Swim with Tuna at Victor Harbour, South Australia

Oceanic Victor is an Australian privately owned company established by Mick Dyer and his wife, Yasmin and their business partner and friend, Tony Santic. Their objective is to provide others the opportunity to experience and understand the diverse marine environment that we lived in.

Those who are curious to know what to expect should read this story written by Jensen Chua. He shares his photographs from experience of feeding the tuna underwater. Thanks to his profound skills, you can get a glimpse of how the fastest fish in the ocean, Southern Bluefin Tuna looks like.

 

Read his story

3 Days Road Trip Guide To Kangaroo Island

Located close to Adelaide is the nation’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island popularly known for some of the most unique wildlife experience. As you may have guessed, these marsupial mammals are only found in Australia.

Travel photographer, Jensen Chua made a trip to Kangaroo Island. His experience justified that a longer stay at this underrated attraction was necessary. He captured and documented his 3-days road trip itinerary of this island, which was once inhabited by Australian Aborigines through photography. He also wrote about his cuisine pit-stop along the journey and reasons for his selection.

Read his story

Places Visited by Jensen Chua


Seal Bay Conservation Park


Flinders Chase National Park
Remarkable Rocks
Admirals Arch
Little Sahara
American River
Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
Clifford’s Honey Farm

A Self-Drive Adventure in Tassie

Deciding whether to go on self-drive route in Tasmania could be daunting as you’d want to cover wilderness, food scene and scenic trails. Hobart easily impresses anyone with that calm city vibe subtly hinting the beauty of Mount Wellington in its backdrop. As explained by a travel blogger, Jensen; Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary would be a great stop to greet the Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, Echidna and other unique wildlife.

There’s a reason why oyster lovers should visit Freycinet Marine Farm. Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park possess such incredible colors captured by Jensen. He accurately describes the rugged mountains, snowfall encounter, fresh produce and of course, he puts his talent capturing star trails into use in this trip.

Go on and read Jensen’s experience in Tasmania 🙂

Read his blog

Places Visited by Jensen Chua


Curringa Farm


Mount Field National Park
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Richmond Bridge
TAS Live Abalone
Mount Wellington
Willie Smith’s Apple Shed
Tahune Airwalk

 

Freycinet Marine Farm
Freycinet National Park
Ashgrove Cheese Farm
Table Cape Tulip Farm

 

Cradle Mountain-Lake St.Clair National Park.
Sheffield – Town of Murals
Launceston Cataract Gorge
Stars Trails and Milky Way @ Tasmania Gourmet Sauce Company

U Inchantree Resort – Most Romantic Resort by River Kwai Bridge

The U Inchantree Resort Kanchanaburi is definitely one of the best option for visitors looking for a cosy resort conveniently located near the River Kwai Bridge should they planned a vacation in this beautiful town. This is my 2nd stay at the resort which I visited five years ago and the resort have since gained a new wing making it a 50 rooms set up. Service is still as commendable, brisk and the resort retains a peaceful ambience. Incidentally, you might be pleased to know it garnered Thailand’s ‘Most Romantic Resort 2011/12’ accolade by World Travel Award.

The resort

U Inchantree Kanchanaburi is part of U hotels, which offer luxury accommodation infuses local heritage and design accents with modern amenities, services and facilities. At this resort, the ambience is one of understated luxury that quickly soothes the minute you arrived. And you get to choose from 4 types of soap ingredients – jasmine, bamboo, lemongrass or orchid, during check in or during online booking.

Resort lobby

The lobby is rustic, chic and quickly puts one at ease. There’s also some complimentary Inchantree fruits for tasting at the reception, just for the experience.

At night, the lovely lighting ensures the cosy and peaceful ambience remain. Walking around feels safe as it is well lit and security guards takes care of the compound.

The superior rooms wing at night

The 2-storey rooms looks out on to a courtyard and features an ancient ‘Inchantree’ from which the resort derives its name. The overall design of the resort is a rustic river lodge style surrounded by landscaped gardens.

Peppers, the resort diner

The restaurant envelopes diners in a relaxed atmosphere. The signature-dining venue of the hotel, Peppers, offers breakfast daily and then transforms to a lunch and dinner venue serving Thai food and Western specialties.  The River Kwai Bridge can be seen from the diner. The air-conditioned indoor section is tastefully designed with a modern yet rustic feel. 

Resort new wing – Deluxe room

The deluxe room in the new wing is much more spacious than the superior rooms in the old wing and just as well furnished. Being a boutique development, the resort boast a “unique services and luxurious facilities including breakfast “whenever wherever” no matter what time you start your day, we serve you anywhere whether in your room or at the restaurant”.

A typical day scene at the resort. Serene and calm with staff going about keeping the resort neat and clean.

Resort swimming pool

The compact infinity-edged plunge pool is adjacent to the River Kwai and perfect for a dip in the hot summer afternoon.

The Terrace Bar

The resort bar lounge with terrace is suspended over the river with the picturesque backdrop of the River Kwai and River Kwai Bridge. Perfect setting to while away the time watching the sun go down. 

Most lovely view of the River Kwai Bridge from U Inchantree Resort, with the Erawan national park mountain range in the background.

My most fave part of staying at this resort is the fabulous view in the morning as you enjoy your breakfast. You will appreciate the peaceful environment and observe herons or egrets looking for their own breakfast at the river bank across the river. It’s certainly a highlight of any vacation in Kanchanaburi.

Conclusion

Kanchanaburi is definitely one of the most underrated destinations in Thailand. This lovely laid-back town have so much adventures and off-the-beaten-path attractions to offer to it’s visitors that it’s a waste to miss all that gems. A good stay at Kanchanaburi would be an average of three to four days to better enjoy this quaint town. Do check out some of the activities in my recent blog. Thank you for coming along this pixels adventure.  

Footnote : Stay at this resort is not sponsored. All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography & Jetabout and all rights reserved.

 

Savusavu – Fiji Islands’ Best-Kept Secret

The thought of visiting Fiji should make anyone feels exhilarated with all that sun, sand and sea. Blessed with 333 tropical islands and home to some of the happiest people on Earth, nothing prepared me for the charm and warmth of the Fijians, much less the gorgeous sights and sound of the truly spectacular islands located in the heart of the South Pacific.

Visit Jensen Chua’s blog to witness his journey here

5 Ways to Save Money on a Sydney Vacation

According The Telegraph (UK) , Sydney is one of the top 20 most expensive cities in the world to visit, having fallen from 5th position in 2014. While that sounds like good news for travellers on a budget, there is no denying this is still an expensive city to visit, right up there with London, Zurich and Paris. What each traveller spend on and does during the vacation will have will effect on the best experience.

The following are 5 ways to save money for those on free and easy arrangements but still enjoy a fabulous vacay. You just need to plan well ahead and pick up some of the insider secrets on how optimise your hard earned money while vacationing in this beautiful city.

Get an Opal Card

Transportation cost is one the chief money sappers as you move around the city. The public transport network might not be as extensive as say, Singapore, but is still a great option. Inner city transport works well, especially outside peak times and while the ticketing system can be confusing but if you are here for more than a few days, just grab yourself an Opal card and ride away on all buses, ferries and inner circle trains till your heart’s content.  Save as much as 50% when you use this all important card.

For those who prefer to travel by taxi, then the Uber or a few other private apps would save a bundle too. Details here.

Stay away from convenience stores and inner-city takeaways

Feel obliged to get souvenirs for your friends from the trip Down Under ? Then save loads when you purchase snacks or souvenirs from Paddy’s Market , as it’s generally cheaper than souvenir shops elsewhere in the city. The savings can really add up when you intend buy more. For instance, a 1kg pack of nougat cost AUD$26 at the supermarket in Paddy’s Market. A same packing at the airport will set you back almost AUD$40! So a trip to Paddy’s is one the best tips ever for great savings.

Make full use of free Sydney guides or vendors websites

Make sure you pick up the free guide booklets at the airport and your hotel lobby, especially the ones targeted at backpackers. These feature lots of discounted entry tickets, some as much as 30% off.  A quick online check of a whale watching cruise vendor website shows ‘mid-week 50%’ deal.

Plan ahead, make use of technology and make full use of offers available in the competitive tourism market.

Avoid super peak travel / hotel season

The annual super peak period is from late December to early January. During the lower season,  you can look forward to good deals (e.g Stay 4 Pay 3) usually between April to September (Great for travellers who love the COLD weather).

Unless you have free accommodation, visiting Sydney at these times is expensive. Hotels, particularly in the city centre up their prices and impose limited stay rules, even coastal caravan parks charge more than city hotels. If you do want to be here in during the holidays plan as far ahead as you can.  New Year’s Eve accommodation begins to fill up in August!

Some of Sydney best attractions are free

A gorgeous view of the Harbour Bridge at dusk, all for free. A slow stroll, people watching, cuppa in hand, are all it takes to welcome a lovely evening out. But best of all, to learn Sydney from a local, try a free walking tour.

Explore Bondi Beach using your Opal Card (Bus or Train) One of the most scenic walks in Australia! Details @ http://www.bonditocoogeewalk.com/

Chill out at Watson’s Bay , away from the tourist crowd. No entry fee, just need your time to enjoy the great sunset view.  Or visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (Free guided Tour) – Free admission details or The Rocks weekends market and visit the Rocks Discovery Museum – details here.

So there you have it, 5 basic tips for saving a bundle when sight-seeing in the lovely city without breaking the bank. One last bonus tip, do check out the Jetabout Holidays, the award-winning Australia travel specialist for the best deals to Australia. Do check out my recent blog on some activities to do should you have just 72 hours in Sydney.

Footnote : All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Holiday Tours and Travel (Singapore) and all rights reserved.

5 reasons why you will love 137 Pillars Suites Bangkok

International tourist arrivals in Thailand reached a record high in 2016 and is projected to continue doing well in 2017 with more than 30 million foreigners arrivals annually. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of Thailand’s GDP and is one of the few bright spots for an economy that under performed peers in Southeast Asia. So it not surprising to see many new hotels being built. But amid the wide offering, the recently opened (February 2017) 137 Pillars Suites and Residences is one hotel to watch.

The great location

Located at the heart of Bangkok’s upscale Emquartier & Emporium Shopping area and in the heart of fashionable Thonglor district of Bangkok, this hotel is well placed for business or pleasure. The hotel facade is located along Soi 39, Sukhumvit, the hotel is in a serene area, unaffected by traffic noise.

The splendid hotel lobby, classy and soothes the minute you stepped into the building. The centerpiece of the decor is a Bht 15 million (S$608,000) huge custom-made wall poster.

 

The hotel complimentary London Cab shuttle to Emquartier, a high-end mall about a 10min walk away. The Phrom Phong BTS is also located at this area.

 

Luxurious transport that anyone will appreciate. Other than this, the hotel also operates a luxurious MPV shuttle if needed.

 

Hip cafe to dine and be seen in

The hotel cafe – Bangkok Trading Post Bistro and Deli , is touted by food reviewers to be one of the hippest cafes to dine and be seen in at Phrom Phong.

 

Playing around with retro tiles and old-school explorers’ gears like compasses, telescopes and field chairs, amid high ceilings, wood and marble, the decor is inspired from the colonial old straits trading days.  Other than baked items and sandwiches from the deli counter, guests can also find local and international comfort dishes. Do check out their superb purple sweet potato cake.

Thai congee, one of the most popular comfort food. Easy on the stomach, especially after a long flight.

 

You can enjoy a wide range of artisan breads, jams, patisserie with cakes, pastries,l pizzas and local delicacies from the regions. Casual dining from breakfast at sunrise to late supper with friends. Dine in, take-away or even delivery to guests suites.

Museli for you ? eating healthily is entirely possible at the cafe with health conscious menu.

 

Boutique artisanal jams to buy home or as gifts. Just remember to packed into luggage and not hand carry on flight.

 

Lovely room and sleep quality

Guests looking for spaciousness and great room amenities will be pleased with this hotel.

Lovely cosy ambience and layout assures a wonderful sleep quality. 5 stars quality assured

 

Gorgeous washroom facilities. And the WC have seat warmer, on top of built-in auto sanitation mode.

 

Feel right at home in the suites

 

More details can be refer here for the rest of the hotel accommodation.

 

Gorgeous infinity swimming pool

Inviting infinity-edged swimming pool for a cosy dip and view of the city. Best experienced at dusk.

 

Imagine this, a huge jacuzzi pool to pamper guests. Feels like a king indeed.

 

Great amenities

The hotel gym – modern gears in a cosy setting. Muay Thai sessions available too, at the other part of the gym.

 

Beautiful manicured garden with city view for chilling out with a difference.

 

For the golfers , a putting green to warm up the senses and keep the mind in focus.

 

Quirky design at the hotel pool level to titillate the guests. Fluttering heartbeats installation, indeed.

 

Conclusion

The immense competition in the Bangkok hospitality scene necessitate newer hotels to innovate and carve out it’s niche market. Although recently opened, the 137 Pillars Hotels group is by no means a new player, having opened their first hotel in 2011, the 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai with another coming up in Phuket (Kata Beach, in 2019).

With the great stay experience and service that I enjoyed at this hotel and all the positives in the right place, I have reason to believe that this hotel will do exceptionally well ,as evidenced by the healthy occupancy rate.  Will I stay here again in my future Bangkok trip ? -100% Yes ! Will I recommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok -100% Yes, too ! Please do check Jetabout Holidays for the best deals available for this hotel.

Footnote : All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Holiday Tours and Travel (Singapore) and all rights reserved.

12 reasons why Soneva Kiri is the best resort in Thailand

In my travel assignments to date, I had the privilege to enjoy many resorts, each extolling to impart the “ultimate” experience. At Soneva Kiri, I can finally attest I found that one resort that “rules them all”. Located at the secluded island of Koh Kood, Soneva Kiri offers an unparalleled level of luxurious and memorable experience, cocooning its guests with impeccable service that any stay feels too short, however long.

In this blog, I am please to list twelve reasons why this resort, in my humble opinion, is the best resort in Thailand. So before the accolades sounded like hyperbole, do join me as I regale my beautiful memories.

The exceedingly beautiful resort

This award-winning luxury resort is located on Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood and is surrounded by lush, tropical rainforest and white sand beaches. The resort can be reached by about a 90 min flight via the resort’s private plane directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport. The other alternatives (which I strongly don’t recommend) would be a domestic flight on a commercial airline or a 3-4 hours drive from Bangkok to Trat followed by a 40 min boat ride to Koh Kood.

The 36 resort villas (including 11 private residences) nestled among lush forest, are among the largest sized hotel rooms anywhere in the world.

The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) is central to the Soneva philosophy. It aims to create memorable and enlightening experiences that soothe guests’ mental wellness. These philosophy and values are what distinguish Soneva from other high-end hotel brands.

Get transferred to the resort like a celebrity

The Soneva experience begins when you disembarked at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, where you can checked in at the exclusive Soneva Kiri Counter, escorted through immigration and transferred directly to the resort airplane on the tarmac. After about a 90min flight to Koh Mai Si , the resort private airport island, we were met and greeted by our personal butler and chauffeured on a buggy to an awaiting speed boat which sped us to the resort within minutes. On the returning leg of the trip, guests are similarly escorted through priority immigration lanes to catch their departing flight.

The resort private airplane, a Cessna Caravan. The comfortable cabin has room for nine passengers and two crew.

 

Our flight taking off from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. It’s like sitting in a luxurious car as you taxi down the runway and lift off with full view of the airport.

 

In-flight snacks of sun-dried organic banana and toasted with bottled chilled water.

 

In-flight snacks of sun-dried organic banana and toasted with bottled chilled water.

 

Touch down at Koh Mai Si. This little private island, located just a few kilometers opposite Koh Kood, is essentially an air strip and arrival/departure point for the resort guests.

 

Beautiful hand-carved airport signboard . Set you in the mood right away.

 

The resort speed boat, waiting to whisk us over to Koh Kood, just a few minutes across.

 

The resort chic speedboat. The “No Shoes, No News” philosophy starts here.

Our butler will keep our footwear in a dedicated cloth sack (to be placed at our villa after checking in). Chilled wet towel and a fruit drink were presented as we sped toward to the resort. Once on the island, walk barefooted, relax, feel the earth and rediscover life.

Truly impeccable service

The amazing staff at Soneva Kiri. Warm, welcoming, helpful and sincere. The resort founder’s philosophy of treating staff right, so that a happy staff will in turn serve guests well certainly bore fruit. Throughout our stay, we felt nothing but positive vibes from the staff. Individual staff, from top management to rank and file, all conveyed a sense of earnest service. You can’t help but feel you are in really great hands.

Traditional Thai welcome all ready for any arriving guests. Resort GM, guest officers, butlers, chefs !

 

The resort takes pride in delivering a premium “Robinson Crusoe” experience, with each villa guests being assigned a personal butler designated as Mr. or Ms. Friday.

It rained and the skies were overcast when we arrived but the warmness from the resort staff were palpable nonetheless.

Out of this world accommodation

Soneva Kiri has 24 resort villas and 11 private residences. The  spectacular villas are mammoth in scale and among the world’s most spacious hotel accommodations. True to Soneva’s signature rustic theme but chic eco-friendly stance, the villas feature huge indoor and outdoor living areas, with air-conditioned bedrooms, fringed by by private pools. The en-suite bathrooms, both semi- indoor and outdoor are wonderfully laid out with jacuzzi tub. The interior clever underlying theme is that of a traveler suitcase e.g the hidden TV is housed in a mock suitcase.

Our gorgeous Beach Pool Villa Suite, at 403 sq.m (4332 sq.ft) will certainly please anyone. So much space beautifully designed and furnished with creature comforts.

 

The villa with its own free-form swimming pool, sun deck and outdoor rest pavilion, with direct access to the beach.

 

Plenty of cosy area to chill out and savour the island tranquility. It can’t get any better than this.

 

Chess game, anyone ? With so much to do and explore at the resort, I seriously think it became more of a room decor item.

 

The villa shower and wash up area. So spacious, we burn extra calories by just walking around the room. Awesomeness !

 

The villa clothes room. The size alone is bigger than most city hotels rooms. And we are talking just twin-share here.

 

Outdoor sheltered lounge with all that cosy cushions and a coffee-making machine. We could hold a party right here !

 

The resort sits on an enormous 102 acres plot of land (that translates into about 102 football fields !). So each villa is provided with it’s own electric buggy for ease of commute.  Staff takes care of the buggy recharging without you having to lift a finger.

Epicurean adventure at Benz Restaurant

“The finest cuisine is prepared with heart and soul. Each bite tells a story – a connection to the land, to personal memories, to emotion and history. Sense this connection in the exquisite flavours and aromas of Benz’s.” So goes the restaurant caption on the resort website. Perfectly described and certainly a highlight of our stay.

The restaurant chef , Khun Benz was discovered by resort founders Sonu and Eva, many years ago in Phang-Nga. Chef Khun Benz was the natural choice to helm this open Thai kitchen, using ingredients grown here on Koh Kood and neighbouring Koh Chang.  This open air lantern-lit diner on stilts was accessed via a 5 minute speed boat ride through mangrove swamp.

The Benz’s Restaurant, nestled among mangrove swamp of Klong Yai Kee. Exotic and secluded. Reservation is advised to dine here, which was arranged by our butler.

 

Khun Benz, the amazing chef that’s the namesake of this restaurant. Friendly and affable chef indeed !

 

Open concept kitchen to witness culinary magic being performed in the kitchen.

 

Lovely welcome drink flavoured with pandanus and tinted with Butterfly Pea flower. When lime is squeezed into it and it will turn a pinkish red hue. So lovely !

 

Northern Thai appetizer Miang Kham, mainly consists of raw fresh Piper sarmentosum (Cha phlu) leaves

Accompanying roasted coconut shavings, dried shrimps, chopped ginger, onion, chili padi, etc, are placed on a leaf which have been spread with a dollop of  sweet savoury sauce. The texture and contrasting flavours when chewing it is simply amazing !

 

One of 8 courses for the evening, local organically grown vegetable salad with shrimps.

 

Panfried free-range chicken on a bed of poached asparagus. Whatever the chef called it, it’s simply divine.

One-of-a-kind Tree Pod dining experience

“The free spirited nature of childhood was the resort inspiration for the Treepod. That desire to climb high up into a leafy canopy and find shelter amidst a simple wooden construction where imagination soared and dreams were born”.  So captioned in the resort website. Truly a unique dining experience not available anywhere else in the world. Reservation must be made in advance for this dining experience which comes at a premium.  And when your personal waiter delivers your meals via the zip-line, you know you are in for one-of-a-kind treat.

Our bamboo dining pod being lowered to us at the start of the Treepod breakfast. Unbelievable way to start a new day meal !

 

Our personal waiter ensuring the pod is safely secured. Look at the rainforest background, just so lush and relaxing.

 

Waiting for our meal to be delivered, we could simply enjoy the visual feast of the Gulf of Thailand right in front of us.

 

Our waiter zipping over our order of fresh watermelon juices. It can’t get more mind-boggling than this 

 

Freshly prepared meal and all you need to feel on top of the world.

 

Reason no.7 – Beach side dining at private beach

This is dining option is what I would describe as “laissez faire” dining.  There’s nothing better than enjoying a meal, at our choosing either at the beach restaurant or at the beach side, surrounded by Mother Nature’s sights and sounds. And what better, at Soneva Kiri North Beach, a private beach, which is a rarity these days.  Relax on sunbeds along the white sandy beach, enjoying light snacks and cocktails or even fillet mignon.

There is even complimentary non-motorised water sports, including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkeling, just to name a few. The North Beach is accessible in just three minutes by boat, less than 10 minutes by kayak or 20 minutes by swim. That we can choose too.

Great service in a casual beach side ambience and feel the sand beneath your feet.

 

Cosy, peaceful setting. You don’t get disturbed by anyone other than your waiters serving your orders. It’s a private beach.

 

Nicely prepared sea bass fillet on a bed of poached asparagus.

 

My order of a Angus Ribeye, cooked perfectly medium rare as ordered.

 

That’s what I call Satay with a Style. Just love the accompanying peanut sauce.

 

Reconnect with beautiful nature

Being located on a secluded island with low population ensures we get to enjoy the beautiful nature of Koh Kood, which has some of the most vibrant natural ecology in the whole of Thailand. The amount of different ecosystems present and relatively untouched environment, means that the island supports a large diversity of life. It’s like living in a huge garden. There are more than 100 different species of butterflies on the island of Koh Kood alone! For botany enthusiasts , there is even a botany survey prepared by their resident ecologist.

 

A beautiful dragonfly resting on a coffee plant branch, shot just steps from our villa entrance.

 

Gorgeous fresh-bloomed Torch Ginger plant flower, just stone’s throw from our villa.

 

A barn Swallow checking and greeting us at the resort jetty.

 

Amazing how blessed we were to be living among so much natural beauty.

Beautiful resort house reef

From top side beauty, Koh Kood is equally blessed with beauty beneath the surface.  Arrangement can be made with resort to sail to the most amazing nearby snorkelling destinations in the Gulf of Thailand like Koh Kyak, Koh Thong Lang and Koh Rang where rock formations teem with marine life and coral gardens. But if you rather stay close to the resort, then the house reef is a pretty site with healthy eco-system with thriving colonies of fish, sponges, corals and giant clams !

With view of the bay and jetty, we could simply gear up here and snorkel out to the resort house reef.

Lovely view of the bay right in front of our villa #05. We could either gear up and snorkel from the beach or drive 1 min to resort jetty and swim from there. Either way, it was a great experience. There is a school of these Garfishes (about 40-50) that’s quite an amazing sight. Garfish are migratory in nature and could be at this resort due to abundant eelgrass where they spawn their eggs.

A Garfish or Needle fish swimming around the resort jetty.

 

A pair of Feather Duster Worms displaying their colourful crown of feeding appendages in the current.
A tridacna (giant clam) looking healthy among reef

In fact, just within a small radius of 2-3m, I spotted at least 3-4 giant clams of various sizes and species. These together with other marine life in the reef showed the healthy state of the local marine eco-system.

Fabulous spa therapy with Six Senses Spa

What’s a premium resort without a premium spa treatment facility ? And at Soneva Kiri, we get to be pampered at the internationally renowned Six Senses Spa. With wide range of spa therapies like mud massages, Thai herbal baths, silk facials, warm oils of Ayurveda and a rich selection of wellness rituals await our choosing.  Paradise never feels so right indeed.

The private spa treatment studio . My favourite traditional Thai massage was spot on the second the masseur knead her trained fingers into my back. The rest of the session was simply a span of blurred memory as I drifted to heaven.

See the universe at The Observatory

Here, the secluded Koh Kood with low light pollution enables us to peep into the mysterious heaven with its state-of-the-art observatory.  Guests became astronomers as they goes on a starry journey identifying constellations, counting the moons of Jupiter and peering at the graceful halo of Saturn’s translucent ring. Nothing really tops this experience, really.

Photo credit – Soneva Kiri Resort

Our fascination with the night sky answered by the powerful telescope. Truly a star activity at the resort. Pardon the pun.

Enjoy movies under the stars

Cinema Paradiso marries three passions close to our heart – classical beauty and elegance, immersion in nature and relaxed indulgence…a luxury that lets its hair down and kicks off its shoes.” as so aptly described on the resort webpage.  Gourmet comfort foods, choice of creative cocktails accompany the movie screened nightly in the open-air “theatre”, over the waters of the reservoir lagoon.

Photo credit – Soneva Kiri Resort

Outdoor movie will never feel the same way after this. Just hope for great weather.

Tips for visitors

Ideal time to visit 

There are 3 distinct seasons in tropical Thailand weather : (a) Cool, dry season between November and February (which is the most ideal period to visit this part of Thailand), (b) Hot, dry season from March to June and (c) Rainy season from July to October. Day temperatures are generally north of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year. The two periods April to May and September to October wraps visitors with very high humidity level. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing erratic and cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates.

How to get to Soneva Kiri 

Soneva Kiri is reached by a 70-90 minute flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport on the resort’s private plane. Flight schedule while fixed may be subject to change. To get the best rate and minimise on the hassle, contact Jetabout Holidays to get the best deal not available anywhere.

Type of villa to choose

When selecting a villa, you should be mindful whether if you prefer to be in midst of jungle and shade (cliff or bay view pool villa suite) or in full tropical sunshine (ocean front / pool villa suite). Be advised that the Ocean front or Beach pool villa suites are not exactly ocean front and are not located right on Soneva Kiri’s idyllic beach. As the villas are nestled among lush greenery, there may be encounters with ants or flies. But we don’t recall being affected by insects as the resort were really maintained.

Conclusion

I like to thank readers for coming along this blog and hope it will help in their quest for an extraordinary experience that will last a lifetime. There is a limit to what this article can convey as experience and satisfaction are both personal and subjective. The only thing left is to visit Soneva Kiri or it’s resorts elsewhere, to affirm my stated views are no hyperbole. Have a wanderlust journey ahead !

P.S – Pictures used in this article are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holiday (unless otherwise stated).

 

10 must-try Bangkok local food via BTS

Bangkok is widely visited for many things, especially for it’s food and shopping. Local food in this vibrant city provides convenient, delicious and pocket-friendly meals while being one of the best ways to connect with the local culture. But it can be bewildering especially for new or the infrequent visitors, when they chose to “go local” without a guide. That’s why I put together this guide to ten great eating spots easily accessible via the Bangkok Train System (BTS). The blog also comes with the shops facade picture and map link for easier reference

Bangkok BTS map

 

Prachak – Roasted duck and meat diner

Roast duck is commonly found throughout Bangkok, especially in the heavily Chinese influenced areas like Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown) and Bangrak. Prachak Pet Yang one of the most established (102 years old) and a famous Cantonese style roasted duck restaurant located along Charoen Krung Road, opposite Robinson’s department store.

The best time to dine here is during late morning or early afternoon, when the meats are freshly prepared

Staff at Prachak preparing diners orders

We got the meat combo, with 2 types of sausages, roasted duck and pork, which came as a decent portion sliced into bite sizes pieces on bed of gravy. The sauce was on the sweeter side but it balanced nicely with the salty meats and that slightly crispy melt-in-your-mouth duck skin. Along with small serving of cucumber and pink pickled ginger, this is my usual fave order with a plate of steamed white rice.

The food stall interior is overall sufficiently ventilated by fans so you do not get too warm.

Address : 1415 Thanon Charoen Krung, Silom, Bangrak.
Opening hours : 7.00am – 10.30pm (closed during Chinese New Year and Songkran)
Budget : 60-100 bht per person (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin. After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road. Watch out for the red awning with the duck logo.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/8QGmYG4mdK82

Jok Prince – Oriental Porridge

Joke Prince is more than 5o years old and well known for its porridge. But you may strolled by Jok Prince unknowingly, as the diner does not have a prominent signboard. It’s simply two rows of tables laid out in a rather nondescript covered alley between two shophouses that used to lead to an old movie theater called ‘Prince’. At the entrance, an iron cooking counter with various pots of bubbling porridge greet constant queue of customers ordering take-aways at meal hours while the tables are healthily occupied.

This is the shop frontage as you stroll down Charoen Krung Road. Always a hive of activities where the cook skillfully orchestrating various pots of bubbling hot porridge. Our porridge came with tasty generous sized minced-pork balls with cilantro and julienned gingers. The porridge is smooth, soft and have a lovely smoky flavor, due to use of a charcoal stove. I would recommend  Pa Tong Ko (Thai flour fritters (yu tiao in Chinese), to be added into the porridge. Other optional ingredients include egg (raw or fermented), deep fried pig intestines etc. Just remember to sprinkle white pepper before eating for an added kick.

Address : 1391, Charoen Krung Road, Silom, Bang Rak.
Opening hours :Daily: 6.00am – 12.00pm and 5.00pm – 11.00pm
Budget : 35bht per bowl onwards (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road, further down from Prachak.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/skR619CFd142

Charoen Saeng Silom – Braised pork leg and rice

Widely available at countless street food corners, food malls or food stalls, braised pork leg and rice (khao kha moo) is like a ‘torch bearer” of standard Thai street food dishes. However, there are some khao kha moo stalls that stand out among the crowd. In Bangkok, one of the best places (if not the best) is Charoen Saeng Silom, which has been packing in the crowd for around 50 years.

Customers orders being prepared by possibly the owner’s daughter. She was friendly and obliging despite being so busy.

You can order an individual portion of rice topped with tender braised pork leg and garnishing. But you’ll be delighted if you order the entire leg, which is like a huge drumstick with a big bone, surrounded by loads of juicy meat with a thick layer of gelatinous skin surrounding it. The dish was also served with some braised pickled mustard greens on the side and garnished with fresh cilantro. Best eat it with the vinegar based chili and garlic sauce provided. One order of pork leg should be sufficient for 2 person.

This is the lane leading to the eatery. You know you’re in the right place when you see loads of people and cars. .

Address : 1391, Charoen Krung Road, Silom, Bang Rak.
Opening hours : Daily 8.00am – 2.00pm (usually sold out by 2pm, best come at 9.30-11.00am, if possible). Closed on Chinese New Year and Songkran.
Budget : 250-350bht (for 2 person)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall, to Lebua State Tower. With your back facing the Tower Club at Lebua entrance, you will see a boutique hotel Silk Suite across the road. Go straight into the lane,  just about 30 steps away, the shop is the right.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/6xCZDcbVNF62

 

Je Niao Boi Kia – Iced dessert

In a spacious shophouse at the corner of Charoen Krung and Si Wiang, just steps away from a streetside fried banana cart, is a stall selling iced multi-ingredients dessert. This dessert features glutinous rice flour strips and so many other things from cooked beans to water chestnuts to Chinese grass jelly to sweetened tubers to fresh jack fruit— all served in the same bowl with brown sugar syrup and crushed ice.

Looks inviting and the various ingredients excite you with it’s range of texture and sweetness. It’s like the Chinese version of Cheng Tng, found in Singapore dessert stalls

You can’t miss the stall frontage with many pictures of happy customers (possibly Thai celebrities) displayed all over the yellow signboard.

Address : 439 Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak
Opening hours :Open daily, 11.00 a.m.-9.00 p.m.
Budget : 30-40 bht per bowl (approx.)
BTS : Saphan Taksin . After alighting, exit #3, walk in the direction (7-8 min walk) of Robinson Mall. The eatery is opposite side of the road, further down from Prachak.  At corner of Charoen Krung Road and Si Wiang Road
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/SP5WdLg1YGn

 

Pranakorn Noodle Restaurant – Small bowl Noodles

One of the key food attractions at Victory Monument is “small bowl noodles”.  This is sort of  “concept dining” as they are fun to eat. This dish got their name from being originally served from boats floating in the city canals. While there are boat noodle vendors serving big bowls of the dish, the diners at Victory Monument stayed faithful to tradition by serving small bite sized servings – a practice that was formerly used to prevent the noodles from spilling out of the bowl on the choppy canal.

Staff at Pranakorn Noodle Restaurant, dishing out never ending bowls of noodles to diners out to “create” records who ate the most bowls.

Each bowl can be slurped up in just one mouthful. There are several types of noodles and noodles-mix variations combo to choose from. The rice noodles are quickly blanched in piping hot soup before being tossed into a bowl along with a few pieces of water morning glory, some slices of either pork or beef and a pork meatball. The bowls are served in brisk manner , so you just eat and stack it higher and higher as you dine.

The fun in eating boat noodles is to see your bowls stacked ever higher, like a foodie’s ‘trophy’. There is even a TV screen in the restaurant showing diners who stacked entire tables as they eat for the record.

The eatery facade viewed from the main road. There are a few other boat noodles restaurants further down the lane.

Address : Phahonyothin Alley Samsen Nai, Phaya Thai.
Opening hours : Daily 9.00am – 9.00pm
Budget : 12 bht per bowl. Average for 2 person (12 bowls, 1 side order plus 2 drinks) about 200bht .
BTS : Victory Monument. Exit the station and look for the canal, which where the restaurants are located.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/jDAmqsb2yXv

Hoi-Tod Chaw-Lae Restaurant – Oyster Omelette

This humble diner is famous for its phad thai, stir fried mussel and oyster omelette.  Judging by the numerous television show features as seen from the cut-outs on the wall, you are assured a great meal ahead. Although the phad thai and fried egg with seafood grills are priced higher than elsewhere in town but in upmarket Thong Lor, its still wallet friendly. The signature dish is their oyster omelette, which will please lovers of this dish.

You can see the restaurant staff frying the delicious oyster omelette on the hot-plate. Ingredients are placed over a bed of ice to maintain freshness.

Plumb oysters on a bed of ice. Handling of the ingredients gives diners confidence.

 

The oysters omelette batter are spread thin at the edge for that crispiness.

The restaurant facade as you strolled down the lane.

Address : Thong Lor, Sukhumvit Soi 55.
Opening hours : Mon-Sat 11.00am-8.00pm
Budget : 250-300bht (for a plate of phad thai and oyster omelette)
BTS : Thong Lo. After exiting station, exit via #3, look Soi 55 Sukhumvit and walk along the left side of the lane.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/zJrwq9G1o3S2

 

MaeVaree – Mango Sticky Rice

There are countless places in Bangkok selling Mango Sticky Rice. At every turn at food courts in major shopping centres, street stalls, restaurants, you may find this popular dessert being sold.  But if you settle for nothing but the best, there is only one place-  MaeVaree.

This shop has been in business for about 20 years and the mangoes used are of top quality which have the right sweetness and juiciness. The sticky rice are of best quality and coconut milk sourced from different provinces of Thailand. This gave the sticky rice a pleasant and smooth chewy texture. It is available in a variety of flavours using natural colours from Thai flowers and herbs. The accompanying crispy mung beans and slightly salty coconut cream, when drizzled on the mango, combine to give you a taste quite unlike any you have tasted before.

The shop frontage at Soi 55 Suhumvit. The only downside is that the shop does not offer dine-in so you buy it and eat it elsewhere or back in your hotel.

Address : 1, Soi Thong Lor Road, Sukhumvit Soi 55.
Opening hours : Daily: 6.00am – 11.00pm
Budget : 130bht (1 pack of sticky rice mango with 2 types of sticky rice flavours)
BTS : Thong Lo . After exiting station, exit via #3, look for Soi 55 Sukhumvit. The bustling shop is the first unit on the lane.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/mRJnstZcbDA2

 

Daniel Thaiger – Premium Hamburger

The amazing hamburger from this food truck is simply too good to be missed and warrants a mention here. The food truck’s owner is Californian Mark Falcioni, who first moved to Bangkok from Los Angeles in 2003. The food truck was opened in 2013 by him and his wife, Honey and named after their oldest son, Daniel Thai. The rest like they say, is history.

You can choose from either beef or pork patty and four burger style – Mr. Steve, Thaiger, Sumo Oats or Cowboy, each with it’s dressing and taste, with customizable option like extra cheese or patty etc. The hamburgers are cooked on order and will take slightly longer waiting time during peak hours.

Our Mr.Steve burger (180bht). Daniel Thaiger only use fresh beef and and the taste is definitely unlike any hamburger you have tasted. So juicy and tender, it just melts in your mouth. You will frown at the usual fast food joints burgers after this. I recommend the beef patty cooked medium and be accompanied by a bottle of icy Coke (20bht).

Their fries were smothered in a mixture of toppings that included fried onions, jalapeños, bacon pieces and lots of tangy thousand island style and their their own version of creamy dressing. They were pretty good but I recommend to eat them on the spot.

Address :Sukhumvit Soi 30/1, Bangkok
Opening hours : 4 pm – 9 pm from Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Budget : 150 – 200bht per burger, depending on option.
BTS : Phrom Phong / Thong Lo . Once exiting the station, go in the direction of the Philippines Embassy. The food truck is located at the side lane, close to main road. About 7-8 min walk.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/Xz5bvNtATxy

 

Centralworld Food Mall – Pan Asian Food

Gone are the days when visitors think of food malls being synonymous with MBK or Platinum Mall. This bright and sleek food mall with its wide range of restaurant-grade food at food court price will certainly bring a smile to diners who want the best of both world. A section of the food hall gives you a city view of Wat Pathumwanaram temple and Siam Paragon shopping mall in the distance.

This seventh floor 200-seat food court draws its inspiration from local food, serving a broad selection of pan-Asian foods at reasonable prices.  For once, there is no need to buy coupons for the food purchase. Simply get a bar coded card, scan by each food stall that you patronized and pay for what you ate on the way out. Easy .

Use the escalators to access the food hall, as the 2 lifts in the lobby takes a long time to come.

Address : 999/9 Rama 1 Road Khwaeng Pathum Wan
Opening hours10.00am –10.00pm
Budget : 70-150bht (depending on type of food)
BTS : Siam. Alight at this station and follow the station directional sign. About 10min walk from the station. Food Hall is at the 7th floor.
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/8oyJsR3cAYx

Hokkaido Cheese Toast

The EmQuartier is one of the most gorgeous shopping malls in Bangkok. It was here that we make a chance discovery of Hokkaido Cheese Toast at the mall basement food hall. Not the cheese tarts that was the rave months ago but cheese toast. This outlet offers a variety of toasts and we tried the charcoal toast version . While not cheap at 120bht per piece, it’s certainly a novel experience to savour the crisp toast and chewy stringy ‘chiizu’.

Address695, 693 Tan Nuea, Watthana,
Opening hours :  10.00am–10.00pm
Budget :  120bht per piece.
BTS : Phrom Phong. Easily located at basement of EmQuartier
Map : https://goo.gl/maps/YAph2YbtVrS2

 

Conclusion

I hope readers find the article interesting and helpful should they be planning a food trip to Bangkok. All the food are paid for and not hosted by the food vendors. Please feel free to drop me a message should my assistance be needed.

P.S – All pictures used in this article are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays.