Tag Archives: Thailand

Lao Lane Xang 2: simply the best

I have been a loyal customer of Lao Lane Xang 2 ever since it was created. It is my number one choice in the Southeast Asian food category in Paris, and in fact, I could not imagine my life without this divine restaurant, owned by half Laotian, half Vietnamese brothers.

The restaurant is always full and reservations are recommended. However, if you are just two and willing to wait for 15-30 minutes, you usually get a table. But try to call at least one day in advance.

The menu consists of dishes from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Even if the prices were increased a little bit in early January, they remain very reasonable. For example, we usually order more than enough food, champagne & beer for aperitif and wine with food, and the bill has never exceeded 75€ (for two).

Some of my favorite dishes are the following:

1. Ped Lad Prik (tamarind duck 13€). This is the house special and the most popular dish. It is simply from heaven. Number L43 in the menu (I know the numbers by heart!).Ped Lad Prik

2. Lap Neua (minced beef meat 9€50). This is the famous Laotian raw or semi-raw dish, which exists also in duck at Lao Lane Xang 2. It is one of my favorite dishes in the world (One more time, one more laap) and nothing beats a well-made lap, I reckon. I even learned how to make it in Laos (Cooking class in Luang Prabang).lap neuaI believe that the version made by Lao Lane Xang 2 is as close as it gets to any lap made in Laos and if you like raw or semi-raw meat, go for it! (Tip: I order lap even during summer months and I have never been sick at Lao Lane Xang 2. But if you hesitate, ask them to cook it more for you)

3. Yam Lao Lane Xang (prawn and cuttlefish salad 10€40). This vinegar-based salad is another favorite of mine. It is refreshing and contains raw red onions, cashew nuts, salad, fried prawns and dried cuttlefish slices. Delicious!!Yam Lao Lane Xang

4. Khung (fried prawns in red coconut curry 12€40). My husband loves this dish but since I usually don’t eat fried food, I find it slightly less appealing. Do not get me wrong; it IS very tasty, but one has to like fried food to like it (well, stating the obvious now…). I usually have a little bit, but I could not eat the entire dish alone.Khung

The menu is long and I have tasted at least one third of the dishes. They are all very good, but these four have become my favorite ones over the years. If you are a group of people, then order many dishes and share: the best way to explore Asian cuisine!

As to the wine, we usually have wine by carafe (50cl 10€) and find it of rather high quality. A glass of champagne (Philipponnat) costs 8€50 and it is a wonderful choice of champagne.

I love going to Lao Lane Xang 2 and find the service excellent and fast. Highly recommended!!

Lao Lane Xang 2:

102 avenue d’Ivry, 75013


Telephone. +33 (0)1 58 89 00 00
Metro: Tolbiac, Place d’Italie
Closed on Wednesdays!


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Revisiting Angkor

Today was the last day of the exhibition Angkor, Birth of a Myth- Louis Delaporte and Cambodia at Museum Guimet in Paris. Coincidentally, it was almost one year ago that I visited these ancient temples myself. Angkor exhibition, museum GuimetEven if we spent a rather long time (five full days!) in Siem Reap (Eat Drink Sleep Siem Reap (survival guide to Siem Reap) visiting nearby temples, I still felt it was not sufficient to really absorb and understand what had happened in the past. “Who what why when” became more complicated than ever! There were the Hindu Kings, then Buddhism; there were many different empires. To notice architectural details each religion brought to different temples during different times was not always easy, and having a lousy guide did not help. Indeed, it felt very overwhelming to be honest. And maybe this is why I still have not written anything about the Angkor temples (after one year!!).Angkor, museum GuimetHowever, visiting the exhibition this afternoon enlightened me. It was such a great pleasure to see old drawings, photos, maps, paintings, moldings, replicates, etc. that I now feel one step closer to actually being able to write something about this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meanwhile, have you ever felt the same about a historic or archaeological place somewhere in the world?

More information about the exhibition: http://culturoid.com/2013/10/angkor-birth-of-a-myth-louis-delaporte-and-cambodia-musee-guimet-paris/ 

Museum Guimet: www.guimet.frMuseum GuimetPS Museum Guimet is an architectural pearl. It hosts one of the best Asian art collections of the world, if not the very best. So pay a visit if interested in Asian art.

Top Ten of 2013

One year and one week ago I started my blog, encouraged by a friend. I will always be indebted to her as this has been such a wonderful experience and one hell of a ride if I may say. The blog has brought an entirely new dimension to my life; I could have never thought about making so many new friends and attracting so many followers. My sincerest thanks to everyone of you!!

To celebrate this one-year anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what the highlights of the year were. Enjoy, and pick the post that most interests you!

1. The most read postBus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Laos is a fantastic, rewarding country, but traveling inside is not always simple. I am happy that my post has helped so many thousands of travelers to enjoy Laos!

2. The second-most read postEat Drink Sleep Siem Reap (survival guide to Siem Reap). Nothing to add. Angkor temples, initially built by the Hindu kings, continue to fascinate the entire world. And Siem Reap is the base for exploring this UNESCO World Heritage site.Angkor temples

3. The third-most read postKoh Lipe: mixed feelings. Thailand. Well. I did not fall in love with Koh Lipe, a tiny island in the Andaman Sea near Langkawi, Malaysia. I hear Koh Lipe was quite a paradise ten years but to me it seems the word “sustainable” was forgotten along the way…

4. The most-read post about FinlandIce swimming in Finland. One of my favorite posts, too! Have a look if you haven’t already but do not believe everything I say.

5. The most educational postEating oysters in months without “r”. Oysters, this ancient delicacy! A lot of people wonder when it is safe to eat them. Read my post and tell me, “r” or not to “r”! oysters

6. The most read recipeCôte de Bœuf (ultimate French meat dish). A classic French dish; so simple but delicious! Now you know where to get your iron boost.

7. My first-ever post!Thursday night in Paris

8. The most family-oriented postFranco-Finnish Christmas meal. Christmas in Paris with my parents, husband and French delicacies.

9. The best design object portrayedAlvar Aalto bell lamps from 1937 find a new home in ParisAlvar Aalto lamp

10. The post about friendshipMaking friends over the Indian Ocean. A story about friendship that developed over the Indian Ocean and developed in Tanzania.

PS If you are on Facebook, why not to follow Pearlspotting there too?

Koh Lipe: mixed feelings

Thailand was the last stretch of our Southeast Asia trip and which beach to choose was a big dilemma! Our criteria were: somewhere quiet, away from mass tourism and reputable snorkeling. If time was not a constraint, we would have chosen the Surin or Similan Islands, but with only five days left it made no sense. We heard from diver friends that the sea is generally more clear on the Andaman side, and since our return flight back to Paris was from Kuala Lumpur, I begun looking into the islands near Malaysia. Soon enough I came across with the Tarutao National Marine Park (http://www.kohlipethailand.com/about_koh_lipe_tarutao_national_marine_park.php) and beautiful photos of Koh Lipe Island. I (wrongly) assumed that this rather remote location would guarantee some privacy…. Tarutao National Marine Park

We booked Lipe Resort (http://www.liperesort.com/) via hotels.com for 64€ per night. Soon after the arrival we felt that we should have gotten something much nicer for that amount of money…. The hotel is located on the Pattaya Beach, one of the two main beaches of Koh Lipe (http://www.kohlipethailand.com/images2/maps/map-koh-lipe.jpg). The beach is not particularly welcoming for swimming because there are too many boats parked in front of the beach and this has indeed become a common complaint about the Pattaya Beach. map of Tarutao National Marine Park

The first day we did snorkeling in front of the hotel. The snorkeling was actually quite pleasant and we saw many schools of fish and colorful corals but returning to the beach was a challenge as the low tide brought us closer and closer to sea urchins (there are many!).

The next day we booked a full-day snorkeling trip to visit the smaller islands and snorkeling spots of the Tarutao snorkeling in Tarutao National Marine Parkarchipelago. Most companies offer two types of full-day snorkeling trips and we did both of them through a company called Koh Lipe Thailand Travel Shop (Boi’s Travel Shop) on the main road (http://www.kohlipethailand.com/). The shop sells all types of tickets, has computers for internet, and provides other travel services. The owner (?) called Boi is friendly and speaks French, too. In fact we felt that she was one of the few professional persons we met on the island…. Her shop became a one-stop-shop for everything we needed.

Regarding snorkeling, Program 2 is supposed to be more complete and interesting, but we preferred Program 1.  As we did not particularly like the Pattaya Beach we were happy to escape the island during the day.

When you google Koh Lipe, the internet gives you amazing photos of the most beautiful beaches, snorkeling in Tarutao National Marine Parkbut for your information, in most cases these photos are not of Koh Lipe but of islands nearby. So even if you are not a snorkeler I recommend you to do these daily trips to get away from the crowds. The only downside of the snorkeling was a storm that had touched the island just before our arrival, infesting the sea with millions (am not kidding…) small jelly fish. They were everywhere to the extent that our boat decided to skip a few snorkeling spots. A pity! This said, we liked the snorkeling and it was the highlight of our Koh Lipe stay. As you can see in the photo, some beaches are very picturesque (yet unfortunately dirty, which I found shocking considering this is supposed to be a National Marine Park!).

storm in Koh Lipe

But back to the accommodation.

Lipe Resort had not impressed us in any way. The food was very inconsistent and left us craving for that famous Thai culinary experience. The service was bad, or should I say nonexistent, and our clothes came back from the laundry with holes and stains. Great. The room was ok, but at night the neighbors were making a lot of noise. I think the worst part of Koh Lipe was in fact the badly-behaving tourists: who likes to watch people throwing up and passing out…. Unfortunately Koh Lipe was soon becoming the destination we had explicitly waview from Mountain Resortnted to avoid…!

We had no time to change the island, but after two nights we changed the hotel. We moved to Mountain Resort (http://www.mountainresortlipe.com/), located on the other side of the island, on Sunrise Beach where people gather to watch the sunset. One of the most commonly-used pictures to illustrate Koh Lipe has been taken from this hotel and on the right side you see my version of this view.

We paid 50€ per night for a “deluxe garden view” bungalow and the price felt more or less correct until on our last day I woke up with bed bMountain resortug bites (again!)…. If you decide to stay at this hotel, do yourself a favor and minimize the risk by staying at one of the concrete bungalows (bed bugs prefer wood). We liked the location of the hotel and the beach in front of the hotel you see in the photo above is really gorgeous. Unfortunately the beach is not well maintained and there is a lot of rubbish (see the photo below). Such a pity!!

Mountain ResortThe other downside was once again the food: the hotel food was at best mediocre and you are sort of stuck because there are not many options as to where to eat near the hotel. You need about 10 minutes to walk to the Pattaya Beach and the “main road” where most of the services are located.

A tourism professional we later on met has been going to Koh Lipe for over ten years now and he said that there are only two hotels that meet professional, international standards, and they are Castaway Beach Resort (http://www.castaway-resorts.com/)  and Serendipity Resort (http://www.serendipityresort-kohlipe.com/). We stopped by at both resorts and Castaway seemed to attract chic clientele with stylish decoration. The reception person at Serendipity was not welcoming regarding our request about prices and rooms, and the prices seemed excessive.

This same person shKoh Lipeared our impression that the tourism has gone wrong in Koh Lipe. When you look around, on the island or in the sea, you see lots of rubbish. I found this particularly shocking because it felt that the National Marine Park status means nothing! Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the clientele was not at all what I had expected, and once again I asked myself how the locals feel about watching those drunks… The original inhabitants of this archipelago are Malay aboriginal sea gypsies, also called Urak Lawoi people. Since 1974, when the Tarutao became a National Marine Park, their lives have gone upside down and if I were one of them, I would ask what happened to that once beautiful and innocent island called Koh Lipe.

PS I by no means want to upset any of my dear readers by this article, but I think it is important to share sincere opinions. If you are in love with Thailand and think my experience does not give justice to Thailand, then please write to me and provide me with the coordinates of your favorite secret, unspoilt beach destination and I will try it the next time I am in Thailand!

Paradise in colors: Temple Tree at Bon Ton

We were in Koh Lipe, Thailand, and our return flight back to Paris from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was only few days away. When you look at the map, you see that Koh Lipe is one of the closest Thai islands to Malaysia. If you are on your way to Kuala Lumpur, it makes a lot of sense to stop in Langkawi, one of Malaysia’s prime beach destinations. We took a speedboat from Koh Lipe to Langkawi and in just over one hour we crossed the border and were welcomed by a customs officer who drove us to a customs building and then to our hotel (these services came with the speed boat ticket). And I had thought it is easy to cross borders in Europe!

Our brief stay at Temple Tree at Bon Ton (http://www.templetree.com.my) was truly delightful. If you have been to India, you may know the Neemrana group of hotels (http://neemranahotels.com)? Every Neemrana hotel is a heritage building and rooms are decorated with local textiles, objects of art and antique furniture. Well, this is what Temple Tree is about, too. Temple Tree consists of eight villas; colorful, wooden heritage buildings that originate from different parts of Malaysia, representing different eras and aspects of Malaysian history. “Bon Ton” in the name refers to Temple Tree’s sister hotel, which is a short walk away (http://www.bontonresort.com.my).

Chinese Houserestaurantreceptionpool viewIMG_2110IMG_2124

Upon arrival, we were welcomed like royalties with excellent Australian Chardonnay and an upgrade to Colonial House, usually reserved for honeymooners. After a dip in the pool and a walk around the estate, we enjoyed a sample platter of Malay cuisine and char-grilled lamb racks. Just one word: excellent. The next evening we flew with Air Asia back to Kuala Lumpur (there is a flight almost at every hour!), very pleased with the idea to stop in Langkawi. I would recommend Temple Tree to anyone looking for an original hotel with a soul.

Black and White Houseone of many catspoolChinese House

We had nothing to complain about our stay, but some words of advice may become handy. First of all, there is no beach. Both Temple Tree and Bon Ton face a lagoon (see the photo above). It is very idyllic with birds and butterflies, and very green, but should you want the beach, you can take a short cab ride (costs about 2USD one way) to Cenang Beach. Secondly, the owner loves animals and she is a proud owner of an animal shelter. There is a dog at the reception (a very quiet one, it seemed) and many, many cats at both hotels. If these two points do not bother you, then this your pearl in the middle of otherwise rather tourist island of Langkawi.