another bouquet | Mango + coconut ice cream

Lots of people say that roses remind them of their mothers, and they do for me too. We used to have a few hours wait between when our flight from Heathrow arrived in Bangkok  and our connection to where we lived in Malaysia. We'd wander around the glossy airport; my mum, my sister and I, looking at all the expensive stores, trying on pointless perfumes and reading the back of books. The place we'd always visit was the natural skincare store L'Occitane for their rose hand cream. Papery skin, after a long flight, the prospect of a couple of months in dry heat, that floral scent was always like a throwback to springtime europe. We'd buy a small bottle each, and go to the foodcourt, where each stallholder was still dozy and the European backpackers slept on their gear.  Mum always ended up wearing that same black sweater to travel - our dad and us had tried dozens of times to find something similar, but always failed. Too brown, too formal, too thin, and she was happy with that same one anyway.

We had roses in our house in Belgium. That was my first time with a rosebush of my own. The garden in that house was crazy - it was divided by shrubs and hedges into small sections, each with their own character. It was sloping, everywhere, which made it hard to mow the lawn and the grass was often left long in some areas, so they looked like meadows. We all did a lot of work in that garden, my dad did the patio himself one summer, and my sister and I would rake up after he'd trimmed the hedges, and we built a little run for Prune, with chicken wire, just after we got her. My mum's place was the spot by the back door in the kitchen, on cold fall days when we'd be out tidying leaves, she'd be there, watching out of the window and waving. Too many trees, she used to say. They make the garden dark and wet, and when the leaves fall it's a mess. She joked that we should cut all the trees but leave the rosebush, where it was, frail but thorny, standing out on the patio. Standing out through summer storms, autumn winds, bitter winter frost, but unfailingly blooming bright in late spring. It reminded me of her.

On Mother's Day and for her birthdays we've always bought her flowers. Apparently my dad has always done it, since Layla and I were very young, and I remember he'd often arrive home, late evening from London with a bouquet of flowers. Just like that, a surprise. They'd grace our dining table in some mishappen vase or the other, whatever we could find. He started to travel more, the flowers appeared less, my sister and I would organise them when he asked.  Somehow Layla or I would scrounge a bouquet from somewhere - carrying the battered blooms back on buses, I'd take them to the last lesson of the day with me because they didn't fit in my locker. My friends would ask, why the flowers? I'd remind them it was Mother's Day on Sunday and they'd just give me funny looks, but I knew that the flowers would soon be in the skinny vase on the kitchen window sill. My mum likes them, any kind, she says they add something to the house. A little beauty every day, makes things brighter, or words to that effect. They enliven our kitchen for a few days and after they're gone, the sill suddenly seems very cold and empty.

Mothers are like that too. Like the bouquets of flowers we buy them. Quietly resilient, cheerfully defiant. Even with the best intentions, we put them through hell. She wants the best for us and we'll pick off the petals. None of us notice that they're wilting until the water in the vase is almost empty and we'll do everything we can to revive them - fresh water, a spot in the sunshine. They bring so much to the house, they are the very heart of it. We know the bouquets will never be enough. But we buy them, as we always have, to see her pretend that she had no idea it was Mother's Day and that we'd been arranging flowers, and she'll open yet another card and put it in the kitchen drawer, we just need to feel like we've tried. There's no real way to show our gratitude. But there's something nice about watching her standing by the window sill on which the vase sits, cradling her mug of coffee in her hands, looking out at the first few buds on the cherry tree. 

To you, Mum. Happy Mother's Day, from all of us xx 

So I'm back, with more frozen/creamy goodness in time for Mother's Day (Sunday in the UK). I know I made something similar recently but  you may now be aware of the fact that my mum shares my passion for coconut? Mango is her other favourite fruit... and mango and coconut are so great together, as you probably know from some tacky beach resort somewhere. Also my mum has been on this health kick thing recently (she's taken up running!!! I am quite proud) and I didn't want to sabotage that by bringing out some cake, did I? dessert ain't no fun if mum can't have none.  Anyway, for Morher's Day, I present you the easiest recipe on this site, with the smallest ingredient list,  ironic considering all I just said about mothers but hey sometimes the simplest things are best, and I'm sure they'll agree. Mine would 100% stand by that.

To all the mothers, aunts, grandmas, sisters, you're loved more than you'd ever know. And we express that through flowers and ice cream. Happy weekend to you all xx


Mango and coconut ice cream

Makes arouuund 1.25L / 5 cups-ish   // Gluten + dairy free

2 small, ripe mangoes (or one super big)

2 cans (800ml) (2 2/3 cup) full fat coconut milk
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup, depending on how ripe your mangoes are (the mangoes in Europe are never ripe enough tbh but taste as you go) 
1 vanilla bean
teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 beach umbrella (jk) 


Prepare your mangoes - peel the skin and remove the flesh from the stone. You probably know how to do it better than I do. Chop the flesh into chunks and set aside.

Pour the coconut milk from the can into the jug of a blender. Split and scrape in the seeds of the vanilla bean, add the ginger if you wish, and the maple syrup, then the mango chunks.

Blend on high till smooth and sunshine yellow. I have a crazy strong blender so this took all of 5 seconds, but if yours is less so, just keep blending till there are no more chunks of mango. Taste and check sweetness - it dulls once frozen, so keep it sweeter than you'd like.

Allow the whole jug to chill in the fridge for around 3 hours (thug life, chilling in the fridge)

Once totally cool (totally cool) , pour the liquid into the bowl of your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Pour into a freezer proof container and freeze till firm if you'd like, otherwise you can serve the ice cream straight away. 

You may need to let it sit out for 10 minutes before scooping if it's been in the freezer. 

Notes

If you don't have an ice cream maker, feel free to make popsicles. Or a slushie-shake type thing. 


more frozen 

some basic addition | Spelt chocolate chip cookies

Would what you're doing now surprise your 10 year old self? For me, that was eight years ago. Things change really fast. From one day to the next, I decided I needed to straighten my hair and grow it pretty long. It was almost touching my waist at one point; then I cut it, and it's hanging vaguely halfway on my back now. I used to hate skirts, went through a phase where I wore them three times a week, now I wear them occasionally. I used to eat sugar, plain, off the spoon, but dropped that habit. Around that age my mum would make this Indonesian rice and I'd pick all the peppers out and push them to the side of my plate (or try to offload them on my dad) (ok I still do that with meat). Over the summer, Layla and I were in Amsterdam and eating salads every day for dinner (10 year old: who even eats salad?), on our last day we had too many peppers and cherry tomatoes left... guess who stood in the kitchen eating them raw out of the container? My ten year old self would've screamed. Or laughed. 

I think when I was really young I intended to become a bus driver, but luckily I ditched that aspiration pretty fast. By the time I was 10 I thought I might be a pilot. Then a journalist or author, and most seriously a vet. I looked into vet school and everything. I'd have never thought that I would study law, that I would become a lawyer. So ordinary. I could imagine flying planes, writing for a magazine or writing a novel, maybe working as countryside vet but if I'd told my 13 year old self I'd study law I would've been surprised .  Is that not kind of scary? That I could veer so far of the route I'd sketched out 5 years ago? Sometimes I see pictures of myself from some time ago and notice what I'm wearing, I'll groan and say what was I thinking. I had a fringe at some point. So what happens now if in 5 years I look back on the decision to study what I chose and I groan and say what was I thinking?

There is something weird about this system that forces 16 year olds to make decisions that will impact their whole life. There's a lot of talk here about bringing back grammar schools which essentially channel kids who do well on a certain set of exams into schools with higher levels of achievement and better reputations. They end up with the best chances. You sit the exam when you're 11. Does an 11 year old have any idea that this exam will be the car that drives them all the way to their future? That their best chances of getting a good job hinge on these papers? When I was 11, I did really well at school. Too well, in fact, at a school where it wasn't considered 'cool' to be really academic. I risked being called a 'nerd' (ha) and losing my close group of friends. Important, at that age. I used to change a couple of words on my spelling tests so that I wouldn't get 100%, and in math I'd go back and mess up some basic addition. Would I have understood that these exams were more important than being considered not-nerdy? Probably not. So the misjudgement of an 11 year old would've blown any chance I'd had of being a vet, or a lawyer, or whatever. Why does that not seem to make sense?

I once read a quote somewhere that said 'do something you'll thank yourself for in 10 years time' which really resonated with me. I work pretty hard, for the most part. I eat ok, I stopped training so much so my knees have a chance of lasting a few more years, when I did use facebook I never posted anything that I might regret, I always read emails twice, I drive fairly safely, I chose to buy a car that would last me 10 years. When I make decisions, I always think 'ok but how will this work in the long term?' and the trouble is that I've been saying that to myself for years. Since the time of wanting to be a vet, since the time of cutting my hair short, of wearing clothes that I can't believe I left the house in. 

Maybe there's no way you can get it right. Maybe I'm just too cautious. About a month ago I wore blue jeans now I've decided to only wear black. What? So now in five years, I'll look back and think I should've done it differently? Studied less, had more fun, studied more, got less sleep... or probably just accept that there's not really any winning this one. The old cliche of over-thinking less, living more. Learn from it. That takes courage too. Like throwing yourself into a waterfall on kayak - a crazy; exhilarating ride, a tumble in and out of the rapids, and waiting for a chance to steady the boat again. What I have learnt, is that there's always a calmer stretch of water upstream. 

This is the first recipe I'm posting that isn't one of my obscure creations :) these cookies have sort of a cult following since they're originally made with 100% whole wheat flour - they're Kim Boyce's famous chocolate chip cookies. Chances are you have a copy of the brilliant Good to the Grain  but if not, it's the book that put whole grain flours in the more mainstream baking route. The author is actually a trained pastry chef (Spago and all) (that's like having played for Barcelona on a winning streak, or something, for your reference. Hi dad!!) so you know this isn't just 'eat your whole grains and be healthy', it's more the delicate balancing act of adding whole grains for flavor and texture, which takes actual skill. If you've never tried one of the recipes on this site, try this one, because she's a professional! You can trust a James Beard winner.  This book is one of my favourites, if you're into whole grain, seasonal recipes or if it's something you're curious about, you'll be inspired by this book for sure. Anyway, I did make a few adaptations which are reflected in the recipe below (the original recipe is everywhere online including Food 52). To start with I halved the recipe. Because it's me, I used spelt flour rather than whole wheat, coconut oil instead of butter and used two unrefined sugars + cut the sugar... feel free to use either recipe if dairy isn't an issue for you, or mix and match.

These cookies are big, they're soft and pillowy, they're so good. It's suggested you use a chopped bar of fancy chocolate rather than chips which is what I always do, and also they're left super chunky -  I highly reccomend you take that route. Big melty pools of chocolate are kind of fun. Ask someone else to do the chopping, just show them the photo, and they'll also do the dishes for you :) If you try these or the originals, I would love to know your thoughts. Chocolate chip cookies are very subjective so it's totally a taste thing. 

The brightest end to your week + cookies xx


spelt chocolate chip cookies

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
dairy free   // makes around 10 laaarge cookies

1 1/2 cups (165g) spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (50g) coconut sugar / dark muscavado sugar
1/3 (67g) cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup (110g) extra virgin coconut oil, soft room temperature*
1 free range egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
110g/4 ounces bittersweet/dark chocolate, chopped into large chunks


Preheat the oven to 180'c, 350'F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder & soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer. I don't have one, so I'll give hand held mixer instructions, feel free to do it all in a stand mixer if you have one though) use a fork to cut the coconut oil into smaller chunks. Add the two sugars and with a hand held electric mixer on low speed, beat together. Turn the speed up to high and continue beat until the two sugars are combined with the oil and it's fluffier. Stop the beater and scrape the bowl with a flexible spatula whenever you need to.

Once the sugars are combined, add the egg and beat again on high speed until it's mixed evenly through the dough. Then add the vanilla and mix briefly once more.

Tip the flour mix into the same bowl as the oil and again using the beater, whisk till just combined and slightly clumpy. Add the chocolate pieces all at once to the dough and beat once more. The dough will be thick by this point and will come together into a ball easily. Use your hands to make sure all the chocolate pieces are evenly incorporated into the dough.

Portion out the dough into rounds on the cookie sheets - you want about 3 tablespoons a cookie (I used my 1.5T cookie scoop, 2 scoops per cookie, then rolled them into mounds). They do spread quite a bit, so leave around 7cm/ 3in between each one.

Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes, rotating each sheet halfway through. They should be lightly browned all over and will still be very soft when you take them out, but they'll firm up as they cool. Slide the parchment, with the cookies, onto cooling racks and allow them a little time to cool. If you can, have one out of the oven. The rest will keep for 3 days in an airtight container. I will try freezing some too and let you know what happens.

notes

The recipe calls for cold butter but I've found that coconut oil, when cold, is cumbersome to work with and the mixer just makes a mess of it. I used room temperature oil - the key is that it's solid and not melting all over the place. The batter will look oily, but they turn out 100% ok.  No taste of coconut either. 

My cookies spread slightly less than the ones in the book's photos. That may be to do with the oil (it has higher fat content than butter which is part water) (just fyi) or with the fact that I cut back the sugar by 1/3. They're still very flat and even but have a liiiitle lump in the middle. I've been doing a lot of cookie science research but I'm not sure why this is... I'll let you know if I find out. If you try these and have any ideas, I'd love to hear them :)


cookies & snacks

winter sun | grapefruit, honey + almond mini muffs

We lived in England years ago, when I first started school. Thinking back, I feel like I watched a lot of TV. I spent a fair bit of time in class, a lot of time playing in the garden and mucking about outside generally, reading too, but it was then that I watched the most TV I ever have. Maybe because I had the most free time I ever had, but either way, TV was a pass time for dark, wet days. For the most part it was those kiddie cartoons, with animated animals that teach things like to be truthful, to embrace differences, standard lessons that may or may not be relevant as you grow up. Later I also liked wildlife and art shows, but from even when I was very young I could watch the travel channels endlessly. In those days (I'm talking 13-14 years ago) the big tour operators had their own channels - Thomson, Thomas Cook, the whole crew shot footage of their hotels and cruise ships. If you read this blog now and then you'll know that we adopted some kind of semi nomadic lifestyle (kidding) and in those years those of movement my travel channels disappeared, perhaps with the high street travel agents themselves.

At age 5 you could've quizzed me on the Balearics, The Canary Islands, the Spanish costas, north Africa and the Caribbean. I could've told you the main resorts, the nearest airports and the hotel chains operating in each area. It's funny because these are pretty much the exact places and types of resort I'd scorn now, but through the eyes of a curious 5 year old who didn't quite understand package holiday crowds, these places were dreams. There's no denying many of them are beautiful. I have the most vivid footage of Fueterventura etched in my mind - a white stone house with purple shutters under a clear blue sky, dusty desert grounds, a wooden chair with a straw-hatted man dozing. That stereotypical Mediterranean music playing in the background - you know, the gentle acoustic guitar that leaves you lusting after cobbled plazas and stone buildings covered in bougainvillea, an evening breeze ruffling the leaves of palms. I knew that Rhodes had the best water parks, I was fascinated by Lanzarote's black sand beaches, I knew which cruise ships had skating rinks and climbing walls, the Dominican Republic had the bluest sea (and you call it the Dom Rep). I wanted to see them all, to swim in all those pools, to stand on the balconies, to climb onto the flights with blue tail wings, to run barefoot on the golden arcs of sand.

The tour operators sold packages at all times of year - Easter, summer, but their biggest campaign was for the winter. 'Winter sun', they called it, and if you've ever lived somewhere that is hit hard by winter, the power of that name is really something. With the sun setting by 4pm and not rising till 8am, the thought of going anywhere with blue skies, sand and long sunshine hours is like a magnetic pull. We did eventually make it to Fuerteventura when I was about 12, to a sprawling resort where I played beach volleyball most of the day and we walked to an Italian restaurant on the promenade in the evening. We'd visited Malta and southern Spain, I'd taken on playgrounds and raced through hotel corridors, there had been mild sunshine and warm winds, I remember glasses of fresh orange juice on a Maltese pier, and being sent to the bar by my dad to ask for the bill for the first time. The year we went to Spain, my mum and I were down with chest infections, but there was just enough dry air and subtle heat that our lungs remembered to breathe and I could eventually shed my sweater. I learnt to ride the swings standing on the seat, how to climb up a slide and not use the staircase, how to read a map and bus timetables. 

We made friends with other kids, from similar families, with parents who worked hard and liked to take their little ones traveling as much as possible so they'd be part gypsy all their lives. I remember driving around Spanish hillsides, looking at property, since my parents were considering a small second home, so we could easily leave northern Europe to dry out. As you've probably seen, we don't holiday loads in Europe anymore, nor do we tend to go with all four of us  (ever since we became a family of six). We visit France often, driving from village to village, shopping in local markets, I try to speak French and we stake out a small village in the big French countryside to rent a charming place. Very different to the European trips growing up - no pool, no restaurants, no waterslides, no one my age.

It's funny to think I'll never go back to those places. I'll never see most of those islands or coastal towns that were my daydreams all that time ago. No Carribean cruises on the horizon. But in a way that's ok, the pools and the slides, the pizza dinners and the boulevards can stay, as they are, in my head. Sometimes on rainy days in February I'll think of them, and they'll bring light and warmth, just like winter sun.

Does anyone else feel like winter's just dragging its feet now? It's not properly cold anymore, just vaguely mild and sooo wet. If it's not going to be winter, it might as well be spring. Anyway, I made these muffs as a crossover, the citrus still at its winter prime, but bright and light. Grapefruit are at their best at this time of year and we tracked down these beautiful ruby fruit, but pink or white would work too. Equally if you're not into grapefruit, blood oranges would be lovely but even regular oranges or lemon would work. The thing with grapefruit is it gives this occasional bitter edge that goes so well with the sweet honey, almond meal and mild oat flour. It really gives them a little lively kick that is kind of sophisticated - think tahini in something sweet. If you would like to make regular sized muffins, that would work well too you'd just need to add a few minutes to the baking time - I haven't tried, so just keep eye on them. These muffins are also totally gluten free and dairy free depending on which yogurt route you choose, so I hope you try them. Either way, hope that you have a lovely weekend with a little bit of sunshine and maybe a muffin. Hugs xx


grapefruit, honey + almond mini muffs

makes 18 minis or 9 regular // gluten free

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1 cup (90g) oat flour, certified gf if necessary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 free range eggs
6 tablespoons (120g) honey
1/4 cup (60ml) natural/plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, regular or coconut would work too)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of one large grapefruit, about 2 teaspoons 

1 large  grapefruit 


Preheat the oven to 180'c, 350'f. Grease/line a mini muffin pan, or a regular one. 

Prepare your grapefruit. Cut the two ends off the fruit, then keep cutting the skin so that the flesh is in a rough block. Use the knife to remove as much of the pith as possible, and slice the flesh into small chunks. This is called supreming the fruit, fyi, in restaurant speak. 

In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and honey till well combined. Add the yogurt and grapefruit zest and stir again till well combined.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir gently with a flexible spatula. Fold in the grapefruit pieces.

Portion out the batter into your prepared pans of choice, filling minis to the top and regular muffins 3/4 full. 

Bake for 19-21 minutes for mini muffs, till the tops are golden, spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow 5-7 minutes more for regular muffins.

Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. They'll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or will freeze and defrost well. 

Notes

As I mentioned, if grapefruit isn't your thing, this would be amazing with blood oranges, or even a regular orange or lemon, so have fun with it. 

I started of filling the tin with two spoons but used a medium cookie scoop in the end and it was sooo much cleaner, if you're using mini muffins and have a scoop now is the time to use it :) 


more winter recipes

30 hours - Bangkok

30 hours on the clock. Standing in Bangkok airport, waiting. A quickly filling memory card, blistered feet and one pair of impractical flip flops, an Iphone metaphorically set to count down. A delayed internal flight, a long wait for baggage. Tactical discussions in the taxi on covering as much ground as possible, a reconnaissance of Bangkok's sprawling metropolis. The traffic moved in stops and starts, freeways and flyovers criss crossing as if an ambitious kid's lego creations; sharp edged high rises sprouted like thickets of concrete and steel along the road. A place that was the very defintion of urban - fast moving, dynamic, slightly harsh, ever evolving. 

The Chatrium was tucked away in the leafy Riverside district of Bangkok, a cell of calm inside a growing, pulsing body. The hotel was fronted by quiet bamboo gardens and paths flanked by white stones, green fountains and granite edging. I have a thing for a design hotel and floor-to-ceiling glass facades with sharp lines make my heart flutter. I liked what I was seeing. Inside were high ceilings, a slick lobby and slightly dark, cushy rooms big enough to live in. There was a balcony framed by thick curtains, with views over the Chao Phraya river and the roof tops, more high rises piercing the blue-gray sky, the overlapping flyovers a tangled rope in the distance. We left soon, ever conscious of ticking clocks, to wander in the neighborhood. Layla had stayed at the hotel years ago for a sports tournament and had fond memories of the area, for good reason. There were hundreds of narrow shops with red and gold lanterns strung to tiled ceilings, swaying in the evening breeze. Each one was a 'mom and pop' store of some kind - local tailors, hardware outfits, metal forges, fruit sellers, lantern makers, a garage, a speciality noodle place. Kids sat at rickety plastic tables, still in uniform, slurping thin noodles from steaming bowls of spicy broth as their grandparents lay on fraying sofas watching Thai soaps and their parents endlessly swept the storefronts. Commuters, walking from place to place would bow their heads at delicate shrines decorated; in memory of the king, the bell on the door of the local 7-11 never stopped ringing. Hawker owners fed the stray animals and school girls popped in and out of buses on their own, we stumbled across temples hidden in dilapidated courtyards and passed only one other tourist.

I thought of dad a lot, because of the river and the boats. I was surprised - the Chao Phraya is like an artery, flowing, keeping the city alive. We stood on the Chatrium's private jetty, waiting for the hotel boat to take us to the public pier a few blocks down, and it was a throwback to Rotterdam, dad's hometown. The working river with its tugboats, barges, the slightly industrial veneer, the scruffy sailors and their dogs, the quietly competent boatmen who steered us alongside a containership. I liked Bangkok already. Alongside the grit was - glamour, maybe, and a slightly rogue edge. Bangkok would be the one who managed to bluff their way into a super expensive, exclusive club they could never actually afford - and take the party by a storm. There was electricity, everywhere, and there was no way I'd be in bed on time tonight.

14 hours. A riverside breakfast, eating papaya, watching fish jump in the murky water of the Chao Phraya. Little birds flitted among the tables, out of the hotel's bamboo garden. Messengers, telling us to hurry, this day would wait for no one. We drew up our battle plans and studied the terrain, jumped onto the Chatrium's boat, climbed up to the metro station. The trains were futuristic pods, running entirely on tracks elevated above the city. They were crammed with daily commuters, men in suits and pretty women with perfect manicures and nice dresses, a handful of other tourists who looked, as I did, shamefully shabby in comparison. I felt even scruffier in the shiny malls around Siam Square, each tiled with wide, white marble slats. At Siam Paragon - the most instagrammed place on earth - the entire top floor was dedicated to sports cars. You could not help but stand and gawk as you came off the escalator and stood face to face with a shining black Lamborghini; next to an Aston Martin Store, across from the Rolls Royce store... there was a Mini, too, which made my car at home seem like a budget option. When London tried these stunts with super expensive cars, it just felt... pretentious. Bangkok pulled the enterprise off with natural flair.

10 hours, and nowhere near enough. The sweaty, pulsing streets beckoned and we abandoned the sports cars for the roads crowded with tuck tucks and motorbike taxis, lined by hawkers selling every type of noodle imaginable. There were fewer other foreign faces, the more you wandered, and the few you did see were hustling, like us, covering ground without skimming over it. A stopover destination in a city that was already constantly moving, echoing with the footsteps of its own people and visitors.

We lost the afternoon somehow. In the maze of streets where we wandered for the obligatory Chang beer t-shirt, at the stall where we bought a mango for under a quarter of a dollar and the lady threw in a second for free. Waiting at the pier for a boat back to the hotel, watching a man who looked like he was barely scraping through feed the remainders of his own dinner to a local stray, and the dog lay his head on the man's hand. Sitting on the boat alongside some school kids, who seemed to use the hotel boats as shuttles from place to place.  Again we looked for sleaze, found nothing, it had either headed underground or been concentrated into tiny pockets that were far out of the way. I was charmed by the Thai culture; the courtesy and respect they had for their own people. Taxi drivers bowed to the staff in highway toll booths and friends genuinely met each other with the traditional greeting. They were hardworking, tolerant and humble, preferring to just look away and pretend I didn't exist when I pointed my camera in their direction. The youth hung out in mixed groups, I was jealous of the girls' straight, light brown hair and manicures.  Bangkok's locals were proud, too, of their city, that was clear. The public spaces were well maintained and immaculate, temples had been recently painted and most neighborhoods were safe enough that primary school children were sent home on the back of motor bike taxis. As the older kids poured out of school, you got the feeling that they worked hard and did well; enjoyed it, but also knew where the fun would be on a Friday night.

The second hand flew around the face of my watch, our battle plans fell away, we failed as generals, but made pretty good foot soldiers. We packed up in a flurry, having sat out too long on the balcony watching the party boats light up the Chao Phraya. Still scruffy, still sunburnt, out of battered flip flops and into jeans instead. Into the taxi and out of Bangkok, into a dark, steamy night, where every building illuminated and burst through the horizon. There was nothing like it, no other feeling, it had been like starting a race or sitting an exam, pure adrenaline. It was unlike India because the chaos didn't leave you feeling drained; it was more satisfyingly more gritty than Kuala Lumpur, strikingly less hedonistic than Dubai. Every electric billboard suspended from a glass and steel building, each sports car, all the towering office blocks showed progress, they were arrows pointing forward, screaming this is the way the world is going. With each step we took on Bangkok's streets, it was clear, it's these cities that are leaving Europe behind. Bangkok had grown up, pushed its misspent youth behind it and there was no stopping it now. Thousands of cars on the roads, but the traffic still flowed fast; each road had four lanes and flyovers laced the arteries together, so the blood would never clot. Oh hell, Europe, you have no chance. I'd visited European cities so many times, but never had done anything like this, there I'd slept like a baby and my heart rate remained constant.   Our cab rolled onto the freeway, leaving the glittering buildings behind us. Zero hour.

I am again going to direct you to this post on Layla's site for a really good guide to Bangkok with all the practical details you may want.  She writes much more... coherently than I do, without making all the info boring... she has a great sense of humour, and I am always fascinated by how we perceive the same places. She doesn't write in the way she acts, if you know what I mean... I mean in real life she's into anything fun/whimsical/live for the moment, preferably involving heights, speed boats or long haul flights, but she has a retrospective, thoughtful style of writing. Anyway. I hope you gathered from this that I really, really liked Bangkok - I surprised myself by how much I warmed to the place. It's an amazing city and so worth a visit if you're ever in the area/passing through. 
I plan to (finally) bake a little something in the coming few days and have a recipe up on the blog end this week. Hope that you all have a lovely weekend xx