Cafe Review, Part 2

Here are a few more Café reviews.

Orange Café

Orange Café is located on Don Nok, just past Karun Rat if you’re coming from the river. It’s a comfortable café inside, with some tasty drinks. They’re quite expensive compared to other places, but they have a pretty full food menu, which isn’t very common with a lot of cafes in Surat.

The internet there is problematic. Admittedly, I’ve only been there three times, but it’s because every time I’ve been there the internet has been difficult to work with. They can reset the router, but that didn’t work very well.

It’s not open too late, but it’s a pretty convenient location. Oh, and if you like French fries, they give you a big portion.

 

My Cup

My Cup is a very popular location among English teachers in Surat. It’s very close to the intersection of Karun Rat and Don Nok. It’s large and they have good desserts. The upstairs area is pretty comfortable and we’ve had groups of people meet there before. They’re open until 1030pm also. They also have real salads (though they come with salad cream) that are pretty good.

Now that I’ve gotten the positives out of the way…  The drinks there are not very good. The coffee tastes burned and bitter (both to me and my coffee taster), the green tea is the worst one I’ve had in town, and on top of that, they’re expensive The place is full of mosquitoes, and the internet doesn’t work in the majority of the areas. The back area of the bottom floor has uncomfortable seating.

Don’t get me wrong, many people like it, and it’s a good meeting place for a group of people. I just don’t like it as a place to hang out by myself and work on the internet and drink a decent beverage.

 

Coffee Heart

Coffee Heart is located on Luk Sua Rd., the small little road that connects Karun Rat to Don Nok between Amphur and Chonkasem. I like this place quite a bit. It’s really cozy and comfortable, and the internet worked well there. They have a separate room to the side, along with outside seating. The coffee there was pretty good, though the drinks were on the pricier end of the spectrum.

It’s easy to miss this place because it’s so out of the way. But if you live in the Big House and take the back way home (avoiding Amphur Rd.), you’ll pass it often.

 

And some good news about Impression(s), it will be taken over by a group of brothers, some of whom work at Thida.

Christmas morning sunrise

On the advice of a bunch of other teachers, we decided to visit Cave Lodge for Christmas. It’s located about an hour or so outside of Pai on the way to Mae Hong Son. It was a really nice, low key place to relax, among the mountains of northern Thailand with a river flowing nearby. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the weather warnings seriously and we were freezing.

Christmas morning we woke up before 6am to drive to a supposedly amazing sunset viewpoint. I followed our guide, in freezing weather, wearing a sweatshirt and shorts. My hands have never been so cold in my life. We pulled up to the lookout about 15 minutes later, and you can decide for yourself if it was worth it.

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(For the record, it was definitely worth it, despite the risk of frostbite.)

Cafe Review, part 1

One of the only negatives of living way out in the jungle is that we don’t have internet to our house. That means we spend a lot of time in town at coffee shops using the internet when we have to.

I’ll review some of the coffee shops we go to based on a few different criteria – beverages (including pricing), comfort/atmosphere, and internet quality. Since we’re in Surat, just assume that all places have extremely friendly staff unless otherwise noted. These are all mostly subjective, but feedback is always welcome.

IMPRESSION(S)

This is a favorite of Thida teachers not just because of its convenient location between the two Thidas, but because the owner New is really friendly and speaks English fluently due to his time living in the US. He’ll go out of his way to make you whatever you want if he has the ingredients. The fruit smoothies, teas, and other milk drinks are really tasty. According to my official coffee taster, his is one of the best in town and I agree.

It’s spacious and comfortable, especially the big couches in the back. The only thing is that it’s pretty bright and feels a little sterile. The internet is nice and fast.

The negatives are that he charges you if you plug your computer in – maybe due to an agreement he has with the hotel he rents it from. Also, it closes pretty early – 7pm weeknights and 4pm weekends. Still, it’s probably my favorite place in town.
Ask for David’s Special if you like a blended Oreo drink with caramel.

**NEWS FLASH** – He will be closing his doors at the end of Feb 2014. 😦

CAFE BLYTHE

Cafe Blythe is located right near the market on Karun Rat between Don Nok and Wat Pho. It’s on Rat Bum Rung Soi 1.
The coffee there is really good also, as confirmed by my coffee taster. It’s a little more expensive than average, though. It’s a small location, but is really nicely decorated and has a separate room to the side if you need even more quiet than it already offers. The owners are extremely friendly and Boat speaks English really well also. The internet quality is also good enough to not notice any problems.

It’s open until 7pm as well, which is early enough to prevent us from going here during the week. Yes, it’s named after the dolls.

NINE COFFEE

Nine Coffee is located on Chalokrat, in the opposite direction to the stadium and Big House from Amphur Rd. It’s open until 9pm, which is really good if you have to get some work done. The drinks there are OK, but the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. They’re a little expensive as well, as evidenced by the prices of the food. The desserts there are tasty, however. The interior is large and comfortable, and it also has a nice outdoor area which many coffee shops around here lack. The seats inside are large and soft. The internet quality is generally pretty good as well. Despite the average coffee, we go there often, mainly because the internet is dependable and they’re open relatively late.

COFFEE MILK

This is a new cafe that is attached to the “Under the Bridge” Isaan restaurant on the far side of the river. It’s owned by the same people, who are really friendly. The drinks are alright – nothing special. The coffee is average, so I usually get the iced green tea latte. Unfortunately they don’t make hot green tea lattes for some reason.

The internet is hit or miss, but they are more than happy to reset the router for you, and it works fine afterwards. Being attached to the Isaan restaurant, I’ve seen people eat meals in there, which is a plus. It also seems to be a work in progress, so hopefully there will be some seating on the riverside patio soon, though the view certainly doesn’t hurt right now.

They’re also open pretty late – 10pm – so it’s really useful for people on the far side of the bridge that need to get work done.

Obviously, this is all just one man’s opinion. But it helps to have a catalogue of cafes to visit, in case you need one. Let me know what you guys think. I’ll post about 4 more next time.

Thida Christmas Dance Assembly! (or, what the fox said)

We weren’t required to be at Thida on Friday, Dec 20th for the students’ dance shows, but Amanda and I went anyway. It was chaos. Thousands of students everywhere. Each section had their own dance set up; and each student in each section wore extravagant costumes and makeup as well. It was a conveyor belt of cute little dances, but eventually each Thai pop song blended into the next.

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Finally, what I was waiting for, after 2 hours, was finally happening:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYtQsCX7GXQ

Most of them are in my P1 MEP class, but there are a few P2 students as well. Chon is the one in the center wearing jeans. He’ll be a superstar one day.

YEN TA FO (Vegan style)

A lot of my more recent recommendations have been ignored by certain people. That’s OK, I know there’s a lot fighting for your attention. Pass on The Shield, if you must (despite it being one of the most underrated TV shows of the past 15 years) but do not pass on this soup.
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This is apparently called Yen Ta Fo, and is distinctive by it’s pink broth. Traditionally, it’s a seafood based soup, though I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting that version. This is a version from one of the vegan restaurants (J-Wawa). It doesn’t have anything derived from animals, but it is so tasty that meat-eaters will not mind. There are the funny little crinkly white mushrooms, and some of the dark ones too. It has the big rice noodles, a crunchy bit of fried dough, leafy greens, and about 5 kinds of fake meat that are startlingly delicious. The broth isn’t as powerful as something like tom yum, but it just as good. It’s sweet and tart, with a little peanut-y and herbal flavor too.

Better yet, get this at the vegan place that’s near school. They put more of the pink sauce in there (which is what gives the pink color and the delicious flavor) and they include celery. The only negative about this soup is that it’s served at the vegan places, which close at around 2pm.

Coming home

As much as I like being at school, I also like the moment when I can say goodbye for the day. The first few minutes are a little stressful, dodging traffic, but the real relief comes as you cross the bridge over the river to the jungle side. The air is tangibly cooler. The traffic is better and a lot of the excitement from school evaporates. Bugs replace people as the more populous lifeform (haha just kidding, this is true even in the middle of the city). The drive to the house isn’t very long, about 10 minutes, but being so much farther away than everyone else (about 5km) makes it seem longer.

Pulling up to the house, driving over the mud to park in front of the house, I can feel the anticipation of relaxation. I take off my sweaty helmet, drop my backpack, and change out of my teacher clothes, but not before I give myself a quick rinse in the shower. I turn the fan to the highest setting and as I lower my body onto the bed, I realize that I didn’t get any drinking water, so now I have to go back into town to pick some up.

Ups and downs…

A Frustrating Endeavor

All we wanted for dinner was a simple spaghetti. We had angel hair pasta in the fridge, we only needed some pasta sauce. We were too lazy to drive out to Central and go to Tops, so we thought we’d try our luck in the center of town. Many western foods are difficult, if not impossible, to find in Surat outside of Central Plaza, but pasta sauce should be doable.

First stop – a small Tesco mart outside the Karun Rat white market. No luck, but that was to be expected.
Second stop – the little organic place near the river on the corner of Chonkasem and Na Mueang. I KNOW I’ve seen it there. We got our hopes up when we saw the dried pasta in bags, but they were dashed again when there was no pasta sauce to be found.
Third stop – The Tops market a block away. We parked the bike and as I climbed the three steps to the automatic door, something didn’t feel right. A cold breeze chilled my bones as I realized that the store was still yellow, but now there was a giant “Family Mart” decal on the window. We actually found a small can of Prego – traditional sauce, and as we brought it to the register triumphantly, I felt that maybe our quest was over. The cashier looked at the can with a huge amount of suspicion, and then beckoned for someone more proficient in English. “You no buy we no sell,” was all she could say, and as the anxiety built up in my guts, I was dragged away before I could “cause a scene,” hands and backpacks still lacking a can of pasta sauce to hold.
Fourth stop – Might as well try the Tesco next door. No pasta sauce available, as expected. Blood pressure rising.
Fifth stop – The Tops at Coliseum. I was so glad when I remembered this place, since it’s so hidden that everyone forgets it. My heart skipped with joy as we walked down the stairs to the Coliseum basement, then halted in its tracks as we saw the dreaded “Family Mart” in place of where it should have said “Tops”. Emotionally battered, I found another can of Prego, and skeptically brought it to the register. This cashier’s reaction was quicker, so when she shook her head and hands and said “no sell”, I dropped my shoulders and accidentally slammed the can down on the counter and muttered curse words as we walked into Coliseum. WHY ARE YOU OPEN IF YOU CAN’T SELL ME WHAT’S ON YOUR SHELVES?! is what I kept screaming to myself. It was becoming a matter of principle at this point.

Sixth stop – This story ends anti-climactically because we found the stupid can of pasta sauce at Sahathai, which is where I would normally have looked first all along. God knows why it was my 6th choice that day.