Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bangkok Markets

It wasn't a short break (vacation). It was work and I attended the recent Food Ingredient Asia exhibition in Bangkok. It was a tiring trip after away for about a week.
A meeting place for food ingredient specialists, Food Ingredient Asia 2006 was recently held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center from 13 - 15 September. The three days event drew quite a huge crowd.
The ChinaTown district is one of the oldest areas of Bangkok as Chinese merchants were originally moved to this area in the early 1780's when Bangkok was founded. The area has got a somewhat seedy historical reputation for large numbers of opium dens, brothels (which hung green lanterns outside, giving it the name of the Green Light district), pawnshops and a fondness for gambling. Today, gold shops and pawnshops are still very popular in Chinatown and can be found almost anywhere. I had the chance to explore a bit of the district though a little late - most of the shops were closed. A morning walk in the chinatown and you could explore more - a place with plenty of old heritage.
The Suan Lum Night Bazaar is the first official night bazaar ever available in Thailand. The open air food court (or was it a beer garden ?) sells Thai and western food, all purchased with coupons. Unused coupons can be exchanged for cash.
There is also free entertainment with singing and dancing on a big stage.
Because these markets (Suan Lum and also Chatuchak, below) are big, there are maps available to help shoppers understand the general market layout.
On our way to Patpong, riding a tuk tuk. Did you know there are tuk tuk(s) in other countries as well ?
Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok - internationally known as a red light district in the heart of the city. Most Patpong go-go bars feature women dancing on a stage in sexy two-piece garments. The dancers (and even occasionally the serving staff) are generally available to customers willing to pay a bar fine to take them out of the bar (ahem). Several upstairs bars still feature (technically illegal) sex shows, with women performing various creative acts. Perhaps the most notorious of these features women performing exotic feats involving their genitalia and projectile table tennis balls.
We did some hard bargaining at the Patpong Night Market. We skipped the pingpong show but ended up in one of the go-go bars. Plenty of pretty go-go dancers that later my colleague suggested that many maybe ladyboys (kathoeys).
Though there are many markets throughout Bangkok, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is pretty much the undisputed king of them all.
Chatuchak is a particularly good place to buy all sorts of Thai handicrafts, as there's a huge range, the quality is high and the intense competition keeps the prices low.
Not only crowded with foreign visitors but one can see locals way of life.
Picture of an officer talking (questioning?) to a food seller. There are actually more than 15,000 stalls in Chatuchak. Plentiful - you can shop till you drop !
As well as excellent bargains, the markets also offer a slice of local life and a great opportunity to sample the kind of food you won't find in most hotels.
Chatuchak basically is shoppers paradise and a MUST for anyone in Bangkok who has shopping on their agenda. I didn't buy much though. U Shop V Ship offering delivery service.
The best way to get there is on the Skytrain, Mo Chit Station is only about five minutes walk away from the market.
It was like some 8 years ago since I last visited Thailand. Looking forward to Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, hopefully next year.

Seoul Again

During my first visit to Korea, it was short but quite eventful. To browse visit, click here :

Tour 2 Seoul Part One
Tour 2 Seoul Part Two
Tour 2 Seoul Part Three
On Top of the Dragon Peak - Lost Love Found

Question is after the first visit, how much do I want to go back ? I have been always keen to see Korea again. This time, I re-visited Seoul. Much for business and abit of sightseeing.
After work, the first night, we visited Insadong, a place best loved by foreign visitors. Narrow streets are lined with traditional buildings, housing arts and craft shops, restaurants and tea shops. It was good experience as we had delicious dishes that taste of Korean traditional home cooking - it was like a full course for taste of Korea - some 20 to 30 dishes were served. Burp !
The restaurant has a neat atmosphere and the serving staffs were very friendly, and in korean dress.
Jogyesa Temple is the center of Zen Buddhism in Korea, and is famous for being located in the city.
The Daeungjeon, the main building, is particularly beautiful with all the different colors painted on it, and inside the building is the Seokgamoni statue. The Buddha story is actually quite nicely crafted.
The world seems becoming more colorful - hand-crafted and painted from some solid hard wood.
Jogyesa Temple operates a temple life program for its foreign visitors. It is an opportunity to observe traditional Korean Buddhist temple life. One can learn about various Buddhist cultures such as Chamseon, Dado, and Balugongyang.
The details were just amazing and such colorful presentation.
The temple does not give off the solemn and traditional air of the other temples located deep in the mountains, or offer the seasonal scenery of the mountains and the sea. But because it is located in the middle of the city, the transportation is convenient, it is frequently visited by the locals (mostly women).
Itaewon is a popular tourist and shopping destination for foreigners who visit Korea. There are over 2,000 stores clustered together.
The many English signs and many foreigners will make you feel as if you are in not in Korea.
I stayed two nights at Blue Pearl - comfortable and some sort of a business hotel.
Room views are mostly disappointing unless you'd enjoy watching traffic. IMG_9242
A free event in the airport that one can enjoy korean traditional craft making. Nice.
It was a rather short trip but mission accomplished and heading to Bangkok.

The best way to travel to Korea, plan now -

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Family Day 2006

Some time last month, we had our annual Family Day at Austin Hills Country Club. It was some sort of a combined family-staff interaction day with some motivation intentions.
There are two 18 holes courses, namely the Austin Course and the Hills Course. We did not play golf but quite plentiful event to fill the day. Below is just to name a few.
The group first gathered for some opening speeches. Not bad. The starting atmosphere was quite perfect I would say.
One of the games that we had - Giant Sandle.
The game started and each group competed against each other.
It was fun watching them - how they flip flop during the race.
Some kids were there watching, while other contesting for coloring fun.
Some of the works of the kids. Some quite nice indeed.
Many other events which I have lazily skipped. One of the interesting ones was face drawing. Despite being the President of the Club, I wasn't aware that the senior management team was targeted for this section. Reason being that I always skip the meeting.
It is no delicate cosmetic nor any beautiful look that one like to dream about. Just paint and brush. How brutal !
Elvin looked quite OK here - devilish.
Patriotic huh ? I think Mr Chan won the most votes from the audience. Not to mention that Elvin got the least. There were I think 6 of them on stage.
The group of Indonesian workers. They never really joined the group - sort of shy off the rest of the people. Everyone was tired. It was a hot day. Thanks for the team anyways.

I will be off for a short trip. Hopefully more posts in days to come. Ciao.