Friday, August 20, 2010


I have always been a huge fan of Thailand , especially Bangkok and the recent political crisis deeply saddened me. Food aside, the country’s beaches , climate and first-world infrastructure are enviable. And its famously welcoming , Buddhist culture, is the icing on the cake. So when I heard Bangkok is back to normal, ticket prices had crashed, free tourist visas were being doled out and five star hotels offered fabulous discounts, a family holiday was speedily fixed! We booked ourselves into Banyan Tree’s Grand club suite which came with many freebies including a limo pick up. In fact this is a reason I love Thailand: as an Indian I feel rich in this country, as its such a value for money destination.
After check in, our first stop was the MBK shopping mall which was buzzing with tourists and sales! Sated with shopping , we had a quick shower back at our hotel and headed straight for dinner to a brand new essentially Thai restaurant Bolan, that had been highly recommended by foodie friends.
Interestingly ‘Bolan’ is derived from the name of the owners, the chef couple, Bo and Dylan — but it also means ancient ! The couple trained under the acclaimed Australian chef, David Thompson at the famed Nahm restaurant in London’s Halkin Hotel, which is also the only Thai place to be awarded a Michelin star.
So obviously following their guru’s footsteps, they carried out extensive research into the cooking traditions of the Thai palaces, noting recipes, ingredients and presentation and re-created authentic , Thai cuisine that was in danger of being lost. The dishes indeed had a subtle flavour that is rarely found nowadays. My vote goes to the “salad of grilled banana blossom” , and “tom Kathi pla krob” or smoked crispy fish in coconut soup.
I was impressed by the rice choice as well. On offer was the 2008 harvested white jasmine rice from Yasothon province or a combination of white jasmine , pink and black rice from Buri Ram’s mid-year crop. Being a foodie family, we tried both and found they were equally fragrant, and delicious even on their own.
The next morning we set off from the Hotel at 7 Am for a trip to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the Ratchaburi Province which is about 80 minutes from Bangkok. This place became world famous after it was used in a James Bond movie. It was here that Roger Moore zipped around in a boat evading crooks. Anyway, upon arrival at the pier we boarded the long tail boats and after a five minute ride through some not so scenic canals we arrived at the floating market.
We seemed to be one of the first people to arrive although there were already quite a few boat vendors paddling along the canal. Boats loaded with fresh flowers and wonderful handmade crafts and souvenirs , looked picture perfect. There were also boats loaded with colorful, fresh fruit and vegetables piloted by wizened old ladies in conical hats.

We were zapped by the sight of boats with charcoal braziers cooking succulent satays, woks frarant with delicious stir fries as well as deep fried plantains, breads, and shrimp. We tried some richly flavoured local delicacies too. After a short walk around the market we took a row boat to float about! At that early hour, the boat vendors selling fruit and delicious meals far outnumbered the tourist boats. After our enjoyable boat trip, I decided not to rush off but rather explore more of the area on foot. So, after a breakfast of rice kongee and fresh fruits, we wandered around taking pictures of the various canal side activities . We also went for a walk along Damnoen Saduak Canal. There were a number of paddle boats coming along this canal heading for the area where we had started our tour. After a good 3 hours at the floating market, we set off for to the Rose Garden. For lunch enroute we stopped at a roadside coconut stand. We tried something in which they take sap from the coconut flowers and boil it into a brown sugar and mix it in the coconut water...Delicious! We were also shepherded through a teak furniture centre which housed very talented carvers handcrafting teak into artworks and furniture. Lunch was an extensive buffet at the picturesque Rose Garden which was followed by a cultural show at the Thai Village . This performance included a Buddhist ordination procession, an elegant fingernail dance, Thai boxing, hill tribe dances, elephants at work and a traditional Thai wedding ceremony.
Back at the Hotel while our daughter Akanksha enjoyed herself in the pool, we had a much needed special massage — a one plus one free spa offer that also came with the Grand Club suite! What a treat for hubby and me. The Banyan Tree spa created the ideal setting for ‘balancing senses’ . The therapist gave us a firm yet gentle massage with long following strokes in special anti-stress oil. What a perfect ending to our day... This was our time – the rest of the world could wait!