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Thailand -2006

2006


We returned to Thailand in early 2006,
once again flying EVA Air premium economy which had changed to "Elite" class on new Boeing 777 aircraft. Once again we had good food and service, but following previous experiences with the 747 service and despite new seats with upgraded facilities, we felt that the Elite cabin was a little claustrophobic. Its lower ceiling, harder and perhaps slightly narrower seats seemed less comfortable than the old "Evergreen Deluxe" layout. Nevertheless, the service and food was very good

All transfers once more, to the Landmark Hotel in Bangkok and then return to the Anantara in Hua Hin, were excellent and the service provided from Premier Holidays ground agents was first class.

We opted to take several trips, whilst in Bangkok, all organised by DTC Travel - a local agent, owned and managed by a UK ex-pat, recommended to us by an ex-pat friend and old work colleague. This proved to be an excellent choice with first class advice, prices and service.

Bang-pa-in Summer Palace
Ayutthaya Reclining Buddha

Summer Palace - Bang-Pa-In

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Ayutthaya - Vihara of the Reclining Buddha

We had booked a suite at the Landmark, but were surprised when we were shown to an ordinary, and very small, standard room, which we naturally refused. On returning to reception it was obvious that there was confusion, but their unhelpful receptionist took a long time to sort the problem out, almost making us feel that it was our fault. Not the attitude that was required following a long overnight flight from the UK. Fortunately I had the confirmation details to hand and politely suggested that they should sort this out or get the General Manager. Indeed there appeared to be an issue with the availability of suites and we were eventually shown to a very tired looking suite which, in my opinion was not up to the standard of a club corner room. A resolution, undoubtedly, but one that soured my opinion of this hotel.

We took an evening walk down Sukhumvit to DTC travel to finalise our trips to Ayutthaya and the River Kwai, had an evening meal and then it was back to the Landmark for an early-ish night (following a drink or two at the Huntsman).

Ayuttahya trip / River cruise. This comprised a road journey to Ayutthaya, returning to Bangkok, via Bang Pa In and then by boat, where lunch was served. Ayutthaya is huge, it is not the sort of place that you can get around in a few hours. Nevertheless, our guide took us to the most interesting sights (and no tourist traps). There are wats, monuments and chedis, dating from many hundreds of years ago to relatively recent times. We found Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon to be particularly interesting with elements dating back to about 1357. This is still an active monastery.

From Ayutthaya we took a short trip, again by road, to the beautiful Summer palace at Bang Pa In. This was originally built in about 1632, fell into dis-use and was restored in mid 19th century with most of the present buildings being built between 1872 and 1879. King Bhumibol (Rama IX) and his family now use it rarely banquets and special occasions.

From Bang Pa In we were taken by road to the river and our boat for the trip to Bangkok. A pleasant river trip past interesting scenery and passing through Northern Bangkok, past the Grand palace and Wat Arun and ending near Royal Orchid Sheraton at the Si Phraya Pier. A tasty Thai lunch was served on board - by no means a fine dining experience, but nevertheless a very good meal.


Kwai Bridge
War Graves- Death Railway

Kwai River Bridge

War Graves - Death Railway


The River Kwai / Kanchanaburi trip was quite an eye opening, and in many ways emotive trip. We were driven to the river (actually the Mae Khlung, but that is a different story about an author who got his rivers wrong!), taking a small boat to the bridge which is about 5km outside central Kanchanaburi. The river has been consumed in many places by all manner of floating hotels and even discotheques, but the bridge (not the original) rises coldly above the water. Around the bridge (which is still used as a working railway system) a collection of shops, food outlets and tourist traps has accumulated. Following a quick drink and walk on the bridge our guide took us to the station where we boarded a train which took us along the Wampo viaduct, with a sheer drop to the river. Spectacular, but I cannot see a working railroad being allowed in UK with no barriers and nothing below or between the sleepers.

Following a light lunch, near the river, we were whisked away to one of the cemeteries and a museum, telling the full story of the building of the railway. It was made very personal and really brought home the horror of conditions that these men lived, worked and died in.

Manohra Dinner Cruise. Fancying something a little different we booked a dinner cruise on a restored teak rice barge. What a lovely evening / boat / meal it was too! Operated by the Marriott, we were picked up at Saphan Taksin pier by the hotel's courtesy boat and boarded the rice barge at the Marriott Hotel on the far side of the river. It was a beautiful boat, nicely decorated and crewed by efficient and friendly staff. The food (a set Thai Menu) was excellent, the service was first class, the drinks were reasonably priced and the night time round trip to the North of an illuminated Bangkok was excellent. A wonderful way to spend a great evening (and one that would have an impact 18 months later)

On our fifth day, following a leisurely first class breakfast at the Landmark, we transferred by road to the Anantara at Hua Hin, a hotel and a town that suits us down to the ground!


Boats Hua Hin Beach
Shellfish Gathering

Beach near Anantara Hua Hin

Collecting Shell Fish - Hua Hin


Hua Hin and the Anantara, was to be a most pleasant break. The hotel was little changed since our last visit, some two years previously. Many of the staff were the same and we were welcomed like old friends. We had been unable to get a sea view room, but were given a top floor room, with a partial sea view, that was excellent and not to be faulted. Arriving mid-afternoon on hubby's birthday, we were contacted by our friends who had arranged a restaurant for the evening. They arrived by tuk-tuk to take us to the Baan Itsara. Drinks, dinner, far too much Moet (where did our friends get that?) and finally a Thai, homemade birthday cake. By that time none of us had enough puff to blow out the candles, but we found a little helper - who was richly rewarded in cake (picture below).

With the exception of a couple of trips by car, one to the Huay Mongkol Temple and one to Pala-U Waterfall (which was suffering from a lack of water), our days were spent at the hotel, enjoying the pool, the gardens and the occasional massage (no more than one a day).

In the evenings we did eat a few times in the hotel at the Rim Nam (excellent Thai food) and the Baan Thalia with its excellent Italian / Western styled dishes and a good wine menu. We also ate in Hua Hin town and the night market - our favourite eating places were Orchids, the Night Market and Siam. We only had one major disappointment, on both food and service (especially given the price) at Sailom - perhaps we were unlucky here as all reports, even from locals, were good.

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

Help Blowing out Candles


It was all over far too soon. Our old friends in Hua Hin and our new friend who helped to blow out the candles made this a most memorable visit. Coupled with our enjoyment of Bangkok, it was very difficult to tear ourselves away and return to what passes as "normality" in the UK. Our EVA flights were once again good, although our suspicions were confirmed regarding the seats - they were harder than the "Evergreen Deluxe" seats on the 747!


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