Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the category “South East Asia”

Review: Jom Jom Malay at Ansal Plaza

Pretty interiors

Pretty interiors

Bright colours that catch your eye, a happy atmosphere, smiling and cheerful staff, and finger-licking delicious Malaysian food – that’s what Jom Jom Malay is all about. A recent addition to Delhi’s restaurant scene, and located at Ansal Plaza, Jom Jom Malay is the city’s first Malaysian restaurant.

From the moment you walk in, the vibrant setting gives you a comfortable vibe.The blue and pink cushions, wooden tables and typical Malaysian wall decor instantly makes you want to taste the food. And while you place an order and wait, try your hand at making sambal? Sambal is probably the most popular condiment in Malaysian cuisine and in many recipes, act as a foundation. The usual suspects are brought to the table – ginger, garlic, chilli, onion, lime, sugar, salt and chilli oil along with a mortar and pestle. Then comes an already-made array of sambals from the Jom Jom Malay kitchen. So, test your sambal-making skills as you grind the ingredients into a paste to the ones on the table. As I dug into the sambal that had shrimps, my attempt at recreating the condiment came nowhere close the taste!

The sambal attempt!

The sambal attempt!

First arrived an array of Baos – stuffed with chicken, lamb and duck. Soft, melt-in-your-mouth baos complimented each filling. Every bite had you craving another one. Each very distinctive, my favourite was the duck with it’s deep star anise flavour. Not many places can make good cocktails but Jom Jom Malay’s Cuban Malay had me floored. A burst of citrus in every sip, it complimented the baos perfectly.

Baos (from left) Lamb, Duck and Chicken

Baos (from left) Lamb, Duck and Chicken

Cheers?

Cheers?

Anyone who visits South East Asia, the first food item they bite into is a Satay. A satay is a piece of skewered and grilled meat that’s served with peanut sauce. Malaysians like their food to be more curried than dry so there’s an additional sauce served alongside crackers and a salad. If you like your satay to have a bit of gravy, just pour out a bit of the sauce on it and then dip it into the traditional peanut sauce. There were chicken, lamb, fish and prawn satays on offer. The lamb satay wins hands down. That would be my recommendation. The chicken was flavoursome while the fish was cooked perfectly, the prawns were slightly rubbery.

Satays and more

Satays and more

Next came sticky rice with an onion and sambal stuffing to be consumed with more shrimp sambal. Malaysian cuisine has a lot of Indian influence along with others from neighbouring South East Asian countries. Thus, when I took a bite of the stuffed pancakes or Murtabak, I was immediately reminded of the famous Mughlai paratha.

Sticky rice

Stuffed sticky rice

Stuffed pancakes!

Stuffed pancakes!

Jom Jom Malay believes in making everything from scratch. They grind their own pastes, make their own condiments and while at it, has added interesting twists to some flavours. For example, they use well seasoned dried mango skin in certain salads just to enhance the flavours. “The only thing we get is coconut milk because that would be difficult to make!” says Aftab Sidhu, who has conceptualised the menu.

Yup, that's me digging in!

Yup, that’s me digging in! The plate speaks my emotions!

The Nasi Goreng is an all-time favourite while the Rendang I make at home often. I was so glad that I got to taste both. With so many influences in the cuisine, debates rage on the origin of the dish. While they both may have originated in Indonesia, each country has made it their own with unique influences. In the Nasi Goreng, mix the sambal and crackers with an egg that binds the rice and serve it with coconut and chilli and a satay. Each bite is so pleasurable that if my stomach allowed, I would have asked for more. The Rendang was very different to the ones I’ve had earlier. I confess Malaysia has been left out of my South East Asian sojourns so far and I’m waiting to visit the country to try their food. The lamb was so soft and tender that it literally melted in your mouth. It was the perfect curry to have with roti canai. Also, the texture reminded me so much of Kosha Mangsho that I can’t wait to go home just to have my mother’s homemade mutton curry!

Just look at that Nasi Goreng!

Just look at that Nasi Goreng!

Lamb Rendang

Lamb Rendang

The name Jom Jom, loosely translated, means let’s go! So, what are you waiting for? Go and indulge in delectable Malaysian food right in the heart of Delhi!

Ambiance: 4.5/5
Food and beverage: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Ansal Plaza at Khel Gaon Marg
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Review: Dimcha — Marrying Dimsums with Chai

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Green dimsums with beans

I love dimsums. Honestly, anytime is ‘momo time’. My sister, whom I share an apartment with in Delhi, often refuses to go out with me for dinner if I suggest going for dimsums because, let’s face it, when it comes to self control over stuffing my face with dimsums, I lack it completely. Secondly, I may have mentioned earlier how much I adore tea. Little wonder I dedicate a whole shelf in my kitchen to different types of teas from around the world. My favourite thing to buy on my travels to tea-friendly states and countries is – tea of course! So, when I get a chance to go to a place which has laid emphasis on two of my favourite things, it’s little wonder I didn’t do cartwheels. Well, maybe in my head.

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

The Concept

Dimcha, located in Nehru Place inside Epicuria Food Mall, is an interesting concept. Spinning off from the Chinese concept of Yum Cha (going for dimsums, this restaurant offers a wide array of dimsums and teas to accompany them. It’s not a very big place but has a very calm and laid back feel to it. The white and blue checkered floor gives it a very casual look. One can sit inside as well outside, though preferably in the winters. Considering it’s a dimsum place, the tables are laid out with chopsticks and very cute miniature coke bottles with sauce. And I loved their brown plates as I’m a sucker for pretty crockery. The walls are tiled and have popular recipes! The seating is very comfortable and one can see the live counter where chefs are preparing the meals.

The glass window kitchen

The glass window kitchen

Khowsuey soup!

Khowsuey soup!

Deliciousness Served

We started the meal with kiwi and pickled ginger coolers which were refreshing. Then were served two types of soups – Ba Mee and Khowsuey. The Burmese Khowsuey is usually served as a meal in a bowl but in Dimcha, the broth had been made lighter and portions smaller. The Ba Mee broth was spicy and had a good helping of vegetables and noodles. I would definitely recommend trying them if you enjoy spice.

Ba Mee - broth with noodles and veggies

Ba Mee – broth with noodles and veggies

Then came the raw papaya salad, a staple in many South East Asian regions. The crunchy peanuts paired very well with the lime-covered salad. But my favourite starter was the red turnip cake. I’m not a turnip fan at all. I avoid it at all cost. But it was just so delicious that I couldn’t help but ask for a second helping. Soft and subtly flavoured, I know what to order the next time I’m there.

Raw papaya salad

Raw papaya salad

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Dimsums are the real deal at Dimcha. They have specially handcrafted  many on the menu with unusual pairings. Beet skin, carrot skin, prawns, chicken – each dumpling is created to suit every type of taste bud. You don’t like beans, no problem, try the steaming chicken one in Hoisin sauce instead. The beetroot and prawn ones were so succulent that I can’t wait to go back for them!

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Prawn dimsums

Prawn dimsums

It’s a place I will recommend for dimsum lovers. Try their unique combinations because they really are good!

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Epicuria Food Mall, Nehru Place  

Fish in Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

I love flicking through anything recipe related. Magazines, websites, books, you
name it and I do it when I’m not planning my next travel adventures. To be fair, I
do think of what local speciality I can try when I decide on where to go next. So,
travel is combined with food and vice versa.
But I digress. I’m currently taking a break from travel and staying in Delhi.
Winter is slowly setting in and all one wants is soul food. Something warm that
leaves you fuzzy but at the same time not hasslesome. Cleaning up can be such a
bother.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m on this South East Asian flavours spree. I’ve been
reading a lot on flavour combinations and what better to try out new things than
experiment, right?
I came up with this recipe on a whim and though it requires a longish list of
ingredients, believe you me, it’s simple and makes for a wholesome supper.
PS: I recently came across Jamie Oliver‘s Cauliflower Rice recipe and it’s
marvelous. It’s healthy, tasty and serves as a no-carb alternative to rice. It can
be consumed with curries and kebabs or just as it is with a smattering of herbs
and some butter!

Ingredients
Fish Curry
For Marinade
500g Rohu (type of Carp, cut into pieces)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
Salt

For Curry
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 inch ginger (chopped)
1 tomato (quartered)
1 can coconut milk
1 lemongrass (stalk bruised)
2 tbs lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 tbs vegetable oil

Cauliflower Rice
1 head cauliflower (blitzed in food processor)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
Pinch of red chilly flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oil

– Marinate the fish with all the powders. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
– Heat a wok and add the oil.
– Add the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Saute till fragrant.
– Add the lemon juice and wait for the hot wok to sizzle.
– Empty a can of coconut milk into the wok with a pinch of salt and add the quartered tomato
– Bring the liquid to a boil and put on gentle simmer.
– Add the fish to the coconut curry and clamp a lid on the wok for 15 minutes.
– Discard the lemongrass when curry made.
– For rice, heat the oil in a pan.
– Add the garlic and chilly flakes
– When fragrant, add the cauliflower and cook through. Add seasoning
– Serve a helping of the rice with a side of fish and some curry!

Delicious and healthy supper!

Delicious and healthy supper!

Hot And Sour Chicken Soup with Brown Rice

I love soups. They are comforting and healthy (usually). I love those days when you want to stay in bed with a book and making soup to feed yourself hardly takes time. I love those snug winter evenings when only hot soups can warm you. This one time in Kathmandu, while winter was receeding and it wasn’t yet summer, only a homemade bowl of hot soup could uplift me! And those soups taste the best!
In the winters I prefer the thick continental ones which need to be pureed. In the summers I prefer more broth-based ones which are simple to make and easy on the stomach.
Most South East Asian broths call for handmade egg noodles in them. I prefer to add brown rice in mine because it’s healthier and makes a wholesome balanced meal. Devour a bowl and you’re left satisfied.
PS: Since I’ve been on this South-East Asian flavours swing for a couple of weeks now, making this over and over again is my excuse!
Ingredients
250g boiled chicken (shredded)
1 small carrot (chopped finely)
1 onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
2 tsp Tom Yum paste
1 cup button mushrooms (roughly chopped)
1 cup oyster mushrooms (shredded with hands)
1 litre chicken stock
1 lime (juiced)
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt to season
Handful bean sprouts
chives to decorate
1 tsp vegetable oil
– Heat the oil in a deep container which can hold a lot of liquid
– Sweat the carrots, onion and garlic till fragnant (about two minutes)
– Add the Tom Yum paste and saute till everything is a nice reddish colour
– Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
– Then bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Add the mushrooms, salt, boiled chicken and brown rice.
– Clamp on a lid and let the soup be till the rice is cooked through. (about 10 minutes)
– Pour the lemon juice, fish sauce and give everything a good stir. Check for seasoning.
– Ladle a serving in a bowl, garnish with chives and bean sprouts!
A bowl of warmth in winter!

A bowl of warmth in winter!

Melt-in-your-mouth Asian Stir Fried Pork

My introduction to pork began at an early age via homemade spiced sausages, salamis, those gorgeous frankfurters that crackled over heat. I remember going to Goa when I was about 12 and polishing off a plate of spicy pork vindaloo with steaming white rice in a small shack on the beach. The sound of waves crashing, the feeling of cold sand touching my feet, the just-right weather – I can still visualise that day.
I was recently shopping at INA for fresh fruits and salad leaves when I crossed the meat section. On a whim I picked up this delicious lean cut of pork. With plenty of flavour combinations playing in my head, this basic South-East Asian style stir fry had to be the first.

Ingredients
250g lean pork (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 tsp oil
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 lime (juiced)
Handful of rocket leaves
Chives
For marinade:
3-4 Sichuan peppercorns (crushed)
1 star anise (crushed)
1 tsp demerara
2-3 tsp sesame oil
2-3 tsp oyster sauce
1-2 tsp dark soy
salt and black pepper to season
(I would suggest when making the marinade, start with the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ones)

Marinate the pork pieces overnight (half an hour minimum if you’re in a hurry)
Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a wok and add chopped onions and garlic. Once its sauteed, add the pork pieces. Cook till the pork has caramelised well on the outside and is tender on the inside. Add a bit of oyster sauce if need be.
Once cooked, take out the pieces to rest. Use lime juice to deglaze the pan and pour over the meat.
Serve with a side salad, steamed rice, stir fried veggies or a baguette!

Served on a bed of rocket leaves

Served on a bed of rocket leaves

A Nigella-inspired weekday lunch

I don’t know about you, but I love leafing through cook books or surf online for inspiring recipes. In a way, thanks to TLC, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson came into our homes a few years ago and thus began the love affair. What was really interesting about the two was they emphasised on easy. You don’t need to be a professional to make something unique and creative.
Then, Masterchef Australia had all our tastebuds tingling from season 1. In fact, when I was in Sydney last summer, the home section in QVB had the Nigella range. If I wasn’t travelling with just the backpack or had enough dough, I think I would have bought everything they had. Seriously, the pans and pots are gorgeous!
I’m digressing. I recently came across Nigella’s Vietnamese dressing. It is just so versatile that one can use it for a number of salads and main courses and it’s easy to add ingredients to it to make it different. Vietnam is a country I’m yet to visit but the first time I made the dressing, it invoked flavours similar to what I had tasted in Thailand.
I was pressed for time today and needed something quick and satisfying for lunch. Hey, presto! Thus was created a Thai salad inspired by Nigella but perfect for vegetarians!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Thai salad with cottage cheese

For salad
200 g fresh cottage cheese i.e paneer (cut into bite-sized cubes)
2 tbs sesame oil (this can be substituted with vegetable oil and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds)
1 small white cabbage (finely shredded)
2 small carrots (finely shredded)
Handful of chopped coriander

For dressing
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 green/red chilly (chopped)
2 tbs vinegar
2 tbs light soy (use fish sauce for a non-vegetarian option)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs lime juice

In a bowl, add the onion, garlic, chilly, vinegar, soy, sugar and lime juice. Soak everything for about 10 minutes.

Mix the cabbage, carrots and coriander in a bowl. Toss the dressing in and coat every bit of the raw salad with it. You don’t need a lot of dressing for it.

Heat the sesame oil in a small flat pan. Once hot, add the cubes of cottage cheese. When one side starts browning, turn over. Once browned, it would take about 5 minutes, toss the browned cubes onto the salad with whatever sesame oil still remains in the pan.

Serve immediately with some fresh coriander.
PS: Tastes great with Tom Yum Soup !

A side view!

A side view!

Heartbreak at the Killing Fields

I knew what I was getting myself into. I love the travel, but the single greatest joy I get when I’m on the road is learning. Be it learning the history of a community, a local recipe, the joys and sorrows of people I meet on the way or even a new hangover cure. History fascinates me, it always has. We are because of what we’ve learnt. Or not.

The area is tranquil today, unlike in the late-1970s.

The area is tranquil today, unlike in the late-1970s.

There I was standing under the shade of a tree on a hot summer day, amidst the desperate cries I kept hearing in my head. Men, women, children screaming in pain, hoping against hope for a miracle when the sickle hit their skulls. The audio guide kept telling me to move from one spot to the next, but it took me a long long time. I was at the ‘Killing Fields’, a few kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.

You make your way in a tuk tuk via many turns and corners to reach Choeung Ek. One of the most prominent killing fields discovered after the Vietnamese invasion, the area is serene and peaceful. There’s a sense of quiet all around, of unknown pain.

Green and quiet. There's a sense of calm

Green and quiet. There’s a sense of calm

I sometimes wonder what made Pol Pot what he was. He was educated, a teacher at that, and yet Khmer Rouge chose to dehumanise humanity on the pretext of creating a self sufficient community. A country which was so rich in tradition and steeped in history, everything was wiped out in a span of four years.

It’s a pretty big area, the Killing Fields that is. There’s a little museum which details the rise and fall of the gruesome regime. It has pictures and uniforms depicting the true picture. You feel so angry and helpless, you really do. Your ‘why’ joins the millions of others who have thought the same for so many years.

As you listen to the audio guide and move from one spot to the other and feel the atrocities that were committed, the one which broke my heart was where little babies where killed. How can anyone be so inhumane?

A commemorative stupa filled with the skulls of the victims and the weapons used

A commemorative stupa filled with the skulls of the victims and the weapons used

You listen to horror stories from survivors. Each story leaves you gutted. Someone killed for bananas, someone for wearing spectacles. Is this what humanity is about? Killing one another? The audio guide signs off by saying that the world must learn to prevent such genocides. But do we actually learn? Bosnia and Rwanda prove otherwise.

I’m from India, a country which for hundreds of years had been dominated by different rulers. Visiting Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar or going to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans had left me drained, feeling miserable. But what I felt standing at the Killing Fields, looking at the weapons and skulls, was something different. Something needs to change. Something has to change for the better.

5 Ways to enjoy a Pattaya getaway

When friends heard I was planning a trip to Thailand, firstly they all warned me about the protests. But knowing me, they realised I would never listen. Secondly, most of them told me to head to one of the islands instead of going to Pattaya. One said ‘it’s horrible’ while the other ‘it’s so crowded’. Well yes, considering it has beaches and is a tourist friendly area closest to Bangkok, do you expect to not find tourists?

Pretty pretty water at the Pattaya Pier

Pretty pretty water at the Pattaya Pier

I spent three days in Pattaya and let me tell you, I enjoyed myself crazy. I like to party but I enjoy my peace more. I would prefer to laze around on the beach, swim till I’m tired to move my arms and then drink coconut water all day long. If you’re looking for a good beach holiday, follow my tips and head to Pattaya. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay on Jomtein beach, away from South Pattaya
It’s only about 10 minutes away but the difference is astounding. On one hand you have tourists spilling out of bars with loud music blaring and on the other, less people and almost-empty streets. Sure there are tourists and if you walk up to the Night Market there will be music and a young crowd but overall the place is peaceful. I stayed in a little guesthouse about two minutes away from the beach. Let me tell you, the rooms are fantastic, clean and spacious.

Water near the pier. Jomtien beach is just a tuktuk/taxi ride away!

Water near the pier. Jomtien beach is just a tuktuk/taxi ride away!

Early morning swims
Set your alarm for about 6am. Wake up, slip into your bikini/trunks and head straight for the water. It’s absolutely divine. You’ll have the whole beach to yourself, so swim to your heart’s content or sunbathe in the morning rays. For the non-swimmers, take one of the beach chairs or spread the towel on the sand and read, listen to music or sleep. No one will disturb you.

Private beach? No just empty!

Private beach? No just empty!

Waiting to jump in! Sans the camera of course!

Waiting to jump in! Sans the camera of course!

Visit Koh Larn
The nearest island near Pattaya has six beaches. I headed to Samae which is on the other side of the pier thanks to tuk tuks plying regularly. Called the Coral Islands, one can try adventure sports or just simply laze around drinking coconut water or a beer or two. The journey into the pale blue waters will be rocky so be careful but once inside, the sea is warm. Eat fresh seafood after a tiring swim and sleep. There’s nothing better than a lazy getaway.

Taking the ferry to Ko Larn

Taking the ferry to Koh Larn

That's my idea for a relaxing, lazy beach day! At Samae beach

That’s my idea for a relaxing, lazy beach day! At Samae beach

Yup all that after a swim!

Yup all that after a swim!

Gorge on street food
Thailand has great food. In Pattaya, instead of heading to a restaurant or pub, why don’t you try the scrumptious delights the street vendors or roadside eateries have to offer? From Thai green curry to squid to fiery hot Tom Yum soup, there’s something for everyone. Try plenty of fruits which are sold almost at every nook and corner and for dessert, have a freshly-made crisp crepe smeared with Nutella!

That's chicken Thai green curry

That’s chicken Thai green curry

Squid with sticky rice anyone?

Squid with sticky rice anyone?

Hot hot Tom Yum soup from a roadside eatery

Hot hot Tom Yum soup from a roadside eatery

Delicious deep fried goodness! Took me forever to decide which ones to try!

Delicious deep fried goodness! Took me forever to decide which ones to try!

Don’t leave without a foot massage
After long tiring days of walking on the sand, lazing in the sun and eating like its Christmas, why don’t you end the relaxed getaway with a foot massage? About an hour long and costing 150-200 Baht, its so so relaxing that I often dozed off! With oils and magic hands, hot stones and scrubs, the foot massage sessions are worth every baht!

There are flowers everywhere! Take out some time to smell them!

There are flowers everywhere! Take out some time to smell them!

In Photos: Delicious Cambodian Food

Everyone has heard of Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. But when it comes to Cambodia, people often scratch their heads and ask, ‘What food do you eat there?’ Let me tell you, delicious Khmer food.

Cambodian food is a well kept secret of South East Asia. Sweet and salty, hot and tangy, sour and hot, deep fried or served fresh, every bite is a surprise — a delight for every palate. Thanks to the close proximity with neighbours Vietnam, Thailand and Laos; Cambodian food often draws from their culinary cultures. You’ll find Vietnamese Pho being sold by street vendors or Thai noodles in a nearby eatery but the taste is just so unique. Since the country was under French rule for a while, coffee and bread can be found everywhere. It’s a perfect little mix I tell you – drawing from Asia and Europe.

The one thing I loved about Khmer food is that never is a dish served without condiments. Every table has a basket which contains fish sauce, hot sauce, pickles or a lime-salt-pepper combo and sometimes even fresh herbs. It’s these condiments which bind the dishes together, giving it a wholesome taste. Rice is a staple so you can expect it to be served with any vegetable or meat you order.

I’ll let the pictures seduce you… to try Khmer food once in your life…

— — —

Delicate spring rolls with mint and rice noodles, served with a dip

Delicate spring rolls with mint and rice noodles, served with a dip

Fried pork spring rolls and french fries

Fried pork spring rolls and french fries

Fish Amok, a Khmer specialty. It's a souffle or steamed fish preparation served with rice.

Fish Amok, a Khmer specialty. It’s a souffle or steamed fish preparation served with rice.

Lok lak. Sliced beef tossed in brown sauce served with rice.

Lok lak. Sliced beef tossed in brown sauce served with rice.

Delicious chicken noodle soup. A light broth served with greens

Delicious chicken noodle soup. A light broth served with greens

Egg noodles tossed with beef and greens.

Egg noodles tossed with beef and greens.

Wok fried pork noodles with greens. Tastes best with a side of chilly

Wok fried pork noodles with greens. Tastes best with a side of chilly

Cambodian breakfast at the hotel. Rice with beef and pork, served with fried egg.

Cambodian breakfast at the hotel. Rice with beef and pork, served with fried egg.

What the locals drink - Angkor draught beer. Perfect to sip and jot down travel notes

What the locals drink – Angkor draught beer. Perfect to sip and jot down travel notes

Pancakes from a street vendor. Crispy, served with cream and coconut shavings. A perfect dessert.

Pancakes from a street vendor. Crispy, served with cream and coconut shavings. A perfect dessert.

— — —

The smell of charred meat permeates the evening air as you sit down at a local eatery sipping a mug of local beer or cut through the layers of a heavenly fish souffle. Khmer food has something for everybody. I can’t wait to go back.

Stumbling upon the Royal Cemetery in Bangkok

Bangkok is only about two hours away from Pattaya. Take the highways, drive fast and you’re there even earlier. I had chosen to stay near Jomtien beach, away from the hustle and bustle of South Pattaya. After all, when you’re in Thailand for three days, a stopover really before you head to Cambodia, you really want to dive into the pristine blue sea and swim away all tensions.

The temple entrance

The temple entrance

But, I did decide to head to Bangkok for a day just to see what the city was about. Ever since I swayed to ‘Shall we dance’ from The King and I, the name Siam conjured up images of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr dancing away to their hearts content. But that was as a child when Hollywood had captured my heart. I’ve always been eager to go to Thailand, not because I love the cuisine, but also to discover the beautiful places.

If I’m honest, the first impression of Bangkok really didn’t set my heart on fire like I had hoped it would. I did the touristy stuff – visiting the Royal Palace, the Emerald Buddha, Golden Buddha… but it was an unexpected discovery which made my day. It was hot and humid and I did feel dehydrated. But just the fact that I walked into the Royal Mausoleum on the one day in the year when it’s open to the public according to the Lunar calendar (without any prior knowledge) made me smile. This is what travelling is about isn’t it?

So peaceful

So peaceful

Gothic architecture in Thailand

Gothic architecture in Thailand

Not a must-see attraction, the Wat Ratchabopit, or Royal Cemetery, is peaceful and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle cities are associated with. Located just a few minutes away from the Royal Palace, the peace welcomes you. The memorials dedicated to Thai royalty are so varied. From Gothic to Indian to Thai, the architecture of the different memorials seem to have been inspired from many styles. When I walked around the memorials, I was alone. No tourists, no cameras, just me. There is no entrance fee but you do get asked ‘how did you find out about this place?’ And you say, ‘by chance’ with a smile.

The main temple inside was shut for the public till 2pm because of prayers. Apparently there were a lot of visitors early morning because the Royal couple had come to offer prayers to the ancestors.

Inside the temple complex

Inside the temple complex

Now let me tell you something. Everything yellow you see in the complex is gold. Yes, it’s not coloured in gold paint to impress tourists.

The gold shining in the sun

The gold shining in the sun

Once you enter the main temple, you’re left amazed at the art work because everything is done by hand. The doors have inlaid work in pearls, gold statues of Buddhas in different postures are found around the temple. Go inside and the red carpet is so lush. It’s so quiet there that one can spend hours just sitting and gazing. See the monks talking to youngsters as they try to imbibe their words of wisdom.

It’s always wonderful to discover something new and to stumble upon something so beautiful by chance, brings me great joy.

Details on the walls, all by hand

Details on the walls, all by hand

The ceiling inside

The ceiling inside

Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

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