Trip report to Hong Kong/Thailand

Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:39 AM
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Trip report to Hong Kong/Thailand

9/15 - Left from New York on Cathay Pacific airlines for my 20 hour flight to Hong Kong. My flight was 90 minutes late but since it was originally due to leave at 11:00 at night it didn’t really bother me. We boarded after midnight and left ground at 1:00am. I settled into my seat and took advantage of the in-flight movies located in the rear of the seat ahead of me. Dinner was served soon after. I chose the shrimp cocktail for starters and then Chicken with Black Bean Sauce, steamed Rice and Green Beans and Carrots. dessert was Caramel Cream Flan. Quite good I thought for being coach cuisine. The flight attendants were always feeding us and coming by with drinks. I found out in between my naps they served cookies, soup and sandwiches. Service was very good; better than any other airline I’ve come across. Always asking if I needed anything, very attentive and actually didn’t awake me from my sleep to ask if I wanted to eat. How nice! Hot towels were handed out periodically; nice touch that I wish the U.S. airlines would adapt. Amenity kits contained socks, toothbrush with toothpaste and a sleeping mask.

Part 2 to be continued...
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:42 AM
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I awoke in Vancouver, Canada for our one hour pit stop. Six hours had past. I was able to stay onboard. A refreshment was served of Chicken Stew with Black Mushrooms, Egg Fried Rice and mixed Vegetables and Passion fruit Mousse. Onward to Hong Kong. This jaunt was over thirteen hours long and not too bad. Somewhere over the ocean, I crossed the international dateline.

Part 3 to be continued...
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:42 AM
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9/17 – 8:00am, good morning Hong Kong! Awakened to breakfast of Fruit Cocktail, Scrambled eggs on a Muffin with Pork Sausage, Grilled Tomato and Mushrooms and a warm Croissant. The Hong Kong airport is very clean and modern and very easy to get around. It’s reputed to be the largest airport in the world. I go through customs to the luggage carousel and my worst fear is confirmed-NO SUITCASE. All my clothes for this trip are in there. I file my claim and off I go to get my shuttle to the Hyatt Regency Kowloon. It takes about 30 minutes to reach my hotel. First impression of Hong Kong; big and modern. Reminds me of Manhattan and Broadway because of its endless skyscrapers and neon signs. Since Hong Kong was colonized by the British until 1997 it’s so easy to get around this city because almost everything is translated into English; restaurants, street signs, etc. It’s so crowded here but a nice mix of city with surprising areas of landscaped parks. Everyone seems to mind their own business and is extremely polite. After a hosted dinner at the Hyatt, I went shopping and found a beautiful kimono for $100 HKD ($13.00 USD); definitely a buy.

Part 4 to be continued...
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:43 AM
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9/19 – Long day. Had breakfast at the Super Star Seafood restaurant around the corner from the hotel. We feasted on different kinds of Dim Sum and other specialties. Bruce from the Hong Kong Tourist Board was our guide for my city tour of Hong Kong Island. We took a tram up to the top overlooking Victoria Harbour. Have to remember to recommend the right side of the tram for picture taking. What an incredible view; postcard like. Had a scoop of Hagen Daaz and then off we went to go down the hill by motorcoach. Bruce was very helpful and funny, pointing out everything to us. Geoff, our trip guide from Travel Bound, took us for a ride on a Chinese Junk. Bought a silk bag from the woman driving the Junk for only $50.00 HKD ($6.37 USD). We sailed past the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Magnificent to gaze at. Very ornate. Must be brilliant at night when it’s lit up. We got dropped off at Stanley Market, which is a very popular place to go shopping for silk dresses and fine prints. Bought a gift for my co-worker Debbie and I since I was still dressed in the same clothes for two long days, I broke down and bought a silk outfit for $460.00 HKD ($58.67 USD).

Part 5 to be continued...
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:45 AM
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We inspected the Excelsior, Metro Park and Novotel hotels and ended our day around 6pm. I came back to my hotel room to hear those sweet words on my voicemail, “We have located your luggage”. I did my happy dance and put on a better attitude. Purchased an adorable embroidered peasant blouse for my daughter for $80 HKD ($10.20 USD) and a beautiful red and gold Mandarin style dress that I’ve always wanted for $150 HKD ($20.00 USD) at Temple Market. Had to take a subway to get there from my hotel which was a bargain at only $4.00 HKD (.51 USD). Underground was so clean and bright with very easy to read signage. Had a late dinner at Vic’s bar at the Hyatt. This was a delightful place. A gentleman played piano in the background and I noshed on tables full of Chinese and French appetizers and delectable desserts.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:46 AM
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9/20 – Long day again. After an American breakfast that melted in my mouth, as I was almost tiring of Dim Sum, we did more hotel inspections. We had a delicious hosted luncheon of typical authentic Chinese cuisine at the Grand Stanford Inter-Continental. Took a nap later on in the day as I was to go to a hosted dinner at the Grand Hyatt at 8:00pm. My roommate woke me up to say it was 7:00pm but when I looked at my watch I realized it was in fact 8:05pm! Front desk never woke us up for our 6:00pm wake up call. Called down there and asked what happened. Turns out the clerk had written down 6:00am. Of course now I was irritated as being on time is a virtue in China. Got dressed and ready and was in the lobby waiting for a taxi in ten minutes flat. Hong Kong traffic is something that is always a constant situation and since we had to go through the tunnel to Hong Kong Island, it took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel. Taxi ride was decently priced at $80.00 HKD ($10.20 USD).
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:47 AM
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Walked in at 8:35pm to JJ’s; a cozy dimly lit nightclub that offered beautiful Asian/Mediterranean décor. I expected dinner to be already underway but I got lucky; only the drink order was being taken. I took a seat across from Frederick Wong who was the sales manager from the Grand Hyatt. I apologized profusely for being late. He was gracious to let me know it was out of my control and not my fault. Whew! I still felt bad though. Dinner was superb and I had my first American dinner since I left U.S. soil. T-Bone steak with rosemary potatoes, sliced lox and tomatoes with basil was my choice and I settled into watching the evenings band “Massa” from Brazil. Mr. Wong explained they were contracted for one year to play there as many talent scouts pick out these bands.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:48 AM
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They played wonderful samba and I noticed almost everyone stopped eating and watched them play. Finished with an ice cream sundae dessert that was served untraditionally in a parfait glass but looked so sophisticated. Dinner was the most expensive thing I’d seen so far in China at $320.00 HKD ($40.81 USD). A few of us agents decided to take the talked about Star Ferry back over to Kowloon and was so glad I did. We purchased first class tickets for $2.20 HKD (.28 USD) and sat down in my top deck seat. Victoria Harbour at night is visually stunning even surpasses Naples and Acapulco bays at night. I took picture after picture of the skyscrapers that lined the bay and even one building that changed colors. We ended our evening with drinks at the famed Peninsula Hotel. Very elegant and regal surroundings. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a tour of the hotel since it was after 10:00pm.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:48 AM
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Chinese people have a special respect for the business card. It’s what defines them as a person in society. Even the way it’s presented is special. It’s always done with two hands and a slight bow.

9/21 – This morning we had to be up early at 5:00am for our 2 ½ hour flight to Bangkok. We met with our tour guide Phensiri “Bhut” Charoensuk. We were greeted with the traditional greeting; hands placed together as if in a prayer and a slight bow of the head which we returned. I learned that Thai people usually only do this for a person who is older than themselves and for respected people. Because Thai citizens have very difficult names that most visitors cannot pronounce, nicknames have become the norm here over the years. We catch our motorcoach bus bound for our 2 ½ ride to the resort town of Hua Hin. As I was watching the city from the freeway, I noticed an Elephant in an empty field. Was that right? I found out from “Bhut” I was indeed seeing correctly. The Elephants were used years ago for hauling lumber in the Rainforests but are now just used for taking pictures with tourists in the streets. I guess even the Elephants were downsized out of a job.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:49 AM
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Hua Hin is mostly a resort town. Beautiful resorts with expansive beaches. Streets and streets of shopping and restaurants. I settled in my room at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and set off to explore the town. Motorbikes with drivers and Tuk Tuks were the most common way to get from town to your hotel. One particular street I named “Little Italy” because of its many Italian restaurants. After a little shopping I went back to my hotel to get my one hour infamous Thai massage. I was all prepared to pay upwards of $70.00 USD for a since this was a Hyatt but my jaw dropped literally when I was told it was only $823.00 BHT ($20.00 USD) with tip! I was also told it was about half of that if I went into town. I relaxed and let the young man do his work on my muscles. I’ve only had a Swedish massage but this was definitely different. He started with my feet and worked his way up my legs and massaged and mashed every part of me; including my fingers. I decided I needed this again as soon as possible as it felt great.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:51 AM
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I turned over onto my stomach; I was looking face down into a bowl of wonderfully scented flowers placed on the floor. After floating out of there refreshed and relaxed decided to change and dress for dinner at Talay Thai. This was a beautiful traditional Thai designed restaurant. I had to take off my shoes to walk upon its teak wood floors. There were no chairs but instead large pillows with backs. There were square holes cut into the floors so you had to sit down and let your legs dangle down. There was so much attention to detail here. I was given a wet cold cloth to refresh myself which felt like heaven because of the humidity. I could hear off in the hotels distance two men playing a wooden flute and wooden Celtic stones. This only enhanced my experience. How perfect. A woman knelt down beside me and began to take my order. I thought that calming in some way.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:52 AM
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I had Satay Chicken, Lemon Grass Soup and Grouper. This was the priciest meal I’d had so far at $1977.36 BHT ($46.47 USD) but including a cocktail, I thought it was well worth it. Well, when the fish came to the table, I was surprised to see an entire fish, not just a portion, staring back at me. Surely they could see I was only one person? Was this their regular portion? I dug in, carefully avoiding the red and green chilies on top and ate as much of this delicious fish as I could.

 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:53 AM
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The people here are so polite. I wish as many Americans were. Politeness and manners is so important here. Thailand is called the land of smiles and I definitely believe it. In fact, Thailand citizens are trying to get rid of their version of “The Weakest Link” because of the rudeness and sarcasm. If they only knew what we’re used to. At the hotels, if someone saw you sitting down, they wished to know if there was anything they could get you or just to smile and say hello. I still can’t believe I’m in this this tranquil and beautiful country. In the morning after breakfast, I wandered around the hotels grounds and quietly read by the pool. I’m startled to hear Buddhist chants coming from the open lobby. It can be heard all over the hotel. I just kind of smile and go back to my book.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:54 AM
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Confessions of a Thai massage junkie: I’m a Thai Massage junkie. I decided to grab another over at the gorgeous Sofitel hotel. Received a 15% discount because I inspected it so I paid $795.36 BHT ($18.69 USD). This time I had a lady and was amazed at how she did even a better job on me than the young man at the Hyatt Regency. Interesting how while you’re face down they will climb on you back but do it so gently and carefully, you never feel pressure from their weight. They use their legs and knees to work on the sore muscles. I felt almost every bone in my back crack like a ripple effect and then she finished me with a hot towel scented with Lavender placed on my face, ahhh….
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:55 AM
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I went to dinner that night in town at Buffalo Bill’s. Nice casual place with lots of families. I’ve been very dehydrated lately because of the humidity so I’ve been drinking lots of bottled water and tonight was no exception. Angus Sirloin steak, baked potato, vegetable and salad came only to $396 BHT ($8.00 USD). I felt like an outsider sometimes in this country only because the amount of people from Australia. Hardly any Americans because of the distance of travel. I also see many people from Germany, the Netherlands and England with a smattering of Italians and Israelis. Thai tourism is encouraging us to book more Americans to come see their country.

Well, I got scammed. Didn’t think it could happen but it did. After dinner I went shopping some more picking up some antibiotics at a pharmacy, I decided to meet some other agents at a club at 9:00pm. Since I was running late and had no idea of where this place was, I flagged down a guy on a motorbike and off we went.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:55 AM
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After a few minutes, he let me off in front of the place. I asked him how much my fare was and after paying the $200 BHT ($4.70 USD), I ran inside. After I ordered a Coke, I began to remember how much “Bhut” said to pay no more than $30 BHT (.70 USD). I had to kind of smile knowing I had just been taken. A few hours later I decided to find this guy and get my money back. Our guide, Geoff Harrison, from Travel Bound told me that guy was in China by then and good luck. I was determined though. As determined as my daughter would be at a Nsync concert to meet Lance Bass to get his guy. I flagged down another motorbike guy and off we went. As luck would have it, I spotted him. I told my driver to slow down and stop. I hopped off and walked up to him where he was with his other co-workers. I immediately got my American attitude on but with no sneering
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:56 AM
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I was still in a good mood and still thought the whole situation funny. I towered over the guy by at least two inches so I used that to my advantage. I told him that I wanted $100 BHT ($2.35 USD) back and that he was getting off lucky. At first his friend gave me a look of “Do I know you?” I just smiled and waved him on with a “yeah, yeah”. I pressed the issue saying I knew he ripped me off and again I told him to give me back $100.00 BHT. Then the man said he gave me back change when I gave him the $200.00 BHT. “If that’s the case” I said, then why did HE ask ME for $200 BHT? He knew I had him. He dug into his pocket and gave me $100 BHT and I walked away triumphantly. I guess he figured he was still walking away with an extra $70.00 BHT so he shouldn’t complain. I didn’t care about the money. I figured you got me but I’m going to leave with some of my honor.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 07:57 AM
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9/22 – Left from Hua Hin for a flight to the island of Koh Samui. There is only one airport on this island and it’s privately run by Bangkok Airways. Samui airport was one of the most beautiful I’d seen. As soon as I got off the tram, I was surrounded by palm trees, tropical flowers and large thatched huts that were the terminals. While we were waiting for our shuttle over to our hotel, I got a fresh coconut drink. The woman hacked at the top and handed it to me with 15 seconds. I paid my $35 BHT (.82 USD) and sat down and sipped the refreshing sweet liquid. We took a side trip over to the Big Buddha first. The statue is only 30 year old but is amazing to look upon. It is so tall. First though to get to it, I had to climb steep stairs that seemed to go on forever. I wondered how in shape the Monks there must be. I got my picture taken with a Monk and that was quite spiritual. I also signed my name on a stepping stone that will be used in paving the temple. We stayed for about 30 minutes then left for our hotel, the Central Samui. After touring this hotel, we departed for a hosted dinner at the Samui Palm Beach Resort.
 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 08:00 AM
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That's all I can post for now on my trip details. I have to rest now, whew!
Below are my observations on the hotels I inspected...

The Excelsior Hotel (a Mandarin Oriental hotel) Good location, rather plain décor, small bathrooms but long bathtub. Café has harbour view, busy hotel.
Rm. 2520 Standard room – 285 square ft.
Rm. 2506 Deluxe room – 385 square ft. – full harbour view, plain décor, king bed, same size bathroom as standard.
Rm. 2501 Deluxe Suite – 800 square ft. – full harbour view, walk-in closet, nice size bedroom, bigger bathroom, 1 ½ baths, business like setting, king bed, 2 TV’s.
Rm. 2509 Executive Suite – 600 square ft. – partial harbour view, smaller scale, smaller walk-in closet, king bed, 1 ½ bath; first bath is smaller.

 
Old Oct 30th, 2002, 08:00 AM
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Metro Park Hotel. Vic’s Lounge is a nice place to meet for a drink; beige & black décor blend very well. Appetizers served are Tapas. Live entertainment in the cigar bar.
Simple but eclectic décor, overlooks Victoria Park & Harbour. Rooftop pool is small but has a nice shape. Rooftop Jacuzzi also has a nice view. Health club has beautiful bathrooms. Hotel’s décor is Asia meets Art Deco. Opened Oct. 2001.
Rm. 1704 Harbour View – 23 square meters, twin beds, small bathroom but nice; no bathtub, shower is very nice size.
Rm. 1702 – 21 square meters, 1 Dbl. Bed.
Rm. 2210 Executive Parlor – 45 square meters, nice & large, beautiful bathroom w/sunken tub, separate shower, soft palette colors, king bed.
Rm. 2202 Executive Suite – 45 square meters, 1 ½ bath, smaller bedroom area.
Rm. Metropark Ste – 1205 square meters, soaking Jacuzzi tub, 1 ½ bath, chaise lounge, beautifully decorated.
 

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