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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 11th, 2005, 12:21 PM
  #61  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
I'm with BillT on the bridge traffic. We spent 45 minutes on that bridge in sight of our hotel. It was about 1530 hours.

SH-The cooking course sounds great. I will see if I can trick Beth into taking it.
Gpanda is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 01:09 PM
  #62  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I've only ridden across that bridge at the wee hours, either arriving from the airport at midnight, or going to the airport for 7 am flight home. The rest of the time, I've gotten off at the Saphan Taksin skytrain station (my favorite transportation in BKK) and have seen the stopped traffic on that bridge. I've thought countless times, "I'm glad I'm not sitting in that traffic!!" I'm with Bill and Andy. (sorry Bob)
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 04:44 PM
  #63  
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I know I know, I knew someone would catch the dependency on room service. We were so busy doing, we were too tired to eat. I even had a list of restaurants that I wanted to try. But just gives us another reason to take the short 2 hour flight back to Bangkok soon

The cooking school's address is 150/12 Soi Naksuwan, Nonsee Road,
Chongnonsee, Yannawa, Bangkok. It was the Divana Spa that was behind the Glass House (I think it was actually spelled Glas Haus, if I remember correctly... bluish, all-glass building but I dont' know what part of town). It was near either a freeway overpass or a sky train (which we need to learn to use better). I noticed the overpass up above but didn't look to see what kind it was.

The cooking school wasn't too hot. We had a nice breeze and it was shaded. It also rained pretty hard for 15 minutes during our class, which wasn't a problem either.

And yes, I have the recipe for the rice and mango at home. Happy to send it to you tonight bob!
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 04:52 PM
  #64  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,152
I'm so pleased to hear about your great experience at the cooking school. I love to cook and plan dinners and the last couple of times we went to BKK, I thought about taking a class but never followed up. When we go back next Spring, I will definitley take a class at this school. It's already in my reference file!
laurieco is online now  
Aug 11th, 2005, 06:41 PM
  #65  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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looking forward to the recipe...thanks...

why sit on the bridge...get out and walk or swim...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 12th, 2005, 04:46 AM
  #66  
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Day 5, leaving for Phuket. Things slow down. We got up at 7am, got dressed and did the final bits of packing. Packed up the fruit left by housekeeping for airplane. We gave ourselves enough time to go down and try the Pen buffet breakfast. I love buffets because I’m the most indecisive person at ordering because I want to try everything. Here, I could try a tiny bit of everything. I never eat very much though so they probably make a good deal of money on me.

The buffet was great. I really liked it because it was too big. We like the buffets in Vegas but some of them just offer too much food. This was perfect. We had carrot and ginger juice, coffee (which wasn’t as good as the room service coffee, he said), smoked salmon, made-to-order omelets, various fruits and cheeses, asian noodle dishes, pastries, bacon, sausages… and more. The total with tax and service was 1530.10B.

Then we took the Pen boat to the Pen Lounge Pier again. This time to meet Ratt’s husband. She had another engagement that day. He wasn’t on the pier but in the taxi out front waiting for us. To describe him, I’d say he seemed like a gentle guy – very cute man, soft spoken and quick to smile. Like Ratt, it was hard to pin point exactly how old he was. His accent was more difficult to decipher but he seemed to understand us just fine. We asked him to stop at the Holiday Inn Bangkok on the way to the airport so we could leave some of our purchases. We’d spend one night there on our way back from Phuket (the trials of using airmiles to travel is that you can’t always fly when you want to).

No problem. He told us how long it would take us to get there and then got us there in that amount of time (about 10 mins). We checked our things in with the bell desk, with fingers crossed it would be there for us, in one piece, when we got back the following Sunday.

Back into the cab and to the airport. He didn’t ask and we didn’t say where we were going until I noticed he took the exit for the International Terminal. I told him we were going to Phuket and he did a course correct. Good thing there wasn’t any traffic at the airport! The fee for the one-way trip was 500B. Could have been cheaper to get a metered taxi but we liked Ratt’s operation. I gave him a slip of paper with our return flight information and asked if he or Ratt might be able to pick us up the follow Sunday. He said sure and we headed off to check in.

The domestic terminal isn’t as nice as the International but check in with for our Thai Airways flight to Phuket was quick and easy. We’d be flying coach this time but the flight was so short it didn’t matter. Before going through security, you go through another airline desk and show your passport and boarding pass. We were a bit early for our flight so we stopped for coffee/tea and a couple of pastries. While eating, I noticed that we were towards the back of the plane so I went and asked if we could move our seats up towards the front. The woman at the gate made a quick phone call and changed our seats for us.

For boarding, I noticed they didn’t do tiered boarding… everyone gets on at once, which was fine with me for this flight. We quickly loaded on and settled in. Most everyone seemed to be vacation going so the mood was light. We read our books and received our snack boxes. It still amazes me how well you get fed on Asian flights but then again, you can’t let an Asian go long before feeding them. I should know, I’m Chinese! Raised in the US still got the food addiction in the blood. The pineapple pastry thing was too sweet for me and my husband so we boxed it back up.

Landed without a hitch along the sea in Phuket and went through the “from domestic location/no passport control necessary” exit. Weird enough, there was no one to check if that true… found our way to the Marriott reception desk to see about our ride. Oddly, they didn’t have our reservation so got us a taxi for 400B one way. Great. 15 mins later we were being lei’d at the Marriot resort. No problems with the taxi here. When we got to the resort, they security checked the car but looking underneath it with mirrors. Kind of made us nervous. I forgot mention it before but it happened once when we were at the Pen as well – they said because the Prime Minister was there for an event. I hoped that he was at the Marriott that day as well.

We checked in and I asked for a villa along the water – after all the timeshare website we visited showed a view of the ocean from the villa. Apparently that was a “demo” unit because the villas are all on the North side of the resort and run perpendicular to the water. So no water-front option for us. We had to wait just a bit because we go there so early.

It looked they were passing out Mojitos to guests checking in but somehow we got skipped. But soon enough we were told it was ready. They loaded our luggage into golf carts and away we went.

He led us to our 3rd floor villa and when we walked in, we were shocked by how big it was. For two people! We knew it was two bed and two bath but we didn’t realize how big the bedrooms would be as well as the kitchen/dining/living room area. A family of 6 or 8 could have stayed there.

As you walked in, there was a 1.5 foot tall Thai statue in an alcove in the wall facing the door. It was a nice touch. Just past the little entry way, the guest “suite” was on the right. The bathroom had a door into the hallway as well as into the guest room. The room had a queen sized bed, couch and TV. About the size of a smaller hotel room. Then past that, you entered the living area, reaching the kitchen on your right first, then dining room with glass table that seated 6 and then living room with TV and DVD player. Off the living room was the mastersuite with king bed, his and her closets and the master bath. The master bath had double doors going into it (that we never bothered to close), a very large tub, his and her sicks, toilet room and glassed in shower. The balcony had a table for 4 and ran the length of the condos. You had sliding glass doors out to the balcony from the master suite and both a double slider and regular door of the living room. The villa included kitchen supplies like pots and pans, dishes, dish soap, small appliances like coffee maker and toaster.

After unpacking, we went to the Marriott Café (the main restaurant) for lunch. It was breezy but warm so we sat on the patio, which looked out over the main pool and ocean beyond. Vietnamese ginger noodle soup for me and Phad Thai (again) for my husband. Very reasonable at 250B each. They always come to the table with a big bottle of Evian water to offer. We didn’t realize that it wasn’t included since they offered it until much later. Know that they have regular table water and smaller bottles of Evian, as well as other waters as well.

A note about water at the resort: The book at the Marriott says not to drink the tap water in your rooms (they provide free bottled water in the rooms) but all the water and ice at the hotel is filtered. They also wash all fruits and veggies coming to the resort in some special chemical to get all the bad stuff off. We never had a problem.

We stopped at the Siam Deli to get “supplies.” Six eggs for 65B, some pastries, coffee and we were good to go for breakfast.

On our way back to the villa, we meandered through the pool area. Very nice – both infinity style. The main pool is larger and connects to the kids pool. The North pool is a bit quieter but certainly not kid-less. When we got near the Villa, storm clouds had really moved in. My husband decided to run a bath and as soon as he got in, the power went out. We’re not sure if it’s a regular event or not but when I called “At your service,” a one touch button for all your needs, they didn’t seem worried.

After about 45 mins the lights came back on. We had had a pretty late lunch and it was raining really hard outside so we settled in for the night. Later, we got hungry and ordered pizza to the room. It was like a slumber party! 240B for a small pizza. Watched the tube in bed until we fell asleep.

Bangkok’s go go go was my half of the vacations; Phukets eat, swim, eat, swim, eat, sleep is my husbands half. We always have to compromise
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 12th, 2005, 07:40 AM
  #67  
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Days 6 – 12
We spend a full week at the Marriott doing just about nothing but eating, laying out by the pool and sleeping. We didn’t go out to see the town of Phuket at all so you wont find any information on that here. So this will serve as more of kind of a review of the resort for people thinking of visiting it. So instead of breaking this section out by day, I’ll break it out into subjects like food, facilities and activities. While this was the relaxing part of the trip, to save my sanity, we took advantage of the activities the Marriott offers to all hotel and timeshare guests. Most of them are free but some are for a fee.

ACTIVITIES:
When you get to your room/villa, make sure to read through the book of info. Not only will it list the basics of hotel services and room service, but it will you give you a list of all the activities offered. However, don’t rely on the schedule itself as it tends to be outdated; you should go to the health club as soon as you get a chance to sign up for the full week’s activities. They have the most up-to-date schedule there anyway. And if you don’t sign up for all of the activities you want when you first arrive, they tend to fill up. If a class you want is already full, however, ask to be waitlisted and go to see if anyone no-shows. We did this and end up getting into everything we wanted to.

** Yoga: They offer sunset yoga but when the weather’s not good, they hold it in the health club studio which can really only hold about 6 people. Was good. This was one we waitlisted for and showed up to without reservation. Two people didn’t show so we got in. Free.

** Intro to Meditation: Taught by a nice Thai gal. First learned to focus on breathing. Then practiced meditating laying down, focusing on our breathing. It was hard to try not to fall asleep. Then we meditated while concentrating on candlelight. And then meditating while walking with a glass of water. My husband’s mind never stops working so he has a hard time falling asleep so he really liked this. I wished that she told us a bit more about the history and theory behind the practice though. Free.

** Intro to Thai Boxing: This was a really fun class. Taught but an engaging Thai guy. We learned to kick 2 different ways and punch 3. The instructor did a great job customizing the class for each participant – we had a 10-year old boy, an 18-year old guy, a couple of women in their late 20s/early 30s and my husband and I. The 18-year old had done it before and the rest of us hadn’t. We all felt instantly comfortable and had fun trying to beat up our padded instructor. But wow, did we break a sweat! Free.

** Thai Flower Arranging: As you could probably guess, I did this one on my own. I thought this would be where to stick each stem. It’s that crossed with origami. The Thai use lotus blossoms, which are closed when cut. After cutting however, they won’t open so to create blooms you have to fold the individual petals in various ways. We learned to fold petals 3 different ways. Then you stick the stems of flowers into flower foam in an “aesthetically pleasing way.” My results can only really be called “rustic.” It was fun though. Free.

** Pilates: My husband did his by himself while I went for a manicure and pedicure. He liked yoga better. Free.

** Thai Cooking Class and Market Tour: We’d already taken that great cooking class in Bangkok and we weren’t interested in paying $50US per person to do another one again. But we were interested in going to the market. We wanted to pick up some things. So we asked if we could just go to the market. At first they seemed hesitant but then charged 200B each for the ride. It was great. One of the resort chefs, who was teaching the cooking class, came along and showed us various foods. It was similar to the market trip with our last cooking class but we stopped by booths that were making finished foods like coconut pancakes, and sticky rice with bean paste and we tried a few of those things too. We watched coconut cream and coconut milk being processed; bought some thai ramen noodles (which were SO good) to make back at our villa, and a durian. It’s the stinky fruit that looks like a green, spiky football. I love them but boy do they stink up a hotel room! Good thing the fridge keeps the smell isolated. Good way to get outside the resort to get some fresh fruit, although I’m sure you could get a taxi or hotel car to take you.

** Fruit Carving Class: This was kind of fun too. We used exacto-knife looking tools to cut banana leaves, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes into different shapes. The banana leaf was like a snowflake; the strips of carrots and cucumbers turned into leaves; and tomato into a rose. Free.

** Intro to Thai Massage: The massage therapists from the Mandara Spa (located on the resort) can to the health club to teach us how to give Thai Massage. It was two couples. First one of the therapists demonstrated on another one. And then they walked us through how to give thai massage to our partners. Fun but nothing beats just laying there and not having to do the work. We walked away with a better idea of how to do it. Free.

** Thai Dessert Making Class: We went up to the Marriott Café where the chef taught us to make Tab Tim Krob: poached waterchestnuts coated in tapioca flour and served with coconut milk and simple syrup. The word that came to mind was interesting but it was also kind of good. We ate it all. Took no time because they did all the prep work and it was quick to cook. Free.

There were other activities as well but these were the ones that most interested us. They also had a full schedule and center for kids activities too. Kids have their own internet center, TV with movies playing, ping pong table and pool table.

** Mandara Spa: probably expensive for Thailand but still really reasonable. I had French manicure and pedicure for $60US total. They did a great job too – better than the last one I got in HK!

** Beach massages: I think someone on this board said that the beach massages were just ok and not what he envisioned of a serene massage by the beach. But for 400B an hour, I don’t know that you can expect a lot. We really enjoyed it though. There are massages along the beach that read “Beach Massage; 400B.” These are not spa or hotel employees. They set up little forts along the beach and try to get tourist to come and get massages. I recommend going at sunset and having them set their blankets and pads out along the bluff so you can watch the sun start to set and the water glisten. Some people were getting massages inside their tents but I didn’t think that seemed very nice. And at 400B, you could definitely afford to have one every day!!

FACILITIES:
The resort is set up so you really don’t need to leave it if you don’t want to, which is a good thing since the resort is 30 minutes from town. It’s big enough so that you don’t feel claustrophobic but you won’t get lost either.

** Healthclub: where you meet for all activities you sign up for (adults). There is an adequate sized gym with nice equipment and TVs for the treadmills, ellipticycle and bikes. Complimentary water, Gatorade, soda and fruit in the gym. The studio is small and really only allows for about 6 people each class. The locker rooms are really nice. Showers, lockers, sauna, hot tubs, and areas to get ready in. Always clean and towels readily available. Not used much I don’t think. Smoothie bar where you could get a variety of fruit smoothies for 140B.

** Pools: Main pool with fountains and kids pool attached. The lounging area for the kids pool was a bit separated from the rest of us so we didn’t have many kids running around when we laid out. North pool was smaller and quieter, although there were some kids there as well… they just happened to be just a bit older. Both pools had plenty of lounge chairs – we never had a problem getting one. The North pool offers double lounge chairs where two people share a large chair with separate pieces so one person could sit up while the other laid down. Very cool. All lounges had thick pads like a futon and the staff always made sure you had towels, water spray and every once in a while someone would come by with some kind of fresh fruit. What amazed me was the bathrooms by the pool were always dry and clean.

** Shopping: The Marriott leases space to various retailers. Jim Thompson had a store there, as did Private Collection (also found at the River City Mall in Bangkok) as well as a few other stores offering Thai goods. On Tuesday and Saturday evenings, they allow local vendors to come in and sell their wares at the Pavillion. You can easily walk by without being harassed though. None of the stores allowed you to charge to your room, which I didn’t realized so I had to go back for a credit card when I wanted to buy a hat from Jim Thompson.

** 6pm show: Every evening at 6:00pm, they set up for a show in the lobby area. Good time to have a drink at the lobby bar and watch the sun setting over the infinity pool. The have a drummer and fire baton twirlers in the middle of the pool and thai dancers that come in to dance in the lobby. Pretty cool show; worth making your way to the lobby for.

** Housekeeping: with the timeshare you get light housekeeping every day, which was enough for us: remake the bed, fresh towels, they do the dishes and straighten up. Once a week they come in and do the full cleaning: dusting, mopping and changing the sheets. We loved the way they’d fold the tissues into roses and the towels into animals. We got elephants.

** Beach: I’m not sure if it was the time of year or just the way it is on that part of the shoreline but the beach wasn’t what we expected. The sand was coarser than we’d expected (moreso than Hawaii) and the waters were rough. It actually reminded us a lot of the Oregon coast when there was some fog. Good sized white caps and the water so turbulent, the red flag was flying all week meaning no swimming in the ocean. This was a little bit of a disappointment for my husband. Not many people ventured down there. I understand that the resort is set back from the beach so that resort lights can’t be seen from the sand. The reasoning is that the leatherback turtles hatch along this particular beach and when they try to go out to see, they go towards the night. Can’t have lights from the Marriott tricking the turtles into going in their direction.

FOOD:
Towards the end of the week, I started getting tired of the food. There was plenty of variety but it stopped feeling that way after the 6th day. The food was good and consistent however, and pretty reasonable for western standards.

** Marriott Café: we went there 3 times for lunch and only once for the breakfast buffet. The lunches were good deals… generally my husband would get his Phad Thai or a Farmers Market Salad. I got the Vietnamese ginger noodle soup twice and a thai steak wrap once. I wouldn’t recommend the wrap but the noodle soup was great if you added a couple squeezes of lime. The entrees are around 250B each. Starters from 150B. Again, if you don’t want Evian, just ask for regular water. I was surprised they didn’t have Thai iced team. The breakfast buffet came out to about $15 per person after service and tax. They had omelets, fresh fruit, Japanese crepes, waffles, banana pancakes, cereals, pastries, smoked salmon, yogurt, juices… it was pretty good too. I really liked the greek yogurt, which I’ve never had before, and a berry mix.

** Pool bar: We ate lunch by the pool several times. Mostly cobb salads, which were really quite big and good, phad thai, phad see ew, pizzas as well. They take your order at your lounge chair and deliver it to your lounge chair. Now THAT is a vacation! AT sunset, they offer 2 for 1 happy hour. Listen for the sound of the gong or head down at 5:30. Lasts until 7pm.

** The Seafood Market Restaurant: South of the main pool and along the beach boardwalk, The Seafood Market is half seafood restaurant (they have a big barrel of fresh seafood on ice for you to choose from in the middle of the restaurant), half Thai (extensive thai options). We ate there twice. The first time we did the Thai set menus, which gave us enough food to take leftovers for the next day. Chris had Set B: chicken and beef satay, beef salad rolls, beef sautéed in peppercorn sauce (this was just ok), Phad Thai (of course), sauteed morning glory in oyster sauce, and sweet bananas in coconut milk for dessert; came with coffee. I had set D: New Zealand green lipped mussels cooked in Thai herbs (my favorite thing there), shrimp and pineapple fried rice served in a pineapple, beef tenderloin in pumpkin curry (this was also fantastic), chicken in lemongrass sauce (this was bland so we just put the chicken in the curry), the sautéed morning glories, my favorite coconut rice with mango dessert; came with tea. With Pelligrino and a mojito for me, the total came to 3000B including tax and tip. The second night we went there we were more reasonable in the amount of food we got. We had three king prawns (these things were longer than my husband’s hands!) in the pumpkin curry sauce we liked so much, the mussels in thai herbs again and a spicy papaya salad. I also got a non-alcoholic cocktail called the Watermint, which is fresh watermelon juice and mint and that was very good. Chris got his Pelligrino and the total was 2300B. A complimentary appetizer of flat bread with chili jam and some other tidbit that changes nightly comes with your meal.

** Cucina: this Italian restaurant was fabulous. Well, my meal there was when we had dinner there. I had this squid ink linguini with clams, baby octopus and artichoke in a rich tomato sauce. I think it had to be one of, if not THE best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. The green salad with vinaigrette I had as a starter was just ok. Chris got the calamari for his starter which was really done well. And he got a pizza for his meal which was pretty good. The restaurant supplies all the pizza orders for the resort and they are the thin crust type, which I tend to like. We then shared a tiramisu, which I thought was good but not great for dessert. Along with his Pelligrino, my glass of champagne and tea with dessert, the total came to 2550B with tax and tip. If you go and like octopus and clams, definitely try the squid ink pasta.

** Kabuki: Sushi bar. We had sushi there as a light dinner one night. The fish was of good quality but not as good of a deal as the other restaurants. Chris had 8 pieces sashimi, I had 4 pieces of sushi and one ordered of deep fried soft shell crab. With my non-alcoholic cocktail and his pelligrino, the total came to 1489B with tax and tip. Unless you are really craving Sushi, you could probably skip this.

** Siam Deli: part deli, part grocery store, we did breakfast here a few times. I like their juice bar for watermelon and pineapple juice. Chris got their coffee. And their pastries are pretty good too. In the morning which Chris slept in, I’d go and get a ham and onion roll for 50B, some fresh fruit for 200B and take it out to the pool. They’ll heat it up for you as well. They have ice cream comes, which we thought were ok, so we got their little cups of Haagan Daaz a couple of times for dessert.

** Room Service: because room service offered the same foods as the Marriott Café at the same prices, we didn’t hesitate to do that a couple of times. Pizzas, noodles, thai specialties at reasonable prices (250 – 400B for Thai meals; more if you want a steak).

A couple of last notes about the resort:
** Be careful what you leave out in terms of food. We had bought a sweet roll and the deli wrapped it in saran wrap for us to take back with us. We were planning to have some for breakfast. We left it on the counter and in the morning I warmed it in the microwave only to find little tiny ants all over it when I took it out. When I asked the front desk take care of the ant problem, the said that they recommended wrapping all the food left out. They should warn people about the ant problem before it happens I think. I’d just put everything in the fridge next time.

** It might be worth keeping carbon copies of all receipts for things you charge to your room. We didn’t do this and when we went to check out, we found an extra 5800B charge for tickets to a show called Fantasea that we never went to see. They took it off but it makes me nervous about any other charges that might have been wrong.

** I think the UV rays in Phuket are curved. We sat under umbrellas all day at the pool and slathered on sunscreen and still burned and tanned – quite a bit!. We still haven’t been able to figure it out.

All in all I had more FUN in Bangkok but we got a much needed recharge in Phuket. I’d highly recommend the Marriott if you’re looking for a resort vacation but not for seeing Phuket. You could borrow bikes to ride around the area but you can’t really go too far.

Next: back to Bangkok for weekend market, Muay Thai boxing and our flight back to Hong Kong, with amazing champagne.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 12th, 2005, 08:06 AM
  #68  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I am enjoying your report. Can't wait to get back to BKK in Sept. We will also go to Phuket for a couple of days.

Where is the Marriott located on Phuket? Do you have a feel for whether it is central, northern, or southern? We stay on Kata Beach usually. It is south of Patong, after Karon Beach. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to get to from the airport. Makes one realize that Phuket is a pretty good sized island.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2005, 09:30 AM
  #69  
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The Marriott was almost exactly 15 minutes North of the Phuket airport. Out of the airport, turn right and then right again on the main street. Then right down the road towards the resort. The market we went to was about 5 - 10 minutes South of the resort.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 12th, 2005, 10:02 AM
  #70  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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carol...the marriott is way far north, just south of the bridge that leaves phuket for the mainland....it is very issolated....it is a fantastic place...there is no reason to ever leave there...


sept---glad you loved the marriott...our room overlooked the north pool and we never went into the larger pool...i agree totally with your assessments of the food situation..after 4 days we were tired of it...it was like all marriott food, good but not fabulous....and i found it quite expensive for thailand....
the hotel rooms are very nice and have both a small porch/deck and an inside sala area with mats and a large picture window overlooking the gardens, etc..

ocean....we have not found any thai beaches to be fabulous...good but not as nice as many we have here in NE....the surf was very rough all the time we were there as well and i only saw one person in it and i talked to him becasue he had flippers the size of a yard stick...he said it was easy to swim with them....

we had to wait for our room as well and we arrived after 3 PM...they also did not meet us at the airport as prearranged...i was really mad as i had sent an e-mail confirming and when we went to the marriott desk at the airport there was no-one there....they do everything so well it is strange that they miss some things...

i have all my marriott FF miles from that trip but the phuket ones have not shown up yet....odd....

LOVING THE REPORT---KEEP IT COMING...

anxious to read about HI as we also stayed there...one nite....did you do priceline?? were you on exec floor...they were in total disarray when we arrived and could not find our reservation even though i had made it 4 months earlier and glad i had written confirm from one of their people for my upgrade....they wanted to almost double the upgrade charge as well...i found that hotel to be only so so...the room was good and the exec floor staff very nice....just the front desk people were not nice...i would stay there again for the low fee i paid however...

consider trying koh samui next time or koh chang for total vedge time...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 05:34 AM
  #71  
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Days 12 & 13

-- Leaving the Phuket Marriott resort.
Our flight back to Bangkok wasn’t until 1:00 pm so we got up at a reasonable hour, finished the rest of our packing and headed out for the breakfast buffet (details in the previous post about the resort). But do try to get there before 9:30am if you can. When we got there it had started to get busy, making for long lines for fresh-made waffles, pancakes, crepes and omelets. We ate slowly so we could enjoy the rest of our time and the lovely view. Heading back to our villa, we stopped at the bell desk and asked if they could send a golf cart for us at 11:15am.

Right before 11:15, the door bell rang and the bell boy took our luggage down and loaded it up on the cart. When headed to the lobby where we’d meet the taxi we had arranged for the night before. For some reason, this taxi was 500B. While we waited for the taxi, I went to check out. This took waaaaay longer than it should have. First, they only had two people at the front desk helping guests. I’m not sure what the others were doing but it didn’t make for quick service. And as I mentioned before, I noticed an erroneous charge on our bill for the Fantasea Show, which made me nervous about the rest of the bill, and it took 15 mins for them to take it off. The woman I was working with seemed to be trying to do several things at once. We got no explanation but also no argument either. Do note that if you made any calls, it will be on a separate bill that they will have you pay for separately. I just paid cash.

Oh quick note: we met a couple who had flown to Phuket from east coast US. They were heading to Bangkok next and mentioned that they loved having Phuket as their first stop because they could deal with the jetlag by the pool and be recovered by the time Bangkok sightseeing and shopping came around. Something to consider for those of you still planning your itineraries.

Non-eventful taxi ride to the airport. They had a security checkpoint at the door and scanned our luggage as we walked in. After that, we checked in and made our way through security again to the gate. Smooth flight on Thai Airways back to Bangkok and this time we watched golf games pause as we landed on the golf course/runway. We took of pictures to share with others back home. What a riot. I wonder how many golf balls have hit planes in years past.

-- Missing Ratt
As we exited the airport, we looked for Ratt or her husband or a sign with our name but didn’t see one. Then we noticed that we were in a totally different terminal than when we had arrived from Hong Kong. Odd, did she go to the wrong terminal? We walked up and down the meeting area there and didn’t see her. So, we figured that she had been booked up for that day (we hadn’t confirmed with her afterall; we had just give her husband our flight information and hoped they could accommodate us). So we went to the taxi booth and took a metered taxi to the Holiday Inn Bangkok.

Later that night Ratt would call us to tell me that I had given her information that “wasn’t true.” Unfortunately, the arrival time that the confirmation email stated was wrong and Ratt hadn’t checked the flight information beforehand. So she had sent someone to pick us up but they were there an hour later. I felt bad but that was the only information I had. When I looked back at my travel documents, I realized that Cathy Pacific had also given me an incorrect arrival time for our first flight getting into Bangkok but fortunately, they have a time that was an hour earlier so Ratt was still there waiting when we arrived. Has anyone else had this problem with tickets going into Asia? They generally list local time right?

The taxi driver we hired at the airport had asked us if we wanted to pay for the toll road. We didn’t know what would mean so we said no; big mistake. Always pay for the toll road. At 60B, it’s worth it. We sat in traffic for a long time before getting to our hotel. Once there, again, the driver didn’t have change for my 500B bill even though the cab fare was almost 200B. Listen to Bob here too: try to stick with smaller bills and break big ones at places you know will have change. But what I found most perplexing is that we tried to get change for the driver at the hotel but NO ONE at the hotel – restaurant, bar, concierge, front desk, etc – had change to give us. They sent someone across the street to get it for us. How strange is that?

-- Holiday Inn Bangkok (NOT the Holiday Inn Silom)
Holiday Inn Bangkok isn’t what I envision when I think of Holiday Inns in general. This one was fairly nice, good lighting, marble touches, modern couches in the lobby. We never ate there but the lobby bar looked nice enough. The concierge desk is particularly helpful and even though there aren’t umbrellas in the rooms like at the Pen, you borrow them from the Concierge.

Checking in was easy enough although – be careful – I think I read something similar happened to someone else on this board. They tried to give us a “high floor with two beds.” At first we thought, that’s fine but then we realized she was talking about two SINGLE beds. We said no way. I told her my reservation was for a non-smoking king bedroom. I had to say this several times and show her my reservation confirmation. Then she finally gave it up. Only on the 4th floor but we didn’t care so long as we didn’t have to sleep in separate twin beds. They must not have high demand for the twin beds and overbook the other rooms. We didn’t bother asking for the exec floor as we’d only be there one night and there just to sleep.

While I checked in, Chris went to the combined Concierge/bell desk to retrieve the things we’d left on our way to Phuket. No problem; we got everything back in one piece – even the wooden statue we bought at the Handicraft Store.

We went upstairs to the 4th floor and were pleasantly surprised by our room. Not luxurious but fairly good sized, clean, with decent TV, bedding and bathroom that’s quite nice, although small. Marble-walled, glassed in shower that takes us most of the room. The shower door leaked but seemed planned as there was no caulk in the door and the water ran towards a drain in the back corner behind the toilet. Great – I’d totally stay there again.

And then we see the “peeping Tom window.” Has anyone had one of these in their room here? There’s a floor to ceiling window in the wall between the bathroom and bedroom of our room, right next to the bed. And what’s more strange is that there are wooden blinds – on the bedroom side of the window. Envision you’re showering, or doing whatever you do in the bathroom, when peek-a-boo – someone raises the blinds and waves hello. It was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. We took a picture.

After unloading our things, we decided to make the most of our last day in Bangkok and headed back downstairs. Checked with the Concierge about Muay Thai boxing and the weekend market. It would work out perfectly. The weekend market he said would close at 6:00 pm (it was Sunday) and the boxing matches would start then. He estimated a 20 min trip from the hotel to the weekend market via sky train and then 20 mins from the hotel to the Muay Thai boxing arena via taxi. You didn’t have to be at the arena right as it started… you could go in at any time. As it had started raining hard, we borrowed a couple of umbrellas and started off for the sky train.

The Holiday Inn Bangkok is connected to the Intercontinental and situated across the street from a gigantic mall we never went into. It’s also right on the Chit Lom shy train station. So we walked up stairs to the station, got change from the man at the ticket counter (breaking another evil 500B bill) to buy our one way, 6-zone ticket to the Mo Chit station, where the weekend market is located. The ticket window doesn’t sell individual tickets – you have to buy from the machine. Mo Chit is the last stop going that direction. On Nut is the last stop going the other direction. My husband had a good time with that name. 35B each for our tickets.

-- Weekend Market
The train ride itself took less than 20 mins but when you added in the walk to the market (just follow the crowds), it came out to about that much. We weren’t sure what to expect at first but then we started seeing a few fruit stalls. Then across from the fruit stalls, we saw rows of stalls selling clothes and started walking towards those. The stalls are kind of like shacks, all covered on gigantic roof and they’re kind of organized in blocks. We didn’t realize how vast the market was until we past stalls upon stalls upon stalls selling clothing. I didn’t realize the walkways between the rows of stalls would be so narrow. As we walked I started to notice more how narrow, dark and HOT it was in there. I started getting claustrophobic and led us out the other side of that first “block.”

There were lots of people on the car-less “street” outside that first block of stalls. People were milling about, there were food stalls and vendors selling popsicles out of these odd-looking barrel/carts. In the next “block” of stalls on the other side of the street, we saw home furnishing type of things and headed in that direction. There were so many things to see! Leather and wood furniture, wooden kitchen utensils; shoes, more clothes watches and more. If in the right frame of mind, I could spend way too much time and money here. Probably when it’s cooler. We wandered through these stalls, staying among those closest to the street where the air seemed fresher. Then we wandered back out to the street and found a shop selling linen clothes. We bought my husband two linen shirts for 500B. Then moved on and browsed through more shoes and clothes, sticking to the outer stalls on each block; checking out what people were eating. This really felt like it was a place that locals visit as well as a tourist location. Similar to our farmers markets and Saturday markets in Portland Oregon.

Then I started seeing little cages with little tiny puppies. They were SO small. And people were handling them and holding them out for others to see. It made me so sad. One little boy had a box that was no more than 6 x 4 x 12 inches big, which had something alive in it – I assumed it was his new puppy. Seeing puppies that were clearly too young to be away from their mothers handled that way made me so sad, I was pretty much done exploring the market as much as I wanted to buy buy buy.

So we wondered our way back towards the beginning. I was getting hungry so bought a 10B carton of fried noodles from the vendor. It was mostly bean sprouts so I ate maybe a 4th of it and threw the rest away. Then we passed a vendor selling fried bananas, taro matchsticks and other “snacks.” I bought a few packages to take back to the office to share with co-workers.

-- Muay Thai Boxing
We wound our way back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and umbrellas. It was about 7pm when we finally got a taxi to take us to the Thai boxing area. It was the one that starts with ‘R.’ The doorman wrote down the taxi’s information so we’d have it in the case that we had any trouble with him. And it did it purposefully so the driver could see him do it. Hmm, that was the first time that anyone had done that for us. When we got in the taxi, we saw that the meter was on but immediately, they driver tried to say 200B to the boxing area. Very far, he said. We laughed and said no, meter. We went back and forth a couple of times, me trying to stay light-hearted and laughing about it, until he finally let up. We hit some heavy traffic initially but finally got there. The taxi ride ended up being around 60B.

At the arena, we got out planning to head straight to the ticket booths. A woman stopped us and said she was reception. She explained the exact same pricing structure that the concierge at the Holiday Inn had. 2000B for the ring side, VIP seats. 1500B for the middle ring of seats and 1000B for the outer ring seats. We had read that the view is just fine from the outer ring but she told us that in the middle and outer ring area, seats aren’t guaranteed because the Thai people come and gamble and when gambling, get excited and stand up. In the VIP section, you’d be guaranteed to see from your seats. She wouldn’t let us in to see the arena before we decided.

Now, we had read that these people are scammers. They would tell you that the show was sold out aside from the 2000B seats, for which they’d get commission if they sold. Well, they’d caught on to those warnings and had since switched tactics. We fell for it. We said, eh, what’s an extra 1000B each for the really good seats? Really, that was true, it wasn’t that much money but still felt foolish. Once inside I saw that the arena was half empty (and never did fill up) and we would have been able to see just fine from the outer ring seats. As the seats move out, they also move up – the middle ring is about 5 feet above the VIP section and the outer ring is another 5 feet up from that.

My husband didn’t feel shnookered… he loved the close up seats and sat in rapture by the fights the entire time. So, in the end, it was worth it for us. We had also read that seats could be had for as little as 250B but at the arena we were told that was for Thai people only. And true enough, there were booths where Thai people bought tickets and then there were booths that said “Foreigners” on them. Maybe others here have been able to get the Thai rates?

You won’t find concessions at this arena. There are boys who will come buy and bring you a beer or a soda (not bottled or can but in a cup). They were also selling little bags of chips or something. I got an iceless Pepsi Light (or so the boys said it was but it tasted like regular). Without the ice, it was warm and I was still a bit wary about drining it.

The fight actually started at 6:30pm and it started with what I consider exhibition fights. They were probably about 14 years old and 100lbs. They were quite good and I didn’t think strong enough to really hurt each other (they also wore gloves, unlike what I had seen on TV). They looked like they really enjoyed it but I found it weird the grown adults were betting on who one or lost.

There were about 10 matches that night and the boxers started getting heavier as the night went on. But the heaviest was still just 130 lbs. We saw two people carried off on stretchers after a knock out and another who was opening bleeding during the entire match when a knee wound opened and the bandage fell off.

We left one fight from the end as we realized that it was 10:30 and we hadn’t had dinner. Outside the arena, we went through 4 taxis before we found know that knew where our hotel was. Or so he said. Nope. Lost again. Until we told him just to take us to the Chit Lom sky train station. Too hungry and tired to find a real restaurant, we stopped at the McDonalds across the street from our hotel for cheeseburgers (if you want a Coke Light it’s canned and more expensive at 50B than the other drinks) and went back to our hotel to crash. The bed in our room was actually pretty decent.

-- Leaving Holiday Inn Bangkok
Our flight back to Hong Kong the next morning would include brunch so we woke up just in time to pack up the few things we’d used over night and head downstairs to check out. No problem. Nothing from the mini bar last night and so nothing to sign/do/pay that morning since we had pre-paid for our rate (It was just under $100 per night via American Express Travel - probably could it cheaper elsewhere and if so, what website so I can book there next time?). Went outside where the doormen got us a taxi to the airport.

This time we knew to say yes when asked if we wanted to take the toll road. No problem getting to the airport and we helped the taxi driver find the right terminal for Cathay Pacific in the International area. This was the only taxi driver I liked – and tipped – in Bangkok.

-- Cathay Pacific 1st Class
Went directly to the Cathay Pacific counter to check in and received tickets to their first class lounge as we waited for our flight. We paid the exit tax of 500B and took the receipt through Passport Control to the left of the tax counter. We didn’t bother with VAT refund since we didn’t buy nearly as much as Bob.

Straight through Passport Control with no problems and went to find the Cathay Lounge. It’s on the opposite wall as the exit from Passport Control down to the left a ways, past the lounges for several other airlines. Inside, we gave them our tickets and took our seats. We had access to the Internet to check email and had a few snacks and coffee and tea. They had a couple of dim sum selections, pastries, cup-a-noodle type things and fruit as well. I got bored and went outside to check out the shops. I wish I would have known that the make-up at the duty free shops there are pretty well priced. I would have bought some. Instead, I bought some Thai snacks from one of the stores and made my way back to the Lounge.

Then, straight away, we headed to our gate. Be forewarned that the gate is FAR away from the lounge. We didn’t quite realize that we hadn’t yet been through security yet either. It was final call by the time we got to the gate. We had more than our fair share of 2 carry-ons a piece with all the shopping bags we’d accumulated. Maybe they didn’t care because we were helping the local economy; maybe it was because we were in first class but I’m glad they didn’t hassle us because we were late. Then sitting down in our cushy 1st class seats, we realized we were the ONLY ones in 1st class. I think we had 3 flight attendants all to ourselves.

We took off and were given our menu for brunch. Bread basket, from which I always choose a croissant, fresh fruit, yogurt, choice of cheese omelet or fried noodles with BBQ pork (we could have both she said), raspberry cake and pralines for dessert. I asked for a glass of champagne for my drink – this was the end of my vacation afterall. I took a sip and fell in love. It was so tasty. As much as I’d love to know enough about wine to be a wine snob, I’m just not there yet. But I knew this was good. I had three glasses by the time we had landed in Hong Kong. I know there are some champagne drinkers here so I looked it up when I got home: 1996 Cuvee William Deutz. Wow, I just about drank a whole bottle of $100 champagne by myself. Now I’m kicking myself for not having any on the way TO Bangkok.

Without any luggage to wait for, we went through Passport Control and directly onto the Airport Express train towards Hong Kong. A short (and honest) taxi cab ride later, we were back in our flat with our precious little cats. Happy to be home but already missing Thailand.

Thanks everyone for all your help in planning our trip. I’ll be back asking questions as we plan trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan and more. We’re going to try to make as much out of living in Hong Kong for two years as we can. I have posted our pictures from the trip (include of our hotels) online so if anyone wants to see anything in particular, I’m happy to share.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 07:52 AM
  #72  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,930
sounds like a good trip all in all...you made all the mistakes and experienced all of the problems that all of us first timers do....you will not have those problems on subsequent trips and visits as you will now know how to avoid them...

taxis are a problem as i probably told you up front...you just have to be ruthless with them...

a couple of comments:

the telephone bill at the jw marriott, phuket...my phone calls were right on my bill, but i was staying in the hotel not in the time shares...i expect they are different corporations so they have to keep fees seperate...odd isn't it??

so glad you stayed at what i am calling the holiday inn plenochit...we did a walk through and were quite pleased with what we saw....the rooms are a tad small but quite nice....guenmai, a good "try" for you??

many asian hotels have these windows to the bathroom...with the large tubs i think it is to give it more the feel of an open spa???? i don't particularily like them...

many hotel door men give you the taxi number when you are leaving the hotel in case you leave something in the taxi or they are not good to you...i think they do it to tell the taxi driver that we know who you are so be responsible with this customer!!!

now you are poised for a return trip...bangkok is a perfect city from which to base yourself for future SEA places....all of the countries around like myanmar, viet nam, cambodia, malaysia, singapore, etc are easy flights from the very busy and well served bkk airport....YOU WILL BE BACK... make the most of your time in asia and get to every possible site you can....it is so much easier than having to endure what we have to with that trans pacific flight...ugh!!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 10:38 AM
  #73  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I enjoyed your report. Thanks for sharing so much information. I've stayed at the Intercontinental (which was the Le Meridien before) and saw what was the President Meridien turn into the Holiday Inn. They were still working on the building when I was there in February of this year, so I'm glad they are now finished, and that the Holiday Inn is adequate.

I think it was in the book, Bangkok Inside Out, that I read a notation about taxi drivers NEVER having change so you should always be prepared with smaller Thai notes. TRUE!!!

The weekend market is amazing. I've not wandered as far back as to see the pets. I don't think I'd like to see them in their tiny cages after all. We like one of the food stalls inside a market building (don't ask me which one.... LOL) where they sell honey pork. It is really really tasty!! They put it in a baggy, all sliced in smaller chunks, and give you a chop stick sort of thing to eat it with.

The huge mall you referred to, was that the Central World Plaza? (formerly World Trade Center) It is quite large looking from the outside. It's not on the same street as the HI, but is around the corner from Gaysorn Plaza, which was just on the other side of the Intercon.

I look forward to seeing your posts on this forum in the future.

Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 07:06 PM
  #74  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 209
Sept honeymoon-we stayed at the Conrad Hotel in July and it had a "peeping Tom window" between the bedroom and bathroom. I think its supposed to make the whole room look larger. Ours had an automatic curtain(on the bedroom side) that you could open or close by a switch. Well this would have been fine if it was just my husband and I in the room, however, our 2 children were with us and you can imagine the fun they had in opening the curtain whenever someone was using the bathroom. I couldn't understand why the curtain was placed on the bedroom side, until they took a bath one night and soaked the glass wall.
tnnc is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 10:14 PM
  #75  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 50
tnnc - that's a great story! I'm still so amused by the whole thing.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 16th, 2005, 01:02 PM
  #76  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 284
Great Report
john44 is offline  

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