Before we left in 2007 (it feels so weird to write that), BG's company gave us a gift truly fit for royalty: a generous gift card with enough for a stay at any Four Seasons Hotel in the world. We did some research and comparisons (of course we did, look who you're talking about) and determined that using that gift card here in Bangkok made the best use of our “buck”: We could get three nights here instead of two as we would in Sydney, Cairo, or Hong Kong.
We arrived via public bus after three nights in a fan-cooled guest house, where the sounds of Khao San Road (diesel-fueled tuk-tuks with two-stoke engines, stray dogs in heat, and the unending ringing of the door of the closest 7-11) kept us up the whole night. My pillow smelled musty, and the bed was lumpy. We ate our breakfast on the street, sitting cautiously on plastic chairs at a table that rocked with every mouthful. The “restaurant” proprietor taped up plastic sheeting when it began to rain.
We hauled our massive, heavy back packs into the lobby here, with the vaulted hand-painted silk ceilings and classical music trio in the corner. Our backs were soaked with sweat. We dumped our bags on the bellhop's cart and were led to our room, where we were greeted by pristine, quiet luxury: a duvet-topped king-sized bed groaning under the weight of all of those pillows, flat-screen TV with DVD player, fresh fruit platter, and a bathroom that boasts both a massive shower stall (with rain shower head) and gigantic bathtub. We used the well-appointed fitness facilities and jacuzzi, and I took advantage of the hair dryer, luxury bath products, and waffle cloth robe. Someone came to turn down the bed for us, and a newspaper was delivered to our door. Our room-service breakfast was served on starched tablecloth, with real orchids as an accent to our pancakes, smoked salmon eggs Benedict, and yogurt. We've been lounging in our plushy robes and slippers in the evenings. To be honest, I'm not even sure why we even leave the room every day. I couldn't stop grinning the first day here as I relearned to love the luxurious life I had forgotten even existed. My only complaint is that Wi-Fi access would cost us a whopping $25 PER DAY.
I felt slightly sheepish as I scrubbed our backpacker laundry in the bathroom, but I also have to admit that I almost enjoyed the experience. Luxury hotel bathrooms are fantastic for doing laundry by hand – giant sinks (more clothing washed at once), plenty of high-pressure hot water straight from the faucet, huge plentiful towels for wringing out the cleaned clothes, and lots of places to hang a laundry line mean that the job gets done much faster and much better.
We haven't actually seen much of Bangkok even though we've been here nearly a week. We haven't gone to see any of the temples or any of the Buddhas. We haven't been to a single museum or gallery. However, we have seen the inside of most of the malls and markets, since we arrived here in dire need of replacement shoes, sandals, and shirts. Eight months of constant wear and hand-scrubbing has done a number on much of our gear and Bangkok is the one of the least expensive places to buy replacements. We're also trying to get our fill of our favourite Thai dishes as we prepare to head to Singapore, so sticky rice and mango has been a nearly daily treat.
Thailand has been a wonderful experience. Our time in Pattaya was amazing, and I still miss the babies every day. BG's diving experience in Khao Lak was unforgettable. We have otherwise seen considerably less of this country than we expected to, but the timing just didn't work out and we weren't willing to sprint across this country for the sake of giving things a perfunctory glance. Plus, we know we'll be back one day – soon.