Bangkok – Escaping to the Metropolis of Tomyum – Sawadeekha!

And the soul would forever be ill at ease, until it understands and accepts its true purpose in the lens of its Creator. Just like a hammer would make a lousy screwdriver and vice versa, the soul will keep searching until it fills the gaping hole within with the Eternal and aligns its very essence in that direction. If you are uneasy with your life, escapism in the form of holidays will remain at best, a brief respite in an endlessly unfulfilling illusion.

WARNING: ULTRA LONG POST AHEAD – READ BOLDED POINTS FOR OVERVIEW.

Favourite Shot in Bangkok

So I had 5 days in Bangkok – alone for the most part as I also had the chance to meet up with friends there, which is great because being alone all the time can be a tad boring especially when you wish to share on your experiences with someone. Anyhow, I always wanted to try doing solo trips, so I’m really glad I could do this before I bid 2014 goodbye. This was a spontaneous trip away, booked my flight about 2 weeks before departure at about $400 on Jetstar and used the 5 days to explore within and without. What I enjoyed about this solo trip was that it forced my senses out of slumber – violently letting the sunlight in, for clearly I only had my self to rely on, and to share experiences with. Any potential danger also needed quick witted assessment and action, but thankfully my trip was uneventful in that aspect though not without certain doubts. Above all, it provided me with the much needed space and time to reflect on the past year and think about the future.  I wanted to chronicle some of this trip’s highlights here for keepsake and recollection when my memory fails me, and for you if you’re interested. 🙂

1. The premium Shangri La experience ~

This “premium” word has become an inside joke amongst my colleagues and I cos we over-use this to describe almost every aspect of marketing – so much so we expect outsiders to understand what that should translate to. 😛 So, it’s ok if you don’t quite get it. Even so, it made me craved for a similar “p” lodging experience when in Bangkok. Lo and behold, decided to book myself a room in the exquisite Kreungthep wing of Shangri La Bangkok, which gives each of its 19 rooms a balcony view of the Chao Phraya river. 🙂 It was an overall *cough*premium*cough* experience, but to be very honest, there were details that were overlooked that made the experience pleasant at best, but not wow-worthy. For instance, I asked for bath bubbles for this room in my online booking under the ‘special requests’ portion of my online booking, but none were prepared or addressed. Boy do I sound like a pampered brat, but I suppose if you’re yearning for a truly stellar experience (and that can only be accomplished by attention to the details), then to me, Shangrila Bangkok didn’t meet the mark. That’s just me though – I did meet a Spanish lady who swears by them, and who also happens to be a loyal member, and patron within Shangri La’s Golden circle (their loyalty club for regulars). What I did enjoy though was:

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1) The stellar view of the Chao Phraya river – the room looked every bit like what was advertised on Shangri La’s website.

Kudos on delivering on this advertising promise, Shangri La. Also, this is slightly strange but sitting in the balcony made me want to smoke even though I’m not a smoker – just felt like it might complete the whole somber “I’m looking out to the river and being emo mood. Didn’t succumb to that one though. Brain won over impractical impulse (#cannothelpitI’mSingaporean).

View of Chao Phraya River from my Room DSC_1427

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2) The gargantuan luxurious room and king sized bed!

Needless to say, I utilized this to the fullest – in my definition, that means dancing till the wee hours of the morning (in my room). Imagine Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and a mix of alternative rock, and my favourite Tuesday playlist from Spotify on replay. I should really stop spilling all my secrets so openly. 😛

Room, Kreungthep Wing, Shangri La

3) The view from the outdoor foyer – just sprawled under the sun.

It was the perfect medley of birds chirping, water fountains gushing somewhere in the background and the occasional loud motor boat from the boat terminal – and the faint salty smell of the Chao Phraya river.

Outdoor garden DSC_1425

4) The buffet breakfast, afternoon tea time, evening cocktail drinks – all inclusive in the package for Kreungthep Wing’s guests.

Made it hard to want to leave the hotel to be honest, and way way bad for that diet plan. But who goes on a diet on a holiday anyway! Point is moot.

Afternoon Tea for 1!

5) The free shuttle boat rides for Shangri La guests to Asiatique – a famous must visit tourist attraction off the Chao Phraya river.

To be honest though, this isn’t a big deal, since there are free boat rides for everyone from the Saphan Thaksin boat terminal (which is a stone’s throw from the Saphan Thaksin train station and a few minutes away from the hotel. But you have a quicker chance of getting on the boat from Shangri la than if you were queuing with the rest of the world in the public queues.

Free Shangri La shuttle Boat to Asiatique

Other experiences I enjoyed:

Asiatique

Asiatique’s a 15 mins boat ride from Saphan Thaksin boat terminal. It gives you food, shopping, and even a muay thai show, (The Legends of muay Thai). This show is the kind you’d wanna catch at least once – good effects and moves, and every single muay thai personality there had bodies sculpted to perfection. :O Tickets cost 1000baht if you purchase them earlier from this small booth near the boat terminal but 1200baht or 1500baht (for the premium seats) closer to the stage. You can bargain for the premium seats at 1200baht (that’s around SGD50).

Highly touristified to be honest, and I got a tad tired of it after a while, but good to visit at least once. 🙂

Photos on the way to and at Asiatique DSC05546 DSC05547 DSC05549 DSC05550 DSC05552 DSC05553 DSC05540 DSC05543 DSC05544

Asiatique (and Muay Thai show) DSC_1467 DSC_1468 DSC_1469

Massage!

Before I continue to bombard you with the shopping posts, I shall show your aching feet and body some mercy by recommending a superb massage place – one that a couple of friends recommended to me. Asia Herb Association– the massage recommended to me was the 90 mins Asian Herb Ball one – which is basically a full body massage followed by approximately 30 mins of massage using this herbal ball (which is a circular bag of hearbs -that’s been heated up – was scary at first, felt like an ultra hot pau out of the oven, but yor body would soon warm up to it. What played well to me – was the attention to details – remember the PREMIUM experience? Yup this one scored points – good customer service, they made me fill out a form indicating my problem areas I’d like the masseuse to pay more attention to (like shoulders, back, etc), then gave us tea while we wait and handed us a fan with common phrases and their Thai translation that you can use to communicate with your Thai masseuse (like Aircon is too warm, etc,etc. Wasn’t too cheap – paid a total of 1400thai baht for this – which is around SGD58, but hey, like I said – premiummm. I need to stop using the P word.

Asian Herb Association Thonglor branch DSC05605 DSC_1463

Chatuchak Weekend Market

For Singaporeans, imagine Bugis Village except twice in size at least. They sell everything, from lights, piggy banks (had almost 2 large shops dedicated to piggy banks of all kinds), shades, bags, clothes, clothes and more clothes, food and more. A must visit – especially for it’s hidden treasures of art pieces – if I have my own place, I’d probably get a couple of art pieces from here to hang up.

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Jim Thompson’s House

This American guy, Jim Thompson was/ is (he mysteriously disappeared in 1961 in Cameron Highlands)- was a loaded fella who popularized Thai Silk in the west – he brought Thai Silk samples to Britain, US fashion houses, and it took off especially after the King and I movie (which used Thai silk). He has a lovely house on huge sprawling lands near the National Stadium station (about a 10 mins walk away). Pay 100baht adults) or 50 baht (if you’re a student) for a house tour. I enjoyed the tour its experiential value which provided and a good break from shopping.

Platinum Mall

This is supposedly Wholesalers’ paradise, and I can understand why – almost every shop offers wholesale price listings (if you get 2 or 3 pieces of any clothes/ bag etc from these stores. Many tourists came over with their luggage – presumably empty so they could be filled. I got very tired of it eithin an hour though – but I did get 2 leather sandals and 1 top, hard to resist it completely.

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Siam Paragon and the malls within Siam and Chit Lom

Siam and Chit Lom are like Orchard and Somerset – a shopper’s haven. They take their Christmas décor very seriously so even if you’re not a shopper, it’d be a good experience to check this out.

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Siam Paragon is like Takashimaya in Singapore – and its cinema is a must watch. Pay 100 baht (around 4SGD) for a movie experience you’d love – the whole deal:  ultra plush velvet chairs with pretty ample leg space and slightly reclinable chairs. Urm, PREMIUM. Our cinemas in Sg don’t match up, seriously. Watched Hobbit and Exodus here, and it was so worth it (especially since The Hobbit only screened in Sg on 23rd onwards – I watched it on the 20th). 😛

DSC_1393 Check out these luxury car displays within Siam Paragon - they must have used a crane to bring them up onto the 2nd floor.

DSC05564 DSC05565 Their Movie Sets and Photo-taking spots - the Thais LOVE taking photos (wefies. selfies, whichever).

If you’re a book lover, you have to check out the Kinokuniya in Siam Paragon – most of their bookstores only house Thai books, so Kinokuniya is your answer to a wide selection of books. The only mistake I made was not to bring books to Thailand which is a problem for solo travelers like me, but Kino solved that for me, I left with 3 awesome books (including a gem of a find that I’d highly recommend – The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” by Denis Thériault, one of my favourite books now. Kino has NEVER failed me yet, really even in SG. ❤

Ok, apart from all these superficial activities that allowed me to do my part to contribute to Thailand’s economy – what I enjoyed most was the quiet time and the interactions with people I’m glad I can call friends like April who also kindly hosted me in her cool apartment once the “premium” Shangri La experience expired. April took me to a really good Thai restaurant – highly recommended and this chill dessert café with a beautiful and cosy seating area outside with bean bags and cushions that allows you to just gaze up at the stars. Will surely be back here sometime in the future, Insha Allah.

DSC05586 DSC05581 DSC05583 DSC05585 DSC05578 With April, and that awesome Thai restaurant and then another Cafe with an awesome chillout space outside

MBK (National Stadium station)

This is a regular mall (that’s connected to the National Stadium BTS station), with its variety of pharmacies, clothes and bag stores and food! For the Muslims, there’s this famous halal Thai restaurant called Yana restaurant on the 4th level of MBK mall which I didn’t try, unfortunately. But it looks pretty good – as far as display and menus go. 😛

Yana Restaurant, MBK DSC_1478

I tried the food of another halal food stall located in the food court on the 6th level of this mall instead – called: Curried Chicken with Saffron Rice. Bought a plate of chicken rice with a huge bowl of chicken soup – very filling, fried chicken was tasty and tender. It came with its own bit of chilli powder like most Thai dishes – so to me, this fits the bill of Thai food. They have the usual Tom yam, etc too.

Food from the 'Curried Chicken and Saffron Rice' stall DSC_1475

One point to note: Most of these food courts (including the one in Platinum mall) are pretty advanced – the respective food stalls don’t accept cash – you have to purchase top up cards with values you can dictate from the main counters.

You should be able to get a decent meal and drink within 120baht – slightly below SGD5/ USD4. It’s ok to top up a bit more and refund the balance after you’re done.

More café hopping in Asok

Checked out 2 of the recommended cafes by IronLadyChef (check the post out here, if you’re keen) – “Kuppa” and “Coffee Alley in the Garden”. Had a cake and a latte in Kuppa – loved the ambience here and the strange unassumingly delish piece of cake we ordered.

Coffee alley in the Garden is supposed to have a pretty nice garden, which it did – except we took refuge in the mercy of the aircon inside, and were very happy admiring the garden from afar. 😛 They’re quite a walk ( at least 10 mins) from the Asok BTS station though, but worth checking out if you’re not in a hurry. Nothing too special though – quite certain you can get coffee/ cakes of similar quality elsewhere in a random eatery/ café within most shopping malls.  

Latte and Concord cake from Kuppa IMG_20141224_163717

Holy guacamole, this has turned out to be a way longer post than intended (2161 words) so the self -reflection bit can wait till another post.

Hope this has been a useful post! Lakon!

Rekha

Rekha, a girl with tousled dark wavy hair – hair her aunt refers to as goat’s poop because of the twirls, something she must have seen from her rare travels overseas to nearby villages. Rarely travelling because she cared deeply for her mother; “I don’t need to travel, Rekha. When I don’t have her around, I have all the time in the world to travel.” she pictured her aunt waving towards Rekha’s grandmother. That very lady who was her soulmate and arch-enemy all rolled into one. “Be careful what you do onto others, you’ll get the balasan by others at your workplace”, her grandmother warned Rekha’s mother as she sat regally against the rattan sofa whilst the plump domestic helper in neon blue shorts kneads every knot away in her feet like one would to chapatti dough. There was endless squabbling once again, something she had gotten used to. Rekha exited the  house quietly, walked a few meters away to the “verandah” outside their home, a common fixture in most old HDB flats in her area – something they referred to as the “hall” in their family, one that has seen both happy and painful ceremonies throughout the 27 years of her life – her 4th birthday parties with young cousins, before she knew what pain meant, and sadder ones like the funeral of her grandfather. She winced at the thought of her grandfather – he was a true gentleman, “There is no difference between the lavatory and the cemetery, when you have to go, you have to go!” he half joked, as he chuckled with a twinkle in his eyes. She brushed thoughts of her grandpa aside, she needed the quiet ever more so now, because she had to make a call. Her modem was down. She contemplated taking out her anger at the faceless customer service agent miles away for disconnecting her from the world wide web that ironically provided her the much needed disconnect with the reality that was her noisy home.

And yet, she held back – for what wrong had that faceless customer service agent done other than being a victim of his circumstances too – that was unemployment in a heavily populated nation as rich in culture as it was in its endless poor pool of IT and engineering graduates all clamoring for a job and settling for that of an underpaid call center service agent, only to receive the brunt of first world customers’ anger against a corporation they were loyal to only in name. No, she wouldn’t take this out on them. Everyone had their fair share of pain – God was just in that way too.

Treble Cleft, Keys and Time.

So, I recently started taking piano lessons. 😀

Piano

It’s only been 3 lessons and I’m already very intrigued (and boggled) by how pianists like Yani and Mozart do it. Figuring out the notes, synchronising the right and left hands (whilst simultaneously working out the opposite scales and keys for the treble cleft and bass cleft) and adding the feet into the equation! (Big thrill at having the chance to step on the right most pedal today for the first time). Well, this is the beginning to what will hopefully bear fruit through time and effort. I’m really happy at finally having this chance to translate this childhood dream into reality, Alhamdulillah.

Piano lessons, foreign languages, cooking, painting, programming, reading,  gosh they’re so many things I wanna learn and do in such a short span of time. Scary, don’t you think – once again, we’re nearing the end of yet another year and welcoming a new one.

Interest can give rise to the motivation to starting something, but time is needed to develop some degree of skills for it – and skills will hopefully eventually shorten the time needed to progress at it. Interesting how it’s all linked, really. It really does bring home this point though – how time is so precious. We need a sieve to filter the distractions out to retain what’s truly valuable.

So, how much time do we really have, anyway? I decided to work it out:

1) Assuming we have 365 days in a year

2) Assuming we work for 20 days a month – less 14 days of annual leave, and less 10 days of public holidays (there were 10 public holidays in 2014 in Singapore).

3) Assuming for every day of work, we work an average of 10 hours (averaging out the OT days here)

4) Assuming we shower/ get ready for 2 hours a day and another 2 hours of meals a day

5) Assuming we take 1.5 hrs to commute to and from work on those days we work

We’ll have – *News flash* – about 2626 hours left – that’s less than 4 months, and assuming you’re like me, keen to pick up a new language, have enough time to read, learn to cook and play the piano, that’s less than a month (27 days to be precise) for each!

*Inhales*

Here you go:

How much time do we really have to pursue all we want? No time to waste, guys. Choose the rocks, leave the sand.
How much time do we really have to pursue all we want? No time to waste, guys. Choose the rocks, leave the sand.

Now, that should put things into perspective for 2015. Um, how do I disable Facebook again?