Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sawadee Ka Bangkok 2012 - Day 1

Still feeling jittery and sleepy from my trip to Bangkok ... Anyway, few months back something just happened and I decided to go to Bangkok to "settle" it. I had been to Bangkok before but since the trip was all planned by Jethro and Aey, some of the details were quite blurry especially the "how to go where".

Nonetheless, since this is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed, I decided to make the most out of it though the feeling might not be as excited as the first time. I was joined by my new bosom buddy, Zaini, who wanted to learn more about the cultural scenes of Bangkok - especially now that he was just appointed as the artistic officer of Penang Municipal Council.

The Flight

I decided to try the Thai Airways as the fare was quite cheap that time plus the flight schedule enabled me to have more time to enjoy Bangkok. Thai Airways fly daily to Penang (Penang-Bangkok 8.10 am, Bangkok-Penang 7.45pm).. and of course there is our World Best Budget Carrier Air Asia ... also flying daily to Penang-Bangkok but the time didn't agree with me.

The flight was smooth, and as usual I will start comparing the interior of the cabin and the crew service with MAS. Well, not much difference to MAS but usually during take off and during descending, MAS will start playing traditional Malay music. Personally, I think this is MAS plus point. For international flights ... I feel that the national carrier is the first contact point between a tourist and his/her destination. So simple thing like light traditional music not only serves as listening pleasure but also igniting excitement to tourists.

The inflight meal - not much difference with MAS.
Actually on the cover of this mealbox was an advertisement of Thai Airways routes in Japan. Few days before, I attended the Consulate General Office in Penang talk on Discover Japan, which aims to encourage Malaysians to visit Japan post-tsunami. Based on the Consulate statistics, Thailand rank no.1 in tourist arrivals to Japan from South East Asia followed by Malaysia (no wonder).

Nok Air ... sounds exciting ...
The flight from Penang to Bangkok was about 1 hour 20 minutes and the time difference is one hour (Bangkok time is one hour behind Penang time). To be honest, upon arrival in Bangkok, I just found out that my "partner in crime" didn't book the hotel for us, reason being, want to survey first. I also found out that he didn't book the Calypso show, reason being online booking is more expensive. And because he didn't book the hotel, the Siam Niramit agent arranged for our pickup from Baiyoke Sky Hotel which is in Pratunam (and I had no idea where it was that time).

Hmmm ... I hope that he learned by now why I planned and settle my reservation before a trip... because when we are too tired, all we want is to get some rest and sleep. Up to the day before our flights, we were still busy with our works. I just don't have the energy to move from one place to another looking for rooms. Anyway, I just don't want to spoil the vacation mood by being angry or irritated. Besides I had expected it too judging from his tight schedules (pegawai tinggi katakan ...)

The Bangkok Rail Service

We took the train from Suvanabhumi Airport to the Bangkok. 2 years ago when I first set foot in Bangkok, the airport rail link was still in its testing stage. But I didn't get the chance to try it out as Aey said, it was easier to go to her house by bus. We took the commuter train which make 8 stops and took about 30 minutes to reach the Central Bangkok (Phayathai station).

The train service from Suvanabhumi Airport to Central Bangkok.
Like KLIA ERL, the airport rail link is divided into direct express trains (15 mins) and commuter trains (30 minutes and 8 stops) . The last station is Phayathai.
View of Bangkok traffic from the train.
Me with my red luggage in Bangkok
This simple tourist information card caught my attention when I arrived at the Phayathai Station. Looks so cute and trendy. It just list out the what, where, who and how in Bangkok.

Simple and cute ... informative for tourists.
The BTS Skytrain

The Silom Route
The Heritage Hotel@Baan Silom

From the Phayathai Station, we took the BTS Sky Train to Saladaeng station and from there we took the tuk-tuk to the Heritage Hotel @Baan Silom. Lucky for us, there were available rooms throughout the week. Anyway, since we too tired to negotiate the tuk-tuk fare, Bank, the tuk-tuk driver charged us 60 Baht just to ferry us from Saladaeng station to Baan Silom. To the locals it might be between 20-30 baht. But since he was friendly and helpful, I forgave him.

Bank - the tuk tuk driver with his tourist information guide. Impressive.
The Heritage Hotel Baan Silom
There were few fancy restaurants, cafes,salons,spas and shops around the hotel. Like the buildings.
The room. Spacious bed ...
The bathroom. Love the rain shower.
The room rate was 1350 Baht per night inclusive breakfast, quite okay considering the location and the type of the room that we get. It also include wifi service, queen size bed, rain shower, aircon, fan and a nice view from the balcony. Nearest BTS Skytrain station is Surasak, which is about 10-15 minutes walk (5 mins if you run) from the hotel. There are convenience stores like 7-eleven nearby (I calculated that there are about 3), TOP supermarket, lots of tailor shops, massage centres and banks. There are also ample of public transports like tuk-tuk, buses and taxis. If you take the taxi to the Surasak station, it only cost you about 40-45 Baht.

The Gem Production Co. Limited Pit-Stop

Since I really wanted to get everything settled on my first day in Bangkok so that I could enjoy the rest of the vacation days, I told Zaini that we should figure out Baiyoke Sky Hotel location, book the Calypso show and stop somewhere for lunch. I wanted to use my free time to settle some work that I was supposed to handle in Bangkok. While Zaini was handling our hotel matters, I somehow managed to schedule my appointment with the trustee to sign the papers on Monday and negotiated with Bank the tuk-tuk fare to Asia Hotel, Thailand Tourist Information Centre and Jim Thompson Mansion, which was along the same route.

We didn't plan to stop here anyway but as Bank explained to me that his sponsor will "give him coupon" if he brought us here, with no obligation to purchase. I saw no harm in admiring the jewels. I bought a sapphire on white gold ring (a smaller and stylish version of the Duchess of Cambridge's) during my last trip, so was hoping that could get a matching earings at great bargain price. Yes, there were some that caught my eyes but too bad, I couldn't afford any of it :(

Jim Thompson House

If you googled for 10 must visit places in Bangkok, you would see that one of it is Jim Thompson House. 2 years back I thought it was just another Thai styled building (I visited so many palaces and temples then) so I skipped this in my itinerary. This time I wonder what the rave was all about.

Mie posing at the entrance.
View from the entrance.
Important information.
The entrance to the main building and the garden.
Mie at the garden.
The tropical garden just took my breath away.
The Jim Thompson House is the home of James H.W. Thompson, a self-made American entrepreneur who was the founder of the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Thompson's achievements during his 25 year stay in the Kingdom of Thailand have won him much fame as the "Legendary American of Thailand". In 1967, Jim Thompson went on holiday with friends to the Cameron Highlands. There he set out for a walk in the surrounding jungle but never returned. Thus began the Jim Thompson legend. 

The house consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures that were purchased from several owners and brought to the present location from various parts of Thailand. Construction of the Thai house was completed in 1959. Though the architecural design is Thai, but many of the interior designs, furnitures and household items were of Western influence. I was quite impressed with the in-house guides who spoke in fluent English, French, Japanese and Mandarin. 
I love the garden ... so beautiful and serene.
Mie among the farangs ...
Tropical fish and tortoise pond.
The fish look scary.
We were allowed to take photos of the garden but not while inside the house. Too bad cause I really want to show how a television looked like in 1950s Thailand. And it only has one channel. Well, apparently in the 1950s Thailand, people keep white mouse in a television-like box of maze (a bit like hamster home these days). So to keep them amused, they will watch how the mouse move from one maze to another maze until it found it's prize ... food and water hehehe..

I think that the tour inside the museum was really worth it. Considering the way our guide presented her commentaries and the number of things to see inside the house. To me it was also a great way to glimpse the lifestyle of the rich and famous in the olden days Bangkok, particular the blending of the East and West cultures.

After completing our tour at the Jim Thompson house, we realised that our tuk-tuk driver had left us. Then we understand what he meant by his sponsor "give him coupon" - meaning our tuk-tuk fare will be paid by Gem Production Limited if he bring us to the gem shop. So we decided to walk down the alley, for a little sight seeing and we found out that there is a skytrain station nearby (National Museum Station), about 5 minutes walk from Jim Thompson House.

The Lunch

Since both of us were tired, lack of sleep as we both had functions and tight schedule the day before, we decided to have lunch around our hotel area. Though Zaini convinced me over and over again that he didn't mind if I want to eat "something non-halal" in front of him, I still felt uneasy. So luckily there was a Lebanese restaurant nearby and that settled it.

Nadimos - a Lebanese restaurant
Pickles - not so nyums
Grilled Chicken with fries and pita bread.
After checking into our rooms, I realised that my luggage lock was malfunction. My God, I was so tired and I badly need a bath and this was not what I expected to happen. Zaini and Goofy (the hotel concierge staff) had to get someone to carefully cut the zip fastener in such a way that I don't have to buy new luggage bag. Zaini told me that they (Zaini, Goofy and the cutter) were shouting in excitement once they managed to detach the fastener from the lock. Hmmmm .... adik-adik sangat uolssss...

Siam Niramit

Though Zaini had been to Bangkok before, he never got the chance to explore the city well as during those days he was busy performing in cultural shows for Tourism Malaysia. I told him that he shouldn't miss Siam Niramit , a spectacular show of Thai arts and culture. It may give him some ideas on how to develop the arts and culture scenes in Penang. So okaylah, watch the show for the second time for his sake.
Taking a breather ....

We had quite an adventure figuring out Baiyoke Sky Hotel location for our pickup to Siam Niramit. But the good thing was ... that was how we found out the Pratunam market. I had never been there but Zaini told me that the place was heaven for dancers and showmakers.

Okay, our agent booked our tickets with buffet dinners so, since we arrived early, we decided to have a stroll at the Cultural Village before heading to the restaurant for our dinner.

Traditional hut
Rice cracker making.

Reminded me of the movie Nang Nak.
Funny, if this is my backyard ... i will surely cringe. But here ... cantik puler.
Funny ... I felt like i was looking at an old village house in my kampung.
The village house upclose.
Rice pudding making.
The rice pudding is seriously yummy - sweet and creamy.
The buffet spread was not as great as the Phuket Fantasea but the selections were quite okay for first time tourists to Bangkok or Thailand. I also noticed that they didn't serve any pork and besides Thai dishes, there are selections for vegetarian and Indian food.

The restaurant.
Noodle soup with chicken.
Tom yum goong
Coconut ice-cream - soooo yummy.
There were also some outdoor shows and activities such as elephant riding for guests and tourists before the actual show that starts at 8.00 pm.

Cultural show (oudoor)
Elephant riding
I think I blend well with the Thais...

End of Day 1 ( this is just the first day)
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