Tag Archives: travels

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 5: Eating Out Of Toilets, Coffee & Pizza

Day 1 & 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6 * Day 7

So the title for the day’s travelogue is probably a little confusing – so let’s get right to it!

Taiwan 2017 Day 5: Eating Out Of Toilets, Coffee & Pizza

I saw a video about weird things to check out in Taipei and this caught my eye – Modern toilet Restaurant. The whole theme to the place is toilets, defecation; you get the picture. How odd, eh? Well, odd is definitely my wheelhouse – and the food is quite good as well!

Walked around the area after Modern Toilet – found some gifts too. This was when I got some footage inside a 7-Eleven. The clapping thing was pretty neat. Then we ended up back at the food expo and did some more samples.

Went and checked out the coffee, tea and machinery floor of the show next – this place is so huge. I mean, I swear you could park a jumbo jet on each floor.

Back to the hotel for more livestreaming and then off to… Pizza Hut?

I was really blown away by Pizza Hut. I’ve been to Asia now 4 times and always left thinking ‘man, I should have tried the fast food!’ Well, Pizza Hut here is a sit–down restaurant – buffet style. My favorite was the rice and saugage stuffed bread – oh man I feel like anything pizza related is junk compared to this stuff. I’m hooked. I think it’s completely insane that they don’t have it here in the States. Well, after this we hit Carrefour to look for a particular variety of noodles. No luck, but got some Hello Kitty bath tissue or the wife! She’s a Hello Kitty fan. Anyways, back to the hotel for some sleep.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

Day 1 & 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6 * Day 7

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

Another day at the food show. Changing over from the hot weeather, it cooled down quite a bit. Surprisingly, overcast with a bit of light rain means lower humidity. It was like spring weather here in Washington State and it was very welcome.

Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

I decided to do another livestream from my hotel room – been having fun yammering in front of the camera.

Here we go – some shots out my window at the hotel and feeling great on the street – just wonderfully comfortable weather here. I gave out some more samples at the food show which was awesome – lots of fun doing that.

We walked across the street to a Thai restaurant. Really good stuff here – very authentic.

So this video isn’t just from today but from quite a few days while here. The hunt for noodles is one I take very seriously – as well as the hunt for gifts to bring home to loved ones.

Kyle and I decided to look around, hitting up the booze area. Lots of companies selling wine, liquor, beer. I actually found a variety of instant noodles I was really searching for here – a company called TTL (Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor) has instant noodles that have a sachet of rice wine and cooking wine, but now they’ve come out with ones with red wine and white wine. The fellow at the booth was more than happy to hook me up with some samples.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

In the evening, I got to hang out with some really great people and go to a hot pot restaurant.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Saturday @ The Food Expo

The beef here is just amazing – I guess one of the hallmarks of this restaurant is that the beef is extremely fresh – within hours of butchering. Lots of good conversation and toasting and then back to the hotel. Another great day in Taipei!

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 3: Taiwan International Food Expo

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 3: Taiwan International Food Expo

Day 1 & 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6 * Day 7

So the main reason to come to Taiwan this time around was for the Taiwan International Food Expo. The promoters of the expo invited me to say a few words and present the awards for the top three from my top ten Taiwan list.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 3: Taiwan International Food Expo

The food expo was at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center Station. Basically, it’s one huge convention center in a newer area of Taipei. Lots of construction on new buildings – very modern. Here I am in front of the art piece out front (it’s really tall – there’s a hand with finger pointing down from above). I went in and got to the place where the awards would take place.

Before I went on to do my thing, they did the big opening ceremony. Important people from around the world were there – dignitaries from the Taiwanese government as well as Europeans and folks from South America. It’s not only the International Food Expo, but the tea, coffee, beer, wine and liquor expo as well. A few speeches and then a fancy opening thing where they put their hands on some spheres and confetti gets shot out of cannons. It’s was pretty awesome actually – what was more awesome and kind of a surprise was that the music they played was the theme from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – you know, the one with the whales.

The opening ceremony finished and then there was an interview in the front that went long – during which most everyone left before I was able to come on and do my thing. I had written a speech – first one I’d written since high school – and figured I’d have a little lectern or podium like they’d used prior in the opening ceremony. Well, I didn’t and so I had a stack of pages in large print and a microphone which made it tough to deal with. Here’s the full text of what I had planned to say. I cut it short though – kind of have to go with the flow sometimes. It was cool – I’m honored to have been invited and stoked to tell everyone about these varieties – good noodles! If you didn’t know, Little Cook Green Curry was 3rd, Xiao Ban Mian Traditional Shallot & Onion Oil second, and first place went to Mom’s Dry Noodle Dan Dan Noodle.

Next, I got to see the booth for the top two – Xiao Ban Mian and Mom’s Dry Noodle. Pretty impressive – they were serving samples and had a huge line of people wanting to try them.

I thought it would be neat to hand some out and asked if I could – they were happy to let me! It was a little tricky – tongs and little paper cups. I did it on this day and they asked if I’d like to do it again the next day and I did. It was cool to see a new face each time I handed one out. My favorite was a scowling little boy – I added noodles to the cup and went to hand it to him and stopped, adding a lot more. That got a smile. I’m pretty impressed with the fact that these guys do this for 4 days in a row, all the time on their feet. I’ll be honest, after a little time my back started to hurt.

Next it was off to have lunch. We went to a Malaysian chain restaurant called PappaRich which was in the same building I think – I don’t remember. Anyways, I got to have some rojak – one of my favorite Malay dishes I was first introduced to in Penang a few years back.

It was time to do some wandering around the Food Expo. Super busy, although the next couple days would be busier. I actually had people come up to me and want selfies with me – they knew who I was! That was really neat. I did this livestream – kind of a new thing for me to try.

Headed back to the hotel and chilled for a bit before going out to the Shilin Night Market. Kyle informed me that it’s the biggest in Taipei and he wasn’t kidding. So many people and so much stuff to look at. Definitely a lot of walking around today and my broken pinky toe was doing pretty good for the wear.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel, Arrival & Exploration

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Day 1 & 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6 * Day 7

Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Off I Go

On November 14th, 2017, my wife drove me to Seattle International Airport. My main impetus for the trip was to do an awards show at the Taiwan International Food Expo – the first food show I’d ever been invited to. They asked if I’d come and do a little awards ceremony for the top three from The Ramen Rater’s Top Ten Taiwanese Instant Noodles Of All Time 2017 Edition list that came out in September. I was definitely all in for doing this for sure – after visiting Taiwan last year I was keen on visiting again. This time was different – it was my first time travelling alone. I was a little pensive about this (I’m legally blind) but I have flown to Taiwan 3 times previously and so thought hey – I can do this. Oh – and a week before I broke my pinky toe. That was really annoying but broken toe be damned – I was going! So I got to the airport around 11pm, went through security, grabbed some drinks and snacks and headed to my gate. Hopped on the plane just after midnight.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

So last time I flew, I didn’t walk around much during the flight. I had taken some sleep aids to get through the flight faster. Long story short, I got a blood clot in my lung. My doc said I really dodged a bullet and so I wanted to be safer this time. I got an aisle seat so I could get up and walk around more easily.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

The flight to Taiwan takes 13 hours. It’s a big chunk of time to sit. I watched some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on my phone and took a couple cat naps. I got up and walked around every hour or two.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Almost there!

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

After a long flight, people are definitely eager to de-plane. It get s a little silly usually but yeah I got off the plane eventually. I was in row 71 – the next to last row and so I figured I’d get off when I got off. One thing I should mention – I think plane boarding is done completely wrong. They have people board in order from front to back. Why don’t they do back to front? Just seems like it would be so much more orderly. Anyways, I got off the plane, went through customs and was in Taiwan. Got my suitcase and met up with my friend Kyle from Howsler Foods. The Food Expo invited me, but they sponsored my trip – a big thank you for that!

Arrival & Exploration

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Kyle recommended we check out a breakfast place – my flight arrived at around 6am and so that sounded like a good plan. This is a popular and bustling place. There was a long line, but it didn’t bother me at all – was nice to be off the plane and I knew it certainly wouldn’t take 13 hours to get n!

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

So to the left of the pic above, you can see them working on the prep for food there.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Soy milk – served cold, is a popular breakfast item. It’s a little sweet and refreshing.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Okay, so why this isn’t here in the United States I don’t know but it should be. This is a big Chinese donut with fried egg in the middle. As I write this, it’s been a month since I returned and I sure could go for one of these right now! After breakfast, we headed over to the hotel. Got checked in and got to rest a while.

I stayed at the Green World Nangang hotel which was close to where the big Food Expo was held. Nice big room and bathroom – very comfy. Chilled for a while and got cleaned up to go out to go check out a couple places.

I had wanted to check this place out since I’d first heard about it. Love Instant Noodles is a restaurant that served instant noodles piping hot and garnished to perfection.

I had some Ottogi Jin Jjambbong and Kyle tried the Samyang Foods Buldak Bokkeummyun for the first time. Was impressed – he didn’t even think it was super spicy! Food was great – I gave my card to the man who served our food and he was stoked – I ended up doing selfies with Alan and Joyce – really nice people and a wonderful restaurant I definitely want to visit again.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Kyle recommended trying Taiwanese cold noodles a couple doors down.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Cold noodles were nice in the hot weather – they had a sesame and soy kind of taste to them. Afterwards, we hit RT Mart so I could get some things then back to my room at the hotel to relax before dinner. I really wish I had gotten some pics/video in RT Mart – I mean it’s pretty big and they had the tallest and longest noodle aisle I’ve ever seen.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

We hit up this place for pork rice.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

As you can see (click to enlarge), food is pretty inexpensive in Taiwan. Looks like the most expensive thing on the menu is 130NTD – which is just over $4USD.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

A nice pork chop over rice – very tasty!

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

Here’s the chicken version with a stewed egg as well.

Travels: Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration

A big slab of tofu and… I can’t remember what was on the plate in the background – but it was good. Afterwards, back to the hotel to pass out until morning.

Yeah, I couldn’t just pass out. I was pretty stoked – I had scored a ton of noodles and things in RT Mart and so I did a YouTube live stream. The wifi at the hotel was very good and so had no problem doing so. Finally after talking to my wife and kids, I passed out.

The Ramen Rater Awards @ Taiwan International Food Expo

The Ramen Rater Awards @ Taiwan International Food Expo

I went to Taipei, Taiwan on November 15th, 2017 to take part in the Taiwan International Food Expo. I was invited to do a presentation of the first through third place winners in this year’s Top Ten Taiwanese Instant Noodles Of All Time 2016 Edition!

The Ramen Rater Awards @ Taiwan International Food Expo – Taiwan

The Ramen Rater Awards First Through Third Place At The 2017 International Food Expo

This was the first food expo I’ve been to – and it was huge. Before I came on to do my thing, they had dignitaries from Taiwanese government as well as other governments from around the world. It wasn’t only the food expo, but the coffee, tea, beer, wine, liquor, and machinery expo as well. It took place at the Nangang Exhibition Center station in Taipei – an enormous facility. I’d imagine you could drop three Costco store in there – and there were two floors! I met a lot of great people there and got asked to take pictures with them. I will be doing a day-by-day series of my recent trip to Taiwan (which will be found in the TRAVELS section soon)  but for now, I wanted to share the award show. It was a fascinating experience I will not soon forget! Hope you enjoy!

#1823: MyKuali Spicy Fried Noodle MeeKuali Goreng Pedas

So every product MyKuali has come up with so far had made it into the big annual Top Ten Instant Noodles Of All Time list. It’s pretty mind-blowing; their products are so good, diverse and high quality. Well, today I’m going to check out a new one – a mee goreng offering. During our trip, I got to try some local hawker mee goreng last October in Penang.

Food in Penang is pure amazing; it’s truly paradise. I got a real education in food there, as our host Thomas toured us around and kept bringing plate after plate and bowl after bowl of new foods to try. One thing I found was that MyKuali’s stuff is very authentic – so I am extremely curious about how this mee goreng will be. Let’s crack it open and have a look!

The back of the package (click image to enlarge). Contains shrimp. To prepare, boil the noodle block for 3 minutes and drain. While the noodles boil, add contents of paste and garnish sachets in a bowl. Add drained noodles to the bowl and combine. Enjoy!

The noodle block.

The paste sachet.

Has a sweet and shrimp scent.

The garnish sachet.

These are the same fried onion as you would find in MyKuali’s Hokkien Mee. Of all the reviews of mee goreng I’ve tried, most come with fried onions, but these are the absolute best.

Finished. Added Dodo fish balls, fishcake, spring onion and Salad Cosmo mung bean sprouts. As always, the noodles came out very well – nice chewiness and texture. The flavor is a strong shrimp hit with a little bit of spiciness. The paste coats everything very well. The fried onion is just perfect – love the stuff. 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.  EAN bar code 9555655005302.

Here’s the first MyKuali I tried – MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodle (8 Packs)

A MyKuali promotional video.

The Ramen Rater’s Trip To Thailand: Day 6 – The Long Road Home

Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6

Came down to have a last try at the breakfast buffet. I’d been putting off the noodles but I figured I’d kick myself if I didn’t give them a try before I left. Good stuff!

A little of everything before I go.

I took this photo right when we were leaving our corner suite for the last time. The view of Bangkok was addicting; wish I could’ve taken it with me as more than a photo. I think we’ll be back someday though.

Last night at the farewell dinner, I met the guy who accompanied us to the airport. Mr. Yatra had spent some time working in the Seattle area which is very near to where I live. He told me his favorite place to eat was a restaurant called Tai Tung – a place I’d been years back as a kid. Upon dropping us off at the airport he bid us a kind farewell, reminding me ‘hey don’t forget – go to Tai Tung!’ Mr. Banks also gave me a call before we left to bid farewell which was really nice of him. Really going to miss all the people we met. We went and checked our bags and then went through security.

We had a good amount of time to kill before our flight, so it was a perfect time to do some shopping. Found a lot of really neat stuff and stuffed my carry on. I even got one of those little cats that wave – maneki neko – at a ramen shop!

This is the most wonderful thing ever. It’s a superpower air conditioner! They’re all over the place at the airport in Bangkok and some had little wifi antennas and had speakers with flight info and announcements.

A hot dog? Yes, a hot dog. Some fast food sounded good and we hit Dairy Queen. Yes, they have Dairy Queen in Thailand. Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s and Burger King. I’m sure McDonald’s was lurking somewhere as well – but no Taco Bell! I think what was interesting was the presence of sesame seeds on the bun.

A pic of the overhead menu.

So when it was time, we went to our gate and waited. And waited. And waited. It was very close to boarding time and nobody showed up to open the gate. Everyone was looking at eachother a little confused. My sister went and tried to find info. Well, EVA Air didn’t feel like letting us all know that the gate was moved! So we ended up waiting here.

There was another air conditioner, but it wasn’t running… So eventually, they had everyone go to the left down a corridor – and onto the tarmac. We all got on a bus (hey wait – can we take a bus to Taipei?) and it took us down the airfield to a plane we boarded by stairs. Eventually, we took off. Now, the delay was pretty long. We were supposed to have about a 3 hour layover I believe in Taipei. Well, with the delay in Bangkok and then when we got to Taipei the pilot came on telling us we’d be circling since the airport was too busy – for 20 minutes! What was scary was that that announcement came up right when we were supposed to boarding our connecting flight! We eventually landed and just booked it as fast as we could through the checkpoint and to our gate. I figured worst case scenario, I do know a lot of instant noodle people in Taiwan, so all might not be so horrible if we end up having to wait for another flight. Well, we ran ran ran through Taoyuan airport and got to our gate. There we waited about an hour and got to board our plane. Phew!

The flight from Taipei to Seattle is a real brain-smasher. Our flight left Taipei around 11pm on the 20th. Then about 10 hour later, it arrived in Seattle at 7pm – on the 20th. But we finally arrived – got our bags, went rhgouh security (which was mind blowingly fast for US Customs) and we were off in our own direction – my sister to her car and I went and waited for my wife to pick me up. It was weird to be back; It’s a strange feeling; like Frodo Baggins after the long journey he took and then coming home, never looking at things the same way again.

I must say I recommend everyone visit Thailand; the people, the sights, the everything. It’s so different from here. I loved it! I love being back though as my wife and I are starting our next big adventure with a new baby on the way this summer. I want to thank my sister for accompanying me – if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to go. I want to thank everyone at Thai President Foods and President Rice products – everyone was so nice and kind to us. Also want to say thanks to all the great MAMA noodle distributor from Europe we had the fortune to meet – a great group of people! In conclusion, I would say that I found one thing in Thailand; harmony. Looking out the balcony way up high, I didn’t hear the sounds you might expect in a big US city – sirens and possibly gunshots or people yelling and honking. The traffic was crazy but it worked and people accepted that it was crazy. The way of the Thai is to give when you can, forgive transgressions and then to forget they even occurred. I think Western society could gain a great deal of insight from Thailand. Well, until my next adventure!

The Ramen Rater’s Trip To Thailand: Day 5 – River Kwai & Goodbye

Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6

Woke up at this amazing place – Heard a strange sound coming from outside and figured out it was the sound of the Buddhist monks chanting – it echoes everywhere and was quite ethereal. Decided to head down for some breakfast.

Here’s the lobby.

Strolled around and checked it out outside.

It kind of weird to realize you’re in the jungle, but it’s probably the same when people from here come to where I’m from and think ‘wow, I’m in the forest.’

After checking out the place we came back and met up with everyone. Then we took a cruise!

We rode on a big flat barge that was pulled by a little boat. This is the Kwai River.

The famous Bridge On The River Kwai.

I think I’m wrong on this one – it’s not Burma but Cambodia. By the way – notice the music in the background?

We stopped to visit the memorial to those who died building the bridge in WW2.

It was a pretty sad place to be honest. What was amazing though is that I ended up having a conversation about politics, global food sourcing and war with a guy from the UK and a guy from Scandinavia. Was really cool.

Staying out of the hot sun, playing with the parents’ iPad.

A boat full of partiers on the Mekong Delta.

They gave everyone these little tightly wrapped cold towels – was nice to put on your neck after walking to the war memorial – very hot day.

Talking noodles on the return trip.

A large golden Buddha on the shore of the Kwai river. There were quite a few amazing sights by the water – temples and statues everywhere.

We ended up where we began, at the Dheva Mantra resort to have some lunch.

Quite an array of fruit!

Had some slow cooked eggs, Chinese sausage, cucumber and rice. Then it was a long bus ride back to Bangkok.

For our last night in Bangkok, we ended up getting to stay in a corner suite on the 29th floor.

2015_6_9_tt5_027

The view was just amazing here – really something to behold.

We had a bit of time before the big farewell dinner, so we went and checked out one of the places I’ve been dying to go to in Asia – a 7-11. You might say ‘but why?’ Well…

Well, need I say more? Instant noodles of all kinds and brands – and mostly ones I’ve never seen before or have access to here. I decided to get a couple bags of them and hope they’d make it through US customs, but figured they wouldn’t. But, a worthy gamble since I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to try this again!

Was nice to finally meet Ms. Ratha (far left) – she also was very pivotal in setting up the trip. Gonna miss everyone!

The dinner was international style and they had the largest ham and beef roast I’ve ever seen. I went straight for the seafood – huge river prawn, squid, mussels and some asparagus. What was also amazing is that once you finish a beer, another one kept magically appearing. At one point I looked at my sister and said ‘watch this.’ I finished my beer, set it down and then started counting backward from 5. Right before I had a chance to say one, a hand appeared removing my empty glass and a full one appeared right there.

Everyone was presented a special commemorative framed piece of golden artwork – was really nice of them!

Right before going to sleep there was a knock at the door. Three of the ladies from Thai President Foods brought me this – mee crob! I had mentioned that I would love to try it while in Thailand. They actually went out and found me some! Was really nice! Imagine a Thai rice krispy treat, sticky and full of spices, peppers, and more. I’m really going to miss this – it’s been such an amazing trip.

The Ramen Rater’s Trip To Thailand: Day 4 – Ratchaburi Province

Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6

At the breakfast buffet, I had to get a pic of the monster pile of bacon. It’s true – bacon is meat candy. After breakfast, we all grouped up in the lobby and got on big tour buses and took them into the country.

On the way out of Bangkok, I noticed motorbikes driving between the bus and the curb. Here in the states, this would be illegal and punishable. In Thailand, this is just people getting to where they need to go. I watched a video about driving in China recently and the narrator had an interesting analogy; here in the states, if you get cut off while driving, people will curse at the person who cut them off. But in Beijing, if you got cut off, that’s your fault since you left an opening for someone to take. All I can say is it seems to work very well over in Thailand – although I think if you dropped a bunch of drivers from here in the mix it would get bad really quickly!

Street vendors.

It’s really neat to watch the world go by in a foreign country; all the little differences just soak in to your head and make your brain swell with smiles – especially in Thailand.

Here we are, arriving at the President Rice Products factory in Ratchaburi province.

The inside was mostly white in color and very bright.

They had displays showing their product lines, and a little cart set up where you could sample one of their newer products, Tom Yum Goong Spicy Shrimp Soup which I have reviewed in the past and quite enjoyed!

There was a seminar about the different product lines and new products coming soon!

Those of us who smoked hopped in the back of a truck and got a ride to the little smoking tent offsite. I’m sure most of you who follow the blog know that I usually use e-cig products. Well, I wasn’t sure that they were allowed here so I ended up smoking menthols. Turns out one of the UK distributors had a vape with them – so that’s it. Next time I fly I’m bringing my vape with me.

One thing you also might know about me is that I’m legally blind, so I don’t get to drive (be glad that I don’t haha). Well in Thailand, the drivers side is on the opposite here, so I got to sit in what I’m used to having as the drivers seat – I gotta say it was pretty awesome!

I’m sorry to say that they had pretty tight security at this factory so I wasn’t able to tape any of the process. I can tell you the place was as clean as a whistle, and we all had to wear shoe covers, hair and face nets and lab coats. Very hot! Also in the actual factory floor area, we had to wear special clogs as well. We got to see the place where the rice came in and was sifted to remove and bits and pieces. Then we got to see where they to the packaging. We went up on a catwalk up above the factory floor and it happened to be above the boiler – I don’t know the temperature in there, but I’d guess – I dunno, 130 degrees Fahrenheit? Super hot. The people working in there are amazing! I guess you eventually acclimate to it. After the factory tour, we had lunch. In the above image, there’s fish cake and crispy fish.

This was some amazing tom yum – great stuff!

For dessert, they had coconut ice cream – actually made from coconut cream. I’ll say this – I don’t think I’ve ever had ice cream be that refreshing in my life. I was told that the little fruits that garnish this come from a special tree that only bears fruit once every 50 years – and then withers. Kind of a chewy, gummy texture.

Next we had a special event – a mini Iron Chef competition! I believe the chef here was on Iron Chef Thailand.

She demonstrated how to cook a couploe varieties and then some of the European agents teamed up and made them themselves.

I got to be one of the judges!

I ended up having a tie in my scores, but the winner were from the UK who had meticulously sliced some red chillies and loaded them on. Awesome stuff.

It was time to head out to the next festivity – a special dinner at the Dheva Mantra resort and spa.

Motorbikes!

A little food stand in the middle of the countryside.

I had no clue that karaoke was so popular in Thailand.

Then It hit me – I’ve heard this song two times now while here in Thailand. I didn’t expect to hear the Carpenters in Thailand. It reminds me of the Malaysia trip last year. I kept hearing this catchy tune over and over and asked our friend Thomas ‘hey I keep hearing this song over and over – what is it?’ Then with a Chinese accent, he says ‘oh – it’s Taylor Swift.’ What – like 10,000 miles from home to find out I’m a closet Taylor Swift fan? Absolutely surreal.

Chatting up about what I do.

Had such an awesome time – been meeting so many nice people!

My sister and I were totally beat so we decided to turn in early. The balcony at our room was great – sounds of the jungle. What was cool was that if you just sat and listened, you’d hear some new species of animal every minute or so. Another amazing day in Thailand!

The Ramen Rater’s Trip To Thailand: Day 3 – Seminar & Sightseeing

Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6

Another breakfast at the Chatrium Hotel. Like I said in a previous post, I love two things about Asia – fish and fruit. Tiny bananas rock and so does watermelon. I really liked their pancakes – they make them with white cake batter – they go awesome with pineapple! Then there were these weird things that were hairy looking.

They’re called Rambutan.

I couldn’t remember it was called Rambutan in the video, but here’s how you eat it!

Then we all piled on these little boats and took a tour up the Chaophraya river and down some canals. Was great!

Here we go up one of the canals. Was really hot and humid but the breeze was nice.

We disembarked down the river and then got on a barge where we all got to sample a ton of different fruit!

I mean a ton! The variety was just amazing.

The light colored one with what looks like garlic cloves on the left is Mangosteen. Durian is considered the King of fruit – Mangosteen is considered the Queen. There’s also that leaf wrapped mango – it has sticky rice with it and is second to none. The large wedge on the right is pomelo. I also tried jackfruit, which I would liken to a distant ‘light’ cousin of durian.

We then had a nice lunch – a lot of differed foods featuring a new variety of noodle called Mendake. It’s a non-fried noodle that doesn’t come with seasoning but is for those who want to make their own dishes. They had a little ‘build your ramen bar’ thing where you’d get some noodles, some broth and some roast duck and then top it with all sorts of different thing – very nice! The picture here has some sushi and some river prawn that were wrapped in the Mendake noodles and deep fried – worked very nicely!

It was then time for the seminar! I was really excited to check this out. I find everything related to instant noodles fascinating – from the manufacturing to the development to the may they get from so far away to where they end up.

They had lots of display tables set up with all the lines by Thai Foods. This table fascinated me – they had varieties manufactured in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Hungary and Myanmar. I asked if there was any chance I could get some samples since each and every one you see here are varieties I’ve not reviewed. Sure enough, they were happy to oblige! I’ve been reviewing some of them as I’ve been doing this travelog!

We were shown to our seats to see this – such an honor! Wow!

Ms. Pojjanee is the Vice President at Thai President Foods. She sent me an email just after New Year’s asking if I’d like to come to Thailand and take part in this event. It was an honor to be mentioned like this – both myself and my sister are very grateful to have been invited here – we were honored to meet you and everyone else and will never forget this epic voyage!

Ms. Pojjana also played a big role in our attending the event. When we were making arrangements, I mentioned that my son’s birthday was in a week after I returned so was hoping to find him something Pokemon related in Thailand or on the way there. During the welcome dinner, she brought me a big stuffed Pikachu to give him! Thank you!

I think my favorite part of the seminar was the talk Mr. Songphop gave on food quality, food fraud and other compliance topics. I am very interested in these topics and his speech made me feel like I was in college again. Wish I could take a class from him on it. There are a lot of food standards that factories strive to get – ISO-9001 for example. Do you know what ISO-9001 is? Look it up. Don’t be surprised if you see instant noodle packaging with it prominently labeled on the back. Standards like this mean that the factory where the foods are manufactured have been rigorously checked for quality, cleanliness and more. I think a lot of the stigma of the instant noodle’s quality would be assuaged if consumers knew what these standards meant. Therefore, I plan on doing a special post about these standards in the near future to help educate folks on the requirements to attain them in hopes of educating people why they are so important. Thanks for the inspiration Mr. Songphop!

A group photo of everyone – I’m in the back!

After a bit of time to relax, we all met down by where the earlier boat tour started from and boarded a dinner cruise!

We got to check out a traditional dance and music!

The monkey.

…and the fish.

Here’s some video of the performance.

We ate wonderful corry, wrapped chicken in leaves and all things amazing. The views of Bangkok at night were amazing. Next stop was Asiatique.

It was explained to me that Asiatique is a night market made up of old East Asia Company warehouses. Lots of things to buy! I looked everywhere to find placemats and found this guy who had something that would work. Our friend Mr. Banks encouraged us to haggle. My sister got cornered by him – he was very interested in selling her a scarf after she bought a tapestry. I’ll never forget when he tried to sell her a scarf and exclaimed ‘it is the natural color of the goat ma’am. It is the highest quality.’ His t-shirt said ‘I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.’ Priceless. I found a few gifts to bring home and was quite happy with my haul.

We took tuk tuks to get back to the hotel. A tuk tuk has one wheel in the front and two in the back and disco lights and is a great experience – I had all I could do to keep myself whooping it up on the ride! That was really great!

Mr. Songphop and the guys from the Hungarian factory had to get back to work tomorrow, so we had to say goodbye even through my trip was only half over – great bunch of guys! My sister arrived in her tuk tuk a minute later and we headed up to get some shuteye. Another amazing day in Bangkok.

The Ramen Rater’s Trip To Thailand: Day 1 – Departure & Arrival

THAITRIP-HEAD

Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6

A few months ago, I received an email from Ms. Pojjanee over the Thai President Foods. They make MAMA instant noodles and I had recently done a Meet The Manufacturer series with them. It was just after New Year’s and she asked if my wife and I would like to visit their factories in Thailand! There was one hitch though – my wife would be in her third trimester of her pregnancy at the time of the trip and we both agreed that it might be a little too much for her unfortunately. My sister was happy to take her place if it was alright, and it was. With that, here we go on our trip!

So the first leg of our flight left from Seattle, Washington at 1:50am May 14th. A well-packed plane took off on time.

We were greeted to water bottles in our seats. I had no clue how many water bottles I’d bsee on our trip – good thing really; Asia’s a hot place this time of year!

On the little screen embedded in the seatback in front of us, you can watch movies as well as this little GPS animation – really amazing that most of the time we were at 35,000ft, going over 500mph and the temperature outside was usually 40 degrees below zero – that’s cold!

After about 12 hours, we arrived in Taipei at Taoyuan Airport. We had a couple hours to mill around so we checked things out.

Back in October on my trip through here on my way to Penang, the theme was large sculptures of insects and beetles on fruit. This time, little people with large eyeball heads was the theme.

A Hello Kitty airplane! I found out they have Hello Kitty neck pillows, Hello Kitty food and even Hello Kitty printed toilet paper on these.

The Hello Kitty airplanes have their own Hello Kitty gate, and nearby, a Hello Kitty breastfeeding room.

We opted to skip this one – sounded a little rough.

Next was our flight to Bangkok – we were glad that it was much shorter than the 12 hours it took to get to Taipei!

Here’s my sister on a travelator at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. Getting through security was really easy and the man who checked my passport even smiled at me at the end! We got our luggage and met the guys who took us to our hotel room to relax a bit before going out to have something to eat.

Bangkok’s street were bustling with motorbikes and cars. Hot, humid and vibrant.

We stayed at the Chatrium Hotel, which is next to the Chaophraya river, a main waterway through Bangkok.

The room was very spacious and comfortable – but the real perk was outisde on the balcony.

We both almost fell over when we saw this amazing view. We were on the 23rd floor and could see everything! We tried to relax a bit but basically ended up just staring out the window just saying ‘wow’ a lot.

A view from the balcony.

The guys picked us up again and took us to a restaurant on the river called Lotus. Here we have some creamy shrimp tom yum soup.

Crab curry.

I had mentioned that I was very interested in trying Durian. Durian in known as the King of Fruit!

It’s a tough one to describe – definitely has to be experienced firsthand. It’s texture is kind of like a banana mixed with the stringiness of what you’d find inside a pumpkin. It has a very creamy kind of texture, reminiscent of papaya and ice cream. The one thing is that it has a smell – very strong smell!

A video my sister took of me trying fresh Durian for the first time. Mr. Banks (across from me) seemed fascinated to see how I’d react to the flavor.

They gave us a little sealed tray of it to have after dinner in the room. Now, during my time in Langkawi I remember seeing a sign in the hotel there that said no pets or Durian was allowed. Back at the Chatrium Hotel, we were going up the elevator and I noticed it started to smell. When we got to the room, it became quite evident that the smell was quickly filling the room! We tried putting it into a couple plastic bags, but no dice – the King of Fruit couldn’t be stopped! We knew then it had to go away!

We went back down to the lobby where I asked how it should be disposed up – the concierge had a very disapproving look and said it wasn’t allowed in the hotel and that I should find a receptacle outside the hotel to put it. Here’s the little trash can we found a little ways down. It’s funny – I really liked Durian a lot in my mouth, but not so much in my nose! It was really nice to now have a Durian story with me now.

Finally it was time to go to sleep – a long journey to Bangkok was over and a week of seeing new places, people and sights await!

Travels: Back From Thailand

So our trip to Thailand was absolutely amazing – met some really great people, checked out two noodle factories, tried some great food, saw wonderful sights! All this said, it’s good to be back home. I’m recovering from jet lag and will be posting a day-by-day travelogue in a week or so as a new Meet The Manufacturer will be starting very shortly. Until then, let me just say that Thailand was so different from expectations; I thought since it was so close to Penang and Langkawi (about a 2 hour flight) that it would be much the same, but boy was I wrong! It’s completely different! Can’t wait to share it with everyone!