Bangkok, Thailand: 15-18 March 2017

Update: a/o 21 May 2017. Bangkok will be cleaning up its streets, including its street vendors. There goes my street food!!! Only certain tourist spots, like Yaowarat, will be retained. Read it here: Bangkok Clean up

Trying out a new format to my headings. I get confused over my own headings so I best try out a more effective one. LOL 

Okay. So…

It was the March school term break here in Singapore. For the other parts of the world, this is something like your Easter holidays except that we all know that Easter is in April this year. We work on a 10-week term for the primary and secondary schools. Junior Colleges are slightly different and Polytechnics are totally on their own.

Anyway, with my colleagues-friends, J and T, we were off to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for a short stay of only four days. 

We took the Airport MRT to the city from the airport. It was quite convenient. Got to thank J who helped us get the transport card, Rabbit (yeah, the animal 🐰) Card, by standing in line (it was quite a line!). (After traveling by the local metro system, I realised that it’s about a dollar odd for each trip. Not too bad except for the crowdedness. You might get squashed in the process.) 

From the metro station, we walked about 10+mins to our hotel in Pratunam in the hot midday sun β˜€οΈ . Centre Point Pratunam is centrally located, near the clothing and shopping areas of Pratunam itself. It’s about a stone’s throw away from Baiyoke. Our room for two can easily fit us three, and with space to spare. 

It’s easy to get food all around the area. There’s even a 7-11 Convenience Store just outside the side door of the hotel, along the main road. If you don’t mind street food, then you will find many street food carts along the way, especially in the smaller lanes.

Hot hot day!

Our room for 3! 2 double beds to roll on. 

Skewered barbecued pork at 10 Baht (approx. 50cents SGD) freshly made and cooked.

We took a walk around the area. J wanted to do some clothes shopping so we went to Platinum Mall, which is down and across the road from the hotel. There is a food court on the TOP floor. Get a cash card from the main counter, buy your food from the stalls, and if there is any balance, you can get your refund.

Mango sticky rice!!! Our main snack of the day.

With the sun down and being hungry, we managed to find a Halal Thai Restaurant just on the other corner from the hotel. Total bill, including two bowls of plain rice 🍚 and a bottle of water, it came to about 300baht (approx. SGD12). Happy tummies, happy pockets, happy people! 😊 

Green curry with chicken and round brinjal, plain omelette, fried kangkong (water-spinach/η©ΊεΏƒθœ).

After dinner, we went to take a look at the night markets. There are quite a few in Pratunam and Baiyoke area. In fact, there are quite a number of these night markets in Bangkok itself. The famous one, ArtBox, had already packed up in preparation for the temporary move to Singapore. Singaporeans couldn’t wait for the favourite night market to arrive. 

The second day. 

We made a trip into crazy Yaowarat or also known as Chinatown. Looking at those signboards suddenly reminded me of Hongkong. Street food is plentiful, so don’t worry too much if you’re going to starve. From our hotel to Chinatown, it cost us 80baht by metered taxi. 

Our Friend, C, told us about a wholesale market there in Chinatown, called Sampeng Market. We finally found it in the midst of lanes and alleyways, and packed home loads of stationary for our students. Haha!!! That’s what Teachers buy when you bring them to a wholesale stationary place. Just make sure to find out about the wholesale prices in the shops you go to. 

The trip back to Pratunam was difficult as many taxi drivers refused to take us unless we fork out 200baht instead. Their reluctance was mainly because it was the evening peak period. We finally got one but the road back was on the side of being hair raising. We paid him 100baht for the trip. 

J and I had dinner together because T went for a massage appointment at upmarket Novotel Hotel. There are many little restaurants in the Baiyoke area. These places are housed indoors and not on the streets, but if you want to have an outdoor experience, it is always available.

What really marvels me is that the Drivers in Bangkok are really patient. They don’t sound their horns when there are pedestrians on the road, instead, they will slowly inch their way through, and hope that pedestrians will be more road-aware.

Oh yes! Try their local milk tea from the street vendors. Also, do take note of the cute packing for the takeaway packets.

Third day involves a trip to the supermarket, again. We found a link ridge from Pratunam to Big C supermarket. It also links to Central World, where we got our Shibuya Toast fix at After You Cafe. Thank God for smartphone maps! Or else we would had walked all the way to Siam Paragon, which is really far from where we were.

In the evening, we took the MRT and headed for JJ Green, another night market. It is located where Chatuchak market is, just next door only, but opened in the evenings. Quite crowded, so for the claustrophobic ones, avoid this area. There are many stalls selling vintage items, clothes, handicrafts, food and drinks, and there is even a stage with a live band. After a whole day out in the hot sun, I was ready to call it a day, or night. Whichever.

Last day in Bangkok and we went back to the same area as last night, but this time, we went to the one and only Chatuchak Weekend Market, where hundreds of stalls operate, where tourists flocked to but locals shunned. πŸ˜‚ 

PETA and other Wildlife agencies will be up in arms with what is being sold at this market. But first, food. 

Lots of food to feed the masses, and I found the best crispy pork   (Siew yok/燒肉) ever. And paired it with homemade sour chili sauce, it was just awesome! Writing about it now makes me salivate. πŸ˜† It is a little on the expensive price for street food, 150 baht (S$6) for 100g, but it was worth it, and I relished every single bite.

Alright then. Time to head back to the hotel, get our luggage, do some last minute packing, and get on the taxi for the airport. I initially wanted to have a foot massage but due to the time constraint, I’ll have to postpone it to the next trip to BKK. We three were quite sure our feet were tanner than when we left. Haha! 

Good bye, Bangkok! See you the next time!


Day 12: 19 June 2016, Roppongi & Ginza

Went to church in Roppongi on this Sunday at The Franciscan Chapel Center

After that, took a walk to Roppongi to see if there’s any interesting exhibition. To my surprise, there was a Sailor Moon one ongoing! Wow!!! It has been years since. Anyway, the exhibition ended on that Sunday itself and it being the last day, and since I was there, I didn’t go in. Ahahahahahaha! Caught you there, didn’t I? πŸ˜‚ Yeah, as I thought it was a tad too much for an exhibition. Β₯1800. 

So I took the train to Ginza as there’s this stationery shop I wanted to go to during the last trip. As you can see, part of the road in Ginza was closed to traffic, and that’s cool with me. 😁
Found Ginza Itōya. It is a shop with 7 floors of (more) stationery and (lesser) home and travel items. And there is full tax refund too! Woohoo! My 8% came back at me. 

There are some departmental stores that deduct 1.5% from your 8% tax return as service fee. So, you actually get 6.5% instead. 😞
So, had my fun there, and I was quite hungry after, which landed me in a Yoshinoya outlet. Yoshinoya is quintessentially the MacDonalds equivalent to the locals here. It is cheap, fast, and also, nutrious! (There’s veg.)

So, this bowl of rice mixed with beef and veg cost me Β₯590, and it filling enough to keep my tummy happy till the next morning. Actually, it isn’t that much but that shows that my tummy wanted to have lesser food. LOL!

Came back to Asakusa and found a little surprise in the temple grounds. There seemed to be some kind of festival which happened while I was out. The food stalls were packing up for the day, and while I was wondering where was that standard Takoyaki stand, it “appeared” before me. Hahaha! No temple festival is complete without the usual takoyaki and okomiyaki food stalls. And it being summer, there are food stalls selling shaved ice! It is actually shaved ice with coloured syrup, and maybe with some toppings. In Malaysia and Singapore, it’s called either ABC, or ice-kacang.
Ok. Since it is Fathers Day, happy fathers day to all you dads and people in fatherly capacities! 

Kyoto: I want to Visit you again.

Where shall I begin to write about this ancient capital of Japan?

13-18 June 2014, 6 days 5 nights.

Kyoto is most certainly a place for every one; there are activities every person can enjoy. History, geography, culture, food, arts, shopping, you name it, they got it. It is a mix of the traditional with the new, the old and the modern. You can find a shrine in the midst of a shopping street, or a traditional shop selling traditional sweets next door to a modern high rise. Old and new co-exist so peacefully such that it is weaved into the fabric of society.

We spent 5 days in Kyoto, staying at the Santiago Guesthouse near Gion district. The accommodation was more like a hostel, with bunk beds and shared common space and shower. However, it is new, very clean and the atmosphere and staff, friendly. It was an enjoyable stay. However, do take note that bath towels and toiletries (shampoo and shower gel) are not provided. A microwave, an electric kettle, and a water dispenser make up the little pantry. Those were the only down side, but thankfully, there are at least 3 convenience stores on one side of the road, and a 24-hour supermarket on the other corner. Nearest subway station is Kiyomizu-dera.

So, what did we do? We went walking (a lot!) around Gion, saw maikos, tourists dressed up as maikos, local ladies and tourists dressed in yutaka, went up Kiyomizu-dera (temple) itself, visited a few other shrines here and there, bought Kyoto souvenirs for family and friends, went to Nishiki Food Market and Street, went into 3 top-name departmental stores i.e. Takashimaya, Isetan, and Daimaru, went to Kyoto Central, found our way to church for Sunday Mass, and visited the castles, particularly inside Nijo Castle. The only places we did not see were the temples near Kyoto Station and the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama. I shall leave those places for another trip. πŸ˜‰

We also had different dining experiences, at the restaurants having soba and udon, along the Kamo River picnic-style with bento bought from the departmental store’s food hall, or bento bought from the supermarket and brought back to the lodging.

The food halls of those said departmental stores are a real treat. Normally located on the basement levels, you can get almost any Japanese food that you want to eat, from appetizers to mains and on to desserts. The stall keepers even hand out samples! You can easily be full from just eating the samples, and if you are not buying from them but have tasted their ware, just smile very nicely with a shake of the head.

When it comes to ordering food, especially if you are like me whose Japanese is close to zero, point at the food item and indicate with your fingers how many you want. Normally, the waiter or the stall keeper will repeat your order by pointing the items you want or take out a calculator to tell you the price. Anyhow, the overall experience is quite easy. The locals understand some English as most youngsters learnt English in school and is now able to put that to use, and even the older generation willingly help you out even if they do not speak English. They are a really helpful people. πŸ™‚

I shall just let you see those photos.