Our Travel Blog

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bangkok & Ayuthaya - May 4-8, 2006

We just returned from the City of Angels aka Krung Thep aka Bangkok. Do you know that Bangkok in the Thai language holds the world’s record as the city with the longest name? Krungthep Mahanakhon Amon Ratanakosin Mahintara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Popnopparat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonpiman Avatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit which means “Great City of Angels, Repository of Divine Gems, Great Land Unconquerable, Grand and Prominent Realm, Royal and Delightful Capital City full of Nine Noble Gems, Highest Royal Dwelling and Grand Palace, Divine Shelter and Living Place of Reincarnated Spirits”.
Travelled on AirAsia flight AK880 from KLIA’s new Low Cost Carrier Terminal(LCCT). The flight embarked around 8.45am with a slight delay due to heavy runway traffic. If you talk about no-frills low cost, the LCCT looks low cost, reminds me of a warehouse, nothing fanciful, except that it is clean(as it is brand new), however food prices are exorbitant and not even close to reasonable. In fact food and drink prices here especially the local fast food restaurant is close to ridiculous. However, there is a McD there which also serves their breakfast menu which is slightly higher than in the city. Arrived at Don Muang International Airport after two hours and five minutes at around 9.40am local time. Its nice to know that you get a one hour time advantage due to time zone difference. This will also be the last time we shall be using Don Muang as she will make way for the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. We shall have fond memories of Don Muang International Airport.

We stayed at the First Hotel on Petchaburi Road in Pratunam, as it it would be more convenient for us to move around for shopping and is also near the new Siam Paragon Mall. Had earlier made reservations through internet. Paid B300 plus B20 as tips for the taxi ride from Don Muang to the Hotel. This was much cheaper and nearer than our trip last year when we stayed at the Elegance Suite in the Bangrak area as the Pratuman area is closer to the highway. Condition of the room was quite old but bearable. The rooms cost us B990 per night per room inclusive of breakfast for two. After our check-in, we walked along the main street in front of the hotel with Jules’ Parents but could not withstand the heat for too long as it was mid afternoon, so we decided to head back into the comfort of our air conditioned rooms. Felt very tired as we started the day very early. First night we had dinner at The Seafood Market and Restaurant . This place is in Sukhumvit on Soi 24, and was featured in the Travel and Adventure Discovery Channel’s The Cook’s Tour, hosted by Anthony Bourdain last year.

There was quite a wide selection of fresh seafood, and our menu for the evening was….Steam Garouper(Thai-Style), Oyster Omelette,

Basil chilli Clams and Mixed Vegetables.

Total bill including drinks and cooking amounted to B1580. If you are planning for a trip to Krung Thep, don't miss this place out, worth the trip. You will be amaze at how huge the place is.

The next day we bought a package tour to Ayuthaya. I was not feeling really well then, came down with a flu bug somehow and was having a pretty sore throat. Nevertheless, I had to psyche myself up ahead for the trip, so instead of feeling sickly on the express bus ride to Ayuthaya, I had to repeatedly tell myself that I was well and no flu virus is gonna spoil my day. We had earlier booked this tour through the hotel travel desk that makes the arrangement with some local travel agent known as Grand Pearl Cruise….they even charge us for making the calls for booking for B10 per call which I feel that they should not have done so. Price was B1,700 per person but I manage to negotiate down to B1,500 per person. This included the hotel pickup at 6.30am by a tour bus equiped with an English speaking Thai guide(James), the tour to Bang Pa-In which is a palace mainly built by Rama V(King Chulalongkorn) and then ultimately to see and feel the ruins of Ayuthaya.

Lunch was included on board the cruise yacht called the Grand Pearl I returning from Ayuthaya to Bangkok(River City Pier) via the Chao Phraya River. The duration of journey was about 3.5 hours along the scenic Chao Phraya.

Arrived back to Bangkok around 5pm. That evening we went to Chinatown(Yaowarat) for dinner at Lao Li Restarant, a well known Chinese restaurant for their shark-fin soup and bird’s nest soup. Total bill came up to about B1350, which included 2 bowls of shark-fin soup, one bowl of stewed goose’s web, one vegetable dish, and 3 bowls of bird’s nest soup. After dinner we headed to Patpong for shopping in Boots. Jules bought some Hed Kandi CDs here. After getting back to the hotel, as standard as SOP, we when down to a nearby massage parlor for foot massage. That was quite late then around 1am I think. Anyway, we paid for a one hour foot massage at B250 per person.

We woke up late on Saturday, were at the Platinum Fashion Mall at Pratunam was nothing much to shout about, except if you are into clothing(factory outlet style), something like a higher end Chatuchak market. There were plenty of local street food stalls outside of the mall. The food photo you see here that looks really colourful, its a kind of local dessert with yellow bean paste inside coated with jelly, it really really yummy. They mould it into different shapes. At the nearby IT Center, I bought myself an XD picture card for my Olympus camera. Price is much cheaper than here in KL. The 128mb card costs me B990(RM99) as compared to at least RM300 here in KL…..what a huge difference! That evening we had dinner at Suan Lum Night Bazaar near Lumpini Park. Guzzled down 2 liters of Weihenstephan Dark German Beer in a unique dispenser only to be found here in Suan Lum. We like the container and even ask for the price of the container, unfortunately it was too expensive as the manager wanted to sell it to us for B6000(RM600)…..Crazy!!!

After that we hopped onto a tuk-tuk for Patpong for sport herbal massage. We paid B650 per person for 90 minutes. Returned to the hotel around 2am.

Sunday morning after breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Siam Paragon Shopping Mall which is the biggest department store in South East Asia. There are more than 300 brand stores in the mall. Great place to shop if you have the extra dough to spend on. Lunch was at Tony Roma’s in Sukhumvit’s Nai Lert Building. Apparently we only realize that there is another Tony Roma’s in Siam Paragon when we sat down to eat. As usual, the baby back ribs are the best in the world and never fail us. Later in the afternoon, both of us too a tuk-tuk to the Amarin(formerly Sogo) near the Grand Hyatt Erawan for…….. (BC Rajprasong – take the BTS escalator which leads into Amarin Plaza, on the immediate left).

Evening was dinner with Jules’ Parents at Suan Lum. The rest of the night was basically looking around the stalls after we sent Jules’ Dad off back to the hotel by cab. A cab ride from Pratuman area to Suan Lum costs about B45 on a metered taxi. We ended the day with another round of 60 mins foot massage around our hotel.

Next morning after breakfast, we went to Pratunam Center at 10am but was told it would only be opened at 11am. There we met a guy who introduced himself as the Chief Security personnel working at the shopping mall. He suggested for us to take a round trip B30 tuk-tuk ride further down to a temple, where we could get to see the sitting Buddha which is only open to the public on certain specific days of the Thai Buddhist calendar. We thought, why not was Jules could also make some prayers at the temple. After that we came back to the mall at around 11am, nothing much inside, lots of pirate DVDs all of which are English titles….cost of one DVD? B100 each. We also came across a photo studio, so we took the opportunity to enquire on the price for photo shoots in Thai traditional wear.

We check out at 12pm to head back to KL. Our flight was scheduled at 3.15pm, however there was a delay of 45 minutes and the plane did not take off till around 4.30pm.

Note: Exchange Rate - RM1 = 10.100 Baht

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More pictures of the trip, go to pauljules2006.shutterfly.com

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sitiawan - Lumut - Camerons

We were invited to go on a last minute trip to Sitiawan in Perak with Linson and Emily. Moggy had to sit out on this one as LJ(Emily's Honda Jazz), was chosen for the assignment. Besides, he got all excited as this was supposedly, the first trip for him outside of the Klang Valley(with the exception of PD, according to Emily in which Jules went along for that trip too but that was ages ago. Being a city mini mpv, LJ was all geared up for the trip as we heard Em mentioning abt sending him for his check up and oil change a week before this trip.

Left KL late afternoon on Saturday around 5pm. Earlier around 2pm, we were still deciding with the both of them on where to go for the long weekend. Most hotels and resorts were fully taken up as the following Monday is Labour Day holiday.

Traffic was heavy, but with someone with F1 driving reflexes behind LJ's wheels, we reached Sitiawan by 8.30pm. We learnt that all the rooms were fully booked in Sitiawan, however as Linson got the kind help of his "kakis" to make reservation for us at a little known(at least to us) hotel in town called "Flamingo". Later in the night, we headed for dinner at a seafood restaurant which was about 10 minutes drive from our hotel. Linson's friend Rada came to pick us up from our hotel and we met another one of his "kaki", Cheng who drives a Hilux rig, with a tad bit of mods here and there plus the usual stickers on the rig's body. We adjourned into the restaurant in which the decor and ambience was nothing much to shout about. It's located in some palm oil plantation. Anyhow, the food was exceptionally good; so here's proof to say, "never judge the book by its cover". We had deep friend chilled fish fillets, chilli crabs, veges, "Lali" (which according to Rada, it's the cousin of the Lala clams) and as well as mantis prawns cooked in dried chili 'Kong Po' cantonese style and not forgetting a the tofu soup. Food was just alright as the price was dirt cheap, about RM 70 for the whole feast for 6 pax.

Right after the dinner we adjourned to Lumut town which is also a base for the Royal Malaysian Navy and as well as the Outward Bound School for those who are game for some rough outing which the organised such as flying fox, canoeing etc..basiscally if you want to get real tired and have a good workout, you should join this. Both the Naval base and the Outward Bound School is located at Teluk Batik, Lumut. We landed outselves at the Rockerfella Casa Del Mar Pub for some rounds of drink. The weather was extremely warm but thanks to the good guys at the pub, they put a huge fan next to our table which gave us a good breezy evening. We stayed till late till around 1.30am then returned to the hotel.

Next day, woke up around 9.30am though a little reluntant to do so, wish we could just stayed in bed the whole day. We were suppose to meet up with Cheng at the hotel lobby in the morning to go for breakfast but Linson somehow had misplaced his phone, but fortunately he discovered that he left it at Rada's car last night. Tried to go for breakfast at a little Malay restaurant perched by the river but by the time we reached there at around 11am, the place was closed, so had to settle for some noodles near a wet market in town. Food was not too nice but edible. Linson arranged for us to travel by motorbike from Sitiawan to Lumut pier to get over to Pangkor Island, but we decidedto pass on his offer as we did not have a pleasant experience on a bike earlier in the year in Pai, Thailand and could not afford a repeated episode on a bike. So both of them went ahead with their plan while we decided to get some ice cold beer to chill out in the hotel for the rest of the day. It dizzled at dinner time and both our friends had not returned from Pangkor, so we decided to try out a nearby Chinese Restaurant. We ordered half a red snapper, seafood soup and a chicken dish that did not exactly tasted and looked like chicken(strange). Food was one of the worst we had taken at a proper chinese retaurant. They had probably served us some leftovers from an earlier wedding dinner, as what we had wanted to eat was "sold out". Total damage was RM49. We settled to bed earlier than usual that night and did not meet up with Linson and Em.
The following day, we tried the popular makan place by the riverside, and lo and behold, it was opened. The darn place was packed with people, and we were wondering when the wooden stilts supporting the restaurant was gonna collapse. This place it seems is very popular with locals and even city slickers like us for their Roti Canai(Malaysian Pancake) and Nasi Lemak(coconut rice served normally with hot chilli paste, peanuts and anchovies). During breakfast we were debating on whether to do some fishing or head up to Cameron Highlands, after which we decided on the latter. Asked for late check out at 2pm as Linson wanted to catch up with and old off road buddy. Left Lumut after that. Along the way we grab a packet of the famous "Air Nira" for each of us by the highway. Air Nira is some sort of drink extracted from a local species of coconut. That was refreshing but, a little too sweet so you need to drink it ideally with a lot of ice or added water. It was raining all the way up to the highlands, so we arrived via Tapah(old route) to Ringlet and then Tanah Rata by 7pm. Did some vegetables shopping at Brinchang, had our dinner at a steamboat restaurant. Drop by the Old Smokehouse Hotel for some picture taking at about 8.45pm and descented back towards KL. Traffic condition was horribly slow in a halt and go most of the way, and rest areas could not be excessible due to too many people travelling. We finally reached KL a 1.05am.

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For more photos visit HERE