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Trip report: SR, LP and BKK

Old Nov 27th, 2005, 02:47 PM
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Trip report: SR, LP and BKK

Thanks to everyone who has written on this board - the suggestions helped enormously with our trip. We have 2 days left, are now in BKK, I just want to download while things are still fresh. I'll be happy to expand if anyone needs more info:
Traveling to SR: We took the nonstop JFK-BKK and it was just fine but of course very long. Service was nice, shell seats in business class and ambien made sleep possible. The checkin at JFK didn't give us good info about our bags. I asked if I could check them thru to Siem Reap even tho we were switching to Bangkok Air from Thai and the counter guy said yes but he wouldn't recommend it. So we didn't but we should have. We got to the BKK airport and there was a terribly long line at passport control. I finally found someone who advised that we go to the Transfer desk since we were not staying in BKK, and that the airline would take care of our bags. So we found the transfer desk, checked in to SR and they paged the baggage carousel people to pick up our bags and check them through to SR. So this was riskier in my opinion than if we had checked them through. Anyway, the bags arrived just fine in SR. Maybe I didn't understand advice from the board, but let me say that transfering from one airline to another in BKK is easy, much easier than going through immigration (more on that later)
Saroun was our guide in SR and he picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel, Hotel de la Paix right in the center of town. I can't say enough about how fabulous this hotel is. It is only a few months old so not that many people know about it. It is 5+ stars, super luxe, outstanding service, gorgeous modern SE Asia furnishings. We had an enormous suite, every detail was done right. Wireless internet service in the room (I brought my laptop), an IPod for you to use while you are there. Great spa (had a double massage with hubby on the last day). Really excellent buffet breakfast. All the usual fruits, excellent french pastries, etc, then you also choose one of 6 or so hot dishes. We loved the eggs benedict, eggs florentine and the waffles.
We had one of the best meals anywhere : the set Khmer dinner, $25 per person, just exquisite very refined Khmer food, not like anything you find in the local restaurants.
Bottom line: Saroun and the hotel were outstanding. Don't need to add anything, of course, about the whole reason for going there - -the temples and the Tonle Sap - - met every expectation of awesomeness!!
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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On Siem Reap, I didn't really like the town at all. One tourist hotel after the other on the main road to the airport. Raffles and the Victoria are in a more peaceful area but the busloads of tourists wereoverwhelming. Thank goodness Saroun knew which temples would be less crowded at certain times of the day and also brought us through to smaller gates. We had lunch one day at Khmer Kitchen, it was fine. Ate at the NYTimes recommended Carnet d'Asie, which I didn't like very much at all. Also, had lunch at Abacus, was good.
BTW, Dawn Rooney book was EVERYWHERE for about $4.
Brought some school supplies with us and Saroun helped us distribute them. The kids seemed delighted and we were happy to support kids in school.
For us, 3 full days was just the right amount of time for SR and we had a bit of pool time back at the hotel in the heat of the day.
Getting to Luang Prabang: first morning flight out of SR to BKK. At arrival, a Bangkok Air rep met us and took us to the transfer desk (been there, done that!)to get our boarding passes for the next flight. Arrived in LP and had a little trouble finding the driver. We thought he would be inside the airport along with the others. I was almost ready to get a taxi to the hotel when someone suggested we go outside. There he was with our name on a piece of paper. We stayed at the 3 Nagas
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 03:25 PM
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Comment about Bangkok Air.Although getting the discovery pass wasn't the easiest thing, I found the airline to be extremely efficient and well run. Our flights were all on time, excellent service, etc. Seats are very small, really packed on every flight, but they are short trips and they get you there very efficiently.

On LP: 3 Nagas was a disappointment, especially for the price. We paid $165 per night for a suite in the building on the other side of the road from the main hotel. It was spacious, very clean, had a nice terrace, but for the PRICE we paid, I felt we were paying WAY TOO MUCH. One really negative thing about our room, it was right next to the kitchen and the fumes were nauseating. It was quite unpleasant, really. Also, there was no TV, which I wouldn't expect for $100 per night but I would for $165. Cheapskate amenities, like a piece of soap about 1 1/2 inches by 2 inches, like in motel6. Again, don't call yourself a "Boutique Hotel" and charge those kinds of prices. But on the plus side, the location was very good, the room was large.
I really loved LP. Unfortunately, my husband was sick for one day, over reaction to the accumulated sun, and so we were more confined to the historic center for most of the time. But walking around the rivers, going through the small lanes, was just lovely and relaxing. While we were there, it was the 10th anniv of the World Heritage Site designation and there was a wonderful parade representing all the traditional crafts, etc. Once in a lifetime experience!
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 03:32 PM
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LP: I can't report on a great deal of sightseeing because we were only there 3 nights and as I said, huuby's illness limited what we could do, so no boat ride. I did a fair amount of shopping at the Hmong market, bought purple rice at the food market on the hill (50 cents for 1 kilo), lots of watercolors from the art school students, etc. I tried to get a jacket made at Ocktopkop. Got there the first day, found some beautiful silk and a sample jacket. Got fitted, etc. Came back 2 days later and it was about 2 - 3 sizes too small. Don't know how the measurements got messed up but I was disappointed. But if they had gotten it right, it would have been fabulous and very reasonable.
Had Thanksgiving dinner at L'Elephant - -turkey and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, etc. What a riot!
Had a lunch at Louis on the river, great recommendation, delicious food. We ate 2 dinners at 3 Nagas Lao we loved the food so much. We followed Amanda Hesser's recommendations on what to order and then some - - it was one of the best Asian restaurants we have even been to, and so different that Khmer cuisine, we weren't expecting them to be so different.
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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Great report. Sorry you didn't like 3 nagas - I agree the price is far too much - we paid only $68 in August which was quite enough - They are going way over the top now -but then I think so is everywhere in LP.

3 nagas lao is good though isn't it (even if you also got the fumes!)
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 05:18 PM
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Mary, overall the 3 Nagas was fine. If the room hadn't been next to the restaurant, I probably wouldn't have minded the other things. And probably if I hadn't stayed there, I would have wished I had because the location was wonderful. It was just that after Hotel de la Paix, esp price, service and amenity wise, it seemed like a ripoff. But I can understand why prices are starting to go so high there.

Anyway, now we are back (we here last year early November) in BKK, again at the Oriental, same room as last year on the top floor of the river wing. Same amazing service. Within the first 15 minutes, our floor butler helped me connect my laptop, made restaurant reservations, arranged a late check out, charged up my digital camera, ordered a car for us to take us to the restaurant and reconfirmed Julie taxi for today! We went to Pen restaurant (not the hotel), which had been recommended by RW Apple in the NYTimes in October. It was every bit as good as he said: giant grilled river prawns, deep friend parrot fish with mango and chili sauce, stir fried morning glories with garlic, wild mushrooms with oyster sauce and an oyster, egg and sprout combo on a hot plate. It was one of the most amazing dinners - just a local non tourist place although with the NY Times article, who knows.
After a good sleep on their comfy bed, our ritual bkfst by the river. Then off to buy silk at the JT Outlet and probably a museum, letting Julie do the driving.
One more thing, cautionary altho hopefully it won't be forever. The BKK airport, when we arrived to go into the city, we spent 1 hr 15 minutes in the immigration line. It was the worst immigration process we ever went through. Painfully slow. Then the airport was completely chaotic, worse than I remember last year. Couldn't find AAC limo like we did last time, finally ended up with one of the car service people but it didn't take too long to get the car.
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 06:00 PM
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great report DC...anxious to hear more....for the record how much was the room in SR??

what did you find at jim thompson?? was it the one on soi 93?

what else is planned??

bob
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 06:09 PM
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Great report. Since you've been to the Oriental before i'm curious as to how they changed the pool area and verandah restaurant
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 07:35 PM
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rhkkmk - The best rate I found on agents web site was $244 for deluxe room and 330 for a suite.
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Old Nov 27th, 2005, 08:08 PM
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like most SR hotels way overpriced, but maybe not for this one...
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Old Nov 28th, 2005, 03:33 AM
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Just got back from a very full day of mostly shopping and sitting in traffic. JT Outlet bought $750 worth of stuff, mostly silks for reupholstering and probably $100 worth of knick knacks. Could have spent more time at risk of divorce - -we were there for more than 3 hrs. Used Julie taxi all day and Julie drove us this time. She was terrific. Took us to a really good non-tourist restaurant for lunch, all 3 dishes, more beer than we could drink, about $12. We were the only westerners.
Then to Vinamarek mansion, I was not impressed but it was mildly interesting. The to the Suan Lum night market, there for about an hour, I really liked it because there was variety and it seemed more manageable than the weekend market. Bought lemongrass soaps, incense, place mats, other souvenir type stuff. But oh my, the traffic was really horrendous.
Yes, the verandah restaurant was changed around a little bit for breakfast, we were disoriented when we first got there because things had changed and we didn't realize it. But instead of lining up all the tables along the hotel side of the terrace, everything is in the center. I would say there is 90% of what was there last year. More limited on cheeses and fruit and breads. The omelet chef was much better than last year. I didn't look at the pool yet, will do that tomorrow..

Hotel de la Paix was $230 including bkfst for the suite. I bargained with the sales manager and got a lower price because we were staying 4 nights. Also it was only 20% occupied, so there is lots of room for negotiation, I would say. But GO GO GO if your plans include Siem Reap
Off to dinner, will file more tomorrow
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Old Nov 28th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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Great report. We will be following much of the same itinerary but different hotels.
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Old Nov 28th, 2005, 05:54 AM
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isn't the fabric selection unbelievable at the jt outlet? there is more fabric selection there than at the main store on suriwong...the men are very accomodating as well...
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Old Nov 28th, 2005, 06:05 PM
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I just love JT: last year I redid my living room and this year the dining room and master bedroom. I'll need to move into a bigger house so that I can keep coming back to furnish with silk .
Last night we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel. It was just delicious but there were only 4 tables occupied, very surprising given the quality and it was not very expensive.
Off to do more shopping today, then dinner cruise, check out of hotel and to airport for 1am flight.
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Old Nov 28th, 2005, 07:56 PM
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Thanks for the great report. You have me concerned about my airport situation in Bangkok. On Christmas day we leave Osaka and fly into Bangkok on Japan Air. We have about 2 and a half hours from when our plane is supposed to land and when our Bangkok Air flight is scheduled to depart for Siem Reap. I was planning on just getting my bags and going through customs. It sounds like you're saying their might be a way around that. Do you think 2 and a half hours is enough time to get bags and go thorugh customs? Or are we better trying to book our bags straight through?

Another question: did you have to pay a penalty for bringing big suitcases on Bangkok Air flight from BKK to SR? We will be coming from Japan and worry that our bags will be too heavy.

Thanks. Jeff
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Old Nov 29th, 2005, 01:11 AM
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Jeff:
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT PLAN TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS IN BKK (CAPS on purpose). Even if you can't get your bags checked through, when you deplane in BKK go to the transfer desk (I think it is Transfer desk #2, where Bangkok Air is located). Get on the line for the flight to Siem Reap. Have your baggage claim checks with you. If your bags are not checked through, when you get to the front of the line, show them your baggage check and they will call down to the baggage claim, someone will get your bags and check them on the flight to Siem Reap. If you are able to check your bags through, show them to the desk anyway so that they can double check that the bags made it and will be put on the flight to Siem Reap. With 2 1/2 hours you should be fine doing it this way unless your first flight is very late.
I know they have a weight limit on BKK But I don't know if it is for the entire party or per bag. Best thing would be to call and ask.
Have a great trip.
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Old Nov 30th, 2005, 04:59 AM
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thanks very much for this very helpful tip.
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