Bangkok- April trip Report

May 4th, 2004, 09:40 AM
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Bangkok- April trip Report

BANGKOK TRIP REPORT

Our schedule was: leave on 4/22 and return on 4/30. We flew Continental to LAX. Then EVA Air Evergreen Deluxe Class LAX to Taipei then on to Bangkok. We paid $975 round trip and received 19,500 miles on our Continental plan.

EVA Evergreen deluxe was far better than coach and slightly less than full business class. Food was OK. Service was better than what you get on US airlines but not quite up to Singapore Air standards (the gold standard!). The attendants were professional but a bit too business like- not as warm and friendly as Singapore Air. Enough legroom to cross your legs and I?m 6?2?. Seats a little wider. Hot towel, amenity kit- although simple. Overall I would say it?s the way to fly to Asia, as I was able to sleep much better in this class of service than coach flights to Asia. Seating was 2 by 2 and 2 by 4 by 2. We always had the 2-seat arrangement.

Hotel- we stayed at the Peninsula. What can I say about this place that hasn?t already been said many times on this forum. I consider this the finest hotel we have ever stayed- and we have been to plenty over the years. Service ?outstanding! We had a Grand Deluxe on the 27th floor. Although we did not get the view with the Grand Palace. We secured our hotel package through our travel agent. We paid $180 per night and this included breakfast for two each day as well as airport transfers both ways.

Thursday- the first day (arriving at the hotel by 12:30 pm) we did not plan on doing anything, as we would be jet lagged. We did venture out to the Siam area via the Sky train- however we returned within an hour or two feeling the jet lag. It was easy to take the peninsula boats across to the Sky train station.
Sky train- clean, efficient, easy to navigate. Each station is manned and buying tickets was simple. We opted for the three-day pass-, which you buy from the agent. The trains were
Always there within 5 minutes, air conditioned and no trash or graffiti anywhere.

Friday ? we ventured out to MBK and the Siam area for some serious shopping after a long breakfast. It turned out that we always had a big breakfast, and then skipped lunch and had a big dinner. Our meals out were mostly at the larger hotels. Pan Pacific, Grand Hyatt, etc.

Saturday- weekend market- big mistake. You have to understand that April is the hottest month there and temps were in the high 90?s with humidity the same. We took the sky train out to the weekend market (our driver- Ratt was unavailable to take us there). We only lasted an hour or two and had to throw in the towel as we were worn out from the heat.
Went out later in the afternoon for more shopping and dinner.


Sunday- we arranged to have Ratt as our driver for this trip. (We would pay her for her service each day at a rate of 220 Baht/hour- I also tipped her nicely) Our schedule was basically to have breakfast very early (6:30 am). Then Ratt would pick us up and we would sight see the Marble Temple, the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Keaw. These are must-sees for anyone visiting Bangkok. Having Ratt drive us around makes all the difference in the world. First- you don?t waste time she knows the best route to get there (no getting lost or stuck in traffic with taxi drivers). Second- and most important- you conserve your limited energy for sight seeing when you get to the Palaces/Wats- we found we were expending a fair amount of energy going from the Peninsula boats, walking up those long stairs to the Sky train, then walking to your venue- it really takes a toll on you.
Ratt also has a cooler in her car and she gives you ice cold bottled water after you finish at a sight. After walking around for an hour in 95 degrees and high humidity- to get in that air-conditioned car and have a cool drink recharges you for the next sight!
Ratt ? while not a professional guide does know enough about these places to explain them in some detail.
Also you get to see a fair amount of the city which you would otherwise not see if you were just on the sky train and the boats on the river.

Monday- after our breakfast- Ratt picks us up and we head out to the Teak Mansion. (Ratt meets us in the lobby of the hotel and we take the Peninsula boat across to Peninsula Plaza where she parks her car. This way saves a lot of time, as the bridge to the hotel is very congested at commute hours.). The Teak Mansion was a wonderful tour with many interesting rooms. Your ticket from the grand Palace (200 Baht) is also good for entry into the Teak Mansion. You want to plan your trip to the teak mansion so that your tour finishes by 10:30, as that is the time they have the Thai dances perform. A very nice performance and Ratt explains the meaning of certain dances.

Monday night- we had reservations for the Calypso Cabaret at the Asia Hotel. The Asia hotel is right off the Sky train so its easy to get to. The theater is small ? about 200 seats. We had seats in the 2nd row. Cost for the cocktail show (one drink included in the price before the show starts) is $25. This is well worth the price as it was a fabulous show. These are Ladyboys performing (female impersonators) and they put on a great show. Some of these Ladyboys are gorgeous- really- you would be fooled. The show has great costumes, songs, dancing. They come off stage and out into the audience. We thoroughly enjoyed this show- very professional, classy- you have to see this show if you are in Bangkok!

Tuesday-Thursday- on our own for the most part. Ratt did take us to the night market on Wednesday night. This is much better than shopping at the weekend market. The sun is down, the stall are more open, they have more or less the same stuff- overall a much more pleasant shopping experience than the weekend market.

Massage- Ratt took us to a few places that did massage but we decided to have someone come to our hotel to give the wife a full body and facial massage. (Arranged by Ratt). The cost was 2000 baht for two solid hours of massage with oils and crèmes for the face etc.
You can get this much cheaper at the places inside MBK.



Shopping feedback:
Jewelry- we did not fair well in this area. We were looking for some inexpensive pieces say in the $100-$250 range but in the few shops that we did visit (Ratt took us to some) all they seemed to have was big-ticket items. We soon gave up on the notion of buying jewelry.

Silver- we found a great place behind the oriental Hotel on the main drag there where there are many shops. The name of the place was Pimkin. It?s a small store that does wholesale but also sells to the public. I knew we had found the right place because:
1) No fancy display cases, 2) No overbearing sales person leeching on to you. They have everything in simple plastic containers stacked to the ceiling. Rings in one case, bracelets in another, earrings, necklaces all types and sizes ? dozens of these containers. The sales person just indicates that you browse on your own- I just knew we would get good prices here and we did. Everything was weighted and we bargained a bit. We spent $70 and came away with 5 bracelets, 2 rings, 4 pairs of earrings, 5 necklaces, and a few other items. All 92.5 % silver.

Gold- Ratt took us to Chinatown where the gold shops there sell by weight and you bargain a bit on the workmanship. We bought a nice, solid (not flimsy) necklace for about $200.

Souvenirs- shop at the Nari Phand government shop across from the World trade center. Ratt can get you a 5% discount there as the prices are fixed. They have really nice quality stuff. Also the shops in the basement have good stuff and they will discount for you (not the gem shops!). Also in Amarin Plaza there is a souvenir shop on the ground floor that we bought a lot of stuff from- the people there were very friendly and were willing to negotiate with us on price. (Approx. 30-50% off) And importantly- they had all of their merchandise marked- that is not the case in some of the stores and markets- in these places they size you up and then tell you the opening price!

MKB- great place for all kinds of things and yes bargain. We did get fake purses and wallets there- easy to find.

Other observations:
Bangkok does not have old cars they all seem to be late models. If you need to use the taxis (we did not) use the green and yellow not the red and blue and for heavens sake stay away from the Tuk Tuks. The food at the Penn was fabulous. We did dim Sum in their Chinese restaurant and it was outstanding- the items were very reasonably priced- however the tea cost us 500 Baht! (I guess they need to make their money somewhere!)
We also splurged on our last night and did the River terrace café dinner buffet. Very nice with a variety of seafood and grilled meats and a dessert bar to die for. Cost about $80 US for 2. (I did have a strange reaction to the Thai food ? seems my urinary track was affected- it disappeared after I layed off the Thai food for a few days! I figured it must have been some spice or pepper they used- anyone else have this problem?).
The Peninsula boat guys were very courteous (everyone there for that matter). We tipped them before we left- please don?t forget these guys- they do a great job and will appreciate any tips you can give. We were even approached by hotel employees that were off duty at the shopping malls- they remember us!
The Thai people are warm, friendly; most speak some English and are always ready to help. The city is fascinating with the river boats and the skytrtain getting around is easy- but again- get Ratt and have her take you around- believe me its well worth it!

Friday 4/30- checked out and headed to the airport for the flights home. It was a great experience.





BillT is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 12:50 PM
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hy bill,
great report...
We are off to BKK on thursday - I'm really looking forward to it.

Where can I reach Ratt??? - We are staying at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel...

thx
silvia1808 is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 05:53 PM
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Bill,
Glad you had such a nice time in BKK. Which night market did you visit? Was it Suanlum? That one is nice, large, good sized stalls, live music, very nice. It isn't crammed onto the busy streets like in some areas.

Thanks for the report.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 05:54 PM
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bill---i enjoyed the report...thanks for the e-mail....WHEN ARE YOU GOING BACK??
glad to hear that Ratt worked out for you....
we have ended up with only one day with her....a full day outside the city (floating market, river kwai, spirit house shop)---6:30AM-7PM
she did not seem interested in our airport trips (6)...we have pretty much done all the sightseeing in the past...

how much did you tip her??

sorry you did not do well with the jewerly....should have looked at our place....lots of things from $50-300....

isn't the heat and humidity unbelievable??

i always hold back on the weekend market on this board....we find it very difficult and not all that good...others however love it...i think it better for the locals...there are parts i like, but they are few and far between...there is no place to get out of the heat either....

when you ate on the lawn area on your last nite...do you know was it in the new restaurant called Thiptara?? its small thai houses with al-fresco dining...they have set menus....
good thing you didn't eat at jesters...i think our last meal there was about $150 (had wine)...

bob
rhkkmk is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 06:59 PM
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Bill, I'm so glad you had a good trip. It sounds like next time around you'll avoid the hottest part of the year, but the weather in Bangkok is hot, hotter and hottest!

By the way, I also have a jeweler that has many items in your price range (as well as many items in upper price ranges). I don't think they carry any silver, however. Last trip, in the range around $200 I bought some ruby and diamong hoops and some sapphire and diamond hoops. For about $250, my friend bought 5 pairs of fancy colored sapphire earrings. All settings were 18k gold.
Kathie is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 07:07 PM
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kathie---i looked at the location of the jewerler and i see it is right next to the king's home....we were taken by a tour to a large emporium in that neighborhood on our first bkk visit...might this be your place??...several rooms as i remember and a huge array of items...
rhkkmk is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 04:21 AM
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Yes it was the Suamlum market you referred to Sandi. Our last night at the Penn we had dinner at the River Cafe and Terrace.
It was inside- too hot to eat al fresco.
Thanks for the jewelry updates- regretfully we just did not seem to find the energy/time to check out the stores mentioned.

I also failed to mention that we did do the Jim Thompson House- a great tour and an intreresting man and the story of his disappearance.
Ratt can be reached at this e-mail:
vimonrat kantapiyo [[email protected]]

As for going back- we try to do a different destination each time we take a major vacation. There is so much to see in this world.

BillT is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 05:07 AM
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BillT-Thanks for the report. Did you have lunch at the Jim Thompson House? We did and RhkKmk's suggestion and the Pomelo salad was exquisite.
Gpanda is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 05:26 AM
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No we did not do lunch at Jim Thompsons.
The wife is not into Thai food and so we tended to eat at Hotel restaurants where they either had Dim Sum or an international buffet. We did eat lunch at a nice small Japanese place in MBK- we had their tempura and it was good!
BillT is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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While you probably did not eat there, did you look in at the food court at MBK? I've rarely seen it mentioned on this forum, but as a sight it's pretty amazing. The food is not great, but certainly OK.
Gpanda is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 08:08 AM
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Yes I did see the food court there- tempting but I did not want to chance it.
BillT is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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The food was fine. We ate from the street vendors, so the food court seemed more reliable. The money we saved got spent on Ties and scarves from Tokyu Dept. store. In response to your report on jewelry shopping, we too were reluctant in the same price range. We're ignorant of subtle differences and felt unsure. It was no worry because there is no inherent worth in being required to obtain all of the possible bargains. The visual, culinary and relaxation bargains were more than sufficient. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
Gpanda is offline  
May 6th, 2004, 12:47 AM
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Bill,
Glad to hear that Ratt worked out for you. I was the original one to put her name forward on this board (she was originally recommended to me by a long time ex-pat in Singapore) and I am always delighted to hear about another satisfied customer.
She works hard and deserves the business.
Lindsey is offline  
May 6th, 2004, 07:27 PM
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lindsey---what have you done with your spirit house....we are having rat for one day in june which will include a stop at the spirit house shop....i have wanted one for a while, but not sure how i would use it on my property....
bob
rhkkmk is offline  
May 7th, 2004, 05:53 PM
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ttt
rhkkmk is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 05:55 AM
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Hi Bob,

I bought a spirit house in Thailand several years ago, a beautiful teak one. They are sold at hardware stores. We got ours on the road between Hua Hin and Bangkok, paid $50 for it but the baht was in a free fall at the time. I keep mine in the living room and it looks great. Since I live in an apartment in NY, using it outside is not an option.

Have a great trip and write when you get back and tell me how it went.

Laurie
laurieco is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 11:33 AM
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Could you give some idea as to the cost of a car/driver for the day?

Many thanks
welltraveledbrit is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 05:55 PM
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Rat who is often spoken about on this board charges 220B per hour for around bkk and adds gas costs for outside the city...
rhkkmk is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 10:00 PM
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BillT, would you let us know the agency that helped you book the Peninsula hotel? I used

http://www.thailand-hotels.voyagenow.com

which was also good. The Oriental hotel though was very expensive so I wanted to know whether your agent had good deals for Oriental as well.
weiwei22 is offline  
May 10th, 2004, 09:26 AM
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Weiwei22:
We used a travel agent named Bunnie - she is a family friend and works out of the west coast. Just mention my name when you communicate with her. Here is her e-mail:
Bunnie Usman [[email protected]]
BillT is offline  

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