Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Laurieco's Java-Thailand Trip Report: Earthquakes, Volcanos and Supper in Bed (or, How I spent My Summer Vacation)

Laurieco's Java-Thailand Trip Report: Earthquakes, Volcanos and Supper in Bed (or, How I spent My Summer Vacation)

Old Jun 18th, 2006, 04:42 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,779
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
laurie, Your earthquake story is really chilling. Earthquake and fire have long been my greatest fears about living in Jakarta -- much more than terrorism. As you noted, there is simply no emergency plan.

When I go to Yogya I pretty much alternate between the Hyatt and the Aman, depending on my guests' budgets. (Because I have an Indonesian work permit the Aman gives me a substantial discount. At $700 I wouldn't be writing this!) Honestly I like them both. One thing about luxury travel anywhere in Indonesia, including Bali: that 21% tax really adds up, especially if you're having meals at the hotel.

I've never had Aircon problems at the Aman. In fact it's one of those things that my husband and I argue about interminably; some like it hot etc. I need to find that room where it's on the blink.

I know Sean Flakelar and believe that he is sincere in wanting people to have a positive experience in Java. I think the resort is stuck between a rock and a hard policy -- they won't discount and they just don't have enough meaningful business to run a vibrant property. With the earthquake and ongoing volcanic activity they must be in a negative position. It's the local people who really suffer.
marmot is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2006, 07:03 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,051
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
great report laurie....looking forward to the rest...glad you are feeling better...
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 03:22 AM
  #43  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wouldn't say we had a bad time at the Aman, only that I wouldn't do it again. I don't think it is worth the money. For some it may be but not for me. As I said, I'm not interested in being treated like a sultan. They may have been genuine but I felt the hospitality was not as warm or genuine as at the Dusun Jogia Inn or Hyatt.

As for the air con, we never said anything because we hadn't spent that much time in the room until we were ready to go to bed. Although it felt warm during the day, we figured it would cool down at night after the sun went down and we could close up all the panels that cover the doors and window. It never did cool down and by the time we realized it, it was the middle of the night and I wasn't about to get up to make a complaint. Since we were only staying one night, it wasn't worth complaining about the next day. I don't think there was anything wrong with the air con unit, I think it just wasn't powerful enough to adequately cool a room of that size. Eric and I like to sleep in cold--I keep my window open throughout the winter. I should have been able to get that room to arctic temps for the money we paid.

I think it's true that a resort of that calibre will not discount or upgrade for free but to me, that's part of what makes them pretentious and snobby-- they think they're too good for such things. Not in my book. A hotel that will freely upgrade when they have the room is a hotel that really does want to please its guests and one to which I want to return.

Kathie, the extra $500 was for the lunch, a couple of soursop martinis ($15++ each), dinner, breakfast, the sunrise at Borobudur and Intellectual Tour and the tour of rice fields on the way back to Yogya. The transfers to and from Yogya were free. Marmot is correct, the 21% is a killer but so are the Aman's prices. They probably would have charged us a fortune to go to the airport in Solo. Welltraveledbrit is right in that the prices irked me even more because I know how cheap things in Java are and how much we overpaid. I didn't buy any jewelry in Thailand because of how much the Aman cost us.

As for the earthquake, it really was something I hope to never repeat! I'm just glad I did my homework and knew about the airport at Solo. It wasn't the Hyatt who thought of it, it was me but I'm sure the Hyatt would have gotten around to suggesting it had I not thought of it first.
laurieco is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 07:04 AM
  #44  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,259
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the additional details, Laurie. I have to say, I don't think I'd enjoy the Aman either.
Kathie is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 08:18 AM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,051
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
i would enjoy it for the normal asia fee of about $100-150....with poor a/c free would be too much...

i'm thinking that perhaps because you only had a one day stay you were treated to a "less nice" room?? still @ $700+......

it makes the penn look like a complete bargain!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 01:49 PM
  #46  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bob, I don't think we got a "less nice" room, all are exactly the same. In fact, our room was better than some as we had a view of Borobudur. They aren't really rooms, they're villas, each an independent building. I did enjoy the time at the Aman, I don't want to make it seem like we didn't have a good time of like it, we did. What I didn't like were their prices for things and the fact that we couldn't just go outside a book a tour of the rice fields on our own or go to a restaurant. I also didn't like the weak a/c.
laurieco is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 07:33 PM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,051
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
i understand but at $5000 per week it should be more than perfect and come with a cook as well...
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 08:45 PM
  #48  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 563
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
wow laurie,

what a surreal experience...and a great story...reading your travelogue, i could feel the elevator swaying, see the throngs of people desperatly fleeing along crowded roadsides and hear the gears turning in your head as you quickly implemented your escape route (your research definatly paid off).

thankfully, you and eric lived to tell the story.
i am looking forward to your next installment.
divediva is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 04:49 AM
  #49  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 682
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Laurie, if you had a view of Borobudur you actually DID receive an upgrade. That room would cost $800 + $168 = $968. I know that probably doesn't make you feel better but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Looking forward to the rest of your report...
Ericka is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 05:21 AM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 68
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So glad you are both safe and well. I am enjoying your report immensely.

What an adventure !!!!

Gill ( and Tony)
GillandTony is offline  
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 08:40 AM
  #51  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,346
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
and you thought everyone forgot about the rest of this report
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Jul 13th, 2006, 02:52 PM
  #52  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ooops. I guess I'm busted! I will get around the finishing this. I'm off from work tomorrow so maybe I'll be motivated and get to it then.
laurieco is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2006, 09:01 PM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,183
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No problem Laurie! I'm having the same troubles finding time to finish mine. I've only got two cities to go and just can't seem to get to it!
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2006, 01:30 PM
  #54  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
LA, I only have two cities left as well but just don't have the will to finish it. At this point, I doubt anyone cares, (with the exception of hawaiiantraveler) I don't even care anymore! I'll get around to it at some point though. Maybe.
laurieco is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2006, 02:35 PM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,259
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hey, Laurie, I've been waiting for the rest of your report, too. But I do understand that after this long it is hard to get back to the report...
Kathie is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2006, 02:39 PM
  #56  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 888
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Me too! I guess we all know how much thought and preparation went into the planning. I think you said you were taken ill though in Thailand and it rained every day throughout your holiday - did you not enjoy it? I can understand you not wanting to write about it if so.
Bella_Bluebell is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2006, 03:39 PM
  #57  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,894
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Come on Laurie - I look forward to seeing the final chapters from a fellow 40-something before either of us turns 50. As the Nike ads once said - just do it.
Craig is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2006, 04:43 PM
  #58  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Okay, okay, I'll finish the damn report! But it will have to wait for the weekend. I'm warning you though, the rest will be pretty boring after the earthquake. We did get a great tour of the new Hilton though--a thoroughly fabulous hotel.
laurieco is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2006, 02:36 PM
  #59  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,691
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hey everyone, guess what? I've finally finished my trip report (for the two of you who may still care!) I'm leaving for Bali and Singapore on Tuesday and figured I should finish this up before embarking on a new adventure. I know you will want a report on that trip but I MAKE NO PROMISES! I will report from the road however to avoid any delinquent penalties (if I don't, Andy and Bob may stick me with the bill when I see them in Boston in October). Anyway, the not so grand finale-----


When we got to Bangkok we headed to a limo/taxi service desk at the airport and hired a car to take us to Hua Hin, where we had a reservation for three nights. We had been there back in 1998 but I was very ill when there and wanted to return. I think we paid about 3500 Baht for the one way. Itís half that when you arrange in Hua Hin to go back to Bangkok so the round trip works out to be a reasonable price.

We got to the Sofitel sometime around 7:30pm and checked in. We got to our room, which was very nice but not the view I wanted so they promised to change our room the following morning when they would have an available room to my liking. After settling in, we turned on the TV to CNN and saw wall to wall coverage of the earthquake. It suddenly dawned on us that our families back home would be aware of it. I emailed itineraries to my sister and mother and I come from a family of news junkies so I knew they would be aware of it and they would be really worried. I tried to call on my cell but for some reason it wasnít going through even though I have international roaming set up. I didnít yet have a SIM card from Thailand. We went down to reception and asked about internet but were told that it was in the Library and it was already closed for the night. I told them we had been in Yogya and were in the earthquake and that our families must be really worried. The woman we were talking to immediately said we could use her computer to email our families. Itís a good thing we did because I found out the next day that everyone was really worried. My sister had been calling the American Embassy in Jakarta and my mother was a basket case.

Our stay in Hua Hin was wonderful. The Sofitel changed our room the next day and it was perfect. They also saw, from Ericís passport I guess, that it was his birthday and they sent a beautiful flower arrangement to our room for him. For the next couple of days, we did nothing but lay at the pool, eat, drink and walk a little around town. We bought some wine for the room and I got a SIM card for my phone but that was the extent of the shopping. We mainly ate at the hotel but one night we ventured out to a Japanese restaurant, which may have been connected with the hotel, Iím not sure. Of course it rained but mainly in the evening so it wasnít too bad. The worst thing that happened in Hua Hin is that I dropped my ipod but luckily it was in its protective case and no harm was done.

After three nights in Hua Hin, we drove back to Bangkok for 5 nights at the Peninsula. We got there at about 2pm and checked in. We had a grand deluxe room and it looked just like I remembered from our previous visits. It felt good to be ďhome.Ē After unpacking some we had dim sum at the Penís Chinese restaurant, and then we took the boat across the river to the Oriental and made reservations for dinner for that night at the China House. We had both been anticipating the Peking Duck, our favorite meal at our favorite restaurant in the world. We walked around a bit looking for a store to buy some wine but there was nothing. It was so hot and humid, much more so than it had been in Indonesia or even Hua Hin. We had forgotten that Bangkok is the hottest place on Earth, or at least it seems that way! We decided to go to Thai Stone and see about getting a bunch of jewelry repaired that I had brought along. We took the skytrain and found the place and left all my stuff there to be picked up in a few days. They were very nice at Thai Stone although the owner did do something I donít think he should have. He saw my diamond ring that I was wearing and asked how much I paid for it. We told him and he took out another diamond of the same size and told us we overpaid and that he would sell us his for about half what we paid. He never looked at my diamond through a loop however and also, mine is set in a thick band of 18k gold and his was loose. I donít think it is a good comparison and it also made me feel lousy, like we overpaid by quite a bit for my diamond. Not a way to make someone feel good. He also took one necklace and said he would replace the stone in it but when we went to pick everything up, he never repaired that piece, saying he couldnít find a stone to fit it. I wish I would have known that in advance as I would have brought it somewhere else but by the time I knew, it was too late, we were leaving the following night. I think what happened is that he charged me too little at the outset, and I even asked him if that price was correct. I think he thought better of it after and told me he couldnít find a stone. Originally he told me he had a stone, although he said it was a bit darker in color. He did refund me the charge for it of course. Iím not saying I wouldnít go there again but I would go with my eyes wide open.

I donít think itís necessary to go step by step everything we did in Bangkok. Enough is posted about Bangkok that my two cents isnít really worth much. Iíll just go through some of the highlights and lowlights.

China House and the Peking Duck was excellent as always. The next day we went to Tongue Thai for lunch. It was very good and I would recommend it. Eric had the soft shell crab and I had some wanton dish but canít exactly remember. That night we went to Bed for dinner. The place is a real trip. For those of you who donít know what Bed is, and I canít imagine there are too many of you, let me just say that Bed Supper Club is a restaurant/club and you eat on these big beds covered in white cotton sheets. Itís a gimmick but the food is really good. The downstairs was fully booked with some sort of party, it looked like some sort of wrap party, maybe for a photo shoot as it was full of all these ďbeautiful people.Ē About a third of them were Thai and the rest were Caucasian. We enjoyed watching from up above. The food at Bed was excellent. There is a set menu, with about three choices of appetizer, main and dessert. It was quite expensive by Thai standards, it ran us about $85 but we had a couple of beers each and to be honest, a meal like that in a comparable NYC restaurant would be at least double. While we were ďin bedĒ the heavens opened up and it poured like a monsoon. When we were ready to leave, we couldnít walk to the skytrain and the soi Bed is on was about knee high in water. Trying to find a taxi to take us back to the Pen proved to be a chore. No one wanted to be bothered. It took about 15 minutes before we were able to get a cab to drive us back. There was no way I was walking in all that water to get to the skytrain station.

We had hired Tong for the next two days. On the first day, we were to go to the Prasart but when we woke up, Eric was really sick. He looked and felt terrible. Since we had already hired Tong, I went without Eric. Tong had brought a load of snacks and drinks, (everything from water to beer) in case we wanted some refreshments. I felt so bad that she went so much out of her way.

It took quite a while to get to the Prasart, partly because Tong got a bit lost. She kept apologizing for it but I didnít really mind. Tong and I talked about our pets. She became really emotional about her departed dog and cat. I thought that was really sweet since I feel the same way about my pets and could totally relate. Tong is a very lovely person and I can recommend her wholeheartedly. She goes out of her way to please and worries about her clients. Unfortunately, Eric was pretty sick and I wasnít at my best either. Anyway, I really enjoyed the Prasart and canít believe I never made it there on previous trips to Bangkok. The collection consists of objects collected from all over Asia by a wealthy and somewhat eccentric businessman (at least he seems so). Everything is displayed beautifully and the young woman who gave me my private tour was wonderful. I learned so much from her. Iíll definitely go back there, especially since Eric didnít get to go. After, Tong took me to the Jim Thompson Outlet store where I bought some pillow case covers and shirts to give to my brother and momís companion as gifts. Tong then took me to a place to get a foot massage

That night I ordered room service while Eric slept. Not exactly an exciting evening. It made me think that I would like to buy a new laptop (I have two but they are so old that theyíre useless) so if Iím stuck in a hotel room, at least I can go on the net and email and hang out on Fodors!

The next morning, Eric was a little better but not great, and I was in the beginning stages of the ear infection. That morning was the start of the vertigo I would have for the next few weeks. Since we had tickets for the trial run of the Kings Jubilee boat procession for that evening, we decided to take it easy during the day. Tong picked us up at about 9AM and brought us to a temple for some merit making. At this temple, you can buy coffins for unclaimed bodies, which is what we did. We got the idea from Offwego, who had done this some months back with Tong. We just wanted to do something nice for the people of Thailand and learn a little more about Buddhism at the same time.

The boat procession was really wonderful. We got to the boat early, about 3 0íclock and the boat didnít leave for another couple of hours. There were soft drinks and food but we didnít eat because it was all buffet and we didnít know how safe the food would be. It was included in the price of the ticket ($80 each) but we passed on it just the same. We were getting pretty bored and hot until the procession actually started but once it did, it was great. The boats were beautiful and it was truly a unique experience. There was music accompanying the procession and the Grand Palace was the backdrop to the whole thing as we docked across the river from it. At first, when we were waiting for hours for the procession to begin, I was sorry we had spent so much money on the tickets. Once it began however, I was glad we did. Itís really a once in a lifetime thing and a very ďThaiĒ experience. We got back to the hotel at about 8:30-9:00 and Eric couldnít eat, he said it hurt to swallow food, but he could drink so we had a bottle of champagne in our room.

The rest of the time in Bangkok was the usual, the Weekend Market, which really got on my nerves this time around, different restaurants (really enjoyed Harmonique), and some shopping but really bought nothing. We went to the Siam Paragon shopping centeróvery chi chióbut we didnít get to the aquarium. Siam Paragon does have a really fabulous wine cellar in the basement I think (or maybe the floor right above, canít remember) where you can get all kinds of imported wine and champagne. This pleased me immensely, as many of you can imagine.

On our last day, we went to the new Hilton and took a ďgrand tourĒ of the place. We thought it was fabulous. Itís ultra ultra modern so it may not appeal to everyone but we loved it and think it could be a viable alternative to the Pen, IF staying in a suite. The regular rooms are a bit smallish but well appointed. The suites are fantastic, with huge windows circling around and giving a great view. The view is not as good as the Penís though, mainly because of where the Pen is. I happen to think the view from the Pen, of the Oriental, Shang, Taskim Pier, etc is the best view in Bangkok (from a hotel at least). I love watching the hotel boats going across the river, especially at night when the boats and hotels are all lit up. Anyway, if the Pen gets too expensive, we may look into the Hilton.

We also had a look at Bobís beloved Marriot, albeit at night. Even though it was dark, we could see that the pool was beautiful. Unfortunately we didnít get to see any of the guest rooms though the public spaces looked very nice. We ate dinner there and I canít say the food was very good. It was very expensive by Thai standards and not very tasty. I also donít know how good the views would be from there, there isnít much around that I could see. I would consider spending a few nights there however. Bob always says itís a four star not 5 star but the public areas didnít look shabby at all.

That pretty much wraps up this trip. We had a wonderful time, earthquake and all and will go back to Java at some point. Some impressions:

As always, the people are wonderful. Words cannot describe what I feel for the people in Central Java, who put our comfort and safety above their own. And the Thais, well, what can you say? They are always kind and courteous, and welcoming to a fault.


Tongóshe is wonderful. So warm and always worrying about us. She found us after the boat procession to make sure we got a taxi home and werenít overcharged. Her car was parked very far away but she would have driven us if we couldnít get a cab. I would definitely use her again to go outside of Bangkok but not in Bangkok. To be honest, I prefer to be on my own and just use the skytrain and boats and the occasional cab (and, yes, even a tuk-tuk on rare occasions) when roaming around Bangkok.

Borobuduróif you havenít been there yet, GO! A truly magnificent sight. Do the sunrise, you wonít be sorry, unless it rains.

Yogyakartaóa dusty town but not without charm. It grows on you and if given a chance, can be a really great place to spend a week. The food sucks but hey, stick to the food at the hotels and youíll be all right. Great shopping, I just wish I had discovered it earlier on. A reason to go back I guess.

EarthquakeóSomething I hope to NEVER repeat. By far the most exciting part of the trip (of ANY trip for that matter) but the kind of excitement I donít need. The entire thing seems so surreal to me. The whole day was all about logistics and getting from point A to B to C to D. When we finally got to our last stop, 14 hours had passed and it was hard to believe we were in this earthquake we were watching on CNN.

Now Iím off to Bali and Singapore in a few days and hoping to have some more adventures. Hopefully these will be of a more sedate kind.
laurieco is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2006, 02:57 PM
  #60  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,346
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for finishing report Laurie, really enjoyed it. As soon as I saw the wine cellar in the Siam Paragon basement, I don't know why but I thought of you.

Do you and Eric get a flu shot every year? I know it's controversial with some people but since I have been getting them I haven't gotten sick for years(knocking on wood as I say this).

Linda had vertigo for 3 weeks one time....no fun at all.

Well you need this upcoming vacation so you can recover from your last one.
All the best wishes!

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:02 AM.