Travel Diaries: Return to Bangkok

I was here for 4 days this year and I got some time(more or less a day) to go around the city.

Visa on Arrival:
The last time I had applied for the visa beforehand, this time though I decided to opt for the visa on arrival. Thailand has waived off the visa fees uptil April 2020. You need to find the right gate for the Visa on Arrival formalities. You can find the application form at the entrance. If you have forgotten something you will be able to do all those things here before you enter the application line. However I did not find an ATM here but luckily at Suvarnabhoomi they do not ask for the 20,000 Baht living expense proof. Be prepared to stand atleast an hour in this line. They prefer if you have passport photos with a white background.
[Immigration site]

Post immigration:
After immigration, you can collect your bags which have by now been dumped on the side of the carousel and buy a local SIM for internet access. The tourist SIMs cost around 250-300 Baht for 1 week based on what you want. I chose dtac this time because it had a better entry level internet pack. There are ATMs next to the Carousels which you can use to withdraw money.

Getting to the city:
There are several options at the airport right from Limousines to the Rail. I was not sure about the Rail so I decided to take the airport taxi. The way to do this is to go and take a token from a machine outside the gate. I thought I was at the small taxi line but unfortunately was at the big taxi line :shrug: So I ended up paying 700 Baht for the trip to the hotel. I would recommend trying the Rail option if your hotel location is close to one. Infact, you should probably consider this as a deciding factor for your stay because it makes moving around so easy.

Getting around:
The metro has a pretty extensive network which is useful and cheap to travel around in. You can also take cabs, bikes and ferries to get around in that order of expense. The weather was pleasant when I was there and it was a pleasure to walk around the city

What we saw:

Wat Arun Wiki
We visited Wat Arun on a Saturday morning by taking a metro and ferry combo from our Hotel on North Sathorn Road. While taking the ferry from the Sathorn Pier, be sure to find the cheap express boats. Our ticket cost 20 Baht.

The ferry drops you right at the river entrance of Wat Arun where you can buy the entry ticket. The entry ticket for Wat Arun is priced at 50 Baht.

Wat Arun’s stupa structure has Hinduism influences. You can notice that different races are depicted by the different levels. The higher you go, the faces depicted are more peaceful/godlike. Around the temple, you can notice scenes from Hindu mythology. You can also see 4 stages of Buddha’s life depicted around the stupa.

National Museum of Bangkok Wiki
We visited this because there was a special exhibition of the terracotta warriors on display and it felt like something you wouldn’t want to miss. We did not get time to see the rest of the Museum as we were hungry.

What we ate:

The night markets we visited were pretty disappointing as they seem to have become tourist focused and identical.

Krua Apsorn Link
This famous restaurant is close to the historic district and has long lines. Thankfully we were able to get a seat after a 20 minute wait. You can look at the menu(yes they have an english version) while you wait.

The food recommended like Crab Omlette and stir-fried crab with yellow chilli felt mediocre. The food we enjoyed the most was the thai green curry and garlic pork.

Ohkahju Link
This restaurant serves organic farm to table fare. The food portions are great and the food is tasty. I regretted ordering the pork rib due to the size of the portion.

Grey Hound cafe Link
The cafe at Siam Centre is a lovely place to unwind after you shop. The coffee drinks on offer were beautiful so I tried out their citrusy watermelon.

Tokyo Land Link
I found this shop selling something that looked like a Dosa with a filling so I bought it.

Where to relax:

Healthland Link
This was close to our hotel and is affordable, family friendly and clean.

That’s all I have for this micro-visit to the capital of Thailand. Bangkok has a character that I love and its capitalized well on its tourism industry. There’s lots to do for every kind of tourist out there. I will conclude this post with some more photographs from the trip.

Travel Diaries: Pigging out at Bali

When you think of Bali, you think sun, sand and surfing. That’s what I thought as well until I heard that Bali is a haven for Pork lovers. This post serves as a beginners guide to Babi Guling and other Pork dishes based on my recent trip to Bali.

Babi Guling(Babi/B2 = Pork), the legendary pork dish once reserved for special occasions like weddings and religious festivals, can now be easily found at a number of warungs around Bali. The pig is stuffed and infused with a concoction of traditional spice paste and spit-roasted.

A quick search on the internet, gives you a list of few fabled ones that you can try. But I wanted some local and personal opinions and so I asked for recommendations on an internal slack channel and made a to-do list
from all those replies.

Since I was based in Jimbaran, a lot of those restos were > 10kms away. But luckily, there’s GO-FOOD.

Babi Guling Pak Candra

The menu on GO-FOOD was difficult to decipher but after a few google searches I settled on ordering the ‘Babi Guling Spesial Kotak’. The internet tells me that this resto’s prices are high compared to elsewhere. This box cost me 50k rupiah plus go-food’s delivery fee made the final price to 81k rupiah.

Babi Guling Spesial Kotak Babi Guling with Nasi

The food arrived in a delightful meal box with everything neatly packed into their own sections. I could identify Babi Guling, Crispy pork skin, Pork Soup, Pork & Chicken Satay and of course Sambal. Everything in this meal box was super tasty. This meal was to set the benchmark for all the other Babi Guling’s I would try, in my attempt to find a favourite.

Babi Guling Karya Rebo

To appease midweek cravings, I opened up GO-FOOD to look for something close by and Babi Guling Karya Rebo with its 4.6star rating intrigued me into ordering it. The Nasi Babi special box was priced at Rp58k, higher than Pak Candra’s with no visible rational to its pricing.

Babi Guling Karya Rebo Box Babi Guling Karya Rebo Contents

The box sadly did not contain any soup. The Babi did not live up to the flavour of Pak Candra’s. The overall quantity was less as well. However the redeeming factor was the Crackling. It was way better and melt in your mouth compared to Pak Candra’s.

Babi Guling Ibu Oka

I traveled on the weekend to Ubud with my main agenda being to try out the Babi Guling Ibu Oka. Ibu Oka got famous thanks to Anthony Bourdain and has now opened 3 outlets around Ubud. I was directed towards Ibu Oka 3, the restaurant off the main road with a view of the forest. The interiors had an excess of pig related architecture. Their menu is limited, but thankfully in English, with a brief explanation so that you know what you want to order.

Babi Guling Ibu Oka Biting into the Crackling

I ordered the Spesial which comes with Rice, fresh vegetable, pork sausage, fried meat, and a piece of crackling. There was a light coconut based curry which was added on top and I believe that is what made Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling’s one of the contenders for the Bali’s best Babi Guling. The meat was delicious and this was the best(I dare say, perfect) Crackling I’ve tasted. If you visit Ibu Oka, try the more expensive Pisah where they serve the soup as well.

Warung Babi Guling Pak Dobil Nusa Dua

With the weekend gone by and other Babi Guling places far away, I decided to do some internet research and found ‘Warung Babi Guling Pak Dobil Nusa Dua’. Thankfully, it was on GO-FOOD, however it had Nasi Campur Babi Guling(Campur = Mix) and Nasi Kotak listed with no apparent explanation to why the price differed by Rp50k. So I just decided to order the Rp50k priced Nasi Kotak to see what I would get for Rp50k.

Babi Guling Dobiel Box Babi Guling Dobiel Contents

The kotak contained a box of meat plus rice. Not as nicely packed as Pak Candra’s and was underwhelming when you’ve paid Rp5ok for it. However the Babi was excellent. Everything was just brilliant. The crackling was different and flavoured unlike the others before it and there were 2 pieces of it as well. This for me was the best of all the Babi Guling’s I’ve had thus far.

Nasi Campur Pak Dobiel Nasi Campur Pak Dobiel

I did order the Nasi Campur Babi Guling on my last day in Bali just because I was curious to see what was different. The quantity and quality was heavily reduced in this tightly packed meal. I would recommend everyone to stick to the Nasi Kotak.

This is all the Babi Guling that I was able to try out during my stay there.

Sate Babi Bawah Pohon

Pork Satay packet Chilli and Salt Pork Satay

Sate Babi Bawah Pohon is famous for its Satay. Do try it. They serve the sweet barbequed satay with Chilli and Salt. The prices for 8 pieces of Satay was just Rp34k.

Basé Basé

Nasi Campur Babi Bali

The Nasi Campur Babi Bali had a light lemongrass flavour which supplemented the pork well. It came with soup as well.

Borneo Kitchen

 Nasi Campur

The Nasi Campur here had a sweet and spicy flavour and the meat portions were pretty generous. This was one of our favourite places to order from.

I am back in India now and deeply missing all the tasty pork. I hope this post helps introduce you to some of the islands’ best pork places.
Happy eating 🐷 !

📍 The Bali Pork List

Travel Diaries: Thailand

Thailand is a vast country. If all you know of it is from what the tourism media throws at you, you may be surprised when you have a look at it on a map. Thailand has ancient rainforests, modern cities and beautiful islands. So when you are planning to visit, you should check the map first before you plan your itinerary.

Getting the Visa:

Indians have the visa on arrival option but if you are planning to catch a connecting flight to your final destination, you should look into getting a Visa while in India. The Thai consulate removes the visa fee during the off season months so planning to apply ahead can save you some money. Remember that 1 Baht is equivalent to Rs 2.

Long weekend getaways to Bangkok/Phuket are doable though I would recommend spending atleast 1 week if you want to treat it as a vacation. We were going in Mid-September and this was towards the end of the monsoon and the beginning of the tourist season. After lot of discussion and researching weather patterns, we decided that going to the Gulf Islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao would fit perfectly within our 7 day itinerary. r/ThailandTourism helped me to figure things out.

Forex: Get your baht in India or at the airport(Visa on arrival requires you to show that you have at least 10,000 baht on your person and 20,000 baht incase your family is with you). The ATMs charge you a fixed 220 baht per withdrawal(apart from the other charges) so you could also consider just doing that once you have informed your bank. Credit cards work well in the cities but you would want cash if you want to visit the lesser known places.

Transport: Air Asia flight to Bangkok has the cheapest fares but mind you the seats are cramped and the premium seats are not much of an upgrade. We opted for premium just so we could sit next to each other. In the end, the cost came up to the same as opting for another airline.

But there are benefits to selecting Air Asia. Air Asia has a flight+ferry combo from Bangkok to the Islands(Koh Samui or Koh Phangan). You can either flight via Surathani airport or Nakhon Si Thammarat airport. You will not find this option if you select an Indian city of origin, so you will need to book a separate leg of the flight from Bangkok to your destination.

The ferry is operated by the Raja ferry company. These ferries are the slowest among the operators and take about 2 hours to reach Koh Samui. We booked the ferry combo to Koh Samui just because we could not have to worry about the transit to the mainland on our way back. My research showed that Lomphyrah ferry was the fastest and I intended to take that to Koh Phangan once we landed at Surathani. This option would be faster even though it would cost us 600 baht more. This combo also works out cheaper than taking a direct flight from Bangkok to Samui. While planning to transit with ferries you should be aware that different ferries have different piers and these piers are generally isolated. So buy your ferry tickets at the airport once you land. Couple of us travelled from the Nakhon Si Thammarat airport and their ferry pier was different. In the end, they took about half an hour more than us to reach Koh Phangan even though they landed ahead of us.

The ride from the airport to the pier is part of the ferry fare and you are taken along in these rhinoceros-like vehicles through the rural countryside. The roads are amazing and the ride comfortable.

True to the research, the Lomphyrah ferry was fast. The panoramic views of the calm gulf are not to be missed. The ferry also has ‘AC’ seats if you are willing to pay extra for it.

IMG_0143 (1)

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is a tiny island known for its parties. The Full Moon party draws a lot of partiers from the nearby islands. It has spanned a set of other parties like the half moon and the black moon. If you are the party type, this is definitely something you should consider.

Stay: Since we were planning a trip on a tight budget, hostels/airbnbs are what we were looking at. Koh Phangan also has ‘party’ hostels which are notorious for having parties throughout the week and pre-parties to supplement the moon parties. That said, there are other hostels which are pretty good. We choose to stay at Rung Arun Resort. This beach resort had a villa option which fit the 6 of us. You can also go looking for deals on foot but given that you have already travelled nearly 10 hours, you may want to just sink into a bed asap.

The roads are great so rent a 2-wheeler and the whole island is yours to explore atleast the motorable parts. The streets get deserted quite early during the non-tourist season. A 2-wheeler costs around 400 baht per day.


Food: Night Markets are food courts that spring up during the late evening and offer different kinds of local food items. Phantip Night Market in the central market of Koh Phangan has lot of Chicken, Pork and Seafood food options on offer. You can even find the famous Mango Sticky rice and Banana Pancakes. A dish will costs around 60-80 baht here. The food courts shut around 9:30-10pm, so if you get late then you will have to make do with the food in the 7-11s. We were obsessed with the 7-11s during our stay there. There were so many of them and each was stocked with so many new things.

This was our favourite island of the trip and wished in the end that we could have stayed here longer. There’s a lot of things we could not do like visit the Phaeng Waterfall and walking to the viewpoint in the jungle. We did not do Snorkeling or cliff jumping or any other water sports. We did have some amazing food and discovered High Tide and Two Rocks. Vacations are not about having a checklist to do but rather to make things up as you go along.

Koh Tao:

Koh Tao is the smallest island in this trio of islands and is famous for its scuba diving certification courses. We took the Songserm ferry from Koh Phangan and it took us little over an hour to get to Koh Tao. The island is known for the cheap PADI certified scuba schools and multiple snorkeling spots and that’s what draws the tourists to it.

Koh Tao has very narrow streets and its roads are not as good as those on Koh Phangan. They are steep and tourists often seem to have accidents on these. We did hire bikes, but we barely used them during our stay, so if you are around for 2 days, you need not opt for them. Bikes are more expensive(about 600baht) on this tiny island and you are asked to purchase insurance as many a tourist is known to have taken a tumble down these mountain roads.


Stay: We choose to stay at the Indie Hostel , a good clean place with a great cafe that I would highly recommend. It was a long walk from the port to the hostel and next time, we would want to opt for a ride (50baht per person).

Food: Koh Tao is typical tourist location and has lot to offer but we were looking for local foods. We loved 995 Roasted Duck for its duck delicacies and this tiny street restaurant outside a 7-11, where I got to try Stir fry pork with Kale and Morning Glory. A simple dish that I have since tried to replicate for its wholesomeness.

We took a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan, this tiny islet just off the coast of Koh Tao which doubles up as a plastic-free eco-resort. The islet is a boat ride away and is one of the locations around Koh Tao where you can snorkel. On our way back, we got caught in a storm and even though it was scary to see the large waves splashing into our small boat, I quite enjoyed it. Our boatman maneuvered deftly through those waves and we got to experience something I will not forget.

Koh Samui:

Now with only 4 of us left on the trip(the other two had to head back), we started the return leg of our journey. We took a ferry to Koh Samui. I think it cost us around 500 baht per person on a Songserm. Koh Samui is accessible from Bangkok by flight if you are willing to pay for it and is groomed as a typical Thai tourist destination. It was our least favorite island of the lot.

Stay: We stayed at the Liquid Lounge hostel which is managed by a polish old-timer who has been around for a while on this island. The rooms are clean and the owner very helpful. Your rooms are also just above the Liquid Lounge bar which is an added benefit.

Food: Since we were only going to be here for a single night, we did not get to explore a lot of food options. We visited one food market, but we found it overpriced and not as tasty as our earlier dinners.

Early next morning, I realized that the flight Aswin and I were supposed to travel on had already left 2 days ago. Luckily we were able to book a ticket and then we had to buy a ferry ticket and convince an operator at the pier to get us transport to the airport. We somehow made it to the airport.


Once we landed in Bangkok, getting a cab proved to be difficult. We booked an Uber but the cops stopped him and asked us to join the Airport taxi line which had a long wait line. So we skipped out and found a taxi who charged us a lot but we did not really have options and our time was running out. He charged us for the amount that is usually inclusive of the tolls but asked us to pay for each toll. We realised this with our return trip to the airport.

Stay: We stayed at the Once Again hostel. I chose it because it was close to the tourist spots if we chose to visit them.

Food: I do not remember much about the food we ate here but I had a piece of scorpion at Khao San Road. Crunchy.

I reckon another visit is required to do justice to this city. So until then..

Update: I returned to Bangkok in December 2019. Read about it here.

Travel Diaries: Panjim on foot

I’ve been to Goa five times over the last 18 months. Everytime so far I’ve visited different parts of it and have come to love the feeling of being “home” that comes with it.

I have vague memories of visiting Goa as a school kid in the 90’s. I remember loving Puri Bhaji and playing at the Miramar beach’s playground during a pilgrimage with my family. This time I was here because of the Story of Space.

‘The Story of’ is a arts and science biennale that seeks to “open-up” education to the masses. Space was the theme of this edition and participants take up spaces within the city of display their work or utilize for their workshops and experiences. .

With the Old Quarter hostel as my base, I explored Panjim on foot(and cycle) as I went discovering what Story of Space had in store for me.

The Ex-Nihilio escape room at Sukerkar house made us remember our long forgotten physics skills and use those concepts of waves and particles to find the keys to the puzzles.

The ‘Cycle through the Stars’ taught us the secrets of our Solar system as we cycled through its scaled down version mapped on Panjim streets.

Hojun Song asked us to standout and be true to who we are deep down so that his video codec algorithm would have trouble compressing us. So that Saturday afternoon saw a bunch of us letting go of our inhibitions and ‘perform’ for his camera.

Nick Sayers taught us to make our very own pinhole camera and asked us to make sure they are not mistaken for a bomb if we put them up at a public space.

Hands down ‘Evolution of Stars’ was the show stealer of the festival. You are taken through the life of a star in a way that I could never do justice describing in this blog post. There is news that Instityut B61 would return next year to reprise this production in Bangalore and You shouldn’t miss it then!

In between this, I found time to gorge on some amazing goan food. Apart from the usual places like The Ritz Classic, Cafe Venite and Viva Panjim, I took every possible chance to step into the tiny chai shops to sample their fare. The following are three items I really enjoyed.

1. The complimentary Goan Breakfast from Anita Tea House by the Old Quarter hostel was just a yummy way to start the day.

2. The Rose Petal Icecream from Pure Icecream because we were burning in the hot afternoon sun was unlike any dessert I’ve had before.

3. And finally the fabled Ros Omlette on the road side carts near the Immmaculate Conception church.

And like that my 3 days were up and I bid adieu to the city of no traffic lights as I headed back to Bangalore.