Travel: Bangkok, Thailand

I took the small window of opportunity during a work trip to Bangkok to also do some exploring. By small window of opportunity, I literally mean small - I had little over a day to basically cover the famously crowded streets and try to make as many popular (and some not so popular) spots recommended to me by the wonderful community on Instagram. (#thankyouverymuch)

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I do find the Bangkok cityscape captivating - I could describe it as chaotic, but that's not being fair to how organic this city looks. Bangkok appears best visually experienced from two perspectives, I've learnt -

  1. To catch a glimpse of the city towers the best view is above the rail lines, which basically otherwise obscures everything. I mean it- everything.
  2. At street level, the beauty of the street markets, bizarre traffic, and buzzing mess of powerlines. (No kidding, those things really buzz.)

That said, Bangkok is best experienced on foot - I find myself missing out on so much just whizzing through traffic on the days I had to work, but then taking in so much more on the one day I let myself loose on the streets...

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The food

It's been nearly a month since Bangkok, and I'm still thinking of the food. I must admit, because of the tight timeline I didn't really get much of a chance to experience the street food - and some of the mall food truly looked better than they tasted - but in general, the food experience was great.

It also helped that the hotel I put up for the night has one of the top restaurants in Thailand.

Also to note, Bangkok boasts a range of cafes ranging from:

The very posh...

The very posh...

...To the very street.

...To the very street.

Like, I mean,  Instagram-worthy   tile art  posh.

Like, I mean, Instagram-worthy tile art posh.

In any case... here are the highlights:

Honourable mention tourist hotspot: The Commons

This is a fancy co-op space for restaurants, small creative shops, and various merchants. Roast is up on the top floor, and the squid-ink pasta you see above is not too bad. Worth the trek I'd suggest!

Seriously must go: On Lok Yun

I'm not even kidding. The kaya thing with steamed white bread is amazing, I don't even care how dodgy the place looks or how much sugar/calories/who-knows-wut-else it probably contained. Or the buttered bread. OMG. OMG. OMG. I'M GOING TO FOODGASM.

 

The hotel

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I stayed at the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok which looked fairly recently renovated, but as it also turns out is a really old building. Its age shows - the air conditioning coming to life also sounded like it was going to suffer from a mechanical aneurysm. 

That said, its renowned cobalt blue pool was truly cobalt blue, the rooms were spacious, sheets and bed were comfy, and the restaurant is one of the best in Thailand.

A side note - the hotel is awkwardly located away from the main shopping malls and overhead rail line, which meant I spent too much time actually in a car getting to where I wanted to be half the time. The staff though were really helpful in organising taxis for me to make sure I always got to my destination on time.

 

Also worth seeing

This is not often on the tourists to-do list, but honorary mention: Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre

The art is pretty good, and the added bonus is you will not find another place as atmospheric as this for photos...

Travel: San Francisco

This post is part of the YAY IN THE USA series. San Francisco is the final of seven legs in our travels.

The drive from Big Sur to San Francisco was pretty spectacular - second storm of the season, howling winds (the Tiguan felt like it was gonna fly at one stage), and a detour round to Santa Cruz for little gain because, storm.

It was the last day with the Tiguan, so we decided to make a second detour to Oaklands for a couple of shops (no way we gonna Uber all the way there).

The shops were... Fine, but I'd recommend this detour if it were your first time traveling to San Francisco - particularly if arriving, like us, at dusk. The sole reason why: Bay Bridge (aka #baebridge), which from Oaklands will start out pretty ordinary and make you part with a couple of dollars for the toll...

But drive on - the bridge then cuts through a mountain/hill, and once you get out the other side, you see the San Francisco city skyline from across the bay (starting to be lit up, if at dusk). The scene, if accompanied by appropriately epic music, is like, #wow.

This is the last time I'd say this, but we arrived at our Mission District Airbnb in the evening... If you've been following our travels, you know the rest.

San Francisco is in many ways Melbourne. It's got perilous hills, an underwhelming dockyard turned tourist trap, and an unexplainable obsession with trams. It rains. Alot. Please don't make our mistake. Do yourself a favor. Bring a good raincoat.

But the familiarity makes it really comforting knowing that it's the last run of our very long journey.

To that, I say cheers to the US of A, cheers to SFcity, and here are some of our photos and places we really loved:

Marine District, North Beach and Embarcadero

I'm very loosely grouping places together, as I do have waaaaayyyy too many photos of San Francisco. So I do apologise, but hey, it's a really pretty city. P.S. I think anything near the water in SF is a tourist trap. It's pretty to visit, but maybe try not to buy anything?

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Nob Hill

I do notice that not all my photos technically are from Nob Hill - I've included some of the surrounds, as they don't quite fit anywhere else.

P.S. Mr Holmes Bakehouse @handmadelove made me get up 5am for. It was worth it.

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Haight-Ashbury, Lower Haight and Fillmore District

Tourists tend to come here for the Painted Ladies, but walk around the park and you'll find some of pretty buildings and homes.

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Golden Gate Bridge

Hey, we're in SF. How can we not GGB?! (Obligatory tourist photo - tick).

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Russian Hill

Where the world's windiest road lives, probably also hosts some of the steepest urban hills. There was one so steep (and so wet...), @handmadelove refused to even attempt the walk down.

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South of Market

SF's mainstream shopping district is a little bit confusing to us. But, but, but... if you were planning to get sucked into the tourist trap that is the tram (we did - specifically, I wanted to go), this is where it starts. P.S., Take the tram, it's worth the money.

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Civic Center and Tenderloin

We kinda just stumbled upon the Civic Center (what's that huge, grand building?) and then realised - oh, we're, like, in the Civic Center! I say it's worth visiting the building; read the plaque that describes how it was built - it's pretty fascinating.

We didn't visit any of the museums, but I've been told they are actually pretty worthwhile (we ran out of time).

Tenderloin was also a similar stumbling... and then @handmadelove realised that it was a place we've been advised to avoid. To be honest, I didn't think it was as bad as its reputation makes it out to be - in fact it was quite sobering to watch the number of homeless gathered on the streets. (What did struck me though was the many seemingly architecturally significant buildings gone into disuse and disrepair...)

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Outer Sunset

To be honest, we only spent a couple of hours here. And most those hours were spent in The Outerlands cafe (and another ten minutes in the shops next to it - @handmadelove loves them though). I do recommend the 20 minutes drive to The Outerlands - if there's time to spare on the agenda.

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Financial District

By far, this is my favourite part of SF. The architecture just wow-ed me, and I swear I can spend hours just wandering around the city, and getting lost amongst the tall, brick giants. Not sure if @handmadelove felt the same though... but she did enjoy the clam chowder at Tadich Grill...

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And here's where the trip ends. It was one of the most amazing experiences, and worth every mile of the drive(s).USA, we miss you already.

Postscript: Time spent in San Francisco, California - 6 days, 6 nights.