It's Friday afternoon, one o'clock, and we're in Bangkok. As I write we've not long ago checked in to our rooms at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, which, at 88 floors, is Thailand's tallest building. Our rooms are on the 67th floor so looking at this picture
you can imagine me looking back at you from my window, about three quarters of the way to the top.
This promises to be one of the most spectacular holidays we've had, and as usual, Karen's done all the work of researching destinations, resorts, and hotels online, and has done all the bookings on the internet too, so although I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the details she's shown me, I'm looking forward to discovering the holiday as I go along.
We started on Wednesday, as soon as Karen got out of work shortly after 3pm with the now familiar road trip to Bahrain. King Khalid Airport in Riyadh is not the nicest place in the world, and a night in Bahrain is a good way to start any holiday. On top of that she saved money by flying us out to Thailand from Bahrain over what the fare from Riyadh would have been, so result all round.
In our own car and with my new GPS fully loaded with Middle East maps there's no stopping us now, and we cruised around finding shopping malls, restaurants etc. We chose a different hotel from our last visit: the Radisson SAS Diplomat, located in the Diplomatic Area of Manama.
A litte pricy but very nice. They even have the obligatory "Fiddlers Green" Irish pub on the ground floor.
Come Thursday evening and it's time to head to the airport. We'd arranged with the Embassy in Manama to leave our car in their car park, so we called our now regular taxi driver Abdul (see earlier Bahrain trip posts for stories about Abdul) to pick up us and all our luggage from outside the Embassy gates. I told him to bring two cars, because there's the four of us plus four suitcases, plus carry-on bags of assorted sizes, and I knew it wouldn't all go in his boot. Abdul arrives on time but his cohort has to be nagged several times by Abdul on the mobile before he finally shows up, ten minutes late. We all pile into Abdul's car with half the luggage in the boot, leaving late bloke (who's name I don't know so we'll call him Speedy) to bring up the rear of the convoy with the rest of the bags. Abdul dodges the Thursday evening jams by taking another route he knows, and gets us to the airport just on time.
It is at this point that I need to mention the first of the surprises Karen has up her sleeve; she's got a good deal on the internet and bought us First Class ticket on the Gulf Air flight to Bangkok! The first dividend of this is that we are allowed to use the special First & Business Class entrance to the terminal at Bahrain Airport. I pay Abdul for both cars (again, I have to decide what the fare is! - see earlier Bahrain stories for explanation) and tell him to give Speedy whatever cut he thinks he deserves. Then we say our goodbyes and stroll through to First Class check-in. Boy, this is the way to travel! Leather sofas, check-in desks that are actually proper desks, with chairs so you can take a load off while checking in, and maroon-suited porters weighing and labelling all the bags while the check-in clerk taps away on his computer keyboard and completes the process for all four of us without having to uncross his legs. Passport control and security screening are similarly fast-tracked affairs and before we know it we're in the terminal and browsing round a shop or two before making our way to the Gulf Air First Class lounge, which is a seperate area accessed via the Business Class lounge, so you have to enter the Business Class lounge first, then walk through it, past all the Business Class passengers and then walk through a smoked-glass double door into the Holy of Holies. The lounge is very nicely designed and decorated, and we have what I can only describe as an Arabian tent to ourselves, it being a raised platform with two huge sofas covered in scatter cushions facing each other across a long, low table, and all under a four-posted canopy of striped cotton - not bad eh?
We while away almost two hours here, sipping G&T's, nibbling nuts and olives, and generally feeling quite smug. Come boarding time and we are among the first to board, and have the rare pleasure of entering the aircraft and then turning LEFT! Our seats are 1A&B, and 2A&B, and we settle down to 7 hours of champagne, a la carte food prepared to order by our on-board chef, personal video tape library, blah blah blah. Oh yes, and we slept a little too, seeing as it was actually an overnight flight. We took off at 11.15pm Bahrain time, and landed around 10.20 am Bangkok time (four hours ahead of Bahrain). Even in large, fully-reclining seats I find it hard to sleep on the plane, so we land at Bangkok airport (which, bizarrely, I notice seems to have a golf course running right through the middle of it. Not kidding, there are runways both sides of the fairway and the plane actually had to taxi across it!) feeling very tired.
My first impressions of Bangkok, gleaned only from the taxi ride to the hotel, are that it's a city of lots. Lots of tall buildings, lots of trees, lots of traffic, lots of people, lots of concrete, lots of huge advertising hoardings, lots and lots of telephone wires running conspicuously at low-level the length of each street. It's as if some grand designer had bought all the parts to make a city, only then to discover that he's only got half the area to work with. It looks like two cities' worth of city parts crammed into one.
Right, that's it for now. Karen and the children have been asleep for the last hour and tiredness is catching up on me. More soon, and photos too.