Monday, December 29, 2008

Arriving in Bangkok

Flying is more an adventure now than it really should be. Going through the security line at 6AM on Christmas morning, I had a feeling I would have to have to tolerate some shenanigans from the staff because my camera bag consisted of a sort of utility belt. The design removes the weight from my shoulders and distributes the weight to my hips, much like a fanny pack. My other carry-on bag was a small cotton tote with my MP3 player and a few books. Sure enough, security claimed that I had too many bags and would have to check-in the "bags" attached to the belt. Thinking ahead, I put a large plastic bag in my tote. I pulled off the belt, dropped in the bag and, as far as security was concerned, I was no longer a threat to the flying public.

The initial leg of the flight was uneventful. I had an eight-hour stopover in Los Angeles. The original plan had me renting a car for the day and driving out to Hollywood, but the rain and cool weather put a damper on that idea so I crashed in the lounge for the day. Not the most productive use of my time, but I was on vacation. After a few hours, I discovered that the lounge had shower facilities; something I greatly appreciated given the long flight to Thailand I'd soon be experiencing.

Whether stepping down the stairs of a small plane or entering the skyway from a jumbo jet, your first impression of a tropical land comes through your nose. While I can not describe it, the smell of Thailand is distinct and the memories of previous trips returned as I made my way though the delightfully modern airport. After clearing customs, I ran the gauntlet of taxi drivers touting overpriced rides into the city and bought my 150THB bus ticket.
Although I had to check in early in the morning, my favorite hotel, the Bangkok JW Marriott, was able to get me into my room right away. I had mixed feeling about the room. It was gorgeous, but a bit small. It also had the typical hard mattress so favored by the Thais. I planned to do some serious sleeping in.

The biggest disappointment was the fact the hotel was doing some renovations and decided the holiday season was the best time to make it happen. The gym, one of my favorites, had been temporarily moved to allow for the installation of new flooring and the executive lounge, my very favorite was closed completely. On the plus side, the closing of the lounge enabled me to eat breakfast in the main restaurant. On the plus-plus side, Chef Dieter was back in Bangkok and in charge of the restaurant.

The Bangkok JW Marriott had my favorite brunch in the world. It was resplendent in every imaginable breakfast dish to accommodate the many nationalities the hotel hosts. Two years ago I stayed at the Jakarta Marriott as was blown away by the quality of the food and service there. I met a chef in the elevator and told him what I thought of the Bangkok Marriott and how impressed I was with his kitchen staff and their work. It turned out that he was the chef that ran the Bangkok Marriott and was now working the Jakarta property! This explained everything. I was delighted to see that he was back in Thailand, but unfortunately he was on holiday during Christmas and New Year.

One evening I got a message that the executive lounge renovation was complete and I was invited to come for breakfast in the morning. It was well worth the wait as the new look of the lounge is simply delightful and the staff were very happy to pose in their updated work space.

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