Tag Archives: thailand

Bangkok, Thailand for Christmas and New Years

We have two friends who live in Bangkok and they invited us to stay with them for Christmas and New Years this year while we are traveling through Asia. It was so nice to be with friends at this time of year even though we were far from home. It was also wonderful to be in a home for a week; nice change from the constant hotel rooms of the last 3 months. We also had another 2 friends from Denmark joining us in Bangkok for the holidays (making us a group of 6).

Because I love cooking (and have really missed it since we started traveling), I volunteered to make Christmas dinner, with Glenn as my assistant.

We sent the menu and grocery list to our friends to buy the ingredients in advance since we arrived late afternoon on December 23rd.

On December 24th (Christmas Day for Danes) we spent the day cooking and the evening eating. Perfect Christmas.

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My menu:
Turkey
Unbelievably, we were able to get a real butterball turkey in Bangkok!
I love making turkey and have never made a bad one. The trick is to keep it simple. Butter, salt and pepper to season the turkey and baste with stock every 30 minutes. Works every time.

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Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is a very traditional American side dish for meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas and one of my personal favorites. Normally it is made with cream of mushroom soup but as we could not buy that in Bangkok I made it from scratch (with some variations based on the ingredients we could get).

I made a variation of this recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/green-bean-casserole-with-homemade-mushroom-gravy-recipe.html
I used asian long beans instead of traditional green beans because they were more readily available in Bangkok. I also substituted greek yogurt for the sour cream and heavy cream, mostly because our friends wanted a healthier version, but in my opinion this substitution affected the flavor (it was still great but I prefer with cream).

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Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
I made another one of my favorite go-to side dishes, roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Make the mashed potatoes normally.
For the garlic, cut the top off of a head of garlic so each clove is partially exposed. Pour olive oil over the head of garlic and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees F for at least an hour. Let cool a few minutes. When cooled you should be able to simple squeeze the garlic from the skin into the potatoes. This is a real crowd pleaser. I recommend 1 head of garlic for ever pound of potatoes.

Gravy
If you are having a turkey dinner you have to have some gravy and it is always better to make from scratch. I know most people are intimidated by making gravy but it is really not difficult.
Start by making a roux (butter and flour). Then slowly whisk in the remaining stock and turkey drippings from the roasting pan until combined. Continue whisking in more stock (I usually use chicken stock) until the gravy is your desired thickness.
If the gravy gets too thin, make another roux in another sauce pan and whisk into the gravy to thicken.
It is not be necessary to season the gravy. There is enough salt from the chicken stock and enough flavor from the turkey drippings.
Easy as that.

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Apple Crumble
For dessert I originally wanted to make a traditional apple pie. However, i asked our friends to buy two pie crusts, assuming they would buy 2 pastry pie crusts. Instead they bought 2 graham cracker crusts.
So, I changed my plan and made apple crumble instead.

My favorite apple for pies is a Granny Smith (I learned this from my mom). The tartness of the Granny Smith apple nicely balances the sugar, giving you a pie that is not overly sweet.
Amazingly, the Bangkok grocery store actually sold American Granny Smith apples!

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For the pie filling: peel the apples and cut into thick slices. Toss with about 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon (you can also use nutmeg if you have it).
Pour into pie crusts.

For the crumble topping: Mix melted butter, flour, sugar (brown sugar is best) and a pinch of salt until it has the consistency of wet sand.
Here is a nice easy recipe.
http://www.marthastewart.com/355506/crumble-topping

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Extra treats
Glenn made his famous egg nog to go with our dinner and used rum that we bought in Myanmar.

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Our two friends Jakob and Michael made ris a la mande, a Danish rice pudding dessert.

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Boys love food
When the turkey was finished and carved the boys just could not wait until dinner was actually served so they gnawed on the carcass in the kitchen.

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Christmas Dinner
Christmas dinner was a huge success. We were 12 people in total and we were a very international group: Denmark, USA, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Time to Relax
Honestly, Glenn and I really needed a break after traveling and we were really able to relax in our friends home.
The guys spent a lot of time hanging out and playing computer games.
We ate some great food. I made a lasagne one night, we grilled and went out to a few restaurants.

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Bangkok Street restaurant

I read an excellent book in one week. I recently completed a two year masters program and I am loving my new found freedom to read anything other than required reading!
The Hundred Foot Journey.
Such an interesting and compelling story that mixes culture and food perfectly. Perfect for the foodie and the traveler (in my case, I am both).

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VIP Movie Theatre
Glenn and I had read about a VIP movie theatre in Bangkok that is supposed to be one of the coolest theaters in the world. We love the movies so we had to go!

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The tickets are $26 pp.
Ticket includes: either:
– 15 minute massage before the movie
or
– coffee & cake/parfait (can have before movie or bring into theatre)
or
– a glass of wine (before the movie in the lounge)

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The Lounge

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The included treats

Honestly, we were expecting more/better movie snacks during the movie and were disappointed that the ticket did not include soda and popcorn so we went out and bought some.

The seats in the theatre however almost make up for it!
The seats are in pairs, fully recline (like a laz-e-boy chair) and come with blanket and pillow.
So comfy!
Just don’t fall asleep and miss the movie!

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Christmas in Bangkok
It was nice spending a night closer to central Bangkok because it finally felt a little bit like Christmas! Even though it was so warm there were christmas decorations and lights everywhere. We were missing that in the other countries we have been traveling in.

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New Years Eve

For dinner New Years Eve most of our friends got take out from a few different restaurants at a nearby shopping center. Glenn and I found it all to be overpriced and just ok so we decided to make our own dinner. We kept it simple and sautéed chicken and french fries in olive oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper. It is not so colorful but it tasted so much better than take out!

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After dinner we visited the rooftop of our friend’s friend’s apartment building. Their rooftop has an amazing view of the city and an infinity pool. We were actually wishing we stayed there all night because it was so amazing!

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By then it was time to take the ferry across the river to the bar where we would have some drinks and watch the fireworks at midnight.

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Waiting for the ferry

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My New Years Eve hair done by me

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The boys on the roof of the ferry

Here are some of the fireworks from New Years

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One of the best parts of the night, after midnight there was a man at the bar making these amazing pancakes. Perfect for the end of a night of cocktails.

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Even though we didn’t see any of the tourist or cultural sights in Bangkok we had an amazing time! It was exactly what we needed. Time relaxing with friends, anywhere in the world, is the perfect way to recharge on a long trip.
Remember that if you travel for an extended period.

Cambodia to Thailand: Land Crossing

Border Crossing
A very budget friendly way to get from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand is to book a bus for a land crossing.

You have two options: a night bus or a day bus.
The night bus is more comfortable (you actually have a double bed instead of standard bus seats) but it takes several hours longer as it takes a route north to Phnom Penh before driving to the Thai border. The day bus takes a more direct route along the coast.
Both times are the same price, about $17 per person.

We chose the day bus. We were picked up at our hotel at 7:00am and arrived in Bangkok at about 7pm.

The bus on the Cambodia side was fairly comfortable, decent seats and working air conditioning.

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Halfway through the day we arrived at the Thai border. Here you have to take everything off the bus (it will turn around and leave again so do not leave anything on the bus).
You then carry your baggage across the border to the customs offices and wait in line for your visa or passport stamp.
Being from USA and Denmark neither Glenn nor I needed a visa to enter Thailand. We simply had to fill out an arrivals form and wait in line for a passport stamp.

Typically you are only given 2 weeks visa when you do a land crossing. This is the amount of time Glenn received. However, for seemingly no reason I was given 30 days. It seems like it depends on both what country you come from and on which customs officer you get.
Either way the process was relatively easy.

Once you have your passport stamp/visa you continuer across the border to an area where the streets are lined with shops and food stands. This is where you will struggle to fine your next bus.

The staff from your first bus in Cambodia have left and there are no signs directing you to any buses on the Thai side. The only option is to find people who look like they might be drivers and show them your ticket until you find the right one. I found this process incredibly stressful and difficult.

Once we finally found our bus we discovered it was actually a minivan, 11 people crammed into a Minivan for a 6 hour drive on bumpy mountain roads.
NOT FUN!
My only recommendation is don’t look out the window. The drivers drive like maniacs and the less you look out the window the less sick you will feel (at least in theory).

The only lucky thing about this
Art of the trip was that there were some really nice people in our van that we talked with during the trip. This made the trip feel a bit shorter and was basically the only thing we could do on the drive because it was so bumpy (reading and using a tablet was impossible).

When we finally arrived in Bangkok we were dropped off at Khao San Road, the main backpacker area.
From there Glenn and I hailed a taxi to take us to our hotel.

Overall we made out ok with the land crossing and it did save us a lot of money but I really did not enjoy the experience. If you can afford to fly I recommend it because it is faster and so much less stressful.

Hotel: Don Mueng Hostel:
We had only one night layover in Bangkok before our morning flight to Myanmar the next day so we booked a small hotel near Don Mueng Airport.

The hotel we booked was a bit challenging for the taxi driver to find (they do not use gps) so be sure you have a map to help them.
Here is what the outside looks like to help you find it.

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Once we found it the hotel was great. Lovely staff (though they don’t speak much English so be prepared to act out some things).
The rooms and bathrooms are small and basic but impeccably clean and air conditioned.
It is really a perfect hotel for a layover.
It is a 15 minute walk to the airport and a very good price. We paid $25 for one night.
Here are some photos of the hotel

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The other great thing about this hostel is that there is a 7-11 just around the corner and it is open 24 hours.

I highly recommend this hostel if you have a layover in Bangkok or if you have an early morning flight from Don Mueng airport.