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What more can I say about Bangkok that hasn’t already been thoroughly covered in these pages? I just simply love it here.
That said, Bangkok is not a beautiful city, it is not a particularly clean city and its climate can be downright sweltering most of the year…it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know exactly what it is that draws me back to Thailand on every one of these trips but the $5 massages are certainly a leading contender.
After the long (12-hour) flight from Naples, via Paris, I stepped off the plane and into Suvarnabhumi Airport with a irrepressible smile on my face. It’s hard to even imagine that this is the same airport that was shut down by government protesters for more than a week last month bringing Thailand’s business and tourist trade to a screeching halt. Nothing remains of this incident except perhaps an increased security presence that is barely noticeable.
I changed $100 US (knowing that this would easily last me my entire 7 days in Thailand) and joined the line for the most expensive activity of my entire stay; the cab ride to the city. I have yet to figure out a way around this cab ride that isn’t ridiculously inconvenient – like a city bus that makes a million stops. Truth be told, the ride only costs about 500 baht (approximately $14 US). In the grand scheme of things, this is not a lot of money, but in Thailand? It is a small fortune. So, it’s not the amount so much that I have an issue with; it’s more the principal of the thing. But, I decide to get over it and get on with my day.
For my three nights in Bangkok, I am staying at two different Starwood properties. Starwood has half a dozen hotels here and I have tried most of them. For my first two nights, I am going back to the site of my first stay in Bangkok on RTW #1, the Royal Orchid Sheraton on the Chao Phraya River. When I last visited this hotel it was straight after my 16-hours in India and I believe I slept through most of my stay. The hotel has been completely renovated in the past few years so I wanted to check out what they have done.
The Sheraton enjoys a primo spot on the river and has sweeping views in either direction. It is super convenient if you want to take in the many temples and the Grand Palace along the river. There is a terrific “tourist boat” that runs up and down the river making stops at all the major sights. There is a stop right outside the hotel and the cost for the ride is only about $.40. In my book, the Chao Phraya tourist boats are second only to Hong Kong’s Star Ferry when it comes to cheap, scenic water transportation.
I saved the river boats for Day 2 and instead headed out to the nearest massage place for a very reasonable $5, hour-long Thai massage. Does it get any better than this?
Chatuchak Market Bangkok
My next stop was the Chatuchak Weekend Market, a Bangkok landmark and a favorite of mine. The market is enormous and houses everything from clothing to jewelry to home goods to souvenirs. It is so big in fact, that you can wander it for hours and never go past the same stand twice. On this trip, I made a new discovery; they have a pet store area! Not only do they sell all sorts of pets including the cutest little Siberian husky puppies you’ve ever seen, they also had entire stores devoted to dog outfits and accessories. Apparently, the Thais really love to dress up their dogs. I got to play with a little husky puppy for a while and that was the highlight of my day.
The next day I decided to check out an area of Bangkok that I can’t believe I’ve never gone to before, Khaosan Road. Known as command central to the international backpacker set, Khaosan Road is lined with hostels, tourist service desks, restaurants, laundry services, tattoo parlors, massage parlors and everything else the budget-traveler could ever need (okay, maybe that’s why I’ve never been here!). It was quite a lively area full of Europeans, Aussies and other Americans – for once, I blend!
The first thing I noticed was that the going rate at the massage places was 180 baht/hour, slightly less than the 250 baht in the rest of the city. With the exchange rate being a little tougher this year, 250 baht is more like $6 but 180 baht is definitely $5! So, of course, I got a massage. C’mon, how could you not??
After my massage, I wandered the street a little more and found a used paperback stand. This is exactly what I’d been looking for since I had almost finished the book that I brought with me. English language novels are actually quite expensive overseas. Even in Europe, the average paperback in English can cost 12 euro – more than $15!! In my hotel’s gift shop here in Bangkok, it wasn’t any better, 400-500 baht. I just refuse to pay that much for something I’m probably going to leave behind after I read it anyway. So, I was happy to find the used paperback stand and bought 2 used novels for about $3 each.
For my last night, I switched to the newest Starwood property in Bangkok, Le Meridien’s Plaza Athene. Though the Athene did not have the excellent river location of the Sheraton, it does have a great location right next to a Skytrain station which is helpful for getting to a number of other Bangkok sights. It was a beautiful hotel and they were kind enough to upgrade me to a lovely suite.
Tomorrow, on to the beaches of Phuket!
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