A Weekend at the Atlanta

Somehow we have never really stayed at a hotel in Bangkok. This is a little confusing as we have been here for two years and you’d think something would have happened, but no. There was the time we were flooded out of our apartment and were sent upstairs to stay in another apartment, but that wasn’t really a hotel. And certainly people visiting us have stayed at the hotel part of the Chatrium and we have taken the breakfast there but we have not stayed there. So having a long weekend and being blissfully free of ambition we decided to take the boat (and other modes of transport, not pictured) to a hotel in Bangkok, the Atlanta Hotel.


The Atlanta Hotel is a confusing place, which you might get a sense of from its website. They gave us a reservation (it is not expensive) though we did have some qualms about whether we would manage to keep our child under control to their exacting specifications, and we were not sure whether we qualified as “cultured occidentals”. Do we have too much of an air of “post-modern primitivism” about us? That seems like a charge that could be levied. Anyway, we found the place:


And then we checked in and were given the first in a huge number of paper coasters for drinks which give a sense of what the Atlanta is like:


Basically it is the Nightingale-Olympic of Bangkok hotels, if the Nightingale-Olympic was overrun with stray cats, turtles, and a stray dog, as well as being covered in a great deal of signage. If George Leonard Herter started a hotel, it would probably turn out very much like the Atlanta. The lobby is splendid and features some incongruous bronze dachshunds:


Over on the left is Max Henn, the founder of the Atlanta Hotel. It is hard to tell if he is still alive, but he would be 109 if so. He had a lot of opinions, and seems to have started the hotel as a chemical company before changing his mind.


Our adventures at the Atlanta started early: Harriet was attacked by two feral cats while we were checking in. The cats are kept out back. We had assumed they would be tame, but the Atlanta Hotel is not a cat café; that would be post-modern primitivism.

The Atlanta prides itself on keeping things the way they were and informing you about it:


Thailand’s first children’s swimming pool has perhaps seen better days:


As has the regular pool, though it’s still pretty splendid:


Even at night:


There’s a lush garden which is full of snails:


But it was late, so we went to the restaurant.


The restaurant was not very busy. It specializes in American food as prepared in the 1950s and Thai vegetarian food. The dinner menu is astonishing – it goes on and on for pages and pages and explains everything in excruciating detail. But you are not allowed to look at it for very long because there are only three copies of the menu and other people might need them. I would have liked to spend more time with the menu and photograph it, but those things are not allowed. The restaurant has an exciting if vague history:


Curiously unlabeled was this stuffed cat who seemed to have had a rough time before his death:


And there was a fine picture of more exciting days in the restaurant, when the King played jazz with Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman there. The pleased young man on the right is George H. W. Bush:


(I don’t think I was supposed to take a picture of this, so it is blurry. It’s hard to tell what the rules are at the Atlanta.) There are also a lot of magazines that you can read at dinner:


This is almost certainly the only place in Bangkok where one can read The New Criterion while eating vegetarian food. I don’t think I’ve ever been to any restaurant that provided so many copies of The New Criterion for diners’ pleasure; there were more copies besides these. Maybe I am not going to enough conservative restaurants.

The rooms of the hotel are not so exciting, at least not the one we stayed in; possibly that’s because we wanted air conditioning. But the next morning we woke up and went swimming and then to inspect all of their turtles, who sometimes live with their cats:


The turtles are large, if not quite so interactive as those at Wat Prayun, now more complicated to get to since they changed where the express boat stops.


The turtles also have an extremely long explanation:


And that is what we did at the Atlanta Hotel. Does it have, as promised, “incomparable character, charm, style and atmosphere”? Probably. Also somewhere in there Harriet was menaced by the hotel’s dog, but we didn’t get a picture of that. She didn’t want to leave.


Maybe we will go back some time.

Back at the Protestant Cemetery

We went down the street to see how things are holding up at the Protestant Cemetery. They’re building an enormous new apartment building right in front of it:


The large white monument is that of Henry Alabaster, one of the first British visitors to Siam to learn Thai; he ended up serving Rama V for many years, and at his death the king erected this monument to him. Inside it has a curiously aggrandizing inscription:


What it says, and you can’t really read it in this photo, is “A prophet is not without honor / save in his own country”. What exactly this is meant to mean is unclear. Alabaster was not well-loved by the British for his service to the King, and so was possibly not honored in his own country, though following this analogy is a little confusing. This monument is also maybe a cenotaph. A little before you get to that one, you find this snail-encrusted grave informing you of salient detail of Henry Alabaster’s life:


(Before doing that he created an ointment for “all sorts of flesh wounds and minor skin irritations”.) The cemetery is still in use occasionally; either they are digging a grave here or digging up the dead. But it is perilous to do so in the rainy season: it’s full of tadpoles.


The cemetery is still full of snails. Also we met a lizard:


He was not very happy to see us:


Special Update

Despite how it might have come across in that last post, Kim was not gored to death by a cow and in fact her bruises have mostly gone away. Also the rest of our time in the Andamans was very nice and we would like to go back, but I’ll write that up later. In the mean time, here is a real horror that Harriet dug up under the water in Havelock:

There are two things in there: one of them is a sea slug, which is trying to escape the other one, a cone snail, which you can learn about here. Special note for people who read that link: no one is dead, except for the cone snail, whose shell is now on our balcony.