Photo of The Day #78, My Special Pedicure at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

I am very fond of pedicures and having my feet massaged. When given the Spa menu at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat I opted for a pedicure, as opposed to a massage. Over the prior week I had received two wonderful Thai massages. One massage was in Bangkok and the other one in Phuket, so I decided I would go for a change of pace. I made my reservation and went to spa a few minutes prior to my pedicure. The waiting room was filled with deep cushioned chairs and lounges and I thought, given a few minutes I might just doze off.

 

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

The attendants let me know that I would have a session in their Antioxidant room prior to the pedicure. When I inquired what that meant, they led me in and had me lay prone on a mat and relax. Almost immediately the room was filled with a very warm blast of air and I felt like I was in a sauna. The attendant informed me that my session, which would basically eliminate toxins from my entire body, was to last fifteen minutes. After what seemed an eternity, and an inability to breathe I got up and decided I had to leave the room and grab a few whiffs of oxygen. Once I was outside I discovered I had only been in the room for right at five minutes. I cannot understand how anyone could last the full fifteen minutes.

 

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

I was then lead into the pedicure room by the attendant scheduled to perform my pedicure and she began the process. I interviewed the young lady, as she began the procedure and I discovered that she was from India, a graduate of business school and was at the Banjaran to learn how to run a spa. Her dream was to return to India and open her own spa, after absorbing everything she could at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat. I inquired how they interviewed her and she stated by a Google Hangout. I thought that was very cool, given we conduct a Google+ Hangout almost weekly with our son in Japan. I love the process. Obviously they thought she was what they needed, as she was hired and given two weeks to move to Ipoh Malaysia, where the spa is located.

 

 

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

My pedicure was to last one hour, but it turned out I was in the room for 90 minutes, as we talked about her dream and my travel blogger business. I was amazed to learn that she was fluent in four languages. She was a very intelligent, extroverted young lady and I could tell she would achieve her dream and have that spa one day. I believe this with all my heart. She was well versed in customer service attributes and was learning the details of all the spa processes. I wish her the best of luck and need to thank her publicly, for what turned out to be the best pedicure I have ever had. If she continues down this path, learning all the other spa treatments, her spa in India will be very successful and profitable.

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

A Taste of Thai Food on The Cheap, A Guest Post by Agness Walewinder

Believe me or not, but I don’t know anyone who traveled to Thailand and didn’t like Thai food. It simply does not happen. Everyone seems to love the local dishes here as they are refreshing, full of flavours, fresh and perfectly spiced. Thai cuisine is a perfect combination of old Eastern and Western flavours combined with a dash of tropical fruits. What I love the most about Thai food is a perfect balance of all ingredients. It’s never too spicy, never too mild or never too sweet…

 

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

 

Another great news is that Thai dishes are extremely affordable, even in Bangkok. Do you have one dollar or two? Great. That’s more than enough to have a delicious lunch or dinner. No, I’m not joking and here is what you should do to dine out in Thailand on the cheap:

 

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

 

#1 Street vendors are your best friends.

 

Yes, street food is not only healthy, light and delicious, but also affordable. Thai cities are filled with pad thai stands and small food vendors from where you can grab some grilled chicken, pork, any kind of veggies and of course famous salty bugs and scorpions. The prices start from $0.50 and you should never pay more than $2-$3 a meal. Otherwise, it’s a scam!

 

Various Grilled Meats

Various Grilled Meats

 

Grilled Corn

Grilled Corn

 

Fried and Salty Bugs

Fried and Salty Bugs 

 

#2 Go for fruits and veggies based meals.

 

Meat is a bit expensive in Thailand, so dishes based on pork, chicken or duck are much more pricey than the ones filled with exotic fruits, veggies and rice. Just to give you an example, you would pay around $1 for a sticky mango rice whereas chicken noodle soup costs over $2,50. Besides, fruits and veggies are extremely healthy and nutritious, so cutting down on meat will be also beneficial for your health.

 

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice 

 

#3 Say NO to busy Western restaurants.

 

 

You are in Thailand so take the advantage of it and stick to traditional Thai meals which are yummy, light and refreshing. I often saw foreigners digging into burgers and pizzas when in Bangkok like they couldn’t have some Thai noodles, papaya salad sprinkle with nuts, grilled veggies or chicken soup. Western food is so pricey, full of fat and sugar and it will make you feel bloated and tired. It’s good to have it from time to time in your home country, but not when you are on a short trip in Thailand surrounded by fresh seafood and delicious smell from local restaurants.

 

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

 

#4 Visit local markets.

 

Farmers’ markets are the best places for your daily grocery shopping on the cheap. You can buy here a lot of fresh and organic products – honey, jams, bread, milk, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices as well as ready meals. I simply loved Thai markets. They smell so good, they are loud and overcrowded with tourists and locals. People scream and bargain with each other. Sellers sell their products from their boats, everyone smiles and wave at you. Great experience, that’s for sure! Apart from food, you can also purchase some souvenirs here – postcards, handmade wooden baskets, hats, etc. Thai markets are also surrounded by small local restaurants from where you can order a take-away meal. By the way, did you know that you can spend a day at Damnoen Saduak floating Market in Bangkok for less than $25? Yes, you can and it’s so cool!

 

Fried Noodles with Veggies

Fried Noodles with Veggies 

 

#5 Share the food with others.

 

The portions of food in Thailand can be sometimes really massive. For a girl like me, a plate of pad thai is way too much so I often shared it with Cez- my travel companion. In this way, we could both feel full without paying much. If you are like me and you prefer having a bit of everything when eating, ask fellow travelers to join you for a lunch or dinner. You can order small plates of different food, a couple of Thai beers and a nice dessert that you can split into 4 pieces.

 

Agness and Cez of etramping

Agness and Cez of etramping

 

#6 Try out your bargaining skills.

 

Bargain hard or go home – that’s what I’ve learnt in Thailand. Thai locals love to haggle for food, clothes and souvenirs with foreigners, so try out your skills when ordering some food. In order to do it properly, learn some basic Thai words – numbers, polite questions and requests, food vocabulary so you can impress not only yourself, but also locals around to get some food discount!

 

After visiting Thailand over 3 times, nobody can convince me that Thai food is expensive. Just the opposite. Apply these 6 rules and you will feel the difference in your wallet and around your waistline!

 

Have you ever tried Thai food? What was it and how much did you pay?

 

 

 

Agness and Cez

Agness and Cez

 

We are two adventurous tramps, best friends – Agness and Cez, from Poland. We call ourselves tramps, because we live without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. While travelling the world, we find the time to write about it, share the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same. Come along with us at etramping.com!

Read more about Agness
Read more about Cez

 

***All photos supplied by and credited to etramping.com.***

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 14, The Oasis Spa a Heavenly Retreat Away From Everything in Bangkok

After three legs and around 30 hours of airport and flight time, I was worn out the first night we arrived in Bangkok. I knew the first day was full of things to do on our agenda and knew I would be tired at the end of the initial day. Then I found out that we had a massage scheduled for each of us, at The Oasis Spa Bangkok. I also believe acutely, this is the answer to jet lag and a way to ease into new time zones. As we walked into this luxurious establishment I was in awe. Most of the places I receive massages in the US are rather small enterprises and not really a 5-star operation as this appeared to be. The lady on the left below in the light colored top turned out to be my masseuse.

 

Sammy, General Manager and the Owner, Lady on the Left was My Masseuse

Sammy Our Tour Guide, General Manager & the Owner, My Masseuse is on the Left

 

We were introduced to the lady who owned the spa, the General manager shown below delivering instructions and were given the rundown on the rules of the Spa. We were told we would all receive a traditional Thai Deep Tissue Massage and would be very relaxed afterwards. We were told if it hurt too much to tell our masseuse. I had no idea!

 

General Manager of the Oasis Giving Us Instructions

General Manager of the Oasis Giving Us Instructions

 

The entire reception room was decorated with very upscale furniture and soft music played in the background, as in most massage operations. We each were served a warm tea and a warn washcloth to help cleanse our faces of the grit and dirt picked up from walking the streets of Bangkok. A very nice additional touch.

 

Zen Bowl, Tea and Warm Cloth for All

Zen Bowl, Tea and Warm Cloth for All

 

We all anticipated our massages and were fairly exhausted. I managed to get a group photo of the ladies below, as they waited for their individual massages. I will tell you none of us were disappointed. I think some of us needed the massage more than others, me included!

 

Group Photo of The Ladies

Group Photo of The Ladies Waiting on Their Massages

 

They had a retail shop in the corner with tons of creams and lotions, both scented and non-scented. I really didn’t look into any items but made sure I jumped up when my name was called. I was led back through a very nice complex and the massage room was nicely done and even had a shower located outside that I used afterwards (had a wall that hid the people showering so don’t go there).

 

Various Lotions and Creams in Retail Section

Various Lotions and Creams in Retail Section

 

My masseuse led me in to the room with the table and asked me to disrobe when she left the room. She placed a large box on the bed and I asked her what it was for. There might be a small problem! She didn’t speak any English. She opened the box and to my surprise she pulled out a pair of disposable mesh underwear. I could choose either a Speedo type or a thong. Oh My God really? I was taken back by this action and motioned no way on the thong. She left and I had an issue. My fat butt wouldn’t fit into the large size pair of the Speedo underwear, which apparently was made for a 125 pound man. I put on my robe and communicated that they were too small. She retrieved a much larger and adequate size which I put on. We were finally set.

 

Outside View of Grounds

Outside View of Grounds

 

She began to give me my first ever Thai Deep Tissue Massage and I must say it was truly intense, especially after doing the normal prone portion. She then had me sit up erect. She worked her elbows into my back and worked me over, very much like a punching bag. My word it hurt! I have never had a massage that placed me in so much agony. On the other side of the equation, about an hour later I felt fantastic and actually felt that the jet lag had left my body. Even though the massage involves discomfort, I highly recommend you visit the Oasis Spa and endure one. You will not be sorry and your body will thank you immensely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 13, Wat Arun Temple of Dawn

As we boarded the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok shuttle on the Chao Phraya river, my curiosity intensified. We were on our way to see the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. It was our first day and we had a full schedule. Tour Wat Arun. Tour a portion of the backwater khlongs. Have lunch. Tour Bangkok Chinatown. Get a massage. Inspect a hotel and eat at one of the top 50 retsaurants in the world. This was on the back of a 27 hour three-legged flight for me and about three or four hours sleep. At first it appeared huge, but a drab grey in appearance and I wasn’t sure if it was going to really enjoy the tour.

 

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

 

As we disembarked and walked toward the Temple of Dawn, named from the morning light reflecting off the Temple, I began to change my impression. It’s a magnificent architectural structure in my humble opinion and one cannot visit Bangkok without devoting an hour or so to strolling through it’s grounds. It has so many various segments, stone statues and ornate trimmings that I couldn’t stop taking photos. I was simply shocked by the close up appeal, after viewing what I thought would be a drab Temple from far away. I was not prepared for what it contained.

 

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

As you enter the Ordination Hall is off to the side and is a remarkable structure in design and appearance. You can’t help but go that direction first and investigate what lies inside the gorgeous building.

 

Ordination Hall

Ordination Hall

 

Walking toward the Ordination Hall you pass this portrait of the King of Thailand and several more. I am curious though since the government overthrow has transpired, if any of these portaits remain, were defaced or if they were removed to avoid damage. If you have been since the coup please leave a comment below and let us know. Sawadee!

 

Before the Coup

Before the Coup

 

Rounding the corner and heading towards the Ordination Hall you are met with this rather imposing set of guardian figures, ornately decorated with vivid colors, unique accessories and elaborate adornments of a warrior genre. I was hypnotized by these majestic figures. They towered over the visitors attending and I took way too many photos trying to capture the demeanor of the imperial sentinels, as they watched over all that entered. I truly hope in some small way, I was successful.

 

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

 

As I grew closer and scanned the apex of the entry I again was mesmerized by the architecture and how detailed the design was. I will have to become more of a historian and be able to interpret the symbolism behind all the various trim and palatial work. Thailand has over 31,200 Temples and I was just beginning to realize the talent behind their construction.

 

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

 

Throughout the grounds I came across various and sundry stone statues, figurines and artistic structures that were stunning to view and diverse in design, purpose and placement. Again I took photos of what seemed hundreds of stone characters and had to limit my inclusion in this post to the more distinctive, at least in my opinion. I sincerely hope you enjoy the photos, but highly recommend a visit if given the chance. I would not want to tangle with this individual in real life.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

Nor would I have any inkling to become combative around this individual in real life. Although he is immobile in his present form I am positive he would do severe damage to my body if we engaged in some type of duel or combat.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

“A covered passageway, phra rabiengkote, lines the walls around the ubosot. The passage is lined with 120 Buddha statues in the sitting position. These statues were cast in the reign of King Rama II. The remains of deceased are kept in cubicles below the statues.”  This is a quote taken directly from a post on Tour Bangkok Legacies and explains the shrines below.

 

Buddhas Inside the Temple

Buddhas Inside the Temple

 

Additional stone figures are scattered throughout the grounds and some are regal in nature as compared with the warrior/guard figures at the entrance. They are both intricate and detailed in design. I was fascinated by the sheer numbers of figures and their various themes.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

These ferocious stone carved guardians resembled dogs to me and were present right at the entrance to the Temple area. It would make sense that these sentries were positioned to announce wayward or stray people animals or evil trespassers.

 

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

 

As I approached the entry to the Temple I glanced down the side and caught this structure’s opening with two stone almost obeliscal formations. I thought it was cool the way the front structure framed the stone towers in the back of the area.

 

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

 

I removed my shoes and walked into the Temple and was completely caught off guard by the array of wall paintings, chandeliers and artwork present inside and displayed for all to view. It really was beautiful and I am afraid I didn’t capture the true essence of the shrine. I hope that you can at least partially comprehend its magnificent beauty!

 

Inside the Ordination Hall

Inside the Ordination Hall  

 

As one walks into the actual main Prang area this gentleman awaits you and the sign portrays what is acceptable dress and what is not acceptable for the ladies. It also had a directional sign for the restrooms. My bladder was about to burst, so Sammy our guide and I went and paid our $.10 to go. Ha!

 

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

This cherubic Buddha waited outside the entrance to the large Prang greeting everyone and bringing great luck and prosperity. He gladly accepted donations to ensure your tour was favorable. The lady on the right thought it was funny that I was taking this photo and grinned at me. I would bet anything she or her boyfriend/husband took one also!

 

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

When you first see the porcelain tile applications it puzzles you, as you do not expect this decoration to be so beautiful or well defined. I was impressed at the mount of detail put into the overall structure and cannot begin to capture what it looked like in person. I am definitely not that good of a photographer. I do hope that a sampling is conveyed and you can realize the extreme work that went into the construction of this facility. The following photos are of various sections and appliques on the Prang and hopefully convey the quality of work involved.

 

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

As I turned around to leave I took this photo. I did not climb the steps past the first level and I have no idea how many steps there are, as every web site I viewed on Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn did not have this information. I Googled it and still could not find my answer. If you take a close look you can tell how steep the steps are by the way the people are holding on for dear life as the descend. I knew in that instant I was not going up to the top!

 

The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

Part of The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

 

At the bottom there is a traditional market filled with stalls selling every imaginable souvenir one could associate with the shrine, Thailand or its history. It was very interesting and slightly cooler than being out in the Bangkok heat and humidity!

 

Souvenir Stalls

Souvenir Stalls

 

A sample of local snacks that one could purchase. Not sure if they were healthy or not, but they were unfamiliar to me and I held back on testing anything new, as we had a wonderful dinner planned later that night At one of the to 50 restaurants in the world.

 

Snacks for Sale

Snacks for Sale

 

This stall had many wood carvings of elephants, Buddhas and other items we found at every shopping place we visited. I am not entirely sure, but I hope the “tusk carving” wasn’t real ivory. Elephants represent good luck throughout Thailand.

 

Various Souvenirs for Sale

Various Souvenirs for Sale

 

The mango stand was unique and I really wanted to buy a bag of mango to snack on, but against any concept of appetite I passed. I really, really wanted to sample it, as I love Mango. Fortunately I ate my fair share later.

 

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

 

This stand was selling coconut water and a few of the members our group tried it and stated that it was the best they had ever consumed.

 

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

 

 

My initial impression of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, from a distance was so ill conceived I was embarrassed. I thought I would be bored to tears and not really interested in seeing this vast complex. It just goes to show you the best laid plans of men and mice go astray! I cannot stress enough how important it is, if you visit Bangkok you absolutely have to visit Wat Arun. The Temple of Dawn. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 12, Thalang Road Phuket Old Town

As I sit here this morning writing this post, I feel pensive and have a deep concern for my friends in Thailand. It appears that the Thai Army, unknown to the Thai Government, has declared Martial Law and is imposing curfews and roadblocks around the perimeter of Bangkok. I love Thailand, its culture, its fabulous food and most of all its gentle people, who appear to smile 100% of the time.

 

I am worried this will escalate into a coup. Hopefully the assorted media campaigns are just being sensational as usual and have blown this completely out of proportion. The civil protests were just beginning when I was there in November and I can’t help but be apprehensive for my friends that reside in Thailand.

 

We flew from Bangkok to Phuket, a short flight and as we were approaching, I could see islands faintly out the plane’s window from Phang Nga Bay. I had no idea how wonderful our stay in Phuket would be.  We left the airport on a bus operated by the Sweetland Travel & Tours Company in Phuket Thailand and Old Town. At one  time Old Town Phuket was the center of gambling, prostitution and opium trades. This was centered around the flourishing tin-mining industry, maintained by labor from the Siamese, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and various sea gypsies.

 

 

The tsunami of 2004 stopped the aggressive upgrade to this gorgeous city on the Andaman Sea,started in the eighties. There remain, many wonderful beaches and the shops are in varying stages of refurbishing. This video is all about the historical Thalang Road with it’s century old “Shophouse” architecture. We parked the bus a street away and had “10 minutes” to shop and see the area. Of course that was impossible and we wound up staying there for 30 minutes.

 

Side Street off Thalang Road

Side Street off Thalang Road

 

As we sauntered down the side street we came upon this barber plying his trade and giving a local his haircut. Notice the sparse accommodations in this shop and the fact that only a fan spins above the client’s head.

 

A Local Barber Cuts Haif

A Local Barber Cuts Hair

 

Another shop we walked by, had this chart in four languages; Thai, English, French and German. It illustrates the various pressure points of Reflexology on the foot,  an alternative medicine or pseudoscience involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet.

 

Pressure Points on a Reflexology Sign for the Foot

Pressure Points on a Reflexology Sign for the Foot

 

We found this refurbished wonderful house on the side street, the balcony  loaded with plants. Notice the TV satellite dish matches the base color pink.

 

Old Architecture

Old Architecture on a Side Street

 

As we turned onto Thalang Road, we found the architecture outstanding and a majority of the antique homes had been remodeled. This was along with the shops which sold a plethora of goods.

 

Bolts of Silk Material in a Shop on Thalang Road

Bolts of Silk Material in a Shop on Thalang Road

 

Shop after shop offered their silk wares and although we had mostly secured our silk needs in Bangkok, we did stop, chat and discuss things with the shopkeepers. They were all friendly and were all asking if we needed anything. Thankfully it wasn’t a heavy sell approach.

 

Old Architecture on Thalang Road

Old Architecture on Thalang Road

 

We continued along Thalang Road, the main thoroughfare and home of all the historic buildings and original center of commerce. I must have taken 50 to 75 photos of the houses and balcony areas

 

 

Old Architecture on Thalang Road with Character

Old Architecture on Thalang Road with Character

 

The “Shophouses”, named this a result of the fact that the front portion is an actual retail establishment of one kind or another and the remainder is their home. Some have intricate gardens and patios that are not visible from the main street. An interesting detail, is that all the “Shophouses” have a “five-footway” front, that provides shade and protection from the in-climate weather.

 

Colorful Old Architecture on Thalang Road

Colorful Old Architecture on Thalang Road

 

This shop was an illustration of the various clothing and Burkas worn by Muslim women. A  Niqaab or face cover, is not required of most in Thailand and this portion of Asia. Additionally you can see rugs, packaged scarves and other clothing.

 

Clothing Shop on Thalang Road

Clothing Shop on Thalang Road

 

Before we knew it they were calling us back to the bus, to continue on to our resort and get checked in. As stated in the video, the shops were closed on the following day and I felt lucky to have this experience even though it was brief in nature.

 

I highly recommend you stay at the Keemala resort, located in the rainforest of Kamala Phuket and close to Patong Beach for those seeking a fun time. It is a great resort for a romantic get away and has a spectacular spa. The resort has numerous holistic activities and one can feast on an assortment of foods that will satisfy your wholesome needs. Whether you desire a villa, pool cottage, or pool house Keemala will placate your thirst for personal treatment.

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 11, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket Review

My recent  excursion to Thailand and Malaysia was a trip of a lifetime and I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Tourism Authority of ThailandThai Airways  and Tourism Malaysia USA. The trip was full of 5-Star hotels, restaurants and some of the most fabulous tours I have ever been on, but staying at this hotel was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The Centara Grand Beach Resort was one of the top five hotels I have stayed at in my entire life, including my many trips to Asia, as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the seventies.

 

Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket

Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket

 

Flying in from Bangkok we saw a view of Phang Nga Bay and all the wonderful islands. We had a bus waiting and drove through old town Phuket for a quick shopping spree and drove up to this entrance. It made a statement and everything had been prepared for us and we immediately were prepared to be taken to our rooms. Before I go any farther I will tell you this post will have more photos, than any post I have published. I think I took around 200 total of just the hotel, spa, beach and grounds.

 

Centara Entrance

Centara Entrance

 

If you know me, you know I have a very weak bladder, so before the tram took us to our rooms, I used the facilities. My word it was like I was outdoors and we even had a waterfall, just in case we needed any coaxing. Not an issue with me!

 

Mens Restroom Waterfall

Mens Restroom Waterfall

 

I walked out and one of the ladies was coming out of their restroom and asked if I would like to see it. She assured me it was vacant. Well of course I said yes. Their view was similar except their sinks looked out over the waterfalls. I was so blown away that it is included in my video later on in the post.

 

Ladies Restroom Sinks

Ladies Restroom Sinks 

 

We had our luggage loaded on trams and were taken to our “rooms”, passing several buildings on the way. This section appeared to be similar to the area we were staying in, but not as secluded. You can see the rooms on the bottom floor had pools or Jacuzzi’s by the tile.

 

Rooms with Pools (Bottom Rooms)

Typical Centara Rooms

 

Every morning when we came down to eat breakfast at The Cove Restaurant, we roamed along this lovely courtyard and glimpsed the beach. The view was magnificent and literally took your breath away! It was a short hike from the room, so each of us really worked up an appetite, as we strolled daily.

 

Courtyard to Dining at The Cove

Courtyard to Dining at The Cove

 

This photo is of the Omelet station and of course I ate my share while we were there. This gentleman had the preparation down to an art and never made any mistakes. He had a lot of satisfied customers.

 

Omelet Station

Omelet Station at The Cove

 

They make a crepe like item that is sparsely spread on the large griddle in the middle and cooks very quickly. It can be topped off with jams or have products inserted while cooking. It was a daily ritual for me and tasted so good. I hope I am not getting the name wrong, but it reminded of me and was similar to a product we ate, named Roti Canai, later in our trip. If I am incorrect I apologize to my readers. If you know the true name please leave a comment below the post and share with my readers.

 

Fresh Roti (Bread) Station

Fresh Roti Canai or Crepes (Bread Stuffed with Sweets) Station at The Cove

 

Inside there were so many stations with fruits, breads, various traditional Thai breakfast soups served over or with rice and just about anything you can imagine that one would eat at breakfast whether normal or not to you.

 

Carious Local Broths and Rice

Various Local Broths and Rice at The Cove

 

My room was very spacious and had a coffee area with refrigerator stocked to the limit. The work area or desk was phenomenal and had enough electric outlets to charge every piece of equipment I had at one time. The view out the sliding glass doors was tremendous and inspiring. It may not look like it but this King size bed was huge and very comfy.

 

Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed

Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed

 

How many photos can one take of their room? I knew it would be hard, but I had to include the glorious shower with a high pressure rain head. It was spectacular and really had an aggressive spray. My tired and aching body loved it for sure, every day I jumped in.

 

In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head

In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head

 

What’s this? I walked out my sliding glass doors and found a unimaginable patio setup complete with a huge swimming pool and Jacuzzi. I was blown away that they would have this type of arrangement and I found out we all had a similar room. The privacy curtain could be raised at your discretion to keep nosy passers by from observing your activity. My only regret is I didn’t take a photo at night with the pool lit up. It was stunning.

 

In Room Swimming Pool

In Room Swimming Pool

 

The Centara’s spa was named Cenvaree. It is out of this world, with first class amenities and options that one could use the entire day. Again, my issue was how many photos do I share? I decided I would let you see what the waiting area looked like. We were served water prior to our wonderful massages and a warm tea afterwards. I truly love having my body beat up and my muscles dug into. It is so relaxing. I had a traditional Thai massage, in which they use their elbows and get deep into the tissue. It hurt substantially at first, but as it progressed I grew used to it and had all my stress and sore muscles relaxed afterwards.

 

 

Spa Waiting area

Spa Cenvaree Waiting area

 

This is what the pedicure room looked like, but I only had so much time and couldn’t take advantage of the therapy. I did later at another hotel. There is nothing like having your feet massaged to relieve your body’s stress. Okay go ahead call me a Metro-Sexual. I really don’t care. I love spas.

 

Pedicure Station

Spa Cenvaree Pedicure Station

 

The Centara is located right on the water and you just have to walk just across the entry road to reach their fantastic beach. On my first visit I was totally surprised at the size, the beauty and all the normal chairs, umbrellas and beach lounges. I had no idea it was so large. Of course I took around 30 to 40 photos and had a dickens of a time trying to decide which to keep. So I decided on these three with the first one showing just the beach and a great wave.

 

Centara Beach

Karon Beach

 

This one show you what the chair and umbrella arrangement looked like looking to the south and kind of back towards the hotel entrance. I could have stayed on this beach all day for our entire visit, but we had tours and restaurants and shopping to participate with.

 

Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

 

The last photo, yes I said last, was of the beach facing north and giving you a taste of the cove we were located in. In addition you can see the view that a few locals had from their wonderful villas up the side of the hill.

 

Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Chaise Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

 

All good things must come to an end, but I cannot rave enough about this hotel. A friend ask recently about what accommodations were available in Phuket, as she had a friend getting married and they wanted it to be on the beach. They had broken it down to Phuket and an island area in Thailand. I couldn’t type fast enough. I recommend the Centara Grand Beach Resort and told her that her friend would remember her wedding forever, just like I will remember my stay at this luxurious establishment forever.

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 10, Bangkok’s Best Shopping Center for Haggling #Asiatique

I am sure if you travel very much you are enamored as I am with visiting markets and haggling over prices. Its expected in a large majority of the world and when we were in Thailand recently they took us to Asiatique, a shopping center located at Charoen Krun Soi 72 in Bangkok and on the Chao Phraya river. It is located around an enhanced rebuilt pier originally constructed in the early 1900’s and has an entertainment park atmosphere, complete with a Ferris wheel.

 

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

 

Asiatique has many stalls and offers a myriad of shops with clothing, shoes, bags, luggage and a large amount of silk items. Additionally, it has  food court is like the old Night Market and one can find great inexpensive Thai food. If you are in the mood for a higher end menu with air conditioning there are a couple of upper end restaurants like the one we ate at. In addition to a fabulous meal, we had entertainment with dinner at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre, which I will write about in another post.

 

We were driven in vans to the shopping complex, but one can take the Skytrain an above ground rail system in Bangkok to Saphan Taksin and catch one of Asiatique’s free ferries across the river. The ferries run from 5:00 pm until 11:00pm every night. As we pulled into the parking lot it was lit up and very beautiful.

 

Parking Lot at Asiatique

Parking Lot at Asiatique

 

As we approached the entrance to the restaurant it seemed a little like Christmas at home with this green tree lit up and displayed in the center of the mall.

 

Entry to Asistique

Entry to Asistique

 

We watched the show at Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and gathered to begin shopping. It appeared that all were very exited, as we separated into groups and hit the booths. It must have taken all of about 10 seconds for the various groups to break away and start shopping. I was amazed at the speed of my tour group!

 

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

 

I caught Abha Wangpaichitr, a Marketing Coordinator for Thai Airways, posing at the large golden elephant outside the restaurant. Elephants are considered very lucky in Thailand and one can purchase various souvenirs from T-Shirts to wood carvings to porcelain statues of elephants and take a little luck home with you.

 

Ladyboy Posters

Ladyboy Posters

 

Entertainment at Asiatique has a varied approach and includes a long running Transvestite show,  the Calypso Cabaret. Having seen these “ladyboys” up close in Phuket I was astonished at how much some of them resemble beautiful women. A few of the women on our tour were taken back at how pretty some of them were. The show is a bit expensive at around 1000 baht. I did not see it, so I cannot review the show.

 

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

 

In addition the shopping center has spa options, which include these small fish that eat the dead skin from your feet. I tried it at a resort and spa in Malaysia and it tickles like crazy. It is kind of freaky at first, but you get used to it. Our fish at the spa, were in a large pool and not contained in a small aquarium like this. I feel this, besides maybe being a little unsanitary possibly, is not exactly good for the fish.

 

Silk Scarves

Silk Scarves

 

I intended to purchase a few silk items for Kim and looked at many a scarf and wrap and became more and more confused as the night wore on. I was taken back by the quantity and choices affordeded us. We could have shopped all night for just the silk scarves.

 

Various Silk Items

Various Silk Items

 

Not only were silk scarves an option, the selection of silk pillow covers were massive and thank goodness I only was looking at scarves. I might have had to come back the next night and resume my shopping. A couple of the ladies I ventured out with did purchase the pillow covers. There was booth after booth of just silk products.

 

A Young Band Performing

A Young Band Performing

 

As we came upon a crossroad in the shopping center and began a new lane, we came across this young and very talented small band. I was blown away by their talent and laughed at some of their laid back dress style!

 

Various Bags

Various Bags

 

If you were in the market for a bag for yourself or your wife you could look at buying a small assortment for a very cheap price. I think these groups ran like $3.00, $5.00 and $7.00 US dollars, after translating value from the baht amount. I was amazed.

 

Various Coin Purses

Various Coin Purses

 

I did wind up buying Kim a new coin purse that was the size of these clutches and I think, if memory serves me correctly it was a whopping $.85 US dollars. I just bought a black single with an elephant on it of course.

 

Asiatique Stand

Asiatique Stand Commemorating 1945

 

This little stand commemorated the original pier built in the early 1900’s and was associated with the train system and somehow a passport stamp, as shown at the bottom of the sign. My apologies for not studying enough on the meaning and significance of this stand. I did research the stand, but couldn’t locate anything. I wrote the shopping center so we will see if they respond. If they explain its significance I will post it on a later date.

 

Prada Lookalike Bags

Prada Lookalike Bags

 

The ladies in the group I shopped with told me the Prada bags were very good copies, but had small fatal flaws that could be detected, if viewed up close. I wouldn’t have known one from the other! One of the ladies was told first price was $80.oo US Dollars. I told her under my breath to come back with $40.00 US Dollars. The vendor just laughed and said “No way could he afford that price as the bags cost him more than that”. So we asked how much he could come down. He told us about $10.00 US Dollars to $70.00 US. I told her let’s walk away.

 

He came running after us and said okay for you a “special price” $60.00 US. I laughed and grabbed her arm and we started to walk away. He asked “What you pay”? I said , for the second time, $40.00 US. He grimaced and sold her the bag. I am guessing we were at his bottom limit. We were told ahead of time to pay about 50% of what they originally quoted and we found that to be true, throughout most of the market.

 

Colorful Candles

Colorful Votive Candles

 

These candles were fascinating and so colorful. I liked that the actual votive candle could be switched out for new scents, or if the wax had burned off. Really almost bought a couple for Kim, but I had to leave room for the silk items, bag and the huge assortments of Batek material for her to sew with, I would purchase in Kuala Lampur.

 

Carvings, etc.

Carvings, etc.

 

This was also very tempting and I wanted to purchase an item or two for my sons, but down deep I knew they would appreciate a T-Shirt more and the item from this selection would just sit and collect dust in their homes!

 

Wonderful Elephant

Wonderful Elephant with Brass Hands 

 

I turned a corner and looked down a booth to the other end. These elephants and brass hands were staring back at me. I think someone or something was trying to tell me I was very “lucky” to be on this trip. No worries I was already very aware of that!

 

 

Various Flip Flops

Various Flip Flops

 

Okay who doesn’t like flip flops or sandals. I couldn’t get a photo of the entire stall, but this booth was filled with every color and style of flip flop you could imagine. They were being offered at a reasonable price, but again I had limited space so I passed!

 

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

 

Okay this was just too funny to pass up. This dog was sound asleep with people walking all around it by his owners stall and he was wearing a pair of sunglasses. It cracked me up and brought a round of laughter to us all. This was definitely a first for me and the rest of the group!

 

Small Convenience Store

Small Convenience Store

 

After 30 years in this industry, as a retail exec what do I run into in the shopping center, but a slimmed down version of a convenience store and my gosh was it busy. The line to get in was regulated and very long. Maybe I should open up a second one and see if it would be profitable? Ha!

 

Another Young Group of Musicians

Another Young Group of Musicians

 

We were on our way out and ran into a second band of young teens playing what looked like harpsichords, drum box and a guitar. Great music and we stopped and listened, as we had a few minutes left before our meetup at the front to catch our van back to the hotel.

I love seeing local markets and haggling with the vendors and do this in every city I visit. This particular shopping center was opened in 2012 and took the place of a few night markets. It is clean and well operated and I recommend you visit #Asiatique, but make sure you have several hours to shop and roam, as it is a very large complex. I guarantee you will have a blast!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

>> http://www.pingmylink.com

Photo of The Day #65, #NomadicTexan #Thailand #Travel #Temples

 

As you travel the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok and see Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn in the distance, you realize it is an imposing structure. The Temple has played a part of the history and culture of Thailand for centuries. As the boat docks and you disembark you have no idea what you will be exposed to when you see the Temple up close. It is am amazing feat of construction in my humble opinion and I was overcome with awe, when I saw the elements of its architecture in detail.

 

Mosaic Guardian Figures on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Mosaic Guardian Figures on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

The exterior design is built with hundreds of thousands of mosaic tiles arranged to form themes and brings significant attention to the overall pattern and layout. I was astonished by the quantity of tiles and how they were put together to create the overall scheme. It had to take many, many years and a plethora of man-hours to complete the Temple.

 

 

If you find yourself in Bangkok and want to visit a Temple of renown significance, I highly recommend you visit Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Plan on allocating several hours, as the complex is not something you will want to rush through. More than likely it will mesmerize you and make you think about its origin and construction. In the end you will realize how absolutely beautiful the Temple is and be very glad you went!

 

 

Mosaic Trim on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Mosaic Trim on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 9, Bangkok’s #1 Tour Guide

When we arrived in Bangkok we worn out and needed a place to sleep. We were met at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport by a smiling individual that welcomed us like old friends, even though it was midnight his time. His name is Mr. Sompol Kutapand, Tour Operation Manager for SBY Travel and he goes by Sammy.

 

He immediately made us all feel comfortable and I knew we were in good hands. Sammy gave us a brief overview of what to expect that evening and the next morning. He helped us all with our luggage and I was fortunate enough to have him in our van on the way to the hotel. He commented on sights, as we made our way and kept us awake just long enough to get to our rooms.

 

Sammy Talking About Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn

Sammy Talking About Thailand on the Way to The Amita Thai Cooking Class

 

I learned very quickly that Sammy was very organized and thorough. He was was genuinely interested in seeing us have a great time, along with receiving an education about his country. He incessantly discussed the history and facts in regard to each and every destination we were to visit.

 

I have never learned so much in my life on any other tour, in any other country. I am not sure, but I think that Sammy felt I was a kindred spirit or he was just sorry for the “Old Man” of the tour. Regardless we formed a great bond and talked alone many times.

 

Sammy talking about Wat Arun, The Yemple of Dawn on The Way

Sammy talking about Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn

 

Of course after we toured the Chao Phraya river and saw a few sites we landed at the dock for the Wat Arun tour and the morning coffee was coming through quickly. Sammy helped me locate a restroom, as the others began their tour. Always there to help me and he was always smiling and laughing about my very weak bladder! After three fabulous days in Bangkok with Temple tours, a cooking class and various shopping outings it was time to leave.

 

We caught a plane to Phuket and Sammy turned the tour over to his representative from the area. He still accompanied us and made sure we all had a great time and things were on schedule. He ensured we ate great food, took tours we would remember our entire lives and educated us on the attributes of his wonderful home country of Thailand.

 

Outside the Phuket Yacht Club Sammy poses for Me!

Outside the Phuket Yacht Club Sammy poses for Me

 

As we toured Phuket late at night after we celebrated Loy Katrong, I told Sammy I wanted a souvenir T-Shirt for my two youngest sons. It was late at night, yet Sammy was moving very fast and checking with locals. He asked everyone it seemed, where we could buy the shirts. It turned out to be too late at night.

 

Of course I had to use the restroom. I think I have the world’s smallest bladder. He quickly located one and we used the facility down some back alley. Had to pay the guy at the door roughly a dime, but it was much better than messing my jeans up!

 

Sammy Shows His US Patriotism

Sammy on The Way To James Bond Island

 

I was fortunate enough to catch an example of Sammy and his typical spiel on one of the bus rides. He was always educating us on the many facets of Thai life and his wonderful country. I really think there isn’t a better ambassador for Thailand. Thank you my friend, from the bottom of my heart. You made our trip wonderful. I learned so much from you and I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts.

 

 

 

If you find yourself heading toward Bangkok and are in need of a great tour guide, you have to look up Sammy and I guarantee he will treat you better than any other tour guide has ever treated you. His company SBY Travel is located at 402 Sukhumvit 63(EKAMAI24), Klongtonnua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110. Their local number is 02-961-9160. Try them out and ask for Sammy!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #63, #NomadicTexan

This is actually an experiment and I am adding a video today from my experience at the Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok. Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon the owner and instructor is a very sweet lady who takes her time and ensure you are digesting her teaching. Sorry I couldn’t help the pun.

 

This video is a session where she instructs us on the various flowers and spices used in a plate of appetizers she served upon arrival. They are lightly battered and fried briefly, similar to Japanese Tempura. In addition she tells us of the specific medicinal qualities o f each. They were very tasty and scrumptious! I can’t recommend her class enough!

 

 

 

Tam with an Assistant

Tam with an Assistant

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 5, The Amita Thai Cooking Class Review, Recipes Included

As we approached the dock to enter the Amita Cooking class from the water or Khlong, or as its more commonly called a canal, I saw this friendly and energetic lady waiting to greet us. We each exited the Long Boat. I love to eat. I love to cook. When I travel I go out of my way to participate in cooking classes and learn local ways. Our agenda informed us that our FAM trip would be oriented towards a food and spa theme. I couldn’t have been happier!

 

Tam with an Assistant

Tam with an Assistant 

 

The Amita Thai Cooking Class is hidden in the canals that spring out from the Chao Phraya river in old town Bangkok. The lady that created this wonderful program and class is named Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon. Tam originally received her Bachelor’s degree in Law at Thammasat University, which is Thailand’s second oldest institute of higher learning. Her turn to this area (conducing cooking classes) is an interesting story and can be found on the Amita Thai cooking Class web site.

 

Class Apron

Class Apron

 

Tam’s English is excellent and she began her class with an introduction and tour of her grounds including her spice garden, fruit trees and other various ingredients that she provides with her green and organic approach. She made us feel at home immediately and commented that she lived in the house that occupies a good portion of her lot and has another six or seven family lodgings located adjacent to hers. She employees several family members in her overall operation. Who really knows how big of a Samaritan she is and how many in her family she helps in life. Her personality is magnetic and her training skills are golden. I absolutely loved every minute of her class!

 

Pea Eggplant

Pea Eggplant

 

I had never heard of pea eggplant, but it is used in many Thai preparations and as described before, she literally picks what she needs from her bushes. She conveniently has the spices and other items labeled to help students understand her approach. As you walk among her gardens she defines the many uses of each component and  allows everyone to sample or taste the spice leaves, if they so desire. Being naturally curious I tried each item. When in Rome!

 

 

Pea Eggplant Pods

Pea Eggplant Pods

 

One of the items that I faintly recall in prior cooking discussions was the Kaffir Lime she grows. It has a very heavy lime flavor and you cannot use as much as you would from an ordinary lime. Personally I am a huge fan of limes and use them in place of lemons wherever I can. She told us the leaves would be used in our Curry Chicken Dish. They tasted a little bitter when I sampled them, but I proceeded with an open mind.

 

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

 

Thai cooking employs a plethora of various peppers, each with varying degree of heat potency. I think somewhere along the trip each of us accidentally bit off more than we could handle and wound up with a sensation that would not stop flaming, or at least it felt like a fire was actually in our mouth.

 

Red Chili Peppers

Red Chili Peppers

 

Thai cooking uses a great deal of coconut milk. I learned that it has an abundant quantity of various essential vitamins, antioxidants and helps fight heart disease. I am all in! I might add that it was cool watching her team make fresh coconut milk. They first ground out the white meat from the husk using a very labor intensive procedure.  They take a half of a coconut and rub it on the tool pictured below until the white meat is extracted as shown in the pan.

 

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

 

The white meat is then placed in this wicker basket and heated water is poured over the meat making the milk flow through the basket. Afterwards they take a cloth and push the remaining meat down and the liquid through the basket into the catch pan underneath. The result is fresh coconut milk that can be used immediately for cooking or refrigerated for a brief period.

 

Making Coconut Milk

Making Coconut Milk

 

The process was for Tam to discuss the ingredients, illustrate each dish’s assembly and let us sample what it should be after correct preparation. This took a considerable amount of time and in reality we ate each course after she had finished with discussing the items needed and its mixing, cooking or construction. I had no idea what was in store for us as I was getting full just nibbling on her display dishes.

 

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

 

The first course was the Khao Mun Som Tum or Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad.

 

You will need Coconut rice which is 1 cup of long grained rice (jasmine rice) washed, 4 teaspoons of sugar, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup pandanus juice (pound 6 pandanus leaves with 1/2 cup of water, squeeze only juice). 1) Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Add salt and sugar, stir until dissolved. Add panadanus juice 2) Add rice, cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

 

Second you need Papaya Salad which is 1 cup of grated green papaya, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp, 1 fresh dried red chili, 4-5 cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup of yard long bean cut into 1/4 inch increments.

 

Third is the dressing which is 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar and 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.

 

1) Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside 2) Pound garlic, red chili, dried shrimp and yard long bean in a mortar 3) Add grated papaya and cherry tomatoes and slightly pound 4) Pour dressing in and toss well 5) Plate the salad. Topping with toasted peanuts coarsely ground and garnish with lettuce. Makes 1 serving.

 

Khao Mun Som Tum, #Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad

Khao Mun Som Tum,
#Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Finished Product

 

The second course was Khang Keaw Wan Gai or Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk. The items needed are 120 grams of sliced skinless chicken, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of green curry paste, 1/4 cup pea eggplant, 2 green or red chilies with seeds removed and sliced lengthwise, 3 Kaffir lime leaves torn in half, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup sweet basil leaves for garnish.

 

To make the green curry paste you need 6-8 fresh green chilies, 2 tablespoons chopped lemon grass, 1 tablespoon chopped coriander root, 1 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon galangal, 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, 7 white pepper corns.

 

Toast all the ingredients except the shrimp paste in a wok over low heat. Pound or blend all the ingredients together. Add the shrimp paste and grind to a smooth paste.

 

Khang Keaw Wan Gai, #Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

Khang Keaw Wan Gai,
#Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

 

1) In a wok heat oil to medium 2) Add green curry paste and stir constantly for 1 minute. Little by little add coconut milk and stir gently. 3) Add chicken, Kaffir lime leaves and stir until cooked. 4) Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and stir constantly until it bubbles. 5) Season with fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes. 6) Add pea eggplants, chilies and sweet basil leaves. 7) Garnish with sweet basil leaves before serving.

 

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua) Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua)
Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The third course was Satay Gai or Satay Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce with which you need 150 grams chicken or other meat product, 1/2 teaspoon roasted coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, pinch of salt, 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon palm sugar, 1/4 cup of coconut milk,1 tablespoon vegetable Oil 8-9 Satay sticks, for brushing 2 tablespoons of coconut milk. Make sure and keep a pinch of ground cumin and coriander back for use later.

 

1) Use a mortar and pestle, grind coriander and cumin seeds. Then pound together all ingredients until mixed well. 2) Pour mixed ingredients in a bowl with coconut milk 3) Add meat strips and marinate overnight or at least 3 hours. 4) Thread meat strips with Satay sticks. 5) Grill Satay on charcoal stove over low heat. Turn them regularly and brush them with the remaining marinated sauce and coconut milk while turning. 6) When Satay is cooked serve with spicy peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

 

Spicy Peanut Sauce is 2 tablespoons of roasted (unsalted) peanuts, 1 tablespoon Massa Man curry paste, 6 tablespoons of coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste, 2 teaspoons of palm sugar and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Grind or crush the peanuts to a fairly fine paste and set aside. 2) Pour coconut milk into a pan over medium heat, add Massa Man curry paste and stir time to time until the sauce becomes smooth. 3) Combine them with the remaining ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or coconut milk.

 

Cucumber Relish is 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, (a pinch of salt, mix well with white vinegar and set aside), 2 tablespoons of sliced cucumbers, 2 shallots sliced and 2 chilies thinly sliced. Mix all ingredients together and pour on top of sliced cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a sauce cup. Makes 8-9 sticks.

 

Khao Niew Ma Muang, #Mango Sticky Rice

Khao Niew Ma Muang,
#Mango Sticky Rice

 

The dessert course was Khao Niew Ma Muang or Sticky Rice and its recipe is 5-6 ripe mangoes peeled and sliced, 2 cups of glutinous rice, soak overnight or 5 to 8 hours and drain, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar. Topping is 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Boil 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt over low heat. Set aside for topping. 2) Wrap the glutinous rice in a clean towel and place in a double boiler steamer. Steam for 25 to 30 minutes. 3) Dissolve the sugar in the coconut milk over a very low heat. Add salt. Stir well. Remove from the heat. Put the cooked glutinous rice in a bowl. Gradually blend in the coconut milk. Stir with a wooden spoon, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Tam added several “Butterfly Pea” flowers to the water to make the water blue and it really made the dish come out attractive. Serve with mangoes.

 

Cooking Stations for the Class

Cooking Stations for the Class

 

We were assigned a work station and each had an assistant help with the preparation of our own dishes. That way I couldn’t fat finger a portion or overcook a course. It was really a hands on class and one that I learned a great deal from.  When we finished we were taken to the veranda and had the chance to eat what we had prepared. It was way too much, but it actually turned out rather good.

 

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua), #Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua),
#Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The class has a media board off to the side that is filled with Tam’s interviews in print and I was blown away by the amount of major magazines that have visited her establishment. I felt honored to attend and thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for including this in our program.

 

Bon Appetite Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Bon Appetite Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

Vogue Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Vogue Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

I have always loved Thai food as I am drawn to spicy foods and learning new areas of cooking. Attending Tam’s class was a highlight of my trip and one I will never forget. If you find yourself in Bangkok and are looking for a fantastic way to pass a half day, than I cannot recommend any thing more satisfying or tasty than the Amita Thai Cooking Class!

 

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 4, The Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok Review

We hit the ground at around 11:45 PM local time in Bangkok on November 13, 2013. This was after being in the air or airports for a whopping 27 hours and I was exhausted. There are times I can fall asleep quickly and there are times my body fights every effort to dose off on airplanes. I couldn’t manage more than about an hour or two’s sleep on the way to Asia. So I was eager to get to our hotel.

 

As I have written in a prior post our destination was the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Given the late hour I thought it might have been a little disorganized. I was very wrong. We arrived at the hotel and were given our keys. Our bags were taken separately and arrived approximately 5 minutes after I did. Score a 10 right off the bat! My room was awesome and was more than I anticipated.

 

King Size Bed (I loved It)

King Size Bed (I loved It) Comfy Slippers Also

 

Given it was 3:00 PM at home there was no way I could sleep, even though I gave it a valiant effort. I decided I would skip breakfast, as I knew if I slept it would only be minimal. The first morning was uneventful and I arrived slightly early and checked out the lobby. Much to my surprise there was a lobby full of beauty contestants for the Miss Grand International contest and I found out they would be there our entire stay.

 

It was kind of by coincidence, but I met Ms. Ecuador and had to have a selfie! Beautiful young lady from Quito and originally from Esmeralda on the coast. We headed out for the day and I learned our hotel inspection would be the following afternoon by Sommai Yocapajorn, the hotel’s PR Manager.

 

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

 

Ms Grand International Bus

Ms Grand International Bus

 

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

 

The hotel is a exquisite place to stay in a quiet neighborhood and far enough away from any freeways that one does not hear any traffic. I loved the fact I had my own balcony and it was very good size. The night time views were extraordinary.

 

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

 

The room we occupied was a Grand Suite One-Bedroom and comes equipped with a very nice bathroom with separate shower and bath, a small kitchenette with dining area and a large living and entertaining area. The room is 70 square meters. These rooms are above the 17th floor and cost around $100 a night US. That is a fantastic deal, given it is a 5 star hotel. This price requires a three night stay. Its slightly higher for a single night stay.

 

Living Area

Living Area

 

A Two-Bedroom Grand suite is 120 square meters and only runs about $185 Us Dollars. Both bedrooms have work desks and WiFi and all the benefits of the one bedroom are present. This includes the luxurious shower, tub and kitchenette, along with a dining and living area. Not to mention the large balcony. All rooms are equipped with safes, coffee, plates silverware, cups glasses, cooking ware and utensils if you are inclined to stay in and cook. Again the price requires a three night stay.

 

Kitchenette Area

Kitchenette Area

 

The top of the line rooms are the one, two and three bedroom suites located on the 31st through 34th floor with private dining quarters and business office. The One-Bedroom suite is 125 square meters and has access to all days snacks and evening cocktails. A full breakfast is also included. We toured all room examples and I was impressed with the pricing and size of the rooms. You would have to reserve specific dates for a quote on the Chatrium Club rooms as these are known.

 

#35th Floor Decoration

#35th Floor Decoration

 

Chatrium Club Dining Room with Abha Modeling

Chatrium Club Dining Room and Waiting Area

 

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

 

Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet style set up that includes every type of item one might want to eat early in the day. My friend from Thailand ate a bowl of noodles with vegetables almost every day and I ate plates of fruit, egg dishes, bread and tried various Asian dishes. The breads have an entire room dedicated to your choice or type of wheat, rice or corm flour based product. It was a challenge just to decide this, much less egg dishes or other healthy offerings as he main course.

 

External Photo of the Dining Area

External Photo of the Dining Area

 

The hotel has a wonderful pool area that is spacious and on the 6th floor away from all noise. It is a very nice facility and has a pool bar and changing rooms. If the weather had been nicer I probably would have jumped in.

 

Pool Was Huge

Pool Was Huge

 

Pool Bar

Pool Bar

 

Overall I have to rate the Chatrium Hotel Riverside as a top notch facility. I had no issues except learning how to turn the shower on. A funny story and as I must be thick between the ears I took a completely cold shower the first day before learning that the hot water was in the opposite direction of expectations. I can only say that I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one and the names of the individuals involved shall remain nameless.

 

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

 

If you find yourself in Bangkok and are searching for a nice hotel with all the facilities of a 5 star complex I would recommend the Chatrium Hotel Riverside for its, service, cleanliness and its economic pricing. The fact that it has its own shuttle to make your way across the Cha0 Phraya River to Wat Arun, the Asiatique shopping center or numbers of other attractions also doesn’t hurt. Try it, you cannot go wrong in my opinion. A huge Thanks goes out to Adrian Brown the General Manager and our host at the hotel.

 

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 3, When is a Khlong Really Not a Khlong

I first traveled to Thailand in 1973 as a buyer with Six Flags Amusement parks. I was just 23 and the world lay before my feet, or so I was brash enough to think! We all know when we are young we are invincible and nothing can stop us. I felt that way when I first went to Bangkok. I wanted to try and do everything that was laid out for us and I wouldn’t say no to any opportunity. When they asked us if we wanted to take a Khlong ride, I jumped at the chance. Mind you the structures were completely different back then and Bangkok wasn’t as notorious as it is today for their party atmosphere. It was just another SE Asia city except it had a wonderful allotment of canals, hence the nickname “Venice of the East”.

 

Typical Khlong in the 70's

Typical Khlong in the 70’s

 

Forty years ago is a long time and I know that most of you doubt I can really remember that far back. I can and there are three things that stand out from my first visit to Bangkok. The first thing was the Golden Buddha and all of its beauty. It has since been relocated and yes we visited again on this trip. The second was a restaurant that is no longer in operation named Nick’s Number One. It reminded me of the movie Casablanca the way it was decorated. It had the best steaks in Bangkok. The third item was our Khlong ride in the canals with floating markets. Khlongs are the vessels used to navigate the canal system in Bangkok and they have changed a great deal. When I saw my first Khlong I just about turned around and headed for higher ground. You had to be kidding me. I was supposed to get into this thing?

 

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

 

Well they finally got me in and we ventured out running into Floating Markets everywhere and all kinds of vendors pulling up along side our Khlong, hawking various wares and foods. It was actually a wonderful experience and I soon lost all apprehensions about how tiny the boat was and how unstable it was. I decided to enjoy the ride. Today’s Khlongs have changed dramatically and do not resemble the “canoes” we rode in. They now are covered and can sit several people across like this one below.

 

Present Day Khlongs

Present Day Khlongs

 

The first thing one notices when they walk outside in Bangkok in August is the humidity. It surrounds and envelopes you like a platonic shroud. As I entered the street I was completely over taken by how much I perspired and it made me feel like I hadn’t just taken a shower! Riding in the Khlong was better, as the breeze caused by the boat’s movement helped provide a little coolness. We set out for the day and I was excited to see how much remained the same and how the canals had changed as I remembered them. One thing for sure is poverty never changes. There were issues back in the 70’s and there still are.

 

Typical Homes Along the Canals

Typical Homes Along the Canals

 

Not as

Not as Illustrious as One Might Think

 

We saw these yellow boats on our journey around the canals and I had to inquire what they represented or what the deal was. It turns out the government is highly concerned about the appearance and tourism approach of the canals and has these boats gather the trash and weeds that exist in the canals. I think that is a great idea and should help the environment.

 

A Government Boat That Works for The Government

A Government Boat That Works for The Environmental Ministry

 

The canals serve as a method of circulating and balancing the tides as they roll in and out. At most entrances off of the Chao Phraya River there are gates similar to these to hold back flooding in the canals. When  a typhoon or storm approaches they are closed and efforts are made to protect the people who live on the canals. It works sometimes and sometimes the forces of nature are just too strong.

 

Dam Gates

Dam Gates

 

One never grows tired of the ornate structures that exist along the canals and are used for worship by the local population. I am always intrigued and cannot get enough of the Thai Temple construction. They are both beautiful and magical in my opinion. One has to appreciate the fact that 95% of the people practice Theravada Buddhism and are a very reverent society. Not once did I see any of our representatives pass a Temple without offering a sign of respect, by clasping their hands together and bowing towards the structures. I am impressed with the strength of their religion and how they treat the shrines with appropriate honor.

 

Temple Along the Canals

Temple Along the Canals

 

What I did not expect or remember was the plethora of Monitor Lizards that abound in the canals. We were told that sightings are extremely rare and group gatherings are almost impossible to view. We saw this one swimming in the water and it was a little too close for the comfort of yours truly. We then saw a group of five sunning on the banks and our guide stated that the Thai people considered this a very lucky event. Who knows maybe I will win the lottery!

 

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

 

As we turned a corner and came upon the dock I thought I saw another Monitor Lizard sunning himself. My photo may not do it justice, but it seemed to be about 150 to 175 pounds and more than likely could eat any dog, cat, rodent or small child that got in its way. It was damn scary!

 

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

 

Just when I thought I had seen everything we came upon this. I was flabbergasted that they actually used street signs and had names for the different canals. I guess it would help if you really didn’t know your way around, if by some chance you had your own vessel. Really caught me off guard and I found it humorous to an extent.

 

Street Signs in the Canals

Street Signs in the Canals

 

As we came to an intersection in the canals I noticed this boat docked beside the canal. I am not sure what it is used for or how they would even get it through some of the narrow areas, but it caught my eye and I thought I should share.

 

 

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One 

 

As we ventured down one canal we came upon this beautiful wood house and I asked our wonderful guide Sammy what type of wood it was. He stated Teak. I am not sure if I have ever seen this amount of Teak and he told me it had to cost a fortune, but would last a substantial amount of time. I believe it!

 

Teak House

Teak House

 

Right before we disembarked at our cooking class we came upon this group of school children honoring Loy Katrong, a Thai festival celebrated annually.

 

Thai Children's Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

Thai Children’s Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

 

There could be no better way to end our Khlong ride than seeing the smiling faces of these children. They were genuine smiles and they all waved and expressed their joy at seeing us on the canal.

 

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

 

I have a confession to make. For forty years of my life I have always thought that the boats that traveled the canal systems in Bangkok, were named Khlongs, as they were called Khlong boats in 1973 when I first visited. This trip I learned that in reality a Khlong is the Thai word for the canal and not the boat. So the literal translation from that trip is “Canal boats”. I guess its true that one learns something new everyday. It was definitely a “Duh” moment!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 2, The Beginning

After 22 hours of flying and an additional 5 hours of layovers I was more than ready to get in bed and try and grab a little sleep. We landed in Bangkok at around midnight and we had two vans take us directly to the hotel. That was my first experience on being in the van with all the representatives of the Tourism Boards, Thai Airways and the Saeshe SVP, the PR/advertising company that coordinated the trip.

 

I am not sure how it wound up that way, but I will tell you I was a lucky man to be in their van. They made me feel right at home and kept me laughing the entire trip to the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok. The hotel had everything ready when we arrived and we were each given our keys and shown the way to the elevator within a few moments. I was very impressed with their organization and the manner they handled the group.

 

My Bed at the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok

My Bed at the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok

 

The first thing I noticed was that I was very fortunate I brought an adapter for electricity. Without it my breathing machine would have been useless. Always check ahead and determine your needs. Plus its a wise idea to always carry adapters just in case. I have sleep apnea and travel with a machine that helps me breathe.

 

The next afternoon prior to our inspection at the Chatrium I ran down to the 7-11 convenience store on the end of the block and bought an additional 4-way adapter for about $5.00 USD. I really didn’t sleep that good as it was the middle of the afternoon back home. My room was fantastic and had all the convenience’s expected in a 5-star hotel, but the time difference was hard to adjust to.

 

My Desk and Dresser Area

My Desk and Dresser Area

 

I was not able to eat breakfast the first morning, as I finally got a little sleep and wanted to stay in bed a while longer. I dawdled and met everyone downstairs for our first event. We were taking the hotel shuttle across the Chao Phraya River to see the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun).

 

My biggest challenge of the morning was figuring out how the shower operated. One had to turn the knob backwards and leave it for a while. Being the impatient person I am I obviously did not leave it long enough and wound up taking a cold shower. Boy that will wake you up regardless of how hot it is outside!

 

Chantrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok shuttle

Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok shuttle

 

We rode the shuttle down and back up the river so that we could capture images and get a feel of how large the river is and what all transpires on the Chao Phraya. It is a highly industrialized body of water and has major operations mixed in with resorts, temples and shipping companies. I had no idea of the river was so busy and large.

 

I captured many photos of the river traffic and objects along the river. One of my favorite was of the Ferris Wheel on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It appeared to be some sort of amusement park adjacent to a Temple with many long boats in the marina.

 

Ferris Wheel and Long Boats

Ferris Wheel and Long Boats 

 

The river not only has a multitude of temples along it shores but has large barges carrying who knows what up and down. We were dwarfed by this one.

 

The Barges Were Huge and Dwarfed us as They Flowed By

The Barges Were Huge and Dwarfed us as They Floated By

 

One of the more elaborate Temples alongside the river. My favorite was the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and I will write on it later. In addition of the 400 Temples in Bangkok I would recommend seeing Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (Temple of the reclining Buddha).

 

Temples Galore Abound on the River

Temples Galore Abound on the River

 

A fascinating factoid was that many boats carry fresh flowers hanging from their bows whether you are on the river or on the canals in the back water. We encountered such a diverse plethora of boats, barges and ships it was hard to choose just one for display.

 

Colorful Flowers Decorate all the Various Boats

Colorful Flowers Decorate all the Various Boats

 

Thanks to our Tourism Thailand host Lert Narongchaisakun for giving all of us the opportunity to be guests of Thailand and for creating a fascinating and wonderful schedule that kept us busy and helped us get to know Bangkok. Lert is smiling and if you know your cultural trivia you are aware that Thailand is the country of smiles. He exemplifies the tradition.

 

Lert Narongchaisakun

Lert Narongchaisakun

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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