Friday, February 03, 2006

Busy Bangkok

Went to Bangkok for the weekend to hook-up with my friend Bernadette who had been to Borneo to see the orangutan. She had made reservations for the Atlanta Hotel, mostly because of the convenient location. It is close to several mass transit links which is vital in BK as the traffic is so chaotic that walking is faster than a taxi. They do have hire transportation on the back seats of motor cycles but I did not fancy sitting on the back seat of a motor cycle clutching my suitcase. Actually the nicest mode of transportation is by river boat and whenever possible I try and use the river, however it did not go anywhere near to the Atlanta Hotel.

My first clue that the Atlanta was different to most hotels was a huge sign outside the door "No sex trade tourists". It got stranger. There is a big poster at the front desk stating "We do not listen to complaints. If you have complaints then maybe you should go a stay in a 5 star hotel" and so it went on. In the dining room a sign says "Feet on the floor please" On the menu it says "do not hog the menu, we only have 3 copies" On each floor is a wall to ceiling sign denouncing tourists who come to BK for sex in no uncertain terms. I actually took a photograph of it it was so funny.

The hotel was built in 1952 and no doubt was a jewel at that time. Its a bit like a faded old lady now, clean but definitely out of date. No elevators and 5 floors to climb up sweeping marble staircases with grand iron railings. Still the beds were comfortable and the rooms were very spacious and air-conditioned. Behind the hotel was a very over-grown garden and a big swimming pool with hammocks around the sides in the shade of the overgrown trees.

On the corner of the soi by the main road was the Marriott Hotel and I was shocked to see guards with what looked like children's scooters on sticks but which turned out to be mirrors - all the better to look under the chasis of the arriving cars and taxis. Seems the threat of terrorism is everywhere there is a American Hotel.

Sitting on an outside patio in the evening I was surprised to see a baby elephant being lead by its ear, the handler selling bags of what looked like big bamboo sticks, for tourists to feed and pet the animal. It had learnt its tricks very well and almost consumed my dinner before I could get my money out to buy some food for it! All part of the hectic, crazy place called Bangkok.

The main two pastimes seem to be eating and shopping. There are markets everywhere but none like the weekend market with over 7,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to live exotic animals and birds. We managed to visit several including the "Thieves Market" and "The street that melts away your money". (and it did). I am now the proud owner of a lovely Bulgari watch, two new hand-bags and a new silk??? pant suit, plus more beads than you can imagine for jewelry making.

The highlight of a trip to Bangkok for me is lunch or dinner on the patio of the Oriental Hotel, overlooking the river. The exquisite attention to detail, the elegance, the charm of the staff - not to mention the wonderful food and drinks and, the last twice I have been here, seeing the kings' favorite car, an old yellow rolls Royce, parked outside made it a meal to remember. AND it cost less than many average Toronto restaurants!!

It was good to return to the relative peace of Chaing Mai but I do enjoy Bangkok in small doses and will have 5 days there just before I return to Toronto at the end of Feb.

 

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