Kathie's Bangkok trip report

Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:06 PM
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Kathie's Bangkok trip report

Hello, Fodorites! Iím just back from Bangkok and Borneo, and will give two separate reports.

I use two cities as gateways to SE Asia Ė Bangkok and Singapore, and sometimes I fly into one and out of the other. I always spend some time in my gateway city, and I always choose some new place to go. Iíve been to Bangkok something like 20 times in 20+ years, but I never tire of it. This year the new place was Malaysian Borneo (more about that in a separate report). Iím just going to hit the highlights in Bangkok.

Hotel: As many of you know, I always stay in the Towers at the Sheraton Royal Orchid. I feel the amenities I use in the Towers (breakfast in the Club, drinks and canapés in the evening, free laundry and free internet access) make this a real bargain for me. I love the location, right on the river (and every room has a river view) and next door to River City shopping. I often use water taxis, and can take the water taxi to the Skytrain station. I usually opt for a suite. This trip I turned in Sheraton points and got my suite for half price (1000 points per stay).

We arrived at the Royal Orchid after midnight. Because of a reservation mix-up they had given our non-smoking suite away. They upgraded us to a slightly larger suite, one right in the middle that gave us views slightly up river from the bedroom and slightly down river from the living room (what a treat for Loy Krathong!). All of the suites have been redecorated in the last two years and they are stunning Ė very Thai ambiance.

We opted for room service breakfast during our stay in that suite (included in the room price). During our second stay in the slightly smaller suite, we opted for breakfast in the Club. You can also have the huge breakfast buffet in etc, the restaurant on the ground floor. I dislike that restaurant; itís crowded and noisy so never take that option.

Spa: Iíve used the Mandara spa in the Royal Orchid a number of times in the past, and itís a lovely spa. It is rather pricey for Bangkok (as all of the hotel spas are.) This trip, we wanted to try the spa at Face, so we had facials and body scrubs the first day, about 2 Ĺ hours (as they gave you a floral footbath and foot massage and give you tea before and after). The spa is delightful, located in old teak houses, but with modern spa amenities. The prices were good. We paid 2200 baht each (about 455) for the facial package, and during our second stay, we did body scrub/massage packages, again about 2 Ĺ hours for the same price. I highly recommend the Face spa; do make reservations in advance.

New sightseeing: we finally made it to the Prasart museum and very much enjoyed it. They take only one party at a time and by appointment only. The first appointments are at 9:30. You will have a guide to show you around and give you background on many of the beautiful art objects. We spent about three hours there. Mr. Prasart likes to meet visitors to his museum, and he autographed the book we purchased. The Museum is a gorgeous garden and a series of buildings some of which are museum pieces in and of themselves, and all of which contain marvelous works of art from Thailand and surrounding areas. The cost is 500 baht per person. Youíll need a driver to take you there. We had Emma from Julie Taxi take us in their Volvo, and the price for that car is 300 baht per hour plus any tolls. We used Emma for 6 hours that day.

Shopping: Of course, I visited my favorite jeweler, SJ International, and spent lots of money, as I had an insurance settlement from my burglary this summer. I also had Lily set some carved jade Iíd purchased into earrings, and they were well beyond my expectations in the work they did on these.

As many of you remember, I was also interested in trying to replace the Tibetan items stolen from my home this summer. There are places that specialize in Tibetan art in River City and in Oriental Place. The one in River City just didnít have the sort of thing I was looking for, but the man was very helpful and talked with me about the kinds of Tibetan items he gets. My experience at Oriental Place at Tibet House was a bit disturbing. They had a lovely Tibetan Buddha I was interested in. I asked about the paperwork to get it out of the country (as I knew they would need to certify it as Tibetan in origin and give an approximate age, etc.). Iíve purchased other small Buddhas over the years and am fairly familiar with the requirements, but sometimes I find it help to play a bit naïve to see how the store responds, as reputable stores will take of this for you in a very above board way. In this case, the woman said to me, ďOh, donít Ďell them itís antique Ė Iíll give you paperwork showing itís a reproduction!Ē That certainly doesnít inspire confidence, and I did not return to Tibet House.

There is a place called Amantee, somewhat close to the airport, which is new. It is recommended in the Luxe guide, and Hobbes recommended it as well. They have absolutely gorgeous things, most of which are rather high-end, but well worth it. I did make a purchase there, and was supplied with the proper paperwork Ė no questions asked. The owner continues to import items from Tibet, and I will keep in contact with him about other Tibetan items that become available. He buys up peopleís collections, and had quite a wonderful collection of Khmer silver when I was there. If you go, have your driver call ahead to get directions Ė otherwise, youíll never find it.

Restaurants: Bangkok has so many fabulous restaurants, itís always hard to choose. We had Peking Duck at the China House at the Oriental. I wrote a brief review at the time. It was the best Peking Duck Iíve ever had, and the service was fabulous. Believe me, this will be on the must-do list from now on!

We ate at both the Thai and Indian parts of Face; both were excellent. The Thai restaurant is open for lunch and dinner; the Indian restaurant is open only for dinner.

We also ate at Mahanaga, which bills itself as Thai fusion, but at least the dishes we had were more Thai than fusion. The food was excellent, the setting and service were special. Weíll put it on our list for next year.

We also tried out bed Supper Club, and enjoyed ourselves. The food is excellent. Others have written more extensively about the Bed experience, and Iíll defer to their descriptions. By the way, we had a taxi driver who couldnít find it. It didnít seem all that hard to find to me, but he had a terrible time.

For a casual lunch, the Gallery Café near the Royal Orchid is a good find (thanks, Gpanda). We tried to go to Tongue Thai, but were too late for lunch. Weíll have to put it on our list for next year.

Loy Krathong: In all the many times Iíve been to Thailand, somehow, Iíve always missed Loy Krathong. What a delight it was to experience it this trip! We saw the little krathongs being prepared all over Bangkok. You want to be on the river for this celebration. There were fireworks on the river. Our room gave us a perfect vantage point for viewing 4 different fireworks displays that night Ė each 15-20 minutes long. Loy Krathong was celebrated on our last day in Bangkok before we left for Borneo. When we returned, we noted that there were some fireworks every night on the river. Bob will say it was just because I was in town, but I wondered if it was a continuation of the Loy Krathong festival.

Bumrungrad Hospital: Because we are seriously considering retiring to Thailand, we are doing some research each trip. Our task for this time was to try out the health care system. We both made appointments at Bumrungrad for routine dental exams and cleaning. We were given appointments as requested, and both saw a female dentist there. Note that the dentist does your teeth cleaning, not a hygienist. They use ultrasonic scaling which is very quick. I worked in a hospital fro 23 years, so am very conscious about hospital cleanliness and procedures. We were very happy with our care, and with the bills! My teeth cleaning was 1100 baht, while I pay over $150 in Seattle. Iím now planning on having one of my two cleanings each year in Bangkok.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:40 PM
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Kathie,
Welcome home! And thanks for reporting back.
I'm hoping to visit the Prasart museum and a lot of the same restaurants on our trip next month, so I was particularly glad to hear about those.

Sounds like a great trip!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 01:06 AM
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welcome home, kathie. always reading bangkok reviews for future reference as have never been there.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 05:49 AM
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Thanks to both of you for the welcome home. As much as I love to travel, it always feels good to come home.

I noticed a typo on my report about the spa at Face. Obviously, 2200 Baht is $55, not $455!!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 06:14 AM
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Welcome home. Good to see a stalwart ROS supporter. Glad you liked the Gallery Cafe. Did you get a chance to eat outside at Thara Tong? We're off in 3 weeks, so I hoped you warned the staff in the Towers.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 06:43 AM
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great report kathie...look forward to the borneo part as well...
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 07:32 AM
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glad bankok and ROS continues to be "home" and glad you found some new places to put on your "regular" list.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:33 AM
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Welcome home Kathie. Enjoyed your BKK report and making notes for my trip this Spring.

Hornbill, you've never been to Bangkok? How about trying to go there at the end of May? Eric and I will be there then, after spending a week or so in Java.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 09:38 AM
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Hey Kathie -- do you have a recommendation for Thai cuisine in Seattle?
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 11:27 AM
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Vedette, there are zillions of Thai restaurants in Seattle, as you probably know. My faves are Typhoon (on Western, below the Pike Place Market) and Baan Oraphin atop Queen Anne Hill.

I should have included a list of things we didn't find time to do in Bangkok. Andy, we didn't eat at Thara Tong this time. We also didn't get to eat at Tongue Thai. We had wanted to try one of the restaurants recommended by Apple in his NYT article, but even the place he named is so small it didn't have a phone number and he doesn't list an address, only a general area. The concierge worked with me patiently, but ultimately, it would have meant lots of time on foot trying to find it. We just didn't have time this trip. We had planned to look at some condos and some serviced apartment, but also didn't have time for that. We're still a few years from retirement, so were just collecting info at this point.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 11:33 AM
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when might pics be available?? pushy, pushy...you know fodorites
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 11:42 AM
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Kathie-- for a future trip. Here's the info on the restaurants Apple suggested in the Times

Chote Chitr 146 Phraeng Phuton, 011-66-2221-4082.
Chua Kim Heng 105 Pattanakarn Road, 011-66-2319-2510.
Pen 2068/4 Chan Road, Chongnonsee, Yannawa, 011-66-2287-2907.
Polo Fried Chicken 137/1-3 Soi Polo, Wireless Road, Lumpini, 011-66-1252-2252.
Raan Jay Fai 327 Maha Chai Road, 011-66-2223-9384.
Thip Samai 313 Maha Chai Road, Pranakorn, 011-66-2221-6280.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 01:02 PM
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Photos will be available in the future. How's that for vague, Bob? I'll let you know when they get posted. Hopefully, in a week or two.

Gloria, thanks for that information. It was not in the original article. The place I wanted to go to is Chote Chitr.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 03:43 PM
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Kathie we were staying at the Peninsula on Loy Krathong night....did you enjoy the fireworks from each of the three hotel barges?
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 04:53 PM
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Great report, Kathie! Thanks so much. Glad you had a good time. I don't plan on doing the Prasart on our first trip, but will keep it in mind for a later one... (yup, i'm the one who said I probably wouldn't go back!). I think I've decided that Face is a definite for dinner one evening. Or is Mahanaga better? I've not seen it mentioned before.
Karen
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 05:07 PM
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Thanks for the report Kathie - glad you had a good time and glad the Dentist met expectations.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:01 PM
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Bob, we actually saw 4 fireworks shows from our windows. I know the Sheraton, Pen and Oriental each have a show. I couldn't figure out what the fourth one was. Ir was spectacular. I expect you had a great view as well. I've stayed at the Sheraton a number of times on NYE and watched fieworks. It's my gavorite place in the world to watch fireworks.

Karen, both Face and Mahanga are excellent. Face was less expensive.

Mary, thanks for your encouragement about the dentist. We were delighted at how well it all worked.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:31 PM
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kathie...great report...next trip i hope to coincide with loy krathong...that must have been an incredible sight...

bob...what is the easiest website to post trip photos??/ i have some great pics of vietnam and thailand from our recent trip.

kathie...i bought a prayer wheel on koh san
road...not an antique but pretty cool nonetheless...

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Old Dec 4th, 2005, 08:10 AM
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i have used shutterfly quite easily for photos...it is easy to buy from them after the fact as well if you want some prints...

arranging, moving around cropping, etc can all be done easily....others may have other sites too....
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Old Dec 4th, 2005, 11:13 AM
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Thanks, Kathie - another great report to add to my files.
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