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Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

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Jan 18th, 2018, 06:07 AM
  #1
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Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

Well, we leave in a few hours to drive down to Albuquerque where we will catch a plane to LA, and from thence take off tomorrow morning on our great adventure. The bags have been packed and repacked (eek, why do we always take too much - I need to leave room to bring some things home), I am listening to my last few lessons of Pimsleur Thai - cramming on such phrases as "How much money do you have? Is that enough? We would like two bottles of beer. How much does a glass of wine cost? I want to go shopping." (I am convinced that that whoever designed this program may have had dubious morals, but at least I can say hello and thank you!)
We have been valiantly trying to fight off the colds and flu that almost everyone we know seems to have so fingers crossed that we have fended them off. I want to thank all of you for your excellent and insightful advice. Who knows how much we shall follow - we tend to go rogue, but it has been most helpful in giving us a picture of a part of the world we know little about - but plan to get to know much better. Special thanks to Kathie and BHK and Laurel and Hardy in drag for your great advice.

See you in a few days, hopefully on the other side of the ocean.!
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Jan 18th, 2018, 09:34 AM
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Safe travelers, stay healthy and have a ball.
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Jan 18th, 2018, 11:53 AM
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Bon Voyage! Or as they say in Thailand, สำนวนในการอวยพรให้เดินทางโดยสวัสดิภาพ
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Jan 18th, 2018, 08:30 PM
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oh I am impressed Calinurse! well we made it to LA...onwards
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Jan 20th, 2018, 03:46 AM
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Enjoy your trip! And hope you're feeling better!
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Jan 20th, 2018, 08:35 PM
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the weary travelers arrive

Three hour drive to Albuquerque was blessedly uneventful. Southwest airlines to LAX was great (love that airline). Stayed at the H hotel, a new hilton brand. We were a little confused because it is actually just the top few floors of the Homewood Suites. The room was nice, although very dimly lit. service was good, friendly. Had a nice dinner at the sheraton around the corner as the H doesn't have a liquor license yet and my husband wanted wine. And then the next morning we were off!
Check in at China Southern was very easy and smooth (one anxiety down), and the business class lounge was pleasant. We've never taken a flight that long (15 hours) so didn't know what to expect. I give China Southern pretty good marks. The crew were very professional and friendly - food was ok, not super - but after all it is airline food so I'm just grateful it was there. They served two meals - I found it a bit confusing as we left at noon, so had a 3 pm dinner and then about 6 hours later a second dinner, but I guess with the time flowing ahead they had to adjust. Everyone tried to sleep as soon as the meal was over. I had a hard time going to sleep at 4 in the afternoon, but got a little bit. We changed planes in Guanzhou - it was kind of exciting to be in China, even if only in the airport. We had to go through immigration even though we were just changing planes, but they were very efficient, and we had a nice time chatting with a china southern employee in the lounge while waiting for the connection. Best meal of the trip was a bowl of homemade noodle soup in the China Southern lounge. On the plane they gave us an English language chinese newspaper. It was intriguing to see the different way the news was presented (relentlessly positive and of course with a pro china slant) - interesting to this cynical American.

We arrived in Bangkok extremely weary 23 hours after take off the prior morning. I was a bit in shock with the size of the airport (and the city) wow! But it was also one of the fastest getting through immigration and getting luggage we've experienced on our trips (ok, business class privilege definitely helped). We were met by a representative from the Peninsula and whisked into a waiting car, and 35 minutes later were graciously greeted by the staff here even though it was 2 am. We just kept pinching ourselves - are we really here?

The room is glorious, very high tech and comfortable, and the view over the river phenomenal. The staff couldn't be more comfortable. Right now I'm saying this may well be the nicest hotel we have ever stayed at (ok, I said that about Naxos and Cordoba as well, but hey, a girl can change her mind). And I will once again rave about the breakfasts (America, when will we ever learn to let go of our eggs and pancakes!). This went beyond even the European buffets - not only amazing breads, meats and cheeses, but also noodles, rice, dal, and various condiments from many cultures - I don't think we will need to eat for quite a while. And great coffee!

ok, we are off to explore, probably just a little as we are still pretty tired. Sowatdee kah
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Jan 21st, 2018, 12:05 AM
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You made it!!!! Enjoy!! Thanks for reviews of the airline, hotel, and breakfast!
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Jan 21st, 2018, 01:51 AM
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What a wonderful way to arrive in a country - limo, view and breakfast!

Enjoy your first day and don't forget to check in with us so we can enjoy it with you.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 02:44 AM
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Sawadee ka! And glad to hear you made it, safe and sound! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures - sounds like a great start!
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Jan 21st, 2018, 11:10 AM
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What a nice welcome to Thailand. Bangkok is my favorite city, and I always enjoy hearing first-timers reactions to it.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 02:57 PM
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Glad you finally got there!
CS was a three and is now a 4* carrier. Sounds like improving he food would be in order for it to rise up the ranks. For a biz class trans ocean flight I look for great service, very good food which we have had on ANA and Asiana, comfortable lay flat seats to get some sleep, good IFE and being treated like a guest should be treated. Seems like CS has quite a bit of that already.
Yes the buffet breakfasts in swanky Asian hotels is amazing. I would imagine its the same in some middle east countries like Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Bangkok was recently listed around third I think in terms of traffic congestion world wide. First or worst is Mexico City, then Jakarta, Bangkok and LA IIRC.
Will follow.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 05:48 PM
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Day one in Bangkok - weary but determined

So by the time we had had breakfast and unpacked it was one already. I had scheduled a 4 pm massage for myself so thought that maybe going to the Jim Thompson house would be a discreet, simple outing for day one. We took the resorts boat across the river which was quite easy to do, and then ventured on the skytrain - also very easy, everything labeled in English. only glitch was when we got off we couldn't figure out how to get across the street to where the signs were pointing - we ran across but there was wire blocking the way. Finally a nice man told us to go back up to the skytrain platform and cross that way. and then.....oh no, we do it again, we neglected to read the fine print in the guidebook. You have to take a guided tour and the next one in English wasn't for an hour, and we would never make it back to the hotel in time for the massage appointment. They offered us Japanese (nope), then French (un petit peu) so we took the french tour, only understood a third of it, but got to see the house. We checked out the shop, but nothing really called and it is quite expensive. We took the sky train back again, enjoying the cacophany of languages all around us,
The massage was phenomenal - probably the best ever and definitely helped with the travel tension and fatigue as well as lingering sinus infection. The staff throughout the hotel are all so helpful and gracious.
We'd made a reservation at Mei jiang, the Chinese restaurant at the Peninsula, figuring we would be too tired to go out. For Americans used to a fairly limited selection of Chinese cuisine it was a revelation - so many dishes and options we had never seen before. We were a bit overwhelmed by the choices, but finally selected deep fried crab claw in lime sauce for appetizer, two soups (fish maw and a broth), and then eggplant stuffed with shrimp and chicken crusted with almonds. It was all quite good, but we hadn't realized everything was fried so that was a bit much, especially since my stomach was acting up. I think it is probably a really great restaurant that we didn't fully take advantage of given our fatigue.
Now I seem to have come down with traveler's crud, and my husband isn't feeling so hot either. We are planning on venturing out to the Royal Palace and the nearby Wats, but shall see what we see. Wish us luck....more later
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Jan 21st, 2018, 07:57 PM
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Sorry to hear that you are having stomach problems. Eat bland food for a while - order chicken congee from room service.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 08:08 PM
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Wow, what a shlepp to get there, but hey, you arrived AND pushed on through. Well done.
Try the chicken congee even if you’re not feeling delicate.
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 06:39 AM
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the day starts with a whimper but ends with a bang

As mentioned above both of us started the day with less than good tummies (will definitely take your advice re chicken congee!). After reading up on travelers you know what I decided to take the antibiotics we had brought with us and together with over the counter meds began to feel better. Not to be daunted we decided to go to the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. So here is a bad riddle: what is the difference between Bangkok and a small town in NM? Answer: about 11 million people and 80% humidity. Which about describes our experience. Please don't get me wrong. The Wat is beautiful, exquisite, amazing, but we were so hemmed in by the tour groups that it was almost impossible to experience or take in what we were seeing.I had a few minutes of peace when I made an offering. it was also not as well signed in English as yesterday's adventure, so we got very turned around and had a hard time knowing what we were seeing. One interesting aspect - there were separate lines for Thais and foreigners (so labeled). I understand - it is their shrine and many come to pray, I've just never seen that before (except at customs!). We finally called it quits and caught a cab back to the hotel where we were glad to rest, eat a light lunch in the dining room and spend some time at the pool. Again, kudos to the Peninsula - unlike other hotels we have stayed at there were plenty of chairs at the pool and we didn't have to pounce to get one.

We had made advance reservations for dinner and so set out around 5;30 for our 6;30 reservation.. At the concierge's advice we took the river boat/sky train instead of a cab. Here's where I pretty much lost it. I've taken subways/Els in NY, chicago, London, Paris, and Boston, but I have never been so squished in my life. Luckily we had only five stops to go. Then came the real fun. Someone who's name won't be mentioned (but I'm married to him) got directions from the concierge. Unfortunately he didn't really understand or write them down. So we got off the sky trained and walked in the right direction. We ended up in Central World Mall - a giant upscale enterprise. No one had heard of the restaurant. We called them. They were across the street - almost got run over trying to cross. still couldn't find them. finally went to Intercontinental Hotel who had heard of them and gave us vaguely good directions. Finally found them on the top floor of another mall - Greysorn.

and then the day got glorious. The restaurant is a Michelin star enterprise called Paste, notable in that it has a female chef. It specializes in Royal Thai Cuisine, adaptions of historic recipes https://pastebangkok.com/ We chose the tasting menu and one dish was more amazing than the next (I will try to attach pictures): caviar on smoked mackeral, watermellon balls with fish roe, duck confit on rice crackers, tapioca pudding balls, a beef curry that was out of this world, lobster in citrus sauce, crab curry and a dessert that looked like a miniature terrarium. The duck noodle soup was truly the best soup I have ever had (and I ain't no spring chicken). The total tab including wine and cocktails was about $300 but worth every penny.

now we are back in our lovely cool room, trying to decide how to spend tomorrow. We thought the National museum but it is closed. Any suggestions? I'm going to try to attach pictures.

view from our window


dessert at Paste


Paste: duck confit


lobster in citrus sauce
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 07:32 AM
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" there were separate lines for Thais and foreigners "
If you go to India you will find different entrance fees for Indians and foreigners.
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 08:18 AM
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If you go to India you will find different entrance fees for Indians and foreigners.>>

And in Sri Lanka too. I personally did not resent this as it raises valuable foreign currency to enable the monuments and sights in question to be maintained as well as allowing local people to be able to afford to visit them, but I also see why others might object.

Loving your report especially the photos. The view from your window is great. As for the food, are we to assume that your tummies have recovered?
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 10:05 AM
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So glad to hear you opted for Thai food! Bangkok has a number of restaurants on the "50 Best" list - we ate at four of them last trip. I'll put Paste on my psi for our next trip.

Recommendations for tomorrow: If you are interested in SE Asian Arts and Antiques.consider going to the Prasart Museum, just out of town. Here is an article form the NYT: In Thailand, One Man's Dream Becomes a Bangkok Sanctuary - The New York Times You will need a reservation and a car and driver. Ask the concierge at the Pen to help you with this. Entrance fee was $20 per person and included a private guide last time I was there.

I'm guessing that you didn't get to the Grand Palace/Emerald Buddha when it opens at 8:30, but now you understand why I make that recommendation. There are many dozens of wats in Bangkok, each unique. Any that you visit will be less crowded than the Grand Palace/Emerald Buddha. (BTW, you could have picked up an official guide to take you through it for about US$2 at the entrance) For any things you want to see that are outdoors, you should always plan to get there as early as possible to avoid the worst of the heat.

I love house museums, and enjoyed the Suan Pakkad Palace, especially the exquisite Lacquer Pavilion.

Lots of options. Tell what interests you and we can be more helpful.
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 06:27 PM
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Fun following you - we just got home to California last night after three weeks in Thailand. We, too, flew over Business on China Southern - much the same experience as you had.

Your impressions of Bangkok so far mesh with mine. We've traveled all over, and I have to say Bangkok is about the least pedestrian-friendly city I've experienced. Felt as if I were taking my life in my hands to cross any street - and even at the two or three activated crossing signals we encountered, we had only five seconds to cross. Yikes. We did use the river boats - didn't realize one must be standing right at the rear in order to be sure the boat will actually stop at the pier where one wishes to get off. That was a learning experience our first time out.

We ate all over - from street food to reasonably nice restaurants - and never once had any stomach issues. I came away from Thailand overall thinking what a clean country - we have traveled in so many third world places where trash is piled up everywhere, and choosing a place to eat is a crap shoot. Not so in Thailand - at least I didn't think so.

We enjoyed the flower market in the late evening - will you go there? Also joined a midnight tuk-tuk street food tour, and found it to be a fun and entertaining (and safe) way to try some new foods - nothing too exotic, but delicious local fare.

Not sure your itinerary - we did the usual first-timers route: north by road to Ayutthaya, Lampang, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Then flew south to Phuket and stayed at Kata Beach. Lovely trip overall ... now to get over this 15-hour-time-difference jet lag!
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 06:57 PM
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thanks so much Kathie for the recomendations - that is so helpful. (we were considering staying in the hotel today to lick our wounds and do some writing, but are now considering some of the less popular(tourist wise) wats and maybe some shopping. but will definitely look into the museums you mentioned (last night when we were looking things up it seemed like many were closed either for renovations or just their day off).

and I didn't resent the separate lines for Thais - after all it is their country - just had never seen that before.

and thanks scdreamer for the validation - I felt quite defeated last night - we had traveled so far (and of course at such cost) and then it felt so whimpy to give up and crawl home with my sweat soaked tail between my legs. But today is another day. We have a guided tour tomorrow to Ayuttaya, and then head to Chiang Rai, from there to Chiang Mai, and from there to Koh Lanta, so it sounds similar to your itinerary. Looking forward to reading your trip report. Good luck with the jet lag (I gave myself 3 days on the other end to recover, hope it is enough).

Last edited by lauramsgarden; Jan 22nd, 2018 at 07:04 PM.
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