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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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A PERFECT DAY in URGUP, CAPPADOCIA

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The components of a perfect day:

  • Shopping
  • Massage
  • Good food
  • Warm weather

SERINN HOUSE

At breakfast (a pancake-like item that Serinn House makes to order) I tell Eren about the necklaces I spied in a small shop on Gulluce Caddesi (street).

“Never pay more than 95 Turkish Lira (TRY) for silver!” instructs Eren. She tells me that the shopkeepers buy it by the kilo and that they expect you to negotiate. I’m not that good at negotiating.

URGUP

I can’t choose between the necklaces. The shopkeeper polishes my favorite four, helps me to try them on, compliments me on the look. I narrow it down to the one with blue and gold accents.

Necklace

“195 TRY,” says the shopkeeper.

“150 TRY,” I reply.

“195 TRY. It is a good price. Discounted just for you.”

“Ok.”

I produce a credit card and the shopkeeper asks that I pay 185 TRY with my card and 10 TRY in cash. Whatever.  He rings-up the necklace for 185 TRY and pockets the remaining 10.

“My tip,” he explains.

URGUP SEHIR HAMAMI

I can’t believe it’s 90 degrees out and I’m going to a sauna.

Urgup Sehir Hamami (the city turkish bath), a domed century-old building situated in the center of town, is difficult to miss.

Urgup Hammam Exterior

Inside, I’m instructed to undress (I’ve brought my swimsuit) in one of the changing rooms and my belongings are locked in a locker.

Urgup Hammam Lobby

Wrapped in a towel, I’m escorted to the bath area, a large common space surrounded by smaller shower rooms. An octagonal slab bathed in light from a glass dome overhead dominates the area. I lie here on my back, roasting slowly. So far it’s more pleasant than my only other hammam experience in Essaouira, Morocco, where I laid in the dark on a concrete floor until a girthy woman clad only in a prodigious brassiere and tighty whities snuck up behind me, poured a bucket of water on my head, then scrubbed me down like a bad potato.

I’m happy to see that my tellak (masseur) here is a young, attractive Turkish man. He leads me into a private room where he lathers, loofahs and rinses me, then applies a pressure point massage that’s therapeutic almost — but not quite — to the verge of being painful. Eren had warned me that, although her male guests love the hammam, it’s too much for some of her female guests, but I feel great. My skin is soft and my muscles weak.

I slouch my way back through Urgup to Serinn House.

ZIGGY CAFE

Post-nap (awoken by the Call to Prayer), I cut through the Urgup alleyways and arrive at Ziggy Cafe, a 10-minute walk from Serinn House.

Urgup Road Shadow

Ziggy Cafe, a restaurant and store located a restored stone house, came highly recommended by my sister, other bloggers and travel guides. I like the relaxed vibe, stylish decor and terrace view of the rocky Cappadocia landscape, so I’ve returned for my second dinner since arriving in Urgup.

Tonight I order olives, the ubiquitous Turkey eggplant and — of course — two glasses of white wine.

Dinner at Ziggys Urgup

I watch Ziggy, the terrier after which the establishment was named, dart across the street and jump onto the wall on the opposite side. A server unsuccessfully calls him back home. The couple and their daughter from Singapore with whom I shared a van and balloon ride are seated next to me, and we share photos on our phones. The gracious owner, Nuray, stops by to check on me and chat.

A pretty perfect day spent in Urgup.

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