Test and Go/A Few Days in Bangkok

The hotel we had booked for our Test & Go package was supposed to have a representative waiting for us outside the baggage claim area. They didn’t, but there was a person that had a master list of all foreigners arriving and which hotel they were staying at. He located our shuttle van driver who whisked us away from the airport. It’s normally a 45-minute drive from the airport to downtown Bangkok but there was very little traffic. Our driver apparently didn’t speak any English, or at least at least he didn’t want to converse, so we had a quiet drive in! He stopped at a hospital where they were expecting us; our pre-labeled covid tests were waiting. The nurse had us roll down our windows and jammed the swab all the way up into our brains, or at least that’s what it felt like! For all of the tests we took in the US, we were given the swab and self-administered the test. Not the case here!

At about 12:45 am, we arrived at the hotel. Check-in was quick and painless. We were given a breakfast menu and told we could get as many items off the menu as we wanted. We made our choices and marked when we wanted the food delivered. We were shown up to our suite overlooking the Chao Praya River. Though it was the middle of the night in Bangkok, it was about 10 am in Seattle, so though we were tired, we weren’t sure we could immediately fall asleep. Instead, we relaxed on our balcony where the temperature outside was in the low 80’s. The hotel was located right on the river, next to the Four Seasons. If you go to Bangkok, I recommend it (Chatrium Hotel Riverside). The only negative was that the first night, we found a few cockroaches. We reported it and didn’t have any further issues.

We slept really well that first night! At least I did after having been up for a day and a half with virtually no sleep. By the time I got up in the morning, our negative Covid test results had already been delivered – we were free! No quarantining in our room necessary. Nonetheless, 3 meals were included in our package, and we fully intended to make use of that benefit. We had a menu to select lunch and dinner from. There were both Western and Thai dishes. I think I had spaghetti Bolognese and salad for lunch; dinner was deep fried soft-shell crabs and pad Thai. Clayton ordered black bean chicken for lunch and was mighty surprised that the Thai version is quite a bit spicier than the Chinese version we have at home! Dinner was pizza, which was large enough that it provided 2 meals.

Once our food needs were taken care of (always a priority for me!) we decided to walk around the neighborhood and find a place for a massage. We were curious to see how Covid had affected daily life in Bangkok. Thailand is very tourism-dependent and there has been essentially no tourism for nearly two years. We found many shops and restaurants in the neighborhood had closed. We did, however, find a great place for a foot massage. All was not lost.

We stayed in Bangkok several days. This was our third trip there, so we had already hit the major tourist attractions. Our plan was to adjust to the 15-hour time difference before flying to Chiang Mai. As such, I don’t have too much to report from our stay.

 What we didn’t know until we arrived was that there were two important national holidays taking place during our visit. As such, the hotel shuttle boat that takes you to the closes BTS (skytrain) station didn’t start until 10 am daily (holiday schedule) and only ran every hour. We really like getting places when they open, especially important when the temperature reaches the low 90’s in the late morning. And, since the BTS is crowded, we decided that it probably isn’t the best mode of transportation right now. So, we took cabs to get around. We were shocked at how cheap they were. The few places we visited were each about 30 minutes per trip; including a generous tip, each ride cost only $3!

We saw very few farangs in Bangkok but there were lots of Thai tourists visiting the big city for the holidays.

Because of the lack of crowds, I talked Clayton into revisiting the Grand Palace. We went there on our first trip to Bangkok. It was so crowded with large tour groups that the experience was fairly miserable. It’s hard to enjoy a place when you are constantly being jostled and pushed. We arrived about ten minutes before the palace opened. There were about 10 Thais in front of us in line. Red dots were painted on the ground to help with social distancing. One thing I should mention about Thailand is that every place you enter does a temperature scan. The Grand Palace also had a security guard spray everyone’s hands with sanitizer. They also provided free personal-sized hand sanitizer bottles for everyone entering. After getting through the Covid screening/security, we were given a dot sticker to wear so that the guards inside the palace know that you had been screened. We were the only people that had to pay to enter the Palace; Thais enter for free. We were the only farangs there that morning. Most of the Thais visiting were there to visit the Emerald Buddha. They were bringing all sorts of offerings. One family each brought a bouquet of beautiful flowers; there must have been 8 or more bouquets.

I took lots of photos because I could! No trying to take a picture over the heads of the crowds because there were no crowds! It was an amazing visit. A couple of the most beautiful and interesting places didn’t allow photos, so no Emerald Buddha or Textile Museum pictures to share. But, here are a few pictures that I took:

From the Grand Palace we hopped a cab to Siam Paragon, the largest mall in Bangkok. We really didn’t want to shop but we did want to people watch and soak up the air conditioning. We grabbed a couple of drinks from Starbucks and watched people shop. Though Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, Christmas fever has hit there. Everywhere had Christmas decorations and all of the musak (piped in background music) was of the Christmas variety. We had lunch at the mall and headed back to our hotel to relax for the remainder of the day.

The next day, I wanted to visit Lumphini Park. I had read that there are water monitor lizards there and I wanted to see them. The park itself is very popular on the weekend (or at least it was when we were there!). Lots of local folks go there to exercise. There were walkers, joggers, bicyclists, tai chi enthusiasts, and Muay Thai enthusiasts working out. Free exercise equipment is available throughout the park, though we didn’t see anyone using it. One guy that was doing Muay Thai training with a couple of people stopped Clayton and used hand gestures to indicate that he could help Clayton get rid of his belly. LOL! We got a good laugh out of that!

There is a small lake (or is it a large pond?) that runs through the park. Clayton spotted the first lizard there. Though they can grow up to 8 feet in length, this one looked to be perhaps 4 or 5 feet long. We spotted another lizard or two swimming. And I learned that they do not stick to the water since I almost walked into one! Fortunately, I saw it in time and was able to take a picture or two. Another fairly large one was around the corner. He was sticking his tongue out at me and starting to move in my direction, so we decided to move on. We walked around the park for a bit and then hopped a cab back to the hotel.

That’s about all I have to report from Bangkok. We spent much of our time relaxing rather than sightseeing. After spending three days there, it was time to move on to our home for the next couple of months, Chiang Mai!