My 2019

It’s the last day of the year and I’m writing this at my wooden desk at my guesthouse in Bangkok. I don’t want to bore you with a rundown of all that has happened this year. Let me just write about what was significant to me.

1. My first trip to Europe.

After Turkey and Azerbaijan last year, it was bound to be Europe next. Thanks to a conference grant, I made it to Spain and Portugal! Even better, my eldest sister and an aunt (who often come with me) joined me! It was an awesome trip that I wish I could have taken longer. My favorite part? Getting to try all the Spanish food I have been having at home— callos, paella, cuchinillo, jamon, and many more.

It was also interesting connecting to my Spanish heritage.

“You’re a Filipino? You speak Spanish?”

My sister said that with a Schengen Visa already, it worked be much easier to apply for another one in the future. Yehey!!

2. Not leaving on Christmas Day.

I used to fly out as soon as Christmas break begins which means either on the 21st or the 22nd. However, I have been staying home for past several years, flying out instead on the 25th. Last year, I had to sneak out of the house to get to the airport at 3am so none of our guests would know that I was leaving. Fortunately, the karaoke kept them busy, unaware that I had slipped out.

This year was even more radically different. I actually stayed after Christmas Day, flying out only on the 29th. What’s with the change? Well, after the European trip plus all the other mini trips, I figured, the Christmas trip was gonna be short and sweet this year in an umcomplicated place (Bangkok) I knew like the back of my hand.

In Bangkok, I skipped the modern city and booked my accomodations at Banglamphu instead so I can be near the river and take the boat. I also got to see the river at night for the first time ever after so many trips to this city.

3. A paid trip to Shanghai.

Thank you, Shanghai Conservatory of Music for taking care of my plane ticket and hotel so I can go to the workshop. Yup! After more than 10 years, I got to see Shanghai and eat at Yang’s Dumplings again!

Three things that made 2019 different for me. Happy New Year! Happy New Travels!

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Loving IconSiam

The only time I ever go to a mall is when I’m in another country as it gives me a sense of people’s tastes, needs, and desires. The same reason I like checking-out convenience stores (hello 7-11s of the world!). Bangkok truly does super malls well. From Siam to Sukhumvit, these huge commercial centres offer a glimpse of Thai consumerist lifestyle with a little culture thrown in. Having frequented Siam Paragon and Pier21 for the past few years, I was excited to visit IconSiam. Since, I was staying at Banglamphu, the mall was just a boat ride away.My primary reason in going to IconSiam was to check-out the area called Sook Siam which promised everything Thai you could hope for from food to crafts. It did not disappoint.The area is vast and crammed with every imagineable Thai treat you read about in travel books and blogs. The street-food set-up meant you could graze from stall to stall. Being a holiday, the place was understandably crammed. Fortunately, I snagged a spot in one of the wooden benches scattered around so I can have my crispy pork (150 baht) in peace. One section was laid out like a floating market with vendors in traditional hats.I could have spent the entire day just trying everything. You could eat here everyday and get to try all the Thai street food to your tummy’s content. The prices are surprisingly low, just a few baht higher than stalls out on the streets.Some of Thailand’s best restaurants also have spots here for some sit-down meals.Getting ThereThere are free shuttle boats from the following piers: Ratchawongse, Si Phraya, and Saphan Taksin. The latter has the most number of people waiting to get on the boat as it is a BTS station. When I went mid-morning, there was a long line. Boats, however, are frequent. I only waited about 15 mins. If taking the shuttle at Si Phraya, do take note that the boat docks at the pier about a few meters away from the one used by the Chaophraya Express boats.Getting AwayJust line-up to go back to any of the 3 piers mentioned above. The Chaophraya Express boat (Golden Flag) and the Chaophraya Tourist boat also docks here. You can get a ticket at the booth near the dock.

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Bangkok Day

So I did what a hundreds of other tourists do on a Sunday, head to Chatuchak Market.  

Went early at around 9 with the goal of eating my favorite Thai street food, particularly (barbecued pork) and Thai sausage.  Found the area where all the food stalls are and found my pork barbecue.  Soft and tender, it’s still the stuff of my dreams whenever I head to Thailand.  Had a plate of pad thai so I could get a seat at one of the tables lorded over by ladyboys.

Took a stroll at the perimeters of the market and got a couple of stuff I needed such as coconut water scoop and a small wooden massager.  Passed a stall of grilled sausages and got a stick.  The sausages are the next best thing to the pork barbecue.  

After all the hype, I finally got to try the “original” coconut ice-cream, the one with the crowds and the green umbrellas and….sadly, it didn’t taste like coconut ice-cream.  It was bland.  Perhaps I should have bought the one served on a half coconut shell with coconut meat and two toppings.  I purposely chose the B40 version (2 scoops in a cup) so I could really taste the ice-cream.  Disappointed.

I knew I have had enough of Chatuchak when I sat down for a crispy pork rice at one of the eateries by the road out to the BTS that was utterly bad.  The rice was cold and the pork looked more like bits.  It’s the kind of horrible meal that makes you want to go to the kitchen and scold the cook.  

So I finally left the market and headed to Siam for some air-con.  First stop was Afters at Siam Center Mall.  I was in luck this time as there weren’t too many people and I got a table right away.  The Shibuya Honey Toast came with two scoops of ice-cream and a generous amount of cream.  It was heavenly! If I had another day in Bangkok, I would have returned for the Sticky Toffee Toast.  This cafe gets plus points for the refillable unsweetened iced tea!

Checked out the food court at Siam Paragon and was once again tempted wirh the barbecue and sausages.  I love this food court as it has all stuff of street food.  Was thinking of taking some back to the hotel for dinner but then I remembered the street food at Sala Daeng.  Back to the hotel then to put up my feet and forget about the barbecue and sausages.
Went  out in the late afternoon to verify the hotel ‘s claim that it was just a few minutes walk to the Pratunam market.  They were right!  I ended-up checking out Platinum Mall and walking all the way to the Chitlom station where I caught the train to Sala Daeng.  

The soi around Sala Daeng were my former haunts back in those days when Bangkok was THE destination for me.  I had fond memories of Th Convent where some of Bangkok’s street food were.  Unfortunately, the stewed pork leg stall run by two sisters was no longer there. 

 I finally got my crispy pork rice plus some shrimp spring rolls with the sweet syrupy sauce it comes with. It was only 8pm or maybe being a Sunday, the area was a little lethargic. 

Bye Bangkok!  It was good seeing you again after a year.

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