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Thread: Trip Report - Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong Here is an extremely long trip report for those planning a trip to this part of the world. We shot over a thousand photos and in time they will en

  1. #1
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958

    Asia Trip Report

    Trip Report - Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong

    Here is an extremely long trip report for those planning a trip to this part of the world. We shot over a thousand photos and in time they will end up on a website, once I convince my brother-in-law to produce one for us, much like he did for our Provence trip.

    I started planning this trip in January 2004. We have a very dear friend Rob, who lives and works in Bangkok. He is the VP Ops for one of the largest travel tour companies in Asia (www.Diethelmtravel.com). About 18 months ago he married a Thai girl. Som (means Orange in English) is from Isaan province, a very rural part of Thailand, north east of Bangkok, bordered by Laos and Cambodia. They recently had a baby and Rob had been imploring us to visit. We've never been to anywhere in Asia, so for us this was to be an adventure.

    Getting There
    We left YYZ (Toronto) on Air Canada's Flight 15, direct to Hong Kong on Dec. 15. We chose this carrier because they had a 2 - for-1 biz class deal and because they instituted a non-stop flight with what they termed "flat beds". The beds are not flat, but they're not bad.

    Having never flown this distance before and I was concerned about the jetlag. Well, thanks to my new friend Xanax...no problems. We got settled, had a couple of glasses of champagne, enjoyed a decent (by airplane food standards) dinner with some wine, popped a couple of pink ones and slept for nine hours! I awoke refreshed and ready to go. Bags checked all the way to BKK, we were met at the HGK airport gate by a representative from Cathay Pacific who whisked us to a transit check-in counter and then right onto the plane, flight CX 701. Two and a half hours later we arrived in BKK on Dec 16 (my birthday) around 7 p.m. And, we felt pretty good. Maybe it was the adrenaline. The BKK airport was easy to navigate, fast, efficient and modern.

    We were met by our friend who was accompanied by our guide and our driver for the trip, handed bottles of ice cold water and chilled towels and we were off to our hotel.

    Where We Stayed
    Rob and I must have exchanged 40 emails on this subject. I wanted to stay at The Peninsula, for obvious reasons, as well as the fact we have a history with their properties (more on this later). But Rob and his family live in the Sukhumvit area and The Pen is on what he terms the "wrong side of the river". He explained it would take hours to navigate through traffic and we'd (and he'd) spend way too much time commuting. So we considered all the hotels along Sukhumvit Road/Ploenchit Road. In this main shopping/hotel district there are tons of choices, but proximity to our friends was paramount. We finally decided on the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, near Asok station on the fabulous SkyTrain.

    The hotel is lovely. All beige and brown marble. The female staff are all clad in gorgeous traditional Thai dress, exquisite gold silk brocade long skirts and sheongsam tops with gold jeweled belts. All staff "wai" and greet you "sawadee ka/krap" whenever they see you and they cannot do enough for you. Our suite overlooked the pool and the Sala. It had a separate living room, two baths and a large bedroom with a walk-in closet; we were happy. The hotel had many restaurants and lounges as well as a top notch Thai spa. And yes, it was very well located to our friend's condo.

    We did go to see The Landmark Hotel, the J.W.Marriot, The Hyatt Erewan and The Four Seasons (formerly The Regent) for future reference. Our hotel was really the nicest though I would have stayed at The Four Seasons, but it too was a bit far (traffic-wise).

    Getting Acclimated
    We unpacked and showered, met Rob and Som and took a taxi to dinner for 35 bhat (about $1.00 CDN), crossed over Sukhumvit Road on an overpass pedestrian bridge (the only way to get across this boulevard) to Soi 7 outdoor food court....

    I digress for a moment...The traffic and volume of people can hardly be described. The traffic on Sukhumvit Road is bumper to bumper all day and seemingly all night. It can take 30 minutes to go one block in a car or cab. And forget about those tuk-tuks or motorcycle taxis unless you either want to die or choke on the fumes. The pollution is like nothing I have ever experienced. I could not go anywhere without eye drops and my throat often stung and tasted like the smog around me.

    When we first saw the miles of outdoor stalls at the Soi 7 Food Court, I can assure you these farangs (naive foreigners) were nervous. But hey, when in Bangkok...Som asked Rob (right, she speaks little English) if we eat spicy food. We replied that when we go out for Thai food at home we order mild to medium spice. WRONG! What she called mild, actually she called it "sweet", was pretty fiery. She used this first dinner to gauge our tolerance for heat...and found...we had none! Rob and Som were both amused. Despite the heat, we ate an incredible meal of the best fried calamari I have ever tasted - tender, crisp and greaseless, whole prawns in chili sauce (HOT!), coconut milk soup with chicken, lemongrass, mushrooms, cilantro and ginger, whole deep fried cotton fish, which was crunchy and sweet, sauteed greens and beans, rice, mango salad and local beer. The food just kept coming. We learned the Thai's eat pretty much all the time. They are grazers and eat lots of small, shared dishes about every 3 or 4 hours. Dinner was a-roi (delicious) and cost...$20 CDN for everything including beer.

    We returned to the hotel, enjoyed a wonderful birthday cake (my birthday) and cognac and Rob and Som presented me with a beautiful coffee table book on Thailand beautifully inscribed in Thai and English. A perfect end to our arrival.

    We popped our drugs and fell off to sleep, sleeping right through until morning.

    Morning dawned crisp and blue and we headed to the outdoor Sala by the pool to enjoy a lovely breakfast. The pool is a tropical oasis of jungle greenery with private nooks and crannies for loungers. It's hard to believe this beautiful tropical paradise is right in the middle of Bangkok. We spent the morning by the pool, recharging, me reading and Michael writing.

    Climate
    The temperature in Bangkok was always low 90s and very humid. And this was the dry/cold season. In fact our guide told us she has three dogs and one of them is "always cold" so at this time of year she keeps a t-shirt on him to keep him warm and ensure he doesn't get sick. I kid you not!

    We always had bottles of water and ensured we drank, even if we were not thirsty. When the sun was shining (which was often) we were very warm.

    Some General Observations
    The Thais are extremely hospitable. Their language does not contain a word for

  2. #2
    andynap is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Oct 2002 Philadelphia Posts: 43,667

    Re: Asia Trip Report

    Some report- bravo. And you never said a word.


    Andy

  3. #3
    Island Visitor is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2002 Here for our friends Posts: 9,598

    Re: Asia Trip Report

    Pretty amazing experience. Wow.

    Thanks for the report.

  4. #4
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,685

    Re: Asia Trip Report

    Gayle,
    You paint a vivid verbal picture of a wonderful trip!
    Thanks,
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  5. #5
    drr is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Oct 2002 Seattle Posts: 71

    Re: Asia Trip Report

    Just stumbled upon your trip report. I could not stop reading. It was marvelous. Sincemy wife and I have traveled to Honk Kong and Bangkok on both business and pleasure, your report was significantly interesting. We experienced and visited some of the same areas and places you did. We love that part of the world. Not a more spiritual place on earth as Thailand. And Hong Kong has got to be one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Thanks

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