Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mon Nom Sod, MBK Bangkok

After being blown away by my first taste of Mon Nom Sod (also spelled Mont Nom Sod) at the flagship in Banglampu, I just had to taste the delicious toast again before I left Thailand.  MBK was a lot closer to my hotel on Sukhumvit so we tried that branch located on the second floor of the legendary shopping mall MBK.  It was again totally delicious, however, I give the edge to the mothership branch in Banglampu for the absolute best taste.  Here is a pic of the toast insanity!  Sweetened condensed milk is my favorite topping.  The farm fresh milk is also stellar.  This is a must when in Bangkok.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MOS Burger, Bangkok

I had my first taste of the well regarded Japanese burger chain MOS Burger at the Siam Paragon food court.  Let me tell you, I was very, very impressed with my burger.  I sampled the 'Premium Beef Burger', which was super tasty.  The portion size is just right.  Easy to handle and it doesn't fill you up too much.  It isn't greasy in the least bit and all of the ingredients are fresh.  I also had a taste of the fish sandwich, which was really good.  The french fries are served in a cute little portion size although they didn't stand out. 

I can't see this restaurant ever being popular in America since people here are so obsessed with huge portions.  Fine with me though.  I look forward to exploring more of the menu on my next trip to Tokyo.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dinner in Huay Kwang, Bangkok

Here are a few pics from our dinner in Huay Kwang last night.  This area is an excellent place to walk around and enjoy delicious Thai food.  Highlights from last night were the pad kra prow and the mango with sticky rice.

Back in Bangkok

Made it out of rustic Laos back to civilization in Bangkok.  Flew on Nok Air into the old international airport at Don Muang.  Equipment was an old 737-400.  Not much to see with the thick haze hanging over the Kingdom of Thailand today.  

Feels great to be back here, I always feel so comfortable.  I have about 24 hours left in my trip now before my flight to LAX.  Back at the hotel sipping on a cold Leo and watching the news about the big quake in Japan.  Some horrible shots of the tsunami rolling over the coast line. 

My hotel in Bangkok is a brilliant place - Baan Sukhumvit Soi 18.  Excellent location near MRT and Skytrain.  Comfortable rooms with big baths.  Friendly service and a delicious breakfast.  Super quiet too.  I highly recommend it.

Dinner tonight at the Huay Kwang nightmarket.  Can't wait!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Laos, Vang Vieng

Yesterday was one of those days where traveling isn't the bed of roses it usually is or should be.  The memory of the young girl with her face smashed like a pancake was still fresh in my head.  I had thought of renting a motorbike until that incident.  People here drive bad, really bad.  There isn't much to see in Vientiane and in a few hours you know the whole town.  The food isn't anything special and there is no real street food scene like in Thailand.  I was getting bored quickly. 

I wanted to see the countryside and some mountains.  Vang Vieng was the place since it was only 3 hours away.  But that is only true in the guide book.  In order to pick up our bag from Tom's house we were scammed on the taxi.  I guess I could have lost my cool and looked for different cabs but I didn't have the time.  I try to remember in Asia that losing your cool is a very bad thing.  It shows the loss of face.  Usually I'm not the type of guy to lose his cool.  So we get our minivan to the country.  The van is full of young backpackers from Canada and a German couple.  The full van proceeds to drive the city streets for an hour and then ends up right back at our starting place.  People, me included start wondering what the hell is going on.  Our driver gets out and leaves for 30 minutes and doesn't say a word.  The German guy loses his cool.  He get out and demands his bag back.  He raises his voice.  I guess he doesn't know about losing face and frankly I don't think he cares.  He gets his bags and leaves.  Two young Americans fill the seats of the Germans.  

Finally, we are on the road for a 3.5 hour drive through some of the worst roads I've been on before.  I'm staying cool but Lilly is really unhappy.  We fight for the next day.  We arrive in a beautiful town that is unfortunately overrun by young backpackers who are more interested in drugs and drinking than anything else.  I knew this would be the case though.  It was just as Lonely Planet said it would be.  The scenery was breathtaking though as you can see below.  We didn't have time to explore more of the area or enjoy the river.  Too bad since I'll never be back. 

It was hard to find a place to eat dinner since basically every restaurant is full of space cadet kids watching reruns of Family Guy and Friends.  Went to bed early and made the long drive back in the morning.  On the way back we were scammed again.  I really don't appreciate people ripping me off.  I thought the Lao people were supposed to be nice.  So I was in a really, really pissed off mood this afternoon. It really takes a lot to piss me off.  It took more than a few cold Beer Laos to cool me down.

I'm fine now but I can't wait to leave Laos and return to Thailand.  I really don't care much for this country.  I compare it to Cambodia in Southeast Asia where it is dirty poor and just very dirty.  At least Cambodia has the jewel of Angkor Wat.  Laos has nothing close to that.  I'm glad I have been here once to see what it is all about.  After all, that's what traveling is all about.  The only real way to learn about different countries and cities is by being there.  I've learned that I don't need to come back here.   

I've traveled to many countries in Asia but I really only care to return to Japan, Thailand and Vietnam of the places I've been thus far.  Well, I do plan to get back to HK and Singapore again since I didn't spend enough time in either spot.  Still on the must visit list are Bali, Indonesia and Philippines.  I have no desire to visit Korea.  Burma seems to rustic for me.

The day ended on a better note.  I had a wonderful tour of the US Embassy in Laos and met the Ambassador.  Dinner was in a nice spot on the river but the food was lacking.  Nothing in this country has wowed me like in Thailand. 

Really looking forward to Bangkok tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vientiane, Laos

Made it to Laos via land crossing from the Thailand border.  The trip was pretty interesting.  We showed up at the US Embassy and connected with Tom.  He took us out for an excellent dinner last night and several rounds of drinks.  I couldn't keep up with him, he's Irish!

The city of Vientiane is pretty low-key.  Not a lot of stuff to see.  We were out and about this afternoon in Tom's BMW and saw a hideous road accident.  A young girl on a motorbike was hit by a large truck.  It was extremely gruesome and I quickly looked away.  There was a large crowd gathered on the street looking at her.  Horrible.  She didn't have a helmet on.  

Tom's house is large and comfortable.  We are trying to decide if we are taking a side trip tomorrow.  Lilly isn't hot on the idea of going to Vang Viene.

Off to dinner soon.  The food in Laos has been delicious so far.  There isn't much of a street food scene here like in Thailand.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lima Coco Resort, Ko Samet

I am lukewarm on this place.  If it wasn't for a spectacular piece of sand in front of the property I would say avoid it entirely.  I have two main issues with this place: service and hot water.  The service is badly lacking for a resort.  Heck, it is lacking for a lowly motel.  On top of it all the staff is so unfriendly.  Come on now!  This is Thailand, people are supposed to be friendly.  Most of the time the staff is just standing around while they could actually be doing something productive like clearing tables or taking orders.  There is no hot water in the showers.  Not a huge deal if you are paying a low price but I paid more than 100 USD per night.  Not acceptable.  Wi-fi is only available near the front desk, another minor annoyance and it is sloooow.  I'd tell you to stay at the other resorts on this fine beach at Ao Prao although they will set you back some serious baht. 

Oh, and check out the photo below from the bathroom.  Don't put your toilet paper in the toilet?  

Journey from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos

We'll fly this afternoon to Udon Thani on Nok Air.  Upon landing we will drive to the border of Thailand and Laos.  I will apply for a visa on arrival at the Laos border.  From the border to the city of Vientiane should be an easy 15 minute drive.  Looking forward to completing the Southeast Asia sweep with my visit to Laos.  Should be interesting to visit with Tom and see how his year has been in Laos. 

Back to Bangkok and on to Laos this afternoon

The trip back to Bangkok from Samet was a bit slow yesterday.  Lots of stops on the bus.  Upon return to the big city we headed straight for the famous Chatachuk Weekend Market.  This was my first visit and it was a blast.  So many good things to buy and of course eat.  I bought a little candle set.  For a little snack a had a grilled roti drizzled with sweetened condensed milk that was other worldly.  I really had to stop myself from having a second one.  Hot, crunchy, soft and gooey all at once.  Fabulous!

Headed to Siam Paragon for dinner and had Coco Curry.  It was delicious but not as good as what I had in Tokyo.  No surprise there.  After dinner a 2 hour massage. 

A couple pics from yesterday.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Great day on the beach in Samet

We spent the entire day lounging on the beach in front of Lima Coco.  This area is rather secluded with a fine stretch of sand.  On either side of us are two spectacular resorts ($500 per night places). The water is warm and clear with a greenish hue.  A perfect place to cool off every so often.  The weather yesterday was close to perfect with just a light haze.  For refreshment we enjoyed many cold Singhas, fresh coconut juice and incredible banana shakes, all served at our beach chairs.  Lunch was served on the beach too.  Pad Woo Sen for me and it really hit the spot.  In the afternoon we rented a kayak for an hour.  Good exercise and nice views.  Rough life, I know!

Off to Bangkok this morning and Laos tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Plans for Laos are set

We will stay with Lilly's brother-in-law Tom in Vientiane, Laos.  He is the #2 US diplomat in the country.  He lives in a large 3 bedroom house and has maids and drivers.  Sounds like a nice gig!  We'll most likely do one night in Vang Vieng.  The pictures of the city look spectacular!

JO's Rules for Travel

Always, always follow TripAdvisor.  When in doubt, just follow TripAdvisor.

Golden Mount, Bangkok

This is a can't miss spot when touring Bangkok.  After a nice climb up the stairs you can enjoy a great view of the Big Mango.

Mon Nom Sod, Bangkok

This famous kanom (dessert) place absolutely blew my mind.  Located in the Banglampu area and famous for decades, Mon Nom Sod is (nom sod means fresh milk in Thai) a gem in a city that perhaps has more opportunities to eat well than any place on the planet.  The specialty here is grilled toast with different toppings.  The setting is simple elegance with great air conditioning.  We had toast topped with butter and condensed milk.  Simple but utterly profound.  I'm going back to try the chocolate topping.  This is a can't miss spot in Bangkok.

Ko Samet, Thailand

We departed Bangkok early this morning for a bus and boat trip to the island of Samet.  The trip took about 3 hours in total.  The weather has been not so hot all day.  Light rain in the morning and no sun.  I'm not a huge fan of the hotel I booked on this island - Lima Coco.  The beach is real nice though.  Very quiet and relaxing.

Bangkok Day 3

Another busy day out in the Big Mango.  We visited a few new things near the Banglampu area including a nice temple and the Royal Mount.  Lunch was at Chote Chitr at long last.  I certainly enjoyed it although it wasn't worth all the hassle I went through to find it.  The food was very good although I was somewhat turned off by how focused the restaurant is on tourists.  I'm fairly certain that no Bangkok residents would ever eat at Chote Chitr due to the relatively high prices.  I guess I've become a total snob for local, local places although the cooking was certainly good at Chote Chitr.    

After lunch we visited a famous Thai dessert place that was other worldly, Nom Mod Sod.  I will definitely visit this place again before I depart for LA.

After our dessert we visited the Golden Mount.  This is very nice temple with great views of Bangkok.  I really enjoyed visiting the Golden Mount and would definitely return again.

In the late afternoon the sky opened up and it absolutely poured for awhile.  

Dinner was at an old favorite of mine near Soi Nana - Took Lae Dae inside the Foodland Market on Soi 5.  I ordered the pad kee mao noodles.  They were decent but I've had much better.  I asked for it spicy and my dish came 'farang spicy'. 

Some pics from Chote Chitr:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Khao Sarn Road, Bangkok

Visited the Khao Sarn Road area of Bangkok last night after getting to Chote Chitr and finding it closed (again).  I should give up on the damn place.  Unfortunately, I left my camera in the room.  Khao Sarn at night is a spectacular place for photography.  The area is famous for being the 'backpacker area' in Bangkok.  It is basically a human carnival where the people watching is as good as it gets.  We ate at a little shack on the street that took 30+ minutes to serve out food.  At least when it arrived it was really good because I was getting pretty pissed off.  I needed an extra Beer Lao to cool me off. 

Ready to head out for another day in the big city.  Tomorrow we leave for Ko Samet.  A little island getaway on the weekend.  Monday will be the flight to the Northeastern city of Ubon Thani and then a border crossing into Laos.

Here is our snack yesterday afternoon.  The famous Isaan salad dish Som Tam.

Siam Paragon, Bangkok

We spent some of the afternoon at Siam Paragon, which is the premier shopping mall in Bangkok.  What an incredible place!  I'm actually not surprised at all since it seems that no mall in the western world can match the malls I've seen in Asia.  The food court at this mall is absolutely massive and has just about everything you can think of.  A lot of it looking so very good.  All of the western favorites are there.  Krispy Kreme had by far the biggest line.  Lilly says the people here are nuts about the donuts.  All of the high end shops are of course.  Canali, Zegna, etc.  RT - eat your heart out.

Here is me inside a Tuk-Tuk outside.

Boat Noodles at Victory Monument

Lunch today was something that I have been waiting to do since I discovered boat noodles at Sapp in Hollywood, California.  There is an area near Victory Monument that has several boat noodle restaurants next to each other right on the side of a canal.  This is supposed to be the best place in Bangkok to sample this famous Thai noodle dish.  I can't tell you how very happy I was to be there.

We walked around looking at the different shops and ultimately settled on the one that was the most crowded.  My original thought was to sample the noodles at a few different places but that idea was quickly scratched after my first slurp.  The flavors were just incredible!  The broth is so thick and rich.  Sorry Sapp Hollywood, I love you but you have been trumped.  I dig how the noodles are served in little bowls that you stack up.  Prices are a lofty 9 baht per bowl. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bangkok Day 1

The first day of my trip was quite busy (and seemed to last forever).  I got the welcome Thai massage for an hour.  It felt great and only cost $5 for an hour.  Lilly and I drove around the city for part of the day.  Traffic everywhere.   We ditched the car and rode the public transportation later (the better bet).  Food is everywhere and we ate throughout the day.  We had dinner in Silom on the street.  The highlight was fresh red snapper in chili lime sauce.  Amazing flavors.  I was utterly exhausted by last night.  I slept great and woke up early this morning.  Just had a very good western breakfast at my hotel.  Plans for today are getting my visa for Laos and getting lunch at Chote Chitr.  Boat noodles later in the day at Victory Monument.