On beating writers from 57 countries to win the Tourism Authority of Thailand Award for International Media Reporting
How to describe my new best friend? My Siam defies description. Yes, I know Thailand has many friends, but I feel like “The Favourite”. That’s how it is when you’re in a country’s good books.
Being a Friend of Thailand means stepping (first) off the plane into the care of two swains awaiting you on the walkway. As you appear, they clasp their hands in the prayer position and bow (“wai”) before ushering you down the corridor and into a waiting electro-cart. You are then whisked off at pleasingly high speed through the vast caverns of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
You might even be forgiven the teeniest smirk at seeing your pampered self reflected in the envious eyes of the luggage-laden proles shuffling towards customs or oblivion, whichever comes first. You are shown into the soothing confines of a luxury lounge where a cool drink is pressed into your hand while your Thai minders sort out the tedious details of passport control, baggage collection and the like. No queues! No sullen officialdom or trolley bashings! My Siam doesn’t mess about!
Within 15 minutes, your courtesy car speeds down one of Bangkok’s super highways towards the five-star Centara Grand at CentralWorld, a 230-metre architectural icon inspired by the shape of a blooming lotus. On arrival, a doorman “wais” you into a high-ceilinged expanse of glittering string chandeliers, marble-tiled floors and a fantasy elliptical staircase.
You don’t have to venture out of the hotel precinct to experience the futuristic mega-metropolis at her finest. Linked to the Convention Centre and an ultra-modern mega-mall, icy whiplash sophistication is tempered only by the warm hospitality. Bangkok’s newest hotel is hot and happening.
The next morning lunched at the Suratra River House and watched a flower arranging demonstration involving my favourite dusky pink lotus. My husband asked to see the “declining Buddha” at Wat Po.
“Why would we want to see a declining Buddha? The answer would be ‘no’ all the time,” I replied.
“Silly me! I meant the ‘inclining’ Buddha,” said he.
Actually he meant the 46-metre-long Reclining Buddha at Wat Po, just south of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, with its gold spires shimmering in the Grand Palace complex.
That night we joined about 5000 dignitaries at the new BangKok Convention Centre for the glittering Thailand Awards ceremony presided over by Mr Weerasak Kowsurat, the Minister of Tourism and Sports. I was there to receive (modest cough) my Friend of Thailand award in the category of International Media, which was presented to me by Mr Kowsurat.
How I miss My Siam …