Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mae Rim in the Off Peak

Look, No People
Previously in the winter peak of 2013, I had witnessed Mon Cham turned Mon Jam. And, in my travels, I had always only coincided my plans to match with the seasons, such as visiting northern highlands during the winter and the southern islands during the summer. These plans to get the best out of my money's worth. On me recent business trip up north, we decide to detour up the hilly terrain of Mae Rim during our spare time. It offered me a chance to witness how these normally packed attractions were like in off peak.

Rain Clouds Came
Climate wise, the highlands of Mae Rim was surprisingly cooling and acceptable. Humidity levels was high compared to winter yes. Strawberries for the picking were not in season and sights of makeshift stalls left in disarray waited for the coming November. Gone were the hordes of stampeding visitors, like creatures in all colors of the desert gathered on the last watering hole. It was serene, it was peaceful. We had our afternoon tea by the edge of the mountain, the sun shined as white clouds drifted low above our straw capped shack. Only our chats, and the annoying toddler next to ours streaking his cry across the otherwise tranquil canvas of nature.

And so it Rained
The rain clouds crept up the slopes onto the peaks. Mon Cham was shrouded in fog, the temperatures dropped to a cool 20 Celsius or so. Then it drizzled as we chitchatted in the gentle melody of splashing afternoon raindrops. My colleague told, sometimes the best the northern highlands can offer is not necessary in the coldest month of December. Come north, after the rain, before the cold. It won't be chilly, but hot it will not be. There's a window there for a pleasantly cool expedition without the swarms.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sui Sian Chinese Restaurant at Landmark - One Pig Rule

This is Singular
I had been yearning for good Dim Sum in Thailand. And this is not like in Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia where authentic Chinese tasting Dim Sum are in abundance. Most Dim Sum in Thailand had been "customized" for the local taste, and "degraded" to fit the local budget. I had been listening to radio every morning commuting in traffic to work, 2 hours in notorious Bangkok jams. And over the air, repeatedly for so many mornings, the advertisement by Landmark for their Dim Sum buffet with unlimited servings of Peking Ducks and Suckling Pig. Peking Ducks, Suckling Pig, Dim Sum... listening to them almost every day. Put my cravings for good Chinese food into the equation and the result was me arriving one Sunday morning, hypnotized by the drone of adverts and hungry on the 10th floor of Landmark where Sui Sian was. Sui Sain, the water goddess, I wanted to see if she could make a hungry man happy. She did, she really did.

So Awesome
Prawn dumplings, were full bodied with real prawns. The small pool of broth which the steamed delicacies soaked in were rich in flavor. Every chomp of them bite sized steaming wraps housed in bamboo baskets were authentically Chinese in taste. I was home with every bite, that was the way it should be, Dim Sum as I knew it. The crisp Peking Duck skins surgically removed by skilled chef hands were wrap in thin paper like Chinese pancakes right at the counter and served fresh. Together within and complimenting in taste, a slice of spring onion stalk, a stick of cooling cucumber and a dash of sweet black bean sauce. The thin layer of duck fats oozed as I bit into the crafted savory and it was an explosion of ecstasy. I had not had Peking Duck for ages, a good Peking Duck that was. Next came another star of the feast which was a full tray of Suckling Pig roasted to perfection. A good thin layer of pig fats and some lean meat beneath a layer of crispy skin well seasoned with Chinese flavors. I took a piece of accompanying white Mun Tou, had a dash of sweet black bean sauce spread on it, had a single square piece of Sucking Pig placed atop. It was beyond excellence. Unfortunately, the fun stopped there, one single piece of Suckling Pig. Sooner than expected, the pig was no more leaving only an empty plate, all us patrons had our share of indulgence.

China have their single child rule and Landmark have their single pig rule. I eagerly waited for the next full plate of Suckling Pig to be whisked out from the kitchen but it never came. Why? Because they only had one Suckling Pig. So on with the other Dim Sums I indulged and then visited the counter again some more. But no pig, because they had only one pig. Tables that filled later visited the counter and still there was no pig, because they had only one pig. In my two hours there since my first taste of Suckling Pig, I accumulated mileage re-visiting the counter that could had me exchange for a domestic flight but still no pig, because they had only one pig. And then I asked one of the staffs, I want to eat pig, and she said pig was coming. It never came, they had only one pig. Pity those who came later in the buffet session at Sui Sian, because the goddess only blessed the restaurant with one pig and it was gone. No more pigs were descending from heaven because Landmark hotel had only ONE SINGULAR PIG. Landmark... . . maybe they have their unspoken One Pig Rule. One pig, gone, no more pig. That was the one singular disappointing pig, I mean bit, of my lunch at Sui Sian.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Bloc of Recycled Containers

Fancy Place
Along Ratchapruk spots a trendy hub. It's made up of recycled containers housing cafes and a pub. Good to go in the evening as the containers will be less of a solar oven, and you can have hip dessert, coffee or tea alfresco on top of them boxes. The Bloc, a poser focal point, people go there to be seen. Heaps of young girls frolic amongst the containers taking selfies. There was a restaurant, I may try the next time. Yet again, Bangkok never fails to amaze. There is always something good around the corner for me.

Dessert Galore

Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Dog that Swam Back to Koh Lipe

The dog that Swam Back
Everywhere we went strolling, there was always a dog nearby. And there was a big bunch out the newly opened Seven Eleven enjoying the cool breeze as them doors opened and closed. Dogs on Koh Lipe seemed the luckiest mammal. Most had no owners and venture freely anywhere and everywhere on this speck of paradise. People loved them, people enjoyed watching them. These seaworthy dogs played along the shores and sometimes headed out into the sea to beat the heat. They were all friendlies, though we were told by the hotel staff to be weary of some in the more obscure parts of the island where the dogs were not used to much human contacts. In Idyllic resort housed a resident dog. It was there every day. Weather intentionally or not, I wished it there to stay. The dog had a legend. A loner not accepted by the other packs that roamed the island, it often got into fights. Thus it was once transported and let loose on Koh Adang for its own safety. Smart dog appeared in Idyllic the next day, it swam across the ocean back to where it wanted to be. Idyllic let it be from then on, and hopefully for a long long time to come.

After a Swim

Play the Water
Basking and Smiling
Sunrise Beach
North of Sunrise Beach
In front of Idyllic
Long Tail Boat
Artificial Sunset

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

My Memorable Boat Ride, Koh Lipe Low Season

Overcrowded But it did not Matter
So different, so very much different in this low season compared to 2 years ago. The schedules of boats crossing over to Koh Lipe was limited to only one trip a day, 11:30 am. So was the return trip back, started at an early 9 am. What was so very much different was the chaos getting on board the speed boats. There used to be a queue system but during the low season it did not happen. First I will blog about the leg from Pak Bara to Koh Lipe. I got queue card number 1 for I was early. It did not matter anyway when we were lined up for boarding. The native islanders, many, strolled right in front of me and boarded. The boat was overloaded but so what. As long as the boat did not sink at the pier, it should make it to the island.

When we arrived near Koh Lipe, as the sea was rough near shores, the speed boats were unable to approach. As such, we transited on a floating platform set out in the deeper water. It was the start of spoilage to my idea long awaited holiday. We had to buy additional tickets for getting on to long tail boats to get on shore. The she-boy handed us slips of paper and pointed us to queue over somewhere there. We realized 20 minutes later it was a wrong queue, it was for a private charter to one of the resorts. So we asked the impatient she-boy again and she annoyingly pointed us somewhere over somewhere again. I think she was having a bad artificial vagina day problem or something. Anyway, we finally got on shore after shoving among hordes of people who were unable to comprehend a queue system, all trying eagerly and impatiently to jump onto the long tail boats.

Scramble for It
Now, the trip back. I will have to describe it with the lingo of Singlish in order to fully illustrate in words how it really went. To begin with, there were no queue cards issued. Again this was unlike 2 years ago. We were all bundled up in disorderly scattered groups on the beach. Where there were shades, there were some of us. Under the trees, under the shack, and all over the wooden bar selling fruit smoothies to fight the already searing morning heat. And then, it was 9.30 and them operators announced it was time for boarding. Everyone rushed for the boat and I really meant everyone. The kiasu syndrome I had not seen in a long long time suddenly come out in all kinds of pattern and color.

In Thai culture, everything should be rather orderly, just like how we see Thais queue up for trains and buses. But here on Koh Lipe, with the perfect mix of nationalities, things started to turn strange. On the onset of boarding, the Singaporean (me) and Malaysians sprinted faster than cheetah to the front of queue. Then the China woman cut queue and board the boat without tickets ignoring the commands of the Thai operator. Then the Singaporean (me again) and Malaysian kiasunisim come out full battle order and hell broke the queue line. Then the Thais in the queue buay tahan and also anyhow start to cut left right center and upside down. We all had a wild time crowd at the boat try to squeeze our way up. Malaysians and Thais then, in a strategic move, released their tiny kids to stream up the boats through cracks in order to chop seats. And then the China woman's husband shouted for her to get off the boat because she board wrong boat (yes she is bimbo + kiasu + kiasi beating us Singaporeans and Malaysians). Then she squeeze herself out in the market of chaotic rojak Thais Malaysians and Singaporean snatching seats. By right the bulky angmohs will come from behind and bulldoze us to the corner, but they decided to let us kill ourselves first. Perfect storm.

Long Tail Boats to Island
See, during the low season, not only were the schedules limited because of the perceived lower number of travelers, so were the number of operating boats. As such, if there were, and always were, greater number of travelers then what the number of operating boats could take, did not matter. Just pack us all on board without safely concerns. The operators told us, this happened because they can never predict the number of native islanders who will be making the crossing as they have the rights to board without pre-bookings. They had to take them all in, and the islanders were immune to the concept of civic orderly queuing system. So boats will be packed to the brim on some days, passengers had to crowd and some sat on the aisle and everywhere a butt could fit. The planned departure of boats from Pak Bara to Koh Lipe will also likely be delayed. They waited for passengers who arrived on later flights in Hat Yai as there were no more scheduled crossing after. This year, I tried Easy Lipe speed boats, I was totally not impressed. My 11.30 am departure was delayed a good hour, it ate into my quality island time. I wished I had used the same Ploysiam speed boats as I did 2 years ago because they were the one that left on time. It was an unpleasant experience, definitely was, the journey to and from Koh Lipe during the low season.

Rough Seas
I Should Have Use This
Storm Clouds
Under Repair
In the Shadows