Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trip to Nice & Provence

DAY 1 - August 30, 2017. This is this time of year for another trip back home. On this particular trip, I will use the newly-opened route to Nice-Côte d'Azur that QATAR AIRWAYS has just launched.
Flying QR all the way to NCE via DOH
Lots of travelers at the airport as this is the end of a holiday season. Qatar Airways is operating two flights at the same time to Doha tonight! Checking in as a frequent traveler was no hassle. I came way
End of a day seen from the airport
in advance to relax at the Thai Royal Orchid lounge before boarding the flight to Doha, the first sector of this trip.
So, I'll be away for the next two weeks to visit my family and enjoy the rest of the Mediterranean summer first in Nice, and then onwards back to Arles.
Relaxing at one of the THAI lounges.
QRflight route from BKK to DOH
Tonight, the QR aircraft to Doha [DOH] is a B777-300ER. A smooth flight that reached Hamad International Airport [HIA] in Doha after a 6:20 long flight. Great service as usual on board, leaving and arriving on time at its final destination.
QR B773-ER
Champagne on board before taking off.
Hamad International Airport in Doha.
I  chose to stay overnight at HIA before the next leg of the journey to Nice, France. So, I booked a room at the International Airport Hotel. This will break the journey nicely and avoid any time difference, although I usually am not too sensitive to the adjustment as I use my usual tricks to avoid the inconvenience.

The Airport Hotel is a five-star establishment that offers luxurious accommodation away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal.
DAY 2 - August 31. It was a short night but I already had some sleep on the BKK-DOH route. Before proceeding to the boarding gate, I went to the Al Mourjan business lounge to get coffee and a croissant.
On this newly opened flight route to Nice [NCE] Qatar Airways operates a B787-8 Dreamliner, a great aircraft of the new generation.
QR flight route from DOH to NCE.

Another smooth flight on the way to Europe. A hearty breakfast is served on board after departure.
Aboard the Dreamliner.
Time to relax, read, and listen to music. Later on, before landing at Nice-Côte d'Azur, I get a light meal. The flight arrives on time after a 6-hour's journey. 
At the airport, my family is waiting for me but we won't stay long in town as my Mum and sis need to drive back home in Arles.
QR B787-8
DAY 3-12 - 01-11 September. Nothing much as I need to put the house in living condition again. 
DAY 13 - 11 September. Rail Trip from Avignon-TGV to Nice-Ville.
At Avignon-TGV Rail station
Bar aboard the TGV to Nice

In the Old Nice at night
In Nice at night

Dinner at Baan Thai restaurant in Nice
DAY 14 - 12 September. Flights back to Thailand from Nice-Cote d'Azur.
Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
QR flight route from NCE to DOH aboard a Dreamliner.
At Nice-Côte d'Azur Airport, I was invited to relax at the Canopy Lounge in zone B, before boarding the aircraft. A very nice and pleasant lounge in a modern and convenient airport terminal.
Another smooth flight of 5h20 from Nice [NCE] to Doha [DOH] aboard the B787-8 Dreamliner operated by QATAR AIRWAYS [QR]. I was seating on the front row of the Economy class [10K].
DAY 15 - September 13. Transit at Hamad International Airport at Al Mourjan business lounge and continuation to Bangkok.
QR flight route from DOH to BKK aboard a B773ER
The B777-300ER left on time and arrived ahead of schedule after a flight of 6h15. In the business class cabin, I was seating [4K] by a Brit traveling from Manchester to Hanoi. I slept for most of the trip. It was sunny over Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The National Gallery of Thailand

The National Gallery of Thailand is located in the Phra Nakhon area of Rattanakosin, near the the Royal Turf'). It is another example of a classical European building designed by Italian architects commissioned by the kings of Thailand. It was once the Royal Mint before becoming a museum in 1974.
Entrance wing
northern end of Sanam Luang ('
The Gallery has two sections:
  • A permanent exhibition displaying the progress of Thai art that also includes works by two Kings: King Rama VI and King Rama IX.
  • A temporary exhibition displaying a selection of both local and foreign artists.

Very sadly, this institution carries a shameful standard of overcharging foreign visitors. Thai nationals pay THB30 when the admission fee for foreigners is THB200. It is not a question of price but a matter of double standard that appears outdated, particularly for such a touristic country as Thailand.
Garden sculptures by Sermsak Nakbua

"Land of Smiles"
Flute player
Modern Thai artist design
Another example of contemporary Thai design
"New Leader" by Apiwat Banler.

Bang Khun Phrom Palace, Bangkok

The Bank of Thailand has recently opened to the public a magnificent former royal residence that has
now become a museum.
Inaugurated in 1906, Bang Khun Phrom became the residence of one of King Chulalongkorn's sons, HRH Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand. This European baroque mansion adorned with white stucco was designed by Mario Tamagno, an Italian architect, who was commissioned to build many other royal projects in the capital. This amazing building has been entirely restored with a garden facing the Chao Phraya River, in the northern section of Rattanakosin, close to Dusit.
It is only opened to the public on Saturdays and you must come with a group by making an advance booking online.

Front view
Back view
Stucco decoration
Area map
Corner detail
Facade window
Garden side detail

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Lofoten Islands, Norway.

The enchanting Arctic Islands of Lofoten

Norway is known for its fjords and its stunning landscapes. It is one of Europe's most beautiful countries. Because part of the nation is above the Arctic Circle, it is one of the few places in the world, where there exists this magnificent show of Nature known as the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis).
Position of the Lofoten Islands
In the Norwegian province, known as Nordland, above the Arctic, there is a group of islands stretching along the coast between Narvik, in the North, and Bodø, in the south. 
They used to be home to fishermen, whose principal resource was cod fishing. This activity still exists. However, tourism has now become the main local industry, particularly in the summer. Then, the temperature is an average of 12º-16ºC.
It is easy to cross the archipelago from north to south. Highway E10 goes from Harstad/Narvik Airport (Evenes) all the way across the islands through a series of spectacular bridges and tunnels. Nordland operates a coach service (Lofotekspressen) from Narvik to the airport down to the last village known as Å at the tip of the last bigger island. It is also possible to sail across to the mainland, mostly from Leknes (car ferry) or Svolvaer (passenger hydrofoil) to Bodø, or vice versa.

The countryside is absolutely awesome: a snow-capped, rugged mountain range with waterfalls and fjords that look like still lakes mirroring the landscape. The southern island of Moskenes is one of the most spectacular. It has four scenic fishing villages worth the journey: HamnøyReine, Sørvågen, and Å. This section of the Lofoten is also where the highest peak is rising (Hermannsdalstind, 1029m). Yet, the little harbor town of Svolvaer is an absolutely delightful place to stay too. All of these places are facing the more tranquil southern coastline sound separating the islands from the mainland. The northern side is facing the often rougher Norwegian Sea.

Svolvaer harbor
The fishing village of Å
Reine bay

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Open House Bookstore: A new design concept

Top view of Open House Bookshop

A new design concept created around Art books

Central Embassy top floor
Bangkok has become an Asian showcase for Architecture and Design. In just a matter of a few years, Sukhumvit has become a new designer's showcase. It first started with Siam Center, then it extended to its twin mall, Siam Discovery offering a totally new concept of shopping, design, and relaxation. When EM Quartier opened, it also became a new attraction featuring a waterfall, a suspended garden and a spiraling alley of cafés, bars, and restaurants. Central Embassy was also featuring a stupendous contemporary architecture. But due to the fact that it was a haven for the top brand names, it remained mostly snubbed by most people. This is probably why they tried hard to revive it in a way that would attract people. 
Open House Bookstore, on the 6th Floor of Central Embassy, opened a few months ago with another brilliant new concept. They turned the entire floor into a bookstore that looks more like a contemporary library than a simple place for books.
The idea was to set a sort of community environment having books at its center. "This floor here was conceived by Central Embassy and Klein Dytham architecture (KDa).  They wanted to do something different with retail, such as bringing together books and restaurants." [Thailand Tatler, 30 May 2017]. 
There are lots of books, both in Thai or in English, not only regarding the Arts, but also travels,
Quiet reading corner with a view
regional interest, rare editions, cook books, and also books for children. There are sofas and armchairs to rest among the books on display.
Then, all around they have opened a series of restaurants, coffee shops, and even a wine bar with a view on Sukhumvit and Wireless Road. Children have their own safe place while parents go browsing for books. In the evening, they also have a small live band with a singer.
The concept seems to be successful by judging the number of people patronizing the premises. This is an absolutely wonderful place to relax among the books. 
A library-like corner

Browsing an Art book
Playroom for children

Dining area
Evening live music

Restroom view
Quiet coffee shop with a view for readers or laptop browsers.