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Boston Habor has booked a trip to SE Asia!

Boston Habor has booked a trip to SE Asia!

Jul 14th, 2007, 09:31 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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Boston Habor has booked a trip to SE Asia!

So, after two plus years of my buddy "Boston GTG" Bob (and Karen)telling me that I HAD to visit Bangkok, I've just booked a Dec 11-Jan 3rd trip to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangkok.

I tried to get the Peninsula or Oriental in Bangkok (so I could join the debate), but since I will be there over New Years, the prices are all "rack rate" and the Oriental requires a 4 night stay during that time. So, I'm roughing it and staying at the Four Seasons where they had a "New Years package." for $270/night if you stayed three nights. (Yes, I did try Asiarooms for all the above hotels--no luck--but they were great communicators once I got the bank to unlock my credit card because they didn't like a "charge hold" to Thailand)

I'm flying via Thai Air non stop JFK-Bangkok. Couldn't do miles (holiday season and all)unless I wanted to take the Thai version of the slow boat to China, but got a fairly decently priced business class ticket. I think it was Craig who said that airplane had pretty good business class seats.

We are doing this trip slightly downscaled from our Oberoi-overload trip to India, but want to be comfortable and adventurous.

Itinerary:

Lauang Prabang and Makong River trip (Villa Santi)
Hanoi: Opera Hilton
Halong Bay: Halong Dream Hotel
Hue: Saigon Morin Hotel
Hoi An: Hoi Ann Hotel
Ho Chi Minh City: Caravelle Hotel
Siem Reap: Sofitel Royal Angkor Hotel
Bangkok: Four Seasons

If anyone has been in Bangkok for New Years Eve, I would love some suggestions of what we should do--what we should avoid.

I'm having lunch with Bob and Karen in a couple weeks so I'm getting my list ready.

So, just wanted to check in, say "Hi" and let you know that I am finally heading to SE Asia and that all of you are the reason why.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and I'll see all the Boston area folks at the next Boston GTG in October.
BostonHarbor is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 10:36 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
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BH-the trip sounds great. Beth and I will have just left LP and BKK, so we will prepare them for your arrival. I'm surprised Bob has not persuaded you to stay on the river. Perhaps, he will try at lunch.

Did the Four Seasons charge/tell you about the mandatory New Years Eve dinner. This is a very common scam by almost all good Asian hotels. Check to see if this applies. Perhaps your package includes this. If so, this is a very good rate for the FS for the highest of high seasons.

I also note that you seem to be staying at Halong bay. Many have suggested that it is either better to do this as a day trip or to stay on one of the junks.

Have you checked to see if Tong is available when you're in BKK?
Gpanda is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 12:17 PM
  #3  
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Thanks for getting the place ready for me Gpanda

Also, thanks for the tip on Halong Bay. We are driving down in the morning from Hanoi, spending the day on a junk and taking a flight to Hue the next morning, so we are only there for around 10 hours excluding sleep.

Yes, Bob highly suggested the river and the Peninsula Hotel. But alas, the prices are a bit over my budget right now. There isn't a new years dinner in my Four Season's rate (the only "benefit" was a lower rate if you stayed three nights). Thanks for the warning on the mandatory New Years dinner. I'll watch for that.
BostonHarbor is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 01:00 PM
  #4  
 
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The FS is Guenmai's favorite. We've never stayed there, but it has several very good restaurants.

Are you a Starwood member? If so, the points needed for a Towers room at the Royal Orchid Sheraton (Kathie's favorite) are quite low.
Gpanda is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 01:01 PM
  #5  
CFW
 
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Along with Bob I'm a fan of the Mariott Rivesideand for your first trip to BKK, most fodorites HIGHLY recommend staying on the river. Check Sawadee.com or directly with the hotel to see if you can get a good package rate for Mariott Riverside. We love it!
We're also planning a trip to Vietnam for mid-February, so will be anxious to hear your experiences and recommendations.
CFW is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 01:15 PM
  #6  
 
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It will be a wonderful trip!

On NYE in Bangkok, you want to be staying on the river so you can see the procession of fireworks from one end of the river to the other. While not as luxe (or as expensive) as the Pen or the Oriental, the Towers at the Royal Orchid Sheraton places you where the fireworks shells break at eye level. Perhaps you've seen some of Cheryl's fireworks photos - www.marlandc.com The Towers benefits include breakfast, evening cocktails and canapes, and free laundry service.

In Siem Reap, lots of people like the Sofitel, but let me warn you that it is very large and hosts lots of tour groups. If that bothers you, choose one of the small boutique properties.

I'm confused about your Halong Bay stay. I assume you must be flying from Hanoi to Hue, so I don't understand why you are staying at a hotel in Halong Bay. Halong Bay is likely yo be cool and misty at that time of the year, so you may love it, or wish you hadn't bothered at that time of the year.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 02:05 PM
  #7  
 
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Patricia, In Siem Reap, try and book the Hotel De la Paix, if you can. You won't regret it.

We have flown business class on the Thai JFK-BKK Thai twice in the last two years and it is fine - we will be doing it again next February.

On another note, did you receive a notice within the past few days that photosite.com is going out of business? They contacted me and asked if I wanted to transfer my photo albums to Snapfish - don't know what to do but since you are a Photosite user, I am interested in your opinion. I am considering setting up my own website...
Craig is online now  
Jul 14th, 2007, 02:19 PM
  #8  
 
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I hope you are flying from Haiphong the day after you visit Halong Bay. If you don't want to stay on the boat overnight, then you might consider spending the night in Haiphong if you are flying from there.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 03:03 PM
  #9  
 
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Sounds like a wonderful trip! I enjoyed your Indiareport ....we'll look forward to another extensive report in January!
I'll chime in on a few things here: I agree with craig...do try to stay at the Hotel de la Paix. It is beautiful and unique and helps support a good cause. In Hanoi/Halong Bay, I think you should just spend the last night back in Hanoi at the Hilton instead of spending the one night at Halong Bay....just not worth it for 1 night, especially with a flight to catch the next morning.
cruisinred is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 07:29 PM
  #10  
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Wow, thanks for all the great tips.

OK, so I will work on getting a room on the river in Bangkok--it does seem like a shame not to be there on New Years. I will definately look at the Marriott Riverside or the Royal Orchid Sheraton (and yes, I am a starwoods member). After reviewing Cheryl's fireworks photos, I'd be stupid not to (Thanks for the link Kathie).

Craig and cruisinred, I will look into Hotel De la Paix--with your recommendation, I'm sure it is wonderful. I will also heed everyone's comments on Halong Bay.

Lastly, yes Craig, I received the notice as well that Photosite was going out of business. I worked so hard organizing my India and China photos--Arrgghhhh.

I don't like Snapfish at all so I'm not moving my photos there. I have all my photos on my hard drive, so I'll just wait until I find the right site. There is a rather interesting new photo site called Phanfare www.phanfare.com The one unique feature is that you can combine photos with movies (up to 10 minutes each) into one slide show. You can even add your own music, which can border on corny, but it can also be petty cool if done well. It got a great review from PC Magazine. Picassa is also good, but none are as slick and professional looking as Photosite. So annoying. Oh, well.....

Anyway, great input as usual from the great Asia board. Thanks!
BostonHarbor is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 03:07 AM
  #11  
 
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BH-I've had the best luck using Starwood points by calling the 800 number. It is much easier than using the website. Also, you can be sure to book a Towers room. One note, the towers rooms booked through Starwoods are not different from the usual room, you just get Tower privileges.
Gpanda is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 07:15 AM
  #12  
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OK, Fodorites, I'm moving to the River If you had your druthers....

As mentioned in a prior post, I already have reservations at the Four Seasons (low floor, city view) for $270.

There may be a third person staying with us in Bangkok, so I want to get a larger room than just a double.

Peninsula:
I tried to get an AMEX "fine hotels" reservation to the Peninsula, but couldn't--all out of "fine hotel" program rooms. However, they did have better rates than I had found elsewhere--and all the internet sites have no availability at all. I can get a "grand deluxe panoranmic view'(which I am told is simply a higher floor, but that's what I need) for $320/night at the Peninsula--river view 500 sq. ft.

Royal Orchid: I can get an executive suite for around $300/night. Can't tell how big the room is, but it looks very nice. I will call to get more info to make sure I get a room in the towers--so the rate may be a bit higher. I have lots of Starwood points, so I will try to use those. Thanks for the tip Gpanda.

Marriott Resort and Spa: I can get a Deluxe suite with club benefits (breakfast, cocktails, and more) for $365/night. Don't know exactly how big it is, but it is a two room suite, so it would be decent.

So back to the "druthers" question. Given the fact that these are all around the same price and that I am willing to pay $300-$365/night for this New Years period, and they are all river views, which hotel would you choose? Is there anything I should look out for (Some of the buildings curve and I would hate to be on the wrong side of the curve). Wouldn't that be a treat on New Years Eve . Lastly, which hotel is more convienent to downtown or are they all about the same? Since I know nothing about Bangkok, I can't tell by looking at a map.

Again to all of you--thanks a million. How does anyone travel without Fodorites?


BostonHarbor is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 08:57 AM
  #13  
 
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BH-the Peninsula consistently gets the best reviews of the three you mentioned. I suspect that it is a cut above th ROS and the M. Even though I'm an ROS devotee, I suggest the P.

The ROS is on the "right" side of the river. It is much more convenient by Taxi than either the P or the M. For the skytrain, all three have dedicated boats that will take you to Taksin Pier. The M boat takes 8-10 minutes more than either of the other two boats.

I've never used Starwood points to book a suite, but I would give it a try. I booked a junior suite once that was very nice, but paid cash.
Gpanda is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 09:18 AM
  #14  
 
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You will get many opinions on this but here's mine:

The Penn is a great hotel. We have stayed in a Grand Deluxe room and a Grand Deluxe Suite. The Grand Deluxe room might be a bit tight with 3 people but your view of Bangkok will be one of the best on the river. The Penn is curved - rooms on one side face to the north and the rooms on the other face to the south. In my opinion, the views to the north are better. My understanding is that fireworks displays occur all along the river so it shouldn't matter where you are - I am sure someone will chime in with more specifics.

If cost is a big factor, using the Starwoods points may be a no-brainer especially if the views from the Towers are good and if the Executive suites have the extra space you need.

As for location, I would choose the Penn. BTW, there is no real "downtown" in Bangkok just many different neighborhoods, many of which are best accessed via skytrain. During busy times, it is much quicker to travel by skytrain than by taxi.

Of the 3 hotels you named, the Royal Orchid is the only one on the "correct" side of the river. However its shuttle to the skytrain is relatively new and it does not run that often. The Penn has the most frequent boat shuttles to the skytrain and elsewhere. Although it is on the "wrong" side of the river, the Penn has a 2nd lobby on the "correct" side where it can be more convenient to get a taxi if you need one. From the Penn you can also take a boat to the Oriental pier for shopping and dining.

The Marriott is quite a ways from the action. Some like the long ride but for me it would get old pretty quickly. I believe that the Marriott boat only goes to the skytrain (although you can always take the Oriental boat from the skytrain pier to the hotel pier).

I see Gpanda has just posted - Taksin Pier is where you pick up the skytrain.

Hope this helps more than it confuses.

Craig is online now  
Jul 15th, 2007, 10:01 AM
  #15  
 
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In Feb. I stayed at both the Marioot Resort and the Pen, my first time at each place (after several other trips to BKK).

I absolutely loved the Peninsula. The hotel itself is marvelous, with a great spa, large rooms, and a staff that goes the extra step. It wasn't a problem for me to be on the Pen's side of the river: the view is of the city of Bangkok (rather than the more visually nondescript side where the Pen sits), and the 5-minute boat ride to start or end the day is actually a welcome counterpoint to the urban chaos of Bangkok. The Peninsula also has a collection of some of the best hotel restaurants I've ever tried.

I did not care much for the Marriott, though that was in large part due to the room I was given. I had a suite, which seemed nice until 6pm when the live music started at one of the hotel's restaurants -- right below my window! But it only continued until around 11 or so. I also much prefer the Pen's lobby to the Marriott: the latter is open-air (non air-conditioned, and it does get quite warm. The poo, area at the Marriott did seem excellent, however.
DonTopaz is online now  
Jul 15th, 2007, 10:31 AM
  #16  
 
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For me, being on the "right" side of the river is important. I can walk to shopping and restaurants, and taxis are no hassle, because you don't have to worry about traffic crossing the bridge. (You can get around that by having a taxi drop you at the pier the Pen uses.) There is no doubt that the Pen is much more luxe than the Royal Orchid. For some people being on the opposite side of the river is no problem, for others, the river is a barrier. You know best how it would feel to you. As far as getting to the Skytrain is concerned (and this is important) all of those hotels have boats to the skytrain station. It's true that the Marriott is farther away, so add 10-15 minutes to the boat ride, which you may see as an advantage or a disadvantage.

I always book a Towers Deluxe suite at the Royal Orchid. (They are often on the top floor) It has a separate living room area, and has one and a half baths. I typically use the Starwood special of redeeming 1000 points and getting the suite for half price. Looking at Cheryl's photos, all the fireworks photos have been taken from a suite on one of the top few floors. There are also photos of the river as the sun sets, all taken from the Towers lounge.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 10:57 AM
  #17  
 
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We have stayed at the Peninsula and the Oriental and several others, but have to say that ROS gets my vote. As Kathie says there are other hotels that are more 'luxe', but 'right side of the river', fabulous pool and pool area, make it a winner for me. I think Ros will be a great introduction to Bangkok. You will never forget the wonderful river views from this hotel.
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 11:09 AM
  #18  
 
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Leigh, I had no idea you were an ROS fan!
Kathie is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 11:42 AM
  #19  
 
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Kathie,

Does the deluxe towers suite cost a lot more than the deluxe tower rooms or are they the same? I can't seem to get a price on the suites on sawasdee.

Do you book the suite on the hotel site or sawasdee?

We are thinking of trying your reco when we go to bkk in 2009.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 11:48 AM
  #20  
 
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Kathie

sorry just reread and saw your answer to BH
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