Bangkok Real Estate: Help a fellow reader..

As one of my readers (who is also a good friend) commented the other day, I seem  to be in a good mood. Yes I am.  It’s a good day, not because I was efficient  and got many things done, but because I have received and heard interesting  stories from my readers.  It is always a pleasure to hear comments or recieve emails.  It’s one of a writer’s little joys in life.  Tonight I write about an email I recieved from a reader (“S”) earlier this week with regard to where one should look to purchase a condominum in Bangkok.    Although this is not  directly my field, I will try my best to help her. 🙂

Of course the condominum one ultimately ends up purchasing,  depends upon your lifestyle, your needs and your budget.  It also depends on what purpose you are buying the condominium for.  Are you buying it for yourself?  Are you buying it for rental? or are you buying it for speculation in the hopes that the real estate price will go up?  What is your budget?   These are the questions you have to ask yourself.  Once you have the purpose, the goal of the purchase thought out, then comes the question of what area one should buy the condominium?   Bangkok is so diverse and each area has its own particular characteristics.  Even with the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (underground), one end differs day and night from the other.  Of course, this happens in many large cities where intercity life and life on the outskirts diverge.

Now where should “S” buy a condominium?  I went through the qualities she is interested in.  She and her husband enjoy travel, good food and the local cuisine.  They enjoy eating local authentic foods and even hawker shops.  That is the lifestyle, the desire to be within walking distance of a little part of authentic Bangkok.  Not the business nor the commercial side of Bangkok.

Having shared information with me that she enjoys eating local hawker foods, while at the same time would like a modern luxury condominium is indeed a difficult question to reply to.  I cannot say exactly which condominiums would be the best ones but I can give my opinions upon the location where quite a few luxury condominiums are located so here goes:

There are a lot of modern luxury condominiums along the sukhumvit road.  However, in my opinion, Sukhumvit is a great place to be if you are an expatriate and want to live the expatriate life.  There are lovely restaurants for brunches, more international cusines, boutique shops and spas that cater to the expatriate kind of lifestyle and budget.    It’s a wonderful place to be, and almost all the shops speak english.  However, it doesn’t get very “local local.”  It’s where Thais go when we want to enjoy the clubs, the  music, and the food.  It’s buzzling at night.  It’s great if you are young (or young at heart), enjoy the night life and the convenience of having lots of shops all around.  There’s everything from salsa clubs to local food.

Then there’s the Sathorn Area.  This place is in the heart of the business area.  Accessible by skytrain, it is adjacent to Silom Road and most of the major banks have offices in the area.  High rise office buildings rise up into the air amidst four to five lane roads.  Some major embassies also reside in this area.  It’s clean and has the air of a central business area, but I am not sure if it is some place I would want to live in.  On the weekends, it gets a little quiet and there are no local markets for me to walk to.  No stalls to where I can just hop over to buy fruits or other local snacks.  If that’s not something you do anyways, then that’s not a problem.  You could almost always dine out, or just buy food from supermarkets.   It’s a clean and safe area.

Lumpini Area.  This is not too far off from Sathorn Road, but it is near to Lumpini park which is one of the few parks in Bangkok.  This is where locals and expatriates alike go exercise, have a walk and enjoy being shaded underneath tall tall trees from the hot Bangkok air.    Local stalls and foods can be found lying along its outer edges.  It is indeed a place where locals also go have some good local cuisine.  However, the BTS (skytrain) doesn’t reach this area and the nearest station would be the MRT underground) station.  I think the MRT is a great thing for Bangkok especially since it links the
residential areas to the city centre.  However, if you want to go shopping at Siam and the main shopping malls, it still requires a connection to the BTS.   If you don’t go anywhere along the BTS that much anyways or always prefer the taxi, then I suppose it’s not that bad.

Another area is the Langsuan area.  It is in the middle between the local and the commerical areas.  On one  end of the road, you have the BTS and the major shopping malls. On the other end of the road, you have the park and the local food stalls.  It’s not too far off from the BTS station which means that it is easily accessible to the main shopping malls and financial districts.  It’s also walking distance to the Lumpini park which means that you can enjoy the park, the local stores as well as the convenience of supermarkets and other eateries along the skytrain station. However, Langsuan is a one way road which means that if you are going by car, depending upon the traffic, the ride by car could be a bit inconvenient during rush hour.

Other areas of Bangkok though also charming in its own way, still do not possess luxury modern condominiums.   They usually comprise of smaller units and target a different market.

If you ask me, (and I must first say I am no real estate guru here)  I would say that “S” should opt for a condominium along the BTS route.  It is still basically the main road that links the suburban local areas of Bangna to Sukhumvit, Siam and the weekend market which is a must for all tourists.   If you plan on having guests from out of town staying, these are the places that tourists are most likely to visit.  If  they go to visit temples, they can hop off the BTS station at Phyathai or Siam square for the Jim Thompson house.  It’s also connected to the Airport Raillink at Phyathai so that is a plus if you are traveling light and taking a weekend trip to Chiangmai or Phuket.

For me, the MRT seems to be more for locals. It’s the route that links the outskirts of Bangkok to the city centre.  For me, there are very few places that I have actually taken the MRT to.  I still mostly take the BTS.

If you can’t already tell, I think from all the above areas…I like Langsuan the most.  It’s not too densely populated, it’s not too full of clubs and night life, yet its not far from the main shopping areas and the Lumpini park.

What do you think?   Are any of you knowledgeable about real estate?  Where would you recommend our reader “S” to invest in? Please share you opinion.  Thank you!

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Bangkok Dining: Dimsum at Yuan, Millenium Hilton by the River 

It’s the weekend and though I am still feeling under the weather, something about sleeping at the early hours of 9pm and waking up in the wee hours of the morning is refreshing.  The sky is blue, the birds are chirping and the wind is in the air.  It is refreshing and a great way to re-energize.  Of course, another great way to re-energize is to go out and have some good food with good company.  If you fancy some dimsum I recently discovered a new place upon recommendation of a dear friend.  It’s called “Yuan” (which makes me think of the Chinese Yuan which is the local chinese currency).

What I love about this dimsum place is that you get freshly made dimsum. None of that frozen and re-steamed kind of dimsum.  Each portion is large and you can taste the quality of the ingredients inside.  I had some dimsum made out of snow fish, the usual shumai, fried taro with red pork, fried cream buns and a few other dishes. My favorite was the fried cream bun.  It’s crunch on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.  Great food, just go run afterwards.

If you opt for the “All You Can Eat” dimsum which goes for 730thb net it does not only include dimsum, but you are also give choices of soup, noodles and dessert.  A great deal if you eat a lot.

I had the fish soup with thousand year old egg, fried noodles with red pork, jelly fish,  and mango pudding.  Everything was delicious.   Nothing like those greasy chinese food I had while in college.  At Yuan, everything is good quality and non-greasy.  I suppose this is what real Chinese food should be like.

Ambiance ?  It’s by the river so that’s always a plus for me.  If you book early, you can get a seat by the window, but since the restaurant is relatively well-known it gets quite crowded and all tables are fully booked.  Not somewhere to go if you want a quiet romantic lunch.   If you want a private room, they also have a large room which is in a corner so it has a beautiful view.  It’s also large enough for kids to be running around in.

The decoration is modern and simple.  My kind of place.  The greatest surprise, however, was the music.  Throughout the entire lunch I could hear beautiful chinese music playing in the background and just assumed it was a CD playing.   Only later did I realize that the music played at Yuan is actually live music.  A young lady sits on the upper level of the room playing a chinese string instrument.  (forgive me I know not what you call it.)

Another great surprise for those who like to watch people cook is the kitchen.  It’s separated by a glass wall from the dining area so you can sneak a peak at all the chefs cooking.  I feel like I am Ratatouille watching all the action from a corner.  I see the dimsum section being steamed to order, the noodle section sizzling away on the stove and even the peking duck being roasted in a wood fried oven. It’s amazing.  Everyone knows what to do to get our food out on time.

Getting there? The journey for me is always as important as getting to the destination and getting to Yuan is in itself an adventure.  It’s located at the Hilton Millenium Hotel by the Chaophraya River on the Thonburi side so for Bangkokians who live on the other side of the river, the Thonburi side is somewhat of a mystery and feels like unchartered territory even though it’s just a bridge across.   I have good news though.   If you feel like going carless and avoid the traffic, this hotel by the river is skytrain BTS accessible.  All you have to do is go to the “Saphan Taksin” station and take exit number 2.  Follow the walk way until you reach the pier.  There will be piers for the Chaophraya Express but those are for those taking river tours.  To your left will be the hotel boat piers.  There are signs available telling you which hotel boat stops at what pier.   Each hotel boat usually comes 15-20 mins apart so just take a seat and enjoy the view.

Oh here’s their contact info:  Millenium Hilton Hotel:  http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/BKKHITW-Millennium-Hilton-Bangkok-hotel/dining.do;jsessionid=00E1A6D4599DA83DC74FFB61B8F0AC19.etc82

Address

:  123 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok, Thailand 10600
Tel: 66-2-442-2000    Fax:  66-2-442-2020

It’s open 11.30am to 10.30pm, but when I called they said I could arrive at 11.00am.  🙂  Have a good dimsum 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 Night Out: Jazz @ Saxophone Pub

The weather is kinda blue, the sky is cloudy, the rain drizzles.  It sounds like a perfect evening for a night out listening to Jazz/Blues.  I’ve been in Bangkok for years and heard about this “Saxophone Pub” as the place to go listen to jazz/blues, but never had the chance.  Finally, one drizzling evening, I had the opportunity and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and listening to live bands playing the Blues.

It’s located right by the Victory Monument and withing walking distance from the BTS station.  If you drive they also have limited parking, but its by the roadside so you take your own risk.  At first glance, I thought I was somewhere else other than Bangkok.  It reminds me of Philly.  The outside has orange lighting and a small door leads you inside to a dimly lit room.  It’s more spacious than it looks outside and the high ceiling upon entering makes it feel comfortable.  The live band plays in the middle of the room and a counter surrounds it, allowing one to grab a seat and fully enjoy the music.  They also have a second floor and seats line the balcony allowing those upstairs to also peer down and watch the action.

A painting of Jimi Hendrix hangs on a back wall and the beer dispenser is shaped in the form of a Saxophone.  I love it.   The lights that hang above the tables upstairs are the old trumpet shaped sound projector part of antique music boxes.  (Forgive me, I cannot remember what you call it!)  The wooden walls and the somewhat rustic decoration makes you feel at ease.  It’s relaxing in here.  No ties nor suits.  It’s jeans and t-shirt.

The crowd is mainly those who love jazz and blues.  From my guess it’s mostly upwards from mid thirties.  Wonderful.  The no-smoking regulation makes it heavenly.  You can sit there listening to the live band playing without having to worry about getting smoke in your eyes.  Whenever I’m near a smoker, I tear and tear .  I tear so much people always stop to ask me if everything is “okay.”  With tears in my eyes, I reply “yes..thank you, it’s just the smoke.”  Now, I no longer have that problem. Yipee!

Apparently they have different bands playing on different nights.  The night I went there was  a man playing on a harmonica with the rest of the band.  It was awesome.  I loved it, if only the electricity didn’t suddenly die out on us.  Fear not, they had back up so there was no panic.

My only comment is that the decibel level was too high for me.  It averaged around 90-100 decibels and it made my ears ring.  I’m not used to loud noises, but if you are they it should be fine for you.  I wished I had ear plugs, but I did not.  I look around me but everyone seemed happy.  I guess it was just me.

Anyways, they have a website (being in modern day age)…here goes: http://saxophonepub.com/2010/

Bangkok Dining: Mexican Food @ La Monita

Sunday night is here and finally this writer gets to continue on with her blog. The fast few days have just been hectic, tiring and not enough “me” time. There have been some comments that I haven’t been reviewing enough restaurants so tonight I want to share with you a Mexican restaurant that just makes you feel like you are in the Americas.

It certainly does remind me of college days when we’d go to Happy Hour after hours or after late study sessions at night to munch on quesadillas and nachos. Since moving back, I’ve been only to a few places that serve good quesadillas, nachos and other mexican foods. La Monita is one of the better ones.

The first time I went to La Monita was about a year ago when it was just newly opened. Near to the Ploenchit BTS station it is only a few minutes walk to the row of shop houses neighboring Mahatun Plaza where the restaurant is open. I went with a long time friend of mine and together we ate several dishes, all were delicious and good. The restaurant itself was relatively quiet with only a handful of tables, dim lighting and relaxed service. You felt like you were in some remote Mexican restaurant. What I did notice though was that most of the clientele were expatriates. I kept in mind that I will have to go back and eat there again.

This past week, I had the opportunity to go back with another group of friends and what a surprise I had. Within the space of one year, the restaurant had expanded to occupy a neighboring shop house and it was brimming with clients. In the new adjoining section, they even had a second floor as as far I could see, all the tables were occupied. Reservations were needed. This restaurant was no longer a remote little place, it was now a hot and happening place. I even unexpectedly ran into a couple of old friends whom I had not met in a long time.

Okay so its now a busy restaurant with lots of people, but what about the food? The food was still as good as I remembered it to be. I love quesadillas and the ones at La Monita come with a choice of fillings and size. You can have either the ten-inch or twelve-inch quesadilla depending upon your appetite. I had the chicken ten-inch one and I have to say that it was very satisfying. The filling was well cooked and the guacamole is just enough to give it bite and taste.

I also had the soft-flour Tacos and those were equally satisfying. Soft wrappings with lots of stuffings have always been a type of food I enjoy and especially so when the filling isn’t too rich nor heavy. Their beef nachos were also delicious as well as rice with a kind of cuban topping. (If I remember correctly) They also have a number of other dishes on the menus including ensaladas, but since the dishes are relatively large, we could not stuff ourselves with anymore food.

If you want some drinks to go along with your dishes, they also serve drinks so its a good place to go for some “happy hours.”

The decor is simple and in bright colours which liven up the place. The seats are simple benches or if you want a higher view, they also have high chairs to go with the high tables that line the front of the restaurant.

The service is fast, efficient and friendly. Overall, I think La Monita is a great place to go hang out with friends, colleagues for a relaxing Mexican meal of Tacos, Quesadillas and Nachos 🙂 Buen Provecho!

Chocolate Crazy at Cherubin, Sukhumvit 31

It’s been a few days since my last post and much has happened since then.  Well, by “much” I mean I’ve moved from an apartment back into a house, did some unpacking and am slowing getting used to driving new routes to and from the house.  Anyways, after all this packing and unpacking, I am now dreaming of some great Chocolate cake by Cherubin following my virtual trip to ISAO.

I love chocolate, I love dark chocolate.  I love chocolate that isn’t too sweet nor too creamy.  I love Lindt dark chocolates.  They’re the best.

There are a lot of bakery shops in Bangkok with all types of cakes to suit your style, but one that is especially appealing to me though is CHERUBIN.  It’s located on Sukhumvit 31, right next to ISAO (reviewed in my previous post) and is a cute little bakery with roughly 6-7 tables.  It’s quite spacious and there is an adorable little corner inhabited by a number of teddy bears.   (I know I’m a little old for teddy bears, but there is just something about them that make me all soft inside. )  It has a clean, sleek atmosphere yet there are also two soft couches and some teddies here and there to make you feel cosy and warm.

They have a great menu of cakes, with the main ingredient all being chocolate. (Yes, they specialize in chocolate so if you are a chocolate lover like me, you’d love it.)  With over a dozen kind of cakes to choose from I was at a lost and so I had to try their best recommendations.   I had the “Nuts About Chocolate, “the “French Chocolate Cake” and “Caramel Monkey” both were just wonderfully delicious. 

The Nuts about Chocolate was a two-layered soft chocolate sponge covered with chocolate and almond nuts.  The chocolate was just the way I like it..not too sweet, not too fudge-like and had a delicate choclate taste.   The French Chocolate cake was also good for those who like warm chocolate cake where the centre just melts away with each bite.  This too wasn’t so sweet and the slightly salty taste was good.  I also had the Caramel Monkey which, of course, has bananas inside it, with some cream and a light coat of powdered chocolate.  Hmm… it was good. 

To go with these cakes, Cherubin offers a variety of hot chocolate, ice chocolate, teas and other drinks.  If you have tea, the pot is refillable with hot water so you could share it with a few of your friends.

Price-wise it is around 100-120thb ($3-4) per piece and you could spend a good hour or so there just having some chill out time or relaxing with good friends. 

Mind you, it has only 2 parking spaces so I recommend walking a little and using the BTS.  Get off at Phromprong station and walk to Sukhumvit 31.  It’s on your left once you enter the soi.  It’s a nice little walk.. you pass by Villa Supermarket  and other little shops.  

I hope you enjoy the cake! I don’t have it at the moment, but just writing about it takes me back to its wonderful taste.  🙂  Hmm..I will have to start baking once I’m settled in with the big oven.