San Francisco Glacier in Chile

Saturday, May 6, 2017

There It Was!

One thing that was on my list of things to do was to see the newly completed, jaw-dropping MahaNakhon Tower, considered one of the most innovative high-rises in the world.  I had been following its progress for a few years on one of my favorite websites, Skyscrapercity.  Sadly, though, I discovered that it wasn't quite finished  The observation deck and rooftop bar were not ready.  I had to go with Plan B.  My plan was just to try to view it from different vantage points around the city.  As it turns out, MahaNakhon's height and design are so prominent and eye-catching, I didn't have to do much.  The first image I took without really even having to leave the BTS (skytrain) platform.  I actually got off the train at Chong Nonsi Station, and walked onto the first flight of stairs, not even halfway down. There it was!  Another day, I was on the Thonburi side of Bangkok, just down from the shopping mall Central Pinklao, not far from my wife's family home. It was very hot, and I was walking across a footbridge.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and the traffic was bumper to bumper.  I followed the traffic with my eyes until something in the distance revealed itself.  There it was!  When I got back to the USA and started toying around with Google Maps, I believe I discovered that from that spot, MahaNakhon was over seven miles away! Finally, one evening my brother-in-law was driving in Sathorn, and what do you know?  There it was!  I reached over him to take that shot.








Click here for some MahaNakhon stats.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

So Good

As we drove on north to Bangkok, there was one more stop to make:  Krua Chao Phraya Restaurant. Kade had already been once, and now she wanted me to experience it.  The restaurant specializes in seafood, and is on the Gulf of Thailand, in the province of Samut Songkhram, a place where I took my great-uncle, Jim Vann of Headland, Alabama, on a trip to a huge floating market back in 2003.

This was our third consecutive night of feasting on seafood - all very good, but this was the standout. Food alone.  It's been six weeks since we were there, and I still dream about it.  This is clearly one of, if not the best, seafood dining experiences I have ever had.  

If you lived in Bangkok and wanted a day's trip outside of the congested, noisy city, this province and a couple of others adjacent to it, all along the coast, are great escapes.  And although you can get delicious seafood in Bangkok, there's nothing like being in an environment like Krua Chao Phraya Restaurant, where there's a long pier and gazebo out over the water, sea gulls flying in and water birds wading in the shallows, searching for small fish and crabs.  And then you have that pleasant saltwater sea breeze!   

When you finish viewing my images, take a look at the video.  During the meal, I looked up, and there was a sea eagle (guessing here!), soaring majestically against a strong ocean breeze, giving the appearance of it being stationary.  A beautiful sight.  After the meal, we drove up to a nearby temple and got out for some photos.  I included this is my video.  Once that was done, we worked our way down some quiet roads towards the interstate.  And as we did, we caught sight of cloud forming a cool shape (a rabbit?) in front of the sun, which was setting over a picturesque bay.  The only task remaining was to make sure Kade's brother didn't fall asleep while driving!  It had been a long day. 





soft-shell crab curry

fried mackerel cheeks


fried snapper

fried scallops

crab with spicy sauce

crispy catfish with spicy-sweet mango sauce

fish cakes

tapioca "noodles" in sweet coconut milk and shaved ice

seedless sala fruit in syrup and shaved ice



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Temple Stop

One aspect of being "along for the ride" when you're winding up a trip is that you don't have to do much. You just buckle up, gaze out the window and, if lucky, snooze a bit.  That's how it was for me as we drove north to Bangkok, Kade's brother behind the wheel.  Kade had said we were going to see some temples in Phetchaburi, and that was okay with me.  I knew almost nothing about the town except what a friend of mine told me a few weeks before:  It has lots of temples, an intriguing history, a quieter vibe than other beach towns and that he was considering retiring and moving there.  

We pulled inside the gates of a temple in the center of town - Wat Mahathat Worawihan.  It's recognized for its tall, five-prang white stupa.  We parked the car, and then got out.  It was scorching hot.  Kade's parents and sister were in another car, and had not made it yet.  But we went on in.  There were actually two halls with Buddhas, and then the stupa just behind them. One of the halls had been visited by the late king, Rama IX, and later his daughter.

The beauty of Thai temples to me is that you don't have to be a Buddhist to enter.  And if you are a foreigner or tourist, so long as you're abiding by basic protocol (e.g. shoes and hats off, no touching objects, speaking softly, etc.), you pretty much have access to all parts of the temple.  And if you have a camcorder or smartphone and want to video and take photos, no problem.  In fact, you might even have more leeway than Thais might.  If something goes wrong, well, you can always plead ignorant. As many temples I have been in, I don't recall ever having an incident of any kind, or even being looked at funny. And although putting a few baht in the donation box would be appreciated, I leave that to Kade.  I have been in and out of numerous temples without making any donation.  In other words, it's not expected.     


















Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Refueling

As you ride along highways in Thailand, especially on long trips, you're going to need a pit stop. Just like in the USA, you have to fill up the car and your stomach.  These Mae Kim Lung shops have the best reputation, and you can spot one every 15 minutes or so it seems.  After you have a chance to go to the restroom, you might want a pick-and-choose meal and a drink in the cafeteria.  Then it's time to grab a cart and shop.  If you're wanting a wide selection of snacks at good prices and maybe even in bulk, shop away.  The best part to me are the samples you get to try.  I usually go for the dried fruits, followed by a stop in the custard department.  Traditional custards are made with duck eggs and coconut milk, and they are very tasty.  You can buy them at a spot like Mae Kim Lung, and they come in a single-serving size, in a square container, about an inch thick, with a spoon so that you can eat in the car if you want.  This day we were in Phetchaburi province, heading north to Bangkok.  By the way, Mae is the Thai word for Mother, and Kim Lung is simply a woman's name.











Monday, April 17, 2017

Baan Itsara Restaurant - Hua Hin

If the seafood restaurants in Hua Hin's bustling night market are not your thing, there are other fine restaurants in town.  Here's one Kade researched ahead of time, and we arrived early to snag a table by the water.  Baan is Thai for Home, and as you can see this restaurant is situated inside and behind an old house, giving it a unique feel.  I would rank this in my top three seafood experiences ever. Little did I know that the very next day another restaurant would ease into that upper tier.  And, in case you're curious, when Kade and I went to Bali years ago, we had what we considered the very best. But Baan Itsara Restaurant in Hua Hin made its presence felt, no doubt. I left there feeling very content, and one dish (the spicy oyster one) was off the charts. It was the first time I had tried oysters prepared that way, and I had never had that vegetable they were combined with.  Toss in a few more ingredients, seasonings and a bit of chili, and something magical is created. Talk about flavors!



Coconut shake

Maprang Shake

Spicy Oysters with Cha-om Salad
(ordered this twice it was so good!)

Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables

Salted Fish Fried Rice

Fish Sauce Fried Red Snapper with Spicy Mango Dipping Sauce

Seafood Casserole

Stir-Fried Garlic & Pepper Soft-Shelled Crab

Watermelon Shake

Sliced Palmyra Fruit in Syrup and Shaved Ice
Seedless Sala in Syrup and Shaved Ice

Now for some images I found online