Archive for March, 2010

Bangkok Day 03

Day three was a very, very long one. We had booked a tour to the tiger temple (the one that actually has tigers). But we booked the morning tour that includes breakfast with the monks. The tiger temple is a good 2.5hrs outside of Bangkok in Kanchanaburi so to get there for breakfast we were picked up from the hotel at 5am. Yes, that is stupidly early when you’re supposed to be on holiday BUT if you plan to go see tigers I HIGHLY recommend that you take this early option instead of going for the afternoon session. Here’s why.

If you go in the afternoon the tigers are more restful as they have been playing all morning and are now digesting their food. It’s their sleepy time, which is great if you just want to stand behind tem for some photos. But the morning session is a whole other can of beans.

Thirty minutes before we reach the tiger temple we stop at a service station to pick up some drink and snacks to give as alms to the monks. Our guide explains to us that the monks have a lot of Thai food but cannot get soft drink and other snacks so on his advice we buy some and also yakult for the monks. We then keep going and pick up our guide about 15 mins away in the city.

Our guide explains to us that she is a little bit “ding dong” and we know it’s going to be an interesting day.

Once we reach our destination we take off our shoes and stand behind tables piled with our gifts to the monks. We ended up with other packets of food too but I wasn’t sure where they came from. As each monk came to us we were to hold the food in two hands and place it in the monk’s bowl. Helpers walked along side the monks helping to empty the bowls into bigger containers so we could give more.

There were a total of 14 visitors and a lot of food but a staff member said that while normally there are 10 or 15 monks, today there were only 3. And since none of us knew this until we got to the last monk, he hit the jackpot and had to receive all of the remaining food and drink. His helpers were busy emptying his bowl as I had to give him about 20 bottles of drink.

The monks are then ferried off in golf buggies as we put our shoes back on and are given our “no provoking the tigers” speech. Basically don’t walk in front of them or make loud noises and try not to run if they come hurtling towards you because they will think you are a big toy to play with.

We take a short walk up to the breakfast and cub feeding area. No, we are not the breakfast. Shoes off again and we go up some stairs and are led to a cub to feed!!!!!!!!! I’m given a bottle of warm milk and a little cub is climbing to try and get it. At first the gorgeous little thing is standing up against my knee getting fed but then someone came and picked him up and placed him in my lap. The cub had soft, big paws and soft cuddly fur. Quite an appetite too. The staff are good with cameras and will take yours to take photos for you. You can tell they have been doing this for a long time and there are some amazing photos on our camera.

After our cub finished feeding we moved around the area taking photos of other cubs and there was also a little leopard cat kitten around. Possibly an ocelot kitten?? Not sure. But he was really cute and would sit in your shoulder or head. The cubs were so playful and one of them found someones bag and kept attacking it and biting it. Hehe.

After playing with the cubs we had breakfast with the monks, staff and volunteers. The monks had blessed the food earlier and now there was a huge spread of Thai food waiting for us. We were also given the first of many, many bottles of water. They keep them icy cold and all around so don’t worry about getting dehydrated.

After breakfast we walk with the cubs down to the play area. The staff are teachig the cubs to walk down but one of them was really lazy and kept just sitting on the ground. In the end one of the staff had to carry him down. Sooooo cute.

Once we were at the play area, which I heard is quite new, we were given another little safety talk because it was time to meet the older “cubs”. I guess guess these were the teens.

The play area has a few water areas, like a tiger pool, and sand areas to run in. We were given what were basically giant cat toys, long bamboo sticks with either an inflated garbage bag, shoe or random toy tied to the end. What next? Stand by the water splashing the toy around and wait for a giant kitty to come play.

This part of the morning was so much fun. They are so much like my cats back home except big enough to eat me. They run and jump and chase each other. Once they grab your toy it’s pretty much theirs. And what happens once playtime is over?

Well most of the tigers are led easily back out of the play area. But this time two of them refused to leave. They ran away from the staff and went into the deep part of the water to keep playing. If they could talk I’m sure they would have been going “five more minutessss!”
We eventually just had to leave one behind because he would just not leave.

We joined the tigers just outside the play area to give them a bath and for a quick feed. Taking care to make sure we always stood behind them we lathered them up with soap and then hosed them down. Each pair had their own playmate to clean. Hubby tried to wash the front paws but kitty didn’t like that.

Once clean we hand fed our tiger some cooked chicken. We held out the chicken and a big wet tongue just licked it out of our hands. The tigers are fed cooked meat by the monks so that they associate the cooked meat with food instead of humans etc.

Next stop, getting ready to walk some bigger tigers down to the canyon (play area for the bigger cats and photo area for the afternoon groups). First a few photographs and then we take turns in pairs to walk next to the tigers as we get more photos taken. Some beautiful shots were taken by a brave staff member walking in front us and the tiger.

Once we reached the canyon we were given more water and put inside a fenced “cage” area in front of a water and rock space. Then about 8 tigers were let loose and led to play. These were the big ones, hence he safety fence. They played just like the smaller ones, except with a little more force. The staff this time had a few toys to play while the rest of us photographed. We watched tigers swimming, jumping into the water from rocks, playing with each other, rubbing and scratching up against the rock wall and all sorts of fun things that cats love to do.

I recommend that you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. We left with flecks of mud all over us from the tigers jumping around us. Don’t wear red or bright colours either.

That was the last time we had with the tigers, but you can get a stamp to come back for more photos in the afternoon I you like. You can also get the special tiger photo at no extra charge where you can hold a big tiger’s head. We couldn’t do this in the morning because they are to active.

But it wasn’t the end of our day. We decided to go to the elephant camp nearby and ride an elephant and also take a river raft ride. $700 baht for both per person. Hubby was even allowed to sit at the elephant’s neck while our driver was on the ground giving verbal instructions to the elephant and taking photos of us. I suspect he let us do this because he saw us taking out a 20baht tip (which ended up being more because hubby had so much fun).

Our guide came with us on the river raft and brougt with her the village monkey. He was a tiny baby monkey whose mother had apparently died. We are a bit skeptical and his great big eyes just break your heart. But we fed him some banana and he seemed to liked us after we fed him.

There wasn’t a lot to see when we went rafting but it was very peaceful and a nice chance to chat with our guide about the area. She was very patriotic and loved that people from Australia come out to visit her country.

Raft ride over, we head along a road where wild monkeys live. Our guide brought us to a roadside fruit and vege market on the way to buy some monkey food (bananas, grapes and peanuts). Like crazy tourists do, we stand by the road as or guide calls out to the monkeys. They run across the street and out from the trees to us. Young ones, old ones, a pregnant one and a mummy and her baby. They come right up to us and take fruit from our hands. Unlike any monkey I’ve seen before, they scoff a whole bunch of grapes or peanuts and store them in a throat sac then slowly chew it all. Their throats puff up with all the food and they look like frogs.

After the monkeys we stopped for some lunch. I can’t remember where it was or what it was called but I think all the tours stop here. There is a video playing about the tiger temple and clean toilets. The food was realllyyy yummy. We let our tour guide order for us which I think was a good decision.

We had fried roti that was rolled up into little cigar rolls, fried garlic chicken, vege stir fry and I think a larb, maybe pork. Pretty good for tour food and it was included in the tour price.

After lunch we took a quick stop at the River Kwai railway bridge but we were so tired and hot by then we didn’t bother with the museum. Dorene did stop to take a photo and feed a little leopard though.

We slept on the two and a half hour bus ride back to town and also watched some DVDs on the bus tv screen. The subtitles for the corpse bride were actually for some surf movie and that entertained us. The second movie was “The Cave”, my advice is not to ever watch that movie.

We reached our hotel by about 5pm and decided to take advantage of our hotel’s pool and the executive lounge happy hour. Free drinks and canapé between 6 and 8!!

The canapes are always different and you may find yourself fighting for the good ones. But there is free beer, wine, juice, soft drink and spirits. You make your own cocktail and mixed drinks and they even give you lime and cherries to garnish.

After filling up on canapes we went downstairs to get some massages where I embarrassed myself when I fell asleep and started snoring. A foot reflexology massage is GREAT after a long day. Even better after a day of shopping.

Feeling relaxed we made the decision to go on our late night Thai maccas run. Maybe it was a bad idea but how do you say no to a double filet o’fish? And hubby couldn’t pass up a double big mac!

So that was how we ended day three, with relaxed legs and a full belly. We had our four day food your ahead of us, so there would be many more opportunities to eat well an eat lots!

Bangkok Day 02

Day two began with a visit to the hotel breakfast buffet. The problem I have with breakfast buffets is that I always forget that I have more days to go that I can try everything and on the first day I put too many things on my plate. But at least now I know what’s good. Egg station=good, bacon=nice and crispy, also good, mini croissants=good, french toast=good, pork congee=good, eating French toast and mini pancakes with bacon covered in maple syrup=deliciousssss!

After fueling ourselves we took the BTS two stops to Amarin plaza to our tailor. Mr Fireworks fitted himself out with some suits and shirts and hubby Cavs has acquired a sports jacket. We love GMC style even though it is a bit more expensive than some other tailors around. But it was recommended to us years ago and they cut an make the suits well. Hubby’s first set are still going strong after 3 years and we trust their quality. They also keep us on file so we can order from home and have it shipped to us!

Next we walked across to Central Chit Lom for a bit of shopping to work up our appetite for lunch. It didn’t take us long after Froggy and I found Muji and did a bit of damage there. The boys got bored and hungry… So next stop, the top floor to Food Loft.

Hubby and I remember the Food Loft food court fondly from our last trip. Each of you is handed a Food Loft “credit card” that gets scanned at any food station you buy from. One card has 1000baht credit ($35aud approx). We decided we would split up to collect a mini feast each and bring it back to the table to share.

Each food station is usually food from a different country. So here was our trip around the world.

From the Thai station we had prawn springrolls (prawns wrapped in springroll pastry and deep-fried), pandanus leaf wrapped garlic chicken and a noodle soup that was spicy tomato based with prawns in it.
From the Japanese station, very fresh sashimi salmon and tuna, unagi sushi and kingfish sushi, and a chicken katsu curry.

Then from the Korean station a hexagon box with little soft pancakes in the middle and eight finely shredded filings to make your own little rolls. The fillings were ham, chicken, crab meat, egg, tofu, carrot, cucumber & mushroom. It came with a sauce that had chilli powder and sesame seeds in it. It ws really beautiful and made up our vege quota for the meal.

There is a wide variety of drinks at the beverage station, we sampled the Rosella and lemongrass drinks (the lemongrass was
Really refreshing) and a watermelon juice (my favourite) and hubby had a pepsi max. As our pepsi max connosieur he gave it his tick of approval saying it was pretty much te same as Australian pepsi max (unlike Singapore’s which he doesn’t like).

The most expensive dishes ended up being the two sashimi and the Korean dish which were 320 baht each ($11) and we spent about $20 each. It’s fancy food court food but you can spend much less if you choose wisely.

After lunch we met my uncle who took us shopping. We dropped the boys off a Pantip plaza for technology goods shopping (and where you vendors try to sell you sexy movies) while Froggy and I were given a guided tour of Platinum Fashion Mall, a very female centric shopping centre. There are floors and floors of clothes, shoes, bags, jewelery and everything else fashion. Usually buying 3 items at one store means you can buy at wholesale price. It’s very crowded but indoors so it’s not hot. Bring cash for this one.

Afterwards We made our way back to our hotel to meet our transport to the Siam Niramit cultural show. If you have a night free I definitely recommend that you fit this in. The performance is at a theatre built especially for this show. The theatre seats 1000 and there are 150 peformers and 500 beautiful costumes. It gives a theatrical overview of Thailand’s cultural history, mythology and festivals.

Our hotel offered a package that included dinner, transport and the show for approximately $40 aud. We tried to get it without the dinner but they said even if we don’t eat the food it’s the same price and we still have to leave at the same time for the show.

The dinner is a buffet at the theatre. The food is OK. Nothing to write home about it. Beware of pushy tourists. To entertain you before the show is elephant feeding, a little performance and music and a recreation of a thai village you can walk through.

It’s very touristy but the show is worth it. So that was Day 02. See you tomorrow!

Day 01 – Bangkok

After about 12 hours flying and in transit we still managed to have a full day of shopping and eating.

*Explanation of our artwork: pictures of food to symbolise our food tour, changi airport terminal 3 to show you where we are, and then the picture of the shoe in the top right is to symbolise Charles & keith shoe shop that we weren’t allowed to shop in because of the boys :( BOO!

First I’ll just mention that while airline food is usually mediocre, maybe 1am or so on our Singapore Airlines flight out of Brisbane we were chose the chicken pie meal option and it was sooo good. Even though I had already had dinner hours before I ate the whole thing and could have had more. Yummm.

But enough about boring plane food. We checked into our hotel and because I’d booked a business room we found ourselves on the executive floor waiting for our rooms to be ready. Over tea, coffee and coconut macaroons (yes the ones with the double ‘o’) we observed the 22nd level view and were told that from 6-8pm each day we can go back for complimentary canapes and drinks!! Time to adjust the itinerary to keep that time slot free.

Once we freshened up we were off to Chatuchak, the weekend market with my uncle, who is a resident, to show us around. It was very lucky for us since the market has over 4000 stalls and we could have been lost forever in the midday heat there.

It’s best to go early to avoid the heat and crowds. Although I suspect it’s always crowded but maybe just less stifling. We were there “late” at around noon. My uncle took us to a little food shop where the odd tables and chairs were grouped around a old twisted tree trunk holding up a shade cloth. I can’t tell you very well where it was sadly, because I had no idea where I was. Next to a basket shop and behind a stall selling wooden painted animal figures, in the artist district. Hope that helps you somehow.

We were about to have our first meal in Thailand. But first some fruit crushes served in pretty much small vases (that made for huge drinking glasses). Mine was delicious watermelon. Hubby had mango and peach (yum) and Froggy had lime and mint (sooo refreshing).

Then we ATE! First some springrolls. Sooo tasty. They came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce wth peanuts in it (so I passed on that) but they were great without sauce anyway.

Next up was a pat thai, again with peanuts so it was a bit of a spectate sport for me. Our came a big plate of noodles garnished with lemongrass and topped with a big lobster prawn. I can report that it was really yummy, the whole dish was finished in record time. Mr Fireworks said the noodles were cooked perfectly (al dente).

It wasn’t too long before there was food for me! Our pasta came out, which was pretty much noodles. But in a beautiful spicy, tomatoey sauce topped with lots of prawns and basil. Yum. And everyone, feeling that since I didn’t get to eat the pat thai that I should get to eat more pasta, let me eat most of it. Hehe.

We then dropped the boys off to an aircondioned stall for a two hour massage so that my uncle could take Froggy and I to actually do some shopping. This was a FANTASTIC idea. It kept the boys out of our hair (and the heat, much to their joy) while we took our time looking at EVERYTHING!

I bought a gorgeous silver bowl with a lemongrass candle in it and butterflies on the bowl. A couple of cute, cute totes. A couple presents for other people that I would tell you about but I need to keep it a surprise. And Froggy bought some gorgeous singlet tops with beautiful beading and flowers on them. They looked like they would be $40+ each back home but cost her less than $20 for 3. I love Thailand!

After 2 hours of shopping, I was parched and hot. So we went to pick up the boys who were our polar opposites, refreshed, relaxed, rejuvenated and not nearly as sweaty. Then headed to a little stall selling coconuts to drink from. Not just the young coconuts you normally see but baked coconuts. The juice was sweeter and icy cold, exactly what I needed. We watched the crowds go by relaxing in the shade. A short rest before bringing the boys to buy some Abercrombie and Fitch for cheap!

Now time for more food! We walked through oncoming traffic to cross the road to Or Tor Kor food market. A huge space filled with beautifully presented food. It was a feast for the eyes, soon to become a feast for my tummy. This was just going to be a snack to keep us going to dinner. Green mango, fried garlic minced pork “nuggets” and yakitori skewers washed down with some sugar cane juice. Then we picked up 3 bags of tasty fish crackers to bring home for mummy.

A short cab ride later we were back at the hotel washing off a day of marketing and getting ready for dinner. We went to a little restaurant near Chit Lom station called Yummy Tummy for some homestyle Thai food. Set in what was once someones home, this family run restaurant dishes up a delicious feed.

We ate fried Chinese spinach (Morning Glory) with chilli,

stir fried broccoli,

duck larb – a meat salad with mint, basil and minced fried duck,

green chicken curry with a HUGE kick of chilli

the fluffiest seafood omlette,

crispy fried fish with garlic sauce,

grilled chicken

and a green papaya/mango salad (Som Tum).

A beautiful first dinner that gave us a great taste of what is to come. We watched in awe as my little cousin cleaned up the fish head. He ate it with such skill and it made you wonder what you were missing out on since he looked like he enjoyed it so much.

We had some after dinner tea and chocolates at my uncle’s gorgeous house, filled with his amazing collection of antiques and 3 cute dogs. Including two chubby sausage dogs!

With a mix of tiredness from travelling and shopping and the haziness of being in a food coma we made a slow walk back to the BTS and to our hotel. Time to sleep and prepare for day two!