't dare be abrupt with me, either! lol

    Looking forward to the rest of your report.

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    rhkkmk,
    enjoyed your report. We are going in October to BKK (hope it will not be that hot!). Will be staying at Royal Orchid Sheraton, we have very little time in Bkk, total 2.5 days.
    Do you think shopping near Sheraton area will be enough? We will be in Hong Kong before that and in Chiang Mai, so Bangkok will be afterwards.

    Re JT - does it make sense to go his museum or we can shop at Sheraton outlets?

    thanks! Looking forward to the rest.

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    in my report i will be getting to the jim thompson house shortly, but i will tell you that it has jumped to the top of our list of attractions, right up there with the grand palace....

    shopping---depends on what you want and need...river city has lots of shops and so does the sheraton and near-by the oriental has loads too...it would not be enough for us, but again it depends on your needs...

    more info after i have dinner in about 30 minutes...

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    ok so now i can continue...

    we took the sky train from nana to asoke..from there we got a taxi down soi 23 to the restaurant...they have a door man who came running to the taxi with an umbrella as it had started to rain a bit---not just an umbrella, but a patio table umbrella..."do you have a reservation?" were we in trouble?? you often get that question when no one is in the dining room, but in this case it was nearly full...they could accomodate us...woof...we had a lovely table near by a window overlooking some of the garden...this is a lovely old thai house with a somewhat open framework style...there are not many tables and there were at least two large groups...there were quite a few ex-pat wife types with lovely clothes and lots of cheek kissing... and of course glasses of lunch wine...maybe too many glasses...we had pork and ginger, and cashew chicken, plus water..this was preceeded by complimentary hors d'oeuvres...this interesting sampling was a large round dish with several smaller dishes on it...there were whole peanuts, dried shrimp, hot chopped peppers, chopped onions and maybe one or two other items, plus a hot sauce...they explained how to eat it...there were small round pieces of green leaves, about 3 inches across...one crimps them slightly to make a sive like structure and then add bits and pieces from the dishes and eats it in one bite in my case...very tasty and a nice introduction to the main courses...final bill 623B, about $15.50...a lovely lunch...MAKE SURE TO MAKE RESERVATIONS...both for lunch and dinner...a must return place...

    i do not know why we did not come here before as our favorite bkk gift shop is right next door and we have been there many times....it is RASI SAYAM... SO WE LEFT THE RESTAURANT VERY HAPPY and proceeded to rasi...we met the owner who is an american...we had a nice chat...he is leaving the shop shortly to return to WI to take care of ailing parents...he has had it for 13 years i think he said...they simply have some of the nicest home furnishings: objects not furniture...they are not cheap but the quality is excellent...it tends to be natural things made from wood and grass...they get things from around thailand and also from some neighboring countries...
    after he leaves he will turn the store over to a non-profit agency that he is associated with so it should continue in its present form for some time to come...we hope so...its on soi 23, about 2/3rds of the way down on the right...it you come to the university you have gone too far...
    i only bought one small oval wicker box...he has beautiful hand woven shawls and skirt lengths as well as the furnishings...
    this neighborhood has producded a one page map of attractions...ask for it...

    we walked down soi 23 and visited Nandakwang at 108/3 sukhumvit, soi 23. in the past we have purchased lots of cotton items from them...last fall they changed their focus and do not have any of the usual stuff anymore so we only spent a few minutes there...now it is largely cotton clothing...near-by is Sinwatra silk co....this is a large shop offering many different kinds of silk goods...we did purchase on 3 meter piece of nubbly silk for karen's sister...about $35.
    from there we walked back to the skytrain station and back to taskim and the boat to the marriott...
    that nite we had been invited to the manager's reception...as marriott rewards silver (low level) FF participants, we are usually invited to this offering...they have it in one of the restaurants or bars...this time it was at 6:30PM in the elephant bar...last year we were very disappointed as the manager never mingled with his guests and we later found out he was a stiff in every sense of the word...the staff hated him...this was such a change after the previous manager, mike burchett, who everyone loved...we are to run into him later in this trip as the new GM of the bali conrad hotel...
    anyways, the new manager is jonathan wigley, the youngest GM of a major bangkok hotel...he is charming and we had a great time talking to him... the reception was fantastic...the food was plentiful and very delicious...hors d'oeuvres of all sorts...booze flowed freely...this was a command performance from the staff and maybe there were 30-40 guests...written invitation specified "smart casual dress"...karen was allset as she had brought her favorite casual summer dress along--it has sea shells (real shells) sown all over it randomly---many people commented on it.....we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and jon insisted we have our picture taken with him...they later delivered a copy to our room...as regular repeat customers he was interested in our perspective on the hotel...we did not hold back with our enthusiasm for it...jon came from the landmark hotel in bkk....
    after the reception i had another jacket fitting...i'm liking the jacket more, and karen says i have never had a jacket fit this well...i am large so nothing looks good on me...we changed our clothes and then
    we headed for the shuttle boat..it pulled away as we approached...jon was there and yelled for them to come back but they did not hear him---i bet they got an earful the next morning...we did notice that after that nite they looked around a lot more before leaving--they ring a bell once before leaving....he offered us a drink from the pier-side bar but we refused...he had already given us more than enough...
    we were off to one of our favorite bkk restaurants--Biscotti in the four seasons hotel...we took the skytrain to rachadami and the 4 seasons is right across the street..it was formerly the regent hotel...it is run by the same group that own the marriott resort and spa...biscotti is a modern italian place with an open kitchen...we have never had a bad meal there....we were early for our reservation so we decided to check out their pool area...basic...rectangular pool with very little shade area...we won't be staying there...
    the hotel lobby is magnificent...it has very high ceilings which are painted...there is a huge flower arrangement as you enter the lobby...they had karen's favorite --lizzianthus (probably spelled wrong) on display this day...maut be 6-8 feet across the display...there are lots of chairs and sofas and you can eat there informally or have a drink...there was a piano player that evening...it was lovely..no maybe it was a trio playing--i forget just now...
    our reservation was for 9PM...they did not have the table ready so we waited a minute or two...they were very apologetic...the room is a bit noisy, but it is fun noise..the kitchen is open and that adds to the noise and the head chef who is germantic of some type loves to yell and bang things...
    we received lots of extra attention because the table had not been ready for us...they should come to the usa where reservations don't mean much any more...
    i selected two appetisers for my dinner because i had eaten so much at the reception: i had delicious carpaccio and the most unusual minestrone soup--it was fantastic...karen selected herb encrusted sea bass with beans...we followed this with dessert...i had a lemon tart which was fantastic and very artful in presentation with 2 or three sauces under it...karen had a trio of iced offerings....they insisted we have some complimentary grappa---ugh...i hate it in italy and i hate it in bkk...1836B or about $46....exceptional dinner as always...
    taxi back to the marriott--80B+
    fell into bed at about 11....a great day all in all...

    to be continued

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    Thursday the 27th

    up early again: 6:45...this is very early for us as we don't get up at home until about 9...

    i did some paperwork--planning the day etc...pastry as usual for breakfast..its so fresh...
    down to the pool for a swim...this pool is simply lovely and was the cleanest we had at any hotel on this trip...
    we took the boat to taskim and then took the peninsula boat to their hotel and walked around a bit and checked out their new restaurant: Thalaythip..i think karen has spelled this incorrectly but who am i to judge...back to their dock and their boat to river city...
    karen was ready to order her new clothing from JS Thai Silk...i think i had said earlier that this shop is on the ground floor of the center opposite to the info booth at the sheraton end of the building..."the girls" at the shop greeted us in their friendly way....karen selected a washable green thai silk for a suit....sort of an upscale running suit, but it is to have an oriental style jacket with frogs...she is to have a golden brown pair of heavy silk pants---later she will have them make a tailored shirt from a piece of cotton we purchased at the jim thompson outlet on surawong ($20 to make)...also a green silk blouse with 3/4 length sleeves and a large stand up collar...all of this, custom made, to fit her beautifully was $182.50 (7300B)..the cotton had cost about $12...so total about $195...fantastic....
    we left there very pleased with out orders and a date to return in a few days for a first fitting...karen wants to suggest to all of you to plan on at least two fittings for anything you have tailored in bkk...all their products are made upstairs in their tiny shop....ms yai is a gem...

    from there we took a boat to taskim and the skytrain to the national stadium stop (follow overhead signs to exit 2--at the bottom of the stairs is the lane to the house) on our way to the jim thompsom house (museum)...we had not visited there for a few years and we had heard that a shop for JT stuff and a restaurant had opened on the property....we were amaxed at how things had changed...all to the better...the jim thompson foundation has done a fantastic job in moving the place forward.....this is now one of the top places, a must do, in bangkok...it was interesting before but now they have enhanced the experience and we highly suggest that every visitor go there...tours take about 30 minutes and there is a pottery house with lovely displays...there will be a new restaurant shortly and there is a small cafe now....the house and grounds are substantially updated...maybe jim has returned from malaysia....
    we walked back to the skytrain, noticing how much the neighborhood had changed...many small junk shops for tourists along the soi....train and boat back to marriott....
    i went out to the internet to see what messages we may have...its so cheap at this place...hit the atm and dropped off some laundry at the place almost next door to the internet for pick-up after our return from samui...very cheap...maybe 20% of the marriott laundry cost....

    we packed up a bit as we were leaving in the AM..

    i had yet another jacket fitting..

    took the boat and skytrain on our way to gallery gourmet restaurant off of soi 39, sukhumvit rd....this is a favorite place for western food...its light and has lovely prints on the walls...the thai lady who owns it spent some years in CA i believe...the food is very good and nicely presented...its a relaxing good place to spend the evening....it is located in an area of bkk where many ex-pats live so is a popular place...we originally found it in our favorite bkk tour guide: the treasurers and pleasurers of thailand by ron krannich---impact books

    we were to meet our best man there who was vacationing in bkk from his home in hawaii....he had developed some stomach problems...he eats in questionable places in bkk...serves him right...
    we last saw him a year and 1/2 ago also in bkk...we had a great meal and lots of fun conversations....all three had filet of beef, FF and veggies, one glass of wine, another mixed drink, water and 2 onion soups (this is a speciality...its unbelievable--have the one with the hat on it)3 delicious desserts---they have a table display of desserts as you enter.....2550B about $63 for the 3 of us....we left in two taxis which the restaurant called for us...our taxi was 135B, about $3.50...another perfect day....finished some packing and bed at a very late 11:30...
    tomorrow we leave bangkok for the island of koh samui...our first visit there...

    that's all for tonight...

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    good morning---its not a good morning for me as i looked out the window and discovered that i am no longer in thailand...

    some may ask why there is no trips to "sights" in bangkok?? that is because we are on our 6th trip to thailand and we have pretty much exhausted our interest in bkk sightseeing....now we only wish to shop, eat and experience the city in the 21st C....

    i would interject here about our air trips within asia....it has been my experience that i can save quite a bit of money on airfares (that is conventional airfares prior to the advent of the new low cost air carriers that ply asia at the moment) by purchasing air tickets through an asian travel agent...some refute this notion but it has worked for me...to this end i put out a posing on fodors over a year ago asking for names of thai travel agents...jamesA came through with a listing (as you can always expect him to do)...his most strong suggestions was for sea tours, the american express agent in bkk...i made contact with them and eddie (aniwat@seatoursthai.com) answered me back....in fact i contacted a number of agencies and he was always the most prompt and had great prices...so by the end of last summer i had established what exactly i needed for reservations and he made them and put them out on the web at the amadeus site so i could see them....i paid him with my amex card after an appropriate time...his agency does not upcharge for the use of a credit card like so many other agencies in asia do (3-5%)...this was very pleasing... we booked 2 seats on the following: bkk-samui-bkk on bangkok air (a great little carrier with exceptional customer service and ammenities, like free internet at the airport and snacks in the lounge) for 6930B each ($178.)--a standard price at the time...next we booked bkk-bali-bkk on thai air : 13,750B ($352.)--this is about a 50% savings on anything i could find in the usa...he booked seat assignments for us too at the time of booking.....and finally he booked bkk-chiang rai-bkk on thai air 5290B ($136.)....total air $1332...all are coach seats...the planes were full when we flew so i would say that advance reservations are essential to answer many questions on this forum...

    eddie had the tickets delivered to us at the marriott on our first day, free of charge as well...everything was in perfect order...right after the ticket delivery he called with a message that the flight to bali had a time change of 1 hour later: 9:30AM instead of 8:40AM so that would give us another hour of sleep that morning...i thought this was exceptional service...

    to continue:

    Friday 28th

    we got up with much anticipation as we were off to koh samui for a few days...this is an island about 1 hours flight south from bangkok...it is much touted as a quieter phuket...
    we had our usual pastry breakfast...and did some final packing...checked out of our marriott favorite, room 544...great bill of only 1000 B ($28) as this room had been paid for with marriott frequent guest miles...special spring deal of only 63,000 miles for 5 nites...

    the aac limo was waiting for us in the lobby area when we came down stairs (this is the other half of the arrival voucher from AAC)...we had two sets of luggage: one which we put in storage at the marriott while we were away (free) and a lesser amount that we would take with us to samui---one bag each plus carry-ons...

    we flew to the airport...only 1/2 hour, using rama III and the expressway---extra 70B charge for the expressway...the driver was exceptional and very friendly...our flight was 11:40AM...when we got there that flight was cancelled that day and we were put on the noon flight....
    bangkok air has its own check in area at the domestic terminal and they have a large lounge with 4 free internet terminals and a kiosk that serves limited soft drinks and coffee and pastries...there are free newspapers...this is a class act...

    the boarding was from a "bus" gate which means that you are loaded into buses and driven out onto the tarmac to board the plane...i have forgotten the plane but it was a small propeller turbo...it was very comfortable...they fly somewhat lower than jets so this was fun to see the coast line...lunch was served on the plane...configuration was 2+2...
    when bkk air says noon, they mean noon...we were in the air at 12:01...

    so we approached samui and circled a bit...its always exciting to arrive on an island by air....we always love our arrivals at nantucket via air and this was no exception....

    you touch down on a small airstrip...it is a single lane...the sides of the runway are lined with beautiful flowering shrubs...the plane parks at a somewhat remote section off of the strip and open air trolleys, like those in key west, FL pick you up and transport you to the open air grass roofed structures that are the airport buildings...it is lovely...bangkok air seems to have a monopoly on air transport to this airport from bkk...they own it all i believe...prices are slightly higher than they should be in this case...
    the baggage handling system is a series of 4 conveyer belts in a square...sounds odd but it works...

    on the suggestion of jamesA, we had booked ourselves into the Peace Resort and bungalows...we wanted something on the ocean and a bit of a laid back place....for 300B (150B each) they sent a driver for us at the airport...he was there with a sign as we moved away from the baggage area...his car was a corolla and it had a/c....
    the resort is about a 15-20 minute ride from the airport in the bohphut beach section of samui...

    bophut beach and the small town are a former fishing village...the strip in town, which we could walk to along either the road or the beach is quaint...there are a few shops, some restaurants and some bars, plus a number of lower end guesthouses and hotels...not low end, but lower end if you understand the difference...

    Peace Resort....IT SIMPLY COULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR US....we had securred one of the 5 beach front bungalows (3200B/nite including all taxes, servic and breakfasts--$80)...they have 4 categories of facilities...the ones i would suggest are beach front and beach facing...we suggest these because of the added breezes you receive in this accomodation...the other bungalows are perfectly satisfactory but are tucked back in a grove and they are closer together...
    we had pre-paid two nites as they require (they require a 50% payment of your entire booking)...this was done through a secure web-site at the time of booking which in this case was months in advance...

    reception is a simple affair in a seperate building as you approach the resort down a small dirt road from the main street...maybe a 2 minute walk to the street or less...there is parking there for cars and motor bikes...
    we were greeted by a bellman who took our bags on his two wheel trolley--really a wheel-barrel kind of affair...we were expected and
    all the paper work was in order and we had bungalow #204...it was perfect...we were right on the beachfront...the buildings are white with bright blue tile roofs...there is an open air porch on the front with two wooden chairs and a small table, plus a wooden drying rack...a lovely place to sit, although we rarely did... there are lots of huge windows on the front and side...all can be covered with the sliding drapes... there is a large double sliding door and step up as you enter the inside...immediately in front of you is a large coffee table with ratan top and a chaise lounge affair with ratan mat and those triangular pillows that you see in thailand...here also is a tv on a small desk with a fridge underneath..the walls are a soothing yellow...
    the main room is sort of "L" shapped...

    i am giving detailed room descriptions because billT has asked me to...

    from this area you move into the sleeping area which is a large room with a king bed...good matress by the way---firm...the room has windows on two sides...there are bedside attached tables..i do not think there is a clock ...there is a small wardrobe with a personal safe inside--the wardrobe was really inadequate and there was not really any drawers to us--this was one negetive to our stay...we always use the safes...there is a dressing table with mirror next to the wardrobe...
    the a/c is controlled via inserting the fob on your room key into a slot...must be magnet or similar...we often left our room unlocked in order to keep the a/c running all the time....
    on the rear of the building is the bathroom, which is somewhat dark as it really does not have a window although it has a large screened loover opening up high above the sink...this lets moisture escape...the bathroom is large in comparison to the overall bungalow...the towels were a disappointment and somewhat threadbare, but they were adequate...some had "a lovely fringe"....you have a half step down into the bathroom, which would become important later in our stay...
    the tub/shower is huge...it is one of those french type affairs where you have to climb over the side to get in...there is no shower curtain or barrier of any type...some of the bathrooms on other types of bungalows were open air rooms with walls around them...looked quite nice really..the a/c only filters into the bath---there is no direct intakce---we often kept the door closed for this reason and that made a huge difference in the room temp...

    there is one sink and one toilet...all very utilitarian...it was perfect for us...

    i forgot to mention that there is a paddle fan over the bed which we kept on low all of the time...

    within 50 feet of our front door was the beach...the water was disappointing in many ways---not crystal clear as we had expected...there is some limited surf...the bottom of the ocean felt a bit muddy so we only walked out into the water once...there are lounge chairs along the beach and some cement tables and stools..there is a row of palm trees along the walkway which lines the beachfront...it was a beautuful setting---THANK YOU JAMES....

    the large free-form pool was 3 bungalows away and just back from the beach...i think the pool is quite new and we loved it...you get a chit upon check-in for two beach towels and you can change your towel once per day, which we did religiously...next to the pool is a raised platform with a roof which is the massage area...3 women are there from morning until maybe 5PM and are busy giving massages...300B ($7.50) for a 60 minute conventional massage...it did it at least twice...karen does not like thai massage as she had one a few years ago in chiang mai and the woman ruffed her up....i could not convince her to try these women...her loss...i loved it..
    around the pool there are a number of sitting areas and lounges ...there is not a poolboy/girl as such but the staff in the adajacent restaurant and bar cater to your needs...

    peace resort is the last thai family owned and run resort left on samui...most are corporations or foreign run...this made it especially nice...they have an internet site by the way...

    the restaurant...the only restaurant at the resort is right next to the pool and is an open air place overlooking the beach and pool...the menu is extensive and includes both eastern and western items...the food was very good and comparitively cheap---more on that later...

    there is limited beach eqpt...you can rent jet skis and maybe small boats on the beach...

    not all the bungalows are the same size and we had the largest size...all have great a/c...

    at the pool there is a kids pool and a jaccuzzi, plus a pool bar..waitresses wander up and down the pool and beach areas to take your requirements for food and drink...

    the sand is coarse on the beach...we are spoiled by nantucket sand so this may not be a fair comparison...

    the resort was not very full so this worked to our advantage...it was the beginning of their big season...

    so much for description...oh yes one more thing...some fodors person had raised the question of the construction going on next to peace resort...yes, there is a new resort under construction (tear down of an old one and construction of a new one) and you can see the steel framework through the trees but aside from an occaisonal bang there is no disturbance from this construction...that may change, but i doubt it...

    we decided to have an additional lite lunch at the restaurant to check it out...510B....very good indeed....

    we unpacked for a while and then headed to the beach and then to the pool....
    later we had beers on our porch and enjoyed the setting sun...

    we decided that we would have dinner in the resort restaurant...there are a couple of set meals offered so we decided on a 6 course meal at a total cost of 630B ($15.75) for the two of us...it was spicy and delicious and there was a mountain of well prepared and well presented food....we had two ice creams for dessert...

    after dinner we were tired so we went back to the room and turned on the tv and watched globe trecker which was in nepal that nite...bed by 9:30--old foogies....

    again i have to say that we were thrilled with this choice of place...it was not in the go-go area of chawaeng beach---we would later visit there and decide we had made a perfect choice...thanks again jamesA...

    koh samui was to be our R&R place for this trip and it proved to be...

    we've made it through another day...more later

    bob

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    Saturday the 29th may

    great sleep, up about 7...went to breakfast...lovely open air space overlooking the ocean and pool...there was a fisherman just off the beach in a small yellow kyack...he threw out a very thin fishing net in a very large circle and then worked his way around and picked it up...must have taken one hour to circle...picturesque...

    the breakfast was lovely...it was stations and there was a pancake/egg station as well...there were pastries, toast and jam, butter, cereals and milk, lots of cut-up fresh fruit, yogurts, juices, cheese (for the germans, plus meats--limited), bacon, hot cereal, potatoes, teas and coffee, etc...very adequate...all included in the price...i had to have bottled water which was an extra (20B--$.50)...

    i had borrowed a digital camera from our youngest daughter to see how i liked doing pictures this way--i liked it...a sony 5 mega pix...

    i reviewed my pictures and cleared things off a bit...i had done this with the tv at the marriott in bkk as well..

    we were off to the pool...we met a nice family who were there on vacation...they had two cute girls: soda and punch...i played with soda in the water throwing her up in the air, etc....frustrated grandparent....

    we were swimming around and i began to talk to an indian man who was there with his two kids and wife...they live in texas now and were on their way to india for a month's visit with family...can you believe this:...I HAD HAD QUITE A BIT OF CORRESPONDENCE WITH HIM ON FODORS ABOUT THAILAND AND ABOUT THE PEACE RESORT ESPECIALLY....i think his fodors name is columbiacc or something similar....he said to me, "you're not rhkkmk are you..." we spent quite a bit of time talking over the next couple of days...his family are delightful....small world isn't it---thanks fodors...

    we decided that we would walk into town and see what's what and have lunch...we took the road rather than the beach...

    the traffic was moderate...this is a main "highway" around the island---two lane road....we stopped at a shop which had an internet sign...did our internet for 1B per minute---cheaper than peace resort where it was 3B/minute...
    the shop was also a travel agency owned my a nice australian who has lived for a few years on samui....we asked him about car rentals...he had a 2 door suk. jeep available at 800B ($20) per day all inclusive, except gas...sold...gas by the way was very cheap....we ordered it for 2 days starting at 10AM the next day...it is to be delivered to us at the resort...this was about 25% cheaper than what was offered at peace resort...the resort will arrange all kinds of excursions for you and rentals if you wish...

    we continued our walk into town...i needed a pair of flip flops for the pool and we picked up a nice "designer" pair at a roadside shop for 200B ($5)...

    we walked along the main street...the travel agent had suggested that we lunch at starfish and coffee on the main street in town...we stopped there and it was quite nice....we had a table unter an overhang (to protect us from the sun) on the rear porch overhanging the water....we could see the boats and the ferry come and go to the neighboring island...the nearest island is the one that hosts the famous "full moon parties" every month attended by every pot head in SE Asia....had a great thai lunch for 340B including 3 waters...chicken and sweet corn, shrimp and broccholi, plus fried rice with veggies...continued our walk and checked out a couple of stores, bars and restaurants for future use... we hit the ATM....we crossed over to the beach and walked the short way back to the resort...lovely mid-day...
    the rest of the afternoon was spent at the pool...i had my first massage--a 60 minute relaxation for 200B + a 100B tip....

    we met two isreali men (late 60's) at the pool and enjoyed talking to them...one of them had been a TWA employee in isreal prior to its shut down...as we had been frequent TWA passengers his perspectives were interesting...they had left their wives behind at home and were enjoying the sun and relaxation in their retirement...

    by the way the travel agent mentioned above is Roy Stroop and you can reach him at roycosamui@hotmail.com...he told us that all hotel rooms are fair traded and that he cannot usually save you any money, but that for some reasons the fairtrading does not apply when hotles solicit on the internet for business--go figure....

    we had beer in the room and wrote in our diaries...

    roy had also suggested that we try the food at the ZaZen Bungalows which were right down the beach from peace resort...we decided we would have dinner there...we walked down there via the road...
    very upscale restaurant...they had a small boat in the dining room which was filled with ice and had the freshest of fish sitting on top of it...the place was candle lit...

    our menu was: chicken satay, asparagus with hard boiled egg sauce, FF, a 550 gram white snapper which we chose to have grilled...it was served with lemon sauce...we had crepes suzettes with ice cream for dessert...they brought the plate with the ice cream and crepes on it...placed it in front of us and then poured the flamming liquid over it from a long handled ladel...very dramatic and delicious...it kept burning for quite a while...osha would never allow this treatment in usa!!!! price 940B ($23.50)...the fish would have cost more that this in usa....the fish is served whole, of course and karen did a masterful job in seperating the flesh from the bones...it was simply the best and freshest fish i had had in a long time and we live in fish country---New England....
    we later learned that the rooms are small and not so nice...we were told this by 2 british woman we met who viewed them as a potential for their contined 3 week vacation on samui...

    we walked the beach back to the hotel...one could describe the whole evening as very romantic....too bad we are soooooo old....

    in bed by 11:30.... a splendid day...

    more later tonight...must go do my 4 hours of work now...

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    Keep 'em coming, Bob. I'm forwarding these to my newbies and they are enchanted with your narrative. Fish country? Exactly how are they running in Natick? It's a long way for a lobster to crawl. Oh, I admit we are spoiled by Nantucket, but that's why the average house is in excess of $1,000,000.

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    Sunday---

    karen up at 6:30, me at 7...stroll along the beach to breakfast...a large plant in our front yard has decided to pop out..it stands about 3 feet high...the flower is magnificent...our friend brooks could tell us what it is...to me it is some sort of giant lily...purple and white in color/lots of spikes...i took several pictures over a couple of days as it continued to enhance itself....is that sexual??
    eventually it fell over because the flower was so heavy...

    we met the two english ladies that i spoke about above and had a nice chat with them over breakfast...they are there for 4 weeks....never in asia before...seems like too long for that island to me...quite shocked...stayed 3 days at the montien hotel near patpong in bkk and were disgusted with the city....this is why its important to stay on the river or to choose carefully....their whole feeling about bkk was based on this seedy area...i know, andy, its your favorite part of bkk....
    after breakfast it was out to the pool..
    had a nice lunch by the pool: 1 soup, one burger, 2 water, two ice cream cones, premade...340B..$9....we stayed out there until about 2:30..

    the car was to be delivered at 3 (i think i may have said 10 above--that was wrong..) .. we did this so that we could return the car at the airport and save on a one way transport from the hotel (300B you know---karen says i'm cheap--i've said that before)...

    we drove over to chawaeng beach to see what that was all about...have you heard of coney island?? enough said...we are too old for that...

    we stopped for gas on the way--it was quite cheap...about $1 per gallon or about 1/2 of what we are now paying...

    then we had our first mishap: we went to an ATM and i had trouble with my card/pin and the machine took it...the bank office was closed and it was a sunday (it is open for 3 hours on a sunday but not after 3)...not to panic, that account had most of our cash for the trip...karen had her card for this account...we tried it later and it would not work....now i am a retired banker, and i was mad and felt completely stupid......for the last two years we have not used trav. checks and relied on atm's and now this...not to worry we have other cards and other accounts...just had to get creative...
    i returned to the bank a day later and eventually got the card back...it was just sitting in someone's top drawer...great security...

    amongst the honky-tonkness of CB, there were some nice hotels including Poppies and others...

    we headed south from here along the coast...we stopped at a newish restaurant called Cliff Restaurant...we had a drink and some brushetta on the deck, high-up overlooking the water and the lush coast line...decided that we would return there another time for a meal..in fact made a reservation for that nite...
    continued south hugging the coast line...it soon became a bit boring..we wanted to check out the much touted Laem Set Inn....we did find it...it is described in their literature as a gaugan painting....that must have been one of his lesser paintings...
    in fairness, we had been staying in lovely 5* type places and now we have come across what is best described as my old YMCA camp in NH in the 1950's...the spot is beautiful but the facilities are lacking for the giagantic price they command (over $200/nite)....we looked at the lunch and dinner menus which were very limited, especially when compared with the huge menu at our lowly 3* peace resort and the prices were high comparitively...
    they were very welcoming to us and the new manageress showed us around and into 2 or 3 rooms of different configurations...again the site is beautiful but the facilities are old and worn....added to this is that the place is very remote and if you did not have a car you would be stuck...i understand that some people love solitude, but this seemed like siberia...it would be different if there was some nite life and/or a fabulous restaurant but we did not see anything of the kind...its a long way to go to read 10 books...
    karen says we best describe it as "rustic traditional"...lets leave it at that...back down the long road to the main road and we now headed north...we drove by the le meredien, which is also very isolated...we decided not to stop and look around..shortly we came upon the five islands restaurant and bar...it was a free standing pavilion with a grass roof and open on all four sides...it was opened last fall by a man from OZ...the menu looked great and was moderate to expensive...it is situated on a slight knoll overlooking an area where several small colorful fishing boats are secured...very picturesque...we will try to return here...

    so now we headed back towards bophut beach...we found a cross country road after getting slightly lost...we did see the ferry landing however from the mainland...

    we had made a 7:30 reservation for dinner at the cliff and made it back just in time....we sat at the same fabulous table as in the afternoon and enjoyed the breezes...i bet this place really jumps in high season...full of yuppies...
    we had steaks, FF, and portugese beans in a delicious sauce...
    did i say earlier that we do not eat salads in asia for health reasons...how is the lettuce washed??? we really wanted one with our steaks...oh well...
    we finished the dinner with bananna crepes which were crispy and delicious...lots of caramalized sugars...plus water of course...1545B+ $38.75...the view and relaxation were worth every cent...it is western owned..the chef is portugese...

    we found the roads to be very bumpy in our little 2 seater jeep with no springs...

    back to peace resort and bed by 10:30..

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    i have lots of pictures and i hope to post them on shutter fly.com but i have to find out how this is done from a cd first...i will post a message when they are available...

    Monday

    at 6:15AM we heard water running...oh yes that is coming from out bathroom.. our second mishap of the trip...karen jumped up...i love to fake that i am still asleep when things go wrong...she says that the toilet is overflowing...i get up and look and yes the toilet is overflowing...i pick up the phone and tell reception and get back into bed...such a man thing...someone arrives shortly...yes the toilet is overflowing...she calls for more help...now the tools arrive...it is stopped and we are told the maids will be there shortly to clean up...we decide to go for breakfast....after breakfast it still had not been cleaned so i called and asked...we went to the pool and it was cleaned quickly...i think the maids don't arrive until normal working hours...
    after a swim we returned to a clean room...by this time our back yard was being dug up by 3 or 4 men by hand...karen thinks that roots may have invaded the pipes...i think that americans put too much toilet paper in the toilet...any ideas....??

    we decided to drive north around the top of the island and then south on the western shore...

    our first stop was at the Pansea Resort...it is simply fabulous...very thai and very modern...everything is open air...it is built into a hillside and it descends down to the ocean...it has a magnificent pool high up overlooking the beach...the rooms are to die for and so is the price--$260/nite...a class operation...at the top of the hill they have developed a small community of individually owned homes...as we were leaving, we did meet two young parisian women who had come there to go to the beach only to find that you have to go to a public beach to be at a decent beach...they were mad...

    we continued around and saw a sign announcing a vantage point...we decided to go up...it started nicely through some lovely groves and past "local" houses...gradually it became less and less passable...we continued on and the pavement ended...now it was dirt and then there was mostly rocks and holes and it became very narrow...we stopped by a sign announcing it as "Everest Peak"....sir hillary did not have these odds....at that point another jeep came by...finally we made it to the top...there had been steep areas which were all rocks and ruts and some cement had been put down so one tire could get a proper grip...i did make one mistake by not having shifted into 4 wheel drive...after i did that on the way down things were much easier...my arms were lame by the time i was finished...

    anyways at the top the view was beautiful and there was a hut that sold cold drinks...the other group continued on as they had a local driver...did i say that we met another car with 2 german girls and a thai guide...

    i guess it was worth it all...makes for a good tale...

    now it was getting on towards the end of lunch time so we headed to the five islands restaurant...we were the sole customers at 1:30PM...

    we sharred a seafood caserole (loaded with fish, etc. served in a complete coconut shell and an order of pandara chicken, plus water...price 750B--$18.75...great quality..the view was relaxing and the breeze quite refreshing...

    next our map told us that we could drive up to one of the waterfalls...wrong...a tourist trap with elephant rides and a fee to get in...turn that car around...

    stopped at chaeweng bch to get my atm card back...sent to main office of bank...we went there just up the road...man looked at my license and gave it back to me...it should have been cut in half but it wasn't...poor security...

    stopped along the road to do the internet at a modern office building...a/c and great computers: 1B/minute..

    visited the famous grandmother and grandfather rocks...noted for their genetalia look-alikes....???

    we looked in at poppies because so many people mention it...it was cramped but looked quite nice...karen wanted to go there for dinner but i balked...about $160/nite incl tax and svc but not breakfast...we did not look at rooms..its in the center of the town..that is a plus i should think...

    back to the pool at our place...talked to the indian family (columbiaman from fodors) and to the other family...we stayed around the pool until dark...

    decided to have dinner at peace resort again...will try another of the set meals...they are 400B by the way for 2....6 courses...830B by the time you added beer, water and desserts..$21...a steal...

    we were in bed by 10...


    tuesday june 1--our last day on samui

    up by 6:30...breakfast and then pool...we had our return tickets re-confirmed (always a good idea in asia)...i asked for a late check-out which they granted until 2:00..
    we played around in the pool with the kids and then went out ...went to do internet at roy's...thanked him for his suggestions and the good car and proceeded to the town area to try the Happy Elephant Restaurant which the indian family had good reviews about...
    ordered chicken with cashews---neither of us tire of it... and chicken with long beans, because they had no shrimp that day...water...260B + $ 6.50..

    rushed back to peace resort and packed quickly as time was getting late...

    i owed them about 9000B more $225....that was two nites lodging and some meals, etc...credit card no problem..

    for some reason we purchased two full size umbrellas from them which we had to lug for the rest of the trip and then bring home....

    we packed our stuff into the car and headed over to the golden buddah...i wanted a couple of pictures...

    we arrived at the airport early...we left the car in the parking lot with the key in the ashtray as we had agreed with the rental man---by the way he was a greek immigrant and a very charming man who was making his business on samui...

    we checked in only to find that our flight was delayed...i asked and they agreed to put us on the earlier flight that was leaving shortly...we lucked out...it was another full flight on a prop plane again...they served some hors d'oeuvres...we ate them and we felt not great for the next day or so...lesson learned...
    the plane flew right over bkk and it was very clear so that was a thrill to see it so well from the air...the prop plane flies lower and slower and this enhances the view...

    we got our bags quickly...there was however no limo driver to meet us...hum...AAC only has an office in the international terminal so i got the info office to call them...they were there in 2 minutes...i had arranged the pick-up via telephone before we had left bkk and did not have a voucher..this presented some problem but we proceeded to the shangri-la...i paid the driver in cash...i called AAC upon arrival and asked them to send the return voucher to me at the hotel...it was put under our door in the middle of the nite....good service..

    the shangri-la...for the last year i have been monitoring priceline.com...last fall i tried it for the first time for several hotels in europe and we were very satisfied with both the quality and especially with the price...after that i began to monitor it daily including its companion site: www.biddingfortravel.com....i noticed that people were getting the sh-la every day for $55 per nite...this is a true 5 star hotel and on the river....we had strolled through it on previous trips and decided that it was huge and too spread out...the lobby had seemed too glitzy...wow were we wrong...
    so i bid on it and got two nites at $65 per nite plus tax, making it about $80 per nite...cheaper than the marriott...
    the marriott had been $45 on priceline but had disappeared around christmas time...i cannot remember why i bid $65 instead of $55 but maybe $55 was not accepted or maybe i just made a mistake...
    something changed in our travel plans and i was able to add another nite a week later on in the trip and i got this for $55/nite plus tax...

    you should know that if you join the Golden Circle club--Sh-La's FF club that you are entitled to a buffet breakfast and late check-out plus other perks...it works with priceline rooms as well...

    to be continued

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    the limo cost for delivery and p/u from airport to sh-la was 1170B $ 29.25 with the discount...

    KAREN HAS JUST COME HOME AND TOLD ME THAT I HAVE MADE A FATAL ERROR IN MY REPORT....THE JT OUTLET ON SOI 93 IS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD NOT ON THE RIGHT...i can't do anything right lately....she has been giving too many instructions to those new interns at the hospital and she thinks that i am one of them....

    as we drove up to the shangri-la the door was opened and we were welcomed by about 3 people...they must have thought that we were full pay customers...in any case a young woman welcomed us as we got out of the car and escorted us to the golden circle desk (how she knew that we were golden circle members i do not know)...she checked us in and escorted us to our room, number 1308...yes floor 13...is that a priceline payback?? we were treated like any other customer, not like a discount customer...my airline F/F card had been refused at check-in (they give both airline miles and golden circle miles at sh-la) saying no miles are given for "agency" reservations, i.e. priceline...no problem...nicely put
    she explanned the room to us and told us about the breakfast and its times etc...
    the room was quite lovely...
    it was a standard quality hotel room really...nice carpet on the floor and a large wardrobe on your right as you enter the room and a large bath on your left...
    the large safe is in the wardrobe...plenty of hangers...
    we were about 1/2 way back from the river on one side of the building but we had a nice view out to the river in one direction and out to the city in the other direction...

    the bed was king, the room non-smoking (whole floor)..the linens were very lux and a lite weight comforter was in between two starched sheets...

    there were silk asian motive inserts over the bed and the colors all tied together nicely..the lighting was excellent....

    at the far end of the room there was a large picture window and lush drapes with a full sized sofa in front and a large coffee table...there was also one lounge chair and one chair at a desk...

    the flat screen tv was in an entertainment center opposite the bed...and there was a fridge under it...there were plenty of glasses...

    i would rate the room as first class, but not the lux of a room at the peninsula...i would think this room was one of their basic rooms...we were perfectly comfortable with it and the price......plus breakfast....

    the bath was standard...tub with shower and shower curtain (it actually fit the area) ..single sink...i should think it slightly older in style...there were plenty of very thick white newish towels....there was turndown service...

    immediately we went down for a swim...the week before we had done a walk through and noticed that the pool at the more lux wing that begins with the letter "T" was closed for renovations...

    something about the size of the hotel...i do not know its history but there are two distinct buildings to this hotel...the sh-la wing and the krunthup wing (the lux side)...they are attached by a strange winding corridor with several up and down steps...it seems to go on forever...in past walk throughs we had found this confusing and seemed to make the hotel unwieldly...we now understood it better...you are either in one wing or the other and each has its own lobby...currently they are renovating 3 floors in the lux wing to become serviced apartments...they will be nice i am sure....
    the lobby is really quite lovely and very large...it is in two sections...the desk/check-in section and the large bar/lounge/living room section...the ceilings are high and there are lovely chanderliers and furnishings throghout...in the middle is a huge area of orchid displays which have water running and are beautifully lit...
    a combo plays in the evening....the windows in the lounge are floor to ceiling and as you are on the 2nd floor you have a great view off to the river...

    swimming: the pool area was nicer than i had remembered...karen remembers that the last time we walked through there that it was being redone...they did a nice job and the plantings are lovely and there is some shade from the sun plus in the am the hotel blocks the sun from the pool area..
    i did find it noisy however as the pool filter is right there and makes lots of noise and the huge jaccuzzi also is noisy...the pool is sort of round and kidney shapped with one ropped off deep section....there is an island in the middle...we enjoyed it but not as much as the marriott pool which is perfect in our opinions...

    to get to the pool you take the elevators to the ground level.. you must then walk through a public area which is the main route to the buffet/breakfast restaurant and to the thai restaurant....and to a soon to open restaurant...plus you pass some of the windows to the italian rest....not the most private access for people who are only half dressed and in robes...we thought this to be awkward...

    we had a nice swim and then up to the room to prepare for our 8PM res at the italian restaurant Angenelli in the hotel...i had made this reservation before we left bkk the week before and i would say res. are necessary and we were given a splendid table which i will describe later..

    i quit for tonight and will start in the AM with a description of our dinner...

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    Hi Bob- hope you didn't order the 500g Phuket Lobster which is always unavailable!!! The waiter then offers a 900g Phuket Lobster at 3 times the price. We walked out of this very uppity & precious restaurant when our wine didn't arrive after 20 minutes-the only disappointment we had at the Shangri-la was their Italian restaurant. BTW the room service food is fabulous-we ordered and consumed it overlooking the river in our level 24 room-fabulous!!! Thanks priceline.com.

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    Bob - sorry the Laem Set Inn did not impress. My guess is you were shown some of the lesser rooms, not the pool suites which are quite luxurious and distinctly Thai. The furnishings are absolutely amazing. The Lipa Noi "honeymoon suite" is located up on the hill - outstanding views and very secluded. As for the restaurant, we had some of our best meals in Thailand there. My other hobby (besides travel) is cooking and I was so impressed with one dinner we had that I had to recreate it at home to serve to our "gourmet" group. The menu is limited - not surprising for a small inn - better for the chef to do a few things very well than lots of things mediocre. We did not mind the isolation as we were only there for 3 days and did not feel that Koh Samui had much to offer anyway. It was easy to hire a driver through the Inn when we needed to get our to explore.

    To be fair, based on your experience, we would definitely stay at the Peace Resort if we return to Koh Samui.

    I guess I will have to wait until I get home in 2 weeks to hear about Bali - we leave at 10 AM today.

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    lyndie--i'm going to write about the italian rest. at the sh-la later this am on fodors...what was wrong with your experience there, other than the price...?? we had a simply fabulous meal....that wasn't you sitting next to us was it?? this asian/american couple were having a marriage counselling session during their dinner....she would say, "i know you have had affairs...." and he would say "i know you also have had affairs and i want you to do more around the house like ironing..."
    it was a bit uncomfortable for us and very intense for them...

    strangely a couple of nites later we had another argument at a table next to us in another restaurant...WE'RE ON VACATION, LIGHTEN UP!!!!!

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    craig---you have 22 minutes before you leave so undoubtably you are on fodors...
    sorry we did not like laem set...we did see several rooms all over the property...one large suite/family room was not bad, and it was on 2 levels, but it was dark and the bathrooms were horrible and for that high price you would expect more...

    we also felt that samui did not offer too much other than relaxation...

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    Bob, Your report is fabulous. Makes us feel as if we are right there with you & Karen. We're planning our first trip for February, and all the info & details you give are so helpful. Especially looking forward to your report about Anantara & Golden Triangle area. Looking forward to next installment! Would love to use priceline, but based on everything we've read from you & others (and the photos) we have our hearts set on the Marriott Riverside in BKK & afraid we won't get it thru priceline, so we'll use partly Marriott points & then pay for the rest of the stay via an internet reservation service. We were also thinking about spending part of the time at the Royal Orchid Sheraton since we also have SPG points. Kathie and others have had good things to say. You're the first that has had some negative comments...would like to hear more about why.

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    i know that most people like the sheraton orchid...i do not like sheraton's in general for no reason...but this hotel is a bit of an arc....it is not new, although it is well kept up...it could be anywhere in the world and has not tried to make itself a thai hotel...the furnishings are typical sheraton--boring and the decoration is nil....
    i did not like the fact that they were indifferent to the fumes in the building and i thought they were very curt when we asked about family type rooms...they gave no interest in cultivating this relationship...

    there was nothing wrong with this hotel and there was nothing right with it either....we won't stay there again unless all other bkk hotels have burned to the ground...

    there is simply no comparison with the sheraton and the marriott...the marriott has it hands down....

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    can we jump back briefly to koh samui....
    i forgot to mention a travel warning...not about samui but about travel in general...

    one afternoon at the pool at the peace resort there was a bit of a comotion...an austrian couple whom we had seen each day at the pool were missing something....it seems that his money was gone from his shorts or pants...what had happened...

    they were sitting by the pool earlier...an older german man approached them and asked if they wanted to buy some baht for euros as he was leaving shortly and needed to get rid of it....they had never seen him before...he would give them a "good deal"...so they thought what the heck...they gave him 300 euro, about $375....and he gave them baht at a reduced rate---not a lot but attreative...he departed....a while later when the man went to go and have a massage and needed some tip money he went for his cash....and the cash was all gone....so the german man made off with it they suspect...

    this is not any complaint against the hotel, but merely a warning about travelling...we always use our room safe for everything of value and never leave anything laying around in the room or by the pool...this is hard because i like to pay cash as we go along for incidentals and meals so that i do not have a huge hotel bill at the end...
    you can just go for a swim and things can disappear...

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    we had made our reservation for Angelini (as usual i have spelled it incorrectly elsewhere-this is the correct spelling) before we had left for samui...8PM...seemed good to stay in the hotel on the nite we returned as our flight arrived back at bkk about 5....

    the restaurant is on 2+ levels, or maybe three if you include the bar which is sort of on a mezzaine, i think...it is very large...you enter it from the hotel lobby area....the bar is on your right as you enter, sort of hanging over the lower levels...the open kitchen is all along the left wall...there are stairs down to the next level, as i remember, and then further stairs down to the ground level...there is a feeling of a private club...we announced ourselves and were escorted to a great table on the lower level.... a table for two, in one of the alcoves which jut out into the garden area around the pool...there are floor to ceiling windows on the side of the restaurant facing out onto the pool area....a lovely table...lots of candles and very lovely silver and table ware...a local company makes all the tableware for the hotel...it is polished stainess steel...they have a shop in the hotel arcade and we later bought several gifts from them, including two wedding gifts...it is very unusual and modern stuff...
    the restaurant has a certain crispness to it...
    there was a combo playing in the bar which could be heard throughout the restaurant...very lovely....1040's and 50's american music...the singer was quite good....
    we started with a sampling of free hors' d'oeuvres, karen had wine...i am diabetic so i often do not have anything to drink other than water...the hors' were quite nice plus breads and scented oils...we both had carpaccio of beef followed by a fettechini with shrimp and white asparagus, with basil and cheese (evening special)...it was delicious...nice sized portion...we had gold water--i say gold because they charge 300B ($7.50) for a bottle of evian water--the only water available...we completed the meal with crene brulee with orange and grand marnier flambeed at the table for karen and i had a dessert medley of a selection of their desserts (am i'm diabetic---bad, bad, bad)...the bill was a stiff, for bkk, 3130 B ($78)..it was a quality hotel meal...we would do it again...we do like biscotti at the four seasons better however--more tasty...the service was exceptional and except for the annoying table next door we had a lovely experience...

    we do think that having reservations in bkk does pay off in your seating selection....

    we needed a walk after dinner so we walked out in back of the hotel in search of a "cheap" laundry...the hotel has one and we would check later on its pricing (about a 40% savings over room prices)...but in the first soi to the left after turning right at the bottom of the hotel drive (there is a massage place on the corner), we walked down this soi and on the left about 1/2 way down is a small laundry...she is incredibly cheap...10B for undies, 20B for shirts and pants...we would bring our stuff there the next day...

    we returned to the room and organized our stuff and did some paperwork and listened to the president on the tv about iraq (gpanda's favorite person and vaction place)... bed about 11...
    the bed is very comfortable as is the whole room...



    wednesday june 2

    up about 6:15...went down to breakfast...a fabulous buffet (included at all sh-la hotels for golden circle members)..you could sit inside or out...we choose in---a/c...there were several stations...cereals, pastry, fuits, japanese selections including soups and salads, egg station, cheese and meats, juices, breads....one of the nicest breakfast buffets that we have experienced...

    we went to the pool for about 30 minutes after breakfast for a nice swim...the towels even reek quality...huge and soft and tons of them...in the AM, the pool is shaded by the hotel...the pool is immediately adjacent to the river which makes it a lovely location....there are beautiful plantings all around plus trees, but the pool area is quite open as well...at some times i suspect that shade is a hard thing to find...there are very nice lounges and umbrellas...they take all lounge covers and umbrellas inside each nite...
    after dressing we walked to the laundry and dropped off our stuff and told them we would come for it in a week...we walked along the service road behind the hotel and looked into a shop at the rear of the hotel shopping arcade...it sells stainless steel utensils and decorative pieces (called 5th element)...they supply the angelini restaurant and many other bkk restaurants...they also sell directly to the public...we saw a number of things that interested us and decided that we would return there before leaving for home...they were very nice in this shop...from there we went to the pier next to the taskim skytrain stop and took the marriott boat over to the hotel...we did the internet out on the main street for about an hour....karen was going to kill me by the end of that...we tried priceline for a later stay at sh-la but were denied, as we would be for the rest of our thailand stay...i tried many times for june 17-20... our last three days in bkk; the hotel accomodations were still up in the air, although i did have reservations at both the peninsula and marriott, but i was holding out for something cheaper....
    we picked up our left laundry from both the marriott laundry (in the garage of the hotel---50% cheaper than in the room) and from a laundry almost next to the internet place on the main road...the place on the street charged 40B for pants and shirts and 10 for undies..the marriott was 60B for pants and 45 for shirts...both were very satisfactory...and cheap...
    we also needed to pick up our left luggage that we had left at the marriott while we went to samui...we did this...by the way, two beers were taken from my suitcase while at the hotel...we do not leave anything of value in our cases, except normal purchases...
    we took a taxi back to the shangri-la and had the stuff delivered to the room...by this time we were being called by our last names at both hotels...its nice to be known...could it be the constant tips??? average tips however...

    karen went over to JS thai silk for a fitting...everything was progressing well... there were a few minor changes...the green suit was looking particularily nice...we told them that we would see them after our return from bali on june 1....
    we took a taxi (80B) to the jim thompson market cafe...it is also called jim thompson saladaeng cafe and is located off silom road at 120/1 saladaeng soi 1, saladaent rd (tel: 02-266-9167)..it is roughly directly in back of the dusit thani hotel...we had had a mid-afternoon snack there on our last trip and wanted to retun there for a proper meal...i had a huge bowl of chicken and veggie soup and karen repeated her pasta meal from the JT main store cafe (pasta with bacon)...we split a piece of cake and drank water...380B..just under $10...
    the doorman got us a cab as this is not a heavily travelled street..we went on to the jewerler...thai stone jewerly in the nana hotel lobby at soi 4, sukhumvit rd...mr lee was there and karen's nantucket braclet was back from being repaired (a small crack had developed in it)--she also wanted to change the saphires...she wanted carbochon saphires not cut ones on the basket handles...

    let me send this and then i will describe what we did purchase from the jewerler in more detail...

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    CFW: I stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton earlier this year as I wanted to use SPG points. I agree with Bob, there is nothing wrong with this hotel...great location, good restaurants, rooms exactly what you would expect at a higher-end Sheraton...but there is also nothing special about the hotel. If someone had the option of staying anywhere on the river, I wouldn't recommend the Sheraton for value, amenities or atmosphere. However, if you want to use SPG points, it is a very nice hotel and you won't have any complaints.

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    For others thinking about the Royal Orchid - I always stay in the Towers, which is special. They are in the process of remodeling all of the rooms. They used to have these great carved teak wardrobes and carved teak trim. Very Thai, very beautiful. They are redecorating with more modern decor - I liked the old decor! But the Towers not only gives you rooms on the top three floors, they also include full breakfast, free drinks and hors d'ouvres, 6 pieces of laundry per person per day free, free internet... I get a suite with all these extras for less than the price of a room at the Pen. By the way, I'm not a Sheraton fan. This is the only Sheraton in the world where I stay regularly. You also check in and out on the club floor, and the service is superb.

    It is a big hotel, and I have no doubt that those staying in the regular rooms get "regular" service.

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    SPG points=free. My sense is that the other hotels, the Peninsula, the Oriental, the Shangi-la and the Marriott are more luxurious, but they are not free. While the Deluxe rooms not are Thai, they are comfortable for Giant Panda sized creatures. The view of the river is stunning. A great deal of my waking time in the room is while getting a massage, I've moveed from the material plane into the relaxation plane and the beds are comfortable. Oh, did I mention that the rooma are FREE. My loyalty has been bought and paid for. Kathie, we are staying in the Towers for the first time later this year at your recommendation.

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    Hi Bob-No (LOL)...it wasn't us having a domestic at Shangri-La's Italian restaurant on EITHER night. Must have been awful for you and Karen though!!!
    We will not spend our money where the service is bad. Doesn't matter where it is-if they cannot bring a bottle of wine in 20 minutes-I'm out of there. It was 9.30 p.m. for goodness sake, in a half full restaurant. I'm just fussy after so long working in hospitality!!! Your trip report is great-keep it up.

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    late this afternoon i typed a piece about the jewerly...when i came back from dinner it was gone....evidently the powers that be have deleated it...so you will just have to guess...maybe they thought that it was too commercial....frequently people ask for specific examples about purchases and i was trying to give that....the "moderator" should tell us if he/she doesn't like something and why...

    i'm putting a lot into this report and i resent having things removed without an explanation!!! it degrades the board!!!

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    we took the skytrain back to the river.. we decided that we would make a quick stop at centre point, silom...CP is a group of serviced apartments in bkk..the one near silom is right in back of the sh-la hotel, near to the robinson's dept. store...it has river views...several fodorites have talked about it so we wanted to see what it was like...the building may be 5+ years old...the entrance is like any mid-size hotel...we told them that we wanted to see a one and a two bedroom unit...they were very friendly..the units were huge...they are quite well equipted...the furniture was nice adn comfy...they were very nice for the money---between $50-100 per day...there is a small pool...breakfast is included and the library and restaurant looked very nice, but small...mostly families of business people stay here for longer periods of time than would a tourist...

    karen went to the pool and i went out to take or pick-up laundry and go to the photo shop to have my sticks downloaded to a disc---very cheap about 350B for 128X3, plus a 32...
    i then returned to the pool...we met a mother and daughter in the pool from MA...had a nice chat...
    we took a taxi to baan Khanitha on ruamrudee, near to the american embassy...it is in the former egyption embassy...we had our first bad restaurant experience...we had a reservation...we were put at a table way in the back in a corner...the waiters ignored us and threw the food at us...they were never around when you needed someone...it was expensive...as we left i told the manager and he followed us out to the cab and tried to get us to come back in...asked us where we were staying and bowed and stammered...so un thai, not the bowing, but the lack of service and friendliness...i was disappointed...their other restaurant on soi 23 is just the opposite...

    we decided to have a dessert in the sh-la lobby near to the windows overlooking the river ...the music was soothing and the desserts were simply great...871B for one water, 2 cakes and a cappachino...

    bed by 12:30....

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    we took the skytrain back to the river.. we decided that we would make a quick stop at centre point, silom...CP is a group of serviced apartments in bkk..the one near silom is right in back of the sh-la hotel, near to the robinson's dept. store...it has river views...several fodorites have talked about it so we wanted to see what it was like...the building may be 5+ years old...the entrance is like any mid-size hotel...we told them that we wanted to see a one and a two bedroom unit...they were very friendly..the units were huge...they are quite well equipted...the furniture was nice and comfy...they were very nice for the money---between $50-100 per day...there is a small pool...breakfast is included and the library and restaurant looked very nice, but small...there is a fitness center...mostly families of business people stay here for longer periods of time than would a tourist...

    karen went to the pool and i went out to take or pick-up laundry and go to the photo shop to have my sticks downloaded to a disc---very cheap about 350B for 128X3, plus a 32...
    i then returned to the pool...we met a mother and daughter in the pool from MA...had a nice chat...
    we took a taxi to Baan Khanitha on ruamrudee, near to the american embassy...it is in the former egyption embassy...we had our first bad restaurant experience...we had a reservation...we were put at a table way in the back in a corner...the waiters ignored us and threw the food at us...they were never around when you needed someone...it was expensive...as we left i told the manager and he followed us out to the cab and tried to get us to come back in...asked us where we were staying and bowed and stammered...so un thai, not the bowing, but the lack of service and friendliness...i was disappointed...their other restaurant on soi 23 is just the opposite...

    we decided to have a dessert in the sh-la lobby near to the windows overlooking the river ...the music was soothing and the desserts were simply great...871B for one water, 2 cakes and a cappachino...expensive

    bed by 12:30....

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    i must apologize...i just found the jewerly info on another posting...if you want to read it you can find it on CFW's post entitled "northern thailand"...sorry...my whole day has been this way

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    Is there going to be a return to an eyeglasses place? I wondered how these places work; whether they will accept prescriptions (possibly outdated or not from a doctor)... Maybe they will only copy existing lenses or make you take a quick eye exam (written prescription conventions can vary between countries).

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    there will not be a return to an eyeglass place...sorry...the place we went ended up being one of those high pressure chain places...we felt uncomfortable and decided to wait for our new glasses until we got home...

    the savings were in the neighborhood of 30-40% however in many cases

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    i have to do yard work this morning as nothing other than the grass has been touched in 5 weeks...it looks like a thailand jungle...

    but here is some more

    thursday june 3

    up about 6:30...breakfast...opened a safe deposit box at the front desk as we would have to get out of the room by mid-afternoon and we were not leaving until late afternoon or early evening...
    we had been granted a late check-out but only until mid-afternoon...i asked about changing options, and was informed that they set aside one male and one female room for this purpose...on floor six, rooms 604 and 605...that was very nice...normally you would have full run of the gym, but it was being renovated so the room set-up was established..

    off to the wats...karen had wanted to return to wat arun and do it more properly...gpanda had also told us about the "turtle wat" which is near-by to wat arun..it is wat prayoon, near memorial bridge...see the nancy chandler map for it...

    we took the chao payra express boat up the river...a nice ride...cost about 5 B each..we were to get off at #5 but missed it and got off at stop #6....this was good however because it allowed us to walk through the flower market district...have never seen so many flowers and such color---imagine 2 doz really long stem roses for 20 or 30 B--less than a dollar...when we got back near memorial bridge i decided we should have a taxi over the bridge to the wat...easily done and the driver took us right into the turtle complex...after walking around the wat and seeing the turtles who are housed in a charming pond area in the middle of a cemetary, we moved on...hailed a taxi to take us to wat arun...he did not know how to go there, although you could almost see its towers not far off...he asked two different people and finally a security guard at the turtle wat instructed him on how to go.. he dropped us right by one of the back entrances to wat arun (temple of dawn)...this is a magnificent setting, right on the river, and a particular favorite of both tourists and locals...
    there are many spires or chedi in this complex but the main one is really special...the exterior of the spires are all peices of broken pottery, plus morrors...it gives a really lovely texture and color to the place...constant repair is ongoing...we enjoyed our stay here...this was one of the few real sight-seeing things that we did in bkk this trip...we have done most of them at least once in prior trips...

    we took a taxi back to the hotel --70B...it took us along a section of the far side of the river where we had never ridden before and we went across the bridge by the peninsula hotel...

    we took showers and checked out of the sh-la...owed only pennies, thanks to priceline....put our luggage in 3 groups with the doorman: one for the trip to bali, one for changing before we left for the airport and one to be stored for a week until we return from bali...they were very co-operative about all of this...tips help...

    we took a taxi to another centre point complex over near the american embassy to check it out, but what i really wanted to do was check out the marriott mayfair serviced apartments in the same area...turns out they were across the street from each other...both are on laung suan rd...CP was nicer than the one at silom and newer...don't really take short term people, so it is not good for an hotel alternative...very nice apartments however with all the amenities you might want..
    the marriott was fabulous however...its roof top pool area is lovely and the pool is 75' long...it is partially covered and on the 24th floor or up in that neighborhood...you had a magnificent view all over the city from up there....the place is 2 years old...its available for a good price for both short and long term--min 2 days i think...the apartments are huge and very lux for rental properties...full kitchens, laundry facilities in the kitchen, 1,2, and 3 bedroom units...you look right down into the american embassy grounds on one side of the building...

    from there we took a taxi to crepes and co restaurant on soi 12, sukhumvit rd...this is one of our favorites in bkk, especially for lunch, although they are open for 3 meals per day and into the evening as well...it is right next door to the infamous cabbages and condoms restaurant...it is swiss owned and very relaxed...crepes of all sorts is the fare...i chose the 3 cheese crepe and karen had the casablanca (chicken, tomatoe, onion, honey, nuts, & cilantro)..both were delicious and filling...for dessert we sharred a lemon curd crepe with choc. ice cream on the side...delicious all...612B, incl. the tip which was added in...$15.50...

    from there we made a stop at thai stone jewerly again to further discuss jewerly situations...karen took the skytrain back to the hotel to lay around the pool and i went to my favorite internet spot on soi 4, sukhumvit...200B for 56 min....
    i took the skytrain to the hotel..went down to the pool and karen was not there and neither was anyone else...seems that 10 minutes after k got to the pool they announced that it would be closing in 10 minutes...they had to set up for a large dinner function around the pool...we had known that there was an international tuna fish convention going on at the hotel and that it was very busy...this was their function...very elaborate and maybe 500+ people....white table cloths, china and crystal everywhere..
    i found her sitting impatiently in the lobby waiting for me...

    she was all set to go but i had to shower, so i went to the sharred room on 6...not fabulous, but adequate..there were clean towels and i could shower...they could have keep the place a little cleaner and more picked-up but it was free and a convenience...

    that done we collected our stuff and took a taxi to rama gardens hotel out by the airport...we were to spend the nite there as our 8:40AM flight to bali required us to check in 2 hours early so we thought this would be a good chance to check out the hotel for future use...taxi= 204B --$5.10 plus 70 B for tolls and a 50B tip...great trip for about 300B...

    more after some yard work...

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    we drove up to the rama gardens main entrance which is very nice looking, having come along a long driveway with shrubs and flowers...i should interject here that you can not just turn off the airport highway to get to this hotel from town....you have to go almost all the way to the airport and then backtrack...total waste of time but that is thai roads for you...

    there was a bellman there...i had to ask him to take our bags...

    we entered the large lobby which had a very commercial look to it...snobs...
    we went to the desk and waited a few minutes...i told the woman my name and she looked in the computer...she seemed perplexed...i said do you have my reservation? i had made it over the internet directly with the hotel---$59 incl tax and service for a standard room...did not think it was necessary for an upgrade to the towers rooms at $25 more...
    she finally said to us...you are in the other wing...i thought that is good as it is the newer wing and kathie had suggested it earlier to me...so over we went to the other building...much more upscale looking and modern...we went to the very small desk and did the same routine...i was not impressed....this time the woman said, "i'm sorry sir but your rooms are in the other building"...that was all i needed to hear...i said we just came from there, etc, etc...i remained calm...she called over a young man...
    they asked us to sit down...we did and i let them know i was not happy...
    after a couple of minutes they came to us and said the room was ready and that we had been upgraded to a room in that building....had they not done that i might have headed back to town....

    after i made my reservation and decided i needed another one, i had noticed that all their rooms listed on other sites offered about the same price but always included breakfast...i stewed about this for a few days and decided to send them a message to see if it could be included...not characteristic of me, although i am pushy in person with inefficiency....
    i received a message back later that day saying that i should make a reservation with the service because they did not intend to offer breakfast...i cancelled one of my nites and left the other nite as it was...go figure....

    up to the room we went...elevator requires you to put your room card in a slot to activate it..security...like club rooms in other hotels...we were not on a club floor..

    the room was on the back of the hotel overlooking the lovely gardens and pool area...it was on the 5th floor i think..non-smoking king...the bed was hard as a rock, but not uncomfortable...the room was large and it had a gigantic bath with seperate toilet room and shower room, plus an enormeous tub with a huge picture window over it so you could look out...the curtain over the tub was electrically controlled... the room was quite nice...there was a dressing table for karen just outside the bath and a large wardrobe...

    we had been looking forward to having dinner in their italian restaurant...sorry...it closed last month...so the choice was a nice looking bufet (377B/per)--karen doesn't like bufets, except at breakfast for health reasons...or the chinese restaurant...we chose the chinese restaurant...we were the only people in this restaurant...it was very expensive so that is probably why...1092 B $27. for 2--we did not order much.. no dessert..it was good but everything about the experience was odd...our waiter in his gold lamme jacket was weird as were the 3 or 4 helpers who just hovered around and watched us eat... we were gald to be out of there...
    decided to have some desert in the bar which turned out to be a kareoke bar (they are very popular in asia and thailand especially)...it was fun.. there were only 2 middle aged men in there when we arrived and they, one in particular, loved to sing...especially american love songs...he was quite good...another couple arrived and then some more men joined the original two...they drank whiskey straight...singing must have gotten interesting after a couple of hours...they did sing with passion...

    bed about 10:30

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    Friday june 4

    as you may remember sea tours had informed us that our 8:40 thai air flight had been changed to 9:30 AM..that was great really..gave us more time..thai air has only one flight to and from bali each day...

    about a year ago i saw craig's posting about bali on this forum...it was well written and comprehensive...we had some correspondence and among other things he had given me putu's name and address and i had engaged him as our driver way back last summer....

    i'm jumping ahead...for a number of years we have wanted to go to bali and to other parts of indonesia, but had always stayed away because of the political situations there...not on bali but in the country in general...now we decided to go, even after the bombing in kuta last year...we in fact had decided that after the bombing it might even be safer...

    we got up about 6:15..we repacked a bit...we went to the bell captain to get a taxi...the reason to stay here was beacuse it would be easy to get to the airport for an early flight....WRONG...because of the road system, you literally have to drive about 1/3 of the way back to bangkok before you can turn around and go back to the airport...

    there was a bit of a hastle with the bell captain as he had wanted us to take a limo for 300B and when i objected he wanted us to use his taxi for 150B...i said no just a meter cab...just then one was dropping off someone so we grabbed it....NOT A GOOD EXPERIENCE AT RAMA GARDENS ALL AROUND..

    you must allow a minimum of 30 minutes from this hotel to get to the airport---same as from the city...

    meter taxi 105B and it took 25 minutes...the hotel had told us 10 minutes...

    we had decided we would have mcdonalds for breakfast at the airport...wrong..only KFC and they did not have breakfast stuff...finally found a kiosk with muffins and coffee/water for $4...

    easy check-in--our seats had been preassigned by sea tours...

    we boarded and we were in the 2nd row of coach even though our seats were row 34 or maybe 32...the flight was very smooth and exactly on time...there was chicken or fish for lunch---at 11AM???

    we had opted to get our visa upon arrival instead of from the embassy in bangkok or in washington dc....i would not do that again as everyone does it and it took 1 hour and 5 minutes in a large room which is only semi-air conditioned... it was $25 each...i used american money...i guess you could use any kind of currency because you paid at a branch bank set up for visas...
    if you had your visa already you could have just gone right through...people we later spoke to all spent at least 2 hours waiting so we were lucky...watch the lines and pick good ones...

    our bags were there when we got to them...the airport is quite modern...at the baggage claim there are several atm's....Craig had warned us to get money before we went through customs so i did...

    CURRENTLY THE NUMBERS ARE HIGH IN INDONESIA...there are currently 9500 rp to the dollar...so you often are dealing in millions, if not tens and hundreds of thousands...a calculator helps or just drop three zeros and move the decimile one more place to the left...so 100,000 rp becomes $10...

    we walked right through customs after passing in our 3 pieces of paper...we went to the taxi kiosk and told them we wanted the conrad hotel...flat fee 60,000 or $6... it was about a 20 minute ride...

    we immediately noticed a change from thailand...everything looked finished and picked-up...no half finished buildings and no trash all over the place...

    let me talk about hotels...

    about 5 years ago we met two men at the sunday brunch in the indian restaurant at the rembrandt hotel in bkk... we got talking about bali and they asked what kinds of hotels we liked and suggested based upon what we said that the bali hyatt would fit our bill perfectly...we made note of that...

    so when this trip came along i remembered that, but of course could not remember which hyatt as there are two...the grand hyatt and the bali hyatt...the bali hyatt being the older and smaller one...

    we do like hyatts and do belong to their club...

    i did my research and low and behold i could get a special rate at the bali hyatt of $70++... i grabed it last summer for a week...later we had to alter the dates slightly...they still had this rate as recently as last month...it was directly from the hyatt website...we were excited about this...

    the bali hyatt is located in the older community of sanur on the east coast but in the south of bali...i had read that there was shopping and restaurants in this community...that all sounded like just what we like...

    last winter i noticed that a new conrad hotel was to open in bali in march, 2004...i investigated it and found that they too had a $70 intro rate... about the same time we had to make a small change in our dates (move them up two days) and so this worked out just fine....we would stay 2 nites at the conrad and pick up our hyatt reservation on the day we had always planned to have it but end our stay two days earlier...

    i also contacted putu a few times and he had us pencilled in for our dates...we just needed to decide what we wanted to do with him....craig helped a bit with this and later made great comments when we had a tentative itinery...

    craig also informed me that they had used bali discovery tours for part of their trip...i contacted them about a number of things and also about the hyatt...they could offer us an $88 rate for the hyatt all inclusive including the breakfast which the hyatt rate did not include...so the $70++ (++ is 21% in bali) about equalled the $88 and we would get a free breakfast...i went for it..they would charge my credit card 21 days before our arrival...i had to fax a copy of the card, my passport picture page and an authorization to them which was a pain---usual asian routine however...so i cancelled the direct hyatt reservation...the room type was better with bali discovery as well..

    we have dinner plans with friends tonight in boston so i must stop for now...hopefully will pick it up later

    bob

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    Bob, your experience at the Rama Gardens was very odd. I thought all their rooms came with free airport transportation. At least ours came with both breakfast and transportation. And it took us no more than 10-15 minutes to get to the airport from there. It makes me wonder if the metered taxi drove you around a bit...

    Also, last time I was there, they had an excellent Thai restaurant. There was no Italian or Chinese restaurant at the time, so clearly things do change rapidly.

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    kathie...we asked about a shuttle because i had read that there was one and they said no...several of the internet agencies quote with transportation...
    i know my way around, a bit, by the airport...we came out the drive and you have to turn right...you can go along the access road or you can go right out onto the lower part of the highway (not the toll road)...i watched where he was going and he took the first u turn available...it was rush hour traffic and it was "IN" traffic most of the way...once we turned north we went much faster...that's bkk...

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    Bob,
    I am enjoying your report. Keep it coming! I noted your remark about Bali being not so "unfinished and dirty" as BKK. I must say, that in my 6 trips to BKK, this time it seems they are trying to work on some of the buildings that were abandoned when the Thai economy took a dive 5 ot 6 years ago. Things seem to be picking up here. (I'm in BKK right now, as I write) I think they still have a ways to go on trying to keep the trash at a minimum level though.

    Did you feel safe in Bali? Would love to consider going there sometime in the future, but worry about political situation, as you noted.

    Carol

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    to continue

    we watched as we drove south from the airport...we saw signs to nusa dua and so we knew that we did not have far to go to benoa and the conrad...we rounded a corner and there was the lovely sign...the taxi was stopped by a security gate and searched briefly...they lifted the gate and we proceeded up an incline as the entrance/lobby is really on the 2nd floor level...there is a waterfall across from security and lots of lovely plantings...

    the entry area is quite small...we were met at the car and escorted to the front desk in this magnificent open air pavillion with very minimilistic features and furnishings...
    we were asked for our names and then escorted to a table and chairs in the adajacent open air lounge area...we were joined in a few minutes by a very nice young woman who continue the check in process...first class operation...she left us for a few minutes and we were served a very refreshing bubbly fruit drink and given a very cold welcome towel to refresh ourselves...
    we sat there for quite a while...i was getting impatient...then more time passed...it was about 3:30 so we were not early...
    finally the girl returned...she apologized...the hotel has only been open one month and i think they just don't have it down pat yet..
    anyways everything was all set and we would then be escorted to our room...
    the door was opened for us and we stepped into the room...karen looked at me and we both said....sorry but this will not due...the room reeked of smoke...we had clearly reserved and been guaranteed a smoke free room...
    so the bellman called on the phone and then left us there...he said he would be right back...after more than 15 minutes he had not returned so i went to the front desk and asked the same woman greeter what was happening...it was getting busy there...she turned me over to another woman..she asked me to take a seat, which i did unhappily...still nothing after a few more minutes, so i asked for a manager ...he came and apologized... i think he was the front office manager not an asst. mgr type...he said that they had found a room for us but that he had to check it out personally...i said can't we just go there and check it together and he said no...please wait..
    we were now over an hour in the check-in process...i was mad...
    he returned and said the room was ready...he was very apologetic...karen had reappeared from the first room in the meantime and the luggage had been put in the storage room...so we were then escorted to a larger room on the ground floor with direct outside access...the room was clearly an upgrade, so i was very pleased..i never yelled but i could have very easily...i had already seen one very ugly american yell at the desk while i was waiting and use the "F" word quite a few times...i did not want them to know that i too was that kind of a person....ugly american...

    anyways we were now in our beautiful room...we were happy...this is a beautiful hotel and anyone would love to stay there...again i feel the check-in problems were the result of break-in- itis and the fact that they are offering fantastic break-in rates ($70)...they only opened about april 1 for paying guests...

    the room--the hallways are a bit dark as they are all gray or dark stone...they are essentially all open air...there is again a real minimilistic feel...they are well lit at night...
    the room is the opposite...it is nicely furnished and very comfortable...the bed was heavenly..simply the most comfortable bed i have been in in years and maybe ever...added to this they offer you an in room choice of eight different pillow types...
    as you enter our room the bath is on the right and there is a wardrobe on the left..plus there is a shelf for suitcases..there was a round area rug under the bed and at the foot of it, which was over a black marble? floor..the rug was a wavy pattern..karen points out that there was a minimilistic feeling in the room as well..the bed was a light wood platform bed..there was a large flatscreen tv with a fridge and drawers under and beside it...there was a safe of course...looking from the bedroom into the bath there was a huge picture window which had a wide dark color wooden venitian blind...we kept it closed..
    in the bath there were tons of new soft and thick white towels of various sizes...as you entered the bathroom on the right was a toilet room...next to it was a large shower enclosure with a glass door...at the end of the room was a large counter, mirror and sink... the sink amenities were plentiful and of very good designer quality...
    the bathtub which was large took up the whole left wall...very nice indeed...
    there was a desk with a chari in the main room and an upholstered chair...one wall was a glass sliding door which opened directly onto a deck with 2 chairs and a table...it was one step down to the grass ... the pool (main center pool) was about 50 feet away...we lucked out after our 1.25 hour check-in...

    back to the lobby and then to the exterior...

    the lobby as i have said is on the second level...it is very open and in fact is open on two sides...the lounge area is comfortable and there is a bar off to the right...i believe there is a large table and flower display in the lobby areathere are long slopping stone ramps which lead from the entrance down about 1/4 story to the lounge and bar area...after this area is a large open balcony which overlooks the main pool and out to the ocean...across the bay you can see mountains when it is clear...enchanting...

    this is a hotel surrounded by pools...basically the hotel is a "W" in shape...most all rooms have an ocean view...the ocean side of the hotel has one large lagoon pool with bridges...in the center is the main pool...there are large vases, columns, bridges, walkways and of course ponds and plantings throughout the area...new trees have been transplanted...in one year this will be a tropical paradise...it is lovely now and does not feel brand new or half done...it is lovely!!!... some rooms (i believe they call them villa rooms) allow you to step off your deck right into the lagoon..at nite there are torches and beautiful lighting throughout the garden/pool area...the pools are open 24 hours per day...
    out near the beach there is a free standing restaurant where we ate our first nite...very breezy and romantic...
    below the lobby deck there is the main everyday dining room and breakfast room which is open on one side to the small ponds with water lilies and from there a short distance is the main pool...there is a platform next to the lily ponds on which performances can be done (balinese dance, etc)...there is one covered pavillion with 4 tables in it off to one side and raised for a quiet meal or a small group affair...it overlooks the whole garden/pool area...

    the planners did a smashing job with this hotel...by the way it belongs to a wealthy indonesian textile family who are building 4 or 5 more conrads in indonesia...
    enough description...

    we went right out for a swim to explore what all this water was about...it was simply huge...at two ends of the lagoon there were sand beaches...yes sand beaches in a swimming pool...essentially they were the kiddy pool areas...

    we knew that our aquaintance Michael (formerly of the bangkok marriott)was the general manager here so i wrote him a note about our check-in experience...

    after our swim we decided that we would have dinner out by the beach at the italian restaurant....we had made a reservation as we came out of the pool..the moon shown on the water and was about 95% full...it was lovely...the breeze was soft and cooling...maybe not so soft, but it was refreshing....i ordered a pepperoni pizza and karen had grilled tuna...we were served warm bread with 3 dips and butter..we had beers and water..karen had a trio of creme brulees for desert and i had 1/2 baked chocolate cake with pistaccio ice cream...454,000-- about $46...
    the restaurant has an open kitchen and two pavillions overlooking the water and pools with their torches...you could hear the live music from the bar in the lobby...

    i cleaned my camera sticks so i was ready to go and take more pictures...

    our room came without breakfast...shortly after we had settled in our new room, henry, the front manager had called, to offer us free breakfasts during our stay as consolidation for their service failure..we gladly accepted as there did not seem much to offer in the neighborhood, so we would have had to eat from the bufet and pay...
    the end of a long day...i think the flight was about 4 hours from bkk to bali, which i think i failed to mention...we left at 9:30 and got there about 2:30 with a time change...

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    our contract with putu called for us not to see him until about 1PM on sunday when he would move us from the conrad to the hyatt...

    Sat 5th..

    we were up about 6:45
    oh that bed....
    we went out to breakfast...it was a very nice buffet as you would expect...all the regular stuff you expect from a hotel of this quality...
    the servers were exceptionally nice and talkative...they had been well trained and were eager to please...
    by the way the breakfast for two was 360,000 or about $38...so for the 1.25 hours we waited we saved about $76...
    out to the pool...we stayed there from about 9:30 until 3PM...we ordered lunch by the pool and it was delivered to our lounges...i had a grilled portabellow mushroom and muzzorella sandwich and karen had a steak and chedder cheese sandwich..plus waters...it was delicious...
    by the way the pool boys bring you cool towels during the day and wicker boxes filled with cold bottled water complimentary...
    our breakfast waiter told us about "biz-net" the local internet place...so we took a cab there....i got confused with the money and gave him 100,000 instead of 10,000...easy come, easy go...my only money mistake on the trip...spent about 1.5 hours on the computer--it was very slow...15,000 rp..$1.50...

    forgot to mention that we met a very nice couple from oz by the pool and talked quite a while with them...

    next door to the internet was a "department store" where we poked around and also a grocery store where we bought a few things...

    also hit the ATM while there...1,500,000 or about $160. withdrawal...

    we took a cab back to the hotel for 10,000...
    i walked around and took some pictures at twilight..
    we reviewed the pictures on the large screen tv...quite impressive...

    the restaurant bumbo bali had been suggested to us by the couple from oz...it was near to the hotel and they would pick us up and return us so we had the hotel make a reservation for us for 8....the restaurant was rustic and quite lovely with an open pit for BBQ as you entered...we had a delicious meal: mixed sate (beef, chicken and seafood): this was served on a personal charcoal cooker on our table...we had a chicken dish, pork sweet and sour (very good indeed), 3 types of rice, mushrooms in panara leaves...2 large Bintang beers (the local)..for desert there was mixed fruit and cakes...the restaurant was on two levels and we were on the upper one overlooking the lower (2 steps up)..we did have a floor show as there was a western cross-dresser at the next table to us and he/she was interesting to watch...voyeurs...
    back to the hotel and bed by 10:45

    too much sun for me...

    that's all for today...

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    carol---we felt totally safe in bali...never a thought or an issue...

    by finished i mean...even a nice house or an office building never quite looks finished or is not kept up after it is finsihed...they never clean the building trash out of the yard...they forget to paint one side...dumb...not following through on the whole project...this is aside from the financially troubled buidling...
    did you see that an american group among others have bought the never opened sofitel on the river...right across for the sheraton...the one with the big round jut out on the top (revolving restaurant???)..it is going to be a hilton... i had been told that the building was unsafe and that is why it never opened---no permit was given?????

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    Great job! This is wonderful. Reading your report has made me decide to go to Bali this weekend. Will be my first time there and not sure where to stay yet. The price for Conrad have gone up to $95/night no breakfast. Is it still worth it? Can't wait to hear more from you!

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    Care to say whether the health issue with buffets is from the guests (fingers or sneezes?), or from the servers (mixing new food onto lukewarm old food in same serving tray?). Trying to understand how breakfast or some buffets may be ok bets in Asia...

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    the conrad in my opinion is worth well over $200 per nite so $95 is still a steal....try bali discovery tours and see what they can do for you..they were offering $84 i think

    buffets---the issue for my wife is more with keeping things warm/cool as it relates to breeding grounds for things that will make you ill....

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    sunday june 6

    i'll type for a few minutes and then i have to go to work...more later tonight...

    i think that in the last segment i failed to mention that after our dinner on the first nite at the italian restaurant when we were leaving the restaurant we began to talk to a western man who was standing at the restaurant greeters' desk...i thought it was the chef...i was mistaken, and i discovered it shortly during our conversation....i said to him finally, "are your michael"? and he replied yes....i did not recognize him with his new beard...he is michael burchett, the former GM of the bangkok marriott and now the new GM of the conrad...we renewed our aquaintanceship and talked about our impressions of the new conrad and what was happening there...i told him that i had written him a note that he would get the next morning and then told him directly about our check-in mess...he was apologetic...his main concern was were we now happy and did they make it "RIGHT"... i told him that indeed it was all satisfactory...he went on to tell us about the slow opening, some history of the ownership, etc...it was a very pleasing conversation...the next day i received a lovely personal note from him.... we have since had a couple of e-mail exchanges...i told him that everyone at marriott was hoping that he would come back there...fat chance...

    our day:
    up at 7:30

    breakfast bufet (363,000 rp for 2 or $38.25 with ++) very nice offering but $38???

    out to the pool for karen, and i did internet and reviewed my pictures...$2.75 for internet for 15 minutes..then i went to the pool...the people from oz were there and we enjoyed their companionship...

    lunch was by the pool...i repeated my mushroom sandwich and karen had some now unknown item plus water...198,000 or about $22...

    we packed-up and were all checked-out by 1PM as agreed and putu was there to meet us...he approached karen and asked if we were the kimballs...he had a big smile...he was in western dress that day...we loaded our stuff into his toyota SUV and off we went...a fond farewell to the conrad...

    i should interject something about putu...about a year ago craig wrote a nice piece on fodors about their bali trip...i took notes and among other things contacted his driver--PUTU...he is Putu Arnawa...his web-site is: www.balifriend.net and his e-mail is putuarnawa@aol.com....

    putu means oldest son...

    he had a very nice toyota suv with two rear seats...it can hold 7 i believe...that would be tight...4-5 would be great...
    it is not a model we have in the usa, but it is bigger than a pathfinder but smaller than a suburban...about the size of a large jeep...

    he drives very slowly and safely...he is a joy to tour with...bali roads are small and narrow and there are lots of motor bikes and people walking...he is totally flexible...your pleasure is his pleasure....

    his fees, while higher than some are appropriate and are inclusive--they are based on the hours of touring...the top fee is 400,000 per day for a 10-12 hour day...well worth every cent...he spells out his fee structure in writing ahead of time...
    we found that 8 hour days were good and 6+ hour ones appealing...

    he is quite busy and reservations are needed...book early...
    i think i will stop right there and continue tonight...

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    my bill at the conrad was about $270 which included a couple of meals and the $70/nite ++...

    putu had sent to us an itineray (sp) about a month before we left home...i tweeked it a bit and we settled on 5 days of various lengths with the chance to alter things as we went along...i added and subtracted from his suggestions...

    he drove us to the hyatt first...it was an easy check-in...there are basically 3 pods of rooms and we were in the middle pod...there is also a regency section, some of which was in our area..
    checkin was quite easy...beacuse of my club membership they upgraded us to an ocean view room...it was quite a walk...during our 5 day stay we found the place was very big, maybe bigger than we might like...i can't imagine what it would be like if you were in pod 3...anyways..the grounds are very lovely and mature...there is not as much staff here as at the conrad...
    our room was very nice...more on it later...we were on the second floor..
    we went back to the lobby and putu was waiting for us...we had scheduled a trip around the southern part of the island for the remaining part of the day....
    we drove into denespar, the capital...there are lovely old colonial houses on the main street near the Bali Monument...it is a large stone structure with all kinds of ornate bits and pieces...we did not get out...from there he took us to the GWK park, which is a private project being built over many years by a famous bali poet...i think he is a poet--maybe just an artist...we walked around the park which is about 35% complete...it is on a hill and there is a giagantic head of a figure...this eventually will be part of a larger statue...its huge and amazing...they were getting ready for a special festival there...there are meeting rooms and eventually there will be houses, apartments, a conference center, etc...the guy is a nut case i guess..he is funding it totally...entrance is 35,000 each plus parking ...it is very close to the four seasons hotel...

    from there we drove out to panang beach to see the surfers..
    next we moved on to Uluwatu temple...it is high on a cliff and one of the most sacred places in bali...it is not too big...there are wild monkeys all over the place and some are not too friendly....craig lost his glasses as i remember...we saw more than one monkey eating glasses, frames and all...roughage....there is a 3 tiered building in the temple complex...like all active temples non-believers are not allowed in...this may not be true...beside the temple there is a small amputheatre...we went there to watch a balinese dance troupe perform a special dance in connection with the magnificent sunset...the temple was in the foreground and the sunset in the background...you are very high above the ocean so this is a nice take...admission to dance was 35,000 each...reasonable and it lasts quite a while...it ended with the dancers kicking fire towards the audience which was a bit hairy....it was not only dance but there was a male chorus chanting much of the time...the troupe must have numbered 50...the story being told was about a princess and a deer...
    back to the parking lot in the dark...no easy feat...there was no sidewalk, just a path which was uneven and full of rocks and roots...we survived...
    from there we drove to Jimbaran Beach to have dinner on the beach at one of the famous fish bbq places...this is right next to the 4 seasons by the way...
    there are many restaurants and the parking is a bit intense...putu found a place and we went to his favorite restaurant...there are many restaurants all in a row there....
    your immediate impression is of dark and fire...not to mention smoke and more smoke...

    i was nervous at first...we didn't know how good putu is at picking places that are good for western stomachs...he was excellent as we were to find out during the rest of the week... the restaurant name is: Kekeluargaan...
    putu was able to park near to it with the help of a "parking attendant"...as we approached the rest. all of which is open air....all i could see was fire...the fish are cooked on open grills fueled with coconut shells and/or huskes...it makes a smelly smokey fire, but it cooks the fish nicely....after we walked by the fire we came to the ordering station...there were fish laid out there for you to choose from all on ice...we did not know how much to order for the three of us...putu had told us that you pick your fish and then they serve you other things with it...the fish are weighed in front of you and this is recorded on your bill ...
    so we chose one red snapper and one white snapper...it looked like a lot of fish to me but it was infact just about right...the fish are dressed and then cooked and served whole...after picking our fish we proceeded to the beach to sit down...there are tables and people for as far as you can see.... it is quite dark, but you can hear the surf in the background...it was interesting and we really enjoyed it...the stars filled the sky with the moon....
    the fish arrived beautifully cooked and charred...with it they served veggies, and rice...we ordered some beer and water as well...we had a banquet...karen served the fish beautifully with little or no bones...it was great...a real experience...now i dreaded the bill...as we left we went to the cashier and she had our bill...it was 134,000 ($14.88)..the buy of the century...one of those fish at home would be $20....

    putu had us back to the hyatt by 9:30....this hotel also had security, but in this case, way at the end of the drive...they opened the car trunks and opened the front (sometimes) and rear doors and put in some sort of wand...an electronic sniffer i guess...
    putu was to pick us up the next day about 1...
    bed about 11...


    let me describe the room....
    it is a standard sized room...there are no drawers really, which is a pain...there is a tv on the large table at the foot of the bed...we sort of lived out of our suitcases...there is a small walk-in closet however and the safe is on the wall in there at eye level which is nice...
    the room is dark when the curtains are closed...the hotel is about 15 years old and may have had one updating...it is best described as mature...our shower knob required both hands to turn it on...
    the bed was comfortable enough...there is a desk in the corner and a couple of whicker chairs...there is a large deck which looks out onto the gardens and then out to the ocean which must be 200 feet away...there are two chairs and a table on the deck...it is very green and there are lawns...
    i would call the room nice, but not exceptional...not all that different from the marriott in bkk...
    there are sliding wooden loover doors over the entire sliding door out to the deck...there is a screen in between so you could sleep with the door open and the loovers shut if you desired...
    the bathroom is smallish but has a alcove with the toilet ..there are plenty of townels but they are well used...the sink counter is old tiles...the tub and shower are one unit..it was adequate...old really...

    i have not mentioned it but it is considerably cooler here than in bkk...not cold but very temperate...

    the hotel is nice, but too big for our liking and it is starting to be a bit faded...this sounds negetive, but i really do not mean it to be...

    Monday...

    up about 7:30

    we went down for breakfast in the main dining room which is under the lobby...it is open air and quite large..it is the normal buffet as described earlier...there is a shortage of staff in the dining room and we notice that they are all older---middle-aged...must have worked there since the hotel opened....we also noticed immediately that they are lazy and really don't care...getting seated was an issue each day...coffee took about 10 minutes and a refill even longer...not once were we asked if we wanted more..we had to look around to get the bill...a couple of times they ran out of food and plates...poorly managed...the food was fine...we have no complaints with it...

    after breakfast we went for a swim...there are several pools all surrounded by gardens and lawns...we never once set foot on the beach although there were some people out there each day...it was quite windy during our stay so that may have kept people away..there are beach activities and there is an italian restaurant out by the beach and there is a bbq restaurant by one of the pools...based on our experiences with breakfast each day we decided not to eat a regular meal in this hotel...
    after swimming we decided to walk into one section of sanur...to the left of the hotel...we took laundry with us hoping to find a laundry...we found one almost immediately...very, very cheap...they also pick up and deliver free to the hotel...we had them deliver it after it was finished..i paid in advance...i think it was 1.49 for quite a few pieces...yes $1.49...
    almost next to the laundry was a shop selling cotton surrongs and dresses made of batik...karen ordered 2 dresees, 3 surrongs and a robe for me..these were custom made for us and cost 450,000 rp, $47...it would be ready on friday...sooner if you needed it...the shop name is Khapek's Botique...the young woman who owns it is a delightful person...a young mother...her cousin owns the shop next door that sells only black and white batik...we hit it on friday..
    most of the other shops were quite touristy in this part of town..there was an atm there but i could never get it to work...

    back to the hotel and a quick shower...

    putu arrived for us before 1 and we were ready for him...we had not had lunch...

    more tomorrow

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    from the hyatt putu headed us in a north direction...first we visited Batubulan..the stone carving town near ubud...along the road there was more stone carving than you have ever seen: statues, arches, benches, etc....we did not stop as this was not airplane friendly stuff...
    we passed through many rice fields and terraces...they are wonderfully scenic and each one is different..we stopped at an ATM so i could replenish the funds...putu explained about the rice crop: his uncle is a rice farmer...the "new" rice takes 6 months to grow and the older rice takes a shorter time i think he said...rice plants are a vibrant green when first planted and sprouted in a small bed..they are then transferred to the paddy, with water for the first couple of months when they are maybe six inches high... there is a specific way to place them in the ground..it is done by hand and the farmers are in water that is several inches deep and muddy with bear feet...back breaking work...

    we stopped at a workshop where they were making caskets to burn.. they are in the shape of bulls...cremations are often done by the village once a year or every other year...they do several at the same time...some are just symbolic burnings, not the actual body...it has decomposed in the ground while wating for the ceremony...often one year or more after death...this is an all hands affair with the whole community taking part and may last for a couple of days...
    next door to the casket shop we saw batik being made in a family compound...they welcomed us and took us on a small tour...karen resisted and bought nothing there...i believe by this time we had entered the town of ubud...
    we passed more rice terraces, many of them on steep hills...some are very small...
    putu had picked a lovely small cafe for us to have lunch...it was out in the country and overlooked one of the most photographed rice terraces in bali...the cafe is Cafe Devi...the food was great and the view overlooking the valley with its terraces was fantastic...lunch was $11.50 for the 3 of us...i had soup and sate, karen had fried rice and putu had stirfried rice with veggies, plus water all around...this cafe was in the town of Tegallang...
    from there we drove past the famous water temple of this area...i did not want to get out...i think i hurt putu's feelings, for which i was later sorry...
    we had a great view of it from above...

    from here we proceeded to putu's family village...it is called Tanggayuda...it is very small and just off the main road..i will not explain the village structure, except to say that each family had a compound and the extended family lives there...
    on the way into the village we stopped to watch some men making straw roofing panels...they last about 25 years according to putu...the village is near ubud...
    we parked the suv and walked the rest of the way into the village...we came upon a group of maybe 40 men by the road...yes, they were there for a cock fight...there were maybe 10 birds...one dead on the ground from the first battle...one man was collecting money for the bets and they faced off the birds trying to excite them to be aggressive...a small knife is attached to one leg of the bird and that is what kills the other birds...the fight only takes about one minute or less...i will spare you the details..

    lunch time...more after lunch

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    the family compund is a fairly large area with a wall around it...there are a number of buildings: some houses, a rice house, a temple ...out back there are growing areas for trees (fruits, bannas, nuts, etc) and gardens...putu no longer lives there as he lives with his parents and brother out on the main street of the the larger town...
    after our visit to the compound we visited the compound across the street (an uncle) where they manufacture goods out of coconut shells...we bought several picture frames and some serving plates..

    from there we headed to putu's actual house...we went there to change into our balinese costumes to attend the very special ceremony in a near by village temple... the ceremony was to commerate the reopening of a very large temple after a complete restoration...everyone was in ceremonial costume...men wear a special crown like hat or headband made from cloth with a peak at the top front...everyone wears surrongs...men wear a special sash...karen wore a lovely surrong with an over shirt...it was very festive...everyone from all around attends...even small kids are dressed up...you could feel the excitment in the air...the temple is a multi building complex...there are bands of drummers we saw there, both adults and small boys...there are dancers; there is a puppet show with a puppetier...everyone goes there to eat and strangely to gamble also...we did not eat....we walked around for a while looking at everything...there are offerings of food and especially fruits all over the place and more arrives with every family group...
    the ceremony seemed to be delayed so putu suggested that we leave if we had seen enough...that was fine with us...with the exception of one other german couple, we were the only westerners there...the germans were obnoxious taking pictures with flash even in places that they should not be..putu told and showed us how to behave thank god...

    we were back to sanur by 8:30...we stopped at a camera store to have my sticks downloaded to a cd...cost 100,000...we waited for one hour while they did it...slow computer...

    putu left us off at the village italian restaurant in sanur...we had a delicious italian meal in their small a/c room which doubles as the wine cellar...burshetta, beer, pork medallions for karen and ravioli with spinach and riccota for me...creme caramel for dessert for karen and gelato for me...156,000--$16.50..

    bed at 12:05---our latest

    tuesday

    up at 6:45

    this was going to be a long day...breakfast downstairs with the same inattention by the staff...this day they ran out of some foods and plates...
    headed north with putu at 8AM...stopped at ATM--not use to withdrawing 1,800,000 of anything...
    headed in the direction of Sangehon...stopped in the market town of Manbal...loved seeing the market and i took some of the best pictures of my trip here...passed along the aung river valley...slow driving with much to look at: hills, rice terraces, lots of rice drying on plastic tarps along and into the road...sometimes the tarps took over 1/2 the road...also coffee beans drying... lots of good picture taking...saw some women washing clothes in a stream and took pictures..the stream was right next to a beautiful rice field... we were heading up into the lake district...the car climbed and climbed...at Bratan lake, the biggest, we visited the famous temple which is said to float on the water...very lovely...there is a nice park there surrounding the temple...quite a few people visiting....a man had huge snakes that you could have your picture taken with as well as 3 of the biggest bats...their wing span must have been 3 feet and their bodies were the size of a cat...ugh...from there we circled two other lakes and stopped at a nice overlook into the national park for a cold drink...must be a great place for hiking...there were lots of places to stay in this area..
    in the valley we had finally seen veggie farms...heretofore it had only been rice and sugar beet farms...

    we saw mt. buleleng in the distance..it is an old volcano...

    in the town of Batariti we stopped at the Pacung Indah for lunch...again putu had picked a lovely overlook for us...the food was good and the scenery even better...we met two woman from CA there and talked to them for a few minutes, one was a photographer...one was from chestnut hill, ma originally...lunch was 119,790 for the 3 of us..
    drove through more rice fileds and entered one area where the locals require you to pay a toll to pass through...interesting...money is used to improve the road and keep the area in tact and pristine.... money well spent...we came upon a rice gathering group by the side of the road...they brought their harvests to a small scale by the side of the road, weighed it, and then loaded it into a truck...lots of people carrying things on their heads here as they do all over bali....
    we drove through a rain forrest....we visited a very special temple in the rain forrest---Batu Karu...we had to put our surrongs on again...putu had brought them along...very lovely place with a manmade lake and some old buildings...we saw a few people saying their prayers...
    we passed through many little towns in this area...many had large bamboo poles with curved tops hanging down over the street to signal that a festival would occur soon or had recently occured...very festive looking, much like christmas decor in the usa...
    we ended up at Tanah Lot temple by the ocean...this is really the most tourist area we had seen...large parking lot and thousands of vendors selling every type of junk that tourists buy...we marched through it all....it was quite hot by now...we went to an overlook where we could see both the temple and the stone bridge carved by the pounding surf...i was tired and decided not to climb down on the beach and rocks to visit the temple...i think karen was not happy with me...she could have gone!!!the temple is actually on a little island sort of connected at low tide to the shore...

    on our way home we drove through Kuta so we could see what that was about because it looked like we would not make it there...it is thousands of shops and quite large...we drove out to see the famous kuta beach...thousands of people...that was enough for us...there are huge road works going on there so it is difficult to pass through...the road works are being paid for by the world bank...

    we had putu drop us off at the mezzaine restaurant in sanur...someone had suggested it to us...come to find out this is acturally owned by the hotel next door....it was quite good...there was a live piano player who loved american oldies...we ate out on the front terrace which was very lovely...the foods were both eastern adn western...we both a a tendaloin of beef which was only so, so...chicken sate with our beers, water and some very nice desserts...283,000... $$30
    we took a cab back to the hyatt..
    our laundry was not in our room so we asked if it had been delivered and they had it at the front desk...odd not to deliver to the room...this was a further example of the hyatt's laziness in my opinion..for $1.49 you got 1 blouse, 2 mens polo shirts, and2 pairs of pants laundered, pressed and delivered...
    i decided upon returning to the hotel that i would do e-mail...karen woulod write in her diary...i went down to the computer area and the room was about 100 degrees...the man in charge did not see it as a problem...i did...after getting the hotel engineer, etc talking to the asst. mgr, etc i did some emails in simi- a/c...it was very slow...

    bed 11PM

    more tonight

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    I've always had excellent, personalized service at the Bali Hyatt, but I do always stay in the Regency Club. By the way, if you thought the Bali Hyatt was big (380 rooms) it's a good thing you didn't stay at the Grand Hyatt (750 rooms)!

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    kathie---karen and i said the exact thing to ourselves about the grand hyatt...i had read reports of people getting lost there...i remember on marriott that we stayed at in SF and each time we went back to the room we had to rethink it...

    i am downloading pictures tonight so there will not be any additional report until tomorrow...

    i should be able to finish up bali tomorrow...sorry this is turning out to be so long...

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    Hi Bob
    My internet was down for nearly two days so I've not been posting.
    Yes, I've seen the big hotel on the river across from River City. I'm glad someone is going to do something with it. It has been empty in the 3 years I've been coming to Bangkok.

    Are you familiar with Omni Towers? It is another building with serviced apartments for vacationers, and very nice as well. My son and hubby have stayed there and liked it just as much as Grand President, if not more..

    Carol

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    carol---i am not familiar with that unit...you might look at the marriott mayfair for your next trip...it is fantastic...more expensive than the grand president, but in a very nice neighborhood and a very nice facility...it is very close to the american embassy..

    sounds like the trip is going well..hows the pool?? winning at all??

    did you see my posting about crepes and Co on soi 12, sukhumvit rd...great place to eat...karen likes it especially for lunch...senses on the second floor of the gaysorn plaza is good eating too...
    also the indian restaurant in the rembrandt hotel, soi 18, sukhumvit is good, especially its sunday brunch...didn't you say you tried senor pico?? it is good too, but expensive comparitively....

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    Wednesday

    up by 7:30...breakfast...nothing has changed in breakfast room, except they did not run out of food or plates today

    pool for one hour...we like the pool nearest the beach with the swim through waterfall...the grounds are very nice...the wind is really blowing today...
    putu picks us up at 10...

    this is to be our day around ubud...
    first we stopped in the "silver" town, Celuk...karen bought two pairs of unusual silver earings in one of those big jewerly shops that we dislike so much...i was ruthless in the negiotating, including walking to the door once, after the price was agreed upon, when they wanted to up charge for the credit card transaction...$50 for the two which was only 100% markup i figure...they were only sterling...
    next we were on to the woodworking town...i had in mind that i would like a little wooden sculpture...we went to one very nice gallery and met the artist...he had a buddah figure in a twisted fetal position that i liked quite a bit but it was bigger than i wanted, so we passed on it...he showed us all around including some carving that was being done out back in the open air...at the next shop they had a smaller version of a similar thing, so i bought it.. it was only $12 and quite nicely done...hand carved?? they claim so...
    in any case it looks nice on our stereo cabinet...the wood is very marbleized...

    many of the art work peices in bali all look alike,,,,there is not a great deal of original works...they are very tradition orientated...this accounts for the sameness...there is not a lack of style, just a lot of the same thing...

    we had no interest in paintings which are a large focus of their art... we have no room for more art at home and we don't really like the style offered...


    next we made a stop at the kite maker..this was a very interesting place...craig had mentioned it in his report and wanted their e address so it was a must stop for us....we looked in the shop and then went out back to see the production shop...there were perhaps 30+ young people there making the kites,,,,most of the production envolved the painting on the fabric by hand....there were a few stencils, but not many....the heads (birds, other animals, etc) were handfashioned by young women using bamboo sticks and painted silk/nylon and some had pre-made styrofoam heads....they are very elaborate...i loved this experience...we ended up buying two kites for the granchildren: one eagle and one sort of garuda looking creature (the national symbol)---no i just looked at it again and it is a dragon...one has a tail that is 20 feet long...cost $17 for the two...like craig we would have trouble packing them to come home...karen went to the hotel business center and got two fedex cartons (had to buy them) and fashioned a larger carrying case...it worked great (we carry twine and packing tape on all our trips for this purpose)...we had bought two full sized umbrellas at peace resort so we hitched them to the outside of the carrying case for extra strength...they fit perfectly in the overhead...the kites are here ready to fly with the boy grandchildren...we thought we would take them (the kids and the kites) down to newport RI to the point of land where people fly kites some time later this summer...

    we stopped at a nice place for lunch just on the outskirts of ubud ---Indus...we had 2 pizzas, water, a fruit drink for putu and an indonesian veggie/meat plate for putu for 146,200 rp...$15.38...again a lovely spot to stop...

    early on, we were unsure if we should ask putu to join us each day during lunch...we did at each meal and we really liked his company...

    from there we headed back along monkey forrest road in ubud and did some shopping...karen got some pieces of fabric to make her nurses' work jackets, and some clothes for the granddaughters (very cheap and nicely made)...the shopping areas in ubud are quite spread out....we did use treasurers and pleasures as a guide for some shops...
    after that putu left us at the local market for about 1/2 hour (that was all we wanted to be there)...it was like a tourist market any place in asia...it was hot and boring really...

    after the market we went into the palace which is right across the street...it was quite interesting and very beautiful...you can rent a room there putu told us...we saw both boys and girls rehersing for an upcoming festival...they were really cute...they were maybe 5-9 years old...

    we went to an internet place and i caught up on that and had a cold drink..10,000 rp for 40 minutes--$1....

    karen bought 6 meters of fabric for 32,000 per meter ($3.50/meter)...
    we bought some christmas ornaments and some hand painted coconut shell mirrors for gifts in a lovely gift shop...

    from there it was back to the hotel...ride back was about 1 hour from ubud...

    many talk about staying in ubud...it would be nice but we are glad we picked staying near the sea...i'm sure we missed something...ubud cannot be described as a small town...i was quite surprised at what we saw...it is tourist orientated of course...

    we had a swim again..

    we had such a good experience at the village italian restaurant early in our stay that we decided to go back there...this time we sat in the "back" room which is open air and right next to a little pond which had been created inside the restaurant....taxi was 6,000 rp...
    we both had a pasta dish with ham and mushrooms, one in a red sauce and one in a cream sauce, waters, desserts and their "welcome" breads...delicious..142,000 rp $15..

    taxi back to hotel

    bed about 10:45

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    Bob, this is a great trip report, thank you. Did you see my note on another thread where I mentioned that I saw your username and password set as the default log-on to fodors on one of the Conrad computers?

    Putu dropped me at the Hyatt a few hours after you left. I wouldn't say that the people working the breakfast at the Hyatt were lazy. They were disorganized, but that seemed to be more of a management problem. The staff may have been a bit discouraged, but only because they didn't know what to do. There were definitely too few tables. People were entering the restaurant area (which was open on two sides) from two different directions. With the lack of seating, they needed a couple of greeter-seater and a sign saying "please wait to be seated" or something to get the customers organized. It looked like they do take reservations for breakfast.

    All in all, I would happily go back to the Bali Hyatt but only if I knew that it wasn't going to be as WINDY as it was two weeks ago.

    Suppose you had arranged with a store to have them deliver some purchase (a sarong or a small garuda carving, say) to you at the Hyatt. Would you expect that the package would be delivered (by Hyatt staff) to your room while you were away or would you expect to have to pick it up at the front desk? I don't know, I am asking. I know to expect that laundry done using the hotel's laundry service would be delivered to the room. But I don't know what to expect for a package delivered from outside the hotel (but I would expect the laundry package and the souvenir package to be treated the same way).

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    Thursday, our last full day on bali..

    up by 7:30 again....
    down for breakfast...we have taken to walking through the gardens on our way to breakfast... same inefficiency during breakfast...the staff is totally indifferent...its such a shame as the hotel is quite nice...

    putu is there by 8:30...we are not there until 8:45....he is so pleasant and accomodating....we really like him...he feels like your cousin....

    this day we are heading north and east...
    or first stop is at a black sand beach not far away....there are lots of small colorful fishing boats pulled up on the beach, some with outrigging...we walk out onto the beach and amongst the boats...it is very pleasant...the sand is very unusual...karen has recorded the beach as Lebih...
    along the road we saw many crops including tobacco..

    from there we headed towards Klungkung...this is the site of the former taman gili justice court...there is a preserved area around the court structures which are raised platforms with roofs which have marveleous paintings on their undersides...the paintings all tell stories about everyday life...there is a moat around much of the court...there is a small museum there as well....there is a small admission to the complex

    from there we head up into the mountains via rice fields, coffee and fruit producing farms...

    we stop in a village named Sideman, which is famous for its production of the double woven songit... the production was quite interesting from its creation to the actual weaving on ancient looms, all done by hand...karen purchased a table runner for $50 of double and a piece of single songet for $7/meter...when i went to pay, the electricity went off miraculeously, just at the time i presented my credit card, so i had to pay cash...

    across the street we visited another loom situation where they wove things containing gold and silver threads...not our style, but interesting...

    we crossed one bridge over a river which made us quite nervous...the road bed was almost gone and there were big holes in the bridge...

    we passed through Candi dasa which is a resort town that has fallen on hard times since the economic failures of 1997...putu's father had run a restaurant there during the boom of the late 80's and early 90's...

    from there we headed to a lunch place...it overlooked the valley and out to the ocean...i recorded that it wasn't very good...it was located on a terrace in an older hotel/cabin complex that had gone broke it appeared...karen recorded that the bathroom was lots of "local color"....

    from there we headed for the recently restored and rebuilt water palace called puri taman ujing...it has recently been funded by the world bank and reconstructed...it was ruined by an earthquake...i did not want to go in...like the earlier water palace you aproach it from a higher vantage point and so get a nice view of it...\\

    next we headed for tengan village which is a "modern" settlement or reservation of the original settlers of bali... they live in the old way...cows roam on the street...you pay a fee for entrance...there are shops in the homes and you can see everyday work being done...it is sort of a "museum" type place, but it is a real life settlement as well...
    when we arrived we parked in front of a straw shop, just outside the village...karen bought a number of baskets and purses there....
    along the main street of the village we met an historian, whom putu knew (pre-arranged???? we don't know??)...his name is Iwayan Muditadanai...he is recording the history of his people in books which are written on wooden plaques...they really look like venitial blinds and are about 12 inches by 2 inches by 1/4 inche and are held together with a double string and can be collapsed like a venitial blind is drawn up...he invited us to his home to look at his work...seemingly wanted us to order his completed set of history when it is complete...
    the story is told in pictures and verse which he paints on the slats...he sang some of it for us...very interesting...

    from there we headed back to the hotel along the shoreline...we arrived back at 6:30...

    i had given putu some money on our second day as that is how he wanted to do it...i had asked him our first day how he wanted to be paid and when...

    i gave him a total of 1,700,000 rp ($180) plus a very generous (i think) tip, all of which was a pittance in comparison with what he did for us...he is a true gem and a find for anyone of you who can use his services....by the way his father also does the same thing but putu says he is getting older and is less interested in doing it in the future (burnt-out)...

    putu has a girlfriend who is upward mobile and loves for him to take her to more upscale places like mcdonalds (seriously-- it is considered expensive by local standards) and the various clubs, which he does, but he prefers the traditional ways and life (she wants to live in the city, he in the country)...i think he has been successful in combining the two...

    we loved our time with him...bali would not have been as interesting if we had tried to do it on our own...he does not watch the clock for your overall time usage and just rounds things off in your favor each day...very generous of him...and refreshing i might add....

    it was a sad parting on our part...

    we had a swim...we had the hotel make us a reservation for their chinese restaurant which is across the street from the hotel...
    it is a beautiful spot and allowed us to walk through a part of the front gardens where we had never been before...the dinner was quite expensive but the spot is very appealing and beautiful...the food was good but not exceptional...it is called Telaga Naga...295,00rp...$31...

    we tried to have dessert in the hotel bar off the lobby overlooking the pool and back gardens but were told they did not offer dessert...this is an example of how this place operates...any other asia hotel would have seated us and had the staff go to another venue in the hotel and get us dessert...not here...lack of service...???

    repack and bed by 11....

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    Friday june 11..

    i forgot to mention that we left our copy of the treasurers and pleasurers of bali and sinapore with putu for his reference...

    we were up by 7..breakfast and then the pool...
    i took a taxi to a local camera store to have my sticks downloaded because we would be setting out early on saturday morning with rat on a tour outside bkk..30,000 rp...a steal...same thing had cost 100,000 just up the road a few days earlier...this guy was fast and invited into the a/c room to wait as well...

    we walked around this part of town...near to the village restaurant...karen was looking for some "fairy dresees" for our granddaughters...they are dresses like a fairy would wear, with points and sequins and a toule over skirt...we had seen a kid at the pool with one and it looked like fun ... we finally found them..70,000 for 2...we had lunch at a road side place called Billy's Cafe in sanur..it was good...off to the other end of town to pick up the dresses and surrongs that karen had ordered...stopped next door in the black and white shop and karen bought a blouse for herself---$8...

    back to the hotel for a swim in the pool for about 45 minutes..
    checked out, only a 30,000 rp bill..all else was pre-paid...$88/nite all inclusive from bali discovery tours...

    asked for a blue taxi (the metered taxi) at taxi stand in hotel...it was about a 20 minute ride to the airport..he drove like a bat out of hell and changed lanes frequently...thought we were in bkk....only 32,000 rp...

    there is a 100,000 rp exit tax each...$11....

    the airport is much nicer and more organized on the departure side and nicely air conditioned...it is comfortable and there are quite a few shops to browse in....we had an ice cream while we waited for our flight to be called....

    our 4 hour flight to bkk departed right on time--5PM...thai air...comfortable enough but quite crowded...no empty seats...2-4-2 on this flight...

    it only took us 1/2 hour to get through customs and immigration in bkk this time...
    we used AAC limo again and this price was 1260B roundtrip...this time we were going to the sheraton and a return from the marriott...the driver was very slow, but we were in no hurry really...

    we arrived at the sheraton orchid and presented ourselves at recption and we checked in very quickly...thanks to a fodorite person (laura) we had heard of a promo at sheraton for a junior suite for $75. per nite using the sheraton web-site...i think it may be an aarp rate or AAA rate...we were in room 2114, just below the "towers" rooms of kathie fame...

    i will describe our suite et al this evening

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    Bob, I have to agree with you about Ubud. Everyone raves, but it is very touristy, not at all the rural village it's reputed to be. And yes, I was in Ubud the first time something like twenty years ago, and felt the same way about it. We also encountered the highest pressure sales people in the painting galleries in Ubud.

    By the way, if you stay in the Regency Club you have breakfast in the Club. As I mentioned, I've always had gracious and personalized service there.

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    kathie...its not that we need personalized service...we just need to have decent normal service and the bali hyatt failed us on this point...i wrote comments to each hotel manager at the end of our stay...i have heard from each manager except the one at the bali hyatt...that tells me something!!!!

    the sheraton suite...it is on the 21st floor...not far from the eleavator...you enter a long corridor and on the left is a sliding door to a 1/2 bath...further you enter a square room which is the sitting room...it has a desk on the left...small...a sofa in front of the window which looks down the river---beautiful view and a large tv on a table...there is a small coffee table in front of the sofa...there is a built-in bar with mirror on your left as you enter this room...it is well stocked and has a fridge under neath...the safe is here as well...no rug on the floor as i remember...just slightly worn dark wood...the bedroom is off to the left...the suite is an exagerated L shape...the bed is comfortable and king sized...there is another TV, a dressing table and a large wardrobe plus a shelf for suitcases...quite nicely laid out...there is a full bath on the left as you enter the bedroom...tub and shower together...decent towels..
    the whole suite is best described as older...not shabby but not spiffy either...i really want to hate sheratons, but i have to say this is ok...it was nice but nothing special..
    our room is without breakfast but i picked up pastry at the small stand under the hotel on its right side...
    price for suite $75++...AARP rate

    as it was getting late we wanted to get right out to dinner and had selected Gallery Cafe on gpanda's suggestion...when we got there we were the only people except for 2 men outside on the terrace...we thought it was quite good...not as good as harmonique, but good...the service was good as they wanted to get out of there...the decor is pleasing...they had previously been at the oriental hotel...i am unclear if they were in the hotel or adajacent to it...
    we selected waters, sweet and sour shrimp, cashew chicken, 2 white rice, fried morning glory and mushrooms and corn...near the end of our eating they asked us if there would be anything more as the kitchen wanted to close..it was 754B incl tax and svc--$18.85---we had no booze...excellent all around... we will go back another time...

    on our way back to the hotel...(the restaurant is a 3 minute walk from the sheraton out near new road)...we picked up some pastry for breakfast... 113B...
    bed 12:00...put in wake-up call for 5:45 as rat was coming for us at 6:30...

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    let me start by saying something about Ratt....i first knew of her through a posting over a year ago on this forum by two woman from OZ...what caught my eye was that she took them to a shop to buy a spirit house and then took it home and packed it for them...i wanted one so i wrote her address down...
    later i saw postings about her work, both good and bad...there had evidently been some service failures on her part...
    she is a woman of chinese descent whose family came to bkk in the 1930's as workers...she is about 50-55 i would guess...she and her husband own at least one yellow and green taxi and a mini van...they do some taxi work but mostly they do specialized work for tourists...she works long days and very hard...
    we did not know exactly what we would want her to do for us but i wanted to try her...she charges 225B per hour in town and outside town she adds 1B per KM...she charges a flat 400B to or from the airport...
    i decided that we would book her for one full day and also see if she wanted to do some airport work for us as well...as it turned out she really wasn't interested in the airport work which was fine with me...

    Saturday

    up at 5:40..didn't sleep well ...breakfast in room..showers..down to meet rat...could not find her...sounds like a previous service failure i had read about..after 5 minutes we went inside and sat down in the lobby...shortly there after a small woman approached us ..she was as described: wearing a blue shirt with a large "R" on it...
    she had parked the taxi right by the door...we felt comfortable with her immediately...she is a good driver..we headed south...we had a very aggressive day planned...we were heading for the floating market which is over an hours drive south...first she took us to a boat landing near to the floating market where they wanted us to get into a long tail boat and pay 1000B (don't know if it is each or for both of us)...i winced and they lowered it to 600B...i told rat that i did not want to do this...couldn't we just go directly to the market..?? yes we could...we have been there before ..we just wanted to see it again...
    she drove us right to the market and parked in a shed next to the water...the next transaction was strange..a woman approached us and she and rat spoke...would we like to see an old spirit house which might be for sale...ok...it was a broken ugly thing...i walked away...next was a lovely old boat---carry-on luggage???
    i looked at karen and was thinking to myself---had we made a mistake by hiring her...was it going to be one pushy thing after another all day long...i just walked away and i think she got the point...the rest of the day was fabulous...we walked around the market and took lots of pictures...it is an interesting place...it is touristy but also authentic...rat bought some fried coconut muffins and gave us a piece...also something sweet...i drew the line there...no more street food...as we had left the city so early we were way ahead of the crowds...after a short visit we left..been there, done that....

    from there we returned to the "highway" and our next stop was the Royal Thai Craft Center...nothing royal about it, but they did have interesting carving going on and a nice furniture shop and a tacky gift shop with "handi-crafts"...we're out of there quick..

    next we stopped at a large pottery manufacturing place...now this was real interesting...everything was done under a tin roof in the immense one-story building...it was very hot in there even though there was no firing going on that day...we saw clay being worked...we saw potters, working with crude wheels (electric) making magnificent big pots---some as tall as 5 feet...we saw the whole process including the simple kiln which holds hundreds of pots and where they fire things for 2 days and then one day to cool down...they heat it with small trees, maybe 1-2 inches in diameter and 4 feet long...its a tried and true method i guess...they have a fancy painted pottery as well and we saw two girls painting the intricate patterns...karen bought a couple of unusual blue and white serving dishes....

    from there we headed toward the bridge over the river kwai...it was a long ride...
    i did not hold out much for this site, but i felt this was a good chance to go and see it... it was interesting and the railway was especially interesting...the bridge is a re-creation.. it is black and white...we ate lunch at a floating restaurant which is right next to the bridge and the lunch was quite good...thousands of large fish swim near the restaurant and they come running when you throw something into the water...the water is quite clear...we were unsure of the health situation at this restaurant so we just ordered phad thai and FF for lunch...it was very good and comfortable...i expect lots of bus tours go there...we had water and some ice cream for dessert...there were a lot of people there, mostly thais...it was 250B...$6.25....

    we drove by but did not go into the allies cemetery there...

    from there we headed up into the hills...we were very close to the myanmar (burma) boarder...

    we visited an archelilogical (sp) museum...we were the only people there... it poured rain for 10 minutes...

    we drove past an area filled with monkeys and drove into an elephant show place...

    from there we went to a stretch of the "death railway" ...it was quite interesting and we got out there and looked at it...the river was below...

    we returned to the town and visited the war museum...it is located in an odd thatched building that is not much more than a lean to...interesting pictures...needs some help ...make that lots of help....

    from there it was a 2 hour ride back to bkk---how do you say boring...we arrived back at the hotel at 7:30...that made it a 13 hour day...
    my bill was 2980B ($74.50) plus a sizable tip... rat heard karen and i talking about cd cases...i needed one...an hour after she left us off she delivered a 6 cd case full of unused cd from her son...that was very nice of her...i called her on her cell phone and thanked her...

    we went up to the room and cleaned up and took a taxi to biscotti at the four seasons where we had a 9PM reservation...karen ordered soft shell crab (she has had this several times in the past at biscotti) and eggplant parm, both of which are appetisers...i ordered scollops and tuna with asparagus and a 4 cheese pizza, plus water...k had a glass of chard. wine....she had one scoop of rasberry ice cream for dessert and i had lemon tart and ice cream...bill 2225B $56...
    another delicious biscotti experience...

    taxi back to sheraton...

    bed about 11:30

    sunday was to be any easy day all in all...

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    Bob,
    Have you ever been to the Food Loft on the top floor at the Central Chidlom store? We're meeting there for lunch today. They have a huge selection of foods from all over. Son and hubby have eaten there before and loved it. I have not tried it... until now.

    Carol

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    sunday june 13...

    up about 7:30...i went down and got some pastry..175B...

    we went down to the pool...i swam for a while and then i was going to do some errands and karen would stay at the pool...i took a taxi to the holiday inn on silom road...there has been so much discussion about this hotel that i thought that i should go and see what the rooms are like...priceline had been awarding it as a 4* star hotel in the same class as the sheraton orchid and the marriott resort...i knew that it was not right...
    i asked to see both a regular room and an executive room...a nice young man took me around...first we looked at the regular room...it seemed ok...nice stripe wallpaper (was i in des moines) and decent furniture...the mattress was not the best...everything else was fine...next we went to an executive room...the only thing i could see there that was different was that the mattress was a real nice thick mattress...the man agreed with me...but for the extra $24 you also received the lounge privledges (free hors d'oeuvres, drinks, breakfast and a lovely private area PLUS FREE UNLIMITED INTERNET)...i thought this well worth the extra money...the rooms were decent and the baths were fine...nothing special but these are really affordable rooms all in all...i would stay there if i didn't mind not being on the river...and for the price...i would rate it a 3.5*..the pool was only so so..no shade on on the 6th floor i think..

    from there i took a cab to the internet place near to the marriott and i did my thing which included trying to get priceline rooms at the sh-la again for our last 3 days...denied...so i used jamesA's preferred web-site (www.huahin.20m.com) and booked the marriott for 3 days ---total cost with service fee for agency was about $102 per nite all inclusive including breakfasts and a sunset sail and one class room upgrade...the best i could do on the marriott web-site was $110++, no breakfast or from the hotel directly $110++...
    karen would be pleased with this as she (and I ) really like this hotel the best...we do love the peninsula as well but the reservation that i had there (and cancelled) was for $190++ but it included a few perks but not much...

    i took laundry with me in case the laundry might be open but it was not...i spent 1.75 hours on the internet and got lots done...i took a taxi back to the sheraton...we had asked for late check-out and it was granted to 4PM...

    when we got up in the morning there was a fumes smell in the room...it was not too bad...when i went up from the pool it was worse and i mentioned it to the front desk as i went out...more later on that...

    karen was up in the room from the pool when i returned as it was getting close to our reservation time for brunch at the indian restaurant (Rang Mahal) at the Rembrandt Hotel on soi 18, sukhumvit rd...they have simply the best sunday brunch in town...all indian food...we missed this on our last trip and i was glad that it worked out for this trip...making a reservation allowed us to have a wonderful window seat...the restaurant is on the 24th floor so you can see all over bkk from there...the food did not disappoint us..it was simply fabulous...price: 575B each..total bill 1495B..$37.50...a lot for a lunch but delicious...there is a small indian band which plays during lunch...there are all sorts of dishes and great western desserts...too much to eat...lots of indians there so you know it is authentic...a real feast...

    from the rembrandt we took a taxi to the jim thompson outlet on soi 93 sukhumvit rd to see what was new since our earlier visit...there were lots of new things ...we bought a few things...

    taxi back to the sheraton...

    when we entered the room we could hardly breath as the fumes were so bad...we held our breath most of the time and skurried around to pick things up...we checked out as soon as we could...my reservation called for a pre-pay but yet they wanted me to pay again...i was unhappy as this would be lots of trouble if in fact i paid twice...had to talk to a manager who assured me that the room had not been prepaid...i showed him my sheraton paperwork that said it was ...i could not argue and took his card for followup if needed...

    ALL IN ALL WE HAD ONLY A MEDIOCRE EXPERIENCE AT THE SHERATON... we would not return there...and the fumes... that is another thing... and they could really care less about it...i was not the only person complaining...

    i neglected to mention that the pool area in the grove (part of the portugese embassy which is next door--it must be leased land)is very nice...i guess i would give it a tie with the sh-la pool....but the marriott is still far superior...

    we took a taxi to the shangri-la where we had a one nite priceline reservation at $55+ ($70)...this time we were in room 1309, right next door to our last stay...same room really...went down in the rain to pick up my laundry which we had left there a week before...she was there...i went and bought some beer and went to the ATM...

    we had planned to go for a swim but the rain had delayed or cancelled that...

    we did some packing and organizing of things...

    we were going off to dinner, but decided to just go downstairs to next2, the general restaurant on the ground floor and have hambies and ff and water...989B...$25..expensive for what it was, but just right for that nite and we didn't have to go any where...

    bed by 10:30...

    off to the north in the morning

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    carol...we have not been to that food loft, but have been to that store including the week before last...we have been to one at emproium however which is suspect is very similar--good

    convince the boys to try biscotti...i would be interested in your comments..

    bob

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    monday

    up at 6:50
    down for breakfast before showering...
    up for a shower...no time for swim..
    check-out just after 8 and the car came for us at 8:15 as prearranged (AAC limo)..easy ride to airport in 1/2 hour..we checked in quickly at thai air domestic terminal...went out to the gate...there is an internet site there so i went on and checked our marriott reservation for the voucher they were sending..75B/15 minutes...voucher was there...

    great flight north to chiang rai...lots of empty seats...1 hour and 10 m9inute flight at 10:30...arrived at this small but modern airport in chiang rai...picked up our cases and headed to avis for our car...i had reserved a car with them for our 3 day stay 4200B total incl everything...except gas of course...
    the car was a one year old toyota slightly bigger than a corolla...the driving was very easy...the roads were great...there were not twists and turns and mountain roads like we had been led to believe....we were heading 1 hour north to the golden triangle to the anantara resort in chiang saen...this is owned by the royal river group that owns the marriott resort in bkk...

    we found the hotel easily and drove up its impressive drive with a pond on one side and lots of flowers and shrubs everywhere...we arrived at the circular entry and were greeted by a bellman...easy check-in in the semi-open air lobby...this building contains the lobby, a lounge/bar, a downstairs dining room with open doors to the outside, the italian restaurant (downstairs too) and on the lowest level the computer area and the cooking school room...

    the buildings are in a lovely peaked roof thai style...one set of rooms is above the lobby (up the hill) and the pools and one set is below...only the upper level was being used durning our stay...i purchased the rooms directly from the hotel at $122 all inclusive per day...a very good rate...breakfast is not usually included but i found a deal that included it...they upgraded our room for us as well...

    the only bad part about our room was that it was high up in the section of rooms which required a fairly long uphill walk to it each time...ask for a room near the lobby...
    the pool area is adajacent to the lobby building and just below our room area...it is an infinity pool and the view from it is into myanmar...the grounds around the buildings are lushly landscaped and very lovely...the hotel owns several hundred acres...the hotel is set off all by itself....across the street is the new opium museum which i will talk about later...otherwise nothing is within walking distance...

    more later

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    the pod of rooms we were in had maybe 40 rooms...we were the next to the top tier on the lower level...there are two floors of rooms per pod...each level of the pod had about 4 rooms on each floor...so they are really terraced, you could say...going up a hill...
    as you enter the room there is the entrance to the bath on your left...it has large sliding wood and opaque glass doors that allows the giantic two person tub to be exposed to the greater room if you want...the bathroom is all marble and the tub is like a soap stone....the hotel offers a 1 hour two person tub experience for about $75++...there is a shower in the tub...there is not a shower curtain...you must close the sliding doors or the rest of the room gets wet...ii is hard to keep the bathroom dry, but it can be done, if you are careful...the sink is large and there are tons of towels and amenities...

    the room is average size...there is a grass rub at the foot of the bed which i found irritating...the bed is a king sized platform bed...the furnishings are very nice and there is a large flat screen tv, fridge and lots of luggage space, but only one luggage rack---strange...there are not many drawers which we found odd as well...there is a large wardrobe as you enter the room on the right...the safe is in the wardrobe, as are umbrellas, slippers, robes, a utility bag of thai silk to carry things to the pool in...

    there is a sliding glass door that opens to a lovely sala with chairs and a table and an outcorpping which is like a day bed with an upholstered matress...
    our view is directly out to the river and across to the large casino in myanmar...
    to the left we can see the pool...there are lots of trees on this level and quite a few birds....the room is perfect for us...

    the hotel would be great for a honeymoon..there is quite a bit to do in the area and the hotel offers lots of help with this...there is a work-out facility and an elephant training camp on the property...there is mountain biking with maps and trails and lots of walking on the property...

    the buildings are lovely and so is the room...a long term stay would be awkward however because of the lack of storage space...

    after unpacking a bit we went down to have lunch on the terrace outside the bar overlooking the pool...hardly anyone was at the hotel and it remained that way for the rest of our stay...never more than maybe 30 people...like a private estate with weekend guests...

    we had 2 pizzas and 2 ice creams for lunch, plus water...$27...it was hot...it would have been cooler inside, but that does not have a/c in the bar..
    food is relatively expensive there, but is very good and nicely presented...

    we needed a swim in the glorious pool...we changed and jumped in...the pool is large and has several distinct areas...: there is the main pool which is quite deep...there is an area of decreasing depth which leads to the infinity edge...there are wide steps to facilitate this...there is a covered water bed which bubbles up all the time---like a massage...in back of that is a hot tub, which is surrounded with regular water...there is a kids pool there as well...there are lounges on at least 3 levels around the pool...the general view is up at our pod in one direction, out towards myanmar in another with hills in the background, and into the bar in another...very relaxing...i see why kathie just read her books there...total relaxation...great escape from bkk...

    while in the pool we met a very nice canadian guy...he was there with his russian wife...they live in moscow...we talked to him quite a while, mostly about travel...

    near the end of the afternoon we invited them to have dinner with us.. she was quite tired and was sleeping in the room all afternoon (2nd baby on the way)...he joined us and she slept some more...we really like them...
    for dinner we sharred classic thai food in the hotel dining room--$47 for the 3 of us...1871B....
    it was a pleasant time...

    we discovered that he was scheduled to have the cooking clas with us the next morning...she was to be at the spa...
    the hotel has a great spa by the way...

    bed about 10:30


    Tuesday

    we were up by 6:45, showered and down to get some juice and pastry (me) as we were leaving for the market about 8:30 with the chef...

    at 8:30 we met with the chef and our hostess (the hotel assigns a hotess to you for these classes---she is one of the front desk people and PR types)...the hotel van and driver were out front to meet us...we drove into chiang saen and went to the local market...the chef in his tall hat and we obvious farong...it was lots of fun...the chef told us about a lot of the food stuffs and we learned quite a bit....the chef ordered quite a few things when we got there...he gave a list to a woman and she put them in our van....ian, the canadian, is quite a home chef and purchased quite a few things for cooking and we bought one shrimp paste container...after the tour we had coffee at a moving restaurant (cart on wheels) across from the market...quite good, but against our rules of eating...hot coffee and tea arn't bad...

    the driver then took us on a little tour of the town, seeing some of its historic monuments...we ended up high on a hill next to a wat and overlooking the actual golden triangle (the piece of land where the 2 rivers and three countries meet...great view...

    back to the hotel and to our class...we were give 45 minutes or so to have a proper breakfast...polina, the russian wife, came and we met her for the first time..she ate quickly and was off to the spa---first things first...she too was very pleasant and very enthusiastic about everything....

    having finished breakfast, we had a tour of the herb garden...this is a small raised area just below the pool...he grows some herbs there and some lower down on the property near to the elephant camp, where there is more room and more direct sun...

    about 10:45 we started our cooking class...they offer a class every day...each day has a different subject...we had choosen to do the noodle day (tuesdays)...3 dishes are completed at the session which is $50++ per person...its worth $500++ for sheer entertainment...it was a highlight of my trip...

    when you enter the cooking room you are very surprised...the hotel has sparred no expense in setting this up...as you enter there are 4 seperate work areas...for four individual students...at the front there is a place for the chef with a large work area and stools for 4 or 5 students and a counter to cosy up to...there is a/c thank god...

    you are presented with a special anantara apron first, and a paper chefs hat, plus a set of recipes with all necessary food stuffs listed...

    you sit on the stools on one side and the chef is on the other with the hostess and two assistants...he talks about each dish and its make-up and then he prepares it...he does the same with each of the 3 dishes...we then had a tiny tasting of his creations...tiny...

    by the way he is simply delightful and very funny....i can see him throwing the knives in a japanese restaurant...i fooled around with him a lot that morning...we laughed a lot...

    after his demonstration you are allowed to choose a station to work at...you are presented your own set of pans and all the food stuffs to make dish one...you do it, including the decorating pieces for the final presentation plate... you cook dish one, plate it up and decorate it and it is put on the dinner table at the back which has been set for lunch...then dish two and then dish three...each time you are given some new pans and foods...by this time it must be 12:30...

    you retire to the back of the hall and the three of us sat and ate our creations...there was no voting for best plate...or was there...

    we were actually tired after the experience, but it was very pleasing and is highly recommended to others visiting at anantara!!!!

    i neglected to say that on our way back to the hotel from the market we stopped at the entrance to the hotel at their 2 spirit houses and "made merit"...not with gifts but with candles which we each lit and put on the structures and with burning insense sticks and flowers...it was quite a spiritual feeling...

    at the end of the class we were each presented with our diploma...very official on heavier paper than my college degree came on, by the way---that's thailand...

    we went back to our room to freshen up and change clothes...we had decided to join together with our new friends and go across the street to visit the newly opened opium museum (fall, 2003)...kathie had told me about it earlier and i knew it was worthwhile...it was not only worthwhile it was fantastic...

    the hotel drove us over there in a golf cart...

    the buildings are very nice looking...there are accomodations there which might be worth checking out for another time, and there is a conference center there as well...

    we did not know it until we had completed the tour but the buildings are actually connected by a tunnel through a hill on the property and you walk through it during your tour...you go in one building and out another and they are on opposite sides of this hill...

    we were the only people there...we were welcomed in english and then left on our own...the multi-media presentations are in both thai and english and you push the appropriate button for your desired language...there are several levels and many individual rooms to this museum...it is very professional throughout...obviously there was professsional talent which created this venue...

    entrance fee was 300B $7.50...it was worth every cent...it talked not only about opium in thailand and asia but in europe and america as well...it showed ancient things and modern things...we all loved it...

    a volvo staion wagon from the hotel retrieved us and took us back to the hotel...

    of course it was swim time again...

    by the way the american breakfast at the hotel is 550B or $14.75...it is a nice breakfast with limited buffet offerings...mostly ordering from the kitchen...during busy times i suspect that they have a buffet as there were round marble tables in the room for it...there is very little other chance for food if you do not eat at the hotel...

    after swimming i went and did internet...a bad experience...no a/c in a small hallway at the bottom of a flight of stairs...lots of mosquitos... and expensive like all hotels...

    we had beer in our room...the door man drove us down to our car--the cars are kept at the bottom of the property by the entrance...we had decided to check out a restaurant we had seen that morning on our way to chiang saen...it was called thai kitchen...you could eat inside with the tv and the live band (3 piece), playing american music or outside along the river...we liked the semi-air conditioned inside room...there were quite a few locals there...no westerners...i suspect some were drug dealers as there were some very nice cars in the parking lot...
    there was an english menu...we did not select well and the waitress and the chef both came back to verify that we wanted 2 items which turned out to be almost the same...any ways we had: fried rice, water, and three thai dishes, plus ice cream for dessert...cost 465B or $11.50

    back to the hotel..bed about 10...

    i will try to write more tomorrow but am not sure i can...if not i will not be adding again until next tuesday nite...i should be able to finsih up by wednesday...

    happy 4th everyone...

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    I'm glad you enjoyed the Anantara as much as we did, Bob. It's really a beautiful place. I did enjoy lazing around the pool and on the balcony and in the spa. By the way, the spa offering "bath experience for 2" does not occur in your room, but in the spa, on an secluded balcony with a romantic canopy of mosquito netting above you. You look out into the trees, the bath filled with flower petals... The spa there is really wonderful.

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    kathie---they must have added two new in room treatments because there is a flier in the room which clearly states that the treatments for two are in your room...they perhaps have them in the spa as well...

    bob

    i could easily spend a week there...

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    Bob, you're right, that must be a new addition. They have lovely spa suites for treatments for two. A couple can have massages togther in the spa, or facials or body scrubs or whatever. I had the hot stone massage there which was wonderful! We did a half day package in the spa as well as some other treatments in our time there. I highly recommend it. We were there five or six nights.

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    i must apologize to anyone who is still reading this, but i am just so tired tonight that i can't add to it...i promise i will do some tomorrow and maybe finish on thursday....

    bob

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    Bob: Great report....
    Could you or Kathie tell me a little bit more about prices for all those great masasges and treatments one can get at the MArriott BKK and also at Antara. Also .... do we fly to Chang Mai or to Shang Rai...?
    Having all this information is great.
    Diana
    DIANA

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    diana---kathie is the expert on spas so i will defer to her...my wife does not like spas or treatments...she sticks to her clinque....

    i had a couple of massages at the peace resort at koh samui...very cheap...hotel run at the pool...200B for one hour reg. massage or 300B for 90 minute oil massage...i had regular...

    at the marriott at bkk the sign said 1000B for one hour and 1400 for something else and 1700 for something else...all by the pool...

    40B to the u.s. $$1.

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    Wednesday---to continue

    up at 8...breakfast...down to the pool..we had invited ian and polina, our new moscow friends, to join us in a driving tour north to the border and then a visit to doi tung, the princess mother's former estate (mother of the king, who died about 4 years ago)...

    we headed north in our toyota on roads that were nearly deserted...first we stopped at mae sai, the border town with myanmar...we parked and walked around....ian bought a few things...there are lots of shops and stalls...some of the stuff comes over from myanmar...a visa is required to croos over to myanmar and as we had been there before we decided not to cross....i walked to the northernmost point in thailand while the others poked around in the shops...it is on the river...
    not really a very nice town, but just what i expected...like any border town...it was 250B to cross over...

    we took our leave and headed to doi tung..this is a vast estate which the princess began in the 1980's largely to provide alternative employment to the locals (formerly they were farmers---drugs)...it has been a brillant success...no more poppies in the area, at least in plain sight...it was a daring move on her part...she was a little tiny thing but carried a big stick...

    they produce coffee as a major crop and other things as well...

    she spent her last years in this lovely setting at the top of a mountain in an elegant but small house, surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens in thailand...

    it is billed as an enviornmental experiment...

    it is a long drive up the mountain on very well kept roads...there are a couple of hill tribe settlements along the way and they are selling things on the road...

    at the top there is a well established tourist industry...we had lunch in one of the restaurants...

    after lunch we went to the villa...it is at the very top of this beautiful place...it is a wooden structure...many of the rooms are formal reception rooms, but you can see the princess' private suite through windows from a deck that overlooks the valley...she lived simply...
    one of her daughter's maintains rooms there to this day...
    there is a guided tour of the villa..

    after our look at the villa and picture taking we headed down into the formal gardens...they are really very nice ...european in many ways...there are many different sections, each with emphasis on some different element of botany...
    it was very colorful....

    this is a must see if you are in the north country...

    plan to spend a minimum of 1/2 day, but you could easily spend a whole day...

    there are a couple of shops which sell quality crafts, including clothing and household goods...plus coffee

    we drove up into one hilltribe settlement as we left...it started to pour so we did not get out....two boys ran up to the car and we gave them some change...they were cute...

    we continued south and made a complete loup before the day was out...doi tung was the highlight however...

    we went back to the hotel and had beer in our room...no swimming as it was still raining...

    we had dinner in the hotel's italian restaurant...very nice...they were having a month long white asparagus offering...so we had chicken with mushrooms with a wine sauce and white asparagus, finger potatoes, onion rings on top???, plus water...it was delicious..

    for dessert i had chocolate vesiuvius and karen had a cooked pudding...1725B...$43...quite expensive since there was no booze, but it was good ....

    during dinner we met the swiss resident manager... he was quite charming...

    bed about 11...

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    Thursday

    up at 8...down to breakfast...we were joined by ian and polina...we will miss them....

    back to the room to pack up...easily done...

    bill: 19,833B or about $500 for 3 nites...including the cooking class ($50 ea ++) and some laundry...

    we went down to the classroom to say goodbye to ian and polina and to assure them that in fact WE WILL COME TO VISIT THEM IN MOSCOW in the future...we also had a card for the hostess and for chef...

    on our way out we stopped at the elephant camp at the bottom of the drive as we had neglected to visit there...the irish honeymoon couple we had met in the pool were going on an elephant ride so it was fun to see them...karen fed the elephants and then we were on our way to chiang rai...

    we remembered ian's shoes in our back seat so we returned to the hotel and gave them to the door man...

    on our way south we stopped in chiang saen to look at the wat overlooking the river and laos....ian had told us that they had stopped there and it was quite nice...one of the things you do there is buy some birds in a cage and set them free and they fly off to laos...its fun...like making merit again...karen did it...i was cheap and only bought the 20B cage...3 birds or maybe 2...

    when we arrived back in chiang rai we intended to go into the town and look around but time was a bit short so we only looked in at the thai handicraft center on the main road just in town from the airport road on the left side...they had quite a bit of stuff...a wide range...we bought a few things including 2 slingshots for our grandsons (the parents will kill us)---made of bone and high power elastic or rubber...

    we got gas and even after 3 days of driving around it was only 400B ($10) to fill the tank...

    dropping off the car at the airport (avis) was very easy...we were very glad that we had rented the car...it allowed us lots of flexibility during this period and it was cheaper...(hotel charges $50++ each way)...car ended up costing about $120....

    the thai air flight was right on time...we had a snack in the airport in the lounge...cheapest airport food i have ever seen...

    plane was quite full--2X4X2 seating...jet...

    arrived in bkk 10 minutes early...

    we had not pre-arranged our transportation as this was to be only a one way as the departure ride was the second half of a previous arrival...

    taxi to marriott resort was 650B including tolls from the taxi service in the domestic terminal...no waiting either...the regular taxi line was long...car was a new camry...

    we were greeted at the marriott as long lost friends...karen says the royal treatment...
    i had booked the room the week before through www.huahin.20m.com on jamesA's suggestion months earlier...the service is quick---takes about 24-36 hours for confirmation via e-mail...they do charge a 400B fee for the credit card which is not disclosed in advance...i did not like this...fee 12,250B or about $306 for three nites including tax and service and breakfast...hotel and marriott.com both wanted $110++ and no breakfast...GOOD BUY...

    we were in room 408 in the left wing...they were going to put us in the right wing until i objected...i do not like that wing for some reason---no reason really...

    we went down for a swim as it was only about 6 or 6:30PM....

    we took the boat to taskim and a taxi from there to harmonique for dinner...

    this was an absolutely delicious meal...one of the best on our trip...chicken app., 2 beers, lemon chicken, chicken and cashews (excellent), beef spicy salad, shrimp w/yellow curry, fried morning glory and garlic, 2 rice and 2 water...FABULOUS....985B..$24.75...too much food...

    we took a taxi back to the hotel with a stop at the shangri-la hotel to pick up our bags...91B...

    upon our return to the marriott they were now greeting us by name...

    down to swensons for ice cream just to make sure that we exploded during the nite...

    bed by 11....



    Friday....

    our last two days we jammed full of things to do...

    i was awake most of the nite....too much food and then ice cream...

    down for the buffet breakfast...ate lightly...did some internet in the hotel---THE RIP OFF OF THE TRIP...195b FOR 15 MINUTES...

    out to the pool quickly as we had arranged to have a driver for the rest of the day to pick up things around town that we had purchased, etc...the driver is the one mentioned above as the taxi man who stations himself outside the marriott and his wife works in the hotel...Somphet Gunthon...

    it was to be a good experience...

    his car is a new toyata corolla taxi...he owns it...yellow and green of course...he charges 220B around town per hour...we had him for 8 hours so 1000B....

    first we went out to the IMPACT center, which is one of bkk's convention centers...they were hosting a show called, "Made in Thailand"...we had been to these trade shows before and found some very good buys...this time it was good but not great.. we spent about 2 hours there i think...we telephoned him when we wanted to be pick-up at the door...it was pouring rain...from there we wanted to visit the
    Fatima center where they smock girls dresses and make other items...they have a small shop in the back of the factory...this time they had practically nothing in the shop and referred us to their shop on Sukhumvit, between soi 33-35 at the villa supermarket...it is in the parking area just in front of the market on the right...they were kind enough to call ahead to see if they had the dresses we wanted...they did and the head woman gave the driver directions...dresses are about $15-20 each---would be over $100 in usa or more...well worth the visit and a good charity as well..


    next we went along sukhumvit to thai stone jewerly at soi 4 in the nana hotel...everything was ready for us, except the braclets which we had not given the go ahead for (tiffany knock-offs...)...we decided on two of them...we now have more people who want them here at home so mailorders are in the works...i paid for 2 for our kids...

    next on the list was the jim thompson outlet on surawong to pick up some more silk for my sister-in-law...3 minutes in and out....

    next over to the shangri-la area for two things...we split up...i went to pick up the laundry we had left a week ago down the soi, and karen went on with the car to the PA Bronze company in the Sh-La mall...this is a manufacturer of stainless steel items...they have a showroom in the hotel mall..has more than one name...it is the last shop in the mall, nearest to the skytrain...great stuff...karen went crazy...anniversary gifts for both daughters...two wedding gifts and some other stuff....its heavy and bulky..where are we going to put it???...nothing for us---damn---next time..

    and lastly back to the marriott with our loot....

    karen packed for a while and i went out to get my jacket from jack...surprise...he told me to go to reception at 9 pm as he had a gift for me...three shirts to match the jacket....he is the best...i told him i was embarrassed by this...he insisted...

    i give him good plugs on fodors, but i do that because he is fun and does great work and i told him that....!!!
    no more gifts... i do love them however..

    my jacket fits like a glove..karen says i have never had a jacket fit this well, even ones jack has made in the past...his jacket man is excellent!!

    i had left my photo sticks at the kodak shop in the mini mall so i picked them up after they were transferred to a cd...very cheap...

    we had beer in the room...

    we took a taxi to the peninsula hotel (60B) as we had a reservation (essential) at the new thai restaurant at the hotel...

    the restaurant is called Thalaythip...it is an outside restaurant along the river in the hotel garden ...it is in an area set off from the rest of the hotel between the pool and the river cafe...they have built a small village and you eat on the terrace or in small covered and raised pavillions...closed when it rains...

    we had a pavillion...it pays to make reservations!!!

    they have an a la carte menu but mostly people eat the set menus for two...there is one vegetarian meal and 3 other set menus: 1800B, 2200B and 2400B...we had the menu in advance and had picked out the middle one as we liked it better--$55.---total price was 2589B or $65+

    the menu: shrimp/chicken tartlets; papaya salad with dried beef; prawn soup with lemon grass; deep fried fish; chicken curry; grilled beef; stir fried veggies; and rice...thai desserts

    it was a perfect ending to our trip...we did it a day early as we had to go to bed early on saturday as we get up before 3 on sunday....

    we strongly suggest that others try this restaurant...we also like jesters in the penn, but it is more conventional...and western...

    we took the penn boat to taskim and got the marriott boat to the hotel

    bed: no record

    last day+ tomorrow...

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    Bob, How would you compare the driver you had from the Marriott to Ratt? Should we use a driver to take us to sightseeing places -- The Grand Palace, Jim Thompsons, Wat Po, etc or are these accessible via boat/sky train/new subway/ taxi? What about shopping -- car & driver or sky train/taxi? I'm thinking we will want to use a car & driver for sightseeing so we will not be too hot & exhausted, but for shopping, since this is our first trip & we may want to linger & have complete flexibility for time (my husband says when I go shopping one hour turns into 5 hours...) we may be better off using taxis. What do you recommend?

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    i hadn't really thought about comparing the two drivers...now you make me think..
    ratt has more experience which is both good and bad....she may try to steer you in one direction that you don't want to go....but you will be too polite to tell her no---i am not polite when they try to take advantage: i.e. taking you to jewerly shops you don't want to go to...it can be an advantage if in fact you don't know where to begin...

    he is laid back like most thai men...

    i like them both for different reasons...she is a bit cheaper...not much...

    i would not see the need for a driver and you can get around a lot faster on the skytrain and the river boats...take taxis after you get off the skytrain...that is what we do...we hardly walk at all because of the heat...

    billT loves having a driver to the sites, which is not a bad idea, but for shopping it is not necessary...

    have i mentioned the threasurers and pleasurers of thailand book to you...its great for shopping...tells where everything is...

    hope this helps

    bob

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    i forgot to mention that around the sightseeing areas is where you find all the so called touts...they are obnixious, so just ignor them and keep walking...also taxi and tuk tuk drivers who want to jerk you around are in these areas in heavy concentration, so i driver would help you out going and coming from these areas and they would take you right up to the door...

    you meet some of these people in shopping areas, frequented by tourists, but not as often...

    you just have to have a thick skin...its not like sightseeing and shopping at home...

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    Saturday, june 19---sadly our last full day of vacation

    up about 7:15...decided to swim before breakfast today...then breakfast...they do do a nice buffet at the marriott...only thing missing is the dim sum which they used to offer...

    we took the boat to taskim and then the skytrain to nana....we were headed to the ambassador hotel on soi 11, sukhumvit rd...reason: the periodic sale by the Thai Handicrafts Association...we have attended their sales in the past and have found the goods to be of superior quality at a very fair price...
    we were the first to arrive...the door opens at 10...by the time 10 came the line was about 200 deep....there is some hilltribe stuff...

    you can find their schedule on their web-site: i will post it after i post this report..

    karen managed to spend about 5150B ($129)...she was delighted with her purchases: straw bags, place mats, table runners, wooden toys, etc...there are bedspreads, pillows, pocketbooks, rugs, paper goods, coffee, organic toilettries, artificial flowers, wicker, and tons more stuff...it opens at 10 and runs till 2...be there when it opens...people come with grocery carts...

    we purchased a day skytrain pass after this stop as we decided we might need it for the rest of the day...

    took the train to central chitlom dept. store...we were seeking a couple of strong plastic packing boxes (large tupperware type)...karen finds that if we put our breakable things in these and stuff that we don't want crushed, that we can pack them in the rice bags as part of our checked luggage...it works great...

    rice bags:...these are those stripped nylon bags with a central zipper that you see at flea markets and the like...they are cheap in bkk and are great to use as an extra suitcase...this time northwest made me sign off on possible damage when i checked it...it came through in perfect shape...

    so we put clothes in the bottom of the rice bag and then the boxes and then pack dirty clothes all around them...great idea...it works for us...it is heavy to lift however...we usually tape it shut after all is in...this time the tape came loose...

    from chitlom we did a combo walk/taxi (2 bad taxi experiences) to the conrad hotel, which really is not far...

    we had read that the conrad had some of the best dim sum in bkk...it does..

    on the third floor of the hotel (its in back of the four seasons, sort of) there are two restaurants and one, Liu Restaurant, specializes in dim sum each mid-day..it is an all you can eat dim sum ordered from a dim sum menu...cost: 440B per person $11...
    its a steal...this is simply the best dim sum we have ever had...very creative and delicious...many of the items we had never seen before...very relaxed and inviting...the hotel is beautiful by the way also...great location...total 1120B...$28...

    the conrad has an agreement with a bus company to stop at their front door and it will take you to the skytrain--free...every 10 minutes..takes you to plenochit station...

    back to the hotel with our stuff via skytrain and shuttle boat...we look like pack-rats...

    we had a swim...

    we did some packing and got totally organized..

    our package at the marriott included a one hour sunset cruise ...so we had booked it for sat. nite...left marriott at 6PM and returned at 7...went up as far as the memorial bridge...the sun came out just as we turned around to head back down river...a nice finish...

    we then took the boat to the skytrain as we had decided to finish off with another dinner at the gourmet cafe on soi 39, sukhumvit rd...wanted to have something filling and western to set us up right for the trip home...we had steak, ff and some desserts...1094B..$27...just perfect...taxi to skytrain and boat back to hotel...

    unfortunately we did not go to bed until 11:15...



    Sunday June 20...

    wake up call for 2:50AM...shower quickly...breakfast delivered to the room at 3:05AM (free room service if you are leaving before 6AM)...

    we requested a bellman for 3:20 and he was right on time...

    AAC Limo had been ordered for 3:30 and he was there when we were ready to go...

    as it was very early he took a new way to the airport, going first south from the hotel on regular roads (no traffic) and hooking into the highway out near to the airport...it was all new to us...it took 35 minutes to the airport..

    we did the vat refund fast...the office is at one end of the check-in hall...he did not look at our stuff...we were the only people there/..

    we checked in with no problem...quite quickly really...no question about what for sure was excess baggage..

    we paid our 500B each departure tax and went through immigration and into the waiting hall...there we processed our VAT refund getting cash back...

    the plane loaded by row and as we had our usual row 63, we were on first...

    the plane pushed back 10 minutes early...fairly full flight...

    after about 2 hours or so there was a call for a medical person from the flight crew...no response so karen agreed for me to ring the bell...she is a nurse and could she help??

    they took her up front to the business section...seems a 30ish y.o. man was having a problem....he had to spend all his time in the bathroom and he was by now quite weak and dehydrated...karen questioned him about what he had eaten: this brilliant new yorker had eaten RAW SHELL FISH IN BANGKOK....YES YOU HAVE READ IT CORRECTLY......she gave the crew instructions on how to flush his system and sustain his electrolytes...he was taking pepto bismal (hopefully my last spelling error of the report)...not helping of course...

    they claim they are rewarding her with 5000 FF miles...we shall see..

    we last saw the guy in a wheel chair at narita...

    the change at narita was normal...they have really spent some money on the N/W gate area at narita...much improved./..

    the next flight would never end...i thought i must have flown around the world twice...

    our schedule for plane transfer in detroit called for us to wait 7 hours...how did i miss that when i made the reservations...
    while clearing customs...we went to the red line to claim our purchases...no duty...check out the GSP system that the us gov't has in place for some purchases in developing nations...great program for shopoholics...
    we stopped at the N/W service desk to ask about another earlier flight...yes there was one in about an hour and we could have two seats (the plane was FULL...
    they did not re-tag our luggage and i asked twice about it but was told that it would go on our flight...i should have known better...

    after waiting for our luggage in boston and it did not show we went to the baggage office only to be treated very rudely by the woman there...i had to speak to a supervisor who was less than friendly also---a letter is going to the N/W CEO...finally the supervisor agreed to have the luggage delivered to us when it arrived (15 miles)...they wanted me to come back for it...they called it a "voluntary seperation"...i was unaware of any of this and am furious that it happened after i had asked the question, not once but twice...they wanted to know the persons name who told me this...fools...

    anyways we are home and loved our 6th trip to thailand...we love our purchases and we love the thai and bali people and all the people who assisted us in any way on this trip...WHEN CAN WE LEAVE AGAIN???

    if any of you have questions please e-mail me directly at rhkkmk@aol.com....put thailand in the subject line or i will delete you...

    bon voyage...

    i will list the thai craft site on the next frame



    pictires will be abailable next week or so on shutterfly.com....i will post a new topic about this when they are ready...it takes for ever to upload them


    end of story...

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    This is exactly the kind of half-effort that we have come to expect from Bob. Barely any detail to flesh out the bare bones of his skeletal report. We're having dinner with him on Sunday and I will be glad to communicate any other complaints in person.

    Thanks Bob. I could taste some of the food as you were descibing it.

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    bob; great report, thought i was there with you, and am thoroughly exhasted. i thought about sending you these questions to your email address, but i thought some of the other readers might have the same questions. so here goes:
    1. with all the shopping, how did you manage to pack everything in your luggage? how many pieces of luggage did you check in? how did you avoid paying excess weight charges?

    2. did you have any problems with customs? you said you had nothing to declare.. i guess your purchases were so inexpensive that you did not exceed your $1600 allowance.

    3. pls describe this gsp system, and how it affects shopaholics.

    yes, no raw seafood for me in bkk.

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    here goes...we left home with three full checked bags...we returned home with 4 checked bags also very full...

    we have learned how to travel lite in asia and use laundries...

    northwest has never questioned us about weight and we are always way over on our return from bkk...don't know why...

    gsp is a government program...it is described on the customs dept. of the us gov't website or call customs and they will explain it to you...there is a simple pamphlet that gives you an overview...you can order it...

    we had many times over our alloted $1600.... we went to the red line and claimed it all....i asked the clerk for an exemption for the jewerly which was the bulk of the cost...he granted it and said you are free to go, no duty...i think our other stuff was about $1500.....

    karen is an expert packer and can fit tons of stuff into a small space and aside from one bottle of red wine in a suitcase from portugal 20 years ago, nothing has been broken...you stuff, you wrap, you push and pull...we take packing tape and string and handles with us just in case...

    btw we did have about 4 small carry-ons plus the large kite box....no problem...

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    thanks for the info, but one more question, what is an exemption for the jewelry and how does it work? had i known about this exemption, i wouldn't have had to hide jewelry in my james bond shoes, and other body parts. :-).

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    i don't want to be rude or to mislead you , but please read the site for yourself or get the pamphlet...its not just for jewerly and there are some very specific requirements that must be met...

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    its me again...

    my pictures are 95% ready to be viewed...it seems that shutterfly requires that i send individual e-mails to each person who wants to view them via their system...you do not need to join shutterfly to view them, so they say....to do this i will need each of you to send me a message with your e address... sorry this seems the only way to do it...so either send a message here with an address if you are interested, or send me an e-mail directly to rhkkmk@aol.com....i will then add you to the list at the beginning of next week---7-12-04..

    there are four sections to the pictures so you will receive four messages about the pictures i believe...i do not think they will be lumped together...

    i have not been able to figure out how, or if, you can rearrange pictures within a group, so you will find some of them out of order as they were taken as i deleted other non acceptable pictures during the trip...new pictures fill in the holes where the deletes were...not the greatest...all pictures are labeled with limited text...

    bob

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    Bob, I am back from vacation but have not had a chance to read your entire report yet. What I have read so far is excellent though and will be put to good use the next time we return to Thailand. I would love to see your photos - you have my e-mail address. Best regards, Craig

  • Report Abuse

    Wow. 105 responses. Pretty good. Not yet up to Lynn's Trip report record in excess of 400, but that took several years and you just posted. The pictures are great, there is a separate thread to give Bob your E-mail.

  • Report Abuse

    Bob, I have finally finished reading your wonderful trip report. I was hoping for a little more detail :-)
    I think my next Thailand trip will include time at the Anantara especially the cooking school since cooking is a hobby of mine. We have experienced a lot of the north but it seems like it is worth some more time - we'd like to check out the new opium museum and Doi Tung. Sounds like you ultimately had a great experience in Bali - I'm glad that some of my advice was helpful. Your photos are wonderful - interesting that we have many of the same shots. Keep in touch.

  • Report Abuse

    Well I read my comment 2 posts up and see that I still have not been to northern Thailand and the Anantara after my commitment to go there 3 years ago. I guess you need to think about what you write sometimes...

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