Sunday, February 14, 2010

Looking forward to Vietnam

We are looking forward to going back to Vietnam to explore the coast line. Sure, the cities of Hanoi and Saigon are something to experience, but there is more to the country than swarming scooters by the million.

Our plan is to start in the north - Hanoi and venture south along the coast, finishing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

We have already been to a few places, including the big cities and Halong Bay, which is spectacular and a MUST SEE!........ Who would have thought a Vietnamese phrase book could be so interesting?

...and Hoi An, where we befriended the lovley Miss Dung (pronounced Yoong), the hotel reservation officer. Stray and I rode bicycles 16 km (and caught the local barge) to her parent's house to have lunch. We enjoyed marinated, fried 'little birds', salad and a couple of beers.
Mot, hai, ba, zo! Cheers! Me, Dung, her Mum, Uncle and Dad.
In Hanoi we met with some uni students who showed us some interesting meals and loved to practice their English. Anh, Stray, Me, Daisy and Phuong. I remember Phuong, cheekily trying to look at the bill at the end of the night, which only came to about AU$37 for the six of us to eat heaps and have a couple of drinks.
And in Vung Tau, an hour away from Saigon by hydrofoil, we caught up with Hai and his family, Mrs Hai (just a coincidence they have the same first name), Quang and Van. Mr Tam and his wife on the right.

We look forward to surprising Hai on this visit...he does not know we are coming. Too many memories and photos to share here, but I have uploaded all of our travel pics to here at Skydrive Live.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting ready to get ready....

Well, I never thought I would resort to blogging, but it seems like a good way of keeping everyone updated and only having to write it once...and therapy for me!

We will be spending most of 2010 gearing up to go Chiang Mai, Thailand...hopefully in October or November, for one year. First we he will attend Chiang Mai University, for one month, to complete an English teaching course. We are not quite sure what will happen after that. Stray would like to teach in a school, but I haven't made my mind up yet. The university also provides a course learning Thai, consisting of only 4 hours per week, over 48 weeks and secures your visa for one year, that sounds more like me :) or perhaps I can do some volunteering, work on my chalk art book or actually have a long rest...we'll see!

So we have lots of clearing out, packing and organising to do from now until then. We are off to Vietnam in March for three weeks for a travel bug fix and to catch up with some lovely friends we made last time we were there.
I won't be updating this blog very much until after we leave for Thailand, so until then, cheers! Who was I kidding?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cheap Eats Chiang Mai - East of the Moat

{The information below was gathered from October 2010 onward and is being gathered on the 'Chiang Mai Cheap Eats' Page. I'll be updating the posts regularly, but am keeping them predated (4 Feb 2010) so I don't clutter up the home page and bore everyone to tears. My apologies to those who are subscribed to new posts.}

Cheat eats east of the moat. See the map for numbered locations.

1. Hinlay Curry House See the map for numbered locations.
Not an easy place to find if you don't know the area. Hinlay Curry House sits in a garden setting, with both open and sheltered areas. The curry was great, I had Hinlay beef, rice, water and half a rotti bread for around 110 Baht. Smallish portions, but ample for lunch or a light meal.
2. Mayflower Restaurant See the map for numbered locations.
Italian fare and Thai dishes. A large crispy base pizza, which feeds two, 200 Baht. Our table ordered five, all could have done with a minute longer in the oven, but were tasty. The amount of topping didn't match the photos, but considering the cost of cheese in Thailand and prices in surrounding restaurants, it wasn't too bad. Large Leo 95 Baht, a little on the expensive side.
Sorry...we were really hungry.
3. Ratana's Kitchen See the map for numbered locations.
At 320 Tha Pae Rd, Ratana's Kitchen faces the beautiful white statue encrusted walls of Wat Bupparam.
It is mentioned on Fodders, Lonely Planet and various other travel websites, as being one of 'the' places to eat. So, I am always surprised to find seats available. We've eaten there three times already and find the meals delicious and well priced, perhaps a little on the small side. Choose to eat inside in air conditioning or at one of the few large wooden tables outside on the pavement.
Pumpkin, egg and mixed seafood
Sweet and sour pork
Soups and meals start at around 30 Baht, those above, about 50 Baht. I haven't tried any Western food on their menu...why would I!

4. Ruen Pae I Restaurant is situated lakeside. A lovely, quite spot to stop for lunch if your doing the arts and craft circuit out in the Bo Sang area. The dishes start at 50 Baht and just about anything is available on the menu, from frog, pig belly or tongue to spring rolls and the usual Thai fare.
The frog was understandably a bit bony, but tasty!
The restaurant entrance.
Heading eastish, away from Chiang Mai on highway 1006, turn left at Baan Celadon Pottery. See the map for numbered locations.

5. Gekko Garden Restaurant. D I'm not sure why everyone raves about this place. Sure the atmosphere is nice and retreat like, but on my first and only visit here, it left me quite disappointed. I would give it another chance though. The Gekko has daily farang specials, today's was fish and chips for 95 Baht. OK, according to Stray and the price is quite reasonable.
I, however, chose a shrimp salad and expected something a little more 'special' for 115 Baht. Don't let the size fool you. Underneath the generous serve of watery, tasteless shrimp lies a mountain of lettuce. Perhaps if I'd drowned in one of the 12 condiments presented on the table, it may have been a bit more palatable.
I should have stuck to Thai food, which is probably more appetising and half the price.See the map for numbered locations. ...*post edit. A few months later... OK, so I thought I'd give this place one more try. We ordered the special of the day, steak, chips and salad. To help customers choose the way they like their steak cooked, there are photos in the menu. We chose Medium Well Done...still pink in the middle. The waitress starts pointing to the Well Done photo and asks me if I speak Thai? 'A little' I say. With that commences a barrage of Thai and hand motions. If I'm any good at charades, I'm sure she was saying that the Well Done steak is hard to problem that's why we're not ordering it.

Several minutes later she and another staff member appear, presenting two raw steaks on a plate. Unlike a bottle of wine, we could hardly taste test it. We both agree that they look OK, nice and thick, round and not too much fat...but a little.

Quite some time goes by and out come our meals. Somehow those nice round steaks had unravelled? Between the ultra well done meat were huge amounts of gristle, which I left in a pile, as a 'statement' on my plate. The salad: A few pieces of lettuce, slices of onion and tomato. The chips...well, to their credit, they weren't out of the freezer.

6. Nam Mae Ping.See the map for numbered locations. ....loved it!
Very reasonable prices, tasty Lanaa style food served in a pleasant garden setting. Forgot the camera, but their website explains it all. By the way, my link has been run through Google translator, so it's in Thainglish! Here's the original Thai version. I tried a simple pork and vegetable platter, and selected the minced pork and tomato dipping sauce (80 Baht). If you visit the website, you'll see that there are more traditional Lanna dishes to choose from. I've been several times and enjoy a change from the over flogged Thai style dishes on menus around town.
Also, I'm not sure if I've located it correctly on the map, but you can see the Pornping Tower, across the river, from the restaurant.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Cheap Eats Chiang Mai - South of the Moat

{The information below was gathered from October 2010 onward. I'll be updating the posts regularly, but am keeping them predated (4 Feb 2010) so I don't clutter up the home page and bore everyone to tears. My apologies to those who are subscribed to new posts.}

Eating south of the moat. Click on the link for numbered locations

1. P'Lek - Central Airport Plaza Click on the link for numbered locations
The plaza is jam packed with eateries, but try the one just inside the downstairs entrance of the North Village. It's quite a large stall and can be recognised by its big clay pots filled with various soups, which are poured over your choice of noodles. Take a seat and add your own fresh vegetables, herbs and condiments. Be careful choosing your soup if your not into chilli. A tasty, healthy meal and a bargain at 15 ฿. Freshly blended fruit juices (at different stalls) from 20 ฿.

2. South Thipanet Road Click on the link for numbered locations
There are quite a few stalls just outside of the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre, which by the way is a Khantoke Dinner restaurant and show complex 420 ฿ per head. Nearly all have seating areas and are distinguished by their different coloured table cloths and seats....they no doubt will change from time to time. All provide water and ice, but you can BYO beverages.

3. Steak, Chicken and Salad stall Click on the link for numbered locations
We had a thin, but nice peppered steak and shredded salad for 69 ฿ each. Tomato sauce and mayo optional. A nice change if you're wanting a break from Thai flavours. This stall is run by a lovely Muslim lady and is located at the north end of the row. (the table cloths have already changed to a coffee/café theme, with yellow seats).
Tasted better than my photo looks.
4. Rice and Noodle dishes Click on the link for numbered locations
Right next door and south of number 2 above, is a husband and wife team who are a pleasure to watch in action! Two rice/veggie and meat dishes, one Pad Thai - total 80 ฿. Look for the yellow table cloths and red seats.

*5. Harrad's Café Click on the link for numbered locations We've been to Harrad's Café (9 Nantaram Rd) a few times (we actually frequent it a few times a week since I originally posted this), but until last night, only for a coffee, beer, or a serve of chunky, home made hot potato chips for Stray ;)...excellent by the way (40 ฿).

Western breakfasts and meals are usually not my 'thing', but they are on the menu for considerably more than the above. Understandably, due to the extra cost of western cheese! I do like their huge baked potatoes topped with baked beans or chile con carne though :) from only 90 ฿. Stray had a squid in yellow curry, which wasn't on the menu, but happily cooked for him, and I had prawns with cashews and vegetables. The servings were generous and delicious. Thai dishes range from around 55 - 70 ฿ plus rice, for 10 ฿.
We've never had a bad meal there and believe me, we've had quite a few. The latest addition, which isn't on the menu, is Laab Sukhathai. A tangy mince dish served with salad veggies and rice if you want it.

6. Wrap and Roll Click on the link for numbered locations is a small cafe tucked back, but very visible, off Wualai Rd. I was nearly, literally bowled over by the hospitality I received from the moment I walked in, to when I finally decided to leave. Vietnamese dishes such as Pho Bo or Ga (69 ฿ - only available week days) and Baguette sandwiches (59 ฿) are on the menu, and I'll be back to give them a try. On my one and only visit I had a Vietnamese iced coffee (59 ฿) and a (Thai) Pad Ga Praw Moo (stir fried pork with chilli and holy basil 59 ฿), which was made from strips and not minced pork...very nice. The owner lived in Vietnamese, running restaurants for six years, hence the mixture of cuisines.
I was assured that I could sit for as long as I liked, after my meal, which I did.
A nice distance away from busy Wualai Rd.
I look forward to returning to sample more dishes and enjoy the outstanding customer service.

7. Ciccia's House Click on the link for numbered locations This probably the best pizza I've had in Chiang Mai to date...I didn't mind the overdone crust one bit, because that meant that it was cooked! Sadly, under baked pizza seems to be popular here.
Sorry, I can't remember the cost, but it was no more expensive that anywhere else and was an ample lunch for two people. I didn't mind the fresh fruit salad, muslei with yoghurt and a coffee, I had there the other day, either. Generous serving and very tasty. Just a few doors south of Harrads, but before you reach the hospital.
The place with the round orange sign

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Cheap Eats Chiang Mai - West of the Moat

{The information below was gathered from October 2010 onwards. I'll be updating the posts regularly, but am keeping them predated (4 Feb 2010) so I don't clutter up the home page and bore everyone to tears. My apologies to those who are subscribed to new posts.}

Eating west of the moat - see map and numbered legend for locations Note, not all of the Soi Sutheps are numbered on Google maps. Count west from highway 121, along Suthep, to ascertain their numbers.

1. Mr Churro Donut see map and numbered legend for locations
Cheap, good coffee in a large mug with fresh milk 15 ฿. Nice donuts from 15 ฿. Western food: OK 6 slice Pizza from 170 ฿ and (didn't try them) french fries 49 ฿. Open 7.30 am - 10.30 pm.
2. Cafe?
Small clean cafe, 6th shop from the (south west, heading away from Mr Churro Donut) corner, blue table cloths. There's a white and orange lightbox sign just outside, but I think it must belong to the closed store next door. It Google translated to 'Dr than beautiful'? Curry, vegies and rice from 20 ฿

3. Large local style restaurant? see map and numbered legend for locations
Excellent, but not sure of the name. Large cafe with timber furniture. 2 Indian style curries, one pork and egg, one squid, both with rice 65 ฿. On the corner (not visible on map) of Moo 8 and Soi Suthep 7.

4. Derm Derm Bar and Restaurant see map and numbered legend for locations
Nice atmosphere, large out door candle lit eating areas. Stray enjoyed his deep fried catfish in red curry 68 ฿. My soup of tofu, minced pork and cabbage was light on the solid ingredients, but nice 68 ฿, stir fried brocolli with crispy pork 68 ฿ plus 2 serves rice 30 ฿. Large Chang Beers 50 ฿. The location on the map is not exact, but you can't miss the signs and lanterns in the trees. Open only in the evenings when we were there.
Most evenings you can find just about anything along this stretch, including clothes. Chicken skewers topped with mayo and eshallots 10 ฿. Curries, rice or noodles and a plate of salad vegies to choose from, for around 25 ฿. Langsat 30 ฿ kilo and apples 10 ฿ each. The stall with yellow signs, red table cloths and chairs, opposite Soi Suthep 3 and 4 is good value.
6. Woraran Music School Cafe* see map and numbered legend for locations
You'll see a sign for the school but not the cafe on the corner of Soi Suthep 5 and Suthep Rd. Lovely setting in amongst trees, timber building, table and chairs . Good quality salads with meat. Also, Thai rice and meat dishes. One (really fresh) salad with ham, sausage and boiled egg. Accompanied by a toasty hot bread bun and butter 40 ฿ Cup of coffee with fresh milk 25 ฿. I'll be going back.

7. Kasem Store - see map and numbered legend for locations
Situated at the north end of Nimmanhemin Rd (Nimmaahaeminda Rd), opposite Soi 3. Kasem Store - left side is a grocery store with a wide range of fresh bakery goods at the front. The right hand side is a coffee shop. The store is charming and has timber doors and facure. Grab a cake from the store and order a coffee from the cafe. Cappuccino, lovely! and complimentary cold water 35 ฿, pastries/buns start at around 18 ฿.

8. The Cat House C see map and numbered legend for locations or their website.
This place is quaint, quirky and dishes up great food. The location on my map is not exact, but the street is. You can't miss the multicoloured assortment of out and indoor timber dining settings. It's on the right hand side, heading away from Nimmanhaemin Rd. Special of the Day - Tofu, chicken or pork curry in Indain style bread with salad 60 Baht. They also have a good range of drinks from 30 Baht.

9. Love More (ex - Out Doors) C Renamed, now with bright pink and blue neon signs see map and numbered legend for locations 16/1 Soi 5 off Nimmana Haeminda Road (Nimmenhemin).
Out Doors is reasonly priced with meals ranging from around 80 Baht. The four of us ate (stuffed ourselves) 9 or 10 dishes, got  two takeway meals and a couple of drinks each, for under 1000 Baht.
Like the name suggests, this restaurant is out doors, but most table settings are under cover. Good value and delicious food, from Thai cuisine to crumbed chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese.
Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai