Monday, March 30, 2015

Bangkok Airways Review

Yangon Airport View
Five years after Myanmar opened to tourists there are still not a lot of flight options for flying to the country's capital, Yangon. Going to and from Bangkok was certainly the easiest option, but our primary concerns were safety and comfort. After doing a bit of research we decided to fly on Bangkok Airways. They had a good safety record, convenient arrival times, and competitive pricing.

The few expectations I did have were quickly surpassed. The flight to Yangon was  so smooth that the moment I disembarked I forgot I was just on a plane . I would have completely forgotten that I flew to Yangon at all  for the memorable impression I had of the areal view of the country.

Flying over Myanmar’s rolling green plains was much like how I would imagine the Midwest of the U.S. to look…in the 1800s. The tallest structure in Yangon is a gigantic gold sculpture of Buddha. It radiates light among the dense green planes.

Even for a flight lasting only 1.5 hours, you get fed. On the way back, the food was so good my partner ate two meals. I usually can’t eat on plane, but I sampled the spicy noodle salad which was excellent. There was also a delicious coconut cake which was so moist and soft that I couldn’t believe it had come packaged from an airline.

I’ve been pretty jaded about airlines after riding on some of the world’s best airlines, Emirates and Singapore, but my impression of Bangkok Airways far exceeded either of those companies. For a small airline with only regional flights, we had a fantastic experience. 

The best plane meal I have ever had. Ever.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Writer’s Guide to Bangkok Cafes

Bangkok is an amazing city with excellent cafes at every MRT stop. There is no shortage of the famous chain stores, but the city boasts some local treasures, and I wanted to be sure to take full advantage of them in the week I was here. 

Too Fast To Sleep
A place that needs no introduction. Ok, wait, it does. Because outside of Bangkok the world is entirely unaware of this amazing place. Library-work space-café, this place spans two floors, and 5 rooms? I counted. Open 24 hours, and right across the street from the prestigious Chulalongkorn University. This place is packaged with students on the weekends and at night. But in the day time I recommend one of the bar counter seat by the window, with a view of Highway  Rama 9, which is great for people watching. There is free wifi with the purchase of food or drink.
I recommend the iced cappuccino or the toast with condensed milk.

Full Stop
This  is easily my favorite place on Thong Lor road. A small counter and few seats at the bottom, but if you are lucky you can grab one of the coveted booths of the second floor, and get a beautiful view of the street below. Fantastic drinks and sandwiches. I ordered an iced Vanilla tea with milk, and a pesto-cheese Panini.

Casa Lapin
The most highly recommended place in Ari. I initially steered away from it because I was under the impression it was more of a restaurant than café. I was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of others working from Macbooks when I attended. I recommend the delicious green tea latte and red velvet cake.

Another quaint café in Ari. The white walls and sparse wood interieor give it a very American southwest ambiance. I enjoyed sitting by the window and people watching from Ari street.

Quest Café
The next-door neighbor or Usine, a high end restaurant. Quest is sparse, but incredibly conformable. Again, I picked a counter seat facing the window. Somehow the backdrop of people moving behind my computer screen lends itself to immense productivity. They also offer delicious toast and desserts. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Black Bat in San Francisco

Top: Beechtree Tunic from Pakistan
Jeans: Levi's
Boots: Ether
Necklace: Vintage
Sunglasses: American Apparel
Bag: Chanel

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rain and Rejuvenation: Thoughts from Bangkok

This city electrocutes me. When I arrived, I felt like I’d been shaken awake by a storm. Again I am marooned in a café while the monsoon rains occupied the afternoon hours. This time I'm watching the rain from a second story glass window overlooking Thong Lor street. Bangkok is a city in layers. Above the electric pink taxis and graffiti-covered walls is a canopy of green-leafed trees.  From only one floor above the ground, the whole word looks different. The layers above carry a grey sky punctuated by the rigid peaks of buildings.
I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

We’ve been in Asia for one month now. We arrived in Bali on September 26th and at the time of writing this it is October 26th. It is finally starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of this new temporary life I have created for myself. I have memorized everything in my backpack. I can pack in under a half hour. In one month I have dyed my hair, painted my nails, bought medicine, gotten mildly sick,  changed clothes in a shaky train bathroom, and brushed my teeth with the tap water. I am living my life. I miss Portland and my life there, but that feeling is not tugging on my sleeves as much anymore. I have accepted being here. I'm no longer troubled by not-knowing. I am excited by it.

Rain just broke out from above. It sounded like a burst of applause from an eager audience. The monsoon rains seem to trail us. I don't mind them at all. Everything in this city moves. TV screens on the trains keep the eyes transfixed on commercials. The rain flows between building and cars. Umbrellas collide on the crowded streets. When the asphalt is wet, I can see the reflections of moped drivers in the dark, slick road. Their reflections move alongside them. More images to absorb.

On our way to the café we passed an obvious red-light district. Pussy Magic and Super Pussy were just some of the fine establishments it boasted. At the other end of the street we met an old man who began talking to us in English.  I'm not sure how he started the conversation, but I know I began it with hesitation. I am always skeptical of strangers who approach me. He asked where we were going, what our plans were. I was afraid he would try to sell us something or take us somewhere, but neither of those things happened. I told him we were looking for a café. “Coffee?” he asked, “Too Fast Too Sleep?”
 I was surprised when  accurately guessed the name of the café. “Follow me.” He led us off the road and through a parking lot, but when the café sign came into view I realized he was leading us on a short cut to the café. “Go upstairs,” he said, “better seats.”

I am so glad I survived Malaysia, if only to make it to Bangkok  and experience some real awesomeness. This is a proper city. An international city. The street food is tempting. The sidewalks are wide and the roads are paved. I have a renewed energy in me and I want to use it to do all things creative.

- Oct. 26, 2014 Full Stop Cafe, Bangkok

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Starbucks Korea Spring 2015

Hello from Korea! 
After avoiding Starbucks in Thailand (too expensive, no wifi, etc), I was craving it by the time I got off my five-hour flight from Chiang Mai to Seoul. Thankfully, I was just in time for this year's Spring edition, featuring the Cherry Blossom Latte, and Cherry Blossom White Chocolate. I sampled both in the hot form, as the Seoul Airport was too freezing cold to inspire me to order a frappuccino. 
I must say that I don't mind long layovers when they are accompanied by coffee and a magazine...

Cute sleeve with Cherry blossom design

Pink chocolate shavings

Toppings match the sleeve

Awesome coaster I bought for my sister-in-law

Of course, no trip to Seoul is complete without Nylon Korea

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Train from Hua Hin to Bangkok

Exterior of the train from Hua Hin to Bangkok

Though it is possible to ride the train straight from Butterworth to Bangkok, we broke up the journey with a stop in Hua Hin, just 4 hours south of Bangkok. Heh. 4 hours...more like 7. 

The sky was bright blue when we left Hua Hin but the heat was sweltering. Our train to Bangkok was scheduled to leave at 4:01, but was delayed for an hour (no surprises there), and pulled onto the tracks at 5:21. It was completely full, every seat taken but the two that belonged to us. An old man in glasses glared at us disapprovingly when we moved his luggage on the top shelf to make room for ours. Within minutes we were given custard-filled buns and pineapple juice from the train attendant. The seats are old and cramped, with plastic tables that folded out from the seat in front. It was a bit like riding an airplane...from the 60s. 

Everyone on this train seemed agitated. They had been sitting here longer than we had and they seemed nervous about running late. To pass time as we waited, unmoving, at Hua Hin station, I looked out the window and watched a  couple who had been taking photos in front of the Hua Hin train station sign longer than we bad been waiting...which was close to an hour.  I imagined that they would to spend hours and hours editing the photos that they spent hours and hours taking.

About an hour sitting motionless in Hua Hin station, the trained pulled out and headed toward Bangkok. We arrived just after 10:00 pm, in one of the longest and most obnoxious train rides of my life. 

Passengers looking nervous at our 4-hour delay

My desperate train meal, noodles and sausage

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...