February 2000

q. I'm going to a wedding in Baja. I wanted to turn the trip into a spa vacation, but Rancho La Puerta is all booked up. Any ideas?--S.W., Redmond, Wash.
a. Pity you can't stay at Rancho La Puerta (800/443-7565), which made T&L's World's Best Awards last year. Another great option for your post-wedding trip, however, is the spa at the oceanfront 61-suite Las Ventanas al Paraíso in Los Cabos (888/525-0483). Las Ventanas has New Age treatments such as evening aromatherapy massages by torchlight in a seaside pavilion, private in‚room yoga classes, and even sage foot-baths. A three-night package for two that includes yoga and stretching classes, eight treatments, and two meals daily is available for $2,900. Other, less expensive options: The European-style Casa Playa Spa at the 1926 Rosarito Beach Hotel (800/343-8582) has a traditional list of services, such as body polishes, mud wraps, and seaweed slimming treatments. For $339, a couple can stay two nights in a room with an ocean view and get four meals and a spa service each. Also in Baja, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, is the 74-room Las Rocas Resort & Spa (888/527-7622), which uses France's excellent Guinot products for facials, and herbs from the rain forest as part of the moisturizing mud treatment. A two-night stay for two during the week, with four treatments, is only $189.

q. I'd like to see the sights while in Bangkok, but I hear the highways are jammed and dirty. I don't want to spend the day stuck in a cab. What can I do?--D.M., Salt Lake City, Utah
a. You're right to worry: Bangkok has some of the worst traffic problems in Asia. More than 3 million vehicles clog a tiny network of roads each day; cars crawl along at only nine miles an hour during peak driving time -- and let's not even talk about the pollution caused by all that exhaust. (Thankfully, the Thai aren't familiar with the concept of road rage; drivers for the most part calmly wait out the ever-present gridlock.)

But there are several ways to avoid this mess. The easiest and most scenic route is by boat. Bangkok was once called "the Venice of the East" (although many of its canals have been paved over to make room for -- you guessed it -- cars). Water taxis, known as long-tail boats, are an inexpensive means of getting around the city, but you can also take a ferry, which shuttles back and forth across the Chao Phraya river, or a speedy express boat, which stops along a predetermined route. If you want a more modern way to travel in Bangkok, look to the sky -- or rather, the Skytrain. The roughly $1.7 billion elevated rail system, which opened just two months ago, delivers a clean, efficient, and quick trip (trains arrive every two or three minutes during rush hour, and, at a top speed of 50 mph, a ride to any destination along the system's two lines is "not to exceed 30 minutes," according to the Bangkok Transit System). A few drawbacks remain: There are no connections to other mass-transit services, or even to parking lots. But since commuters are hesitant to give up their cars for the Skytrain, at least for now, you'll have a roomy ride to the Temple of the Golden Buddha.

q. We'll soon be staying at one of the ritziest hotels in New York. I know which fork to use, but am unsure about another etiquette point: How much do I tip the staff?--W.D.J., Chicago, Ill.
a. According to Stan Bromley, Four Seasons regional vice president and general manager of the chain's San Francisco hotel, the tip is entirely up to you: "We're neurotic about influencing our staff about expectations. Whatever you're comfortable with is what you should tip." Bromley says the average tip for a concierge is $10 to $15, "but only if he has really bent over backward to arrange services, like a table at the hippest restaurant or tickets to a sold-out show." Still not sure what to do?Check out www.tipping.org, where suggested gratuities are listed on a case-by-case basis, from bellmen ($10 for bringing you and your luggage to your room) and chambermaids ($5 a night; more if you're staying longer than a week) to garage attendants and hairstylists.

E-mail your questions to AskTL@travelandleisure.com, fax them to 800/926-1748, or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.