Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Teacher's Day !

Put together little packages of home made cookies for my daughters to give to their teachers. The bright yellow tags kind of matches the sunflowers at the residents' garden at my place. Some of my neighbours do have green fingers, unlike me. 

Happy Teacher's Day to all teachers out there :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dempsey - PS Cafe and House

House and PS Cafe are two of my favourite shabby chic places at Dempsey, though I have not been back there for a while till recently, on two occassions. PS Cafe looks like a posh cafe in New York overlooking the woods while House is like a spa cum high tea place. 

Presentation of food at both places were great though the chef at House seems to be a little short on the salt for my main dish - fish in a broth of mussels and soba. Couldn't complain about the raspberry chocolate cake with vanilla custard as it had a wonderful nutty texture which goes well with the tart strawberry and the smooth custard. There was also a little promotional message on their place mat - vintage tea party from Thursday to Friday, 3 -5.30pm. Despite it being a weekday, there were lots of ladies , some obviously ladies of leisure indulging in food , tea and gossip. Wish I could live that sort of lifestyle. Nah....I would probably get bored after a while.

While at PS Cafe, I couldn't help admiring the 2 huge bouquets of hydrangeas near the door. Was disappointed when I got to the table as there was only a small vase with a single stalk of decaying chysanthemums. Dying flowers make me a little sad somehow so I kept looking at the hydrangeas instead. Had a miso cod fish with a salad at the side and it was delicious without making me feel guilty. But I did take quite a bit of french fries with triffle oil from my friend , not to mention the desserts that came after. My friend had lemon pudding while I had the ginger one and both came served with lots of cream and ice cream. Oh dear ! But I  convinced myself that it was alright and I would go back to my down to earth porridge lunch the next day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bangkok Shopping

Colourful ribbons at Platinum Fashion Mall (accessories floor)
A colourful stripey rubber ducky at the entrance of Siam Centre
A different expression for every toyboy (Siam Centre)
The courtyard of Siam Centre
A colourful montage of tiles at a shop in Siam Paragon
Bangkok is such an enjoyable place to be if you want a shopping and culinary experience. If you only have a few days to spare and shopping is a priority, there are many options depending on your budget. There's Chatuchak market (market is only fully open on weekends) , one of the largest indoor market where each lane is a treasure trove of bargains and unusual finds. Skip all the fake goods and you will see authentic Thai handmade treasures and quality clothes which costs so much less compared to department stalls and boutiques.

The best way to get here is to take the Skytrain to Mo Chit station which is only about five minutes walk away from the market. Finding your way from the station is easy - just follow the large crowd of people. But if there are at least four persons in your group, take a cab and use the meter. With everyone having different shopping interests, it is not easy to shop in a group at Chatuchak . Locating one another is difficult too as the lanes are like confusing little mazes. Best thing is to get a map at the information centre or even print it out from the web and arrange a meeting point. The map is also useful as you can zoom in on the category of goods you want to buy rather than meadering aimlessly. Alternatively, get to meet your friends at a stipulated time at the clocktower, one of the higher structures within the market which can be seen from most parts of Chatuchak. 

For a more structured form of shopping, there is the Platinum Fashion Mall, where people take shopping seriously, judging at the way some actually lug luggage bags as shopping bags.
This massive wholesale mall is a source for retail shops all around Bangkok. Bargain hunters can still pay wholesale prices by purchasing a minimum of three and if you are lucky even two pieces from the same store. With more than 1,300 shops, you'll need at least four hours to get through the place and even blogshops and businesses from countries as far away as Russia actually come here to stock up. With floors dedicated to every category of goods - accessories, clothes, leather goods such as bags and shoes, it is the shopping mecca of Bangkok.

Platinum Fashion Mall
542/21-22 Petchaburi Road

But for a more upmarket shopping experience, there's Siam Centre where many established Thai fashion designers set up shop as well as Siam Discovery,  a place that houses major international brands. Siam Centre and Siam Discovery are actually twin shopping malls, conveniently located at the BTS Skytrain Siam Station. They are just opposite Siam  Paragon, adjacent to MBK Centre. I especially love the eateries and the beautiful big supermarket at Siam Paragon. Well, this is as much as I have discovered during my 3 days there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Artistic touches in Bangkok

Little artistic touches around Bangkok abound in many places. From a chandelier made of glass cups, blue orchids arranged in a tear drop to a simple but beautiful arrangement of flowers. It is difficult to shop, eat and take pictures at the same time but I do try.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cafe shots in Bangkok

Breakfast at the cafe at Novotel Silom, Bangkok
A leisurely breakfast and a chill / relax tea time are such real treats for me. I love nothing more than a nice pot of tea, scones, cake or cookie. More reasons to do so on a weekend and while I am on a holiday.

Tea time at Vanilla Brasserie at Siam Paragon

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cafe Doitung, Thailand

Coffee with macadamia nuts and a chocolate muffin

Cafe Doitung at Chatuchak
Toys made from handwoven materials ( Phufa Occupation Incentive Project)
In Bangkok, couldn't help but notice some businesses set up to promote social causes, the most prominent of which was Cafe Doitung which has branches located in many places of interest in Thailand. Sold at these cafes-coffee from aromatic Arabica coffee beans as well as macadamia nuts, replacement crops for opium from the Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle is located where Thailand, Myammar and Laos joins and historically this place was known for the cultivation of opium. Since every modern city has its own coffee chain, the creation of CafĂ© DoiTung allows the farmers to capitalise on the value of coffee growing, giving them a sustainable alternative form of living. Playing a big part in this is the Thai royal family, especially the late mother of the King, Princess Srinagarindra who first set up the Mae Fah Laung Foundation to raise the quality of life for Thailand's ethnic minorities. This has since passed on to the King's daughter, her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Well loved by the Thai people, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also heads many other similar projects such as the Phufa Occupation Incentive Project which also helps to promote a sustainable way of life for villagers in other remote areas of Thailand.

Thai drinks

A little cafe just behind an aromatherapy store

Thai style grass jelly with milk

Thai style grass jelly with brown sugar

Thai style ice Lemon tea with lemon grass (right) and lime with brown sugar (left)

Grass jelly is a popular drink in Asia. It is made from boiling the leaves and stalks of the Mesona chinensis plant (part of the mint family) with potassium carbonate and starch, then cooled to form a jelly like substance. Grass jelly has cooling (yin) properties and this makes it an ideal drink in hot Asian countries.

It is interesting to find how different countries in Asia serve grass jelly. In Singapore, black strands of grass jelly (known as chin chow locally) is commonly served with soya bean milk and locals call it the "Micheal Jackson drink". This is in reference to both his popular black or white song and his changing skin colour.

In Thailand, grass jelly is known as chao kuay and is commonly served with just ice and natural brown sugar or alternatively, with just milk and brown sugar.  Had both the Thai versions at a very popular Chatuchak stall and it was refreshing after a long day of shopping.  
Chatuchak Chao-Kuay Boran
(Section 3, Room 202 and 214, Soi 3, 02-542-0732, 08-6568-7025. Open Sat-Sun 10am-7pm)

Lemon grass is another popular herb in Thai cooking and even the ice lemon tea at McDonalds in Bangkok was flavoured with it. The herb is also useful for presentation. I loved the way my ice lemon tea was presented at a  local Thai restaurant. It came with an orange straw and a lemon grass artistically cut at an angle. The beautiful colour combination makes it look like a carrot and celery stick from afar.

Another memorable "drinking hole" in Chatuchak is a cafe just behind an aromatherapy shop. After a whiff of the wonderful, calming scent of essential oils, relax with a refreshing blend of flowery tea on quaint garden benches with chill out music playing in the background.
Lann Cha
(Section 3, Room 122-123, Soi 3, 02-513-0145/6. Open Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 9:30am-7pm).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fly Now III Window Display (Bangkok)

Here's a window display that caught my eye while I was at Siam Centre in Bangkok, a place that houses the best Thai local designers for clothes. This is the shop front of Fly Now III, and its styling can be best described as a surreal dreamscape where Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream meets the world of the Chronicles of Narnia. The clothes worn by the magical creatures exude an exotic mix of colours and playfulness. Couldn't really get the pictures I wanted due to the glare and reflection from the glass windows, but managed to take some shots from another of its branch at Siam Paragon. Strangely, my friend didn't like it at all due to the huge animal heads but I did.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grey Hound at Siam Paragon

Had dinner with my friends at Another Hound by Greyhound (a mouthful of a name) located at Siam Paragon. The Greyhound version of Thai papaya salad comes in a much smaller portion than what we were used to, which is usually a mountain of papaya shreds. It was an elegant portion with little grapes and pineapples but there wasn't really much to share or to pass around. The mussels with tomatoes and basil came with 3 slices of bread, strategically placed to hold back the gravy. It had a nice sweet sour taste when eaten with the bread. The squid ink sphaghetti with scallops looked and tasted heavenly as the scallops were very fresh while the calamari tasted just right, without being over fried or oily. 

The Greyhound chain is famous for its attention to details. Heard from friends who come regularly - its ice lemon tea is served with ice cubes made from frozen ice tea. This way, the drink will never taste diluted even if the ice melts. Unfortuately, we had dinner really late that Sunday night and they ran out of lemon tea ice cubes. But overall, it was a beautiful evening.  

Handmade wooden chimes from Bangkok

I am impressed by the creativity of the Thais. They have managed to embrace changes in today's modern world, yet retain the pride of their culture with energy and enterprise. Thai handicraft is renowned and their eye for quality control makes their exports competitive. Some of my favourite buys in Chatuchak include wood carvings of animals, skilfully put together as wind chimes of a different kind. A string that is simply yet deftly put together contols the movement of its parts - flappable wings on pigs, pecking chickens in a cage, etc. The lady who owns the shops designs and puts together these whimsical and enchanting wooden creatures that are skilfully carved by villagers. Souvenirs or toys with an artisan touch are really charming. Even my two daughters are amused and they now hang at different corners of the house.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Special Lights

The Greyhound brand in Thailand started as a designer name in clothes. Since then, the brand has extended itself to cafes and fine dining. I've heard so much of it from my friends who frequent Bangkok so often that I had to visit the place myself. Wasn't so impressed by the exterior of "Another Hound by Greyhound" at Siam Paragon till I was led to a special dining room of chandeliers. They were not the kind of chandeliers that boast of the finest Sworovski crystals. Instead its brilliance lies in its non-conventional simplicity. Rings of steel with attached customised cut glass pieces of spoons, beer mugs, vinegar glasswares, wine goblets etc. It filled the room with a grandeur that is not stuffy but best described as elegantly beautiful and this also extended to its food presentation. More of that in another post as I would like to dedicate this post to the beauty of its lights.

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

It is one of the world 's largest indoor market selling a whole range of goods, from clothes, accessories, plants, household goods and ceramics to antiques, food and even pets. Divided into 27 sections with each section specialising in a category of goods, though the  demarcation is never quite clear sometimes. Best part of Chatuchak is its organic growth and expansion through the years, with its origins as a smaller flea market in the 1940's for the locals to what it is today. According to its official website, the Chatuchak Weekend Market attracts around 30% tourists. I especially like the fact that locals and tourists get to shop at the same place which makes it more authentic. 

I arrived in Bangkok last Saturday night and spent a day at Chatuchak on Sunday. Despite  almost a day there, I managed to only cover section 2 -7 and not all 27 sections, a mere fraction of the market. I was multi-tasking along the way, taking pictures discreetly while trying to get a better price for my purchases, though I must say I am really bad at the art. Most of the time, I get to reduce the asking price by only 10% -15%. I could do better but bargaining takes time and I was anxious to see and buy more. Some people start from as low as 50% of the asking price, making their way from there.

Just as the stalls at Chatuchak were getting ready to close for the day at around 6pm, it started to pour. Despite being tired, I was enjoying myself way too much to want to call it a day. But alas ! Till the next time then. I will be back. 

A succulent and juicy selection of fruits that will never turn rotten

A boxy selection of vintage inspired bags

Look out for the Thai designer section at Chatuchak
Beautiful fabrics for hats on hot days


Time out for a drink at the many stalls and cafes

Hanging ceramics of baby elephants

Toilet signs that are way more fun and colourful than M and W

Little custard puffs sold in bags

Glass bottled drinks are still popular in Thailand

Mango with glutinous rice, a Thai favourite

Smiling monks in a row (snapped discreetly)


Eating with locals at a side stall.

Spicy and delicious

Portraits of Thai royalty everywhere

Grilled street side chicken

Fried street side fish cakes