Vietnam 07/2009-Day 14



Day 14
Bangkok Thailand

July 17, 2009

There are two kinds of people in Bangkok; those who love the Oriental Hotel and those who love the Peninsula. Yes, I know there are others, like those who stay on Khao San Road (been there, done that, don't get me started), or those who want to stay near the "action" of Patpong, but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about a rivalry which has come about since the Peninsula was built 10 years ago right across the river from the historical Oriental hotel. Online, the debates are endless as to which is the better hotel. In fact, they are so passionate, I think people would actually come to blows if they were having the discussion face to face.

I'll say this up front; we are Peninsula people. It goes back to when we did our trip around the world and during our first time in Bangkok, we wanted to go in and check out the famous Oriental Hotel. We were stopped at the front door and not allowed inside because David was wearing shorts and we weren't guests. Seriously? After that, we vowed never to stay there. The following year my mom and I had the opportunity to see a room at the Peninsula when visiting with fellow travelers there. It was so beautiful, I couldn't wait to stay there myself. At the time, and for a couple of years after opening, there were some amazing deals to be had. In fact, the first time we stayed there in 2002, our room was $125 a night. Now, rooms can be had for as low as $195 a night in the low season. This may sound like a lot to some, but considering that these same rooms in Chicago and Beverly Hills start at $600 a night, it's a good value for this caliber of hotel.

This is our third stay here (2002, 2006 and now 2009) and each time, I just love coming here. It's truly one of the best hotels in the world and if I ever built a bathroom from scratch, I think I would design it like the ones in their deluxe rooms. The beds are incredibly comfortable and there are lots of little touches like a bottle of water bedside at turndown, a nice plate of fruit on the coffee table and quality toiletries. The breakfast spread is phenomenal and varied, sometimes to the point of being overwhelming.

So here we are now, and we're not 100% happy with the room.
Why? The view, plain and simple. If you've been following our trips for a while, you'll know that for us, a room with a view is important. Not that any of the rooms at the Peninsula had bad views, it's just that some are better than others. We're up high enough, on the 33rd floor to be exact, but we're in the center section of the hotel and our view of the river is obstructed in both directions by other guest rooms which stick out farther away from the building. Plus, we can see directly into some of the other guest rooms and trust me, I really didn't want to see that guy sitting at his desk in his underwear.

When we go down for breakfast, we stop at the front desk and ask if we can move to another room, one with a better view up or down the river. Our request is honored with no questions asked and we are offered a room on the corner of the building facing upriver. We can move after breakfast.

One thing I forgot to mention is that when we arrived in the room last night there was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers waiting. I thought they might be from the hotel, but they were from Tong, along with the note saying she hoped I felt better soon. That girl has class!

The breakfast spread is lavish here. I can't think of anything missing from the tables filled with food and the outdoor cooking stations. We have a leisurely meal, reading the International Herald Tribune and enjoying our coffee and pastries (and eggs, and yogurt, and fresh juices...). In fact, there is so much choice here, it's hard not to over eat. Plus, I have very little appetite right now. We both agree that next time we might forgo the breakfast spread to bring down the room cost and get our breakfasts elsewhere. As good as it is, it's hard to make the additional cost "worth" it.

The Organic Garden (near the pool) at the Peninsula. The kitchen uses these herbs and vegetables on the breakfast menu.

Our plan today is to take it easy, so after breakfast and moving to the new corner room (with an expansive view north, east and west), we head out of the hotel and instead of going to the boat and crossing the river, we walk out the front door and down the driveway. This is not the first time we've done this during our stays here, but every time we do, the doormen seem a little shocked we're not getting into a cab. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen another hotel guest while walking down the long driveway to the street.

Out on the street, it's a different world. This is the side of Bangkok many tourists never see. There are no vendors selling souvenir t-shirts and no restaurants catering to tourists with menus in four languages. Instead there's the neighborhood Wat, a 7-11 (to the right as you walk down the driveway), dozens of small eateries, and locals going about their everyday business.

View from the pedestrian bridge.

When I was here with my mom in 2007, we stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton which is across the river and a little north of the Peninsula. From there, I could see what I thought was a market directly across the river, but we never got a chance to go check it out. Today I get my wish, but instead of crossing the river by ferry, we are walking down the street (go right as you exit the Peninsula driveway) on the "other" side of the river to find this market. It's a bit farther than we think; about 6 long blocks from the hotel, right past the entrance to the Millennium Hilton. On the river side it's at Klong San. Take the cross-river ferry behind the Royal Orchid Sheraton.

The market is about 3 blocks long, spreading out from the street toward the river. The first section is mostly cooked food stalls. Farther in, there's clothing and house wares. No souvenirs, but lots of high school kids shopping for trendy clothes and shoes. We check out the food stalls and pick one where the food is on ice and the wok is smokin' hot. We order a plate of Pad See Ew with chicken and a coke. It's a tasty snack and costs a total of 40 baht (about $1.25).

We check out the rest of the market, stopping to buy a unique "Lowrider" t-shirt for one of David's friends. I pick up a t-shirt for myself with a cartoon cat and some Thai writing on it, which no one can translate. Later at home, a Thai friend looks at it and tells me it's roughly something like, "Arrrgh! Work!"

The shirt on the left is similar to the one I bought.

We walk back to the Peninsula and cross the street to look for a place we remember from a previous trip which sells duck and rice. It's still there and with a bit of pantomime we determine that they close at 7pm. Unfortunately, when we go back the next day, they have run out of duck. A quick stop back at the 7-11 for a cold drink and we head back to the hotel.

After a short rest we head out again, this time to the big MBK mall. We take the boat across the river to Taksin Pier and then the skytrain over to the National Stadium stop.

I still want some duck and we had up to the food court on the top floor. Unfortunately, nothing looks appealing. Next we check out the new "international food court" on the 5th floor. Instead of buying tickets for the food, here you are given a card at the entrance. When you buy from one of the stalls, the card is swiped, and at the exit, they read your card and you pay the total. I find my duck, in the form of noodle soup with steamed dumplings on the side. I can't remember what David has, but the total for our meal is 409 baht.

After eating, we go up to the floor where the handicrafts, clothes and souvenirs are. There are lots of tacky and offensive t shirts, along with silk pillow covers, chopsticks and place mats, etc. Nothing that exciting. In the end, David buys two quick-dry golf shirts with Titleist logos on them (250 baht each) and I get two very nice hand embroidered pashminas for 500 baht. After that, we're done. I'm exhausted and we go back to the hotel for an early night.










Flowers from Tong











Soi Dog.








The Peninsula Hotel from the river.


Skytrain stop at Taksin Pier

Love this sign on every Skytrain.






Kristina's Food Blog

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