movie-travel: venice & india

“Summertime” starring Katherine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi

In preparing a recommendation for you that would give you a picture postcard of India, I bumped into my old friend, Sir David Lean. He had the ticket I was looking for in “A Passage to India”. However, no discussion of this gifted director is complete without also mentioning “Summertime”, so you get a double-feature today.

So, David Lean has made a few movies you might’ve heard of: “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Dr. Zhivago”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”…nothing too heavy, or overly ambitious…if you’ve seen these movies, you’ll know I’m rolling my eyes right now. His résumé is lengthy and accolades well-deserved. By focusing on the two movies I’ve listed above, we’ll look at his first “big Hollywood” movie (Summertime in 1955) and his last picture (Passage in 1984). If you’re intrigued and want to look into his career (check him out on IMDB or Letterboxd), you won’t be disappointed. He loses none of his vision or passion in the nearly 30 years between these two and for the purposes of travel without departure, you’ll find either of these 2 to be entirely satisfying.

Assuming you’ve been to Venice before, did you arrive by train? The Freccia trains in Italy are fast and convenient – watch lush Italian scenery whiz by while you have a glass of wine and a snack. But, when you see Venice come into view, at the far end of a long expanse of water, you’ll feel like Katherine Hepburn’s character in “Summertime” – eager to see the rest RIGHT NOW. But, let it unfold slowly – you don’t want to miss a single moment.

WHAT is she thinking…..?

While her budding romance with Brazzi unfolds, you can just sense the conflict she’s feeling, but for the love of pete – she’s on vacation. Why not indulge? – I mean sure, he’s married and that’s a big no-no (not even a little bit good), but does she have to be QUITE so chaste? Let’s be honest, by the time Hepburn starred in this picture, the USS Winsome Coquette had already sailed….they’re both adults. And, he’s SO handsome and charming…. (sigh) I digress. Nonetheless, the longing is real and artfully presented. Similar to an earlier film by Lean, “A Brief Encounter”. Whether you watch this picture for the vistas of Venice, the canals by day and by night, or for the spirit of independent female adventurers, you won’t be disappointed.

“Good films can be made only by a crew of dedicated maniacs”

Sir David Lean

Next up in our little double-matinee is “A Passage to India”. When they say ‘a movie by David Lean’ in the opening credits, they mean it – he wrote and directed this screen play from original material by E. M. Forster. He, too, has a knack for inventing stories that translate well to the big screen: “A Room with a View” and “Howard’s End” to name only two. He won one of those awards they’re always giving out in Sweden. When it comes to making Victorian English seem relatable, he’s your man. And, historically speaking, that’s a tall order – this was a pretty up-tight bunch.

Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, James Fox, and Peggy Ashcroft – “A Passage to India”

Judy Davis leads the cast and looks lovelier than I thought possible – had I overlooked her younger years on film? Maybe. Here she’s promised herself to a young magistrate in India during a time when India was a teensy bit oppressed by the English (read: the word “enslaved” was thrown around a bit during this period). Enter the young Davis with the elder Ashcroft, who are surprised to find that Ashcroft’s liberal upbringing of a son who’s risen high in the ranks could be undone by 2 years in India where he’s begun to drink the Kool-Aid and now believes the English to not only be the ruling nation, which they are, but also a superior race. It’s a powerful study of the time and the various people and their roles within it.

Set, in part, in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), you’ll see the elaborate and striking colors, the cacophony of masses of people and environ, and…I’d swear I noticed a whiff of Indian aroma. Maybe I just got swept away. Regardless, you’ll experience a LITTLE of being in another place and time through Lean’s master craftsmanship and the Oscar winning soundtrack.

I hope you’ll make time for one of these outstanding pictures. As always, it’s hard to say goodbye to an extraordinary place, but it’s never too far to go to Amazon or Netflix to say hello again – if only for a brief time. Both films are available in a variety of formats. Order a pizza or have some Indian food delivered to round out your experience. Make an evening of it – then make some travel plans.

arrivaderci Venezia

bengaluru, india

Stepping outside your hotel in India is an experience like none other

If I can be of any help…the words were still hanging in the air when I got a follow-up call: If you’re going to be in Asia anyway, could you come to our meeting in Bengaluru (fka Bangalore)? It was the invitation I’d been dying for. Two (long, frustrating) days later, I’d successfully navigated the on-line Visa process and would soon be on my way.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Encouragement to do what nearly everyone told me not to
  • Tips for planning & getting around
  • Hotel, Restaurant & Shopping recommendations

“I’m going to India” were the first words out of my mouth for weeks leading up to the trip. Not only was it a destination I was dying to see, but the trip itself was a relative surprise tacked onto a pre-existing trip to Singapore. My friends who’d already been to India speedily divided themselves between 2 camps: those who said “get in and out as quickly as possible; don’t leave the hotel” and those who said “it’s far too dirty for you; you’ll hate it”. I was undeterred. I had the rare good fortune of having a member of my team who was not only due to meet me there, but who is FROM Bengaluru. She was delightfully eager to show us around so any worry I had about not being able to get around effectively and safely was completely dispelled.

First things first – you have to get there – and, that isn’t happening without a Visa. I offer the link here because the process is going to get pretty personal – and their interface is unusually casual. The more it probed into my most personal information (and, that of my closest relatives) all the phishing alarms kept going off in my head. I got midway into my first attempt before I saved my progress and asked my colleague from India and the meeting planners if I was using the correct site. I was. I resumed. They require scans of your passport, your business card, a letter of invitation from a business entity within India….and, they scrutinized them hours after entry often asking for higher-quality scans. As I said – it was about 2 days before I completed the process. Have patience. Once it’s accepted, PRESTO you have an e-Visa. Nothing to await in the mail; nothing to print or carry (read: One less thing to keep tabs on).

The Taj Bangalore captivated me with their rangoli displays throughout.

So, I’ll skip right over the part about how my 737 Max 8 flight was replaced by a plane that was likely pulled out of storage (the service and crew were exceptional, not complaining….just saying it was decorated a little like The Golden Girls’ living room – lots of peach and teal) and go straight to the part where Customs greeted me….well, greeted me is probably too strong a word. Let’s advance to arriving at the hotel.

If you have the chance to stay at a Taj property, I recommend you take it. This is probably my 3rd or 4th stay with them and the first ex-US. Each stay has been exceptional. I was greeted by attentive staff, beautifully attired in traditional costume, and enveloped by the fragrance of incense/heated oils, and entranced by a quiet, pervasive sitar soundtrack. I know that it’s popular in hotel chains now to create fragrance signatures that you’ll remember and associate with them. I have it on good authority that local households use similar fragrances to those that met me at the Taj. They created a memory for me – not of their hotel chain, but of this locale. To me, that’s what an exceptional host does.

“But nothing in India is identifiable, the mere asking of a question causes it to disappear or to merge into something else”

E. M Forster

Did you know that there are no fewer than 3 potential outlet adaptors for India? I tried a lot of resources and couldn’t confirm which was right for Bengaluru, so I called the hotel ahead of my visit. “No matter what you have, you’ll be welcomed,” replied the lilting voice from across the globe. After several attempts to make my question more clear, the reply was still the same. Hm. I packed my extra large power source and decided to hope for the best. Upon arrival, I found that the hotel has universal receptacles. No matter what you have, you’ll be welcomed. I get it now.

Outside of organized events, it would’ve been so easy to A) take a nap B) use dinner vouchers inside the hotel, or C) shop at the airport (yep – after exhausting the stores in the hotel, some attendees headed to the airport not to fly, but to shop…..and return to the hotel). But, as you know, I challenge myself (and all of us) to do better than that. So, instead of napping upon arrival- I scheduled a spa service. After flying so far and then sitting in meetings, I was a little stiff. Did you know that before any spa service in India, they begin with a foot washing ceremony? How lovely is that? Low lights and beautiful, hand-painted soaking pot of warm water…. Really, it’s very practical in a country where many people wear sandals on crowded, dusty streets. For me, as part of a massage practice, it drew me out of my day. And, isn’t that why we sign up for massages in the first place?

And, the food – If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve caught on to I’m Celiac. Indian is a cuisine that lends itself well to gluten-intolerance – they use very little wheat flour. The first day, I meandered the most colorful and aromatic buffets collecting foods I felt were pretty safe for me; I was fine. Yet, the head waiter brought me a meal that had been specially prepared. That’s attentive and thoughtful. But, the universally available spread was so inviting. By day 2, I brought my own guide – my native-born colleague who makes most of her own food back home in the states. We walked item by item, knowing well how she’d prepare each and I tried the most amazing things. Breakfast – Dosa – think every coveted omelette line you’ve ever stood in – that’s the Dosa line in India. As compared to omelettes, dosa are more savory and crispy…and lot less eggy. It’s really like a savory, crunchy crepe filled with whatever you choose. Milkshakes – chocolate, mango, coffee, fig – you just can’t say no – and, each is about 2oz, so indulge in more than one. And, filter coffee. Even during meeting breaks, the coffee tureens were turned away from guests so that an attendant must serve us. Honoring guests is an important part of the Hindu culture and I found it in abundance.

As the meeting broke-up, we had 2 choices: One extra dinner in the hotel and a nap prior to the airport, or head out. We headed out.

We traveled out into a more rural part of Bengaluru to visit a Scottish-inspired pub: Byg Brewski Brewing Company (yes, you got that right). Uber is alive and well in this part of the world and we traveled quite easily using our apps. The homes around this lively establishment appeared to be primitive by US standards, so imagine our surprise when we arrived at a nightclub/restaurant that rivals those of LA. We had an extremely pleasant evening trying (literally) everything on the menu. Note, like many places in India, they have a “no stags” policy- in this case it’s 3-stag limit. Meaning, no more than 3 guys in a party without dates are allowed entrance. They take very seriously the element of guys hanging out, drinking and potentially how that might play-out with tables of women nearby. That was an interesting cultural element that was new to me.

We had a bit of a whiz-bang shopping experience on Commercial Street. We wanted colorful bangles, anklets with bells, table linens and maybe some pashmina. Think you have a pashmina?…Can you pull the whole scarf through the width of your ring?…. that’s apparently how you gauge fine pashmina. If you need these items, or just have a hankering for something truly authentic without the travel, I’ll point you here. I visited their store in Bengaluru and wish I’d spent a LOT more time (and $$) there.

Everywhere you turn, something wonderful.

I can’t attach a link to the aroma of warm, scented oil, but I can attach a link to music that gives you a flavor of India. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the sophistication of their hospitality. I highly recommend you experience the colors, sounds and perfume for yourself.

tips: cancelled flights

One minute, I’m watching “Call the Midwife” downloads on my iPad, and the next I’m sitting in airport jail half-way around the world. I’m sure this happens to most people (right?). But, when it happened to me, I had a few hours on my hands to be introspective. What could I have done differently, and would I do differently in the future?

I was the last in my group for departure from Singapore. We’d had dinner, hugged our good-byes, and piled into cars headed for Changi Airport. This airport is a destination in itself. I think that’s at least one of the reasons why you’re not allowed in your gate’s boarding area until an hour before departure – it keeps you shopping. Nonetheless, I’m always pleased when the departure lounge opens up because it means I’m on-track to head home.

I mean, there are worse airports to be stuck in……

This particular trip, I was flying British Airways because of the single connection option they offered. Mind you, had I chosen United or Singapore Air, they would have had multiple planes in and out – BA had just mine that day. This is something I’ve filed away for future: How many planes does a carrier have arriving/departing from that airport each day? Because when the pilot came out and very calmly and politely explained they needed a new battery for the plane, I knew it was unlikely they’d have one just sitting around. As it turned out, they had to wait for one to arrive the next day…

Be aware of these signs that your departure is VERY delayed:

  • The assigned departure lounge staff goes away
  • The crew’s not arriving, deplanes, or leaves the lounge area
  • The crew looks unhappy, or starts talking with their backs to the awaiting passengers
  • Your on-line flight tracker starts giving you messages about delays that haven’t been posted. Or worse, tells you your flight is cancelled

Tip: download a flight tracker app just so that you have 2 sources for flight information. Even if you’re using your carrier’s app, a second way to verify information is good. I’ve used Flight Tracker and FlightView. I’ve gotten information through these sources before the airlines released/posted info, which can give you a much-needed head start when looking at alternate flights.

As I continued, in relative peace, to watch babies be born (on my iPad), the flight crew came out to address us often. They were friendly and looked like this was a minor delay; no big deal. I personally had a nice long layover in Heathrow before my nonstop home, so maybe I would have to forego my full-english and just eat airplane food for breakfast; no big deal. After a couple of hours, I asked the pilot whether any of the crew was going to time-out soon (as delays start to mount by the hours, you’ll want to look into this, too – changing out crew members can cause substantial delays). Our crew was still good for several more hours, but those started ticking away; becoming a bigger deal. As we approached the end of the window the pilot had given me for the crew timing out, I called my travel agent’s after-hours service. I needed to know if there were alternate flights for me and could any be held….. Immediately thereafter, the pilot came out with the crew in tow, turned their backs to us to speak with the departure gate staff and I knew; this now had become a big deal. I called my agent and asked her to put Plan B into action – I needed a seat on a different carrier.

So, it’s one thing to hold a seat – that’s free. It’s another thing entirely to purchase a last-minute ticket – especially internationally. The ticket I wanted was $5,000. This wasn’t a charge that I was willing to put on my card and sort it out later. I needed my current carrier to re-book (pay) for the change for me.

Tip: Know your resources – (See bottom of post for ideas)

There was, I’ll say, ‘moderate’ chaos in the boarding lounge. Two gentlemen were yelling (screaming) at the gate agents while the rest of us were asked to stand in an orderly line (first come – first serve). This is the part where I need to cue the violins: I had a personal reason to be home on-schedule – my son was about to open as Sir Toby Belch in a highschool play and we’d been running lines for MONTHS. So, I wiggled up to the front of the line (I’m diminutive…short). I calmly slid the confirmation number with the seat my travel agent had held for me to the gate agent; she assured me I’d be helped …in time. She handed back my notes. I smiled and slid them back again saying I understood, but I’d done the legwork – I’d reserved the seats – I just needed her to give me a voucher, or code the ticket to transfer…..just a little compassion (there might have been a few tears from me as I described what was drawing me back home). When she motioned for a colleague to come over, I thought I’d struck a chord and silently marveled at my cunning. However, the colleague was airport police….wrong chord.

This little note is given upon entry as a reminder that they don’t play in Singapore

Have you been to Singapore yet? If not, the first thing everyone seems to know is that they’ll throw you into jail for spitting gum. It’s even on T-shirts there. Everyone says: Don’t spit your gum out! Like that’s the first thing someone would do. But, you take how strict they are about gum, compare it to death to drug traffickers, and you start wondering what the penalty is for being “agitated” at an airport gate agent. Is it somewhere in the middle? Do I need to be thinking about how to find my embassy? I’ll admit, when the ‘charge’ is agitation, I became hyper-alert about being calm (if that’s possible), but my mind was reeling. I didn’t say a word.

Tip: Make sure that all of the numbers you might need to call in an emergency have actual country codes and area codes. US/Canada toll-free numbers cannot be reached from the outside.

In the end, airport jail for me was mostly just airport “time out”. They didn’t tell me anything – just sat me down and walked away. Within a couple hours of the departure time for the flight I’d been hoping to switch to, a representative collected me, told me I’d been rebooked, and escorted me to the departure lounge for my new flight. So, was I on pins and needles? YES Was I pretty certain I was stuck without any official plans for return? YES Did it end well after all? Thankfully, YES (And, I made it home for opening night)

The airlines want their planes to be where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, too. But, that’s not always the way things turn out. My advice is to know your options, be proactive, BE PLEASANT, and keep the faith.

Important Travel Resources:

  • Airline Clubs can book/rebook you and they’re much less crowded than customer service; the downside is that they’re very expensive and NOW, most of the carriers only allow you to use them on days you’re flying THEIR planes. This is really for the very most brand-loyal flyers now.
  • Travel Agents – If your agent booked the flight, know how to reach them 24/7 (from anywhere) in case of emergencies. If you change an itinerary with a carrier who warns you that making a change through them will remove your agent’s ability to make future changes, think carefully.
  • International SOS provides medical and travel updates in regions you’re traveling to. It also tracks your whereabouts (if you allow it) and gives you local alerts. I have the app and like it.
  • STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program through the US State Department. Registering with them tells the government where you are in case of a tragic event
  • Your local US Embassy – If you lose your passport, have health problems, marriage, birth, adoption – these are all things your US Embassy can help with. I once got asked at customs how to prove my son was my son… phone a friend would’ve been the Embassy.

bangkok, thailand

Bangkok is so much more beautiful than you can capture in pictures

We had just scheduled our 2nd trip to Singapore when the idea of a weekend in Bangkok occurred to us. When you’re heading to Asia anyway…..why not? But, Thailand seemed exotic and extravagant. I consulted an expert – a work colleague born and raised in Singapore, who has traveled to Thailand many times. She encouraged it wholeheartedly and her experience of traveling to Bangkok gave me the confidence I needed to set out on a new itinerary.

What we’ll cover in this post:

  • Planning an itinerary
  • Sights to consider
  • Local tour guides
  • Movie & book suggestions
  • Hotel recommendations

So, Logistics. As I said, we had just penciled in our travel plans for Singapore – so, the cost of going there just for the meeting was already on the books, so to speak. The dance of the ethical business traveler is always how to navigate your excursion such that it’s cost-neutral to the company. Anything else is entirely inappropriate and I don’t condone it. So, that said – I’ll use the cost of booking Singapore at today’s rates as an appropriate example:

  • Austin to Bangkok across 2 main carriers was ~$2,000
  • Austin to Bangkok time-wise ranged from 27-41 hours
  • Going straight to Singapore saved ~$1,000 & about 5-15 hours
  • Singapore Airlines round-trip SIN-BKK = quick & cheap: 2.5h @ $255 (RT)

The math became pretty obvious – we’d stick with Singapore roundtrip for work and do a completely separate excursion to Bangkok. Two things to always watch out for – the time involved in the cheaper fares, and use of smaller airports. My time is worth a lot (to me). And, if you start using smaller airports, getting there can cost a lot of time, and there are fewer people keeping the lights on in the airport – the larger the airport, the more people paying in, the lower the cost in a LOT of cases (this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule). Another advantage to the business traveler who bolts on a completely separate (economically) excursion is how tidy the expenses work out. In this case, we were getting to Singapore for work, the minute we connected to fly to Bangkok, it was our dime until we got back to Singapore. This relieves a lot of headache.

Now – carriers. I like the checks and balances of the larger airlines. Right now, I’m only United Premier Silver because my carrier of choice is Southwest. Until they bring Asia a little closer, Southwest just isn’t going to hook me up. (Hey, it could happen – we’re going to Hawaii now) And, the dreaded 2-4-2 configuration in United’s Business Class is not my idea of comfort for an 18-hour flight. The “2” seats together require the person at the window to climb over the person on the aisle in order to reach the bathroom (this made for a very challenging flight from HongKong for me once). And, in the “4” seats, you have strangers on either side of you with NO barriers while you’re trying to sleep (Hello, please understand that I didn’t intentionally try to spoon you……). Polaris has changed all of that. (Tip: pick the odd-numbered Polaris rows if you’re traveling with a friend or a spouse) However, Singapore Airlines has been doing it right even in coach-class for awhile now. They were the first to offer nonstop to Singapore out of San Francisco (~16hours nonstop) and now they offer nonstop from Newark (~18.5hours). The level of service is exceptional – attentive, courteous, helpful….I’m a devotee for Singapore Airlines. Would I like to fly these guys? Or, these guys? Why, YES, I would. But, for my money and for where I’ve been traveling, Singapore Air has been the highest level of service to Asia. They did not disappoint when it came to regional travel within Asia, either.

Maybe don’t talk about this movie while in Thailand…..

So, you’re familiar with the premise of “The King and I”, right? Winner of 5 Academy Awards including best actor for Yul Brynner and featuring Rita Moreno (future EGOT) – both representing characters of ethnicities not quite their own… that’s how Hollywood did things back then…. Nonetheless, the King of Thailand was the great-grandson of the King depicted in the movie. (That makes the current King, the great-great-grandson). And, if you’ll recall, Yul Brynner’s version of the King depicts a man who’s flawed in at least a few ways. That’s apparently not the way King Bhumibol Adulyadej enjoyed having a monarch of Thailand displayed. And, I’m not going to put the fault entirely on Yul’s back – the monarchy apparently isn’t fond of the book, either. BOTH are banned in Thailand – as is speaking ill of the royal family, so I guess they go hand-in-hand. So, feel free to read/watch to get into the mood of visiting. I found the history and grandeur depicted in both to heighten my excitement for visiting and they both (maybe the book more so) emphasized that I was going somewhere very far away – geographically and idealogically. At least from a historical perspective – here’s a place that’s Buddhist in most cases with a LONG history of building temples, which they lavish with jewels and delectable offerings that demonstrate their devotion to various representations of Buddha. They believe that care and devotion to the right representation can affect all aspects of their lives and conditions. That’s rich and intriguing. From a female perspective – the multiple wives and how they’re regarded was not by favorite topic and not one I idealized in any capacity – but, again, it gave me insight into what I was about to experience. Knowledge is power – no amount of looking into where you’re about to go is a waste. If you’re about to go to Thailand, I encourage you look into these titles. However, given the Thai perspective, I ditched the book in an airport prior to arrival.

Behind a bend of the Maenam, the entire town of Bangkok appeared in sight. I do not believe that there is a sight in the world more magnificent or more striking. This Asiatic Venice…

Ludovic Marquis de Beauvoir

Auspicious” is a recurring theme throughout a lot of Asian cultures – begin a shrine on an auspicious day; place a specific icon in an auspicious part of your house….all of these things speak to bringing good favor to you and your surroundings. So, what does it mean to arrive in a country on its most IN-auspicious day? We arrived on the day their beloved King, ruler for 66 years, died. The nation instantly entered into a year of mourning. Stores tucked their colorful garments away so that customers could stock up on black clothing – they’d need it everyday for the next 365. Bars and nightclubs were dark (for the most part) and many of the temples were closed. The one I most wanted to see, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, would be closed during our entire stay and then some.

So, this leads me to what I most want to tell you about planning a trip to Bangkok – get a professional tour guide. I’ve recommended Thai Tour Guide many times. I can’t say enough good things about Mr. Oat, our guide for 2 days (although I’ve had friends be assigned different guides with the same positive results). For starters, Mr. Oat picked us up and had totally re-arranged how we’d spend our days together now that some of our destinations were no longer open to the public. Our priorities were the Maeklong Railway Market and a Floating Market. And, we wanted to see a variety of temples around Bangkok. Done – he had this under control. Had we been on our own, we would’ve spun our wheels and maybe been paralyzed – honestly, the place was a bit disorienting at that point in history. All TV stations (including CNN and MTV) were showing nothing but around-the-clock remembrances of the King (state-approved, mind you). Throngs of people were disrupting traffic to make offerings at the palace….the whole trip might’ve been a wash.

It’s free to sell along the tracks – it’s just a little disruptive when the train goes by

What’s a railway market? One minute, you’re shopping for food, clothes, provisions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera at the Maeklong Railway Market – and, the next, the vendors are hurriedly pushing back their displays and folding in their awnings – the train is literally about to roll right over the spot where we’re standing. Everyone squishes in tightly to allow it to pass and there’s VERY little room to spare. I can’t over-state how exceptionally close it comes to you. I hope this pic conveys, but you really have to be there to appreciate it. Zip-zap closed for business – zap-zip, game back on. Why do they put up with this? Economics – the vendors who never have to move in from the train have to pay rent. You’ve never seen anything like this – please plan to go if you have the means. And, get a guide like Mr. Oat – the ride is about an hour from Bangkok as I recall and air conditioning is a MUST. And, if you’re off by even 5min, you miss the whole thing – he’ll tell you when you need to leave your hotel, ensure you stop along the way at safe spots for Americanized bathrooms and coffee, secure money machines, etc. You really must have a guide.

Just float past and buy what they’re selling – that’s normal, right?

There are many floating markets in and around Bangkok. Instead of investing in real-estate, or renting a booth, just have a boat and float around selling what you produce. The woman in the picture above produces mango sticky rice. If you’re not currently a diabetic (you might become one after too many of these…), you must try this. They use purple glutinous rice, which I think they boil in salt water. Then, they add what’s probably sweetened condensed milk and the freshest most beautiful mangoes. When you walk into markets in Bangkok, there’s an overwhelming, I’ll say putrid, smell – that’s mango. People tried to tell me it was durian fruit. No doubt that stinks to high heaven, but durian fruit’s almost always under wraps for that reason – the smell I really dislike is mango. But, when it’s in season and fresh and ESPECIALLY in Thailand – I’ll muscle through and eat me some mango. This is a treat you’ll dream about later.

I could go on about Bangkok – but, I’ll just give a few quick shout outs. There are many places to stay and quite a few of my friends recommended places that were secluded and away from what is, I’ll be honest, a little seedy, when visiting Bangkok. Most of my friends have stayed in Riverside for just that reason. However, it requires you to take a water taxi if you want to come to shops, restaurants, night markets and clubs in Bangkok proper. The wait time for water taxis and the traffic involved just didn’t seem feasible for a weekend. I highly recommend the Oriental Residence Bangkok. My Singaporean colleague who proved to be our Thai mentor recommended we stay in-town to make the most of our time. There was a huge train station nearby this Embassy Row hotel. So, we had access to anywhere. Being next door to the Holland Embassy, we felt very safe. And, the lobby, suites, restaurants, gyms – all state of the art – other properties should take a lesson. These people are top-notch. The price is un-real….google it and see (e.g. $116-ish/night). The dollar buys a lot of Thai Bhat. And, while you’re there, do not miss out on a true Thai massage. If you wander out for food, no doubt you’ll see young men offering Thai massage left and right – that’s not what I mean. I’m thinking along the lines of this. If you haven’t done the math already, 2,000 Thai Bhat for a classical Thai Massage at Rarinjinda is $64. Let me elaborate on what that includes: Tea ceremony before-hand, a private room, the use of silk pajamas, at least an hour of the most magnificent massage you’ve ever had, and a mango sticky rice ceremony after. Lamenting your typical massage experience at home right about now? You should be.

The purpose of my blog is not to plan your days in and around Bangkok, but to tell you how to make a quick trip meaningful, worthwhile and DOABLE. Thailand was a long weekend for us. I hope you’ll consider it the next time your work takes you to that part of the world. I’m MORE than eager to return. Next time, I hope to tack on Chiang Mai.

Never more true than in Bangkok (A turn-down treasure from our Bangkok hotel)