Manila to Bangkok
To get to Bangkok my itinerary took me to ICN where I connected to the flight to Bangkok. Both flights were on KE which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a late night departure from MNL which put me in ICN very early in the morning. I got to the KE Prestige Class Lounge just after it opened. I was the first one there. The normally bustling lounge was completely empty. The staff was still setting up the breakfast offerings.
I had no trouble getting one of the shower rooms to freshen up during the three-hour layover. The KE lounge at ICN has very nice shower facilities including high-tech toilets.
It took a while to figure out the controls for the toilet. The attendants also provide a tooth brush, razor and shaving cream upon request. I appreciate the quite, private, personal time to get away from the crowds and hassles of a major airport.
The flight to Bangkok, KE 657, was a 747-400. It was a nice morning for flying.
KE 747s have business-class seats in 2x3x2 arrangement on the lower deck and 2×2 arrangement on the upper deck. I sat in the lower deck on this flight because KE’s seating arrangement on the upper deck is a little crowded. My favorite arrangement for 747s is DL’s version that has only 14 seats on the upper deck in 1×1 configuration. All seats are on the aisle and by a window and they are the best business-class seats in the DL fleet. The upper deck on DL 747s is like being on a private jet. Unfortunately DL is phasing out its 747 fleet in favor of all twin engine models on international flights.
The seat controls were easy to use. Since this was a morning flight, I just reclined a little and watched a couple of movies in between the meal services.
KE offered breakfast and a light meal on this six-hour flight in addition to the usual beverages.
The flight flew by so to speak, and we were soon landing at BKK. Suvarnabuhmi airport is modern and huge like almost all airports in Asian capitals. Skyteam alliance airlines like KE and DL always land at the F or G concourses. The walk to immigration takes a good five minutes even with the moving walkways. Before deplaning, the Flight attendants hand out passes to the premium immigration lanes to first- and business-class passengers. Passengers with Skyteam Elite Plus status are also entitled to these passes even if sitting in coach. I will ask the FAs for one if they fail to track me down when I’m in coach. The premium immigration lanes are not well marked from a distance and you must walk past the regular immigration lanes for about 50 yards to get to them. Normally when I’m travelling without a checked bag, I’m getting a taxi or at the train station no more than 15 minutes after deplaning.
My preferred method for getting downtown from the airport is the Airport Rail Link. The station is located on the first level of the airport. The express is about $5 one way and the local is about $3. The taxis drivers will ask for a flat fee of about $13, including tolls, but using the meter and paying tolls separately is cheaper. A taxis takes about 30 -35 minutes to get to the heart of Bangkok, longer during rush hour. The train is faster and more fun I think. It gives a better feel for the city and the people. The Airport Rail Link connects to the MRT subway at Makkasan station and to the BTS Skytrain at Phaya Thai station.
The BTS and MRT stations and trains are clean and efficient. The price of the ticket is cheap and varies by the length of the trip you are taking. You can buy tickets at a machine. The MRT and Airport Link also sell tickets at a walk-up window. Not only is the public transportation inexpensive, it is by far the fastest way to get anywhere in Bangkok as traffic can be horrible.
My hotels for this trip were the Aloft Sukumvit Soi 11 and the Westin Grande. The Aloft has the cheapest prices of the Starwood properties in Bangkok but also the least benefits for SPG Platinum members. There are no suite upgrades although it is possible to use a Suite Night Award to get a suite if you have them. I stayed at the Aloft for a few nights to lower the overall price for the total hotel bill for this stop. The Westin is much nicer for Platinum recognition. The lavish breakfast buffet is complementary. And the happy hour in the executive lounge is also included for Platinums. The lounge also has very filling hot and cold dishes, salads, soup and desert. Often I’m upgraded to a nice suite at this property.
The Aloft is a new hotel. It is located on Soi 11 about a 10-12 minute walk from Nana BTS station. The Westin is located right on Sukumvit. It is only a one minute walk to the Asok BTS and Sukuhmvit MRT stations and the Terminal 21 mall. Terminal 21 is a new, multi-level mall with high and medium end stores and restaurants. There is also a multiplex cinema with all the current movies in English.
In the Sukumvit area and certain other areas of Bangkok the sidewalks are taken over after 6 pm by night markets. This is good for shopping but bad for walking if you are trying to go somewhere as the sidewalks become extremely congested. In Silom, they sometimes close off the street as well which makes it easier to get around and converts the night market into a festival.
In addition to checking out the dancing scene in Bangkok I took a trip to the site of the ancient Royal summer palace complex in Auytthaya.
A huge nearby temple complex was destroyed by invaders from Myanmar in the 1500s.
When the temple was destroyed all of the Buddhas had their heads severed. The guide showed us one of the severed heads that allegedly naturally became entangled in the growth of a banyan tree and now looks like this.
We also visited a reclining Buddha temple (or wat) and I tried some durian ice cream that had a terrible smell but tasted really good.
After the palace and temple visit we took a cruise back to Bangkok on the Chao Phraya river.
Bangkok Latin Dancing
Bangkok has a very good dancing community although it is not as large as might be expected for such a large city. My favorite is La Rueda, which is located in the Sukumvit area on Soi 18 near the Asok BTS station and the Sukuhmvit MRT station.
La Rueda is the most active spot in Bangkok with salsa/bachata parties on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. A little kizomba and cha cha cha are thrown in too. The room is small with low ceilings: so those with claustrophobia may be challenged. Lessons are offered before the parties. La Rueda has a small bar for those looking to quench a thirst. In spite of the name, I have never seen Casino Rueda here. Dress is very casual.
Two other more formal latin dance locations, Zak’s Wine Pub and Above 11 Restaurant, are on Soi 11 in the Sukuhmvit area not far from the Nana BTS station. Due to the night market stalls and food vendors set up on the side walk and the generally heavy pedestrian traffic, it will take about 10 minutes walking to get to Zak’s and 15 minutes walking to get to Above 11 from Nana station. Taking a taxi, however, saves little, if any, time
Zak’s is a very nice restaurant and bar serving Thai and Western dishes. In addition to the great wine selection, the bartenders can mix up every cocktail under the sun. On Friday nights the tables and chairs are moved aside on the second floor and a DJ plays salsa, bachata and a little merengue and kizomba. Above 11 is on the 32nd floor of the Fraser Suites hotel. It is an open-air, rooftop bar with an excellent view of the Bangkok skyline.