Fine (Thai) dining in Bangkok

High end dining in foreign countries can be tricky.  Reading reviews is of no help – there’s always an equal balance between those who loved it and those who thought it was over priced, over-hyped and not worthwhile.  Make up your own mind.

I had wanted to eat at Nahm for a long time.  I’ve been a fan of David Thompson ever since he first came onto the Sydney food scene, way back when.  My sister gave me a copy of his first cookbook back in the early 90s and it has become one of my favourite recipe books.  I’ve learnt a great deal from those recipes but I’ve also enjoyed the experience of eating at his earlier restaurants, Sailors Thai and for more causal bites, the Sailors Cantina.  I also jump at any opportunity to make a booking when he arrives in Sydney a guest chef at the likes of the Bentley Bar.  Rare treats.  So I was not surprisingly very excited about the prospect of eating at Nahm (I’d also read and seen interviews with him in Bangkok talking about what it’s like to be a white person cooking high end Thai food: the Thais don’t like it – something to do with grandmothers and eggs.

Interestingly, the reviews on TripAdvisor were on the whole, not positive and then again there was that whole hype about eating at a restaurant that had been named World # 1 (now knocked back to #2).   But I had asked some people who are foodies what their experience of Nahm was and they advised that we go – that it was an experience not worth missing.

Whilst browsing the best places to eat in Bangkok I also came across the Issaya Siamese Club.  This place got very good reviews so I uhmed and ahhed about which place to go to and then decided to book the Issaya.  Also they were very prompt in their reply, which Nahm wasn’t.  The other thing that made me wonder about Nahm is that it seemed very formal – in the Como Hotel – and had a strict dress code.  I was planning to travel very light – no heels or silk dresses.

I was also considering Bo.Lan.  Again this place resonated with me because of their use of sustainable ingredients and the fact that both chefs Bo (Duangporn Songivsava ) and Lan (Dylan Jones) who are a husband and wife team had worked with David Thompson – Jones back in Sydney and Bo in London.  I’d also seen an interview with them and was impressed with their attitude to food and Thai culture. Bo is a native Thai and has been presented with the inaugural award for Asia’s Best Female Chef, as part of The 50 Best Restaurants in Asia Awards 2013.

So I was tossing up.  Finally, I decided that my husband’s birthday would be celebrated with lunch at Issaya and then we would have dinner at Nahm just before leaving Bangkok.  And then I thought, what the hell, here we are in Bangkok with some of the best Thai fine dining restaurants in the world, we’d be crazy not to try them all, so I booked Bo.Lan as well.  And so glad I did.  While the Issaya Club made my heart sing – such a joyous experience in a gorgeous setting – Bo.Lan’s food was sensational. 

It strikes me as very odd that the most negative reviews came from Asian people.  Theyir comments generally were that you can get the same food at street stalls much cheaper.  I think that they not only miss the point – you just don’t get this calibre of food on the streets – but there seems to be reluctance to pay for high end Asian food (barring Chinese).  Whist most of these people would not bat an eyelid at paying exorbitant prices for Italian or French food (some of it very ho hum), somehow paying the same for Thai is unthinkable. Plus, I don’t think they fully appreciate what constitutes a fine dining experience – it’s not just the setting and the great attentive service, it’s the play of ingredients, of textures and tastes; its taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary that sings in your mouth, scintillates your taste buds and keeps you wondering how the hell they did it. Worth every penny (or baht) in my book. 

So although I’ve yet to eat at Nahm I have packed my heels and silk dress and look forward to the experience. Meanwhile, I can thoroughly recommend splurging out on the food and wine at both the Issaya and Bo.Lan.

Eating our way around Bangkok

Our visit to Bangkok was primarily to eat:  at street stalls, markets and high end restaurants.  One of the joys of being in Bangkok is that there seems to be someone cooking something at even turn.  Down the little alleys and side streets, along the tiny canal walkways, at the many markets and along the main streets. And then there are all the food malls with their more up-market offerings – essentially the same but also more expansive and encompassing a greater range of international food.  These food malls seem to the place of choice for locals – clean, exotic and, importantly, air-conditioned.  We steared clear of these – they’re jut too busy – but we did find ourselves one day sitting at an oyster bar at the very up-scale Paragon food court, enjoying a glass of champagne with a section of very fine oysters from around the world.  This was a bit of  treat for us in lieu of my birthday non-dinner.  It felt very much like sitting at the oyster bar at David Jones in Sydney – a nice little interlude whilst shopping. The interesting thing at this place was the clientele, not just the well-to-do tourists eating lobster from Maine but also a group of young boys (they looked like students) who were were tucking into a range of dishes accompanied by glasses of coke.  We chatted a while with a nice Japanese couple – he had been living in Bangkok for 8 years and was showing his friend around.  He was stumped about the white wine selection and was about to agree to an Australian wine when I strongly suggested he choose something else (it was a very poor Australian wine at a very high price and there was a much better American Chardonnay and French Chablis on the menu).  He tasted the wine and was very grateful and hence the conversation began.

I tend to favour the little food places (to call them cafes is a bit of a stretch) that serve a limited range of dishes, with plastic chairs and formica topped tables, the kitchen right there in front of you, lots of noise, steam and generally no English.  It’s  a matter of pointing.  One of them around the corner from where were were staying became our local breakfast haunt – pork noodle soup and an iced coffee.  We then found a great little stall in a nearby side street that had a small selection of traditional Thai food.  We had no idea what they were but pointed to them and had them with rice.  They were excellent.  Then there was another stall that served a very fragrant spicy soup, usually full of offal (especially pork kidney) but I think the owner sized us up and just put in a small sample and gave us more duck. We were grateful.

We tried to sample all we could but could only eat so much (more’s the pity).  It was great fun going to markets and not knowing what/how to eat and having the locals help. At Or Tor Kor market (q fresh food and wholesale market where my of the restauranteurs go) we wandered the aisles marvelling at all the produce – so much beautifully fresh fish and seafood, the range of exotic fruits (which stall holders kindly allowed us to sample) and all the varied and many curry pastes and bases.  It was a bit like being in heaven for me and I discovered an exotic fruit that has become my favourite (although I’ve only seen it in Bangkok).  It’s called Bouea burmanica – Marian plum -and is the colour of an apricot and the shape of a  tamarillo (and about the same size) with bright green leaves similar to an orange.  The stall holders peel the skin away and deftly remove the inside stone stone so that you’re left with a whole peeled and stoned fruit. And it tastes like a cross between a mango and a mangosteen – two of my favourite fruits.  Mangosteens used to be what I considered the king of fruits but they’ve just been knocked off their perch by these wondrous fruits. They’re sublime. I am now (in Laos) constantly on the lookout for them.

Marian plums

 

Street food stall

But where’s the oil?

We’ve just come back from a reconnoitre in Noosa.  We’re embarking on a sea change and need to find somewhere to live – quickly.  Its very hard to get a sense of what properties are like on the web – photos that make places look bigger than they or a lack of photos (always a worry) and then that more nebulous  aspect of how a places feels:  is this a place I’d be comfortable in? So a visit is necessary.

We booked an apartment through Airbnb; we’ve been using this site for our overseas travels and have stayed in some wonderful places, including a lovely little  apartment on Rue de Rivoli that seemed to epitomise Parisian living (including the 6 flights of narrow circular stairs).  Got to feel very much the local.

I like to be able to self-cater, even if that’s just a matter of getting a nice platter of things for lunch or morning coffee/toast. I don’t always want to go out to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And these days, funds are a bit tight so an apartment where we could fend for ourselves was ideal.

The place we found in Noosa was ideally situated, just back from the main street (which backs on to the main beach), a quick walk to the shopping centre and – big tick – a good bottle shop across the road.  Plus it had a nice pool and gym (not that we got to use them this time). However what I discovered (too late) was there were absolutely no provisions for cooking – despite a great BBQ on the balcony.  This always astonishes me.  How can you expect people to bring their own essentials such as olive oil (any oil would have done) when they’re only staying for a  few days?  Or do you assume they’re not going to cook? So then why wouldn’t they just stay in a hotel?

Having spent the entire day driving from one side of the Sunshine Coast to the other (back and forth) looking at properties, we felt too exhausted to go out for a meal and instead decided to buy some things to eat in:  eye fillet to sear on the BBQ and a mixed green salad and ready made dressing (quelle horreur) plus salt and pepper (these we could either leave behind for the next guests or take with us).  But on returning to the apartment we discovered there was no oil – olive or otherwise – with which to sear our steaks.  Merde.  We improvised by smearing them in the balsamic salad dressing and all was well.  But it did strike me as weird that you would provide all these facilities but no essential provisions.

We had a similar experience in Yogyakarta when we rented a house for a week so we could self-cater.  I had envisioned trips to the fresh markets, exploring and experimenting with local produce. Ha!  Whilst the place had a (limited) range of utensils there were absolutely no provisions: no salt, pepper, sugar, oil.  In fact nothing.  So we needed to purchase everything, which makes it both impractical and uneconomic for short stays, and again made me wonder why this was so.

If I were to offer my place for travellers I would ensure that there was everything they could possibly need in the way of cooking  to make their stay and easy as possible. Again a big tick to the owner of the Paris apartment who not only provided all necessary condiments but also left cereal, porridge, dry and sweet biscuits and a fabulous sort of dried toast that was just perfect to have with our morning cafe au lait.  Perhaps it helps to be French.

Camping holidays

I used to go camping a lot  – many years ago that was what you did either for long Easter breaks or in the summer holidays or sometimes just for a weekend.  My family used to go camping around Lake Eildon (in Victoria).  Back in those days you could just go bush, find a nice spot and set up camp.  We would generally camp near a river (stream actually) and my uncle would fish for trout.  He taught me how to fish.  Mostly I got the fly tangled in a tree but sometimes I caught fish.  I liked the solitariness of fishing in a stream, just walking along and casting.  Whether or not I caught a fish was beside the point, it was really just an activity. If I did catch a fish I would have to unhook it and then clean and scale it.  All part of the process. Even putting live worms onto the hook was OK.  But I was a kid then.  Not sure that I could do that now.

When we were young we used to travel all the way up from Melbourne to Hervey Bay in Qld (some 2,000+ miles) in the September school holidays. 5 of us (3 kids in the back) in a Holden station wagon fully laden with tent and camp beds and food and god only knows what else. We didn’t pay attention to the preparations, we were just keen to get on the road. It was a long, long journey and my dad would drive pretty much non-stop, fuelled up on coke (as in coca-cola) and ‘no-doze’.  He would stop by the roadside in the early hours of the morning for a couple of hours’ sleep and then would drive on again.  We’d usually stop in Brisbane overnight with some relatives and then be back on our way.  I remember how long and flat that journey was – nothing to see but the occasional billboard and lots of telegraph poles.  We’d count them (out of boredom) and we would play hangman and noughts and crosses and I spy.

In those days the tents were huge, heavy canvas things with wooden poles – usually one in the middle of the tent and eyelets that had to be threaded around the corner poles.  Our tent didn’t have a floor.  But we had those old camp beds.  I suspect they were really army cots. And no sleeping bags – mum always brought plenty of blankets and sheets.  We camped right on the foreshore: crowded with tents so close to each other that you could barely move between them; as kids we didn’t care. It was exciting to be able to wake up early to the sound of the pounding surf and go and swim – at 6am!  I think we lived in the water.  Evening times were magical too, with the ending of daylight and the descending quiet  – distant chatter and occasional raised voices of kids and adults – and the preparation of food and smell of sausages and chops cooking.  I don’t think I ever appreciated the effort that went into that exercise. Our main activity as kids was playing on the beach and reading.  We always sought out the local second hand bookstore  and spent many hours lying around reading.  It was simple but blissful.  Not a care in the world.

When we camped in the bush there were usually a group of adults and I remember fondly how at night, in our tent we would hear the adults talking and singing around the fire and playing cards. When you’re camping there’s really nothing to do – walks, cards, books, swimming. I don’t think we were ever bored.

As a young adult I once travelled all the way along the east coast of Australia from Warrnambool to Darwin, camping along the way. Sometimes just stopping at a beach for a night or two and other times in little campsites in a little tent with not many provisions or accessories.

More recently I’ve had camping trips to the Snowy River and a number of canoe trips, packing our canoe with everything we needed and finding a nice place to stop.  Sadly, now there are so many restrictions on where you can camp and you can no longer  just go bush.  You have to be in a designated camping ground.  These can be horrid and don’t appeal to me.  One time we canoed to a lovely little spot and set up our little tent only to find the next day a helicopter circling around and then the water police coming to tell us that we couldn’t camp there – too dangerous:  a branch might fall.  Despite our pleas that we were well aware of the risks, we were moved on.  And so we packed everything into our canoe (the water police watched to make sure we left) and paddled to another place.  Again the next day a ranger came and told us we couldn’t camp there.  We explained that the camp site was way too full and besides, we didn’t have much stuff with us and would take all our rubbish away with us, that we had already been moved on and were only there for another day.  The ranger relented and so we spent a gloriously quiet time by the water, doing very little – eating, drinking, reading, swimming.

But for a number of years now we haven’t camped.  Instead our holidays have become more exotic, travelling to various places in Asia – India, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali – or to Europe, Morocco, and more recently to the UK.

This year for our anniversary we decided to go camping.  Our daughter and her girlfriend had been camping to Seal Rocks (Myall Lakes) and stayed at a place called Camp Treachery (!) with lovely vast camping spots and gorgeous beaches. A couple of other people I know said they’d also been there and thought the place was perfect.  So off we went.

My daughter had bought a big tent – large enough to stand up in which was a first for us – so we borrowed that and planned our meals, bought our provisions, packed the car and off we went. We took everything that we thought we needed (including some nice champagne and champagne glasses) and my daughter’s double blow up mattress, sheets and pillows, chairs, a hammock, our Weber as well as one of those little portable butane burners which used to be only in the Asian shops, but can now be found in the mainstream supermarkets. We even took coffee and a camping coffee plunger. Luxury.

But of course, despite making careful lists and pre-prepping dressings, marinades and rubs, there were things we forgot.  Main one being a salad bowl. How to make salad without a salad bowl.  The small cereal bowls we took were too small.  So my creative problem-solving skills came to the fore.  I mixed everything in a plastic bag, added the dressing and voila! Problem solved.

We arrived on Friday afternoon – although we meant to leave at 10am to get here by 2pm there were, inevitably, last minute things to take care of.  I decided I wanted to take our hammock, which necessitated the search for some extra ropes.  And then there were the last minute food purchases – some coriander, fresh fruit etc.  But finally we were on the road and arrived soon after 3pm.  All good; time for a swim once we’d found a good spot to set up the tent and camp site and then we could settle in and have a G&T before making dinner.  What we hadn’t factored in was the setting up of a tent we had never used.  Fraught, to say the least.  I think it took us nearly an hour to figure it out.  The instructions were vague (and I suspect translated from Chinese – never a good thing).  But at last we were done and the tent was up, the bed inflated and made up and our food stuffs and drinks packed in ice.  And so to dinner – seared salmon with a tomato, pomegranate and roasted lemon salad. I had roasted the lemons at home as well as the pomegranate dressing and the chilli-lime salt for the salmon.  Simple and perfect. And then there was nothing to do but sit around the fire and drink red wine. No wifi, no service = no phones, no iPads.  Blissfully relaxing.

Holiday bathing

One of the things I like to indulge in is lying in a bath, sipping a white wine and reading my book (kindle).  We often stay in hotels that have great baths in the bathrooms and they always have good products – shampoo and conditioner, handwash, shower gel, body lotion, but never anything to put in the bath. This perplexes me.  I’m a real fan of bath additives: electric soda, lush bliss balls, bath salts, essential essences, all manner of foaming, good smelling products to make having a bath a truly luxurious experience.

I always wonder if I should take along some bath products when I go away but inevitably I don’t because its just one more thing to pack and packing is challenging enough: no matter how long or short the journey/trip my luggage is always crammed full of stuff – the “I might need this” or the “just in case” items: one too many pairs of shoes or extra tops that inevitably don’t get worn.  But then there’s also the risk of not packing enough – and then having to tramp all over the place looking for an extra t-shirt/gym shorts/socks, walking shoes etc.  Items that you wished you’d brought. Travelling dilemmas.

At the moment we’re staying in a beautiful old mansion in Oban (Greystones) that is deceptively large and modern inside.  We have a huge bathroom with an enormous shower and a really big stand-alone bath.  Its deep and perfectly proportioned so that I don’t need to  hang on to the sides of the tub to stop myself from sliding under (have you been in one of those large marble bathtubs that are so deep and curved  that you have to hang on for dear life?  It doesn’t make for a relaxing experience).

So off I will go to purchase some bath salts or something to make the water soft and enhance my bath time experience.  Note to self:  next time, do bring the bath stuff.

5 star spas

image
I’ve become a fan of 5-star hotels. How could you not? King sized bed with pillows that make you feel that your head is resting on clouds and doonas so light you feel that you’re in heaven and never want to get up. Turn down service. Bathrooms with the biggest fluffiest towels you could ever wish for and all the amenities you could ever want. Room service that is prompt and friendly and nothing to do but relax. This is holidays. I think that spending a week (or even just a few days) in a fabulous hotel is a holiday all on its own – never mind the journey or the destination.

And then there’s the hotel spa. Sure they’re expensive (sometimes incredibly so) but it’s an indulgence well worth the price. I badly needed a massage. A long flight followed by hours of walking, pounding the pavement in shoes not meant for more than prettifying my feet and a serious morning work out in the gym gave me a sore back and tight shoulders. In Kowloon I thought I’d just go to one of those cheap massage places the city has in abundance but on reading reviews of massage places it turns out that many of them are fronts for brothels or else they’re so dirty (report of one where a dead mouse fell on to the head of the masseur) that I had to rethink the proposition. My husband suggested I just have a massage at the hotel. I thought it was too expensive but he persuaded me – we’re on holidays so may as well indulge. And so I rang and booked a session. I was asked to come in 30 minutes earlier in order to have a sauna and relax in the warm spa pool before hand. What bliss. The massage was exactly what I wanted/needed and without a doubt this was the best spa/massage experience I have ever had. I’m now won over. Bypass the ordinary and go for luxe. Your body is worth it.
image

Le Meridien- Khoa Lak Beach

imageWe booked one of those Luxury Escapes at Le Meridien Khao Lak Beach on the recommendation of a friend.  I have to admit I had some reservations about it.  It was more expensive than we generally spend on hotels but then again, it did come with all meals, four half hour massages each and a drinks evening. But I wondered what the catch was.  Perhaps it would be a tired hotel in need of  customers. Or we’d get an awful room. But we took a punt – my husband desperately needed a holiday where there was nothing to do.  His idea of bliss is to put his headphones on and listen to music.  Or to read.  Or both.

So I contacted the resort to see if our dates were available:  we only had a week squeezed in between other trips so dates were non-negotiable.  Fortunately they were available and  I went ahead with the booking and just to make the trip a bit more special booked a flight on a Singapore A380 on the upper deck with extra leg room.  What a difference flying with a proper airline makes: cool hand towels handed to you before take off, generously poured drinks, a menu card and good amenities in the toilets.  Plus the food was actually good. Perhaps we’d been flying low cost too long (I suppose that Malaysian Air is low cost – it certainly is comparatively).

We flew via Singapore but only really had enough time to get from one terminal to the other before boarding.  Surprisingly Silk Air (Singapore’s domestic airline) turned out to be another well serviced flight with food, wine and attentive smiling staff.

Landing in Phuket we were greeted by the hotel driver in a very well appointed Toyota Camry (wood grain finishes, bottles of water and papers and magazines.  I fell asleep on the long drive to the resort – its over an hour and at that stage we’d been travelling for quite a while (we left home at 7am and it was now – our time – 10pm.)

Our check in was seamless – the quickest we’ve yet experienced and on entering our room I expelled a sigh of relief.  It was gorgeous.  A huge king size bed with the best pillows I have ever slept on. They were heavenly.  Great big bathroom with deep bath and separate shower, lots of bench space for cosmetics and toiletries and their signature body wash was lovely – a mixture of essential oils that didn’t dry out your skin.  And they were very generous with their offerings – every evening one of the service staff would knock on the door to see if we wanted/needed anything – extra tea/coffee, toiletries, towels – nothing was too much.

But more than that, I had contacted the hotel to let them know that it was our anniversary and the trip was a surprise for my husband.  In the room was a gorgeous vase of ‘flowers’ made from banana leaves, cookies and chocolates, a cake and a bottle of Proseco on ice together with a personally written card from the General Manager, Jennifer.

Jennifer is one of those remarkable people who seem to drift about amicably conversing with guests but I’m sure her job takes great energy and stamina.  I was impressed that she responded to all the comments on Trip Advisor – good or bad – with such aplomb and grace.  That’s what decided the place for me.  Knowing that someone cares about the experience their customers had.
As for the comments on Trip Advisor, they were the usual mixed lot.  Some thought the resort wonderful, others griped – it was tired, there were some missing tiles on the bottom of the pool, they didn’t get the service they demanded.  We had no such issues.  The staff were attentive, professional and smiling.  I always find that if I’m pleasant and polite and courteous to the staff, they accord me the same respect.  I make it a point to always say hello or good morning, good evening etc and ask how they are and try and remember their names.  I also like to engage in a conversation with them.  People are intrinsically interesting and everyone has a story to tell irrespective of what they do for a job.
I don’t know what the expectations are of some of the writers of negative reviews were – one actually complained that there was a palm tree outside her window blocking the view!!! Lol. We’re at the beach – there are palm trees.  Its part of the charm.

Admittedly, the pool was in need of work and so Day 3 of our stay there came a letter from management to say that the pool would be out of use for some time but we could use one of the other pools. Fair enough.  There was also the beach so this didn’t present a problem.  Or so I thought.  iI met a couple who felt that they’d been deceived.  The hotel should have notifiied them about this.  They would have booked elsewhere.  And why couldn’t they just shut the resort down for the time it would take them to fix the pool?  I smiled politely and pointed out that given the wet weather, it really wasn’t an issue. Besides, the other pool was available as was the beautiful beach should the sun ever come out again.

I must say that I did get tired of eating in the same 3 places day after day, although we did venture out to a couple of small local eateries just for a change of pace. There’s not much around the hotel and even in Khao Lak – a good 9ks away, there’s nothing worth doing.  It lacks the hustle and bustle and diversity of other towns and cities and after 2 visits we decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. (Our first visit was just to have a look see – the hotel had organised free shuttle service due to the pool renovations and we found the tailor who had come so highly recommended on Trip Advisor and I encouraged my husband to have a causal linen jacket made (a most beautifully made garment).  In fact he had jacket and trousers mde – not to be worn as a suit so much but just because every well dressed man needs a good linen jacket and a good pair of causal linen trousers.  The second visit was for a fitting and a trip to the market to see what fresh produce was on offer – not much at all.

To sum up, my best experiences at this lovely resort – and it is lovely and lush and well maintained – were the fabulous bed and pillows (pillows that felt like clouds and sent me to sleep almost instantly.  I haven’t slept so well for almost a year) and the massages at the Spa. These were the best massages I’ve ever had.  Not only was it a beautiful space but the women were so good at what they were doing.  Not a word passed between them.  Each time I fell asleep.  I felt like Goldilocks – the massage was not too hard, not too soft.  Just right.  More than just right.  It was blissful. And so my overall experience of this resort was not just positive but delightful. And I thank all the staff who took the time to greet us and serve us in such a friendly and professional way.

Khao Lak beach
Khao Lak beach

Resort wear – the dilemmas of packing

I generally pack too much when I’m heading off on holidays – and these are summer holidays I’m talking about not winter ones where you need lots of warm clothes and boots and layers. Summer hols in tropical climes where really the only things I need are a skirt some tops a couple of es sa pair of sandals, thongs bathers and sarongs and of course either yoga or gym gear depending on where we’re headed. But it’s the mix and match thing that always has me flustered: this top to go with this skirt and these sandals and that dress really needs those sandals and if we go out somewhere special… you get my drift.

My husband experiences no such dilemmas. He just packs some lungis (pure white fine cotton Indian sarongs that males in South India wear), a couple of shirts, a pair of trousers, bathers, birkenstocks and he’s done. His stuff fits neatly into one small section of our suitcase. The rest is taken up by my things. And always I realise at the end of our trip that I packed too much. I could have survived with half my clothes. So this time going to a one stop place – a resort where there really wasn’t anything to do – I packed light:

  • one all purpose day dress
  • one grey silk casual dress but also suitable for evenings
  • 3 sarongs
  • 3 singlet tops that could be worn with my sarongs and also double up for the gym
  • 3 pairs gym shorts
  • 3 gym bra tops
  • gym socks
  • one pair sandals
  • thongs
    and at the last minute  threw in two white t shirts.

I also took a white muslin scarf that could double as a shawl. Oh and one long dress because there was to be a fancy cocktail night. And that was it. With a sense of triumph I thought at last, I’d mastered the art of packing light. Didn’t even bother with makeup ( except one all purpose eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, tinted moisturiser and blush – just in case an evening out would require some glam). Travelling light. Proud of myself.

But what I found is that people wear resort wear here. I’ve even seen someone with a matching resort style bags – different outfits, matching bags each day. And one woman in a very short cocktail dresss and high heeled shoes (neither of which she should be wearing anywhere anytime, but there’s no accounting for taste or lack thereof). I’m feeling decidedly underdressed. Except really, who cares? I have nice accessories – a couple of pairs of earrings, two rings and something to drape around my neck.

But what I hadn’t considered was the weather. I had only packed for a hot and humid beach resort. But then it rained. And rained. And continued to do so day after day. And instead of hot, hot, hot it was decidedly cool. Still, there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. But the bulk of my packing was swimwear. Pool side garb. Again, I thought, I’d got it wrong. All those bathers lying in the drawer and of no use.

I had had often thought how liberating it would be to go somewhere where all you needed was a sarong, bathers and perhaps one dress. But looking around me at the various outfits people wear I see that the whole point of going to a resort is to dress. For breakfast, lunch, cocktails by the pool, cocktails in the lounge and dinner in the various restaurants. But common sense has prevailed and I’ve managed very well with my few well chosen pieces and haven’t felt either under-dressed or  like I’m wearing the same things day after day. And isn’t the whole point of going to a resort that you are liberated from the need to be worrying about what to wear? Besides, all those extra clothes would just mean more washing back home.

Packing solved. Liberated at last.

Rain’s stopped and all’s right with the world

At last the rains have stopped and we’re enjoying a balmy evening with a warm breeze. Sitting in the Le Meridien lobby overlooking the lush gardens enjoying a post dinner drink. There’s nothing to do here. That’s the point of one of these holidays – an opportunity to just switch off, put your brain on hold and just relax. For some, that’s easy to do. For others – me – it poses a challenge. But after all the rain and feeling a bit stir crazy its a welcome respite to feel that this is what holidays are all about. I could do with another Fra Angelico on ice but maybe that’s a bit excessive. Then again, it’s holiday time. Which means indulgence. We had a wonderful massage tonight in the resort. The other day we ventured into the centre of Khao Lak and had a massage at one of the local places. Enjoyable it was not. It was one of those places where they just go through the motions and despite saying it was too strong (painful) they continued whilst chatting amongst themselves all the while. It was cheap but I’d rather spend money on a better service. On someone who knows and actually cares. I think I came away bruised. I just wanted it to stop and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

There’s nothing in Khao Lak worth seeing. We found a reasonable little restaurant(!) but it was merely ok. Beer and some local thai food. Shops that sell tourist craap and little else. The little place at the end of the street opposite the resort where we took our washing was friendly and good but it was a far cry from the food stalls in other parts of the country. The market was poor and limited. Hardly worth the excursion and we only went in search of limes. The little supermarkets didn’t really have fruit and veg. I don’t know who they cater for.

The resort is lovely. It’s huge with a number if pools and places to eat though unfortunately because it’s the wet season and few guests a number of the restaurants were closed. And because of the torrential rains even some of these were closed for a couple of days.

No matter.There’s a gym and the spa centre and a huge lobby with a well stocked bar. And the martinis are excellent. Salute!

Holidays- lazy days

On holidays and feeling a bit like a widow. My husband has his head buried in one of his devices – either reading the news on his iPad or a book on his kindle. We sit at breakfast and he reads the news. This is nothing new – Michael will read anything – even the back of a creal box – and generally we don’t talk at breakfast but either read the papers – I still like to read the printed papers on the weekend – or do whatever people do on their iPads (I shop/browse for all those things I really don’t need).
But here on holidays when the weather is wet and we’re limited in our activities I find that where I want conversation, Michael is happpy to read. At night, when I get tired of reading I go to bed. Michael stays up late reading. In the morning I find him out on the balcony – reading.

At breakfast there’s chatter all around us but at our table all is silent. Even my head is silent – there doesn’t seem to be any point in having a conversation even in my own head. Perhaps my brain has taken a holiday and retreated into peace. Except that I don’t feel at peace. What I need is some yoga to restore balance. There’ no yoga here. Sure I could do my own practise but truth is I’m feeling lazy. I don’t even go to the gym every day despite having packed enough gym gear for the entire stay. My intentions are good – each night I am determined to wake up and do a workout before breakfast. But on waking my body feels too tired. Lazy. Still, I go every other day. And given the amount of food we eat – breakfast, lunch, dinner, pool side snacks, this is the least I should do. Then again, I’m on holidays and alternating gym with massage seems reasonable.
Holidays – my goose is getting fat.