Tag Archives: bangkok

Thailand 2014: Cooking with Poo

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


Cooking with Poo is one of the top-rated attractions in Bangkok on TripAdvisor, as well as the name of a cookbook that once won a prize for oddest book title. This isn’t a scatalogical experience, but instead, Poo is the nickname of a woman who’s created one of the most acclaimed cooking schools in Bangkok for tourists.

I made reservations for the cooking class well in advance, and the cost was 1200 baht per person. You meet in front of the Emporium Suites, which is just a couple of minutes from the Phrom Phong BTS station. From there, you’re put into a van to take you to a wet market for a quick tour, and then onward to the slum where the cooking class is located.

The wet market was quite the experience. I am personally fascinated by food and where it comes from, so this part of the day would have been enough to satisfy me. This wasn’t a touristy market by any means, and there were a lot of things that I saw here that I didn’t see elsewhere in Thailand.

Our fearless tour guide

Our fearless tour guide

In particular, there were a lot of insects for sale for consumption, from crickets to water bugs to ant larva. Beyond the insects, there were plenty of live animals like frogs, turtles, and eels, and a lot of fruits and vegetables that would be rare to find in the US. Our guide did a great job of explaining what all of the unusual things were and answered any questions that we had. This tour is probably not suitable for some people, as Poo said she’s had instances of people crying afterward because of all of the animals for sale in varying states, which is much more vivid than anything you’ll see in the US.

This is not a cockroach but is instead a water bug

This is not a cockroach but is instead a water bug

More insects/larva

More insects/larva

This was perhaps my favorite person in Thailand: shirtless fishmonger wearing a dorag and bluetooth

This was perhaps my favorite person in Thailand: shirtless fishmonger wearing a dorag and bluetooth

After the market tour, we went to the slum that the cooking school was located in. I call it a slum because that’s the term that Poo used (and, well, there was sewage running in the streets). She described her story of cooking food in the slum every day until she met an Australian woman who eventually provided her the seed money to start her cooking school. Poo has grown this school to quite the business, and she’s empowered a lot of people and reinvested a lot of money into the surrounding area.

Poo at the cooking school

Poo at the cooking school

For the cooking class part of the day, it wasn’t much actual cooking, which I guess makes sense if this is aimed at tourists of varying levels of cooking proficiency. At most, you’re assembling things that are pre-proportioned and pre-cut and heating them together, but the result was still delicious, and the satisfaction of making something was still there. On the day that we went, the menu consisted of pomelo salad, coconut soup (tom kha), and pad thai, as well as a dessert tasting of mango with sticky rice, pumpkin filled with custard, and a variety of fruits including rose apple, mangosteen, guava, dragonfruit, lychee, and long yuan. I chose to make everything vegetarian.

Pomelo salad

Pomelo salad

Coconut soup

Coconut soup

Pad thai

Pad thai

Mango sticky rice, pumpkin custard, and lots of fruit

Mango sticky rice, pumpkin custard, and lots of fruit

It’s advisable to not eat too much for breakfast, since you end up cooking quite a bit of food, and dessert seems endless, but if you have leftovers, they’ll package them up for you to take with you. Overall, the food was really delicious and deceptively easy to make, and I particularly enjoyed the fruit tasting at the end, since it was a good opportunity to try all of the things you may have seen.

If you’re looking for a cooking school where you learn how to cook, Cooking with Poo might not be the best option since there’s relatively little cooking or instruction, but if you’re looking to get a glimpse into Thai cuisine, the market tour and dessert tasting at the end are great introductions. And if you go to this cooking school, you know you’re supporting a good cause, and you can feel good about yourself (and very full) at the end of the day. They also sell awesome aprons.

Thailand 2014: Millennium Hilton Bangkok

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


When I was booking the hotel in Bangkok, I was deciding between the Millennium Hilton and the Conrad. I ultimately chose the Millennium due to its supposedly better location for tourists, since it’s located on the river, and many tourist attractions are located along the river. In the future, though, I’d probably try to choose a hotel closer to a BTS station, as it got a little old after the second day to have to take the hotel’s shuttle boat every single time you wanted to get anywhere.

Since our flight arrived quite late at night, the only option was to take a taxi to the hotel, so we went to the taxi queue and got a taxi. At first, the driver tried to take us for a flat fee, but I insisted on the meter. He still ended up taking us on a VERY roundabout way and driving 90+ miles per hour, but at the end, the total cost was 570 baht (450 fare + 50 airport surcharge + 70 for tolls), which was only a couple of dollars more than the fare should have been, and I didn’t feel like arguing at 1am.

View of the hotel from the river

View of the hotel from the river

The first thing I noticed about the hotel was the mosquitos. Granted, this hotel is in Bangkok, and there are mosquitos in Bangkok, but there were mosquitos in all of the common areas of the hotel, including the lobby, restaurant, and executive lounge. You should definitely wear bug spray whenever you’re not in your room.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

I was upgraded to an executive room, which was on the smaller size but adequate. The room was nicely furnished and had a lot of stuff in it, which made it feel a little bit crowded. The bed was large and comfortable, the bathroom was large, but the biggest problem I had with the room was the lack of separation between the bed and the bathroom. There’s no actual wall, but instead there are just slats like a window shade separating the two, which I found less than ideal.

Entrance (note the blinds into the bathroom)

Entrance (note the blinds into the bathroom)

Room

Room

Room

Room

Bathroom

Bathroom

I was told that I could get breakfast at either the executive lounge or at Flow, the hotel’s ground floor restaurant. The first day, I got breakfast at the executive lounge, but I ended up eating at Flow the rest of my stay due to the slightly better selection. The service in the executive lounge was great, and the views were quite good.

View from the executive lounge

View from the executive lounge

Executive lounge seating

Executive lounge seating

More lounge seating

More lounge seating

Executive lounge breakfast spread

Executive lounge breakfast spread

Lounge breakfast

Lounge breakfast

More lounge breakfast

More lounge breakfast

Moar breakfast

Moar breakfast

I also got afternoon tea in the lounge one day, and they served everyone who arrived an entire tray of snacks that were decently tasty for a complimentary tea.

 

Afternoon tea in the lounge

Afternoon tea in the lounge

Breakfast in the lounge was a more impersonal affair, but the selection was better. In particular, I enjoyed the hot soy milk and toppings on offer, as well as the noodle bar. Otherwise, I’d probably choose the executive lounge given the better views and service.

 

Flow restaurant

Flow restaurant

Restaurant breakfast

Restaurant breakfast

More restaurant breakfast

More restaurant breakfast

More restaurant breakfast

More restaurant breakfast

Soy milk and toppings

Soy milk and toppings

Pastries at breakfast

Pastries at breakfast

Overall, I found the breakfast offerings at the hotel to be quite good, and I didn’t get tired of the food after four days. The food ranged from decent to good, and the selection was varied with American, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian food on offer.

I didn’t use too many of the hotel’s facilities except for the gym, but the pool area seemed to be relatively popular. Besides the pool, there were plenty of places to get some sun, including a fake “beach” area, and a couple of small fresh water jacuzzis. The gym had a decent selection of machines, but I particularly liked the large multi-use room that they had.

Swimming pool

Swimming pool

Fresh water jacuzzi

Fresh water jacuzzi

"Beach" area near the pool

“Beach” area near the pool

Gym

Gym

Multi-purpose room in the gym

Multi-purpose room in the gym

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Millennium Hilton. The room served my needs, housekeeping was good, breakfast was pretty good, and the service was competent. Honestly, my biggest complaint about the hotel is the elevators, which were terribly slow and often seemed to stop on floors with no one on them. I’m not sure I’d stay at this hotel again due to its location, which is good for first-time visitors to Bangkok, but relatively inconvenient otherwise since you essentially have to take the river boat to get anywhere. The hotel offers complimentary boats to the Saphan Taksin BTS station and to a mall called River City right across the river, but the boat essentially adds 20 minutes each way to any trip.

Star Alliance Routings and Award Availability to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)

As far as I know, there are no nonstop flights from the US to Bangkok, which is perhaps expected given the distance to Thailand from the US. Thai Airways used to fly nonstop from LAX to BKK, but that flight now has a stopover in Seoul.

Luckily, there are numerous options to get to Bangkok on Star Alliance carriers. Bangkok is the hub for Thai Airways, and they’re renowned for their ground service at BKK. Other Star Alliance carriers that have flights to Bangkok include Air China, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Egypt Air, Ethiopian, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish, and United (i.e. nearly all of the carriers in Star Alliance that you’ve heard of).

The obvious choice if you’re flying out of BKK, particularly in a premium cabin, is to fly on Thai Airways. If you fly First Class out of Bangkok, then you get access to the Royal First Lounge and Spa, where you get a 1-hour massage (business class passengers get 30 minutes). Thai currently has First Class service to Sydney, London, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Zurich, and on some flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Thai is also great because they regularly release a lot of award space, both far out, in the interim, and close in. For example, there’s premium cabin award space on nearly all dates for flights from London to BKK for the entire schedule that’s loaded. Same with Frankfurt and Hong Kong. Tokyo is harder, but still easy if you’re planning at least a couple of months out (although you’ll be harder pressed to get First Class space on the A380 out of Tokyo).

Part of the reason why Thai releases so much award space is that their in-flight product is generally considered to be a notch below that of airlines like ANA, Asiana, Lufthansa, Singapore, and Swiss. The hard product is good on the A380 and the new suites on the 747 (and it’s fine on most 747s, although there’s one plane with an older version that you want to avoid), but people criticize the inconsistent soft product. But again, if you’re looking for flights departing out of Bangkok, I think you should seriously consider flying Thai for the first leg so that you get the full ground experience at BKK.

Since there are no nonstop flights to BKK from the US, you have to connect, and given how many Star Alliance carriers have flights to Bangkok, you have tons of options available. From the east coast of the US to Bangkok, it’s roughly the same distance to route through Europe as it is through Asia, and both United and US Airways allow routings through Europe to get to Southeast Asia. The most “aspirational” routing would probably go through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, but Lufthansa doesn’t offer First Class award space more than 15 days before departure. Routing through Asia, the most aspirational routing in First Class would be ANA through Tokyo, which is also a hard award seat to snag. A good alternative is to book legs on United to make sure that you have a seat assured and then switch to Lufthansa or ANA if the award seat opens up closer to departure. If you don’t have status, you’ll have to pay change fees, but that can be worth it to experience a significantly better product for a 10-hour flight.

United charges 60,000 miles for a one-way to South Asia in Business Class, while it’s 70,000 miles for First Class. US Airways charges 120,000 miles for a roundtrip to South Asia in Business Class and 160,000 miles in First Class, although you can likely get lower amounts charged if you say that your trip to Bangkok is a “stopover” on your way to a destination in North Asia, or you can continue on to Australia or New Zealand and pay fewer miles.