Thursday, August 4, 2016

[Bangkok, Thailand 2016] 3 Days 2 Nights in Bangkok!

Photo By: Elin Chow

This was my first time flying alone to a foreign country that I am familiar, yet so unfamiliar with, to meet an important friend whom I have not seen for almost a year. Some people might wonder how could two people who have not met for such a long time travel together? Is it even possible that we will still have common topics to talk about? Surprisingly, the answer is "Yes". We are just that close.

In fact, I do not remember that we were so close when I was still living in Singapore. We were once colleagues but seldom meet up or contact each other after I quit my job and left the company. I always thought that we were just hi-bye friends who I would usually lose contact with after I left the job. But she surprised me, always taking the initiative to reach out and keep in contact with me.

When I left Singapore three years ago, she was also the only friend who I managed to say goodbye. I can never thank her enough for always being such a wonderful and supportive friend.

After I left Singapore, we tried to stay in contact through Facebook and Whatapp Messager. I always regretted for not spending more time with her while in Singapore. So when she asked me whether I would like to take a trip to Bangkok together, I could not describe how happy and excited I was.

This is the third time this year I was travelling without a fixed itinerary in mind. The first time was to Boracay, Philippines back in January, then to Hong Kong in May and now, it was Bangkok, Thailand. Traveling without a plan actually gave us incredible flexibility because we do not have to rigidly keep to a planned itinerary and schedule. We simply planned the general route, scheduled a few activities and just fill in the blanks along the way. Yes, we have decided to let everything goes with the flow.

However, there were a few things that were on our must-do list - to enjoy a spa session, to try out the famous AfterYou Dessert Cafe and to meet up with a Thai's friend of hers. Most of the people tend to over-plan while traveling, squeezing in every possible attractions in the smallest amount of time.

Well, I totally understand that when you are traveling to a new place on a limited time, you will want to see as much as possible and will want to waste a single second of it. Most people would want to make sure all the money that they have spent on airfare and accommodations are well paid off.

But for us, this was not the case. 3 days, or to be exact, 2 days is really too short to cram everything in. Both of us agree that we do not a trip that was too exhausting or rushed and prefer to explore and enjoy the city at a leisurely pace. So traveling without an itinerary works perfectly for us.

I decided to get a local SIM card in order to stay connected in Bangkok. There are three major carriers in Thailand - AIS, DTAC and True Move H. Arriving at Don Muang International Airport, there was not too much choice fo me to choose from. The budget airport only has a TrueMove H counter offering fairly cheap data plans for international tourists.

I paid 199 THB for a 4-day, unlimited 4G data (capped at 1 GB) at TrueMove counter. Based on my 3 days experience, I find that TrueMove H offers a fast and reliable network with great coverage.

Our Experience With GrabCar In Bangkok

Regular taxis generally charged 700 - 750 THB  from Don Muang airport to Banyan Tree Bangkok. Feeling that we have been overcharged by the taxi drivers, my friend decided try the Grabcar app and it was also then that she realized that we could use either Grabcar or Uber in Bangkok too!

For those who do not know what Grabcar and Uber are, both are private car services that can be downloaded right on your mobile devices. The mobile app is very efficient and fairly easy to use. Basically you just have to fill in your pick up and drop off locations in the "Booking" section  to get a fare estimate. Once you confirmed your booking, the app will automatically locate the nearest driver, who will take you to your destination without arguments once he /she accepted your booking. There is absolutely no need for you to wait by the side of the road and try flag down a taxi that may not even stop or waste your time negotiating a fare with a taxi driver who often try to rip you off.

We booked a private car transportation service via the Grabcar app, but due to some miscommunication, we waited almost an hour for our driver to arrive. 20 minutes into our wait, my friend decided to call him. She told me that the driver kept on telling her to wait for him at the "jetty", which turned out to be "Gate 3". The driver was actually feeling a little frustrated because we could not understand his English. Even though it was a long wait, I believe this will be an embarrassing yet funny memory that will always make us laugh and cry whenever we think of it.

While we in the car, the driver asked whether we would like to take the Highway. If we want, we will have to pay the additional toll fees ourselves. Since we were running late for our spa appointment, we agreed to pay that little extra.

The ride from Don Muang Airport to Banyan Tree Bangkok only cost us 350 THB in total (inclusive of highway toll fees). That was at least 2 times cheaper than regular taxis. Grabcar and Uber are quick and efficient mode of private transportation and we used them every time whenever we need to travel around Bangkok.

I would really recommend using the Grabcar or Uber services over regular taxis in Bangkok. All the cars that fetched us were very clean, comfortable and in excellent conditions. Drivers were very professional, but most importantly, it is very safe and often much more cheaper than regular taxis. Another good thing about Grabcar is the fare is a flat rate that is calculated upon booking, so you absolutely have nothing to worry about even if you are stuck in a traffic jam. The Grabcar's GPS system also allowed us to track our journey so that we will know whether we were on the right track.

Banyan Tree Bangkok
Official Website: Banyan Tree Bangkok
Address: 21/100 South Sathon Road, Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

We checked in Banyan Tree Bangkok, one of the tallest and most luxurious hotel in Bangkok. Our main reason for choosing this hotel was to visit the famous Vertigo and Moon Bar located at level 61. Vertigo and Moon Bar is an alfresco sky bar and restaurant offering one of the best dining experience with some of the best cityscape view in Bangkok. But unfortunately, we had to give it a miss due to time constraints.

Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted with a very warm welcome. Check in was fast and hassle free and we were really surprised to receive a free room upgrade! We had our Oasis Retreat Twin Room upgraded to Serenity Club Twin Room located at level 56th floor, high up above the bustling streets of Bangkok. The upgrade allowed us to enjoy added luxury of Club Lounge benefits where both of us were treated like VIPs.

Our Serenity Club Twin Room is just like a mini suite featuring separate areas for working, relaxing and sleeping. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide a stunning 180 degree paranomic view of Sathon Road and Chao Phraya River. We had a wonderful and luxury experience staying at Banyan Tree Bangkok. It is truly an oasis to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and a great place to relax and rest after a tiring day of sightseeing. I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone who are looking for a quality accommodation with exceptional services in Bangkok.

Siladon Spa
Official Website: Siladon Spa Bangkok
Address: 44/8 Convent Road, Sathon Road, Silom, Bangkok, 10500

After refreshing ourselves, we headed out again for our spa appointment at Siladon Spa.

Before our trip, we checked the various massage and spa packages offered by Banyan Tree Bangkok. Just as what we have expected, the famous spa packages are ridiculously expensive. So we decided to search for a better spa deal online. That was also when my friend stumbled across Siladon Spa.

Siladon Spa has 3 branches in Thailand - one in Phuket, one in Pattaya and another one in Bangkok. It is located in a side alley just opposite of BNH Hospital, about 10 minutes walk away from our hotel and Sala Daeng BTS Station.

Look for the "Siladon Spa" sign at the entrance of the alley and walk all the way in. You should find the spa center located at the end of the alley. The spa center opens till 10.30 pm and it was quite safe to travel back to our hotel or the BTS station after dark.

Siladon Spa offers a variety of different spa packages to suit different needs and budgets. Prices are generally very reasonable and affordable. Siladon Spa is currently having a "Buy 1 get 1 free" promotion on all spa packages, which will be valid until 31st October 2016. Months before our arrival, we booked a 4 hours Siladon Royal Couple Spa Package through their website. The package costs 4400 THB (inclusive of tax) for 2 persons, which includes foot massage, body scrub, aroma oil massage and spa facial. The promotion is valid for direct booking only. Anyone who are interested can book your desired spa package either via its website or email. Alternatively, you may also call +66(0)22 340 999 to make a booking.

Due to the miscommunication we had with our Grabcar driver at the airport, we were terribly late for our appointment. So we emailed Siladon Spa informing them that we will be late. Surprisingly, they were very responsive and accommodating. We received an immediate reply from them minutes after we sent them the email, informing us that they will wait patiently for our arrival.

On arrival, the staffs greeted warmly with smiles while ushering us to a small resting area. We were offered complimentary tea and wet towels to refresh ourselves.

The environment was very tranquil and comfortable. While sitting down, we were asked to choose the aroma oil that we prefer and the type of pressure we want. Both of us opted for soft massage.

Changing into a pair of spa slippers, we followed the massage therapists upstairs for our spa treatment. My friend and I shared a room, which I prefer than having separate room for each. Siladon Spa provides both shower and toilet facilities and clean white towels. The massage room and beds were also very cozy, clean and well-maintained.

There was soft ZEN music playing at a corner of the room, which is filled with the calming scent of essential oil.

On the bed, there are bathrobes, disposable underwear and shower caps provided. The therapists left the room to allow us to change in private. At a corner. there was a rack for us to hang our clothes and a small cabinet to keep our belongings.

Once we were done, the therapists returned to the room and proceeded to soak our feet in a bowl of warm and scented water. Washing our feets clean, the therapists gently put the slippers back on our feets.

After the foot massage, the therapists headed off to dim the lights in the room. We proceeded to undress ourselves and lie down flat down on the massage bed while the therapists immediately covered our body with a large sheet of cloth.

We were treated to an hour full body scrub session to remove dead skin and dirt from our skin. After the body scrub, we were asked to take a shower. In the bathroom, there was also a new set of disposable underwear for us to change into.

After the shower, we continued our pampering session with an hour (probably more than that) long aroma oil massage. I felt extremely comfortable even though I was almost completely naked. The therapist did not expose any of my private parts at any time, only exposing the area that she was working on.

For first-timers, it will be good to let the therapists know if you do not want an area of your body (eg. breasts) to be touched. If you did not tell them, they will usually scrub and massage your breasts as well. I guess this should not be an issue for guys.

If you feel uncomfortable at any point of time, please inform the therapists immediately too. The therapists will also check on us  constantly to make sure that we were okay.

After the aroma oil massage, the therapists gave us some tea and biscuits and left us to relax in the room, only to return 10 minutes later to continue with our facial massage.

At the end of the massage, the therapists left the room once again to let us dress in private. Overall, it was a really great experience. The therapists were very professional, polite and friendly. They were absolutely great at maintaining very consistent pressure throughout the entire session. I fell asleep during the massage because it was so comfortable.

After the 4 hours spa treatment, I felt incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated. This was a great place to experience the renowned Thai hospitality. It was totally well worth the price. I would definitely visit Siladon Spa again every time I visit Bangkok.

We were starving by the time we finished our spa treatment. So we walked further down the street, searching for a place to fill our stomach. There were plenty of restaurants, food stands and convenient stores located down the street. We decided to have dinner at Banana leaf Thai Restaurant.

The restaurant has a very extensive menu offering a variety of authentic Thai cuisines. I ordered Fried Chicken with Mayonnaise and Lemon while my friend ordered Rice Noodle with Minced Pork. The food was delicious and prices were fairly affordable.

Banyan Tree Bankok is not located close to the tourist areas or public transportation. The hotel provides complimentary Tuk Tuk and shuttle services that runs to the nearest BTS (Saladaeng) or MRT (Lumpini) Station every hour.

After breakfast, we decided to make use of the complimentary Tuk Tuk service to Saladaeng BTS station, where we could take the BTS to Siam Square. The Tuk Tuk dropped us off right in front of Silom Complex, just beside Saladaeng Station.

Our initial plan was to take the BTS to Siam Square, but we changed our mind and decided to shop around Silom Complex instead.

After You Dessert Cafe
Official Website: After You Dessert Cafe

Thai people generally have a sweet tooth. As such, there are a number of dessert cafes in Bangkok. But we were told that the After You Dessert Cafe is a must try in Bangkok.

After You Dessert Cafe has multiple branches across the city. We visited one of its branches located in Silom Complex level 2. There is usually a queue, but trust me, it is absolutely worth the wait. The long queue is an indication of its popularity.

So instead of queuing up, you will have to take a queue number and just wait for the staff to call it out once a table is ready. If you have missed your queue number, you will have to re-take another number and wait again.

We were surprised that the staff at the number counter has missed our queue number. But he was quick to realize his mistake and was nice enough to compensate us by arranging a good corner 4-seater table for us.

Offering a wide range of delicious treats such as Shibuya Honey Toasts, breakfast food, cakes and beverages, the cafe is cozy and comfortable with warm wooden decor and plenty of seats. It is popular among the locals, especially among young adults. It is not difficult to notice that the most of the patrons in its Silom Complex branch  are Thais people. I was actually very surprised that there were very few foreign tourists despite being a well-known tourist area.

After You does not offer table service. We have to queue to make our order at the counter. The menu is easy to read and understand, with English translations and pictures provided. After You's signature Shibuya Honey Toast is a must try, which is available in 10 different flavors - Original, Ferrero, Nutella, Matcha, Chocolate, Chocolate with Banana, Chocolate with Strawberry, Sticky Toffee, Cheddar Cheese and Strawberry Cream.

We ordered the Shibuya Honey Toast in Matcha flavor. The thick toast is topped with a scoop of Matcha ice cream and complete with honey syrup, whipping cream and small chucks of nuts.

After You's Shibuya Honey Toast is available in two sizes - Baby and Regular. We ordered the regular size one to share between the two of us. The toast is sugar-coated and slightly crunchy on the outside and soft and spongy on its inside. I love the buttery sweet warmth of the toast and every bite of it is sinfully divine. Unfortunately, we could not finish the entire toast. We did not expect portion of the toast to be so big. I believe the baby size is probably huge enough to share between two to three persons, especially if you are intending to try a few of their dessert selections.

Other than the Shibuya Honey Toasts, the cafe also offers a variety of Mille Crepes in different flavors - Original, Matcha, Ferrero, Banana Nutella and Strawberry. We decided to try out their Strawberry Mille Crepe too. A slice of it costs 135 THB, which is actually a little pricey.

But it was delicious. The soft layered thin crepes with tasty cream filling in between each layers seems to melt in my mouth with each bite. The taste of the pastry cream was light and not overly sweet. Every bite of it was dense, creamy, moist and flavorful. It was a very delightful treat.

Other than desserts, the cafe also offers a nice selection of delightfully sweet drinks. For drinks, we got ourselves an iced pink lemonade and a hot honey lemon tea. Both were tastefully sweet.

All in all, the desserts and drinks offerings at After You Dessert Cafe were not only tasty, but at the same time, very picture-worthy too. However, I actually find most of the desserts and drinks a little too sweet. I would not recommend to anyone who do not have a sweet tooth.

Despite its popularity, service remains quick, efficient and friendly at After You Dessert Cafe. It was a really great experience for us.

Hello kitty House

Unfortunately, Banyan Tree Bangkok does not provide Tuk Tuk service from the BTS station back to the hotel. We have booked a Grabcar back to our hotel to put all our shopping loots before booking another Grabcar again to Siam Square, where we will be meeting up with a Thai friend of hers for dinner.

Since we were early, we decided to do some shopping around the area. Every of the stores we visited in Siam Square do not allow us to try on the clothes, which was actually very off-putting. In the end, we did not to buy anything at all.

We chanced upon the famous Hello Kitty House while we were in that area, and decided to go in and take a quick look. It was not long before her friend arrived. We had to leave for dinner. It was a pity that we did not get to explore the place, but at least we managed to snap a keepsake photo before we left.

Hanaya Japanese Restaurant
Address: 683 Si Phraya, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand

Flagging down a taxi by the roadside, her friend took us to Hanaya Japanese Restaurant for dinner.

Japanese food? Why are we having Japanese food when we were in Thailand? Well, I find that strange and funny too. Nevertheless, it was still a very satisfying meal.

Tucked in a dark quiet alley, the Hanaya Japanese Restaurant is the first and oldest Japanese restaurant in Thailand. Walking into a dark alley, one would certainly not expected to find a Japanese restaurant.

The restuarant offers an extensive menu of authentic Japanese cuisines. We had
hard time deciding on our orders because there are simply just too many dishes that we wanted to try.

We ordered some Tamago, grilled salmon, tako sashimi, Tempura and omelette rice to share among the three of us. The food

We were deeply impressed by the high quality of the food. Everything was delicious, fresh and perfectly cooked. The prices are not really cheap, but the portions are huge, so I guess it is still reasonable.

As I mentioned earlier, Thai people have a slightly sweet tooth. So you can expected that most of the food at Hanaya taste a little sweeter than usual. It was not bad, but I usually like my food to be salty than sweet.

Chinatown's Soi Yotse

After dinner, her friend brought us to Soi Yotse, a famous eating street located in the older part of Bangkok where we get to try a Thailand traditional mixed shaved ice dessert known as Nam Kang Sai.

We were able to choose from an impressive variety of toppings to create a bowl to our liking. The toppings are at the bottom, bathed in sweet syrup and coconut milk complete with a scoop of crushed ice.

Nam Kang Sai is a little like the Singapore-Malaysia version of Ice Kacang. It was quite a delicious dessert, but probably a little too sweet to be consumed on daily basis. The coconut milk is wonderfully fragrant and rich in taste and the toppings are very appealing and tasty.

Tongue Fun Ice Cream
Address: 222/1 Soi Yotse Krungkasem Road Promprab, Bangkok 10100
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm

After Nam Kang Sai, we headed across the road to try some homemade ice cream. Tongue Fun Ice Cream is serve in a hot pot commonly used to serve Tom-Yum soup.

There are many flavors of ice creams for us to choose from. We ordered a mini hot pot with 7 interesting flavors of ice cream to try- Thai beer, red bull vodka, Yakult, Apple Yogurt, Mango, Lychee Soju and Katon (also known as Santol or Mangosteen). In the center of the pot, there are some dry ice which kept the pot chilled.

The concept of Tongue Fun Ice Cream is very interesting and refreshing. This definitely something I have never tried before. The taste of the ice cream was great, not overly sweet or creamy. Both my friend and I especially love the Katon flavored one.

After desserts, we had the opportunity to visit a local Thai home. Her Thai friend was kind enough to show us his place. While on the way to his place, my friend insisted that I take a photo of a Starbucks store that we passed by because she think it was incredibly beautiful.

It was absolutely nice to have a local with us because we get to experience Bangkok the way locals do. Generally, I find most of the Thai people very approachable, friendly and nice. When I said nice, I do mean that they are really geninuely nice.

With that, our short escape came to an end, and we really regretted for not planning a longer trip. After breakfast, we booked a Grabcar to Don Muang Airport. The traffic was terrible early in the morning. Arriving at the airport, we were surprised to find that it was packed with chinese tourists from Mainland China. There was long queue everywhere! Luckily, we arrived at the airport early. All thanks to her Thai friend. If not, I believe we might miss our flight!

I encountered some minor hiccups at the airport - a very unpleasant experience which I will probably remember for long.  But I guess I would not mention it here. Despite all the little hiccups, it was still a great trip and I am really glad that we really enjoyed every moment of it.

Maintaining a long distance friendship is difficult, but not impossible. It just takes more time and effort. I know I have found my best friend when we managed to keep our relationship strong despite the distance.

I am glad that we went on a trip together. It has helped us get to know each other better and grew closer than before. We never run out of things to say and could easily relate to each other. I am glad that she is a friend who would not mind if I stop to take lots of pictures. Now I would like to thank her for being such a good travel companion and I look forward to many future trips together!

Be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my travel adventures! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

1 comment:

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