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Tantalizing Bangkok
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: By Toti Palileo
Date: 2005-03-25
The hotel business is very much part of the travel and tourism industry and with my more than three years of work at Century Park Hotel I have been fortunate enough to have been invited by different individuals and organizations to join their trips, not only to familiarize myself with the different destinations we visit, but also to write about it. After 2003ís Familiarization Tour of Taiwan, which I wrote on this section, I was lucky that a gentleman named Robert Lim Joseph was one of the people who read my whole page story about the trip. Thus another invitation came along, this time, from no less than the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies chairman himself. This was for the Familiarization Tour of Bangkok. To tell you a bit about this man (for those who donít know him yet), Mr. Joseph is not your typical businessman. He has involved himself not only with the travel industry, but also with cargo, wines and liquor, bars and restaurants, real estate and very recently the spa and wellness business.

The day was Feb. 17, 2005. As our group gathered at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, the rest of the members of our 17-man group slowly assembled in time for our Philippine Airlines flight to Bangkok. These are NAITAS Cebu Chapter president Jenny Franco; Techno Tours Bacolod general manager Telly Moran; Ricky Tio of Cebu Holidays; Lorna Lardizabal Dietz, a Fil-Am publicist based in San Francisco; Mike and Sheila Johnson of Has; Molly Enusban of Richmiles Travel; Rolly and Annie Referea of Resa Traveland Tours; Abigail Ho of PDI; NAITAS Executive Assistant Tessa Poblete; and Nitoy and Milo Bondoc (proud parents of matinee idol-Onemig).

Upon arrival at the Bangkok International Airport we were welcomed by KBS Travelís Kosol Boonma and our tour guide Leslie, a guy. We then went straight to the Queen Sirikit International Convention Center for the opening of the Bangkok International Tourism Fair.

After looking around at the travel fair we then checked in at the Indra Regent Hotel, right at the heart of one of Bangkokís main shopping destinations Ė Pratunam. After more than an hour of rest we headed for Piman Thai Restaurant (Piman: Thai for heaven), which was near the Philippine Embassy. In Piman we were served authentic Thai food while cultural dance performances were being presented on stage. Every single seat in the restaurant was filled up. And our group was the only set of Asians in the restaurant, the rest were Europeans, Americans, and Australians. The tourism industry of Thailand was admirable.

On our second day we were back at the Convention Center for the tourism fair and this time around there were more people. We visited the booth of Philippine Airlines and met PALís country manager Ms. Dell Merano, who also happens to be manager for Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Other than the usual exchange of hellos, we discussed the travel and tourism industry of Thailand and how we can help our own Department of Tourism be successful. In the convention centerís second level, there was a Health, Beauty and Wellness Exhibit where one would find everything. From spa equipment like Jacuzzis, oils, candles, CDs, herbal fermented liquor to skin care products, shampoos, vibrating therapeutic pillows, tea, plants, fruits and what have you.

After a quick lunch, we then took off to an afternoon tour of Bangkok. Our first destination was the Wat Po Temple with the gigantic Reclining Buddha. The Gem Store was our next stop and because of the horrendous traffic all of us dosed off in the bus. When we finally arrived in one of the biggest jewelry galleries Iíve ever seen, the girls were all so excited and had the time of their lives going through all the precious items. Iím not too fond of jewelry, so I joined Mike Johnson in appreciating the salt-water L-shaped water tanks with its sharks and other colorful fishes. According to Leslie, that if the recent tsunami brought anything good, it was the new breed of marine life that they have seen, new species, more colorful, more beautiful. Before you know it, it was eating time again. Dinner was at the penthouse restaurant of the Baiyoke Suite Hotel, a block away from our Indra Regent and the Baiyoke Sky Hotel (the tallest hotel in Bangkok). The English-speaking entertainers of Bangkok are mostly Filipinos. Then, an evening of Thai massages from Ton Ton Massage Center and the premium wines of Ralphís was more than enough for us to enjoy the night away.

Itís our third day in Thailand and itís the most awaited day of the trip, our free day, the designated day for shopping! After a hearty buffet breakfast at the Indra Regent, Ricky brought Abigail and me to the different malls and shopping centers. We checked out Pratunam, Emporium, Central, Landmark Plaza, World Trade, Siam and MBK (Mam Book Rai). We had lunch at the Daidomon, a shabu shabu cum grill buffet located at the seventh floor of the MBK. We stuffed ourselves to our hearts delight and all these for only Bht120 Ė per person. The amount of food we ate compensated the heavy weight of shopped goodies that we took along wherever we went. Abigail bought at least half a dozen shoes and Ricky was so much in to boxer shorts, chocolates, herbal tea, toothpaste, and body soaps. As for me, a pair of shoes, jeans, a few shirts, pillowcases for our living room, a handbag for someone special and 5 kilos of spicy tamarind for "pasalubong" was more than enough.

We were able to make it back to our hotel for our 6:30 p.m. call time. Dinner was set for the Chao Praya Princess Cruise. It was a dinner-cruise along the Chao Praya River. We joined several other tourists enjoying the different sights particularly the temples, the palace, the different hotels along the river and the beautiful Rama Bridge, while enjoying the dinner buffet. The singer on board was, again, a Filipina.

During our last few hours in Bangkok, everybody had an early breakfast and did some last minute shopping in the vast shopping center of Pratunam. By 11 a.m. of Sunday we were all on board our chartered bus on our way to the airport for our PAL Flight PR 371 bound for Manila. For all of us who participated in this Bangkok Fam Tour, more than an opportunity to meet the different players of our travel industry Ė it was an eye opener for most of us. As we all praise Thailandís Tourism Authority, we were also hopeful that each of us will do his share in helping our countryís tourism industry succeed.


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