Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Peninsula Hotel, Tuptim Guesthouse, Khao San Travelers' Lodge,

Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My ride into Bangkok was only 80km, which allowed me to reach the outskirts of the city by 1pm, and spend an hour fighting my way towards the centre. I had four hours to kill before my parents would arrive in town, so I made a beeline for the muslim quarter to make myself presentable. Unlike S.E Asians, Arabs shave. Since it was pleasant and convenient for the ex-pat (and red-light) district where 'our' luxury apartment was located, I relaxed with falafel and a shisha pipe until 6pm. 

It was wonderful to see my parents again- over a year had passed since their holiday in Turkey. My parents are not backpackers, so two weeks of luxury ensued. After a couple of days in a borrowed Bangkok luxury apartment, we flew to Phuket for a trip to Golden Buddha Beach Resort. For a week we relaxed in peace and eco-luxury (comfy beds, cold showers) on a tropical island. The natural beauty of the island had been disturbed only by the construction of twenty extemely tasteful 'luxury huts' and the occasional tsunami. We passed the time, swimming, snorkling, kayaking in the mangrove swamps and, in my case, diving. My attempts to enthuse my dad with idea of breathing ten stories underwater were ultimately unsuccessful. We took a thai cooking lesson, discovering that thai basil tastes of anise, thai aubergine is a small, spherical green thing, lemon leaves are an ingrediant and galangal is a word. I even flirted with yoga, finding the breathing exercises extremely relaxing, while the 'poses' loosened my overused and understretched muscles. Could have done without the nonsense commentary though.
-...and the left side is your femine side...
Is it bollocks.

We reluctantly tore ourselves away from Golden Buddha, and flew back to Bangkok for four more days of sightseeing, including the buddhist temple Wat Pho with its 40m long reclining buddha. Every buddha is in some sense the grandest of its kind. I forget whether this one is the longest gold reclining buddha, or the goldest long reclining buddha. We visited the Grand Palace which is an opulent excess of sparkling stupas in gold-leaf and coloured glass tiles. There was also the largest (possibly the only) teak-wood mansion in the world. Jim Thomson's architectural experiment we'd seen and approved before heading south.

The final 2 nights were spent in the kind of luxury to which I am unlikely ever to become accustomed. The Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok. One of those places I might see people entering and leaving and sneer the mocking 'what do you know about travel?' grimace of abject envy. I've occasionally wondered, when staying in shit-heaps around the world, how you can actually improve on having a room with a bed, a shower, a toilet and a lock on the door. What else does a person need from a place they will only stay one or two nights, and will only to return to to wash and sleep. Well, here's how:
-This is not just any bed, this is a kingsized, two foot thick mattress stuffed with an entirely new compound, chemical formula SO-O-Co-M-Fe.
-This is not just any shower, this is a sparkling grotto of steaming faucets and cleansing oils.
-This is not, well, it is just a toilet, but, low on ideas of how to luxificate a latrine, the management had a stroke of genius and installed a bog-side telephone and communications panel. This included the facility to call a valet, should the fancy take you, from the toilet. To the toilet.

Even the lock on the room door was a cut above. Not happy with anything as mundane as a mechanical key, nor content with the plastic, prosaic key-cards that so many lesser establishments employ, a Peninsula room is accessed with an electronic key, in the form of an actual key! Genius.

But there's more. Oh so much more:
The TV and radio, controlled by a bedside panel of buttons which also control the lights, air conditioning and the curtains. Yes, the curtains. The hardwood writing desk, with monogrammed paper and blotter, to cater to the traveling celebrity quill caligrapher. The mini-bar, or, to give it a more appropriate title, 'The Bar'. The morning newspaper delivered through a purpose built dumb-waiter. And, most importantly, the bath! Big enough to swim lengths in, of course. Filled in seconds from a mini-niagara faucet. Equipped, naturally, with sufficient communications technology to run a small war (or call the valet, again. That guy better be well-paid...) and a tv, a TV, built into the wall above the taps. Oh yes.

And then all this was taken away, as my parents flew off to some faraway place they called 'home', and I had to move to Kao San Road, the infamous, original and worst backpacker ghetto of the world. I spent the first two nights in a clean, private hole, taking a 10 dollar room to myself with a bed, a lock on the door and hot showers down the corridor. This was my 'decompression dive', before moving to a 10-bed, 3USD dormitory with cold showers down the road.
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