Bangkok snippets

For a ten day trip, it didn’t feel like we did a lot of truly touristy stuff in Bangkok (which is probably because I smashed a couple of days in Cambodia into the middle of it)… but some of the highlights were 1) Gamer booking us a fancy dinner at Aksorn – a really nice Michelin star restaurant that does traditional Thai food in a small rooftop, open kitchen restaurant. The food was amazing! Red duck curry has now been officially ruined for me for life – as the insipid pathetic offerings that pass for red duck curry in Australian restaurants is truly dismal in comparison. *sad face*. There was a fair bit of wine twonking as Gamer is fond of international wines, whereas I am mostly familiar with boutique Australian vineyards.

Afterwards, we went to some weird tropics bar where everyone was ordering weird umbrella encumbered cocktails served in carved out baby pineapples (Thai pineapples are a fraction of the size of the ones we usually get at home – and much much sweeter)… at the time I remember thinking, ‘Why the fuck are all these highly intelligent people choosing to spend their time and money in an OUTDOOR venue when it’s stinking hot and humid?!? Where’s the AC people?’ As it turns out, I should be thanking them, the guy I was sitting beside and chatting with, tested positive for Covid like two days later! Yay, hot and sticky outdoor drinking, I guess? *shrug*

Another interesting stop we did was to the ICONSIAM shopping centre which to me if more affectionately known as the Brand Whore Mall – there was everything from Armani and BVLGARI to Burberry to Yves St Laurent and Zegna, plus every expensive twonky thing in between. Floors and floors of huge, largely empty but over staffed luxury brands everywhere. The most interesting area of the centre though was the ICONSIAM Floating Market that was built in the bottom of the shopping centre, which was less ‘floating market’ and rather more, ‘we build a fucking fish pond and plonked some colourful Thai-looking boats in it’! Totes for the tourists… but cute enough. I think we probably dropped a grand total of about $20 there grabbing a bite to ear. Not so exciting imho… but I’m not their target demographic; my clothes and shoes are chosen 100% for comfort and preferred colour, not name brands, and I’ve been using the same $90 nylon cross body handbag for probably close to 8 years now. 😛

We did manage to go visit the HUGE temple complex at Wat Pho which is the home of Bangkok’s famous Reclining Buddha. The temple has loads of funereal monuments all over the place and seems to be a rabbit warren of monasteries and smaller temples covering an 80,000sqm complex. From what I could find, not a lot is known about the origins of the temple being on this site – they don’t know exactly who founded it and aren’t exactly sure when construction started. It is thought to have been built and heavily expanded on during the reign of King Phetracha, (1688–1703)… hmm never heard of him; oddly enough Thai rulers were never covered in my various history lectures at uni.

Cool statues lined the outside of some of the temple buildings… Yale for scale:

The Reclining Buddha is HUGE! And of course, being such an internationally recognised monument of Bangkok, we ran into a line of people waiting to go in… a line that was slowed down by the need to take off shoes. Now, I travel a lot, and in no small part due to my experiences in Japan, I often travel in slip on shoes – Sketchers are perfect for this sort of light walking in fair weather – and I tend to carry a reusable shopping bag in my purse that can be used for throwing my shoes into in a pinch… seems that this sort of thing isn’t common practice. There were soooo many people with either lace up boots on, or stupid strappy sandals, that needed to sit down in order to take their shoes off and my god did it clog up the entrance and exit areas.

But once we got inside it was spectacular, and not just the statue of the Buddha itself, but the intricate artwork on every single interior surface of the building.

There were several small shrines in between the columns that supported the enormous roof that houses the 46m long Buddha, but I couldn’t find any information on what these particular shrines were dedicated to. I find this so frustrating – the main reason I love to travel is to learn about different cultures and traditions, so when you visit a place which is obviously set up to cater for tourists (and you know they are because there’s a fucking cash register selling tickets on the way in!) there should be information readily available… and I don’t mind if the info plaques aren’t in English – Google Translate is so good these days, you can just take a picture and import it and get the general idea. Grrr.. spoiled much?

As we all slow marched down the length of the Buddha and tried not to lose an eye to some oblivious selfie stick wielding tourist, I found myself more fascinated with the artworks on the walls, and columns of the building – they are extremely intricate and no doubt are full of religious iconography that I (as an exceedingly lapsed Catholic type) am really unfamiliar with. These painted frescos are certainly worthy of consideration as artworks in their own right, but 99% of visitors were walking past them either with with their backs to them, or if they did turn to face them, they were looking at their phones and trying to compose their 43rd selfie in that spot! lol. The walls are covered in these beautiful artworks…

Also, for reasons I am not quite sure of, I did find myself somewhat obsessed with the Buddha’s enormous and very precisely crafted feet. They appear to have been made of ebony and mother of pearl and must have taken a huge amount of man hours. I had seen many, many pictures of the Reclining Buddha before – but don’t recall seeing images of his feet! They were enormous and very impressive.

A detail of some of the designs painted on the columns… it seems depictions of Buddha’s life were on the walls of the building and the columns were all adorned in repeating patterns of floral motifs.

On the way out behind the Buddha, there was a place to make a donation to the temple – you could just give them you notes I guess, but instead there are 108 bronze pots lining the wall as you exit. I took a photo of the sign entreating donations, which I translated later. Apparently the 108 pots represent the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. Visitors trade their notes for a cup full of coins and walk along dropping coins into each of the bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune. The donations also assist the monks in the day to day maintenance of the temple complex – so yes, tangible evidence that putting money into the pots at least brings someone good fortune!

It really is an unusually designed temple complex with beautiful and creative architecture.

I gotta say though, walking around Bangkok in the Outside is not my cup of tea. I’m from Brisbane where we have heat and humidity and I found it draining – I can’t imagine how your average tourist from Manchester in the UK or Minnesota in the US would handle this sort of heat. ‘Feels like 43C, more like!’ At 6pm!

Another very cool stop we made was another rooftop restaurant! There seems to be a bit of a running theme for this trip. We made a booking to go to Akira Back, one of Bangkok’s best rated Japanese restaurants… had to be done. There is only so much Michelin Star Pad Thai Poo that a short blonde can consume in a week! Google it.

The ambiance was really kinda cool, from the muted lighting of the lift lobby that was also somewhat surprisingly adorned with what looked suspiciously inspired by Shibari rope work…

… to the ladies room with the fully glass wall that was sheer drop 28 floors down! It was so freaky I had to call Yale in to investigate. (After making sure the bathroom was empty of course!).

We opted for the Omikaze menu, which weirdly only came with a wine flight, not a saké flight, so we skipped that and bought a nice bottle of saké to go with our dinner, and the food was delicious. Even though I find myself becoming increasingly disappointed with Japanese fusion restaurants adding fucking truffles to Japanese dishes… to me, truffles are a really over powering flavour compared to a lot of the subtle but complex flavours of high end Japanese cuisines. There seems to be a fashion for adding truffles nowadays, it’s happening at home in Australia too.

On the menu was tuna carpaccio with, you guessed it, truffles. Hakodate scallops served with kiwi and strawberry and jalapeño salsa and a garlic and citrus soy sauce, miso Black Cod with yuzu saké foam, special crab miso soup, hot stone grilled Kagoshima Japanese A5 wagu steak with Ishiyaki sauce, shrimp tempura on a Bubu arare cucumber roll, with a grilled eel sauce, and a desert that looked like a banana and a lump of ice cream but which was actually a banana shaped cheese cake! It was obviously designed to be some sort of signature Instagrammable desert, but it was kinda fun – the yellow ‘skin’ of the banana was banana flavoured chocolate and inside was made of a light vanilla style cheesecake, and the usual crumb base seemed to run through the centre of the banana with a slight caramel flavoured syrup. Very novel and fun. All up – was a fabulous dinner out, even with the disappointing truffles. lol.

For special torture, Yale told the restaurant that it was my birthday – and they gave me a fabulous little chocolate cake as a gift…yay?! Chocolate! Bleurk… but Yale was happy, and thankfully they didn’t sing to me.

The view from the restaurant was also just simply amazing…

The only other stand out weirdness that night was a pair of Chinese girls who were beautiful young women, dressed to the nines in fancy designed clobber, dining together who – like me! – were taking photos of the beautifully presented food, but they were celebrating one of their birthdays. I say ‘one of their birthdays’ because for the life of me I couldn’t tell which was the birthday girl – they had provided the kitchen with a very photogenic cake (I mean, it must have been there was soooo many pictures taken of the damn thing) and a large bouquet of tightly arranged pale pink roses – probably two dozen put together like a tight bridal bouquet. Seriously – there’s nothing special about this cake – or this bouquet of flowers…

And they both seem super excited when the cake came out (even though they bought it with them) and the phones were clicking away like mad, and lots of taking each others photos with the cake, and then lining up the flowers in front of the cake and one of them, flowers beside the cake and one of them, flowers behind the cake… and so on. You get the idea. As it happened I had glanced at my watch just as the cake was arriving, and I was enjoying my meal, but also kind of distracted by the over the top, weird arse, photo shoot going on directly in my line of sight. No shit, they must have taken 500 photos EACH of this ordinary looking cake and a possibly pricey bunch of flowers – they were at it for a full 45 minutes. I shit you not. Then, OMG, then… they asked a staff member to some photos for them. Fucking wannabe influencers, man. Give it up! How many pics can you take of a cake and some bloody roses!

Tourists huh? They’re the worst! 😉

Overall, I had a great time in Bangkok, and 10/10 would come back for another visit – though would definitely never want to be visiting in high summer or monsoon season! That shit sounds like it’s for Other People!

Bangkok Muay Thai Night

I’m not sure whose idea it was exactly, but someone decided we should go see some fights while we were here and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. In my imagination, Muay Thai / kickboxing was a grimey, dirt floor, sweaty, bloody, Jean-Claude van Damme type affair. This was something else all together!

We found ourselves at a small modern stadium outfitted with a state of the art sound systems and big screens with professional videographers capturing the entire event. It was loud and glitzy and suitable for American television and nothing like the traditional fight environment that I had pictured. We had ringside seats and there were fighters from all over the world – Canada, Finland, Norway, Australia and of course plenty of locals. There were plenty of people coming around selling drinks and food (overpriced for Thailand but great prices once you factor in the exchange rates, and the guys wasted no time in double parking their beers.

But first… we were to please stand for the Royal Anthem of Thailand; for the first time ever, I discovered Australia doesn’t have the most mournful dirge of a national anthem.

Yes… I’m here with a large group of guys all wearing matching t-shirts. You’d swear we are on a cruise tour or something. 😉

Each fight started with an introduction and an attempt to hype up the crowd… “‘”In the Red Corner is some guy whose name we can’t pronounce and won’t remember! In the Blue Corner is a guy in blue shorts who will do a little dance in a moment! Give it up radies and gentlremen!!!”

It was weird. But there was indeed, dancing. There is obviously a wildly different focus on the spiritual and ritual aspects of this particular cultural phenomenon as all the fighters who entered the ring in the blue shorts (all attached to a specific training school/style/protocol from what I gather) did an extended dance to the spirits before their fights. Their opponents in the gold shorts (Red Corner) were from a different philosophy which seemed to be a bit more ‘Hulk smash’ and a bit less ‘praise Buddha’.

Some of these guys had amazing tattoos – we are pretty sure we saw one dude with a thigh sized Hello Kitty! LOL.

The dance they performed involved a fair bit of hammering the ground, before visiting every corner of the ring and bowing, as well as some hand waving and light prancing? I don’t know what you’d call it – it wasn’t vigorous like a Māori war dance, and it wasn’t ballet… probably more interpretive dance of some sort.

Then the fighting began and they tried to knock each other out. The first round was two small guys of barely 110lbs and they seemed quite evenly matched, but the fear in one of their eyes when he saw his opponent take the mat gave the immediate impression that his head game was blown and the other guy was going to win – and that’s exactly what happened. Poor fearful looking guy was knocked out and they had to help him out of the ring… by hanging onto the back of his shorts so he didn’t fall down the steps!

Most of the rounds seemed fairly evenly matched and the tournament moved at a fairly brisk space with some interruptions for Kiss-cam and a Chug-Cam moments… they put a guy in a tux on the big screen skolling his beer and then the camera swung around the crowd to people encouraging them to down their drinks. The ‘drink responsibly’ bit of the alcohol service provisions are possibly non-existent here?

The guy in the gold shorts above was Australian George – we looked him up, he’s from Sunnybank in Brisbane! He was pretty good and won his match handily. Long way to come to see someone from around the corner. Then (below) was this Finnish guy who had a Dolph Lungren ‘killer’ look about him fighting this local dude and the Finnish guy was really good.

Towards the end of the rounds, someone finally ended up a bit bloody, but again this whole thing was no where near as grimey and bloody as I was expecting – it was super sanitised for TV and tourists, I guess.

Towards the end of the evening there was the obligatory throwing t-shirts to the crowd moment and the presenter threw one square at my face – probably because I was the only one in white blouse in a crowd of guys wearing black t-shirts… I managed to defend myself, and Yale caught the shirt, but like the kind hearted sweetheart he is, he gave it to this cool kid who was near us who had been dancing around in a sparkly sequinned Pikachu shirt all night. The kid was super excited with his new acquisition – totally worth it.

After the matches, it seems the Red Corner and the Gold Shorts had won the day and we decided to all head back to the hotel. This is where the transport fun began! It was crazy outside. Cabs everywhere no one wanting to take anyone on a metered ride. We eventually decided to jump a cab and pay their exorbitant 300BHT price to get back to the hotel… and as soon as we head off down the street, we could see many others in the group had decided to jump in tuk tuks for the trip and were goading their drivers on to beat the others back! They were offering them more and more money to overtake their friends. I’m not so sure tuk tuk racing through he streets of Bangkok while drunk as a skunk is a good plan – but there you have it! It was madhouse… as soon as our cabbie figured out we knew everyone in the tuk tuks, he decided to join in as well and we drove at breakneck speed back to the hotel.

Thankfully everyone arrived back safely – no idea who ‘won’ the race or whether the drivers got their promised bonuses, but we all stumbled down to Jack’s Bar (near the hotel) for some more drinks and snacks. Eventually made it to bed around 11:30pm which was a good plan as we all have to work the following day.

Bangkok Canal Tour with Mr Tee

Found ourselves with a free morning to do some sightseeing before the work all starts up tomorrow, and decided to book a canal tour. Bangkok is divided into east and west by the Chao Phraya River, and connecting to this ‘lifeblood of the city’ river are myriads of canals that weave through heavily populated areas of the very wealthy and very poor alike. The canals are used extensively for general transportation, with various sized boats zooming down the canals carrying locals, construction workers, city sanitation services, tourists and who knows who else. The water is a murky filth pit – filled with floating rubbish, and the occasional floating dead fish… thankfully the breezes on the river are strong and kept the odours away – being as it was high tide probably helped too! We had about five hours pottering about on the canal with multiple stops and I took plenty of photos, but some of this felt like slum tourism (which I absolutely hate!) so sorry, but there’s very little photos of the run down decrepit and falling apart houses that some of these residents are living in, right next door to palatial marble clad homes with private water slides going into their private pools.

We started off our canal trip meeting at a temple. This statue outside the first of many temples we came across today, honours the King from the King And I, King Mongkok of Siam, who is very famous and was responsible for trying to modernise his country.  Our guide Mr Tee set the tone early by cracking jokes and asking us where we were from – he is far more familiar and comfortable using Aussie ockerisms than I am! Probably didn’t help that Shannon (one of Yale’s colleagues who was with us) almost immediately started pumping him to improve his Thai naughty/dirty vocabulary.

Right alongside the statue to this most illustrious king was a small shrine to Buddha with this huge pink water buffalo… our guide Mr Tee, like I said, full of jokes and quips, was unable to tell me why there was a pink water buffalo placed seemingly out front to protect Buddha, so this is destined to remain a mystery.

Oddly, I took plenty of pics of the canal boats, but failed to get a picture of the one we were travelling in. It was a small boat as we were on a private tour for just three pax, but it meant we were able to get into some of the smaller canals. It isn’t suitable to go into the Chao Phyara River as it wouldn’t survive the wakes from the larger vessels.

We went past so many small temples which seemed to line the canals. According to Mr Tee, every community has their own temple because no one wants to have to go pray too far from home. Bangkok has over 700 temples, and Thailand has over 35,000 temples – so they are literally everywhere. Small and modest and huge and ornate… just dotted all over the place. All of them are built with community funds, and in the great tradition of religious monuments, churches, and temples the world over – it’s mostly all donated funds given to aggrandise certain families, communities or even just individuals. Small funereal monuments here can cost approximately USD$1000 which is a LOT of money for the average Thai citizen. As such, cremation is popular and urns are kept at home or put into a community funereal monument (some pics of those a bit later).

Below is someone who lives onto the canal who cares enough, and has the financial resources, to maintain their home. This Angry Bird House is a bit of a local landmark apparently.

This community near the Morning Markets has beautifully tiled facades with the tiles all donated by local families – much like plaques are used in other religions to show patronage. Some of the temples are covered in beautiful work – though some of the super shiny, opalescent, or mirrored tiles feel a little over the top to our Western aesthetic sensibilities.

We did go for a wander through the Morning Markets after visiting this little temple, but the experience was underwhelming. Mr Tee said that the government had outlawed street stalls on Mondays (???) which meant the markets were remarkably quiet on Mondays. There were vendors there selling fresh food, fruits, seafood, spices, pre-made curry and chili pastes, loads of coconut products and general groceries – but the place wasn’t bustling like I’ve seen markets in Marakecch or Seoul or China. It was sedate and kinda sleepy with about 4 out of every 5 stalls empty. I could have done without the trip through the fishy part of the market – it fucking reeked. First time I’ve been in a fresh fish market like that which smelled so bad.

Anyway, I’m off topic – in the temple grounds and in many people’s private properties, you will see these little spirit houses that are placed to protect the home and its occupants. Some homes have two, one for the house and one for the people, but many have just one.

Beside is a small altar space where small offerings are left – food, tokens, flowers, idols and incense seem to be popular. I have no idea what they’re snakes are about.

Not only are the temples lavishly and brightly decorated, but the canal boats that are ferrying many tourists about are also festooned with bright garlands to ask the spirits to protect the vessel.

Below is a funereal monument built to acknowledge and commemorate one particular monk who was very well known in his community. Mr Tee told us that when people in the community die, they can have their ashes interred into these established monuments and depending how important they are is how high up the monument their ashes will be placed. It’s not a ‘being closer to heavens or the gods’ thing, it’s literally how important you were considered to be in this life – importance that seems to be gauged by wealth and status rather than godliness from what I could make out?

The design of these funereal temples is a combination of a round structure of Ceylonese influence, a corners cut in with those wedges shapes, which is the Thai/Siamese influence, and the upside down ice cream cone which stems from Cambodia.

A short walk from this little funereal temple, we got our first look at the Big Buddha.

Towering nearly 70 meters above the ground, and roughly the height of a 20-story building and at a width of 40 meters, it is the city’s biggest Buddha image… and it is situated directly across the canal from what is now called ‘Small Buddha’ but which was called, ‘Big Buddha’ until this enormous monument was finished a couple of years ago. Construction started on this Big Buddha in 2012, but was hindered somewhat from completion due to a total shut down of works during the Covid pandemic so it was only completed about two years ago. It’s huge and impressive but the scale is hard to capture in a picture like this.

Near the Big Buddha are some other small temple buildings, novice schools for monks in training and a huge funereal temple which houses a museum-like collection of religious artefacts.

Leading to the temple/museum is a walkway that has a schedule of all the upcoming funerals being held at this temple. Seems it is one of the most popular places now to have your funeral.

The temple itself is also quite high – about five stories tall. You can walk all the way up to the roof via a wide marble staircase, but there is also a lift inside (to the right of the entrance staircase) which only operates on weekdays.

Shoes off, once inside the temple there was over the top decorative arts as far as the eye could see – elaborately carved and gilded timber columns, each column with a mother of pearl inlaid grandfather clock beside them, hand painted ceilings in lavish red and gold paint, and cabinet after cabinet of displays of everything from money, to medals, to watches and old photographs.

Many of the displays here were set up in huge dioramas, but unfortunately, I couldn’t translate any of the information panels.

Then we went up the lift to the fifth floor to see the ‘main attraction’. We were told this temple cost USD$23,000,000 dollars to build. And this floor alone was half of that expense. The elaborate paintings that encircled the jade glass temple in the centre of the room were all painted by one artist who was commissioned to do them all so that they would be identical.

I totally didn’t expect to see this inside this temple at all – there are some benefits to planning a trip at the last minute and not researching the hell out of everything! Also helped that for the first time in forever, someone else planned this particular outing.

The photos don’t do justice to the sparkling way the light bounces around in this elaborate space – there are crystals embedded into the high domed ceiling that catch the light and make it look like a striking twinkly sky. There is also an observation deck on this floor where you can go outside the temple and walk around to see the surrounding area. You get a great view of the BBB (Big Buddha’s Booty!) from up here, as well as the Small Buddha across the canal (Big Buddha as it once was).

Apparently not many people go visit the Small Buddha anymore – and we weren’t going to be any different as our short tour didn’t allow time to go across the canal and check it out. Poor neglected Small Buddha – will have to see if we have some spare time later in the week for that.

Meanwhile, downstairs one level on the 4th floor is a huge pile of gold plated statues made to commemorate many famous monks throughout history. They are all behind glass, and the one that is in it’s own glass box is make from 112kgs of gold. Which is just mind boggling when you can look off the roof here and see the most heartbreaking poverty. :/

Back in our boat, we said goodbye to Big Buddha and set off for a loop around the canals before heading to the Artist House…

Some average canal front properties on our route…

Mr Tee twice told us that Bangkok is all islands and is known as the ‘Venice of the East’… why, I do recall a St Petersburg guide once telling us that St Petersburg is the ‘Venice of the North’ – seems to be a popular moniker to want to adopt.

I just love these bright coloured garlands that are adorning the front of the canal boats. I hope they make the spirits as happy as the people seem to think they do; but even more entertaining than the garlands is the engines that are on these things…

All these canal boats are running on 150hp truck engines. They are noisy and dirty, but powerful and do the trick. The long propellers are because the canal waters are, at maximum during high tide, 3m deep and the boat drivers usually only put the propellers in about 1m deep to avoid damage and getting entangled in water plants etc. This gives them a fair bit of speed and manoeuvrability.

The Artists House seems to have been the place of a thriving art community prior to Covid, but is now turned somewhat touristic. Rather than artisans working here and showing their skills, it is a come and DYI place to make beaded necklaces and bracelets or to paint ceramics. There is even one shop here which has the tourist market covered by the clever use of … air conditioning! The shop is the only one with AC, and they charge ‘crazy prices’ to come in and work in their art shop but the tourists’ dollars go a long way here, and now the shop owner ‘is gotten too snobby for his boots’ so the local community don’t like him anymore. lol

In lieu of making Swiftie friendship bracelets, we chose to feed some fish – you could see them breaking the surface of the water the whole time we were cruising the canals, but because the water is so murky, couldn’t really seem them. Noted, fish feeding: ok. Bird feeding: not ok.

Someone forgot to tell Shannon, the food is for the fish. God I hope he didn’t actually eat any. Once we did chuck some fish food into the water – it was like watching piranhas in a tank under a suspended Adam West’s Batman c.1975! Vicious looking little fuckers fighting for the pellets – carp and catfish live quite happily in the brackish water of the canals.

I have no idea what this orange man was about – and didn’t hang around long enough to find out as we found a coffee shop so the guys could get an iced coffee.

I think this bright coloured crispy looking shit is meant to be edible? But seeing as it looks like food coloured packing peanuts, we stayed the hell away from it.

Mr Tee making himself comfortable on Shannon’s lap while playing more Thai dirty word bingo over coffees.

After our visit to the Artist House, we went back to our original meeting point near the Skytrain so we could ride back to our hotel. I wanted to take a cab because I’d already twisted my already fucked up knee getting in and out of the boat all morning – but the train was ‘right there’ so off we went like fucking idiots. Big mistake for me. The Skytrain is a fast, efficient, clean, air conditioned elevated rail system… love everything about it. Easy to understand, pleasant to rid. Not always user friendly… the station we got on at had a lift and it takes you about four stories above the ground to get to the train, but then the station we got off at – did not. And I found myself limping down about 8 flights of stairs. Le sigh… at least I got myself a Rabbit transit card.

Bangkok Adventures Await

So a few weeks ago, I decided to join yale on his annual work pilgrimmage to Bangkok, which just happened to happily coincide with some of our colleagues being in town for some planning for the FIFA World Cup Congress being held here in May, so became a fortuitous work opportunity for me also. I booked my flights through Cathay Pacific – first time flying with them, but they are a One World Partner and had the best priced Business fares at the time I was looking… and somehow the transit fairies smiled on me for like the first time in my life – I got upgraded to First Class.

I have no idea how or why this happened. I didn’t request an upgrade and neither did Mr K with his magic Platinum One fanciness. When I checked in, I didn’t even look at my boarding passes, and honestly it wasn’t until I was boarding the plane that I looked at it and saw I was in 1K and not in 12A which is where I was pretty sure I was sitting… but the lovely flight attendants led me to the very pointy end of the plane where there was only six of us in fabulous luxurious pods three across the plane.

This was actually a bit ludicrous actually – I’m only 5’ tall and had a bed that stretched to about nearly 7’. There were four windows down the length of my cubicle/pod, which means I was sitting in the equivalent space that about nine people were squished into in Economy. There was a 30” television screen, a massage function in my seat, a locker to store my things so head room isn’t restricted, and menus and wine lists as long as your arm. The foot rest also has a seat belt in case you want to have someone join you for dinner. The table that comes up out of the sideboard (yes, there’s a sideboard!) is large enough for two people to dine on. There was free flowing champagne and an excellent menu, and seeing I had foregone eating in the lounge (because I knew full well I wouldn’t get to sleep until the food service around me had stopped), I opted to have beef tenderloin and vegetables for dinner – and it was tender, juicy and delicious!

After the meal, and a quick freshen up in the enormous bathroom, (seriously, the bathroom was about the size of a six person elevator), one of the crew made up my bed for me with a mattress topper and lush duvet. I mentioned to the crew member that it felt a little warm in the cabin, and she said she was hot too and immediately dropped the cabin temp about 5 degrees, so I snuggled in under my duvet with my full size pillow and was out like a light!

When I woke up my preselected ‘light breakfast’ arrived – and I was so glad i asked for the light breakfast! The sourdough toast, with fresh avocado, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon was perfect… I had requested no pastries but they turned up anyway. Can’t fault the service or the quality at all. But soon we were landed in Hong Kong and I had to say goodbye to my cosy little pod. I could totally get used to this sort of thing!

I had a four hour layover in Hong Kong and was planning on visiting The Pier First Class lounge in HKG Terminal 1. As I was approaching the entrance, I saw two businessmen turned away being directed to The Pier Business Lounge – I didn’t realise there was two, and thought maybe it was closed. I was pretty sure I had access with my One World Emerald status, but was half expecting to be turned away like the two tailored-suited, Tumi-toting gentlemen in front of me… but no, me in my daggy Rammstein concert t-shirt and GoRuck backpack was ushered right in. LOL. If I had known, I might have dressed a little less ‘long haul comfy’. 😛

The Pier lounge was pretty fancy all round. Lush carpets, foot massages, spa treatments, showers, bar, buffet, enormous bathrooms (I mean, why?) comfy lounging spaces, quiet work spaces… and more champagne for the people – only four French champagnes to choose from though. 🙂

It was sitting in the lounge here having a cuppa watching some Lupin on Netflix, that I got the following texts from Yale – his work is moving 300 people to his conference and not our little company flying one person to Bangkok, and they have these annoying things called, ‘Company Travel Policies’ that restrict their travel options. Meaning poor Yale at 6’9” was going Qantas and travelling Economy for his transit and I was meeting him at Suvarnabhumi Airport as I was arriving just before him. After seeing this, I thought I’d tell him about my happy upgrade *after* we arrive in Bangkok!

Farewell Hong Kong – it looks to be a lovely day in the city if the clouds burn off – supposed to be 15C and clear… whereas Bangkok is supposed to be about 34C and humid when we get there.

I arrived in Bangkok, and was through immigration, bag collection and customs within like 30 mins. No waiting, no lines for anything, just straight through… and when I got out into the arrivals area I could see why – they must have about 90-110 flights landing every hour according to the boards. It was barely organised chaos. Waited around a bit longer than I had planned for Yale, who was an hour late leaving out of Sydney, but that seems on par for Sydney airport these days… Mr K and I had one domestic flight leaving Sydney last September where we were delayed nearly 6 hours – so I’m not complaining about one hour delays!

Got out to go find a cab and discovered a really streamlined and organised process in place. Line up for ‘short trip’, ‘regular trip’, or ‘large taxi’ queues that are all moving very quickly. Get to the front of the queue and press a button on a machine that spits you out a ticket – on your ticket is the cab company that will be collecting you, the license number of your cab, the name and photo of your driver including his ID number and the bay your driver is either already parked in, or on his way to meet you in. Our driver was just pulling into the bay as we got there. Awesome speedy and fair way to make sure the cabbies get moved through quickly.

They also have the cabs driving in, parking in the bay on an angle – so you walk across from the ticket machine area across a mixed pedestrian zone to your cab, load up and they drive straight out again. No cars reversing, no jostling for kerbside space. It was impressive… right up until the driver showed up a laminated cardboard sign saying it would be 800BHT to go to our hotel and he didn’t want to put the meter on. Oh FFS… why are cabbies the world over determined to rip people off?! It should only cost 400-500BHT but we were tired and just wanted to get to the hotel, check-in, have a shower and find a drink! So we didn’t bother arguing and let him take us off the meter, for the extra like $10 without a fight.

We are staying at the Shangri-La in Bangkok for the entire week, and I have to say, so far, I think it’s nicer than the Shangri-La in Sydney, the decor is lovely and matches the country and culture of Thailand, whereas it feels like a duck out of water in Sydney (bit like the Sofitel Melbourne with all their French hoity-toitiness; just doesn’t make a lot of sense in Aust). Gorgeous orchid displays in the lobby, and interesting furnishing. Our room is going to be super comfy for the week, though if I have one issue – they obviously let guests smoke here so it has take quite a few hours of the AC running for the room to smell better than it did when we arrived.

After we had showered and cooled down, we went hunting for some of yale’s colleagues to see what they were up to for dinner and we ended up at a little Michelin listed restaurant not far from the hotel having the best Thai meal I’ve ever had.

I ordered the amazing Phadthai Poo – consisting of stir fried rice noodle with eggs, peanuts, bean sprouts, tofu, garlic chive, dried shrimp, crab sauce, tamarind sauce, and blue crab meat for the grand price of AUD$14..! It was absolutely delicious. Someone at the table ordered some chicken satay sticks and the satay sauce was to die for! There must have been about 15 of us there and the entire bill came to less than AUD$400. This is definitely somewhere I would come again.

After this, some of the others kicked on at a cocktail bar, but we head back to the hotel to crash.