The Netherlands: Floriade 2012

When you think of Holland what is the first thing you think of?  For me it is tulips and dykes.  I know it doesn’t really go together but I am fascinated by their dykes and how they have utilized modern technology in its construction it to preserve this flat land country where some parts are below sea level.  BBC had an awesome documentary about this a few years back.  I have been to see the dykes before but not during this trip.  This trip to Amsterdam I was fortunate enough to see the tulips in full bloom.  It’s almost the end of the season, but still it was beautiful.  It was refreshing.  It was nature at its best.  Who would have thought that a flower originating in Turkey would later change Holland’s landscapes to encompass acres of flowering fields?  Being the flower capital what better country than the Netherlands to host this year’s World Horticultural Expo, Floriade 2012. It’s held in Venlo this time and the even only comes to the Netherlands once every ten years.

I had to go see it.  Who would know when I would get to see it again?

Surprisingly, I didn’t see much advertisement for this event at all in Amsterdam and relied on my trusting companion called Google. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. 🙂 

The expo lasts a few months from 5 April until 7 October 2012 and does not only have flowers on show but is in itself an experience.  The organizers call it a “theatre of nature,”  I think so too.  Here on view are displays from all over the world and what I love about it is that you are not only going to see the flowers, but here all your senses get a workout.

Your eyes see the beautiful flowers, you smell the freshness of the air, walking through the forests that divide the five different zones you hear sounds that make you wonder if you are a player in a movie, you can touch the flowers or the wooden log homes that decorate the gardens, and if you are hungry you can taste the amazing waffle with the most amazing strawberry jam I’ve ever had.

Throughout the day there are also performances and shows.  There was an African dance while I was there. If you prefer something more high tech, there are also The Dome and Earthwalk which gives you a modern view of horticulture.  Beautifully done.  

I could go on and on but of course pictures a worth a thousand words.

How to get there?  I went to the Tourist office and asked for options.  The easiest option would be to take an excursion there for 75EUR but then you do not have the flexibility of coming back whenever you wish to.  I think the excursion gets back at around 9pm at night and I had a meeting I had to get to and so that was not an option.

Going by yourself is not significantly cheaper but it gives you the flexibility of going at your own time.  We bought entrance tickets to the Floriade at the Tourist Centre by Central Station to save time there and also got details on which trains to take.  Train tickets cost me 42.70 roundtrip from Central Station to Venlo.  It requires connecting to a different train but it’s all quite simple. Just walk across the station at Eindhoven.  Once at Venlo train station there is a little bookstore that sells tickets for the shuttle bus to the Floriade for around 3.50 EUR.  Oh, the trains we took also had free Wifi so the two hour journey went by in a jiffy. 

I wish I could have spent more time there, but then of course I could not. Of course, you can also get more information and buy entrance tickets online at www.floriade.com

Bangkok Dining: Pizzazo Bistro


It’s been awhile since I reviewed any restaurants or travel places and my brain tingles thinking about all the different options I have available. There are many new and good places to write about and thinking about them is making my stomach growl. (My brain is literally sending eating signals to the rest of the body.) Tonight, Pizzazo Bistro wins. It’s a French and Italian casual dining place that offers both french food and pizzas.

It’s a fairly new place that opened towards the end of 2011 and I have to say that even though it was new, service was already good. I didn’t have to sit around and wave my hands looking for some service or note how they were new. The service was well trained and they stood at just the right distance waiting to be called, but not to make us uncomfortable. Wonderful. There are not many casual dining places that offer good service. Oh, I have to mention that even though we had brought along a birthday cake from elsewhere, the restaurant put it on a lovely plate for us and even decorated the plate! That is what I call good service. Thank you. It’s these little things that matter.

What about the all important factor to a restaurant..the food? The food was as the description calls, a mixture of French and Italian casual dining. They had a wide variety on the menu ranging from cheese salads to pizzas, calzonies, and risottos. My favorites I have to say were the black squid ink spagetti, risotto and cheese. The pasta was done al dente, the sauce just good, and the presentation beautiful. The pizzas were good also if you like thin crusted pizzas and are health conscious (they have whole wheat options), but I have to admit nothing yet beats the pizzas at Limoncello or the truffle oil infused mascarpone foccacia at Biscotti. Those I have to say are the best in town.

Ambiance? It’s a renovated house from the 1960’s so you have the lovely home atmosphere but with the added modern kitchen outfront that lets you see the food being cooked. I went there during lunch and I found it very relaxing, especially if you want a quiet restaurant away from all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. They have outdoor seating also if you like the outdoors, but I think that better be saved for cooler days. I haven’t been in the evening, but some friends have and I they seemed to like the atmosphere. I suppose with the big trees in the garden and the lighting, it must be a cosy restaurant to go to. Maybe a nice romantic quiet dinner this Valentine’s 🙂

What about price? The pizzas were around 300-400 baht, and the spaghetti and risotto I think around 200-300 thb. The price nowadays at most italian dining places.

So if you want somewhere relaxing to stop by for a dish of spaghetti or pizza, then go to Pizzazo Bistro. Here’s their website: http://www.pizzazobistro.com The great thing is that they also have some parking so its quite convenient for get-togethers. Buon Appetito!

Old Bangkok Dining: Vegetarian at Thamna on Samsen

The vegetarian festival is coming up soon in Bangkok and so if you are looking for somewhere that serves delicious vegetarian food, I recommend this little restaurant called “Thamna”.  This literally translates to “farming” in Thai.   It’s a lovely little eatery that opened up roughly two years ago and is very close to my office, so close that I had not written about it.  It is, however, one of my all time favorites and somewhere where you can go have a healthy meal.

It’s a tiny little shop with a cosy ambiance and soft music playing in the background.  Paintings line the walls and it has a somewhat artistic feel to it.  It has roughly 6 tables so I recommend making a reservation if you plan to go there during the peak hours of noon.  Office workers from nearby go to this shop during the lunch break.

What kind of food do they serve?  It’s a vegetarian restaurant so no meat is served here, only vegetables and lots and lots of mushrooms.  I love mushrooms so this is a wonderful restaurant for me.  They cook up mushrooms in different ways.  I always order the mushroom puff balls which is mushroom mixed into a little ball and fried.  It’s not greasy and is served with salad and dressing.. Somewhat like a takoyaki but with mushrooms.

Then there’s the somtum (papaya salad) which is another favorite.  They serve the papaya salad with mushrooms that have been shredded and cooked in such a way that it resembles dried pork.  It also comes with sushi which is made of brown rice wrapped in seaweed.  I love it’s originality.

If you want something a little tastier, I liked the spring rolls with three types of mushrooms stir fried in curry.  For something more filling, they also have sphaghetti stir fried with three types of mushrooms.   They also have tofu dishes and curries which are also equally delicious.

What about the price?  Together with two glasses of herbal drinks, and a whole coconut, four dishes (papaya salad, sphaghetti, mushroom puff balls, and mushroom spring roll) the receipt came out to 590 thb.   It’s slightly pricey for the area, but then you have the lovely ambiance, the soft music and the quality organic food.  For a good healthy meal, I think it’s well worth it!

Location? It’s located on Samsen Road between Soi 3 and Soi 5, and within walking distance from Banglumpoo.   If you are visiting the Grand Palace and walking around the Old Bangkok area, its not too far, so a nice place to go rest those tired legs. It’s also just around ten minutes walk from KhaoSan Road.  There is no parking, but you could find a spot somewhere in the sois nearby.  I recommend taking the taxi if you don’t want to risk having to go round and round looking for parking.  it. For reservations, call tel. +662- 282-4979 or mobile 086-662-6060.

Have a healthy meal everyone! 🙂

Bangkok Dining: Brunch at “The Horse Says Moooo”

This past weekend, my friends and I went to try out a new restaurant. Thanks to one of my dearest friends, who always seeks out wonderful new places, we get to try out new restaurants and eateries which aren’t located in hotels and department stores. Those are left for the days when you need a safe option. This weekend we went to a Restaurant and Winebar on Sukhumvit Soi 33 called “The Horse Says Moooo.”

It’s a strange name that really catches your attention and has everyone asking “What is the name again?” the first time they hear it. That was certainly my reaction. It is also a name that once you’ve heard it and been, it’s hard to forget. I definitely won’t be forgetting it anytime soon (which I suppose is what the owners must want.)

We went there for brunch, but they are also serve wine and beer and have live music in the evening so
the atmosphere must be quite different. It seems to be a restaurant of many “moods” depending upon the time of day. Perfect for a horse that needs variety. The brunch mood was calm, cosy and I felt like I was eating in a private room. It was Saturday so the brunch crowd wasn’t too big and there were only a couple tables while we ate there. I loved it and thought it perfect for alittle mini-reunion because then you are sure to hear the person opposite you whilst just relaxing and taking your time eating. You don’t need to feel pressured to vacate the table for the next person in line.

What about their food? Starters was Grandma’s original pancake with butter, honey and maple syrup(200thb). The pancakes were crispy on the edges and the middle soft.  Just the way I like it. Maple syrup is always good and they provide it in a jug so you can have as much as you want.

We ordered the all time favorite brunch food of Eggs Benedict (350thb). It came out beautifully arranged and equally tasty. I loved the freshly poached eggs and the salmon. My only wish was that we had a little more of the hollandaise sauce. I suppose I also am a bit of traditionalist. I am not too big a fan of the citrus in the sauce, but it was still good nevertheless. Yes, I will go there and eat it again.

Next was the corned beef hash with potato slices and fresh thyme (280thb). This was one of my favorite dishes. I think it’s because for me it’s like comfort food. It simple yet satisfying with corn beef and potatoes. I feel like that food critic in the animation “Ratatouille” that gets pleasure from a dish that reminds him of home. (The only difference for me is that I don’t eat beef hash at home, but it is someone like one of those comfort foods.)

Crab cake salad with lemon creme fraiche (250thb) came next. It was good and seemingly more healthy than the beef hash, but the amount of fresh crabs they put into the crab cake might be enough to make anyone with high cholesterol scared. It’s good a good scare though, I love crab cakes which are filled with crab meat. You really taste the flavor and biting into it is very satisfying. I also loved the fresh greens they put on top. It complements the crab cake well.

Our final main dish was Toad in the hole with yorkshire pudding, italian sausage and onion gravy (300thb). It’s a large portion so beware when ordering. I loved the sausage (yet I always do) and the pudding was great too. Though, I think my stomach was just a little too full from all the other delicious dishes to really appreciate it’s flavor. You will just have to go and try it yourself.

For dessert, we ordered the Raspberry Tiramisu. It was out of this world. I love raspberries. In fact I love anything berry so it’s always a delight for me to eat. I have to tell you though that here you really get a full satisfying serving so make sure you have enough space to eat it all.

The pictures and the writing is once again making me hungry so I shall have to say my farewell. I know not who the owners are, but I heard that the name comes from the years they were born. A group of friends with some born in the year of the horse and some in the year of the pig (which in Thai pronounced “moo”) Wonderfully original isn’t it?

It’s accessible by BTS Phromphong station (the same one as Emporium) and they have 4 hours parking at the UBC building at the beginning of Sukhumvit Soi 33. The restaurant is just a short walk and is located diagonally opposite Novotel Lotus hotel.

Oh here’s their contact info: Tel. 02-662-0402 Fax. 02-662-0402 Website: http://www.thehorsesaysmoooo.com they also have an FB page so check it out. I tried their website and seem to have trouble, but you might have better luck than me! Bon Appetit.

Bangkok Dining: Ramentei

 

Talking to a Japanese friend about Japanese food and ramen, I cannot but think about taking you to this ramen place I’ve been going to since I was young called “Ramentei.”  If you live in Bangkok, I’m sure many of you have heard about this place and have been to it.  They have a couple branches, with the original one being near Villa Supermarket on Sukhumvit 33.  There’s another one next to Thaniya Plaza where one goes to see golf materials, and there is also one between Suriwong and Silom roads.

What I love about it, is that it’s simple, serves good food fast and you know what to expect.  Delicious ramen, served efficiently and in a relatively clean restaurant.   Some locations are older than others, but overall, it’s clean and good.   You can choose between sitting in the Japanese style tables, or on regular tables.  I personally prefer regular tables since I always think they’re more comfortable and don’t require my pushing myself to get up.

What’s good? My current favorite is the Hiyashi Ramen. I’ve suddenly grown to enjoy cold ramen and especially when it’s full of vegetables and delicious sesame infused sauce, I cannot resist it.  You get to enjoy the full flavor of the noodle and its texture.  Alex had the pork ramen and that too was good if you enjoy hot soup with meats.  I’ve had other kinds of ramen though and so far I’ve enjoyed them all.  Also, I like the fact that Japanese people also frequent this place (which to me means that it is a sign of approval).  If the japanese come here for ramen, then it must be quite good don’t you think?

Oh another thing, if the portion is too large for you, you can always ask for the smaller bowl.  I think they take around 20baht off your bill, which isn’t much, but then you don’t have to worry about wasting food that could go to feed other hungry people.

The last time I went (which was a few months ago) the dishes were around 180thb each and very reasonable.  With all this inflation, prices may have gone up a bit, but I suspect it will still be value for money.    Itadakimasu!

Bangkok Dining: Taling Ping

Since my good friends are out eating at Taling Ping today (which I have to skip due to a bad stomach)  I thought I’d write about this restaurant that is a great place to take guests from out of town or a place to have little reunions over authentic Thai food.  The great thing about this restaurant is that it has expanded from it’s original location on Silom’s Pun Road to the convenience of Siam Paragon and Central World Shopping Malls.  All within BTS access.  Wonderful if you are meeting friends who are coming from different parts of Bangkok.

Taling Ping is somewhere I always take my guests from out-of-town for a relaxing dinner combined with some shopping.  It serves traditional Thai cuisine with a good ambiance and good service.  Make sure you get there early for the seats fill up quite quickly.  Their food is reliable and the taste is consistent no matter where or when you go.

There are a few favorites of mine at the restaurant.  I especially like
the basic chicken wrapped in pandan leaves.  It’s something I’ve had since I was little, it’s not spicy and it’s delicious.  Their curries are equally tasty. They of course have the Tom Yum, Kaeng Som as well as red curry with mushrooms.  To have a balance meal, they also have an assortment of stir fried vegetables which all taste good.  Hmm..thinking of it makes my mouth water.

Their menu comes with pictures so if you are not familiar with the names of Thai dishes, the pictures are a great help. 😛 The prices are also quite reasonable ranging from 150-250 per dish.  Service is good and seats comfortable (which enables you to have a good long dinner.)

The original restaurant is on Soi Pun, Silom Road but there are also two other locations which are in Siam Paragon and Central World Shopping.
At Paragon it is on the Ground floor towards the North Side and at Central World it is on the third floor.

Okay my stomach is growling now so I’d better go.  Remember, if you have out of town guests, Taling Ping is one option for Thai food which is especially useful when you find yourself taking them shopping 🙂  Enjoy!

iPad 2 vs. iPad 1

I have a love for gadgets.  It’s something that I think many of us share is this day and age when technology is just at your fingertips.  Everything can be ordered and viewed online.  Since the iPad’s 2 launch exactly a week ago I have been drooling over it.   I’m tempted, very tempted.  I keep watching the adverts on youtube.  But now that the iPad 1 is almost a hundred dollars cheaper, which would make the more practical buy?  Do I really need one considering the lifestyle I have now?

This past week, in order not to have an “impulse buy” I’ve been thinking about it.  (Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since the launch of iPad, but could not reason getting one considering it seems like a bigger version of my iPhone.)  Now with iPad 2, my desire for one gets stronger.  It’s just a matter of time.  

As technology evolves, so does our future.  In the future I envision many households having at least one iPad and one e-book like the Kindle.  Everything is online and everything is downloadable.  We’ll be using less paper, but we’ll be using other forms of energy to fuel our gadgets. I can’t quite figure which one is the more eco-friendly one.  If you know, please share your thoughts!

And so my desire for iPad  has gotten my brain searching for justification of the purchase.  It switches back and forth between decisions for an against. 

Reasons for getting iPad 2 goes likes this:  “Hmm..I know the price tag is a bit high, but it is the same as it was for the iPad 1, so it isn’t really that much.  It has a dual core processor which makes it faster, its now 30% thinner and 15% lighter.  My arms will feel better holding it up for reading. I can order magazines online and not have a house full of magazines that have to later be sorted out and cleaned.  I can load pictures, play games (not that I really do) and surf the internet.  I can sit on the sofa and play around. (which I already do with the iPhone and my not so big netbook)

After all this, I think my main temptation are the magazines that can be loaded in colour.  I can keep back issues and have them all at my finger tips when I want to browse through them. Hmm.. tempting.

Now reasons for getting the iPad 1 versus iPad 2.  First of all, iPad 1 is now almost a hundred dollars cheaper.  It’s not too much of a saving, but if I did every purchase $100 cheaper, I’d have saved enough for a short weekend trip somewhere.  Now I always value traveling.  One learns so much through travel.  Secondly, I don’t really need the fast dual core processor which of course would be most beneficial if I played games (which I don’t).  There’s only so much so and so speed I need to browse the web, read magazines and look at my pictures.  Third, thinner though lighter, could also mean its more fragile.  Being the clumsy person I am, I’m bound to drop it one day sooner or later.  So which one would be more durable?  Lighter may be fragile, but has less weight on impact.? (Okay I’m lost now)  And lastly,  I think magazines work equally well on iPad 1 as they do on iPad 2.   As for buying it here in Bangkok or elsewhere? Price is roughly the same. 

I probably won’t be using the huge iPad 2 to take any pictures or videos either.  I have my Nikon SLR and a small camcorder already.  So after all this debate what would you buy?  (Not considering resale value.)   I suppose one has to look at how you will use it.  If you look at the “logical” purchase for me, you would say I should get the iPad 1.  My brain says “iPad 1”, but the “little me” inside is telling me “iPad 2.”  I mean it’s simple,  iPad 2 has the magnetic cover in such lovely colours! Love it.

Which one should I follow?  Logical me or little me? Which one would you?  To tempt you, check out their website…  www.apple.com/iPad