I hopped over to Ajman on a whim, from my trip to Sharjah. It was my free day, and after a lot of confusion (self-created) I eventually stumbled over to Ajman. The choice was a bit of convenience and a bit of serendipity. Sultan Saray was my lunch stop. I will get to it in a while.
I was standing at a Hop On Hop Off bus stop near the Central Souq in Sharjah. A friendly staff (from Philippines) came out and started chatting with me! She mentioned that they have an Ajman hop on hop off tour too. I was interested. I almost bought the ticket but stopped because they had one hour service on the route and I had a flight to catch in the evening.
So, I walked off and randomly went to the back of the souq. Passing by the mosque, I crossed through the under bridge and reached the Al Jubail Souq which has a fish market within it, with live auctions. And right in front of it was the Al Jubail Bus Stop! Now everything was pointing towards going to Ajman!
I boarded a bus and after a few adventures I reached the Ajman Beach. It was time for lunch and I started exploring restaurants. The first one I tried was a cafe and they didn’t had much for vegetarians. I was also looking for beer (alcohol is banned in Sharjah, the only Emirates to do so) but did not find it at lunch.
The second restaurant I went to was Sultan Saray. They have an outdoor seating by the sea and I was sold on it. But my first concern was to see if they served anything vegetarian. The server convinced me that they have veg options. He pointed out to a veg casserole and drinks. He added there were some veg salads too. I asked for an avocado drink and told him I would make up my mind about the main course in a while. But in some confusion he already passed on the order of veg casserole and the avocado drink.
I had no problem with this, but I do have a problem with the way they dealt with it. When I called them they kept standing away. They were not willing to communicate with me. I had to raise my voice to sort it out. I basically told them in a loud voice that I was OK if they have already placed the order. As they were not willing to walk near me to listen to me, I had to option but to slightly raise my voice. I thought it was completely unnecessary.
Then came the drink, followed by the food. The drink was nice but it had syrup in it, which is common to the region. The veg casserole was good, it was basically grilled vegetables in oil. One nice waiter noticed that they had not served bread with it and brought it for me.
I had a peaceful meal. I enjoyed the view too. There were many people sitting for lunch out there. It was a beautiful day, not too cold and it was nice to sit by the sea. I would have spent more time but then I had to go back to Sharjah and I had a flight later in the evening.
So, I asked for the bill. I then took out my card to pay for it. The girl taking the bill asked me, making a face, if I can pay by cash? I made a face back to her and told her no, I would pay by card. That settled it. The bill cam to 72 Dirham.
While walking out I told the person who goofed up on the order that the food was good, because it really was. Then I went back to the internet and saw I was not alone. Many people gave them 1 star rating on their own FB page because of the service.
Will I go back to Sultan Saray? Yes, I will, for the great location and good food, but this time I would know what to expect of them when it came to service. I am giving them the benefit of doubt for the service. But if I faced a similar experience again, I would surely give them a miss.
Khum Khantoke in Chiang Mai is a popular restaurant serving the traditional Lanna dinner along with a vibrant cultural show. Khum means a wooden pavilion and Khantoke is a circular plate which contains many dishes. Traditional khantoke is served while the guests are sitting on the mats on ground! Modern ones can be served on a table too.
Khum Khantoke has both outdoor and indoor halls. The day we visited it rained, so they used one of the indoor halls. The place has a beautiful ambiance, it was pleasant to walk around the grounds after the rains.
The lobby of the indoor hall was grand. I was quite mesmerized with the peacock arrangement. I spent quite sometime to get a better picture of the setup. It was quite popular with the guests, everyone wanted a picture there.
The hall itself was huge and nicely done. I was told it can seat 800 people. There were both, the low floor mats and dinner tables. Our reservation was for the dinner table.
As a few of us were vegetarians our table had both the khantokes. The idea was to take the sticky rice, dip in in various curries and it eat with side dishes. The drinks are extra. I had a beer with my meal.
The opening sequence (first image in this post) was opulent and graceful. I wish I knew more about the dance but then spending one night at a restaurant is never going to be enough to learn!
For me the cultural show was the highlight of the evening. There were Lanna tribal dances, umbrella dance, group dances and much more. Lanna is the culture of the people of North Thailand. Chiang Mai is also called the Rose of North Thailand.
They presented an act from Ramayana as well. I was surprised when i saw it for the first time in Cambodia. But I am now aware that Ramayana is performed in many countries other than India!
This young man performing with his swords had my rapt attention. I think I held my breath till he took out each one of those safely! While we were enjoying the show two pretty girls went around the tables along with a photographer. They later sell the photograph to you as a souvenir. There is no compulsion to buy. I did bring back mine home. Chhavi quite likes it.
The night was pleasant after the rains. We walked out after a beautiful evening and strolled around for a while. I was wondering how it would be to sit outside and see the whole performance. But for the rains that would have been my experience. But I was content with the rich culture that I saw, it would remain the irrespective of the setting.
PS. I was invited by TAT New Delhi on this trip.
For me the first day of a trip is usually the most tiring. There is one single reason which contributes to it, my habit of not sleeping a wink on International flights. As I hardly used to get time to watch movies, I would watch back to back movies in international flights and arrive quite tired at the destination.
The Whole Earth Chiang Mai was our dinner place on the first day of my most recent trip to Thailand. I was dead on my feet, all I wanted was bed.
And yet I was able to notice the surroundings, which says a lot for the place. The Whole Earth serves both Indian and Thai cuisines. I am fine with vegetarian food it doesn’t have to be Indian. In fact when I travel, I wish to try out other foods as long as I can get something vegetarian.
I was suitably impressed with the ambiance of The Whole Earth Restaurant. The indoor seating is inside a teak house which is spotlessly clean.
I saw the outdoor seating only from a distance but it looked alluring too. I wonder why but you have to remove your footwear outside to enter the main restaurant building.
I went with tender coconut water for drink, which is very sweet and delicious in Thailand. If it is not alcohol it has to be tender coconut for me.
For food I went with Phad Thai Noodles and got to share in with naan, pulao and sabzi with others. The noodles tasted fresh and it was even better when I squeezed in a little lemon on it.
The potato sabzi was also good. The flavors were mild but then they asked me at the beginning if I wanted my food spicy or not. In spite of living all my life in India I can’t eat very spicy food. So the mildness was on request.
Even though it had been a long day for everyone, conversation was good right from day one among the five of us. With my stomach full, I was so longing for bed in my hotel, The Balcony. If I had a chance I would go back to the Whole Earth again. But after so many trips I also know that the tiredness of the first day passes quickly and everyone becomes more sunny from the second day onwards!
PS. I was invited on this trip by TAT New Delhi.
Koh in Thai means ‘island’. Lanta is a beautiful island in the Krabi Province. I would recommend both Krabi and Koh Lanta highly for a vacation. The beaches are divine and the crowd is not that thick! I also feel not many Indians go there, which is a pity! Let me take you through my seven favorite things to do in Koh Lanta!
The Beautiful Beaches
Koh Lanta is blessed with many beaches that are truly beautiful. I spent most of my time at Kantiang Bay Beach as it was next to the Pimalai Resort where I was staying. Not too crowded at any point of time, sunsets were special!
Mu Koh Lanta National Park
Mu Koh Lanta would work for you if you are looking for peace. I almost had the entire beach that you see in the picture to myself. I went walking along the length of it and saw just one couple! There is a path leading to a lighthouse, which gives the fabulous view of the park!
You can go kayaking along the mangrove channels. I didn’t had the time to do it, but I can imagine what fun it would be. If you are fond of eating fish I was told that the fishermen cook the fresh catch in the local restaurants that dot the walkway of the mangrove area.
There is a quaint fisherman’s village in Koh Lanta which is worth exploring. You immediately get a feeling of stepping back in time. The inhabitants are said to be sea gypsies and they hardly interact with tourists. But one is free to roam around and walk through the village.
Lanta Old Town
The old part of Lanta town has fascinating architecture. You can walk across the main street end to end easily. The wooden houses are a feast to the eye. There is a pier to walk through as well. It is a place to sit down at the restaurants and take it slow.
After five trips to Thailand i would say the whole of Thailand offers great shopping. The conventional wisdom says the shopping is great in Bangkok. Initially I would also leave stuff that I liked, thinking I would pick it up in Bangkok. But then I would never find the same stuff in Bangkok, or I would not have time! My new shopping mantra is that if the price is reasonable, and if I like it, I would not wait for Bangkok. I buy it then and there. I picked up my favorite t-shirt in this shopping complex at Koh Lanta.
Good Food at the Local Restaurants
I had food at my upmarket resort and I had food at local restaurants. Both were good, but the local restaurants are so much fun. And they always had something for the vegetarian me! I had pizza at the Swedish Pub and Restaurant and veg noodles at Same Same but Different (it was the name of the restaurant) and both were smashing.
So what are you waiting for? If you are thinking Thailand, think Koh Lanta and Krabi. They are great places for a family vacation.
PS. I visited Koh Lanta on invitation of Tourism Authority of Thailand, New Delhi.