1-21 December 2014
Greetings from Bangkok again,
After all the many times I've visited Bangkok it is always a surprise to discover one of the features previously overlooked, especially if it is marvelous. The Golden Buddha Statue in the temple of Wat Traimit near China town is one of those marvelous misses (excellent 3 min YouTube video). So, that oversight needed to be corrected and one day I rode the BTS train over to the Saphan Taksin stop next to the river and walked north where I found people celebrating the King's birthday in formal regalia around the temple serving as the permanent home for the priceless solid gold casting of a seated Buddha.
I took a lot of pictures around the temple after admiring the masterful craftsmanship of the artist responsible for sculpting the original design and then pouring the 5.5 tons of molten gold into the mould. That devoted artisan must have spent half a lifetime finishing the highly polished surface of this extraordinary work. Later, thinking about the finished product, it occurred to me that other sculptural representations of Buddhas have been more impressive, but the enigmatic history of this particular sculpture makes it unique and special. To see what I mean, watch this excellent 74 minute YouTube BBC documentary.
China provided an interesting change of pace, but the onerous government management of the Internet by Draconian censors made online access difficult and unreliable. So, naturally I rejoiced on arrival in Thailand which always has been Internet friendly in the past. This time however, turned out to be different!
I'm still working my way through a slow reentry back into normal travel life. This first week of freedom after the onerous limitations on my relationship with the World Wide Web has been filled with numerous challenges related to Internet communications. First, all my devices used for Internet access have been behaving strangely and the hotel WiFi services have been intermittently unreliable. On top of that, the installed copy of Windows 7 on my Netbook became next to useless. So, I reinstalled it only to discover Microsoft thinks "This copy of windows is not genuine." I've seen that message in the past, but following Microsoft instructions have been able to activate the product and get rid of the nasty message. (I don't think my copy is illegal, but how would I know if someone got hold of my product ID and is using it illegally?)
The nasty Internet connectivity idiosyncrasies started after I crossed the border into the Middle Kingdom. Anything even remotely connected with Google is being blocked. While access became a problem immediately, the most troubling impediments occurred while on the island of Hainan. Only later, after checking the literature back in Bangkok did I discover a scary reality: the Chinese cyber warfare activity widely discussed by Western media for several years is centered on that very island! Is there a connection? I don't know, but that seems to be where I picked up the bugs or at least where the strangest behaviors of my machines began. (During my research into the Chinese connection to cybersnooping I ran into this interesting Forbes page showing the real-time worldwide cyber attacks activity; fascinating!) Most of my time here in Bangkok has been spent hunched over the Netbook trying to get normal access working again. I do take walks everyday, but the tips of my fingers are getting a heavy workout.
The connecting flight from Hong Kong arrived in Bangkok after 20:00 so I decided to use a "crash pad" hotel for the first night. The Nasa Vegas Hotel is located adjacent to the Ramkhamhaeng station on the airport rail link. Unfortunately, I got off at the similar looking station name: Ratchaprarop and had to back track, finally reaching the hotel near 22:00. Tired and being so late, I took one of their "better" rooms without checking it based on prior knowledge of the hotel. One should never do that! I've had better accommodations in YMCAs! Maintenance has deteriorated in the four years since I last considered the Nasa Vegas an acceptable budget hotel for travelers with early morning flights... or I got one of their "dogs" this time.
As soon as I got settled in the Nasa Vegas I quickly checked Agoda for room rate deals at several of my previously used houses. The four star Ambassador Hotel offered deluxe rooms with breakfast for $66, so I booked a room for two nights. My $40 room in the Nasa Vegas included breakfast which passed the barely acceptable test. Immediately after breakfast I dashed out, bought my 525Bhat 15 ride BTS pass and rode down to Nana station which is closest to the Ambassador.
The rooms in the newly remodeled Ambassador tower are excellent in every way. Unfortunately, both the in-room cable and WiFi Internet access proved to be compromised and I spent most of my time struggling with the connections or "consulting with the hotel IT people" who are poorly trained and address problems by repeating: "No one else is having problems!"
After three irritating nights I decided to switch to the Grand President Hotel several buildings down the alleyway where I had previously determined Internet access to be much more reliable. When I tried to check in, I learned the room would not be available for another couple hours, but I could wait in the lobby if I wished. Around 1:30 the receptionist waved me over as the room was now available. Booking the room on line with Agoda imagine my disgust when I discovered they had put me in the worst room in the house adjacent to a parking structure and definitely not the "deluxe" room I'd confirmed on line. My angry complaints resulted in a receptionist revealing the house to be fully booked, so there were no alternatives... though adding the situation might change later in the afternoon as guests checked out and that I should check back later.
On return from a long walk around 15:00 the reception desk manager met me with a feeble apology and indicated he had a different room for me to consider. Three times the size of the "closet" I'd gotten initially, I acknowledged it would be better than the first assignment. That room turned out to be cold with no heater, poor lighting at the work desk, the same dismal view of the building across the hotel entryway drive and Internet connectivity only excellent every now and then. However, I was able to reach Microsoft's automatic telephone activation system and after multiple tries eventually get my newly reinstalled copy of Windows 7 activated during my unpleasant two night stay.
During all these irritating hotel interactions I managed to crack the glass screen of my AllWinner Android tablet. The touch screen feature now only works on the right half of the screen, making the tablet all but useless. I should just throw the damned thing out, but some functions like the large clock display still work and being pecuniarily challenged find that logical course of action almost impossible to follow! (Sorry for this babbling bitching diatribe...)
Naturally, I kept searching for better accommodations and fortunately spotted the twenty story Furama Hotel over on Silom Bulivard during one of my extended walks. Walk-in room rates of 2500 Baht net and truly deluxe rooms, plus a luncheon buffet among the best I've found in Bangkok, convinced me to check the on-line booking agents for discounts. Agoda this time did not have any special discount offers. In fact, they listed rates just slightly higher than those offered by the hotel receptionist. Anxious to get out of the Grand President, I went ahead and made the online booking for three days at the Agoda site. The Furama Silom Hotel turns out to be an excellent property in many ways. At about $77, it is not the cheapest deluxe deal I've found in this city, but the Silom district will be a pleasant change of pace from the Nana area where I've spent most of my previous times in Bangkok.
When the initial three day Furama reservation ended I extended it a couple times while making painfully slow progress with the postcards and email... and still need to do more research for my next adventure destination! The room has its idiosyncrasies; the glass enclosed bathroom with Venetian blinds is elevated a foot above the room floor and requires a "mountain" climb for every entry... sometimes a bit problematic in the groggy dark wee hours. That, plus dim bathroom sink lighting, no doubt designed to create a romantic atmosphere given the picture window view of the bathtub and shower from the bed area. Two of the electrical outlets needed to keep all my battery powered gadgets working are faulty. Initially, the hotel housekeeping service earned only phrase; all make up activity happened in my absence while at breakfast. Then, starting on the sixth day my room got "overlooked" until I hung the "Make up room" sign on the door. The same thing happened the next day so I visited the reception desk to complain and was told the room only gets made up daily if I hang the sign!
The breakfast buffet selections have been extensive, but unvaryingly unimaginative and the serving staff is poorly trained and preoccupied. The F&B operation is more concerned with internal procedures than guest attention! A glass hopper style cereal dispenser contains layers of four different cereals so diners must accept whichever one happens to be at the bottom of the stack and management thinks this is acceptable! Every morning I see mostly unavailable tables as previous guests' dishes have not been cleared away or empty tables have not been set up for newly arriving guests. Napkins are rationed: one per guest! A management review of the F&B operation is badly needed in this hotel.
Weekdays the hotel offers a $13 luncheon buffet which initially included a small selection of sashimi, one of my favorites. The sashimi disappeared on the third day and the 11:30 to 14:00 serving time means I must hustle to beat the eager staff food removal process promptly at 14:01!
I am slowly realizing that all around the world motivated pockets of the exploited, ignored, excluded masses are mobilizing for action. From the democracy protests in Hong Kong China to the Third World immigration floods from economically depressed and war ravaged regions in both hemispheres, to the increasing calls for a more equitable distribution of income and wealth in the highly developed countries; desperate people are rising up and yelling: "We ain't gonna to take it any more!" If the pundits are right, we are in for a cataclysmic economic revolution! ... but that has been erroneously predicted many times before.
With more than enough for everyone, unequal distribution is at the core of the current angry protests. Limiting world population would slow the increasing demand for non renewable resources, but that would interfere with the almighty GROWTH needed for continued prosperity (exploitation). The fabulously wealthy Oligarchy call for GROWTH of all kinds to fuel economic prosperity, but the resulting prosperity increase goes disproportionately to those who already have more than enough of everything! Collectively, we have lost sight of the fact that people who live in egalitarian societies like Denmark- where everyone enjoys a similar level of access to the necessities of life are happier than their money grubbing capitalist counterparts in the economically "advantaged" parts of the world. Besides conserving our natural resources for future generations, sustainability makes more sense in other ways too, perceived personal wellbeing for one.
I have my EasyETA Australian Visa and a JetStar plane reservation for Darwin on 21 December (tomorrow), arriving the next day Monday at the crack of dawn. So, the next missive will likely come from somewhere "Down Under." 'til then...
Fred L Bellomy
Bangkok Thailand 2014: Some of the handmade devotional offerings on sale at the entrance to the ... the location of the Golden Buddha Statue in the temple of Wat Traimit near China town.