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

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

Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:20 AM
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BANGKOK, BURMA, SHANGHAI, HONG KONG--ASIAN ODYSSEY 2010

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

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





BANGKOK--Three nights, Four Seasons Hotel


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


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


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

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


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


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


After a long and wonderful swim in the hotel pool (NOT, in contrast to the Peninsula and many other Asian hotel pools, cooled to a ridiculously cold temperature) I did my best to make a dent in the lavish hotel buffet breakfast spread. After a quick stop in the small Jim Thompson shop in the hotel shopping arcade (I had intended to visit the main shop later in my stay; this never happened and I, therefore, have another reason to return to Bangkok!) I set off on the Skytrain for the river, where I hopped the boat to the River City mall, intending to peruse the antique shops there that had been recommended to me. There were, indeed, many tempting looking shops brimming with treasures from throughout the region. It was far too overwhelming for me to take in so early in the trip, so, instead, I made use of an internet site in one of the shops, made one last pass though the nearly deserted mall, and headed back to the hotel, anxious to firm up my dinner plans.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:25 AM
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Yea! The beginning of this long-awaited tale!
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:37 AM
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Yes! So looking forward to this. Great start, although "insertion of my car did not produce the desired result" - did produce a delightful picture!

"after extensive dithering" - lol!
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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Oh, sorry! I did NOT try to shove my auto into the slot!
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:42 AM
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Be still my heart. The impossible has occured. The tardy one has emerged from her cave to brighten our days with her reprt. I too find the items at River City to be overwhelming. I've looked at them countless times and they alwats seem so inaccessible. Pretty though.

As much as it pains me, this report is sufficiently close to the OP's return that no penalty is assessed. Of couse, the OP has brought about new types of penalties in the past, so I hold some small hope of assessment.

One only wonders what boofs she read on the plane.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 06:52 AM
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great start....looking forward to more
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:10 AM
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Nice beginning - can't wait for more.

Are you going to report on your clandestine meeting in Bangkok with Agent Hanuman?
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:19 AM
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I trust you did not find the water too cold at the Four Seasons Madam. Sadly I missed seeing eks by a day but I do look forward to seeing her in the near future.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:44 AM
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The meeting with Agent Hanuman was compromised. It will take place in the near future at a location I cannot disclose.

Water at Four Seasons is ideal temperature. There were very few other swimmers. (Perhaps my favored 6am swim time had something to do with this last fact.)
This pool has found a high-ranking spot in the Ekscrunchy Top Pools of the World list. This is the hotel I will return to when I next visit Bangkok. Next time I will stay longer.

Here is more:








As the select group who read every word of my obsessive trip plans will know, one of my main Bangkok destinations was Chote Chitr, the scene of a 2008 lunch whose memory remains with me to this day. I was looking forward very much to a return visit to this non-descript restaurant in the “old” part of the city. Alas, it was not to be.

I am very fortunate to report that this would prove perhaps the main disappointment of my trip (fortunate because there were few others—actually no further disappointments come to mind at this moment). It seems that the owner-chef had been taken ill and the restaurant was closed for the duration of my two-day stay in the city.

Plan B was, therefore, put into action. I rode the Skytrain (located conveniently within a few steps of the Four Seasons) two stops to the Chong Nonsi station, where I descended and walked a few more steps to Lek Seafood, a restaurant about which I had read excellent reports on www.Chowhound.com. (Lek is located on the south side of the Skytrain track—to the left as you head toward the river—under the platform; look for the Coca Cola sign).

Like my other Bangkok selections, Lek is a no frills spot popular with locals as well as a few food-obsessed tourists. That night, there were two other tables of westerners; the rest of the diners appeared to be Thai, including a group of about 20 boisterous young women who looked like they had arrived straight from the office. (I ate early, arriving about 6pm)

The restaurant consists of an outdoor area and a large air-conditioned interior dining room, where I chose to sit. As usual, I was the only lone diner in the place.

I passed up the oyster omelette, which had been recommended on a food site and which I would order next time. I also managed to refrain from the delights of the “Chewing Chicken with Articulation.” This is what I ordered:


Baby Clams with Chili Sauce (80 Baht, about US$2.50). Spicy, sour and sweet at the same time, the sauce, accented with lush sprigs of Thai basil, was out of this world! I LOVE Thai food! Luckily, I saved some of the sauce to dab onto my next dish:

Fried-Roasted Prawns (400 Baht per kilo; my two tremendous (think U-6 in size) prawns cost 50 TB each—US$3.00 for both). These were actually more steamed than roasted and could have used some char on the outside. Tasty but bland; not memorable. I would have preferred grilled prawns and I am sure these were available but I did not see them on the menu ( the translations left something to be desired) and sadly, I did not inquire.

Stir-Fried Bitter Melon Tops. Tossed with a pork- and red-chili-enhanced brown sauce, these were superb! Outstanding!

With a glass of fresh lemonade, my bill totalled 300TB, less than $10US. Far better than my 2008 dinner at the Peninsula’s Thai restaurant. And about a fifth of the price. I did not leave a tip, thinking that there is no tipping in Thailand. I fear now that this was an error.

Lek’s menu is long; all dishes are translated(after a fashion) into English. Service is friendly and some English is spoken. I long to return for further exploration! Oh, how I wish I were back there right this very minute.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:47 AM
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Photos of Lek Seafood (not mine) and more details about the food:



http://www.bangkok.com/restaurant-re...9;s-feast.html
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:56 AM
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Yum... I'll put this on my list.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 08:02 AM
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Lek - bookmarked for next year.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 08:31 AM
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Yes, do go. It is far more comfortable than that review makes it sound. You do not hear any traffic once you are seated inside and they have regular chairs to sit on. Not fancy, but not scruffy, either.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 09:46 AM
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Here is the conclusion of the Bangkok portion; not very scintillating, I am afraid.

I also want to mention the absolutely glorious painted murals in the lobby of the Four Seasons. Worth a peek even if you do not stay at the hotel.



I love having a swimming pool nearby because when I awake at an unthinkable hour due to jet lag, I can just pop put of bed, throw on my robe, and go down to the pool. On the morning of my second full day in Bangkok, I was in the pool by 7am and enjoyed a good, long swim with no other swimmers in sight. By this time, the Four Seasons pool had ratcheted up a notch in my “Best Pools on the Planet” rankings. (I should note here that the Peninsula pool does not even make an appearance on the list.) After a swim and another go at the sumptuous buffet spread, I was ready to do some exploring. In my own very limited experience, Bangkok is not a walking city and on this day I wanted to just stroll around. So I set off for the Erawan shrine, where a dance performance was just about to begin. I spent an hour or so, watching the dancers, and the devout shrine-goers, before moving along to the Amarin Plaza, where an internet place charges 50TB per hour (Four Seasons charge: 150 Baht for 15 minutes). I did a bit of window shopping before walking back to the hotel, stopping to buy a variety of fresh fruit on the way. This fruit would complement the offerings of the fruit basket in my room, which was replenished daily. The housekeeper even filled it with mangoes, at my request. (My low-level love affection for mangoes has blossomed into full-fledged infatuation since this latest trip to SE Asia; currently the competition for my affection is shared only by pomelos. I should add that both of these fruits cost an extortionate amount here in NYC, as compared to their prices in Bangkok)

A query to the concierge turned up the information that Chote Chitr was still closed. And so my thoughts turned next to Raan Jay Fai on Maha Chai Road, which has been lauded by R.W. Apple in a now-famous NY Times article, and others for its pad kee mao. The concierge, who clearly thought I was a bit eccentric due to my queries on down-home eating places, let me know that the taxi ride to Raan Jay Fai would take 40 minutes or so at dinner hour. It is difficult to believe now, as I write this, but that information was enough to deter me from making the trip. In fact, by 3pm I was ready to tuck into bed! And so, after another long swim, I repaired to my room, gorged on fresh fruit, and tucked in at a most unfashionable hour of the evening, with thoughts of Burma now on my mind.

In case this discussion of pad kee mao has whetted your appetite, here is a recipe from the New York Times, which I may try someday:


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/dining/052grex.html
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Settled in and looking forward to following along to Burma. Anything more to say on Korean Air?
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 12:01 PM
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Hi Marya! The KoreanAir flights were very good. Comfortable seats with good movie selection at the seats. They offer both western and Korean food. The Korean is probably the better choice, although the offerings remain unchanged since I first flew with them in 2007, and the portions of bimibap are quite skimpy. So I would not rate their food very highly. Of course that still puts it far above that of most US airlines. But that is a small quibble.

I actually got nauseous on the flight from JFK to Seoul and felt lousy almost the entire flight. No idea why this happened although the large glass of Champagne might have had something to do with it. So all in all, they are very good and I would certainly fly with them again.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 01:10 PM
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>>I can just pop put of bed, throw on my robe, and go down to the pool.<<

So you don't wear a bathing suit? The Four Seasons is quite accommodating.

I'm hungry. But can't wait for Burma...
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Somehow I forgot about the bathing suit! Sorry about that. And also sorry that the Bangkok section was boring with a capital "B." I will strive to put more spice into the Burma portion.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 02:44 PM
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So, our intrepid traveler was put off by a 40 minute taxi ride and went to bed early? This is tragic. She swims nude in the Four Seasons pool and is scared of a cab ride. Is she really a New Yorker? I can truthfully say that some of the funniest times I've had in BKK were on long cab rides. The one where the driver put his head on Bob's belly will live forever. Another, after a ladyboy show, was so funny, Beth and a newbie were whooping uncontrollably. But our heroine went to sleep early.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 02:48 PM
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Too bad. Swimming nude is such an exquisite pleasure. But no problem, we can get our nudity fixes over on the "Gpanda Needs cheer" thread.

Not boring at all! That's why we want more. Don't forget to compare/contrast with Dogster's Pandaw experience in India. We wonder whether if you had any Calendonian shipmates.
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