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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Officially my favorite

I've drank off many a bottle of whisky of various tastes and everyone finds their favorite, whether by taste or by price paid and the perceived value of their precious golden liquid. For me, its all about smoothness, its about the sweet, vanilla richness, its about the taste.

So far my absolute favorite is the single malt Balvenie 12 years Double Wood. Matured in Traditional Whisky Oak and then in Sherry Oak, imparting a subtle sweetness that is immediately pleasant to the nose its by far my all time favorite. The complex aftertaste trumps even the Ballantines 17years or even the ubiquitious Blue Label which is decidedly smooth but lacks any bite to its character.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In a nutshell

Not bad for a little Lomo LC-A, which was all I brought for my trip there. Colors were reproduced vividly and everything has a natural spontaneous look which was what I was going for.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Bangkok in 3 days

By the time I arrived at the new Suvarnabhumi airport it was about 9pm. The starck concrete beams, glass panelling and blue mood lighting created a somewhat modern, albeit overused touch.

The hotel booking was haphazardly done online, just picking whatever seems reasonable, at a place that was near the train station, something I learned from my last trip, and I ended up staying at the somewhat seedy Sukhumvit Soi31. The party was at the other Sois(roads) where all the 'themed' clubs and bars would be, but Soi31 was just a quiet spot 10 minutes away from the main road.

Unfortunately it was also home to a pretty large Japanese population so everywhere I went, there were Japanese restaurants, Italian and steakhouses are common as well. The first night was just a little orientation exercise to get a feel of the place. It was dark, polluted, unforgiving. Intent on getting authentic Thai food and walking a little off course I ended up at an especially secluded spot to what I can best describe as an area that was 'for locals only'.

Opposite an old dirty Shell station and many stares from diners masked in steam from the boiling pots of soup, I was at a place where their stares weren't an 'ooh, tourists' but more of 'what do you think you are doing here?' Then, straight ahead was a rather busy restaurant, from what I can tell it's either very good, or very cheap. I stood there for a good 10 minutes before promptly being ushered out of the establishment. Good old Thai hosptality; but perhaps they just get a little catty during nightfall.

Tired and slightly hungry, I was now beside a Carrefour which really means I'm way off track from the nearest bar. My GPS didn't help either with the nearest listed restaurants in a 500m range Japanese, or Italian. I ended up approaching an idling tuk-tuk for recommendations, and that is something you learn never to do again.

For 40baht I ended up at a Seafood Market, but funnily, the 'et's neons were busted so it was just Seafood Mark. Amidst a couple of lazy and almost ill looking crustaceans I thought it was best to just go for Tom yum goong, which I thought was the staple(it isn't really), and some fried clams. The tom yum was good, spicy and tasty but that was about it. So much for authentic Thai food, so don't go here N13 43.206 E100 34.127.

Taking the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit the next day I found out my camera jammed on me so all the photos I took before well, will never be documented. I got that fixed leaning against the fence of Chatuchak park amidst hordes of people passing by, most of them wondering why I'm still using a film camera. But today will be better, the sun just got out, the lighting was perfect, and I was headed to the Chatuchak weekend market where you can get anything. And I mean, anything. N13 48.000 E100 33.008

One thing I noticed is that people seemed friendlier during the day, irregardless of whether it was a tourist/non-tourist spot. I easily snapped 2 rolls of 36s in the market alone. The second day I was still unsure, it was market orientation day so I had to browse, remember prices, and see if there's a cheaper alternative elsewhere, and there usually is. Still the tourist, I resorted to 'How much?' even though I had a Thai reference in my wallet I tried real hard to remember. But they are generally accomodating, especially the ones that aren't crowded with people.

What I liked most were the army surplus stalls. Camo is real big with the Thai people, everyone seemed to be in camo pants, skirts, while the more adventurous had their all-out desert storm getup. I should've left my reservations at home and just lugged my camo daypack there. But you can get all that and more, for a lot less. For me, thats just an incredible sight, and I'll return again next time for more goods. This time, I need to keep to my 5000baht budget for the entire trip.

The streets leading back to the hotel are a mixture of old and new, of local and foreign. The fact that they are able to coexist makes it a very harmonious and somewhat peaceful setting. This is the real community at work. Teenagers give their seats to the elderly, people don't push and shove into the trains, cars actually stop so you can cross the road, and you're greeted with 'Sawadeeka?' when you walk into any store. I don't understand what sort of customer service we have in our country where shopkeepers greet you with 'Yes?'. That's just annoying.

I decided to have an authentic Thai experience, you eat what they eat, so I had noodles at the sidewalk. For 25baht, it was fantastic. I now understand how Thai people stay slim, minimal carbs, a lot more protein and soup to fill you up. It was roughly half a regular serving of noodles, and the rest of the bowl just barbequed meats and vegetables. At that price, there is little to complain.

On the third day, I'd already made up my mind on what I wanted to get and the ideal price, so I headed back to Chatuchak intent on getting my money's worth. By now I'd gotten the accent right, and a point of the finger and a simple 'ann nee tao roi', usually gets replied in especially quick 'hah roi sam sip baht', which I still needed time to decipher in the morning, 'neung...sorng...sam....sip....' and then they reply 'five-hundred thirty baht..'.

The deciphering got quicker over the afternoon and eventually I had a field day bargaining my way around the market.

I decided to check out a place called The Robin Hood on the way back, a quaint English pub where they serve Guinness. I had 2 hours to kill, so I figured why not. The bangers and mash was huge. Portions are about 3 times the size of what locals are accustomed to, perhaps to justify the somewhat KL-ish prices. But it was all good because you really do get your money's worth compared to back home. N13 43'55.15" E100 34'03.51" (approximate). Also perhaps this was the reason why you see a lot of fat gaijins with skinny Thai girls.

Overall it was a good trip, and I still have 500baht to spare. That's good for another 20 meals.