Bangkok, Day 1: Arrival + Exploring the City

I took a rest for about an hour before heading to one of the famous restaurants in Aree neighborhood — LAY LAO.

I decided to order slices of roast beef and som tam (green papaya salad) instead. I asked the staff to make the spiciness of som tam to be very mild… but it was still too spicy for me to handle!

MARCH 15, 2016

I booked my flight to Bangkok through Cebu Pacific (seat sale yay) and I was very happy that I did not experience any delay. In fact, we arrived 20-30 minutes earlier than ETA! This was my first solo trip so I was really excited to see what this trip had in store for me.

Before I left the airport, I looked for the DTAC station to get the tourist prepaid SIM card I paid for online (https://www.dtac.co.th/en/prepaid/products/tourist-packages.html). You may opt to buy it in the airport if you do not want to pay online. For just 229 baht, I already have a SIM with free data volume for one week. Very convenient for my Google Maps and Facebook Messenger access.

My sister shared with me how she went to her lodging using the airport taxi so I already had some idea how to book one. The signs inside the airport were easy to follow so upon seeing the taxi bay, proceed first at the machine where it will give you a small paper with the number of the taxi you should proceed to.

My Airbnb host provided her home address in Thai language so I just showed it to the taxi driver. Lucky that the driver was knowledgeable since he did not have any difficulty in finding the house (which is located at the end of a narrow alleyway).

I already experienced heavy traffic jam while on the way to the Airbnb listing. It was also quite disorienting for me because vehicles in BKK are for right-hand driving — caused me confusion when crossing streets because I would instinctively look to one side when in fact, it should be the opposite.

Upon reaching the house, I was greeted by Katy & Benz — they are the hosts for the listing I booked for my BKK stay (they are also a couple *-*). Even from outside, the house already looked amazing! I was excited to see “my” room since the pictures of the room in Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4771693) looked really clean, beautiful, and maaliwalas… and when I finally saw the room, it did not disappoint!

Why should you stay with Katy & Benz if you are in Bangkok?

  • I absolutely love the bedroom — the soft and comfortable bed, the balcony with beautiful plants, the smooth wooden floor, and the room having cool temperature even if it was insanely hot outside. While the bathroom is a shared one, it is very clean and you can use any of the toiletries inside (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, facial wash, etc.).
  • BTS station is nearby. I prefer to go to Sanam Pao station since this is nearer than Aree. If I remember correctly, when going home, take Exit 3 to go back to Mooncome Homestay.
  • The area is indeed quiet especially at night so you are assured of a good night’s sleep.
  • They serve free breakfast! No need to stress yourself where to get your breakfast. You get to taste local dishes + the food they serve is delicious.
  • Their neighborhood, Aree, is dubbed as a hipster place. You can find coffee shops, dessert places, hole-in-the wall restos, food trucks, and street food stalls thay serve delicious food & drinks.

Google Maps will not provide an accurate location if you rely on the specific address in their Airbnb page. Just type in “MOONCOME HOMESTAY” and you will be able to easily navigate yourself back home.

Back to my first day — I took a rest for about an hour before heading to one of the famous restaurants in Aree neighborhood — LAY LAO. Google Maps saved me the hassle of getting lost since it was accurate in providing the location.

I was supposed to get their grilled squid but the serving size is too much for me. I decided to order slices of roast beef and som tam (green papaya salad) instead. I asked the staff to make the spiciness of som tam to be very mild… Apparently, very mild is still too spicy for me to handle! Total bill was 180 baht.

Roast beef slices (Lay Lao)

Som tam (Lay Lao)

After having lunch in Lay Lao, I searched for a money changer in Bangkok and a lot of tourists recommended Super Rich (http://www.superrichthailand.com/). There are two Super Rich money changers in BKK, and look for the one with green theme because they have better rates. After changing my USD to baht, I headed to Platinum Fashion Mall which was just a few blocks away.

Dubbed as the largest wholesale and retail shopping destination, PLATINUM FASHION MALL is really tiring to roam around. There are three whole floors dedicated to just women’s clothes! Other floors are for men’s clothes, kids’ clothes, accessories, etc. Shopping heaven for the shopaholics indeed!

It took me about 2 hours to just finish going around 3 floors (including window shopping and actual buying). Whew! But I was happy with my purchases since all the clothes I bought were about 200-300 baht each only. Yay! I had no interest in the other floors so I went straight to the topmost floor to eat in their food court. I read that hoy tod (fried oyster cake) is one of the must-try dishes there. I forgot the stall number/name where I bought it but I found it in some blog entries so maybe it would be easy to search online?

I was not aware though that I had to get a card and pay for it to put load or credit, then use it to pay for anything that I will buy in the food court. Good thing there was a customer in the same stall  who knows how to speak in English so she was able to instruct me properly. Life saver!

The hoy tod was really delicious but the serving was good for two so I was not able to finish it. There was a generous amount of oysters, and I had the option to calibrate the sauce and other condiments I would put in it. I think this was just about 70-80 baht only.

Hoy tod

After eating, I was supposed to take the BTS to go to Victory Monument but I was not sure on the exact location of the area with boat noodles stores. I took a cab instead and the fare was less than 100 baht so it was not a bad decision after all. Also, locals do not call the place “Victory Monument” so I showed the driver the name of the place written in Thai.

I had no idea which store serves good-tasting boat noodles so I searched for recommendations online. FoodieFC recommended “THE BEST OF BOAT NOODLE” since there were more customers eating there when he visited.

The serving of boat noodles is really small, probably not even enough for a kid so people usually order at least 5 bowls to feel a bit full. But since I was still full from the hoy tod, I ordered just 2 bowls of “Noodles Thicken Soup with Beef“. It tasted good but I eventually found a better-tasting boat noodles in Rot Fai.

I was quite annoyed with the staff though because they served a plate of crispy pork crackling (similar to chicharon) which I initially thought to be free of charge. Apparently, it costs 10 baht so this was charged to me when I asked for my bill.

Noodles Thicken Soup with Beef

Added the crispy pork crackling without knowing that it was not for free 😦

After paying for my bill, I strolled around the area and there were lots of vendors selling all sorts of food. I ended up buying a cup of strawberries as a palate cleanser but I was not able to eat most of it since the vendor scooped a mixture of sugar and salt on it.

More street food stalls in Victory Monument area

Stall with plentiful of strawberries

While looking for a trash can to dispose my cup of weird-tasting strawberries, two young locals who were wearing Greenpeace shirts approached me and they started speaking in Thai. I smiled at them and told them that I do not understand Thai language. We bid goodbye to each other and I went home around 5PM to rest and think about where to eat for dinner.

Worst decision ever to had that white substance sprinkled all over the strawberries — turns out to be mix of salt and sugar 😦

Victory Monument

Victory Monument BTS station

Upon reaching home, I still felt really full so I decided not to eat heavy dinner and just have dessert in PURITAN. From Mooncome Homestay, I walked for about 20 minutes to reach the place.

When I arrived, there was no customer around so the place was very quiet. All of the cakes looked visually appetizing, to the point that you would not want to eat the cake because it will ruin the look. In the end, I chose the cake with different kinds of berries.

I walked to the dining area and when I was about to sit down, an employee approached me and asked if I did not read the sign outside. I looked puzzled and she pointed to my shoes. Apparently, I had to take them off outside the shop so I hurriedly removed them. When I saw the sign, I was not surprised that I did not know about this rule because there was no English translation. LOL.

Cake with different kinds of berries, yay!

After finishing my dessert, I decided to take a tuktuk if one would pass by so that I could go home faster. Indeed, a tuktuk passed by when I just started walking. I showed the address in Thai and at first, we were heading at the right direction when the driver made a different turn. I was confused because we were getting further away from the house. I was right that he brought me to the wrong location (yay for having sense of direction) so I called Katy so that she could give the right directions. When we finally arrived, I paid the driver 50 baht but he told me it should be 80 baht. Wow, talk about expensive. That would already equate to taxi fare but since I was not in the mood to quarrel, I just gave it to him and vowed not to ride tuktuk there again.

I had no problem in sleeping since I was dead tired already plus the next day would be visiting a lot of temples.

 

LINKS TO OTHER BANGKOK 2016 POSTS:

Bangkok, Day 2: Grand Palace, 5 Wats, Thip Samai

Bangkok, Day 3: MBK, Mont Nom Sod, Food Trip

Bangkok, Day 4-5: Terminal 21, Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar, Rot Fai Market, Mooncome Homestay

Tokyo, Day 3: Mount Fuji, Komagatake, Lake Ashi (Kanagawa)

After a few hours of bus ride, we were able to reach LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO where we got to see a full view of Mount Fuji. We were lucky because it was not yet cloudy so we were able to admire its beauty. It kind of reminded me of Mount Mayon, except Fuji has snow at the top part.

JANUARY 26, 2016

We started our 3rd day early as we had to leave Tokyo and head for the Hakone area to view Mount Fuji.

At a stopover

After a few hours of bus ride, we were able to reach LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO where we got to see a full view of Mount Fuji. We were lucky because it was not yet cloudy so we were able to admire its beauty. It kind of reminded me of Mount Mayon, except Fuji has snow at the top part.

Toshi-san, our tour guide, gave us some time for picture taking. I was too engrossed with looking at Mount Fuji and snapping photos here and there that I did not know there was a shop in the area that sells local delicacy. Toshi-san bought us a box of mochi (matcha and strawberry flavors) and I could only chose one — strawberry won and it was sooooo good.

Apparently, this was only available in the area so yeah, I really regretted not being able to buy this one. I saw a similar box in the shop near Komagatake Ropeway but it was too expensive.

When we arrived in Hakone Komagatake Ropeway, we had lunch first.

After lunch, we had time to go around the area before going to the ropeway. We entered the shop where I first tried a gachapon (Hello Kitty keychain). There were all sorts of food and local delicacy which you can buy as souvenir.

I went near the shore of Lake Ashi afterwards to admire the view and take some shots of trees and a few locals…

When our call time for the ropeway activity drew near, we headed to the main area of HAKONE KOMAGATAKE ROPEWAY. Riding this would take you above Mount Komagatake where you can have a better view of Mount Fuji.

The cabin we rode was full of people but luckily, a senior office mate called me to a good spot near her side where I could step on an elevated floor and have a better view of the surroundings. The ride to the top was about 7 minutes and if you are acrophobic, better stay in the middle of the cabin space.

When we reached our destination, we only had 20 minutes to explore the area since we already had a schedule for the Lake Ashi cruise. Some of us ran right away and made our way to a higher, elevated area to check out Mount Fuji.

Ran all the way from this spot (where I took this picture) up to the top, near the house

Unfortunately, it was already cloudy and we could only see the tip of Mount Fuji. 😦

Hide and seek with Mount Fuji

We maximized the remaining time by exploring the other parts of the area and of course, took pictures here and there…

©Nicole – Me on top of Mount Komagatake

After our 20 minutes of free time, we rode the cabin again to go back to LAKE ASHI and wait for our cruise ship

Upon boarding, some of us went on the topmost deck of the ship. Brrrr, it was very windy up there plus winter season so it was really a double cold combo. Good thing I was wearing my long padded coat which has a neck cover and hoodie. Best Uniqlo winter wear investment ever!

Despite me freezing due to the temperature and wind, I still managed to capture some good sights during the cruise. Toshi-san also shared legends and other cultural stories about Lake Ashi.

©Nicole – Company photo during Lake Ashi cruise

After the cruise, we rode our bus to head back to Tokyo. Caught some z’s during the trip so that I would be energized that night.

Upon reaching Tokyo, our bus headed for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which is located in Shinjuku area. I think there is no entrance fee for this but be prepared for the long line of visitors at night. We went up to the 45th floor where we enjoyed looking at Tokyo at night. There was also a purikura booth there — my female colleagues and I tried it, and it was fun!

©Nicole – While waiting for our turn to ride the elevator going to 45th floor

Processed with VSCO

We went to a restaurant in Shinjuku afterwards, and had another round of hotpot. There was also a buffet which had Korean and Japanese cuisine. I was so thrilled to see Japanese curry and kimchi there so even if these did not seem to be fit to pair with hotpot, I still grabbed a few servings.

4 trays of meat for the hotpot *burp*

A few of us decided to stay behind after dinner so that we could do some late night shopping in the area. Shops visited were BIC Camera, Uniqlo, and MatsuKiyo (famous drugstore Matsumoto Kiyoshi). I splurged at MatsuKiyo and bought items like Shiseido Perfect Whip Facial Foam, Sahada Shizuku Pack Gel, CURE Natural Aqua Gel, Liese Bubble Hair Color, Curel Intensive Moisture Cream, Shiseido Eyelash Curler, Hada Labo Gokujyun Light Lotion (which is actually their term for ‘toner’).

Called it a night after MatsuKiyo shopping as the next day would start early.

©Nicole – Shinjuku Shopping Squad? :p

©Nicole – Train ride back to our hotel

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa