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Bill is back from Thailand! The beginnings of a trip report...

Bill is back from Thailand! The beginnings of a trip report...

Dec 4th, 2006, 12:32 PM
  #1  
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Bill is back from Thailand! The beginnings of a trip report...

I know I’m in something deep for not having sent any updates earlier than this. We returned from our 16 day trip to Thailand and Cambodia early last week and have been in the hellish throngs of a jet-lag something terrible which is just now starting to ease its way out of our systems.

I wanted to thank everyone, first and foremost, for all your help and suggestions which contributed to making our trip so truly unforgettable! All the wonderment you expect on your first time to Thailand (or Asia, for that matter) all came true…and then some! I’m still reeling from the most significant experience of this young traveler’s life so far. The best gift I bring home with me is a renewed sense of calm and spirituality as well as the knowledge that this is just the dropping-off point for a lifetime of similar (and hopefully as wonderful) adventures! Must say, though, it’s still very difficult to let go of that way of life (peaceful, respectful and kind) and re-acclimate to this one (fast, angry and rushed.)

The first two days were quite a blur...but what a wonderful blur they were! Flights to BKK from LAX were quite lovely--much less anxiety-inducing than I had anticipated. A note to those who claim Evergreen on EVA to be superior to Elite: I STRONGLY disagree. While I do concur that, yes, the seats in Elite definitely don't have as much recline, the comfort factor and general “newness” (including in-seat technology) was far more appealing and, as such, our flight from Taipei to BKK was the highlight of all our flying on this trip.

For those eagerly anticipating feedback on the new airport, I’ve not much to say, actually. I got to Suvarnabhumi expecting all the tales of woe I've read to come true, but it was such a snap! We were off our plane, through passport control and out of customs with our bags (not lost, thank God!) within 30 minutes. In fact, we traveled in and out of Suvarnabhumi a total of 5 times on our trip and not once was our luggage lost or delayed. The only problem I did find (as others did) was the severe lack of bathrooms for the amount of people in the airport. So, there were quite a few long lines at the loo during rush hours at the airport, but nothing that would ruin a trip.

On a side note, I'll also say the check-in issues people have been having were not a problem for us. Checking in on Bangkok Air (for Siem Reap) took about 15 minutes al;-in to get from check-in counters to boarding gates. I'm COMPLETELY impressed with this place--whatever bugs they had sure seemed to have ironed themselves out quite nicely in the recent weeks.

Stayed at the Old Bangkok Inn and it's as fabulous as everyone says. Definitely not for those seeking the amenities and comforts of a Westernized hotel (fax machine, gym, etc.) but most defintely is for those seeking an oasis in a sea of chaos. The personalized attention you get from the host, Nantiya, and her son in unrivaled to ANY service I've received at any 5-star hotel I've ever stayed at. All this and the rooms are amazing! We stayed in a 2-story loft covered with antique teak furnishings and beautiful oil lamps...very romantic and absolutely unforgettable!

Bangkok, as such, was a bit overwhelming, which is to be expected for first-timers, but per the ingenious suggestion of Kathie, David & I headed straight to Face Spa and proceeded to have the two most fantastic massages we've ever had. Also made very good friends with the spa manager…a very lovely woman named Sukanya. An experience not soon to be forgotten…so much so that we returned for another treatment between our return from Cambodia and catching our night train to Chiang Mai! We also partook of dinner at Hazara (their Indian place) and it, too, was simply tremendous! Thanks, again, Kathie!

2nd day was spent in the throngs at the Grand Palace and, while breathtaking, we were exhausted after a few hours in the heat with the clicking cameras and loud tourists. Per the suggestion of our hotel, we headed to Siam Paragon for an absolutely delicious lunch at Orangery (4th floor)...wow! The food kept getting better and better. Dinner that night was at Hemlock, which despite everyone's great reviews and the can't-be-beat prices, we were very disappointed. Oh well...can't win 'em all.

In retrospect, I would say that we are definitely more Chiang Mai people than Bangkok people. I found Bangkok to be wonderfully exciting, but a little too exciting for my taste. It felt a little too hectic, crowded, busy, dirty…reminded of NYC (where I grew up—and where I prefer to get away from on vacations.) Chiang Mai, conversely, was definitely my kind of city…very manageable, clean, a lot of places to walk to, and the element of all the lush nature that surrounds it only made it that much more appealing.

More to come on our Siem Reap, Chiang Mai and Phi Phi Island experience.

FYI, we also completed a pretty comprehensive travel blog while we were on the road—if anyone is interested in reading that…it might be more informative than my feeble attempts at explaining our trip on here. Let me know.

All our best to our friends and fellow travelers! You’ll definitely be hearing from me as we plan our Laos/Vietnam trip for this coming November!

All the best,
Bill
filmwill is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 12:52 PM
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Bill, glad you had a great time! I'm looking forward to more details.

It's funny, people are either Bangkok people or Chiang Mai people. If your read my trip report, my visit to Chiang Mai re-affirmed for me that I am truly a Bangkok person!

I'm sorry that we were not able to meet somehwere in Thailand. If youa re going back next November, maybe we'll meet then!
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 01:09 PM
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Bill-glad to hear you had a good time. Thailand captures another. For a first-timer, penalty is waived. I agree BKK is like NYC. I love both. My wife thinks BKK is like NYC was earlier in the 20th century. We're BKK lovers, but understand that there are those who prefer CM. The massages are great. I "only" got 6 on our recent trip.
Gpanda is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 01:20 PM
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Filmwill -- Can you describe the train trip to CM? Would love to read your blog. Can you post the address?
vedette is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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Like Bill, I want to add my own thanks to Fodorites for the great advice on Bangkok over the last couple of months. My husband amd I returned 12/1 after 8 days in Bangkok (yes, we are Bangkok people) and had a wonderful if steamy time. A couple of things:
1. We stayed at Centre Point Silom, which is renovating apartments one at a time and has no intention of closing down entirely. We had a one bedroom on the 10th floor, booked through Sawadee.com. One apartment on that floor was under total renovation, though we heard the whine of power tools only once through our stay, and then at about 4 p.m. Highly recommend Centre Point Silom for spacious accommodations and service. While the breakfast included with our room was top-rate, the dinner we had at the hotel resaurant was the only bad meal the entire trip.
2. I may have missed this in other postings, but we were blindsided by the 500 baht/person tax to fly out of the new airport. Had to hurry to an ATM for additional cash---and it is cash only at the tax booth.
3. Highly recommend arranging a car pickup at airport. The scene at the airport at our midnight arrival was chaotic at best with long lines for cabs and other limos. We used AAC ([email protected])--got a small discount by booking through internet and paid around 1900 baht r/t, including the tolls. Very reliable.

Don't want to repat what others have said but would be glad to offer opinions and tips on restaurants, where to get jewelry made, a truly native Thai cooking school and how we traveled around the city.
CapitolHill is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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Thanks for all the kind words! And, yes, I'm sad we didn't get to meet up, Kathie...but will hopefully see you at Guen's GTG early next year?

For those interested, our blog can be found here:

http://www.travelblog.org/North-Amer...og-101631.html

That's the first entry--you can read through the rest from there if you're interested.

Will post on here shortly re: Siem Reap, Phi Phi & Chiang Mai, including the night train--which you can read ALL about in the blog...achem, sarcasm noted in my voice.

Enjoy!
filmwill is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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Bill, yes, we plan to go to Guen's GTG in LA. We'll see you there!
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 06:03 PM
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Bill,

I've been lurking on this board for months, planning my first trip to Thailand (my honeymoon) It sounds as though our itinerary is similar to yours including same accomodations (although a bit truncated) I live in NYC...and can't wait to find out if I'm a BKK or CM person!

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip. This board has been invaluable in planning my trip - my books seem completely inadequate when compared to the sage advice I've found here...

Julia
julesjayhawk is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 06:11 PM
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Hi Bill,

I just spent the past hour reading through your blog and really enjoyed it! Sounds like an amazing trip.

I have a shopping question:
Was Crossroads Asia in Hang Dong where you eventually purchased your furniture and collectibles? Did they handle shipping for you? WIll it be delivered to your home in L.A. or do you need to pick it up in Long Beach?

I'm asking because I was in Hang Dong shopping once before, and got slowly overwhelmed by all the choices...and wound up not buying anything! So I'd like to try again next time I'm there.
JohnH is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 06:59 PM
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Glad you had a great time. Haven't had time to read everything, but hope to get around to it. Happy Travels!
Guenmai is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 07:39 PM
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"A note to those who claim Evergreen on EVA to be superior to Elite: I STRONGLY disagree"

I always found Evergreen Deluxe and Elite were the same class. They have economy, then either Super Business or Laurel Class and Super First Class. Is Evergreen a new class on EVA?
Bisbee is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 07:43 PM
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What a great blog you've kept! Certainly sounds like your trip was as amazing as you had hoped it would be. Love the photos, too!
KimJapan is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 10:26 PM
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Hi Bill, I'm planning my first trip to Thailand in Feb 07. Glad you had a great time. I'm off to read your blog now
boobaby is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 10:34 PM
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Wow--lots of questions to respond to. Glad everyone is enjoying the blog!

First off, for JohnH: Yes, Crossroads Asia is where we bought most of of our bigger items, but there's SO many amazing choices up and down that street. They ended up shipping all of our stuff...even the items we bought at other stores in Hang Dong! FYI, I highly recommend doing this as you'll save a LOT of money, as you're paying for shipping by the cubic meter. Crossroads is a licensed shipper...but if you find a store you really want to purchase from and they aren't shippers, almost certainly they'll have a shipper come in to meet you at the store once you've made all your selections and quote you the price. We've never done ANYTHING like this before, but hopefully you'll feel some assurance in that I can tell you it's actually a very easy process. Just sounds overwhelming. My understanding is that it takes about a month to ship to Long Beach and, at that point, we have the option to either pick it up from the Harbor or have it delivered for a premium. Will try and post when we receive our stuff in the next week or two.

Bisbee: Evergreen and Elite are the same class of service, but Elite is the service used on the airline's brand new 777s and offers different types of seats and more in-flight features than Evergreen, which is used on EVA's older and very outdated 747s.

Julia: Where will you be going/staying? We truly found some real gems (hotel-wise) on this trip and hopefully you're staying at some/all of them!
filmwill is offline  
Dec 5th, 2006, 06:30 PM
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Hi Bill,

We're flying from LA to Bangkok on EVA...then staying at Old Bangkok Inn. I think my first order of business will definitely be heading to Face for some post-wedding post-flight destressing - what a smart suggestion (the temples can wait!).

Next we're off to Chiang Mai - staying at Baan Orapin (thanks to all the raves on this board) Then down to Krabi where we're staying at Sunset Tropical. Then to Siem Reap and we're staying at Bopha Angkor then back to Bangkok where we're staying at Ibrik in the City.

A bit of a forced march for 2 weeks....but we've realized we may have become a couple of uptight New Yorkers who might freak out if we stayed in the same place for too long. I don't even want to post our itinerary because I know that people will tell me we're doing too much in too little time.

Bill - I read your blog last night and found myself laughing out loud over and over again. What a great trip! I hope we find the same amazement and memorable experiences that you did.

Any words of wisdom or things you wished you'd done that you missed? I noticed you kept saying 'on our next time here...'

Thanks!
Julia
julesjayhawk is offline  
Dec 5th, 2006, 07:59 PM
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Bill,

Forgot to ask you in my last post...where did you end up doing your cooking class in Chiang Mai? It sounded great - I've contacted Yui, but they aren't full for the 1/2 day course we were hoping for.

Thanks!
Julia
julesjayhawk is offline  
Dec 5th, 2006, 08:56 PM
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I am just starting my arrangements for a month trip to Thailand and Bali next October. I am so glad for these sites and all the helpful information. I had been thinking of Eva air but now I think I'll go with Thai-I read somewhere they have a nonstop from LAX.'
We just got a timeshare confirmation for Quality Suites Airport Bangkok for October 6-13th. Has anyone been there?? Thanks Chris
BeniciaChris is offline  
Dec 5th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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Hi-

I really enjoyed reading your blog. You guys are adorable! And I loved readying the comments from your family.

My husband and I have been to most of those places as well, including staying in Dara and Ponheary's guesthouse in 2002. Brought back many memories.

We live in LA too. Have you seen the post by Guenmai about the LA get together in May? You guys should come!

BTW, how did you manage to post your blog every day from there, including photos? Did you bring a computer and did you have WiFi access in all your hotels?
Kristina is offline  
Dec 5th, 2006, 09:24 PM
  #19  
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Julia: So jealous that you'll be in paradise soon! Please send our love to Nantiya & Joey at OBI and Sukanya (the spa manager) at Face--you will LOVE it there. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the spa treatment room (twice, actually!) As far as cooking schools go, I cannot recommend enough using Kao Hom Cooking School (www.kaohom.com) and the wonderful and amazing services of its owner, Kanchana. What a phenomenal, intelligent and funny woman...not to mention a fantastic chef! It was bar-none the highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai. Oddly enough, we were also going to use A Lot of Thai, but they were booked solid and Yui was the one who had actually recommended using Kanchana as a backup. Let me repeat again: she is WONDERFUL! We had a private lesson for next-to-nothing...and also even got to visit a local market to buy our ingredients, which really added a personal touch (especially if you're foodies like David & I.)

As far as any regrets or shoulda/coulda/wouldas--not many to speak of. Nothing against those who love it, but personally speaking, I would've spent a little less time in Bangkok and a little more time in Chiang Mai. I also definitely would've gone to far less temples in Siem Reap. While everything we saw there was magnificent in its own right, we definitely got temple exhaustion after awhile. We were there 3 nights (which is definitely the right amount of time) but felt compelled (as it seems a lot do) to see all the major temples, which definitely is not necessary. I'd be happy to give you my humble opinion about which ones are worth seeing and which ones are not. I think you can save yourself a lot of time there and enjoy some of the city itself and your hotel (which I can vouch for--is also wonderful!)

Kristina: We will ABSOLUTELY be at Guenmai's GTG! I would never miss out on the opportunity to meet so many of the amazing people who helped make our trip so special in the first place! I hope to meet you there!! As for the blog, yes I did bring my laptop (solely for that purpose--never to check email!) and we had internet pretty much everywhere we went (except for Phi Phi, where we had to use the hotel's separate internet cafe.) It was fairly easy to update the blog--the trick being the photos, which do admittedly take some of time to upload. So usually we'd write our blog at the end of each night, pick the photos we wanted to upload and then upload everything the next morning at breakfast-time. There were a few occasions where we got backlogged but the great thing about the TravelBlog site is you can back-date your entries (as well as save them as works-in-progress before publishing them.) I highly recommend using it if you plan to blog--so easy to use and such a fulfilling thing to have a recorded history of your trip and also to hear from your friends and loved ones back home!


filmwill is offline  
Dec 6th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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Bill,

Thanks for the suggestion - I've emailed Kao Hom and have my fingers crossed that they'll have space. I'll be certain to say hi to your friends at OBI and Face.

I would welcome your thoughts on temples in Cambodia (or elsewhere) that are not-to-be-missed/skippable. We don't have as much time there as we'd like so want to make sure we're hitting the best of the best - and lay the ground work for hopefully another future visit!

Thanks so much for getting back to me - it's most appreciated as I'm tightening up the details of the trip!

Julia
julesjayhawk is offline  

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