Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2017: Khao Yai 3D2N Itinerary for Families (with kids)

It's that time of the year again, when I build upon my Thailand Winter Getaway Series. I have a feeling you will like this one man, especially if you are planning a trip to Khao Yai for your family. What I am going to share is the exact itinerary of my recent trip which involved a 'small' group of 21, ages ranging from 0 to 84, so if we managed to do this, so can you.

This was taken on the 3rd day, everyone still beaming with delight.

Before you decide to embark on a trip to Khao Yai, there are a few things to take note:

  1. A car is a must. The area is huge and there is no public transport, whether you take van or drive yourself, you need to ensure you have your own form of transportation for the trip to work.
  2. Do some research. There are too many places to visit, have a rough idea of where you would like to visit to have a more efficient trip.
  3. To get the most out of the Khao Yai experience, try to go when it's cool, which means December-early January. Even then, the days might still be scorching hot while it gets really cool at night. I can't imagine enjoying Khao Yai properly during the rainy season (June to September).
DAY 1:

Tung Buachom Floating Market

I wanted to leave this out, because there's really nothing interesting. We left home before 9am and arrived slightly after 10am. You can consider this a toilet break, and for the kids to have fun feeding the ginormous catfish, who have obviously enjoyed too many feasts over the new year break.

Fish that are bigger than duck?

Rai Suwan Corn Farm

Absolutely nothing to see, or rather we didn't find out whether there was any farm tour available. This initially-underwhelming visit ended up giving us the best food we had throughout the entire trip, their boiled corn. Fresh, sweet and slightly salty, you will struggle to find more delicious corn anywhere else in Thailand. The corn milk is a must-try as well. It runs out really quickly so come early.

World-class boiled corn and corn milk.
Hands-down the best thing I ate during the entire trip. 

It's my 3rd time there and most things remain similar so I will direct you here and here to enjoy seeing me looking slightly more like a young man. That's not to say there are no changes at all. I was happy to see more English being incorporated into their tour, though 90% is still conducted in Thai (don't worry, it's pretty engaging even though you might not understand the commentary). The animal show has also been scaled down into a brief dog show and the animal feeding stations have been moved outside the farm (meaning you can feed animals without buying tickets to enter the farm).

Little E dressed for the occasion.

Spend 155baht on their burger, it will leave you more satisfied than the steak, which is a lot pricier and always a let-down.
Don't forget their ice-cream and milk, if they are not sold-out yet.
If you have kids in tow, I highly recommend the 2-hour tour, which you will do well to book in advance from their website. It's not the most exciting tour in the world, but it's likely to be your kids' (and yours too) first time in a real, proper cattle ranch, observing how cows are milked, bred, how milk is bottled and enjoy some antics from cowboys. There's also a pretty extensive dragonfruit plantation, if you haven't seen one before.

Before moving on to day 2, I would like to emphasize the importance of the choice of your accomodation. There are countless possibilities in Khao Yai, ranging from farmstays, resorts, hotels, European-style villages and lodging close to the National Park. We chose the glamping route, giving our children a comfortable yet semi-real experience of staying in a tent. However well-equipped it is, with just a piece of canvas as protection, we were still vulnerable to the unpredictable forces of nature.

Hanging bridge leading to the tents.
Picturesque surroundings.
Fully-furnished tent, complete with a bathroom.
What I woke up to every morning.
Noah enjoyed his surroundings so much he started doodling a tree.
The footpath, and many more. That's what the experience is all about.
The view from our tent at night.

DAY 2:

I have been to sunflower fields before, but this is easily the best of all. It's HUGE, and quite a sight. I would personally make a day trip just to see this.

Yeah, not kidding. It's unreal. Wah Lau Eh!
Unfortunately we only managed to take a family picture at a part of the field where most flowers were droopy.

Now that Ellie is more than ready, we had to bring her here, because it is where some of our fondest memories were made, when we only had Noah. Furthermore, it's only open for barely 2 months every year, so the window to visit isn't big at all.

One of my favourite pictures this entire trip.
Noah attempting to mill rice.

To update, everything has remained largely the same since my previous post. The farm tour is still split into 4 parts - pumpkin patch, Isaan village, life cycle of silkworms/silk manufacture and finally the huge merchandise area. If you are a fan of their products, this is a wonderful place to find a large variety and snag a bargain or two. Oh, and they have quite a beautiful patch of sunflowers too!

This is a magnificent building reminiscent of castles built during the medieval ages in Europe. We came here after dinner for some drinks. 

Ellie posing nicely in order to get some ice cream.
Beautiful, no?
Is this place just an enormous themed restaurant though? I struggle to figure out any other point of the building. Then again, it's worth a visit, as it has ample seating, live music, playground and a unique ambience that takes some beating, especially on a cool midwinter day.

DAY 3:

I will call this the day to "visit all the other places before shooting back to Bangkok".

This has to be the most satisfying new find in Khaoyai. It's not the most straightforward location, but please take the trouble to spend a casual morning here if you can spare the time. I wish I had the stomach to try their food to give you a more complete review, now I can only say that the drinks are decent.

Finally found it.

Please Don't Tell Khaoyai

Colourful drinks served on the longest coffeebar I have ever seen.

One of those places where I got highly-polarising reviews from friends. Again, we didn't dine here. The chocolate wafer lollies we bought for the kids were quite a delight though.

Christmas spirit still very much alive deep into the first week of January.
Right when the clock strikes 12 noon, millions of little bubbles are dispensed from a couple of bubble machines in the open area outside. It's a pleasant surprise for adults and children alike.

This is one of the interesting choices of accomodation in Khao Yai. But if you do not stay here, you must visit especially during the weekend. 

The Birder's Lodge Weekend Farmer's Market.
I will most definitely come by again, even if it's just for the weekend Farmer's Market. It's not a big place, but some of the produce I managed to get my hands on, I have never seen in Bangkok.

A surprisingly-good crowd at the market.
Just some of the produce that might only be found exclusively here.

I have been told the cafe is good, but it was simply too crowded that day for 21 of us, so we moved on. This will not be the last you see of me here.

Grand Finale: Dairy Home Farm Shop

Dairy Home is one of the most popular milk brands among expat mums in Bangkok, as they produce organic milk from grass-fed cows.

Sky turned gloomy when we got here.
Tree house that made the kids really really happy.
Unless you are buying milk in gallons, don't expect to get a bargain even though you have traveled the distance. 

Must-eat in Khao Yai!
Instead, don't leave without their excellent ice-cream, which was lauded as Haagen Daz-quality by one of my companions. 2 scoops plus any one of their cute cups will set you back only by 80THB. In terms of price vs quality, this could be the best ice cream deal in Thailand.


Phew! This post is quite epic isn't it. For those who are still scratching their heads wondering why I didn't recommend any restaurants throughout the post, I have to tell you the truth. After a long thought process I decided to leave them out, as they were one disappointment after another. I can only assume they are still suffering from the new year hangover to make myself feel better.

All in all, I believe you can see for yourself that Khao Yai is more than worth a trip. Just manage your expectations, because while the hardware here might be world-class, the software, be it service standards, food quality etc., still has a long way to go before Khao Yai can become the ideal getaway location.

That said, no place is perfect. Let's embrace Khao Yai as it is. Hope you will find this year's winter getaway instalment useful for your future travels.

PS. I live in Thailand, thus I am lucky enough to have my own car to travel in Khao Yai. I am afraid I will not be able to help you with van/car rental contacts, should you need any. Apologies in advance and thanks for your kind understanding.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Melaka/Malacca 2D1N Foodie Trip for Beginners (with kids)

Last week, I made one of the most spontaneous road-trips ever with my sister-in-law's family to Melaka over the new year weekend. There were many risks involved, as we had oldies (my mum's generation), first-time traveler (8-month old baby), a rainy end-of-year and potential jams at the causeway to contend with but we just went ahead anyway, and you know, sometimes the best things come along when you don't think about them. It proved to be quite a trip. It's amazing how 2 families can draw so much closer after just 2D1N together.

Melaka is a UNESCO Heritage Town 3-hours drive north of Singapore, thus there is lots of history to explore and experience. However, with 3 kids who cannot appreciate architecture and museums in tow (the oldest being a ripe old age of 5), the trip technically became a simple staycation for everyone to relax and some sort of a food hunt.

The breakfast area of Puri Hotel, which looks and feels exactly like the little gardens in Europe.
In the usual spirit of the Stranger in Bangkok, I will only share the locations which I have personally experienced. They might not be the best restaurants, but they are the fruit of research and recommendations from more experienced travelers, so bear with me as I share the restaurants I visited during my Melaka Foodie Trip for Beginners (with kids).


Many friends/relatives who visited Melaka recently warned me that the Peranakan food there is very underwhelming. When I arrived, I was quite stunned to see Peranakan restaurants literally everywhere. It is just impossible to know which to go to. We settled with Kocik Kitchen as it's just a stone's throw away from our hotel and was highly-recommended by a friendly auntie working our hotel's front-desk.

Just a small part of our spread.
Surprisingly, the food was pretty good, in fact it's the favourite meal of the senior member of our party. We went with the set meal for 5pax, and I particularly loved the pineapple curry shrimp and the chicken braised in fermented soy beans (which was sadly not pictured at all). The desserts were the most outstanding. I don't think I will enjoy another chendol anytime soon.


If anyone here is waiting eagerly for inspiration for a #cafehopping trip, I'm sorry, I can't even say I visited a cafe. We wanted to, but despite the rain, it proved to be an impossible wait for a seat at The Daily Fix Cafe. A group with a 8-month old and a fixed lunch reservation will struggle to wait an hour-and-a-half in unexpected weather. The beauty of the place and its incredible popularity convinced us to pack some drinks and cakes back to the hotel. We are looking forward to revisiting it already to finally try the Pandan Pancakes.

[First Impressions] The Daily Fix Cafe Even though it was the last Sunday of the year, we thought we could get lucky at this popular cafe as it was raining. Alas! There were 10 groups in the queue before us and even taking away the famous pandan pancakes would result in a half an hour wait. Rough luck then, but we managed to take away 3 cakes that were readily available in their display, as well as some drinks. Durian cake was really nice, brownie moist and satisfying too. Drinks were good, not great, the only let-down was the generic ice cream that came with the brownie. My brief encounter with the cafe convinced me that they have done most things right and deserve their success, hope to be able to taste their menu offerings proper next time. #thedailyfix #thedailyfixcafe #jonkerstreet #melaka #melakafoodies #melakacafehopping #cuppa #strangerinmelaka #strangerfirstimpressionmelaka
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The most memorable part of this expedition was the queue. We waited 2.5 hours to get a table. If not for the comfortable cafe nearby which allowed the girls, the old and young to chill the wait away, I don't think we would have survived. The review of this restaurant did not come easy.

It's not that the food's not good. Dishes like cheese beehoon and cream crab are uber creative and didn't taste too shabby, but I really can't imagine waiting so long for them again.

If you are interested, I recommend you to try calling in to make a reservation days beforehand, it might save you a lot of time.


This place divides opinion, some say it's the best while others didn't want to take another bite after their first. Truth be told, I only ate 4 out of the huge assortment of nyonya snacks I bought, and hit the jackpot twice. The ondeh-ondeh and nyonya rice dumplings were both exquisite, but the layer cake was quite disappointing.

Then again, with its interesting setting, variety of cakes and convenient take-away model, I still recommend it as a perfect place to pack some Nyonya cake back before you leave Melaka.

[Nyonya Kueh in Melaka] Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake This is basically just a house that sells nyonya cake, but you can consider it your one-stop shop for all you nyonya cake cravings in Melaka. I recommend you go early as it's very popular and only opens till 3pm. I went just before lunch and many items seemed to be running low, though I don't know whether the trays will be refilled. I did not try all the cakes, so I can't tell you conclusively how good all the cakes were. I highly recommend the ondeh ondeh and nyonya rice dumplings, they are excellent. Didn't fancy the layer cakes so much as they were harder and drier than what I am used to. Everything felt more old-school than exquisite, which is actually a good thing. All in all, though, a must-visit I feel, to take some traditions of Melaka home at the end of your trip. #babacharlie #nyonyacake #nyonyakuih #strangerinmelaka #melakafoodies #melaka #malacca
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This Teochew-cuisine institution that used to have only 4 tables is so famous that they now mostly only take reservations, so it's not a place where you can make a last-minute decision to dine at, even if you are ready to queue.

Lots of dishes hit the spot here, especially the hard-to-find stir-fried meesua and the seductively-herbal braised duck. The fried shrimp roll is also one of the best renditions of this common dish I had ever eaten.

[First Impressions] 潮顺隆餐馆 Teo Soon Loong Restaurant Someone told me this is the best restaurant in Melaka. They are so popular they usually do reservations only, with 2 seatings per meal. We booked our table during the 2nd seating for lunch at 1.30pm. While waiting for our table to be prepared, our order was taken and the food was served promptly upon seating. I loved a few dishes, especially the stirfried meesua and herbal braised duck. The fried shrimp roll too, was excellent, full of succulent, crunchy huge sea shrimp. What everyone orders is their fried noodles with oyster. Some of my companions liked it, I felt it was ok, fell a little short of my expectations as it was a little fishy and lacked wok hei. Our order of stir-fried bittergourd with eggs was wrongly written as the braised bittergourd with pork ribs, which happened to be their signature dish. I liked it very much. As this is a traditional teochew restaurant, we had to order their steamed fish. It was light, fresh and tangy. Best restaurant in Melaka? Maybe. It certainly didn't disappoint. #潮顺隆 #teosoonloongrestaurant #melakafoodies #strangerfirstimpressionmelaka #strangerinmelaka #teochewcuisine #teochew #teosoonloong
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This is for big boys like me, who might have grown up munching this crunchy noodle snack. This place evokes memories buried deep down inside and sells exclusive merchandise that are both happily-coloured and of good quality. Conveniently-located right on Jonker Street, you can't miss it.

Mamee and #thekawayiis

Melaka feels like a place doing its best to keep its charming identity, but is gradually overwhelmed by an increasing number of tourists over the years.

A lot of the food from the most popular places tasted good, but somehow I felt that given more focus and time, they would have done a much better job,which I assume they did many years ago. It felt more like enjoying potentially-excellent dishes than eating great food.

What I appreciated most is that the service staff in Melaka stand out as friendly and approachable even if most of them are drowning in their work, and that even though there are way too many visitors, most of the tourists are from Malaysia/Singapore, which thankfully keeps the local character of this little town.

Do make a trip there before even more undesirable changes happen. If I can do it with such a big group, you can too.

PS. You can easily access all this information on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #strangerinmelaka. I would love to hear from you if you do manage to visit some of these recommended locations.

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