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Trip Report - Bangkok and Phuket 7/31/05 - 8/8/05

Trip Report - Bangkok and Phuket 7/31/05 - 8/8/05

Aug 9th, 2005, 01:21 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Laurie-- I'm also a big animal lover (although I'm more a dog than a cat person) and as a result avoid all the animal places including most zoos. One BIG exception is the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang near Chiang Mai. It's a must do for animal lovers.
glorialf is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 02:15 PM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
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Wow second day report was just as good as your first. Loved reading it.

Thanks for the tip on the stones (Bob you as well). I love diamonds - well don't all women. My second fav is sapphires so I think if I can get a nice pair of sapphire studs in white gold or paltinum I will be happy. I am actually in the UK and think for diamonds I will stick to my guy in hatton garden who we got my engagement and wedding ring from. When I tell hubby about how great the sapphires are I think he'll be going a lighter shad of pale!!!

Look forward to reading day 3's report.
patsey73 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 02:32 PM
  #23  
 
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Gloria, I KNEW I had to give Chiang Mai another chance! I would love to go the elephant conservation center. I'm just not sure we can fit CM into the next trip to Thailand. We do plan on going to the Golden Triangle and staying at the Anatara. Is there anything like that there?
laurieco is online now  
Aug 9th, 2005, 03:18 PM
  #24  
 
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laurie, the Anantara has it's own small elephant rehab center on the grounds. You can walk down and visit the elephants, you can bathe an elephant, you can even do mahout training! The guy who runs the center is great (John, I think his name is) and can be very helpful in deciding what you might want to do with the elephants.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 03:49 PM
  #25  
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So glad you're enjoying the reports. It's fun writing them; my husband and I sit and talk about our trip and I type away!

Laurie, about the Tiger Temple, I really don't think they are mistreated at all - quite the opposite actually since they are taken care of by Buddhist Monks. Buddhists as I'm sure you know, are highly caring of other animals in the case that they come back as one. The "Tiger Temple" started when people started bringing abandoned or injured animals for the monks to take care of. Other animals started showing up on their own. Then people started bringing tigers. Right now there are 17 tigers with almost half of them being cubs that were born there. At first the monks didn't allow tourists in but they figured out that with donations from all of us, they could build a natural sactuary for all of their wild animals, including the animals. You can read more about the monks and their work with the animals here: http://www.tigertemple.org/Eng/How_did.htm. What I love is that they don't use any weapons of any kind to "tame" the tigers. Just a bottle of water - how that works, I have no idea. The "head" monk is just so darn cute. YOu can tell he loves his tigers. And I full-heartedly agree with you on the zoo factor... as you'll read later in my report, our trip to the weekend market got depressing for me when I saw little baby dogs sold... I say baby dogs because they looked too young to be away from their mother and it was too sad.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 04:58 PM
  #26  
 
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Kathie, I'll most definiately check out the Anatara's elephant rehab center, it sounds great. I really like elephants, they are such nice animals and the little ones are soooo cute!

Sept, I'm glad to hear that the animals are well treated and taken care of. You're right, I couldn't imagine a monk mistreating an animal. I know what you mean about the weekend market. Whenever we go there, we avoid the animal section like the plague. Years ago, on our first trip to BKK and the weekend market, we happened upon the animal section and it really bummed me out. I couldn't stand to see it. Now I make sure we NEVER go near it. Peole have accused me of liking animals better than people. They're probably right ;-)
laurieco is online now  
Aug 9th, 2005, 05:50 PM
  #27  
 
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Laurie-- I'm with you! My friends say they want to reborn as one of my dogs.
glorialf is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:30 PM
  #28  
 
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Son says the first time he went to Pattaya (years ago) there was a baby elephant romping on the beach, like a puppy, pushing people into the water!! What fun!! (although i guess one could get hurt... but no one did)
Wish i could have seen it.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:46 PM
  #29  
 
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rat has substantially changed her pricing then...interesting...several of us have been quoting 225 B per hour, plus, for outside bkk, and that is wrong now...

our issue with food is not always the food itself...it is often the utensils, the cleaning of pots and pans, etc....we have just seen so much in asia that turns us off....we cannot give up one minute of our vacations to bathroom visits....we did eat a coconut muffin type thing that ratt bought for us at the floating market from one of the boats but we told ourselves never to do it again...my wife is a nurse and is keen to keep us away from things which might be questionable....i guess we are timid and scardy-cats....we do keep healthy however...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:51 PM
  #30  
 
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Ratt told me in January that she was going to have to change her pricing because people were reserving her for the day and then only using her for a few hours and since she was charging by the hour she was losing out since she wasn't able to book anyone else. She told me that because the one day I ended up using her for only half the day I paid her for 8 hours rather than 4 and she told me no one ever did that. I actually was the one who suggested that she might want to have day rates so if someone booked her for the day that would be what they would pay no matter how long they spent with her.
glorialf is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:52 PM
  #31  
 
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patsey...you probably will not find platinum everywhere in thailand...our jeweler does not have it at all...

white gold everyplace..

you can get studs for as cheap as $40 and we have paid as much as $450 for large stones and elaborate yellow 18K settings....the ones i like the best are the green saphires we bought a couple of years ago....the blues are very nice too...

resetting of rings, etc is very cheap in thailand as well...they will also duplicate an earing you have lost the mate to as well for very cheap...replace saphires that are worn in rings etc for a song...they will also grind down the face of a stone and make it look like new...we have had that done to a garnet twice...my wife bangs the heck out of it on hospital beds every day....(i had her committed for saying i could not go to thailand every year)....
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:59 PM
  #32  
 
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laurie---the anantara elephant camp is very nice and is a part of the programs offered at the anantara...it used to be listed on their web-site...they had 5 elephants when we were there last spring ('04)....
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 09:49 PM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Hi, Great report. We also did the same tour with Ratt, on August 1st and 4100 baht was also charged. Regarding the Tiger Temple, we got there at the same time that the Abbott walked the tigers down to the quarry and I must say that it was obvious the tigers were drugged. They were having a lot of trouble coordinating their back legs. When they were finally in position at the quarry they hardly ever opened their eyes for more than a few seconds. The Tiger Temple experience was awesome and I am sure that the Abbott looks after all the tigers, however you can't expect to be patting a wild animal and the tigers not to be sedated.
I was told before we went about the drugging of the tigers and I didn't want to believe it, however I have seen it for myself and now I have to agree. We were also told that the bottles of water you spoke about were actually urine, to mark the territory around the tiger. I'm not 100% sure but the liquid did have a yellow type colour to it. Keep up the great report, your trip so far has been very similar, except we stayed accross the water at The Shangri-La.
Czardas is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 10:54 PM
  #34  
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Thanks for the kind words Czardas. I find it so strange and pretty disconcerting about the tigers being drugged. The tigers were so active and playing in the water at the back of the canyon, I didn't get the same impression at all. They literlly looked like a bunch of kittens (but bigger of course) running around and rolling over each other and making kitten play noises. Now you have me curious/concerned though I didn't notice any yellow in the water bottles we saw being used. Could have been diluted maybe?
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 01:44 AM
  #35  
 
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I don't believe the young ones (2 years old) were drugged, as they had no problem walking to the quarry. The cubs at all times seemed alert and playful. When we went the four cubs all lounged around on the large rock and changed positions constantly. My husband has a fantastic photo of himself and these happy cubs. However i have video footage of the large tigers really struggling to walk to the quarry. It was a slow trip and they kept wanting to sit down and the back legs just didn't coordinate in a normal walking motion properly. It immediatley brought back memories of my dog being groggy after an operation at the vets. As I mentioned, I had been warned on another forum and I did not want to believe it was true. I just thought it was talk etc. but I had to walk away agreeing. If I hadn't seen the tigers go down to the quarry, I would of thought everything was normal. I still think that it was a wonderful experience but I feel a bit guilty that this is happening for our personal enjoyment.
Czardas is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 04:20 AM
  #36  
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Unfortunately, guilt is the right word to use Am I being too hopeful to think that maybe there's a better reason for the monks to do that just to bring in tourists? Otherwise, I'd be so disappointed with them.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 04:32 AM
  #37  
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Day 3 – July 29
We woke up at 7am and had a quick room service breakfast of Thai noodle soup for me and an egg white omelet for my husband. You see, when he doesn’t get up early enough, I order healthy for him At Ratt’s advice, we met her at the Peninsula Lounge across the river from the hotel itself (The Peninsula is located on the west side of the Chao Phraya River while the Palace and Wats we’d be visiting that day are on the east side). For those of you who haven’t been to the Peninsula yet, this hotel is in a little bit less convenient location on the west or “other” side of the river (opposite the Oriental, Shangri-La, sky train, shopping hot spots, etc, which are on the east side.) so they have a little lounge/lobby on the east or “right” side of the river and a free water taxi to get you there. This particular section of the river runs north/south

So after breakfast, we went down to the pier and took the Peninsula boat to the Pen Lounge. As we should have expected, there was Ratt standing by the security guard right on the pier as we approached. She’s always just a tad earlier than you, even if you’re a tad earlier than you were supposed to be.

First stop was the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, which is located on Palace grounds. On our way, she asked us if we’d like to hire a human guide for 400B or buy audio ones for 80B. We decided to stick to a real person. So she picked up her cell phone and made some calls. When we pulled up front at the Palace, Sooti was waiting for us. (I don’t know if that’s how he spells his name but that’s my phonetically-created version.) Sooti was awesome. He was a taller, handsome and graceful man that we found to be well-informed, literate, patient and spoke great English. After a quick stop at the restroom, we bought our tickets (at 400B each) and went in. The price of the tickets into the Palace included tickets for a coin museum on the premises and tickets to the teak mansion.

Although Ratt had told me no shorts or open toed shoes, I saw plenty around me. I did feel better in my skirt and newly purchased fake Diesel shoes, however hot it was, because I got the sense that I was respecting the traditional Thai culture – and I think that’s what Ratt wanted as well.

We thought there might be chance of rain so we brought the umbrellas provided by the Peninsula. It never did rain but we made good use of the umbrellas anyway because it got sunny and H-O-T. We were able to shade ourselves whenever we weren’t inside a building.

We really enjoyed our tour and education of the Palace. We learned a ton about Thai history (didn’t know it was the only country to remain independent while it’s neighbors were all being colonial zed and we learned what strategies the King had put in place to ensure it). Although Sooti told us he wasn’t a religious man, he told us a bit about Buddhism and how it’s reflected through the Palace and Temple. At first glance, all the colors and gold seemed tacky and gaudy to me. But the more I learned about the place and it’s history, the more I came to realize that all the detail and craftsmanship simply reflected the respect and devotion of the Thai people for what they believe in. It was one of those moments where I fell in love with the place.

Of course, after parking, Ratt popped up in the middle of our tour with a cooler of water. We had bought a bottle before going in but she said it wasn’t cold enough and swapped it out for a bottle she had previously frozen. What a gal. She then carried the cooler, my husband’s camera bag, her umbrella and ours when we weren’t using them. How does such a little woman carry all that stuff??

We left Sooti at the end of the tour and I’m horrified to say: I forgot to tip him. I was to used to the practice of not really tipping at this point. So, to partially make up for it, if you’re in need of a guide at the Palace, please ask Ratt to call him. He pretty much stands outside all day long trying to sell his services because, as Ratt told us, there’s another woman who pretty much controls the market on Palace guides. If Sooti can get business outside the Palace, he can go in with his clients.

When we walked out to Ratt's car, she told us that she parked a longer ways away and walk a longer route because we would avoid the pushy vendors. She told us about one time when she was still parking closer to the Palace and a vendor approached her and her clients. The clients said they didn't want to buy whatever it was he was selling but the vendor wouldn't leave them alone. So Ratt said hey, they don't want to buy anything. The vendor then said, "why do you help them and not Thai people?" And the nexxt time she parked out there, her car had been keyed.

Then on to Wat Po. Compared to having Sooti at the Palace, we found the experience at Wat Po a bit lacking. Ratt did try to provide some information but it just wasn’t on the same educational level. However, the BIG Reclining Buddha was just incredible. We staying in there with him for quite some time. Passed on the massages since we had booked spa treatments for the following day.

You do have to take your shoes off inside the temples and I was bummed that I hadn’t thought to have worn socks. They would have been hot to walk in but I could have brought them with me and just put them on to go inside. I was kind of grossed out by walking in my bare feet where everyone else was doing the same.

Although, Ratt really, really, really wanted us to visit the Teak Mansion, we were kind of fading from all the sightseeing so we directed her to the Jim Thompson house for lunch. It was fabulous, absolutely yummy. We had the pomelo and shrimp salad (one of my favorite thai dishes) for 100B, phad thai (at my husband’s insistence) for 90B, Thai coffee and Thai iced team for 70B each and really good blueberry ice cream (without any corn, thank god) for 60B. Great, reasonable meal – highly recommend.

We did the tour of the house, which was interesting but I think we were just too faded to fully appreciate it. We did enjoy seeing the old China Jim had collected and really found the male and female commodes interesting (you’ll have to see if you can identify them in the bedrooms).

And as a final stop, we went to the Jim Thompson outlet – about a 30 min car ride away from the house. Some wonderful fabrics but being in a rental flat in Hong Kong for two years, we wouldn’t need any of that anytime soon. We did go upstairs to the floor with linens, clothes and handbags though. I wanted to get a duvet cover but didn’t find one that I liked in the right size – will have to back I guess I did pick up some gifts and a table runner for myself.

Ratt dropped us back off at the Peninsula Lounge and although we didn’t use her for the full day, we did pay her the full amount plus tip for both days. She would be having her husband pick us up on the Sunday, when we needed a ride to the airport for our flight to Phuket.

After dropping of our purchases in our room, we decided to check out the River City Mall so we headed down again to the pier. We just missed the boat for the Mall and since they only come every hour (vs. every few minutes if you want to go to the Oriental Pier or Pen Lounge), the security guard called a long tail boat for us. The first one wanted too much and we weren’t willing to pay that so the next one agree do take us for 100B.

In another example of differences in tastes and preferences, we didn’t find much there we liked. None of the Thai silk shops interested us with their styles. We did find an antique map store on one of the higher floors that had some cool maps of Asia. Unfortunately, they seemed to be true antiques because they were way more than we were willing to spend. So we headed back out. I think the fact that the mall was empty (in a sort of dark, creepy way on the upper floors) also affected our experience there.

We didn’t want to wait another 40 minutes for the Pen boat to come back so we went out front. The taxis we approached wouldn’t turn on their meters and demanded 100B so we and got a tuk tuk to take us to the Oriental Pier for 50B. He took us to the wrong hotel initially and after a really round-about route, finally got us there. And there is where my frustrations with taxis and tuk tusk began to form.

From the Oriental Pier, we took the Pen boat back to the hotel and started getting ready for dinner. Woo hoo – Bed Supper Club! We had asked the concierge to make reservations for us a couple of days prior and had no problems. They even faxed the confirmation, dress code info and such right to our hotel room.

The doormen at the Pen got us a taxi and told the driver where to go. The driver seemed to indicate that he knew were this place was but of course, got lost. Or “lost.” At one point, he just pulled over, pointed behind us and said some street name in Thai. We had no idea where we were or where Bed was. We wouldn’t get out and finally he stopped at a hotel and we asked a security guard to tell our driver how to get there. Then he drove right past the restaurant until we told him we though he’d passed it; he stopped again to ask another taxi driver, who confirmed what we said, and finally got us there. I was not a happy camper with him.

But once we got inside, that all went away. There’s something cleansing about the atmosphere at Bed. Maybe it’s the all white, minimalist interior or the clean lines, or just the complete contrast with the warm, humid night outside but mood switched right back as soon as we walked in. We were right on time, and apparently that was early. They say they’ll give your reservation away if you’re there later than 8:30pm. Maybe on busy nights but we were the 3rd couple there and the beds didn’t fill up for another hour.

We ordered our drinks (San Pelligrino for my husband and champagne for myself) and just kicked back for a while. After a half hour, we were starting to get hungry so we ordered an appetizer, or what they called a snack. A plate of calamari – quite well done – to share. Yum. People were starting to trickle in.

Finally they started serving dinner at 9:30 and I motioned to the waitress to bring another glass of champagne. The first course was this amazing lentil soup with corn relish (I thought it was tortilla soup but there’s my American influence coming through). The second course was a salad with mini-mozzarella balls and fennel served with a little scoop of frozen vinaigrette on top. What a genius idea. The main course was seared Ahi steaks sliced on top of lemongrass-flavored mashed potatoes. Really well done but I was so full I could only eat a few bites. Then dessert. A chocolate flourless cake or “volcano cake” with chocolate ice cream. Hugely rich but so good.

The entertainment for the night was a skit. Three Asian women came in playing as if they were Hollywood bimbos. Rich, flighty, but really amusing to watch. They came one at a time as if they were just there for dinner and at first we didn’t realize it was a skit. Very Tony and Tina-esque. Later they played maids to a man in a suit who looked very important. And then a oil painter came him and did a quick oil painting of the man. Strange skit all and all but the beginning was pretty funny and in the end, there was a pretty good oil painting.

The only "but" in this wonderful experience was when the bill came, I noticed the waitress had charged me for the higher end glass of champagne for my second glass. When I questioned her about it, she said she thought I had been drinkng the more expensive one (even though she charged me for the correct one the first time) and then said well, you drank it so you should pay for it. That made me mad and I said that I wouldn't. She said that she'd just pay for the difference herself then. I think she was trying to guilt me into it because she said it twice. In the end, when she brought me the revised check, she had simply had the error corrected. So a piece of advice I'd have is to always check your bill. Even if the water is standing over you watching. Seems nit picky but I hate to be cheated.

We were pretty tired at this point so headed out just after dessert. Others seemed to be staying for drinks – and perhaps even heading to the attached dance club. We went out and flagged a taxi. This driver made just one “wrong turn” and we got back to the hotel for 90B.

We went to bed prepared for a slower paced time the next day, which of course, had its own hiccups.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 04:52 AM
  #38  
 
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Loving your report...I'm sold on Ratt but you are making me very nervous about taxis
Can't wait for the next chapter...
Craig is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:00 AM
  #39  
 
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sept_honeymoon:
I am really enjoying your report. I love the details you add, and that you mention the prices for meals, etc. That is really useful to people like me planning a first trip to BKK. Thanks again. Can't wait for the next installments.
Cruisinred
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Aug 10th, 2005, 05:06 AM
  #40  
 
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Sept
Did you order your meal at the Bed, or was it "surprise menu" night? Sounds like a "surprise" night to me. I've been there for that, and I've also been there to select my three courses from their (limited but delicious) menu.

We have a good friend who owns two antique shops at River City. It is really the only reason I ever go there, as it is not on my list of shopping places to frequent. I'm not an antique buyer. I'm anxiously reading your wonderful report, and always enjoy another person's perspective on some of my favorite places.

I guess I haven't been to the Penn lounge to wait for the boat. I've stayed there twice, and always just went to the pier at the end of the Taksin skytrain station. Is this lounge something new???

Carol
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