le meridien bangkok
I have been romanced by Le Meridien Bangkok.

It all started – in their gorgeous and expansive lobby – with the incredibly kind staff (the concierge assisted us in every aspect of our upcoming VIP bus bookings to Koh Samui, meaning all we had to worry about was exchanging baht for tickets).

Then, with the room. Though The Manfriend and I were booked in the most affordable room choice – The ‘Vista’ – the quality didn’t wane for a second. The large, contemporary, and Thai-influenced Vista had bottles of water tucked in every corner (a Thai essential), a King-sized bed of clouds, a decadent marble bathroom with an oversized tub and separate rain shower, a large closet (with all the amenities), a work-space, and a sofa that backed on to floor-to-ceiling windows which overlooked the city.

If we hadn’t already made dinner plans, I would have holed myself away for a good 24 hours.

After a fun night across the city – through Patpong and home again – we awoke to a doorbell ring the following morning. Ahhhh…food!

Donning robes and happy yawns, we opened the door to our cheerful breakfast delivery man and the feast he carted towards us. Between us, we managed to fill the entire tablecloth (and the heated drawer below it) with bacon, scrambled egg, hash browns, little strips of French toast, salmon, more eggs, cinnamon rolls, sausage, charcuterie, cheese, fresh fruit, coffee, juice, sparkling wine, and…I think that’s it?

We made it last through lunch.

I did order room service under the impression it was part and parcel of our ‘free breakfast’ (it wasn’t) but c’est la vie – it was absolutely worth a few extra pounds.

With a few hours to kill between checking out and setting off for Koh Samui, the hotel kindly guarded our bags and let us enjoy the gym, spa, and showers until we were ready to leave. I couldn’t have hoped for an easier or more hospitable hotel experience.

(There is quite a bit of Le Meridien featured in my first Bangkok vlog, so be sure to click the play button at the bottom of this post if you have yet to do so!)

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

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Whenever someone finds out I used to live in Bangkok, I am met with one of two reactions:
1. Being questioned as something of a Thai tourist guide
2. An excitable conversation of shared experiences.

I much prefer the latter.

Truth is, most of the questions I get asked have extremely subjective answers. The most difficult of which has always been ‘What do I do if I’m only spending one day in Bangkok?’. Obviously, the answer depends on what you’re hoping to get out of the city (culture, food, shopping, ping pong bars?) and how much you’re hoping to fit in.

A truthful cop out. I decided I needed something better.

For our first full day in Bangkok, The Manfriend and I decided to answer the question (in the touristy sense) once and for all. (Making up the first part of my jazzy travel vlog, to boot. Click above to watch!)

What to do in Bangkok

The Grand Palace. Its an absolute circus but a must-do if you have ‘temples’ on your list. It is golden, magical, wonderfully religious (not a phrase I use lightly), and – indeed – grand. As a tourist, I would simply advise going as early as possible (the crowds are insane) and ensuring you approach the main entrance if you’re in a taxi as some drivers are known to approach private gates and pretend it is shut to drive you elsewhere.
Wat Pho. The temple is less than a five minute walk from The Grand Palace and gives you much more room to breathe and explore – even offering a free bottle of water with your ticket. It is the birthplace of Thai massage (as the walls’ detailed inscriptions show) and home to a 15m-tall and 43m-long gold reclining Buddha; a sight to be seen.
A tuk tuk ride. A chance to barter! In my experience, a 20-minute journey costs around 50 baht and I would base your final agreed rates on this before you get in the tuk tuk. As there are quite a few situated outside Wat Pho, I would use it as an excuse to get to your next activity a little faster…
Thai food. Along the road that connects the temples, there are many local restaurants sitting next to the river. Avoid anything too English-looking. I find it is best to get as far away from street food as possible and follow well-dressed Thai people around 12pm (the national lunch hour) to be led to amazing, cheap Thai food.
A long tail boat on the Chao Phraya River. If you head back towards the Grand Palace, head for the pier adjacent from it at the cross-section (Tha Chang). If you walk through the market, you get to the pier and can secure your own little long tail boat to take you along the Chao Phraya and into the riverside homes and shacks of nearby floating villages. It is wondrous. Our ride disembarked at the Flower Market which – while not an ‘essential’ – is also a very immersive, traditional-feeling experience (and ideal for souvenir purchasing, if that’s your bag).

From there I would hail one of Bangkok’s colourful taxis (request the meter or be charged tourist prices!) and head to Siam, but I wouldn’t pass judgement if you’d rather hit the hay! In 37-degree heat, not even a cup of superstrong Thai coffee could keep us awake.

* All photos and video taken with the Canon Powershot SX60, especially for this trip! Review coming very soon.

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siam bangkok thailand
Welcome to Bangkok.

First? A quick catch-up for the noobs: having lived in Thailand during 2011, I have spent almost four years itching to return. The itch was forcibly scratched a few short months ago on a flight binge to accomodate two weeks in Bangkok and Koh Samui.

Now, back to Bangkok.

After a day or so of travelling and enjoying the greatest pictures of the Fifties aboard Qatar Airways, The Manfriend and I arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport with time to kill before check in.

No place seemed as fitting an introduction as Siam.

Siam – in its simplest description – is the shopping centre of Bangkok. Everything is conveniently connected to the BTS (Bangkok’s overground Subway/Underground system) and serves up a wide range of wanton goodies – from high fashion to market stalls.

A Quick Shopping Guide to Siam

MBK: Eight floors and over 2,000 shops with its fair share of food options. A one-stop-shop for mobile phones, handbags, luggage, electronics, fashion, and more.
Siam Square: The partially-enclosed outdoor market between the BTS and MBK. The stalls on the outer edge tend to overcharge for tourists, but great deals can be bartered on the inside. Especially for petite women.
Siam Paragon: A mecca of luxury. From Ferraris, to Chanel, to Samsung; Paragon is a hub for the discerning shopper. They even have a digitally-run Fitness First (displaying trainer choices on LCD screens) and a basement floor full of the best national and international foods.

After a celebratory dish of tom yum goong and a sleepy shoparound, we capped our afternoon off at Paragon’s Gourmet Market for some breakfast nibbles before crashing out in our Airbnb.

But more on that later…

* All photos taken with the Canon Powershot SX60, especially for this trip! Review coming very soon.

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siam bangkok thailand
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mango tree london
Despite being on ‘The List’ for over three years, my first visit to London’s well-renowned Thai favourite Mango Tree only took place last week. Boy, have I been missing out.

Not since living in Bangkok have I had such a pleasing array of authentic Thai dishes. A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, nonetheless. My aesthetic eye quickly realised that Feng-Shui ruled the design process for Mango Tree, resulting in a timeless, beautifully lit and carefully-considered hideaway to dine for any occasion (or, in my case, non-occasion).

With incredible service from the first Sawadee ka (a pre-meditated nod to Thai traditions), the meal was a string of exemplary flavour and care. Flipping through the gargantuan menu over a Love Ocean (ketel one vodka, lavande syrup, passion fruit syrup, fresh lychee and dragon fruit, lychee juice, and fresh passion fruit juice) and a Thai Martini (wyborowa vodka, gabriel boudier lychee liqueur, fresh lemon grass, thai red chili, lychee fruit, and sugar syrup), an extensive and creative vegetarian menu almost pulled me out of my meat-eating ways…

…until I spotted Poonim yum mamuang. The starter – a tempura of soft shell crab with and sweet chilli sauce – is one of simplistic glory if executed in the right way. Thankfully, Mango Tree’s version was lightly battered perfection and the perfect introduction to the meal. Alongside a starter of Moo nam tok (a spicy north-eastern thai-style salad with sliced grilled pork mixed with dried chilli, shallots, mint leaves and a spicy lime sauce), my tongue was officially alight.

For mains, both my dining partner and I had the desire to see where their ‘traditional’ dishes would stand against experience. First choosing a first rate super-seasoned Ka pow gai (a spicy dish with stir-fried corn-fed chicken fillets, fresh chilli, garlic and holy basil leaves), we then opted for Pad thai goong yai. Unlike the bastardized versions of ‘Pad Thai’ that litter the Great British High Street, these thai rice noodles had been stir-fried with corn-fed chicken, chinese chives, peanuts, bean curd and beansprouts in a special homemade sauce, and were served topped with an egg net. Far too much food for me to handle, but far too great a taste for me not to attempt a plate-cleaning.

Having been defeated halfway through the Goong Yai, we had to take a short recovery break before giving in to the dessert menu. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Asian desserts are not my thing. For this fact, it seemed to be fate that the only two things that could get me to order an Asian dessert were on the menu: Kow niew mamuang and Sang ka ya mamuang.

Sang ka ya mamuang – a mango creme brulee with pistachio biscotti – was delightful for the one or two bites I trialled but, in all honesty, my full focus was on Kow niew mamuang. Mango sticky rice means to me what Vita Coco (ahem, apparently) means to Rihanna. Mango Tree’s version, blended with honey and served with coconut milk and dry ice, was the most decadent I have ever tasted.

You know a restaurant has won you over when you start waxing lyrical about fruit and rice.

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blue elephant london
Thanks to nine months of living in (and eating through) Bangkok I have become one of London’s pickiest Thai foodies. Don’t get me wrong, I taste and trial at every opportunistic corner of The LDN but sadly find that little compares to authentic Thai food.

Personally, a visit to Blue Elephant was the Ultimate Thai Test. Now open for over 25 years (having recently located from Fulham Broadway to a beautiful riverside spot at Imperial Wharf), many people consider Blue Elephant to be London’s go-to for excellent Thai food.

After previewing and gorging my way through their Valentine’s Day menu, I now feel the same.

Nestled in an exotic Thai-themed room of Asian antiques and objets d’art, we were first presented with a zakuski of Tom Yam Koong soup with tiger prawns and a flavorful hit of dong quai alongside a small sampling of Chef U-La’s homemade green-curry and vegetable-stuffed pastry. The familiar sour spice mingled beautifully with the herbal pastry and was right on par with every Tom Yam dish I sampled in the Thai capital.

As a Valentine’s menu, both the starters and mains are perfectly paired for two. As well as a surprisingly sumptuous steamed egg custard with foie gras (topped with homemade strawberry sauce), the large range of starters included deep-fried duck, black mushroom and celeriac spring rolls, steamed floral-shaped dumplings stuffed with minced free-range chicken and aromatic herbs “Chor Chom-Pu Black Chicken”, as well as a ‘Plah Koong’ avocado salad with prawns, lemongrass, coriander, mint and kafir lime leaves wish I would happily eat every day of my life.

Accompanied by crab-meat and celeriac-infused jasmine rice and pak choi, the mains kicked things up a notch…
1) A rich spicy lamb shank curry with black wild ginger (apparently known for it aphrodisiac properties).
2) Grilled black cod marinated with Korean ginseng, wrapped with banana leaves, and accompanied by caramelized golden tamarind and crispy shallot dip
3) “Love Drunken Prawns” so large you could keep them as pets. The stir-fried dish featured a homemade paste of bird’s eye chilies, shrimp paste, black wild ginger, kaffir lime, sweet basil leaves and a hint of rice whisky, culminating in my favourite dish of the evening.

By the time dessert arrives, you will be more than happy to split the heart-shaped treats in two. Their Panna Cotta – flavured with Royal Jelly and vanilla pods from The Royal Project Farm – was the only thing I was able to polish, but the eclairs (filled with rose-flavored cream) and young coconut jellies proved to be popular among my dining companions.

If you are interested in a spicy evening this 14th I highly recommend this £69.00 per person menu (with vegetarian options available).

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