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Our time in Bangkok was limited. We were using this time to relax from more than a week of schlepping through Myanmar and in addition to a wonderful luxury hotel, we wanted some phenomenal food. Thai cuisine is one of my favorites – and spending so much time in Myanmar, with their bland, forgettable food, we needed something amazing. The 50 Best Restaurants in the World list has lead us to some great places and the first thing that popped up when we looked in Bangkok was Gaggan (#7 at the time). While not Thai, but a modern take on Indian, we decided it was a must visit.
We booked reservations a few weeks before we left Chicago and were able to get seats at the chefs table doing the tasting menu. Gaggan, the restaurant, is captained by Gaggan Anand and has been open since 2010 and according to Wikipedia, his plan was to re-envision Indian food into a refined, fine dining experience — he truly succeeded. The interiors of the restaurant are muted, with lots of whites and beiges, it just helps to bring your focus to the food.
Our reservations were at 21h30 and we were fortunate enough (and quite by chance) that we could walk from the St. Regis to Gaggan. It was quite humid – it is Bangkok you know, but the walk was less than 10 minutes and it would have been utterly insane to take a taxi. We arrived shortly before 21h00 – I mistakenly thought we’d be able to grab a drink at the bar, but no such luck. We arrived early and waited about 10 minutes then were escorted upstairs to the large horseshoe bar area surrounding the kitchen.
The menu was delivered almost immediately when we sat down. There were no comments or directions, just the menu. Just Emojis. Just simple color printings on velum. Just emojis…A ton of them…25 to be exact. A 25 course tasting menu starting at 21h30 now seems like quite the daunting task. Remember, 15 hours ago we were hopping on a bus, heading to the airport in Heho, Myanmar for our two flight trip to Bangkok.
Unfortunately there wasn’t an option for wine pairings with dinner. We could select bottles or by the glass if we wanted though. We asked the sommelier (who wasn’t a Master Sommelier) for guidance and this was by far the most disappointing part of our entire trip. His response: “Well, I’d suggest you get what you like.” Ok, I get it. With this many courses, we aren’t going to pair a new wine with each of the 25 courses, but with an emoji menu, we need some guidance. We didn’t get any. When we asked about a specific wine, we were told it was good and we should get it. When I asked if it made more sense to start with a glass of champagne first, then jump into a white or would the champagne do well for the first few courses, his response, was the same – “Do what you want.” If he would have said something about the first 16 courses are quite varied so a traditional pairing won’t work, but I’d recommend two to three glasses (even all at the same time) and then pairing them separately with the various courses, I’d have bitten and got three to four glasses of wine. As it was, we ended up with two glasses each. I was looking for the full experience here and the sommelier really did not deliver.
Chef came out and welcomed us all, asking us to introduce ourselves to our fellow diners and say where we were from. There were a couple Americans dining with us, but none who still lived in North America. We were surrounded by mostly people living in Bangkok. We were then told that the first 15 or so courses would be quick-fires (single bites that come out in rapid succession – which does lead back to the trouble with proper pairings), then we’d move into slightly larger courses, but nothing would be a full and proper meal course.
The first plate was set down in front of us at 21h28 and another course would be dropped every 2-5 minutes. It started to feel like a whirlwind. Everything was so tasty – great texture, great flavor combinations and a truly one of a kind delivery.
The final course, the Strawberry Ghewar was delivered at 23h12. We were full. We were sleepy. We were pleased to have visited Gaggan. The restaurant will be closing in 2020, so if you have a plan to visit Bangkok, I highly recommend you stop by and pay Mr. Anand and his team a visit. After he shutters Gaggan in Bangkok he’s moving his restaurant to Japan — yes, it’ll be on my short list for sure.
Before we departed, we were given the full menu – and by full menu, I mean one with words. Not an elaborate menu, mind you, but one that provided much more detail than the emoji menu we encountered upon our arrival.
Our final stop on our trip to Myanmar was the St. Regis Bangkok. We’ve stayed at this property at the end of our last two week trip through Southeast Asia (after we visited Vietnam and Cambodia). Staying in luxury hotels is very easy in Bangkok – there are a ton of them and they are so much more reasonably priced in this market than anywhere else I have seen in the world.
We figured it would be utterly foolish to book the St. Regis on points, as it goes for 30,000 Starpoints each night or we could pay cash for only 150USD per night. We opted for the latter and as an SPG Platinum member who stays 50+ nights annually, I am awarded 10-suite night upgrades, which I used two for our stay in Bangkok. We were only going to be there a single night, but our flight home (via Munich) was scheduled to leave around 01h00 and we didn’t want to deal with luggage handling or vacating our room at 16h00 then finding something to do for four or five hours, especially at this price point.
After ditching those Oregonians who wanted to split a cab into the City, we pulled up to the main door at the St. Regis, around 16h00 and were greeted by several doormen, all smiling, bowing and graciously taking our luggage. Reception is on the 12th floor of the hotel, while the first floor houses several seating areas, a chocolate retailer and a Concierge Desk and what appeared to be a Tour desk. Our luggage was whisked away and we were escorted to the main elevator and walked directly to a young German man who was waiting to check us in.
We did not catch this German’s name (I know he told us, but we forgot). We called him Rolf (from the Sound of Music…not because we thought he was a member of the National Socialist Party, but because he looked like the actor who played him in the film). He was young and seemed a bit confused during most of our interactions. He was clicking and typing away as he confirmed our stay details, scanned our passports and made small talk. He had been in Bangkok for a six month rotation with SPG and he was very excited to get out. He didn’t like the heat. He was heading off to Madrid and would do a six month rotation at the Westin Palace, which we had stayed a year or two prior to this visit to Bangkok.
Rolf welcomed me as a Gold member and informed me that he had personally upgraded us to a standard room with a better view because of my loyalty and before I could correct him, he began telling me all about the benefits of being a Gold Member. I let him finish. I then told him I was a Platinum member and that we were confirmed into a Suite. He suggested that SPG had downgraded me to Gold for some reason (perish the thought). It looks like the St. Regis wasn’t pulling all the current info on my record into their systems, but were just using the info from my most recent stay (Gold Status and old US address). It took some convincing – and asking him to check with someone else on our status and our room. He did and got it cleared up. He graciously personally upgraded us to the room that we had been confirmed into five days prior. We were happy with the result but the round about way to get there was frustrating.
Rolf escorted us to our room and showed us all the features. We didn’t have much Thai Baht on us at that time and we wanted to make sure the more local folks would get that, so we tipped Rolf in Euros which he seemed to appreciate (he had less than a week left in Bangkok).
Our room was stunning. The room was way too big for us, especially since we’d be spending little time in the room and only sleeping there one night, but it was very nice to have ample room to stretch out and enjoy the space.
As you open the main door you are greeted by a very long entry way, with an entry table and a beautiful orchid.
To left is the living area, which included a dining area with seating for four, a couch paired with a couple of club chairs facing the TV and closest to the hallway was a bar. The bar had a fancy Siemens Nespresso coffee machine, which was lost on us as we aren’t coffee drinkers. I did make a cup of tea though.
On the dining table the welcome amenity of fresh fruit was waiting our arrival. The fruit was very tasty and the Butler replenished the items we ate when we stepped out.
The room also include small half bath between the main hallway and the living space. Not really a necessity for us, but it was very nice to have.
To the right of the main hallway was the bedroom, which had a TV, a small writing desk and a king sized bed. I love the modern muted colors of the St. Regis. The bed was very comfortable, but during turn down service we were given only milk chocolate, which is pretty standard, but something I’d rather skip. Give me dark or nothing!
The bathroom was large and beautiful. The large shower with a view into the City was separated from the rest of the room and tucked away in the corner. The separate bathtub did not get used this time – last time I had the Butler fill me a bubble bath where I enjoyed champagne and read magazines that I’d schlepped half way around the world.
The water pressure and temperature were phenomenal. The Elemis products (from the spa on site) were perfectly acceptable. I wasn’t really digging the scent, but they did their job and each time we left the room the bathroom was reset with new products (old ones weren’t taken away, but anything that we had used, an additional one was brought in, so we had no fear of running out).
As a Platinum Member, we were welcomed each evening to the Bar on the 12th Floor where a special area was reserved for Platinum members – for a daily reception. This was part of our welcome amenity. Complimentary cocktails and snacks were offered, which I enjoyed both days I was there. I lounged by myself on our second day, as Mike didn’t want to fill up because we had the Thai Royal First Ground Experience plus Royal First on a Thai 747 to Munich too. I’m a glutton, so I had prosecco and snacks before we started our journey home.
I really enjoyed our stay at the St. Regis Bangkok – this stay ended on a much better note than the last time we stayed. No drama with checkout or extremely stressed, panicking staff. I would return to this property again in a heartbeat. We do a poor job of exploring Bangkok when we are here, at this point of our trips, we are usually ready for some luxury and the St. Regis property and the wonderful team who staff her provide exactly what we are looking for.
Where do you stay when in Bangkok? Do you jump in with both feet to the luxury hotels the city offers or do you prefer to save some travel money and visit the more normal hotels that go for as low as 50USD? When in this city, we like to splurge, but love to hear about other properties too. Where should we stay during our next visit to Bangkok?
O’Hare International Airport (ORD) sits just 27 kilometers (17 miles) from Chicago’s Loop (the Central Business District) on the far northwest side of the city. There are three main ways to get to or from ORD from the loop: CTA (subway/elevated train), Metra (Commuter Rail) and Car (taxi, Uber/Lyft, self).
Without fail, I find myself taking the CTA Blue Line whenever I travel to the airport. The ride from the Loop to ORD is 45 minutes. Taking a car (taxi, Uber/Lyft, or driving yourself) is much more variable. Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway is the x-factor here, depending on when you travel, it could tale you less than 30 minutes to 90 minutes (or more).
I’m a guy who doesn’t like to wait around at an airport, so the idea of getting there too early makes me cringe, while the idea of arriving late and missing my flight causes angst. That’s why I take the train. Yes, you can be sitting on the Blue Line (which can smell like pee sometimes) and take a look out the window and see traffic (full of people going to the airport) just whizzing by…you can also be in that same position on another day and find traffic at a complete standstill and YOU are shooting past the backed up car traffic while on the train.
I would rather see vehicle traffic shoot by me and know that I’m still on schedule than sit in a car stuck in traffic. Yes, a car is more comfortable (usually less pee, but not always…has Uber lowered their standards for vehicles lately???) but the peace of mind knowing I will arrive as planned outweighs that short term comfort issue for me.
The Metra (Commuter Line) has service that takes you from Union Station to an Economy Parking Lot at ORD, which then requires you to hop on a shuttle bus to the airport tram system. Two transfers to get to the passenger terminal at ORD just doesn’t make sense to me. The Metra itself is a much nicer and more comfortable ride than the CTA Blue Line, but it also costs twice as much and the ride from Union Station to ORD (the transfer station, where you pick up the shuttle bus to take you to the tram that takes you to the passenger terminals….) takes about 30 minutes. I’ve tried a couple times to try out the Metra connection to ORD, but not all of the trains that serve this commuter line actually stop at ORD. I’ve never been able to make it work and believe me I’ve tried. The nicer commute is reduced by the double transfer for me.
If you are in the Loop or starting your journey anywhere along the three branches of the Blue Line, the CTA is really the only way to go to ORD in my mind. Always plan for a little extra time, as things can go wrong. Don’t give yourself just 45 minutes from the Loop to ORD — if you do, there will invariably be some sort of issue.
How do you prefer to get to ORD when you are in Chicago? Am I missing an aspect of one of these modes that really sells it — or really puts the nail in the coffin? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Chicago’s connected Airports and the best ways around them.
Anyone who thinks regular business travel is glamorous either has never traveled for work or has one of those elusive jobs where you travel to picture perfect places and aren’t dealing with the general public… I have never met anyone with a job like that.
I spent some time in Seattle for work recently, which had consisted of long days and a few technology hiccups, all of which were pretty run of the mill. The flight back home is where things took a stomach churning turn for the worse.
I was seated in 5B on an older B757. I still love United’s B757 for transcontinental travel (not intercontinental though!) – I love turning left for the First Class Cabin. This frees up the aisle so you can get a nice pre-departure beverage and not get bumped by the 100+ people sitting behind you.
All started out well enough. We boarded, we got a drink, we had a quick roll and a flawless take off. Lunch was served and by the time they got to me, the pasta option was gone and only the Beef Provançale was left. The Stew called it the Provonckal…with a very hard “Kah” sound. It tore my Francophile ear to shreds. Fine. I’ll have the beef.
The gentlemen in 6E (across the aisle and one row behind me), began eating his pasta and through my noise cancelling headphones I heard a bit of a commotion. I turn back and I see him profusely vomitting all over his tray of food. I don’t mean he had a little air sickness or a sour stomach. He was profusely coughing, but he wasn’t choking. It was like someone turned on the vomit spigot to full blast. He was just pouring his insides out onto his tray.
The poor guy next to him (trapped in the window seat) began frantically ringing the call button (rightfully so). The Stew came back and saw the mayhem that had commenced and she turns and runs back to the galley. Within 10 seconds she had returned with gloves and a dust mask (for some reason) and a big hefty kitchen trash bag.
He continued to vomit.
She gave him a couple air sickness bags.
He continued to vomit. Not just a regular total evacuation of your insides either. He was pouring vomit from his mouth and nose. And the nose vomit was blowing big bubbles as it escaped, as if the vomit was cheering its new found freedom. It took everything for me not to become his second in a vomit duo 35,000 feet above Idaho.
The Stew grabbed his tray and dumped it into the garbage bag and he, in a muffled, vomit stoked yell, said he wasn’t finished with his meal. Yes, the meal on which he had just regurgitated at least a liter of goo. The Stew ignored him and hurried back to the galley.
The second Stew come back to help, but she’s wearing more personal protective equipment, including what appears to be an apron, but not a traditional serving apron. No, this apron looked like something from Saw or Hostel…it was like she decided the only way to remedy this situation was to dismember this passenger.
Luckily it didn’t come to that.
He had finished vomiting. The Stews did a stellar job of cleaning up all the nastiness that had befallen that seat (at least as I could tell from the relative comfort of Seat 5B).
This guy wasnt drunk. This guy didn’t appear to have issues any other time in the flight. He looked pale, but that often happens when you throw up 5% of your body weight while in transit. He didn’t look sick (like he was undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment…and I can personally attest to how awful those flights are when traveling with someone who is). I don’t know what the trigger was, but I am sure as shit happy as a mother fucking clam that I didn’t sit next to that poor bastard.
Do you think United called in a special maintenance ticket to clean the shit out of that seat…or did the just wipe it down with a Clorox wipe and move on to the next destination. The poor sap who sat in 6E on the next leg likely had no idea what awfulness his seat had just gone through.
Oh the humanity.
What’s the grossest thing you’ve seen while traveling on a plane?
We visit Arizona every summer, usually around the July 4th weekend. These trips allow us to visit family, friends and spend some much needed time relaxing in the pool with a cocktail. We always stay the first night in Phoenix because after a long day of work and travel, the last thing we want to do is drive the few hours from Phoenix to Prescott or Sedona. Plus, Phoenix in July is sweltering, so hotel room rates are low and you can get access to nice properties at a great discount.
For the past couple of years we would stay at the Aloft Phoenix Airport, but after last year’s interaction with the strippers doing a show in the lobby and manager playing it off as normal and acceptable, we decided to branch out. Since Marriott acquired Starwood, I’ve been a bit less loyal to Starwood. I’ll get into that some other time.
I searched for great hotels and low prices and found the Camby for only $109 per night, plus taxes and fees, which was only $30 more than the whorehouse Aloft PHX, a good deal in my book.
After a short delay out of Chicago and a quick pickup of the rental car (Silver Car), we arrived at the Camby around 22h30. The hotel doesn’t offer a self park option, but if you want to skip the valet, you can park at the movie theater that charges and hourly and overnight rate. We opted to pay the $33 per day for the valet…the idea of saving $10 (+/-) but having to walk across the parking lot in 100F heat didn’t appeal much to me.
We were greeted by the two front desk reps with big smiles and a hearty hello the second we were in their line of sight. I had received a push notification that our room had been upgraded and I’d just need to stop by the front desk to pick up my keys.
The woman helping us was very friendly, she thanked me for my loyalty as a Platinum Member (which I earned by staying 50+ nights with Starwood then matched status with Marriott). She confirmed we’d been upgraded to a Luxe room…which seemed to just have a better view, which wasn’t all that beneficial for our short stay, but it’s better than that awful Zero Floor Upgrade I had years ago in Texas). I chose the 750 Mariott Point welcome bonus, in lieu of $15 off breakfast per person at the hotel (I’m not really a breakfast guy and hotels have such over priced and underwhelming offerings). I did take the $10 bar credit in lieu of the 500 additional Marriott Points offered. After a long day I needed a drink.
We went to our room to drop off our luggage then headed straight back down to the bar. The elevator to the guest room appeared to have some smeared shit in the floor. When we headed back down to the bar, I told the front desk folks, but it was still in the elevator when we went back to our room more than an hour later. It was gone in the morning though.
Our room was a larger standard room, with a king bed, a small seating area and a mountain view.
The bathroom was really nicely upgraded, with great (both smelling and acting) bath products by Nest. The bathroom initially seemed a bit dark, but the white tile really brightened up the area, despite having just two low output lights. The hot water took more than two minutes to actually arrive in our room, which was shocking to me. The only negative thing in the bathroom was the cheap plastic shower floor. It just made it seem a bit low rent, even though everything else was quite nice.
I really enjoyed the art throughout the hotel’s public spaces and in the guest rooms. It wasn’t the standard hotel cheap you see, it had a local vibe and a modern flair with neon, cacti and clean lines.
The bar was a dark but nicely appointed space (it was actually the restaurant and bar). We stayed with the signature craft cocktails on the menu, but interestingly enough, these bartenders had no idea how to make these drinks, they had to frantically run around trying to find the recipe cards. They had the vibe of hipster craft cocktail masters (beards, matte black/gun metal grey linen shirts, red suspemders…yeah, you know who I’m talking about), but not the immediate knowledge. The drinks are good and well balanced and the service was quick too.
I really enjoyed my 10 hour stay at the Camby and will definitely return if the price is right and the timing works. I don’t like to spend much on these short post flight stays, that being said, if I were spending more time in the area I’d definitely stay again.
Habe you stayed at the Camby? Did you like it better as the Ritz Carlton? What was your favorite cocktail?