An April 2002 trip
to Bangkok by Jenn966
Quote: Bangkok is an amazing city, rich in history and filled with beauty. The vendors of a wide range of products and services are aggressive, but hey -- I'm from New York and so it was easy for me to ignore. If you're a softer touch, wear some earplugs!
* Dinner at Cabbages and Condoms. Yes, that's the name and yes, they hand them out like breath mints as you leave. However, the restaurant is clean, the service is great and the food is outstanding.
* The Grand Palace -- every time I turned a corner I saw something more beautiful than a second before.
* Thai Massage -- the first night in the city, the other women I was traveling with and I watched as Thai women our age came and went from a shop located under our hotel. Thai massage is wonderful and if you find a place that welcomes women clients, you'll have a great experience.
* Day Trip to Ayyuthayya -- we missed a chance to see Angkor Wat, but a short journey by taxi from Bangkok brought us to the ancient capital full of Khmer architecture.
There is a small (expensive) coffee bar in the lobby of the hotel that you'll walk by en route to the elevators. The floor with the main lobby of the hotel has a restaurant serving Asian fusion food (we had some great noodles as an afternoon snack one day) and several very pricey shops selling clothing and jewelry.
The check-in process was fairly smooth and we were taken to a non-smoking room on the 18th floor. The room was huge, with two queen size beds, a mid-size refrigerator, ample closets for 2 people, a desk, chair, television (BBC Newschannel and CNN Asia were the only English stations). The bathroom was also large, well stocked with toiletries (the basic soap, shampoo and lotion, plus mouthwash, toothbrushes, toothpaste and Q-tips/cotton buds). There was a speaker to listen to the news while showering. The shower was large and clean, the water pressure good.
By American standards (and those are the only ones I have) the Grand Pacific was a good value. Comfortable for two people, clean and safe.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 22, 2002
Grand Pacific Hotel
The rooms were not as nice as the Grand Pacific. They were much smaller, and mine had a lovely view of the top of the hotel canopy. However, for about US$35 a night, I was not going to complain. It was clean and safe.
The room was furnished with a single large bed, a dresser with drawers for clothes, and a desk with color TV with remote (again, CNN Asia and BBC news were the only English language channels). There wasn't room for much more in the room -- walking space was a "track" around the sides and foot of the bed. There was a decent sized closet with a room safe. The bathroom had a great tub (complete with a rubber ducky!) -- large and deep. The shower was less satisfactory. It was set relatively low on the wall, so that I had to duck to rinse shampoo out of my hair, and I'm only about 5 feet 6 inches.
The room included breakfast, which was the Thai standard buffet mixing Eastern and Western foods. Eggs, breads, fruit and cereals were available, as were several Thai dishes (usually a meat or two, and some noodles). Grilled mushrooms and tomatoes often made an appearance. Coffee, tea and juices were poured freely.
All in all, if you want to be close to Sukhumvit Road but want a clean, comfortable and safe hotel, this is a good choice,
Amari Boulevard Hotel
2 Sukhumvit Soi 5
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Restaurant | "Cabbages & Condoms"
The restaurant has a tree-lined courtyard, lit at night by softly glowing lamps. The trees form a canopy under which you walk along a wooden path into a building along the lines of a traditional Thai merchant house. On entering, you are given a choice between air conditioning or not. If you can stand it, you're probably better off staying out of the AC -- it will allow you to adapt to the heat better. There is a gift shop with a variety of items (not all of them condoms or even necessarily sex-related!) where we spent a fun 15 minutes on the way out. But first, to dinner.
There were six of us. We ordered about 10 dishes among us -- five appetizers and five main courses, along with rice and bottles of water. The total bill came to about $40 or so. Among our favorite dishes were chicken wrapped in banana leaves, spicy Chicken Panang (a curry with coconut milk and basil) and a whole fish baked with ginger and lemongrass. We ate it right down to the meat in the fish's cheeks!
We skipped dessert (to be honest, we pretty much skipped desserts the whole time -- they never seemed too appealing), but did have some delicious Thai coffee. Made with evaporated milk, Thai coffee is thick and sweet and almost a dessert in itself.
The servers were attentive without being intrusive. Glasses were kept filled with water, plates were brought and cleared at a pace that never made us feel rushed but also didn't leave us feeling like we'd been sitting forever -- except that it took about 10 minutes to get someone to take our order for drinks when we first sat down.
It was probably the second best meal I ate in Bangkok. If I can remember the name of what I thought was best, I'll post it. It's a cooking school/restaurant on the second floor above a grocery store directly across the street from the entrance to the Amari Boulevard -- awesome Tom Kah Gai (a spicy chicken and coconut milk soup)!
Cabbages and Condoms
6 Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
+66 02 229 4611
Some of the things I particularly liked were sets of chopsticks, chopstick rests and soy sauce bowls all made of wood in Thai silk boxes (I didn't see anything like them during 2 weeks in China). I found some really beautiful Thai silk Barbie outfits for my 4 and 5 year old nieces -- those Barbie outfits were the most expensive things I bought!
I picked up a few illicit DVDs -- some of which work here and some of which don't (different television systems seems to be the problem, not regional coding). However, for about $1 each, I didn't mind that I only watched them once while travelling in Asia.
You can buy knock-off American and European designer T-shirts and casual shirts like DKNY and Ralph Lauren, if you're into that stuff (I wasn't, but one of my friends was). It didn't strike me as anything you couldn't buy in a factory outlet.
We bought some beautiful Thai silk table linens, and I bought a few silk sarongs for about $4 each that I made into pillows for my couch when I got home.
Do you like black velvet paintings -- there are lots, as well as statues (large and small) and glasswork.
There are some antique shops and stores selling fine jewelry, but "buyer beware" are watchwords to live by. If you either know what you're buying or if you love something so much that you don't care if you pay too much -- go for it. But don't be upset if you get burned.
Bargain with the vendors. They expect it, and you will often end up paying about 25 - 30% of the original asking price (a 70-75% discount). Once you hit the most you'll pay for something, stick to it even if it means you walk away empty-handed. The vendors will sell to you at any price that makes them a profit, and they have no qualms about quoting a price that's triple the price they gave the last customer.
Sukhumvit Road Street Market
Along Thanon Sukhumvit From Soi 1 To 20
The Grand Palace is comprised of a series of buildings, many of which are not open to the public. Included within its grounds is the temple (Wat) Phra Kaeo, in which one of Thailand's greatest treasures, the Emerald Buddha. The relatively tiny (60 cm or about 2 feet) image is dressed in a costume represting the season (summer, rainy and winter), which is changed three times a year in a ceremony over which the King presides.
The chedis, the tile- or in one case, gold-, covered structures you will see throughout the temple are are either tombs or shrines that house religious articles.
According to the Palace guide book, the complex was esablished in 1782. It has served over time as the home and government center of the monarch. While the King of Thailand does not actually live at the palace now, there are still government offices and official receptions, etc. sometimes held there. Although I did not take one, guided tours are available.
In addition to the temples, there are other buildings to visit, including an armory with a display of weapons used throughout the centuries, and another with a display of coins.
Do not ignore what you read about the dress code for visiting the palace. You will be stopped from entering and provided with suitable garments and shoes if you are not properly dressed and shod. This means:
* Shorts or skirts must come below your knees (I was wearing pants cropped about mid-calf and they were OK.)
* Flip-flops and other shoes with open backs are NOT permitted; my slightly open-toed sandals with a strap across the back were OK, but my friend was not allowed to wear closed-toe slides.
* Tight clothing is another no-no, as are sleeveless vests/t-shirts.
The clothing that is provided there is available for free as long as you provide ID. They are VERY strict; don't go thinking you'll be able to sneak by the guards. You won't.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 23, 2002
Na Phra Lan Road Ko Rattanakosin District
Bangkok, Thailand 10500
+66 (2) 694 1222
You will be expected to remove your shoes upon entering any temple. There is often a rack or set of cubbyholes; if not, just find a spot to leave them. No one will steal them. If you would rather not walk barefoot, I think it's ok to wear socks, although I usually had on sandals and went barefoot, anyway.
I'm luckily fairly flexible. If you want to sit down in a temple, you will preferably sit with your legs folded under you, and your backside resting on your heels. Sitting cross legged might be OK, but try to tuck your feet under your thighs or calves. Don't show expose the soles of your feet to others in the temple. Under NO circumstances should you sit with your legs extended out in front of you. In doing so, you expose the soles of your feet to Buddha -- a great disrespect to Him or at least to his believers. I saw many people reprimanded for showing their feet to Buddha, and one elderly gentleman went so far as to rap an unresponsive Western tourist on the shoulder with an umbrella when the man ignored several polite requests to move his legs.
Many of the temples are still in use, and if you sit quietly, you can observe the devotion and honor in which the people hold Buddha. Leg cramps from sitting on your heels will be a small price to pay for seeing this side of Thailand.
Hamilton Square, New Jersey