Bangkok - The Sheraton Royal Orchid Hotel
I got to immigration before everybody else and was processed very quickly. A text message from ausTXhiker informed me that he had already checked into the Sheraton Royal Orchid and received the sought-after suite upgrade. With these excellent prospects, I hopped into a cab and was on my way to Bangkok’s riverbank. The ride into town only took 20min in heavy traffic, the reason being that the angry-faced Thai drove like a madman. He cut people off, accelerated up to 150km/h, braked down again and changed lanes at his own convenience. This roller coaster ride would put every Italian cabbie to shame, and cost a lot less than a daypass at your local SixFlags! In hindsight, I can’t explain why I did not complain. At the time, I comforted myself with the thought that if you believe in being reborn, this might be reflected in your driving attitude. I for one do not believe in it!
ausTXhiker was waiting for me in the suite he had managed to get us, and it was very nice and large despite being a bit worn. But the beautiful views of the Chao Praya river made more than up for it. We were also offered access to the very nice and modern lounge where we had breakfast every morning and stopped by to use the free WLAN every now and then.
The uncomfortable climate in Bangkok drained a lot of our energy, and we thus only saw a few sights in town, all of which were interesting and beautiful though. I especially liked the refreshing and dirt-cheap rides on the river shuttle boats which stop right in front of the Sheraton. Also, apart from the odd over-zealous street vendor and an unfortunate encounter with an angry Chinese woman who shouted at me to take pictures of her and her apparently completely obedient family, people were friendly and courteous, giving us the traditional wai greeting on numerous occasions. In return, we struggled with the pronunciation of the Thai equivalent to “Hi” or, for ausTXhiker, “Howdy”.
One thing that makes us great travel buddies is our shared passion for food and our permanent appetite. And so we went out in search of tasty Thai dishes, the first night following a recommendation by the Sheraton concierge. That restaurant turned out to be very mediocre and was obviously only frequented by Sheraton patrons. The next night, we made our own choice based on the guidebooks we had and ended up at Benjarong, the restaurant at the Dusit Thani hotel that offers Royal Thai cuisine. I enjoyed the food there very much, and the setting was also quite refined. Despite this apparently being one of the best places in town, it was still very affordable for Western standards.
The next day saw us getting up early to be in the lobby at 7.30am where our driver was already waiting to take us back to the airport in his German limo, and with a much more civilized way of driving than my cabbie on the way in. At the airport, we were met by a Sheraton representative who helped us with check-in, got the airport tax vouchers for us and made sure that we were alright. (This service was apparently offered thanks to ausTXhiker’s SPG Platinum status.)
Check-in for our first flight together took a while since Cathay Pacific insisted that they need to see the credit card that ausTXhiker had used to purchase his ticket. Unfortunately, this card was roughly 18 hours of flying away and so they had to re-issue the ticket on another card. But we eventually made it to the Cathay lounge were we had some snacks (Dim Sum as a first taste of Hong Kong) and checked our emails using the free WLAN provided.