Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Publican

The Publican is a restaurant I've been dying to try for a while but it's hard to get a reservation without some advance planning.  The Publican is known for it's beer as well as it's pork.

I went with two friends, one of which had been there twice before and had nothing but raves about the food.  The other had been there for brunch and loved it as well.

Their beer menu is extensive.  I'm not really a beer person but I started with a hard cider and then had a lambic. 

I was disappointed that by the time we arrived, they were out of the foie gras and the dungeness crab, two dishes that I was really interested in.

The food is all shared and they bring it out in courses that they put together.

We had a plate of 12 oysters, the selection of 3 hams, potted rillettes, pork belly, beets with burrata cheese, and the fried pork rinds.

Fried pork rinds

Selection of 3 hams

Potted rillettes

Pork belly

Food was good but I wasn't completely overwhelmed.  With all the other choices out there to eat at in the city I'll branch out and try some new restaurants instead of returning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Phuket - Eating

The first night we arrived, we ate at Sam's Steaks and Grills as it was raining too hard to leave the resort.  I also desperately wanted a Phuket lobster which I had for dinner.  In addition to lobsters and steaks, they had brains on the menu!  I'm not adventurous enough to eat that.  We had a delicious fried soft shell crab prepared two ways that was out of this world.  It was a fairly pricey meal but good. 

We had delicious Thai food on our Hongs by Starlight excursion.  For lunch they had spring rolls, noodles, salad, and fruit.  Dinner had an extensive menu with tom yam goong, brown rice and vegetables, stir-fried pineapple salad, stir-fried Thai vegetables, shrimp tempura, vegetable tempura, curry with chicken, cashew nut chicken, sweet & sour snapper, and fruits.  This was actually one of the best Thai meals of the trip.

On our final night we ate at Joe's Downstairs.  Joe's is one of three restaurants under the same management, all located next to each other.  Joe's is a tapas menu while Baan Rim Pa is Thai and Da Maurizio is Italian.  The food was excellent and the setting was beautiful.  Make sure to get a reservation, which you can do on the restaurant's website.  We had Vietnamese noodle rolls, crispy soft shell crab, rock lobster quesadillas, something delicious with goat cheese, and several other dishes.  I'd highly recommend this place for a nice dinner out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phuket - Hotel

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Phuket for 3 nights since once again we had hotel points to use.  They have two sections, one being the newer and nicer Busakorn area.  We were in the older one and it was fine.  The restaurants are all in the older area while the spa and health club are in the Busakorn area.  The grounds and public spaces were beautiful. 

Our room had a nice large bed and plenty of room for us.

The lobby had a lot of places to sit which was nice for reading during the very rainy days we had.

The public spaces were all well done and gave off a relaxing feeling.

This Italian restaurant right on the street was nice for lunch.  They also have a bar that is nice for pre-dinner drinks.
The pool was very large.  There were a lot of chairs available.  There are also signs that say if you're left your towel for more than 2 hours, it will be removed.  And the workers were actually moving the towels that were left.  I hate it when people try to save the good chairs and then don't come back for hours so I gave a big thumbs up to this policy.

The day it rained I spent a lot of time at the spa.  It was very relaxing and affordable.  I was happy to be able to get so many appointments as it was last minute and raining.  They had a special where if you buy three treatments, the fourth treatment is free.  Another spa warning for those squeamish about getting naked in front of others, there was a lot of nakedness involved in the scrub.  For the Thai massage they give you special wraparound pants to wear so that's a safer bet if you don't want to expose yourself to the world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Phuket - Beach

Unfortunately it rained the first day we arrived in Phuket, was luckily clear for our Hong by Starlight tour, then rained our last day in Phuket.  So we didn't really get much beach time in.  Our last day I was able tot ake full advantage of the spa at our hotel where I had several treatments including a scrub, massage, and pedicure.  I might have had a facial too.  All for the price of one treatment at a nice spa at home.

Here's a few pictures of the beach that was located right across the road from our hotel complex.  I'm a little sad we didn't get to explore some of the more deserted beaches but we had plenty of time for that at our next stop.

The road along the beach was crazy.  Full of people everywhere, motorcycles darting in and out, tacky souvenir stores, prostitutes, shops selling fake designer goods, restaurants, bars, hostels.  You name it.  It was overwhelming.  This is not the part of Phuket to stay in for the natural beauty.  Unfortunately, we couldn't afford the natural beauty at the expensive and secluded hotels we would have liked to stay at.  Still, the beach area was gorgeous during the little sun we had.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Phuket - John Gray Sea Canoe

We booked one excursion while in Phuket, the highly recommended Hong by Starlight tour through John Gray's Sea Canoe.  The cost was a little over $100 each plus tips but was well worth it.  We were picked up around noon and dropped off at our hotel around 10 pm.

They provided a light lunch and a delicious dinner of Thai food.  We took a large boat out to the islands.

The picture above illustrates a hong. 

Groups of two had their own inflatable boat and guide who paddled.  We didn't have to do any paddling at all!  So relaxing.

You can bring your camera on the inflatable boat in a dry bag that they provide.

We squeezed through this little hole in our boat.  We had to lay flat and I was terrified my face was going to scrape the rocks.


And here is where we popped out of the cave.  The entire lagoon was surrounded by island.

You can play Where's Waldo with the lizard.

With the help of our guide, we made these offerings.  It is a tradition in Thailand to do this one day a year and float them down the river.

We floated ours in a cave.  Unfortunately the cave smelled because of the bat poop so that was a little unpleasant.
We had a great day exploring the natural wonders that are the hongs and it was great to get out on the water and see the beauty that is Thailand.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cambodia - Hotel

We stayed at Viroth's Hotel.  I can't say enough about Viroth's.  It was small, well-designed, beautiful, affordable, and quite a sanctuary from the heat of Cambodia.  They have a pool and an outdoor area surrounded by curtains to be massaged in as well as a bar/breakfast area.

Breakfast every morning is prepared made to order.  In the evening the area turns into a bar that overlooks the pool and we had relaxing drinks there every night.

I also had 2 massages while I was there.  Swedish massages cost $14 for an hour.  Thai style massages are even less.  They were wonderful although the coverage they do with the towel is not on par with what I've had at spas in the US if you're a modest person.  Parts were hanging out all over the place.  It was very relaxing to be massaged in the open air with a breeze blowing.  And of course for the price I'd have one every day if I had the time.

The rooms were great.  The showers were open with no curtain in case you're travelling with friends, kids, or extended family members that you may not want to see you naked.  We had 2 lizards in our room one night but they said that was rare when we mentioned it and they ever so nicely said they'd get them out while we were out at dinner.  We just thought it was one of those things that happens in a tropical climate.  We put a rolled towel in front of the door at night and didn't have any more problems.

The hotel is located near Pub Street, where most tourists go to eat dinner while in town.  It's a short walk or tuk-tuk ride for $2.  There's a lot of nightlife - mostly cheap bars that all the backpackers go to.  Since a night of drinking followed by a day of tromping around temples in terrible heat sounded like our idea of hell, we skipped the nightlife and headed to bed early every night.  We found food to only be so-so.  We had a great lunch one day at Viroth's restaurant which is a couple streets down from the hotel and not near Pub Street.  We had a terrible meal another night at the Red Piano which was apparently Angelina Jolie's hangout while in town.  Cambodia's not exactly known for their food.

Siem Reap is a small town but has a lot of tourists.  As such, nearly everyone in town works in tourism in some way and the town is really geared towards tourists.  You won't be getting an "authentic" Cambodian small town experience.  You will also be approached by many people, including a lot of small children, trying to sell you items.  It's quite heartbreaking and they are quite insistent so be prepared.

pool area
reception, right next to pool

staircase in the courtyard area


behind the bamboo is the massage area

bar/breakfast area

bar/breakfast area