Destination: Bangkok

Australian Chef: Thai Cuisine is ‘Decaying’

Them’s fighting words. The chef in question, David Thompson, is responsible for London’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Nahm, and now he’s “striving for authenticity” at a Nahm branch in Bangkok, too. The Thai reaction has been predictably indignant. The New York Times explains:

Cooking is profoundly wound up with Thailand’s identity. Many recipes were tested and refined in royal palaces. And Thais often spend a good share of their day talking about this or that dish they tried; a common greeting is, “Have you eaten yet?”

Mr. Thompson’s quest for authenticity is perceived by some Thais as a provocation, a pair of blue eyes striding a little too proudly into the temple of Thai cuisine. Foreigners cannot possibly master the art of cooking Thai food, many Thais say, because they did not grow up wandering through vast, wet markets filled with the cornucopia of Thai produce, or pulling at the apron strings of grandmothers and maids who imparted the complex and subtle balance of ingredients required for the perfect curry or chili paste. Foreigners, Thais believe, cannot stomach the spices that fire the best Thai dishes.


Vulture Tourism and the Allure of ‘Pre-Disastered Destinations’

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World Travel Watch: Floods in Central Europe, Ongoing Violence in Bangkok and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Protests and Parties in Bangkok

The State Department has issued a warning for travelers to Thailand following this weekend’s violent clashes between protesters and police in Bangkok, which resulted in 21 deaths. From the latest alert:

U.S. citizens are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas that may be targeted for demonstrations and to exercise caution in their movements around Bangkok.

Despite the warning, though, World Hum contributor Newley Purnell reports that it’s business as usual for tourists on Bangkok’s Khao San Road, where water fights have replaced the earlier unrest.

The water fights are “badass,” says Sayed Jiwa, a 20 year old from Calgary, Canada, when asked about the festivities. He added that the protests were no joking matter, however… It was scary, says Jiwa, but “the vibe is all good” now.


Lover’s Moon

Lover’s Moon iStockPhoto

Pico Iyer on the power of travel to make a forgettable Glenn Frey song last forever

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World Travel Watch: Chile Earthquake Aftermath, Rallies in Bangkok and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Photo You Must See: Solar Eclipse Over Bangkok

Photo You Must See: Solar Eclipse Over Bangkok REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

A plane flies past a solar eclipse above Bangkok on Jan. 15

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Passage to Bangkok’ by Rush


Finding Trouble in Asia: Let Us Count the Ways

Finding Trouble in Asia: Let Us Count the Ways Photo by kwanz via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is it me, or has it been a surreal few months for Americans in Asia? Guidebook writers and State Department travel monitors, take note: a few new travel “don’ts” have entered the lexicon. To recap, here’s what we know not to do next time we journey East.

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Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance

Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance Photo by René Ehrhardt via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by René Ehrhardt via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m not a parent, but I’ve sympathized with two sisters and plenty of friends who bemoan the constant time stresses on working parents with young kids. Grocery shopping and cooking rank high among parental time-sucks, of course, so a Thai curator’s recent comment to the New York Times that Bangkok’s ubiquitous food carts “provide a vital support system to people who work, especially couples with children” got me wondering about the benefits of raising kids in Asia.

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Interview With Lawrence Osborne: ‘Bangkok Days’

Interview With Lawrence Osborne: ‘Bangkok Days’ Photo by Christopher Wise

Frank Bures asks the author about why Thailand is so hard to capture in words and why its sex trade isn't really about sex

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Expat Tales: Wanderers, Starving Artists and Dissolutes

Expat Tales: Wanderers, Starving Artists and Dissolutes Photo by shashiBellamkonda via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by shashiBellamkonda via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Novelist Malcolm Pryce rounds up his top 10 expat tales with heavy representation from Asia and the Pacific: novels and journals on Vietnam, Thailand, Tahiti and Sri Lanka make the cut.

Eurocentrics will appreciate Pryce’s inclusion of the Thomas Cook European Railway Timetable, but, for Asia travelers, the money quote can be found in his description of Bangkok: “The city is, in fact, a combine harvester for the ex-pat male heart.” Something tells me that line will come to mind next time I’m walking through Patpong.


Interview with Newley Purnell: On Bangkok’s Political Crisis and Travel to Thailand

Interview with Newley Purnell: On Bangkok’s Political Crisis and Travel to Thailand Photo by interactimages, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Bangkok on April 14, 2009, by interactimages, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Bangkok is still reeling from the violent “red shirt” protests that swept the city last week. Though protesters surrendered to the government on Tuesday, an assassination attempt against a prominent protest leader on Friday kept Thais on edge. Several countries, including Britain, Australia and China, issued warnings against travel to Thailand last week, and a state of emergency remains in effect.

I emailed Bangkok-based journalist and World Hum contributor Newley Purnell to get his take on the situation and its impact on local tourism.

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Cut to the Quick

View from the LeBua. Photo by Alexander Basek

Where’s my cheap rate? Price cuts at hotels are not as common as you’d think these days. Many properties are afraid that when the economy bounces back, they won’t be able to raise their rates to pre-econopocalypse levels. So, the savings come in the form of add-ins: hello, bottle of cheap champagne that’s a “$30 value”! Hotels in warm destinations—where they count on Northeast winters slowly driving locals insane—are notorious for this little game. 

The flip side is the rate cuts are plentiful in destinations that aren’t typical winter holiday hot spots. Take Bangkok, where prices were falling last year thanks to a low-level hum of bad news and unrest at the airport. Couple that with the economic downturn and voila! Specials like the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok is offering: a $260 a night room for $99. Similarly, rooms at the LeBua at State Tower, another luxury property with great views of Bangkok (and balconies!) prices out to $140 a night over a weekend in March with a 30 percent discount offer. Even the Four Seasons is $200 a night with a system-wide third-night-free deal. Yes, there are cheaper hotels in Bangkok, but the value for these prices is staggering. When I stayed at the LeBua last fall, the staff was so eager to please they would have wheeled me to my room on a hand truck if I had let them. 

Of course, Bangkok is a tougher weekend getaway than St. Croix, but what’s the matter with a little jetlag on vacation?