Chiang Mai 2020

I decided to spend 48 hours in Chiang Mai despite just having visited about 3 months ago. Everywhere seemed much quieter this time round for obvious reasons. Flights and hotel prices have dropped drastically. The roads are less congested and malls doesn’t see much human traffic.

Which is also exactly why I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There was no need to queue at popular eateries and cafes are empty for picturesque moments.

For lunch, I decided to pop up Khao Soi Mae Sai. It is a small family operated eatery that probably has about 15 or 20 tables. You write your order on a small paper and pass it to an aunty whom I assume to be the mother, and a young man (I assume son) is the one preparing the orders beside all the large pots of gravy.

Each bowl of Khao Soi is filled with both flat and crispy noodle, and comes with a chicken drum stick. Although the servings are small, the price was very affordable. I could finish 2 bowls by myself. The 3 bowls together won’t cost more than $6. I planned to visit another Khao Soi restaurant for lunch on the second day but I was so satisfied with this and ended up returning here again.

Another place worth visiting is Lert Ros Restaurant. My friend recommended it because it is said to be a legendary haunt in Chiang Mai. I was quite puzzled when my Grab driver dropped me there because it looked to be in the middle of a neighbourhood. There was no store front or signages. My Grab driver then explained that the restaurant itself is actually inside the owner’s house. I walked through the living room and was greeted by a grandpa watching TV. He smiled at me and told me to go straight, walking past the kitchen and was led to a large dining area on the balcony.

I felt that the prices here were slightly on the higher side. It’s the kind of prices you would pay if you were dining in an air-conditioned restaurant in Bangkok. Nonetheless, it was still affordable. I recommend the black pepper crab and also the garlic pepper crayfish. They don’t serve the entire crab but only the pincers and the meatier parts. I guess some people prefer it this way because it’s less messy and easier to peel.

There are plenty of new cafes in Chiang Mai. I think there is at least a new one popping up every corner every week. The ones I went to are not new, but I have read reviews that they have good coffee and it is undeniably so.

Khagee is my favorite. It is also the smallest among the three that I’ve visited, but their coffee is amazing. Did not try anything from their bakery but they are apparently very good too.

Until next time.


I get a lot of my recommendations from randomly scrolling through Instagram. Lately, I noticed more people checking-in at Bhiraj Tower. I have never been, or even heard of this place, but that’s mostly because Bhiraj Tower is located at the other side of town. Bhiraj Tower is where you can find Roots Coffee, which in my humble opinion has the best iced latte in Bangkok, but it is also home to recently opened Ocken.

To be frank, the restaurant has quite a ridiculous and meaningless name but it actually is a combination of octopus and chicken, and hence Ocken. It is aptly named because I have never had octopus this good.

This was just an appetizer and so the serving size was quite small, but trust me I have never enjoyed eating octopus so much in my entire life. I would order another 3 servings of this dish so I can enjoy half of all the octopus legs.

The waiter who attended to us speaks impressive English and was very attentive. He was honest enough to admit that their portions aren’t very generous so it was safe for us to order a pasta and two mains without feeling like we were over-ordering.

This was the mushroom tagliatelle and by sharing among 2 parties, I only managed 2 mouthfuls before the plate was empty. We went for the salmon and ribeye for the mains, but I didn’t enjoy the salmon as much.

The ribeye was served in a standard 200g cut with cognac cream and watercress, which I felt was ok but it doesn’t justify the pricetag. At 1900 baht for the steak, excluding service charge and VAT, it lacked the wow factor that should have came along with what I was paying for.

It was overall quite an enjoyable experience if you know what dishes to order. You can’t go wrong with the octopus, but I would avoid the salmon and steak. The service staff were very hospitable and attentive so that was a redeeming factor.

% Arabica Singapore

I chanced upon % Arabica coffee in Kyoto after descending from the Arashiyama bamboo grove. Back then I have never heard of the brand or logo, only remember that I saw a queue formed up outside this cafe beside the river and so I gave it a try.

When I heard that Arabica is making its way to Singapore, I decided to join in the hype. I have never attempted to queue for hours long at Shake Shack or A&W, but since coffee is usually mostly grab and go, I believe the queue will be moving quite fast

I went down on Sunday evening and the queue was about 15 minutes long. It’s not so bad considering that people queue much longer when there’s Starbucks one-for-one.

You can enlarge the menu by clicking on the image.

I had the iced latte which comes in a standard size for $8.

I gave a cup a little shake, and excitedly took my first sip. As the coffee juice gushed up the paper straw and filled my palette, I felt nothing but disappointment.

This wasn’t the coffee I remembered from Kyoto. It’s strong and robust, but I felt like it lacked something. This is average at best.

I took my second and third sip and almost wanted to throw the cup away. This is not coffee. I felt short-changed. Maybe the barista had a bad day. Maybe it lacked quality because they had to keep the queue moving quickly. Everyone around me is taking photos for Instagram. The cafe is beautiful both inside and out, but I am here for the coffee. I need energy juice. The coffee lacks power. I need a boost. I need a kick.

I was prepared to say no, this is not coffee at all, but I decided to give myself one more chance. I told myself to come back here when it’s less busy. Moreover F&B outlets are usually quite inconsistent on their initial days of opening as the staff are all just getting used to.

And so I did.

I went down again on Monday morning and there were probably only 6 people ahead of me.

This time round, I ordered the ice latte single origin for $9. This one had more flavor. I could taste the intenseness and acidity and this was the kick I wanted. It was the boost I needed.

I thought to myself, “Ahh, finally, something decent.” While coffee (and beer) is really important to me, I asked myself how am I able to justify the $9 price tag on this % Arabica Singapore branded iced latte, then I remember myself having a damn good cup for only $7 at Chye Seng Huat Hardware.

And oh yes, watch out for the paper straws at Arabica. They snap too easily.

Sushi Masa

During the wedding, there were guests who knew I wasn’t local so one of the questions I kept getting was, “So where are you staying at?”

It was easy for me to reply because my hotel was just next door. One of them asked if I have seen this restaurant called Sushi Masa and recommended it to me.

We decided to give Sushi Masa a try one evening, since the restaurant was just behind the hotel.

I had my doubts because the restaurant was empty even at dinner time, but then again Bangkok is never short of Japanese restaurants.

It was a simple menu. Both the chutoro and uni were very fresh so we thoroughly enjoyed them. However the foie gras was overcooked. I had my first piece and I thought maybe it was just this piece, so I went for another and it was overcooked as well. We finished all six pieces and not one was cooked the way we liked. Maybe it was their way of serving the foie gras? We are not sure, but we definitely prefer the ones at Sushi Hiro.

And mind you, it wasn’t cheap either.

Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit

I was in Bangkok to attend a wedding that was held at the Okura Prestige hotel. I booked Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit because it was a 3-minute walk to the wedding venue.

I had to be present for both the morning ceremony and the evening banquet so the proximity was very ideal and convenient for me.

The hotel is a really nice place to stay because the standard double rooms were spacious enough and it basically has everything you need. There are cafes and a 7-11 and an escalator to bring you up to the skytrain station so I don’t see anything to complain about.

My purpose of this post is to highlight a particularly remarkable experience I had when I called room service

You see, my girlfriend twisted her ankle a couple of days ago and she ices it everyday to allow the swell to heal faster. During our stay, as part of her bedtime routine to ice the ankle, I called room service for a bucket of ice. They asked what the ice was for, and I said it was to ice a swollen ankle so they probably should bring some napkins as well. That was it, just a simple request from me and I wasn’t expecting anything else.

A guy showed up very promptly with a bucket filled with ice and also with clean napkins, just as I requested, but about twenty minutes later, I heard some knocking on the door.

I opened the door and was greeted by 2 members of the staff standing outside; one male and one female. They asked if we needed any special assistance for the twisted ankle. I was surprised and very appreciative of their kind gesture, but I thought we were good on our own so I just thanked them for their concern. They then offered to check and assess the injury, which really wasn’t necessary, and provided us with some kind of anti-inflammation gel. We were really touched by such hospitality shown so I sent an email to the front officer manager to make sure the staff get recognized for their considerate and thoughtfulness.

A Bangkok trip is usually a no-frills easy trip, but if I were to come back here again, I will definitely return to Novotel, because I know I will be well taken care of, by service-minded staff who genuinely care and show concern for their guests.

No Name Bangkok

There are a lot of places to get good steak in Bangkok. My most memorable ones were at Arno’s, and Jamie’s Burgers.

I remember having to reserve Arno’s days in advance and even to arrive half an hour before your reservation, just so that you could head to the butchery to choose your favorite steak parts. Right now their branches are everywhere and to be honest, their standards have dropped significantly. I recently had their Hokkaido scallop pasta which was something nice for a change.

Jamie’s Burgers was a humble little corner beside a futsal court. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere and totally inaccessible by public transport. I have dined at Jamie’s Burgers on 3 different occasions and their standards are pretty consistent.

No Name has been around for a couple of years now but it only got popular recently due to more check-ins on Instagram. I decided to pay them a visit one Friday evening and surprisingly I was able to walk in with no reservations made.

The menu is pretty simple. You start at the top with 4 different types of steak to choose from. I went for the wagyu flat iron because it seemed like the wisest choice to make. Then you move down the menu and choose your toppings, sauces and sides.

For the toppings, I had both the uni and foie gras. Cafe de Paris for my sauce and truffle mash potato as my side.

It turned out to be a pretty good combination.

The steak was good on its own, and the foie gras melts on the tongue. It was perfect. My only gripe is that the meal wasn’t filling enough and I am not even a big eater.

WWA Portal

During my most recent trip to Bangkok, I stayed at SilQ Hotel which was located a stone’s throw away from Terminal 21. The hotel wasn’t cheap but neither was it very grand. What I really paid for was the convenient access to Terminal 21, as well as both the BTS and MRT stations.

It costed about $80 a night and I have previously also stayed in Arte Hotel which was just further down the street. Arte Hotel was more expensive but the hotel was very much more comfortable so it might be something you would like to consider if don’t mind spending more than $120 a night.

Located right across SilQ Hotel is one of the newest cafes in Bangkok. It was just opened about 2 weeks ago so right now it is the hottest check-in on Instagram. You can’t find the cafe on Google Maps yet but once you enter the street regardless of which direction, the shiny minimalistic exterior makes it impossible to miss.

I like my coffee with milk so I have tried different variations of their iced lattes and I like the Azalea Hill Park the most. The menu image is small but you may click this link to blow it up.

Mix well before consuming.