Bangkok Day 3
April 13, 2006
Andaman White Beach Resort:
Breakfasts here are still fantastic, everything homemade and fresh. We spend the morning packing up and wait for 11:30 AM departure for the airport. We try and spend an hour at the beach before we go, just to stretch out our time, but the time to leave comes quickly. By the way, the hotel offers internet access in a small air conditioned room below the reception area. The fee is 100 baht for a 1/2 hour, comes with a password and can be used repeatedly until all the minutes are used up. I manage to check email 4 times over 4 days with that one 1/2 hour and even have a few minutes left at the end which I give to our neighbor.
Today is the beginning of Songkran (Thai New Year and a water-splashing festival) and it's in full force as we leave the hotel for the airport. There are children and entire families standing roadside waiting to spray our car with water. Truckloads of teens with 50 gallon barrels of water and water cannons go flying down the highway. We make it to the airport without incident.
There are no problems with Air Asia on the way back, except that it seemed to take forever to get our luggage on arrival. This time we get a real metered taxi from the queue and spent 340 baht to get to the Peninsula, including expressway tolls and a 30 baht tip to the driver. On the way we see lots of people on sidewalks and in the backs of trucks, dripping wet and covered in white paste, spraying each other with water canons.
The hotel is fully booked and they don't even offer opportunity for an upgrade which is fine. We ask about the possibility of a late checkout on Saturday since our flight does not leave until 6:40 PM. We're told there's no chance because the hotel is at 100% capacity through Easter Sunday. It makes me really glad I booked the room as far in advance as I did.
Our room is a Grand Deluxe on the 33rd floor, #3308. It's a beautiful room, with my favorite bathroom ever. There are lots of nice touches; 110 and 220 volt plugs (one in dressing area, one in TV armoire), a comfortable sofa and coffee table in the sitting area. The view is spectacular. There are bottles of water (complimentary) in the bar area and one was later placed on sink for us in the bathroom after they noticed we used it to brush teeth. Ice at turndown service. The extra pillow I took from the closet was back on my side at turndown. When we checked in they asked our favorite paper and the delivered the IHT to our room 5 minutes after we arrived. There's a nice big desk next to the window with two desk chairs. The balcony rooms look larger on floor plan but appear to only have one window, a sliding glass door. I'd stick with the Grand Deluxe.
We decide to take the river boat up to Wat Arun for the sunset in hopes of getting some good photos and re-visiting this interesting place. It's been 6 years since I'd been there and 8 for David. On the way out of the hotel, we stop at the Concierge desk and have them make a reservation for us later that night at the China House across the way at the Oriental Hotel. We take the Pen's river boat across to the Taksin Pier and then catch the Chao Phraya Express Boat up to the Tha Thien pier (11 baht each). I love taking the boat up and down the river, it's so fast and easy to use. From there, we take a little flat roofed shuttle boat across the river to Wat Arun for 3 baht each.
Wat Arun is amazing as usual. The entire surface of the temple complex is covered in broken ceramics set in white plaster. From a distance, it's hard to grasp the amazing detail that went into the construction. We walk all around the outside before paying our 20 baht entrance fee.
I love the tickets-they are a souvenir alone- note the admonishments on the back; "Please dress up politely", "Do not clime the rail" ,"Do not dangle any doll" (What??) , "Do not drop cigarette and waste on the floor".
At the entrance, I hear a woman speaking rapid fire Spanish with an (Thai?) accent. She's telling her tour group of Spanish speaking seniors to "hurry up, we're already late". It's so odd to hear Spanish spoken here, that I ask her (en espanol) where they are from, Spain or Mexico? She looks at me, shocked, and answers, "Mexico" and asks where we are from. I reply, the USA, California, but we all speak Spanish here too. She laughs and we move on our separate ways. We wind our way up and around the temple, admiring the demon faced statues, inset broken plates and cups, and the views of the river. The temple grounds are crowded with locals, because of the holiday I think and we see a Buddhist monk performing a ceremony in front of an alter built into a tree. Sitting among the devoted with her family, a local teenage girl talks on her cell phone while the monk chants.
More photos from Wat Arun...
I had been looking forward to our dinner at China House for a long time after reading the glowing reviews about their Peking Duck on the Fodor's board. We arrived promptly at 8 PM, cleaned up and nicely dressed for our evening out (this is likely to be our "fanciest" meal of the trip after all). We are pleasantly greeted and taken to a small table for two inside the dining room to the left of the entrance. There are only two other tables with guests at this time.
We're asked if we'd like to order a cocktail, or, "perhaps champagne?". We look at the drink menu and suddenly I'm glad I hadn't said yes to the champagne; it's $25 a glass. When they come back for our drink order, David orders a Singapore Sling (a little fru-fru drink if you ask me) and I ask for bottled water. The server asks me again if I'd like a cocktail or champagne.
When it comes time to order food, we tell them we're there for the Peking Duck (just as one passes our table) so we order that along with a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup for David. It's clear that everyone else is here for the duck as well. During the hour and a half we are there, all six tables seated in the restaurant order the duck.
The duck arrives and it's beautifully presented, with crispy mahogany colored skin. The servers are well trained and carve the duck perfectly, serving just the skin with the little pancakes, a dab of hoisin sauce, and a little plate of scallions, cucumber and chilies. These pancakes are nice, savory packages and we devour them. Personally, I would have liked a little of the duck meat served in the pancakes as that's my preference. David agrees and we have no idea what's "traditional" as we've both had Peking Duck served with both skin and meat in the past.
After the skin is removed and served, the rest of the duck is returned to the kitchen to be prepared in a second dish. We choose the "black pepper garlic sauce" and it's shortly returned to us with rice and some steamed broccoli. While the sauce is tasty, I'm disappointed in the dish as a whole. The second cooking the has made the duck tough and flavorless. It could have been pork, or beef, or any kind of meat smothered in sauce. The total meal is about $75 (including 2 Singapore Slings, a beer, tax and service). As far as I can tell, I'm the only one who has not "loved" their experience at China House, so it could have just been an off night. I do know however, that I do prefer my duck cooked just once so that it's moist and flavorful and I wonder if they serve the second half of the Peking Duck in any other way which might be a better choice.
After dinner, we stroll back to the Oriental dock, wait but mere moments for the Peninsula's boat to appear, and glide back across the river for the night.
Peninsula boat at night
More Bangkok Photos....
Bangkok Day 4
Thailand 2006 Home