My apologies for the lack of updates over the last fortnight, the blame can placed squarely on all of the fun I’ve been having. I’m nearly a week late with a ‘monthly recap’ post but right now I’d rather write about how I’ve spent the past two weeks.
When a friend of mine, Angel, told me she’d be visiting Southeast Asia I jumped on the opportunity to have a travel buddy. A warning — I’m not really the type of person who seeks out temples or shrines; instead I prefer to immerse myself in a culture by walking around and tasting the local cuisine so that may explain why the trip report’s main focus is on gastronomy.
We stayed off one of the main streets, Sukhumvit Road, which allowed us to be surrounded by ample amounts of street food, restaurants, massage parlors, nail salons, hotels, clothing stores, etc. Lots to see, lots to do. And personally more important, lots to eat. One of my favorite snacks is the fresh young coconut. Bottled coconut water is becoming increasingly popular in America, but I find something is off about the taste. It simply doesn’t compare to the real thing. And the real thing is not only delicious, but has the added bonus of hydration which is essential when dealing with Bangkok’s humidity. We found a few coconut vendors and for about $1 each, sipped the refreshing juice while we meandered along the sidewalk.
Having spent time in that area of Bangkok previously, I directed Angel towards Terminal 21, a nearby mall that had each of its seven floors designed to look like a famous city. Personally I’m not a big fan of shopping, but I was still fascinated by the architectural theme. Later that night we went to Soi Cowboy, a row of bars in the red-light district. Each bar had several scantily clad girls standing outside, clamoring for our attention. And on the inside, more girls were wearing less clothing, enthusiastically dancing on stage to loud club type music. Most girls have a number pinned to what’s left of their clothing, making it easier for the customers to identify which ones they’d like to take home. Angel and I had a few drinks there, but not enough to make a regretful decision.
During my last visit to HK, I often used charades to communicate with the locals. Not this time. Thankfully Angel is proficient in Mandarin which made the trip much smoother, even if the general population kept trying to talk to her in Cantonese. Between the two of us, we had a list of four foods to search for:
1) Won Ton Soup (Dumpling Soup)
2) Char Siu Bao (Steamed Pork Bun)
3) Gai Mei Bao (Sweet Coconut Pastry)
4) Shao Lin Bao (Pork Dumping)
It didn’t take us too long to find them all, nor to eat them all. I wasn’t familiar with the Shao Lin Bao but from now on it’ll be in my stable of my favorite dim sum dishes. It’s like a bowl of won ton soup in a single dumpling, as the tasty broth inside explodes as you bite into the outer rice flour casing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
After our food inspired scavenger hunt came to a close, we decided to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. Although I had already been there once before, I was excited to go again. This time, I went on more rides and saw an amazing rendition of the Lion King. Also made sure to have too many photos taken in funny poses and silly hats.
Without the allure of poker, I wasn’t so bullish on visiting Macau. I guess I could have sent Angel off to do her own thing while I played a a few orbits and although she’s the type of girl who would have been fine on her own, I felt like I should make more of an effort to show her around. The most important activity I wanted to do in Macau was eating (shocking!) at the Grand Lisboa Buffet. Angel initially wasn’t sold on it until I showed her the pictures from last time and after looking at a few shots of the dessert section, she was in. We took the ferry to Macau, checked into our hotel (With a free upgrade to a ‘balla’ suite), and cabbed over to the Grand Lisboa. I was excited. And hungry. Hungricited, perhaps? Unfortunately, the manager told us they were “booked” and didn’t have room for us. I even tried a hero bluff, but he was unmoved. Angel, who recently worked in the customer service industry, was upset with his candor and I agreed with her wholeheartedly — moments before posting this entry I fired off an email to the Grand Lisboa detailing our immense disappointment with lack of professionalism (and empathy) with their restaurant staff. Here’s a brief excerpt from that email.
I understand that the buffet is extremely popular and it was my mistake that I didn’t make a reservation, however, the manager was extremely rude and attempted to brush me away as if I were a common housefly. This sort of treatment is unacceptable in a Motel 6, let alone a hotel that dares to call itself ‘Grand.’ It saddens me that this took place as buffet I once found to be delicious has now left a a very bitter taste in my mouth.
But in every cloud, there is a silver lining. After being turned away from the Grand Buffet, we spoke with the concierge who directed us towards what he called ‘the best Portuguese restaurant in Macau.’ It didn’t disappoint. We shared a a few dishes (Portuguese steak, Spiced Portuguese Sausage, Oxtail Curry) and I loved all of them. We did a bit of walking that night and scoped out several hole-in-the-wall restaurants for our Macau eating tour on the following afternoon. That turned out to be a fantastic idea, as we were able to sample a variety of interesting (and tasty!) dishes.
We flew back to Chiang Mai a few days ago but she’s staying in town until the 24th so there is more touristy stuff on the horizon such as Tiger Kingdom, Siam Rice Cooking School, and the Elephant Nature Park.