Perhaps this day epitomizes the diversity, contrasts and charm of Bangkok. My final 12 hours in the city felt like a bittersweet race to pack in as many more experiences as possible. Just as I had come to peace with Bangkok – the oppressive heat, frenetic pace, overwhelming options – it was now a countdown to departure.
The Mandarin Oriental continued to please with its great location, spectacular amenities and anticipatory, world-class service. Following an invigorating morning tennis match I cleaned up and took a leisurely 10-minute walk to the River City shopping center.
River City, nicely renovated, impressed me with its large size, cleanliness, diversity (antiques, prints, sculpture, etc.) and quality of establishments. I was in search of an antique map and stayed focused. It would be have been quite easy to become distracted by the many intriguing galleries and stores. Perhaps that is why I wandered into an interesting showroom even though the wonderful Mandarin Oriental concierge provided perfect instruction as to the shop I should visit!
I found my way to SK Graphic Arts and was impressed (and overwhelmed) by the vast selection of high-quality prints, posters and antique maps. It is fortunate (for my wallet) that I had not visited sooner. Oi was patient, gracious and presented me several compelling options. I ultimately decided upon a beautiful 19th century map of the region and even negotiated a much appreciated discount.
Oi kindly offered and escorted me to the pier for a boat directly back to the Mandarin Oriental dock. Within 10 minutes, I was back in my luxurious accommodation with ample time for a wardrobe change before tea at 1:30pm.
Set in the historic first building, the environment for the tea service is exquisite. The atmosphere is bright, the service is attentive and calming acoustic guitar music filled the space. I opted for the ‘vegetarian set’ of beautiful scones, flavorful sandwiches and decadent desserts. To celebrate the successful map purchase, I savored a glass of champagne as well.
It would have been no problem to settle in – for another few hours – however, I was determined to visit The Jim Thompson House before departing Bangkok. Having met one of the wonderful Mandarin Oriental house drivers the evening prior, he was punctually waiting and soon zipped me off in a still new-smelling, plush 7-series BMW. Traffic was shockingly tolerable and we soon pulled up to the iconic set of homes.
James Harrison Thompson (born in 1906) was an American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. I will certainly return to the house on a future visit and appreciated the highly informative, concise guided tour that was offered. The spaces and furnishings were stunning. And the mystery of Mr. Thompson’s disappearance (in 1967) still looms. I wish I blocked several hours to enjoy the home and will plan accordingly on the next occasion.
John delivered me back to Mandarin Oriental and I began my preparations for departure. With a 3:30am flight on the horizon I looked forward to some indulgences set up in advance … an evening signature massage at the spa and dinner at Ciao Terrazza, the hotel’s Italian restaurant.
I was somewhat embarrassed to devour a pizza as my last meal in the city, however I enjoyed every bite, a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio and a glittering nighttime river view. It all seemed to fit and make sense nonetheless as my farewell to Bangkok.
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