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.

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.

How cool is the ASICS Metarun singlet?

Before I start, a disclaimer.

I am a running influencer for ASICS in Delhi, India where I live.

Having said that, I also need to state for the record that ASICS has put me under NO obligation whatsoever to write about, or review their products.

Not once have I been asked to write or blog about anything by the company. The choice to write or not, to review or not, to Instagram or not is entirely mine.

I am under no pressure.

There are many ASICS products that I have worn or tried out, and have not written about, but the Metarun singlet definitely deserves some TLC.

Because, despite my inhibitions about wearing a singlet, this one works.

Time to face facts

  1. I am no spring chicken.
  2. I have always had flabby arms. Have done since I was in my 20s.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, could’ve/should’ve worked on them over the years. Agreed.

But I didn’t, and I live to rue the day 😛

All of that is to explain why I have strenuously avoided wearing a running singlet.

That attitude had to change in January, when the ASICS influencers were given a singlet to wear for the Mumbai marathon.

It actually wasn’t as embarrassing an experience as I had feared, BUT I had THE most horrific underarm chafing. The armhole was too tight for me, and the last few kilometres of the race were sheer torture, as the chafing became unbearable. I kept stopping to try and tug the singlet down to relieve the underarm tightness, costing me precious seconds, but all to no avail.

Which is where the Metarun singlet scores.

Just see how low cut it is, below the arms. No risk of chafing there.

I was more than a little concerned at the amount of bra strap that would be on display from the back, but then I thought, “Oh the heck with it. Wearing a sports bra isn’t anything to hide.”

Of course, it helps here that the model is young and slim, but needs must 😛

I have tried out my singlet on many occasions over the last few hot and humid weeks, and it is, without doubt, THE most comfortable top I have ever worn for hot weather running.

As in THE most comfortable EVER.

The technical details (above) are from the website, but let me put it in lay-person’s English: the mesh at the back absorbs the sweat, and the whole garment is so light that you hardly feel you are wearing anything.

ASICS has a coding system for its garments, to explain their specific functions.

This singlet is a C1, highlighted below.

After doing a 15k run in it last weekend, I honestly felt cool.

And totally unsweaty.

Different occasion (below), equally hot & sweaty weather.

Whereas I felt cool.

Well, I was literally cool…dunno about the metaphorical bit!

I’m a big fan after just a few weeks.

Light as a father garment.

Zero sweating.

Zero chafing.

It comes in 2 colours, black and white: check out the garment in one of the ASICS stores, or buy it online.

100% personally recommended.

The Nizam of Hyderabad’s jewels on display in New Delhi

Delhi readers, take note!

If you haven’t already seen this astounding exhibition at the National Museum, you only have until May 5th to do so.

Trust me, it is so fabulous that you will not regret it.

I had seen the jewels when they were last exhibited at the Museum in 2007, but the pieces on display are so gorgeous and so breathtaking that it was a joy to see them again.

There are more emeralds than you can imagine, more diamonds, more pearls, more necklaces, more turban ornaments, each one more fantastic than the next. Precious stones so big and so luscious that they look like enormous, brightly coloured boiled sweets – if that makes sense.

The star of the show is the Jacob Diamond, with all its attached dramatic back story, including being used as a paper-weight by the Nizam.

You have to buy a separate ticket for this exhibition, but at Rs 50 it’s a steal.

The atmosphere in the vault where the jewels are displayed is remarkably relaxed, with everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing, and taking photos with their mobiles. Once or twice a guard will politely ask people not to lean too much on the display cases, but overall, it was a super relaxed visit.

Well worth it.

The information inside the exhibition itself is pretty scant, so be sure to read the good information panels outside, before you go into the vault.

And don’t miss the lovely sepia photos of the court of Hyderabad wearing the very pieces you are drooling over.

This is a dazzling (literally) part of India’s history, and deserves to be seen and enjoyed.

Here’s a link to the Museum’s website for you, with timings and prices.

And here are a few more photos to whet your appetite :

How is the Fantasia sunset boat trip in Bagan, Myanmar?

Based on enthusiastically favourable reviews online, we decided on the Fantasia boat, to witness the “must see” sunset over the river in Bagan.

However, since we were totally underwhelmed by the whole experience, it seems only fair that I put a dissenting view on record.

I’d hate future travellers to feel disappointed, the way we were.

We were a mixed bunch on the 2 boats that set out that evening from Old Bagan.

Loads of yuppy French youngsters, one of whom was ill and another of whom was celebrating her birthday.

A smaller group of Spanish youngsters, one of whom had misplaced his mobile phone & was a little stressed.

A quiet Chinese couple. A very quiet lone Japanese man. A late-middle-aged French couple.

And us, a Brit and an American, 2 women of a certain…hey, our ages don’t really matter for the purpose of this review, but let’s just say we were not there for the booze, as most of the youngsters seemed to be.

We were loaded into a little pirogue to access a sandbank in the river, which we then walked across to the boats, moored on the far side.

No safety briefing.

No life jackets.

No lights.

And alcohol, as were soon to discover.

We all sat around on the 2 boats for about 15 minutes, while the all-important booze was passed round (for the record, we had no inkling about the free beer/gin/rum) & after what seemed an age, off we trundled to a point in the river where lots of other boats were moored.

Engines, outboards, revving.

No tranquility whatsoever.

As soon as sunset was over, the revving and spluttering-into-life of all the engines started, in a noisy cacophony.

After the sun set – quickly as is the norm in Asia – the German (?) manager announced that the booze was to be finished, and anyone who wanted to go back could stay on one boat (ours, thankfully) and anyone who wanted to stay and party a little longer should transfer to the other boat.

Once all the youngsters (barring the sick young Frenchmen) were on the boat with the booze and the remaining snacks, our more sedate boat headed back.

The charming Myanmarese crew helped us off the boat, in total darkness by now, and we trudged back across the sandbank, and back into the pirogue.

In the dark.

And after alcohol (just one weak drink each in our case, but the youngsters were certainly knocking it back).

How difficult or expensive would it be to give the crew torches?

The views were pretty, it’s true. But it wasn’t what we’d hoped.

If you want a cheap booze cruise, go ahead.

If you want a tranquil moment watching the sunset, then Fantasia is not for you.

We paid 5,000 kyat a head, and I guess the entire outing lasted under an hour.

I paid my own way & didn’t mention that I blog and write reviews.