The view at the top is great!

Budapest was never in my travel itinerary. It always sounded so far away although it is only less than 2 hours from Amsterdam where I usually take all my flights outside The Netherlands. To be exact, it only takes one hour and 55 minutes direct flight with KLM Royal Dutch airlines flag carrier airlines of The Netherlands.

Years ago when editing Hotel & Travel magazine in Bangkok, I sent my  editorial assistant to a press conference promoting Budapest. He brought me a picture of the imposing Hungarian Parliament building standing majestically along the river Danube, and a picture of Malev Hungarian Airlines flying smoothly on air on a backdrop of blue skies and a beautiful layer of cotton candy-like white clouds. That was  about 19 years ago and I still keep my old filo fax  where I have written down all the names of my editorial team and the many notes for each month’s issue. Malev Airlines no longer exist having ceased operations in 2012, but the Hungarian Parliament building is still there today, as majestic as the picture given to me, and I wish I know where Steven is right now so I can tell him I was just in Budapest and I have seen the river Danube and the magnificent parliament building in the picture he brought me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like Budapest. Well, not all of it, but most of it. And  I like being at the Fisherman’s Bastion up on the hilly Buda Castle District where the view of the river Danube and the boats plying back and forth, the old bridges and old buildings is endless.

P8060448sig

The most photographed  Szechenyi Lanchid, commonly known as the Chain Bridge takes centre stage and why not, it stands with grace and pride especially at night when it is illuminated, and the waters below crash on its strong walls and unmoved  by the currents brought about by boats loaded with revelers and their blaring music. The bridge was named after its major construction supporter, Count Istvan Szechenyi, a noble and former Minister of Public Works and Transport, revered as one of Hungary’s greatest statesmen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chain Bridge was designed by the English civil engineer William Tierney Clark, and it is a replica in larger scale of  the Marlow Bridge over the River Thames in England built roughly seventeen years earlier. It was the first permanent bridge constructed to connect the two cities of  Pest and Buda in Hungary and it opened in 1849, just after the Hungarian Revolution in 1848. At that time, it was regarded as one of the modern world’s engineering wonders. And by comparison, I find it more charming than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco where my good friend Grace have taken us twice on our US visits, although of course, that’s a different experience. I have walked on the Chain Bridge from Buda to Pest and back, and we have driven through it in a taxi on our way to the grand Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the Fisherman’s Bastion, tourists keep coming and when you have the opportunity to stand in front of everybody to view the beautiful sight ahead of you, steady your hands on your camera and take as many photos as you can before a head pops up to take your front view position. Clicking away is fun but most of all, take time to see the beauty of the place with your naked eyes. The view is surely wider than your viewfinder. I will come back to see more of the place. After all, it’s only an hour and 55 minutes away!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scheveningen at Panorama Mesdag; The beach is open again!

A small part of the Panorama Mesdag painting with real sand as we watch the old village from our man-made sand dune. Photo: Edwin van Doorn socaasia.com

It was the middle of February, cold and rainy day when I visited Panorama Mesdag. An old friend was in the country visiting his parents and with the yearning to visit the real beach in Scheveningen but short of time, we decided to take a “short cut” and went for Scheveningen at Panorama Mesdag in the center of The Hague. It was just days before the media announced all the hype on this virus called, covid-19, and before all museums closed their doors to the public.

As its title suggests, here, we enjoyed a panoramic view of a village by the sea at a 360 degree angle of the sea, the dunes and the fishing village as it looked in the 1900’s. It was just magnificent to be transported back in time and observe the peacefulness of the village with all those ships as its backdrop. Scheveningen is now a bustling seaside town outside The Hague city centre. This exquisite Panorama was painted in 1880 by famous Dutch marine painter, Hendrik Willem-Mesdag, together with the help of his wife, Sientje van Houten who is also an accomplished artist and prominent friends from the Hague School. No, it wasn’t painted in a year’s time just because it was open to the public the following year. It was finished within a period of 4 months, commissioned by the panorama society, Société Anonyme du Panorama Maritime de la Haye, a specially created Belgian company. Sotheby’s mentioned, “The Panorama opened on 1 August 1881, Vincent van Gogh was among the guests who, impressed by the Panorama complained that the canvas had but one fault, that it was faultless.”

In his letter to his brother Theo, dated, Etten, Friday, 26 August 1881, Vincent van Gogh wrote, ” … Then I saw Mesdag’s panorama with him, that’s a work for which one must have the utmost respect. It put me in mind of what Bürger or Thoré, I think, said about Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson. That painting’s only fault is not to have any faults…” –

So extra-ordinary, this painting is cylindrical and it gives you the feeling that the beach is endless as you stand in the middle of it, surrounded by real sand. With a height of 14 meters and 120 meters in circumference, you get the illusion that you are by the open sea with white clouds towering above you, only it is a white canopy over your head under a huge glass dome, where the mood changes as light hits the glass. It is a work of art and a labour of love from one who loves the sea and Scheveningen.

The observatory (Panorama interior) where viewing is a beautiful experience. Photo: Bob Strik, Reprorek http://reprorek.nl/ Bob Strik fotografie http://www.grootenscherp.nl/ and https://www.sothebys.com/en/museums/panorama-mesdag and courtesy of https://www.panorama-mesdag.nl/

Old village Edwin van Doorn socaasia.com

Ships of old, horses and intricate details of villagers probably doing commerce by the sea. Edwin van Doorn socaasia.com

An extended part of the above photo with cavalry patrol on the beach. Edwin van socaasia.com

Mesdag’s favourite subject, ships and boats. Edwin van Doorn socaasia.com

It’s been said that the woman painting on the right is Sientje, Mesdag’s wife painted by him as his very own signature to the painting. Edwin van Doorn socaasia.com

When the Belgian Panorama Society that commissioned Mesdag for this cyclorama went bankrupt in 1886, the well-to-do Mesdag bought the painting and installed this 14-metre high and 140-metre wide piece in a coordinated, tailor-made building in the Hague, that is now known as Panorama Mesdag, a work to behold.

Panorama Mesdag, c. 1931, The Hague City archives

Now that our beaches are open again, I am looking forward to seeing Scheveningen one of these days. To smell the sea and to reminisce the old quiet village that Hendrik Willem Mesdag has preserved for all these years.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 83472153_2548913392023345_3950262686930960384_o-1.jpg
A very quiet Scheveningen in February 2020 when beaches were closed due to the covid-19 pandemic. Pier tower, Ferris wheel, 300m long Pier at a distance & sand dunes on foreground. Photo: Martinkénaité Agné, A beautiful friend.

Useful information:

Museum Panorama Mesdag
Zeestraat 65
2518 AA Den Haag https://www.panorama-mesdag.nl/

Vincent van Gogh’s letter to his brother Theo: http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let171/letter.html

Martinkénaité Agné used to cook up great recipes at Restaurant Tasca. South European cuisine in Scheveningen. https://www.restauranttasca.nl/

Edwin van Doorn is a seasoned cameraman based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Heaven melts in your mouth! -A tribute to Gregor Pfaff, Executive Pastry Chef extra-ordinaire

Glazed Lime Cheesecake by Chef Gregor

“A good cheesecake has to be light, and must have acid from any citrus fruit to lift up the taste. You can use fruit purees from mango to raspberry or passion fruit. My favourite is Käsekuchen, a German cheese cake,” so was Gregor’s answer when asked recently his thoughts about a cheesecake.

A cake so cheesy, it’s a Raspberry cheesecake by Chef Gregor

An old photo I took from my old magazine

I first met Chef Gregor at the Regent International Hotel in Bangkok in April 1995 before it was re-branded as Four Seasons Bangkok in 2003 (and on 1 March 2015, it became Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel & Spa). 

First time in Asia and arrived in one of the hottest months of the year, he wasn’t fazed by the sweltering weather instead he said, “It’s nice to come out of Europe and coming to Bangkok is a good change.” How good a change could that be? He said, “I’ve never seen so much people and so much traffic. This is such an experience! but I love the people because they are friendly and warm.”

Gregor Pfaff comes from the place where the famous Black Forest dessert was created, Germany. Like most European chefs, he comes from a long line of chefs in his own family that gave him the push and inspiration to become one and landing him jobs in prestigious properties as Hotel Sacher in Salzburg & Vienna, The Ritz in London, The Leela Palaces Hotels & resorts in India, The Peninsula hotels in the Philippines,  the 3-star Michelin Residenz Heinz Winkler Aschau in Bayern, Germany, just to name a few along with other Michelin starred restaurants.

Dressed in his whites, this young, tall, good-looking and accomplished chef could pass for a catwalk model. He just left the 2-Michelin star Rheinhotel Fischerzunft Schaffhausen in Switzerland and moved to Bangkok to showcase what he brought with him: Passion, Perfection & Presentation. While he spends long hours in the hotel kitchen inventing and re-inventing his creations, he makes time to go out of the city and takes a motorbike for a spin on the countryside. If not, he pops in, in other hotels to see what the competition is making.

In those days when there wasn’t so much competition, The Regent/ Four Seasons  Bangkok on Rajdamri road was The Place to be and to be seen. Travel & Leisure rated Four Seasons as One of the Best Hotel groups in the world and has AAA 5- diamond award. Chef Gregor’s  presence at the Regent Bangkok and his 3P’s created an excitement and buzz from the dessert plates served at the hotel’s elegant lobby’s High Tea,  in their stylish restaurants, hotel functions and to the hotel’s bakery which he looked after. 

Now the Anantara Hotel, the elegant lobby where many functions have been held Photo:hotelnewsresource.com
Photo: hotelnewsresource.com
Afternoon tea Photo: thiefcat bloggang.com

I have attended many cocktail functions and afternoon tea’s in this beautiful lobby adorned by hand-painted silk murals on the wall and ceiling with friends and colleagues from the media.

The theme of the grand staircase mural is ‘The Coronation of a King’, referring to the rise of the Chakri Dynasty to the throne of Thailand. The mural features four prominent devices: the elephant signifying war; the horse signifying commerce; the chariot representing royalty; and the boat signifying trade.

The Coronation of the King Photo: flyertalk.com

One of Chef Gregor’s passion is chocolates. He talked to me about the basic steps of chocolate making which sounded easy but in reality, it takes hours to execute it from preparing the molds to filling it, letting it set, un-molding and then eventually packaging the finished product in a meticulous and beautiful way which he also supervised. He created a Christmas scene out of pure chocolate, so special that we cannot resist but make it as the front cover of our December issue. Combined with the ingenuity of one of our in-house photographers in setting up the prop, here are the chocolates carefully made and hand-crafted by a skilled chocolatier and his artistic flair.

Chef Gregor’s basic chocolates, an old photo lifted from the H&T December ’95 issue

In 2004, while working as Executive Pastry Chef for Conrad Hotels & Resorts in Bangkok (Conrad is a joint venture between Hilton Hotels Corporation & Hilton International), Gregor and his team created “The World’s Largest Chocolate Heart.” Shutterstock now has the rights to the photos of that chocolate heart unabling me to show it here.

Gregor and his eight-people team created a chocolate heart weighing 922 kilograms, 5 metres tall and 5 metres wide that was made in over 21 days, all by hand. The reason for creating the World’s Largest Chocolate Heart was to make that year’s Valentine’s Day stand out like no other place in Bangkok. It was made of edible chocolate using only the highest grade of quality chocolate consisting of 72% cocoa, made form cocoa beans from Trinidad, Tobago and Maraca Ibo, Venezuela. That just shows how much Chef Gregor would go to the extent of putting his time on something that he is so passionate about and choosing only the best ingredients. “The quality of your ingredients and your execution determines the outcome of your creation. I put my heart in everything I do in my work and that is what I call perfection,” Chef Gregor said proudly.

Chef Gregor in one of his relaxed moments when not working.

I haven’t seen Chef Gregor for almost 2 decades and the photos I have of him and his creations are reminiscent of my Bangkok days. I now live in Europe and so does he. Gladly, there is the internet and emailing has made it possible for me to receive his cheesecake photos. He apologises however that he couldn’t send more as he does not always photograph his works. “Too busy decorating them or directing and supervising my staff before they reach the customers,” he said.

Years of mastering his craft and trade to excellence and perfection, Gregor hasn’t slowed down and continues to seek greener pastures wherever possible. His sweet creations are always a delight to the epicurean palate. He is after all, one of the best Pastry chefs I have ever known for his creativeness, artistic mind and eccentricities.

With the covid-19 virus pandemic, many have turned to cooking and baking to pass the time but no one can duplicate the works of real artisans who have spent years learning the trade to deliver something that the senses are fully satisfied from visual, to taste and unforgettable experience. Chef Gregor has made all of that happen which I and my friends experienced when he was at the Regent Bangkok. For sure, he did the same wherever he went. Maybe it’s an overstatement but if there’s a Hollywood Walk of Fame, Gregor deserves to be in the Great Wall of Chefs (if ever there is).

If you find the time to try one of his suggested recipes, here’s what he sent me for a Fruit Cheesecake. Have a good try and happy baking!

Filling: 1000 gr cream cheese, 215 gr sugar, 100 gr eggs, 200 gr whipping cream, 175 gr raspberry puree.

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs, then the cream. Bake at 160 degrees for 90 minutes.

Sable Crust: 265 gr butter, 245 gr flour, 135 gr almond flour, 135 gr sugar, 4 gr baking powder.

Make a sable dough with the above. Chill it. Roll out at 3 mm and bake at 180 degrees C. Crumble the dough and press it into a desire ring.

Insert Raspberry : 375 gr fruit puree, 135 gr cream, 130 gr granulated sugar, 32 gr cornstarch

Heat the fruit puree and cream. Add the granulated sugar and cornstarch and bring to a boil. Mix and pour into *flexipan. Freeze and insert inside the cheesecake.

*Silicone flexipans are lightweight, flexible and can withstand temperatures up to 260 degrees C. These are much better than the old-style aluminum pans.

CHANEL-ling 2020 with Nº 5 Léau

“An elegant, limited-edition set featuring The Classic Bottle, plus a travel-friendly Mini Twist and Spray to showcase N°5 L’EAU Eau de Toilette — a fresh, radiant fragrance with citrus, Ylang-Ylang and White Musk notes”

There’s something about numbers and as we enter the year 2020, it is a new decade of many changes. Many predict it will be a year of good things and new beginnings. And new beginnings it will be. It’s the ‘Year of the Rat”. In the Chinese Yin & Yang, the Rat represents the beginning of a new day and a symbol of wealth and overabundance.

No. 5 is Mademoiselle Coco Chanel’s favourite number because she found it magical and it is said that it has luck-giving qualities. With the arrival of Nº 5 Léau and youthful Lily-Rose Depp as its muse, we would be looking to a new generation of Nº 5 followers. Millennial’s have a strong buying power and that’s what Nº 5 Léau has been aiming for.

One of the many holiday campaigns created by celebrated photographer, illustrator & graphic designer, Jean-Paul Goude.

Chanel’s Nº 5 Léau was launched in the summer of 2016 (see my older post on Chanel, Her Golden Girls & Pretty Boy Max) and aimed to a younger generation of Chanel perfume lovers. Perfumeur Olivier Polge, started working on its composition from 2013 until it was ready to launch 3 years later. He came up with a fresh and lighter fragrance differentiating it from the sophisticated original Nº 5. It is bottled in its whiskey decanter-like image and diamond stopper (inspired by the Place Vendome in Paris) just like its older sister, the iconic Chanel Nº 5. Its top notes include lemon, mandarin, orange, neroli and aldehydes, a synthetic component that would exaggerate notes and make them sparkle, while adding an unusual complexity to fragrance. It is this aldehydes that created the “mistake” in Nº 5 when the assistant of reputable perfumeur Ernest Beaux added more than the required dose to one bottle of the ten samples presented to Coco Chanel’s new perfume. The bottles were numbered 1-5 and 20-24 respectively. With more aldehydes added to bottle No. 5, Coco particularly loved that scent and the birth of the timeless Nº 5 was announced. That was 1921. “It was what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman”, said Chanel.

To celebrate, she invited Beaux and friends to an upmarket restaurant on the Riviera and decided to spray the perfume around the table. Each woman that passed stopped and asked what the fragrance was and where it came from. The rest is history.

Ninety eight years later and moving on, Chanel Nº 5 is still the world’s most iconic perfume. Its fame, style and sales (one bottle is sold every 30 seconds they say) still uncontested. Coco Chanel’s words, “A woman should wear a perfume wherever she would like to  be kissed”, must have sparked the rise of many other new perfumes in the market but nothing could rival Chanel’s Nº 5 .

 The day I visited the Chanel boutique in The Hague before Christmas, Sylvana, the manager was looking very elegant and very busy looking after their customers. It’s a shopping season of course! “I’m sorry, darling, we’re sold out for the Limited Christmas Edition of Chanel Nº 5 Léau as well as the Nº 5“, she said. I imagined the “frenzy” of Chanel lovers getting a share of the limited editions, just as it was at the liberation of Paris after WW2 when American GI’s flocked to the Chanel boutique at the Rue Cambon, lining up to buy a bottle or two of the Nº 5 for a wife or a fianceé waiting back home.

American GI’s in front of the Chanel boutique at 31 Rue Cambon, Paris. Photo from pinterest.com photographed by Serge Lido, Russian-French photographer (Moscow Jan. 28, 1906- March 6, 1984, Paris) best known for his superb ballet dance photography.

“Now I need my coffee. I’ve been standing all day”, Sylvana said who really needed a pick-me-up hot drink to keep her back on her toes. Before she made her exit, she handed me their last Classic miniature Chanel Nº 5 for which I was so happy. T’is the season to be jolly! There will be another Christmas and there will be another chance to line up for another Limited Edition. 2020, here we are!

Sylvana, the ever elegant boutique manager of Chanel at de Bijenkorf,
The Hague.

       

                                           

Scenes along the way, the river and Bangkok Skyline

Bangkok and the River of Kings, here I am! Half tourist and half Bangkokian. I still got it in me somehow to navigate around the city without a car to drive which is really good because Bangkok’s traffic is so bad, you’ll end up with nothing to talk about other than your frustration being in traffic.

Taxi drivers refuse to pick me up when I tell them where I’m going. Rot tid (bad traffic) they say and you’re left to flag down another one who says the same or even worse, rot tid maak maak. Song roy Baht. (it’s very bad traffic. Two hundred Baht) No, thank you. I wouldn’t pay that much to be driven less than ten kilometers to the nearest Sky Train station. So what better way to travel than taking the boat. No traffic and the scenery along the way is beautiful!

And so begins the scenic boat rides to the Sky Train that takes me into the city centre for the duration of my vacation, and I am actually enjoying it. There’s the big blue sky above me, the murky water lapping underneath me and the warm breeze that always lulls me half sleep.

I chose to come at the height of the hottest period of the year in the months of March & April because I’d rather sweat it out than come during the monsoon months of July-September and walk in flooded streets like the last time I was here.

The landscape along the banks of the river have dramatically changed since I saw it last. Many high-rise condominiums and hotel buildings have been erected adding a variety to the beautiful temples, houses on stilts, old buildings and bridges. I only wish the government should not allow too many sky scrapers to mushroom around the river so they won’t swallow up the old Chao Phraya that we still want to preserve.

The abandoned Colonial Style old Custom House stands proudly beside tall buildings. This was where all foreign ships had to report to pay taxes. King Rama V built this Custom House in 1888 and was designed in Neo Renaissance style by an Italian architect. In 1949 this building was converted to a fire station after the Custom House moved to Khlong Toey port. This artistic building has been the backdrop of films like Killing Fields and In Mood For Love but I guess it will soon be converted into another mall or hotel.

Now that I discovered that taking the boat is not only a fun experience, it is the easiest way to reach many of the touristic places that I have always put off visiting when I used to live here. Each pier takes you to a lot of places to discover. If you stop at the Memorial Bridge/Saphan Phut, here’s what you will discover:

Saphan Phut Night Market, King Rama I Monument, Pak Khlong Talad, Bangkok’s biggest 24-hour flower/fruit market (turn left out of pier, walk for 10 minutes), Sampeng Lane, a narrow old alley lined with cheap clothes, food and household items, Pahurat Road/Little India, the Indian enclave famed for its Hindu iconography and fabrics.

Memorial Bridge (Saphan Put), one of the earliest bridges linking Bangkok to the other side of the river.

If you decide to stop at Maharaj Pier, here’s what you will see:

The iconic Grand Palace ‘s most venerable temples, including Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Mahathat National Museum, Sanam Luang, the old, oval-shaped Royal park. Make sure you wear respectable clothes. For women, no sleeveless and no shorts or mini skirts.

The Grand Palace , view from the river.

There is so much to discover while cruising along the Chao Phraya. Here’s a replica of the first Thai Post Office called, Praisaneeyakan, originally erected near the area of Pak Khlong Talat (flower market), right on the south of Memorial Bridge.

Praisaniyakarn (original spelling, same pronunciation) was abolished in 1982 for the construction of Phra Pok Klao Bridge on the occasion of the 200th anniversary celebration of Rattanakosin Kingdom (Bangkok), which parallels Memorial Bridge on the south side. The current building is a replica built on the plot of land nearest to the original site in order to use as the Thailand’s postal museum. It was built in 2003 by the Department of Highways with a budget of six million baht completed in 2010 – wikipedia

Replica of Thailand’s first postal office. My photo from the boat along Chao Phraya.
Replica of Thailand’s first post office. Photo: trungydang , wiki user.

There’s so much to say about the scenic route along the river but for now, these photos should give an inspiring glimpse how much one can see that there’s another side of Bangkok which is not just congested streets, but a breath of history amidst Bangkok’s transformation to a mega metropolis and ultra modernity.

Chao Phraya Express Boat. A hop-on/hop-off boat and advertising the latest mega mall along the river, ICONSIAM.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) after sunset
Houses on stilts
River South Tower (L), 6th tallest building in Thailand
Millennium Hilton (far left) & new high-rise condominiums
View from the lobby of ICONSIAM facing the river & the many skyscrapers across the water.
The ICONSIAM shopping mall and its hotels & residences beside.
Magnolia’s Waterfront Residences (L) current tallest building in Thailand & The Residences Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (5th tallest).



A bit of information on the Royal Barge Procession along the Chao Phraya:

The Chao Phraya has always been Bangkok’s special feature. It’s called The River of Kings because its monarchs, past and present, have used the river to travel to visit parts of the kingdom when road travel was not very convenient. In modern times, the monarch mainly travel the river during the Royal Barge Ceremony, a grand spectacle of religious and royal ceremony displaying the very best of Traditional Thai art craftsmanship on 52 barges manned by 2,082 oarsmen. The Royal and main barge called the Narai Song Suban, which King Rama IX (King Bhumiphol Adulyadej) built in 1994, is the only barge built during his reign. All the rest are historical barges.

In October this year as part of the final rite of the coronation of Rama X, about 2,300 oarsmen, paddling to rhythmic barge-rowing songs, will accmpany the king on one of the ornate royal barges, to present robes to Buddhist monks at Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), one of the most famous of many temples along the Chao Phraya River. See photos I have added here.

The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, on board the Narai Song Suban Barge or Golden Swan. Photo: Mark Jochim, 2006.
The then Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn who is now Rama X, rides the Supphanahongse Royal Barge representing King Rama IX, commemorating His Majesty’s 85th birthday on Dec. 5, 2012. Photo: Chanat Katanyu for the Bangkok Post, 10 Nov. 2012.
Oarsmen. Photo: Mick Shippen, Travel photographer & writer.
One of the historical barges, The Suphannahongse Royal State Barge . Photo: Lerdsuwa at a dress rehearsal 2007.
Bow of the Royal Barge, Narai Song Suban. Photo: Lerdsuwa  at a dress rehearsal 2007.


A collection of some of the Thai barges can be seen at the National Museum of Royal Barges in the Bangkok Noi District. The present fleet of barges was restored during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as some had suffered damage in bombing raids on Bangkok during World War II.  Only eight important barges, including all four royal barges, are displayed in the museum due to limited space.  The remainder are kept at Wasukri Pier, next to the National Library of Thailand. All are stored out of the water to prevent deterioration. They return to the Chao Phraya River only for a Royal Barge Procession.

ICONSIAM is the latest addition to Bangkok’s luxurious shopping malls. It is so huge and opulent, you have to come back many times to see and experience everything on offer. For more interesting information, check out wikipedia. Somehow, WordPress does not allow me to add the info.

Bangkok revisited and the Chao Phraya lives on!

Bangkok. There’s something about that name. Krungthep as locals call it. The City of Angels,  City of royal palaces, the Eternal Jewel City,  magnificent city of the nine gems , the Happy City, great city of immortals, and so on. 

I’m home again after five years and eleven hours flying time from Amsterdam. This time, I am staying along the Chao Phraya. Pi (older sister) Mui offered me her unoccupied condominium of many years and went back to live in the family home where there’s no more room for me. “For your privacy”, she said. Privacy it is and I’m enjoying the view of the river especially at breakfast time when it’s busy with all sorts of water transportation and at night time when dinner cruises go up and down with their loud music, carrying their diners who are mostly tourists.

A view of the river from the Living Room.

I arrived in Bangkok before the general election. The Chao Phraya was quiet and the Thai restaurant next door to the condominium only had me and two other customers chatting their time away over bottles of carbonated drinks and Thai snacks. Thais when dining out with friends and family always entail some beer drinking or a little spirit here to make the occasion sanook (fun) and since it’s not allowed for restaurants to serve these before election day, the tables are empty. I took the time to go around and took photos of the river. It is so nostalgic since it’s been so long since I was on this side of the city and I am appreciating the peacefulness and ‘provinciality’ in the midst of mushrooming skyscrapers along the banks of the river.

The cable-stayed bridge a stone-throw away from my eyes from the restaurant and named after the late King Ananda Mahidol who was Rama VIII.
Rama VIII bridge and a lone boat, early evening.

A view from the top of the restaurant along the water.
Rama VIII bridge all lighted up during the night.

As evening falls, I hurriedly took as many photos before mosquitoes could feast on my legs under the table where my dinner of stir-fried noodles and crispy spring rolls were laid . That is the downside of being in an outdoor restaurant in Bangkok especially along the water.

Back at the condominium looking out from the living room, I took a few more photos before I called it a night, tomorrow will be another day to look at the water.

The houses below and sunset on the water
Dine in one of these as you glide up and down during sunset. It’s quite an experience.

There’s something about the river that livens up your life. It’s never dull and it’s alive. This is just like being in Amsterdam only the buildings are different, the sights and sounds are different and the air is different. I’m home again and this is the River of Kings.

A tugboat passing through, Hop-on/Hop-off service boat, a cruiser and other boats make a lively scene in the mornings and at its busiest.

*The Rama VIII bridge took 3 years to build from 1999 to 2002. It was opened on 7 May 2002 and inaugurated on 20 September, the birth anniversary of the late King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) , after whom it is named. He was the brother of the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej (Rama IX).

*Chao Phraya is the main river in Thailand and empties out into the Gulf of Thailand. It’s Thai name is called, Menam Chao Phraya (Me meaning mother, and Nam for river). Chao signifies it is the chief river in the Kingdom of Thailand. Wikipedia.

It’s a-noodle-RONi for tea

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE TIME OF DAY, IT’S THE APPETITE!

I just got back from a month of visiting family and friends in Bangkok where I ate many plates of noodles: flat noodles, glass noodles, round noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles. But why is eating noodles there different from eating noodles here? First, noodles, like rice is a staple food of most Asians. We eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner or anytime of the day we feel like eating them. Secondly, a celebration will not be complete without noodles. Since I have not seen my family and friends for a long time, each meal with them is a celebration (with noodles).

My newly found friend whom I met at the shopping mall next door asked if we can have tea, at least to prolong our time talking about fashion labels and places we have visited in our lifetime. Just as we were seated at the Coolsingel Cafe on the first floor of de Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam, my appetite changed from afternoon tea to something more tasty. So we went up to La Ruche, the department store’s restaurant where I can have noodles and she can have her tea. “But it’s too early for dinner,” she said. So we combed the food displays looking for something more tea-able but in the end, I had my noodles and she had her rice, and who better to cook for us than veteran chef Ron who has been manning the restaurant as long as I have been shopping here.

Always showing his enthusiasm in the open kitchen, chef Ron turned every vegetable in the wok pan jumping up in the air while catching them back in the pan with his big smile. ” I’m going to add more shrimps for you since you just got back from Bangkok”, he said. Oh, that’s really nice. He just made me feel at home!

Chef Ron. That’s service with a smile!

La Ruche, meaning beehive in French was probably the choice of the owners when they named the department store, (de) Bijenkorf, which is also beehive in Dutch. Not very impressive but it sounds more sophisticated than calling it The Kitchen which is now the new La Ruche, stitched on every apron and chef’s uniforms. At least, they haven’t changed the original French name of the restaurant at the entrance while de Bijenkorf in The Hague has chosen to hang The Kitchen in iron letters at their restaurant entrance. The kitchen? If you’re offering international cuisine, you could at least come up with a name like Seven Seas or something more palatable. But since de Bijenkorf is part of the Selfridges group, it is probably better for them to be uniform like The (Selfridges) Kitchen in London. But we are in La Ruche where there’s a good selection of sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta’s, light meals, wok and grill using the day’s freshest of ingredients.

Fresh salads of the day
Fresh ingredients make a happy eating!

As our food were placed in bowls, I told myself that today is a celebration. I made a new friend and Chef Ron celebrated my return with more shrimps! Chai yo! Itadakimazu! Bon appetit!

 

Smiles from the La Ruche kitchen to whet the appetite.
The spacious La Ruche restaurant with ample selection of food & yummy desserts.
Open 7 days a week at de Bijenkorf, Rotterdam.

Things to know about noodles:

: Noodles are a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture and because they symbolise long life, they are mostly served during birthdays especially for old people to wish them long life.

: Noodles have performed the all-important role of feeding millions of Chinese people for hundreds of years, and China is the largest consumer of noodles in present-day

: The art of making noodles requires patience, discipline, and precise attention to detail in order to achieve the proper texture and form of noodle, most especially with bamboo pole noodles that require a good amount of training and experience;  This noodle reflects the culture and discipline of the Southern Chinese people in the Canton and Hong Kong areas, because this process requires an hours-long commitment to excellence and quality in order to enjoy even one bowl of noodles. On the other hand, pulled noodles give us a window into the cultural fabric of northern China. These noodles have a long history in northern China. While pulling the noodles, the “noodle-maker would give a riveting performance”. The fact that noodle-makers would put on a show in a street stall or in a restaurant reveals that they had a ready audience for their noodle-making. The Chinese are a food-oriented culture, and the ready audience for noodle-makers illustrates that Chinese people appreciated and continue to appreciate the artisanship and hard work that goes into making the noodles. – Abigail Chin

You can check this video on how a chef makes pulled noodles: https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/2157576/how-make-hand-pulled-chinese-noodles-hong-kong-chef-shows-his

 

*de Bijenkorf Rotterdam is located at Coolsingel 105 3012AG Rotterdam. It opened in 1957 and was designed by the Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer (19021981). 
Exterior
de Bijenkorf exterior clad in travertine tiles in honeycomb pattern. Photo: Michiel Mobach / keytoe.nl

 

An Invitation to Breakfast and it’s DIOR-rific!

D4

 

 

It’s the thought, the preparation and trappings, the attention to details, the welcoming smiles of the Dior team and the hospitality of de Bijenkorf in The Hague that made this Breakfast with Dior fabulous! It was a treat for the women who love the brand and I am one of  its ‘worshippers’ having incorporated Dior in my daily routine since my twenties, when I bought my first Dior possession, Rouge Dior-  the very first lipstick  launched by CD in 1953. Dior-addicted, I now must have a Dior whenever they launch something new. Call it crazy but I’d say, I’ve been DIOR-rised!

D3 Cheryl

 

 

On hand to welcome the invited guests is Cheryl Clow, Dior’s shop manager in de Bijjenkorf The Hague.

Cheryl’s flair for making customers at ease while in her shop makes you experience a luxury brand while helping you test the range of beautiful products on display. She dabs a Forever foundation on your face and layers it with a Diorskin Forever Perfect CushionFor others, she brushes an eye make-up above their eyes and picks up a Diorshow Maximizer 3D mascara to finish the lashes. Each visit to the shop is a different experience.

 

 “Individuality will always be one of the conditions for elegance.”                                                     – Christian Dior 

If that individuality is translated in make-up, it was one of the highlights at breakfast with the  introduction of the new Dior Forever Foundation. The ad campaign says it’s ”The New 24H wear High Perfection Skin-Caring Foundations in Two Finishes. Matte or Skin Glow.”

image1_1440_1200

 

The Matte Finish promises 24H hydration  without getting flaky & it contains rose hip extract which reduces the appearance of your pores.

image1_1440_1200 (1)If you have dry skin, my suggestion is the Skin Glow. It  gives a luminous effect without looking greasy.   It was tested on some of the women around the table and they transformed to a more glamorous, radiant-looking women. In fact, it minimised the look of wrinkles even with its medium coverage.

With 28 different skin tone options for the Matte and 24 shades for the Glow version, how can you not find your individuality in such an expansive range?

push-edito-1-serum-experts-cible_1440_1200In between beautifully prepared finger foods, tea, coffee and fresh juices, we were introduced to more of Dior’s essential products: Capture Youth serums that you can combine with any of the Dior daily creams you are using.  You can even use two serums at the same time along with your facial cream. I am using the Capture Youth Plump Filler which I alternate with ONE Essential Skin Boosting Super Serum before applying my Capture Totale Cream. The Plump filler has hyaluronic acid molecules that rehydrate the surface of the skin.  As long as I keep using these serums, I am guaranteed that my facial skin will not be wrinkled and sagging anytime soon.

We were introduced to Backstage face & eye palettes and to my favourite Diorskin Mineral Nude Bronze. The bronzer comes in 3 shades and as Cheryl demonstrated it to me earlier she said, “all you have to do is drape your face with it,” as she moved the brush lightly on my cheeks. I glowed! And I bought it! Pourquoi pas? Cést beau!

 

Pals
Couture Palette, Nude bronze, Wild Earth Palette limited edition

wild-earth-summer-look-2019-moodpack-2_1440_1200

Pals 2a
5-colours Spring Couture Palette, Dior Backstage Eye Palette amber neutrals, 5-colours Spring Couture Palette

 

Collage 1

Breakfast with Dior at de Bijenkorf was a beautiful tribute to the brand’s loyal customers and I will look forward to another one if only to say, it’s so Jádore-able!

Invitation1

 

D7
Cheryl & her Dior Team and lovely helping hands from de Bijenkorf

 

* Foundations, Palettes & serums photos were taken from dior.com 

A few things about Christian Dior (inspired from Dave Lackie’s History of Dior. Dave Lackie is the editor-in-chief and founder of BEAUTY DEPARTURE, luxury beauty’s premier digital magazine). 

1905: Christian Dior was born on 21 January in Granville, Normandy.

1928: Christian Dior left school and with the backing of his father, he opened a small art gallery in Paris.

1937: Christian Dior went to work for  fashion designer Robert Piguet.

On 8 December 1946,  Dior founded his fashion house with the support of one of France’s richest men & entrepreneur, Marcel Boussac.

1953: Launch of Rouge Dior, Dior’s first lipstick.

Color is part of the very identity of the House of Dior. In 1955, Christian Dior launched his first lipstick collection, offering eight shades from vibrant red to orange-red: Rouge Dior, a now-legendary product. Christian Dior himself named the colors of his new creations, borrowing from the pictorial, theatrical and literary vocabulary. “Gris Dior” (“Dior Gray”), “Rouge Dior” (“Dior Red”) and “Rose Bonheur” (“Cheerful Pink”) enriched the palette of the couturier, for whom color responded to different types of femininity.

1957: Christian Dior died on 24 October while on holiday in MontecatiniItaly.  Nobody really knows the cause of his death.  Some reports say that he died of a heart attack.  As of 2019, the exact circumstances of Dior’s death remain undisclosed.

1987: Launch of the 5 Couleurs palette.

1999: Launch of the fragrance, J’adore. The name came from the fact that designer John Galliano did not speak any French when he took over the design duties for Dior. When anyone asked him a question, he replied, “J’Adore”. It means “I love”.

2014: Arrival of Peter Phillips as the creative and image director for Dior make-up.

-end-