BANGKOK & Oriental Residence Hotel (2013)

After a 20-hour trip that included a 14-hour stretch San Francisco-Taipei flight (by the way, the longest I have been on a plane so far) and 15-hour time difference that would play not easy on my body rhythm, finally, on a very hot day, November 26, we arrived in Thailand for a 15-day vacation: seven days in the bustling capital, Bangkok, followed by eight days of complete, wonderful escape on the remote island of Koh Kood.

In Bangkok we stayed at Oriental Residence Bangkok.

To our surprise when we entered our suite we discovered that we have no less than three TVs.
Now, the hotel's description says "lavishly appointed serviced residences ideal for extended stays".
So I suppose that each of us to have its own TV is one of the features that is considered to make for an excellent extended stay.
Anyway, it was fun - the three of us to be suddenly surrounded by three TVs when at home we haven't had even a single TV for the past few years.
(Yes, we don't have a TV in our house.
One day, over three years ago, I realized that actually I never turn the TV on.
So, I simply decided that I might as well get rid of the piece all together.
I was very happy to replace the TV with a decorative piece that truly provides me a visual pleasure.
Oh, and how do I know what's going on?
Well, I get plenty of information about the way the world goes round while listening to the news on the radio while I prepare something in the kitchen. And, by the way, I find this combination of activities very productive.
As for my husband, he had never watched TV either. He follows the news online.
And when we want to watch a movie, we watch it on Netflix.
And otherwise we read.)

... Getting back to our trip to Thailand ...

We started each day with a good morning swimming at 6 AM during sunrise.
By 'good swimming' I mean 30-40 laps.
By 'we' I mean my daughter and I. My husband is not a swimmer, he is more like "I come to watch you two swimming".

I normally don't exercise in the morning at home, with the exception of Saturdays when I love to start the day/the weekend with a walk or run on the beach.
But in Bangkok, due to the jet lag we were wide awake around 5 AM.
So it worked perfectly to enjoy the sunrise while swimming in the open pool that was on the top floor of our hotel building.

Oriental Residence Bangkok
6 AM swimming

Oriental Residence Bangkok

Oriental Residence Bangkok

Oriental Residence Bangkok

After swimming we would have a nice breakfast at a slow pace - both at home and when travelling we love to start each day with a nice breakfast, and especially we love a slow pace breakfast.

And then we would start exploring the city and the surrounding areas:
- by taxi,
- by water taxi,
- via private tours,
- by foot.

By nature I am very curious ... and when travelling, beside doing some of the typical tourist things, I like to go beyond these experiences, and I love to try to discover the authentic life.
To experience a little of the real life in Bangkok and the local culture I took my husband and our daughter on long walks on the streets of Bangkok, we went to a traditional Thai dance performance where we were the only non-Thai spectators, ...
I am not sure if the walks in the very humid and very hot weather succeeded making either my husband or our daughter happy ... Walking, wandering, observing are not among their favorite activities, let's say.
But, luckily, by the time my husband got to the point when he said that he had seen and experienced enough of the streets of Bangkok, and our daughter said she doesn't want to leave the hotel room again for another walk but only for going to the pool, we were on our last day in the capital of Thailand.
The mix of pain and pleasure of discovering new places I suppose ...
However, the physical discomfort is gone and forgotten by now, while the one-of-a-kind memories envelop us ...

Oriental Residence Bangkok
My husband and our daughter, relaxed, in the comfort of the air conditioned lobby before starting sight seeing in the very humid and very hot weather

Our hotel was on a main street with lots of embassy buildings, including the US Embassy just few steps away.
And the Embassy of Netherlands was right next to our hotel.
The whimsical cow sculptures display on the Embassy of Netherlands ground made us smile every time we passed by.

The Embassy of Netherlands

Our hotel was located on a street named 'Wireless Road'.
Quite fun name, I mean to notice the heavy bunches of wires running everywhere above our heads.

Heavy bunches of wires on our 'Wireless Road'

And now, the sight-seeing or some of the things we did in Bangkok for seven days (beside swimming in the morning).
If in some photos you notice some not quite happy expressions on our daughter's face, you know why ...




Approaching Grand Palace

 Grand Palace,
a complex of buildings, halls, pavilions, gardens, courtyards, and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Asymmetry.
Eclectic styles.

Gold, and gilded everywhere.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand.

You may like it, or you may feel quite the opposite, that's too much.


 Grand Palace

 Grand Palace

 Grand Palace

 Grand Palace
What an amazing and welcomed encounter - a fan!

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Grand Palace
Soldier of the Royal Guards

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
The National Dress for Thailand, a modern national costume suitable for formal wear created by Queen Sirikit in the 1960's 

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
Our daughter wrapped in a traditional Thai body covering













Some days smiling at the diner time ...

 ...  and some days very tired after so much sight seeing ... 

When we first noticed a 7-Eleven store in Bangkok we had the reaction one has when seeing something familiar, reminding of home: "Look, a 7-Eleven!" 

Then we started noticing one 7-Eleven store after another.

I don't even remember when was last time I entered (or saw) a 7-Eleven where we live.
But in Bangkok, it looks like every block has a 7-Eleven store, literally! 

And indeed, according to Wikipedia,
"There are 7,210 7-Elevens stores in Thailand as of 2013, and half of which are in Bangkok"!



Christmas Display in front of the Central World Mall
the sixth largest shopping complex in the world

Central World Mall
Very nice to see one of my favorite San Francisco make up brands present in Bangkok.
The Benefit counter girls wanted a photo with our daughter.
Central World Mall
the largest shopping destination in Bangkok
the sixth largest shopping complex in the world

It was a lot of social unrest and political tension going on in Bangkok exactly during our stay.
The demonstrations were some of the largest the country has seen in years.
I have never been so close to these kind of demonstrations.
Roads were blocked, the police stopped our car, and we couldn't go to some places that we intended to visit. 



Photos with the reigning King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX were ubiquitous in preparation for the King's birthday on December 5th.
The day is also a national holiday.

What is impressive is that the King is extremely respected and revered by everyone, no matter the political party.

And on the King's birthday the anti-government protest groups and 
the security forces paused the fighting for a day in order to allow for the King's birthday celebration.



Erawan Shrine
located at one of Bangkok's busiest intersections.

In an absolutely striking contrast right next to the worshippers lighting incense, 
Thai dance troupes hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered there is an Alexander McQueen store (you can see it in the photo), street food, people selling all kind of unexpected things ...

Erawan Shrine
Thai dance troupes are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered.

Erawan Shrine

***
At some point during our stay in Bangkok, our daughter discovered the dress that she was the most comfortable in in the humid and hot weather.
And from that moment on I couldn't take that dress off her - the dress became her daily uniform for the rest of our stay in Thailand, both in Bangkok and then on the island of Ko Kood.
So, as an unforeseen vacation chore I had to wash the dress at the end of each day.
But at least this meant one thing less to think about in the morning: what to wear.

Wat Pho,
also known as the Temple of the Reclining Budha

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho



The Bangkok's notorious traffic - a mix of cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, ...



***
We went to the Damnoen Saduak floating market, about 62 mile / 100 km from Bangkok.
Unfortunately we didn't discover an authentic market but more of a place meant for entertaining the tourists, and selling souvenirs.
Nevertheless it was a fun, and unique experience.

Damnoen Saduak floating market
We were welcomed with three young coconuts ready to drink

Damnoen Saduak floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market


Damnoen Saduak floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market
Snake-handling demonstration

Damnoen Saduak floating market
Street food is everywhere on Bangkok, and here is prepared, how else, on a boat

Damnoen Saduak floating market

***
We visited the Wat Phua Luangtabua, a remote forest temple about 100 mile / 160 km from Bangkok where monks live with wild animals.
The tigers are the biggest attraction. They are washed and handled by Thai monks, international volunteers and the local Thai staff.

The tigers have been raised in the company of humans, so they are docile.
Still, they have to be chained and we had to follow a strict set of rules in order not to provoke them.

It's absolutely amazing to come so close to all these animals that run free.
An extraordinary sight, probably unique in the world.

Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua
Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua
Approaching a herd of water buffalo

Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua

Wat Phua Luangtabua, also known as the Tiger Temple
Two staff members bringing a tiger 

Wat Phua Luangtabua, also known as the Tiger Temple

***
Both when at home and when travelling we always go to church on Sunday.
Since we got married, I have followed my husband to the Catholic Church, and during our travels we have attended Sunday Catholic mass in so many countries, and in so many languages.
The mass we went to in Bangkok was in English though, and, by the way, the Thai Catholic priest had an excellent pronunciation.

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Bangkok

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Bangkok

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Bangkok

***
As I said on the beginning of my post, when traveling I like to discover the real thing, and one of the things that I like to do (to see) is a traditional performing art.

We were lucky. During this time of the year a major annual performance, a tale from Ramakien, Thailand's national epic, played at the Thai Cultural Center in Bangkok.
It looked like it was going to be a Khon Dance, a genre of Thai dance drama performed by troupes of non-speaking dancers. 
It seemed perfect, because we wouldn't be able to understand words, and I was looking for a visual experience. 
And when we arrived in the lobby it got even better - clearly it seemed that this was not a glitzy, semi-fake show done for entertaining the tourists as the three of us were the only non-Thai people attending.

The stage sets, the costumes, accessories, headdresses, the angels' (both good and bad) colored masks were elaborate and meticulously created and produced a magic atmosphere. 

But, to our big surprise, after the prelude, the dancers that didn't suppose to speak started speaking.
And it was a lot of dialogue.
Let aside the visual observations, we couldn't understand a thing from what was going on.
And suddenly all the people around us started laughing.
And apparently it was a very entertaining performance because they continued laughing a lot.
So after a while, once our confusion melted away, we started laughing too when others were laughing.
And we enjoyed the specific Thai performance.

An unexpected but very memorable experience.

Photos or filming were not allowed, so I couldn't take any image during the play.
The only image at the end is not from the actual play but from the the play's program.

Thai Cultural Center Bangkok

Thai Cultural Center Bangkok

Thai Cultural Center Bangkok

Thai Cultural Center Bangkok
Attending a Royal Khon Performance: Battle of Kubhakan Mokasak

***
And now it was time for leaving Bangkok ...

The last breakfast at Cafe Claire, the French restaurant at our hotel
(where, by the way, for dinner we had an excellent foie gras and duck confit)

Signing in the hotel's Guest Book 
***

Our experience in Bangkok: a city of extreme contrasts, a city that can drain you of energy or / and at the same time it can fill you with energy, excitement, and wonder.

Our hotel, Oriental Residence: great suite, great pool, excellent services.
...

***