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Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 17 Nov 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Bangkok beckoned as I boarded my Eva Air flight from Heathrow on one of the carrier’s new fleet of Boeing 777-300 ERs. I was cheered at the prospect of fleeing a grey November and felt I was also doing my bit to save the planet by flying in a wide-bodied passenger jet that uses the largest and most powerful engines and which are also the most economical on the miles per gallon.

My seat was in Elite class, which offers wider seats and extra legroom. Combined with genuine smiles from the cabin crew, I knew I was in for a pleasant flight.

After a comfortable 10-and-a-half-hour flight we touched down at Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi airport. I was immediately impressed. It is clean and spacious. About 120 immigration desks and 22 luggage carousels make for swift through-passage.

New, four-lane express highways into Bangkok complement the airport. And the staff all seemed to have time to smile – Heathrow and Gatwick take note.

As we spilled out of the airport I was greeted by Lily from Pacific World. What a lovely, wise, jolly lady she is. There was an immediate rapport as it is so evident she loves her job.

On arrival at the Millennium Hilton I met another lady who couldn’t suppress her smiles and enthusiasm, PR director Pansiri Rungattawatchai. Pansiri has been with the hotel since it opened in March and she considers this 32-storey hotel her ‘baby’. She has every reason to be proud of her offspring as it is an immaculate combination of western design and charming Siam.

Bangkok bargains

I was stunned at the presence of a white sand beach on the pool deck, complete with a 20-metre infinity pool that seemingly drips into the Chao Phraya river.

All rooms and suites overlook the river, which becomes a magical sight at night as the water reflects the twinkling lights of the brightly-lit dinner-dance boats and ferries.

I knew I had found a friend in Lily when she said she liked to shop and I met her the next day for a combined assault on Chinatown.

Lily knew where to go to get the best of Bangkok’s bargains. First stop was James Fashion to have a jacket made. As I stepped into this bustling tailor emporium I immediately felt at home.

Peering down from a hallowed spot on the wall were photos of Sanchai Lojanarungsiri managing director James, in the company of Judith Chalmers.

I was measured at 10am and my jacket was delivered by 10pm. How’s that for service?

We then made our way to Chinatown for the serious shopping. Lily cheerfully and skillfully led us through the noisy maze of the teeming market streets as I selected items from my shopping lists.

I firmly believe it is possible to purchase anything in Bangkok and if the stall holders can’t get it for you they know a man who can.

A trip to the theatre

Just time for a quick wash and brush-up before going to the theatre having been lucky enough to purchase tickets for the biggest show in the history of Bangkok theatre.

Siam Niramit – Journey to the End of the Enchanted Kingdom of Siam, is a theatre production of gargantuan size, played at the 2,000-seat Thailand Cultural Center. The show stars more than 150 performers with at least 500 costumes in a dazzling celebration of Thai culture.

Before the show we joined with members of the Thai audience in savouring delicious Thai food at a buffet-style dinner.

We made our way to the theatre but were immediately launched into a wondrous spectacle of Thai culture.

I’m not normally lost for words, but this spectacle of sound movement and light left me speechless as the colourful characters flew on wires 80ft above our heads.

We witnessed elephants, a floating market and torrential rain on stage. The sound effects, the dancing and the music were superb.

I had a lot to thank Lily for as we sped along the expressway to the airport to board our flight to Phuket. Bangkok must be one of the most stimulating and entertaining cities for holidays and stopovers. My next stop is Khao Lak, see you next week.

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