Monday, December 22, 2003

What a change to travel with just a little bit more money! My arrival to Thailand was so much more pleasant to go to the designated arrivals area at the airport to be greeted by a friendly face from the hotel -- instead of hordes of touts pushing the hard sell. Unfortunately, I was very distressed to find that my cell phone wouldn't work; somehow Chunghwa Telecom wouldn't let me roam upon arrival, which caused me to miss a call from a dear friend that I had hoped to meet up for lunch in the four hours we would overlap in Bangkok.

I eventually overcame my disappointment. It was hard not to, the weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold. My room number has my lucky number, which I took to be an especially auspicious sign. The hotel is located in a bustling, yuppie part of town. Exploring the environs around my hotel, I came across many chicly designed restaurants. And according to Stan Sesser, the Asian Wall Street Journal's restaurant reviewer, one of the best French cafes is just across the road from my hotel.

Saturday evening I took the Bangkok Sky Train (the Sala Daeng station is just 5 minutes from my hotel) to Sukhumvit Road, where I stopped by the legendary Atlanta hotel, which is Angela's absolute favorite. Unfortunately, rooms were unavailable when I tried to make a reservation. I was able to dine in their restaurant (having my favorite soup, thom kha gai - coconut chicken soup, and an unusual and tasty spicy fresh fruit salad) and peruse their annotated menu, which Lonely Planet's Joe Cummings describes as a crash course in Thai cuisine. Fortunately, the Atlanta staged a special performance of Thai classical dance that evening. Apparently, the three performers were among the top performers in Thailand, and a long-term resident of the hotel provided background information. All this, and for free.

My good fortune continued the next day as I trekked from one end of town to another (in the comfort of the Sky Train) in search of shopping bargains. In the morning, I headed to Chatachuk Weekend Market and navigated the 15,000 stalls. In the afternoon, I headed to the BITEC convention center for Jim Thompson's semi-annual sale. This sale happens only two days a year, and I'm extremely lucky to be in Thailand during this time (and read a tiny blurb about it in Thai Airways' in flight magazine). Fine silk products at 50-70% off! For a pittance, my day's bounty included a number of fine Thai silk and comfortable cotton products.

After I returned to my hotel with all of my shoppings, I set out for Lumphini Park, a 7 minute stroll away. Lumphini Park is like New York's Central Park, an oasis in the center of a bustling city. I passed joggers and young families to catch an hour of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra giving a free outdoor concert. The concert ended with a fireworks display, and then I headed to Saxophone club, where I listened to acoustic guitarist and and a live band playing soul while I ate fiery sliced beef and eggplant salad. All in all, a very good weekend.

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