Bangkok: Shopping and Drinks at ICONSIAM

A new addition to Bangkok’s lively shopping scene is ICONSIAM. This mixed-use development brings the shopping experience to the other side of the Chao Phraya River. I wanted to take a peek during my visit to Bangkok for Songkran 2019.

My three highlights from ICONSIAM

  1. It’s a new shopping experience on this side of the Chao Phraya. It’s one of Bangkok’s new mega-malls. Until the ICONSIAM gets its own BTS station soon (on the ‘Gold’ line, sounds cool right), you can take a shuttle to access this mall.
  2. There’s an indoor floating market. It’s colorful and, well, air-conditioned. We had lunch at one of the restaurants in the basement which is tastefully designed to look like an indoor floating market.
  3. Great terrace overlooking Chao Phraya. Who’s not a fan of rooftop bars? Whenever I visit a major city I like to enjoy it with a view from the top. ICONSIAM has a nice terrace that overlooks the Chao Phraya River. It’s not a rooftop bar, but it gives a spectacular view while you enjoy your Singha or fave cocktail.

Here are some photos:

The basement level has a SOOK Siam ‘indoor floating market’.
ICONSIAM signages during the Songkran period.
ICONSIAM’s gold motif throughout the shopping complex.
Cocoon structures that house some of the restaurants on the upper levels.
Weave designs found on the upper levels.
The cinema area has a tall ceiling.
Decor on one of the top floors.
More cocoon structures on the upper levels which house restaurants.
Indoor waterfall at ICONSIAM.
Restaurants on the top floor.
This one has seats.
Makes me want to try the food in each restaurant.

We had some drinks outside on the terrace.

View of the Chao Phraya River from the ICONSIAM terrace.
I love enjoying a beer at the bar. Have one here on the terrace.
The place fills up fast at sunset. Try to get here during happy hour.
The terrace is split into two restaurants.
The seats by the edge were occupied but we found one on a nearby landing.
Two of my favorite beers. Hoegaarden and Beerlao.
Enjoying the sunset with my boyfriend.

How to get to ICONSIAM?

One method is to take the train to BTS Saphan Taksin and then a free boat shuttle to take you a kilometre upriver to ICONSIAM. Another method is to take a shuttle bus which originates from Krung Thonburi BTS station.

*During Songkran, all of my transport between districts was via Grab taxi. I didn’t want to risk getting wet every so often.

Bangkok: Health Land Spa and Massage, Asoke Review

If you’re looking for an affordable and good Thai massage in Bangkok, try the one at Health Land Spa and Massage. For 600 baht (USD 20.00/SGD 25.00), you can enjoy a good 120-minute traditional Thai massage.

A friend recommended we try out the treatments at Health Land Spa and Massage.

We tried the branch at Asoke which was a few minutes walk from our hotel in Sukhumvit. If you’re looking for a hotel to stay at in Sukhumvit, I recommend the U Sukhumvit Hotel which I write about here.

Health Land Spa and Massage in Asoke covers eight floors. YES, EIGHT FLOORS! That’s several floors of treatment rooms. They offer a wide selection of massages but PJ and I signed up for the Thai massage.

A facility that has eight floors dedicated to massages definitely targets mass tourism and a large clientele. The lobby area is large with several seats for those waiting their turn. While waiting you can enjoy some welcome drinks.

Yes, it was colored pink.

Once called, you’re led down steps into a basement area where you have your footwear replaced by slippers. A therapist comes by to pick you up and will lead you to the elevator to take you up to your massage room. PJ and I were led to the eighth floor and a room with two beds. Inside are clothes you change into.

Two pieces. Loose slacks and an oversized shirt.

The massage room is simple. It has dim lighting and some hangers for your clothes. There was a TV set with a remote but we kept that off. Some relaxing music would be playing.

Wait, who said anything about roleplaying?

Once you’ve changed clothes, the therapists enter the room and the massage begins.


After 120 minutes I started to feel like a mashed potato.

Massage review. A Thai massage involves pressure points and stretching. We didn’t opt for the compress version so this was a dry massage. For 600 baht, I thought this was a steal. That barely buys you a decent massage in Singapore.

PJ, however, thought the massage was too strong for his liking. I went in expecting to be wrestled and hurt. LOL. For me, I walked out feeling refreshed. Like the muscles that haven’t been massaged thouroughly in months (or years!) were awakened.

This delicious hot tea is served downstairs as you change back into your footwear.

Tipping. I always tip for a massage when in Thailand or in the Philippines. I thought 100 baht was fine (600 baht was the massage price). But I think that will depend on you.

Should I make reservations? Yes, always do. Getting a massage should be a relaxing process from start to finish. Making reservations means you arrive at the venue in time to begin your massage. During Songkran however, reservations may not be possible. Give them a call first or walk-in at least an hour before your intended time.

Map. 55/5 Asok Montri Rd, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand. It says they’re open until midnight but please check with them. I recommend you book ahead of schedule. Map here:

Learn more from their website here.

Bangkok: U Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok Review

Three or four-star accommodation in Bangkok is pretty affordable. I stayed previously in Sukhumvit in 2013 and the neighborhood is easily accessible via the BTS Skytrain.

Nice and cozy accommodation in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district.

For Songkran 2019, we wanted to stay somewhere that’s a comfortable distance from the madness of the water fights on the streets. We booked ourselves a room at U Sukhumvit Hotel on a friend’s recommendation.

Location. U Sukhumvit Hotel is in Soi Sukhumvit 15. It’s about a 10-minute brisk walk from Terminal 21 and BTS Asok Station. On the map, it looks like it’s a nice stroll down a street. However, on experience, it really is deep into the Soi as you pass by other large hotels. There seems to be only one 7-11 store and an Italian restaurant. Otherwise, it’s a very long stretch of boring road. Good thing the hotel provides complimentary tuk-tuk transfers to/from Terminal 21 and Sukhumvit MRT on a first-come-first-served basis.

The exterior of U Sukhumvit Hotel in Soi Sukhumvit 15.
Black and gold is always a good combination.
It’s a quiet part of the Sukhumvit area. There are barely stores in this part.
Complimentary tuk-tuk rides are available for hotel guests. First come, first serve.
The lobby area of U Sukhumvit Hotel in Bangkok.

Amenities. The hotel has a boutique feel to it. It doesn’t feel bland at all. The lobby area is tucked beside the ground floor parking area. The lobby is a loft type where the mezzanine is the hotel restaurant. Behind the hotel’s reception desk is a large map of Thailand. There’s a gym on the third floor and a swimming pool with a bar and library on the top level. This is probably my favorite amenity at U Sukhumvit.

The dining hall is a cozy size that’s perfect for this type of hotel.
My favorite part of the hotel is the rooftop swimming pool. It has a relaxing view of Sukhumvit.

Room. We got the deluxe room which is just the right size. It has a mini-bar, security safe, and a comfortable bathroom in dark hues. There aren’t too many good options on the TV (the cable channel offerings were news channels and basic stuff). I packed my own Bluetooth speakers which were entertainment.

The rooms at U Sukhumvit Hotel have unique motifs.
I love the dark colors. It always looks more elegant.
There’s a rain shower.

Food. Over the course of our 3-night stay at U Sukhumvit Hotel, the breakfast offering was more or less the same. They have tasty bacon with juicy fats. You can ask for eggs served your way (omelette, poached, sunny side up, scrambled). They had ‘farmers’ sausages in chicken and pork. They also have some noodles. A selection of ‘western’ cereal offerings and bread. A juice bar with an assortment of concoctions is available. Knowing that breakfast would probably be the same each day, I deliberately planned which day I’ll try what. 😉

Price. It’s in the three-star price range (honestly the hotel is very comfortable and is marketed as four-star). I’d put it at SGD 100.00 or less on off-peak. It’s one of the cheaper ones given the proximity to the city area. Value for money. I booked via Agoda.

Would I recommend this hotel? Yes. It’s in an affordable price range which also provides a nice rooftop swimming pool and a generous happy hour serving (1 for 1 on beers and cocktails from 5 to 8pm). We had a great time lounging on the roof deck during the 2nd day of this year’s Songkran festival. It was relaxing.

Special mention. All the staff we encountered at U Sukhumvit Hotel during the busy Songkran 2019 period were wonderful. If Thailand is the land of smiles, this hotel definitely had those. It’s that extra hospitality which always makes a hotel worth returning to.

Opening Week: Photos from Jewel Changi Airport

The Jewel is open! Changi Airport’s much-anticipated new feature opened to the public on April 17, 2019, after a massive preview the week before (photos, also here). The renders and teasers looked spectacular. But up close, it exceeded expectations. It’s bigger than I thought!

Jewel Changi Airport in daylight. It’s a monument that houses a reta

Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the S$1.7B mixed-used development really is Changi Airport’s crown jewel. Inside the tallest indoor waterfall in the world called the ‘HSBC Rain Vortex’ which itself is the centerpiece of the Shiseido Forest Valley. It’s a fitting tribute to Singapore’s image as a ‘city in a garden’.

There’s an IMAX theatre, a hotel, and over 300 retail and dining options inside this massive space. I’m most excited about the forest valley, canopy park, and its unique offerings like an A&W (returning to Singapore from 2019), Shake Shack, and Pokemon Centre.

I guess it’s funny for other people to wonder what’s the big deal with seeing another QB House, Starbucks, or Cotton On opening. But if you can do it to this scale and make it a unique shopping experience each time? Wow. Great job, Changi Airport!

Shiseido Forest Valley and Canopy Walk

The HSBC Rain Vortex has a night show.
A line of trees in Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park.
I love how they keep the lighting dim in the evening.
The ceiling reflecting in the pool of water.
I think it’s a good place for a date. If you don’t mind the crowds.
The indoor waterfall is the highlight of this spectacular space.
Animal topiaries in the Canopy Park.
Let’s pay attention to the seats in the Canopy Park as well.
It wouldn’t be Singapore without the floral spaces.
The crowds during opening week at Jewel Changi Airport.
One of the exclusive areas for VIP guests at Jewel Changi.

Retail and Dining 

The Pokemon Centre. The first permanent Pokemon store in Asia outside of Japan.
I’ll come back after the opening week crowds dissipate!
Get your chili crab fix at Jumbo Seafood.
Duplex-style stores include Shake Shack.
Another duplex-style store is Nike. This is the largest Nike store in Southeast Asia.
QB House Kids
The design is very open. From top levels to the basement.
At different parts of the perimeter you can take a peek at the rain vortex.
Tokyu Hands occupies one of the duplex spaces too.
This is a Starbucks Reserve store occupying one of the duplex slots at Jewel Changi Airport.
Also in a duplex is the Muji store in Jewel Changi Airport.
Go to Tim Ho Wan for your baked bun with pork BBQ.
I associate Bengawan Solo with SGH. But this one feels like a TWG Tea cafe.
It’s nice to see Singapore brands occupy a whole stretch of Jewel Changi Airport.
Gift stores selling new Jewel Changi Airport are also available.
The Changi Airport brand appears in all sorts of media. Like this piece of literature for kids.
A&W at Jewel Changi Airport. This is located in the basement area.
Tong Garden has a store. I associate this with the cheaper peanuts you can buy at Sheng Shiong.
Philippine snack brand Potato Corner which is expanding in Singapore also has a store at Jewel Changi Airport.
There’s also an IMAX brought to Jewel Changi Airport by Shaw Theatres.

How to get to Jewel Changi Airport?

Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 is connected directly to Jewel from the basement level (Arrivals). You can also cross the street at the drop-off level in depatures.

There’s an air-conditioned elevated walkway connecting into Jewel if you are originating from Terminal 2 and 3. If you are coming from Terminal 4, take a bus to Terminal 2 and then take the walkway into Jewel.

Despite how massive the offering is at Jewel, Changi Airport MRT station does not connect to it directly. You’ll have to follow the signs and head up into Terminals 2 or 3 and then take the walkway. Alternatively, you can take a skytrain to Terminal 1 and walk into Jewel.

Thailand with love

Visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok on the eve of Songkran 2019 celebrations. ❤

Vacation time! Flew across the pond with PJ to enjoy the sights and sounds of Songkran. I’ll be writing about the following:

  • Where to Stay: U Sukhumvit Hotel
  • Thai Massage: Healthland Asoke
  • Bekpackr’s Guide to Songkran
  • Photo Walk: Iconsiam Mall
  • Drinks over the Chao Phraya: Iconsiam’s Terrace
  • The Grand Palace in 2019
  • Songkran in Photos
  • Songkran in Videos



Best Milk Tea in Clarke Quay? HEYTEA, maybe? Hehe.

When the app said that the next Bus 195 to pass by Fort Canning will take 22 minutes (yes, THAT long of an interval), I asked PJ if he wanted to grab a drink at Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay is just a minute away from the bus stop we were at.

Ordering the same thing with PJ. Win for let me try yours if you try mine too.

A-ha! We should try HEYTEA which serves alcoholic milk tea (how appropriate for the tourist-driven watering hole). Or maybe we could just enjoy brown sugar milk tea.

We walk over to Block A and enter HEYTEA. It’s an Insta-worthy bubble tea establishment that’s brightly lit and has funky tables in the middle. It’s a contrast to the numerous pubs and bars all around which are dimly-lit.

HEYTEA serving you Apple store vibes in the middle of drunken Clarke Quay.

PJ and I couldn’t really decide between the other exotic flavors available. We ended up getting the EXACT SAME Brown Sugar Bobo Bubble Tea. Bobo, by the way, means dumb in Tagalog. But who cares. We’re here for the SUGAR RUSH. No kidding my songkran diet is completed f already.

Filled with… youth.
The alcoholic bubble tea beverages are sold at a separate counter.
Above 18 only.
Remind me to try the TIPSY ICE CREAM next time.
Not quite sure what these are for.
Clever design if you think about it.
So deep.
Brown sugar Bobo!
Went for “LESS SUGAR” but each gulp of these sugary pearls = SUGAR RUSH.
At first I thought you could order milk tea towers here. It’s just decor.
“Make a dent in the universe” and by that, we mean taking photographs of black holes.
They have a CLAW machine. You can earn tokens when you order MILK TEA.
You can win stickers and tote bags.
Clarke Quay.

You can find HEYTEA at Block A in Clarke Quay. Here’s a map for you.


Photos: The Streets of Dublin, Ireland (Part 1)

Dublin is a peaceful city. Unless you’ve had a few rounds of Guinness. I guess like in most European cities, the buildings aren’t tall. But they’re old and historic— filled with shops and cafes.

This was part of the festival parade route during Saint Patrick’s Day. This was taken in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

When I took these photos, I hadn’t seen the boutiques of London, Paris, or Vienna. Dublin is the first European city I’m visiting. I suppose this is a great start.

I had a few things in mind while walking. I wanted to see Dublin Castle but ended up taking a wrong turn and discovering something else.

While I was in Dublin for work, I couldn’t help but take in my surroundings and breathe the cool air. It was 8-12 degrees C. Luckily, it wasn’t raining during the times I was out on these streets.

Inside this art shop is a real fireplace (lol, forgive me I only see them in pictures). I purchased a print.
This is how Saint Patrick’s Cathedral looks like from the side. People were out with their dogs.
It’s frigid enough. These birds though.
Fresh flowers all around. This was taken near Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
This building houses the Grafton Guesthouse among other establishments.
Kellys Hotel (which manages Grafton Guesthouse) sits above Hogan’s. I regret not being able to try the food and beer at Hogan’s.
I was walking with Krutika when we passed by this lovely chocolate cafe in the shopping district.
It takes time adjusting to different shopping cultures. Replace Asian malls with streets lined with fast food joints and clothing stores. This is one prime area filled with shops.
I took this photo before the sun set on Saint Patrick’s Day. People were starting to gather in larger groups and were hanging outside the pubs nearby.
You can see how some of the stores are closed already.
What caught my attention wasn’t the old building. It was the sign in front that said Cushman & Wakefield were developing it.
Buskers on Saint Patrick’s Day. A touch of green and bright orange.
McDonalds in green.
Couldn’t help but take a photo with this man in a cardinal costume.
Streets cleared for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Street near my guesthouse.
I was looking for lip balm.
A street near my guesthouse.

A feeling I had was of delight and sadness.

Delightful to see old buildings survive the ages.

Sadness? Because there are plenty of old buildings in other parts of the world that get destroyed by conflict and war. Many of those old buildings were destroyed in Manila by the Japanese and the Americans in World War II. What if we still had those buildings?

See part 2 of my street photo walk here.See part 2 of my street photo walk here.

Video: Quickfire with @bekpackr (March 2019)

This is part of a 30-day video challenge with PJ.

We want to practice how we express ourselves in front of a camera. By doing this I noticed I can put my thoughts together faster and answer quickly. We both didn’t get to do 30 videos each (one each day). I flew to Dublin and I had several work commitments that came up. I wanted to wrap up the 30-day challenge by answering the remaining 9 questions in succession.

Here are the original questions:

Follow our Instagram page: Peter John and George.

VivoCity Place to Eat: Express Teppanyaki

Don’t you love the sound of sizzling meat and vegetables? Teppanyaki is about the experience of having it cooked right in front of you. It makes me smile haha.

Express Teppanyaki is located inside VivoCity’s Food Republic.

Happy to discover a teppanyaki place that isn’t far from my house in Bukit Merah! PJ and I usually go to Orchard for our teppanyaki fix (this is the one at the food court of Wisma Atria).

You get to enjoy watching the cook prepare your meal.

Location. You can find Express Teppanyaki at Food Republic, VivoCity. If you don’t know where Food Republic is, it’s near the Sentosa Express. Within the food court, Express Teppanyaki is on the left side as you enter.

Express Teppanyaki has three chef’s stations.
Express Teppanyaki VivoCity’s menu as of April 2019.

Price. We spent about SGD 12-16 each here. I think it’s a little cheaper than the one at Wisma Atria. The offerings are the teppanyaki basics you’d find like sliced beef, prawn, and a few other set meals that are bundled in different ways.

Sauteed bean sprouts.

Taste. It’s your food court-style teppanyaki so it’s best to manage expectations. Is it good? I’ll say yes. It’s a teppanyaki quick fix. I liked the sliced beef with garlic and chilli bits. This has generous amounts of brown sauce. PJ ordered the king prawn set and I love that more.

Sliced beef with garlic and chilli. There’s a thick amount of sauce.
PJ ordered the king prawn and this was delicious.
Another set of vegetables were served.

Bonus Video with PJ after the jump.

Continue reading “VivoCity Place to Eat: Express Teppanyaki”