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A Honeymoon to Remember: Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan in Style

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Old Dec 17, 17, 10:48 am
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A Honeymoon to Remember: Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan in Style

My wife and I married on a Saturday and left first thing 9:00 a.m. the next day on our Honeymoon. This report will likely take me a while to write as I want to incorporate restaurant reviews as well as hotel reviews into the report.

Below is a summary of the trip and my planned reports:

JFK-HKG- CX F
  • Hong Kong Day 1
    • Hotel- Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
    • Restaurant- Tin Lung Heen
  • Hong Kong Day 2
    • Explore Hong Kong- Victoria Peak
    • Restaurant- Dim Sum Library
    • Restaurant- Spring Moon
HKG-BKK- CX J
  • Airport Lounge- Cathay Pacific Pier
  • Bangkok Day 3
    • Hotel- The Siam
    • Tailors
      • Wife- Cotton House
      • Me- Rajawongse Tailor
      • Dinner at the The Siam
  • Bangkok Day 4
    • Explore Bangkok
    • Restaurant- Nara Thai Cuisine
  • Bangkok Day 5
  • Explore Bangkok
  • Restaurant- Gaggan
BKK-HKT- Thai Airways J
  • Airport Lounge, Thai Royal Silk Lounge
  • Phuket Days 6-10
    • Hotel Amanpuri
      • Dinners, Spa, Gym review
    • Diving- Similan Islands
    • Aman I excursion to Phang Nga Bay
HKT-CNX- Bangkok Airways Economy
  • Airport Lounge- Bangkok Airways Lounge
  • Chiang Mai Day 10
    • Hotel- Anantara Chiang Mai
    • Explore Chiang Mai
    • Restaurant- Baanrai Yarmyen Thai Cuisine
  • Chiang Mai Day 11
    • Explore Chiang Mai
    • Spa at Anantara
    • Dinner at The Service 1921
Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai- Car Service
  • Chiang Rai Day 12-13
    • Hotel- The Four Seasons Tented Camp
    • ELEPHANTS!
Chiang Rai-BKK Thai Smile Economy
  • Bangkok Day 14
    • Hotel- The Peninsula
    • Dinner- Suhring
BKK-TYO- JAL J
  • Airport Lounge- Sakura Lounge Bangkok
  • Tokyo Day 15-18
    • Hotel- Ritz Carlton Tokyo
    • Restaurant- Afuri Ramen in Ebisu
    • Day Trip- Nikko
    • Restaurant- L'Effervescence
    • Day Trip Kawagoe
    • Restaurant- Sushi Harutaka
    • Explore Tokyo/shopping
    • Restaurant- Ukatei Omotesando
  • Asaba Ryokan Day 19
  • Tokyo Day 20
    • Hotel- Aman Tokyo
      • Afternoon tea, spa, and pool
    • Restaurant- Ryugin
TYO-JFK- JAL F
  • Airport Lounge- JAL Sakura Lounge First Class
FIN

We used our AS miles to book all our flights, which includes CX F from JFK to HKG, CX J (plane was changed last minute, with no F) from HKG-BKK. We then booked J on Thai Air from BKK-Phuket, Bangkok Air Economy from Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thai Smile from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, JAL J from BKK-TYO, and JAL F from TYO-JFK. Our trip began in style by flying CX F to Hong Kong from JFK. Overall, the flight was smooth and the amount of room was impressive, but as will be discussed later, I think JAL F blows CX F out of the water. I found the CX seat a little worn and the IFE system dated. Service was great in the sense that the stewards traveled by constantly to make sure we were comfortable, but it lacked the warmth we received from JAL, or the notice that we were on our Honeymoon. I will say that CX pajamas were the best plane pajamas we have received. Food was good but not as unique or interesting as JAL’s. Menu and pics of food below. I can never sleep on a plane, regardless of how comfortable or how long the flight is, so for 16 hours I ate, drank, and watched a ton of movies.










We landed in Hong Kong and took the train system straight to the Ritz Carlton where we spent two nights. Arrival was fairly easy and straightforward as the RC is located directly on the subway line that connects with the airport. Total travel time from airport to RC was about an hour. A lot has been spoken on this forum about the RC’s location (Kowloon side), and how it is not very central to the city. We honestly loved this. The views from our room were incredible, and it was never difficult to make our way to the central area (either subway or car).












We arrived to an incredibly warm greeting by the RC staff. We booked the Harbor view club room, and as the pictures can attest, it was incredible. I highly recommend when staying at an RC to book a club room because of the value you get for it. Upon arrival, we were escorted to the club room on the 116 floor to check in, wherein we were wished a Happy Honeymoon, plied with booze, and offered to either enjoy afternoon tea at the club, or go straight to our room. The choice was obvious.







Following a very nice afternoon tea spread, we were taken to our room on the 108 floor, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of wine, some cake, and a Happy Honeymoon sign waiting for us. The RC concierge had reached out to me to try to get some pictures of us from our wedding to decorate the room, but unfortunately, our photographer did not have them ready. Regardless, this was a very thoughtful gesture and it made is feel special. The room was very large by Asian hotel standards (and even some Western), decorated with ornate patterns, and lacquer finishes. The bed was either the comfiest bed in the world, or I had reached delirious levels of lack of sleep, but the moment we landed on it we took a 6 hour nap.

We awoke in the evening with a reminder call and some coffee in our room and made our way to Tin Lung Heen downstairs, where we had a reservation waiting. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and is predominately an elevated Cantonese tasting menu. We were still mostly full from our plane ride, so we opted for the Michelin Degustation Menu, which is a little lighter (and slightly cheaper) than the other option. The restaurant continues the lavish ornate theme, with gold and lacquer accentuated by large fire pits scattered throughout, and large floor to ceiling windows that give a magnificent view of the city.




The dishes were mostly a hit, with the Iberian pork and wagyu being the star. However, I am not a fan of abalone, and mostly cringe every time I see it served. I think it is a texture thing but I just cannot stand the chewiness. In retrospect I should I have mentioned this early on, but oh well. We opted for the wine pairings as well, and for the most part each option complimented the courses well, except for the main dish. For the wagyu pairing, the sommelier served us two glasses of red: a full-bodied dry Bordeaux, and a fruitier option. Both were meant to pair off with the earthiness of the shitake mushrooms and richness of the beef, and you were supposed to switch off between the wines to accentuate the different flavors. Perhaps our palates haven’t reached that level of haute cuisine critique necessary to do this, but we found that the mix of wines just created a hot mess of flavors for us, and made the courses taste worse, not better. There was simply too much going on in each of the wines and the dish for us to be able to enjoy both wines and the meat correctly. While dining, we spoke with our waiter, and informed him that we had some food goals while we were in Hong Kong. We wanted to sample Peking duck (we have had it in NYC but we wanted to compare), and we wanted some good dim sum. For Peking duck, he suggested we make a reservation at Spring Moon at the Peninsula Hotel, and for dim sum, he gave us a few suggestions including Dim Sum library, which I recalled another flyertalk member suggesting. He offered to talk to our concierge about making reservations for both, and we agreed to go to Dim Sum Library for lunch and Spring Moon for dinner the next day.
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Old Dec 17, 17, 2:09 pm
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We woke up the next day refreshed and ready to explore Hong Kong. Our day began with breakfast in the club room, followed by a trip on the subway to central Hong Kong. Our initial plan was to spend the day exploring, followed by a nice trip on the gondola to Victoria Peak. However, upon arriving at the gondola and seeing the line for tickets, in our usual “adventurous” fashion, we got the genius idea to hike up to the Peak. In the past we have hiked up Mt. Misen in Hiroshima, so how bad could this be right? RIGHT?!



Well, about two hours later we made it up to the peak, our legs tired, our bodies drenched in sweat, but our pride palpable. In sum, I would not recommend hiking from the gondola up. It’s basically an 25% incline walk all the way up, with very few stairs, and mostly through a residential neighborhood with narrow streets. Lesson learned. Take the damn gondola. Anyway, the Peak provided beautiful panoramic views of Hong Kong, making the 15 minutes we spent up there almost worth the two-hour hike.






We made the hike back down, which was significantly easier, and made our way to Dim Sum Library, to eat the calories we burned in dim sum. The restaurant is located inside a large shopping mall, and at first appearance, it looked like a tiny shop. However, much like a TARDIS, the restaurant is surprisingly bigger on the inside. I highly recommend this restaurant for dim sum. I will caution and say it is not the cheap, authentic street dim sum people often look for in Hong Kong, but we can get that in NYC. We were looking for something a little more elevated, and Dim Sum library delivered.










We left Dim Sum Library in much better spirits than when we arrived, and made our way back to the hotel, where we relaxed and got ready for our dinner at Spring Moon that evening. Spring Moon is located in the Peninsula hotel and is decorated in a traditional Chinese style. We went with a single mission in mind, to devour Peking duck, and all I can say is mission accomplished. The food was delicious, the duck crispy and juicy, and the accoutrements were excellent. My only critique was our waiter, who while polite, was a little pushy with what we should and shouldn’t eat. He kept telling us that we were ordering too much food and we wouldn’t be able to finish, or if we sure we wanted certain items. Now, normally this can be done in an informative way, but his tone left us feeling like children who weren’t familiar with how to eat at a restaurant, which could not have been farther from the truth.



After dinner, we returned back to the hotel where we decided on a night cap at the Ozone Bar located on the top floor of the Ritz Carlton. Purportedly, it's one of the highest bars in the world, and I can believe it. The cocktails were overpriced but delicious, and the views were incredible.




Afterwards we retired to our room and packed, excited to begin the next leg of our journey in Bangkok. Little did we know what would await us…
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Old Dec 17, 17, 3:51 pm
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Absolutely fabulous and engaging trip report!!! I can't wait for the next instalment!
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Old Dec 17, 17, 7:05 pm
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Congratulations, and great TR so far
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Old Dec 17, 17, 8:20 pm
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We left the RC early to make our way to the Pier Lounge at the HKG airport. I have read great things about the CX lounge in Hong Kong and we were not disappointed. The walk to the Pier lounge though was arduous and for a brief point in time I thought I was in some bizarre Escher painting with never ending moving walkways. Luckily, we arrived to the lounge just as dim sum and noodles were being made available so we had our breakfast there.





Following another hearty fill, we made our way to the plane, and for the five-hour flight, J was good, although we were still feeling slightly jilted at the last minute plane change. I would say CX J is comparable to JAL J but the IFE system did seem a little dated, and the monitor did not move as much as I would expect.



The flight was smooth and the service was fine, and before we knew it, we had arrived at Bangkok. We made our way through the premium fast track customs lane thanks to our CX J tickets, and praise be the premium gods we did, because otherwise we would have been in line forever. We quickly made our way through customs, purchased a sim card, and found our driver from The Siam Hotel. The Siam Hotel car service was a modern BMW with in-car wifi, water and hot towels. Now humor my digression for a moment, but can I just say that the USA really needs to up its moist towel game. Everywhere we went in Asia we were always greeted with a scented hot or cold towel (depending on the weather). Why is this not done in the USA? Is there some severe towel shortage I’m not aware of? Anyway, back to the trip.

The ride to The Siam from the airport took about an hour. I have read a number of FT posts about The Siam’s location, but honestly, we didn’t mind. However, for those reading and considering a stay, I will say that The Siam is located on the river, but farther north than the city center. In a normal city, with a well-funded public transportation system, and policies to limit traffic, this would not be a problem. Bangkok is not one of those cities. The skyrail system only goes to a few locations, and does not have many stops that go northwest (none close to the Siam). The Siam, like all the hotels located by the river, offers free boat ferries to any pier location on the river, and there is a skyrail stop about 30 minutes down river. Thus, if you want to go southeast from The Siam, you would likely take the boat for 30 minutes, then walk for approximately 10 minutes from the pier to the skyrail, and then take the skyrail. This is obviously not ideal for people who have reservations (read on for our harrowing journey to Gaggan), or need to be somewhere quickly, but for us it typically wasn’t a problem, and the benefits of staying at the Siam more than make up for its location.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our butler Than, who welcomed us with a delicious drink, and showed us to our room. Than would remain our butler for the remainder of our stay. Now let me level with you, we have stayed in some nice places, but we have never had a butler before. What does one ask a butler to do? Do they shine my shoes? Press my laundry? Order us cars and confirm reservations? Fix the sim card on my phone so that I can use it in Bangkok? If you answered ‘all of the above’ you would be correct. Than was indispensable during our stay in Bangkok, and he really made us feel like we were the only people staying at the Hotel. Although, if I’m being honest, we might have been. During our three nights, I probably saw one other couple there. We stayed in the Mae Nam Suite, which was beautifully decorated with dark woods, and old world style fixtures. The entire hotel had an English Explorer vibe going on which we really dug.

















Unfortunately, on this day there was no time to rest or enjoy the hotel because we had a mission. Prior to our trip I had researched tailors, and while I know that the halcyon days of cheap and good Bangkok tailors is no more, I still wanted to have two bespoke sport coats made, and my wife wanted to recreate a Loro Piana cashmere cape she saw in a magazine. After much research, we decided to go to the Cotton House for her tailor. The Cotton House is located close to The Peninsula hotel in a small shopping center called the Oriental Palace. My wife showed the seamstress the picture of the cape, picked out some of the materials, and measurements were taken. Total process took about 15 minutes, and 200 USD. The end product would take a second fitting, and four days. I had read beforehand that it usually takes about 4 days to a week to have something tailored, so we accounted for this by having us return to Bangkok for one night towards the end of our Thailand portion before heading to Japan. This had the benefit of not having us rush or make connecting flights, and to have our tailored clothes ready. We planned on staying at The Peninsula for that one night so I provided the seamstress with that information and she offered to deliver the tailored cape to the hotel when it was completed. With my wife taken care of, we next moved on to my tailored goods. I selected Rajawongse tailor for my tailoring needs. Similar to my wife’s process, I met with the tailor, had my measurements taken, picked out the fabrics (a maroon lighter coat, and a thicker textured blue), and paid approximately 380 USD for two sport coats. I would also need to go back the next day for a second fitting, but he would deliver it the Peninsula as well. All in all, a fairly painless process.

With our tailoring needs met, we foolishly decided to take an Uber back to the hotel. Looking at the map on my phone, I figured ‘hey we’re just two miles away’ how long could that possibly take during 6 p.m. rush hour? Well two hours later, or perhaps more, I’m not sure, I think I blacked out at some point in the car due to a road rage-related aneurism, we made it back to the hotel. We decided to have dinner there as it was getting late. During our stay, the main dinner area in the hotel was undergoing renovations, so they instead made the pier the dining area. Dinner was good, with us running the color wheel of curries (we opted for a yellow curry this time), and papaya salad. Now I love spicy food …. my wife… not so much. Needless to say this was an eye opening (and watering) experience for her. Following dinner, we retired for the night, and prepared ourselves for a full day of exploration.
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Old Dec 18, 17, 3:37 am
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You definitely were keen to hike to Victoria Peak! The views must must have made up for all the intense exercise though.

Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Dec 18, 17, 7:56 am
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Congratulations on the Wedding!
So far, I am enjoying your TR - looking forward to the rest of it.
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Old Dec 18, 17, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
Lesson learned. Take the damn gondola.
This made me laugh out loud. Congratulations on your wedding. Enjoying the Trip Report
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Old Dec 19, 17, 8:10 am
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Love the look of The Siam, looking forward to the rest of this trip!
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Old Dec 19, 17, 9:44 am
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Congrats to the wedding!

Impressive TR so far, really look forward to the rest
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Old Dec 19, 17, 10:54 am
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Congrats and thanks for posting your travels. Looks like a great trip!
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Old Dec 19, 17, 11:31 am
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Congratulations on getting married, and thanks for taking us all on your honeymoon with you!! That is a SERIOUS itinerary - looks like you're having an amazing trip.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 5:42 am
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Bangkok Day 2 and 3.

Our mornings in Bangkok were mostly consistent and consisted of breakfast at The Siam (which was included with our stay). There were Western and Thai options, so we usually split one of each. It was an impressive spread consisting of a full menu, and a continental buffet table with local fruits and other delicacies. Following breakfast, Than (our butler) arranged for a pickup on the hotel boat for a trip down the river to see the sites. We made it a point to avoid all manner of transportation and walk everywhere so that we could really see the city as best we could. If you have not realized yet, we’re idiots. Bangkok is sweltering. I think I may have lost a few pounds in sweat alone during our sojourn through this godforsaken city. As you can guess, we are not a fan of Bangkok, but let me explain why. It’s not just the heat, we used to live in a swamp city and we’re familiar with humidity. It’s not the lack of transportation, again same point. And it’s not the traffic. It’s the fact that each of these, coupled with perhaps the worst city planning I have ever seen, has resulted in this melting pot of misery the likes of which we had never experienced.






The sites, however, were beautiful. They included, the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Golden Mount.















One point I will say to my fellow American travelers. Read a little about the rules before entering temples. While we were at Wat Pho some American college woman was furious at the fact that she was not allowed in to a holy sanctuary with her cut off denim short shorts, tube top, and sandals. What nerve of these people to want to keep a sense of decorum at their places of worship! With a sigh and a look of utter contempt, we made our way past her, my wife covering her shoulders with a shawl she pre-emptively brought with her.

Following our foray through this dystopian Mad Max-like city, we decided to dine the second night at Nara Thai Cuisine, located on the 7th Floor of the Central World Plaza shopping center. The restaurant serves upscale Thai cuisine (in case the name didn’t give it away), and I believe I ordered the red beef curry along with some appetizers of thai sausage, while my wife ordered the massaman curry. I’m honestly not sure what we ordered because by the time I decided to try and write down some notes, I was about two beers and three cocktails deep. I will say, Nara’s cocktail game is on point; they greatly assisted in helping me forget about the puddle of sweat I left in my wake as we traveled from temple to temple. If you're looking for a nice Thai restaurant, I recommend Nara.





One cool point about the restaurant was the button on the table (you can see it in the top picture, middle on the leftmost side). The button flagged the wait staff, making unnecessary for me to call any one over. Again, why is this not done everywhere? Towels and buttons! This is all I ask!


On our last day in Bangkok, we returned to our respective tailors for our second and last fittings, roamed around to a few temples, and returned back to The Siam early to get ready for the main reason we wanted to go to Bangkok in the first place, Gaggan. Full disclosure, my wife and I are massive and shameless food snobs. I love a good Chipotle as much as the next guy, but the highlight of our trips are always experiencing new flavors, and new takes on haute cuisine. Some may scoff, but I could not care less.

Gaggan has been voted repeatedly as the number one restaurant in Asia, and we have been intrigued by Chef Gaggan Anand’s unique spin on Indian cuisine way before he ever made an appearance on Netflix. We made our reservations at Gaggan about one year before this trip, and we spent the next few months talking about how awesome this dinner was going to be and how fortunate we were to book the restaurant at this time (Gaggan will be moving to Japan in 2018 or 2019). We were a little worried after reading that Chef Anand began experimenting with Japanese flavors in his dishes, as we felt that might compromise the overall progressive Indian integrity that his menu strives for. Nonetheless, we washed away the grime of the day, dressed in the finest livery our carry-on bags could fit, and prepared to embark on what we hoped was the first culinary adventure of our trip. Gaggan’s confirmation e-mail is very strict with respect to reservations. If you are not at the restaurant within 15 minutes of your reservation time, you forfeit the table and you may be charged for the meal. By now we had caught on to the traffic situation in Bangkok (I is smart!), and therefore allotted 3 hours to traverse the approximate 5.5 miles from The Siam to Gaggan.

We ordered our Uber with a sort of smug satisfaction one only gets right before their comeuppance is at hand. Sure enough, 3 hours later, and 3 miles in to our 5.5 mile journey I began to realize that we were not going to make it the restaurant in time. I called Gaggan, explained my situation, and asked them if they could push my reservation by a half hour. I don’t know if the hostess was persuaded by my strong rational arguments (they mostly consisted of different forms of begging), or by the desperation in my voice, but she consented to extend my reservation by a half hour. She further advised me that with the distance I still had remaining, we would never make it by car. Our only option was to sprint or take a motorcycle taxi. As I hung up, the clouds darkened, and a torrential downpour the likes of which I have not seen since the movie Jumanji hit us. The rain, my wife’s heels, and the fact that neither of us looked forward to running 3 miles at under 9 minutes a mile, made our options limited. A motorcycle was our only hope.

We got out of the Uber in the middle of traffic, and scoured the area for the first available moto-taxi, but what I failed to consider was basic physics of fitting three people on one tiny motorcycle. In the few seconds I had to evaluate what to do in the rain, I did consider hailing two motorcycle taxis, but I quickly dismissed the thought. I have seen Taken one too many times to toss my newly minted wife on to some stranger’s bike, in a foreign country, where neither of us speak the language, and where I have no way to communicate with her if we get separated. I am no Liam Neeson, I have no particular set of skills that make me a nightmare to anyone, and I would definitely not find her. I therefore hailed one bike, sandwiched my wife between me and the driver, and with no place for me to sit, I used every available thigh strength I had to grip the bike for dear life.

All I could think as we sped off through the rain and oncoming traffic to our dinner was, Gaggan had better be worth it...

Last edited by Anlun; Dec 20, 17 at 6:48 am
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Old Dec 20, 17, 7:33 am
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First congratulations on your nuptials and this exciting honeymoon.

While you point out to your fellow American travellers, I would say many foreign travellers are just as guilty. My own experience is that Americans (stereotype alert) tend to be a lot louder so attract more attention than others. However, I would say that I would have been just as guilty, but for the kind staff at my hotel who told me before I headed out about the requirements of going into temples.
Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
One point I will say to my fellow American travelers. Read a little about the rules before entering temples. While we were at Wat Pho some American college woman was furious at the fact that she was not allowed in to a holy sanctuary with her cut off denim short shorts, tube top, and sandals. What nerve of these people to want to keep a sense of decorum at their places of worship! With a sigh and a look of utter contempt, we made our way past her, my wife covering her shoulders with a shawl she pre-emptively brought with her.

And of course the Uber fiasco in Bangkok. I have never experienced it but was very fortunately warned off using it. In your situation the hotel is off the beaten path of the sky train so isn't so easy to navigate to. In the old days I used to always take a taxi/car to the hotel. Now, (if I am travelling alone) I only ever take the airport rail line, which takes you into the heart of Bangkok and then take a taxi (or motorcycle taxi) from there.
Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
With our tailoring needs met, we foolishly decided to take an Uber back to the hotel. Looking at the map on my phone, I figured ‘hey we’re just two miles away’ how long could that possibly take during 6 p.m. rush hour? Well two hours later, or perhaps more, I’m not sure, I think I blacked out at some point in the car due to a road rage-related aneurism, we made it back to the hotel. We decided to have dinner there as it was getting late. During our stay, the main dinner area in the hotel was undergoing renovations, so they instead made the pier the dining area. Dinner was good, with us running the color wheel of curries (we opted for a yellow curry this time), and papaya salad. Now I love spicy food …. my wife… not so much. Needless to say this was an eye opening (and watering) experience for her. Following dinner, we retired for the night, and prepared ourselves for a full day of exploration.
Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
We ordered our Uber with a sort of smug satisfaction one only gets right before their comeuppance is at hand. Sure enough, 3 hours later, and 3 miles in to our 5.5 mile journey I began to realize that we were not going to make it the restaurant in time. I called Gaggan, explained my situation, and asked them if they could push my reservation by a half hour. I don’t know if the hostess was persuaded by my strong rational arguments (they mostly consisted of different forms of begging), or by the desperation in my voice, but she consented to extend my reservation by a half hour. She further advised me that with the distance I still had remaining, we would never make it by car. Our only option was to sprint or take a motorcycle taxi. As I hung up, the clouds darkened, and a torrential downpour the likes of which I have not seen since the movie Jumanji hit us. The rain, my wife’s heels, and the fact that neither of us looked forward to running 3 miles at under 9 minutes a mile, made our options limited. A motorcycle was our only hope.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 7:37 am
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The Siam looks absolutely amazing. As a regular (cheap) visit to Bangkok, I don't think I'll ever stay here so I appreciate you sharing it so I can just look on enviously!

Originally Posted by Anlun View Post














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