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October 24, 2017

City and beach options in Thailand


Well-travelled Len Rutledge reports

Walking the beach, visiting an island, shopping the markets and enjoying a massage are just a few of the attractions that will encourage 35 million people to visit Thailand this year. Many will be returning for the second, third or tenth time because this country has a magical attraction to those who have previously visited. Part of the reason is that it appeals to all ages. I first visited when I was in my twenties. Now, many years later, I still love going there.

My ideal Thailand visit consists of time in Bangkok and some further time at one of the beaches. Others will want to visit Chiang Mai and the northern mountains or the far-flung attractions of Isan in the north-east. Everywhere there are temples, markets, museums, friendly people and new experiences. What more could you ask for?

Bangkok

This sprawling city of over 10 million people is the perfect introduction to Thailand but be prepared for some culture shock. Most Australians find the heat, crowds, traffic, and sights and sounds initially somewhat overwhelming. Give it two days and it all starts to make sense.

Traffic can be chaotic at times but the expanding underground and Skyrail systems help you move around. Taxis are cheap and tuk-tuks, those three-wheeled kamikaze machines, can be fun for short distances. When I get near my destination, I like to walk. This is when you see the real Bangkok.

Devote some time to see some of the best palaces, temples, museums and cultural shows in the whole country. Take a boat ride on the river, enjoy a Thai restaurant or simply eat on the street from mobile stalls, and enjoy a Thai massage. Bangkok has become one of the world's best shopping venues so check out the spectacular up-market stores and malls as well as the weekend market and one of several daily night markets.

When it comes to accommodation there is an endless choice from 5-star to budget. Where you stay has some influence on what you will see so consider what your priorities are. There is no best area or hotel for everyone. If luxury accommodation, staying by the river and being close to some of the city's' historical and cultural attraction is what you need, consider The Siam http://www.thesiamhotel.com/  for your accommodation.

This hotel is set in lush gardens and the suites and villas, the spa and wellness facilities, and the several restaurants will all contribute to making this a private urban sanctuary after a long day sightseeing, shopping or touring. Believe me, you will need it!

Koh Samui

This is my personal favourite among Thailand's well-developed islands. In the past 25 years, the island has changed from a backpacker's paradise to a resort-goers' dream. Koh Samui is ringed by beaches – some almost deserted, others quite developed. Most have clean white sand and all have good quality water.

Away from the beaches you can visit the Big Buddha Temple, see the mummified monk with his sunglasses, watch monkeys pick coconuts and play basketball at the Monkey Theatre, and ride elephants in a nice jungle setting.

Koh Samui has become a very popular spa centre and some of the facilities are spectacular. The same can be said about many of the restaurants which have beach or cliff locations. Resorts are everywhere and it's impossible to pick one which would suit everywhere. Some are on isolated beaches while others are close to the island's town centres.

The Bo Phut Resort & Spa http://www.bophutresort.com/ is set amongst landscaped gardens and is a good compromise. It provides excellent facilities with privacy from the crowds. You can swim, eat, snorkel in the bay, boat ride, or wander down to the nearby fishing village and see the fishermen bringing in their daily catch.

Phuket

Millions of visitors enjoy the sun, sand, surf and sex that this island offers and plenty of tourists only visit here during their 'Thailand holiday' thanks to direct flights from many places into Phuket International Airport.

Where you stay has a big bearing on what type of holiday you will have. If shopping, bars, massage, discos and shows are your 'thing', stay in Patong. If you want to chill-out and enjoy some peace and quiet, chose one of the resorts on an isolated beach.

The Crown Plaza Phuket https://www.ihg.com/crowneplaza/hotels/us/en/phuket/phucr/hoteldetail  falls somewhere between these two extremes. It is a hideaway on the beach but you can still easily reach Patong and Phuket Town if you have the need. The Phuket FantaSea, the Disney Land of South East Asia and the Phuket Aquarium are close by for those wanting fun activities.

www.LenRutledge.com

Len Rutledge is the author of Experience Thailand 2017, available from www.amazon.com  as an ebook or paperback.

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images:

1. The Chao Phraya River: Phensri Rutledge

2. Jim Thompson Restaurant: Phensri Rutledge

3. The Siam Bangkok: Courtesy The Siam

4. Bo Phut Resort & Spa: Courtesy Bo Phut Resort

5. The Crown Plaza Phuket pool: Courtesy Crown Plaza Phuket


October 02, 2017

Sydney: Totally Cured and Cultured at Bennelong

#visitnsw #sydney
 

Dream about dining inside the dramatic sails of the Sydney Opera House with its spectacular views, creative food by the supremely talented Peter Gilmore, but think you need the king's ransom? Helen Flanagan experienced the luxury without the linen.


There's just so much to drink in at the harbour-side Bennelong restaurant, helmed by Peter Gilmore and located under the Utzon sails of the Sydney Opera House, arguably one of the world's finest 'galleries'.

Gilmore's take on contemporary cuisine begins on the lower level of the tri-level layout. A private table is available on the central level; a bar with panoramic views of The Sydney Harbour Bridge is on the upper level; for those looking for an experience like no other, The Kitchen allows just four guests the opportunity to enjoy a backstage view of the chefs at work while dining from a curated eight-course menu with matching wines; and for a one-of-a-kind, full-service lusciousness with a laid-back attitude, hot foot it to Cured & Cultured. Book early evening, because the ever-evolving natural light show beats any fireworks display.

"Bennelong is all about the provenance of the food we are serving," explains Gilmore who is also executive chef of Quay, named in the prestigious S. Pellegrino World's 100 Best Restaurant list.

"All menus are crafted in partnership with farmers, fishermen, breeders and providores from across the land, who work with our chefs every day. It's a two way process: responding to what's in season and the best of what producers are bringing us, however on another level, we're planning menus a season or two ahead and working with producers to develop ingredients for us.

"Cured & Cultured has a simple focus: raw food such as beautiful oysters, cured meats, crustaceans and organic vegetable salads." It's the cream and the crunch without the starched linen.

There's a cracking wine list and polished wait staff described cocktails so convincingly, the classic dirty martini was nearly changed to a very in-tune-sounding Symphony #4 in D Minor or on-song Don Pancho De Le Mancha.

Not surprisingly the atmosphere exudes excitement and there are happy faces everywhere. Propped at the counter, right in front of you, chefs work quietly and methodically on the presentation of dishes. But happy to chat albeit briefly when questioned by this inquisitive food writer, in-between fondling shavings of various coloured carrots and squeezing tweezers to ensure incy-wincy flowers and herbs are artfully positioned.

Most dishes, chef says are prepped in a downstairs kitchen and the roast carrot salad swathed  in sticky sherry caramel, tossed with young almonds, feta, amaranth and artfully dressed with raw heirloom carrot, is the most popular dish on the menu. But what about raw kingfish with artichoke, capers, ice plant; cured black pig ham polenta, popcorn, parmesan and pine nut hotcake; Tasmanian-inspired scallop pie; twice-baked goat's cheese soufflĂ© with seasonal crumble; and warm buckwheat pikelets, lemon jam and cultured cream with a plate of yabbies served in the shell? Oh and let's not forget the five cheese truffle toastie or the best-ever suckling pig sausage roll with black garlic. Salivation levels go shy-high when the oven door is opened and chef cuts through the pastry. But what happened to those end bits? Next time.

If you're not rushing off to a concert or the opera, or looking for a casual bite post-show and lust after something sweet, the cherry jam lamington and pavlova are irresistible. Understandably.

Encore, encore Cured & Cultured, What a triumphant performance.

If you go: www.bennelong.com.au

…in-between fondling shavings of various coloured carrots and squeezing tweezers to ensure incy-wincy flowers and herbs are artfully positioned

Go early evening because the ever-evolving natural light show beats any fireworks display

 

Captions:

1. Dirty Martini

2. Tony and Helen

3. Salad of roasted organic carrots
4. Raw kingfish artichoke, capers, ice plant

5. The Pavlova

6. Cured and Cultured

7. As evening falls

Images 1-2-3-4 Helen Flanagan

Images 5-6-7: Brett Stevens

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au