Spire of Loha Prasat – Wat Ratchanadda

Loha Prasat

Sometimes you are lucky enough to see the world from an angle that not many others have viewed it from. Earlier this week I visited Loha Prasat, part of the temple complex of Wat Ratchanadda. Looking up through the imposing blackened copper turrets, I cursed the fact that I had not come here earlier.

The entire top level of the building was covered in a green veil, where Loha Prasat was undergoing some vital repairs. Although a little disappointed, I still joined the PR tour to visit the rest of the building.

 

Our guide was a friendly chap with broken English, so I quickly raced up the tower to get a couple of shots of the vista. After being trapped in a small space near the Buddha relics (I didn’t want to push past the two young people who were praying), I was about to make my way back down the spiral staircase when I met the guide again.

He pointed up to the scaffolding and asked me if I wanted to go up there. Unsure whether he was joking, I mumbled a confusing yes and no answer. But when he told me he was the engineer overseeing the renovations, I knew I would be a fool to pass up this opportunity.

Scaffolding Loha Prasat 2013

I am not afraid of heights in general, but I felt extremely wobbly making my way up the narrow steps, trying to cling on to the scaffolding poles, occasionally grabbing a power wire out of desperation.

Although the view from the top was impressive, I was far more excited at the chance to watch the two craftsmen at work. They quickly picked up their tools as we appeared, snipping the pieces of copper into shape and polishing the layers that had already been welded to the roof.

Spire of Loha Prasat

I can’t imagine there are many people who have touched the Naga (snake with many heads) mouldings that decorate the roof of Loha Prasat. Definitely a moment for the memory book, one that makes me grateful for all the opportunities I have been given and amazing things I have witnessed.

Wat Ratchanadda

Evening in Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park Dusk

I love Lumpini Park in the evenings, when the joggers are puffing around the track, the homeless cats are settling in under park benches for the night and you can hardly hear the rush-hour traffic speeding along Wireless Road.

The rainy season has been making life tough over the past few days, purple clouds loom over the horizon just before the end of our work day and it makes exploring and taking photos for my job almost impossible.

On the plus side though, it really cools down, meaning I can enjoy a walk through the park just after the rains has stopped.

Lumpini Park Rain

Carrying my camera around sometimes feels like a pain, especially if I want to make the most of the amazing handbag collection I seem to have acquired since moving to Bangkok. But if you don’t practice you’re never going to get better, and I do love it when a picture comes together and gives people an insight into my life here.

Need to work on the technique below though!

Bangkok Bike Rain

Pop Music in Bangkok – Dancing to the hits of the 90s

Sonic Nightclub

Bangkok has plenty of great nightclubs, but finding one that plays pop music is not so easy. So when I found out that Trasher was organising a Now That’s What I Called Pop Music evening, I grabbed my friends and headed down to Sonic Nightclub on Ekkamai soi 10.

Sonic isn’t known for pop music. Most nights they play Indie Rock on the outdoor terrace (aka smokers lounge) and have live bands on the stage in both rooms. My pal said it looked a bit like a student union and I have to agree, it’s minimal with a lot of concrete. This is a relief because let’s be honest, I am not that hardcore when it comes to clubbing, and anywhere too cool scares me. The bathrooms at Sonic are pretty trendy though, papered with black and white newspaper clippings and photos. They are also clean! With paper!

We paid 200 baht to get in and got a free Tiger beer. We arrived at around 22:00, perfect timing as the place had a buzz but wasn’t jam packed with people. By the time we left at 1:00 it was so busy we could hardly move, let alone groove.

The music was really good. When I say really good, what I mean is fantastically bad pop music that I knew all the words to: Britney, Backstreet Boys, Cher and even some Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Trasher provide some dancers, one that looked like Michael Jackson and a couple of others with crazy hair. They can actually dance and really help the crowd get in the mood. Not that I needed any encouragement, I was as happy as a kid on Christmas morning.

It was so much fun, I hope Trasher organise some more pop club nights in Bangkok, because I need to dance!

Sonic Nightclub Bangkok Sonic Bangkok Bangkok nightclub Bangkok striptease

Bangkok’s Best Fish and Chips

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Fish and Chips is something that I have really missed since I moved to Bangkok, which is rather odd as I am not usually a huge fan of eating anything that comes from the sea. Thankfully there is a great restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 11 that serves up some tasty catches with what I would argue are the most delicious fries in the world.

This isn’t your usual greasy cafe where you get a mound of slightly soggy chips in newspaper, although the dishes are served on print, which definitely made me smile. There are over half a dozen different fishes to chose from, and thankfully a short description on each one, as my seafood knowledge doesn’t stretch much beyond cod… The fish are caught from the seas around New Zealand and include the wonderfully named Tarakihi and Silver Trumpeter. The fish is served either battered or breaded with either tartar or garlic dipping sauce.

Fries come in three varieties: standard cut, thick cut and the most awesome of all, that I am sad I didn’t discover till I was 29, Kumera fries. Chunky, delicious wedges of sweet potato, fried and served with sour cream and chilli dipping sauce. I have been thinking about them far too often since we had our first bowl, and I keep wondering if it would be acceptable to go back and just have a portion of these and nothing else. Alone, so I don’t have to share.

Open: Mon – Fri: 17:00 – 12:00 and Sat – Sun: 11:00 – 12:00

BTS: Nana
Address: Sub lane of Sukhumvit 11, left hand side as you walk from BTS (less than 5 minutes). Look for the small lane with the gate and Cheap Charlies out door bar 
Tel: +66 (0)2 651 1098

Ladies Night Bangkok – Free Drinks and Great Deals (2014)

The Golden Dusit Thani Spike!

 One of the best things about Bangkok is most definitely ladies night. In a city that seems designed for the pleasure of men it’s great to have somewhere dedicated to honouring the fairer sex with free drinks and some cheesy music. Not that we are that easy to buy of course, but we appreciate the acknowledgement that is attached to Ladies Night.  I’ve put together a list of my favourite ladies nights in Bangkok.

My Bar at Dusit Thani

My Bar at Dusit Thani is the queen of Bangkok ladies night. This is premium quality ladies night, with all you can drink between 19:00 and 21:00 every Wednesday. The drinks list is impressive: red and white wine, beer, gin, whisky and a handful of rather sweet cocktail served (sadly) in wine glasses. The DJ seems to have a thing for 90s pop, but he also plays some recent hits as well. My Bar can be found on the ground floor of the Dusit Thani towards the back of the hotel, past the pastry counter. They occasionally enforce their dress code, which is smart casual with no flip flops. The cost is 200 baht for two hours, and the money goes to Charity.

MRT: Silom – BTS: Sala Daeng – Hotel is directly outside the MRT, if you haven’t been there before it has a huge gold spike on the roof!

Coyote

On Wednesday head down to Coyote Silom on Soi Convent. Ladies night at Coyote runs from 18:00 to 20:00, and the classic margaritas are free. Friendly staff will keep your glasses topped up and if you need something to soak up all that booze we recommend getting a plate of Nachos to share. Coyote is pretty informal and relaxed, making it easy to lose track of time and how much you have had to drink.

Silom Coyote, Soi Convent – BTS: Sala Daeng – MRT: Silom

Royal Oak, Bangkok

Only a few steps from the BTS at Phrom Pong you will find a row of British and Irish boozers. Every Wednesday from 20:00 till close (01:00) you can get free Vodka and Cokes, Chang Beer and Mojitos when the oldest pub in Bangkok holds its ladies night. The Royal Oak is usually filled with old men reading the newspaper and watching sports, but don’t let that put you off. It’s friendly and welcoming, and they do amazing desserts as well. The pub is easy to find, on soi 33/1, just past Robin Hood and The Dubliner.

BTS: Phrom Pong

Above Eleven

Every lady needs a rooftop moment and what could be better than looking down on one of Bangkok’s favourite party streets with a cocktail in your hand. Above Elven is a Central Park inspired rooftop bar and every Wednesday is Salsa night, with 150 baht Margaritas and Mojitos for women. You can see the Fraser Suites as you walk along soi 11, but you need to walk 10 minutes to the end of the street at go round the corner. The Above Eleven entrance is to the side of the building.

BTS: Nana

Am Bar

Or perhaps the rooftop moment should be accompanied by a glass of ladies night bubbly? If so then Thursday night at Am Bar at Sheraton Hotel on Soi 15 is the place to be, with buy one get one free on Prosecco. This isn’t the highest rooftop in town, you’ll be looking up rather than down when you check out the skyscrapers. But the vibe is pretty chilled out, and there are some super comfy day beds to lounge around on.

BTS: Nana

W Bangkok

On Wednesdays between 19:00 and 22:00 (until the 30th of June 2013) you can get free bubbles at Woo Bar at the W Bangkok. It’s easily one of the coolest hotel bars in Bangkok and they play some pretty funky music too.

BTS: Chong Nonsi 
 
Ladies Night drinks make my eyes crazy...

Bangkok’s Countryside and the Tree House Hotel

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If you want to escape the mad mad city that is Bangkok then there is no better place to go than the Bangkok Tree House in Phra Pradeang, which is a little like the London bump in the river where the Millennium Dome is, but has a jungle and a floating market on it instead of an entertainment centre. It also has cute puppies as well as the Bangkok Tree House, so it is the perfect place for a stay-cation.

To make it feel more like an adventure, we decided to walk from BTS at Bang Na to the pier, which is only about 1.5 km, but we got a bit lost and ended up in a temple complex with cows… If you take a taxi it’s about five minutes to Bang Na pier, where you can jump on the boat with a bunch of motorbikes and head away from grim industrial land to green jungle.

To make matters more adventurous we also took a wrong turning when we were trying to find the tree house, as the island is covered in a maze of small raised concrete walkways and no signs.  The Treehouse Hotel is right on the banks of the river, so you have to take a left as soon as you get off the boat, just near the gold Buddha.

I really enjoyed my stay there, and I would recommend it to friends who want to experience something different. It’s very cool. You have to climb some pretty steep stairs to reach your nest / room, they are decorated in large metal ants or butterflies, the shower is outdoors and rooms come with a fab movie collection that includes The Notebook and An Inconvenient Truth (The Bangkok Tree House is all about being green).

We had dinner and breakfast here and the food was delicious, all sourced locally, there is also a fridge full of free ice-cream for when you are feel peckish. The staff were friendly and you could loan a bike to tour the area, in fact we were even offered a free one hour tour. I am really impressed with their policies of employing local staff and using renewable energy. Despite all this, I didn’t feel that the hotel really had the wow factor.

There is a lot of hype about the Bangkok Tree House and perhaps for this reason it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Even though they were removing rubbish for the river (at a rate of a kilo per booking) there was still a lot of detritus around the property and at times the place felt grubby rather than rustic. In my mind I had pictured a rural idyll but the hotel is still in Bangkok, not in the rolling countryside, so it wasn’t quite the getting back to nature I was hoping for.

After our impressive five course breakfast we went exploring. The highlight for me was the puppies we got to play with, but if you haven’t stuffed your face with waffles then there is also what just about passes as a floating market with plenty of food and the occasional monk blessing.

Sra Bua Restaurant Bangkok

There are not many restaurants that have wowed me the way Sra Bua did on my recent visit. I am a big fan of looking outside the box and doing things differently, I don’t get annoyed like some do with foodie fads and a bit of foam or a smear of sauce doesn’t detract me if the rest of the dish impresses. Run by Henrik Yde-Andersen, the Danish Michelin starred chef who got a star for his Thai restaurant Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen, it serves de-constructed Thai dishes and embellished favourites. Even if you have travelled the length and breadth of Thailand, chances are that you won’t see any other dishes created like those at Sra Bua.

We were lucky enough to try some of the menu highlights during our visit. I’ve included some pictures and descriptions below as it really is impossible to imagine them otherwise!

The first serving was a trio of amuse-bouche, a chewy soy sauce flavoured meringue,  lotus root with a kaffir lime coating and a prawn cracker served on a bed of slightly tex-mex tasting tomato and chilli sauce. The meringue was not sweet at all, which is a bit confusing as the texture was exactly like the ones my grandma makes. I really enjoyed the lotus root for its pleasing shape and citrus tang.

Thai Nibbles

The dish that got all the critics swooning was the frozen red curry. Served on a foggy plate of dry ice the creamy, spicy sauce is frozen and served like ice-cream, with chunks of meaty lobster, avocado and longan fruit. A mouthful of this is a real symphony of textures and flavours.

Lobster Salad

One of the mains we tried was the de-constructed Tom Kha, with fish rather than chicken. The large portion of Panko came served with a crispy slice of skin and the sauce was poured from a teapot!

Panko FIsh and Tom Kha

It looks like the steak has skidded on the plate here, but that is actually a reduction of Thai basil: yum. The salad it came with looked like a miniature garden, and there was a delicious bite to the spicy oyster sauce.

Tenderloin with Thai Basil

If you’ve ever wondered what the dessert version of Pina Colada would look like then take a look at this. I think it might have even been my favourite dish of the night. The white dome is a crispy coconut shell that hides pineapple ice-cream and is leaning on malibu flavoured mousse. Despite my dairy intolerance I couldn’t stop eating this.

Pina Colada DessertThe signature dessert is banana cake with salted ice-cream, toasted almonds, fresh coconut and a large smear of milk reduction, which to my untrained palate tasted like super sweet caramel. It was delicious but far too sweet for me, and I really, really like sugar!

Banana CakeMy job really spoils me and I eat far more amazing food than my waistline can handle, but for me Sra Bua easily gets a top ten spot in my favourite Bangkok restaurants list. I will be talking about the food for weeks to come and taking my favourite people here when they visit.

Bangkok Food in a month (Jan 2013)

A Day in Udon Thani

Strange bus - Udon Thani

Last weekend I was lucky enough to celebrate Children’s Day in Udon Thani, around an hour’s flight from Bangkok. My company sponsor 25 children in a small village an hour or so from the city, which is very close to the Laos border. It was nice to be up in the hills, where the temperature was cool enough to wear jeans and a cardigan – I wish I had worn shoes as well – and to see a different side of life in Thailand.

Young Performer Children's Day Stage Lady watching Performances

Because it was children’s day there was a big party on, and all the kids were running around and there was plenty of smiley faces. Seeing how the children lived most of the time was pretty harrowing, and I didn’t take many pictures, as I was trying to get my head around it all, and felt it was a little invasive. One of the sponsored children is a boy of twelve who was severely disabled, I had tears in my eyes as my colleague translated the story of his life, but even if she hadn’t the strength it took to bring him up in such conditions was etched on his mother’s face.

We handed out gifts in the afternoon and their excitement at the sight of toys was infectious! I am used to standing out in the crowd thanks to my blonde hair  but some of the younger kids were so surprised by my appearance that they became frozen on the spot when the giant lady from England handed them a doll.

After this we visited two impressive temples in the region, one which had the most serene looking reclining Buddha I have ever seen, and another which was filled with unusual statues, including a tree from which naked women grew.

Peaceful BuddhaLooking up!TempleLady TreeAdoration of a GodTemple Puppies!