One Night in Bangkok….

… or a couple! Andy and I both really enjoyed Bangkok. This could be partially due to the fact that we stayed at one of the nicest hotels in the world (according to Conde Nast), the Oriental. The Oriental has a long and illustrious history from the time it opened as a boarding house for sailors in the mid 1800’s until now. It has been the refuge of many literary types, including Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and James Michner. After they had all of the jungle they could handle they came to Bangkok and they came to the Oriental. The author’s suites are in the oldest part of the hotel. We had a room in the small tower built in the 1950’s (There is also a newer tower built in the 70’s). Although our rooms had no historical significance they did have awesome views of the river and use of the floor butler! As soon as we had checked into the hotel we went to Siam Square. This is an area full of shopping malls. There are four malls, one right next to the other. Each one has between four and six floors of shops. Would you like a fake Tiffany necklace? How about a real Tiffany necklace? A Thai silk blouse? A diamond tiara? Botox? Collagen treatment? Scottish shortbread? Dried squid? Teenage girl? You can get it all in Bangkok. On Khao San Rd, the famous backpacker haunt, we even saw press passes, driving licenses and college ID’s for sale! We finished our day at the Hard Rock Cafe. After three days of Thai cooking school we really ready for some familiar food. Our second day in Bangkok was devoted to more cultural pursuits. We went to the Grand Palace complex and saw many historical buildings, as well as, the famous emerald Buddha. I even got to walk down the same steps as Anna Leonowens after she left the presence of the King of Siam. We then went to a former house of the king at the turn of the century. It is made entirely of beautiful teak wood (no photos allowed). We finished our day with a walk through Pat-pong, Bangkok’s famous red light district. I didn’t feel inspired to go into any of the go-go bars so we went to a bar called Vertigo instead. This bar is on the 61st floor of the Banyon Tree hotel. It is literally on the roof. There is no cover of any kind, just a waist high glass wall and very tall lightning rods! The view was amazing in all directions, however, I was only able to stay for one drink before my panic attack started to set in. Our last day in Bangkok we availed ourselves of all that the hotel had to offer. I went for a traditional Thai Massage. In many ways it was very enjoyable. In other ways it was downright painful. Thai massage is more like forced yoga than traditional massage. I was stretched and pulled in ways that I would have said my body couldn’t move. It was a good experience but next time I think I will go for something less intense! The spa and the traditional Thai restaurant were across the river from the hotel proper and it was necessary to take a boat to get across. This never failed to be an experience, as that stretch of river also contained two public “bus” boat docks, as well as, private docks including our dock and one for the Peninsula Hotel. Chaos on the river, similar to chaos on the streets! We went to the Thai Restaurant for dinner and traditional dancing. We sat at tables on the floor in traditional Thai style. To make it more convenient they had dug out the floor underneath, so in actual fact you were still sitting with your legs dangling into a pit. Authentic, not authentic? I am not sure. The dancing was very good although, like most ethnic dancing I found it to be slightly repetitive. Our last day in Bangkok involved going to the airport. We had arranged transportation with the hotel. This turned out to be a brand new BMW. When we arrived at the airport a Mandarin Oriental representative met us and took our baggage and our passports. He walked us to the airline and checked us in for our flight. Then he gave us the paperwork we would need for Cambodia and wished us a pleasant journey. Now that is service.

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