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Exploring Bangkok’s Sathorn District

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments · Thailand Information, Thailand Stuff

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As one of the main business districts of Bangkok, Sathorn (also written as Sathon) is dotted with high-rise offices housing international banks and financial institutions. Although Sathorn isn’t known for its tourist attractions, it still makes for an excellent base to explore Bangkok with a wide range of hotels and good transport links courtesy of the Skytrain and the Chao Phraya river boat service. Whilst many first-time visitors to Bangkok head to the myriad of hotels crammed along Sukhumvit Road, Sathorn provides a quieter alternative away from the hustle of lower Sukhumvit. Sathorn is also a delight for foodies and those looking for sophisticated nighttime drinks and entertainment.

exploring Bangkok;s Sathorn district

Khet Sathorn
Bangkok is divided up into various administrative districts known as ‘khet‘. Sathorn district extends from Klong Sathorn (the canal which bisects Sathorn Road) in the north to Chan Road in the south and Rama IV Road in the east. The Chao Phraya River forms the western boundary of Sathorn.

What to see and do in Sathorn

Sathorn isn’t brimming with obvious tourist attractions, but it does have a number of interesting locations to check out and decent transport links make it relatively easy to get around and explore the rest of Bangkok. And once the sun goes down, Sathorn has some of the best food and drink options in all of Bangkok.

MR Kukrit's Heritage Home, Sathorn

One of the highlights of Sathorn is the delightful MR Kukrit’s Heritage Home. If you’ve already been to Jim Thompson’s House and enjoyed your time there, you’ll probably appreciate this charming heritage home. Unlike the better-known Jim Thompson’s House, MR Kukrit’s Heritage Home sees few overseas tourists and consequently has a more intimate feel. By way of complete contrast, a short walk away from the former prime minister’s home is the futuristic Robot Building.

Bangkok's robot building

Bangkok’s best-known green space, Lumphini Park is just slightly outside of Sathorn’s eastern boundaries, but close enough to give it an honourable mention here. Further to the west, there are a couple of interesting temples in Sathorn with Wat Yanawa and Wat Prok offering something different to the typical Thai temple. Wat Yanawa features a chedi in the shape of a boat whilst Wat Prok is designed in a Burmese style.

Food and drink in Sathorn

In Sathorn, you’ll find all that is wonderful about Bangkok’s eclectic food scene with dining options ranging from classic Thai hawker stalls to high-class restaurants such as David Thompson’s award-wining nahm at Metropolitan which is considered as one of the top restaurants in the world.

food and drink in Sathorn

Street food

For street food try any of the vendors along Suan Plu Road or at the market, Talad Suan Plu. A short walk across the bridge over Sathorn Road is Convent Road, another good location for classic Thai street food.

Soi Suan Plu

For upmarket Thai food in a lovely setting, check out Baan Khanitha on the corner of Suan Plu Road and South Sathorn Road. Moving further down Soi Suan Plu and past Somerset Park Suanplu (recommended) brings you to a cluster of bars and eateries. If you like mellow live music with your beer or cocktails, Smalls and Junker and Bar are both worth a look.

Suan Plu Soi 8 is a personal favourite of mine with a wonderful array of dining options ranging from Thai street food to French cuisine to pizza. Highly recommended are the two branches of Uncle John founded by a former hotel chef who wanted to bring quality dining at reasonable prices to the Suan Plu neighbourhood. Further down the lane, Le Isaan is another noteworthy dining choice serving northern and north-eastern Thai food. If you fancy a change from Thai food, Nando serves up good value and tasty Italian dishes. A couple of food trucks, Cactus and Bud’s Barbecue, can often be found parked up in the area serving Mexican food and burgers.

Dine in colonial elegance

If you’re looking to impress somebody special or just want to splurge and enjoy dining in elegant surroundings, Sathorn has a trio of outstanding options:

  • Sathorn Mansion: the House on Sathorn
    Sathorn Mansion, now known as the House on Sathorn and part of the W Hotel, is a sumptuous setting for a restaurant and cocktail bar. Built in the early 1900s, Sathorn Mansion was formerly the residence of a wealthy nobleman known as Khun Luang. In the 1920s the mansion became the exclusive Royal Hotel. Between 1948 and 1999, the building served as the embassy of the Soviet Union and then Russia. Now open to the public, the mansion has been sympathetically renovated with many of the original fixtures and fittings still in place.
  • Sathorn Mansion, the House on Sathorn in front of the W Hotel

  • Blue Elephant restaurant and cooking school
    One of the most delightful buildings in Sathorn, the Blue Elephant restaurant and cooking school provides a striking contrast to the modern buildings all around as you look down from the Skytrain station at Surasak. The building opened in 1903 as the Bombay Department Store and two decades later was purchased by the Thai Chinese Chamber of Commerce who moved into their new premises in 1930. The building was fully renovated in 2002 and is now open to the public daily for lunch and dinner as the Blue Elephant Restaurant. The venue also hosts a cooking school for those wishing to learn some of the finer details of Thai cooking.
    website
  • Blue Elephant restaurant and cooking school

  • Issaya Siamese Club
    The mansion which is home to Issaya Siamese Club dates back to the 1920s. The beautiful building and gorgeous gardens make for a delightful location for a restaurant and lounge bar. Celebrity Thai chef Ian Kittichai is the man at the helm at Issaya making this is one of the trendiest venues in Bangkok.
    website

Rooftop bars

Sathorn hosts a number of Bangkok’s best known rooftop bars with Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel arguably the pick of the bunch in Sathorn. Also worth a peek are The Roof @ 38th Bar (Mode Sathorn Hotel) and Zoom Skybar (Anantara Sathorn Hotel). Dress regulations are in place here, but if you are looking for somewhere more casual for your rooftop drinks with a view, Cloud 47 is a good alternative and close to Sathorn.

Transport

Staying in Sathorn means you’re away from the main tourist areas, but still have the advantage of being able to get to them all quite easily. BTS Skytrain stations in the area include Chong Nonsi, Sala Daeng, Surasak and Saphan Taksin. From Saphan Taksin BTS station it’s a short walk to the central pier for boat services on the Chao Phraya River to take you to Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace to the north and Asiatique to the south. The nearest MRT metro stations are at Lumpini and Silom.

skybridge at BTS Skytrain station Chong Nonsi

Where to stay in Sathorn

Budget
I Residence
My Bed Sathorn
The Aim Sathorn

Mid-range
AETAS Lumpini
House of Phraya Jasaen
Ibis Bangkok Sathorn
Somerset Park Suanplu
U Sathorn

Luxury
Anantara Sathorn
Ascott Sathorn
Banyan Tree
Eastin Grand Hotel
Metropolitan
The Sukhothai

The post Exploring Bangkok’s Sathorn District appeared first on Thaizer written by Roy Cavanagh

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Idiom & Phrase History with Albert Jack

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments · Thailand Stuff

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The Origins of Some of our Favourite Expressions

Before You Can Say Jack Robinson it will all be over.’ How many times have we heard someone say something like this and wondered who Jack Robinson was? To trace Jack we have to go back over two hundred years to 1778 when Fanny Burney first used the expression in her novel Evelina. In the text, Fanny indicates the phrase is already well known in the way she regularly uses it to describe something that happens ‘in an instant.’ There are also suggestions that Jack Robinson was featured shortly afterwards in a play. But let’s now turn to an exchange that took place in the House of Commons during the late 1700s and was famously reported across all Europe, thanks to the drama and contentiousness of the occasion.

It is worth recording that back then, and for that matter now, members of the House would refrain from mentioning any other member by name, a practice that came albertheadabout in avoidance of the strict libel laws of the time. Instead, an MP might suggest that ‘the Honourable Member for ‘whatever the’ constituency has today shown himself to be a scoundrel by stating that… etc,’ thereby avoiding a mention of the person’s name but making it quite clear whom they were referring to. We can still hear this form of address in Parliament today, but these days it is merely due to tradition, rather than the avoidance of libel.

You can imagine, then, how much of a fuss was caused in the late 18th century by playwright and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan when he was asked in the House to name a member of government under suspicion and accused of bribery. Without hesitation, Sheridan looked across at fellow MP John Robinson and announced, ‘I could name him for you as soon as I could say Jack Robinson.’

Well, that remark was a little too close for comfort, even by today’s standards, causing uproar and being reported across the land. It is likely this exchange led to the use of the phrase by Fanny Burney in her popular novel and hence its passage into the English language, but I have found an even earlier source for the term and quite possibly the reason for Sheridan’s use of it.

A poem by Thomas Hudson, entitled ‘Jack Robinson’ and written in the early 17th century, told the tale of a sailor returning from the high seas to find the love of his life already married to another. The sad sonnet includes the line ‘and so he went back to sea, afore you could say Jack Robinson.’ It is quite likely that Sheridan, literary fellow that he was, knew of this poem and was deliberately quoting from it to avoid censure in the House.

By substituting the name of John Robinson, the MP he accused, with the name of the fictional character in Hudson’s poem, he could claim the similarity between the two names as merely coincidental should Robinson ever be vindicated and threaten libel action. Clever stuff:  No wonder the exchange was so widely reported and admired.

‘Gordon Bennett!’ is a remark we have probably all used at one time or another to express surprise and even respect. James Gordon Bennett II was born in America in 1841, the son of Gordon Bennett, the founder of the New York Herald. With cash to spare, he lived a charmed life and when he eventually inherited his father’s newspaper empire, began a spending spree estimated at US$40 million (the total sum spent between 1881 and 1918).

IntBestSeller-300x300Gordon Bennett junior was a flamboyant character who enjoyed encouraging the innovative and exciting, such as the first-ever aeroplane race, the Gordon Bennett Cup, which was won by Glenn Curtis in 1909. He sponsored a balloon race in France known as the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett, as well as yacht races, boxing championships, steam engine trials and car races. It was Gordon Bennett who funded Henry Morton Stanley’s expedition to Africa in search of the missionary Dr Livingstone and also financed the ill-fated Jeannette Expedition to the Arctic.

For his own part, Bennett was an extraordinary character who once flew a plane through an open barn as a stunt, burned a bulky roll of cash, which was in his back pocket causing discomfort, and urinated in his future in-laws’ fireplace, in front of other guests, after drunkenly mistaking it for a toilet. He also regularly annoyed fellow diners in top restaurants with his habit of pulling all the tablecloths away, sending food and crockery crashing. Unsurprisingly, he was once horsewhipped on the steps of a gentlemen’s club and eventually forced to flee in 1887 and so he re-located to Paris and continued to run his newspaper empire from there.

Despite some outrageous behaviour, Bennett was essentially a benevolent and visionary man who gave large amounts to charity and founded the Associated Press news service, which exists today, as does Bennett’s newspaper, in the shape of the International Herald Tribune. In his lifetime, Bennett’s newspapers would regularly run the headline ‘Gordon Bennett’ while reporting his antics, and his name thus became associated with anything outrageous, exciting and over the top.

It is also worth recording the story of another Gordon Bennett, a prolific although barely known biscuit maker, born in 1878. Some people believe the phrase entered the language after ‘Biscuit Bennett’ (as he was known) used to cycle the streets of Pontefract calling out his own name to advertise his product.

Bob’s your Uncle is often used to describe something that is resolved in your favour without much effort such as ‘Just send the form in and Bob’s your uncle.’ The phrase was in regular use in England from the 1890’s and comes from the promotion in 1886 of Arthur Balfour to Secretary of State for Ireland.

Balfour was a surprise choice for the position and few regarded him as qualified for the post. But when it became known he was the nephew of British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, the joke circulated that if Robert was your uncle, then anything was possible.

As Bold as Brass is a well known saying applied to anyone with the courage of their conviction and not afraid to be seen either succeeding or failing. It is recorded that mfor1the phrase dates back to the late 1770’s and refers to a radical London Magistrate called Brass Crosby.  At that time it was illegal for the workings of Parliament to be published for public knowledge.

However, one London printer produced a pamphlet revealing some of the proceedings and was immediately arrested. He was brought before Brass Crosby’s court and the magistrate, in tune with public opinion, let the printer off. Crosby was immediately arrested for treason and himself thrown into the Tower.

But such was the public outcry, in support of the magistrate, he was released and he became something of a national hero. In 1770 Crosby was selected as Lord Mayor of London and one of his first acts was to refuse to allow the Admiralty warrants to force Londoners into the Royal Navy by means of Press Gangs. Crosby then secured his reputation among the people of the City by ordering constables to be located ‘at all avenues’ to prevent the enslaving of its citizens. His brave stand against authority was widely reported, leading to the term as bold as Brass Crosby passing into common parlance.

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Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments · Thailand Information, Thailand News, Thailand Stuff

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Located on the fringe of Bangkok’s Chinatown district, Bangkok railway station is the main rail terminus for the Thai capital. Many Thai people refer to the station by its official name of ‘Krungthep’ although there are some locals who call it Hua Lamphong which was the name of a local road and canal that were here before the station was built. Hua Lamphong train station is also the name often used in English language websites and city travel guides.

Bangkok Railway Station Hualamphong viewed from the frontfront view of Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)

History of Bangkok railway station
Construction of the Bangkok railway station began in 1910 during the reign of King Rama VI with the building officially opened on June 25, 1916. Although Dutch architects collaborated on the project it is the Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, who is given most credit for the neo-classical design of the railway building. Tamagno also worked on several other projects in Bangkok in the early 1900s including the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Initially, Bangkok railway station was used as both a passenger and freight terminal. In 1960, the station was redeveloped to be used solely as a passenger terminal.

Destinations

The vast majority of train services departing from or arriving in the Thai capital use the main Bangkok railway station at Hua Lamphong. There are exceptions though with some local services, including those to and from Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai, using the smaller Thonburi station (Bangkok Noi) across the other side of the Chao Phraya River.

Train times

Trains usually depart on time from Bangkok train station, but arrivals are often late (by an hour or more) on long distance routes so use the arrival times shown on train timetables as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Computerised real-time arrivals and departure boards are displayed at the station.

main concourse at Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station

ticket counters and displays at Bangkok Hua Lamphong train station

Buying tickets at Bangkok railway station

Buying a train ticket at Bangkok Hua Lamphong station is relatively straight-forward with lots of information available in English as well as Thai. Although the process of buying a ticket is easy enough, the fare system is more complicated with supplements added depending on the type of seat and class of train. Please note you may also be asked to show your passport when purchasing tickets.

Ticket office for tourists
Bangkok railway station has recently opened a dedicated ticket office for foreign tourists. If you enter the station concourse from the front, the ticket office is in the far left-hand corner. The office is run by the State Railways of Thailand (SRT) and uses English-speaking staff to help overseas visitors. The office sells 1st and 2nd class tickets for same-day and advance travel on most trains. The cheapest tickets for 3rd class trains are not available from here and must be bought from the counters outside. Combined train/ferry tickets to popular destinations including Ko Tao and Ko Samui can be purchased here as well as combination train/bus tickets to Krabi and Phuket. The office also sells tickets for some of the special weekend excursion trains run by SRT. Because the office is run by SRT there are no outside agency fees and you pay the standard ticket price.

ticket office for foreigners at Bangkok Hua Lamphong railway station

Tickets for same-day travel
Tickets for same-day travel can be purchased from the main ticket counters. Display screens above each counter describe in Thai and English what trains you can buy tickets for although the screens will often show ‘all trains’ rather than specific destinations. If you’re intending to travel on the cheapest 3rd class train services, the earliest you can normally buy tickets is an hour before departure.

Tickets for advance travel
To buy a ticket for advance travel, you may find it more convenient to use the dedicated ticket office for foreigners. As mentioned above, entering the station from the front this office is in the far left-hand corner. However, you can also go to the advance booking office which is open daily from 8am-4pm and located in the far right-hand corner of the station. You’ll need to get a queue ticket from the machine and then wait for your number to be called. There are also some ticket windows on the main concourse that sell advance tickets, but from previous experience these tend to be closed more often they are open.

In many cases you can book train tickets on the same day you travel. But during peak season and on popular routes (e.g the overnight sleeper service from Bangkok to Chiang Mai) this may not always be the case. Many trains are also booked out well in advance over the long New Year holidays at the end of December and again in mid-April for Songkran. If you have confirmed accommodation or have to be at a certain destination on a specific date, it’s advisable to pre-book your train tickets regardless of the time of year. This can be done in person at any main station in Thailand with booking clerks using SRT’s computerised system. The State Railway of Thailand used to operate an online e-ticketing service, but that is currently unavailable. Selected ticket agents can also pre-book tickets for you. This is the list of ticket agents approved by SRT.

Touts, agents and scams

Bangkok train station does attract some scam artists and touts. Be on your guard, but don’t be paranoid. There are people wandering around with official looking badges who don’t work for SRT. Instead, they are getting paid commission from hotels, taxi companies and tour agents to attract customers and will often make a beeline for tourists carrying luggage. It’s best to go the official information and ticket counters and speak to SRT staff if you need assistance. There are a few tour offices located on the second floor of the station who can book hotels and onward travel for you. They may also offer to sell combination train/ferry tickets although they will usually charge a premium compared to buying direct from SRT counters.

taxi driving in front of Bangkok train station

Taxis, tuk-tuks and buses

Looking at the station from the front, the taxi rank is outside the station on the left. Tuk-tuks also congregate in this general area with buses a short walk further back. Taxis should use their meter, but for tuk-tuks you will have to negotiate a price and it will normally work out more expensive than taxis. The other option is to take the modern and efficient metro which connects to Hua Lamphong.

Metro station

The MRT metro system is open daily from 6am to midnight. The routes currently in operation are limited, but the metro does connect with the BTS Skytrain system and can be very convenient depending on where you are travelling to or from in Bangkok. Be prepared to open your bags for a quick security check when entering MRT metro or BTS Skytrain stations.

If you are heading in to Bangkok by train from the north or north-east, you can get off at Bang Sue train station and connect with the MRT metro there. However, at the time of writing this doesn’t work so well the other way round and you may find it more convenient to board trains heading north at Bangkok Hua Lamphong rather than Bang Sue. There are future plans to start more long distance trains from Bang Sue so this situation is likely to change as facilities and services at Bang Sue are upgraded.

Don Muang airport train station

Many train services to and from the north call at Don Muang station. In theory this makes it an easy way to travel between Bangkok Hua Lamphong and Don Muang, but the reality is trains are often late and services are infrequent. Whilst trains between Bangkok Hua Lamphong and Don Muang are an option, generally it’s more convenient to use the airport bus or take a taxi. If you do use the train, an overhead walkway from the station connects to the airport at Don Muang. It used to be a short walk from the train station to the airport check-in desks, but with the new terminal buildings opened at the end of 2015 this can now involve a bit of a trek.

Food & drink

It’s fair to say that Bangkok train station isn’t food heaven, but there is a reasonable Thai restaurant, coffee shops, a few fast-food options and mini-markets to keep you going. Refreshments are also available from mobile vendors on the platforms and the enterprising vendors that board the trains at various stations along the route selling drinks and Thai snacks.

Alcohol ban

Since mid-2014, the sale and consumption of alcohol has officially been banned at SRT stations and on trains. How rigorously this ban is enforced may vary depending on the route and the discretion of the train staff. I’ve heard recent accounts from friends who say they had no problems drinking beer they’d brought with them for the journey on the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. However, all passengers should be aware that it is an offence under Thai law to sell or buy alcohol on trains and at stations and can be punished with a 10,000 Baht fine or even imprisonment.

alcohol ban on Thailand trains

Toilets & showers

Toilets and showers are located on the far right hand side of the station with signs in English as well as Thai. Take some small coins with you to pay for use of the toilet (3 Baht) or shower (10 Baht). Passengers can also get a Thai massage at shops located inside the main station building.

Left luggage office

As you enter the front entrance of the station, the left luggage office is just to the left near the ATM machines. Open daily from 4am-11pm, prices depend on the size and weight of your bag. Smaller bags weighing less than 10kg cost 20 Baht per day. For larger bags and backpacks weighing more than 10kg expect to pay between 40-80 Baht per day.

left luggage office at Bangkok Railway Station Hua Lamphong

Bangkok Railway Station

Show your respect

The Thai national anthem is played over loud speakers at the station at 8am and 6pm. Please show your respect by standing as the Thais do. You may also notice a separate seating area at the front of the station concourse which is only for the use of Buddhist monks. Signs in Thai and English explain that the seating is not to be used by the general public.

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