Monday, October 31, 2016

Thailand: Part Two of the Elephant Show – The ‘Yutha Hathi’ Thai Royal Battle

For the Part One blog entry of the Elephant Show, please go here – Elephant World Cup (2015) and some Magic

As mentioned in the first part of this blog entry, I would not have made it here if not for my mother. I am not a zoo person. I would rather see animals in their natural habitat. But having said that, I can’t really say that I have a moralistic attitude when it comes to animals in captivity. The elephants I have seen here at Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo were well-fed and looked quite happy.

I predict however that the zoo institution will become a less attractive piece of entertainment in the coming years and generation. What with the increase of noise around animal rights in the west – we even have a political ‘Animal Party (Partij voor de Dieren) in the parliament in the Netherlands! People as well are becoming more conscious about their footprints affecting the world’s ecosystem and are slowly adapting a responsible and sustainable lifestyle. I guess it is just a matter of time.

Anyway, here at Samphran, the Elephant Show is divided into several parts and acts. We started off with some magic, similar to having an aperitif at first. The hors d’oeuvres were the introduction of the elephants. The teaser so to speak. Then the first course came when the gentle animals played the Elephant World Cup, hehe.

Now we are on the main course of this show – the Yutha Hathi which is a re-enactment of the historical Thai Royal Battle scene.

Here is a short video of the Royal Battle, the Yutha Hathi.

The elephants were dressed extravagantly in colourful silken and embroidered garb and their fighters as well in very elegant ancient robes and headwear, accentuated with highly dramatic accessories such as umbrellas. I am not sure if the purpose of the umbrella is to protect the fighter from the stark rays of the sun or the sword and spear of the enemy? I am confused. Maybe these are just props for the show.

The dessert finale came after the battle when the elephants lined up for the audience for the most awaited picture taking and feeding. You can buy bananas for a few baht to feed the lovely animals. I even managed to make a quick selfie! Yipee =)

Such a beautiful and gentle animal.

In full royal battle gear.

Oi, the trunk must tickle!

Feeding the elephants - just look at the little girl's expression, amazed and slightly intimidated at the huge gentle animals cowering above her.

My selfie. An achievement, haha.

These little children were so brave! Kudos.

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Sam Phran (Nakhon-Pathom), Thailand

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All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or iPhone.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Singapore: Family Dinner at Kim’s Seafood Place (From Street Hawker to Restaurant & Caterer)

On my last evening in Singapore last year, the family decided to have dinner at this restaurant with a very inspiring story located on Joo Chiat, a road famous for its iconic shophouses. SisterJ have been here before, and knowing that I am always interested in encouraging stories with a touch of history behind places we eat and visit, she brought me here.

On the walls of the restaurant the whole history of this eatery business was written, well I guess hanged in frames would be more appropriate. It all began with a simple yet very tasty Chinese Malay-Singaporean dish: Hokkien Mee (stir-fried egg and rice noodles with prawns, squid, egg, pork, chicken, selected vegetables, lime and sambal). This became the pillar of the then small-time street food hawker. Regulars came pouring in and the business became very popular that it was able to afford moving into a proper food stall/eatery place.

News clippings, awards and pictures on the wall showed the humble journey of Kim’s Seafood Place through 2 generations. From a simple street hawker in the 1960’s to a thriving restaurant and business caterer now. Isn’t that very inspiring?

Helaas, my family however were not in the mood to eat any Hokkien Mee. Instead, we ordered a roasted crispy duck, braised pork swimming generously in sauce, some bakchoy vegetables with fried garlic and a local specialty, a giant chili crab. We were careful not to order a lot since the portions were quite big.

The crispy duck was crunchy and delicious, highly recommended. I am not so much into the braised pork stuff but this was quite good though. Very tender and tasty. We should have ordered more vegetables. And the chili crab was geniusly cooked, a craving for me really as the family watched me dismember the poor juicy and meaty crustacean. I share the same seafood love with my father, and sometimes my sister. My mother however is a full pledged meat eater. Well, she can have all the pork and duck while I dig in to my crab. We are happy that way.

And as you might be aware of already, the eating culture in Asia is designed for everyone to share the food on the table with each other. I always look forward to an eating set up like this when I am visiting Asia. I can’t wait to go back (home) soon.

So yes, we quite enjoyed our dinner here. Thanks to SisterJ and Myrrh for the treat!

Cooked nuts with chili sauce.

Tiger beer for the win!

The history of Kim's Seafood Place on the wall of the restaurant.

Slicing the braised pork.

Sauteed bakchoy greens with lots of fried garlic.

Very crisy roasted whole duck.

Voila! The famous chili crab of Singapore. This is one giant of a crab.

Stalking the parents.

Ah, now that the dinner is over and our stomachs are satisfied, we can now take pictures =)

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Eastern Region, Singapore

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All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or iPhone.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thailand: Part One of the Elephant Show – "Elephant World Cup" (2015) and some Magic

If not because of my mother, who is adamant on seeing the Elephant show, I wouldn’t have been here and be able to witness the Elephant World Cup! Who would have thought elephants can play football?

The location of the Elephant show is at Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo in Sam Phran District of Nakhon-Pathom province, approximately an hour’s drive from central Bangkok.

We were here in Sam Phran in the afternoon after a morning at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and lunch at Pae Poh Kaew floating restaurant anchored along the Tha Cin River.

The Elephant show started with a front act—some magic. The one-eyed pirate magician with an assistant impersonating Elvis Presley were quite a laugh. For all I know, the duo could have come straight from a Las Vegas gig.

I had low expectations. Magic, together with circus and festival rides reminds me of my childhood days. So being in my mid 40’s I did not know what to expect. But I laughed, so I guess the magic front act was a success.

Then the elephants came!

The horde of elephants came marching in and were introduced one by one to the public. Similar to a beauty pageant, the gentle animals flaunt their best talent forward. Gyrating their thick bodies to the music. Dancing elephants anyone? Some were twirling their heads and trunks. A few showed off how to kneel and cross the leg. Wow, I did not know they can do that. I even saw 2 elephants swaying their butts and standing on their front 2 legs with their 2 back legs up in the air! My goodness, that was some impressive acrobatic stunt, haha. You can imagine the crowd laughing and howling like crazy.

Then a new set of elephants came and this time they were dressed as famous football stars. Neymar from Brazil. Robben from Holland. Messi from Argentina. Rooney from England. Honda from Japan. Ronaldo from Portugal. They were all present. What a superb line up of the world’s greatest football players in a single game!

The show just got better when the elephants started playing football. The lovely animals can actually kick ball and even score. We the audience on the tribune went wild of course. Clearly everyone was in high spirits including me. Haha, I have never expected an elephant show like this.

I managed to take 2 short videos of these wonderful football players =)

Introducing the world's famous football players!

The elephants here playing football. You have to watch this video! =)

I am aware of stories about animal exploitation by zoo establishments. The elephants at Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo however looked like they were well taken cared of, and that they seemed to really enjoy what they do. But then again I am not an animal expert.

So far the elephants here looked very happy, and they sure gave a stealer of a show.


This duo was really funny, especially the Elvis Presley inspired dresser assistant to the magician.


Oh, I am seeing Arjan Robben from the Netherlands, haha.

I sat high up in the tribune so I could take good pictures.

And I am seeing Neymar from Brazil and Rooney from England as well =)

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Sam Phran (Nakhon-Pathom), Thailand

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or iPhone.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Netherlands: Walk in Baarn Forest (Baarnse Bos) and Tea at Eethuys-Cafe ‘De Generaal’

Autumns are weekends spent walking in the forest for the Dutchman and I. The fall season, however, came a bit later in the Netherlands, which probably had something to do with the extended summer we’ve had. So I am wondering if winter will come a bit later as well? We shall see.

This walk was taken on the first weekend of October. We were running late so I suggested the Baarnse Bos (Baarn Forest) which is a small forest and is actually a combination of forest and park altogether. The manmade touch is evident in every nook and cranny of this jungle park. Dutchman was complaining, saying he prefers to walk in a real forest, but helaas, we were late. Next weekend then.

Art sculptures in the park forest.

In the Grote Kom (this is the bigger pond) you will see statues of women in old costumes.

This is the smaller pond, the Lindekom.

The Baarnse Bos walking trail is approximately 4 kilometres. Of course, you do not have to follow the trail if you only wish to stroll around the park which has 2 ponds, the Grote Kom (bigger pond) and Lindekom (smaller pond).

It’s a great place to chill and perfect for families with children and dogs, as well as for older people who wish to get some fresh air.

A little background: The Baarnse Bos is previously part of the 17th century De Eult Estate owned by the rich with political influence, the De Graeff family. They were the republican rivals of the Dutch Royal (Oranje) family. Unfortunately, the family had financial problems and had to sell the estate as well as the Soestdijk property to the Oranjes. The Eult mansion was brought to the ground and this is what we now see remaining of the estate, the park forest. Soestdijk later became Palace Soestdijk, the royal residence of the Dutch Royal family under Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. They lived here until their respective deaths in 2004. The palace is currently being auctioned by the Dutch government who now owns the estate, with conditions of course, and will go to the highest bidder with a sound plan.

Beside the Baarnse Bos is the famous Eethuys-Café ‘De Generaal’, an iconic café restaurant in Baarn that also has its own fair share of history with the village, as well as with the Dutch Royal family. This café used to be a railway station designed in Jugendstil (aka Art Nouveau) with a luxurious cafe restaurant and exclusive waiting rooms for the royal family. The café remained but the railway history, helaas has moved on.

The location is really perfect for people who come with the car or train. There is enough car parking beside the café restaurant and the vintage yet beautiful and well maintained Baarn railway station is just across.

Dutchman and I have been here before many years ago after having a walk in nearby Hoge Vuursche which we found out were not really a good of a place to walk around. There were no real walking trails. You are better off at Lage Vuursche, or here at Baarnse Bos if you prefer just a short walk.

The Eethuys-cafe "De Generaal" used to be a railway station with waiting rooms in Baarn.

It is a small park forest with a 4-kilometre walking trail.

As Dutchman and I were walking we suddenly heard sounds of something falling to the ground, well actually falling on our foreheads as well, and we realised they were nuts. I guess that is why it is called the fall season. Not only leaves fall but also nuts =)

The Lindekom (smaller pond).

Some of the trails here are so man-made such as this tree-lined pathway.

You can tell the age of a tree by its number of rings. Can you tell?

Some of the fallen trees were just left as is in the forest, while others were piled ready to be brought to a different location.

Dogs run freely here. I would love to have a cat or a dog but I am afraid of skin allergies, as well as I do not think I am ready to invest a lot of time, effort and money for a pet. I mean, I do not even have kids. Well, I am strongly considering a cat though as they are less maintenance. 

Information about the statue costumes in the Baarnse Bos park. This is the Grote Kom pond (the bigger pond).

Reflections on the water.

Instead of the usual tart for tea, we settled for some warm Bitterballen with mustard.

The interior in Jugend (art nouveau) style of the cafe restaurant is well preserved and maintained.

Travel Period: October 2016
Destination: Baarn (Utrecht), the Netherlands

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or iPhone.

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