Friday, April 26, 2024

Boats Abound In Bangkok

One of the most fun things on our trip to Asia was all of our adventures on the water. The Bangkok Peninsula Hotel is right on the Chao Phraya River and it had a fabulous shuttle boat which took us to various places. The best was to the incredible IconSiam mall. 
This is a mall of all malls. Thai malls are fabulously busy and bustling, where families, young people, tourists go en masse. One reason is obviously the air-conditioning. It IS hot in Bangkok, but the malls also offer shopping, many food choices, sometimes entertainment, all with the opportunity to get out of the humidity. 
IconSiam has great food stalls, beautiful crafts, clothing and jewelry AND restaurants both inside and outside on gorgeous plazas and terraces. 


One more thing about IconSiam. On the top floor is an absolutely gorgeous indoor waterfall coming from the ceiling. It changes colors and designs and spells out words! It’s really impressive!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Bangkok’s Breakfasts of Champions

I consider myself a relatively experienced breakfast eater. I’ve eaten the first meal of the day in many different towns and types of places as well cooked more variations of it than I can even count. I’m happy sticking with the usual or going down a different path when the fancy strikes me.

But I have never…let me repeat that…I HAVE NEVER seen anything like the breakfast offered at the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. It was like 7 (maybe more?) separate restaurants in one. The displays were lavish. The offerings were appealing and everything – from the crusty, crispy uber-FRESH croissants to the fried noodles and baos - was perfect.  Honestly, it was every superlative you could throw at breakfast. 

In the center of the main inside area, there was a huge table with magnificent fruit in a museum-quality display.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Beautiful Bangkok - Chanting Monks, Buddha In Recline And A Sparkling Green Stone Buddha

What is there not to love about Bangkok? It’s a busy, vibrant city, but without the bedlam of wonderful-in-its-own-way Mumbai. It WAS actually hotter than Mumbai and Kerala, but there are so many great places to visit, you just have to forget about the heat (and the even worse humidity). The best thing would have been to spend three months in Bangkok during the nicer winter months. But we were determined to make the most of 3 days in REALLY hot weather (but we’re not going to talk about that...much.)

The main sites are spectacular. 

Note - Wat means temple and there are gazillions of them in Thailand.

Hint to visitors – Bring socks with you on any outing. Shoes have to be removed in every temple and other places too. Walking barefoot on the HOT stone or tile steps up to the temple is torture 🤯, so shove the socks somewhere, so that you always have them. 

Wat Phra is a Buddhist temple within the grounds of the Grand Palace. It’s the home of the Emerald Buddha and the most sacred temple in Thailand. You’re told way in advance no shorts, nothing sleeveless, no sandals, no short skirts, no tight clothes, which was a bit of a challenge in sticky weather that felt like 105 degrees, but well worth it to see it all.

Friday, April 12, 2024 my stir frying technique leaves something to be desired...

Cruising on the backwaters of Kerala

Chinese Fishing Nets

Our next stop in India was Fort Kochi in Kerala, a sliver of a state in the southwest corner of India. It’s a lot calmer than Mumbai (although certainly not cooler). The state of Kerala is known for its natural beauty, lush green areas, tranquil backwaters and one more thing - it has the highest literacy rate in India - 96.2%.  Interestingly, it also has stronger and better enforced traffic laws, where motorbike users actually wear helmets or they are ticketed, according to our great guide, Jayakrishnan. Hmm, higher literacy rates AND safer traffic situations…Are they related? 😏 

The highlight of our visit to Kerala was taking a leisurely cruise on the backwaters of Alleppey.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Spicy Mumbai

For any city lovers, Mumbai is an experience that has to be seen to be believed. The pulse of the city, the energy, even the chaos is unlike any other place. Compare it to any large city and multiply it a million times and put it on steroids and that’s Mumbai! 

You know how Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Well, it would be impossible to be bored in Mumbai or even to have a lukewarm response to it. There are people everywhere, there is commerce on every street corner (and everywhere in between), there is a constant coming and going. 4 lanes of traffic become 8 as cars, buses, slews of motorbikes, trucks and carts all vie for any space available (and most likely not actually available). All of this is happening as every possible horn is being sounded steadily.

So this is a lot to absorb from a car, (which thankfully was being driven by a professional…at least I think he was!) but imagine having to cross a street like that! We did it numerous times, where there were no crosswalks, no traffic lights, just crossing the street in front of oncoming traffic! It does keep you alert! The funny thing is we never saw an accident, perhaps only a few close calls, but we never witnessed any motorbike, pedestrian or car crash. I can’t really explain it, except that no one was going superfast, but still…😮.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Astonishing Dabbawalas of Mumbai

The highlight of our time in Mumbai was spending a morning with the Dabbawalas – the guys that pick up and deliver lunches to office workers. Our wonderful guide, Aman Wallia, took us to their main office in Mumbai. 

There we met Vijay, a 4th generation Dabbawala and the youngest one at 19 years old, who is also their spokesperson.

Office workers in Mumbai often have to take very crowded trains to their workplaces. They may have a briefcase or other bag and they need their other hand to hold on (tightly) to the straps or handrails on the train, so they can’t be carrying the somewhat elaborate lunch that many Bombayites have to come depend on. Typically, several dishes are put into separate sections of a metal tiffin box – a chicken curry, rice and dal for example, and each section fits together one on top of the other. 

The office worker leaves early in the morning before lunch is made and the dabbawalas show up at the door between 9:30am and 10:30am, which gives the homecook time to prepare the meal. The Dabbawala picks up the food, which has been packed into a tiffin box and put into some kind of tote or lunch bag. They then transport them to the train station by bicycle and the dabbawalas ride with the lunch bags in a special car on the train to the main station. There they are divided by region and delivered to each individual office by 1pm in big bicycle carts.

The incredible thing is that the dabbawalas have a 99.999% accuracy for the 100,000 lunches they deliver daily. (Before Covid, it was 200,000 lunches a day. Even Harvard was super-impressed by their intricate system.)