We were sad to leave Chiang Mai, but anxious to get a quick taste of Bangkok.
We flew out on Thai Air, which was a really nice flight. There were no monks or priests ahead of us on line, so we breezed right through check in. We had just enough time to peruse the large assortment of dried worms in the airport shop.
Once on board, I really loved the purple color scheme throughout the cabin. The ride was very comfortable, and the service attentive.
The Bangkok airport is very large, and very busy. We were able to admire the view while we waited about 45 minutes for our bags to show up.
Because we don’t like to do anything in a relaxed fashion, we landed at about 11:15, and had a lunch reservation at the Oriental at 1:30 in their Sala Rim Naan restaurant (https://www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok/chao-phraya-river/fine-dining/restaurants/thai-cuisine/sala-rim-naam) . We had thought we had plenty of time to check in to our hotel, The Anantara Siam Bangkok (https://www.anantara.com/en/siam-bangkok ), leave our bags and get to the Oriental, but with the baggage delay and the heavy traffic, we were cutting it close. We had been told that Mark Bittman, the esteemed food writer and cookbook author once said that if he could choose, he would enjoy his last meal at Sala Rim Naan. We thought that was a pretty good endorsement.
We had hoped to secure rooms at the Oriental for our stay in Bangkok, but as we were visiting over New Years Eve, they had a mandatory 4 night minimum, which they would not budge on. Our travel agent had said that the service at the Anantara was quite good, and they had only a three night holiday minimum, so we went with that choice .
Following a speedy check-in, the storage of our bags, and the hiring of two Tuk Tuks, we sped over to the Oriental and managed to jump on the boat across the river which would deposit us at Sala Rim Naan.
Our hopes were high, and we were ravenous. We made it just before the last seating. Phew. The restaurant was nearly empty, so the energy was a bit weak. The service as well was lackluster. Perhaps the food would redeem the situation.
Our strategy was to try everything.
We tried to remain enthusiastic, but we just weren’t really feeling the magic.
I tend to love Mark Bittman, but in this case I think I have to disagree with him. I most definitely would not want my last meal to be at Sala Rim Naan. It was expensive, ordinary, and dull. I’m glad we made it though, because if we hadn’t, we would always have regretted missing a “magical” meal. If you are heading to Bangkok, you can skip it.
The Mandarin was lovely though, the common spaces were quite nice, with Orchids in absolutely every form.
We decided to walk off some of our lunch so we headed off on foot to our hotel, about three miles. We walked our way through many different neighborhoods, and were somewhat surprised to notice a tremendous number of 7-11s. There seems to be one on literally ever corner, and they are all very busy.
We decided to make a stop in one of Bangkok’s fabulous shopping malls in order to avail ourselves of some powerful air conditioning and get a drink. We stopped in the Central Embassy Mall which was fabulous- a retail mecca! Their basement was home to a Supermarket called Eathai ( http://www.centralembassy.com/store/eathai/ )which is similar to Eataly. A little bit of everything Thai.
We explored the many different floors and each got a Bubble Tea at Koi Thé (www.facebook.com/koithethailand/ ) which was truly delicious. I had the Ovaltine Bubble Tea with Golden Bubbles. A new addiction!
Refreshed, we walked back to the Anantara Siam to get a good look at our room, and shower before dinner. The lobby was nice, and very busy- still decorated for Christmas, though it would soon go under a set change.
We had a nice welcome selection of goodies, but it didn’t detract from the fact that the rooms need a sprucing up. They are very brown- which is a major pet peeve of mine. Nobody likes a brown room. Yuck.
For dinner we had decided on Namsaah Bottling Trust (www.namsaah.com ) a very trendy and very pink restaurant from celebrity chef Ian Kittichai.
It was crowded and had a good energy. A lot of thought was put in to their “Hipster” Drink Menu.
We each tried something different , with the winner being this devilish cocktail.
The food on the other hand was fairly unremarkable. We found again that the restaurants that get all the publicity are not always the best.
When we arrived back at our hotel we found the Christmas Tree was being deconstructed. The next night was New Years Eve and it seemed big plans were in the works.
Breakfast at the Anantara is a production! It is extensive. There is truly something for everyone.
We loaded up on goodies and got ready to start our day.
It was New Years Eve day, and we were told that many of the sights would be crowded. We had hired a guide for the day, and our first stop was the Jim Thompson House (http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/) . By the way, I think our van driver may have had an alter ego.
I love the Lotus Flower greeting at Jim Thompson
The process of Silk Making
Beautiful interiors, but picture taking was not allowed inside the house.
We loved learning the story of Jim Thompson, and if you don’t know it, you should quickly read about it here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thompson_(designer)
Following the peaceful oasis that was the world of Jim Thompson, we decided to venture into the chaos that was the Golden Mount (or Wat Saket) on New Years Eve Day, along with thousands (literally) of others who wanted to start the new year in a most auspicious way by offering prayers and respect. As an aside, Bangkok is hot- much hotter than Chiang Mai, but thankfully not as humid as Cambodia. Our guide armed us each with icy cold bottles of water for our long walk to the top.
Although it is a religious monument, it also felt a little like a walk through Disney with points of interest all the way up to the top.
Artfully placed statues to keep everyone moving and distracted.
There is the opportunity for people to leave offerings.
When we finally reached the top it was beautiful. Not shown are the masses of people crammed together like sardines winding their way to the top. Claustrophobics be warned. We were reluctant to head back down.
Thankfully we managed to find many moments of zen along the way, crowds and all.
Our next stop was to Wat Pho (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Pho) , one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and the home of the magnificent Reclining Buddha. There is so much beauty in this one area it is hard to describe. The details can be overwhelming, so we just tried to take it all in.
These spires are called chedis
The bright blue skies were the perfect backdrop.
Buddhas as far as the eye can see in the cloister
Our first view of the reclining Buddha. It is 15 meters high and 46 meters long, created in 1832.
Really a sight to behold.
The bottoms of the feet are amazing, all detailed in mother of pearl.
The site of Wat Pho is also the site of Thailand’s first Public University, focusing on science, religion and literature. In the 1950’s a school for massage was also created here which still in in use. We all decided to go have a foot massage with some of their recent graduates right after we left. We were not disappointed.
After that little break we headed to the River for a short trip on the water to see parts of Bangkok that are only visible from that perspective. On the way we passed by a market with endless amounts of dried fish.
Our view from the dock.
It was relaxing and quite lovely. We spotted lots of birds and aquatic life as well as Crocodiles living alongside the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Our guide said they were giant lizards, but I think they were crocodiles. They were huge.
Our final stop was the Erawan Shrine, which features a four faced Brahma statue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erawan_Shrine ). There were masses of people here as well hoping to insure good luck in the coming year. At this point we bid farewell to our guide and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our NYE feast.
When we returned back to the hotel, we found they were preparing for the big event as well.
Our dinner plan was to enjoy our celebration at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiiin Restaurant at the Siam Kemoinski Hotel (www.kempinski.com/en/bangkok/siam-hotel/dining/sra-bua-by-kiin-kiin/). We had dined at the Kiin Kiin Restaurant in Copenhagen a few years back, and when I learned they had recently opened in Bangkok, and received a Michelin Star, I knew that was where we should spend our NYE.
Because all the streets were shut down in the center of town, where our hotel was, and near where the Kempinski was, we decided to walk. That really put a damper on my shoe choice as it was about a mile and a half trek, but no matter.
We arrived for our 8:30 reservation and found they had created a special table for us right in the center of the restaurant. It was very festive. We sat and were presented with our menu, which we were excited to explore.
It was a feast, one that would take us through the midnight hour.
First things first, we all settled in with some champagne. The servers could not have been more enthusiastic and festive. They seemed to be having as good a time as we were.
Unfortunately, while the lighting was just right to create a magical mood, it was no good for the iPhone camera, so my pictures were pretty poor. I did manage to get a couple to give a sense of the presentation. There were many amuse bouche which were not included on the above menu, this being one of them. I believe it was crab stuffed in a Lotus flower.
An interactive dessert
Midway through the 8 or so desserts we stepped outside to the patio to watch the Fireworks and countdown to 2019. It was a lot of fun.
By about 12:30 we had celebrated quite enough, so we walked back home among the throngs of revelers on the streets (think Times Square breaking up after the ball drop). Everyone was very orderly, and in control. There was a tremendous police presence so it all went pretty smoothly. Back to our hotel at about 1:30, and straight to bed.
We woke early, and were happy we had kept the day somewhat unscheduled. We decided to check out another Shopping Center near our hotel, The Central World (http://www.centralworld.co.th/ ) which is a major shopping/lifestyle destination in Bangkok. Being as it was New Years Day, we figured it would surely be open. It is quite a destination. Floor after floor of retail, dining, experiences- it puts most American Shopping Malls to shame. It is a happy place!
The best surprise was looking up to find one of my favorite artists, Yayoi Kusama had a presence here!
We wandered around the shopping center for a good two hours, just absorbing all the sights. We built up quite an appetite (no surprise!) so we headed to Chefman for Dim Sum, where a friend from Bangkok said was a perfect way to spend New Years Day.
There are several Chefman restaurants (http://www.chefmangroup.com/en/ ) in Bangkok, this one was closest to us, and mobbed. We had made a reservation, but still had to wait for about a half an hour with several other large groups. It gave us time to peruse the menu and put in an order before we were actually seated. We were so hungry, we most definitely over-ordered.
Thankfully the comprehensive menu had pictures to help us decide.
Everything sounded good, so we chose a wide array of dishes. Once we finally sat, they came out in quick succession. Soon our Lazy Susan was full.
The food was abundant, some quite tasty, and some not so much. In any case- we were stuffed. There were so many families at the restaurant that it was a happy and enthusiastic celebration.
Our last evening in Bangkok was going to be spent going to see Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing. It so happened that there was a big match in Rajadamnern Stadium, the original Muay Thai stadium in Bangkok that night. We purchased ringside seats and took a car there for the 7pm start time.
The evening starts with the lightest weight fighters, and then goes on the the heavier weight matches. The boxers seemed very young, but I’m not exactly sure of their ages. The crowd was very vocal and excited.
The boys/young men fought a mean fight.
This particular match ended with one of the boys being brought off in a stretcher. He got a big cheer from the crowd.
About 5 matches in we realized we had to go in order to make our final dinner at Restaurant Sühring (http://restaurantsuhring.com/ ) which is a German restaurant in Bangkok that has recently received its second Michelin star.
Because the dollar is so strong in Thailand, these incredible restaurant experiences seem like a bargain when compared to their similarly rated counterparts around the world. Our travel agent worked for weeks to squeeze us in here, so we were thrilled to visit after the Muay Thai. It was also a welcome treat to have our first real taste of Western food in two weeks.
The menu held a lot of promise. It was organized like a storybook.
At todays exchange rate 4400 Thai Baht is about 139 American Dollars. Quite a good value if you consider the caliber of the meal and the service.
My boys were particularly excited with the German beer offerings. We even got to toast with these tiny beers. Too cute.
There were all kinds of beautifully presented tasty treats.
Like a mosaic made of fish.
Foie Gras Crown
Restaurant Sühring was a wonderful dinner- delicious food, beautifully presented with outstanding service. In all honesty though, at this point we were exhausted! We took a cab back to the hotel and packed up for an early flight in the morning to Singapore. Bangkok was well worth a visit, and we were starting to grow sorry our big adventure was coming to an end.