Ned Kelly Hotel, Mandalay

I stayed in the Ned Kelly Hotel last year, on a trip with an American friend who’d made the booking mainly on the strength of the Ned Kelly having a roof terrace.

And the unusual name.

Turns out, she didn’t know who Ned Kelly was.

Nor, I suspect, had she quite realised what the word “poshtel” meant.

Because this uber cool, striking-looking hotel-hostel is a clever, laid-back mix of the 2 concepts.

It is a hotel and it is also a hostel.

Now how does a poshtel work, do I hear you ask?

Well, there are common areas, like a sitting room which comes equipped with a TV, sofas, a dining table and a kitchenette. They were hardly used during our stay there, and everything was spotless.

the communal

And in the bedrooms, each bed has a lockable cupboard below it. Like so

Actually, this might well be our room. There were just 2 of us. But 4 beds.

As you can see, the beds are a little higher than normal, ‘cos of said cupboards, but that’s no big deal.

Otherwise, it’s just like any smart, clean hotel.

No frills. But spotlessly clean.

Small but clean bathroom:

And the famous roof terrace? Actually there are two & they looked good when we checked them out on arrival:

But…that evening they were showing the Super Bowl on that giant screen, so the place was packed. And noisy.

So the very kind, very attentive staff served us our drinks up on the second roof terrace. Just the 2 of us. (And the Super Bowl).

An adequate breakfast (with excellent coffee) is served in the lobby café or outside on the terrace, there is good wifi, you can leave your luggage there on departure day if needs be, and it is all very chilled and very easy-going.

Great location.

Tuk tuks easily available.

We paid our own way and I didn’t tell the staff at the Ned Kelly Hotel that I blog and write reviews.

Personally recommended.

Is Icon Cineconic in Bangkok worth it?

Given the opulence of the setting, I think that Icon Cineconic in the uber-luxury, brand new IconSiam mall, is actually totally reasonable.

I live in India, and during a week of intensive cinema going in Bangkok – 4 movies in a week – every time we paid less than we would to see a film at a comparative-quality cinema in Delhi.

But, realistically, there is no comparison, in terms of luxury and space, between the smart cinemas in India and the cinemas in Icon Cineconic.

Bangkok wins hands down.

The mall where the cinemas are located only opened in November 2018, and yet has already become a major tourist destination, with ferries shuttling thousands of people there every day.

The cinema consists of a total of 2,781 seats spread over many different screensIcon, including a VIP screen, an IMAX screen, one 4DX screen, a Kid’s Cinema, nine normal screens and a 30-capacity “Living Room Theater,” which guests can rent for private parties.

We went to the normal screens and paid Baht 200 per ticket.

Everything in Icon Cineconic is on a massive scale.

There are banks of ticket machines, for example, along with charming people on hand to help, in case you need it. And, yes, they are all English-speaking, too! Twice we ordered our tickets on line & the procedure was simple and flawless.

There are huge escalators to whisk you upon and down to the cinemas, which are spread over a couple of floors.

There are wide corridors, endless sitting areas, there are unbelievably luxurious, marble-clad bathrooms. And everything is spotlessly clean.

Heck, there’s even a special bathroom for children!

Since we don’t speak Thai, we saw 4 movies in English, and they were all subtitled.

Totally recommended.

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

Dolittle

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

What a truly underwhelming film.

The cast of “Dolittle” is beyond stellar : Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Jim Broadbent, Antonio Banderas, Selena Gomez, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Marion Cotillard, John Cena, Frances de la Tour…I mean, gosh, whew, yes, whew, WHAT a stunning line up.

The special effects are absolutely super.

The story line and the plot, however, are terrible.

Truly terrible.

Really & truly terrible.

You have to wonder what on earth Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Jim Broadbent, Antonio Banderas, Selena Gomez, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Marion Cotillard, John Cena, & Frances de la Tour were thinking about when they signed up for this rambling, over-complicated, silly film?

Did they not read the script beforehand?

Did they not wonder what Queen Victoria and a scheming courtier (Jim Broadbent…why? Why oh why oh why?) were doing in this story?

I imagine little children might like it, because there are talking animals, though they might not get the Queen Victoria/scheming courtier sub plot. Lucky children.

Oh, silly me, I forgot to mention Robert Downey Jr.

What can one say about Robert Downey Jr?

God alone knows what accent he was aiming for, but I thought he started out as vaguely American-actor-trying-to-sound-Scottish, but then he drifted off into American-actor-trying-to-sound-Welsh, and a lot of the time he sounded as though he was mumbling, & you couldn’t hear him properly, so it was all a bit sad, really.

The film was too long, too convoluted, and too unfunny.

There should have been lots of charm & lots of humour, but other than the tiger reverting to being a cat & chasing a beam of light, that was it.

You could happily have axed 1/3 of the film without anyone noticing.

A total & utter waste of a fab cast.

A total & utter waste of amazing animation of the animals.

If you have little children, then I think they’ll enjoy it. There’s nothing the little dears can’t cope with – there’s even a flatulent dragon.

Yup, it descends to that level of slapstick.

KNIVES OUT

What a smashing film this is, and what a stunning ensemble cast.

“Knives Out” is a laugh-aloud murder mystery that seems to be constantly sending itself up, with every genre and cliche in the book thrown joyfully into the mix.

We have a rich, famous man celebrating his 85th birthday.

We have his greedy, self-serving family.

We have a large country house. Obviously.

The house has a lot of creaky stairs. Also obviously.

We have a devoted immigrant carer.

And to top it all, we have very genial but bumbling local cops and a savvy, old-school private detective.

Harlem Thromby, the patriarch of a dysfunctional family, dies the night of his 85th birthday party, and though the family and the local cops agree it is suicide, the private detective, Benoit Blanc, suspects murder.

The thing is, no-one, including Benoit Blanc, knows who hired Benoit Blanc to investigate.

There are twists and turns aplenty, and Mr. Blanc, the southern-drawly, cigar-chomping detective (brilliantly played by a brilliant Daniel Craig) soon enlists the help of the dead man’s carer, Marta, a Hispanic immigrant.

The Thromby family constantly tell Marta that she is part of the family, while consistently failing to remember which country she is from – one of several running gags in the film.

There are delicious moments – while discussing racism and illegal immigration into the USA in front of Marta, one of the family automatically hands his plate to her, treating the qualified nurse as a maid.

There isn’t an overt political agenda in the movie, but it is telling that the only person who seems to care for and genuinely grieve for Harlem is his nurse, Marta.

Such a fun film.

We laughed a lot.

We didn’t guess the ending, which is clever. (Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of plot-spoiling such a happy film).

Everyone is excellently cast, though Daniel Craig steals the show with his southern drawl and his tweedy demeanour.

Ana de Armas is lovely and likeable and beautiful as the morally upright Marta. She’s also a lousy liar.

Jamie Lee Curtis is great.

Ditto Christopher Plummer.

And as for K.Callan as the almost silent great-grandmother…she’s hilarious.

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.

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

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.