Sunday, 12 July 2015

Spices: BANGKOK THAILAND'S Burst of Flavors

The main reason I wanted to visit Bangkok was to try out and experience the food in Thailand's capital. I've seen, read and heard wonderful stories about how Bangkok is one of the best cities in Asia to eat. With this in mind, I have nothing but high expectations about what we're about to taste and experience.


Bangkok Thailand's Duck Curry

We arrived really early in the morning and as soon as we settled in our hotel, we were off to find a place to eat. We passed by  Tesco Lotus supermarket and saw that there was a food court. Being so hungry, we look around and started ordering. We order a bowl of Thai Kway Teow , or Thai Noodle Soup. It consists of rice noodles,an assortment of balls, vegetables in a simple and hearty broth. Coming from a food court,  the noodle soup was already pretty good.

Thai Kway Teow

I expected a bowl of stewed chicken when I ordered the Thai Green Curry Chicken, what was given to me was a piece of chicken with thai fried rice doused with the sauce of the stew. The chicken was just ok, I wanted more flavors and spiciness on it but I give them credit for the chicken's moistness and tenderness.


Green Curry Chicken



The Pad Thai we had looks pretty and tasted great as well. Wrapped inside the scrambled eggs, the stir fried noodles was savory and piping hot. We enjoyed it and this was the first dish that we finished.


Pad Thai

We saw people lining up in one of the food stalls, I took a look and saw that the stall was preparing what looked like fresh rice paper wrap. You can pick from the assortment of fillings such as mushrooms, corn, bamboo shoots and vermicelli. On its own, the rolled up treats didn't have any flavor, you have to dip it in the sweet chili sauce or the soy based sweet sauce or you can eat it with the mint leaves.Nothing really special about these.

Freshly Made Rice Wraps


Hungry after having a nice Muay Thai session, we went to the best placed we had our best experience with Thai food, Soi 38. There are a lot of places in Bangkok to feast on street food but this was the most accessible thus we found ourselves in this street. Compared to other Asian food streets that I've been, Soi 38 seems to have a few stalls. But the quality makes up for the quantity. Almost everything we had here was so good that after the dining here the first night, we knew we had to come back.


Soi 38

Som Tam or Green Papaya Salad is one of the iconic Thai dishes. I've tried Som Tam in different places in Bangkok but nothing beats the Som Tam that we had here. I didn't get her name because I wasn't sure if she could speak in English, the only word I told her was "Aroy Ma Kap!" which means delicious. I'll just call her the Som Tam lady.

The Som Tam Madame of Soi 38

Her salad dressing had the right balance of sweetness, saltiness, sourness, zesty-ness and it was filled with so much umami flavors. Being really spicy was a big bonus for me. The strips of green papaya, cabbage, string beans tasted so fresh as it had a nice bite into it, the chopped peanuts added another layer of flavor and texture to the salad. So good, something to die for!


Som Tam

Beside the som tam lady we saw a stall grilling different kinds of meat. We ordered a plate of chicken sate, the sate was pretty good. Grilled to perfection, moist and tender,  beat eaten with the peanut dipping sauce.


Grill

Chicken Sate with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Side Salad

While walking around we saw a small resto that was filled with so much locals and foreigners. The place looked promising so we decided to see what they have to offer.


One of the Restos in Soi 38

We saw a number of motorcycles stopping over to buy what looked like fried bread. It was Patonkhoo or fried dough, the texture and taste was very similar to bicho-bicho.


Patonkhoo

We saw locals slurping down bowls of noodles, we followed suit and ordered a bowl of Khao Soi Kai or Noodles in Curry with Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken. This has to be the tastiest bowl of noodle soup I'll ever eat. I'm not sure on what and how many kind of herbs and spices they use to make the stock because it has layers and layers of different flavors, it was amazing.The fried noodles that was placed on top was a nice way of adding texture to the soup dish.


Khao Soi Kai




The Pad Thai we ate here was more delicious and flavorful. The pieces of shrimp and squid were perfectly cooked and tender. The noodles wasn't soggy as it has still a good bite to it and we enjoyed how we had to mix everything up before eating.


Pad Thai


Another well known Thai dish is the Tom Yum Goong, we had the seafood version. I've tried different version from different restos back at home and other Asian countries but nothing compares to what we tasted here. It was an unforgettable treat for the palete since every spoonful of broth triggers every part of your taste buds. Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Umami plus a bonus for us, it was really spicy. It was the first time for me to see somebody's face literally sweating from slurping down the hot and spicy soup.


Tom Yum Goong

We washed everything down with a cold bottle of Thai Singha Beer each.


Sigha Beer

When we saw the salted whole fish being grilled, our mouths started watering and we wanted to try it out. We asked the lady what kind of fish they have and she told us that she only had one sea bass left for grilling. Even if we're already so full, we ordered one. She went back in the kitchen and brought out of what looked like a block of salt, the whole sea bass was salt crusted. She broke the salt in half and took the fish out for grilling.


Grilling Fish


The Grilled Sea Bass was served with a plate of vermicelli, dipping sauce and basket of different green leafy vegetables. We were told to get a piece of lettuce, put some vermicelli, place some fish, top it with mint, wrap it and take a bite. It was wonderful, fish was so moist and it literally melts in your mouth.


Grilled Sea Bass


For dessert, we crossed to the other side of the street to have some Mango with Sticky Rice.I'm really not a fan of rice desserts but what I liked about this is it taste of coconut plus it wasn't all too sweet, that little pinch of salt also made a big difference.Thai mangoes are pretty sweet but not as sweet as Philippines mangoes.


Mango with Sticky Rice


With our bellies full to the brink, we decided to walk around the red light districts of Bangkok. We found ourselves in one of the restaurants in Soi Arab and decided to have some Turkish Coffee and try out the Sisha.The coffee was really good, bold, sweet and aromatic. Looking at the super fine coffee ground residue at the bottom of my cup,we knew we had the real deal.


Turkish Coffee

Super Fine Ground Coffee

Having tried Turkish ice cream in KL before, we weren't too keen on trying it out again since the ice cream we had was very rough as it had a lot of ice crystals. When the resto's manager recommended to try out their ice cream, we hesitantly agreed. After tasting it, we were so thankful that we did, the Turkish ice cream was so good, so dense and yet so creamy. It was totally different from the usual airy ice cream that we are used to having. I'm looking forward to having this again in the future.


Turkish Ice Cream - Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate

We found ourselves in one of the touristy areas and decided to dine in Sip. Since the resto caters mostly to tourists, all the dishes tasted subtle and less flavorful. Quality wise, all the ingredients were of great quality though we wished that we ate someplace else.


Sip
Here's what we ate..

Fried Spring Rolls

Pad Pak Boong or Stir Fried Morning Glory

Fried Catfish with Side Salad


While floating along the Damnoen Saduak Market, we bought food from the boat peddlers to serve as our breakfast.

Paddle Boat Vendor selling Noodle Soup

I didn't have any expectations on the food and I got pleasantly surprise how good it turned out to be. In spite of the really small portion of the Chicken Curry Rice, the quality and flavors made up for it. One notable thing that's worth mentioning about is the fragrant long grain Thai rice that was used.


Chicken Curry Rice

It was a typical bowl of Chinese noodle soup. Rice noodles, slices of tender pork in a warm and hearty pork broth.

Noodle Soup

I was really surprised to see someone grilling on top of a paddle boat.When the lady passed by I quickly hailed her to look at what she was grilling. She was grilling chicken wings and I couldn't resist to try out some. The chicken was really good, smokey, sweet and salty, I would have ordered more if the paddle boat was still around.

Grilling atop the Paddle Boat

Grilled Chicken Wings

When we went to one of the malls in Sukhumvit road, we ate in one of the food court. It was sort of a high end themed food court where the different stalls serves food from all over Asia. Of course we opted to for Thai food, first up was Tom Kha Gai or Chicken Coconut Soup served with plain white rice. Seeing the snow colored bowl of soup, I initially thought that it would taste bland. But I was wrong, the broth was very fragrant and it had the usual flavor profile of Thai food, it had the balance of all the five taste. To me it was more like a chicken stew as the broth was deliciously thick.


Tom Kha Gai

One of the dishes that caught my eye was the  Kaeng Ped Pheng Yang or Roasted Duck Red Curry. The curry stew was beautifully presented and what's more important is how it tasted, it was a stunner. The duck was so tender, the curry was thick and filled with so much layers of flavors. We spooned every drop of curry and didn't left anything behind.


Kaeng Ped Pheng Yang

Super Tender Duck Meat

After having lunch in the food court, we passed by a row of stalls making and selling Kanom Bueang or Thai sweet pancakes.The treats looks so colorful as each of it has different combination of fillings, it consists of beaten egg whites and sugar, dried coconuts, herbs and persimon. The paper thin pancake was crispy and it's the same as the local barquillos. It's a dessert treat that people with a sweet tooth will love.


Stalls Selling Kanom Bueang

Kanom Bueang


One of the major reasons why I decided to watch in Rajadamnern Stadium was the infamous chicken place beside it. When we went in, 90% of the diners were locals but I think they have a menu in English. Already knowing what to order, I just raised three fingers and said Gai Yang, which means Roast Chicken. Three pieces of half slabs of chicken were placed in front of us. It was love at first bite, aside from being so tender,  every part of the chicken was packed with so much aromatic flavors.It has a strong taste of garlic, lots of it, lemon grass, cilantro and other herbs and spices that I can't pinpoint what. It was one of the best if not the best tasting roast chicken we've ever tasted.


Grilling Chicken

Gai Yang

To go with our chicken, we had a side of Som Tam. I was disappointed with the green papaya salad from this place since I was expecting it to be really spicy. As Bourdain said when he ate here, "my pubes are burning..." It was spicy but not as spicy as I wanted it to be. The Som Tam in Soi 38 still reigns supreme.


Som Tam

I purposely scheduled our reservation in Nahm on our last day in Bangkok to compare how Asia's number one restaurant in 2014 fare against the Thai dishes we tried around Bangkok.


Nahm


Before heading for the airport, we wanted our last meal to be as authentic Thai as it can be. We were walking around and found a small resto/carinderia/turo turo type of place. No foreigners around and all locals,  a good sign of authenticity.




First up was Phad Kra Prow Pla Meuk or Stir Fried Squid with Thai Basil. Perfectly cooked squid, aromatic, flavorful....Delicious!!!

Phad Kra Prow Pla Meuk

Next up was Wild Boar with Pepper. I was suspecting that they would use ordinary pork but I was wrong, it was really wild boar. Having tried it before, it was exactly how I remember it to be, tough and very rubbery plus the meat has a rich bolder flavor than ordinary pig. The dish was stir fried with pepper and chillies, I like how the whole peppercorns has that sweetness flavor to it. It may be tough to eat but we enjoyed every bite of it.


Wild Boar with Pepper


For our last dish, it was another huge bowl of Tom Yum Goong but this time around we had chicken in it.It was the perfect dish to remember Bangkok by. Sweet, salty. sour, bitter and spicy.


Tom Yum Goong with Chicken

Bangkok ranks high on my list as one my favorite cities to dine in, the food scene is so colorful and bursting with so much flavors. What's more incredible is how the dishes here are so well balance, usually there will always be a dominant taste in dishes. But here you can taste each flavor profile. I've dined in different Thai restaurants in the Metro but nothing compares to what I've tried and experienced in Bangkok. The food itself is enough reason why I would love to go back.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Sights: The Amazing Diverseness of BANGKOK, THAILAND

I've always heard from people who have beento Bangkok that there aren't much things to see or do in Thailand's Capital. According to them, Bangkok is basically temples and shopping. Moreover, I've been warned ahead of time that the city is filled with scammers. I got to admit that the main purpose of why I want to visit Bangkok is the food but little did we know that we were in for a very memorable experience.


Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

I've been doing Muay Thai for a couple of years already and I wont pass on the chance to try out training in Thailand even if it was just a couple of hours. There are a lot of muay thai schools to choose from in Bangkok but we decided to try it out in Master Toddys. The gym is well equipped with all the facilities for training. From a boxing ring, punching bags, boxing gloves, weights, lockers and shower areas.



Master Toddy
Address: 55/103-109 Sukhumvit 107 - Bearing Soi 22
Contact Number: +66 2 7433 372
Webpage: www.mastertoddy.com
Email: grandmastertoddy@gmail.com

It was such a fun and learning experience. Jim learned the basics while I got to learn a few new techniques.


Jim learning the basics

Roundhouse


The night before, it was raining so hard while we were resting in our hotel room. Luckily, it was all sunshine the next day cause we were off to take long strolls outdoor. First stop was at the Grand Palace.


 Grand Palace

Grand Place
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, 10200
Entrance Fee: 500 Baht (around 670php) includes entrance to Wat Phra Kaew
Contact Number: +66 2 623 5500
Operating Hours: 8:30am to 3:30pm daily
Webpage: www.palaces.thai.net



The best way to get to the palace complex and its neighboring attractions is thru the Chao Phraya Express Boat. The commuter boat runs thru the Chao Phraya river and caters to both locals and tourists. It was a unique and fun experience commuting with the locals.


Chao Phraya Boat

I've been to palaces and old government houses in Asia, the one common thing about them is the vast amount of land it occupies, it was all about the space. The Grand Palace is totally different, compared to other Asian grand structures, it didn't occupy as much space. But one thing is still certain, the word 'grand' perfectly suits it. Every structure inside was so colorful, glistening in gold and beautifully designed.












It was a good thing that there was a miniature replica of Angkor Wat inside. Cause we were off to see the real thing after a couple of months.

Mini Replica of Angkor Wat

Inside the complex was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. Bringing in cameras weren't allowed, good thing I had a pretty good zooms lens to take picture of the Emerald Buddha inside.

Wat Phra Kaew

Emerald Buddha


Nearby was the famous reclining buddha found in Wat Pho Temple. I've seen pictures of the reclining buddha before but nothing beats seeing the real thing, we were still amazed on how big the actual buddha is.




Wat Pho
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District
Entrance Fee: 200 Baht (around 270php)
Contact Number: +66 2 226 0335
Operating Hours: 8am to 6:30pm
Webpage: www.watpho.com






Reclining Buddha



Its feet are laid with Mother of Pearls



Inside the Wat Pho temple grounds one of the best massages we ever experienced. The Wat Pho style of massage is already known worldwide and you can easily find spas who does it back home but having it done here felt different. They exactly knew which pressure points to press, it hurts at first but after a couple of strokes, I felt all the tension being released all throughout my body.We initially wanted to have a full body massage but since the waiting list was long, we settled for a foot massage.


Wat Pho Massage Center

Here are the rates during our visit which was last September 2014.





Feeling recharged after the massage, we decided to drop by Wat Arun since it was just across the river. It wasn't really part or our itinerary but we were glad that we passed by. After being treated to all the color and glamour of the Grand Palace, it was nice to see the opposite. The Wat Arun ruins is beautiful and charming on its own. Also known as The Temple of Dawn, the place is best visited late afternoon to view the sunset.



Wat Arun
Entrance Fee: 30 Baht (around 40php)
Operating Hours: 8:30am to 5:30pm
Webpage: www.watarun.net





People can climb the very steep stairs up the Prang or tower, it can be challenging especially when going down.

The very steep stairs of the Prang.

I was contemplating if we should try to go to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on our own or join a tour instead. After computing the expenses, put into consideration the time and convenience plus reading about the different scams of going here, I decided to book a half day tour from a legit tour operator. I knew it was going to be touristy but I really didn't mind, the place was really interesting, it was chaotic and organized at the same time.




We didn't pass on the chance to get on one of the paddle boats to go around the market. We had to pay a fixed fee before getting on. As expected every thing that was being sold was catered for tourist and prices of the items here are marked up way higher than the usual price. We just bought food and ate it while we were cruising around.









After the paddle boat ride around the market, we rode a motorized boat to go around the village.  It was really interesting to see modern houses, electrical cables running from one home to another and boats parked on their lawns. We couldn't help and wonder how people live their daily lives, the houses were built on stilts in the middle of a river.


Motorized Boat Ride


Houses on the middle of the River


One of the things that was a must do in my list was to watch a professional Muay Thai match. Upon doing some research, I decided to watch in Rajadamnern Stadium.The sad thing about watching it here are the ticket prices. Foreigners will be ask to buy tickets at a different counter, they will force you to sit ringside and normal prices for the ticket are 2,000 Baht per person.  Be ready to shell out around 1000 to 1500 Baht per person, it all depends on your haggling skills.



Rajadamnern Stadium
Address: 1, Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd.,Pom Prap Sattru Phai
Ticket Price (Ringside): 2000 Baht (around 2685php) but you can always haggle
Fight Matches: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. 6pm 

We were seated at ringside together with the other foreigners. It was quite fun watching the matches, you can see how fit and powerful the fighters were.


Push Kick

Celebrating after a Powerful Roundhouse Knockout


What's more interesting is the local crowd who were watching and rallying behind their fighter, they really get into the action. Every time a fighter throws and lands a knee, everyone would go "Knee... Knee..."


The numerous local crowd seated at the 2nd and 3rd tier


Normally the last place I'll visit when travelling is a mall but since we had time to kill, we decided to see the themed mall, Terminal 21. We were glad that we visited the mall, aside from escaping the heat outside, it was really unique to see what's inside. The design on each floor corresponds to what country it represents. Even the restrooms are themed, how cool is that?!




Terminal 21 Mall
Address: Sukhumvit Soi 19 Sukhumvit Rd North Klongtoei Wattana 
Operating Hours: 10am to 10pm Daily




Japan, London, San Francisco all in one Mall

Themed Bathroom

I came across Escape Hunt in Trip Advisor, during that time there wasn't anything like this back here so we decided to give it a try. It was such a fun filled experience, it was like you are inside a video game. With the help of the lovely Ms.Ploy, we managed to solve the Murder Mystery room.





Escape Hunt
Address: Interchange 21 Building, Soi Cowboy, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana
Entrance Fee: prices range from 600 to 900 Baht (around 800php to 1,200php) per person depending on the number of players.
Contact Number: +66 2 611 2828
Operating Hours: 9:30am to 8:30pm Daily
Webpage: http://bangkok.escapehunt.com/

Travel Tip: Taking a taxi in Bangkok is relatively cheap, we were surprised to find out that it is cheaper for us three to travel around by taxi compared to taking the BTS or Bangkok Mass Transit System in the main city area. But if you're in a rush and don't want to get stuck in traffic, BTS is the way to go.

All  the things I previously heard about Bangkok was all true, it is a shopping mecca. We rarely shop on trips but this time around, we got to buy some neat stuff. There were scammers who would take advantage of tourist but this was pretty normal when you visit a foreign country. There were a lot more friendly locals we met who were always smiling, sharing stories with us and helping us out in times when we got lost. What  I'll fondly remember about Bangkok is the city's amazing diverseness. From the quirks and kinks of Pat Pong and Soi Arab, the grandeur of the Palace Complex and temples, the uniqueness of the floating market and village, the choatic busy streets of Chinatown and the luxuriousness of the 1st class malls, it is unforgettable. Most of the time, a city has a specific or certain 'feel' and impression. But when it comes to Bangkok, it was hard to pinpoint the exact impact it had on me. One thing is for sure though, I would love to go back to Bangkok over and over again.


Bangkok, Thailand