Monthly Archives: October 2012
Went to Bangkok for a short 4D3N trip. I know, many people have been there many times, but it’s only my second time. The first time I was there 4 years ago, I don’t remember much of it, except that Mr D and I seemed to have too much time on our hands, we went for a hair wash at a salon, I bought a pair of bermudas from a roadside cart, went to MBK and that was about it. So this time, I am going to write about my visit.
We had wanted to go laze around at Angsana Bintan again. But this time we want to stay out 3 nights instead of the usual 2 and at Bintan, that would be a little too long considering that all we do at the resort is read by the pool, swim, read in the room, eat, watch TV, go for massage and sleep. We had never stepped out of the resort at all, even though we had been there 4 times. And all other factors seemed to come in together – room rates at Angsana seemed to have gone up from what I remembered, hotels at Bangkok seemed to be going at a discount (not sure if it’s my illusion) and Scoot, was having discounted fares, seemed to be asking us to go elsewhere.
First time on a budget airline – Scoot
I am not a frequent traveller nor a rich person, but I have never been on a budget airline. This is my maiden budget airline flight. The only reason I am keen to try Scoot is its relationship with Singapore Airlines.
At the time of booking, there were some fares on sale, and they came in Fly, FlyBag, FlyBagEat and ScootBiz.
Despite me not being tall and big, I do feel claustrophobic in economy seats. And it always felt like the air is stale and I can’t breathe properly. Despite me not usually eating on planes (I get airsick, and even more nauseous when trolleys of food get wheeled down the aisles and the smell of food fills up the whole place), I do like to have the option to have food served to me at no extra cost. I am also the kind of person who does not like to hand carry lots of stuff onboard, so checking in luggage is something I always will do. So, Fly and FlyBag fares are out for me.
But it’s only a 2 hour flight to Bangkok you say? I get airsick even on a 45 minutes flight to Kuala Lumpur, period.
Yes, call me spoilt or anything you want, a holiday is a holiday. If I have to make myself so uncomfortable (quite like suffering to me) on this mode of transport which I already do not look forward to, then I would rather not go.
When we were making the bookings, the fares for FlyBagEat and ScootBiz wasn’t that great, about $50-$60 per pax. So we went with ScootBiz, and for the return trip as well. Yeah! More legroom! As it was my maiden flight on budget airline, I really did not know what to expect, or what not to expect.
Checking in at Changi Airport was a breeze. Although the casual looking uniforms a took a little while for me to get used to, more so for the stewards, whose polo T-shirts were tucked out of their pants.
Our flight to Bangkok was on the plane named Big Yella Fella. It was not a full flight, and the ScootBiz seats were only about less than half taken. I was more than happy about this, as it meant peace and silence. The last thing I like is a noisy cabin.
The seat arrangement was 2-4-2 and we had chosen the front row seats at the side. The seats, perhaps still new, looked pretty good. There were some small white flakes on the seat, which was made more obvious by the blackness of the leather, but it wasn’t a big issue for me.
We each had a bottle of Evian mineral water given to us almost as soon as we were seated. Then the stewardess came to inform us that we could choose 3 drinks, 1 from each category of cold, hot and alcoholic. Soon, we were served our meals, together with all the drinks we had chosen. My hot drink was served later, not that I am complaining, guess there was not enough space on the tray. The hot drink was served in a styrofoam cup and I thought they could do better than that.
For our meal, we had chosen Cheesy Mushroom Panini during the booking. There was quite a lot of mushrooms in it. There usually isn’t a time I would call a sandwich bad, unless it really is very bad, so overall, I enjoyed my sandwich. Plus I was more happy that I was not airsick and could even eat! Of all the flights I have taken in my life, the only time I was not airsick and actually ate a meal was on a business class flight on Cathay Pacific. So, now I can only conclude that the lack of room in economy seats make me sick. :p
The rest of the flight was uneventful since there was no entertainment at all. I was expecting at least some music to listen to, but well, that was wrong expectation. The service was pretty good, not exceptional, but pretty ok. I asked for a blanket but was told it was only provided for night flights. A little disappointed there.
Reaching Bangkok – SIM card
Upon landing, the first thing we did was to go get SIM cards. The booths for the SIM cards are just at the arrival hall, so just look around.
I had read on the internet that the 2 more common ones are from TrueMove and DTAC.
1) DTAC Happy Tourist Sim.
– 49 Baht for free 15Baht worth of calls and 1 day of free 3G internet upon activation
– 299 Baht for free 100Baht worth of calls and unlimited 3G/wifi for 7 days
I found the TrueMove website not too clear with the information. But we went to the booth anyway.
Like in Koh Samui, they also gave out free SIM cards. But those only came with a low value, enough to make a few local calls. So we chose something with data, which was…
– 99Baht (S$4) for 70MB of data and 15 minutes worth of local calls.
Just pass your phone to the lady at the counter, she will do all the settings for you.
70MB did not sound like a lot, but was enough to get us through the 4 days, with some Whatsapping, some light surfing, reading news and sending a few pictures. We were able to check how much data was left by sending a message to a given number.
*In fact, after doing all these, we still had more than half the data quota unused by the last day. Downside though, coverage was sketchy at times. Quite a few times, we were unable to connect, especially when in the train or in the hotel.
Our hotel – Pathumwan Princess
On my first visit to Bangkok about 4 years back, we stayed in the Baiyoke Sky hotel. Rooms were big but poorly lit and the shape and arrangement of furniture in the room was awkward. Corridors were inadequately lit. Breakfasts were ok, room service tasted terrible. The only things I enjoyed were the free shuttle to the major shopping areas and the views from the observation deck and the restaurant on the top floor, and that was about it. The massage was mediocre. Hotel staff were not always friendly.Though it had been 4 years now, judging from the reviews on popular traveller websites, I think they are still pretty much the same as before. Overall, forgettable, I don’t think I would choose to stay there again, even if it was half the price of what we paid this time.
So this time, we chose something better. We were deciding between the Pathumwan Princess and Anantara Riverside. I was leaning towards the Anantara Riverside because of its resort surroundings and an irregular shaped pool appealed more to me (you can tell I’m not much of a swimmer). But since the weather forecasts showed it was all thunderstorms and rain during those weeks, we reckon having to take the river shuttle everywhere we go might be a little more hassle. So we booked our stay at the Pathumwan Princess instead. It is linked to MBK shopping center, which everyone in Bangkok knows.
It was about 7pm+ in the evening after we were done with the SIM cards. The taxi ride from the airport to hotel was smooth and pretty quick, just about 30 minutes. We paid 500Baht for the ride ( I know, people will say “use the meter!” or that we were ripped off), it wasn’t really expensive to be honest. We had a comfortable ride and an enjoyable time chatting with the driver, who told us with pride that he had bought a piece of land and built a house for his family, and that he had bought his taxi, an MPV, which was more expensive than the normal sedan ones. He especially warmed my heart when he said with a smile, in his broken English, that it is ok if he does not earn big money, but is important that his passengers are happy, because when they are happy, he is happy. I only wish such self-contentedness is more common back home, but then we live in a far more competitive and materialistic society I guess.
We quickly checked in and then went to MBK but at about 8pm+, most of the shops were closing for the day. There was not much to do except to grab a bowl of noodles, go back to the hotel room, take a nice hot shower and go to bed.
Next morning’s breakfast was buffet style in the hotel. As expected of 5-star hotels, the variety was pretty good. The selection was wider at Bandara Resorts at Koh Samui, but I mean, you can put 200 types of food, but how much can I eat? So, this is very good selection for me, Bandara’s was fantastic. We caught up on some emails using free WiFi in our room. You can pay if you need hi speed access but normal WiFi of up to 128kbps was enough for us. Then we were out and about to catch the train to the weekend market at Chatuchak.
Weekend Market – Chatuchak
Most of the Singaporean population has been here. Maybe half a dozen times or more, but not me. It’s my first. It was huge. I could not feel how big it was, until I looked at the map.
There were rows and rows of little shops selling all sorts of stuff.
It was late morning and not all the stalls were opened yet. But by noon, almost all were.
We only briefly browsed through the section selling clothes and shoes, because we were really not intending to get anything there, and fashionable are not exactly apt adjectives to describe Mr D and me. Though there are so many stalls, there is quite a good variety. Of course some stalls sold the same stuff as others, but not as much duplication as I had expected initially.
But it was hot. I used many pieces of tissue for my perspiration which dripped like a tap. Then after about less than 3 hours there, we decided to leave. I had bought some bulky items and did not want to lug them around. Besides it was going to rain and we did not want to be stuck in the market. There are so many sections of the market we had not explored. Maybe another time then.
As we were in the taxi back to the hotel with our stuff, the rain had stopped and the sun was out again. This taxi driver told us it had been raining less compared to the previous week. Again we chatted with him and enjoyed the conversation. I find chatting with taxi drivers pretty interesting and a good way to get a glimpse about the people and their lives. He told us he has 2 children but it is expensive to bring them up. He did not live in the city and only goes back home once every 2 weeks. He told us with pride (again!) that he had bought his taxi, it is his car, so he can bring us anywhere we wanted to go. He also asked if we had transport to the airport on the last day of our visit. We did not, so he offered to come drive us to the airport, for 500 Baht, and we agreed.
The massage – Urban Retreat Spa
After a short rest at the hotel, we made our way to the spa where we had made a booking for massage. I had found the place on Tripadvisor and decided to give it a try. The rates seemed reasonable.
Every time I go for a massage, I would unconsciously compare the massage with the one at Angsana Bintan, and none are as good so far (maybe I haven’t been to enough spas). Every time we were there, the therapists never fail us. It wasn’t just the massage, it was the whole experience, and they are very good at the small details in making the whole experience wonderful for me.
We went to this Urban Retreat Spa right beside the Phrom Phong BTS station. The rooms were no frills, but had 2 shower stalls where we were asked to take a shower before beginning our massage. For tired bodies, any massage would make us feel more relaxed. But the massages here were really quite good. Of course the atmosphere cannot be compared to one in a resort style environment and some little details were neglected, but the therapist working on my body was great. The massage was good. I even like the cushy bedroom slipper they let us wear and the disposable underwear we had to put on felt so comfortable I almost forgot to change out of it. We left the place with new bodies.
After dinner, we had a rest and then went to soak in the jacuzzi at the hotel. They are 2 hot tubs beside the swimming pool and is closed at 10.30pm daily. Our bodies relaxed like jelly and we slept like logs that night.
This year, our Prime Minister covered a whole range of topics in his National Day Rally. I am quite glad he brought up topics on how we can improve our behaviour. It sounds a little like a parent telling kids how they should behave, remind what is good and what is bad, but really, Singaporeans are like a bunch of kids sometimes.
As I am growing older, I am more and more disappointed and dismayed at the behaviour of Singaporeans in many areas. Lack of tolerance, impatience, self-centredness and selfishness. That sums it up quite well. I am sure when something big happens, perhaps at a national level, we will stand together as one. But during peacetime on a daily basis, many just think about “me, me and me”
People say you can build a senior citizen’s day care centre, but not in my backyard. Drivers drive in very aggressive and impatient ways. Parents sending their children to school (or more than 1 school!) as young as 3 and doing all they can to ensure that children excel in exams and other academic area, but not spending time to teach them values and acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of every child. Parents are so afraid their children will lose out, that the Prime Minister, in his National Day Rally, had to remind people to let their children play and have their childhood. That alone sounds like something is really wrong with us and our system.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to the radio and it happened to be the week of PSLE exams. This is a major exam all students take when they are 12. Results of that exam determine what secondary school you can gain entry to. Naturally, the top schools require a higher score for entry. Since everyone wants to get into a top school, this exam becomes very very important. It’s too bad if you happen to be a late developer.
What was on the radio that week, during the lunchtime song request program was many parents calling in, saying that they were feeling very stressed up because their children were having the PSLE exams that week. Many of them had took leave from work to be with their children during that week. I felt puzzled.
My mother had never taken leave from work for our school exams. I mean, what could she have done even if she had taken leave for that few days? Sit beside us and force us to study 12 hours a day? Brew herbal soup for us and hoping those made us smarter at the last minute? Honestly, none of that would not have made any difference. It’s fair to say exams in those days are less difficult than these days, but why do I get the feeling that the parents these days are more stressed than their children about the exams? And do they not know the anxiety gets passed on to the kids?
I did pretty well in my PSLE and my score got me into one of the top secondary schools. My sister’s grades were quite a big gap from mine. Did that matter now? Not at all. We both got into university eventually, and she is doing well in her career while I am now choosing a route away from the corporate world, which some might say is a waste of my degree.
Our country has progressed and come a long way since we were independent. Our country, and our people are no longer worrying about basic needs like food, shelter, basic education. We have a lot of complains and “first world” issues. But I think we have reached a stage when our people have to develop as human beings. We want to be better people inside, with real hearts, cultivate good values and where we really respect others and think for others. The government is trying hard to get people to get married and to have children. Have more children, because our population is not going to replace ourselves if we continue this low birth rate. They give monetary rewards and what-nots. Doesn’t work with me.
And lately, we have been hearing so many sex-related crimes – female teachers having sex with students(!), teacher who takes videos of girls in toilet, sex-for-contracts case, sex-for-grades case and a high profile case of many men having sex with an underaged girl. What’s wrong with everyone!?? Too stressed up?? Are we all giving ourselves all these stress?