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sept_honeymoon Aug 8th, 2005 05:58 AM

Trip Report - Bangkok and Phuket 7/31/05 - 8/8/05
 
This forum was such a fantastic resource in planning our trip to Bangkok and Phuket, I wanted to post our trip details in hopes that some of the information might be of help to others planning their own future trips. My husband would think it so much work but honestly, it’s like getting to relive the entire trip all over again so I’m happy to do it.

For context, we’re Americans living in Hong Kong for the next two years so our flight was out of Hong Kong. Our family owns a timeshare in Maui, which we traded for a week in Phuket, which is what this trip was built around – well, that, and as an early celebration of our 1st year anniversary.

Day 1: July 31

We had stayed up late the night before packing and going over last minute things but were bright eyed and bushy tailed for our 6:00 am taxi ride to the Hong Kong international airport. Boy, are the streets in Hong Kong empty that early in the morning! We managed to pack everything we needed for the next 13 days into two carry-on bags each. We don’t like to check baggage if we can help it but it dawned on us later – where would we put all the things we planned to buy? ;)

Using airmiles, we flew Business class on Cathay Pacific using on our way to Bangkok as First was full. It was lovely, although we felt a bit foolish acting like honeymooners among all the business travelers.

Upon landing, we went through Passport Control, through the ‘nothing-to-declare’ exit, and out to the left, where we found Ratt. She was standing on the right hand side of the walkway holding a sign with my name – just like she said she would be.

A quick bit about Ratt for those of you who haven’t yet met her. In a nutshell, she’s a huge woman in a very diminutive frame. She’s probably around 4’9” I’d guess? She has wiry black hair with just a few strands of white, and it was always pulled back when we saw her. She’s got incredible personality and is such resource for everything around Bangkok. In the car, I asked her if she ever went onto the forum to read all that’s said about her. She laughed and said she never has the time to but that one day she does hope to do that.

She took my luggage while my husband rolled his and led us to her yellow and green taxi, with a quick stop at an ATM machine. At first, we had a hard time with her thick accent but got used it quite quickly, to my surprise. She gave us lots of good information and suggestions on the way to the hotel. But as many folks on this forum have already said, be very firm about where you want to go and where you don’t want to go. It seems like she’d like to take you to everywhere if she could. In fact, in her car, she has two notebooks with information on the various activities that could keep one busy in and around Bangkok. We gave firm directions to take us straight to the hotel as we wanted to take it easy for our first day. Besides we had some jewels to shop for (yay!) and it took us two hours from the time we disembarked to when we finally got to our hotel anyway. The one-way trip with Ratt was 500B but she said we could pay her at the end of the next day. It would have been cheaper to just have found a random metered taxi from the airport ourselves but with Ratt, we didn’t have to hassle with that and since this was our first time in Bangkok, hiring her for the confidence it gave us was well worth the money. With agreement to meet out front the next morning at 7:00am, she left us at the Peninsula. Oh by the way, she can be quite a talker so for those of you who don’t like that or cranky from jet lag, it’s something to be aware of.

Our first impression of the hotel was everything we expected. An army of door attendants greeted and welcomed us. The lobby is of dark woods, cool air, and offers a calming feel. (The lobby restrooms near the entrance to Jesters Restaurant are quite nice too, although I still find it strange that toilet seat guards aren’t offered, even in such a nice hotel.)

We checked in and were asked if we’d like to upgrade from our Superior Room to a room with a better view for an extra $30 US a night. We politely declined – we wouldn’t be spending too much time looking out our windows anyway. Then oddly enough, to our pleasant surprise, they upgraded us for free anyway to a Deluxe Room on the 11th floor. We had a nice (although not prime) view of the river. And as Bob I think it was mentioned, it was quite nice watching the river come alive in the morning.

The room itself was larger than we expected and nice but not completely pristine. Unlike the lobby areas, the room did look a little bit aged. But not so much that it didn’t seem like 5-star hotel. Walking in the door, the bedroom and living areas with couch, coffee table and desk were off to the right. Looking out the windows there, you could see the pool, the river and city beyond. Straight in front of you was the “closet room” with a large padded bench for sitting or putting your luggage on. We placed our suitcases there. Also there was a large closet and vanity with hair dryer in the drawer. From the windows there, you could see the city and the driveway leading up to the hotel. Off to the left of the closet room was the bathroom. Again, larger than I expected with separate room for toilet on the right, glassed-in shower on the left, a sink on both sides and then the bathtub straight ahead. As others have said, this hotel is super modern with its technology. All lighting is managed by central control systems and there was a TV at the foot of the bathtub. And like others, we forgot to hit the “made up room” button as we left the next morning but somehow, our room always got made anyway. Maybe because we got in so late they made it up when they were turning down the room?

When we looked out the windows, we were surprised that the hotel wasn’t in a “nice” neighborhood. But we soon learned that Bangkok isn’t made up like Manhattan or Beverly Hills. You have a ton of small rises and local shops in the midst of 5-star resorts. And that’s part of its charm.

After we unpacked and made a snack of the fresh fruit left for us on our coffee table, we called SJ International, the jewelers that Kathie and many others have recommended. The car they sent arrived in 30 minutes and it took another 30 minutes to ride through traffic (and huge crowds of motorcycles!) before we got there. But it was worth it. We looked for about an hour to an hour and a half. Ms. Wanna taught us a bit about sapphires, which is what we were there for. We’d already done some research while we were still in the states and had a pretty good sense for what we were looking for and at what price. (Kathie, your original estimate of ¼ of retail at the nicer retailers in the Pacific NW was pretty spot on I think) Sapphires aren’t as straightforward as to what you’re buying as diamonds are because the grading isn’t consistent. So we just went with what we like and how much we were comfortable paying. We mixed and matched designs of two different rings for our own “custom” design and then picked out a matching bracelet. We felt good about the price we got given what we saw in the US (Pacific NW market). There was so much to choose from as far as stones and such, it took a little while. We mentioned that Kathie from Seattle referred us and although our particular saleswoman didn’t know the name, just mentioning a referral got us “the wholesale price.” From there, they weren’t willing to move anymore – but not for lack of us trying ;) They just kept saying we could never get this price back at home. We just got a ring and bracelet this time around but if the appraisals come back as I hope they will, we’ll definitely be back again. Oh, and they dealt with us using US dollar amounts.

After paying and the promise of getting the jewelry delivered to our hotel Saturday night (we were there on Wednesday and they needed a few days to make the ring and get the bracelet sized), they gave us a ride back to the Peninsula. We were so overwhelmed when we first got to SJ, we didn’t think to tip the driver who took us there. But we did think to on the way back – for any of you hesitant to tip, the ride is free so what’s a few dollars hurt?

It was about 3:00pm when we got back to the hotel and at the point we were starving. The breakfast, as fantastic as it was on the plane, couldn’t hold us until dinner. So we stopped at the lobby restaurant for the famous Peninsula High Tea. It was stellar. For 350B each, you get three plates of miniature tasty morsels and your choice of tea. Chris, my husband, opted for the Asian tea set with various tarts, custard, a Vietnamese salad roll, mango/tapioca dessert while I went with the traditional tea set with tea sandwiches, scones, and other pastries. There were 3 musicians playing a piano, sax and percussions during our meal, which combined with the lovely river view, made for a wonderful hour.

After tea, we decided it was time for a klong tour. I had packed our itinerary on the other days so this was really probably our only chance. So we went down to the Peninsula pier where the security guy hired a long tail boat for us for 400B. For the next hour and a half, he’d take us on some of the back canals in the area. We passed a lock going into the canal but we couldn’t figure out why they’d need one there. We passed quite a few people of all ages just hanging out by the canal – on bridges, outside of their homes built on precarious-looking pilings, along the banks with their fishing poles. Just about everyone smiled and waved – the kids especially seemed to like looking at us looking at them. A good many mugged for the camera. I wonder what they think of us taking pictures of them in their everyday life. The water seemed so dirty but they were fishing and even swimming in it anyway. Do people eat the fish in that water? Or just fish for fun? And despite how desolate we found many of their homes along the klong, so many of them had the flashing light of a TV inside and we saw a few satellite dishes too. Of course we also passed a great many temples. Our boat pilot said they’re just everywhere. Two great moments – we passed a little 5-year old dancing queen just shakin’ her booty for us as we passed – she could be a backup dancer for J-Lo someday; and when our long tail guide yelled out “crocodile, crocodile” just to laugh as we peered over the edge at the creature swimming towards the boat. He might have had fun with his little joke on us but we just as much loved seeing the gigantic lizard in the water. Coming back out of the canal to the river, we passed the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters, which was impressive, and the Temple of the Dawn, which was even more so. In the end, we gave the boat guy 500B because it was such a great experience. We’ll definitely do that again the next time we’re in Bangkok.

We were just exhausted – from the traveling, the shopping, the heat and humidity and our own excitement – so despite our desire to try one of the restaurants highly recommended by this forum, we went back to our room, had a bubble bath while watch TV in the tub (what fun that is!) and ordered room service. Usually, we try not to do that because 1) it’s so expensive and 2) we like to get out to try real local restaurants… but the local fare on the room service menu was so reasonable (not in general Thailand standards but from what we’re used to) we couldn’t think of a reason not to eat in bed. So we ordered some Phad Thai, some Spicy Thai Beef Salad (I can’t think of the Thai name for it) and chowed down. It was about 750B after service charge and VAT. We hit the sack early because we were getting up at the crack of down to meet Ratt. We wanted to get an early jump at the Floating Market before the crowds and heat set in.

Now I’m off to bed. Day 2 to come tomorrow night and the rest to come over the period of the next week. Lots to catch up on at work now :(

sept_honeymoon Aug 8th, 2005 06:02 AM

Oh - I also should have added that we were prepared for it to be the rainy season but overall, felt that we lucked out. This first day, it was sunny with some clouds throughout the day but as we were coming in from our klong tour, clouds started coming in and you could smell that rain was going to come. But we were inside the rest of the night and didn't notice if it actually did.

Craig Aug 8th, 2005 06:44 AM

This is great - sounds like you are doing many of the things we plan to do on our second trip to Bangkok next February. Keep it coming...

glorialf Aug 8th, 2005 06:47 AM

Your description of Ratt is perfect. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

Kathie Aug 8th, 2005 06:53 AM

It sounds great, makes me wish I was in Bangkok now! I'm always delighted to hear from people who got the wholesale price from SJ by using my name - I'm glad to help.

Gpanda Aug 8th, 2005 06:56 AM

Youi're exactly right. Writing and reading trip reports, brings back strong memories and creates new possibilities. Thanks.

patsey73 Aug 8th, 2005 07:29 AM

Really enjoyed reading your report and can't wait for the next instalment.

The jewellers sound interesting. We are off to BBK in October and I'd really like to some diamond earrings but scarred about the quality. I will have to post jewellers.

Thanks for sharing your 1st day.



simpsonc510 Aug 8th, 2005 09:03 AM

Thanks for the great report. It sounds like you are becoming BKK lovers, like so many of us here. I look forward to your next installment.
Carol

laurieco Aug 8th, 2005 11:19 AM

Glad you had such a good time in BKK. I'm looking forward to the rest of your report. As others have said, reading it makes me "homesick" for BKK, and for the Peninsula, my absolute favorite hotel in the world. I CANNOT WAIT to return next Spring!!

rhkkmk Aug 8th, 2005 07:21 PM

i am enjoying reliving this with you...so far it sounds perfect....i knew you would like the penn....

can you tell us what type of things seemed frayed in the rooms?? i suppose it is about time for a re-do as the hotel has been open about 5-7 years now i think...

i agree that you have pegged ratt perfectly...she is a gem and dynamo...

looking forward to the next installment...!!!
bob

sept_honeymoon Aug 8th, 2005 08:36 PM

patsey73 -- on your note about wanting diamond earings... Bangkok is probably not the place to get these... it's sapphires and rubies that you'll find the deals on because they're mined in the area. Now my ring and bracelet did have little diamonds in them but I wouldn't ever go there for a steal on diamonds. In fact, on the ring, I had larger triangular-shaped side diamonds replaced with 3 smaller ones, which cut the price of the ring fairly significanlty. Maybe others with more experience can chime in here but if you're in the US, I'd recommend a good ol' diamond broker (which is where we got the stone for my engagement ring).

Bob -- about the Penn - yes we loved it. And it wasn't that anything was frayed, really. It was an overall feeling that the furniture was older - especially the things there were upholstered like couch and chair - although don't get me wrong, nothing was OLD; the carpets didn't feel new or lush - they were absolutely clean and fine but just not pristine; the curtains didn't see "fresh," if that makes sense. Oh and here's an interesting thing - we were on the 11th floor, which had a lobby/hallway that was accented in dark woods... on a trip down the elevator, someone stopped at a lower floor (mabye to visit another room) and we noticed light carpets and walls. So maybe the higher you go in floors, the nicer it gets? We didn't take the time to investigate it further though but maybe someone else has noticed something similar and can chime in.

sept_honeymoon Aug 9th, 2005 05:59 AM

Day 2: July 28

So I totally had our dates wrong. Our first day in Bangkok was July 27th not July 31st. Sorry for the confusion! Anyway, on with day 2¡K

We got up at 6am and ordered breakfast to go from the Peninsula room service. I had the smoked salmon and capers on a bagel and Chris had the two croissants with ham, cheese and egg. With a double espresso (which was actually more like a small pot of espresso), it came to less than 1000B including vat and service charge. Unfortunately, we couldn¡¦t find a good deal on the Peninsula that included breakfast but I hear their complimentary breakfast boxes are fantastic if you do get it included. We ate in the car and both were good but once we¡¦d get to the floating market, I¡¦d regret having already eaten. More on that later.

Ratt was in the lobby waiting when we got there at 7am on the dot. She¡¦s consistent in that way ¡V always a bit early. We got on the road and at 7am, unlike Hong Kong, Bangkok was already bustling. Once we got out of inner city traffic and started cruising towards the Floating Market, Ratt popped in a ¡§Kenny Rogers Sings the Hits¡¨ tape. What a riot¡K the whole way there, we listened to Kenny sing cover songs. I wonder if that¡¦s what Ratt thinks Americans like to hear¡K ƒº Well, we enjoyed it! Along the way, we passed salt farms, busses stuffed with people ¡V they were even standing and hanging off the back ¡V and could see a glimpse of the sea. Ratt made sure she pointed things out as we drove along. I fell asleep; as I always do once I get into a car, and woke up as the car rolled to a stop.

She had pulled up at a coconut manufacturing ¡§facility.¡¨ It really just looked like a family home that happened to have a ton (probably literally) of coconuts piled up all over the yard. This was one of the coolest things we did (who am I kidding? There were so many cool things on this trip!). We walked down the driveway looking at the piles and piles of coconut while Ratt found the people and asked if we could look around. She explained how they prepped the coconuts that would eventually be sold to the markets. One guy was standing over this tall spiked pole in the ground and pushing fresh coconuts onto the spike to peel away the outer husk. It looked like back breaking work but he processed those coconuts really quickly. Then, we walked around to the area along a little canal (or stream, really) where the rest of the family was. The one who looked to be the son was cutting the coconuts open and draining all the water out. Then the one who looked to be the grandfather was using this hard-core metal peeler to peel off the brown coconut skin, leaving the glistening white meat. The mom was just watching at that point, as were the dogs and chickens that were running everywhere. They seemed to love having their picture taken and we chatted a bit about where we were from, using Ratt as an interpreter. Like the many Thai people we encountered, they were welcoming and the friendliest people. They had just gotten started that morning so we really lucked out coming across them when we did. What a lovely family and a great experience. I felt like that with them, we were actually seeing the essence of Thailand that the tourist attractions we were focusing on during our few days in Bangkok just couldn¡¦t capture.

From there, we headed to the Floating Market, and got there just past 8am. When we woke up that morning, it was cloudy and looking like rain was possible. But when we got to the market, the skies had cleared and it was sunny. It was quiet when we got there and we drove past all the people calling and waving at us to rent boats from them. Ratt took us further back down the road and hired us a boat and paddler (she oared the boat from the back like you¡¦d see in Venice so I wasn¡¦t sure what to call her?) for 400B. I¡¦m so happy we weren¡¦t one of the tourists that hired a long tail boat for this; they were so noisy. We got in the boat and when Ratt joined us, this is when I¡¦d come to regret getting breakfast to go from the Peninsula.

I think it was Bob who mentioned that Ratt gets her breakfast on the water¡K I should have taken note. She had us paddled just to the other side of the water from where we were docked and bought two bowls of noodles from a little woman vendor in her own boat. One was soup-based noodles and the other was stir-fried. And they were just 10B each. When we do the Floating Market again, I¡¦m not eating breakfast and instead, will wait to have the bowl of noodle soup with Ratt!!

With her breakfast in hand, she directed the paddler to begin taking us down the canal and into the market. At 8:30, there it was quiet and we passed just one or two other boats. There was lots of ¡§junk,¡¨ which means fun tourist things to buy like wooden elephant heads, almost creepy looking Thai puppets (Pinocchio-style with the strings), wooden frogs that reminded me a lot like the wooden armadillos you can get in Texas (you know, you rake a stick along it¡¦s back and it makes noise? The frogs make a noise like, well, a frog. I just thought this was too cute but they have these all over Bangkok). I was surprised to see they had fake handbags too but Ratt said not to buy them there. I¡¦d agree, we ended up seeing pretty decent-looking ones at the Patpong night market later.

We stopped and got out of a boat at this mini-market. We knew not to really buy anything at the market (thanks to Bob and Ratt¡¦s advice) but of course felt like we should buy _something_ so we bought some coconut sugar. We watched them make it by boiling off coconut water ¡V very cool. However, we¡¦ve since used it when we got home and found that there are little pieces of bees trapped in it - ew. Bees were flocking to the contraption where they were boiling off the water so some just have gotten trapped in the end product.

She also showed us the new house of the owner of the market and explained that with Thai houses, they build them a bit slanted so that the wind would flow better over them. Not sure what I make of that but it was fun to hear. And I didn¡¦t realize that someone owned the whole ¡§market¡¨ but I guess that would kind of make sense. Many of the vendors are actually on land along the banks of the canal would need to rent the space from someone.

Like for others, Ratt bought us various foods from the vendors. I think this is a mix of giving us a taste of her country as well as kind of showing support for her local people. I love that about her. She got some pomelo, sort of a very large and less bitter grapefruit, and my favorite ¡V a small roasted coconuts for each of us. I¡¦ve had lots of fresh coconuts but these roasted ones offer sweeter and more flavorful juice. Once you¡¦ve drank that down, you can peel all the meet off in one piece. Highly recommend you try this if you like coconut.

Once we had our fill and started heading back, the water was jam packed with boats. Loud long tail boats full of tourists and not as many privately hired ones with just a couple of people. We played bumper boats with several boats on our way back to our starting point.

We got out of the boat and Ratt, who had bought some groceries for herself, carried everything to the car. We didn¡¦t realize that people had taken pictures of us when we first got in the boat but they did and as we were walking to the car, they tried to sell us our picture glued onto little souvenir plates. We declined.

Ratt had us walk to the bridge over the canal for a good photo opp. She had noticed right away that my husband is a photography hound and continued to point him towards things she thought he¡¦d like to take pictures of. At this point, it was getting HOT and we were glad to be getting out of there. When we walked back to the car she had everything loaded up and a little cooler of water and soft drinks waiting for us. What an endearing practice that is!

We drove out as throngs of tourists continued to flood in (I¡¦m glad this forum doesn¡¦t get more traffic if it means we get little secrets like early mornings at the Floating Market). From there, taking another cue from Bob, we stopped at the Handicraft Store. We were worried we wouldn¡¦t have time for it but of course, Ratt assured us we did.

Wow, we¡¦re so glad we stopped. We saw 15 ¡V 20 Thai craftsmen chisel away at large pieces of wood (teak) producing highly intricate art and furniture. Ratt told us that each person makes 15,000B per month and showed us one 6 foot-long piece of art that two people were working on simultaneously. It would take them 6 months of finalize their work. We weren¡¦t in the market for a $3000 piece but did look around to see what they had to offer in their retail store. We passed some incredible wood furniture that we would love to be in the market for someday (there was a beautiful teak screen that I'd love to get my hands on but sadly, not in our budget for this trip) and then found our little wooden lady.

We found her in the shop that offers the smaller crafts. She¡¦s a two-food tall statue of what the saleswoman called a Thai ¡§angle¡¨ but I think she meant a goddess. She¡¦s made from solid teak, has traditional headpiece and dress and is playing a flute. We paid 6000B for her and are so happy with this purchase after seeing how much each craftsman puts into his or her work. I don¡¦t know if she¡¦s ¡§worth¡¨ a thing but we just thought she was beautiful. If you¡¦re interested in Thai wood crafts or furniture, I¡¦d highly recommend this place. They have lots of ¡§junk¡¨ too so you should go with some sense of what you¡¦d like or at least knowing what kind of stuff can be purchased at any vendor at a tourist site.

Leaving the Handicraft Store, it was about 11:00. Against people¡¦s advice on this forum, we then headed for Tiger Canyon at the Monastery about 2 hours south of the Floating Market. Some friends of ours had been and said what a great experience it was and as crazy cat people, we just had to go. Because she said the cats don¡¦t come out until 2:30pm, Ratt suggested we stop at this War History museum close to the bridge over River Kwai. We did; it cost us 30B each and I¡¦d skip it, unless you¡¦re a huge war buff. It was just depressing and really, not too interesting. Just lots of newspaper articles, and gruesome pictures and paintings.

However, after this, Ratt took us to the actual Bridge over River Kwai. While the bridge itself wasn¡¦t too interesting for us the Floating Restaurant Ratt directed us to for lunch was fabulous. In fact, we thought it was the best meal we had in while Bangkok. It fit our tastes ¡V highly highly spice and very flavorful. The soup had more herbs than soup in it! We had banana blossom and prawn salad for 65B, hot and spicy king prawn soup for 100B, fried noodles with pork for 65B. If you go here and don¡¦t like it too spicy, be sure you tell them. Unlike other Thai restaurants we¡¦d been used to, they didn¡¦t ask us how spicy we wanted it. They just served it hot. It¡¦s a good thing we like it that way ƒº We then cooled down with ice cream and fruit. With bottled water, the total for the whole meal was 369B and we were stuffed full.

When we were finishing dessert, Ratt popped up with a bag of fish food. She wanted us to try feeding the fish in the river. Kids would love this I think. They just swarm around the floating restaurant whenever you¡¦d throw out the food. Afterwards, we headed back to the car and although Ratt wanted to take us to one more place, we directed her straight to the Tiger Temple.

We got there at 2pm and as we got into the area, it started to pour. I mean really pour. We didn¡¦t think to bring the umbrellas that the hotel provided for us so it was a good thing Ratt had a couple in the car. Despite the monsoon, we were determined to see the tigers so we made the required donation of 200B each, and threw in another 100B and ventured in. I was a bit bummed that the cats really were let out at 1pm and we could have skipped that boring ¡§museum.¡¨

It wasn¡¦t quite what I expected at first. You walk through this gate and up a gravel path. They don¡¦t really tell you where to go. But we had met two young, obnoxious brothers ¡§from Cali¡¨ and followed them. Walking up the path a ways (getting soaked to the skin in the sideways rain) there is a turnoff you can take to the right. We followed the Cali brothers and after turning right, to the immediate left, you¡¦ll see a sign for Tiger Canyon. There¡¦s a warning that you will be responsible for choosing to come into contact with wild animals. That made us a bit nervous.

But then you start walking down the hill into the canyon ¡V yes it¡¦s a real canyon and when you come around the corner, you see a bunch of tigers. It was amazing. I really enjoyed ¡V even in the rain. I don¡¦t know if anyone here has seen the Discovery or Travel Channel show on the Tiger Temple but the monk featured on the show was there (he¡¦s the head of the monastery) as was the woman researcher from New Zealand. She was the one who told us that the rain agitates the tigers and gets them a bit more active. Clearly ¡V the younger ones were frolicking in the huge pond that had collected from the rain water at the end of the canyon. They were chasing each other and jumping in the water, just having a ball. The older ones were chained to the ground and being attended to by volunteers. It¡¦s a good thing because they were feeling active and the only thing separating the tigers from us was a barrier of a single red rope and the bottles of water that the monks use to discipline the tigers. The littler tigers weren¡¦t tied to anything.

We watched them for a while and the rain let up. Then we were allowed in one at a time to see the tigers up close. It really was a great experience. They were just big wet cats but being so close to them in their sheer size a bit breathtaking. The volunteers took our pictures with the big cats and with that done, we headed out. On our way back down, we fed an old, decrepit deer some little green bananas we had bought for just this purpose on our way in. The deer was high maintenance though because it wouldn¡¦t eat it them whole. We had to peel them for him and he¡¦d eat out of our hands. It was a sweet old thing.

We had pretty much dried at that point (except our tennis shoes) and we prepared ourselves for the long ride home. It took over 3 hours to get home, which was the worst part of the trip. I would definitely only recommend going to this length to see the tigers if you¡¦re certain it¡¦s something you¡¦re just dying to do. We just happened to fall into this category.

We were with Ratt for over 10 hours that day so she charged us for the extra hours as well as the gas since the trip was outside of Bangkok. The total for that day and the airport ride the day before was $4100B.

We got back to the hotel too late and too exhausted to go see a Muay Thai boxing match as planned. So instead, we went inside, cleaned up and headed out to try Bob¡¦s new favorite restaurant, Tongue Thai. We went down to the Peninsula Pier and took their boat to the Oriental Pier. From there, made the short walk to Tongue Thai. The restaurant was empty, which always makes me a tad nervous, but we were sticking it out. It was a nicely decorated place and peaceful. We ordered the spicy papaya salad with blue crab, jungle curry with pork, tom kai gai soup, a thai iced tea for me and bottled water for Chris. Total for all of it came to 700B.

I hate to say this but we were disappointed with our dishes. I¡¦m sure Bob will ask why so here goes ƒº Perhaps we just have different tastes and preferences but we didn¡¦t think the food was very flavorful and actually found it pretty bland. Not just because it didn¡¦t come spicy as we had asked but it wasn¡¦t as full of herbs and flavor as the food at the Floating Restaurant (or the Peninsula). The papaya salad was pretty good itself but the blue crab that came with it was over-salted, which was disappointing. I couldn¡¦t even eat it. The others weren¡¦t bad necessarily but we just didn¡¦t think they were anything to write home about. Also, I think that we were the only ones in the place affected our experience. Their staff kind of just stood there and watched us while we ate, which made me a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps an off night or we just have different preferences. I¡¦ll be interested to hear what others think though. I¡¦d be willing to try it again of raves keep coming in.

After our dinner, we took a tuk tuk (overpaid at 100B) from the main street near the restaurant to the Patpong night market. This was fun! We looked at all the imitations thises and that¡¦s. I was almost talked into buying an imitation Louis Vutton handbag but wasn't convinced. We walked by a good deal of solicitations for sex shows. My goal was to find closed toe and heel shoes for the palace the next day. Ratt said I couldn¡¦t go in my open toed sandals (she also said I couldn¡¦t where my cropped pants so a skirt would have to do). I bought a pair of imitation Diesel shoes for 1000B (again, probably over paid) and we headed home. We stopped at a street vendor to by a pair of flip flops I could wear to the pool in Phuket along the way for 100B.

We took another tuk tuk back to the Oriental Pier. He wanted to charge us 300B and I think he even felt he got us for 100B. We probably should have paid 50B. It¡¦s such a short distance. But it was just a couple of dollars and we have fun riding in them. They¡¦re crazy drivers, which I think is exciting if you¡¦re not going too far.

Took the Pen boat back to the hotel from the Oriental Pier and went to bed early enough to meet Ratt at 8am the next morning. Day 3 coming tomorrow¡K

simpsonc510 Aug 9th, 2005 06:50 AM

Keep the report coming! I read with interest about Tongue Thai because I want to try the place when I go to BKK next month. (Bob's recommendation)

I wonder from others, if this is Rat's usual rate. Seems pretty high. We have a driver for the entire day (usually about 10-12 hours) in Chiang Mai and pay 1000baht/day total.

Funny you should mention the frogs. I've been to the frog factory in Chiang Mai.

Carol

rhkkmk Aug 9th, 2005 07:00 AM

my main experience with diamonds for the person who asked was with 1/2 K each princess cut, square, studs...we paid $1900 last year and the comparable in the usa were about $3000 from web sites...these were VS, color IJ...generally diamonds are not the stone to save on in thailand...it would be saphires and other semi-precious stones, especially saphires which by the way come in many colors...

rhkkmk Aug 9th, 2005 07:04 AM

sept---i think our first stay was also on the 11th...in any case on the floor we were on there are two of the more important suites...the woods in the public areas seemed a grade above normal...

is it that the furniture was just traditional stuff rather than the more modern stuff that you kids buy for your homes today, ie. legs covered in cloth---huge over stuffed sofas and chairs----leather???? that might make the difference....

Gpanda Aug 9th, 2005 07:08 AM

Your attention to detail is Bob-esque. Thanks. Sorry you did not like Tongue Thai. Bob actually went there at my recommendation (irrelevant). Knowing Bob, there's little he would have liked better than finding one of my recommendations wanting. We've eaten there three times and enjoyed every meal. There were always some other people in the restaurant, but it was never crowded.

rhkkmk Aug 9th, 2005 07:36 AM

strangely we also paid ratt exactly 4100 but we had her for 13 hours and i gave her almost a 800 B tip...she is 220 B per hour plus 1B per Kilometer and we went 450 that day...base price was about 3300 plus the 800..

sorry you did not like tongue thai...we love it...the food was plenty spicy for us and they asked us how spicy we would want it..we went back twice and can't wait to go again...
on thing i have learned about restaurants around the world is that what is perfect for one person is a disaster for another person...to each his own....i like having guidance but it has not always worked out for me and i guess you had a bad experience with tongue thai...it will be interesting how others react...
the staff stood by the side of the room while we were there too...in boston this is the way a good staff acts, so maybe where you are from this is not the norm....they are there so if you need something they can get it immediately...you have no waiting...

i hope you had some other good eating experiences however...

we also ate at that floating restaurant...it was ok...i think we only had pad thai as we were a bit leery about its quality and cleanliness....you are far more venturesome than are we...for instance we would never eat that soup at the floating market...we are all different..

I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT...

sept_honeymoon Aug 9th, 2005 08:17 AM

Regarding Ratt's rates, her ratservice.com website says: Full day “for myself will be 2,500 Baht/10 hours, for O/T 250 Baht per hour. Half day 1,800 Baht. If charge for hour will be 500 Baht an hour around the city out off city charge more for gasoline." So we had her for the one-way airport trip to the hotel for 500B. Then a full day on day two for 2500B. An extra 500B for an extra 2 hours over the 10 hour limit for a full day. Plus 600B for gas as out trip was outside of Bangkok. So that 4100B for all of that seems right to me, according to her "official" rates. But I'm not sure how consistent she is using that. We didn't tip her on that second day but at the end of day 3.

On the furniture at the Pen: i think it's just that cloth can quickly show wear and tear - especially in high traffic areas like a hotel. If they haven't been replaced since they've been open, it might just about be due for new carpets, curtains and reupholster the couch. And even though we may be young(er) we have never bought a couch with cloth-covered legs (not that we’ve bought many couches). ;) Our couches are microfiber with wood legs! And actually, besides these specific things I mention, everything else, especially the bathroom and wood, still seemed pristine.

On Tongue Thai: it wasn’t that it was bad; we just didn’t think it was great :) -- but you're spot on in that I think it's a matter of personal taste. Agree with you that you can only take advice knowing that preferences will differ and I think this is such a case. We probably are a bit more adventurous and I didn't hesitate to eat from street vendors as long as their product was cooked. Hence probably why we liked the floating restaurant and you didn’t, although my husband was a teeny bit weary, until we started eating ;) About the waiters, you’re probably right about what we’re used to… We’re from the West Coast where things do tend to be more casual so for us, the watching us was a bit awkward. We definitely were able to get their attention when we wanted it – though we never had any trouble with service at all in Thailand. Not that we’re experts but the service wasn’t anything we’d ever experienced before… just stellar all around! (Except taxi drivers but I’ll rant about that later)

sept_honeymoon Aug 9th, 2005 08:22 AM

By the way, my report is probably bob-esque because I read and copied and pasted so many of his during my research! Although Kathie, Carol, laurie and gpanda, I've certainly taken plenty of text from you guys as well. You should see the files I have on my computer.

laurieco Aug 9th, 2005 01:16 PM

Love your report! I'm planning on trying Tongue Thai next Spring wehen we return to BKK, but I'm glad to hear a different take on it. I now know to ask for the food to be very spicey, which is how we like it.

I'm also a huge cat lover and would perhaps like to see the tigers but my concern is, are they in any way mistreated? It would kill me to see that and really put me in a bad mood as I'm a very very big animal lover. When I went to the circus in Moscow, I left in tears because I was so upset with how the animals were used.

I'm so pleased that you find our posts helpful. I also have a few files that I cut and paste things in--a great way to have all the info handy.


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