Best Places to Eat in Thailand (IV)

Author: George Augustine

Best Places to Eat in Thailand (IV)

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Na's Kitchen, Pai – Amazing Thai food in Pai

 

Na's Kitchen is friendly and delicious. The clientele appears to be mostly foreigners, but the food is good enough to appeal to Thais. Try the Penang curry, and the ramen noodles with pork. 

 

It's only open for dinner.

 

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Pum Ko Phi Phi – Restaurant and cooking school on Ko Phi Phi

 

Cheerful Pum is a small chain with three locations: Ko Phi Phi, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. 

 

It does excellent Thai staples at very reasonable prices, and uses natural, whole ingredients. The restaurant interior is relaxing and comfortable, cool gray cement shows off bright orange pillows and decor.

 

Dishes have fun names such as "red lipstick" (red curry), and cocktails are creative: try the lemongrass and Mekong whisky, or Thai coffee and Mekong whisky. Sweet and refreshing!

 

Cooking classes are held twice a day at 1pm and 4pm; you can do short classes that focus on a single dish for 399 baht, or three-hour classes for 1200 baht, plus options in-between.

 

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Regina Garden – The place to eat some tam and watch the sun set

 

One of the most laid-back venues along this block of riverfront restaurants and bars, Regina's has a mellow garden atmosphere. Tables are set on the grass or dirt along the water, or up higher on a covered patio. Whimsical wooden sculptures adorn the leafy grounds, while inside is what feels like an antique curios shop. Prices are reasonable for the atmosphere and location; about 80-100 baht for Thai mains. Some of the staff doesn’t speak English but the menu is in both Thai and English. 

 

World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations (I)

Few spaces are more peaceful and awe-inspiring than a beautiful garden. One feels calmer when surrounded by flowers, water features, fountains and the sound of nature.

 

Some of the most beautiful gardens are found in California up to Victoria, Canada. Each park is an ideal destination to visit to appreciate the beauty of a city. All offer wonderful walking trails for exercise among colorful flora and fauna.

 

 

World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations: Descanso Gardens

 

Just 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles is 160 acres of cultivated and natural beauty. Relax and recharge while visiting the Japanese gardens, camellia forests, waterfalls, rose gardens and lilac garden. Newspaper magnate E. Manchester Boddy owned this property and the Los Angeles Daily News.

 

During Spring, cherry trees, tulips, daffodils and magnolias are in full bloom. On Easter weekend, eggs are hidden on the one-acre Central lawn.

 

Families enjoy a ride on the Enchanted Railroad, an eighth scale replica of a diesel train, which takes visitors around a section of the park. There is also a tram tour of the park. This park is a very popular wedding destination.

 

 

World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations: Bellagio Las Vegas

 

Originally built by Steve Wynn, the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is an indoor display of nature, with magnificent flowers 365 days a year.

 

During spring celebration, summer season, fall harvest, winter holidays and the Chinese New Year, 140 expert horticulturists theatrically arrange gazebos, bridges, ponds, and water features into stunning floral destinations. Thousands of flowers and plants aroused in the different exhibits.

 

Experts lead garden talks between the hours of 10:30 am. – 11:30 am. They provide tips and answer questions from visitors about the gardens.

 

The South Garden offers live musical performances daily from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The resorts grandeur is open 24 hours a day to the public and admission is free.

 

 

World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations: Butchart Gardens

 

One of the world's premier show gardens is located in charming Victoria, Canada. Its a designated National Historic Site of Canada.

 

Jennie Butchart began building her flower garden over a century ago. More than a million visitors appreciate this destination each year. While she collected plants, her husband collected ornamental birds from all over the world. He had a beloved parrot in the house, a flock of ducks in the Star Pond, and peacocks on the front lawn.

 

In December 2009, Butchart Gardens opened the Children's Pavilion and the Rose Carousel with a menagerie of thirty animals, including beam, homes, ostriches, and zebras.

 

 

The Gardens' owner — and great granddaughter of Jennie Batched — consulted with an artist from North Carolina. The carvings were done by some of the few remaining carvers of carousel art. Each animal is carved from basswood and took many months to complete. There are also two chariots able to accommodate disabled persons Enjoy an afternoon Tea in the Dining Room with a variety of scones, sandwiches and loose-leaf tea. 

 

Best Cities to Visit in China (II): Chengdu

Best Cities to Visit in China: Chengdu

 

If you could sum up Chengdu in three words, it would be tea, pandas and cuisine. The capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu is the most important city in western China and the obvious place from which to explore the surrounding mountains and wildlife reserves. The capital of the ancient kingdom of Shu, Chengdu also has some excellent museums.

 

Best Cities to Visit in China: Chengdu

 

What's here? Pandas are certainly Chengdu's biggest draw, and you can see them outside town in the Breeding Research Base. If you'd rather see them in their natural environment, visit the Bifengxia Panda Base, which is about two hours away. Note that the Wolong Panda Center was damaged in the 2008 earthquake and has not yet reopened.

 

The ancient kingdom of Shu is also a hallmark of Chengdu and there are two excellent archeological museums nearby: the Sanxingdui Museum north of the city, which contains gorgeous Bronze Age artifacts from the 13th century BCE, and the Jinsha Site Museum, which is located in Chengdu itself and contains artifacts that date from 1200–600 BCE.

 

Best Cities to Visit in China: Chengdu

 

Cuisine and tea: It's impossible to miss out on Sichuan (formerly spelled "Szechuan") cuisine, arguably China's most accessible cooking style. Foreign favorites like kungpao (gongbao) chicken and mapo tofu are only the tip of the iceberg – hotpot restaurants, dan dan mian (担担面; Sichuan noodles) and other street snacks (小吃) are also an excellent introduction to this incredibly rich (and spicy!) culinary tradition. 

 

The city is also known for its many teahouses; try out the most famous, Heming Teahouse, in People's Park, or the Shufeng Yayun Teahouse in Culture Park, which stages evening performances. For something a little more low key head to Wenshu Temple, which has an attached teahouse; outside the temple is a renovated old part of town, which is an enjoyable place to stroll. Another site worth visiting is the Taoist Green Ram Temple.

 

Best Cities to Visit in China: Chengdu

 

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Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary (III)

Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary: Hajós Alfréd Pool – Where the Olympians train

 

Despite being land-locked, Hungary is a land of water lover's, and champion swimmers and water polo players. This large swimming complex on Margaret Island is where they come to train, and often compete. It is also open to mere mortals who want to come swim laps. If you're around during a water polo tournament, don't miss the chance to come see a match.

 

There's plenty of green space for lounging around or sunbathing between laps, and there's a small children's pool in the shade. There are more pools inside, as well as a sauna (which usually closes about an hour before the pools close).

 

Be aware that opening hours can be erratic, and pools will occasionally close early if there is a sporting event or practice scheduled. In that case, wander a bit further down the island and try the Palatinus pools instead.

 

Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary: Hajós Alfréd Pool – Transport

 

Tram: 4, 6 (to Margit híd)

Bus: 26 (to Hajós Alfréd Uszoda)

 

 

Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary:  Palatinus Strand / Thermal Bath – Fun in the Sun

 

Palatinus, Budapest’s largest swimming complex, is more like a water park than a swimming pool. Located on the western side of Margaret Island, this is where Budapest comes to cool off during the summer. Its 11 different pools include water slides, an adventure pool, a wave pool, several swimming pools, and two open-air thermal pools. All pools are open-air, and the many shallow pools make it especially popular with families (as well as the young-at-heart).

 

There are playgrounds, plenty of grassy areas for sunbathing, and vendors selling beer and junk food. Water in the pools comes from the thermal springs on Margaret Island (though in all but the two warm thermal pools it is filtered, so it loses most of its mineral content). Expect long lines during the summer weekends, but come after 4pm on weekdays for the cheapest entry prices. For more serious swimming on the island, the nearby Hajós Alfréd pool, which has two lap pools, would be the best choice.

 

Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary:  Palatinus Strand / Thermal Bath – Transport

 

Bus: 26, 134 (to Palatinus Strand)

 

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy (III)

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Hotel Me Madrid Reina Victoria – Holding court on one of Madrid's most dynamic plazas

 

This hotel commands the main attention on the Plaza de Santa Ana, a terrific plaza filled with historic and modern bars and cafes. 

 

Opposite the hotel is the Teatro Español, an important 19th century landmark. 

 

The Hotel Victoria was built between 1917 and 1923 as a combination hotel and department store. As a hotel it was once a modestly priced place and a meeting point for bullfighters. 

 

In 2006 it was renovated and turned into one of the most luxurious places to stay in Madrid. Its interior, management, and setting on Santa Ana make it worth this splurge if you want one place that has it all, including live music on the rooftop terrace.

 

 

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Hotel Meninas – A charming hotel on an uber charming street

 

Minimalist and modern, this new hotel is in a 19th century building near the opera house, Teatro Real (Royal Theater). The Teatro too was built in the 19th century during Isabel II's reign.

 

Calle de Campomanes also is home to a great restaurant, Retaurante Chic, at no. 5, and a great multi-language bookstore, Petra's International Books at no. 13. And just around the bend on an easy stroll is the royal palace.

 

 

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: La Vera Hostal – Near Plaza de Tirso de Molina and El Rastro flea market

 

La Vera Hostal is in the building that once belonged to Los Duques de Santoña and is a 19th century structure in the middle of old Madrid. 

 

It stands in the heart of the area where the Rastro flea market unfolds every Sunday and from where you can hunt for that treasure to take home as a classy souvenir of Madrid.

 

 

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (V)

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai Creek Golf Club – Landmark club house and floodlit greens

 

The DCGC is best known for its landmark club house, while the Thomas Bjorn-designed championship course also boasts a superb Creekside setting and beautiful landscaping throughout – the Creek itself comes into play on at least four holes, while a number of other artificial water-features dot the course. 

 

The adjacent nine-hole par-3 course is good for beginners developing their basic skills and more experienced players who want to work on their short game; it’s also floodlit, meaning you can play after dark (daily until 10pm). The attached Golf Academy has an excellent array of training facilities including digital swing technology, plus driving range and chipping and bunker greens.

 

 

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai Tennis Championships – Top tennis players slug it out in Garhoud

 

Held at the homely little Dubai Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is a well-established fixture on the international ATP and WTA tennis calendar, offering the chance to see many of the world’s leading players in action. Past winners include Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and four-time champion Roger Federer. 

 

The championships are staged over two weeks, with ladies singles and doubles held during the first week, followed by men during week two. Tickets are a bargain, from at little as 50dh for early rounds, rising to 250dh for the finals.

 

 

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai World Cup – The world’s richest horse race

 

Now relocated to the spectacular new Meydan Racecourse, the Dubai World Cup is the climax of the city’s annual racing calendar and the world’s richest horse race, with a massive $10 million in prize money. 

 

World Cup race night is also one of the city’s biggest social events, attracting a lively crowd of dressed-up Emiratis and expats sporting unusual hats. There’s free admission to part of the grandstand, otherwise tickets cost around 350dh.

 

Best Places to Stay in California (IV)

Best Places to Stay in California: Bardessono – It’s LEED, baby!

 

This contemporary wine country hotel, located in charming Yountville, is located just steps from Napa Valley's best restaurants, from the elegant French Laundry, to the scrumptious Bistro Jeanty.

 

But what makes it extra special are its 62 deluxe guest rooms with privates jetted tubs, fireplaces, premium organic bedding and virtual-surround speakers. For a true splurge, book the 780-square-foot Tufa Suite, with dual shower-steam rooms and an outdoor shower.

 

Best Places to Stay in California: Bardessono – Looking for something to do while you’re here?

 

Be sure to dine at Bardessono's Lucy Restaurant & Bar, which serves up farm-fresh fare like Star Route Beet Salad and Monterey Shellfish a la Grecque. The full-service Bardessono Spa has a pampering menu of treatments. Try the Vinotherapie Massage, where you'll be rubbed from head-to-toe with organic Chardonnay grape seed oil.

 

As you bed down for the night, take comfort in knowing you are lowering the carbon footprint. Bardessono is one of only three hotels in the world with LEED Platinum certification.

 

 

Best Places to Stay in California: Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel – Enjoy the freebies!

 

This laid-back Newport Beach hotel is stocked with all the comforts of home, from their complimentary breakfast buffet in the morning, to the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon. Each of the hotel's 25 rooms and suites are clean and comfortable, with free Wi-Fi, HDTV and air conditioning. The beach, and the bay, are both just a block away.

 

I love the whole surfer vibe here, from the original surf art by John Severson (who often stays here) to the wide selection of Surfer magazines in the lobby. Take the original 1960s caged elevator up to the rooftop sun deck, where you'll enjoy sweeping views of the ocean and bay.

 

Best Places to Stay in California: Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel – What’s best about it?

 

The friendly customer service and free extras. Check out one of their free DVDs to enjoy in your room, or grab some of their beach toys for a day at play. You'll also enjoy free local phone calls, free newspaper delivery, free business services and free parking. And if the lot happens to be full, they'll even feed your parking meter!

 

Most Important Historic Sights in China (III)- Bund

Most Important Historic Sights in China: Bund

 

For foreigners arriving in Shanghai in the early 20th century, the first sight would have been the busy waterfront known as the Bund, where the city's main banks, hotels and trading houses were located. It was an impressive, if thoroughly un-Chinese, sight, but this was to be expected in a city such as Shanghai, which emerged as a foreign concession port after China's stinging defeat in the first Opium War (1839–42). 

 

While the concession ports were an affront to Chinese pride and traditional values, they nonetheless paved the way for important developments in the country's modernization process. If you were a young person looking for opportunity at the turn of the 20th century – whether in business, literature, technology or art – chances were that you'd end up in Shanghai at some point.

 

After the Communists took power, the Bund, with its obvious associations with unadulterated capitalism, went into deep freeze, only beginning to reemerge in the 1990s. Today, like in the past, it's often the first thing visitors to Shanghai see, though these days most have their view set on the massive skyscrapers on the other side of the Huangpu River.

 

Most Important Historic Sights in China: Bund – What’s here?

 

All of the Bund's original buildings still line today's promenade, including standouts like the Peace Hotel (1929), Bank of China (1941) and the Custom House (1925). With each passing year, another edifice is tastefully renovated as a lifestyle destination replete with many of China's most luxurious shops, restaurants and bars. The first to make the leap was 3 on the Bund. 

 

Most Important Historic Sights in China: Bund – Tip

 

Although you can pop into a few buildings during the day to see the interior, make sure to return at night, when both banks of the river are illuminated. Alternatively, take a river cruise from the docks south of the Bund for a deck-side view. 

 

Most Important Historic Sights in China: Bund – How to get there?

 

Metro: East Nanjing Rd

 

Museums and Galleries in Barcelona, Spain (II)

Museums and Galleries in Barcelona, Spain: Aquarium Barcelona – Something fishy going on here

 

Barcelona’s aquarium may no longer claim to be the largest in Europe, but it's still a fun day out watching its 8000 sea creatures. The show-stealer is the vast central tank, encircled by a 225ft viewing tunnel equipped with a slow human conveyor belt and serenaded by gentle New Age music; the patterns of silvery fish and sharks swimming all around and over your head are remarkably soothing. Kids can enjoy the interactive exhibits.

 

Love sharks? Qualified divers over age 18 can take a class on sharks on Wednesdays and weekends, then dive in their tank. The €300 fee includes a guided tour of the aquarium for you and two friends, all equipment and insurance. 

 

For €150, kids aged 8-17 can get a day's initiation in scuba diving. Book tickets for the aquarium or the shark dive online.

 

Museums and Galleries in Barcelona, Spain: Aquarium Barcelona – How to get there?

 

Moll d’Espanya del Port Vell

Metro: Drassanes

 

 

Museums and Galleries in Barcelona, Spain: Casa Asia – Where East meets West

 

Since 2003 Puig i Cadafalch's beautiful Modernista Palau Baró de Quadras (1904-06) has found a new life as the Casa Asia, dedicated to promoting cultural interchanges between Spain and the Asia-Pacific region through courses, films, lectures, a media library and cultural and artistic exhibitions. The well-preserved interiors are reason enough for popping in, but the exhibitions are often first rate as well.

 

Museums and Galleries in Barcelona, Spain: Casa Asia – How to get there?

 

Avinguda Diagonal 373

Metro: Diagonal

Best Places to Eat in Thailand (III)

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Blue Lagoon – Cooking school, excellent restaurant, and bungalows on Ko Chang

 

Right before Khlong ("canal") Prao enters the ocean, it widens into a small lagoon. Over this lagoon hover a half-dozen wooden bungalows trimmed in turquoise-painted wood. It's a great spot to wake up.

 

The Blue Lagoon restaurant, cooking school and resort are all worth your while. Run by a family of big-smiled women who share their grandmother's recipes with students, the complex includes an organic garden and romantic eating pavilions. A thin floating bridge leads you to a sandy beach where you can enjoy a sunset beer at one of the many beach bar establishments.

 

A cooking class runs 1000baht / person and you'll learn some Thai basics such as pad thai, chicken and cashews, and curry. As a gift you'll receive an arty cookbook of all the recipes you used. 

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Blue Lagoon

 

The small bungalows on the lagoon are 700 baht, while two-story "garden" bungalows, which are much larger, are 1000. 

 

Be forewarned, however: if guests decide to stay an extra day or two, Blue Lagoon honors that and not a reservation. Therefore, it's possible that if you make a reservation more than a day or two in advance, you could arrive to no room. We've seen it happen. It's best to call and confirm your reservation the day you are arriving.

 

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: May Kaidee – Vegetarian restaurant and cooking school

 

May Kaidee is a small chain with restaurants in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Their vegetarian food is vibrant, colorful and healthy – for example, they use brown rice instead of white for all dishes. 

 

The Chiang Mai location was recently remodeled and expanded and now takes up a lovely garden corner on Ratchapakinai Rd. Dishes are very affordable, with mains like curry and vegetable fried rice costing between fifty and sixty baht. If you have food sensitivities or allergies, they can work with you on special orders. 

 

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: May Kaidee

 

May Kaidee also holds a vegetarian cooking school daily at 9am for 1200 baht. The class last half a day, and you'll learn to make vegetarian versions of pad thai, massamam and green curry, and about a half dozen other dishes. A trip to the market will introduce you to many of Thailand's unique fruits and veggies.