Wednesday, January 29, 2014

TrueLove, Siberian Pet Cafe in Ari

Our 3 pieces of fish fingers and a small plate of dim sum was served. They were just appetizers going for THB 250 per set which included a drink and a dessert that we choose from their display fridge showing a limited assortment of cakes. First come first serve, the early bird get the Tiramisu, it was good. We should have gone for the THB 300 set, which included a main course of larger portions, but we already had our meals elsewhere. Our intentions was to have lunch, but when we arrived there at 1pm, we found out that this place operate 3 sessions per day. The 12.30 pm session was already fully booked. So we reserved for the 4 pm session, not wanting to wait till 7 pm for the last. We went to a nearby mall to satisfy our hunger.

Roaming Dogs
It's another pet cafe that sprouted up and this one has Siberian Huskies all over. After an hour of chatting under the still cool January afternoon, they released the dogs from their kernels into the compound. A metal fence separated us from the canines, also separated our food from their hungry mouths. They have 17 adult Siberians, and a significantly large number of puppies. Everyone eagerly waited for the gate to be opened, so that we could hug and mingle with them large cute fluffy dogs. We knew it was time for that when we were issued plastic shoes that looked the same as those wore in surgical rooms. Part of preventive measures not to infect the dogs with diseases and unwelcomed bacteria.

There are rules and regulations that we guest must abide by. We had to rinse our hands in sanitizers before we were allowed to enter the premise. There is a rule book, it was unfortunately printed only in Thai and I had no idea what the clauses were. We are not suppose to stick our hands into Huskies' mouth, poke their eyes and probably not to stick our fingers into their ass. I think we are not to encourage the canines to hump our legs and we should not eat their doggie food. I think the rules should be somewhere along these lines.

Its not a Huskie! Better then Nothing
The handlers herded the canines into secured sections of the compound leaving only a small number of Huskies free to roam, then they released the humans. I had visualized myself walking among excited dogs all scrambling around, jumping and pouncing on me and me hugging them. It did not happen. There was dog to man ratio of 1 is to 6. I suppose the cafe have a reason for doing that instead of letting all dogs loose at the same time. As a result, the scene was of people trying their best to capture the unwilling dogs for a photo opportunity. I guess the dogs already had too much human interactions, so we are just another tree, another fixture in the compound and most of the time, we were ignored. It was funny how some guest ended up trying to catch that odd one out Havanese (i think it is) running among us. And wondered we did, what was it doing there anyways. That was a situation of "no fish, prawn also can", an idiom from the Chinese Hokkien world.

They were so Eager To Go Home
In the one hour petting-zoo session, there were 3 batches of dogs released for us to mingle. A few of them looked to be sick, or maybe they are just old. Dogs like humans don't stay young forever. So there we have it, another new haunt for pet lovers. Should come on a weekday where the man to dog ratio will be better. Bangkok, there is Purr Cat Cafe in Thong Lor which is already famous and then some more. What will Thais think of next? Whatever animal it is, be it rabbits, cats or dogs, keep them coming, I'm lovin it here.

TrueLove Cafe
The Humans are Released
Plastic Shoes
Catch and Take Picture

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Travelling Mae Rim and Mon Cham

Mon Cham
This has to be one of my most memorable itinerary of my recent northern trip. The drive was easy, because we started our journey at just before 5 am in the morning. The meal later on we had on a hill was brilliant, because we were engulfed in cold air and the crowd was not like that in a concert. Mon Cham is a gated hilly compound located north west of Chiangmai city. Within her fences are large terraced meadow of flowers and fresh vegetation. You can graze on these large salad bars but it would not be appropriate to leave nibble marks on the fresh vegetation.

Ample Parking, If you are Early
To get to Mon Cham, head into Mae Rim. Where the roads narrows into a bendy uphill climb, you will be greeted by signs pointing here there and everywhere which includes Mon Cham so famous she has become. It's not too far, an hour or so depending on traffic. We had some mini vans that staggered and struggled on the ascend blocking our way. The air should have been fresh, our windows wound down. Burning clutch odor filled every cup holder in my Jazz. On approach towards our destination, there was a large sandy compound offering a place for us to park. There were only three vehicles when we arrived including the two mini vans. We alighted, we chit chat and the driver of one of the vans apologized politely for almost rolling back into me when he lost his clutch grip previously. It was dark, dawn had not set in. Headlights illuminated our breaths.

Watching Sunrise
Panting like a dog, the further uphill climb was steep. I realized the stamina I used to have is no more. Age had caught up. There was a small gathering where the woodwork of a large door was, the sign read "open at 7 am". Some two rows then offered their service to bring us to watch sunrise, helped pass our waiting time they sure did. We went. Rocky terrain, the screeching tyres tried to grip, rocky ride, we shifted and shoulder bumped more than a bit. 20 minutes later we set foot on land, directed to the ominous peak and in dawn light we trekked and did. There, only a mere 30 the group was, but the standing space was small. No railings, no barriers separated the cliff drop behind on the peak. Everyone stood waiting for the sun to peek out from the distance mountains and the sea of fog between. Like plants we were and our face like the flowers facing in the same direction, all waited for the light to paint us in glowing golden colors. The sun revealed herself, a thousand pictures were taken. Visitors on their phones posting to social media immediately. Soon the episode was over, no one fell off the cliff. All made our way back to our waiting two rows and then the descend back to Mon Cham, the rocky ride, the pack cabins we sat within.

Mon Jam!!!
By then, Mon Cham had turned from peaceful tranquility into a market chaotic with chatter but good the air was still chilly. We bumped into some Bangkok friends not surprisingly and had coffee and tea in bamboo sheds. Some ordered the congee for breakfast, but a long wait they did. The queue over at the counter was long and noisy. In summary, too many people, too long the wait, too many interruptions into the picture frame my Canon had snapped. Sea of fog in the distance, sea of people Mon Cham had and no more serenity. It was year's end, I was told to expect that.

We left on narrow roads packed with cars inconsiderately parked on the narrow two lane tarmac, we made our way further into Mae Rim. Ups, downs and bends, we spotted a Vineyard. We had to pay to get it. The blackcurrant, they looked tiny, in bunches they hung off the framework too low my face kept colliding into them. They have them on sale, over the counter purchase many did. I did not. Next to this vineyard across the road was rows of colorful vegetation lined perfectly. Of purple and greens, the dots of visitors spread across them like dark sesame seeds. More picture opportunities.

Pick your Own Strawberry
A strawberry field we visited. Pick your own, weigh your own and pay your own the sign reads. There were no more large juicy pickings, they had already been picked since the beginning of December when the huge number visitors invaded. Only the small ones were left, the occasional larger ones hidden behind leaves. Every field will be filled with people this season, everyone wants pictures taken. The assault of Mae Rim by Bangkokians, business thrived, prosperity for the folks with disregards if their fruits they had ripen.

Just Breathtaking Sitting There
We drove on further, enjoyed the spectacle Mae Rim her hilly terrain could offer. How long will her charm remains I wondered. Numerous peaks had been trimmed like a bad haircut, filled with groups of tents, a camping ground they had become. The gathering of metallic cars, their shiny reflections breaking the green foliage of nature on each of those clearings. A hut, a house, some structure within, the basic toilets and bathrooms for the campers' essential needs.

Recommended Route
How to see the best of Mon Cham and her surrounds? Leave early well before the sunrise, take the well paved large roads on route 121 that fringes east of Chianmai. The journey will be pleasantly fast, the cars abound a few. The uphill descend will be short upon reaching route 1096 where to leads to Mon Cham. On the descend, do not take the same roads back, instead head further into the mountains continuing on route 1096, over to 1269 in the direction of Hang Dong and arrive at the south of Chiang Mai. This twisty route, though longer and challenging, will bring you to strawberry farms, vineyards, tasty coffee retreats, an elephant camp and more. And that's when we found Mon Muan.

Mon Muan
Mon Muan is a hill top restaurant with a great panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. They have several wooden houses serving as hotel rooms. They were fully booked. The breeze was constant, the chill made the noon's 18 degrees felt like 13.
On the protruding patio we sat and had lunch under the warmth of the sun, the other patrons just a cake, a coffee and a bunch of picture taking fun. Hot meals we had ordered turned cold rapidly, never mind that the coolness was what I was there to embrace. How did Mon Muan turned so popular? Told I was that a Thai series was filmed there that drove her fame up. And again, some friends bumped into us, small world or was it just that everyone was there this season.

The Doi
It was past noon and the traffic had significantly built up. On the downhill towards Hang Dong, a very enjoyable drive shifting me gears between two three and four. When my brakes were at its limits, the familiar smell of burning pads smelt, we took a break at The Doi, one of coffee places so crowded and so many to be found on route. The elephants were opposite, tourist bought food to feed the grey giants. The arrival of a big bike entourage, the rumblings of their large capacity engines. We left for our resort to chill the rest of our afternoon, the bikers our table they took over in turn. The next time I will come, in Mae Rim a resort I shall find and stay. This place is lovely and should be the highlight of a northern trip in winter for anyone that comes.

Look at them Go
Shops on the Road Side
More of Mon Cham
Vege Farm
That's how they Do It
The real Farmers at Work
And since Blogspot keep screwing up the location, this is the only way I can share.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bangkok Shutdown 2014

... you can do it ...
I would not call it a success because if it was really that successful, then no one would be going to work and traffic would be a breeze. Today, traveling to work early in the morning was like just any other normal day, jams. During the first two days of the over-rated Bangkok shutdown which began last week, there was a significant decline in traffic. However as the protest dragged on with stubborn Yingluck refusing to budge on any of Suthep's demands, the latter continued his drive on fighting for the people of Thailand. Can I say the people of Thailand? Or just the majority taxpayers whose money had been swindled by the many daylight corruption cases so publicized and broadcasted now?

Massage Service
I went to have a look as usual, its more becoming a festival and "fun-fair" was what my mates back home had been referring to the situation in Thailand now. There were concerts, there were heaps of stalls set up selling food and propaganda merchandise. Mother nature was on Suthep's side blanketing Bangkok in extended winter conditions, even on a sunny afternoon, no sweat was broken. Sprits of the participants remained high and donations was still passing in to aid Suthep's whose account had been reportedly unfairly frozen. However, there were signs of dwindling support as seen in some of the rally sites. Scattered crowds not packed to the brim, there were spaces for kids to run around. He will pull on, whether he will pull through remains a question as the growing number of random shooting and bomb blast victims increase by the day. The "third hand" is out, how fun the protest will continue is in doubt.

Sleeping Quarters for the Protesters
Downtown became Walking Street
Selling Well
There are many Cute Girls There to See
Here he Comes
Donations Pouring
Shops Shops Everywhere
The Traffic on a Work Morning as Usual

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Cultural Night in Chiangmai, Khun Khantoke

Entrance to the Dining Area
Arrived late at Centara. We did some waiting to get into out rooms because all guest seems to check in at 6 pm where most of staffs had gone for dinner. After a quick shower and too tired to venture into the city for a meal, we decided to head next door where we saw crows building up. Dinner and cultural show with many traditional dance for less the 500 Baht. Ok I will never do such touristy things, but with my energy already sapped, I went for it.

Sat on the floor on Lanna mats and pillows, we were served an assortment of northern food. It's just one of those days where we were lazy to think what to eat and ate what was fed. It was not bad at all, and they kept filling up our dishes when we half emptied them. Free flow the food was but the drinks we had to pay. The neon and stage lights illuminated the place in a kaleidoscope of artificial colors, the mozzies filled the air. They were so brave I could simply pick one of those fat blood suckers off my skin and I felt the fur on its body, that's how big it was. Coated myself in repellent and I was left in peace to enjoy the meal in the cold night.

With an onslaught of announcement in multi languages which included English and Mandarin, sharp melodic tunes were pumped from large stage speakers driven by vast decks of amplifiers. It sounded like a Chinese funeral and I wailed in accordance to tradition till my girlfriend smacked me in the head. Thou shall watch thy show and keep silence. Each dance lasted a mere 5 minutes, each with its own meaning. The dancers performed in the middle of the compound surrounded by diners laid back on their stiff triangular sofa. Part of the show included performers mingling with the crowds, terrorizing kids with lama like mutant creatures and ferocious Yak in their spiky glittering costumes. The place was packed full house that night, the servers stepped gingerly among the grid of patrons with heavily laden servings of delicacy.

Dance Dance
We did not wait till the end of show. Having been overfed with a wealth of never ending lukewarm cuisines, digestive enzymes were at work full force within driving us lethargic amidst bright lights and loud music. We asked for bill, strolled about the several souvenir shops and soon retired to Centara a short walk away. Khun Khantoke, a great place for first time visitors of Thailand, see show, eat chow, good in winter conditions, not a sweat broken and beware the mozzies.
Free flow of Food

Sitting on Lanna Sofas
The Yak
Yak Terrorizing Diners
Umbrella Dance
Drums and Boys
The Vicinity

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Mini Escape, Centara Khum Phaya Resort & Spa

Grand Entry into the Hotel
There are two Centara hotels over at Chiangmai. One is of more economical value called Centara Duangtawan and the other is Centara Khum Phaya Resort & Spa. It was a takeover by Centara I was told. I stayed for a night during my northern winter trip over the New Year's holiday. This hotel is amazing, Chiangmai is a bustling city and any city hotels are stereotyped to be just staying in room within a concrete block. Well not here. The grand entrance, painted in decorative gold and built of dark wood, is like walking into a very grand temple. The accommodation lined the very large lengthy pool is just two stories high with all lower rooms having pool access. I was upgraded to a pool access for free and the bathroom was truly exquisite. It had a Jacuzzi in there and I so loved relaxing my aching body massaged by the powerful jets after a hectic day of driving and visiting places. If you travelled enough, you will get to know that most hotels in Thailand had aged and negligence inherent. Water flow in bathrooms will be reduced to a trickle so washing soap and shampoo from oneself would take an eternity. However here, the bathroom, in addition to the main shower head, had six additional water jets to engulf your body. I didn't know the jets were so powerful, I turned them on full. The initial freezing water almost shot both my nipples off.

Shady and Nice
The avenues within the compound is shaded under tall majestic tress. Strolling under the green foliage in cool winter air, my mental state pacified into a total relaxation. They have bar that is tastefully suited next to an artificial river and having that cocktail in the cool night in tranquility is much better than having drinks at noisy beer gardens in city. Sliding my wooden doors opened, the pool was very inviting, but water too cold for swim this period. Would have been great for summer. Sumptuous buffet breakfast was served out door in a sheltered garden housing, the wooden decked floors on which the chairs and tables were set. In the winter morning, cold it was, steam bellowed from my tea. The area a bit small so one will have to sit indoors if late and the crowd had set in. A great escape from city life within the Chiangmai city. No regrets that I had picked this for a night's stay.

Romantic Bar by the River