Therese Trips: Bangkok, January 2010

Jan 25th, 2010, 07:45 PM
  #21  
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At the time that I booked, Carol, the Adelphi was a bit more expensive. That, together with the location and the in-unit washing machine, pushed me towards Centre Point for my first visit to Bangkok.

But there's always next year...
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Jan 25th, 2010, 08:01 PM
  #22  
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Day 2: Unbridled Indolence

I slept in a bit my second day, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading out to figure out the BTS. Thirty baht and a few minutes on a clean and very high tech train got me to Siam, at which point I entered a sort of endless mall. The shops and their contents don't interest me very much, but I do like seeing what appeals to local shoppers at various price points, and the mall stores were an interesting contrast to stores at street level.

Before I knew it it was time for lunch: duck larb and green papaya salad at a restaurant in Siam Paragon's food hall. Very nice.

More walking around puncuated by a stop at street level for iced tea. Watched a Coca Cola-sponsored soccer promotional event for a while before picking up some coconut cream sweets and heading home to shower before my first fitting at Cotton House.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 07:22 AM
  #23  
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Day 2: My First Fitting at Cotton House, and more Indolence

I arrived on time to find another couple already trying on clothes. Danish, both long-time customers. The husband had had several pairs of trousers made, and they were ready. The wife's garments were done, but still needed some adjustments. These were pinned, and arrangements made for the finished garments to be delivered to their hotel.

My garments still hadn't been delivered from the workshop around the corner, so I was asked if I minded waiting (which I didn't), and I was offered tea (which I accepted) and spent a pleasant half hour or so while the staff went about their business. Some people might find this sort of wait problematic but I actually quite like it: comfortable surroundings, soothing quiet chat and attention to stitching and ironing. My mom's a very good seamstress and I grew up doing a lot of needlework, so maybe that accounts for my liking this experience.

Finally my garments arrived and I slipped into them. At this point they're still pretty rough, largely basted or pinned together. Adjustments are made and I'm told to return the next afternoon.

Since I'd had a large lunch I wasn't very hungry, and wasn't feeling like going out, so decided on a junk food dinner in my room: senbei, fruit (rose apples, which I'd never had before, and dragon fruit, which I had), cookies, and beer. TV and a bit of reading and nice long sleep.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 07:41 AM
  #24  
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An aside to apologize for how long it's taking me to post---I'm back at work and very busy, and the jet lag's really a bear. Was I ever away?
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Jan 27th, 2010, 08:08 AM
  #25  
 
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If there's a hot water pot, then that'll do ... lol

My Adelphi apartment does have the washing machine in the kitchen (a real plus, I agree), although there are at least two very cheap laundry places about a minute away from the Adelphi, on soi 8, on the way to the BTS. I used one of them regularly when I had only a studio at Adelphi and the kitchen is not so well equipt. It's nice having freshly ironed clothes to wear. Me... I'm more of the wash it, hang it, wear it variety! I will take out the iron if something is grossly wrinkled.

I know what you mean about jetlag. I thought I'd never get over mine. It took about 2 weeks to really feel "normal" again.

Looking forward to more of your report!

Carol
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Jan 27th, 2010, 10:50 AM
  #26  
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Day 3: The World's Worst Tourist Gets Her Act Together

Time to take advantage of Bangkok's cultural side. I wake early, breakfast, and head over to the central pier. It's a short walk to the pier from Centre Point Silom (the same walk that you take to the BTS, basically) and after some initial confusion as to precisely where I was supposed to wait and which boat I wanted (the regular ferry, not the tourist boat) and how to buy my ticket (on board, a whopping 13 baht) I boarded the correct boat, headed for Tha Chang. My destination was the Grand Palace/Emerald Buddha complex. As all the guidebooks warn, tuk tuk touts will likely approach you (and they will very definitely approach a single female westerner) and tell you that the palace is closed. In my case they told me that it was only closed until 1:00 (because it was a special holiday for praying to Buddha), and that there was another extremely cool temple with an especially great Buddha that just happened to be open that very day especially in honor of this special holiday and that they'd be happy to show it to you. Really they would. The tuk tuk touts speak the best English of just about any of the Thai people I met on this trip, and they seem very sincere.

I was approached several times on my way to the entrance. Here's one of the conversations:

Tuk tuk tout (who is wearing some sort of official badge around his neck): The palace is closed for the morning.

Me: It is?

TTT: Yes, it's a special holiday.

Me: Oh?

TTT: Yes, for the royal family and praying to Buddha and...

Me: You're absolutely sure that it's closed?

TTT: Yes, it's closed until 1:00...

At this point a backup tuk tuk tout appears, this one wearing a uniform.

B-TTT: I work in the palace, and yes, it's definitely closed.

TTT: See, he works in the palace and he would know.

Me: Hmm, yes. You're sure? (an aside while I point out that I refrained from posing the question that I really wanted to ask, which was just exactly who had taught him to lie so convincingly).

B-TTT and TTT: Yes, very sure.

Me: Well, thanks for the help. I've got an appointment (tapping an imaginary watch on my left wrist while I smile) so must be going.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 11:15 AM
  #27  
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Day 3: Can a country have a dress code?

Well, sort of. Despite the warm climate in Thailand it turns out that Thai people are generally pretty modest, and so you don't see a lot of sleeveless or low cut shirts, and pretty much the only shorts I saw were on tourists.

And I saw lots and lots of tourists wearing sarongs tied over their shorts and shawls or oversized blouses over their skimpy (by Thai standards) shirts while they toured the complex. Visitors are given a careful once over by staff before they even get to the ticket counter, and if your wardrobe is found wanting you are directed to the baggy garment rental desk. Given the warm and muggy weather that day I was very glad that I'd chosen black trousers and a short-sleeved white cotton blouse and got to skip wearing an entire extra layer of clothing (repeatedly worn by other people clothing to boot) for my visit. I'd also packed a lightweight silk shawl to wear over my arms just in case the sleeves of my shirt were considered too short.

Oh, that reminds me: the conversation with the tuk tuk touts had included a digression about my wardrobe, in which they informed me that my sleeves were too short, and I wouldn't be admitted. When I told them that I'd brought a shawl they were crestfallen.

At the end of the day I got through the wardrobe gauntlet without so much as a second glance.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 11:55 AM
  #28  
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Day 3: The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Would I want to live here? No, and not even if there weren't hordes of tourists milling about. Not enough green space and way too many building in too small an area. I can see why the present king lives at Chitralada. My favorite parts were the shaded galleries, the temple that contains the Emerald Buddha (sit on the floor with everybody else and enjoy the quiet hum around you), and the museum at the end that describes the intermittent restorations.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 12:03 PM
  #29  
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Oh, another nice aspect to the Grand Palace is the cafe near the exit, where you can order various drinks and small food items. I had a young coconut, very nice. I can never drink young coconut juice without thinking about its being used as an emergency substitute for IV fluids.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #30  
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Day 3: Retired Kick Boxers, and How They Keep Busy

My next appointment was at Health Land for a Thai massage

http://www.healthlandspa.com/spamenu.html

I took a boat back to my hotel and showered beforehand, and then caught a cab to the spa (which is not particularly convenient to a BTS stop, and although I could have walked I was feeling sort of lazy) and managed to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam. The spa is quite nice, and I was asked what sort of massage I'd like (Thai, thank you) and told to wait until somebody came to get me. And somebody did and she was my masseuse and she didn't speak much English but managed to convince me to take off my shoes and put on slippers and follow her up several flights of stairs (which isn't that easy in slippers if you're not used to doing it) and into a room where I got the general idea that I should put on the pajamas provided (which I knew I'd be doing) and once I had them on she assured me that I'd put them on correctly and had me lie down on my back while she put a fairly heavy blanket over my middle and set to work.

And this is the point where I became convinced that possibly, just possibly, this woman wasn't really a masseuse but rather a retired kick boxer who'd undergone a sex change operation and trained in massage. Because this massage is not for the faint of heart. This massage involves the masseuse's entire body, including her feet, and you may well be glad of the blanket because you may start sweating (from effort or fear, hard to say) and without the blanket might get a chill from the AC.

As it turns out, this style of massage was a bit over the top for my lower extremities but perfect for my upper extremities, as they tend to get very tight indeed and masseuses/masseurs often have trouble getting them loose, especially if they've only got an hour to work on them. So this two hour massage was perfect for me. At a certain point my masseuse even started talking to me, clearly amazed that (a) I could be walking around with this much tension in my upper body, and (b) was not writhing in agony at her efforts to release it.
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Jan 27th, 2010, 01:48 PM
  #31  
 
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therese, I don't do massages, except for Thai food massage. I'm not the massage type I guess. Now I know why... I would not be able to tolerate it all!!! AAARGH But I'm glad YOU can handle it...lol

There are many discussions here about attire in Bangkok. I agree, it's the tourists who wear the little tank tops for the most part, and not the Thai people. But, if you wander around to the local neighborhoods, you'll see much more casual dress. That's one reason why I like "living" at the Adelphi and knowing the people on the street, or a lot of them anyway, and they remember me as well. I am now very confortable in my knee-length denims or cottons, with a nice cotton top that covers my shoulders and a good portion of my arms (trying to avoid sun). Keep in mind that I am not in Bangkok for the tourist things, I'm there to shop in the many many markets (and to visit friends like Maeng).

Carol
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Jan 28th, 2010, 04:43 AM
  #32  
 
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This is an engrossing trip report; you sound so relaxed and observant, Therese, a perfect combination for travelling.

Carol, I have read several of your reports featuring marathon shopping. What do you do with all your purchases?
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Jan 28th, 2010, 05:51 AM
  #33  
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Thanks, tarquin, and to anybody else who is reading along. I'll try and post some more today.

I've been assuming that Carol either has very fortunate friends or operates her own retail enterprise here in the U.S.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 06:13 AM
  #34  
 
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"Retail enterprise"... you might call it that. But I also have fortunate friends, including my retired teacher friends, with whom I have lunch on a monthly basis.
Carol
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Jan 28th, 2010, 06:13 AM
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Oh... I don't do eBay.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 10:05 AM
  #36  
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Day 3: Second Fitting at Cotton House

I take a cab home from Health Land, this time getting stuck in traffic and consequently more than doubling my cab fare. Worth it for the show---as exciting as it all is from the sidewalk, it's even more fun from the confines of ones very own clean and air-conditioned cab. And the quiet time gives you time to muse on just how it is that the cars are all ding-free, and body parts do not litter the streets.

Quick shower and I'm off to Cotton House. Again, I'm asked if I'm okay to wait, and of course I am. There's a woman there trying on clothes ahead of me, and I find myself tempted to ask if I might know her from Fodor's: American, has lived and worked in Geneva of late and just recently moved to Manhattan. Long time user of Cotton House. They end up doing some last minute adjustments on an item for her, and we have tea, and eventually she's done and it's my turn.

The dresses are now essentially finished garments, complete with linings and finished seams, and if they fit I'd be done, but they don't and it would have been a surprise if they had. So all sorts of pinning and discussion of the bodice (which has a fairly deep V; I explain that this sort of neckline is entirely okay where I live) and finally I'm okay to leave, with a promise to return the next afternoon.

I walk home through the usual hustle and bustle of school children and a food vendors. It's starting to feel like home, and I'm getting very good at crossing the streets without fearing for my life.

Maybe I'll go out tonight. But where?
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Jan 28th, 2010, 01:17 PM
  #37  
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Day 3: One Night in Bangkok

Okay, so shoot me, but how can I not use the line when it's just sitting around waiting for me?

As a long-time solo female traveller I'll have to say that the one really significant issue is going out at night. Restaurants are fine---I don't mind eating alone too much (though I do mind it a little, and consequently tend to lose weight when I travel), as I've got something to do and nobody can say that somebody who is eating dinner is in any way being inappropriate. But going out on my own to a bar or music venue requires some careful thought: is it safe to be out alone at night in this particular town? Am I going to attract attention of the wrong sort? Am I going to be seen as an unsavory character?

Certain sorts of bars tend to be safer, so I got out my guidebook and cross-referenced it with web info (using my trusty iPhone and Centre Point Silom's free wifi) and decided on the Millenium Hilton, which features a rooftop bar called 360 (because it offers 360 degree views). Located across the river, it offered the additional advantage of being accessible by hotel ferry from the central pier (though I'd likely to have to keep an eye on the timing of the last boat).

So I changed into a dress and headed for the pier. The ride to the hotel was very nice (it's quite a ways up the river, actually) and the hotel itself is lovely: very Asian modern. You take an elevator up and then a flight of stairs up to the bar. I had my pick of tables (so either this place isn't very popular or it was either too early in the week or too early at night), with only four other parties in the whole place. Absolutely great view, and very comfy seating right up against the window. Signature drinks are 360 baht, which I guess is supposed to be expensive but is significantly less than I'd pay for a cocktail at an upmarket bar here in Atlanta.

Live music as well, a jazz band with a female soloist from Los Angeles. As she was singing "The Look of Love" it suddenly occurred to me that I was starring in the Bangkok version of "Lost in Translation." Except that sounds of depressing and this wasn't, just very low key.

I caught a boat back at about 10:15.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 03:04 PM
  #38  
 
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Therese, have you been to Sky Bar yet? I think you would also like that venue. 64 floors up. Outside. Live music.. it was also jazz last time I was there. Drinks expensive, so sip slowly and enjoy the view.

Makes me want to go back there right NOW!

Is Atlanta getting the ice storm that is moving across the central parts of the country? We dodged it this time as it is south of my location. Whew...
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Jan 28th, 2010, 07:07 PM
  #39  
 
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i went to 360 at mid day just to look around, and have wanted to go back but i never get there....glad you liked it....it has a fabulous vantage point...
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Jan 29th, 2010, 06:19 AM
  #40  
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More re Sky Bar anon.

We're getting some rain this afternoon, but the nasty storm is not predicted to have any impact here. Good news for the people at ATL.
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