Thursday, March 22, 2018

Relaxing few days in the mango

Been taking it easy in the mango for the last few days.  Taking a slow easy schedule and some personal time while B is away with the kids upcountry.  Can't believe its Thursday already and almost a week since we got back from Hong Kong.  But the vacation laundry is done, the suitcases are unpacked, had a chance to go to the driving range, and even visited Thaniya Plaza yesterday afternoon to check out some new golf clubs.  B is due back later this week and I will likely go back upcountry with her early next week.

The luncheon with my Thai friends was long overdue.  We have not gotten together for golf for a while due to health circumstances for some of us and a lunch gathering was a perfect venue to catch up on things going on in our lives.  Our oldest member of the group will be celebrating his 80th birthday later this year so we are kind of an elderly group now, but full of fun and feisty jokes and stories.  Our old man of the group was once the police general of the Bangkok metropolitan police force and had thousands of BIB reporting to him.  He has long retired, but his previous position allowed us many privileges to golf courses and places we would not have had under normal circumstances.  Also created some funny and embarrassing situations like getting police escorts with flashing lights in a remote Amphur to take us to our golf course to tee off. 

Terrace 61 was the same as before except that they have enlarged and added more private rooms for luncheon meetings and private parties.  The grounds are nicely landscaped and except for the massive delays caused by the big RamIntra road construction, a nice oasis from the normal run of the mill big building restaurants around town.  We had a private room to ourselves.  I won't publish any pictures as my friends are a bit shy about being on the net and rightly so with all the issues regarding privacy in today's world.

With that said, I've made up my mind that I will be going private with this blog starting on April 1st.  I've already received requests to include readers (Thanks Cliff for the comments and request) and will be doing so from today on.  Just leave a message/comment to be included.  I will not publish the comment so you will remain anonymous except to me.  Starting in April, when you get to this page, you will see a banner referring to the new site, which will be private, and instructions on how to get access.  With all the abuses we see today with social media systems like Facebook, Twitter, etc., I am glad I did not fully participate in those platforms and will soon cut back info from them also. Bloggers like myself who have years of info are not immune to these risks.

Note:  Names in this blog are pseudonyms and except for my daughter, are not their real names of people but aliases.   Going private is just one more step in keeping data miners and unwanted rift raft out of our lives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

One of those yucky mornings (days?)

Its this time of the year when you get one of those yucky weather mornings.  Its only 6:30 am in the mango and its 28C but feels like 33C because the humidity is around 87%.  Didn't have any rain last night at all, but it just feels really sticky and uncomfortable.  There are supposed to be big storm conditions over the northern part of the country as a high from China collides with the humid air flowing from the south.  Whatever the reason, I hate this time of year in the mango when it feels this hot and its before 7 am in the morning.

Plans are to meet up with some friends for lunch at a Thai restaurant called Terrace 61 out in the Ramintra area.  Was there about 4 years ago and found it quite pleasant and the food was good and not too expensive. They also have a buffet lunch, which is what we are likely to go for during weekdays. In fact, I have some pictures from the event last time and have fond memories of the lunch because we ended up using one of the pictures in a big banner when we had the hair cutting party for Marina and promotions at the resort.

It's really kind of hard to realize that its been that long already.  B and I are always saying how time has been flowing by so quickly and many things seemed like they happened just yesterday but upon reflection, its been a while.  I've known my group of Thai golf friends for almost 20 years and it seemed like just a year ago when we used to play as a sixsome and got everyone mad waiting behind us to clear the green.  Imagine a group of 12 people (counting the caddies) on a golf green - it was like a party on every hole....555

Will have some pictures tomorrow as the restaurant is really a neat place to meet for lunch if you get the opportunity to be in the area.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Back at the Office......

After resting up a bit on Saturday, I felt relaxed enough to go out and do something that I have put off for a while.  I enjoyed playing golf a lot a few years back but due to circumstances like open heart surgery, not being near a golf course up in the country, and taking up a new sport (archery), I had not played any holes or even taken a trip to the local driving range.  It was a beautiful morning yesterday and I had some time so I pulled out my clubs and took a trip to the driving range.  I use to spent so much time there that I use to jokingly call it my daytime job "at the office".

I use to go to this driving range almost daily when I was not on the golf course.  It's about a 10-minute drive from the condo and has easy parking and caddies to carry your bag from the car to the driving bay.  It is not a fancy range like the one out next to the archery range, but its adequate and cheap.  The setup is typical of ranges in the mango.  The bays are automated, there are tables and overhead fans, and drinks are available from the dek servers.  In the fancy places, the dek servers or beer girls are dressed in sexy uniforms so it is obviously geared towards a primarily male customer base.  My range is more family oriented and pretty basic - for hardcore range rats...555

Kind of expected a disaster since I had not swung a club in over a year and a half and had not been on a golf course for about the same amount of time.  Surprisingly, I did pretty well.  I only missed really badly on maybe about a half-dozen shots out of 120 balls.  However, I didn't hit the balls all that well either consistently, meaning on the center of the clubface and always straight, but it was surprisingly good overall.  Also did not feel any pain during and after the practice session on my sternum or chest, which was my primary worry.  The only casualty was a blister on my right thumb. With that said, I can confidently say that my recovery from heart surgery is 100% complete as I can do everything I could pre-surgery, and some things even better.

My 60 baht lunch - plus I had a softie ice cream cone for 10 baht later...

After the morning session, it was time for a quick lunch.  The driving range is located right behind our local Lotus/Tesco so I made a trip over there for a cheap meal like old times.  Yes, driving range for $6 bucks USD and then lunch for under $2 USD - yeah life is good and cheap too!

Some housework and chores today.  Tomorrow I have a luncheon with some long-time Thai friends and golf buddies.  Glad to be in the mango for the next few weeks as Songkran looms and then a trip back to the states again for taxes and the birthdays of my grandkids.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Back in the big Mango

The A380 has a neat 3 view camera perspective of the plane

It's good to be home.  We got into the mango around 11 pm last night after a really great flight on Emirates.  Flew on the big A380 again, and was even more impressed as the economy seats were really comfortable, the food top notch, the service great, and the entertainment system fabulous.  They had a special meal for Marina as well as some entertainment goodies, plus a take-home blanket in the form of a teddy bear.  

Lots and lots of movies, games, and TV shows to keep you entertained

One thing that I did not like was the fact the plane was full of Chinese tourists in a two or three tour groups.  I fully understand the disdain by many in the service industry because they were loud, rude, and very impolite.  I especially disliked when they cut the queues for things like the bathroom, boarding, etc.  I was literately pushed aside on one occasion by two middle-aged fat ladies.  They didn't give a rat's butt that I had a child with me as all they cared about was to get ahead by about two positions in the queue.  It was tempting to make a big fuss over the incident, but I thought I would not stoop down to their level and besides, they wouldn't even understand.  Unless they (the recent surge of mainland Chinese) change, they will not be welcomed anywhere in the world - no matter how much money they have.

There is a six-story mall called Stanley Plaza,
complete with Starbucks and McDs

Marina giving her opinion of what she wants

Yummy deserts along the boardwalk

We spent yesterday visiting the Stanley Village area.  It has developed a lot and now has a huge mall and a boardwalk along the beach.  The original market with the stalls is still there, but it has expanded as the side streets are now full.  I remember forty years ago when I first came here, it was still a fishing village with hardly any big housing projects.  Now there are big malls, condos, and all kinds of businesses which make it look like some kind of resort town.

To get to Stanley Market, we took one of the best scenic rides through Hong Kong on the Number 6 bus.  Got on the top front seat of the double-decker bus and had an unobstructed view as it navigated the narrow roads with steep drop-offs and specular vistas.  At times, like in the past, the bus was so big and close to the edge of the road that it would nick the overhanging trees and brush.  Best HK$9 bus ride and tourist "must do" aside from the Star Ferry ride to central HK.  Make sure you take the #6 and not the 6X as the later goes through the tunnel and you will miss many of the vistas and views on the route.

Caught our bus from our hotel and got to the airport about 7pm and it was perfect because the tour groups had already checked in.  A quick  2 1/2 hour flight and we were back.

Today, I want to unpack and take some time to rest after vacation.  Ironic that instead of resting during vacation, we have to rest after we get back.  But considering all we did and all the fun we had, it was worth it.

My little monkey....picture worth a thousand words

Friday, March 16, 2018

Going home today...

Where did the time go?  It seemed like only yesterday when we got off the plane and now its time to get back on to go home.  Our plane won't leave until 9PM tonight, but we have to get to the airport early again because we don't have our seats yet.  That means leaving for the airport during the rush hour on Friday afternoon.  Hope its not like the big mango where Fridays are really bad traffic days.  We bought the CityFlyer bus passes that take us from Tsim Tsai Tsui to the airport for $58 HK round trip (about $3 USD each way).  It makes a few stops and gets there in about 45 minutes vs 20 minutes by the airport link.  But we have to take a cab to the airport link station because we have some luggage so taking the bus is a lot cheaper because the bus stops only a block away from our hotel.

Yesterday was a fun and relaxing day at Disney.  It was the opening day of the Spring season and they featured a redecorated park, more characters, and two additional parades.  It was also not very crowded as rain was forecast for the morning.  Fortunately, it did not rain and we had almost no wait in many of the lines.  Marina wanted to go to the Ironman ride again, and in fact, we did it four more times before she was satisfied.  We took the Jungle cruise, had another visit to Mystic Manor, and just soaked in the park.  Also had lunch at the Maxim run restaurant near Main Street.  Yep, if you want, you can have pricey dim sum at Disney.  We opted for noodles and dessert only just to experience the place.

We did not stay for dinner at Disney and instead decided to come back to the hotel for a fast and cheap meal at Nathan Jook and Noodle.  I can't say enough of this place except to recommend it to anyone who wants good and cheap eats in a friendly environment.  Evidently, this place has been written up in many local papers, but is still a secret to many travelers.  The place is very small and I hope it stays a secret for a while as prices will surely go up once the lines begin to queue up.

That is it for now, more tomorrow when we get back to the mango.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A wet shopping day in Hong Kong

It was raining in Hong Kong yesterday.  If you don't like the mango when its raining, you won't like Hong Kong either as the rain along with the people and their umbrellas make it hard to get around, especially with a child.  We had plans to check out the phones at Mong Kok and Agliu Street Markets today, look for some perfume, and check out a couple of the local department stores.  We ended up expanding our agenda a bit because I took off in the afternoon on my own when B and Marina decided they needed an afternoon nap.

In the morning, I visited the local 'wet market' in the area.  This is a street market that has been here forever as I remember visiting this place decades ago.  It sells fresh veggies, fruits, and even meat to the locals.  You won't find any large supermarket chains in the center part of HK and besides, the locals like to get their items fresh every day and haggle prices.  Bought a few items for consumption in the room, but generally just soaked in the atmosphere of the market.  I love the wet markets, all over Asia as it represents the true slice of life view of the local residents.

It called "Light Vegetarian Restaurant" on Jordan Ave

After our visit to the telephone shops, we decided to have some lunch.  We did not buy any phones because the prices are not that much better than in the land of smiles or eBay.  The days of HK being a mecca for cheap electronics is over because of online sales and wider distribution.  For lunch, we wanted to try the latest fad in dining - vegetarian dim sum.  That might raise a few eyebrows because dim sum is notorious for ingredients like pork, shrimp, duck's feet, etc.  But the myth has been busted.  Good dim sum can be meatless.  We had a variety of dishes including veggie shrimp dumplings, sui mai, wu gok, and even some veggie filled wonton.  I would rate the food a clear 4.8++ out of a possible 5.0.  And it was a lot cheaper than Maxims too!

I went over to the Jade Market in the afternoon and walked pass the Temple Street Market as they were setting up.  As I was making my way up to the Jade Market, I passed along a block of buildings with girls on the outside on Temple Street offering to take me upstairs.  One has to be pretty desperate as these working girls are not that attractive at all.  Anyway, I picked up a few trinkets at the jade market for the kids.  You can still pick up cheap pieces for less than $5, but I remember when these were only $1.

Because of the rain, we didn't venture out too far for dinner.  Instead, we went to our new favorite hole in the wall Jook place.  It's called Nathan Jook and Noddle shop.  Killer noodles and jook for about $3 USD per person.  We have become regulars and found out the shop owner understands Thai so B was happy to order exactly what she wanted. 

That's it for now, as another day of Disney awaits.  Its supposed to be the opening day of the Spring Festival where the park transforms into a flower paradise and all the characters come out with special outfits.  Can't wait and more memories await.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Magic Kingdom

For a little girl living in the Kingdom of Thailand to go to the Magic Kingdom is like a dream.  I don't think its really sunk in 100% yet, but from the big smiles and laughter in her face all day yesterday at Disneyland, its pretty far along.  Marina is at a special age.  She's old enough to understand a lot of things in life, but she is still at an age where she believes in magic, Princesses, and big life-size characters like Mickey.  She can't figure out all the magic that goes on in the rides yet so that what seems boring to us big folks is just fantastic to them.  Disneyland is 100% real to her.

I won't bore everyone with all the blow by blow details of our visit but only will say that we had a great time.  We stayed the entire time from the park opening to the final parade of lights down Main Street.  Needless to say, they (Marina and B) are both pooped out and still asleep as I am doing this blog.  

Surprisingly, Marina's favorite attraction was the new "Iron Man Experience", the Hong Kong Disney version of Star Tours.  Instead of zooming through space, Ironman takes on bots in the skies and streets over Hong Kong, flying through the maze of high-rise buildings and bridges.  She enjoyed the Tea Cups, but it made B and I dizzy.  We went to the magic Storybook show, Mystic Manor, and Small World.  She enjoyed those as well but liked the Ironman ride so much we went back a second time in the evening when there were no lines.  Yes, my brave little girls also went on the Hyperspace Mountain ride and didn't cry, but the look on their faces from the photo they took was priceless.  Yep, we bought the photo.

We have to go back and do the rides we missed because it was not easy to cover the entire park with a 4 1/2 old without a lot of food and rest breaks.  Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring an old baby stroller and she was able to ride when she got tired of walking.  Otherwise, mom and dad would have to carry her every time she got tired or lazy - and that was a lot of times!

I'll try to post a slideshow when I have more time, but a long day of shopping awaits.  Today is B's day for shopping as tomorrow we go back to Disney for day2.  After that, we depart on Friday.  Time sure flys by quickly when you are having fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

HK Day 2 - To the top of the world

We had a fun fill and very full day yesterday in Hong Kong.  It was supposed to be the highlights tour of the trip as we won't have much time to do any kind of detailed sightseeing.  Our trip was primarily for Marina's Disney experience, but since we were coming, I wanted her and B to see some of the major sights.  

After breakfast, we took the MRT from our hotel to the Star Ferry Terminal.  It was actually about a 15-minute walk from the Yau Mei Tei station, but it was fun to walk by some of the famous original hotels like the Peninsula on the way.  Once we arrived at the terminals, it was time for a stroll along the waterfront and it appears that a cruise ship was in port.  It was the first time B every saw a cruise ship and she was impressed even though it's probably one of the tiniest one in today's fleet of super ships. We take so much for granted and forget how many things people growing up in the land of smiles don't get exposed to in real life.

After our ferry ride, we walked a bit to find our destination for dim sum.  One of the must do things each time I come to HK is to have at least one dim sum lunch.  Dim Sum is composed of small plates or trays of tasty pastries, meats, buns, or dessert.  The variety can be endless at a good restaurant.  this trip, I wanted to try Maxim's Palace.  It's a bit pricey, but its famous for its tasty dishes.  Located at the Hong Kong City hall building, it has a view of the harbor and the dim sum is wheeled around in steam tables like in olden times.  They even have the ladies carrying around trays and barking out the dishes.  Just point to what you want and it will be put on your table and a small stamp will be put on a card for your table.  At the end of the meal, all the stamps on the card are counted by category and you get the bill.  The more you eat, the more it costs, plus the cost of the tea service.

After dim sum, we went up to the Peak tram terminal.  Its there where we catch the train/tram ride up Victoria Peak.  It was a zoo, and we had to wait almost an hour for the ride up.  But one up on the peak, the view there is unbelievable.  I believe its one of the two best city views in the world, with the view of Rio the only possible contender.  After some walking around we went to the restaurant we enjoyed so much on our last trip here - Buba Gump Shrimp Company.  Its on the 3rd floor of the terminal building and has a fabulous view of HK.  Its a great place for some shrimp and drinks and to just hang out to rest your feet a bit while enjoying the view.

It took a bit to get back because of the shopping, the rush hour and long lines.  After some rest back at the hotel, we were going to go to a night market but everyone was too tired.  Instead, we opted for some congee from a popular hole in the wall place down the street.  Fabulous congee and veggies for only about $4 USD each.  Another of my 'must do' experiences...good jook and noodles from a popular hole in the wall restaurant.

That's it for now, have to get ready for our trip to Disney today.  Park opens at 10:30 AM and we need to have breakfast and take the train over.  More later or tomorrow.

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