Category Archives: Food

Reviews of all things food related such as Restaurants, Recipes, Farmer’s Markets, Wine, etc.

From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Time waits for no man, nor does it wait for visas. My recent visa extension was going to expire in about three week and I had to start thinking about getting a new one so I wouldn’t be in Thailand illegally. One of the common solutions is to do a border run to a neighboring country. Exiting Thailand closes out the current visa and when I reenter, I get a fresh 30 day visa stamp. From Chiang Mai, the most common border run is to Mae Sai, the most northern district in Thailand, about four hours north of Chiang Mai. Along the route is Chiang Rai which is 3/4 of the way to Mae Sai, and just happens to have a couple very nice northern Thailand golf courses. I decided to combine a visit to Chiang Rai with my necessary border run. The trip would be by bus and take about 3 hours. There is a company called Green Bus that has buses leaving from Chiang Mai every half hour or so. There is a VIP class, an A class, and an X class. I opted for the VIP class bus as there was some thought from other travelers that it may be less likely to have trouble, either safety wise, or mechanical. The bus ticket was 288 baht ($9.30) and the bus was very comfortable with air conditioning and airline style seats with recliner type foot rest. There was a stewardess that served water and a snack, and the bus also had a small restroom at the back. The Green Bus departs from the new bus terminal, Bus Terminal 3, which is a couple miles east of Chiang Mai’s old city, very near the super highway.

Chiang Mai's new bus terminal, "Bus Terminal 3", near the superhighway east of the old city

Chiang Mai’s new bus terminal, “Bus Terminal 3”, near the superhighway east of the old city

I bought my ticket two days in advance and according to the seat map when asked what seat I wanted, no one else had purchased tickets for that day & time yet. How quickly the buses fill up depends a lot on what’s happening in Thailand with festivals and holidays. For example, I bought my return ticket three days ahead and there were only three seats left due to the Songkran festival, the Thai New Year celebration.

I arrived forty minutes early to be sure I had plenty of time. As I watched buses come and go, I noticed that some left ten or more minutes ahead of schedule. It must have been that all passengers were aboard and accounted for so there was no point in waiting for the scheduled departure time. There were several snack bars inside the terminal, a couple pay restrooms (3 baht),  a massage shop, a pharmacy, and an outdoor restaurant that had a good selection of larger meals.

An outdoor restaurant at Bus Terminal 3 in Chaing Mai

An outdoor restaurant at Bus Terminal 3 in Chaing Mai

I had expected to put one bag (I ended up buying another piece of luggage to supplement my backpack) in the lower cargo area of the bus and my backpack in the overhead area above my seat. Once on-board I discovered that the overhead storage area is MUCH smaller than on aircraft. Perhaps only 10 inches (25 cm) at the opening. The backpack went below with the other bag.

VIP Green Bus pulling into the bus station in Chiang Mai

VIP Green Bus pulling into the bus station in Chiang Mai

The trip was comfortable enough but I was a little surprised at how many turns there were in the road and how tight the turns were. This twisting and turning seemed to happen in two mountain passes separated by a mostly straight section between the two.

There were many twists and turns as rout 1 snakes through the mountain passes North of Chiang Mai

There were many twists and turns as Route 1 snakes through the mountain passes North of Chiang Mai

As the bus traveled through the Thai countryside, we passed miles of agricultural land, many small towns, and a few resorts. The air looked to have quite a bit of smoke, but I’ve come to the realization that much of the haze is moisture. It has rained here a few days in a row and cleared the air of all the smoke, but the haze remains as you look toward the distant mountains. It’s fog and mist, and it comes with the humidity from the rain.

A snapshot of the Thai farmland and mountains.

A snapshot of the Thai farmland and mountains.

 

Many, many rice fields are seen on the bus trip north to Chiang Rai

Many, many rice fields are seen on the bus trip north to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is a much smaller town than Chiang Mai. I found that it is a bit more expensive, though not much. My hotel room and motorbike rental were perhaps 10% to 20% more than in Chiang Mai. Food was similar to Chiang Mai with the tourist area being pricier but the Thai restaurants on the fringes have very good food at lower prices.

A quick little story about a Thai restaurant I stopped at while out for a walk. I’ve read that Thai’s are a bit superstitious and one of the things they believe is that making a sale to the first customer of the day brings good luck for the rest of the day. It was mid morning when I happened into this place, there was no one there except the owner, his wife, and eight empty tables. There were no English menus and nearly no English was spoken. The owner, who was a bit inhospitable did know the English word “chicken”, that’s what he served so that’s what I had. Not more that two minutes after my chicken and rice were served, which by the way was excellent, three vans pulled up in front of the restaurant and out came about 20 Thai military guys. They were there for an early lunch. A minute or two later the owner looked my way, and with a big grin, gave me a thumbs-up. Apparently I had brought him good luck, and all those customers!

A look down Thanalai street in Chiang Rai

A look down Thanalai street in Chiang Rai

 

Most of the Song Taos in Chiang Rai are a smaller type than what I've seem in Bangkok and Chiang Mai

Most of the Song Taos in Chiang Rai are a smaller type than what I’ve seen in Bangkok and Chiang Mai

One of the major attractions in Chiang Rai is the clock tower in the center of town. It sits at an intersection and is the centerpiece of a traffic-circle (roundabout). In the evening, starting at 8:00 PM (I think), on the hour the clock tower puts on quite a light show choreographed to music. This happens three or four times each night and is a must see while visiting Chiang Rai.

The clock tower is quite a sight to see, I recommend being around in the evening when it puts on a light show with music!

The clock tower is quite a sight to see, I recommend being around in the evening when it puts on a light show with music!

The popularity of scooters here works out great for the pizza delivery business. It’s hard to beat a delivery vehicle that gets ~100 miles per gallon of gas!

Pizza delivery VIA motorbike

Pizza delivery VIA motorbike

Fresh produce is the norm everywhere in Thailand. Farmers bring freshly harvested goods to town each day picking only what they expect to sell. There are two sizable markets that I saw here in Chiang Rai, as well as street vendors selling their goods.

Street vendors selling a large variety of fresh produce

Street vendors selling a large variety of fresh produce

 

Fresh fruit at the central Chiang Rai market

Fresh fruit at the central Chiang Rai market

 

Fresh produce at the Chiang Rai market

Fresh produce at the Chiang Rai market

 

Curry pastes of at the Chiang Rai market

Curry pastes at the Chiang Rai market

As I write this there’s a thunderstorm with heavy rain… whew, and the lightening is close!

I spotted this scooter a couple days ago, a roof installed and ready for the rainy season. Not sure how it would be in 30 MPH winds blowing from the side though. Then again, not the kind of weather to be riding any bike in.

Motorbike fitted with a roof, complete with windshield wiper

Motorbike fitted with a roof, complete with windshield wiper

Well, posting shorter and more often didn’t really happen as I expected. More often, yes. Shorter, not so much. I’ll leave you with a photo of the local wildlife, the geckos are nearly everywhere. I find them entertaining, and they eat the pesky bugs!

A Tokay Gecko was hanging out on a utility pole

A Tokay Gecko was hanging out on a utility pole

 

Canyon View Restaurant, Chiang Mai

About 15 minutes by car/motorbike to the southwest of Chiang Mai is the Hang Dong District. I discovered there was a nine hole golf course there that was a very good value with a greens fee of just 350 baht ($12.00) for 18 holes. The structures are simple with a main building where you’ll find the cashier to pay for your round; a small pro shop with clothes, clubs, balls, etc; and a snack bar by the first tee that sells food and drinks.

The caddie heads to my tee shot at Hang Dong Golf Course in Chiang Mai

The caddie heads to my tee shot at Hang Dong Golf Course in Chiang Mai

After my game, I went to do a little sight seeing and find a restaurant for lunch. Only a minute or so further south from the golf course I spotted a sign for the Canyon View Restaurant. The restaurant is set back about a mile from the main road and is on the edge of a quarry. The open air dining room looks out over the quarry making for a great view while enjoying lunch.

 

View from the Canyon View Restaurant

View from the Canyon View Restaurant

 

Canyon View Restaurant, wider angle with pump house.

Canyon View Restaurant, wider angle with pump house.

I met a couple other travelers there that told me they were out on the high walls in the middle of the quarry where some local Thai kids were jumping off into the water. A great swimming hole for the kids on hot summer days.

I’ve been taking pictures of some golf courses and hope to post some of them soon. My time here in Thailand is nearing its end and I’m going to try to do shorter posts more often.

Getting Comfortable in Chiang Mai

By now I’m feeling pretty comfortable with Chiang Mai. There’re still many places I haven’t explored, but I can find my way around the major streets of the old city as well as many of the most popular tourist areas around its perimeter. The Tha Phae Gate (pronounced Tah Pae) is a major land mark for the biggest tourist area of Chiang Mai. It’s the site of the Tha Phae Sunday Night Market, as well as many shows and festivals. All around the Tha Phae gate area is everything the foreign traveler might want or need. There are restaurants that will satisfy nearly every culinary desire as well as Thai cooking schools if you want to learn how to cook Thai food. There are Thai massage schools and the massage shops are a great place to have sore feet and muscles rejuvenated for more sightseeing. There are spas, hotels, hostels, banking, currency exchange, pharmacies, bars, shopping, bakeries, and so on.

Tha Phae Gate, east side of the old city, standing outside the gate looking into the city

Tha Phae Gate, east side of the old city, standing outside the gate looking into the city

 

Tha Phae Gate during the flower festival, 2014

Tha Phae Gate during the flower festival, 2014

 

Tha Phae Gate flower festival 2014

Tha Phae Gate flower festival 2014

 

Tha Phae Gate flower festival 2014

Tha Phae Gate flower festival 2014

This sort of thing reminds me of a county fair, but it happens every week here in Chiang Mai. It seems there’s always something going on nearby that will provide entertainment or relaxation, or both.

Even though my motorbike was a rental, and some would argue not to waste money on washing a rental vehicle… I prefer my ride to be “not too dirty”. There’s been no rain here since I arrived so my Honda Click had acquired a fairly heavy layer of road dust. As I was exploring the southeast area of Chiang Mai, I happened upon a car/motorbike wash and detail shop. I’ve had vehicles washed in many places around the world and I was very impressed with the service here. There were five attendants that seemed to swarm around my motorbike like it was the queen of a bee hive. They washed, cleaned, scrubbed, sprayed, dried, and polished what seemed like every millimeter of my bike, including under the seat! The cost… 80 baht (about $2.50).

My red and white Honda Click rental is next in line to be washed.

My red and white Honda Click rental is next in line to be washed.

Prior to coming to Thailand I had researched the various housing choices – hostels, hotels, apartments, resorts, and houses. Hostels are the least expensive, often just 100 to 300 baht ($3 – $9) per night. This gets you a shared room with several beds, often bunk beds “dormitory style”. The hotel I referred to in my last post had both hotel and hostel rooms. I keep in touch with the staff there because they are amazingly friendly and helpful! They just added air conditioning to the dorm (hostel) rooms  which is a definite plus when the Southeast Asian summer heat arrives, often topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). So far it’s only been in the mid 90’s (mid 30’s Celsius) each day and has been clear and sunny since I arrived in January. Hotels and resorts are available by the day, week, month, or longer, and of course may offer a very high level of service (restaurant, bar, spa, golf, tours, etc.). I started in hotels, then moved to an apartment for 30 days because it was less expensive per month than a hotel. The advantage is lower expense, the disadvantage is mobility. If you don’t like where you are, you’re stuck ’till the lease expires; or forfeit the cost and move.

 While exploring the area outside of Chiang Mai’s old city, I came across a gated community called a Moo Baan. There were two security guards at the gate keeping watch as I approached. After explaining that I wanted to have a look around because I may want to move into a Moo Baan in the future, I was allowed in. Not long after, I was passed by one of the guards as he kept track of my whereabouts. There was new construction going on and sparse landscaping for many of the houses. The house below stood out as one of the nicest houses in the Moo Baan right on a water reservoir.

Very nice house in a Moo Baan (gated community)

A very nice house in a Moo Baan (gated community)

Drive through for tax? Must be like using a 1040EZ. I just happened across this building while out for a ride. Looks like a pretty streamline tax collection system to me.

Drive through for Tax

Drive through for Tax

In the southwest corner of the old city is a tranquil little park. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two taking in the colorful gardens and scenery. Watch your step at the entrance, which is along the southern street, there’s a bar across the path to keep the motorbikes from coming into the park. Just step over it.

Chiang Mai park entrance

Chiang Mai park entrance

A noteworthy sight that caught my eye was some of the trees in the park. They had very colorful bark; I believe these are rainbow eucalyptus trees. They shed their outer bark annually revealing the new bright green bark below. Over time this new bark takes on a variety of hues as it matures.

Colorful tree

The colorful trunk of the rainbow eucalyptus tree. The photo doesn’t do it justice, Google it.

As I stepped around a corner on the path through the park, I was greeted with a vibrant dragon floating in the water. Vibrant colors seem to be around every corner; they’re almost as common as the beautiful Thai women.

Dragon at Chiang Mai park

Dragon at Chiang Mai park

As I tend to do, I’ll make mention of some food offerings here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Salmon is one of my favorite foods back in the U.S. and since it is commonly found at latitudes much farther north, I rarely see it offered here in restaurants. While doing some shopping for a new shirt and cleaning supplies at a local “Big C”, a combination department/grocery store, I came across some fresh Norwegian salmon for 1,250 baht per kilogram ($17.75 per pound). I would have bought a little bit if I had some way to cook it.

Fresh Norwegian Salmon, about $17.75 per pound. It's available if you want to pay for it.

Fresh Norwegian Salmon, about $17.75 per pound. It’s available if you want to pay for it.

Another restaurant that I discovered is the UN Irish Pub located in the northeastern area of the old city. They have Guinness on-tap and a menu of both Western & Thai dishes. On my first visit there I had beef stew and a Guinness. The condiments included a pepper mill which is something of a rarity here and which I appreciated because I prefer coarse ground pepper. What’s most common is very finely ground peppercorns referred to as “pepper power”.

Irish beef stew and Guinness beer (on tap)

Irish beef stew and Guinness beer (on tap)

I often have days with nothing planned and just jump on my motorbike, pick a direction, and go. On one such day, I chose to head north out of the city toward the Mae Rim District. This area is known for several tourist attractions including a tiger camp, an elephant camp, an insect zoo, waterfalls, and more. I saw the entrances to these places, and others, but I didn’t venture in on this particular trip. I was out to explore the area rather than see the exhibits. Along the way I ventured off the main road to see what was down a road less traveled. I found what looked like a resort that had closed many years ago. Looking across a stream and through the dense vegetation there were a dozen or so bungalows still standing in the jungle. Their roofs were beginning to grow small trees and grasses, as the porches were being forced aside by the relentless jungle vegetation. Nature is a powerful force and will tear down anything we build if we don’t perform the required maintenance to keep it at bay.

A resort that closed and is being reclaimed by the Jungle.

A resort that closed and is being reclaimed by the Jungle.

Traveling along the Thai country roads I came across many rice fields. Thailand is the second largest exporter of rice, India being the largest.

A rice field near Mai Rim

A rice field near Mai Rim

I am missing my computer with Photoshop and Windows, which I left at home in favor of lighter travel. I find it arduous writing this blog on a tablet which is why there’s so much time between posts. I have a keyboard and mouse, but it still doesn’t come close to a notebook/laptop PC for this kind of work.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a couple more images of the wall around the old city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai wall 1

Southwest corner section of the wall around Chiang Mai’s old city. Inside, as seen from the inner ring road.

 

Chiang Mai wall 2

Southwest corner section of the wall around Chiang Mai’s old city. Outside, as seen from the outer ring road looking west.

Pop gan Mai (pronounced: pope gan my) – See you later.

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sleep is finally starting to get straightened out. I woke at 2:00 AM, but managed to roll over and nap several more times until 6:00 AM. If I can’t stay up late enough, I’ll just stay in bed longer in the morning.

One thing I didn’t mention that I also got done yesterday, was laundry. The hotel had laundry service, but they charged by the item, $1.20 for a shirt, $2.00 for pants, etc. While I was out wandering, I came across a little laundry shop just a block from the hotel. The lady there charged 50 baht per kilogram for regular laundry, and 30 baht per item for launder and iron. I had 1/2 a kilo plus one pair of pants to iron. Total cost, 55 baht ($1.70). The clothes were ready for pickup at 6:00 PM the following day, washed, dried, and folded. Since then, I’ve seen signs for laundry service as low as 30 baht per kilogram.

The hotel in Bangkok had a fairly typical western style bathroom, though the addition of a phone on the wall near the toilet was something I hadn’t seen before. It was clean enough, though there were some dark spots here and there that may have been mold. I suspect it’s quite a chore to keep it down in the warm and humid environment.

Bathroom with phone

Bathroom with phone

There was also a device on the wall near the door that would turn on (or off) all the electric in the room, with the exception of the refrigerator. This is a power saving device for the hotel and prevents the air conditioner, lights, TV, etc. from running when the guest leaves the room. The key-card for the room is inserted when you enter, activating the electric. The A/C and lights come on automatically, at the previous settings.

Electric Cut-Off Device, Savetech

Electric Cut-Off Device, Savetech

Today I went looking for breakfast from one of the hundreds of food carts that set up along the streets of Bangkok. It was 75 degrees at 8:00 AM and I happened upon a cart that was making omelets, Thai style. The omelet is cooked in a wok with a couple tablespoons of cooking oil. Beat an egg in a coffee cup, add chopped onions and carrots then pour into the hot oil in the wok. Turn once, then serve over rice.

Thai Style Omelet with Rice

Thai Style Omelet with Rice. The map was offered for sale in the room, I didn’t buy it.

This wonderful breakfast was 20 baht ($0.65), which I ate along with one of the free bottles of water from my hotel room. A quick note on the water. Almost no one drinks the water from the taps here. Hotels and restaurants provide free bottled or filtered water (reverse osmosis / UV), and the ice cubes are also bought or made from locally filtered water.

Today, my last day in Bangkok, I planned to ride around on the Skytrain and see as much of the city as I could in six or seven hours. I bought a one day pass for the BTS Skytrain at a cost of, 130 baht ($4.00). I was a bit limited on time because I had to catch the big train to Chiang Mai, at 6:00 PM. Bangkok is a very large city, 50% larger than New York City by population. There’s lots of construction going on, and many construction cranes dot the skyline. There are also miles of elevated sidewalks called Skywalks. These make getting around on foot pretty easy since your elevated above the traffic.

Elevated Sidewalks - Skywalks

Elevated Sidewalks – Skywalks

The shops and carts on the streets are colorful, and most places are free from litter. Most of the shop owners seem to start every day cleaning up around their store and sweeping the sidewalk. I often see people cleaning up, hosing down a walk way, or even buffing outdoor steps with an electric floor buffer. One thing that’s a bit of chaos tossed into this modernizing  city, is the electrical infrastructure.

Motorbikes and Street Vendors Are Everywhere, So Are The Electrical Wires

Motorbikes and Street Vendors Are Everywhere, So Are The Electrical Wires

A few more images from around Bangkok…

A street in Bangkok, on the left the steps lead down to the street from the BTS Skytrain Station

A street in Bangkok, on the left the steps lead down to the street from the BTS Skytrain Station

One of the many Shrines in Bangkok

One of the many Shrines in Bangkok

A street cart vendor with some tasty offerings. There's plenty of meat available here

A street cart vendor with some tasty offerings. There’s plenty of meat available here

Traffic backed up on a street in Bangkok. The small motorbikes (scooters) zip in and out of stopped traffic making them a good choice for getting around.

Traffic backed up on a street in Bangkok. The small motorbikes (scooters) zip in and out of stopped traffic making them a good choice for getting around.

Just a few of the many, many big buildings in Bangkok

Just a few of the many, many big buildings in Bangkok

 

A small sample of the Bangkok skyline

A small sample of the Bangkok skyline

Since I already had a Day Pass for the BTS system, I decided I’d use it to get to the train station instead of taking a taxi. I’d have to connect to the subway which goes right to the train station. A quick look at the BTS map showed the connection was at Asok Station.  The fare to the Hua Lamphong train station was 27 baht ($0.85) and the whole journey from hotel to train station took about 40 minutes.

BTS Skytrain Map

BTS Skytrain Map, the thin blue line is the subway

I arrived about an hour and a half early and quickly found a Thai food restaurant on the second floor of the station called Anna. I had a beef curry dish with rice and a Singha beer. It was authentic Thai, by that I mean spicy. I really like spicy food, but this was approaching my upper limit for spiciness. The cold Singha was a welcome addition to cool down my palate as I dabbed the sweat from my brow.

Panaeng Curry with Beef, and Singha Beer
Panaeng Curry with Beef, and Singha Beer

On board the train, I settled into my first class sleeper compartment, and the stewardess came around offering orange juice, water, and beer, as well as dinner. I accepted a water and an orange juice, but skipped any dinner since I had already eaten. It was only later that night that I was told I had a bill for 50 baht, and needed to pay for these items.

1st Class sleeper compartment

1st Class sleeper compartment

The backrest swings up to make an upper bunk for double occupancy. This is done by the porter at your request.

The the train moves along at a meager pace for most of the night, stopping now and then at stations along the way. I felt the conductor was a bit heavy handed with the break at times and the motion woke me a few times during the night. I probably slept about four to five hours throughout the night during the train trip.

Looking out the back at the Thai countryside as the train rolls along

Looking out the back at the Thai countryside as the train rolls along

We finally arrived at the Chiang Mai Train Station a bit late. Apparently there was an accident of some kind that had the train stopped for a couple hours about 60 miles south of Chiang Mai.

A lady from the tour travel agency was there to pick me up along with a couple others that were also on the train. She dropped me off at the hotel and as soon as I was settled in, I’d be ready to explore yet another new city.

Chiang Mai Train Station

Chiang Mai Railway Station

First Day in Thailand

Sleep, sleep, I just want to sleep. It’s Friday morning, early Friday morning, like, 5:00 AM Friday morning. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing, the sun will be up soon anyway, I may as well get up and get some things done.

On the list of things to do today, my first day in Thailand: Eat, get data service (internet) on my smart phone, and check on availability of a train ticket to Chiang Mai, a smaller city in northern Thailand.

A quick look at the hotel’s culinary offerings sent me looking for something cheaper. The hotel’s breakfast buffet was $12. I was  heading out to the streets to see what else I could find. This was my intended plan from the start. A bit of research before my travels taught me that eating what the Thais eat will be the best value, and I bet Thais don’t eat $12 hotel buffets. As I exited the hotel, I felt the warm morning air, it was 72 degrees F at 6:30 in the morning. The forecast was for a high of 92 today. After a short walk to the right and finding only a Seven Eleven convenience store, I back tracked to the hotel and went left. Within a block I found a restaurant with an espresso machine sitting on the counter. On the menu were several breakfast offerings, including an “American Breakfast”. Not sure if the lady understood my English, I pointed to my choice on the menu. She nodded and proceeded to make me a coffee.

My breakfast arrived at the table where I was flipping through a Thai newspaper and drinking the coffee. A sunny-side-up egg, half a slice of bacon, two sausages that resembled foot-long hot dogs, and two slices of toast.

 

American Breakfast

American Breakfast

The coffee was excellent, the bacon was a bit under-cooked for my liking, the egg was very good, though I don’t usually order sunny-side-up and the sausage (hot dogs?) were tasty. I had my first meal in Thailand and it was good!

After breakfast I went for a stroll, and in the back of my mind thinking about what I just ate. Hmmm. Within a block I came upon a pharmacy. I knew that antibiotics were over-the-counter here and I decided to stock up on some ciprofloxacin, a common prescription for lower abdominal issues (traveler’s diarrhea). As it turns out, my fears were completely unfounded. I have not been sick at all since I landed in Thailand and I still have all 20 tablets of Cipro, 500mg, that I bought for 110 baht ($2.80).

With breakfast done, I headed on to the next task, a train ticket to Chiang Mai. With the pending protests threatening to shut down Bangkok, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to leave the city in a few days as I had planed. I chose to advance my schedule and head to Chiang Mai a couple days early.

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand. It’s about 430 miles north of Bangkok, and is a popular destination for expats and tourists. From the beginning of this trip, Chiang Mai was to be my primary destination due to it’s size, not too big and not too small, but it’s growing rapidly.

Looking at a map, the train station was only about two and a half inches from the hotel, so I figured I’d walk on over and see about buying a ticket to Chiang Mai. After about 45 minutes of walking in the sunny 92 degree heat and realizing I was only half way there, I needed to get into somewhere air conditioned. I also wanted a Gatorade or something similar to quench my thirst. Looking around I saw a big grocery store right in front of me, a Tesco. Once inside I discovered it was a massive grocery/department store that also hosted smaller stores and restaurants on a few different floors. Serendipity, as it turned out, one of the stores was True, the mobile phone service provider I had gotten for my phone while in Thailand. I needed to go there to add internet service. With the data package up and running, I now had Google maps available. With digital maps and GPS in the phone I could now navigate around Bangkok with relative ease.

In the grocery store it took me a couple tries to find someone that spoke English to point out the location of the Gatorade.

Gatorade at a Bangkok Tesco

Gatorade at a Bangkok Tesco

Now that I was hydrated, cooled down, and finally connected to the internet, I set off for the train station. As I exited the Tesco I saw a Tuk Tuk driver waiting for a customer, I decided that would be me since I wasn’t looking to walk another 40 minutes in the heat. I got in and told him where I wanted to go, but before we started I knew I needed to get a price set for the trip. He said 100 baht. Hmmm. A 25 mile taxi ride was 270 baht, I think 100 baht was a bit steep for the 2 miles or so to the train station. I got out and said no, I’ll walk. He stopped me and asked, how much? 50 baht I replied. 60?, he asked. I agreed, and we were off.

A Tuk Tuk in Thailand

A Tuk Tuk in Thailand

It was my first Tuk Tuk ride. They can be a bit noisy, and smokey if it has a two cycle engine, but I’ve heard that two cycles are being phased out. They maneuver into anyplace there’s room, and they’re just plain fun to ride in.

At the train station I headed to the information desk. The pretty Thai girl was eating her lunch, but set it aside and smiled. She spoke good English which was great because I speak very little Thai. I asked how to get a ticket to Chiang Mai, and she walked me over to the ticket booth. Speaking in Thai, she told the agent what I wanted, a sleeper compartment (they call them 1st class). He replied, saying that all the sleeper compartments were sold out and all that was left was 2nd class sleepers. Second class sleepers are sort of like two bunk beds side by side separated by a walkway. I figured that was very likely to be noisy and getting sleep would be a problem. It looked like I might be flying to Chiang Mai, a more expensive option at about $100. After thinking for a moment, the Thai girl smiled and said I might be able to get a 1st class ticket at a tour travel agent upstairs. The tour companies buy up tickets ahead of time and resell them at a profit, but apparently they are only allowed to do it if they sell the ticket in combination with a tour or hotel. Serendipity again, I needed a train ticket and a Hotel in Chiang Mai for two days since I’d be arriving two days ahead of schedule. The price for this package? 5,000 baht or about $156.00.

Narrow Gauge Passenger Train in Bangkok

Narrow Gauge Passenger Train in Bangkok

I had walked about half way back to the hotel when I came upon a BTS Skytrain station. It’s an above ground rail system that makes getting around Bangkok a breeze. All the maps and signs are written in both English and Thai. I had to go two stops to get to the hotel, the ticket was 22 baht ($0.69) and was probably the cleanest and most hospitable mass transit train I’ve ever been on.

Bangkok Mass Transit System - BTS Skytrain

Bangkok Mass Transit System – BTS Skytrain

Now back at the hotel at 4:00 PM, I really just wanted to go to bed. I had hoped to stay up until seven or eight, but knew there was no way that was going to happen. I headed out to the streets again, in search of dinner. This time I chose a meal from one of the ubiquitous food carts that line the streets. Roasted fish from one cart and pineapple slices with a sugar/hot chili pepper mix for dipping in, from another. 20 baht for the fish and 10 for the pineapple, $1 for dinner.

Roasted Fish

Roasted Fish

Pineapple Slices with Sugar and Chili Pepper

Pineapple Slices with Sugar and Chili Pepper

I was completely wiped out now and turned in at only 5:30 PM, hopefully I’d be able to sleep 12 hours or more.

Tomorrow I’d go have a better look around Bangkok.

Ringing in the New Year in San Diego

I have arrived in San Diego!

Flight – The flight out of Portland, Oregon was easy. Departing at 11:30 am, the plane was fully booked, and only 5 minutes late taking off. The trip was quite smooth despite some cloud cover on the way out which had me wondering if we’d be in for a bumpy ride.

Mount St. Helens Off in the Distance

A snow capped Mount St. Helens was visible out the window as we climbed to cruising altitude. A mountain with the top blown off of it is quite a sight to see. I remembered a trip I took there years ago and saw the astonishing view of hundreds of thousands of trees laid over like toothpicks on the hillside.

A California girl with blond hair, french tips, and pink luggage, sat near the window. I had the middle seat, which I usually avoid, but it was all that was left when I booked the flight. The isle seat was occupied by a short-haired lady, perhaps 10 years my senior. She had bad breath, but fortunately we didn’t speak the whole trip. The flight was relatively short at just under two and a half hours. This trip is a piece of cake compared to the upcoming 29 hour slog to Thailand.

San Diego – I actually arrived in San Diego a few days ago, on December 30th. The weather here is very pleasant during the day, hitting the high seventies, and cool at night. Some days, I just have to take to the hiking trails for some exercise. I’ve probably walked six miles since I arrived three days ago, and it’s a good start to my plan to shed a few pounds.

Welcome to San Diego

Welcome to San Diego

Hike – Yesterday, New Year’s Day, I went for a hike with my sister, who lives here in San Diego. She lets me stay at her place and in exchange I repair all sorts of things that have broken since my last visit. Well, all that didn’t require immediate attention anyway.

A Local Hiking Trail N.E. of San Diego.

A Local Hiking Trail N.E. of San Diego.

With the winter, here in Southern California, comes cooler temperature and a bit of rain. This really helps to green-up the normally subdued desert landscape. The scenes, above and below, will appear much less vibrant when the heat and nonexistent precipitation become the norm throughout the summer.

Looking Back at a Valley from Part Way up the Mountain

Looking Back at a Valley from Part Way up the Mountain Trail

It’s not uncommon to see rattle snakes on these trails. I’ve seen five or six over the years that I’ve hiked here. They usually sense you coming and scurry away before you see them, but sometimes they’re asleep and you get closer than you’d like. I’ve heard of many, many people seeing rattle snakes, but never heard that anyone was bitten by one.

Breakfast – I have developed quite a taste for Mexican food here in the Southwest. There are several good Mexican restaurants around the San Diego area, it might have something to do with Mexico being a stones throw away. I walked about a mile to a little drive-through Mexican restaurant that I frequent when I’m in the area. They have no indoor seating, only a few tables outside, but that works fine with the warm weather and virtually no biting insects year round. I ordered up a machaca breakfast burrito (they serve breakfast all day) with scrambled eggs, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Machaca Breakfast Burrito

Machaca Breakfast Burrito

It probably weighed over a pound and a half. The tortillas they use are about 16 inches in diameter, which makes for a pretty large burrito. I applied the hot sauce liberally and enjoyed a breakfast I’ve not been able to duplicate anywhere else. $4.76 plus $0.37 tax (7.5%) Total $5.12, I include this for future reference to prices in Thailand.

Well, I’m off to take care of some of the chores on the repair list. Dishwasher, R.O. system, lights, etc, etc, etc…….

 

Last Few Days in Portland

 

After Christmas – On one evening I took my daughters out to dinner, but let them choose the restaurant since they knew what the city has to offer better than I. The destination was to be, Le Bistro Montage. This Cajun gem is on the East side of Portland, over the river. As might be expected at any popular place,  there was a 45 minute wait for a table. We started off with Gator Bites, though the Frog Legs were tempting (see the Menu). Jambalaya seemed to be a specialty, so I ordered up Alligator Jambalaya for dinner. Having never had alligator before, I wanted to give it a try. I found it very tasty, sort of a cross between fish and chicken.

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Alligator Jambalaya with Cornbread mini-muffins

Theaters – We took in a couple movies  too. The first was at Laurelhurst Theatre  7 Pub also on Portland’s east side. This cool little theater serves up beer, wine, pizza, wraps, snacks, and more. There were small tables in front of many of the rows of theater seats for food and drinks. Since they serve alcohol everyone is carded at the ticket booth. No minors allowed after 5:30 pm when they start serving alcohol. The movie we saw was All is Lost with Robert Redford. I had wanted to see that movie for several months due to my interest in sailing. I thought the movie was average.

The other theater was McMenamins Kennedy School. A very fascinating place. This was an elementary school that was closed in the 1970s, then bought and renovated into a hotel, theater, brewery, and restaurant. Again, food and drinks (alcohol) were served at the theater. The seats were nearly all living room style sofas and chairs set side by side. The movie was Enders Game. The storyline appealed to the younger generation as it was a teens- in  –      space      fighting aliens sort of fair. I’d rate this one average too.

One of the bars in the school was called, The Boiler Room (click on “GALLERY”), pretty cool use of old plumbing for railings and decor.

Old Plumbing Used as Railing

Old Plumbing Used as Railing

Portland – Portland is a crunchy town that has a great public transit system and sparkling clean. It’s very artsy which makes for a lot of visual stimulation as you stroll around the city. There is a myriad of delicious restaurants and extensive shopping.

Brick Sidewalks of Portland

Brick Sidewalks of Portland

My time in Portland is done for now. Off to San Diego, California.

Happy New Year to all!!!!

Merry Christmas from Portland, Oregon

I’ve arrived in Portland!

Air Travel – The rerouted flight went along without much trouble at all. The final leg of the flight was non-stop from Charlotte, NC to Portland, OR. The Airbus 321 departed only about 25 minutes late due to an issue with the paperwork. Seems some fuel was unaccounted for. Part of the delay was made up during the flight, despite a 136 knot headwind, and I arrived in Portland at about 9:15 pm. The first class seat was a welcome, and unexpected addition to the trip. The jovial lady taking care of the first class cabin was a veteran stewardess, professional, courteous, and witty. The dinner she served was barbecue beef, garden salad, shrimp cocktail, mixed vegetable (broccoli and carrots), and a dinner roll. The beef was tender and tasty, the veggies were a bit over cooked for my liking and the salad was getting a bit limp as might be expected having been prepared many, many hours earlier. Pairing with complimentary cocktails, vodka tonic was my choice du jour, rounded out a tasty meal for this hungry traveler. Things were looking up.

Arrival in Portland – By the time we landed I was feeling pretty exhausted, and experiencing that wired feeling you get from being over tired. My daughters met me at the airport to give me a ride to the hotel. Hugs and seasons greetings all around. We had not seen each other for many months and it was good to see them again. Our spirits were high and everyone was happy knowing we’d be together for Christmas.

Within an hour we arrived at the hotel. It’s usually a 20 minute ride but, due to distractions from conversation and the general euphoria of being together with family again, we missed an exit and took a bit longer sightseeing route. My youngest daughter was pretty tired and opted to head for home as we arrived at the hotel.  My eldest daughter, who lives about 12 blocks from the hotel in downtown Portland, opted to stay a little longer. We enjoyed a cocktail at the hotel lounge and chatted, catching up on what we’ve both been up to. After a half hour or so I walked her back to apartment and headed for the hotel.

It was now just after midnight here in Portland and I had been going for about 24 hours.  The king size bed was a welcome sight. I expected to be sound asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow but, it took over half an hour to finally fall asleep.  Five hours later I awoke. It was nearly 9:00 a.m. Eastern time (6:00 a.m. here in Portland) and my internal clock decided it was time to wake up. Oh well, I guess I’d have to catch up on sleep another day.

Christmas Eve – Ah, what to have for breakfast? I ventured out of the hotel to have a look around and see about finding something for breakfast. The first thing I saw were some street food carts directly across the street from the hotel. There was Mexican, Falafels, Greek, and a Thai food cart. A Thai food cart! Perfect I thought. I knew from researching about Thailand that I would be eating from Thai food carts very often, and very soon. I figured I may as well get started  and it would also give me a reference point to compare the carts in Portland to the carts in Thailand. Hmmm, not really what I had in mind for breakfast though. I opted to get an egg-roll for $3.00, and to keep looking for somewhere for breakfast. The egg-roll was tasty, but still cool in the middle, not quite long enough in the deep fryer.

Back at the Hotel, I stopped at the front desk for a recommendation for breakfast. The athletic looking young lady was more than eager to offer her opinion. After a short list of near-by eateries was discussed, I opted for her top pick of Tasty n Alder. It was a bit more than a mile walk through the streets of Portland but, as I discovered, more than worth the effort.

Tasty n Alder is one of the “diamonds in Portland” as a tourist put it that sat next to me as I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast. I had: Polenta & Sugo with mozzarella & over easy egg.

Polenta & Sugo with mozzarella & over easy egg

Polenta & Sugo with mozzarella & over easy egg

After breakfast I texted the gang and a plan for the day was set. We’d go for dinner and head to Peacock Lane to see the Christmas Light display. Apparently, the residents of Peacock Lane have been doing, and overdoing, Christmas light displays since 1920. A quick Google search will likely give you a bit more insight than I can offer here.

Dinner was at Thai Chili Jam.  A preview of the many Thai meals in my future. The food was excellent and the owner taught me a few new Thai phrases as a bonus. Life is good.

Christmas Day – I joined the family at their three bedroom apartment late in the morning. A cozy place on the first floor. In the living room was a natural Christmas tree with brilliant silver and blue ornaments and twinkling lights to set a festive mood. Beneath the tree were many cheery, brightly wrapped gifts with shiny gold and silver bows.

“A Christmas Story” marathon was playing on the TV as friends and family watched the traditional show. The air was filled with the aroma of Christmas dinner being prepared in the galley kitchen; a bone-in ham, with sides of scalloped potatoes, and corn. Christmas cookies made by Grandma, from old family recipes handed down from generation to generation, would finish the feast.

After dinner the younger generation played a multifarious board game called “Terra Mystica“. I watched as they moved their pieces and planned their strategy. My eldest daughter won in the end, and all declared the game to be exceptional.

It was truly wonderful to be able to spend Christmas with my children.