B’n’Tree – new hotel booking website helps reforest Southern Thailand

Girl plants tree B'n'TreeChris Kaiser, former manager of award-winning eco resort and elephant sanctuary Elephant Hills, has invented a new way for travellers to help save the environment – simply by booking a room: B’n’Tree. The concept of B‘n’Tree (Bed and Tree) is as simple as it is powerful: Whenever you book a bed using one of their partner links on the B’n’Tree website, they plant a tree, for free. Continue reading “B’n’Tree – new hotel booking website helps reforest Southern Thailand”

Sai oua: Thailand’s answer to curried sausages

sai oua thailand curry sausages

Sai oua (or sai ua) is a spicy pork sausage famously hailing from the mountainous area of Chiang Mai. Some say its roots could stem back to Burma and Laos. However, the key point of this culinary attraction is that the sausage derives its flavour from the same base as a red curry paste. So how easy is it to make sai oua?

Although there are a few variations on the recipe, sai oua can be made using some of the basic ingredients featured in khao soi, a traditional curry soup also hailing from the area in Thailand’s north.

Khao soi soup

In a recent interview, executive chef at Akyra Manor Chiang Mai, Phubase Chuprakong explained to SBS it’s a good idea to make both khao soi and sai oua directly after each other to cut down on food waste and boost your kitchen efficiency. “The paste for sai oua is similar to khao soi paste because it has galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and turmeric,” Chuprakong says. “Then you make the paste and mix it with the meat or pork and make it into a sausage.”

To make the spicy sausage from scratch, use the dried chilli, fresh turmeric and shallots that are leftover from your khao soi paste. Add lemongrass, a few kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, soy sauce and sugar. Mix in your mince of choice – use pork if you want to stick to the authentic recipe. Fill the spicy meat mixture into a sausage casing and grill.

Read more about sai oua in the recent SBS Feature here.

Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai with kids

Chiang Mai is the provincial capital of Thailand’s north. It’s known for its rich cultural history and it’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand with family. What’s there to do in Chiang Mai with kids? We asked the professionals at Expedia.com.au to narrow it down for you.

Chiang Mai with kids Wat Phra Singh temple

Eat

 

Food stalls: Thai food includes kid-friendly options that may surprise you. Some favourites are sweet potato balls, cashew chicken, mango sticky rice, and roti (flatbread topped with condensed milk and bananas). The stalls near Chang Phuak Gate at the north edge of Old Town are a good starting point.

Chiang Mai with kids close up of food stall

Dash Teak House: This is a popular spot for Thai families and tourists alike. There are large tables, plenty of space outdoors for the kids to tire themselves out, and a big, diverse menu. What more could a family ask for?

iBerry Garden: Located northwest of the Old City in Nimmanhaemin, Chiang Mai’s trendiest area, this artsy ice cream shop offers cones, cakes, and great photo ops with its quirky art installations. Bonus: It has air conditioning.

Café de Thaan Aoan: You’ve had an exciting day exploring, and all you want is some cheap, tasty food and a nice blast of air conditioning. Enter this Old Town café, which has a huge menu and reasonable prices for the area.

Play

Old City temples: There are three temples in the Old City, located within walking distance of one another: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh. Teens will love Monk Chats at Wat Chedi Luang, which is just what it sounds like—a chance to sit down and chat with a monk!

Chiang Mai with kids Wat Chedi Luana temple

Saturday Market: The markets of the Old City are a must-visit for all travellers, including families. However, the Sunday Market tends to be more crowded; try the Saturday Market instead if you’ve got little ones in tow.

Cooking school: It’s perfect—a unique family activity that will keep the kids occupied and introduce them to the cuisine of a different culture. Many cooking schools in Chiang Mai welcome kids of all ages, complete with a trip to the market for ingredients.

Art in Paradise: This is an art museum with a twist kids (and adults!) love—it’s filled with impressive 3D murals. From the jungle to ancient Egypt, you’ll look like you’re really there. Don’t forget your camera!

Stay

Old City: If you want to walk to everything, the Old City is the most central place to stay in Chiang Mai with kids. Hotels here tend to be boutique, but are ideal for smaller groups who like that personal touch.

Chiang Mai with kids walls of the Old City

Nimmanhaemin: This neighbourhood just northwest of the Old City is great for families. Maya Mall has a movie theatre, food court, playroom, and arcade. The area is also home to off-the-beaten-path, kid-friendly attractions like the Museum of World Insects.

Riverside: Got a large family? If you’re bringing along everyone from bub to grandma—or travelling with multiple families—consider a stay in one of the spacious resorts of the Riverside area.

The Great Mekong Bike Ride

Serial cyclist and blogger Jack Thompson, of Jackcyclesfar gave up the 9 to 5 life in 2015, deciding instead to pursue his passion for ultra-distance cycling and adventuring around the globe on two wheels.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand invited Jack to join the Great Mekong Bike Ride to provide valuable feedback on this endurance cycling challenge and he ended up spending 12 days cycling in both the north and south. Here are a few highlights from his comprehensive blog post chronicling his journey through Thailand.

Having spent an incredible 12 days cycling around northern Thailand earlier this year, when the opportunity presented itself to return to this cycling mecca, I couldn’t help but say ‘yes.’

My most recent travels saw me spend another 12 days in Thailand. The first five days were spent in the North East racing in the official “Great Mekong Bike Ride” which attracts more than 700 riders from around the world. The remaining 7 days were spent touring ancient wonders, historical sites and culturally rich landscapes in the area just north of Bangkok, with good friend and fellow travel guide Sea Keong Loh from Venture Wander Travel.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand
Competing in the Great Mekong Bike Ride

The Great Mekong Bike Ride

Broken into three stages, the Great Mekong Bike Ride commences in Nakhon Phanom and showcases the very best of the region. Cities such as Sakon Nakhon are lit up with excitement as the race passes through. I guided 15 Australians to the race and we agreed, as a group, that it was the best organised event we have ever participated in.

Some of my favourite things about racing and cycling adventure travel in general, is the cultural immersion that comes from travelling by bike. The people you meet along the way, the fragrant aromas of the local cuisine and the rich market life.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

Big grins greeted us at the start and finish of the race and as each racer finished, they were presented with food vouchers, so that they could choose treats from the many food trucks that were there serving us their local cuisine, fresh fruit smoothies and deserts. The camaraderie between the local and international riders was unreal.

After a quick flight back to Bangkok, the second part of my trip began and what a week I was in for!

Ancient Wonders of Bangkok and Ayutthaya

I was collected by my guides Tintin and Patipath, (aircraft mechanics in the Thai Army). We made our way back to the army base in Bangkok and settled in for the night. The following morning, Tintin whipped up a couple of Thai style omelettes and before long we had hit the road for our first day of riding.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand
Jack in the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Our destination for the day was Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient Capital City.  Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya is home to many ancient ruins and as we arrived into town, we were greeted by spectacular, colourful stone temples.

The ride itself was 80km in length. Departing Bangkok, although busy, felt incredibly safe.  The drivers in Thailand are courteous, unlike that of the western world.  There is a sense of urgency, but very little risk is taken.  After 20 – 30 km we were out of the mayhem and riding the banks of a small river system en route to our finishing point in Ayutthaya.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

There, we visited the floating markets, sampled the famous delicacies and continued to our hostel accommodation, ‘Busaba Ayutthaya Hostel’. Think 5-star New York Hamptons: white wood, lots of greenery and views of the river. If you find yourself in Bangkok and looking for something to do, I would highly recommend Ayutthaya.  The city is rich in history and the temples and monuments are brilliantly preserved.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand
On the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi.

Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai

We commenced our second day of riding on a local velodrome before heading south west towards our destination for the day, Kanchanaburi. Famous amongst backpackers for the huge number of attractions in the surrounding areas, Kanchanaburi is probably most famous for the bridge over the River Kwai – the start of the infamous World War 2 Death Railway to Burma.

Our ride was 100km along predominantly flat roads.  It was great chatting with my guide, Patipath as we rolled along the rice fields. That afternoon we explored the war cemetery, the first portion of the Death Railway over The River Kwai and the War Museum. There was so much information to take in, that I would love to visit Kanchanaburi again and spend more time really getting to understand how the tragic events of WW2 unfolded there.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

We spent the next day exploring Kanchanaburi by bike and completed 110km through the luscious green landscape.  The highlight of the day was visiting the Death Railway.  Perched high along the banks of the Mae Klong River, the railway was an impressive feat of engineering constructed long, long ago. The second portion of the day, and our finishing point was the Erawan waterfalls.  A spectacular landmark made up of seven, different levelled waterfalls.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

Mae Klong Railway Market

For those who haven’t heard of this landmark, it is essentially a street market built on top of railway tracks. What makes it unique is that the railway tracks are still in operation, and every time a train approaches, the stall holders quickly pack up their stalls, allowing the train to sneak through and as soon as the train passes, the markets set up back on the tracks. After a walk along the markets we made our way south to Hua Hin, our destination for the final two nights of the trip.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

Hua Hin

Hua Hin is a seaside resort on the Gulf of Thailand and located 200km south of Bangkok.  It is one of the most popular Thai holiday destinations for those living in the country’s capital and home to the best ‘Mango Sticky Rice’ in the country. Hua Hin is like Phuket but nowhere near as busy. There is an array of offerings for tourists such as local craft markets, traditional Thai massage, shopping centres and fitness studios.

The scenery in this part of Thailand is breathtaking. It is completely different to Thailand’s mountainous north. The south is flatter, and the seaside vibes reminded me of being back home on the beach.

Endurance cyclist Jack Thompson in Thailand

In my opinion, a mix of Chiang Rai and Hua Hin is ideal. Mountains for climbing and a somewhat sleepy seaside town for relaxing. Comparing my time in Chiang Rai to my time in Bangkok and the surrounding areas, I can honestly say that both are as brilliant as each other.

Later this year, Jack will be running a series of guided adventures to northern Thailand and in 2019 he will also run a trip from central Bangkok. Contact Jack for more information, and read his full blog post here.

The Foodie’s Guide to Bangkok Hotels

Bangkok is one of the world’s most popular destinations, and it’s easy to see why: the culture, the nightlife, and of course, the food! In fact, we’d argue that you can’t really consider yourself a true foodie until you’ve experienced Bangkok’s fine dining scene.

We enlisted the travel experts at Expedia to put together a list of the best hotel restaurants in Bangkok for those who like life on the finer side.

Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant, Bangkok

City Centre

The Pullman Hotel G has quite a few creature comforts, like a full-service spa, gym and recreation centre, and a pool terrace. It’s also home to Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant—37 floors above the bustling streets of Bangkok. This rather swish eatery consistently serves up some of the finest French cuisine in the city.

Other Awesome Eats in City Centre

St, Regis, Zoom Restaurant, Bangkok

Pathum Wan

We recommend a stay at the St. Regis and a meal at the on-site restaurant Zuma. Their thinly sliced seabass with yuzu truffle oil and spicy beef tenderloin with red chili and soy are go-to menu options. Finish off the evening with a nightcap at the lounge.

Other Awesome Eats in Pathum Wan

The Sukhothai, Celadon Restaurant, Bangkok

Sathon

At least once in your life you need to splurge on a set menu dining experience at an award-winning restaurant. Make your way to Celadon at The Sukhothai and take your pick between either the 9-course or 12-course meal. We’re willing to bet you’ve never had a dinner like this before.

Other Awesome Eats in Sathon

Oriental Residence Bangkok, Savelberg Restaurant, Bangkok

Embassy District

Located in the heart of the Embassy District off Wireless Road, the Oriental Residence Bangkok is exactly what you’d expect from a luxury hotel: amenities galore and one of the few Michelin-starred restaurants in Thailand. Savelberg is the creation of Dutch head chef Henk Savelberg – be sure to sample a tasting plate of caviar, among other delights.

Other Awesome Eats in the Embassy District

Mandarin Oriental, The Verandah, Bangkok

Bang Rak

For one of the best breakfast experiences in Bangkok, you can’t go past The Verandah at the Mandarin Oriental. We suggest the French toast with caramelized pears and a cup of freshly squeezed papaya juice.

Other Awesome Eats in Bang Rak

  • Ciao Terrazza
  • The River Shack Bangkok

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Bangkok City Guide: The Best Things To Do In Bangkok With Kids

Family travel blogger Rene Young of Together We Roam shares her top tips for a stopover in Bangkok with kids.

Gilded palaces share Bangkok’s skyline with mega malls, the traditional collides with the ultra-modern in a most frenetic pace. The wonderfully diverse capital offers myriad ways to choose your own family adventure.

Explore the magnificent Grand Palace

Allow at least half a day to explore the Grand Palace’s enormous 21-hectare grounds and stroller friendly pathways. Divided into an outer, middle and inner court there are countless temples, pavilions and royal buildings to admire. The intricately decorated pediments and statues, manicured gardens and golden spired rooftops around the grounds a marvel in its own right.

Bangkok-with-Kids-Grand Palace-Statues

Drop lucky coins at Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Wat Pho stands as one of the city’s oldest temples, just to the south of the Grand Palace complex, and is home to a impressive 45-metre long golden Reclining Buddha featuring intricate mother of pearl inlay and Buddhist Sanskrit.

Let kids run the world at KidZania Bangkok

KidZania is a unique Disneyeque concept where kids work and earn Kidzos (KidZania currency) to buy experiences. It’s capitalism for kids done in a super cute way. Kids get to ‘work’ in a variety of occupations, they can; solve crime as a police officer, hose down a smoking hotel as a fire fighter, attend to the sick and wounded at the hospital, become a flight attendant at AirAsia or attend university which entitles graduates further discounts.

Bangkok-with-Kids-Kidzania-7Eleven-Staff

Get hands on at Museum Siam, Bangkok

A short walk from Wat Pho is the Museum Siam, one of the best museums for children in Bangkok. What once was a building for the Ministry of Commerce has been transformed into a modern, bright and beautiful museum that boasts a huge range of super fun and interactive exhibits to help visitors with kids discover Thailand’s history.

Bangkok-with-Kids-WatPo-FromRiver-Ferry

Cruise along the Chao Phraya River

Snaking its way through Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the lifeblood of the city and taking in the views from the water is a lot of fun with the family.

Bangkok-with-Kids-longtailboat-DamoenSaduakFloatingMarket-souvenirs

Explore the canals and discover Bangkok’s best floating markets

Floating markets are a nod to the days where the river and canals (klongs) were used as main thoroughfares and connected Bangkok’s communities for trade. Long tail boats loaded with fresh produce and wares from silk art, piles of bright marigolds to fresh river caught fish were transported to central markets and sold fresh from the boat. Three of the best:

  • Taling Chan floating market
  • Amphawa Floating Market
  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Watch as trains rattle through the Maeklong Railway Market (Day Trip Idea)

The Mae Klong Railway Market is most adored in our family, while it is quite spectacle witnessing a fresh seafood market positioned right on the train tracks. It’s discovering the authentic and unfiltered ‘Thainess’ that appeals. It’s as close as we got to the real Thai way of life with warm smiles from stall owners who weren’t out to sell you knock of sunglasses.

BangkokwithKids-MaeklongRailwayMarket-Kids-Tracks

Let off some steam at BOUNCE inc Thailand

Travelling with kids does involve some give and take, swap temples and markets and let the kids loose with over 80 interconnected trampolines at BOUNCE INC Bangkok.

BOUNCEBangkok-KlookImage-Trampoline

Shop ‘til you drop

There’s no doubt about it – Thai’s love to shop! An abundant neon-lit malls beckon. Enjoy Thai’s favourite past time and get your shopping on! There are many a clean air-conditioned corridor to stroll and shiny gravity defying escalator to ride that lead to floor upon floor of retail heaven.

Escape the city chaos at Lumpini Park – Bangkok’s oldest

Get a glimpse into Bangkok life, where your kids have a chance to play with the local kids. Partake in a tai chi or ballroom dancing lessons or check out the great big monitor lizards that amble around.

PororoAquaParkTicketinBangkok

Cool off at the Pororo AquaPark (Day Trip Idea)

Newly opened in March 2018 the Pororo Aqua Park located on the 6th floor of Central Plaza Bangna is the best way to escape the heat in Bangkok with kids. A short 20-30 minute drive from central Bangkok and kids can be splashing in fountains, zipping down slides, swimming in a variety of pools or floating down a lazy river(my kids fav!)

Bangkokwithkids-Chinatown-fruitstand-pomelo-pemmisson-boy-icecream

Take in the sights, sounds and smells of Chinatown

Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s most fascinating districts, packed with restaurants, shops and cultural sights that make it a must to explore.

Bangkokwithkids-CaturdayCafe-CatTree

Cuddle kitty’s at Caturday Cat Cafe

The Caturday Cat Cafe is home to around 40 gorgeous felines which are more than happy to be cuddled and stroked while you enjoy a coffee or afternoon tea. Pay a little extra for a cat snack and watch them pounce all over you for a little cat snack.

Embrace your inner rainbow unicorn at Bangkok’s Unicorn Café

If you prefer rainbow unicorns over kittens then Bangkok’s Unicorn Café is not to be missed. Located on a corner of a nondescript side street, the Unicorn Café is fast becoming Bangkok’s Instagram institution.

Escape to SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World

SEA LIFE Bangkok Open Hours: daily at 10.00 AM and closes at 9.00 PM. Last entry is at 8pm.

When the kids are completely over Bangkok’s temples, can’t stand another shopping mall and can’t bear the look of another Pad Thai in the heat then SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World, conveniently located in the Siam Paragon Mall – is a easy, central, indoor entertainment option especially for kids.

SEALIFEBangkokOceanWorld

For an incredibly comprehensive guide to Bangkok with Kids, including maps, opening times and detailed instructions on how to reach each of these attractions, plus a guide to the best shopping centres and places to eat for kids, visit the full Bangkok guide on Rene Young’s blog: Together we Roam.