Kristina's Cambodia & Thailand 2002 Journal
Ko Chang, Thailand
July 24-26, 2002- Bangkok, Thailand $1=43 Baht
Ko Chang to Bangkok-
In the morning, as we left our island paradise, it was, appropriately, raining. We waited in front of Cookies, alongside the road, for a pick-up taxi to come along and take us to the ferry port. After a few full ones passed us by, one finally stopped. It took us through the winding roads, encased in thick green foliage, back toward civilization. And then it dropped us at the wrong port. Of course. Just another excuse to pay someone else to take us the couple of miles to the right port in another truck.
When we arrived we got on the boat, along with about a hundred other backpackers, all the luggage, and Thai locals headed for the mainland. The boat got more and more crowded and they just kept letting people on. Finally, about an hour late, we attempted to push off. I say attempted because the boat was so overloaded and the tide was sufficiently low, that we were mired in the sand and mud of the "harbor". Finally, another boat came alongside and took about 1/2 of the passengers. Our boat was still unable to break free so we were all transferred over shaky gangplanks to the other boat. David helped transfer luggage and spent most of the trip up front, ostensibly guarding our bags (I think he just likes it up there). I spent the trip guarding my 8 inch strip of bench and praying the boat would not sink. I consoled myself with the thought that the water was relatively warm and I could see the mainland. Since the seating was all on the open deck, I would just have to "jump" if we started to go down.
We arrived to the normal chaos and I had the opportunity to use the one phase of Thai I could remember from my coworker Alisa, hong nam yu ti nai ka?, which means "where is the bathroom?" I was so proud of myself for remembering. Unfortunately, the truck driver indicated to me that there were no bathrooms along the pier. We hopped a truck into Trat to the bus station where we hoped to pick up a VIP bus to Bangkok. Upon arrival, we bought a ticket on the first bus leaving for about 200 baht each. The trip was painless and took about 5 hours to arrive at Bangkok's Eastern Ekkamai station.
Thank God I did my homework. I knew there was a sky train station about 1/2 a block from the bus and that we could take it to the river and then catch the Peninsula's own boat across right to the hotel. We also did our good deed for the day in helping two other travelers who were being coerced into a taxi for some ridiculously steep set price. We showed them to the sky train, explained the system and saved them about $10.
At the end of the line (Saphan Taksin at Taksin Bridge), we lugged our bags down 3 flights of stairs and over to the pier. It was only a matter of moments until the Peninsula boat showed up. These are lovely boats, all polished teak and brass with 2 stewards aboard to help you on and off and with luggage. They radioed ahead and there was someone there to greet us at the dock, take our luggage and whisk us to reception. At reception we were offered a $40 a night upgrade to a suite, from our pre-paid deluxe room. Initially, I was a bit put off by the push for the extra expense (the regular room is expensive enough!) but after looking at the rooms, we couldn't resist. The suite was the same price it would have been if I'd booked it with the service we used for the regular room.
The rooms are truly stunning. The suite had a work area/ foyer with desk and fax machine. There is a small "powder room" with a view of the river, and a bar in the the same area. This leads into the "living room" which can be closed off from the rest of the suite. The living room has panoramic views of the river, dining room table and chairs, comfortable couch and huge TV and CD player. From the living room, you walk into the closet/changing area which is all teak paneled. From there you can reach the bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom is about the size of a regular guest room in any hotel, had a view of the river and it's own TV and mini bar. The bathroom was enormous and if we ever add on to our house I will try to use this as a model. It had two sinks on opposite walls, glassed in huge shower, big tub with a small TV and phone, and separate room for the toilet.
We didn't really do much with our time in Bangkok. Since we've already been before a few times, there wasn't much of an urge to do the traditional sightseeing type things. We checked out a few malls and went to Panthip Plaza with is the home to all things electronic and digital. If you want to buy counterfeit software, DVDs, VCDs, this is the place. It was completely overwhelming and in the end, we bought nothing. Everything is surprisingly cheap, only a few dollars per disc of any type, but no guarantee as to content or quality. We also strolled the night market at Patpong (and no, did not go into any of the bars).We spent half a day poolside at the hotel and had lunch brought to us under one of the raised cabanas built for two. It was lovely.
We took the river boat and the sky train everywhere we could. We even went to see a movie at the Siam Center. We had to go, because 4 years ago when were were here, they were just building the theater and we said we'd have to come back someday. It's a special theater, called "Gold Class" Grand EGV, where they show English language movies in a luxury setting. There are only 40 seats in the theater, all large plush recliners, a la lazy boy, and cocktail service at your seat. Of course, David had to have a "martini", just because he could. Unfortunately, he had to return the martini and instruct the bartender on how to mix a proper one. The cost of the ticket was only $6. The Thai national anthem is played at the beginning of the every film, along with a photo of the king and everyone is expected to stand.
For internet, I left the hotel and found an "internet cafe" about a block away that cost about 1/10th the price of using the hotel's business center. It was 15 baht for 1/2 an hour. From the front entrance/driveway to the Peninsula, exit and turn left. It is about a block down on the same side of the street as the hotel.
We tried to explore the area surrounding the hotel and found a working class neighborhood surprisingly devoid of anything "tourist". A couple of nights we had roast duck and rice at a vendor across the street from the hotel. Two plates of food, and two cokes in the bottle cost us about $4. We also checked out a local swap meet type of outdoor market where everything from prepared food, to plastic house wares, to cheap clothes, to music was sold. No tourist souvenirs, no touts. it was nice to just walk around with no hassle.
One night we took a taxi to Bang Klang Nam (Soi 14 Rama 3 Rd) for dinner. I had saved an article cut out of the NY Times from a few years ago and this was a highly recommended restaurant. After a longer ride than expected (we were starting to get nervous about the cab drive, unfounded I might add), we arrived at a large wooden house set on the Chao Phraya river. It was crowded with both anglo and Thai faces enjoying great seafood. I wish we had more people with us so we could have tried more of the menu, but everything we had was good. It was one of our more expensive meals (and a bargain!), costing us about $20 for 3 dishes and 2 large beers. Our final night in Bangkok, we had dinner at the hotel, on the patio along the river. It was all very good, with meats grilled to order on a BBQ, and a fantastic buffet that included beautiful sushi, Thai, and "international" dishes. When I remarked to a waiter that the chocolate dessert was gone he went into the kitchen and brought me a special plate of it. Excellent service.
Our final morning we packed up, had breakfast brought to the room and took a taxi to the airport. We looked into a car through the hotel, but it seemed expensive at the "special price" of 1200 baht. We walked out to the main street in front of the hotel and hailed a cab. When we told the driver we wanted the airport he tried to get us to pay a flat rate of 500 baht but we insisted he use the meter which including tolls cost us only 290 baht. The flight home was uneventful.
In all, the trip was fantastic, all we expected and more. It was a great blend of cultural tourism and relaxing vacation. I'm ready to go back for more.
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last updated on April 1, 2003