The feeling of dread was indescribable. I really, REALLY didn’t want to leave the Renaissance – where everyone is in uniform and smiles at you and just wants to do whatever you want them to do. Our room has bathrobes and cushy slippers. The maid turns down the bed every night. I really don’t care if I never see another country – I just want to stay here!!
We had breakfast in the Club Lounge (why do we have to leave?) where we turned in our “Customer Satisfaction Survey” with glowing marks. Yesterday, there was a French couple who came up to the lounge for beers and were very unhappy that their beers were less than freezing cold. One of the staff members offered to bring them some ice and they were positively mortified and scowled. I thought, “These two need to stay in some backpacker hotels for a while to gain some perspective.” This place is heaven. Do I REALLY have to go?!?!?
Our flight from Ho Chi Minh left at 11:30, so at 9:00 we caught a taxi to the airport and checked into the flight. The plane was about 1/2 full so Jon and I had a row to ourselves for a flight that was about an hour long.
We got to Bangkok, waited for our bags, and caught a taxi to our hotel.
The Reno Hotel is in downtown Bangkok just near the Bangkok Skytrain, the Ma Boon Krong (MBK), and Siam Center. The latter two which are MASSIVE malls. There’s a Hard Rock Cafe nearby in addition to every fast food joint on the planet.
The hotel itself is very cute and clean. It has that retro-art-deco-Miami look to it, despite the fact that there’s no beach nearby. There IS a pool, however, and the rooms are sparse but clean. And the air conditioning works like a champ which Jon loves. It’s not the Renaissance, but it’ll do.
Quest for STA Travel
We are desperately trying to cancel our tickets to Bali. We’re scheduled to go Nov 3-16, but Indonesia is hardly the paradise we want to be. Actually, even if the US weren’t attacking Afghanistan right now I still think that we would try to get our of the trip. Bali’s expensive, and we hear that the beaches in Thailand are just as nice but 20 times cheaper. And we have a 30-day Visa here in Thailand so why not?
Anyway, neither China nor Vietnam had an STA Travel office which is who we booked the tickets through. But Bangkok does have one. So we took the Skytrain to the other side of town and walked a few blocks to STA Travel on the 14th floor of the Wall Street Building. It took us 30 minutes to get there for what was a 90 second conversation. They took one look at our tickets and said, “We can’t do it. Your travel agent in New York has to do it.” Great. We pleaded with them to help us, and they suggested that we go directly to Garuda instead. So they gave us directions and we were off.
Quest for Garuda Airlines
To get to Garuda Airlines, we had to leave the Wall Street Building, walk to Rami IV Road, play frogger to cross the street, and catch the #4 bus to Lumpini Towers. Luckily, the bus was right there so we hopped right on and paid the conductor for two tickets. Traffic was atrocious and the bus wasn’t air-conditioned so we were hot. We were also the only non-locals on the bus but we don’t mind that by now.
After about 1/2 hour we finally got to the towers and took an elevator to the 27th floor. We told the receptionist that we wanted to cancel our tickets so she took them and looked at them. She said, “You want to cancel both tickets? Both ways? For both people?” Yes, Yes, and Yes. So she typed a few things, looked at her computer screen and said, “OK. Your tickets have been cancelled!”
Wow. That was easy.
But then I asked the big question, “So was our credit card credited?”. And she looked at me blankly. We prompted a little bit more and she told us that she had no idea what would happen with the money, that we had to discuss that with our travel agent. So there’s the catch.
In the end, we had her re-instate the tickets and we would have to find a way to get in touch with Helen in New York to help us out.
Quest for a New Digital Camera
After the mess with the Bali tickets, we walked to a place which Grant told us had cheap electronics. We REALLY miss the digital camera and would like to replace it with another one, so we wanted to see what we could find. The walk was a bit long – about 30 minutes – but it was a pretty nice evening and we felt like seeing some of the city. We finally arrived at Pantip Plaza, which is a monstrous convention-hall type of building with store after store of computer goods. It’s not as nice as a mall, but not quite a warehouse either. We started on floor one and walked around looking for cameras. No luck.
So we tried the same thing on Floor 2, but this time split up and met at the “Up” escalators. Still no luck. The shops that did sell digital cameras sold only Sony, and we are boycotting their proprietary “memory stick” technology. (Really – didn’t Sony learn ANYTHING from the Betamax ordeal in the 1980s?). Anyway, we found the same things on floors 3 and 4: very few cameras, and if there were any then they were Sony with the memory stick.
After an hour and a half, we finally found a Canon for sale on Floor 5 in a store with 10 little dogs running around. No, I’m not kidding. But the Canon was MUCH more expensive then what we had paid for it so we had to say no. Drained and tired, we left Pantip Plaza and caught a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel.
A tuk-tuk is a small 3-wheel contraption much like the auto-rickshaws in India and Nepal but with more legroom. The benefit of the tuk-tuk is that it can weave in and out of traffic better than taxis. The bummer is that this doesn’t do a lot of good when traffic is at a dead standstill. Which it was.
So we sat in the tuk-tuk breathing the fresh Bangkok air, which is full of vitamins and minerals, among other horrific things. By the way, if anyone wants to debate Bush’s position on the Kyoto Agreement with me – bring it on.
When we finally got closer to our hotel, we paid the driver and hopped out to frogger across the street. At the hotel, we ditched some stuff, grabbed my glasses and went to get a bite to eat. Then we walked around Siam Center looking at all the upscale stores that we can’t shop at anymore because of The Budget.
Bridget Jones’ Diary
This movie theater puts Lincoln Square Cinemas to shame! The movie theater has everything imaginable inside it! In fact, it’s sort of a mall in and of itself. We didn’t really didn’t need to get there as early as we did, seeing that we had reserved seats, but we wanted to check the place out.
The movie was scheduled to start at 8:00, but the theater was less than 1/2 full. Since it was a Friday night, we assumed that it would be sold out. We were right, but there was something everyone else knew that we didn’t: the first 1/2 hour is advertisements and the Thailand National Anthem (which we had to stand up for, incidentally). This is the second time we’ve been burned on the late-movie-start thing (See July 10) and we’re not going to fall for it again. Especially if we have reserved seats!!
Well, the movie was great but I’m a bit biased. I love Colin Firth and am convinced that he IS Mr. Darcy, whether this is Helen Fielding’s Mr. Darcy or Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. Jon was less than impressed with the flick but was probably happier than he would have been if we’d seen “Cats and Dogs”.
After the movie, we went back to the Reno Hotel. Here, we wrote up a fax for Helen at STA Travel, asking her to please cancel our Bali tickets. Unfortunately, the fax lines at the hotel are down so they couldn’t send it. Then we tried to fax it at one of the other hotels around the area. Still nothing. Something about the area and fax lines, I guess.
In the end, we ended up sending my Dad an email with text for him to send to Helen. Knowing Dad, he’ll take care of it right away.