Bangkok - Tea times two
To be frank, I had no real desire to go to Bangkok again, having visited the Thai capital several times before without really liking it. However, flight schedule constraints required me to stay there for two days, and I planned on just lying low and relaxing. For the first night, I had pricelined the Novotel Lotus, prior to finding a much better deal at asiatravel.com for the Sofitel Silom. So I was facing a hotel hop after the first night. That was just as well, for the Novotel was fairly run-down and nowhere near other properties of the same brand that I had stayed at before. Fortunately, I only had to spend a couple of hours there, getting in from the airport around midnight and leaving again mid-morning. Upon check-out, they underlined my bad impression by having me wait at the front desk until a maid had checked if I hadn’t “stolen” anything from the room, and then charging me 200B for a plastic laundry bag that I took for my sweaty shirts. And this is supposed to be a 4* hotel?
After a long taxi ride through the traffic nightmare that is central Bangkok, I was led into the stunning lobby of the Sofitel Silom, which was in a different league altogether. Accor really seems to emphasize the different quality levels of their brands here. Despite arriving before noon and not holding any status with them, I was assigned a large room on a high floor and settled into very pleasant, modern surroundings. The room was dominated by a large panoramic window and a dark wooden floor, with modern and sleek furniture adding some refinement. Lovely and a bit reminiscent of the Hilton in Kuala Lumpur.
One of the things that I like doing in Bangkok is having afternoon tea in a nice hotel lobby, and after last year’s disappointment with the Intercontinental, I decided to give the Le Meridien Plaza Athenee a try. I got there by Skytrain and treated myself to a few Dim Sum at the Silk Road restaurant first of all, giving in to a sudden craving. They were good, but the setting was to refined for a Dim Sum place IMHO I felt like in the emperor’s dining room and not really comfortable. It is definitely a wonderful place for a festive Chinese dinner in a large group though. Later, I sat down on a plushy sofa in the lobby for afternoon tea, which was quite nice. The scones were a bit dry, but the chocolate layer cake was heavenly! Don’t ask why, but I love spending time in hotel lobbys, reading the paper, sipping some tea and watching people. I think I spent a good two hours there before returning to Silom. After some time at the gym, the sun had set and I walked around in Silom and up towards the Erawan shrine a bit before calling it a day. I think I only had some Thai snacks for dinner, having eaten far more than recommended on this trip already.
The sun had risen upon my last day in Asia a long time ago when I finally dragged myself out of bed the next day. Maybe all the traveling wore me out more than I was ready to admit? Not that I regretted anything. My rate included the lavish breakfast buffet in the hotel’s top floor restaurant, and for the last time this year I treated myself to some fresh, sweet exotic fruit to start my day. Yummy! I browsed through the shops around the Grand Hyatt afterwards, learning that (assumingly under the pressure of the ubiquitous fakes) even genuine branded goods, such as Lacoste polos, are very affordable in Thailand. Still, I resisted buying even more stuff, considering how full my suitcase already was.
Not wanting to be the quintessential ugly tourist who doesn’t give a damn about the country he’s in, I figured that some culture would be in order and thus decided to visit the National Museum. Getting there was harder than I thought though: The first cabbie drove around in circles for half an hour until I got off and had the concierge of a nearby hotel (which happened to be the Le Meridien again) write down the name of my destination in Thai. Properly instructed by the helpful concierge, the second cab took me to the right place, although I did not immediately realize that. I had expected the museum to be your usual temple-like building with large columns in front of the main entrance, but instead was dropped at the entrance to a complex of bland, run-down one-story bungalows. As it turned out, the museum had definitely seen better days and remained nothing but a large collection of Thai art, with hardly any explanatory text at all, neither in Thai nor in English. I suppose this was why there were only very few visitors one has to know a lot about Thai history and art to put everything into context.
The museum was depressing, and I felt like ending my stay on a bright note, and thus walked past the Wat Pra Keo to the riverfront. I boarded the river bus, my preferred means of transport in Bangkok, and enjoyed a refreshing ride down the Chao Phraya all the way to the Oriental pier. There, I changed onto the cute green-roofed Peninsula boat, which ferried me across the river to what I consider the city’s finest hotel. Shortly afterwards, I was sitting in the Pen’s magnificent lobby, with an étagère of afternoon tea goodies in front of me and the soothing sounds of a piano as a soundtrack to the life I watched on the river outside. I indulged in some freshly brewed Lapsang Souchong tea, saw the sun setting outside, and life was good.