Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sticky Rice & Mango Recipe

Thai desserts are called 'kanom' in Thailand. Sticky rice and mango is a marketplace favorite and not to be missed if you visit the country! It is my favorite!


2 cups glutinous (sticky) rice, soaked in cold water for at least one hour and drained
2 cups coconut milk, canned or freshly prepared
A pinch of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 large ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced


  1. In a saucepan bring to a boil: rice, 1 1/4 cups coconut milk, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/4 cup water. Stir.
  2. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, about 8-10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer rice to a steamer or double saucepan and steam 15-20 minutes over boiling water, until rice is cooked through.
  4. While rice is cooking, take the rest of the coconut milk (3/4 cup) and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bring to a boil. Then remove and place in separate bowl for garnish.
  5. Mold the cooked rice into individual ramekins or small cups lined with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature.
  6. At serving time unmold onto a plate and top with mango. Drizzle with coconut milk mixture you made earlier.

Sticky rice and mango served at a street vendor in Phuket

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Cinema


Need a break from the Bangkok heat? Try catching a movie at the Bangkok cinema. The VIP seats entitle you to a plush velvet couch, fully equipped with cup holders and trays. They even offer blankets.

VIP Seats at the Major Cineplex

Their snack and beverage options are endless. You can get popcorn and a soda, or shrimp chips with a beer. We went to the Major Cineplex on the mall. VIP tickets were only about 250 baht.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson was an American business man who helped revitalize Thailand's silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. The house is filled with Thai artifacts. But if you are just looking to purchase some Thai silk products, you can find them at the night markets in Bangkok for much cheaper. The cost to tour the house is 1,000 baht per person.

Jim Thompson House

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Snake Farm

Snake Farm

The snake farm was not on my agenda, but it was one of the stops on our canal tour. It was an interested show to say the least. When we walked in, we passed a man with a huge snake draped over his arms and shoulders and touching the floor. I mistakingly assumed it was a toy, but in fact, it was real. Only in Thailand.

The snake "arena" was surrounded by tiny cages of snakes with their breed written with a marker on the glass. There was also an area with crocodiles. There was no top to the cage and the walls were only about 4 foot tall. Indeed a strange set-up, and again... only in Thailand. We saw a few birds and a couple mammals, then on to the snake show.

Snake Show... eek!

Here, four men pranced around a small ring holding a large snake, probably over 10 feet in length. Then they proceeded to milk venom and collect it in a small glass jar. It was a little scary just to be so close in proximity to the snakes, but the locals didn't seem to mind. The entrance fee was about 400 baht per person. I am not necessarily recommending the farm, but it was an interesting experience.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Canal Tour & Floating Market

Canal Tour

A canal tour down the Chao Phraya River is another way to spend a few hours of your day in Bangkok. But don't expect a Venetian cruise. We got roped into the cruise because we made the mistake of blindly asking our tuk tuk driver what we should see. Since the tuk tuk drivers are on contract with many of the restaurants, shops, and other vendors, not only did he take us to the "port" but left us there. Needless to say, there was not a lot going on in that area, so we took the overpriced tour. We jetted down a mud-filled waterway.

The sights along the way were children jumping into the water, houses on stilts, a snake show and laundry being dried in the polluted air. Our tour ended by the Grand Palace, but by that time, the Palace was closed for the day. The tour lasted about 30 minutes and was 1,000 baht per person.

Canal Tour - the little boys were doing flips for us!

Though it certainly was not a luxurious cruise across turquoise waters, it was a nice opportunity to experience the Thai culture.

Floating Market

The floating market of Bangkok was on my to-do list and one of the reasons we initially agreed to the canal tour. However, the floating market does not really exist any longer. We saw two women selling drinks and fans on a boat, but that was it. Be cautious of tours that offer to show you the floating market. Though it may sound appealing, it is likely a ploy to get you on the over-priced canal tour.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Grand Palace

Like every city in Thailand, there are definitely sights to see during the day, and a completely different list of venues for the evening. The next few posts will cover day events for Bangkok.

Grand Palace
During the day, I would recommend visiting the Grand Palace. The Palace dates back to 1782, and was constructed during the reign of Rama I. From the 18th to the mid-20th Century, the Palace served as the official residence for the King. The Palace is surrounded by tall walls and canals in order to protect the royal family.

Grand Palace

Cost for entrance is 700 baht per person and it is open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Don't be surprised if you are hassled by kids before you enter the Palace. This is a huge tourist site, which also means masses of little solicitors.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Travel Insurance: Do you really need it?

Do you really need to get travel insurance for your vacation? The simple answer is that it is totally up to you. However, there are inexpensive options for insurance that are available. I used Other online travel insurance companies are Travelex and Travel Guard.

Based on a 2 week vacation, the insurance policies start at about $14. Some policies cover lost or delayed baggage and emergency evacuation expenses, while others only cover emergency medical expenses. Luckily I have never had to use my policy, so I don't have any personal knowledge as to filing a claim. However, travel insurance is a low cost for the piece of mind you get in knowing you are covered in the event of an emergency.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Green Papaya Salad Recipe

1 medium dark green papaya
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves (kratiem)
6 green Thai chilies (prik khee noo)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup chopped green beans, in 1-in pieces
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) lime juice or tamarind juice (ma-kaam piag)
1/4 cup dried baby shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts (optional)

*Note: You can substitute Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce rather than chilies, sugar, and vinegar.

1. Peel the papaya and rinse with running water to remove the acid. Remove the seeds and shred the papaya with a grater. Set aside.

Shredded papaya

2. Place the garlic cloves and the chilies in a mortar and mash with a pestle until crushed into chunks. Place the papaya and the remaining ingredients in the mortar and gently combine all ingredients by mixing with the pestle and a spoon. Top with dried shrimp and peanuts. Serve cold.

Ready to serve!

Thai Food Translations

Here are translations for some of my favorite Thai foods. Enjoy!

Pad Thai – a stir fried rice noodle dish with meat and vegetables .
  • Pad Thai is the "tourist dish" and is served at nearly every restaurant. It is generally very mild since it is made for the tourists taste buds. Add a little sriracha for a spicy flavor. Sriracha is the Thai version of ketchup some say, but I found it to be much more of a vinegar and pepper flavor.
Laad Naa – Egg noodles vegetable and the meat of your choice served in a gravy sauce.
Paad See Eiw – Egg noodles stir fried with greens and in soy sauce. (salty)
Gy yahng, som-tahm, kaho neeo – Bar-b-que chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice. Very popular in open air restaurants.
Moo yahng – Bar-b-que pork. (mild)

A variety of fresh grilled meats at a local street vendor in Patong

Gy pahd med mamuang- Chicken stir-fried cashew nuts. (mild)
Gy pahd joht kaho pod- Chicken stir-fried with babycorn. (mild)
Gaang kioo wann gy- Chicken curry with bamboo. (varies)
Gaang gy- Chicken curry with coconut. (varies)

  • The chicken curry with coconut was one of our favorites. You really feel like you are on vacation when you incorporate coconut into every meal! Just a light coconut flavor and a creamy sauce with enough spice to give it a little punch.
  • The chicken stir-fry was good, but not what you expect from either cashew chicken or stir fry. A little bland for my liking, but great if your tummy need a break from all the spice.

Gaang pet gy sapparot- Chicken curry with pineapple. (varies)
Satey gy- Chicken satay with peanut sauce. (mild)
Gy pahd preeoh wahn- Chicken sweet and sour. (mild)
Tom Yum- Soup with lemongrass and coconut milk; served with chicken or prawn. (varies)

  • The chicken sweet and sour came with a sweet and spicy sauce and fresh tomatoes. A very light version of what I am use to being soaked with oil (in the States).
  • The Tom Yum is a little different at every restaurant, but I always seemed to welcome the change. Sometimes more salty and sometimes a bit more sweet from the coconut milk. Also a very light dish. The lemongrass is so fresh. A wonderful soup.
Gaang pet moo sapparot- Pork curry with pineaple. (varies)
Gaang goong sapparot- Prawn curry with pineaple. (varies)
Bamee pahd gy- Fried noodles with chicken. (mild)
Paht paak ruamit- Stir fried vegetables. (mild)
Papaya Salad - shredded green papaya, chopped green beans, tomato, dried prawns, unsalted roasted peanuts, chillies, garlic and lime juice (spicy)

Enjoying Papaya Salad (again!) at BKK airport

  • This is one of my favorites. I ordered it everywhere! It is a great mix of sweet, salty, and spicy.
  • If you want a dish not so spicy, tell they waiter "my ow pet"
Goong grathiem prik- Thai Prawns with garlic and chiles. (spicy)
Yam nuea- Beef salad. (spicy)
Gaang garrei neua- Yellow curry with beef. (mild)
Khao Neeo Mah Muang fantastic if in season. Sweet mangos served with sweet sticky rice topped with coconut cream.

Sticky rice with mango!

  • The mango and sticky rice is phenomenal but generally hard to come by. Most restaurants don't serve it, so check the nearby street vendors. It is a Thai delight you don't want to miss!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Koh Samui, Thailand -– Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party
A few years ago, a group of tourists and the owner of Paradise Bungalow found that the most beautiful moon was in Koh Phangan. They arranged a party along the crescent-shaped beach of Haad Rin to celebrate the Full Moon night. From then on, people from all over the world came to join the celebration. And now there are 7,000-10,000 people at the party each month. Check the link for the Full Moon Party for more information and dates.

Unfortunately, we weren't there for the party, but attended the Black Moon Party. The Black Moon Party attracts over 1,500 people. It takes place 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after each full moon. This party is decorated with fluorescent lights and hosts resident DJs playing drum and bass. Also, very fun!

Koh Samui, Thailand – Snorkeling

Koh Tao & Koh Nangyuan are popular islands for snorkeling. Book these in advance through your hotel or the tour company directly, and don't be ashamed to ask for a better rate, because it is all about bargaining. Tours leave early, and provide a light breakfast.

Up close and personal

Generally, the tours include both islands, as well as lunch on Koh Tao, or "Turtle Island." We had a fabulous time. Be sure to take your underwater camera because there is a potential for some great shots. The tour guide will give you bread to feed the fish and they will eat it right out of your hand. You can feel their tiny little mouths. Fun, but a little scary too.

A view from Koh Nangyuan

Koh Nangyang has a very unique three-strand beach, which was formed by the ocean's current interacting with the three small islands. There is a resort on the island, Nangyuan Island Dive Resort, if you are interested in spending more time there.

Snorkeling at Koh Nangyuan

The tours will include a life vest and all snorkeling equipment, but feel free to bring yours because the equipment provided is very worn. You have the option of using a life vest, but the water is so salty that you float well. Our instruction, Liam, took us on little tours and pointed out different fish by using hand signals. He then had a book to show us pictures of the fish with the names. It was crazy to see the fish that we had just been swimming with!

Hungry fish loving the bread

Koh Samui, Thailand -– Island Trekking

Island Trekking

Since Samui is such a tiny island, you can easily drive around the island in a day. There are many rental stores. We rented a small jeep for the day for $15. You can also rent a moped for $5 a day. However, if you are planning on driving around the island, I would opt for the jeep because traffic is insane. There are no age requirements to rent, but they will hold your credit card until you return with the vehicle. Though a small island, there are many things to do and see on Samui. Pick up a map from your rental store, and you are good to go!

Our island SUV

Big Buddha
If you are starting your trek in Chaweng Beach and heading North, Big Buddha will be your first stop. Big Buddha is a 12 meter high gold Buddha statue. There are also several Buddha statues surrounding Big Buddha on the upper level. You will see a reclining Buddha, which is the pose taken just before death. This is more than a Buddhist attraction, but is actually a temple used by the locals, so keep this in mind and be sure to wear something over your shoulders.

Big Buddha

After Big Buddha, you may be ready for some lunch. Check out Nathon Beach. Though it is not a typical tourist beach, the food is amazing. There will be several restaurants along the road you will be traveling on. If you want to venture off the main road, head to the beach where you will find traditional, brightly-colored, Thai fishing boats. After lunch in Nathon, you can either continue to loop around the South side of the island, or trek to the interior. We took the second option.

Nathon Beach

Nathon Restaurant

NaMuang Waterfall
Na Muang Waterfall is located 10 km south from Nathon at Ban Thurian. There are 2 waterfalls.The first is 18 meter high and can be reached by vehicle. The second is about 80 meters high and can only be reached by a 30 minute walk. The waterfalls are the most scenic on the island.

Small waterfall

We were able to find the first waterfall and it was beautiful. Thai children were using it as a water slide and sliding down the moss coated rocks. While checking out the waterfalls, you may also want to take a scenic tour, via elephant.

Elephant Trekking
Very close to the waterfalls, you will find a couple venues for elephant trekking. This was an interesting experience, but the ride was fairly short. The locals are great about letting you "drive" and taking pictures of you on the elephant. It was fun, but also sad to see the elephants with chains on their legs to keep them from running.

Elephant trekking

I couldn't help to think that these big guys would rather be running in the wild. But it looked like the Thai people treated the elephants well, and perhaps even took care of them better than they did themselves.

We did the Samui Safari Nature Tours. It was 1,200 baht for a 30 minute guided trek.

Grandmother and Grandfather Rock
Before you head back to the hotel, don't miss Hin Ya and Hin Ta, or Grandmother and Grandfather Rock. Strangely shaped rocks at south Lamai. A local story tells of an old couple whose ship was wrecked in the bay. Their body's were washed ashore to create the rocks. Amazing how vulgar these rocks are, but definitely worth seeing!

Grandfather Rock

Koh Samui, Thailand -- Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach is definitely the most happening of the beaches. There are many tiny restaurants serving delightful treats and fresh homemade Thai food. No frozen food is being served here! From fresh coconut and corn on the beach, to spring rolls and curry... there is something for everyone!

A view from Chaweng Beach

There are also tons of little shops. If you need it, or even if your don't, they have it. One souvenir that is worth picking up in Samui is a wood carving. They are generally square or rectangle, and depict the face of Buddha. I have seen the exact carving sell in the US and Canada for $55! You can grab one for about $7. Some have a gold brush look to them as well.

Muay Thai
Just off of Chaweng Beach, you will find Muay Thai, or Thai kickboxing at Samui Stadium. Fights start at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are about 1,000 baht, unless you get a local to buy tickets for you.

Initially, I was not sure if this would be interesting to me since I don't have a martial arts background. Yet, I quickly come to find out that it is an experience not to be missed. There were little boys that were 6 years old who were fighting as the opener.

Muay Thai

There are about 10 fights in all, with the last, the most experienced fighters. There were a group of men standing close to the ring shouting at the fighters when they fell. Apparently, there is quite a bit of betting that goes on at the fights. But I wouldn't recommend betting with the locals, because you may get yourself into something that is not so easy to get out of.

Thai Massages
Don't forget to get a traditional massage while in Thailand. Massages start from $5 per hour. It is very relaxing and definitely a great bargain. When you get there, you will asked to change into a pair of fisherman style pants that tie in the front and to wait in a private room. Don't be alarmed, this is totally normal. If you are not in to a full body massage, try getting a leg massage or even a neck and back massage. There is a great massage salon just across the road from Chaweng Buri Hotel.

The massage salons generally do laundry as well. Be sure to pack light and just get your laundry done there. It is about $1 per kilo for laundry to be washed and pressed. Turn around time is usually a couple days. They also have an express service for a slightly higher cost.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Koh Samui, Thailand -- Hotels

Koh Samui, Thailand is a truly exotic paradise, full of coconut trees and filled with the sweet smell of green curry floating along the warm island air. Samui is the third largest island of Thailand, but is quite small, which really allows you to experience the Thai culture and lifestyle.

Yoga on Samui

As you approach for landing, you will see that Samui boasts and quaint and tropical open-air airport. Constructed out of tree trunks and lush foliage, you will know you are on vacation as soon as you land. A colorful little trolley will drive you to the baggage claim area, where you can actually see the airport employees placing your bag on the conveyor belt. Don't bother with a cart, because as soon as you step away from the airport, there are only dirt roads. Luckily, there will be many happy Thai men waiting to give you a lift to your hotel.

You should have a hotel in mind, otherwise, the driver will try to convince you to go to a certain hotel, telling you that is is nice and cheap. However, beware of this. It is not just a friendly tip, but rather the driver has contracts with hotels and will tell you anything to get you to go there. Once in a while, it may be a gem. But I would go with a plan in mind or at least have him drop you off a Chaweng Beach where the beach is lined with cute little hotels.

We stayed at the Chaweng Resort and the Chaweng Buri, both fantastic hotels. The Resort had a nice workout room and huge breakfast in the mornings. The bungalows were nice sized, but beware of the mosquitos that come in the air-conditioning vents. The Buri was also very nice, with beautiful bungalows near the beach. They also served a nice breakfast, but did not have many beach chairs, so get there early.

Deluxe bungalow at Chaweng Resort

If you are interested in staying at a beach that is more peaceful and relaxing, with less touists, try the The Samudra Retreat (formerly Samui Peninsula Spa & Resort) located just North of Chaweng Beach. It is more costly than the Chaweng hotels, but it is worth it.

The Samudra Resort

There is a small island to the North that you can walk to when the tide is low. But don't stay long, or you'll be swimming home.

Visiting the uninhabited island North of the Peninsula

There are also wonderful restaurants lining the beach. They serve you while you recline in beach chairs and enjoy the view.

Outdoor dining on the Peninsula

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Phuket, Thailand

One of the amazing locations I recently visited was Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is a tiny island, tucked off the coast of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea. It is a lush island with beautiful scenery and amazing views. While in Phuket, you can experience the underwater life first hand, as there are snorkeling and dive tours offered everywhere. If you are not interested in taking the plunge, you can always take a deep sea fishing tour, where you can catch your dinner. If excursions aren't your cup of tea, you can simply lay on the beach and soak up the rays. The locals will be happy to bring you drinks, foods, and even fresh coconut oil for only a small cost.

Patong Beach
Patong Beach is the most popular beach for tourists. This is where you will find narrow streets lined with tiny shops selling everything from clothing, to knock-off purses, to statutes and figurines. Besides Bangkok's night markets, Patong Beach is probably the cheapest place to find your tourist treasures. Don't be surprised if there is no fitting room. It is not uncommon for the proprietor of the store to live in a small area in the back of the store. It is generally acceptable to try on clothes over your swimsuit, and the owner is always eager to make a sale. There is a multitude of figurines and statutes for sale. Most are made out of a black material. I have been told by the Thai salesmen that it is dolphin bone, stone, and wood. However, after careful inspection, I believe it is resin. They are nice statutes, carefully made, and hold up well through the travels.

One of the many shops on Patong

Knock-off Prada handbag

There are countless restaurants along the strip in Patong Beach. I am not sure that one really is better than the other, but we found ourselves frequenting Restaurant No. 42, just off the beach, on several occasions. The people were very friendly and the papaya salad was unrivaled. You will be doing yourself a great injustice if you don't have the papaya salad at least once! We also found a quaint little restaurant that doubles as a parking lot during the day. When evening comes, they start rolling in the cooking area, table, chairs, and fresh fish on ice. Try everything you can, but remember to take your Tums, as Thai food all tends to be a little spicy, even when you order it not spicy.

Amazing Papaya Salad at Restaurant No. 42

Parking lot diner

Bartering is a big part of the Thai shopping experience. The prices are marked up because the owner expects you to bargain. Generally, if you offer half the price, you can work out a deal of about 25 - 30% off. Additionally, the more you buy, the cheaper they get. So thinking of buying all of your souvineers at one store and at the same time.

Custom Suits
Thailand is also well-known for it custom made suits. You won't be able to walk down the street without someone insisting that you need a new suit, made by them of course. If you are in the market for suits, go with a plan. Take either a suit that you already own, or a picture of the exact suit you want. If not, you will have to pick from catalouges of patterns or mens magazines that are very old and out dated. Additionally, I would suggest that you do not attempt to design your own suit or dress, unless of course this is your profession. I attempted to design a simple dress and it was a dress disaster. The dress was way too short, so small that I could not zip it, and overall unattractive. I would not choose Narry's Tailors (aka Baaz). Though they boast a world wide reputation in the suit industry, we received poor service and poor quality, at a price that was far above the other local tailors. Beware of Narry's!

Second fitting for a custom suit

Mai Khao Beach
If you are looking for a more secluded and less touristy beach, try staying at the JW Marriott. This is an amazing hotel with impeccable service. It is located on the private Mai Khao Beach with pristine white sand beaches. The JW is one of the only 5-star hotels on the island, and you can tell. The staff takes care of your every need and then some... from the bathroom towels folded as an elephant, to the walkie talkies they use to make sure all the pool-goers drinks are full. The rooms are very large and beautifully decorated and even include an area for meditation. They have 10 restaurants and bars, as well as an on-site spa. This hotel runs about 3-4 times the amount of staying at a small hotel in Patong, but if you are looking for a peaceful and relaxing stay, it is well worth it.

Remarkable JW Marriott Pool

Beautiful private white sand beach

Pi Pi Island
While in Phuket, I would definitely recommend visiting Pi Pi Island. It is a short day trip, that offers you the opportunity to enjoy about an hour jet boat ride. Once there, you can explore Pi Pi Island (where The Island was filmed). Pi Pi Island actually consists of two islands, however most tours only go to Pi Pi Don, the larger of the two. If you like rock climbing, considering an extended stay at Pi Pi, because I hear the climbing is off the charts. Pi Pi Island was struck by the devastation of the tsunami but is mostly rebuilt to its original beauty. So keep in mind that visiting there also helps the locals with restoration.

Most tours offer a lunch included in the package. Our lunch was fantastic! On the way back to Phuket, you can stop at other small islands for a drink or just some time in the sun. Our tour guide took us by the area where bird's nests are cultivated for bird's nest soup. It was an amazing trip, but remember to take any medicine you may need, as there were no 7-Elevens on this trip. Our tour, including lunch, was about $30 a person. Tickets can be purchased at the kiosks along the beach for a cheaper rate. The tour lasted from 8am to 3pm.

The view from Pi Pi Island

All the tour boats

Bird's nest soup caves