Bangkok Runs

There are new things to see every time we head this way. The highlight of this trip was the excursion to Chinatown where smells assail and costs are brought down by wholesale goodness at Sampheng Market. 


Walk in through the red gates guarding the secrets of Yaowarat, and you will be transported into a world quite unlike the rest of Bangkok. 

Shark’s fin and bird’s nest soups are advertised as a must-have, pungent-smelling raw shrimp await the next tourist with guts and a strong stomach, street stalls pedaling somewhat suspect offal soup. Fried bugs? No worries! There is always a pharmacy two doors away to help with loose bowels. 

Delicacies galore…


Walk in and find out…the best way to travel yet.

Shunned by Scones

I love scones. The sight of warm, fluffy sorta-biscuits smothered in jam and generous slabs of clotted cream always puts me in a good mood. I read in a post by ladyironchef that there were some to be had in Central World in BKK – the new shopping paradise that is filled with tourists, expats and Thai aristocrats – and made a beeline for it.

The mall is one of those high-end ones which offers goods that fall in the designer, curated and/or gourmet categories. For locals, a good meal could set them back at least a couple of thousand bahts, which seemed to be a nice chunk of their monthly salary that can be used in many more practical ways. For me too since I am not earning any nowadays. Heh.

But I digress. Scones. Nice ones in the Zen area of Central World, level 2. 195 Bahts (~S$8) for a set with tea. I had the bright idea of having it for breakfast this morning, and so we headed out to get me some scones.

We looked but couldn’t find it anywhere. After some creative hand gesturing with the security person for that floor, I was disappointed to learn that it has since closed for good. Aw shucks!

Mulling over, it does make sense that they won’t do well in a place famous for its Pad Thais and Tom Yums by specialising in scones. No one in their right mind would come to BKK for scones…*looks in the mirror*…right?

With the tummy that has yet to be satiated, we decided to try a second (extremely adorable) confectionery to see if they had the scones. *What’s wrong with me?!* Turned out that they didn’t either. It’s like the Guardians of Scones have ganged up on me! Okay, I geddit now alright.

We had cake and tea instead.

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Chatuchak is THE market

What is it about flea markets and my fascination with? I’ll always be lured in, like a cat being held captive by the scruff of its neck. Bargains to be had? Yep, yep.

In lands strange or otherwise, they are always one of the first things I hunt down after food ( I have my priorities ūüėČ). Souqs in Qatar, Dubai and Cairo are some of my favorites. Chatuchak in BKK ranks up there with them.

We were there early this morning at 8am to beat the crowds and heat. Thank Lordy we did!

Pictures say it best.

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I can’t believe there is paella here, and a Spanish dressed in full chef gear to cook it. Lol!

The things we do in Bangkok

I meant to do up this post as a photo essay, but I just had to say that we love the vibe and pulse of BKK enough to come back again and again. *tee hee*

Culture rich. Spa delight. Foodie’s haven. Shopper’s dream. The city keeps getting better and better, though the traffic is still the headache it was. New buildings have sprung up, trains link everywhere, streets are cleaner and they have a skywalk linking the major shopping centres now. The streets have a mush mash of really old and spanking new, to the extent that the landscape is somewhat jarring. But it wouldn’t be Bangkok without that.

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Phuket over the weekend

We weren’t expecting queues at customs at Phuket International Airport to be phenomenally long and slow. We spent a little over 2hrs waiting in line before we finally made it through. No drama like in JFK, and we don’t get yelled at here. But the wait was certainly a pain. Interestingly, a group of men dressed as the Mario brothers who were on the same flight we were on made it through rather briskly – and they were the last few out of the plane. Bounce powers must work. The plane cheered when they got on, it was quite funny.

We made it to the hotel after midnight, but not before a tad scary swap of taxi ride not 400m out of the airport parking. We hopped on to the shuttle we booked online to take us from airport to hotel because we thought it made sense to have one waiting for us since we were getting in late. We were relieved we didn’t spend any longer at the airport, and were looking forward to starting our weekend break. Barely 5 mins later, our taxi driver, an elderly man, slowed to a stop by the side of the road, and said we had to change to a different taxi. He was on the phone speaking rapidly in Thai, and sounded exasperated. The other taxi appeared quite quickly, and two burly males stepped out. It was like a scene out of a movie right before a kidnap. My heart dropped all the way to my knees and I was ready to run all the way back to the airport. But they didn’t put a burlap sack over our heads, and instead were apologetic due to the mix up, and were decent – though they certainly didn’t look it. Maybe it was a pre-requisite for taxi drivers who do night shifts to look like bouncers. Lesson learnt here – don’t take your safety for granted, always be on the alert.

We spent the weekend indulging in massages and pampered ourselves a bit. There were plenty of little flea market type set ups across the stretch of Patong Beach that were interesting though most sold fairly similar things. Tourist traps, they are. The fun part about purchasing things from them is the haggling. Not as easy as the time before the catastrophe hit them but fun nonetheless. The 2006 tsunami flattened Patong but it is as alive today as I last remember it. New shopping centres sprouted up too, and must give the stalls a run for their money. JungCeylon was a 5-minute walk away from our hotel and so we find ourselves there when dodging from heat and rain. It is a huge complex, complete with cinemas, a supermarket, Robinsons, restaurants, cafés and hotels linked up to it. It has seemingly become the heartbeat of Patong since most things seem to radiate outwards from its location. Bangla Street, the lane filed with pubs left and right, was a mere 30-second walk from JungCeylon. There is a little cafe, a hidden gem, that sits in one of the small lanes off Bangla, opposite the SeaDragon Pub. I cannot remember the full name, but it is Eurasian something Рtheir Pad Thai is awesome!!!

The massage place we went to came highly recommended by a friend. We highly recommend it too after having experienced the spa-tastic treatments twice over. It’s called Let’s Relax, and is found along the main thoroughfare of Patong. You can’t miss it. Nice rituals, good technique and is reasonably priced too.

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Hot April in Chiang Mai

Temperatures hit a searing 40 deg C, but it was still  bearable though we were sweating like frogs in water most parts of the day.

For the second largest city in Thailand, I think they copped out a little on the development side of things with few high rise buildings. Rather, it’s more of a old, culture-rich, laid-back town with padi fields and backwaters dominating the landscape, and where people are still nice and friendly, patient and obliging. So unlike city folks.

People in Chiang Mai are also¬†happy ones who¬†lead simple, grounded lives. What struck me the most was that they seem content. Having said that, they really¬†are self-sufficient ‚Äď enough to not want for basic necessities because food is aplenty and glorious, dress is easily obtainable for reasonable rates, and they are not short of land for houses.

  Walking Street in the old city on Sunday evenings

I‚Äôm quite certain they are exposed to the bling of¬†the outside world despite seemingly dated and lack the urban sprawl common in larger cities. I‚Äôm also¬†sure they have their share of¬†people who pine for¬†trendy things who can easily¬†afford to have them.¬†I didn’t see¬†haute couture shops anywhere, so I don’t see how they can get the¬†goods.¬†But they are¬†resourceful enough to¬†import high quality, made-in-china knock-offs that can¬†quickly and cheaply satiate that¬†craving – not just for the domestic market, but for¬†some tourists too.

We took a day tour to the Golden Triangle and ended up in Laos. We found ourselves in a small, sandy village known as Done Xiao that sells intoxicating stuff like serpent liquor and all kinds of weird. The only people there were curious tourists and the local shopkeepers, and sadly many child beggars.   I’m not sure the impression of Laos I got then was the right one, it probably isn’t as bad in Vientienne. But for what it’s worth, it is still an eye-opener and is another place to tick off my list. No more opium though!

Liquor anyone?

I enrolled in a cooking school too, and successfully ate and digested everything I made. Green curry chicken, Basil chicken, Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai (my favourite!), and Banana in coconut milk.

The class had about 8 and we each had our own cooking station. Ingredients we used were bought from a local market we visited before going to the school, and some others were from the gardens in the school.¬† The instructor was¬†pleasant, speaks good English¬†but a little cuckoo¬†‚Äď she laughed hysterically¬†at everything, literally.¬†¬†So much that it was kinda odd after awhile¬†because she did seem¬†too pleasant,¬†bordering on¬†crazy. But the class was fun – much better than the one being conducted next to ours¬†that was constantly getting yelled at¬†by tiger-lady teacher¬†for not following instructions!¬†We paid 1000 baht per person for a 6 course meal. Good deal because I was full¬†way past¬†dinner time.

My creations!

We stayed at the Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa Рbeautiful place with very nice and warm staff. Free wifi in lobby and at the business centre. Very good in-house Spa. Grows its own rice. Daily demo of some form of artistry in the evenings. Free shuttles to the city and night markets. Highly recommended.

 

[First published: 5 May 2012]