Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mexican Sunflower versus Sunflower

Mexican Sunflower ("Dork Bua Tong" in Thai) and Sunflower ("Dork Tantawan" in Thai) are scheduled to bloom during November-December period in Northern Thailand and Central Thailand (Lopburi & Saraburi provinces) respectively.

Both are really 2 different types of plants. For more info, visit the following links:

Mexican Sunflower (Bua Tong flower):

More photos of Mae Hong Son's Mexican Sunflowers here:

Sunflower: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower

Click button to view video of sunflowers and other attractions in
Saraburi Province. (video sourced from You Tube)


....We have the following tours for you!

(Mexican Sunflowers: mid-Nov to early Dec)

(Mexican Sunflowers: mid-Nov to early Dec)

with Khorat & Bangkok
4D3N Nov 26-29, 2009 (Hari Raya Haji Holiday Weekend)

FOR CHIANG MAI CHERRY BLOSSOMS refer to previous blog entry
for details (scroll down) . The season is January.

Lastly, famous artist Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings of sunflowers.

More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflowers_(series_of_paintings)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MAPPING OUT the coming TOURS...

While getting ready the itineraries for this year end's tours, I decided to add a map to each itinerary so that you have an idea of where you are travelling to.

I always add an extra 'edge' to the tours organized, especially by taking groups to relatively 'unknown' but fascinating places to Malaysians (coz most Western, Japanese & Korean travellers are generally more adventurous...). A tour experience that is always remembered for the rest of your life, with fondness or with a sense of achievement, is priceless compared to 'production line' tours that evaporates from memory once you are back in life's daily grind.

When you pay to travel, you are investing in the future.... you are investing in great memories to be replayed in your mind in the future. When choosing a tour, make sure you are not 'just counting the beans to the exclusion of other factors'. If you do, then your memories are of the countless 'shopping stops' you had to endure, the countless changes to the itinerary agreed earlier, countless dishes so bland or predictable that you crave to eat with the locals at the hawker stall opposite your restaurant, and etc.

The tours below evolved from preceding tours (Wow! Even Darwinism comes into play when designing a tour). Improvements have been made. I list the tours below using their respective maps, added some comments and weblinks to the itinerary proper and photos.

I look forward to have you onboard these tours, ...to soak up the travel experience not as tourists, but as travellers,... to invest in great memories....



SOUTH LAOS TOUR 6D5N Dec 15-20, 2009

The earlier similar trip was in Feb 2007, which combined South Laos with Central Vietnam ....those of you who were on that trip will never forget the long hours travelling on the bus from Pakse (Laos) to get to Hue (Vietnam)... :-)

For this tour, we will just concentrate on South Laos, as there are many 'gems' to be discovered.

Additions are Bolaven Plateau (home of the best Laotian coffee!) and Siphandone islands, where you find 4,000+ islands right in the middle of the mighty Mekong River. Besides sight-seeing, you have 2 nights stay on an island to enjoy the idyllic beauty of the islands and the Mekong River.

5D4N Dec 18-22, 2009
This tour is a combination of 2 tours which we organized previously. Dalat was part of a 10 day Vietnam itinerary done by 3 of our regular travellers last December. Mui Ne was part of our tour right up to Nha Trang, completed last June. Both are ideal destinations from Ho Chi Minh City, being not to far from Ho Chi Minh City and both offering contrasting attractions; Dalat being a cool scenic hill resort city and Mui Ne being a great seaside getaway of sea, sand and sun (wait till you see the Giant Sand Dunes of Mui Ne !). Perhaps it will be popular in the future as the 'Golden Triangle tour of South Vietnam' (ala the popular Delhi-Agra-Jaipur triangle tourist route).

Click here for Mui Ne & Binh Thuan province photos:

(Yunnan, China)
via Chiang Rai & Northern Laos
Dec 25-30, 2009

We visited this exotic destination in August 2008 (we are believed to be the first Malaysian travel agent organized tour group to enter Xishuangbanna via the 'backdoor' ie. from Laos as my tour operator couldn't recall any other Malaysian group before us). In this revised tour, we have thrown in an overnight homestay with a local Dai ethnic minority family in Galanba for a more authentic experience. Also, we are visiting a tea plantation and you will see how Pu-erh Tea is processed. I know many of you have missed out on this tour previously, so don't miss out again!

Click here for photos:

5D4N Dec 25-29, 2009
Dec 29, 2009 - Jan 2, 2010
The Mekong Cruise to Luang Prabang has to rank among my most memorable journeys. Like the Cruise on the Nile or the Guilin to Yangshuo Cruise, you must do it. While it lacks ancient heritage or karst limestone scenery, it will be the scenic tranquility and isolation of cruising down the Mekong River that will brings you to blissfulness. And what better port of disembarkation than Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage town that is so charming and welcoming that you won't feel like leaving!
For those with extra time, we provide you optional extension to visit the mysterious Plain of Jars (literally fields littered with huge stone jars of unknown origins....) on the wind-swept plains
of Xieng Khoung province. And you end with a visit to Vientiane, the capital of Laos; remember enjoy your supper at the many Mekong Riverside food stalls...
There's not much changes from our previous tour as all the 'right stuff ' are in place in this tour. It's only waiting for you to go....
Click here for photos:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cherry Blossom Season, North Thailand

The following are photos from an email that has been circulating around cyberspace, showing Cherry Blossoms bloom in North Thailand, most likely Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai provinces. It's commonly called "Thailand's Sakura" due to its similarity with Japan Sakura Cherry Blossoms.

The flowers are called "Nang Phaya Sue-Khrong" in Thai, meaning Tigress Flowers and they bloom in January. It's scientific name is Prunus Cerasoides D.Don and belongs to the same family as cherries, peaches and plums. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_cerasoides

From the caption in each photo, the copyright to the photos belong to a photographer named Janjira Intharasak, a photographer nicknamed Pah263 and a photographer with hotmail account north191 . Thanks to them for these splendid photos.

... EASY, ... just join our Chiang Mai tours which include Doi Suthep temple visit (2 examples are given below) and add in trip to see flowers after the temple visit. It's 1 hour to get there, maybe 30min to 1 hour exploring the area and 1 hour to get back to the temple. A pickup truck will be arranged (as the dirt roads are impassable with your tour coach) - RM 180 per pickup truck (max 10 persons per truck).

Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai day trip 4D3N: http://www.elsoltravel.com/ChiangMaiChiangRaiDAYTRIP4D3N.html

Chiang Mai & overnight in Chiang Rai 4D3N:

Alternatively, we can customise for you a winter season nature sight-seeing tour (flowers, sea-of-fog over mountains, overnight stays on mountain lodges, etc.) of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and other parts of North Thailand.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Amazing Thailand Festival Aug 14-16 2009 (including recipes for Thai Desserts... yummy!)

The following are photos taken at the Amazing Thailand Festival, held Aug 14-16, 2009 at Mid-Valley Exhibition Center, Kuala Lumpur. I was there as one of the invited travel agents to promote Thailand tourism at Tourism Authority of Thailand's booth. Lots of good fun & good stuff at the Festival. Scroll down and try out the Thai Dessert recipes I posted.....

Synonymous with Chiang Mai, a dazzling display of paper umbrellas greets visitors at the entrance. A photography exhibition at a neighbouring exhibition hall, going on at the same time, sent hordes of photographers crowding around this display.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) booth, where Thai tourism officials and Malaysian travel agents were stationed.

TAT's booth had a live demonstration of making Thai desserts. The end results are captivating to both taste buds and to the eyes.

Fruit carving. (... that looks like a watermelon)

At one stage, the dessert makers were wearing Western influenced fashion that was popular during King Chulalongkorn's time (end 19th century, going into 20th century).

Thong Ek (Gold Foil Decorated Sweets)

Sanae Jun (Blended Flour and Nutmeg Powder in Coconut Syrup)

Kratong Tong (Golden Thai Pastry Cups)

Khanom Chan (Layered Cake)

Cho Muang (Steamed Flower shaped Dumpling with an Exotic Chicken filling)

Khanom Luk Choob (fruit shaped Sweet Beans dessert)

Recipe for Khanom Luk Choob:

Ingredients: 1 cup Mung Bean (500g), 2 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cup thick coconut milk

For gelatine: 2 tbsp Gelatine powder, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup sugar, food colouring

1. Leave the mung bean in water for 3 hours and then steam

2. Grind the mung bean well and mix it with the sugar and coconut milk

3. Heat it on medium heat until it dries out

4. Leave to cool

5. Once cooled, mould into fruit shapes

6. Use the food colouring to colour the fruit shapes

7. Dissolve the gelatine in boiling water and add all the sugar. Dip the fruit shapes in the gelatine a few times.

8. Leave them to dry and decorate with leaves if required

4 desserts here:

a) directly in front: Sampannee

b) behind left side: Khanom Ar Lor (Emerald Swirls)

c) behind right side: Kasorn Lam Jiak (Roast Pancake with Coconut stuffing)

d) in the middle: Woon Krob (Crispy Gelatin)

Recipe for Sampannee:
Ingredients: 1/2 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup cassava flour, 2 cups coconut milk, 2 cups sugar

1. Mix coconut milk and sugar. Put in the jar pot for sugar include with coconut milk.

2. Put wheat flour in coconut milk. Stir up cassava flour and coconut milk until it is lump and lift down. Stir with paddle.

3. Dip up in plate with cassava flour and then lift down into a tray

4 desserts here:

a) golden coloured threads: Foi Thong (Sweet Shredded Egg Yolk)

b) lower level oval shapes: Khanom Met Khanoon (sweet dessert shaped like jackfruit seeds)

c) cup shaped desserts: Thong Yip (Sweet Egg Yolk Cup)

d) round shapes at the top: Thong Yod (Golden Rain Drops)

Recipe for Foi Thong:

Ingredients: Yolks from 10 duck's eggs and 5 hen's eggs, 3 cups sugar, 2 cups water scented with jasmine, 1 piece thin white cloth for filtering

1. Put all the yolk ono a piece of thin white cloth, fold it up, and squeeze the cloth to filter the yolk through it.

2. To make syrup, boil sugar in water scented with jasmine in a pot. When all the sugar dissolves, take the water to be filtered before continuing stewing it until bubbles appear all over the surface.

3. Pour the yolk through a narrow funnel which is placed over the pot of syrup so that the yolk will become golden threads in the syrup.

4. Use a long pointed piece of wood to stir the golden threads in the syrup until they become smooth. Then remove them from heat and wrap them around themselves so that they form the shape of a rectangle.

My friends, Mr. & Mrs. Tan waiting happily for their turn at the complimentary massage for visitors. No charge, just some some tipping into the tipping box.

A Thai fashion & cultural show kept visitors entertained and photographers busy with their cameras.

A exhibitor selling various decorative and aromatheraphy items, ... just what you need to set up your own Thai spa at home....

Coca restaurants group was there too...

Opposite my table was this Thai-made Wasabi sauce booth that gave out free food samplings for dipping with their wasabi sauce. Here the 'chef' is cooking instant roti canai.

JASPAL - the fashion line from Thailand

Free Lactasoy samplings here...

PAMA instant vermicelli .... these sold out very fast!

Some Thai-made seaweed snacks....

Tipco fruit juice line....

Chand Baori Step-Well, Abhaneri, Rajasthan, India

These photos are from an email that has been circulating around. It's the awesome Chand Baori step-well (a 'tank' in local parlance), located in Abhaneri village, 95km from Jaipur city of Rajasthan state, India. With 13 levels, a total of 3500 steps and about 30m deep, it's a dazzling geometric work of architecture and possibly the deepest step-well in the world. Abhaneri is located in a very dry region of Rajasthan, which probably explains the need for such a depth. The steps are on 3 sides while the 4th side is a small palace with private bathrooms for the royals. Nearby is the Harshat Mata Temple. The Chand Baori and the Harshat Mata Temple were both built by King Chand, rule of Abhaneri and a Rajput from the Chahamana dynasty, around 8th-9th AD century.

Surfing the internet, I found more photos here:

Now... how to visit Chand Baori Step-Well ??

Easy... I have incorporated it in the 7D6N India Golden Triangle tour. So, besides the compulsory Delhi, Taj Mahal (in Agra) and Jaipur, you get to descend this great piece of architecture!

Tour details at: http://www.elsoltravel.com/IndiaGoldenTriangle7D6N.html