How not to break the bank in Bangkok
SA WAH Dee Ka! The Banyan Tree welcome letter was itself a delight, listing the multitude free things offered with our 5-star hotel package - breakfast buffet, daily club lounge, laundry and free cocktails
Hard as it was to leave the hotel, Bangkok proved a delightful place to visit.
Quintessentially smoggy, concrete and high density, it's surprisingly clean, with smiling people and a deep sense of history that you don't really feel in Australia.
With Google map downloaded and Luxe Guide aboard, my sister Mary Bridget and I went out for a two-hour Thai massage at Health Land, 15 minutes walk from the breakfast buffet.
Side by side in a room, we were gently squidged and stretched into our holiday. Total price, $52.
Limping the streets afterwards, we visited an art gallery in a gorgeous heritage home and marvelled at the quirky curves of the laneways and post-modern mess of overhead wires creating a canopy in every street.
Later at the hotel's famous Moon Bar we joined an Aussie friend and her journalist mate from Brisbane who has lived in Bangkok for 30 years. Moon Bar cocktail, $20.
I love both Thai food and a bargain, so my favourite meal of the trip was at the MBK shopping centre - mushroom soup, fried spun egg and rice. Cost, $2.50.
The other end of the foodie spectrum was Eat Me, a modern fusion restaurant owned by Australian siblings and where I tried street food cocktails like Laab-Moo, garnished with a slice of crispy bacon. Cost, $17.
The prize for best dinner experience, however, went to Flying Chicken. Our Brisbane-Bangkok friend, Mr Andrew Biggs. as the Thai people call him, took us there and we were greeted like celebrities. We were seated at a choice table right next to a catwalk which cut curiously through the restaurant.
The smiling staff bought us fans. Andrew ordered barbequed chicken, deep fried whole fish, Som Tam (green papaya salad - the Thai national dish), Kai Jeow (omelette) and Kra Pao (minced pork and basil).
Then suddenly, commotion. A man on the catwalk is ringing a bell, holding a roast chicken aloft. Another enters on a unicycle, wearing a helmet bearing a unicorn-style spike.
Unicycle man wheels off stage as the chicken is placed on a catapult device. Excitement builds and the bell rings more. The unicycle speeds towards the stage and the catapult clunks. The roast chicken flies through the air and is expertly speared on the helmet.
Dinner cost, don't know as Andrew paid.
Next day I walked to M.R. Kukrit's Heritage Home. It' a green oasis amongst Bangkok's concrete jungle. Entry, $2.
Using Grab, Thailand's Uber, I ordered a motorbike rather than a car and flew pillion across town (and full of adrenalin) to another historic estate, Jim Thompson House. There was loads of tourists, a gorgeous pavilion architecture and great espresso. Motorbike ride, $3.50. Entry, $7.
It's hard to briefly encapsulate everything Bangkok offers including Wat Po (golden reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace and Chatuchak markets.
Head to the Mandarin Oriental river jetty where a porter can arrange a long boat tour of the river and canals providing an intriguing view of Bangkok life. Cost, $45.