Flavours of Bangkok -III- Fresh & juicy

The four- five days that I spent in Bangkok, if I had to list down the things that appealed and impressed me, I could count them on one hand. 

And one of them was the number of fresh fruit stalls and bottles of fresh fruit juices that I came upon almost everywhere on the street. Be it the pavement, outside Wat Pho, along the way to the jetty to head to Wat Arun and in ChatuChak market as well. Am sure this system is followed everywhere and you will find these colourful sealed bottles all across the town. 

Not only where the street hawkers selling juices, but they also had fresh fruits/slices being sold in packets everywhere. In the market, I also came upon strawberry-vanilla shakes. Most of them were priced around 20-30Baht and were chill and fresh.. No added sugar, no preservatives.. And the bottles were small enough that you could just hold the bottle in your hand and sip on it as you walked around. 

Thursday Challenge.. Zip zap zoom!

The theme for today’s Thursday Challenge is“FAST” (Motion Blur, Cars, Boats, Running, Food,…)


Clicked this while waiting at Udom Suk BTS station for the BTS train to take me back to Asok. I had just spent about 4 hours in Meghabangna mall which also houses IKEA Store… 🙂 


The train system here is just amazing. I fell in love with it right after our 1st ride. The entire station, the ticketing kiosks, the trains, the speed, everything left me wishing we had something like this back home!




The Colony, Raintree, St Mary’s road

Hello. Am sure your appetite has been whetted enough by now.  If it hasn’t, then scroll back all the way to the top and down again making sure to spend atlas 3-5 secs on each image.. :-)) 
Golly, was I in for a treat when I walked into Colony at The Raintree, St Mary’s road that beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I had visited the hotel before, but headed straight down towards Havana for Agam concert. The other restaurants here came with rave reviews but I hadn’t had a chance to experience them. So, when I heard of the new revamped coffee shop, I knew I had to visit. 

The Decor
The place has a casual yet warm feel to it. The furniture is plush and comfortable, the vessels and tableware all neat and simple. The one thing that caught my eye the minute I sat down was that the table had a small pot of plant, what looked like grass and not a single flower like most places did. Quite a refreshing element. There is a beautiful wall installation on your left, make sure to check it out. Little boxes of sorts where each piece contains a slice of Chennai. It has been put together by artist Anamika..

The story
While chatting with the Manager and the Chef I came to know that the  designer who had worked on the place was Geoffrey Wilkins who is renowned for his Southern touches[hopefully I got the name right]. The tables were all dark colour while the cushions and seating were a welcoming green. We were also given a sneak peek into the history of how Colony came about, and how the entire menu has been created with Chennai flavour to it- including the decor. The Chef went on to tell about the live stations and the one item from live station changing on a  daily basis. It was either Bajji- sundal, idiyappam-fish curry or something else.  

The Food
Moving on to the main buffet, it was a simple spread. I quite liked the fact that it wasn’t overloaded with dishes and there weren’t a gazillion different things laid out on the table. Situated in the centre of the restaurant, the buffet sat pretty with glass shelves overhead decorated with utensils from home kitchen and cooking pots & pans.  There was also a cutlery cupboard on sorts on one wall lined with Chettinad checks pattern and quite a few vessels arranged [ just like you would find in any home]
I opened the meal with a flavour packed sweet potato soup, following which came an array of Chennaipatnam based dishes, including a platter called “Mylapore times” [2 mini dosais, 2 vadai, 4 pod idlis, 2 milagai bajji and 2 kuzhi paniyaram served with chutneys] I also sampled the vadai with mix veg chutney and soon was waltzing away to music as it were in the colonial times.  There are quite a few south indian dishes in the buffet as well, like the Chettinad kathirikai curry which was simmering away in a lava stone pot and was just amazing & hot. 
Apart from this, I loved the veg cannelloni which was one of the dishes of the day- true to its origin, it was creamy light and had a thin cheese layer on top. Moving on to the desserts, I loved the coffee walnut cake and of course the show stopper- the Tiramisu. It was served in a jar with a lid and we could have just had a portion of this and been happy as can be.
I finished the meal with a good strong south indian filter kaapi [ they also have tea/green tea, juices, soft drinks and alcohol]. It was a lunch that left me grinning away and all I wanted was a corner to snooze in. The food, the ambiance, the service really does transport you to a different era. 
An ideal place to enjoy some good food on a lazy weekend or weekday, it is also a good spot for a business meeting or catching up with friends. Incidentally, there is a lounge just outside the restaurant where you can grab a snack or some coffee in the afternoon. 


Details- 
Dinner Buffet Rs. 1300+ tax
7 PM to 11 PM

Lunch Buffet Rs. 1200+tax
12:30 PM to 3 PM

Breakfast Buffet Rs. 650+tax
6:30 AM to 10:30 AM

Address:
The Raintree
#120, St Mary’s Road,
Alwarpet [Off TTK Road]
Chennai
Website: http://www.raintreehotels.com
Phone: 044 42252525 / 24304050

Dear Diary – Making the move

Dear Diary, 
Am back.. And this time I just want to talk about this decision I have taken. You know how there are some decisions that come easy and then there are others that just wreck us, leave us confused and lost. This was one decision that came easy, I did not think twice, nor was there any dilemma about it. 
It has now been nearly a month since grandpa passed away… With his passing, came the question of how grandma will manage.. We all knew she can’t live alone, and so the next question of what arrangements to make cropped up. One morning, I could hear the family in heated discussion about the future.. With each one voicing their thoughts, I couldn’t stand silent.. I just announced my decision and that actually seemed to bring some peace to them all.. 
So, yes the big decision has been taken.. I am moving back to Chetpet to live with grandma.. have begun moving my stuff in bits & pieces. 
Last week one day I got to my home a  bit early thinking I will do some packing.. I pulled out a whole bunch of stuff and then jus sat staring at em all. I was overwhelmed- about packing them all and moving out. It was a bit emotional, I knew I needed help. Called mom, but she was napping and so uncle answered and he promptly came over and helped pack quite a bit.. 🙂
Even though I don’t have too many things, it just seems like a lot. I had actually done up the space a bit and found a place for all my things. Now I was back to figuring out where to place them all and what to do with my things… 
I sure hope things will sort out and I will be at peace- with myself! 
Here’s to a new beginning! Wish me luck…. 
Adios
Aarti

Skywatch Friday… Meeting the Lord at Kataragama


We were exhausted after exploring Yala National park for a good 4-5 hours. Not to forget the sun was blazing down on us. Our next stop in the vacation was Kataragama and so we decided to drive ahead and look for a place to stay near Kataragama. It sounded like the best thing to do considering we had plans of heading to the temple around 9am. We found a hotel, and it turned out to be quite new [ less than 2 weeks], there was just one guy- he was the chef, he was the manger, he was the bellboy and everything else you expect in a hotel. The rates were very good, room was clean and food he served up was yumm.



The next morning, we had a quick breakfast and checked out around 9am towards the temple. When we got there, we realised the temple opens only around 10am. It was quite hot but we were excited to be there. The temple complex was huge, we walked around and paused when we heard what sounded like a band. A bunch of kids were doing Band practice near the temple, it was led by a girl. 

All along the way there were quite a few Lion tailed monkeys but they were so well behaved, almost trained. They waited till the humans dropped food/fruits to pick it up and did not snatch any bags. While we waited for the temple to open, we decided to wander around and explore the place some more. I had read there was a Buddhist temple in the complex, and so we made our way towards it. A good km away, the path was clean and lined with flower stalls, some had bright purple lilies that were such a treat to the eyes. The walls along the way were white and clean. There were a few beggars, mostly women with little babies on their laps. 

 The buddhist temple was beautiful, we braved the harsh sun and walked around it. Apparently there is a mosque within the complex as well, but we did not have time to visit as it was nearly 10 and we headed back to the main temple. 

What was amazing about this temple was that around 10.10 we stood near the main entrance waiting for the doors to open. And suddenly we spotted 5 men dressed in white kurta and pyjama come over, pull out a key and open the temple doors. It was very different from what we see in our temples. 

There were in all about 100 people waiting outside, who piled in silently standing on either side. The 5 men who came in took their positions- 2 near the steps, 2 just above the steps and one went behind the curtain into the main sanctum. God is not an idol or a sculpture, he is merely on a velvet curtain in this temple. 

Within a few minutes, most people offered their prayers, giving the plates of fruits to the men and heading out. When it came to us, the one man standing near the bottom step dipped his finger into the lamp nearby and placed his fingers on our head and then asked us to wait as the main Puja would be starting in a few minutes. [ we have no idea why they singled us out, but were glad they did so].

Another 20-30 people remained, standing on either side. An elderly man came around announcing that people should take care of their belongings and switch off their mobiles. That was it. For the next hour while we waited there was not a single peep from anyone, no sighs no cribs nothing! 

Then began the main puja- which was again very different from what we have seen. The one man who went behind the curtain came out, heading out of the temple, did a round and then came back carrying what looked like a stick with silk cloth on either side. Few minutes the process was repeated except this time the team brought in vessels bearing prasadam. And then it was all over, we were ushered out and given a good handful of prasadam [ sambar rice]


About the temple:

Kataragama is a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Located 238 Km from Colombo, the main shrine of Kataragama temple is devoted to Hindu God Skanda [Lord Muruga]. He is depicted as a god with 6 faces and 12 hands. This shrine is said to have been built around the 2nd century B.C. There are 2 other shrines in the complex – Lord Vishnu and the other to Lord Ganesha.  

The Buddhist temple is dedicated to Kiri Vehera Dagoba. According to the Buddhist legends, it is believed that Lord Buddha met King Mahasena who ruled Kataragama during that time. Thus, Sinhalese Buddhists consider Kataragama to be sanctified by Lord Buddha’s visits. The Kiri Vehara Dagoba has been built at the spot where King Mahasena listened to the discourses of Lord Buddha. 

As we left the complex we could see another group of people coming in with kavadi on their backs and a band playing along… 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday …

Chatuchak Market, Bangkok

The one place that everyone suggested we visit was the Chatuchak market in Bangkok.. I had no idea about the place- where it was, what was it about and why one should visit here. Our friends who had been in Bangkok few weeks earlier told us it was a good place for shopping. Since am not into shopping, I wasn’t too keen, but had no escape. Saturday morning dawned bright and early. We got dressed [ wore comfortable clothing], packed out bags [ mine had camera and some cash as well] and headed out towards the BTS station. As we made a beeline towards the enquiry desk, we heard another group talk about the market and followed them. I asked one of them who told me to purchase a ticket to Mo Chit station which was walking distance from the market. 

Spread across 35 acres of land, and with over 15,000 stalls and more than 200,000 visitors every weekend, Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market is the mother of all markets – and possibly one of the biggest and most famous in the world. It happens every weekend and draws same kind of crowd week after week… 

We paid a fare of about 48Baht, bought the ticket and got into the train. It was quite packed. While my friend found a seat, I stood just inside near a white couple. Awhile later I got to talking and discovered they were from Britain but were living in Chang Mai for about 2 months and were on their last leg of stay before heading back to Britain. They were in the business of textile export [ from Jaipur].. They told me that the market is quite a place & it is best to be organised, esp when visiting for the 1st time. There was a tourism office from where one can pick up a map and then make our way around it. As we chatted away, the train stopped and we had reached Mo Chit. Bidding them adieu, I found my friend and we made our way down the exit towards the park. 

Whoa, nothing had prepared me for what stood ahead of us. It was like a mini city, except there was nothing but stalls and stalls, filled with clothes, bags, gadgets, pets and more.. We wandered about together for a while, but then decided it was best we go our way, and connect after a while. Else, we would just make it back to the hotel. 

Both of us had mobile phones and data, so whatsapp was the answer! 

We must have spent a good 3 hours walking within the narrow lanes, it was such a treat just to see all the stalls. I bought a few knick knacks, gifts for friends mostly and then I stumbled upon rows & rows of shops dealing with nothing but pets- they had live pets, pet accessories, clothing, footwear, food and what not. Some were showing off the puppies and guinea pigs, while others were busy showing off some fancy clothes for dogs. You name it, and they had it! 

It drizzled a bit as I walked around. I stopped to pick up a bottle of fresh fruit juice when a couple came over and said Hi. The guy infact asked me what the drink was. And then got to talking about how they were from the Middle east and were looking forward to an upcoming trip to India. He asked about our currency, and wanted to see an Indian Rupee note [ I wasn’t feeling too comfortable with him and so excused myself and disappeared into another alley of shops]. 

I picked up my phone to check the time and noticed the time was nearly 3pm, and there was a message from my friend. We connected and made our way to JJ mall, which was down the road. She wanted to pick up clothes and had been told this was the place to go to. Along the way, we saw more pet stores, aquariums and a park of sorts which was all done up with activities for kids [ I later learnt that it was National children’s day]. We found the mall about 2kms down the road, and once again there were a few stores near the entrance, including one selling tortoises [of all sizes]. The mall was filled with stores, smaller in size and not as expensive as a regular store. We explored about 2 floors, I managed to find footwear in a store [ hallelujah..- bought 2 pairs], friend bought quite a few outfits/dresses and we also had a yummy bread toast with Nutella/milkmaid in the food court.

There are stores selling 1st copy of Louis Vuitton, burberry and the biggest of brands you have heard off, some were retailing cute outfits, some had curio items, others had food/grocery/toiletries and then there were more.. you get the drift right!! I had never seen so many shops under one roof on a day ever in my life.. I was quite exhausted..  


We then decided enough was enough, and got out to make our way back to the station. Arms laden with bags, our energies nearly sapped we stopped when we saw a local street food.. There was a lady making crisp crepes packed with cream and shaved coconut. We bought a few of those, also picked up a bottle of fresh orange juice, some rambutan and decided to hail a cab or tuk tuk back to the Hotel. We managed to find a tuk tuk near the main road for a decent rate and sat back to enjoy the breeze, nibble on the crepe and chill till we reached the hotel. 

It was one awesome day indeed.. I did regret not buying a few quirky things, but oh well, it doesnt matter~!! Glad we got to experience the place.. 

Hop on the skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station, take exit no. 1 and follow the steps, or the crowd and you will soon see a park followed by the entrance that leads into the market.

The weekend market is open on Saturdays and Sundays, 09:00 – 18:00, and Fridays 18:00 – 24:00.  

There are companies that do guided tour of the market as well.. for those who aren’t too comfortable wandering on their own