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Wake up and smell the service! Tripgirl's fab time in Japan, China and Thailand

Wake up and smell the service! Tripgirl's fab time in Japan, China and Thailand

Aug 18th, 2005, 12:14 PM
  #21  
 
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Bob-- I think you'd love Japan -- especially Kyoto.
glorialf is offline  
Aug 18th, 2005, 06:27 PM
  #22  
 
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kyoto is boston's sister city so it holds even more interest... i have looked at japan a few times and always walked away for various reasons...
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Aug 19th, 2005, 02:58 AM
  #23  
 
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Bob, Japan is wonderful! I also resisted going for a long time but then, for reasons I cannot explain, I got this overwhelming urge to go there. Eric and I absolutely loved it! We did not have one negative experience. I think you and Karen would really love it (although probably no jewelry for Karen, way too expensive there from what I could see, but if she is in the market for an antique silk kimono, you're in luck!) On the whole, I liked Japan as much as any SEA country. It's much different from SEA but no less fascinating.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 03:37 AM
  #24  
 
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I also resisted it because i thought it would be too "western" but discovered that it has maintained its culture more than many other asian countries. I finally decided to go after taking a class on "Tale of Genji" which I folled with classes on some of the Heian diaries and then "Tale of the Heike". Before I went I did a lot of reading on the culture and history (not just guide books) which I think enhanced my appreciation a lot.

If you're interested in art, pottery, gardens or textiles this is an extraordinary place to visit. As for shopping -- I did buy some antique textiles and woodcuts at very good prices.

And I would put the Miho Museuem (the setting and the building itself more than the collection) one of the high points in all of my traveling. Absolutely breathtaking and spiritual. Pei said he wanted you to feel like you were approaching Shagrila -- and you do! I can't wait to go back to Japan -- something I'll be doing in two years with the people I've been doing my japanese studies with.We're organizing a trip to focus on the places in the works.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 03:47 AM
  #25  
 
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Gloria, the Miho Museum was also a highlight for us. I had seen a show on TV (on Ovation) about the building of it and all the problems Pei encountered and how he overcame them. I was very excited to find out it was only an hour from Kyoto and easy to get to. We also found the architecture and the setting to be the big reason to go, moreso then the collection. A truly magical place, so serene. I thought it evoked Japan and Japanese culture beautifully.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 04:12 AM
  #26  
 
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Me too, Laurie. I knew very little about it but a friend told me not to miss it. I'm normally more into the old stuff rather than the new so I almost skipped it. I'm sooooooooo happy I didn't. I was there when the trees were just beginning to turn. It was truly one of the incredible sights I've ever seen. But when I went it took longer. We had to take a train to a bus so by the time we waited for connections etc it was about 1 3/4 hrs. They have a train that goes right there now don't they? Or did you drive.

We spent 2 weeks in Kyoto and didn't feel we even scratched the surface. I can't wait to go back.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 10:00 AM
  #27  
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Im back.

now on to Kyoto.

We went to Kyoto just a for a day. As you can see Gloria went for 2 weeks and did not see everything! But if you are short on time, you can indeed see some of Kyoto even in a day.

We took the early morning train from Tokyo station and it was fun. what nice ride the bullit train is! 2 1/2 hrs later we were met on the platform by Masu, from MK Taxi company, a company I found here on Fodors.

As it turned out later, Masu, who was excellent, was the private guide for Paul McCartney and Mikail Gorbachov ( sp?). Ok, I was impressed! His company gets the calls when a celebrity or dignitary comes to town.

Anyway, we saw just some of the highlights, mostly the temples that were fascinating and bautiful. The first one we went to , and Gloria you perhaps can remember the name as it escapes me now, but it had 500 gold buddas all lined up with about 7 deities in front of them. It looked like a stadium filled of gold. it was amazing.

My husband who is intrigued by geisha, samurai and shogun grilled Masu on all of these and Masu knowledge of the history was vast.

We had a wonderful lunch( above) and generally got a short glimpse of Japan outside Toyko. Glad we went. Although it was a long day, the travel was not exhausting, but rather easy and very pleasant. Had plenty of energy to go out to dinner that evening once back in Tokyo.

On our last day before heading to Beijing, that is when I went foraging through the dept stores food halls and did a little bit of stationary shopping to buy Washi, Japanese rice paper, makes great gifts!
Hubby also visited the Sony Center and some books stores.

I did actually purchase very little in Japan, I wanted to do most of my shopping in Bangkok, of which I surely did!! Still as long as you purchase some indigenous items the prices aren't that bad. Bought some chopsticks and green tea as well and not pricey at all.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

I really liked the Japanese culture; everyone was very nice to us. the love the gentleness of the culture and the appreciation for beauty. Love the bowing!

Although we did not really see country side and mostly spent time in Tokyo, I still came away with a sense of the culture of which I hope to return to someday.

I was most appreciative of the food; clean, elegant, very healthy. loved the vending machines too!!

Service was genuine, not forced, gentle and unobtrusive. Loved the high tech aspects coupled with old traditions and ways.

Overall a successful time in Tokyo. And while there are many Asian cities I'd like to see, I would go back to Tokyo, although I have to say it did not draw me in as Bangkok did ( more on this later), but so very glad we decided to go.

tomorrow... Beijing!
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Aug 19th, 2005, 11:33 AM
  #28  
 
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thank you, tripgirl. am happy that you went to Japan first so I didn't have to wait for your excellent report on that part of you trip. You put it well about the service in Japan, being genuine and not forced.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 11:51 AM
  #29  
 
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tripgirl
I think the museum/home of the sculptor in Yanaka you mentioned in your post is the Asakura Choso Museum. I went there as well last year. I was the only visitor at the time. It was fabulous - in the middle was a pond with goldfish.....plus the sculpture, a room full of sculpted cats!
Mara
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Aug 20th, 2005, 04:04 AM
  #30  
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Mara,

Yes, you are right, thanks for the name of the place. Yes, while we were there there was hardly any other visitors; a shame really because the place is so interesting; I really enjoyed that part of our day.

On to BEIJING...

HOTEL
We stayed at the St Regis located in the Embassy area of Beijing. I did want to stay at the Pen located right downtown, but when I tried to make reservations seems that those dates were blocked out.

Anyway, the St Regis as you can magaine is a wonderful hotel. Its only drawback is the surrounding area does not offer a ton to do by just walking around it. You have to walk further down to get to the shops and the Square. It actually takes about 45 minutes of walking to get the Square and the Forbidden City. It is close to the "new" Silk Alley though ( more on what I thought of that later).

Anyway we reserved an Executive Double room, nice and large with a beautiful bathroom and all expected amenities. Butler service again is provided for all guests. The hotel itelf is very beautiful and classic. The Garden Lounge area for drinks and light food is framed by very tall palm trees.

The breakfast, although not included in our room rate was very good, an excellent buffet breakfast or a la carte.

Perhaps though the most interesting part about staying there at the time we did was during the North Korea talks. Christopher Hill, deputy Sec of State, and the Japanese representative to the talks were staying at our hotel. All day and most of the night, reporters were camped out in our lobby. Each morning and every evening after the talks, Christopher Hill spoke with press. We stood right there with the press and no one seemed to mind; quite historic! Although we all know that the 13 days of talk produced about zilch! But nonetheless it was exciting.

The hotel has an excellent gym and spa as well. Service was good, but not overwhelming service of the Japanese or Thais. More on my observations about the mainland Chinese people in my IMPRESSIONS.

I would recommend this hotel, but I think first time visitors like ourselves would have had more an advantage in staying closer to the downtown area. But overall, the St Regis name is for sure about quality and elegance.

SIGHTSEEING

As per many recommendations on this board, especially from fromMA and Lindsey, we hired Mr Robinson Li as our driver for 2 days. He was great. I know a few people had problems with him, but I think it may be all in the way you handle him, at least that is worked for us. I e mailed him dozens of times before the trip ( booked him well in advance) to make sure he and he only he would be our driver and that the itinerary was the way I wanted it. I also invited him as our guest to have dinner with us the night before we were to set out for two days with him. He was very touched by the invitation and it was good to meet him and get a bit used to him before we set out. More on the dinner with him later.

First, I will say his English is not really that great, but I got most of what he said. Believe me though, his English was far better than others we encountered. One thing about Mr Li is that he wants to make sure you see everything and that you are satisfied before he returns you to the hotel, so be prepared for a long day.

The first day of touring it was raining in the morning so we reversed the order of our original itinerary and saved the Great Wall for the next day. The first day we visited Lama Temple, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the hutongs, the Pearl Market and a evening acrobatic show. It was a loooong day , but all well done. I know many of you just used taxis to get around to these places, but Mr Li made it so much easier to get from place to place. His son, Steven, also joined us. He has a regular job, but that day he was off and he became our unofficial guide. His english is actually pretty good and he knows alot about the sights. Mr Li came inside with us for the Lama Temple and told us all about it, but then Steven acted as our guide at the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven. I really enjoyed the Summer Palace; so peaceful, even though the occupant; Empress Dowager Cixi, was not the, let's say, nicest woman in Chinese history!

The hutongs though were a trip! Mr Li has a friend who drives a rickshaw through the hutongs and so we went with him for a 1 1/2 hour tour. It was a mixed bag of emotions for me going through these old alleyways. In some ways the peacefulness of them was engaging, it was depressing in parts, the "wealthier" hutongs contrasted so starkly with the poorer ones. Let's just say it was nothing like anything you've seen before and that's what made it so fascinating. I highly recommend a hutong tour. You can also walk it yourself, but the drive through was easy and relaxing. Our driver did know alot about the history of the hutongs and that also helped.

The Pearl Market, I was not sure what to make of it! I did end up buying two sets of pearls I do like, but I have to be honest, this kind of shopping is not really for me. I know alot of people love the game of bargaining, my husband does, I just don't really enjoy it all that much.

After a while too, all the touting did get to me. I know these people are trying to make a living, but after a while, "Hey Lady' , just got to me. I'm not faulting them, it's part of the the culture, but I personally just don't care for it too much ( although it adds color!!!)

The evening acrobatic show I really enjoyed. Although a little touristy, the acts were really well done and it was a nice way to end the evening.

The next day was the Wall. On the way, we did stop at a porcelain factory. FromMA warned me that Mr Li did this to him too, but that the pieces inside were truly beautiful. and he was right. There were no tour buses out front, we were the only ones at the place at the time. And, yes the pieces of cloissone( sp?) were indeed beautiful. We bought several pieces. I never felt forced or pushed and we needed to go use the facilities anyway, so I did not mind the stop.

We went to the wall at Mutiyanu. Mr Li showed us where to go to get our lift tickets and up we went. We did not walk the wall too far, just wanted to get a sense of it and yes, it was a pretty awesome feeling to be onthe wall! Not alot of other tourists were there. The views were outstanding. We did not spend too much time at the wall, just enough to walk it a bit.

We stopped for lunch at a countryside restaurant, a friend of Mr Li, we were the only ones there. And then Mr Li took us to meet an elderly farm couple. It was indeed interesting and at the same time a bit of a shock on how they live. I did picture it in my mind that way, but actually seeing dirt floors, etc was an eye opener. They spoke no English, but offered us tea and fruit, but we did not have the time to stay. It was interesting to stop there and I'm glad we did.

On the way back we visited to the Ming Tombs. The drive back to Beijing is beautiful, the countryside is indeed lovely.

On our last day we went to the square and the forbidden city ourselves. We tried to line up to see Mao's tomb, but the lines were impossibly long, so we skipped it. One thing I warn you, and I'm sure you've read it here before, but watch out for the "art students". My husband loves to meet the locals and sometimes does not realize he is being sucked into a scam. I, on the other hand, have a more suspicious mind( don't know if this is always good!! but in this case it was good that I knew what was happening right away).

Anyway, a pretty young lady approached us, asked us where we were from. Hubby thought she was a student guide and was offering to just show us around. As the conversation continued she began to tell us about a "special art exhibition" and would we like to go with her. I leaned into him hard and said "this is a scam, let's go!".

About 2 more people tried this again within minutes of each other at the square, so just be careful.

Just being at the square and the forbidden City, even though we did not cover every inch, was just fascinating given the history and that we were actually there! Mao's portrait hanging on the entrance to the
forbidden city I have to say, scared the willies out of me , so imposing and knowing what acts against humanity he did commit made me slightly ill.

After walking through them both, we hopped a cab to Lotus Lane, a delightful little area up in the Back Lakes area and went for lunch at South Silk road( more on it later). Lastly we hopped another cab to the downtown area and walked around the pedestrian street.

I know there is alot more to see in Beijing, but as a first time visitor this was plenty to start with.

I would highly recommend Mr Li and just make sure you are very clear with him. He does like to show you a good time, so do let him know well in advance if you have time restrictions. He is very reasonable and I felt he helped us navigate Beijing better than using cabs all over the place. And he knows what seems like everyone!

DINING

We took all of our breakfasts in the hotel. For lunches for the two days we were with Mr Li he took us to very local places. The first lunch was at a dumpling place he always goes to. Can't tell you where exactly where we were but he ordered like 7 different kinds of dumplings and the bill for four us was $15! the other lunch as I mentioned above was out in the countryside near the Wall. We had the most fantastic egg pancake, all from the farm and fresh vegetables mixed with chicken. The farm grows all kinds of fruit, raises chicken and grows all kinds of vegetables. Lunch on our own after the square was at South Silk road, food from the southern provinces of China. The restaurant is located on Lotus Lane, a small cute area with lots of restaurants. The food at this restauarant was really way out there and spicy. Hubby ordered noodles which turned out to be way too hot for him, but he did the best he could. I had a nice stir fry that was not hot. But other choices on the extensive menu included all kinds of intestines, parts, etc. We ate outside and that was nice right on the lake.

Our first dinner was at Liquan Roast Duck Restaurant. I opted not to go to the more famous and probably touristy Quanjude restaurant, as I knew Liquan was in a hutong and I wanted to see a hutong right away.

I made the reservations inviting Mr Li to come join us. As it turned out he is good friends with the owner, who we spent time with and his daughter. Mr Li did not influence the decision to go there, I made the reservation first and then invited him.

Anyway, we were treated very well and we have picture of hubby with the man who roasts the ducks over fruitwood who let hubby hold the pole full of ducks!

The duck was sublime and Mr Li also ordered a variety of other dishes to include vegetables and beef. There was enough food for an army! The entire bill came to about $20.

This place is very popular, but don't be shocked where you are. I don't know if I would found it on my own. it's buried deep within a hutong. Since it was our first night, my husband nudged me as we walked through the hutongs and he thought" My god, where are we going??" But it turned out to be a highlight.

The night of the acrobatic show we just ended up going to a local restaurant for some vegetables and chicken, a bill of $8 total.

After two nights of cheap, but great food, I have to say hubby and I were itching for a little something more upscale. And we found it!!! One the our favorite, if not THE favorite dinner of the trip was in Beijing. It was at a place called the Green T. House.

Hip, stylish and oh so creative with fab music , you dine either on beds or at a table with really long chairbacks. The place is airy with floating white curtains and every nook and cranny is filled with something creative. The menu is unlike anything I've ever seen. The names for the food are things like: A Harmony of....., not just listed as entrees, sides, etc. But it was not gimmicky at all, just wonderfully creative. I had a dish of thinly sliced tuna on toasts with caviar on top and edible rose petals. Hubby had a lamb dish with sesame seeds and all kinds of greens. We also had green tea cheesecake and tea-amisu ( a take off on tiramisu) It is located in the Embassy area not too far from our hotel. It truly was somethng else.

Afterwards we headed to the Kerry Center Hotel for the bar, Centro. A fun place, packed with people and a good jazz band.

The other dinner was at the Pen, Jing. Very nicely done. I had a wonderful salad and a roast pork dish that had been marinated ot 48 hours.

All in all the food in Beijing was very good and for what we did not spend with Mr Li was balanced what we did on our own.

SHOPPING

At the Pearl Market I did pickup two necklaces I do really like, but like I said, I think I could have skipped the whole experience.

After the hutong tour, Mr Li met us back up again at a tiny little tea shop of a friend of his and she had two beautiful vases sold as a set.

We also bought the things at the porcelain factory on he way to the Wall; a very beautful cloisonne plate that had the dragon and the phoenix ( representing happy marriage), some chopsticks, a butterfly for my Mom, and a beautiful pear Christmas ornament.

The shopping in Beijing is not a highlight like it is in Hong Kong or Bangkok, but what we bought we were satisfied with.

IMPRESSIONS

Beijing for me was a tug on the emotions. Caught between the old and the new, while I liked Beijing, I do not feel the need to go back any time soon.

For me, it was not the place to really relax and I knew this going in. I found the people, while generally nice, they were more cautious.
The service was good, but more tentative.

The contrasts were just fascinating; communistic, capitalistic, poor, rich, old, young, busy and congested, green spaces. So I would describe my experience in Beijing as one of wonderment and observation, not necessarily as an ideal vacation spot you normally think of.

And the traffic! The worst I have ever seen and i live in DC!! the cars just all go in one mass with no attention to lanes, courtesy, etc. It was a hoot to experience, but I don't think I could live in it!

Glad I saw it though and it would be interesting to go again in visit in about 5 yrs to see how much has changed as they are truly in the midst of change. Would like to see Shanghai though.

It's not fair of me to make an assessment of mainland China as we only went to Beijing. And when you have a trip that includes Hong Kong and Bangkok, both of which I flipped for, it's a little unfair to Beijing. We'll go back to mainland China another time; but to be honest I'm more sucked in by SE Asia.

next up.. Hong Kong!!! See you later this afternoon.
tripgirl is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 04:55 AM
  #31  
 
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Keep it coming tripgirl! I love your report. It is bringing back a flood of wonderful memories for me, as well as giving me ideas for upcoming trips. It sounds as though you had the trip of a lifetime, the kind most people hope to go on once. But now that you've experienced many of the delights of Asia, I think you will be like many of here on fodors and return again and again.
laurieco is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 05:05 AM
  #32  
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HONG KONG

HOTEL

We chose the Intercontinental and WOW! It was fabulous; loved it!

First before I get into the hotel, I will tell you that we decided to be goofy and we booked the hotel Rolls Royce; you only live once ( or is that twice??!!)Don't get on me for this; we just wanted to have a ball!

Anyway, our transport to the hotel from the airport was as smooth as Chinese silk! Our limo driver, Steven was just delightful.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we were met by Jenny, guest relations, at the door to the Rolls. She wisked us right to our room and did check in at the room. As it turns out, the first room we were given, although fantastic, about 1 hour after check in Jenny called the room profusely apologizing as we were to have an upgraded room due to being Ambassador members. So we were moved to a Jr. Suite with a full frontal view of Victoria Harbour. Words cannot describe; simply heaven!

I think personally if you can go for it, it pays to have a nice view of the harbour from your room while in HKG.

Anyway, my "wake up and smell the service" was just oozing here. Every door was opened for us and the staff just sort read your mind everywhere we were in the hotel; could not have been more friendly and accommodating.

Our room, as you can guess was huge, with living room area, tremendous bathroom and all amenities.

The hotel is sleek and modern with the most unbelievable views of the harbour from its lobby lounge with its floor to ceiling wrap around windows. Attached to the New World shopping center and possessing its own set of shops, the shopping temptation was everywhere ( oh boy)

Having grown up in the hotel business as I mentioned before , you know things do go wrong, but truly I never experienced a hotel like this one, where everything truly was seamless.( also the Pen in Bangkok when I get to it)

And even though the actual room rate was not cheap,we were given a free night because of Ambassador membership, an upgrade and the breakfast which was amazing was included. so I say for us it was value.

The hotel has a fab spa which I did have a treatment, an excellent gym and a great pool area and outdoor jacuzzi that juts out over the harbour.

I have to say the only "disadvantage" of staying at truly fabulous hotels ( also it was like this for us at the Pen in Bangkok), you don't want to leave the premises!

Anyway, I highly recommend this hotel is you do want to spend the money and be what I think is the most dramatic location in HKG. I did visit other hotels such as the Pen and the Langham and they were lovely. I suspect many of the hotels in HKG are really fabulous, so you have a wonderful choice.

be back in a few...
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Aug 20th, 2005, 07:01 AM
  #33  
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SIGHTSEEING

Upon arrival we had some time for lunch and then I went exploring just a bit up Nathan Road( not impressed, too crowded with too much junky stuff) and went over to Kowloon Park. Hubby, just relaxed at the hotel.

On our first full day, I did indeed hire a guide for the day. Iknow that in Hong Kong you really don't need one as there are not tons of historical sites to visit, but we just adore spending time with a local guide and asking questions.

Calvin from a company called PC tours was our guide. I arranged this through a recommendation from a friend of mine here at home. Calvin is a nice young man, whose knowledge of his birthplace was very good. It was the first time I listened carefully to the voice of a person from Hong Kong; he had a slight British accent and it was delightful! English was no problem at all as you would imagine.

Anyway, we spent the day with him, visiting the Western section of the city, Victoria Peak, Aberdeen, Man Po Temple, Wong Tai Sin Taoist Temple and more. We could have, yes, easily done them on our own, but he was so nice to spend time with and it was just us so we could ask alot of questions.

The Peak was amazing, the views are just fab. Most of the herbalists in the Western section were not open but I got a good sense of the this older section of Hong Kong.

My husband had his fortune told at the Wong Tai Sin Temple; a hoot really. He wanted to know if his college football team, the Miami Hurricanes ( of which I believe he is their BIGGEST fan, oy!) would have a winning season. Her prediction did not exactly match his question, something about cooperation or something like that, but it was a gitchy and fun thing to do.

The next two days in HKG we were starting to get lazy and did not want to travel much; so hence we did not go to Lamma or Lantau or Macau. I had a spa treatment, The Ancient Rituals of the Orient at the spa. A fabulous hot rock massage with oil being poured continuously on my forehead and massaged into my hair. It was heaven.

We mostly spent these next two days relaxing, shopping and eating; Hong Kongs pastimes from what I am told anyway! Hubby did venture to the space museum ( he is an aerospace engineer)and art museum as well; liked them!
On a next trip, we'll venture out more; just wanted to be lazy!

DINING

Hip, hip and more hip!
The restaurants were our style!! first night we went to a fab place called Hutong, at one Peking Road, 28th floor., in Kowloon. Wow! Modern Peking food in an urban atmosphere with a breathtaking view of the harbour. We got there just in time for the light show and since it was Sat night, the fireworks are added to the show. It was extraordinary. The PA system was plugged into the restaurant, so you could hear all the music and explanations of all the buildings who participate in the show
The Hong Kong Skyline beats the pants off the NY skyline and this from a born New Yorker!

The food is excellent, and the decor is urban , yet antiquated. the bathrooms are , well, you just gotta go.......

We ate lunch up at the Peak at Cafe Deco and it was very good. Calvin knows the manager of the place and he came to meet us.

Next night dinner was at Felix in the Peninsula on Kowloon. It is everything you heard; the loo for the men is nothing like you've ever seen ( not that I actually walked into the mens room!), but spraying yourself all over Victoria Harbour, well, was a highlight for my hubby!! The womens room was equally a hoot, with makeup tables where the men's urinals are in their bathroom situated directly over the harbour.

The food was very good and in the interior of the place designed by Phillippe Starck is wonderfully airy , chic and hip.

Dinner the third night was a place in Central, called FINDS. Which stands for Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. I found it in a most recent issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine. The icy cool turquiose interior reminds you of cool Scandanavia. A break from Asian food, we dined on Scandanavian food. It was monday night and so it was a little quiet,normally the bar area from what I understand is hopping on weekends.

And the last night we dined at our hotel at YU, the seafood restaurant. Excellent, had lovely seafood, although we did not order the fish from the tanks as the prices were even way too rich from my blood! Excellent service and delicious food with a last look at the harbour.

Breakfast was a huge affair, although we don't eat alot for breakfast, it was everything you could possibly want, Western and Asian food, 10 different kinds of juices, 15 types of fruits, 20 different bakery breads, cereals, meats, cheeses, eggs any style, sushi, congee, miso soup, etc, etc, etc.

We also had an excellent lunch at Yah To Heen , in our hotel for excellent dim sum upon arrival. Beautiful restaurant and very reasonably priced dim sum.

Hong Kong has a nice mix of traditional dining on Chinese cuisine to all sorts of cuisines. Can't wait to try some more!

SHOPPING

Yes, of course we shopped1

Hubby had a tailor make some clothes, a sport jacket, 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, all nicely done.

I bought alot of gifts mostly. One gift I love ( gave yesterday to the recipient), was a Chinese chop. I was not sure I exactly understood what this was, but then I did and there was shop near the hotel that did nice work. Chops are basically a stamp with a person's name engraved in it. I chose a jade budda as the stamp; it was a lovely gift if I do say so myself.

In the Luxe Guides there was some great shopping ideas; but I only got to the Luxe guides by the time we were in Bangkok. But I bought the Hong Kong Luxe and next time, I think I'll do some of the routes.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

I guess you can see I did like Hong Kong very much. It's an easy city to get around and I could get my "hands" around it. I somehow could not get my "hands" around both Tokyo and Beijing, but Hong Kong I could. I for sure want to go back.

It's style and its offerings make a nice vacation spot. While not exotic as Bangkok, the hotel had a resort feel to it and by that time in our trip, I felt I was needing a little "resort"

The service was top notch in the restaurants and hotel, and shops. Even the taxi drivers who spoke little or no English, I found were the easiest to deal with on the trip compared to Beijing and even Bangkok.

A good stay and will be back.

next... Bangkok!
tripgirl is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 09:33 AM
  #34  
 
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can't wait for bkk....you have given a nice description of HK without all the details...would make anyone want to go there....if for no other reason than the urinals at felix...they are unbelievable...!! i think i have been to HK 4 times and each time we do a whole new array of things...there is tons to do there...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 09:49 AM
  #35  
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BANGKOK

AHHHH.. Sawadee Kha, Sawadee Kha!! Oh how I miss hearing that every morning!

HOTEL

After receiving hotel car service from the airport ( included in our rate), we arrived at the Peninsula. Ok, BillT, you now have a partner in the Pen!

Every inch, every square inch of this place I loved! As you see have no complaints about any of our hotels, but the Pen, was the best of them. I wish I was there now.

We had a swift check in and then led to our Grand deluxe Room. The grand Deluxe is no different than the Deluxe rooms, just a higher floor, of which I wanted. $10 more a night.

While I would describe the Intercontinental in HKG as hip, I would say the Pen was modern, but classic. The gadgets in the room make it modern, but the overall decor is classic and refined. Not historic like the Oriental, but not slick or sleek like the Intercontinental.

Yes, the gadgets; the room control panels are all set around the room to control the curtains, TV radio, temp, etc, etc. Hubby had a grand time with this! It was fun!

The room was so beautiful and comfortable. Large comfy bed with silk comforter, comfy couch and chairs, roomy work desk with in room fax machine that you got your msgs from. The bathroom was my favorite as I had my own seperate sink area just for me! Loved the show box outside the room; the paper is put here each morning and then you can leave your shoes inside for a polish.

The view from the room was really nice, you could see alot of Bangkok and we could gage the traffic across the bridge to judge whether we wanted to take a taxi or the skytrain on our way somewhere.

I can't say enough about the Pen, that fans of this hotel have not already said. Loved the staff, the restaurants, the rooms, facilities, pool area, everything!

We had a lovely bellman who helped with internet connection and he was enrolled in English classes. He brought us a piece of paper with English expressions that describe surprise. So things like," you are pulling my leg, etc. He wanted to know how to say these expressions, so we showed him how to use his voice in a way to express surprise. He was darling. Everytime he saw us he would stop to talk. He always said" "You are from the District of Columbia!". So darling!

I think the Pen vs. Oriental debate will rage on, we went to the Oriental for lunch and I could also see staying there too. We already discussed a next trip and as much as I loved the Pen, we are willing to try the Oriental too! Truth is there are so many great hotels, I think you can't go wrong with a number of them. I visited the Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and the Oriental. still.. loved coming back to the Pen!

SIGHTSEEING

On our first full day of sightseeing, Ratt had her guide Jackie take us to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. While again, we could do these on our own, Jackie was a hoot. Since Ratt is technically not a guide, she thought given our interests we would be better off with her guide Jackie for this day, so we did not see Ratt until the next day.

I know a few poeple on board have had Jackie and will most likely concur with me when I say she was a hoot. She used to work at Grand Palace, so she is very sensitive about people respecting the place. she was like a little "policewoman"; the moment someone was sitting on a ledge or took off their cover up and exposed bare arms, she was all over them. It was a riot to watch; but I agreed with her whole heartedly!

She was a very good guide for all three attractions. the Grand Palace with all its glitter really blew me away. You know, when you see in Europe church after church after church and after awhile they all start to look alike. But I had never seen anything like the Grand Palace. The reclining Budda at Wat Pho was magnificent. Wat Aruns structure equally was breathtaking. when at Wat Pho we arranged for therapists to come to our hotel room. More on this later.

by afternoon we returned to the hotel and just relaxed the rest of the afternnon.

The next two days were with Ratt. Since we only used her for half days, I have to say I did not develop the relationship with her as many of you have. Since Bangkok was our last stop, we really became lazy and I did not want to venture out to the floating market or to the River Kwai, etc. We were enjoying bangkok so much, so Ratt was not needed for longer trips.

We did love the Jim Thompson House, well worth it; what a story, bought the book about him; fascinating! Wat Saket with its Golden Mount was intriguing, Erawan Shrine filled to gill with incense was interesitng with its beautiful dancers on hand. but so funny that its right inthe middle of the shopping area!

We also shopped at the Jim Thompson Main Store ( was going to go to the outlet too, but then did not feel like it). Spent a bundle at Jim Thompson and do not regret any purchase; they are among my favorite purchases on the trip. We also visited Vinamek Teak House in time for the dancers which were just ok, I expected something more elaborate. We then took the tour of the house which was occupied by Rama V. the tour was ok as the English speaking group was huge and the guides were hard to understand. Still the Teak House was quite beautiful and to see the mixture of styles, with goods from all over the world was interesting. And we popped into the National Museum as well.

Hubby had to leave Bangkok before me so the night after he left, Ratt and I went to the Suan Lum Night Market which I really liked. I expected tons of touting, but to my plesant surprise the vendors were low key. Bought a few things here.

Time was spent at the hotel pool relaxing and I also had two hotel spa experiences. One at the Banyan Tree for an intensive foot treatment. The Banyan Tree was nice, but i would not choose it as a lodging destination, not a great location. But the spa treatment was great. Not expensive and you have this entire room for yourself filled with incense and orchids. She gave me a really good pedicure, masque and paraffin wax treament for my poor tootsies. The masque looked like my Mom's chopped liver!!!

The other spa treatment was at the Oriental; an Essential Oil Massage. first I was led to my private room for a steam and shower. When I entered the steam and shower room in my private room, it was like I was in some sort of movie trying to find my way through thick clouds of fog. I figured out how to turn on the shower and it came down like I was in a rainforest.

The massage itself was 1 1/2 hrs and simply delightful. The therapist was excellent and it was very relaxing. I know some people think the Oriental spa is pretentious and I saw a tad of that, but I really enjoyed it.

We had the Wat Pho therapists come twice to the room for both of us. they were very very good. Nice women with limited English, but made nice talk with us; asked about our children, where we are from, etc. Hey for $12 a pop, how you possibly go wrong with a Thai massage from thse gals???? So as you can see, lots of pampering in Bangkok!!

After hubby left for the states, I mostly shopped and did my spa treatments and spent time at the pool. I think on the next visit I will venture out even further into Bangkok. I just wanted to relax at that point. But when we went out for our evenings mostly on Sukhumvit Road, I can see doing more exploring of certain areas by day. The Luxe guide for Bangkok is excellent and next time, I'd like to follow some of the suggestions.

DINING

Another AAAHHHH!! Loved it!

Dinners were sublime: first night Mahanaga; just GO! Stylish Moroccan inspired place with pavilions all around a courtyard. Excellent music and excellent Thai food. Another bathroom that you must check out!!
2 Sukhomvit soi 29.

Bed Supper Club was up next; what a trip! Space age like, slightly gimmicky but oh so much fun. Yes, you eat on beds, but they are comfortable. The menu is preset and the food is good, not the very best I had in Bangkok, but good. The screen in the dining rooms shows these funky almost surreal images. The staff is young and hip, not quite the elegant refined service we found everywhere else, but certainly different and unique. The club area as you would expect is noisy and crowded and young; felt a little old ( and i'm not!)Go for the experience.

Lanna Thai in the same complex as Face Bar was for night number 3. Excellent!!! highly recommend! Thai food set in an exotic atmosphere.

Last night was at the hotel, Thiptara as hubby had to leave for the airport at 10:45pm. Thiptara at the Pen is great. Set under individual salas you can go for a choice of 1 of 4 set menus. Reasonably priced. We went for the Thiptara set menu and it was alot for your $ and could not finish, but excellent Thai food.

Breakfasts were at the hotel and included in our room rate. A spread like the Intercontinental; everything and anything! It was nice to dine outside on the River Terrace. The weather in Bangkok surprisingly was not too hot and the humidity was only about 70-80% each day, not bad for us at all.

We did have lunch at Lord Jims at the Oriental; expensive for ,unch, but very nice seafood buffet. Plus it gave us a chance to check out the Oriental.

Rather than risking any ailments, I declined the street food; although to tell you the truth it looked yummy! I'm sure I could have eaten for a $1 but I was too timid. We had no problems on this trip and was so grateful for that. We did take every precaution and glad I listened to common sense rather than risking it. but for those with good stomach and intestinal tracts who can do it; bravo!

I also ate by myself one day for lunch during shopping at Greyhound Cafe at Central Chitlom. Very good!

Nice food experiences all around!

SHOPPING

Got carried away with Jim Thompson; know its expensive, did not care, did not comparison shop; just bought what i wanted.

I bought the most exquisite table runner for Christmas, I'm so excited about it. Rich and lush it is exactly what I wanted. Numerous gifts and purses for myself. hubby went wild too.

We also shopped at Narai Phand for gifts for others and ourselves, bencharong and celadon. i could of went totally nuts shopping every minute, but I had to exercise some control. After reading through some of the old posts and Luxe guide, I think next time I will also venture out more to some of the unique shops( more shopping, like I need like a hole in the head!!)

IMPRESSIONS

I am sucked in by SE Asia! While Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong all were great, I think I like the essence of SE Asia. Exotic and hypnotic, I still can't get the people out of my mind, nor will I try to!! The Land of Smile; indeed! Everything the Thais did was like a dance, the smell of the exotic fruits, the river breeze, the glitter of the wats, the rich shine of silk, all totally drew me in. And while yes, Bangkok has its what some say depressing parts, I still found them enchanting, from the klongs to the faces of the poor.

Well that's it folks, hand is developing carpel tunnel...

As I set out earlier today taking a break from writing this report, walking on my perfectly smooth neighborhood sidewalk and back to my beautifully appointed home, all I could really think about was the eerie stillness of the hutongs of Beijing, the completely cracked sidewalks of Bangkok, the river people of Aberdeen in Hong Kong and the simple beauty found in a cup of tea in Tokyo while smiling inside broadly. It made me appreciate all that I have and the privilege it is to travel and experience the people who seem happy with whatever they have. It put life into perspective more than any other trip we've been on and we've traveled all over.

Let me know if you have any questions!!!

Ta-ta!












tripgirl is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 11:05 AM
  #36  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Great report! I was waiting anxiously for your thoughts on BKK, and I'm so glad you agree with most of what has been said here. Thailand/BKK really is a very special place. I leave for there one month from today... can't wait!

Thanks again for the report.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 11:48 AM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,400
Thank you for all the effort you put into this report. I have to say, I'm a bit sad that it's ended, I've enjoyed reading it so much. I went straight to the Luxe Guides site and was hoping they had one for Kuala Lumpur--they don't I did order the Bangkok guide though, even though I won't be there until next April or May.

I had kind of mixed feelings about the Vinamek Teak House, I kind of get the feeling you did too, but for different reasons. When we went there, we took a water taxi but didn't realize we had missed our stop and ended up at the end of the line. We had to double back and it took almost two hours to get there and we were exhausted from the heat by the time we finally did. All we wanted to do was see the place but were told we had to be with one of the guides who give tours. The staff tried to get us to watch the dancers but we weren't interested and the English guide wasn't going for another 30 minutes. We ended up going with the Japanese guide, so here we are tagging along with about 25 Japanese tourists who kept looking at us like "what in hell are these two doing here???" We neither speak nor understand any Japanese so we had no idea what the guide was saying. I did like the mansion though, it is very beautiful. I don't think my husband enjoyed it as much as I did because when he was shooting some video of it, I heard him say into the microphone "here we are in the pain in the a-- mansion..."
laurieco is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 11:58 AM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,188
Thanks for the Beijing and Hong Kong reports! We're staying at the Intercontinental in Hong Kong and I was relieved that you loved it.
Marija is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 02:35 PM
  #39  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,136
laurieco,

what a funny story, although at the time I'm sure it was pain in a----.

Vinamek was indeed not what I thought it was going to be, probably the least favorite place, although the place is indeed beautiful and I would not discourage anyone from going; just know the guided tour groups ( and you have no choice, you have to join a tour if you want to see the house), will probably be large and its hard to hear the guide.

Marija: you'll going to love the Intercontinental. do you have a room with a view? The lounge is going to knock your knickers off!! Do plan on some time at the hotel even though there is lots to see and do in Hong Kong. For the price you are paying there, take advantage of the darn place. Have a ball and any specific questions about the hotel, feel free to ask.

tripgirl is offline  
Aug 20th, 2005, 06:01 PM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,943
what can i say--- the ladies have said it all....PERFECT....just like thailand and bangkok...i told you that you would be going back, and now i know you will...join the group!!!

when you do go back spend a lot of time in bangkok...we do it in small bursts of 5-8 days, go someplace else, then back to bkk, then go someplace else, then back to bkk...get out of the tourist throng and explore....hit some of the independent restaurants....

give bali a try as well...completely different and enchanting...

bob
rhkkmk is offline  

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