What do I look for in an excellent coffee place? Ambience, brews and its insta-worthy quotient. Here are 3 Cafes I’ve been in love with for all the right reasons:  THE NEW BLACK Chatted briefly with the barista whose photograph I blatantly took while he was expertly manoeuvring complicated brewing equipment in The New Black laboratory. Think Back To The Future meets pop art plus mad scientist (sorry, but bubbling filter glass pipes just screams nerdist). Totally in love with their graphic site listing their international brews. I miss my days in London, and a whiff of good old Workshop Coffee brings back wonderful memories. What I loved: generous scoops of coffee powder, expertly filtered through the water pressure pipes; be assured of painstaking efforts taken to brew and prepare each and every cuppa. I had the ‘Sweet Bloom’, which I presumed, from what I understood of the menu, was made of Aricha Natural, an Ethiopian blend expertly mixed in Colorado. The floral scent rendered me unable to stop sniffing at my aromatic cuppa while the enticing black liquid cooled – it didn’t help that the cup was uber pretty in sunny pop-art colours. The barista was right – even without sugar, the blend was amazingly, refreshingly sweet. And when it’s cold and cooled it had none of the rancid acidic ratchet aftertaste. Instead, it tasted even better when left to cool on its own. On the plus side (as if it needs any bonus points) one standard sized cup was loaded with enough caffeine to tackle your roughest mornings. I’m in love. THE NEW BLACK CONCEPT OUTLET ONE UPPER CIRCULAR ROAD SINGAPORE 058400 8:00 – 18:30 MONDAY – FRIDAY 8:30 – 16:30 SATURDAY CLOSED ON SUNDAY ☕ ——————————————————————— ☕  COMMON MAN COFFEE ROASTERS Only recently discovered this amazing joint when colleagues decided on brunch. Common Man Veggie Wonderland is a darling at breakfast, at times when you need the fuel and are not in the mood for grease. They also make a mean flat white. But try to stop yourself from getting that third cuppa. Coffee is never a bad idea. Common Man Coffee Roasters 22 Martin Road, #01-00, 239058 6836 4695 ☕ ——————————————————————– ☕  Toby’s Estate Coffee A big name in the local scene. This place’s been here for awhile now and it’s reputation stays strong with its solid brunch menu. Loving the french toast with espresso bacon. I mean, who needs coffee when you’ve got espresso in your fatty fried meat? Also in a way the place’s really calm and warehousey in a de-constructed re-furbishment-in-progress manner. Whatever the ambience you may seek, Toby’s establishment is the right fit. Toby’s Estate 8 Rodyk Street #01-03/04, 238216 6636 7629 What are some of your favourites? xoxo, Viktoria Jean
40 miles north of Bangkok lies Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, capital of Ayutthaya Province, Thailand. Ayutthaya Kingdom was destroyed in 1767 by Burmese army who took down the city. Ayutthaya, like Rome, has since left most of its ruins within sight. Officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is its Historical Park, whose ruins were a peek into the kingdom’s past grandeur.
Dia and Ake drove us on a daytrip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. The journey could have taken way longer (by means of Thailand’s inter-city railway) than our tranquil 1.5 hours drive to the country side which I truly enjoyed. Having lived in a city all my life, the drive was akin to entering a timezone ungoverned by conventional rules of time. I was fascinated by farmers in paddy fields seeming to move in slow-motion, accustomed to a lazy pace of life. The last time I’ve ever immersed in such a slow-moving city was during a layover in Mumbai, India, but even then I was concerned by and paranoid of the city’s hygiene. Here I rolled down my windows to let unfamiliar country smells invade my olfactory senses. The experience was truly rural and underrated.
With Dia and Ake, our tummies were in for a treat. Along a stream that leads to Chao Phraya River, we located Yang Deaw Restaurant, a local eatery well-known amongst the natives for grilled river shrimps.
An old lady, aided by 2 others only a decade younger, took our orders, prepared the seafood, grilled the prawns, chopped the vegetables, served the dishes, iced our tea and washed the dishes in a small pantry; hence service was, like everywhere else in the country, slow. Oddly enough, us city-dwellers never for one second lost our patience. I contemplated going to the kitchen to help mince the pork and skewer some prawns.
Highlight of the meal: river shrimps! In all its fresh glory. Caught right off coast at neighbouring streams surrounding Ayutthaya. When de-shelled, these shrimps were almost the length of my forearm (note: I have long limbs)
We left Yang Deaw feeling like our lives was complete, then we drove further north, nursing an intense food coma with tonnes of iced tea. One of our major pit-stops was Wat Panan Choeng temple, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, part of Ayutthaya Historical Park. Fervent Thai Buddhists usually made it a point to journey to this temple to pray for the best of luck on New Years and special occasions. The Golden Buddha statue is known as Luang Pho Tho, who stands at 19meters tall.
We were there for a ceremony on that particular day – Thais were flocking in to pray for good luck for the coming year (2015). Fervent Buddhists purchased golden cloth to ‘clothe the Buddha statue’. We purchased one each and handed the golden sashes to a temple staff, who then proceeded to mumble his blessings, before tossing the golden cloth to 3 pairs of waiting hands standing on Luang Pho Tho who would catch the cloth, tie them to the existing length covering Luang Pho Tho. During the ceremony, Buddhist monks would then chant a long series of words in Thai. We joined the fervent Buddhists in kneeling at the Buddha’s feet with our heads bowed. When the time came, the monks and temple staff began throwing the tied cloth back at us and people in the front started pulling the cloth for us people at the back. The cloth went over our heads as a symbol of protection and having us ‘covered’. After we were all draped in gold cloth, the chant went on in Thai for about 5 to 10 minutes, before we returned the cloth and made our donations to the temple.
The first of my posts on Ayutthaya had touched on aspects of local food and Wat Phanan Choeng. In the coming posts I’ll be sharing on other places to visit in Ayutthaya, including the famous ‘Buddha head in tree‘ featured in many travel guides on Thailand. Stay tuned for more!
Yang Deaw Restaurant
5/1 Moo 4, Tambon Ban Len, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya
Wat Phanan Choeng
Talad Rod Fai, Bangkok, is an open-air bazaar peddling an insane array of vintage collectables, quirky kitsch and memorabilia from yesteryear. Since its move in 2013 due to an expansion of the BTS Skytrain line, its reappearance at the new site accommodated a bigger, more international crowd. I loved the old Rod Fai next to the train tracks, where shop-owners displayed their wares on floors or did business right out of 1950s Cadillacs. The new locale is posh, less rugged than before, while retaining signature vintage elements.
Shopping was way down on my list of priorities as opposed to capturing these on camera.
“Vintage books, old china, antiques; maybe I love old things so much because I feel impermanent myself.”
― Josh Lanyon
Perks of having native Thai friends – they’ve tried it all and only take you for the best. I had the honour of my Thai native friends’ undivided attention 5 days in January this year. Knowing us (foodies who were through with tourist traps in the big city), the pair of them took us gallivanting through Bangkok for the best F&B. Here are 6 of my favourite picks,
✡ GRAM CAFE – Brunch
Nestled within the trendy streets of Sukhumvit 49 near to Thong Lor is GRAM Cafe, featuring an open-kitchen counter and a pretty garden where you dine. Highlights of our meal: ovaltine volcano pancakes dripping in chocolate fudge and ovaltine powdered goodness. Also loved their latte: I’m a sucker for hand-drip coffee.
Outdoor-dining only meant there were certain elements of nature interrupting our quiet brunch: flies, mozzies and leaves falling into your coffee. But when your bill arrives all’s good again, since a Bangkok hipster brunch is one of the most affordable in the world.
1/F, 49 Terrace, Sukhumvit Soi 49, Bangkok, Thailand
Nearest Train: BTS Phrom Phong
✡ ROCKET COFFEE BAR – Brunch
An uber-chic hangout for hipster lunch in the up and coming Sathorn area; the best flat white in town makes this the expats’ choice on the weekends. Save yourself the best seat by the window when you make reservations! Rocket is well-known for their artisanal coffees – I fell so in love with their iced latte that I had to have two.
Their eggs-ben weren’t fantastic and drool-worthy so don’t bother if you’re hunting for the best food in time. Come here for a cozy meet-up, and to immerse in a chic up-town environment.
Check out their menu here.
Rocket Coffee Bar
147, Sathorn Soi 12, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
+66 2 635 0404
Monday to Sunday 7am – 11pm
Nearest station: BTS Chong Nonsi
✡ MR JONES’ ORPHANAGE – Cakes, waffles and all things sweet
Named after a renowned children’s book, Mr Jones’ Orphanage lives up to its name with teddy-bear strewn interiors, low-hanging ceilings resembling children’s bedrooms, and quirky cutesy dessert creations. We ordered a round of cakes and rocky road waffles after heavy-on-the-savoury-buds lunch – the kick on our sense of taste was incredible. Mr Jones’ is a sweet-tooth’s haven.
With more than one outlet, the cafe still gets crowded. Save the wait and make reservations!
Mr Jones’ Orphanage
2nd Level, Siam Center
Rama 1 Road, Bangkok, Pathumwan 10330
11:00 am – 10:00 pm
✡ MANNA THAI – Rock Melon Sorbet
Situated at the basement level of Siam Paragon is an outdoor paradise, where the food isn’t spectacular but they serve a mean rock melon sorbet straight out of rock melon skin. A hand-drip latte goes well enough, and together we’ve got tea-break for the high-soul in Bangkok. Dining in is great, but the view outside is better. If you’re into people-watching this is your little heaven.
Rock melon sorbet is highly recommended.
G Fl., Siam Paragon
991 Rama1, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
+66 2129 4555
✡ CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET – Street Food
Don’t waste your time and money if you’re hell-bent on eating clean in Thailand! Street food has too much flavour and life in it, so who cares what happens in the kitchen right? Eating straight from street stalls gave me a genuine taste of Thailand – where the culture stands, and what the people enjoy in their spare time. Here, flavour is key (as lovers of uber-sweet Thai Iced Milk Tea can vouch for), and Thais are big on traditional spices. Meet some of my favourites from the all-time touristy Weekend Market of Chatuchak.
Shoppers are advised not to waste any time stopping to ogle at street food if intent on covering every nook and cranny of this 32.91 km² maze. Shopping can be endless in this god-amazing place, but some things are just not up my alley, especially when the weather’s too hot and I’ve been here more times than I bothered to count.
✡ SOMBOON – Seafood
The best place for fresh seafood fix in Bangkok: my all time favourite dish is the fried curry crab which comes in a fuss-free pre-shelled form so all you need to do is scoop it up, eat it with rice or fried bread! Do not exclaim “so cheap!” each time you select a dish or you’ll end up sounding like a bird. Yes, seafood is seriously affordable here.
895/6-12 Chula Soi8, Bangthadthong Road | Wang Mai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
11:00 to 23:00 Daily
0-2216-4203-4 or 0-2214-4927
Stay tuned for more adventures in Bangkok, as I’m always back for more. I’ve got too much affinity with the Land Of Smiles, it seems.
Mission Crossing the Hannam Bridge 한남대교 Accomplished!
With this incredible view of Seoul’s Han River before me, the feeling is indescribable.
Basically, I walked from Hannamdong (Itaewon district) to the other end of Hannam Bridge, which connects to Sinsa-Dong and Gangnam-Gu.
The closer I got to the bridge’s midsection, the wind got crazy. I swear it’s entirely possible (though I’m not physically small or light) I could have been swept into the sea.
A total of 27 bridges cross the Han River in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon. This is not a joke – I really want to walk across all 27 of them! By default of travelling via Airport Railway, I’ve already cross Gimpo Bridge and Gayang Bridge, so that makes 3 already.
2015 #bucketlist ? ^^
Along the glorious and vibrant district of art museums and galleries are laid-back cafes offering all-day breakfasts and a myriad of flavoured coffees. In close association to the indie Hannamdong Cafe Street, coffee culture in Itaewon is self-directed and expat-friendly. Expect top-notch Americanos and loads of Seoul Design-Spot cafe galleries! Here are some of my favourites!
For more updates on Glamorous Penguin.
For more updates on Ways of Seeing Art Gallery / Cafe.
Other amazing cafes in Itaewon / Hannamdong:
☆彡 Flying Pan Blue
123-7 Itaewon-Dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Daily 10:30am – 10:30pm
☎ +82 2 793 5285
Americano 4500₩, All Day Breakfasts 15000₩
☆彡 Passion 5
272 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Daily 730am – 10pm
☎ +82 2 2071 9507
Nearest Station: Hangangjin
Americano 7000₩, Cakes 5000 – 10000₩
☆彡 Take Out Drawing
140-861, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
☎ +82 2 790 2637
Nearest Station: Hangangjin
☆彡 Tartine Bakery & Cafe
Famous for: Being the Pie Shop from Running Man episode 71
4 Itaewon-ro 23-Gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Daily 10am – 11:30pm
☎ +82 2 3785 3400
119-15 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-Gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Itaewon (Line 6) Exit 2
☆彡 Coffee Chu
682-10, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
(7 Itaewon-ro 54-gil)
☎ +82 2 790 6821
Nearest Station: Hangangjin
March 23, 2014: DAY FOUR
[10:00 AM] Breakfast @ Thanks Nature Cafe 양카페 – Hongdae
[10:59 AM] Grabbed Kyeran Bang 계란 빵 from a street stall! My favorite street food from Korea!
[11:00 AM] Travel to Itaewon!
[11:20 AM] Sat down for a strawberry latte at Glamorous Penguin. Also to leech onto their WiFi for Google Maps.
[12:00 PM] Explored Itaewon on foot, to Hangangjin Station
[01:10 PM] Visited LeeUm Samsung Museum of Art (scroll to the bottom for more pics)
[02:15 PM] Walked to Hannamdong Cafe Street
[03:00 PM] Grabbed Iced Latte from Ways of Seeing Cafe slash Art Gallery
[04:00 PM] Walked across Hannamdaero Bridge to Jamwon-Dong (at Sinsa-Dong and Gangnam district). I loved the insanely strong winds! Nobody else was on the bridge. I was walking against the rush of traffic and enjoying the sea breeze. Will post pictures of this soon enough.
[05:00 PM] Explored Jamwon-Dong all the way to Banpo Station. This was an insanely long long walk, but absolutely refreshing!
[06:00 PM] Sat down for dinner at Banpo Station. For the first time in my life, I ATE SOONDAE 순대!!! Basically it’s blood sausage, made by boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines that can be stuffed with pork blood, fermented soybean paste, glutinous rice, kimchi, and soybean sprouts. Best thing of all, I hadn’t realised it was Soondae ): It tasted really good though. But now as I recall what it actually is…eurgh!!
[06:45 PM] Travelled back to Hapjeong Station (Seogyo-Dong district at Hongdae) for more cafehopping adventures
[07:20 PM] Book Cafe Jaeum and Moeum 자음과모음 북카페 – Blueberry Banana Smoothie
[08:30 PM] Travel Cafe 트래블 카페 @ 홍대 – Cinnamon Earl Grey Latte
[09:30 PM] Late-night shopping at Hongdae!! For an entire week, I did this every night before heading back to my guesthouse. Hongdae only gets fired up after 9PM, especially on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. So much shopping to do, so little time.
[12 Midnight] Bought Kimbap from No.1 Seogyo BapJip for supper!
홍대에서 아침 식사
Breakfast was too good to be true!! Had the most amazing BerryNana waffles from Thanks Nature Cafe 양카페, Hongdae’s first and only sheep cafe, before making my way to Itaewon. Only in Seoul, you get to dine with a lamb! Strawberries + Bananas = BerryNana. My morning is complete with a cuppa peppermint tea.
Itaewon’s over-the-top architecture propels the casual pedestrian into a distant future. Stepping onto a set of a science fiction futuristic movie must feel like this!
The further away you get from the artistic galleries of Hangangjin, the buildings get less dramatically sci-fi. Loads of cafes thrive in this area, for many expats that work in Korea live in this district of Itaewon.
Walked the entire length of Itaewon to Hangangjin station, before diverting to art museums that require an uphill climb. This is where I visited the gorgeous LeeUm Samsung Museum of Art.
There are 2 separate galleries within, showcasing traditional Korean art and contemporary art. In both, photography is banned. This place is definitely worth visiting. Museum 1, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, houses the national treasures such as folk paintings, ceramics, manuscripts and traditional stoneware. Museum 2 is the masterpiece of French architect Jean Nouvel, boasting of permanent exhibits by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Donald Judd. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas designed the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center.
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
10:30 am – 6:00 pm
The inspiring pieces from Museum 2 really had me filled with awe, whereas Museum 1 gave me the chills. Ancient art is too profound and somehow unreachable to me, in the sense that the millenium-old items show another chapter in human history that will always be a mystery to mankind, no matter how hard our attempts at recreating or reimagining the unknown era.
I left the museum deep in thought, having been exposed to such great inspirations. I headed next for Hannamdong Cafe Street, but found that I’d much preferred Itaewon’s bustling roadside cafes. The cafes at Hannamdong are small, and most of them were takeout cafes which didn’t provide much indoor seating. Itaewon is, all in all, a westernized zone, home to far-flung imaginations and art in all its re-created beauty.
In my next update, I’d bring to you some of my favourite cafes in Itaewon-dong ^^
Lemon and Mint-ade after spending a long afternoon exploring Bukchon Hanok Village and Samcheongdong. Cafe True Us 카페트루어스 is located along the antiques street of Insadong, with the nearest station being Jongno-3-Ga Station. Its triple-storeyed interiors are furnished to match its physical location – Insadong is home to cultural arts and crafts that go way back in time. Polished teakwood tables and chairs in Cafe True Us brings back the nostalgic air of the roaring ’80s.
종로구 인사동 146 (인사점), Seoul
146 Jongno-Gu Insadong, Seoul
Cafè culture in Copenhagen is amaaaazing! Touched down in the morning at 6am, slept for 3hrs, until the silence of the hotel room made me so darn restless. So, I embarked on the list of coffee-places I wanted to visit! First stop: The Living Room @ Larsbjørnstræde. The street is lined with indie cafès, vintage designer stores, chill-out bars and late-night pubs – the kind of street culture I love the best.
I took a while to make my choices because there were too many! Had a cuppa piping hot latte and a soft, slightly dry slice of tiramisu. Somehow I miss the tiramisu I had in Frankfurt – it’s more moist and tastes strongly of eggs and dark rum rather than flour and sugar.
I love the interior of The Living Room – it’s spacious yet cosy and lives up to its name by being ideal for social gatherings! There’s even a dark underground ‘dungeon’ where friends or couples can sink into large sofas for more privacy.
My view of the sidewalk from the bar-top is just right. Spent close to an hour hiding from the cold (-4°C!!) and reading my book whilst sipping on latte.
If you’re out seeking for good coffee, I’m sure there are better caffeine joints with tastier brews. For cakes or food, definitely there would be better patisseries out there. I still loved this place nevertheless! It gave me very good vibes. The Living Room baristas were super friendly (one of them chatted with me in perfect English!) and the variety of tables and seats are made to suit any occasion. The Living Room is best enjoyed with good company for the ambience is fantastic. Even if you’re alone, the space is quiet without being stale, and is ideal for that me-time you’re seeking.
The Living Room – Bars, Coffee & tea, Snacks
Mon – Thu 10:00 – 23:00,
Fri 10:00 – 02:00,
Sat 11:00 – 02:00,
Sun 12:00 – 19:00