SHANGRI-LA. NO, REALLY!
That evening after dinner, Conway made occasion to leave the others and stroll out into the calm, moon-washed courtyards. Shangri-La was lovely then, touched with the mystery that lies at the core of all loveliness. Conway was physically happy, emotionally satisfied and mentally at ease.
Everybody should, just once in their life, get to spend a night in a five-star hotel. My chance came in Bangkok when a combination of dumb luck, linguistic confusion and a mis-read reservation (I think they assumed my first name was Conrad) landed me in Room 1124 of the Shangri-La Hotel. Shangri-La indeed. Fifteen elegant stories on the banks of the Chaio Phraya river deep in the dank and fragrant underbelly of Bangkok. The lobby is bigger than a tennis court and decorated with outrageously huge bouquets of flowers and stunning marble statuary – everything from elephants to vases capacious enough to hide Ali Baba and a few close friends.
The difference between Room 1124 of the Shangri-La in Bangkok and, say, room 112 of a Ramada Inn at Pearson International? You’re cognizant of the difference between night and day? Holt Renfrew and a Seven-Eleven? A Bentley and a Ford Escort? This isn’t a room it’s a pied a terre for a prince. The bathroom is bigger than some motel cribs I’ve rented. There are linen sheets and fluffy robes and a TV screen the size of a Drive-In Theatre. There’s Chivas Regal in the minibar; even the memo pad by every phone (there are three) is finest vellum. The panoramic window gives a 180 degree view of the mighty, sinuous Chaio Phraya river down below with its garlands of fishing smacks, barges, excursion boats, tugs, ferries and the ubiquitous ‘long-tail boats’ – sampans with mighty motors and 15-foot drive shafts tilted so that the propeller barely skims the water surface.
Bangkok is a city of – corny but true – contrasts. Tiny hovels with corrugated roofs and teetering on stilts jostle for riverbank space with lofty ultra-modern hi-rises 30, 40, 50 storeys high. And Bangkok is officially known as the City That Never Sleeps. Too true. The lights from vehicles swooshing across the city bridges and expressways sweep across the walls of Room 1124 as busily at three AM as they do just after sundown.
Shangri-La is but one of a host of five-star hotels in this very busy city, and the Bangkok Shangri-La is just one of 18 Shangri-Las in a chain that encircles the globe in venues as various as Paris and Abu Dhabi; Shanghai and Sydney, Australia. The hotel staff is superhumanly friendly, the food is unsurpassable. I know that, barring a lottery windfall, I shall not pass this way again. O joy, O bliss.
Conrad, eat your heart out.
READ MORE BALI, BANGKOK AND BEYOND
ENTRY 1: FROM BALI
ENTRY 2: MORE FROM BALI
ENTRY 3: CROSSING THE EQUATOR
ENTRY 4: FROM SINGAPORE
ENTRY 5A: HO CHI MINH CITY
ENTRY 5B: IN VIETNAM, DON’T ORDER THE MUTT-ON
ENTRY 5C: TRAFFIC TRAUMA – VIETNAMESE STYLE
ENTRY 6: AN INTERESTING SIDE TRIP
ENTRY 7: THAILAND: A FRUITFUL DESTINATION
ENTRY 8: AH, SHANGRI-LA. NO, REALLY
ENTRY 9: HOCKEY IN THE TROPICS
BALI, BANGKOK AND BEYOND
Arthur Black travelled on a Voyages to Antiquity cruise called Bali, Bangkok and Beyond on a cruise tour offered through Exclusive Tours. Read all about his adventures on board the Aegean Odyssey, a modern, slimmed-down cruise ship (only 350 passengers) making its way from Bali to Bangkok by way of Singapore, Saigon, Sihanoukville and Angkor Wat. His travel diary can be accessed by clicking the links above. Happy reading!
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