Cafe at Ease, Bangkok

Hardly a stone’s throw from the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok is a pretty looking café, all awash in pink and fairy lights.

Like so:

We called in for a mid-morning drink after visiting the Jim Thompson House, and Cafe at Ease turned out to be a cute, funky little place.

Borderline kitsch, but in a nice way.

In a very Instagrammable way.

Naturally.

My sister’s English breakfast tea came beautifully served and with the cutest cups:

There was quite a Japanese design aesthetic to the café:

I had sweet-pea cappuccino which was pretty to look at, but not much more than a standard cappuccino, to be honest.

There are cute little things to buy in pretty display cases that double as the counter, quite funky clothes for sale, making for an all-round very pleasant little refresher stop.

I was very taken with the display-case-tables, like the one below:

We left with ear-rings, by the way 🙂

We paid our own way, and no-one knew that I blog and write reviews.

Address (which is, as I mentioned, right by the Jim Thompson house) is:

38/1 Soi Kasemon 2

Rama 1 Road

Patumwan,

Bangkok

Visiting the Jim Thompson house, Bangkok

It’s been a little over 6 years since I last visited the Jim Thompson House & museum in Bangkok, and revisiting it was every bit as interesting as I remembered.

It was pretty crowded (as is Bangkok, all the time it seems), but the crowd management and visitor flow is very well managed.

You have to visit the house with a guide, & you’re divided up into groups of about 10/12 people, according to language.

You leave for the visit at intervals: we waited about 10 minutes until our charming young guide, with very good English, started the 35 minute tour.

She would always wait until the previous group had moved on, which, given the small size of the rooms and the astonishing artefacts on display, was very prudent.

Jim Thompson was an American who lived in Thailand in the 1950s and 60s, and who was integral in reviving the neglected cottage industry of Thai silk weaving.

He was also an architect and a connoisseur of antiques.

His home was constructed from 6 old houses that he bought and had transported to Bangkok where, using his technical skill and his fine eye for style, he combined them into an eclectic home, where he melded some western traditions (like having a dining table) with his exquisite Thai furniture and furnishings.

Jim Thompson disappeared without trace in early 1967 and his fate remains a mystery to this day.

What remains – as well as a flourishing Thai silk industry – is a gem of a property, with stunning antiques and a delightfully shady garden by a canal.

Entrance costs Baht 200 per person.

As mentioned, you have to take a tour, and photos are not allowed inside the house and museum, though they are in the garden.

There are (free) lockers to leave your belongings.

Well worth a visit.

There is a cafe, and a shop selling the beautiful Jim Thompson clothes, scarves and bags – the designs are truly fabulous.

We paid our own way and no-one knew that I blog and write reviews.

Bangkok Boat Company

We were a group of 6 holidaying in Bangkok, so the “Breeze & pleased” family offer from the Bangkok Boat Company was perfect: a fixed price for 6 people, for a 2 hour trip through the less-touristy canals of Bangkok, with 2 visits included.

We got excellent directions from the company of where to meet our boatman, which is at the water‘s edge by the Wuttukat BTS station. Walk down a side street, cross the temple and there, right by the elaborate spirit house, is the jetty where your private long tail boat collects you:

The tour was fascinating and a real eye-opener, when you see just how much of the city is canal-based.

We floated past peoples’ homes and many beautiful “wats” (Buddhist temples), waved to children swimming in the canals, saw numerous monitor lizards, while the boatman pointed out the main sights to us, and identified many of the fruit trees we passed.

There was a 20 minute stop at an orchid farm (with absolutely no pressure to buy):

and another stop to feed shoals of hungry catfish:

Is Narayanhiti Palace in Kathmandu worth visiting?

Narayanhiti Palace, the former royal palace in Kathmandu, makes for a fascinating if slightly weird visiting experience.

After the overthrow of the Nepalese royalty, the palace, built in the 1960s, was turned into a museum, and I can do no better here than quote a brilliant description from the Lonely Planet:

“Full of chintzy meeting rooms and faded 1970s glamour, the palace interior is more outdated than opulent; it feels a bit like the lair of a B-grade Thunderball-era James Bond villain.”

Like so.

There is a distinct sense of faded, dusty opulence, as you wander past stuffed trophy animals and fascinating photos of the Who’s Who of the ’60s and ’70s visiting the royal family.

The atmosphere is quite relaxed inside the palace, the guards being friendly and unobtrusive.

At the gate all visitors have to leave bags, cameras and phones with security – they give you a locker – and so you wander round the rather confusing and rambling palace unencumbered.

If you tire of the high 1960s decor, the people watching is great.

It was the run up to Diwali when I visited, and so lots of country folk were wandering round, just as interested in us as in the black and white photos of their royal family.

As I stood in front of one royal portrait, trying to work out who was who, a charming man, speaking in a mix of Hindi and English, explained the portrait to me, translating back into Nepalese for the benefit of his admiring family, who giggled like crazy.

I enjoyed the photos the most, a real lesson in contemporary world history.

The entry fee varies according to nationality, and when I visited in October 2019, it was Rs 20 for Nepali students, Rs100 for Nepali citizens, Rs250 for SAARC citizens and Chinese, and Rs500 for everyone else.

Worth visiting, for a glimpse onto a royal world that disappeared in a very violent and dramatic manner.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, the photos are not mine. Remember I mentioned that cameras aren’t allowed? I found these online.

White Magic in Nepal

I am one very lucky woman.

Freely admit it 🙂

I have just returned from my 2nd Big Adventure in the hills this year, with the one and only White Magic Adventure Travels.

In June I did the Panpatia Col trek, where I was very below par, performance-wise, and it showed.

But my just-concluded climbing trip to Mera Peak in Nepal saw a re-energised me, and I loved every single moment of this tough, demanding trip.

Mera Peak, for all it is touted as a trekking peak, especially by Nepalese websites, is one tough, long trip, and it should not be underestimated.

An easy walk it is not.

We were 5 climbers (with 2 others sadly dropping out just a matter of weeks before) and of the 5, 3 of us were repeat WM clients.

The 2 who dropped out were also repeat clients, by the way.

We flew from Kathmandu to Lukla to start the trek/climb.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

We drove 5 hours in the middle of the night from Kathmandu to Ramechhap Airport, a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Ramechhap is a very small, provincial airport which now handles the many Lukla flights, and it is a dusty, disorganised, soulless place.

The flights were seriously backed up/cancelled/delayed – you name it, we had it…our pilot was sick, apparently.

So we wasted a precious day in this dustbowl, overnighted in a bit of a flea-pit (though, amazingly it did have wifi) and eventually flew the next morning to Lukla.

From Lukla onwards we camped, walking with our team of expert guides and sherpas, and a big crew of porters. Sanjeev Rai, with whom I climbed Banderpoonch last year, led the trip. We had a lovely local guide, a quiet, soft-spoken man called Chhewang Sherpa – a double Everest summiteer to boot!

Dorje Sherpa and Gumbu Sherpa were too wonderful. They would break camp after our slow departure, quickly overtake us, then shoot ahead to set up the next camp. And always with a smile and an encouraging word.

We slowly ascended and descended our way through stunning scenery, to the higher reaches of the mountain, and it was only after Khare (5000m) that we encountered snow, as we made our way to Base Camp.

From Base Camp, we inched our way up to High Camp (5800m) from where we were supposed to summit.

But it was not meant to be.

Blizzard-like conditions at High Camp, with ferocious winds tearing at our tents and heavy snowfall meant that not one single climber, from any of the groups there, even attempted the summit.

Dinner in my tent at High Camp, while the storm raged outside

Obviously we were all disappointed, but (as is always the case with White Magic) it was a case of safety first.

To have tried to summit in such dangerous conditions would have been beyond foolish, so when Sanjeev Rai, our WM guide, came to tell me at about 12.30 in the morning that things were going to be delayed, I guess I knew, realistically, that our summit was not happening. So I ignored the howling winds as best I could, and snuggled ever deeper into my sleeping bag, resigned to my fate.

The next morning, when I saw a collapsed tent, brought down by the strong winds, I said a silent prayer of thanks.

Part of the appeal of the summit of Mera Peak is the amazing view of the surrounding 8,000m+ peaks, but the mountain was not ready to share this view with us, so we trudged back down to Khare, all feeling disappointed, but everyone relieved that we got out of such a dangerous situation safely.

Hot orange juice after a long day…luxury!

I absolutely love camping, so there were no grumbles from me about tents and sleeping bags, though I know some of the others would have preferred to stay in the ubiquitous tea houses that were there at every night’s halt, right up to Khare.

I never felt cold – I have THE best sleeping bag in the world, my friends – and our portable loo was probably cleaner than the teahouse loos, so I had no desire to change the sleeping arrangements.

Our food was cooked by our own kitchen staff and boy oh boy, did I luck out, with a cook who is quite clearly as much of a potato-holic as I am 🙂

Tea or coffee served in your tent to wake you up.

3 hot meals a day.

Afternoon tea and snacks.

Popcorn and soup before dinner – we were well fed, and Devi Ram even produced delicious pizzas. Too good.

Tent tea. View guaranteed.
Picnic lunch

Every single member of the crew was smashing and hard working and beyond kind and always cheerful.

Sanjeev led by example, fighting off a bout of fever, and constantly switching flawlessly from English to Nepali to Hindi.

As I did on Banderpoonch, I felt safe with this young man at the helm.

A summit would have been wonderful.

No point denying it.

But this whole trip was fab, and the views all along the way were absolutely stupendous.

I paid my own way, as always on WM trips.

I had requested a personal porter, for whom I paid (obviously) and the wonderfully kind Pemba Sherpa certainly made my trip way easier, since I only carried the lightest of daypacks.

We 5 climbers ended up taking a chopper down from Khare to Lukla, which was brilliant – we all paid our way.

7.5 minutes vs a 2 day hike…

Then 3 of us – all senior citizens – managed to snag a 2nd chopper ride in as many days, down from Lulka to Kathmandu, thus avoiding even more delays and the awful 5 hour drive from Ramechhap.

Great end to the trip.

This was my first experience of travelling with WM outside India and despite a few hiccups, I would 100% recommend this trip.

Just pray to the weather gods to be kind, that’s all.

The Summer House, Bangkok

On a recent rainy Friday in Bangkok, I stopped by The Jam Factory to explore, to potter and to have lunch.

As one does.

The whole area is super – a former factory beautifully & thoughtfully renovated and turned into a mixed-use area. The architect responsible for the project has his offices there, there is a book shop, a couple of eating places, a shop, a lawn, a fab old Bodhi tree, views of the river – it is a delight.

You can forget the thundering traffic of nearby Charoen Nakhon, and rather turn your sights towards the river and experience a slower pace of life.

But on a really rainy Friday, there was obviously no way I was going to sit outside for lunch, so I missed out on the huge tree-shaded terrace and the river views offered by The Summer House.

I ate indoors, the only person all the time I was there, sadly.

I decided to experiment, and chose a flower omelette and a flower salad – and 2 dishes for one person was way too much.

A case of serious over-ordering, since the portions are very generous.

I’d been reading about the use of flowers in Thai food and wanted to try it out, but I made one cardinal error. I didn’t notice that the flower salad was fried, and I am not at all fond of batter fried foods – think tempura, which I avoid like the plague.

How did I miss this, you ask?

What word in “crispy” did I not understand? Goodness knows!

I think I was too focused on the vegetarian and flower bit.

But the salad was beautifully presented, and I sort of ate around the fried bits.

So…the salad was good but a bad choice. For me, that is.

The omelette was nice, but I can’t honestly say that I tasted the flowers.

But once again, such pretty presentation.

I drank this:

Absolutely no complaints – it was what it said!

Such a lovely peaceful space, with great, attentive service.

And all for me…

It isn’t cheap, but I will definitely go back. And next time, I’ll be sure to read the menu a little more closely.

I did not tell the staff that I write reviews, and I paid for my meal myself.

Personally recommended.

Oh yes – the address in English, for non-Thai speakers:

41/5 1 Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600

How is the ASICS Lite-Show long sleeved T?

Pre-review disclosure.

I am an ASICS running influencer in India (where I live) and as such get to try out and wear their products.

BUT – and this really is very important – ASICS has never once even so much as suggested I review their products.

Not once.

I am under no pressure whatsoever to write any review nor blog about the company.

But when I genuinely love a product, I review it here.

Which leads me straight away to the light-as-air Lite-Show long sleeved T (below):

I’m going to share with you a rather silly secret. I really, really love tops that have thumb holes, like this T.

Dunno why, but I do.

So the Lite-Show T already had a definite plus in its favour before I even wore it.

Wearing it is a delight, since the top is incredibly lightweight, making it great, even in Delhi’s brutal summer heat (where the long sleeves protect against sun damage).

I also wore it as part of my layering, while trekking in the snowy Himalayas. This time, it was the top’s lightness that was a big plus, when every gram counts in your rucksack.

Now let me give you a few technical details:

“Mixed fabrication construction for feminine look and breathability. Cotton handfeel at front for comfort. Mesh at back for ventilation. 360° body-mapped reflectivity for visibility

The fabric is Knit 1. 74% Polyester, 19% Tencel, 7% Spandex”

These details courtesy www.asics.com

Can you see D1 on the back?
Read on

“The Asics Lite-Show Running Top is constructed with D1 technical fabric which utilises moisture management and quick drying properties. When sweat is produced, the fabric pushes it to the outer layer where it is then evaporated, keeping you feeling cool and dry during a workout. Designed with a loose fit and a soft touch, it will keep comfort at a maximum. Thumbholes are used to provides extra coverage across the hands and also prevents the sleeves from riding up and causing discomfort. Reflective elements feature on the front, back and arms on the top which enhances visibility in low lighting conditions for maximum safety while out on the streets.”

Thank you, www.sportsshoes.com

As mentioned above, the reference D1 is part of ASICS’ own classification system, indicating that the garment is “moisture wicking” and made from “quick drying fabric”.

If I have one grumble about this top, it is that it is only available in one colour…

So I have 2 of ’em, since I love them so much!

Personally tried, tested & recommended.

Check www.asics.com to buy online or visit one of their stores.

ASICS Tanren sports bra

Pre-review disclosure.

I am an ASICS running influencer in India (where I live) and as such get to try out and wear their products.

BUT – and this really is very important – ASICS has never once even so much as suggested I review their products.

Not once.

I am under no pressure whatsoever to write any review nor blog about the company

But since I honestly do like their sports bra, why not?

I have worn and tried sports bras of many companies in the (almost) 6 years that I have been running and the ASICS Tanren bra really is top of the range.

What I particularly like about the Tanren is that it has a conventional hook & eye fastening system at the back, meaning you avoid some of the terrible contortions otherwise involved.

The fabric is, naturally, tight, so you do have to stretch your arms a bit through the arm holes, but nothing as panic inducing as one bra I have (I won’t mention names) – God knows how supple that company thinks the average woman is, contorting and twisting your way into their bra.

Another plus about this bra is the adjustable straps. Not all sports bras have ‘em.

Trust me.

Quick aside. You know what I like about the photo above? That the model ever-so-slightly bulges over the back of the bra.

As most of us do.

Makes me feel a whole lot less stressed.

I have 3 of these bras – one black & 2 yellow.

They’re not cheap, at Rs3599 a piece, but they are top quality.

Mine get worn, in rotation, nearly every day (though I admit to favouring the fab yellow ones more than the conventional black one 😛 ) and there is no sign of wear and tear at all.

Ah yes, before I go.

What does that D1 mean on the back of the bra?

Good question.

ASICS has a system of letters and numbers indicating the functions of the apparel, and each garment will have one.

The DI on the Tanren bra means that it is made from a moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric that stays dry.

And it does. I can vouch for that.

I’ve run in these bras in extreme killer humidity in Delhi, in Mumbai (running the marathon) and in Bangkok, and they do wick away the moisture.

Personally tried, tested and recommended.

Yesterday

“Yesterday” is a fun, happy, feel-good movie, and after the horrid week we’ve all had, this film came as a real tonic.

(Our dog died unexpectedly, aged 6 – that’s why we had a lousy week.)

Anyway, back to the film.

Super fun.

Great music – obviously!

An absolutely stellar, breakout performance by Himesh Patel, who is a seriously talented musician, singer, actor. The whole 9 yards.

Lily James is one of my favourite young actresses, and she is every bit as smashing as Ellie as she is in all her films.

“Yesterday” is a sweet, fairytale-y film, taking place in a world where only Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) has heard of the Beatles, and so is the only person who knows their music.


Fame, fortune, world wide adulation follow as Jack shares the Beatles songs with a world who has never heard of them or their music…here, watch the trailer.

Super fun, right?

I reckon a film that:

a) has Beatles music

b) makes the whole cinema sing along to “Hey Jude” during the closing credits

is a pretty successful film.

Super cast – Ed Sheeran is great, Kate McKinnon is on top form, Joel Fry is a laugh-out-loud scene-stealer, and there are cameos from the likes of James Corden.

The scan of the concert on Gorleston beach is electrifying, and I have to say the old home country was looking pretty darn fantastic in those aerial shots of the hotel and the beach.

Apparently it was a live performance with over 6,000 extras. As i said earlier in this review – super fun, right?

I can (almost) understand why people want to go and visit locations after seeing them in a film. Gorleston looks amazing.

Enjoy this totally happy film, though there is one very moving moment which I’ll not plot-spoil.

And enjoy the sing along 🙂

White Magic Adventure Travel. Simply the best in the business

It’s all too easy to complain, isn’t it?

We don’t like a restaurant/product/whatever and, quick as a flash, we complain, write a snarky Tripadvisor review, or simply badmouth the company.

Good service, however, is a different ballgame altogether.

Once the event is over, we always mean to write and say “thank you” or “well done” but we rarely do. Life takes over, and we forget.

Bit like meaning to write a thank you letter when you were a child, right?

Well, before city life sucks me back into its routine, let me write my own version of a thank you letter to White Magic Adventure Travel, who have yet again delivered a flawless mountain experience, in very trying conditions.

We were 10 trekkers earlier this month, on the high altitude trek to Panpatia Col in India’s Uttarkhand state, and we encountered it all – insane pilgrim traffic, heavy snowfall, hailstorms – you name it, we saw it.

Frozen water bottle

When I tell you that 7/10 of us were repeat clients, it gives you an indication of the nature of White Magic. A thoroughly professional team delivering a top class experience – weather and crazy traffic delays notwithstanding.

Helping the 10 of us was a massive crew: guides, cooks, and 28 porters.

Just some of our hard-working porters

As well as meeting up with 4 different friends from previous WM trips, there is always the joy of meeting up with the wonderful WM guys – Sanjeev Ganju who led the trek, Nitesh Sati, Nawang (all three of them last seen on the frozen River Zanskar) and the one and only Mohan.

It’s a bit like a family reunion, really.

I have a confession to make.

I was woefully under-prepared for this trek.

Under-trained and it showed.

I was the weakest link, always the slowest and the last into camp, but never for one single moment was I made to feel inadequate.

I knew it of course, and felt deeply embarrassed by my own sub-par performance, but the staff could not have been sweeter or kinder or more helpful, and I was thoroughly spoiled, always having someone to lend me a helping hand.

Not proud of my performance, but it brought out the best in the amazing team that is White Magic.

We had lovely new tents for this trip, numbered and we got the same tent each night, making it our responsibility to keep our tent clean. Or not. As we wished. A WM mattress and a rubber ground mat completed the furnishings.

The “usual” big mess tent and 2 toilet tents – this was our little pampered world, with food and hot drinks and snacks and hand wash and daily oxygen saturation tests and lights and even a little heater when it got really cold.

This is my 6th?/7th? trip with White Magic Adventure Travel and over the years and the trips, their standards have not wavered for a second.

Safety is their #1 priority.

After earlier pre-WM travels with a company who should be banned for their shocking dereliction of duty, I cannot emphasise how important this aspect of White Magic is. I have seen at first hand serious accidents at altitude and a cavalier disregard for client safety.

With White Magic Adventure Travel safety will never be compromised and you know it.

And if that means a slow coach like myself taking forever to descend an icy slope, there will be no chivvying, no pressure, just a kindly hand to help.

Health and cleanliness are also vital to keep everyone in good condition, and I saw with my own eyes this time the way a sick porter was looked after and cared for.

Nothing but praise for this company and the uber-hard-working, ever cheerful team.

From bed tea in your tent first thing in the morning to hot soup before dinner.

From hot water to wash to hot lunches served on the go – White Magic Adventure Travel is a class act.

Don’t miss the Twix table cloth, for lunch al fresco

My latest crazy gang 🙂

And, as ever, our last night of camping cake 🙂

Such a happy tradition

I think some of the WM guys know by now that I blog, but never once, never, ever has anyone suggested that I write a review for them

As I just said – total class act.

I cannot recommend this company more highy.

I paid my own way (of course) and am already planning my next adventure with them.