Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flower carvings and foot massages at Bangkok airport

Good evening, finally from Manila.

Today started out really early with a message from a friend in Manila waiting for me on my phone when I woke up this morning at the Banyan Tree Bangkok in Thailand: "So today I'm a stomachache, am I?" He was referring to my previous blog entry wherein I wrote about how our text exchanges yesterday afternoon had given me a slight stomachache (click here to read this entry). Then he continued: "How about making me something more pleasing or delightful tomorrow?"

I replied: "That depends entirely on you."

Then I went down to breakfast and spent the morning working and packing. Actually, I worked most of the time and threw everything into my luggage in something like five minutes. As usual, I was cutting it incredibly close as far as check-in times were concerned. I was flying back to Manila at just past 3 pm and at 1245 pm I was still packing my bags. I think I finally left for Bangkok's airport at 115 pm, but everything was okay as I even had time for a foot massage at the airport.

My hotel, the Banyan Tree Bangkok, was decorated colorfully but tastefully for Songkran, the Thai New Year, with beautiful flowers and the statue of Buddha. There's lots of merrymaking for Songkran and I was advised not to venture out unprepared to be doused with water as the act of throwing water at people everywhere is one of the ways that Thais observe the ushering in of their new year.

Fortunately I stayed in my suite all morning to catch up on work, and at noon I simply went down and took the hotel car -- one of these very comfortable stretch Benz types -- to the airport. The streets were almost empty today in the city so we made it to the airport in about 20 minutes, which is a record for me regarding airport travel time in Bangkok.


As soon as my car drove up to my designated terminal, the Banyan Tree Bangkok airport concierge greeted me with a porter in tow. They took care of my bags and escorted me to the Thai Airways check-in counter. Now most luxury hotels in Asia do have this service for frequent guests or travelers checking into a premium suite -- the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong even meets its guests right at the door of the plane and they have an airport passenger cart ready so I don't have to walk the long expanse of Hong Kong airport from curbside to immigration -- but somehow I felt that the Banyan Tree Bangkok's airport services were extra warm and highly personalized.


I then checked in at the section of Bangkok airport dedicated to Thai Airways First and Business class passengers. This alone is reason to take Thai Airways' premium class if you're willing to spend more money, as there are never any lines and checking in here is like registering for a room at a resort. They have low counters with seats in front so you can sit and relax while checking in, and you definitely don't feel like you're in some typical airline counter in a typical airport.

Premium class passengers on Thai also go straight to their own immigration and security section which, again, has no lines whatsoever. This makes for a very pleasant airport experience. And once you get out of security, there are escalators right in front to take you straight to the airline lounge. So from the car to the airline lounge to wait for boarding, it took me all of three minutes.


Now I'm probably in a different airport every week, or at least twice a month; so I've seen almost all airport and airline premium lounges and experienced their services. I've got to hand it to the Thais, as they certainly knew what they were doing when they created their lounges at Bangkok's new airport. The Thai airline lounge is very relaxing and they usually have some cultural performance going on all day for travelers who prefer to look at something instead of reading a newspaper or checking their computers or Blackberry.

I was still carrying on a conversation on my Blackberry the whole day including in the car to the airport and in the lounge, but I did put it down long enough to appreciate the amazing vegetable carving demonstration and exhibits that Thai Airways had prepared for today. I've seen this lots of times but the techniques never fail to constantly fascinate me. Who would've thought a watermelon could look like a gumamela, for instance? Or that a melon could look like a yellow rose?

Today, too, for Songkran, they had a special table laid out with traditional New Year goodies including sticky rice cakes and fruit. It was all very colorful and I was certainly glad to be in Bangkok for the first day of the Thai New Year.


But perhaps the best part about this lounge is their wonderful spa. Yes, Thai Airways has a proper spa (again, many airlines do have some kind of spa facility at their home airport -- JAL offers great shiatsu massages in the First Class lounge at Tokyo's Narita Airport, for instance, although I find the 15-minutes alloted for it is just too short.) and the Thai Spa at Bangkok Airport is my favorite airline spa. It's separate from the airline lounge, which is good as you get the feeling that you are really in a spa rather than in a service facility in an airport. And the treatments are proper treatments of 30 minutes or 60 minutes each.

At the Thai Airways spa, you can get a proper body massage in a real spa massage room for an hour if you have enough time, or a 30-minute head-and-shoulder massage or foot massage. I chose the foot massage and was promptly ushered into a very relaxing cubicle with an incredibly comfortable reclining chair. The therapist was also great and my feet felt so light afterwards. It was just what I needed before my flight.

Finally it was time to board the plane so I had to turn my phone off. But not before a message arrived from you-don't-know-who: "Don't forget to eat the fruit cheese on the plane."

And that's exactly what I did, when the cheese and fruit trolley came around after dinner. And it certainly was pleasing and delightful.

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
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with Christine Cunanan,
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Travelife's Special Summer Issue
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Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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