Bangkok: Shanghai Mansion

Bangkok Thailand is an exciting city, I think Chinatown is one of the more interesting parts of town. I was looking for some rest and relaxation but also a place where I could just wander around and soak in the atmosphere. The Shanghai Mansion was perfect.

The taxi from the airport ($15 + $1 tip) dropped me at the hotel and the doorman immediately took my bags inside where they offered me a cold eucalyptus scented towel and welcome drink. They explained a few things about the hotel and showed me to my room. Very nice, even a free mini bar- with sodas, chips and beer!

It was a nice size with plenty of storage, lit by large stained glass windows and  paper lanterns. They even put a birdcage in the bathroom (with a fake bird). It got a little dim at night, some would say ‘atmospheric’ but I like a bright light to read by.

I went down for a late lunch and a beer. The menu offered many Chinese treats. Lots of seafood, including shark fin specialties (very popular in the area). I try to avoid seafood unless I have no other choice. After years of having nothing else to eat, I just don’t want any more of it. I had a BBQ pork sandwich with french fries.

They did a good job with the fries, so many places come out with cold, soggy french fries- yuk! These were thick, but still hot all the way through and nice and crispy. The BBQ sauce was good, not too spicy like so much of Thai food. The bun was hot, fresh and just a little bit sweet. Very nice. The beer went down perfectly with the BBQ. 🙂

After the long trip from Tanzania, I was ready for a nice long nap. It was only about 1600, but I was still so tired from the week of getting no more than 5 hours of sleep during the safari. I headed to bed and slept until 0930 the next morning.

They told me when I checked in that they offered 3 ‘complementaries’ for me during my 4 night stay. Free stuff! A 20 minute massage, high tea, and a Chinatown walking tour. I started with the ‘high tea’.

They offered a choice of jasmine or oolong tea, I chose the oolong. It was OK, but not nearly as strong as I expected. They brought a whole pot and I finished it off while working on the 3 layers of little plates they brought out to sample.

I’m not sure if there was supposed to be any sort of protocol, so I just tried everything in random order. The top plate had 3 types of fruit: pineapple, dragonfruit and cantaloupe. The middle one had 2 sticks of very hot spicy beef satay (I tried to pick off the pepper seeds, that did help some) with a little bowl of soy sauce and some green vegetables that tasted a little like celery flavored spinach.

The bottom plate was the most interesting. It held a small bun that looked just like an ordinary corn muffin. When you bit into it you found it filled with a sweet, golden yellow ‘yolk’. Kind-of messy to eat and a big surprise when you bit into it.

There was also a piece of shrimp spring roll (which I didn’t eat), some delicate rice noodles, and another ‘bun’ made of starchy outside and minced meat and veggie spiced stuffing inside. That one was full of interesting tastes and textures. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of trying all those different foods. I usually live on satay in Thailand since so much of their food is so hot with different types of pepper. Chinatown was a good choice for me in that too.

After ‘tea’, I went walking again. I found a big Chinese temple and Wat Traimit just a couple of blocks down the street. All around the Shanghai Mansion little back streets led to shops, temples, homes and restaurants. People filled the streets selling everything you could imagine: food, drinks, socks, shirts, jewelry, Christmas decorations, good luck charms, lottery tickets, shoes, birds, flowers, and on and on and on.

I am trying to avoid shopping ’til the end of my trip since I don’t want to lug any more ‘stuff’ all over Asia, but it was interesting to look anyway. You could bargain and get a decent price on pretty much anything you wanted. The people weren’t too pushy either. If you just tell them “no”, you’re not interested a couple of times they leave you alone.

I did go on the hotel’s walking tour one morning. I probably should have done that the 1st morning, since I had already walked by myself to the markets and temples it covered. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, but it was hard to hear her most of the time and tho she tried hard to explain things I missed a lot of it.

My last night in Bangkok, I took them up on the massage. I probably should have skipped it. I got a Thai massage in Phuket a few years ago. That little girl was rough! This one was only a head and neck massage, but it still left me sore and aching! Those Thai women have some strong hands! I know some people really enjoy a Thai massage, but I think I’ll skip them from now on. 😉

I didn’t even try the highly rated spa or Red Rose Restaurant at the hotel, they both looked beautiful and if I had more time I would be sure to check them out. Just hanging out in the sitting area near my room was really nice, the hotel had some amazing scent going for it- incense with jasmine, ylang-ylang, a tiny bit of cinnamon? I’m not sure what-all they had in it, but it smelled sooooo good!

Yes, I was happy staying at the Shanghai Mansion and almost hated to leave, but my next adventure in Hanoi was calling.

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Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

Color Your World: 31 Shadow

Today’s color for Jennifer’s Color Your World challenge is: shadow. Another one I had no idea what it looks like. Here’s a reference in case you want to join the fun. 😉

Here’s my best match.

Got a great match to the river water! I took this photo a few years ago. I was traveling in Thailand and had spent a couple of weeks in Chiang Mai and visiting the ‘Hill Tribes’ around there. I decided to take the ‘slow boats‘ down the Mekong River, at least to Luang Prabang.

I really would have loved to stay there longer. It was a nice little town, lots to do, friendly people, and so relaxed and peaceful. I would have loved to take the boat all the way down the Mekong to the delta, with stops in Vientiane and along the way. I ran out of time and had to fly back to Bangkok.

This picture of the river was from up the hill at Pak-Beng where we stopped for the night. I enjoyed the slow pace of the ride, watching the scenery pass by and the daily activities of the local people. It was interesting to see the turnout at stops we made, to transfer passengers or cargo.

There was an amazing variety of people on the boat. People from all over the world and all walks of life. It made for interesting conversations and a fun trip. I highly recommend it if you have the time. If not, try the long-tail boats. They’re much faster! Just as much an adventure (maybe even more), but maybe not so dry either! 😉

Color Your World: 19 Antique Brass

For Jennifer’s Color Your World challenge, todays color is ‘antique brass‘. Another color I had to look up online (I don’t have the large box of crayola crayons to use for a reference). 😉

Here’s my entry. Some of those roots seem to be a pretty good match. Best I could do.

I took this photo a few years ago. I was wandering around Thailand. I always enjoy shopping, just to see what they have that’s different than what we have in our stores. They had a very large selection of ‘natural medicines’. I was interested to see how popular that sort of thing was. Lots of people swear by it. I haven’t really tried enough of it to say one way or the other.

Just Jot It Jan: 3 Warning

When I saw the prompt for today’s Just Jot It January challenge (warning), I immediately thought of this photo. I took it once on vacation in Thailand. I was going on a tour of Phang Nga Bay. We’d be riding one of the local ‘long-tail boats’. I was really looking forward to seeing the limestone caves, the village of the ‘water gypsies’, and ‘James Bond Island’.

I did a double take when I saw this sign as we were loading the boats.

What are ‘jacket lifts’? 😉

Are they warning you not to forget your Bacardi rum to go along with your ‘jacket lift? Or maybe you’ll need your rum after you finish your ‘jacket lift’? 🙂

I can’t read Thai, but hopefully it’s more clear in that language than it is in English. 😉

I’m sure they meant ‘life jackets’. I just couldn’t help but wonder how all the people who’s first language wasn’t English (or Thai) would interpret that warning sign. 😉

Half And Half

The challenge from the Daily Post was Half and Half. I didn’t know what to post for that subject. I finally came up with these photos. They might not be politically correct, but I’ve never been known for being that!
I took these pictures a couple of years ago in Bangkok, Thailand. I really love Thailand. The people are so nice and friendly and there’s a really laid back atmosphere, even in the big cities. I usually stay a few days in Bangkok and then go off somewhere else. Maybe Phuket, or Chiang Mai.  I’d love to spend more time exploring more of Thailand. I haven’t really seen much of the country. I always do enjoy my time there.  I especially like the way they treat people there. They accept you as you are. There doesn’t seem to be the prejudice that there is in America. At least I don’t notice it as much.

I took these photos at the famous Calypso show. I had a great time. They really put on a great show. The performers (shown above) were all men (or transgender). I chose this for my post on half and half since these people are considered to be half men- half women, he-she’s, lady-boys.

I’ll come back later with a more standard shot. 😉

Snapshot

I thought I might do another post for the Daily Post’s prompt of the day. Today’s is called ‘Snapshot Stories‘ and here’s the challenge…

Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

I don’t have many pictures of me. I don’t really like to have my picture taken. I just don’t feel like I look. I don’t like to be reminded of how I really do look. I feel bad about my weight and how I look. So, I usually avoid having my picture taken.

 

In the photo above, I was on a trip to Thailand and was spending a few days in Chang Mai. I took a day trip with a group of people to visit the Hill Tribes. I had my picture taken with some of the ‘Longnecks’ in their village. I think this was about the only picture of me for that whole trip. I spent 3-4 weeks over there that trip. Had a blast!

PS-the featured image is from the same day, later on, at another village.

Travel Theme: Doorways

I stumbled upon the “Where’s My Backpack?” blog and Travel Theme: Doorways challenge while I was checking my reader today. I figured I’d join in…

Thai woman in doorwayThai man in doorway

Those first couple (of neighbors, sitting in their doorways) were from Thailand, up in the hills North of Chiang Mai. The next bunch are from Aberdeen, Scotland. I had to go take the course for Freefall Lifeboat before they would let me go out on my new job.

King's College, AberdeenAberdeen, Scotland 

And I just had to throw something nautical in the mix. 🙂 This is a photo of the interior of the boat we were practicing with all week.

door into freefall lifeboat

door into freefall lifeboat