Sunday, September 26, 2010

Travel Trek-Ayutthaya

Being a regular visitor to Bangkok, so much so that i've considered it as my second home, in few occasions i did try to slot in some short day trip to other provinces or nearby cities or attractions which are located outside of Bangkok or in particular within 2 hours-drive from the city.

Basically, there are few selections if you are interested to venture out of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and to experience the more exotic attractions and the more laid down environment of the other provinces of Thailand. Among those which are recommended are Patttaya and Hua-Hin or Cha-am if you are more into beaches and sea activities or if you are like me, a person whose interest is more on  cultural and historical sites, than you might consider visiting Kanchanaburi or the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya simply translates to mean "Invincible City". It was founded around 1350 and it was the second capital for the Siamese Empire after Sukhothai. It is believed that its founder King U Thong moved his court south into the rich floodplain of the Chao Phraya on an island surrounded by rivers, which was the former seaport city of Ayothaya, or Ayothaya Si Raam Thep Nakhon which was later known as Ayutthaya.

Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok is very easy. You may take the train service from Hualamphong train station for a 2 hours trip to Ayutthaya. The 2nd class ticket will cost you around THB250.

 Next option is the bus.Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit) directly to Ayutthaya. First class air-con buses charge THB 50. This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of/into Bangkok.

If you dont like the on and off stopping of the bus, you may opt for minibus service which provides non-stop travel to Ayutthaya. It operates from Victory Monument Square and costs around THB 70 for 1-1 half hour trip.

The more adventurous traveler might love this last option, by boat. Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. You'll need to book in advance as there are no scheduled services, just trips for tourists. It's a fairly lengthy trip (at least one whole day) and some of the larger boats offer (pricy) overnight tours. -- Boat from Ayutthaya to Bangkok leaves 11:30AM daily (arrives Bangkok ~4PM) at the cost of THB 1350 baht/person.

And as for me..i travelled by car with T as the always...

There is no highway all the way to Ayutthaya and you have to travel through some country roads (non-highway) after leaving the city's highway limit.

Entering the highway...this will only lead you outside of Bangkok area untill you enter the 2 lanes country road.

arriving at Ayutthaya City after almost 2 hours drive

and the first chedi came in sight...chedi or better known as stupa is actually mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha or saint, used by Buddhists as a place of worship.Here in Ayutthaya they are in abundance..some are in complete and preserved form while others are in derelict conditions.

our first stop of the day was at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol. This is basically a monestary complex consists of few numbers of wats and statutes.

as you enter the premises, on your first right you will come across this reclining buddha named Wihan Phraphutthasaiyat. Buddhist (including T) offered their prayers by holding and putting garland flowers which can be bought for THB 2 per stick.

Signage of attractions to guide your way

Phra Chedi Chaimongkol is a very big and impressive wat complex. It is well preserved and the architecture of the wat is so grand and majestic with hundreds of buddha statutes lining the interior walls of the wat. Incredible pictures can be taken here with such a view in place.

unfortunately for us..after exiting the monestary complex.. we were met with drizzling rain...and thus we stopped by at a riverside restaurant for some hot tomyam while waiting for the rain to seize..

 elephant rain!

 our next stop in our exploration of the city is What Maha That

most of the monuments here are in derelict state..shame as i believe it used to look majestic and grand in its former glory days..

our next stop was Wat Phra Ram. This is equally impressive and more preserved than Maha That

the above are only some of my recollections of my tour of this ancient and historic city of Ayutthaya. There are many more attractions to be visited in this city and i believe at least one full day is required to cover all the same.As one of the UNESCO's World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya is a place which should be included in every history lovers itinerary whenever they visit Thailand or even for those who just want to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok for a while and soak in the tranquil atmosphere and be brought back in time of the ancient yours truly....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just When I Thought of Buying a New Camera...

..these pictures came out...from my very "old" faithful Nikon CoolPix S9...location King's Park Perth..

maybe i should learn more of its functions and "play" it right....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flight Review-Malaysia Airlines MH 125 KUL-PER

Equipment: Boeing 777-200ER (first time for me-yay)
Flight Duration: 4 hours 55 minutes
Load: 97% in Economy-not sure about Business Class
Service: Brunch
Rating of check in service: 1.5-im really disappointed to know that the check-in agent was not even familiar with the details of Malaysian passport or even know how to key in the correct details in their system according to the same. The details in my itinerary was provided based on my previous passport which had been canceled and they could not (initially) check me in due to this as they kept on inserting incorrect details based on my old passport.

I even have to "teach" them how to insert my correct details based on my new passport and even have to enlighten them that my previous passport number is written at the last page of my new passport for their reference. If i didnt do the same, they would have asked me to go back to my home and bring back the old passport for their reference..well how about you girls go back to your training class?

Rating of Service on board: 3.5-while the crews were friendly and fantastic, i was quite disappointed that they failed to load 2 kids meals as requested earlier.Well they could not be blamed as there must be a miss-communication between their contact centre and their ground handler who had either failed to record my request correctly or failed to load it on board accordingly.I noticed 2or 3 crews on board were of Japanese origin and they were smiling all the way throughout the flight and provided very prompt and good service..better than the locals i might add.

In flight scene

IFE-Inflight Entertainment

Brunch-selection of Nasi Lemak or Cheese Omelet-i chose the latter-too salty for my liking

Our plane at Perth International Airport

Food Review- Esarn Fungdhon Halal Restaurant-Bangkok

First and foremost-Happy Eid Mubarak to all my friends and fellow muslim  readers.I hope we've all had a wonderful Eid celebration with our family and friends and im sure all the Eid dishes, cakes, cookies and drinks will keep our tummies full and healthy throughout this month :)

For the first time in my life, i celebrated Eid out of the country in my second home town, Bangkok, with my special special reason but i believe it was due to my departure to Perth on the 4th day of Eid which made me had a second thought about going back to my "real" home town of being not worth the traveling a day before the long as my family didnt make a noise about it..i will follow my feet to whichever it will take me.Thus, when all people in the country were stuffing themselves with lemang, rendang ketupat and all other raya delicacies, at 6pm i was already up in the air enroute to Bangkok.

I had never blogged about Bangkok food eventhough ive been commuting from KL to Bangkok numerous times before.As Thailand is famous for its foods, as much as its culture, this post will feature a halal restaurant which specializes in "Isan" or north-eastern Thai cuisine as well as other famous thai dish such as the Tom Yam Goong (Prawn Tom Yam). Coincidentally (or not) T comes from Isan as well and he loves his home town very much that he planned to build a house in the countryside.

Esarn Fungdhon is located at 257/10-11, Arun Amarin Crossroad, Bangyekhan, Khet Bangplad, Bangkok. It
will take you around 15 minutes from central Bangkok to reach this place. It's very easy to find as well once you reached the Pinklao Bridge, turn right at the traffic light at Arun Amarin, drive slowly and keep to the left until you see a row of shop lots.The restaurant is located at the first lot of the shops row.

Now lets see what are being offered here:


As you can see the above are only some of the dishes offered here and i do find the selections are quite extensive. Price are affordable for the portion size of the dishes.They do serve some "exotic" dishes such as cow's liver, cow's tongue which (i believe) are for those adventurous eaters..unfortunately im not. The last time i ate something exotic was Isan styled Som-Tum (young papaya salad) which was T's favorite and he wanted me to try. I nearly vomited on the first taste of that Som-Tum as it was nothing like the sweet and spicy version that im used to eat. This Isan version tasted bitter and sour with dark-muddy gravy. Mind you, they also put in small and smelly mud-crab in the salad, which gave a strong fishy taste and smell..sorry time you eat this smelly thing you will have to sleep on the couch :)

After much deliberation, we decided to order the following dishes:

i) Tom Yum Goong (Prawn TomYum)

The portion is big and even the prawns were big and juicy. I really love this as the soup was neither to sour, sweet, salty or spicy, they had it all perfectly combined.

ii) Pad Pung Faideng (Fried Kangkong)

T's favourite vegetable, i like it as well.Not too soft or overly cooked and you can still taste the crunchiness of the stems.

iii) Winged bean salad

A little bit sweet but still delicious

iv) Grilled meat with sweet chilli

i really-really love this dish. The meat was tender and the chilli sprinkled on top of the beef nicely compliment the grilled slightly burnt taste of the meat.I do like grill meat to have some burnt parts on it.

ambiance of the restaurant

We really had a great lunch in this restaurant.Though it's located outside the city centre, the foods here are delicious and affordably priced.They have ample parking space in front of the restaurant so parking should not be a problem. I really look forward to visit this restaurant again in the future and to sample the wide variety of dishes offered here...all in all the foods here are very delicious as the Thais said "aloi mak" i can speak a little bit of Thai (nitnoy) thanks to T :)

Rating out of 5: 4

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Food Review-JW Marriott Ramadhan Buffet 2010

Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're talking about gaining body fat) this is the only Ramadhan buffet that i had for this year.I know at the time of writing this post we still have like one week before Hari Raya but i don't have any plan (or even fund :) ) to go to another ramadhan buffet. The reason is not a big eater. I truly believe that it would be a waste for someone like me to go to an "eat all you can" eateries or buffet simply because my stomach was not "designed" to accommodate all the abundance of foods offered. Regardless, eating is one of may passion-go figure!

Anyway, JW Marriott's Ramadhan Buffet themed as "Dari Dapur Nenda" offered more than 108 local dishes and some varieties of western grills and salad at an affordable price starting from RM 62 nett (seating at Starhill Convention Halls) up to RM 89++ for poolside seating at the 6th Floor.As i believe there are no differences on the foods offerings,rather the location, we chose the former. I went there with 2 of my office colleagues who were eager to sample the delicacies to be offered by JW Marriott's chefs and after hearing my good review of the last year's buffet at the same venue, they agreed without hesitation.

The buffet selections were spread across the walkways to the convention halls whereby some are placed on tables in the middle (drinks & desserts) while others were served from different stalls with clear marking of what is being offered at the said stall.

As we enter the reception area, we were greeted by the sides of grilled fishes (local style) and barbecued meats.I was quite disappointed that they didnt offer barbecue sauce  and their black pepper sauce was too watery...

Opposite the grilled selections you will find the salad bar and cold pastas...

Various types of stalls with varieties of offerings...

Tandoori and Nan, Roti Canai & Murtabak

Soups-mutton-oxtail-Chicken, served with selections of breads

and long-long stretch of various local dishes to be eaten with with rice/bryani or kerabu rice...each to your liking...

there were also satays, noodles, porridges chicken rice, rojak stalls to suit to different tastebuds.

As stated above, i had sampled the foods offered in last year's buffet and the one thing that i was eager to eat again was it's oxtail soup, thus, the first thing that i ate that night was the oxtail soup....

Unfortunately, the soup was too oily for my taste.I didnt recall it was as such last year.Maybe this year's ox was fatter thus producing more fat to the broth?Regardless, the meat was tender and each was proportionately cut, not too small as what you will usually get from local restaurants.

I had sample the grilled lamb as well..and as stated earlier, the black pepper sauce was too watery.The meat was quite tough as well. No second helping on this.

The saving grace of the night is these satays..they were so tender and juicy and nicely marinated.I can safely say that these are the best satays ive tasted to date...

Salad and cold pasta to tame down all the oiliness of the foods above

my friend's mix plate of foods...

my plate of plain rice and chinese styled dishes of black pepper beef, mix vegies and ginger chicken

all the above were washed down by this fiery red syrup drink

desserts were mainly small cuts of cakes, puddings, local kuih, cendol, abc and ice-cream.I settled for the bread pudding, which was truly good that i went for second helping, chocolate pudding-which was quite dry and small cuts of cakes of different tastes and varieties..

and to close off the night, a nice bowl of ABC

JW Marriott's offerings are best to cater to those who prefer to sample local dishes and may i say, "rice addicts" as majority of the foods offered were local dishes which were meant to be eaten with rice.All other non-rice selections were also consisted of local foods and snacks. In no way that im saying this in a negative manner as the hotel had made it clear that that's the theme that they have chosen to adopt.

Varieties in a class of food yes-there are many varieties of local foods that you can sample here. Varieties in terms of types of foods-not really as they dont really serve a mix of western or malay dishes proportionately.
Having said the above, this buffet  can still be considered as one of the most affordable one comparing it to other hotels around KL and if you have  cravings for local foods and delicacies, JW Marriott's "Dari Dapur Nenda" should be visited to satisfy your palate.