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Thursday, October 8, 2015

GAWA Day #23: My Day in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of my very favorite cities. I've stayed at the Oriental (now run by Mandarin and costs around $750/night), the St. Regis and the Hyatt Erawan (left, where the recent terrorist bomb incident occurred), but now almost always choose the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit because:
  • It's relatively cheap at $138.
  • They upgrade me to a luxury suite, which you can get for $200.
  • Two major shopping complexes are in close covered walking distance, and the street stalls are here.
  • Lots of nightlife, but, at my age...
  • Many tens of tailor shops.
  • Both the BTS (Skytrain) and MRT, or underground railway, stations are here.  They don't cooperate with each other, but are really cheap.
  • They have three bars for free evening cocktails.
  • Rossini's (scroll down to next posting).
  • The free breakfast buffet is dangerously enticing. 
For lunch I brought back to my room some Kentucky Fried Chicken, a large Singha Thai beer, and as the Japanese Daiso (upgraded 100 Yen) store was right there, I picked up a walking cane.

The whole meal with beer, plus the cane, cost me less than $10.  Why a cane?  the streets of Bangkok are not smooth and safe.  That third leg makes a huge difference.  And less than $3!  Plus, it makes crossing the street a lot safer, for cars are afraid of you.  Can't disregard the potential defense option for attacking dogs and muggers.  Also, I noticed that when I'm on any mass transit train, younger people more readily offer me their seat.  Finally, the cane serves as a device to let the elevator know that I am entering.  How important is this?  Read my posting of last year, where an elevator door in Kyoto sent me to the emergency room.

The hotel made a reservation for me tonight at Sirocco, so what else did I do other than eat?  There are many lists, but here is one top ten of what to do:
  • Grand Palace (Pearl's ashes are located at the right close tower)
  • Wat Arun
  • Floating Market
  • Chinatown
  • Wat Pho
  • Chaya Phraya River
  • Chatuchak Weekend Market (worth your while, with 8000 stalls, but my two full days do not include a weekend day)
  • Khao San Road
  • Soi Cowboy (right, located close by my hotel, a safer version of Patpong and Nana Plaza)
  • Jim Thompson's House (I bought a $150 Thai silk tie once and smeared some oil on it the first time I wore it--things at this store are too expensive).  An American businessman who re-vitalized the Thai silk industry, he disappeared almost half a century ago, and has never been found.
One touchy subject is massage.  You can scan the internet, as, for example, Bangkok Tonight, and Inside Flyer reports that a typical Thai massage for one hour costs 300 Baht (around $8), but just outside of downtown, the cost drops to 100 Baht.  They provide robes and shower facilities.  Then there is the more famous kind, and the cost is much less than $100, including the massage.  In my hotel, a one hour aroma therapy massage with a half hour facial, normally $153, is reduced to less than $100.

The problem about what to do is that I've been here more than 25 times and been there, done that.  So, then, what?  Well, it was thunder storming outside, so I went to a movie:  Sicario.  Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave the film a 93% rating, audiences, 91%.  Grim, tense and captivating mash of what you suspect, but can't quite accept, as the reality of the drug war at our border with Mexico.  Emily Blunt plays an idealistic FBI agent, Benito Del Toro, an assassin with a purpose, and Josh Brolin as the professional and generally pleasant Department of Defense agent, but with a warped sense of morals.  However, consider who he is contending against.

I then visited Jackie the tailor, a short walk from my hotel.  I had brought with me the previous day an example of a third generation safari shirt I designed over the decades I've been coming here.  24  hours later, for $27 (I ordered several different colors):

My vest has only two zippered pockets.  This shirt has four, and I'll test the black one out for travel to Dubai, but I love the blue green color.

My dinner at Sirocco was fabulous, and will be reviewed tomorrow.  Here I am with Chef de Cuisine Gonzalo Ruiz, from Spain, now the gastronomical capital of the world:

If I look like I gained some weight, it is mostly the contour of the shirt, but...yes.

Hurricane Oho has missed Hawaii, but it is interesting to note that it will weaken, then regain hurricane strength off Vancouver Island:


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

GAWA Day #22: Rossini's in Bangkok

I was planning to post today on the purpose of this blog site, which is Saving Planet Earth and Humanity.  However, I had such a pleasant experience last night at Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Rossini's that I'll spend virtually my entire posting just on this restaurant.

My Grand Around the World Adventure seems more and more to be focused on Italian cuisine.  First, in Tokyo, I was sent by the Ritz-Carleton to Armani, which was okay, but not spectacular, for the price.  Then in Hong Kong, I had lunch at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, a similar high-end Italian establishment, #8 on the Pellagrino Best 50 World Restaurants list, and, again, fine, but not memorable.  I have two more Italian stops, Venice and Milan, where the World Expo is coming to an end.

I've been going to Rossini's in Bangkok for nearly two decades.  Every time I stay at this Sheraton, I try to find time for at least one dinner here.  Again, high-end, and not close to Spaghetti Bolognese, which is something I'm actually desiring these days.

So not expecting anything particularly exceptional, for I've been here so often, I began by ordering a kind of Caesar salad and clam pot combination:

with a flight of Chianti (all from Tuscany, Ruffino DOCG, Vecchio Cantina DOCG and Ruffino Riserva Ducale Classico--DOCG is an Italian abbreviation indicating that the winery followed the strictest regulations).

The combination was just perfect.  My second course was a match of a black truffles risotto with garlic butter spinach.  Five years ago in Rome I had my best dish ever, a white truffles risotto.  This black truffle risotto, with all the ceremony and circumstances, rivaled that life highlight.  I've never before seen this, but a piping hot risotto was placed in a Parmesan bowl and stirred.  

One downside is that the rice cools.  In any case, note those black truffles to the right.  One was selected and carefully shaved onto the risotto:

Those brown slices are black truffles.  The black dots are just pepper.  How can truffles be described?  A ridiculously expensive fungus exuding a musky and pungent aroma, slightly crispy like sliced raw potato, and addictive.  When you chew into a piece, the roof of your mouth is instantly attacked, with the aftertaste spreading to the side and back of your tongue, not unlike a fine Chardonnay.  At the end of the meal, the garlic butter spinach was still quite hot.

Comparing Armani, 8 1/2 and Rossini's, the prices were similar, although Rossini's bill was the lowest.  The service here was exceptional.  Nutcha and Wanwisa, who teamed with elegance, efficiency and warmth:

That's also their petit fours finale and a free glass of limoncello.  Heck, they said, why not also have a grappa on the house:

The breakfast here has long been one of my favorites.  The buffet offers too much, really, so if you're on a diet, and I am again, that could be a problem:

Huge salad, ham and eggs, soba, tofu, orange juice, tea...  The hotel always seems to give me this view, this time in something called a Luxury Suite:

The air quality index today continues to be okay, possibly because it rains so much as their Monsoon Season soon comes to a close:

Bangkok AQIBangkok Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Wed. 9:00
Temp: 32°C
Today, I'm back on my diet.  Then tomorrow, I'll dine at Sirocco on the top of the largest building in Southeast Asia, State Tower, all of 820 feet high, with only the stars above you:

Wow, I count nine ocean storms:

No populated region is currently being threatened.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

GAWA Day #21: Singapore to Bangkok

According to Skytrax, the five best airports are:
  1. Singapore Changi
  2. Incheon
  3. Munich
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Haneda
So far on this trip I've used #1, #2 and #4.  Changi is great, but thinking bigger and greater.  Click on that article to be impressed:

Can't believe I've been on the road for three weeks.  Here are some of my thoughts, now that I'm now in Bangkok.

There is an advantage to traveling in countries where English is the primary language.  Both Hong Kong and Singapore were British-colonized.  Thus the communications are easy and local TV news are in English.   Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized, although there was some early British influence.  Remember Anna and the King of Siam?

Thus far--Japan, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand--tipping is not necessary.  According to Trip Advisor, massage ladies in Thailand are about the only people to be tipped, maybe 100 Baht (less than $3).

My postings seem to regularly complain about air pollution and such, but the fact of the matter is that Mother Nature has treated me well.   I have eluded typhoons, and while the weather has been hot, the rains have been only intermittent.  

I must give especial thanks to my body for keeping me healthy.  On global journeys, this is more important than anything else.  Keep up the good work, bod, only 45 days left.
So far, in the Orient, passing through customs and immigration has been a breeze.  Probably, being a Japanese-American helped.  However, in every airport thus far, with perhaps Bangkok (Thailand is 6% Muslim) being the exception, Muslim travelers seem to be having a tough time. It might be wise to avoid standing in line behind a group of Muslims.  My next two stops are Dubai (60% Muslims) and Turkey (98%).  I wonder if such clear discrimination is reversed in those countries?

Air pollution in Singapore continues to hover near 200:

Central, Singapore AQICentral, Singapore Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Tuesday 10:00
Temp: 29°C
(27°C – 31°C)


Bangkok AQIBangkok Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Tuesday 8:00
Temp: 29°C


Honolulu, Hawaii AQIHonolulu, Hawaii Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Monday 16:00
Primary pollutant: pm10

Wow!  I've never seen anything that low.

My stop after Bangkok...Dubai...oh, oh:

Zabeel Park AQIZabeel Park Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Very Unhealthy
Updated on Tuesday 5:00
Temp: 33°C

Only recently has Dubai begun to look into this problem.  Next, Istanbul:

Istanbul (Besiktas) AQIIstanbul (Besiktas) Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Tuesday 5:00
Temp: 18°C
Want to find your Air Quality Index?  Click on that.  Indonesia, the source of the Singapore problem:

Updated on Tuesday 8:00
Palangka Raya, Indonesia PM10 (respirable particulate matter)  measured by BMKG | Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi dan Geofisika.
Values are converted to the US EPA AQI standard.844
Palangka Raya, Indonesia  t (temp)  measured by Weather Underground.24
Palangka Raya, Indonesia  p (pressure)  measured by Weather Underground.1020

The highest I could find is Solling-sud, Germany:

Solling-süd AQISolling-süd Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI). 
Updated on Tuesday 4:00
Temp: 12°C

I'll get to that when I reach Frankfurt.  For now, sawasdee (hello or goodbye) from Thailand.

Hurricane Oho should not affect Hawaii:

Here are all the models: