Friday, 18 November 2011

The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok

Thursday, 3rd November 2011

The Strand provided breakfast in my room promptly and as ordered so I was ready when Nay Lin arrived to transfer me to Yangon Airport for my flight to Bangkok.

Breakfast at the Strand Hotel, Yangon.

Traffic seemed particularly heavy on the way out to the airport, so the driver deemed it wise to make a detour using some fairly basic roads. We arrived at the International Terminal in good time and I said goodbye to my guide and driver. Check-in for the Thai morning flight to Bangkok was painless and Passport Control only took a few minutes. Soon I was relaxing in the small but comfortable Thai lounge until my flight (TG0304) was called.

On the flight to Bangkok, they served a very adequate breakfast. I was in a central aisle seat on this trip, so I was unable to see any signs of the flooding as we came in to land but the morning Thai English-language newspaper I'd been reading on the journey had extensive coverage of what had become a major emergency for Thailand. One of the newspaper maps suggested that floodwater had extended to a point near the boundary of the airport we were to use but we landed without incident, taxied to the stand and the air bridge was quickly attached. Since I was to spend Thursday night at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, I had to retrieve my large suitcase from the baggage carousel but this didn't take long and, as I made my way into the Arrival Hall, I quickly spotted the Oriental representative in his distinctive orange jacket.

He telephoned to the driver of the hotel limousine and I was soon seated in the comfortable rear of a BMW saloon. The Oriental chauffeurs always wear a lightweight white suit with white peaked cap. More importantly, they are professional drivers so the journey is invariably smooth and safe. We used the toll road to the city, passing two toll stations where the first took 25 Baht and the second 45 Baht. The car was fitted with the 'Express Toll' equipment so it was only necessary to slow on the approach to each toll gate until the barrier lifted automatically.

When we were a few minutes from the hotel, I was particularly impressed when the driver turned slightly and asked "May I make contact with the Hotel, Madam?" before he telephoned his arrival time to the hotel. This ensures that when the car pulls up at the hotel, not only is the Door Man and his staff of Bell-Boys in attendance, but there are at least three Reception Staff lined up to welcome the guest by name and present the traditional Thai floral tribute. I was amused when the Receptionist explained that I'd been booked into a room not quite as good as last time (which I knew). They offered a half-price upgrade to the suite I'd had before which I accepted. I was then conducted to the Old Building overlooking the river and the Noel Coward Suite which I'd had on my previous visit.

I'd been out-of-touch since last being able to use the internet at Mount Popa Resort, so I signed-up for 1-days internet usage. Using Wi-Fi on my notebook computer, I was getting speeds about 50% faster than back home, so I took the opportunity to upload some of my pictures, in addition to dealing with e-mails and writing to Blogger.

The Noel Coward Suite, Oriental Hotel, Bangkok. The writing desk in the sitting room shown set up for using the notebook computer. The double doors lead to the bedroom.

Nprmally, I'd go out to explore Bangkok. I've not yet travelled on the overhead electrified railway serving the airport and I'd considered trying it out. But I was still feeling tired so the attractions of staying in the hotel proved too great. I summoned the energy to explore the hotel, going to the Riverside Terrace which is a favourite spot for meals. But part of the terrace was closed and builders were in occupation. A row of sandbags had been placed on the river side of the terrace. The small garden which links the original hotel building to the terrace was also partly closed and criss-crossed by fire hoses. In addition, the windows and doors of the original building had been boarded-up for a few feet above the ground and more sandbags were in evidence. It appeared that the river had, at some stage, risen above its retaining walls but, when I was there, things were reverting to normal.

The public part of the original hotel building is a palm court style tea room, painted white where (like the Strand in Yangon) you can take afternoon tea, so I decided that, lacking the energy to explore Bangkok, afternoon tea would be suitably relaxing. Access to the Authors' Suites on the first floor is via two staircases provided with a small balcony which lead up from the tea room. Whilst afternoon tea is being served, an excellent acoustic guitarist plays gentle music from this balcony.

The guitarist entertains the guests taking afternoon tea from the balcony.

I passed an equally relaxing evening in my suite before completing my packing ready for my trip home the next day. I ordered breakfast in my room (for the second day running), retired to the comfortable bed and slept soundly.