these are a few of my favorite things…

…in Bangkok! This huge capital of Thailand is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, fabulous shopping and an exciting nightlife that has something for everyone. Outside of the obligatory palace and temple visits, here are some of the things I love most about Bangkok:

  • What better way to start this list…dumplings! No trip to Bangkok is complete for me without a visit to the sumptious Benjarong restaurant in the regal Dusit Thani Bangkok hotel. These are the most charming chicken and peanut dumplings of all time that were first made for an ancient Thai princess!

Sometimes I feel bad eating these cute little dumplings…NOT!

  • This is a city that lives on its canals as much as its streets, hence the nickname: “Venice of the East.”  Life in Bangkok has always centered around the Chayo Praya River and its network of canals (called Khlongs). Many of the canals were filled in to make way for new streets and buildings. But via boat, you can still see life along the river and canals. Many of  Bangkok’s major attractions (ancient temples, palaces and floating markets) lie along the river making a river/canal ride a feast for the eyes.

Longtail boat ride along the Chayo Praya River.

  • Bangkok is a shopping mecca. You can find everything from high end luxury items to inexpensive knock offs. On a recent visit, I finally made it to the 35 acre Chatuchak weekend market and immediately fell in love. Just wish I had the time to visit all 8,000 stalls! I also adore shopping at the new riverfront Asiatique night market and Siam Paragon, one of the largest malls in Southeast Asia. Across the street from Siam Paragon is one more must-go-shopping stop: the MBK shopping center. No better place to find ANYTHING and my favorite place for Thai souvenirs and electronics. You could spend months in Bangkok and not make a dent in the shopping scene…gotta love that!

Just one of 8,000 stalls at the Chatuchak weekend market!

  • An oasis in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok is the Jim Thompson House and Museum. Jim Thompson was an American architect, retired Army officer, one-time spy, and renowned antique collector who fell in love with Thailand while stationed there during WWII. He is often credited with almost single handedly bringing back the Thai silk industry in the 1950’s when he started his hand woven silk business. To showcase his objets d’art, he constructed an architectural six-building masterpiece recycling old teak house parts to create an absolutely stunning home. Tragically, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared in the jungle while visiting friends in Malaysia. At the time of his disappearance, he was the most famous American living in Asia. To this day, this mystery has not been solved. His home is now a lovely museum with lush tropical gardens, koi fish ponds, a great restaurant and gift shop. His silk legacy survives through the many Jim Thompson gift shops in Thailand.

Living room with stairs leading to the canal at Jim Thompson House and Museum

  • Many consider Bangkok as the best place in the world for street food. Seriously, it should be a highlight of anyone’s visit here. Often, it is cooked to order over a fire wok. You can find anything from noodles, soups, curries, rice, insects, sweets, whole roasted corn, omelets, minced pork balls, papaya salad, tiny soft shell crabs and a thousand more dishes. My fave find so far was the roasted oysters with an unbelievable sauce. Usually, the accompanying sauce to any of these dishes has the balance of four flavors that Thais say are a must in every meal: sweet, salty, sour and spicy. And talk about cheap…most of these dishes cost less than $1.00!

This guy is actually frying in the street!

  • Once you figure it out, Bangkok has many transportation choices. With horrendous 24/7 traffic, I try to avoid taxis (even the hot pink ones!) and jump on the efficient metro subway or sky train. And a tuk tuk is always a fun option. Just make sure you agree on the price before you get in. Every time you turn around, a cab or tuk tuk driver is trying to take you to a store where they get a kickback or on an overpriced tour!

I didn’t really drive this tuk tuk.

  • One of the reasons for my multiple Bangkok visits is to take advantage of the very modern and affordable health care. Also, a very convenient one hour and fifteen minute flight from Saigon!

I feel like I am in an episode of the Jetsons when I visit Bangkok International Dental Center!

  • Two words: Singha beer!

And it tastes best over ice at my favorite Benjarong restaurant!

  • The people of Bangkok are so very warm and friendly that you can’t help but love them! They are laid back and kind of take life as it comes. It is very endearing to observe how they embrace their history, culture and vibrant lifestyle.

Leaving you with my favorite Bangkok photo taken at the Jim Thompson House and Museum. Saigon LOVE to all, Lisa

singapore part two

LOVED Singapore! It was a two hour flight from Saigon to this island country off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.  Definitely a place on the move with lots of development.  Singapore is very  multicultural with strong communities of Malay, Tamil, Indian and Chinese people.  Most of the friendly people speak English. And as you have probably heard, it IS unbelievably clean and organized…big contrast to Saigon!

The founding father of Singapore is Englishman Sir Stamford Raffles and his influence is evident everywhere.  For such a short life, his accomplishments were many.  His vision is credited for the entrepreneurial spirit that still exists almost two hundred years later. We visited the Long Bar in the beautiful colonial Raffles Hotel  famous for the Singapore Sling…although we opted for Tiger Beer!

There are so many ways to get around Singapore. Our journey about Singapore begins on the subway. Ride with me…

But of course my favorite method of transportation remains the cyclo.  This is Singapore’s version with driver to the side:

LOVE to all, Lisa

hanging at hanoi hilton…

…but not the one you might be thinking of! We just got back from three days in Hanoi and stayed at the beautiful Hanoi Hilton Opera. I was blown away by the graceful beauty of Hanoi. Very different vibe from Saigon. Lots of fabulous French colonial architecture and the Old Quarter which is one big outdoor market. Hanoi recently celebrated its 1,000th birthday and commemorated with an incredible 6 mile tile wall that runs along the banks of the Red River. The tiles scenes depicts different locales around the world and art projects from Hanoi residents. Here are a couple of samples:

Everything seems to revolve around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake famous for the huge tortoises that inhabit the murky water. The one pictured here weighed over 400 lbs. at death! It is considered very lucky if you spot one as they rarely surface. No such luck for me!

Here we are with new “friends” that wanted to take a picture with us. Hoan Kiem Lake and bridge to Jade Mountain Temple behind us.

I look forward to returning to Hanoi in drier weather. Rainy and a little chilly most of our time there. But that didn’t stop me from stopping at a street stall to have some roasted pork noodles ($1.50) with some friendly locals while Paul was at work.

And of course, I got back on the cyclo. This time price was pre-negotiated!


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