27 February 2016

Thailand, Part 1 — Bangkok

Time really gets away from me...

Almost two months ago (early January), ViLa and I flew to Bangkok for a few days. After we returned I read something in Vicky's Very Interesting Blog "I Travel, I Become" about the full name:

"So to finish my first entry one last interesting fact that I learned today is the name of Bangkok itself. It’s actually later in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name!
'Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit'...

(Note from John: WOW! I'm not even going to attempt to say that...)

"Which means: 'City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest' ".

Most of the time we spent in Bangkok was, like November's trip to Phnom Penh, spent shopping for inventory for ViLa's secondhand clothing shop, ViLa Fashions,

though this time I insisted that we see at least one notable tourist site. We saw a few.

After our a meter-less taxi ride experience from the airport,
The bump on the dashboard to the left of the driver is the well-covered and almost disguised meter
(I refused to pay the demanded fare—and won), we learned to get around on the very nice and amazingly immaculate metro system,

I was amazed how people lined up so that the doors were unblocked and
passengers could actually exit unobstructed. If Vietnam had a metro system,
people would be crammed up against the glass and the passengers exiting
would fight their way out as the people boarding pushed and shoved to get on.
took a couple river boats (public transportation is very available in the city center)

and did a LOT of walking!

ViLa like having her picture taken and I don't, so there are few of me... though I was there.

We used some of my Marriott points to stay at the Renaissance and were upgraded to the Concierge Level. It was ViLa's first Five-Star Hotel experience and I enjoyed watching her reaction to a level of luxury that is never experienced by 95%+ of the Vietnamese people and that many Westerners take for granted. She kept asking how I was able to arrange it for us to stay there for free. The concept is so foreign that it took a while before I was able to sufficiently explain that it was a reward I got because I (actually my clients) paid for well over a thousand nights' worth of accommodations at Marriott properties around North America over a period of many years... though never at this hotel or even in Asia.

Christmas was only a couple weeks earlier, so they still had the decorations up
Sitting at a desk for the first time in a LONG time...
She couldn't get over the huge selection of good food at the Concierge Lounge breakfast...
and especially that it was FREE!
I arranged our departing flights on the 8th so that ViLa's flight back to Saigon left about an hour before my flight to Chiang Mai. That would allow us to be comfortably through Immigration and Security, then she'd be on-board her flight before I left for my gate. Her first-ever airplane flight was only this past November and this, her second international flight, was to be her first flight without me leading the way. Even though I had carefully explained everything she would need to do step-by-step and made sure that on the trip to Bangkok she paid close attention to where we went and every little nuance, she was understandably VERY nervous.

We planned to take the metro from the hotel to the airport, leaving the hotel three hours prior to her flight. That should give us plenty of time without rushing.

"The best laid plans..."

The day before we left, I checked to see approximately how far it was from the boarding gate for her international flight to the one for my domestic flight. The answer: a little over an hour's taxi ride unless traffic is especially horrendous.

Did you know that they have two active commercial airports in Bangkok? Neither did I! SHIT!

Because of this, we left the hotel four hours prior to her flight. I thought that would give us enough time to get her to the gate and leave me with enough time to get across town to the other airport and my flight. In 30+ years of flying a LOT (I think it was in 1997 that I was on 180 different airplanes), I've never yet missed a flight (knock wood). The very short version of the story is that this day we each came within minutes of missing our respective flights.

Notes for those traveling in or out of Bangkok:
1) There are two airports--Suvarnabhumi (~26 km east of Bangkok) and Don Mueang (~26 km north of Bangkok)
2) If you're coming into one and out of the other, allow a MINIMUM of four hours between flights.
3) There's a FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE between the two airports for those who are using both on the same day.
4) You can only get on the free shuttle if you can show a copy of your itinerary, NOT JUST your flight number out of the other airport (ask me how I know this).

I was absolutely confident of ViLa's ability to solo navigate international air travel and was unsurprised and very proud that she made it home to Dalat without incident—especially after I started her off in the hole by almost causing her to miss the first flight!

We laugh about it now...

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