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HELL IS THE U.S. EMBASSY IN BANGKOK

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THE BANGKOK AIRPORT

The issue, I learn, is that all but one of the remaining pages of my passport has been covered in stamps and visas. Rookie mistake! Two passport pages are required to enter Indonesia.

Passport with no pages

I flip through my passport, helpfully pointing-out to Agent Ratched all of the half-filled pages at the front of the booklet that they can use.

Entry denied. 

THE U.S. EMBASSY IN BANGKOK

I arrive at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok drenched in my own sweat, having baked in the AC-free cab the long, traffic-addled ride from the airport.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. There to aid Americans in distress. A trusted friend. A lighthouse of hope to guide me through my Thailand travails. So glad I’m here.

No one Is answering the gate phone. It’s so, so hot.

The guards laugh at my obvious frustration. Not that Thais are cruel people — they tend to be very sweet — they just don’t display their anger and impatience like us farangs. Their mirth frustrates me further, fueling their amusement. I ask them what’s the deal with the embassy, but they speak only Thai  — which makes sense, since I’m in Thailand — but c’mon it’s the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. U.S.! 

I ring again, a man answers. Yay!

“This is Dave.”

“Hi Dave.”

“…”

“Are you there, Dave?”

“Yes.”

I explain the situation to Dave. He tells me that I should be glad that I’m not the poor schmuck with visa issues that they let onto the plane yesterday, who is now resting in a cell in Indonesia Passport Control. Dave explains that the embassy is closed for Christmas. But the country is Buddhist?…?

I ask Dave what time the embassy opens tomorrow.

It doesn’t. Boxing Day. Since when do we celebrate Boxing Day?

I ask Dave about the following day.

Weekend. Closed. Oh for fuck’s sake.

THE INDONESIAN EMBASSY IN BANGKOK

Dragging Bagzillo and my two carry-ons behind me down the torn-up sidewalks of this crowded, polluted, stinking town, there’s not an available cab in sight. I hail a tuk-tuk. It’s either that or spontaneously combusting, right now, right here on the corner.

“Indonesian Embassy? Indonesian Embassy? You know it? Embassy Indonesia?” I implore of the tuk tuk driver. It’s a long shot, but possibly, possibly the Indonesian Embassy could help me.

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Promise?” I hop on, he piles my crap behind me.

And….he has no clue where the Indonesian Embassy is located, but when has not knowing the location of a destination every stopped a Bangkok driver? We circle, stop, ask. Circle, stop, ask.

And we’re here.

The Indonesian Embassy is also closed in observation of Christmas. Since when do Muslims…? Why ask why?

I kick Bagzillo. Dumb bag, dumb!

AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES OF THE U.S. EMBASSY IN BANGKOK

Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.; 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (I know Spanish bankers who work longer hours)

Address: U.S. Embassy Bangkok 95 Wireless Road Bangkok 10330

Contact: +66-02-205-4049 (T);  +66-02-205-4103 (F); Email: acsbkk@state.gov@acsbkk

After Hours Emergencies: In the event of an emergency outside business hours, American citizens may dial (011)(66) 02-205-4000 and ask to speak to the duty officer.

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THE HENRY HOTEL: MY DETROIT SECRET

I have a secret: I like going to Detroit. Which is good, because I go there all the time for work. I pretend as though I’m making great sacrifices for my job, but the truth is…I enjoy it, because staying at The Henry Hotel is like taking a mini-vacation.

The Henry Detroit Mural

GETTING THERE: It’s Detroit (Dearborn, actually). You either take a short cab ride or rent a car (no on-airport rentals). Depending on occupancy, the trip from the parking lot can be a hike, but it’s free and the valet service is speedy.

LOCATION: Fine. A 10-minute drive from the airport and close to I-94 for reaching downtown. Plenty of decent restaurants in the area (but not within walking distance).

SERVICE: Nearly impeccable.The staff are friendly without being obsequious and they’ll recognize you after only a few stays.

The Henry Hotel Detroit LobbyATMOSPHERE: Bright! Ecclectic! Cosmopolitan! Such an improvement from its stuffy, serious old self when The Henry Hotel was a Ritz Carlton. A brilliant Timothy Yanke painting greets you at the front desk, and they don’t scrimp on colorful artwork (Maxx, Tarkay) throughout the property. The decor is ballsy and refreshing: Tiffany Blue walls, chandeliers, glossy white moulding and more glossy white moulding.

ROOMS: Contemporary and luxurious (the two aren’t mutually exclusive but you wouldn’t know that from most properties). Bold prints, plush bedding and marble in the bathroom. Now if they’d only allow me to make it a little warmer in the room

GYM: Only average, but the granola bars are good.

RESTAURANT/BAR: The Henry Hotel dining room succeeds at being upscale without being formal. Choose from private dining, a communal table, hightops or bar seating. The selection varies from swordfish filets to fish tacos. A mixed clientele makes for interesting people watching and conversation flows at the bar, creating a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere for the solo business traveler – men and women alike. Like elsewhere in the hotel, the customer service is excellent (Audra’s a star), and their secret weapon is Mark, the maitre d’ (he of the almost eerie mental Rolodex of hotel guests), who greets you like a long-lost friend. He has some good stories he could tell, that one.

Oh, and…the wine pours are generous. I LIKE that in a place.

THE CONCIERGE LOUNGE: I saved the best part for last. Marriott Gold Members have 24-hour access to the Concierge Lounge where Natti and Marlene have created a home-away-from-home for them. It’s a pretty sweet concierge lounge, with views that extend to Canada, an extensive newspaper selection, multiple computers and printers, a flat screen tv, complimentary breakfast, a happy hour that you can make a meal out of, and premium liqueurs and desserts at night. Try dipping the Rice Krispie bars in the chocolate fondue in between sips of Grand Marnier.

THE HENRY HOTEL IN CONCLUSION…

The Henry Hotel. Detroit’s oasis. Don’t tell my boss.

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INDULGENT STAY AT 4REASONS HOTEL, BODRUM

BODRUM PENINSULA

Flying from Kayseri Airport to Milas-Bodrum Airport requires connecting in Istanbul, and upon landing, an hour-long drive to Yalikavak awaits me. Yalikavak is a small, exclusive village in the Bodrum Peninsula, the “French Riviera” of Turkey.

Travel and Leisure on the Bodrum Peninsula:

I mean, if you’re going to lounge around on throw pillows at a beach club, sipping chilled raki or rosé while being serenaded by seabirds and Cesária évora, there’s arguably no finer place to do it. And if, like any normal person, your holiday agenda is to sit still—lifting your head now and then to admire a passing sailboat, or the genetic spectacle of some raven-haired Central European heiress—you could hardly do better than the Bodrum Peninsula, a swath of rock, sand, cypress, and cedar that reaches from Turkey’s southwest coast into the stained-glass blue of the Aegean.

4REASONS HOTEL

i-Escape has this to say about the 4Reasons Hotel:

A funky, friendly, Mediterranean-Zen chillout near Bodrum, with cool pool, bistro bar and family rooms too. The 4 [reasons] they claim – serenity, design, quality, attitude – all apply, but there’s one overriding reason to book here: it’s our favourite hotel on the Bodrum peninsula (and we’ve checked out lots).

4Reasons bills itself as a hip, small, luxury boutique hotel and it is. This property is damn-near perfect.

After I check-in Ali, the manager, provides me with driving directions for my field trip to Epheseus tomorrow, schedules a to-go breakfast for me, and instructs me to call him in the morning to unlock the gate.

He escorts me to my room (one of only 20 at 4Reasons), a stylish, contemporary space with fresh flowers and a terrace view of the pool and bay beyond it.

4Reasons Guest Room

I typically reserve one day each trip for pure laziness, rising only from my hammock or chaise lounge by the pool to perhaps get a massage or grab a cold beer. I feel guilty about the indulgence — I SHOULD BE going out and getting myself cultured — but my guilt always fades quickly. Today at 4Reasons is my guilty lazy day.

I fritter away the afternoon reading at the pool, which is perfectly groomed and radiant with red and fuschia flowers.

4Reasons Bodrum Pool

In the early evening I grab an Efes beer (when in Epheseus), bowl of salty peanuts and a Heat off the table and retreat to the open-air lounge/library, where the cool kids hang-out among the palm trees, pool table and kitschy 70′s movie posters. I have never heard of this British gossip magazine that’s so inane it makes Hello! read like The New Yorker, but it’s the perfect mindless fodder for an indulgent day.

4Reasons Hotel Game Room

Once night falls I migrate from the lounge to the thatched-roof terrace bar of the 4Reasons Bistro (regarded as one of the best restaurants on the Bodrum Peninsula) for dinner (more eggplant!). I watch the two 4Reasons owners, a Canadian Turkish couple, laughing and celebrating a leisurely Ramadan dinner with their two perfect children (a boy and a girl) and extended family.

4Reasons Hotel Deck

Back in my hotel room, Sinatra’s “You’re Nobody Until Someone Loves You” (thanks, Frank) and the laughter of the family still enjoying one another’s company drifts up to my terrace. It must be nice owning a boutique hotel on the Turkish Riviera with your husband and two children.

I recall a comment I received yesterday:

“You’re traveling alone in Turkey. That’s such a shame!”

Would I rather be traveling with a boyfriend right now? Sure. But wouldn’t the real shame be letting that fact stop you from traveling to Turkey at all?

It was a pretty good day on the Turkish Riviera. Things could be a lot worse.

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