Belgium’s Best Hot Chocolate

Belgium, undeniably, absolutely nails it when it comes to all things chocolate. When I was in Brussels I sampled some mouth watering waffles but Bruges introduced me to a whole new delight: Belgian hot chocolate. 

I don’t mean to say I’ve never had hot chocolate, I’ve had more than my fair share (as a child I literally required a mug of hot chocolate in the mornings before I could talk, function or be in any way remotely pleasant. This was obviously pre coffee years). However, I had never had hot chocolate made with Belgian chocolate. So once I settled into my hostel I set out to find that hot mug of heaven.

Out of an the tea rooms in Bruges, I walked into De Proeverie.

20161017_160920

De Proeverie sits just across the cobblestoned street from it’s sister chocolate shop, Sukerbuyc, inconspicuously nestled up next to the canal on Katelijnestraat. De Proeverie sells a tasty selection of cakes, pastries, scones, ice cream, tea, coffee, and (most importantly) hot chocolate.

Not only do they use Belgian chocolate from across the street, all ingredients are arranged on a tray and you allowed to concoct your own perfect cup of cocoa! It’s a delectable DIY treat.

20161017_155110At €4.50 this is arguably a bit of a ‘treat yourself’ if you are budget traveling, but it is definitely worth it. You will be given a tray with a cup of steamed milk, sugar cubes, a chocolate20161017_155142 stick to melt into the milk, whipped cream, and 4 extra pieces of chocolate. So not only do you get hot chocolate but you can also sample a bit of dark, milk, and white 20161017_155300chocolate as well as a chocolate truffle. You know, in case you wanted to pop across the street later after having a taste of what they offer. 😉

 

20161017_155617

 

 

Buengkan Passport

11947753_885459954823922_166523053042693008_o

Price: $$

Amenities: fans, free wi-fi, free water

Location: Just like WaWa, it is outside of town a little bit on Buengkan Road. Walkable, but bicycle recommended (especially when its hot!). On the way to the small lake and park, you will find Buengkan Passport on the left hand side of the road.

Taste: Good, strong coffee taste. I was warned before ordering that it was bitter, but I think that’s because I usually order a hazelnut latte from here which is decidedly sweeter than an espresso. The espresso was not too sweet (or bitter) and had a good flavor.Nice kick to it too.

Menu and Ease or Ordering: This coffee shop is run by a lovely couple and they can both 13055716_10206195017091095_3532891433425169286_ospeak English enough for you to order with ease. The menu is written in both English and Thai languages. The only downfall is they serve only coffee and no sort of desserts or snacks, but as long as you remember to grab a bite to eat before you get there you should be ok!

20151029_154336

Special Menu: For only 25 baht you get an anchan drink. Anchan is the blue/purple flower that we call butterfly pea. This drink is made with sweet milk so it is very sweet, but delicious! And pretty, too. 🙂

Environment:  I am going to be honest this review miiight be a bit biased because this is my favorite coffee shop in Buengkan, but it’s my favorite for a reason!! P’Ee runs the coffee shop and P’Bas is a photographer. Their shop is large and very open feeling. They do not have air con but only fans, so in the summer it can12973462_1695307094091021_3639034225257940752_o get a bit toasty but they have a lot of fans so you will always have one pointed in your direction. There are usually photography students that come and go to learn with P’Bas, so there is always something going on. That being said, it still has a quiet atmosphere where you can feel comfortable working, reading, or chatting with friends. The shop used to look out onto the little lake but due to recent constructio12973572_1695307027424361_6437332491007846626_on on the river there is a significantly large sand a rock pile outside. No worries though, the view it is still good and on Tuesday and Friday mornings you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of the Thai-Laos market. There is sometimes music, sometimes not.

10996484_909658962404021_403973151324283092_o

12961400_1695306900757707_3947091704466015220_o

The Coffee Project

 

The Chill Life on Koh Jum (เกาะจัม) Part 1: The Experience

20140407_120935

My friend B came to Thailand back in April 2014 for a few weeks to visit and celebrate Songkran with me. I picked her up in Bangkok where we spent a couple extra days hanging out with new friends before heading south. We were unsure of where to go and a German girl in our hostel recommended Koh Jum near Krabi for some quiet island down time.

So we went.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

And it certainly was quiet; it is overall much quieter than it’s neighbors Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. It was early to mid April and ending the open season for Koh Jum (Nov-Apr),

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESresulting in a rather empty island void of tourists. There were no parties, no late nights, not even any bars! There was one I think but it was already closed for the season. I thought it was perfect; a little spit of land with kind people and peaceful silence. B and I got rather burned on the 2 hour ferry trip over, but that was to be expected since we used expired sunscreen. Note: the expiration date is legitimate on 20140407_121018sunscreen. We spent the first day off the beach and in the shade. When the ferry stops at Koh Jum, it doesn’t go to a port…longtail boats from your resort will come out and collect you to bring you in. It was pretty cool! We stayed at New Bungalows on Andaman Beach and it was beautiful. The beach was smooth and sandy and swimming in the blue, blue water was great! For more details on New Bungalows, check out Part 2 of the Koh Jum posts.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESew Bungalows didn’t have any bikes or kayaks available, but that was fine-they were still easy to obtain! B and I spent many days relaxing on the beach and walking into the town for lunch or dinner (it was a bit cheaper there than the restaurant at the resort,  but that food was good too!) but we did start to feel a bit restless. After speculating about a small island just off the shore, we decided one morning to goSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES next

door to I think Freedom Bungalows and inquire about kayaks for rent. They had kayaks available for half days and full days, so we decided to take one out for the morning and venture to the little island. We envisioned a sandy beach and a day of doing…basically

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Lost at sea

what we had been doing on our own beach for the past few days really. After discovering that we are not very skilled at working together when it comes to kayaking and after a lot of laughter and circles we finally made it to our little island! I’m gonna be honest it was a little bit of a disappointment. The beach was covered in driftwood and rocks;1972326_801159026560844_3866103081325407309_n it was gravelly and not very nice. But we managed to have fun
regardless. We were quite glad we kayaked over in the 1016915_801158829894197_6665510691596019522_nmorning, because it got a little bit windy on the way back and it was a real mission for us haha. Also, if anyone knows what kind of bird this skeleton belongs to, please tell me- we were very curious!

10247235_801158989894181_8376205345400820171_n

 

After kayaking back we walked into town for lunch. I can’t remember the name of SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthe restaurant now, but we always ate there because the couple who owned it were just so lovely and friendly! We loved chatting with them. We rented bicycles for the afternoon from a shop in town and decided to try and cycle the whole island. It looked dSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESoable on the map. I’ll tell you now, the map lies. We cycled to all the beaches and I have to say Andaman beach was the nicest and we were glad we stayed there instead of Seasons Bungalow which was on Golden Pearl Beach. WSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESe ended up at a beach on the opposite end of the island and decided to swimSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES and cool down a bit. We got a bit stuck on the way back when the road ended and cycling became impossible, and we had to walk our bikes back across the beach to fSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESind the road again and backtrack the way we came from originally. It was a hot but not too strenuous ride and only took half a day to tour the whole island. Great way to spend an afternoon!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

As we sat on the longtail boat waiting for the ferry to come and take us back to Krabi, I already started to miss Koh Jum. I still often think about the laid back attitudes, beautiful sunsets, and sandy beaches of the island. If you ever come to Thailand, you should definitely visit Koh Jum for that slice of paradise beach time R&R. You won’t regret it!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

WaWa Cafe

20160205_112659

Price: $$

Amenities: fan and air con, wifi available
*but there are no outlets!

20160205_112630

Location: walkable, but if its hot outside it will feel like a bit of a journey. Better to take a bicycle or motorbike. Out of town a ways near the lake on Buengkan Road. It will be a small container on the left side of the road, just past Buengkan Passport.

20160205_112821

Taste: good, robust coffee flavor, not sweet at your request. Not the strongest in Buengkan but still stronger than most. I like it!
*my friend had an unfortunate incident with a bee that somehow made it’s way into her coffee cup, but I’ve never had a problem like that so I’m pretty sure it was a one off…just check your cup before you sip as a general rule for anywhere?

20160205_112907Menu and ease of ordering: The barista is nice but unable to speak Thai, so if you haven’t figured out how to order your favorite coffee order in Thai yet, you may be in a bit of trouble! The menu is written in only Thai 20160205_112854language, but they have the same basic espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, and mocha as all coffee shops. They also serve various desserts, and while the menu is again in Thai- they also have pictures! I find the visuals more appealing anyway. Not too sure about a special menu as I have yet to order a dessert there.

Environment: the building is a small container, feels a little cozy but not too cluttered. I feel like it has the potential to get quite hot in the summer because the walls are big windows, but there is air conditioning available so it should be fine. On the bright side, windows for walls makes for great people watching if you grab your coffee on market days (every Tuesday and Friday the whole road transforms from dusty emptiness to a bustling Thai-Laos market from morning to early afternoon)!The tables seem to be good tables to do some work on, and the chairs! The chairs are amazing. Soft chairs with backs on them I could sit there all day.

20160205_11293420160205_112943

The Coffee Project

Moomprod (มุมโปรด) Coffee and Bakery

20160130_162424

Price: $$

Amenities: air con and fan available, free wifi

Location: Very central Buengkan on Thai Samat Rd, just past the roundabout on the main road. Moomprod is situated directly across from the old cinema that’s long since been closed down.

20160130_162404

Taste: The coffee here is excellent! It has a strong, robust flavor and she actually makes it per your request if you don’t want it sweet. I would also recommend the hazelnut latte.

Menu and ease of ordering: Coffee menu has all the standard coffee drinks plus a variation of teas and flavored milks. It is written in both Thai and English so its e20160130_162619asy to navigate and Note, the owner, speaks almost fluent English. So ordering and asking questions should not be a problem at all.

She is also an excellent baker and there are always plenty of treats to pick from that are displayed in the front. Trust me, they are delicious. Even if you aren’t hungry I recommend you buy a slice of apple cinnamon cake because oh my gosh….it is edible perfection. Tastes just20160130_162756 like home and it is nice, dense, flavorful and all around magical. I have yet to try her cakes but she also makes cakes that can be decorated for any occasion.

Special Menu: You can order a caramel thai iced tea and if you ask for it only a little bit sweet it is delicious! I haven’t seen it anywhere else. She also makes a white chocolate mocha that tastes amazing as well.20160130_163116

Environment: Indoor seating only but it feels open and airy. To be honest, you will be hard pressed to find a stuffy feeling coffee shop or restaurant here in Buengkan so that is rarely a problem. The family that runs this coffee shop are very friendly, and Note’s daughter, New, will probably want to practice her English with you. She’s quite clever! The wifi is good although sometimes spotty, and the tables are big enough to spread out your things if you have work to do. Although to be honest every time I go there I end up 20160130_162724enjoying chatting with people more than actually working. This is a good place to relax and kick back, but if you want to get some work done maybe find another shop. 🙂
Fans are usually running and once it gets hot enough the air con will be turned on as well. There is usually some background music playing.

20160130_16265120160130_163531

The Coffee Project

Ahten (อาเดิน) Coffee and Restaurant

20160130_154945

Price: $$

Amenities: air con (inside), fan (outside) free wifi, free water
*Important to note there are no outlets available!

Location: Fairly central in Buengkan city, close to the river on Ruksangub Road just off of 20160130_154935Meechai Road. It is just across the street from a temple.

Taste: even though I ordered an espresso unsweetened, it still tasted fairly sweet. Also, the coffee wasn’t the strongest and it tasted more like an iced coffee with milk than an actual espresso. It still tasted alright, but it didn’t quite have the kick I was after. Caramel latte and green tea are both good at this location per friend reviews as well. 🙂

20160130_141809.jpg

Menu and ease of ordering: The coffee menu had all the standard drinks on
it. It was in both English and in Thai. They have a small selection of cakes and desserts to 20160130_152357choose from that are displayed in the front. There is a full food menu as well, but it
is written in only Thai with no pictures, so if you can’t read Thai and/or aren’t feeling somewhat adventurous and willing to try out the whole “point and see what you end up with” option, you might be out of luck. (If you want to do that here its ok, it is a tame menu you won’t end up with anything too obscure!) The staff, while nice enough, can’t speak English. This shouldn’t be a big problem if you just want a coffee, but it might stop you from ordering lunch or dinner.

Special menu: I have yet to try it, but I did see espresso con panna on the menu and that piqued my interest. I have yet to see it on any other menu in Buengkan.

20160130_141921.jpg

Environment: I really enjoyed the environment here. The temple across the street was beautiful to look at and there is plenty of flora in the outside seating area to feel private and cozy. There is more outside seating than inside, but there are some tables indoors if you prefer. Outside seating is available both under a roof and under the sun. Fans are usually turned on outside as soon as you sit down to keep you cool. While we were there  we enjoyed relaxing music played loud enough to hear and quiet enough to enjoy conversation.

20160130_16174920160130_141605

The Coffee Project

Mountains and Moonshine

HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL YOU LOVELY PEOPLE OUT THERE!!

Ok, so its about a week late. Close enough.

The last New Year celebration found me in Bangkok receiving pity drinks from strangers because I was squeezed in next to my friend and her boyfriend at the time on a tiny couch, awkwardly trying to ignore their furious making out. The year before that I was in Chiang Mai with an anonymous crowd, crammed together in the street like sardines for the countdown. I decided to get away from it all this year. I’ve done the big cities, been in the big crowds; it’s beginning to feel a little overrated.

So this year I w1451799364486ent on a trip to the mountains with some friends for an overnight trek to a waterfall. You guys, this place is untouched Thailand. It seems to be a fairly popular travel destination for other Thais, but the foreign tourism industry either chose to bypass it or simply hasn’t found it yet. I only saw two other foreigners at the resort we stayed at when we weren’t trekking. The small town has a tiny little walking street with local, handmade products. This place is a hidden gem, an absolute treasure, and because of that I am somewhat reluctant to even disclose it’s location. But because you, dear readers, are but a few I think it is safe to share the secret with you. 🙂

1451799434758

This dusty town at the end of the road is Umphang (อุ้มผาง), found in Tak Province. And it literally is at the end of the road. From Mae Sot you have an approximately 165km, 4 hour journey of perilously steep twists and turns through the mountains along the “Death Highway” (there are exactly 1219 curves to conquer) before ending at Umphang. There is literally nowhere else to go, the road ends here. This is the only road in and out of Umphang; this lack of accessibility could also potentially explain the lack of foreigners. The area is host to an abundance of natural beauty, including waterfalls! In fact, Thi Lo Su, found in this province, is meant to be the biggest and tallest waterfall in Thailand! Its a wonder more people don’t make it out here.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur group woke up a the crack of dawn on the 30th to eat breakfast, assemble, and head to the river. We spent most of the day rafting down the river, enjoying each others company, the scenery, and the occasional series of rapids. After spending maybe 5 hours on the river, we made it to base camp and blazed through the jungle for another 20 minutes or so to see Thi Lo Le waterfall (น้ำตกทีลอเล). Unlike the larger Thi Lo Su waterfall this one, nicknamed the adventure waterfall, is smaller and hidden deep in the jungle.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

That night we enjoyed some good camp food and, later, the local home brewed white whiskey clocking it at only 30 baht a bag. I can tell you via firsthand experience that if you have to do any activity the following day you will regret every shot. It should go without saying: don’t play last man standing when you have a hike the following day (but I could have done with a reminder anyway…..)!

 

As you can guess, the next morning we had to walk ourselves out of the jungle. This trek through the mountains took about 6 hours, it was not an easy start haha. However it was beautiful, and a bit easier because we had elephants that carried all of our stuff so we were backpack free! I am not used to this type of hiking, but I like it. I could get used to it. 😉 To be honest if I was not hungover it would have been a fairly easy hike, humidity aside. Yet headache or not I was still able to enjoy the beauty of the jungle! I LOVE this sort of thing- some of the Thai girls we were with were not keen to ever do anything like that ever again, but I find it exhilarating. I’m definitely more of a mountain girl than a beach bum.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Tired but happy, we decided to stay another day and go see Thi Lo Sue waterfall. Why not? The next morning we were up and at it early again (I think this trip could be themed ‘you can sleep when your dead’) to jump back into a raft for the first half of our journey. This day was much more

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

relaxed, no rapids and just floating along. At first I was reminded of the Boise River, but then we turned a corner to face small waterfalls and towering cliffs and then I remembered where I was.

 

After maybe 3 or 4 hours oSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESf floating along, we hopped into our songthaews and drove another hour along a very bumpy dirt road to the trail head of Thi Lo Su (น้ำตกทีลอฃู). Following the pattern of the day, the trail was short and sweet (and flat!). Because it was New Years Day, there were many people there, but that did not take away from it’s beauty. It’s impressive, even now in the dry season. I can only imagine what its like in rainy season! 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We woke up again the following morning at 5am to go to a lookout above the clouds to watch the sunrise. I am not much of a morning person, but I was able to appreciate the beauty anyway. 🙂 After briefly re-grouping at the resort, our group split and went our separate ways to do some shopping and grab breakfast before the long drive back home.

1451799391893

Umphang is such a highlight and, even though I am leaving Thailand this year, I am already scheming ways to get back there for another trip someday. I even have an itinerary some ideas for next time I make it back! This has been my favorite New Year celebration in a long time. Happy heart and a great start to the new year!

1451799380297