from “Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire”, Bonnie Tyler, 1984.
So we are back in Bangkok and taking a brief hiatus from moving around every month. While the travelling is great and we are really enjoying seeing lots of new places, after a year on the road we decided to take a break and stay in Thailand for a while. Hey, we are not getting any younger and in this case a rest is as good as a change 🙂
Geeks that we are, we spotted the ads for the Thailand Comic Con 2017 on the Bangkok Skytrain, which is definitely the kind of nonsense we enjoy and an event that we’ve not experienced before. Hosted at the Paragon Hall in the Siam Paragon mall made this very easy to get to, so we rounded up a few of our fellow gamers from Battlefield Bangkok and arranged to meet up with Aaron, Conrad, and Matt to see what it was all about.
Matt was planning to come along in cosplay as Thor but was unfortunately overruled by Mrs. Matt and so we didn’t get to explore the venue in the company of the mighty Asgardian 😦 Still there were plenty of others dressed up and they were very popular with people looking for photos.
The entry tickets were 100B each so not too bad and with two large halls of stands and vendors there was plenty to keep your average geek happy for a couple of hours, and here’s a few pictures of what we saw.
The Thailand Comic Con 2017 was good fun as our first event of the kind, despite opinion that last year’s Comic Con was better. Maybe we will catch the next one in 2018 and can compare.
from “La Storia Della Arcana Famiglia” soundtrack, Jun Fukuyama and Tsubasa Yonaga, 2012.
The National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) in the northern part of Taipei is Taiwan’s main museum of ancient Chinese imperial artefacts and artworks. Historically the National Palace Museum and the Palace Museum in Beijing share the same origins. However, the Palace Museum in Beijing was split into two as a result of the Chinese Civil War, which divided China in into the two present-day countries of the Republic of China (ROC) on the island of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland.
With the National Palace Museum having a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 items and with around 3,000 of these on display at any given time, we were definitely keen to see the exhibits and hastened to the metro and headed to Shilin.
Although located not too far from Shilin station, the museum was still a longer walk than we wanted to undertake so we decided to try and get the R30 bus, which is the main – and most direct – bus to the museum. We waited and saw several other busses which said they also went to the museum but we let these pass hoping for the R30 to come along. After a twenty minute wait we agreed it was wasting time and that we would get on the next bus that came along and said it stopped at the museum. It wasn’t the R30 but we jumped on nonetheless and managed to get a seat. The ride was all very interesting as we looked around at the local area and as we went some of the stops were announced in English, which we though was helpful. However, we didn’t hear an announcement for the National Palace Museum and, despite most people getting off at one point, we didn’t think anything of it. Fortunately a kind local sat behind us tapped us on the shoulder and said, “museum” while we were sat there chattering and gawping. With hasty “xiexie” (thank you) and were able to hop off quick before the bus moved on again. Now we know why we don’t get busses often.
We headed up the grand approach to the museum and enjoyed a little Taiwanese sunshine of which in all we didn’t see too much during our time in Taipei. Getting closer to the museum it got noticeably busier and when we arrived we found the sight we had expected but hoped not to find: hordes of tour groups. And not only this but groups of school-children too. Regardless of when we were going to visit the National Palace Museum, we think we were destined to be be sharing it with the crowds.
Unusually for museums that we have visited, it didn’t take us long to spot the other hordes: of museum staff armed with the following sign:
There were a surprising number of these attendants and not long after we started to view the exhibits we could see why: the tour groups and school-children were often rather unruly and noisy. Far be it from us to judge but the majority of the tour groups were from A Large Country Not Far Away, and in fairness children will be children; although the couple of Japanese school groups we saw (distinguishable by their smart uniforms) were generally very well behaved. Despite the groups, we were able to tour the museum and see all we wanted to see, just occasionally having to switch or delay our meanderings in order to avoid another horde.
We enjoyed a long tour of the museum and managed to see all the galleries that were currently open in a little over three hours, and saw some lovely artefacts and exhibits, a few of which are included here:
This is one of the best museums we have toured for antiquities and even with the crowds it was a very interesting and pleasant afternoon’s viewing, and the National Palace Museum is worth anyone’s time if you are in Taipei.
We would love to go back and see some more of the treasures they have, and we’re sure we will definitely be returning to Taiwan.
We bought our Bangkok at The Park Chidlom around 10 years ago and in all that time we were never once in Thailand when the Annual General Meeting occurred. That is until now, and our current life on the road as International Vagabonds has coincided with the AGM and given us the first opportunity to go along.
The AGM was held at the Nai Lert Swissôtel, which is a classy hotel set in the very pleasant grounds of Nai Lert Park and situated just across the road from our condominium. Firstly was reception, and we had to sign in and register to participate, whilst enjoying tea, coffee, and some fancy little pastries. Some of the staff we know looked slightly surprised to see us there, which is understandable given it was our first attendance in the decade the AGM has been taking place.
The meeting was interesting, though hardly of significance to anyone but the residents, so we won’t bore you with details here. Suffice to say we liked what we heard.
We did get the opportunity to chat with other residents and it was interesting that one of the guys standing for election to the committee made a point to introduce himself. He’s English like us, and certainly seemed to have the right idea about how the way things should be run at The Park, which is good as any foreigners on the committee are a good counterpoint to local members. This helps to ensure things get done properly and keep everyone happy.
Definitely a different activity during our travels – and maybe not the most exciting – but for us it was a good way to start getting a little more involved again with our condominium, especially as it’s financing our travels! 🙂
Due to our current travels and absence from the UK we find ourselves in a situation where we are missing the “traditional” early run-up to Christmas. So this year no spotting the Christmas goodies and the like in the shops from October onwards. No traditional pulling-on-the-heartstrings John Lewis TV advert. No Christmas songs on the radio in November. And no Brussels sprouts in the vegetable aisle, hurrah! In fact, considering we have been in tropical climates for most of the year, it doesn’t exactly even feel like autumn never mind nearly Christmas!
There are a few things we won’t won’t miss, like some of the horrendously tasteless decorations that some people put up on their houses, and the seemingly relentless promotion of Christmas and all the things you need for a successful one wherever you go. And the aforementioned Brussels sprouts. OK actually Philip will miss them, on account of him being a weirdo who likes Brussels sprouts. 😉
However, the consumerism that is Christmas has still managed to stretch forth its arm and we have seen small Christmas areas in the Central department stores selling various decorative items.
And in our favourite supermarket – the Central Food Hall – there are some Christmas foods, though not wholly surprising as they already stock various Waitrose and Marks & Spencer goodies anyway. There also Christmas foods from other countries too, as Thailand has quite a expatriate presence and so the main supermarkets have stock accordingly.
As of yet though the malls and shops don’t have any Christmas decorations up; we have only seen one shop with a little fairy-light festooned artificial tree so far. Maybe they are waiting until it’s actually nearer to Christmas! 😛
One Christmas thing we have done this week is to buy and post Christmas cards back to the UK. Given that we need to send them airmail we wanted to make sure we did this in plenty of time, especially as we are off to Taipei in one week’s time. Greetings cards – as we’ve discovered for friends’ and family birthdays this year – is not something that Thailand does that well. Most of the cards we’ve found have been too cutesy or just plain boring; humourous ones seem almost non-existent. Fortunately B2S – a large stationary store – has stocked some relatively tasteful packs of Christmas cards so we have been able to get cards that we aren’t too ashamed to be sending!
It will be interesting to see how Christmassy we feel as we get closer to the big day and how Christmas is done while we are in Taipei and Bangkok. If all else fails can indulge just a little bit and get some After Eight mints and listen to Santa Baby…
Aside from making sure we get from A to B and have somewhere to stay, eating is obviously a big consideration while we are on the road and exploring places new and old. And due to our travelling we don’t cook for ourselves anymore; we haven’t prepared a meal since we left London at the end of March (and yes, missing cooking meals just a little bit).
We try to indulge in a little of most every cuisine whenever we are in a foreign country while of course enjoying some of the local food too. However, between these trips we are spending time in Bangkok as it is very familiar to us and we feel right at home – not surprising given we have the apartment at The Park Chidlom too, even though it is currently rented out. And given we are here a lot we have gotten to know a few of the everyday eateries quite well, and this was given a boost after our three months in Japan earlier this year, which was just as well as there are a lot of Japanese restaurants in Thailand!
So here are some of our favourite places to eat when we’re keeping things simple for dinner.
Although we knew of Yayoi in Thailand before our long travels through Japan, we had only visited once and had a few appetisers. However, our Airbnb host in Tokyo (the very fine Sho) told us about Yayoiken and Coco Ichibanya, and they soon became firm favourites with us, and had outlets in all the Japanese cities we visited.
Yayoi (Yayoiken) is a teishoku restaurant, which basically means most of the meals are meal sets, where you get a main dish with various sides, and then always rice and miso soup too. There is a good variety of dishes to choose from with chicken, pork, beef, and seafood all available in various forms and cooking styles. And the food pretty cheap too, one of the most economical ways to eat out here.
While Japanese sounding in name, and definitely in cuisine, Fuji is in fact a Thai chain of Japanese food restaurants. Like Yayoi, Fuji serves teishoku meals but is also serves a lot more: sashimi, sushi, nigiri, bento, and pretty much most other Japanese food styles we have encountered.
Fuji is always very popular with Thais, especially in larger groups as we often see families dining here. Being so often busy it can be a bit difficult to get service at times, but the food is very good, reasonably priced, and worth the wait.
Like Yayoi, we were aware of the existence of Coco Ichibanya in Thailand, though in this case we had never visited one until we had tried it out in Japan. Coco Ichibanya basically serves one thing: curry. But there are lots of curries you can have as with the different curry sauces and strengths, as well as meats, seafoods, vegetables, and other extras you can add, you can easily create all manner of curry meals. Quick, easy, and great value too, if we’re in a hurry we have a curry!
A recent discovery of only a few months ago, Wine Connection has become a firm favourite. This is the closest we have come to finding a brasserie akin to the likes of Cafe Rouge or Cote back in the UK. There’s a great selection of Western dishes, so cue steaks and grills, pasta, pizza, seafood, comfort foods (bangers & mash, fish & chips), charcuterie and cheese boards, and desserts (tiramisu, crème brûlée, pannacotta, etc.) and lots more. The food here is very good and not at all expensive.
We tend to see more foreigners in Wine Connection than our other regular dining haunts, though it is also very popular with Thais – who seem to be quite taken with the wines on offer; it’s becoming quite the status thing. And unsurprisingly with a name like Wine Connection, this restaurant chain stocks a good cellar and you can even buy a bottle from their in-house wine shop and have it with your meal if you want to. There’s also quite a good selection of craft European beers available as well. It’s definitely a great place for us to eat when we want something ‘non-Asian’ to eat.
There’s a great dining scene in Bangkok, like many other cities we’ve visited, and some of our favourite quality dining places are here: Eat Me, Luce (at the Eastin), and Ciao (at the Oriental) to name just a few. But if it’s just an easy dinner before a film or a quiet evening, then you’re more than likely to find us in the likes of Fuji, Coco Ichibanya, etc.
“Gep taang kup.” (that’s Thai for “the bill please.”)
We often visit the cinema when we are in Bangkok, not only because the cinemas are great quality but they are also very cheap. So definitely no complaints from us as we do like a trip to the movies and we are more likely to see a film we might otherwise skip.
We recently went to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (a good film!) and during the trailers before the movie there was one for a Thai comedy film called Pard 888. Suffice to say from the trailer it looked a fairly insane film about a bunch of odd characters on a bus. The trailer had English subtitles so we thought that when the film was released we might give it a try.
Pard 888 was on general release this week so we doubled checked the film was subtitled in English and decided to catch an evening showing after dinner. Unsurprisingly we were the only foreigners in the cinema and most of the rest of the audience were teenage and twenty-something Thais.
The film was something along the lines of Speed meets The Young Ones with all kinds of slapstick and toilet humour aboard a bus with a bomb on it. It was actually very funny even though some of the translations of Thai to English seemed rather odd; for example when one character was compared to a “buffalo’s hoof” it was seemingly a very cutting remark eliciting much laughter from the Thai audience.
Suffice to say we really enjoyed the film, and its – in places – touching moments as well as ending, and it was a great way for us to experience a film we otherwise would never have seen. We will certainly be looking our for any more English subtitled films to enjoy whenever we are in Bangkok, especially if they are good fun like Pard 888.
We have always enjoyed games, and while we don’t have a big collection of them it’s always fun to get together with a few friends – and maybe drinks and food to help the proceedings along – and enjoy some laughs over games.
Now that were are on our extended travels our usual opportunities to meet up with friends for games has been suspended, just for the time being. So it was with no small amount of delight that we were happy to stumble across the existence of Battlefield Bangkok during our latest visit to Thailand when we were searched for a games store.
Battlefield Bangkok is a games and hobby store with loads of different games: card games, dice games, board games, role-playing games, miniatures games, and more. You name it, they seem to have it.
As well as a games shop, Battlefield Bangkok is also a place where you can play games, either one of your own or one the many available for you to borrow. And best of all, both these gaming options are completely free!
There are tables in the main store area as well as a number of private rooms you can use to play, and to keep you fed and watered there is the Battlefield Bangkok coffee shop, which sells coffee, water, smoothies, and soft drinks as well as a variety of snacks, noodles, and made to order sandwiches. And if that wasn’t enough you can also order in food from their partner restaurant Devilish just a couple of doors down and have it delivered to your gaming table.
We were delighted to see the place busy and buzzing with gamers when we found out about it and popped along for a look. There were lots of locals playing but also more than a few foreigners as well. Battlefield Bangkok is owned and run by Chris, a fellow Brit, so we had a good old chat on our arrival and found out all about the place and the – apparently prolific – gaming scene in Bangkok and Thailand. He suggested we post on their Facebook group if we were interested in meeting up with other people for any games we had in mind and so we did.
One thing led to another and last Saturday we got together with four others for a game of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. When we arrived Battlefield Bangkok was already very busy with games players but the game organiser had reserved one of the private rooms so we could play away from the main shop area. And then we basically spent the evening running around as halflings, elves, and humans slaying lots of nasty goblins and vicious worgs in true Lord of the Rings fantasy style.
We had a great evening games play and it was also a good opportunity to meet with new people. And with our flexible travelling style and Bangkok as our “base camp” we’ll be able to enjoy more gaming sessions fairly regularly, which is a great addition to our social armoury.