Monday, April 30, 2018

Best Pad Thai Ever @ Thipsamai near Wat Saket [Bangkok, Thailand]

I just returned from a five-day trip to Bangkok and no, i am not going to come out with an itinerary this time as i had generated quite a few covering the city of angels over the past few years; a three-day one, a four-day one and a six-day one.

However, i do wish to cover a few places i just visited in my blog and one of them was so memorable; it deserves to be mentioned first. An eatery known as Thipsamai (previously known as Pad Thai Pra-Too-Pee) which i visited twice in a row on the last two nights of my trip!

It has a legendary following in Bangkok and there's only one main dish for sale; pad thai (ผัดไทย). Classified as one of Thailand national dishes, i had fond memories of it when i first had it in Singapore and the best before Thipsamai blew me away was at a street stall in Ao Nang.

In spite arriving just shortly after their operating hours at 5 pm, a long queue had already formed and it didn't help us that it started drizzling moments later. Best thing? We had no brolly!

Scrambled to buy an umbrella from the 7-11 convenience store right opposite Thipsamai and darn was i fast as the rain got heavier right after i returned. Surprisingly, the queue cleared pretty fast and we got into the air-conditioned premises in about 20 minutes.

Unlike most dining establishments, the cooking was done in full view of those queuing to enter or walking past the restaurant. Aside from the speed and efficiency of the chefs that left me in awe, you can't deny the enticing aroma and wonder if the food would be worth the wait!

One thing to note - there's an air-conditioning charge of 10 baht per adult and 5 baht for each kid! Although baffling as we never had to pay for air-con in Singapore, prices of food in food courts (usually air-conditioned) are commonly higher as compared to non-air-conditioned coffee shops in our little red dot.

A stainless steel basin filled with ice and bottles of orange juice. The phad thai is definitely the must-order but you shouldn't disregard the pricey orange juice (160 baht, closed to S$7 for a large bottle). Seems like the prices do fluctuate but anyway, more on the orange juice shortly.

The air-conditioned premises that consisted of two sections! Eavesdropping on a conversation by a table of Malaysians / Singaporeans, the back section was newly added and according to one of the ladies, the whole place was non-air-conditioned in the past.

Menu in Thai?! How to bloody order?

Rest assured, there's a pictorial menu full of attractive, mouthwatering pictures with English translation! Take your pick and write your orders on an order list which i would be sharing nearing the end of this post.

Condiments on the table which included sugar, chilli and a container of crushed peanuts! Once you have ordered, the servers would also put a plate of raw beansprouts, spring onions and slices of lime on your table.

Big Orange Juice - the brand is Surapong Fruit's and the orange juice was said to be produced from selected oranges with no added colouring or preservatives. The first sip reminded me of those freshly squeezed oranges from street stalls; fragrantly sweet with a hint of saltiness that enhanced the palatability.

The difference with the street vendors' version was nuanced with one exception; the generous pieces of orange pulp at the bottom of the bottle! p.s. we drank from the bottle as the restaurant charges 2 baht for a plastic cup and an additional 2 baht for ice. =_=

Superb Pad Thai (Small Prawns) - after a wait of 15 minutes, this was finally served on our table! Honestly, it did appear rather normal with eggs, bits of tofu, beansprouts and garnished with coriander leaves and red pepper.

This superb version came with small deep sea prawns which is a mid-range pad thai. You can opt for the cheaper pad thai (60 baht) with just dried shrimp and without egg or the more expensive big prawns pad thai at 200 baht.

I slurped in a mouthful and can literally feel my pupils dilating; coated with a thin layer of gravy, it was unlike any of the pad thai i had before in my 38 years of life! I usually prefer my Thai fried noodles to be sweeter but this isn't just a matter of sweetness; the dish itself is a perfection in terms of taste and flavour!

The wrapped with egg version was priced the same under Superb Pad Thai (Small Prawns) and visually, more appealing for social media platforms like instagram.

Featuring the same orangey rice noodles fried over charcoal, it continued to wow the three of us. Personally, i prefer the non-wrapped version. By the way, do sprinkle a spoonful of peanuts (from the wooden container) for that irresistible nuttiness!

Pad Thai Song Kreung - most expensive of the lot that not only had the bigger sized deep sea prawns but also covered with a generous serving of crab meat, squid and sliced mango!

We went with glass noodles and even though it didn't impress us as much as the rice noodles, the taste was still good. What we took issue with was that there were just too much toppings and all of us agreed that we should have just gone with the normal Superb Pad Thai instead.

Pad Thai (Takeaway) - Our tummies were too full at the end as we already had an early dinner two hours earlier. However, we didn't feel like we had enough of Thipsamai pad thai and requested for takeaway of their cheapest pad thai!

I was not expecting the packet of raw beansprouts and spring onions that was thrown in. In addition, you can also find a sachet of crushed peanuts and chilli flakes. Very professional woah!

Had it for breakfast the next morning and even though the texture was drier, it remained delicious and we regretted not buying more! Those who are staying in airbnbs with a kitchen; please remember to purchase a few packs for takeaway!

Why a picture of the restaurant again?! As mentioned in the beginning of this post, we were back the next day and the queue was an incredible 50-person long!

This time round, we waited 40 minutes for a table and another 20 minutes for our pad thai! After going through all versions of Thipsamai's pad thai, all three of us ordered the same kind this time; the superb pad thai (small prawns) with egg.

As good? Obviously! Only regret?
We should have purchased a few packs back to Singapore!

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Location
313-315 Maha Chai Rd,
Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon,
 กรุงเทพมหานคร 10200, Thailand
(near the beautiful Wat Saket)

Location Map
As above.

Operating Hours
5.00 pm to 2.00 am

Order List
As above

Pricing
Big Orange Juice - 160 baht
Superb Pad Thai (Small Prawns) - 90 baht
Pad Thai Song Kreung - 300 baht
Normal Pad Thai (Takeaway)- 60 baht

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Day 5 in Hokkaido - My 8 Days, 7 Nights (Mostly Self-Drive) Summer Trip to Japan



Our day started with yet again another satisfying soak at Onsen Heaven and once our bodies and souls were 'cleansed'; we walked over to the nearby Yuzawa Shrine (湯沢神社) for a morning stroll.

Thinking of the foot bath we had at a natural hot spring brook the day before, we couldn't resist and decided to pay our last visit after breakfast at Takimoto Inn (the first and the only one we had in our Hokkaido accommodations)!

Shiok sia!

With plenty of time to spare (our plan was to depart at 10 am and it was only 8-ish), my intention was to drive to the cable station that connects to the Noboribetsu Bear Park (red arrow). I just wanted to see if there's anything interesting but the sight of a manned carpark gantry (which means there's a charge), i made a u-turn.

Time to stock up on snacks for the later drive up to Sapporo!

Hokkaido milk to kick-start the day; like again since my energy intake was already filled up by the buffet breakfast at Takimoto Inn. On a side note, i heard that the richer hokkaido milk is preferred over other milk (like Meiji's etc) for baking.

Last walk along Gokuraku Shopping Street; a charming street dotted with many Japanese demons well worth an upload to your Facebook / Instagram!

Saying our tearful goodbye to Takimoto Inn from the designated hotel guest carpark that's right opposite. Honestly, i will likely plan for Noboribetsu if i am revisiting Hokkaido as our visit was filled with many nice memories of the onsen town.

Driving out! As our tour mates would be returning to Singapore via Thailand the next day (Alex and i extended for a couple more days), they opted not to join us for our en route visits to a steakhouse and outlet shopping; hence, we split ways and arranged to meet up later in Sapporo when we returned the rented car.

The red, welcome demon for Noboribetsu; for this drive to Sapporo, we would be taking another route and hence, the monster differed from the original father-son one i shared before in day four.

Mountains, greenery, smooth traffic; all these would like be greatly reduced once we got to the hectic urban life in Japan's fifth largest city.

Needed my coffee and got my caffeine fix at Seicomart convenience store along the highway. At the same time, it's always recommended to release some pressure on the bladder.

Our destination for an early lunch!

Log House Wagyu Bibi Restaurant - said to serve the best Hokkaido wagyu beef and it sure didn't disappoint! Need a nice place to chill out (and air your clothes) after the meal? Step behind the restaurant which ran alongside the Bibi river.

Shopping is a fantastic activity for digestion after a good lunch and we did it at Mitsui Outlet Park which was just a 30-minute drive away. How was my first outlet shopping? I totally dig it!

Boring drive to the center of Sapporo where buildings got taller, the number of trees got lesser and the amount of vehicles increased exponentially with more traffic lights. 

Random picture.

Something far away caught my attention as i knew we were about to reach our next destination. Time was 3.11 pm and our rented car was supposed to be returned back at 4.30 pm. However, it wouldn't make sense for us to lug along our luggage and i thought it's better to check into our assigned hotel (UNIZO Inn) first.

Only problem; would there be sufficient time, especially given the fact that we were required to fill up the fuel tank before returning the car!

Iconic structure that told me we were near UNIZO Inn.

It's the Sapporo TV Tower at the eastern end of Odori Park; a stretch of greenery right in the heart of Sapporo that's as popular with the locals as it is with the tourists.

Despite the frustrations faced by Alex (poor chap was the driver and wasn't allowed to park along the street), I managed to check in to UNIZO Inn, throw out luggage in the room, slam the door and continue our way to a nearby petrol station. 

By 4.15 pm, we had returned the rented car to the "Budget Rent A Car" branch in Sapporo and finally, the tense mood was lifted and i could take some decent shots of the urbanscape.

Don't you just love the attractive Hello-Kitty fence holders?! 

Underground passage - for those visiting Hokkaido in winter, i heard these passages were a godsend for the insanely cold temperature on the ground level. In summer, the situation is reversed as the passage can be less cooling.

On our way to JR Sapporo Station - we were thinking of going back to UNIZO Inn so that we can tidy up a bit and take a shower before proceeding for dinner. 

Grabbed a train timetable from the counter as it's essential to plan for our train ride to New Chitose Airport on day 8; wouldn't want to miss the flight as we did in Bali.  

Our untidy UNIZO Inn room; in actual fact, the room was just too small to hold all our shopping even though we were marveled at how the Japanese managed to put in so many things for such a small space! Click here to check out more. 

Hitting the street again! 

600 yen was a pretty good deal pork cutlet and curry rice but unfortunately, it's for lunch only. Oh well, i believe there's plenty of dining establishments around.

Gyu don at 290 yen!??!?!? Nope, we didn't stop although i did check out Matsuya on day seven. Do look out for the posting then! 

Laox - Japan Quality Store; attached with quality would be pricing and i think it's better for me to buy from local Best Denki / Harvey Norman stores for the price i would be paying. 

Four-directional crossing; known as scramble crossing, this was implemented at Orchard Road which apparently resulted in chaos. I am personally for the idea for efficiency reason and thought it's just a matter of time before Singaporeans get used to them. 

Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade (狸小路商业街) - THE place to spend your money and buy those food and non-food souvenirs you want for your family and friends back home! Remember to visit Don Quijote which is the originator for Singapore's Don Don Donki

A Manekineko karaoke store! Come to think about it, it's been a few months since i last had a karaoke session at Manekineko Singapore; let me see if i can arrange for one with my sisters this coming weekend! 

Christmas had ended 8 months earlier and wasn't expected for another 4 more months; nevertheless, the sight of elves on a building facade attempting to help a gigantic Santa Claus remained impressive. 

Guess what we had for dinner?! 

MOS Burgers! I am actually quite acceptable to eating fast food when i am overseas so as to discern the differences compared to the same eatery in Singapore. 

My prawn cutlet natsumi cost 830 yen which made it more expensive than Singapore and even though the lettuce tasted the same, the prawn cutlet was more crust than meat and didn't impress. 

Worse still was the french fries; mushy, salty and lacking the light crunch that Singapore's version commanded. The onion rings were nothing special too. 

Spotted the Ippudo ramen restaurant on our way back to Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade and with the disappointing dinner we just had still etched in our mind; i thought how nice it would be if we could have ramen for dinner instead.

Few more shots on Sapporo streets at night before we returned back for a good rest at UNIZO Inn; which of course included a soak at the Japanese tub in our room. 


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Detailed Postings for the Day
  1. Yuzawa Shrine (湯沢神社)
  2. Log House Wagyu Bibi Restaurant
  3. Bibi River behind Log House Wagyu Bibi Restaurant
  4. Outlet Shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park
  5. UNIZO Inn
  6. Odori Park in Summer and the Beer Garden
  7. Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade (狸小路商业街) 
  8. Don Quijote - Japan's original Don Don Donki



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