Contents : Suvarnabhumi Airport | Transportation to Downtown | The Banyan Tree Hotel & Vertigo Bar | Food Stalls and Carts | Chesa Restaurant Sukhumvit Soi 20 | Provence Cafe | Short and long-term apartment rentals in Chiang Mai
“If travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” – Pico Lyer, Essayist
Suvarnabhumi Airport is Bangkok’s main airport although it’s sometimes referred to as Bangkok International, and one of the easiest ways to reach the downtown area from it is via taxi. The official taxi stand is located just outside baggage claim, but please note, if a driver approaches you directly while you’re waiting in line and offers you “a great deal,” do not take it. Only agree to ride in those cabs offered by the taxi official at the front of the line. Official cabs will also have meters in them and the fares are more than reasonable.
Transportation to Downtown. Another mode of transport is the Airport Link which, after years of delays and setbacks, is up and running. The service is affordable and has two options. The first is Direct Express which takes 15 minutes from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the City Air Terminal at Makkasan train station and continues to the Phaya Thai station. When you’re traveling to the airport, you can check your luggage at the City Air Terminal before boarding. The second is the commuter train which takes slightly more than 30 minutes but also makes eight stops throughout the city, a perfect option if you’re staying at a hotel near one of those stations. The commuter also seamlessly connects to the city’s subway system at the Phetchaburi station, and to the SkyRail system at the Phaya Thai Station for the Sukhumvit line.
When arriving at your hotel room for the first time, drop your bags and proceed directly to the bathroom, the perfect gauge for evaluating the quality of the hotel and its dedication to the complete customer experience. Examine the materials used for the floor, the vanity, the tub, paying particular attention to the linens. How clean are the surfaces and is the layout conducive to relaxing after a long day ? If quality is evident and the room is immaculate, you can be assured the rest of your hotel experience will be a memorable one. Reaching the zenith in this regard is The Banyan Tree Hotel on South Sathon Road, one of the best and most beautiful hotels I’ve had the lucky fortune to visit (I have similar praise for the Westin in downtown Philadelphia and Le Meridien in Montreal, too.) Soft light and natural surfaces greet you upon entering the property, flowers adorn the reception area, and tea lights line the corridor to the elevators. As is typical with Thai people, the staff welcomes you with warmth and hospitality. But it’s their bathrooms that are a knockout.
Thick cotton towels hang from the towel racks; the tub is polished to a shine; the glass door on the shower stall doesn’t have a print or watermark on it; and the amenities are not displayed in little plastic bottles but rather large ceramic urns. The amenities are so noteworthy in fact I purchased some from the hotel spa to bring home. The sleeping and living quarters did not disappoint either. Relying on local materials, the furniture and fabrics are combined to be a welcome respite from a busy day and contemporary enough for the globe-trotting business traveler. Fresh flowers and aromatic oils are used sparingly but effectively throughout the rooms.
After you settle in, head straight to the roof as the view is nothing short of jaw-dropping from the hotel’s restaurant, Vertigo.
“Education is a guide. Knowledge is a key.” – Buddhist quote
I enjoyed my morning coffee in the Banyan but decided to venture out for breakfast as Bangkok is famous for its food stalls and carts which seem to be everywhere. Regardless of the hour of the day, you can find exceptional food and fish prepared on the spot and for very little money. I discovered a fresh fruit cart, for example, a couple of blocks from the hotel. I speak not a word of Thai and the owner spoke virtually no English. Between the two of us, however, we managed and she finely chopped some coconut, pineapple, papaya, and tossed it with citrus juice–delicious and refreshing. I returned every morning to try a different combination of fruit and recommended it to colleagues at the hotel. They quickly became fans, too.
กินเพื่อมีชีวิตอยู่ … และอาศัยอยู่ที่จะกิน
In other words, “Eat to live…and live to eat, “a well-known Buddhist quote and one which applies to Thailand where great food and meals can found everywhere.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau
Fusion restaurants abound in Bangkok with those combining French and Thai cuisine being the most common. For something completely different, try Chesa Restaurant Sukhumvit Soi 20, Swiss food via southeast Asia. Owners and chefs, Tomas & René, provide a menu full of hearty food, a noteworthy list of wines from Europe, California and New Zealand, a relaxed atmosphere and excellent service. The chicken curry with butter rice, “Poulet Curry Casimir Meit Ris,” and chocolate fondue with fresh fruits for dessert, “Schokolade,” are stand-outs and highly recommended. The weekend brunch should also be on everyone’s list of destinations.
For Thai noodles, nothing comes close to Provence Cafe, located in the Peninsula Plaza. The menu is impressive and features pasta, meat and seafood, but it’s the boat noodles and broth which are the restaurant’s hallmark. The noodles are made in the restaurant and the broth is seasoned to perfection. It’s not uncommon for patrons to return numerous times throughout the week for lunch and dinner–and with good reason.
Chiang Mai, Thailand. For short and long-term apartment rentals, Flip Key is highly recommended and known for its affordability and reliability.