Top tips for shopping heaven: Chatuchak Market, Bangkok!

I have been dying to write this “top tips” post about Chatuchak Market for the longest time. Not weeks or months, but years.

From the very first time I hit the stalls shopping at Chatuchak Market, in Bangkok, Thailand, I have never been the same.

I literally find it painful spending money anywhere else.

When I say cheap, bargains, budget, chic, cool, fun fashion I mean piles of it. You are going to feel like you died and woke up in fashion heaven where you can afford EVERYTHING.

Affectionately called JJ Market, the area is stuffed to the rafters with more than 8,000 stalls, which are open from 9am to about 6pm (indoor stalls) and 9pm (outdoor stalls).

Watch my video below and keep reading for a few tips on how to master the art of shopping at JJ.

You are going to feel overwhelmed, you are going to feel tired and you are going to spend too much. So listen up.

 

Don’t ever go looking for something specific. This place is just too massive for that. One must go with the attitude of thinking ‘it would be lovely if I found a …….. but if I don’t see one it’s cool.’

Do go with a budget – 20 GBP or 1000 THB is plenty for small treats.

Do go with a suitcase – you may just want to stock a shop or a walk-in wardrobe or buy enough Christmas and birthday presents for the next five years. And you won’t be the only one filling a case. I’ve seen the smart ones at it before.

Send stuff home from the market using the parcel services a the entrance near MRT Chatuchak.

Haggle. Start with the words. “Can I have a discount?” I used to think this was a bit too forward but having observed other people haggle this way, I have tried it and had great results.

Take small notes. When you want to pay 200 THB for a 300 THB dress the seller is much more likely to say yes to your price if they can see, smell and touch the money!

Never open your wallet first and then ask how much. You have just gone and put yourself at the mercy of the seller. Be cool.

Take a friend who is also shopping because when you buy more than one thing from a stall you can always bargain the price down even lower! Wholesale!

Wear flip flops for when you want to stop for a foot massage. Chatuchak Market is the biggest market you are likely to ever come across. You will be doing so much walking your feet will thank you at the end of the day.

Use the MRT underground station or BTS Skytrain to get there and back. The taxis and tuk tuks in these areas bump up their prices so much, paying for a ride will eat into the savings you made while shopping…think about it…

Get off the train at MRT Kamphaengphet rather than MRT Chatuchak. Why? Well the stores are way more fashiony in my opinion. Yes I said fashiony. This is MY BLOG! Lol!

 

 

How to eat fresh and local in Gran Canaria – the foodie adventure!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have been having some seriously good eats in Gran Canaria!

I am a total foodie and so far the restaurant offerings on the island are yet to impress me. It is so hard to get away from flavourless dishes, ‘tourist food’ and meals that go ‘ping’. Yes, it’s true there are restaurants out here that think people want to eat out on microwave meals! The easiest way to spot these bad boys is to check that there is actually a kitchen. If there is a menu and no kitchen…well you know what is going on.

Our most memorable food adventures have come from exploring the markets and the harbour.

GC market veg

Our favourite place to get fresh fruit and vegetables is San Mateo Farmers Market in the north of the island. It is open on the weekends from 7am to 7pm, on Saturday, and 7am to 2pm, on Sunday.

Gran Canaria’s  main products include tomatoes, bananas and aloe vera. So get hold of these when you see them because the quality is top notch.

We stocked up on sweet peppers, oranges, carrots, sugar apples, avocados, onions, lemons, pears, pomegranates, courgettes, strawberries, spices, fresh herbs, Lanzarote wine, cakes and cheese. The prices are cheaper than in the more touristy areas. The stalls all have different prices so it’s worth shopping around. Also there are lots of cheeses so try before you buy.

GC market

GC market produce

GC market spice

GC shopping

GC harbour

Next stop was to Arguineguin. There is small fish store at the port that sells the catches of the day until 3pm. The variety changes depending on the haul but the quality is always great. Here, we found red snapper, shark, squid, salmon, tuna, sardines and many others selections of fish, which we had no idea what they were because of the language barrier and our lack of knowledge about fish. There was a poster on the wall labelling the fish in Spanish…

GC fish shop art

GC fish

GC fish info

GC fish stall

GC fish prep

GC fisherman

The harbour is a working place. Fishermen sort out their equipment and engineers work on boats. There is a eating place next door but, like I said, I am yet to be impressed by Gran Canaria’s restaurants.

GC cooking

So back home and stocked up with the best of Gran Canaria’s produce we cooked like our lives depended on it! Lol!

We fried the fish one morning. It’s a big smelly job. Dip the fish in spiced flour first and then fry. Simples. Those fish were great steamed over onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes (see above).

The paella was a lot more complicated. We found a recipe online and adjusted it to our tastes and it came out a treat.

I keep saying we, but I was merely sous chef and my boyfriend Mario was head chef.

 

GC cockles and mussels

GC Paella

GC paella plate

GC home tapas closeup

And then came a wonderful tapas meal. We made a salsa, guacamole, grilled courgettes, spiced shrimp, fish, bitter peppers and served it with the wine from Lanzarote.

Everyone was in the kitchen for this one, chopping, frying and seasoning under the direction of the lovely Mario. It was a fun-filled evening that ended with great eating!

GC guacamole

Best buys at Wiesbaden Xmas Market

Of all the Christmas Markets in Germany, I would say that Wiesbaden is the most elegant. It’s called The Twinkling Star Market, which is such a cute name! I went a bit crazy for all the stylish homewares and decorations.

Wiesbaden arcade

 

Wiesbadenxmasmarket13

Wiesbaden xmas market10

Wiesbaden xmas market11

Wiesbadenxmasmarket2

Eastern-inspired lights and bowls add the perfect colour for the season.

Wiesbaden xmas market3

Wiesbaden15

Sustainable and cute – Rudolphs made from hay.

Wiesbaden xmas market9

Hang these against a white backdrop for a dramtic light show effect.

Wiesbaden xmas market6

Scented wooded balls. They smelt so good I hung around for a while.

Wiesbaden xmas market12

If I had one, I’d definitely drink more tea.

Wiesbadenxmasmarket8

I went iceskating at the nearby rink and just for that reason, I wanted one of these.

Wiesbaden xmas market 9

These little smoking incense men are a classic in every German home.

Wiesbaden16

I totally love that raw wood look in the home.

Wiesbaden xmas market8

I feel like I want to cover my tree with lots of little fairies and a pink star on top.

Wiesbaden xmas market 7

Wiesbanden xmas market1

Wiesbaden14

Indulge in very naughty treats at a German Xmas market.

Yay! It’s Christmas Market time in Germany and that means time to spoil yourself rotten.

RudesheimMarket4

adventureswithbeaRomanticChristmasMarket1

If you are going to the markets this season you absolutely have to try these yummy snacks and drinks.

 

Rudesheim Market2 adventureswithbea

Ladies and gentlemen (not boys and girls) let me introduce to you my new favourite tipple of the festive season….gluhwein!

Basicall it’s hot wine with added spice. Yes, yes in the UK people glug down mulled wine too but as I explored the stalls of Rudesheim Christmas Market and the Romantic Christmas Market in Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg – both very quaint – I was impressed with the creative adaptations…ahem hot cocktails!! My favourite was an apple gluhwein with rum. For the sake of research I sampled quite a few. I tasted a hot chocolate with chocolate liqueur and rum, a red gluhwein, a white gluhwein with vodka and a blueberry gluhwein.

The weather was freezing. It was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands but after a few of these babies, I was certainly feeling a warm fuzz 😉

RudesheimMarket1

gluwein

Next up on my list is another boozy favourite in Germany. I can actually say I have never come across so many flavours of liqueur anywhere else in the world in comparison to the types I’ve seen and tasted here.

Tasty liquor at romantic Christmas Market in Germany

From woodruff to sour cherry. If you can think of the flavour it’s usually available.

On to sweet treats..

chocolate tools at romantic Christmas Market in Germany

Chocolate tools for the man in your life. They were so real looking, I had to try one to make sure they weren’t metal!

chocolate waffle on a stick mmm adventureswithbea

Ahh yes. Simple yet affective. I hail the person who covered a waffle in chocolate and put it on a stick.

So you may be thinking that I just went to a couple of Christmas Markets, drank booze and ate chocolate…

You’d be wrong. I also bought Ani the cat a Santa hat.

Annie in a Santa hat

Europe’s best Christmas Markets

Germany’s oldest Christmas Market.

dresden xmas marketfilter

The Striezelmarkt in Dresden from November 26 until Christmas Eve is 581 years old this year and has 25o stalls.

Don’t miss The Stollen Festival where a master baker cuts the giant fruit cake with a 1.6 metre-long knife.

Austria’s are easily the most elegant.

Vienna_-_Rathausfilter

Photo courtesy of www.microstock.pl

From November 13 to December 26 Vienna’s baroque city hall, shops, cafes and museum become the backdrop to a variety of beautiful Christmas Markets.

Don’t miss out on playing ice games (like curling) at the Christmas Village in Maria-Theresien Platz near the museum of fine arts.

Czech Republic is best on foot.

Christmas_Old_Town_Square_Prague_2007filter

For those that like to have it all on their doorstep, go to Prague because the two main Christmas markets, on from Novermber 28 to January 6, are a short walk from each other in the city’s Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Explore the traditional taverns, gourmet restaurants, old churches and coutyards hidden down the cobbled lanes of the medieval centre.

Food is at its best in Hungary.

vorosmartykarvasar2filter

Vorosmarty Square in Budapest becomes a foodie’s haven when it transforms into a winter wonderland between November 13 and January 6.

A major crowd puller is the food. This market features top quality Hungarian eats and drinks so you shouldn’t leave without trying a fois gras sausage or pulled pork burger.

Don’t get ripped off at the market, haggle!

After a years of living in Thailand I have become pro at haggling. Here’s how you can too.

My mother is salesperson’s dream because she gets totally sucked into any sales pitch and buys at the price they set. Once she spent 100GBP on tea in Morocco and another time she spent the same amount on coffee in Bali. There’s me with the family, spending tons of cash at a Moroccan tea stall. Sigh…

I haggle. I have this gorgeous summer dress, which I bought for 200 baht (4GBP) in Chatuchak Market, Bangkok Thailand. I love it because it’s a perfect fit, has lasted years and I bargained the price down from 400 baht! I did have to sing but I’ll do anything and anyway the stallholder thought I was so funny, he agreed to half price lol!

I used to just buy things for the amount on the price tag (that would be my mother’s influence) but truth is, the price tag is a mug’s game. No matter where I go market shopping in the world, I always talk stall holders down to a lower price. Not just because I’m a total cheapskate but because it’s so much fun and I love boasting about my bargains.

I’m always tipping my friends about haggling. These are my most important rules:

Set the price.

I would never in a million years ask as seller what discount I can have. In any negotiating situation one must take charge. Offer a price a little lower than you are willing to pay and then go from there.

How low should you go?

I think it’s best to have an idea what the product is worth because if you go lower than cost-price you can offend or make a seller lose face. I have a rule of about a third off at the beginning of the trading day but towards the end of the day when it’s time to go home, I go even lower.

Get the conversation going.

I have been in situations where I have asked for a lower price and the stallholder shakes their head and then says nothing. What, no negotiation? Don’t assume this. It could be a language barrier problem or lack of negatiation skill. So try saying, ‘I want a good price and I want you to be happy too. What would make you happy?’

Who is in charge here?

On occasion I can’t even get the bargaining going because the seller doesn’t own the stall and will simply say, my boss is not here. DON’T GIVE UP. Ask when the boss will be around. I have even asked very nicely for the seller to ring their boss and ask if they can sell an item to me at my price over the phone. Crazy but in all cases the owner has agreed and I’ve bagged my bargain!

Never ever let anyone know how much money you have.

One thing that drives me mad is when I see someone open their wallet for all to see and then ask about the price. Of course the stallholder is going to give you a high price when they see your wad of cash!

Carry small money denominations and separate them into different pockets.

I never keep all my money in one place because it looks terrible when you bargain a salesperson down to a really cheap price, like 10GBP for example, and then pull out a 50 note or a wad of cash. They will not like you.

Speak the language.

When I learnt how to ask how much, count in Thai and say numbers in the language a whole new lower price level was opened up to me. One reason was because the seller knew I was not a naive tourist and treated me with local prices instead. Another great thing about this was because we spoke in a different language the seller was able to keep the price I bought an item private from tourists, who they sell products to at a much higher price.

Listen carefully.

I never buy first. I always hang back to see what prices other people are buying goods for, and by other people I mean anyone who looks local to the area. They know what they are doing.

Smile and be friendly.

Haggling is fun so treat it that way. Make jokes, laugh and introduce yourself to the seller. They are more likely to offer a bargain to someone who is nice to them. If the negotiation does not go your way, it’s okay, shake hands and say goodbye.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

I cannot count the amount of times I walked away from a sale only to have the seller chase me down the street begging me to take a product at the discounted price I originally asked for.

Buy more than one thing.

This one gets great results. Pick up a few items of what you want and then ask for your discount. Sellers love to get rid of stock, especially if it’s persihable. Fast arithmetic is needed here.

5 cheap things to do in Vinci, Italy

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci.

One: Go wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio vineyard.

We didn’t know we had a good thing, when it came to drinking wine in Vinci, until we left.

Look at me enjoying that bargain wine! It was a moment of innocence when we wandered into Doccia al Poggio vineyard, which is located next to the camper parking place we stayed at. We had no idea it was going to be the cheapest wine-buying experience of the whole trip.

The lowest price red was 2.50 euros, there were a few other reds at 3.50 euros, Chianti at 6 euros and the priciest bottle was a dessert wine at 12.50 euros. In comparison to the entry price of about 15 euros for a bottle of wine in the Chianti region, this was the holy grail: this was paying what the locals’ pay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. Dinner for two for under 10 euros at La Monna Lisa.

At 5pm locals, construction workers, mums and children and students, queue at this pizzeria to get their dinner. It was the only place with a buzz in the small village so we decided to eat there and we were so glad we did. We bought some decent slices of capriccosia, salami and margherita pizzas ranging from 1.50 to 1.80 euros each. What topped it off nicely was the local vino rossi at 4 euros a bottle and the pretty outdoor seating surrounded by aromatic herb boxes.

The museum is a pretty cool day out

The museum is a pretty cool day out

3. Visit The Leonardo da Vinci Museum – it’s a full day out for 10 euros!

When it comes to museums and art galleries, Tuscany has them at every corner. Some are awesome and keep you amused for days while others are small, poky and leave you feeling totally unsatisfied after you get to fumble around for 15 minutes and realise there isn’t not much to it. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci sits in the middle of these types.

I loved it because it has so many places to visit, the museum itself, an art exhibition in the Church of Santa Croce, Conti Guidi Castle and also Leonardo’s birthplace, which is 3km away.

This means, for the 10-euro cover charge, you can make a day of it by first going to the museum, castle and church, in the centre of Vinci, and after that take a picnic and cycle or hike up to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci.

We walked around the exhibitions, which included real models of designs by the great inventor, and then we went on the challenging cycle up the hill and through the olive groves to his home where we were rewarded with a movie that helped us really get to know Leonardo da Vinci and, as it was 6pm, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset after.

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

4. Explore the countryside.

Vinci is a scenic town (actually it’s officialy a city) that is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and has remained more or less the same as it was when Leonardo da Vinci grew up here. This means it is awesome for mountain biking. It has steep hills that will get your heart racing – going both up and down them – and amazing views. We took the track, which directs tourists to Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace, and came across The Hill Of Art sculpture park, mysterious abandoned farmhouses and plenty of fruit trees along the way.

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

5. Stay for free in your mobile home.

The last thing you want to do after paying for petrol to travel to and around Tuscany in a mobile home is also pay for camping. Some camping places can cost as much as a hotel room (50 euros) so our aim was to find free camper parking all the way.

Area Comunale Via Girolamo Calvi 50059 Vinci (GPS N 43.78088,  E 10.92857) is one of those places that costs nothing to park and has all the facilities we needed – waste water and chemical toilet discharge and fresh water – for free. To make it really special it has gorgeous views of the countryside.

Shopping in San Gimignano, Italy

image

OMG today in Sam Gimi was so crowded!
Market day is Thursday, until 1pm, so throngs of tourist buses came in and out but, despite the crowds, it was great because shopping, both in the market and shops, was reasonably priced.

image

You can get a bottle of Chianti for 5 Euro, grab some salami, cheese and rosemary fries (yum!) and sit on the steps of the main square and watch the world go by.
Souvenirs – olive wood products, gift wrapped wine, olive oil, marble etc was cheaper than in Volterra, the nearby walled city we had just arrived from.
There is one main reason the crowds didn’t bother us, we had already been in San Gimi at night and it was breathtaking. Imagine – hardly any people and those captivating towers lit up with a golden glow…

Avoid the big crowds at The Venaccia Wine Museum on a hill at the highest point of the town. Don’t go for an education in wine – it is not good as a museum – but it is awesome as a place to hangout, overlooking the vineyards and more peaceful than the rest of town.

image

The view from the outdoor terrace (see above) is gorgeous.
The cheapest Vernaccio is 3 Euro a glass and a wine tasting of four wines is 8 Euro. Not bad at all 😉

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci, Italy.

image

There are so many wine tasting tours around Tuscany, I wanted to go where the locals go so while in the small town of Vinci (where Leonardo Da Vinci was born) we popped into the local wine and olive farm, Doccia al Poggio, which is directed by Celeste Policicchio.
Celeste wasn’t around but his young sons were at hand to pour us some generous measures of everything they had to offer. They had little English and I had about five words of Italian but we got on well. They even happily posed for some pictures!
Steeped in history, the farm was the property of Count Mesetti, who was a nobleman and pioneer of racing cars.
Today the Policicchio family produce six wines. A white Bianci di Toscana, a Chianti, a Tuscany red, a rose and a dessert wine.
I tried four (it was Sep 22 and they had already sold out of two wines and all of their olive oil).
The white had delicious scents of honey and a fruity warm taste. A great one for slurping with a cheese and fruit feast or casually.
The Chianti had good character and the other red was less impressive but good by all means.
The dessert wine was actually one of the finest I have tasted.
We took some white, Chianti and red bottles.
The prices range from 2.50 euros (for the cheapest wine that was sold out) to the most expensive (dessert wine) at 12.50 euros.
We spent 16 euros on four bottles.