There’s now a high-speed rail service linking Bangkok’s international airport with the city centre.
The 15-minute airport rail link was first approved by the government in 2003, and was supposed to open at the same time as Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006, but it’s been dogged by delays.
Several reported problems with the rail link still need to be fixed, including loud door noises and the large gap between the train and platform in some stations. A baggage check-in service modelled on Hong Kong’s super-efficient airport express train has yet to begin operating.
A ride to the city centre costs 100 baht (£2/$3) for the 18-mile trip – about half the price of a cab. The train drops passengers in the Makassan area of the capital. Fares on the City Line – a slower rail service with eight stops – start at 15 baht (30p/50 cents).
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers the best rates at 5 luxury hotels in Bangkok.
Tourists in Bangkok are being warned that if they buy food for street elephants they risk a fine of 10,000 baht (£202/$310).
The Thai authorities have repeatedly attempted to stamp out the problem whereby elephant handlers, known as mahouts, walk the creatures in the capital and sell bananas and sugar cane for people to feed them. The mahouts themselves face a similar fine plus six months in jail if caught.
A warning not to feed the elephants is being aired on local television and written on signs at various popular tourist spots in the capital.
There is little demand these days for the animals’ traditional skills in logging and other labour in outlying villages. The result is that at times in recent years, as many as 100 elephants and their handlers were regularly visiting Bangkok and were even seen begging in the city’s red light districts.
According to the Elephant Nature Foundation, an organisation which campaigns for elephant rights, street begging cuts an elephant’s life expectancy by at least half. The activists warn that car fumes and narrow streets often leave the elephants with eye calluses and tuberculosis and make them vulnerable to leg injuries.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers five great luxury hotels in Bangkok.
A waxworks museum in a popular tourist area of Thailand has been forced to cover up a roadside billboard featuring a saluting Adolf Hitler.
The poster, put up on the main road into the seaside resort town of Pattaya, was condemned by the country’s Israeli and German ambassadors as ‘utterly tasteless’ and ‘totally unacceptable’.
The billboard reading in the Thai language ‘Hitler Is Not Dead,’ was part of an advertising campaign to promote the opening next month of the Louis Tussaud waxworks museum.
The manager, Somporn Naksuetrong, apologised. He said the idea had come from an advertising agency and was neither meant to cause offence nor to celebrate Hitler, merely to point out the infamy of an historic figure.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique is delighted to offer the best rates at more than 25 luxury hotels in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand.
One of the giants of the hotel business is retiring this summer after more than 40 years running the celebrated Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok.
Kurt Wachtveitl, who’s 72, took over the Oriental in 1967 after completing hotel school in Switzerland and working at several European hotels.
He became General Manager of an establishment with a proud history. Founded in 1876 by two Danish sea captains, the Oriental’s A-list crowd in the early days included the cream of the literati, including Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling.
Wachtveitl was given a free hand by the owners and transformed the hotel into one of the best in the world, his formula for success being a rigorous focus on his guests and staff. The hotel maintains a database of some 40,000 guests — listing their tiniest preferences, pet peeves and, occasionally, how their stays didn’t go quite right.
One senior executive was recently amazed when on arrival he was greeted with an apology for a water problem in his room a decade ago, and upgraded to a suite. “You win a person like this forever, I guarantee you,” says Wachtveitl.
The veteran hotelier has a fund of stories – he’s had to tread diplomatically with temperamental celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, and once had to host Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge leaders. More amenable guests have included Princess Diana, Sir Sean Connery, George W Bush and Elton John.
But Wachtveitl saves his greatest praise for his staff and is proud that the average length of service at the Oriental is more than 16 years. “I am lucky that Thais have great potential for the hospitality industry because of their warmth and caring attitude,” he said.
The Oriental is consistently featured in the lists of the world’s top luxury hotels and you can book it at the best rates through Luxique.
by Andy Moreton