Enjoying hospitality in Bangkok

As our 60-day tourist visa comes to an end, we spent our last week in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok.  I must admit that by now, we are “templed out” and a little tired of sightseeing.  Luckily for us, in spite of it’s size there wasn’t a plethora of tourist attractions to tempt us.  Even better for us, we enjoyed the hospitality of a few people who made us feel quite at home.

We rationalized our splurge on a four star hotel for our week long stay in Bangkok with the knowledge that the next two months will be rather hectic and definitely low budget as we set out to explore Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.  This might be our last chance at a decent bed, or so we told ourselves.  Unfortunately it was busy during this week so we had to split our time between two hotels: Centre Point Sukhumvit 10 and the Best Western Premier on Sukhumvit 1, the former being our favourite.  Both hotels offered great amenities of which we availed ourselves almost daily – pool, steam room, gym.  At the Centre Point Hotel, we were upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite complete with kitchen, dining room, living room and of course a bedroom.  We even had a washing machine in the kitchen, something I took full advantage of by washing every piece of clothing in our packs.  Fresh, clean clothes, ahhh, the simple things that give us pleasure!

Our sightseeing excursions were limited to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Jim Thompson House along with a few markets around town.  Bangkok is a city of contrasts where old and new merge into a bustling, noisy metropolis.  It is more modern than I expected and far more Westernised too.  Yet there are still glimpses of the past, like the guy who set up shop on the street with his old foot powered Singer sewing machine, working away in the open air, under the glare of the sun.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings in the heart of Bangkok. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), currently resides at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images, the Reclining Buddha, which is 160 feet long.

Jim Thompson House

This is the residence of an American named Jim Thompson who settled in Bangkok after the second world war, during which he was a CIA agent.  Trained as an architect, he became an active advocate for the Thai silk industry, gaining worldwide recognition for his success in rebuilding the industry, for generating international demand for Thai silk and for contributing to the growth of the silk industry.  Mystery shrouds his disappearance in 1967 at the age of 61 while visiting the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.  He vanished without a trace and to this day there is no explanation for what happened to him.

Today, the house is a popular tourist attraction, showcasing the unique house he built for himself blending Thai and western styles, along with his vast art collection.

The best part of the week was having the chance to meet up with some family of friends.  Dan is married to Laurel, a high school friend of Chris’.  Dan works in Singapore but was on a business trip to Bangkok this week, staying at a hotel within spitting distance of ours.  We enjoyed one of the best steak dinners we’ve ever had at an Argentinian restaurant (El Gaucho) – even better than any steak we had in Argentina.  It was a fun evening with good conversation and lots of laughs.  Dan took charge of the wine list and the menu and astounded us with his generosity in treating us to such a memorable meal.  Thanks again Dan!

We met Mike and his wife Nat the night before – Mike is the brother of my friend Sylvia in Ottawa.  He has been in Thailand for ten years.  Sylvia introduced us via email, and Mike then invited us to his home where we met his lovely wife Nat and his three dogs, beautiful Doberman’s.  We enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at their place before heading out for dinner.  It was such a pleasant treat for us to visit with them in their home, and again a complete surprise when Mike treated us to a lovely Thai dinner.  Mind you, we were all slightly aghast to discover we closed the joint down past 2:00 am, way beyond our normal bedtime.  At least we didn’t have to get up in the morning like Mike and Nat.

We met up with Mike and Nat again later in the week, for a repeat of the first night only this time we called it a night at a more sensible hour (midnight).  These late nights really did us in and we were grateful we could just take it easy the next day.

And so concludes our visit to Thailand.  We have fallen in love with this country and vow to return again in the future.  We can easily envision ourselves spending winter months here like many ex-pats do.

Tomorrow we head to Laos by plane (to Chiang Rai) and bus (to Chiang Khong) where we will spend two weeks.  After that it will be Cambodia for two weeks and then Vietnam where we will spend our final month before heading home on April 8th.

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