Thai Creative & Design Center: Bangkok, in all of its crazy Major Worldly City offerings, has a surprisingly large amount of lifestyle shopping centers (read: fancy malls), many of which have their own surprising offerings tucked inside. We found the TC&DC, via an ad in the paper, on the sixth floor of one such center, hidden away with three great design exhibits (Swiss products, Spanish experimental cuisine, and the permanent exhibit featuring worldwide design achievements from the last 150 years), one cafe/performance space, and one amazing looking members-only library and resource center. Excellent presentation and exciting to find in a city that otherwise proved a little difficult for us to sneak a peek behind the shiny exterior.
Red Sky: We haven't paid $12USD for a drink at any other time this year. Heck, even our bottles of wine came in below that. However, if you consider the cost a surcharge for the view with the added bonus of a well-made cocktail, then you can quickly come to terms with the arrangement. This upscale, perfectly Bangkok, multiple-tiered lounge and restaurant makes it's home on the 56th floor of the Central World complex. It is 360° around on the top tier, encased in tall, double-paned glass walls that make it simultaneously thrilling and slightly terrifying. Thus, the drink takes the edge off and laying on a pillow above all of Bangkok feels just as swanky as it sounds.
Thai Iced Tea: Specifically, the tea from the stand in the heart of the night market next to the On Nut Skytrain station. We'd had the regular, orange colored version in the past and it was excellent here, but by the time we left we'd almost fully switched to the green tea version. So. Good.
Bangkok Art & Culture Center: It was a little wild the day we visited, thanks to National Children's Day, but we give this places props for existing. Particularly funny is the location - sandwiched, as much else, amidst mega-malls in Bangkok, it is an eight story combination of galleries, studios, pop-up shops (like an ice cream meets design store - good looking yum) and generally creative, cultural goings on. The little dude we watched play classical guitar probably isn't there all of the time, but maybe you'd be lucky and catch him on the next day of honoring the wee ones.
Massages: We suppose massages could go wrong (or dicey), but we were lucky to not have that happen. In hindsight, we also should have gotten more. We were able to be spirited back just for a day, we would return to this little place on a corner in Bangkok, up the street from Casey's cousin's apartment. A foot massage that includes some full leg Thai massage and manipulation will shift your alignment, tension and consciousness.
Grace Food Store: Oh, the simplicity of this little store which is actually more often a restaurant/cafe that sells other things. We ended up as short-term regulars here while in Chiang Mai. The reasonable price, the smoothies and the sweetest woman (Grace, herself, of course) at the helm made it comforting. Always a highlight to find a place like this.
Baan Thai: When you don a bandana karate-kid style with a group of six others, a bond is formed. At least for the day. There were no top-chef revelations in this class, but the way they made complex Thai dishes accessible was the real magic. Even thou we were in food comas by the end of it, they were delicious, self-cooked food comas.
Yi Peng: This festival was well documented HERE, but it is worth (re)mentioning given all of the dreamy thoughts we have about it and the little lift of excitement we feel when seeing a picture of anything similar. We made it!
Cafe Compassion: Another Chiang Mai find - hidden down a back street and nestled in a green little nook - both literally and ethically speaking. They are are wonderful amalgam of ecologically sound practices, good personalities, delicious food and coffee, community/creative/bicycle events and a relaxing, well-designed space. We wish them success with their first full year of business!
Food cart Roti: These street carts were a little harder to find during the daytime but popped up at night with their tantalizing smells. Roti is a sort of fried thin pancake, folded over into a pocket with any number of fillings and toppings either savory or sweet. My (eli) personal favorite was bananas inside and honey on top.
Transportation options: Different from western culture, Thailand has a ton of options for getting around. Buses and minibuses and cars, to be sure as well as the Skytrain and subway in Bangkok. More interestingly, though, were the motos, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, and songthaews - covered pickup trucks that act as sort of shared taxis with a hop on/hop off mentality.
Perfectly clear and beautiful water: That would be Ko Samet, not Bangkok.
Fresh Produce: Mango, papaya, pineapple, small (real and fresh) bananas, coconut, mangosteen, star fruit, passionfruit, jackfruit, dragon fruit, rose apples (a sort of apple pear combo), tangerines...is your mouth watering as much as mine, yet?
Smooth paved roads: This one likely wouldn't be on this list if we hadn't arrived to Thailand from Nepal, but we did. Casey likened it to feeling your teeth again for the first time after getting your braces off. The novelty wears off pretty quickly but the initial sensation is a beautiful thing.
The food: This is sort of a big category, but the food overall was a major treat. We ate at a good amount of pretty solid Thai restaurants in the U.S. which prepared us for the flavors but what stood out inside the Thai borders was the freshness of a lot of the ingredients we just can't grow locally in New England (kaffir lime, Kampot pepper, galangal, etc.) mixed with ones that we probably can (chillies, basil, etc.). Even the noodles were fresh made from the market most of the time.
Snorkeling: A Ko Samet experience that affirmed how small and vulnerable we humans are and how vast and varied the ocean life on this planet is.