Bangkok Not Banning Street Food So You Can Stop Freaking Out

Your future Instagram shots of you eating questionable meat on a street in Bangkok are safe.

News got out last week that the Thai government was cracking down on street food vendors. As usual, one article was published that got their information wrong. Young writers needing to publish five articles a day to fulfill the clickbait quota picked up on the news without actually doing research.

As it turns out, it was a misunderstanding, lost in translation situation.

“The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is not banning street food in Khao San and Yaowarat roads—it’s the opposite,” BMA advisor Wanlop Suwandee told CNN. “It is supporting street food by implementing hygienic measures and organizing traffic around the areas.”

Doesn’t that make sense? As CNN points out, a few stalls were asked to move and the spokesperson was misquoted.

In reality, there are an estimated 15,000 food stalls in Bnagkok. If a few are misplaced, there are only 14,990 left to choose from. The food scene is safe. You’re safe. Enjoy your spicy food.

 

Want to Visit North Korea? Just Walk Around a Table in the DMZ

You read stories in travel media where people visit every country in one or two years, before they turn 21 or spending only $1,000. This is not something I strive to do. It’s quality over quantity.

Case in point, I have no desire to spend 3 days and 4 nights in Pyongyang just for bragging rights. I doubt they have a lively culinary scene or vibrant nightlife. On the other hand, one minute in, and one minute out — just long enough to take a selfie and check-in on Swarm — will do just fine.

Guess what? You can, and rather easily.

U.S. Vice-President Mike “Whitey McWhiterson” Pence visited South Korea recently and the DMZ where he observed North Korea from a safe distance. For the rest of us, we can do this and actually step across the border.

First you need to book a tour of a U.S. base in the DMZ while in Seoul. It’s the only way can do it.

You’ll arrive to the Joint Security Area where you’ll enter one of the blue buildings pictured above. In the building is a table. On the near side is South Korea. On the opposite end of the table is officially North Korea. Your tour guide will allow you to walk around the table to the North Korea side, take photos and walk back into South Korea. Thus, you’ve visited North Korea.

Crazy right? What’s also crazy is that you’ll probably find North Korean soldiers looking at your every move on their side.

Want to see it in action. The best travel host of all time, Michael Palin, visited the DMZ on his Full Circle series. Watch it below at 2:30:

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2017 That You Can’t Afford or Get A Reservation

A new No. 1 restaurant in the world has been crowned, and I hope they sell a decent hamburger.

Eleven Madison Park in New York shocked the culinary world to take the top spot over last year’s winner, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. This is the first time since 2004 that an American restaurant took the top spot. We suck at a lot of things lately but we’re winners in high-end cuisine.

One thousand chefs and food writers from 26 regions decide on the accolade. I’m sure these people go to every restaurant on the list and have the exact similar opinion of what makes a great restaurant. NY Times pointed out the controversy over voting. In all, it’s great publicity for the restaurants and for hardcore, rich foodies, it gives them bragging rights if they’ve eaten at them all.

I’ve been too none of these.

The Top 50 (no word if they accept Groupon)

  1. Eleven Madison Park, New York
  2. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
  3. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
  4. Mirazur, Menton, France
  5. Central, Lima
  6. Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain
  7. Gaggan, Bangkok
  8. Maido, Lima
  9. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
  10. Steirereck, Vienna
  11. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
  12. Arpège, Paris
  13. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
  14. Restaurant André, Singapore
  15. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
  16. D.O.M., São Paulo, Brazil
  17. Le Bernardin, New York
  18. Narisawa, Tokyo
  19. Geranium, Copenhagen
  20. Pujol, Mexico City
  21. Alinea, Chicago
  22. Quintonil, Mexico City
  23. White Rabbit, Moscow
  24. Amber, Hong Kong
  25. Tickets, Barcelona
  26. The Clove Club, London
  27. The Ledbury, London
  28. Nahm, Bangkok
  29. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
  30. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
  31. Pavillon Ledoyen, Paris
  32. Attica, Melbourne
  33. Astrid y Gastón, Lima
  34. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
  35. Septime, Paris
  36. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London
  37. Saison, San Francisco
  38. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
  39. Relae, Copenhagen
  40. Cosme, New York
  41. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
  42. Boragó, Santiago
  43. Reale, Castel di Sangro, Italy
  44. Brae, Birregurra, Australia
  45. Den, Tokyo
  46. L’Astrance, Paris
  47. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
  48. Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin
  49. Tegui, Buenos Aires
  50. Hof van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium

 

The All Sorts of Wrong About Being Dragged from an Airplane

“So Doctor, how was your flight home?”

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to inexplicable incidents, in comes United again to top their leggings fiasco from two weeks ago. Those PR people might want to update their resume after pulling double duty.

You know the deal: United flight (via Republic Airways) from Chicago to Louisville, KY was overbooked, which is common practice because they anticipate dumbasses not showing up. Crew members needed to get Louisville for their route, thus they needed to bump passengers. After they couldn’t get four to take the bait, their computer system picked a doctor to bump. Doctor didn’t budge, so airport security dragged him away while passengers filmed it. Internet, late night talk shows and media goes wild.

Where to begin? Let’s look at the big picture — the flight is only 80 minutes and costs around $210. It’s 4 hours and 40 minutes to drive. Yet, United couldn’t bribe anybody with $1,000 cash,? A Forbes writer made a small fortune ($11K) for her family for choosing not to fly to Florida. Passengers, do you really need to be in Louisville on a Sunday night? BTW, Sundays are a horrible day to fly.

Then, I found several articles advising not to take what the airlines give because you can get more if you’re are randomly bumped. True, but every airline has different policies and situations are different. I got bumped once from Newark to London because the airplane had to be switched and seats were lost. For 40,000 miles, all I had to do was leave out of JFK New York that night and I still kept my Upper Class privileges. Plus, they reimbursed my transport to the airport. So, cash, miles or free flight is whatever you fancy. There’s no right answer.

With all that said, WTF were airport security thinking? The poor doctor isn’t an ISIS operative or a danger to passenger safety. I wondering what United staff and especially the pilot were doing while this was going on. Nobody stepped in to stop this. “Sure, go ahead and drag a paying customer out of our plane.”

Then if things couldn’t get worse for United, CEO Oscar Munoz made a tone-deaf statement:

The problem is that this sounds like it was written by PR from a corporation. In reality, you’re dealing with people who went through a disturbing ordeal that was handled poorly. On top of that, future customers will rethink booking a United flight. I don’t fly United, so eff them.

The lesson for everyone, drive from Chicago to Louisville.

Five Los Angeles Chain Restaurants That Are Not In-n-Out Burger

The land of traffic craves convenience. That new, must-visit artisan cafe might only be seven miles away, but that’s 40 minutes in L.A. time. On top of that, you have to find parking and the line will probably 50 deep. But hey! That Instagram photo will get, like, 15 likes and a smiley emoji.

Thus, having multiple locations is advantageous. We all know In-n-Out is all over the damn place, but if you want to go semi-local, here are other well-known institutions loved by locals.

Roscoe Chicken n Waffles — The legendary soul food institution is loved by rappers, Los Angelinos and people who look at a waffle and think, “This would be better with fried chicken.” With eight locations, the easiest one being in West Hollywood, you can order the Obama special and cry afterwards.

Zankou Chicken — Name checked by Beck in his masterpiece song, “Debra” … “Like a fruit that’s ripe for a pickin’ / I wouldn’t do you like that Zankou Chicken.” It also inspired a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about Palestinian chicken. The Armenian-style rotisserie chicken chain has been around California since 1962. You can load up on platters, sides, wraps and salads and feel full and so very un-L.A.

Winchell’s Donuts — For such a health conscience city, they do have a lot of artisan donut places. Since Dunkin’ Donuts finally returned to the west coast, Winchell had to take back seat. The iconic donut shop is old school retro with it’s yellow and red interiors and simple cake donuts. Some of the shops kept its neon signage to call back to it’s 1940s roots.

Caffe Luxxe — On the opposite end of Winchell’s is the new school coffee of Caffe Luxxe. That’s two f’s and two x’s. The three locations provide a serious coffee city with some expertly poured espresso drinks and pour overs. The latte art are Instagram-worthy creations.

Barney’s Beanery — Known to locals as the place to go for hangover breakfasts and to create a hangover, their extensive menu has something for everybody. It’s the chili that is the calling card since 1920, when the classic Hollywood stars would frequent. Legend has it that Jim Morrison was thrown out in the 60s. Each location is packed with crap that would make a TGIFriday’s jealous.

The Confusing Aspects of the Laptop Ban

I get it and I don’t get it.

As you’ve read, electronic devices bigger than a smartphone will be bared coming into the United States and United Kingdom from certain country’s airports.

The airports are as follows:

  • Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  • Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Cairo International Airport, Egypt
  • Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
  • King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International Airport
  • Hamad International, Doha, Qatar
  • Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
  • Dubai International, United Arab Emirates

My first confusion is about Morocco. There are other airports in Morocco, mainly the second busiest airport in the country in Marrakesh. There are EasyJet flights in and out that go to London. A quick Kayak search shows that. Presumably, that’s cool to travel with laptops. Then there’s Fez and Agadir.

My next confusion is that what if you’re coming home to the U.S. from Dubai with your laptop in your carry-on but you have a connection/layover in another European city like Frankfurt. Is that okay?

I bring this up because I’ve flown in and out of the Dubai, Ataturk and Mohammad V airport with my laptop on me but not directly from New York or London. Would I be singled out because I have a U.S. passport?

What I get is that laptops can conceal explosives, but in actuality, this is all more “security theater” nonsense.

The airlines are not please.

“After all, if these devices are viewed by the United States and the United Kingdom as potential instruments of threat, they can be loaded on any airplane anywhere. To suggest that Dubai doesn’t have the equal capabilities or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing,” said Emirates president Tim Clark to CNNMoney. “I know this airport.” The rich white guy has a point.

The end result, no blogging on laptops on long, direct flights from the Middle East for me. It will have to be done on my phone. COME ON!

Chase Sapphire Reserve — Ways to Maximize the Benefits

Here’s an update on my first three months using the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Cadillac of travel credit cards. As you remember, Chase introduced the card with a 100,000 bonus sign-up that became too popular, so they reduced it 50,000. I got in on the deal before the reduction.

To get the 100,000, I had to spend $4000 in the first three months. I got it at the two months mark. I used to pay my monthly bills like phone, cable, internet, car insurance, NY Times subscription and Netlix.

Then using Plastiq, I paid my rent. Depending on your amount, they charge you a small fee. Mine was about $44. When you think of the miles you get out of it, the fee is worth it. You can also use it to pay your mortgage or your taxes.

A few things you might not realize about the card. Yes, the $450 is pretty steep for a travel card. My Virgin Atlantic and Barclay Card are both $95 a year, but free for the first year. Not the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get hit with the fee up front.

That is offset by the $300 travel refund. The good news is that public transportation, tolls and parking counts as travel. I changed my automatic top-up for New York/New Jersey transport and EZPass and got the credit on it.

Then there’s the shopping portal when you earn extra miles on online shopping if you click through their site. Basically, a cookie and tracking URL is embedded in your browser and when you check out, the retailer can see where you came from and credit you with the miles.

I used it to buy sneakers via Shoebuy for 6 miles per dollar. So $52.99 x 6 is 474 miles, with 52 miles on my card equals 526 added miles to my balance. My total miles balance after two months is 107,489.

Thus, the card is worth it, even with the now 50,000 redemption. I haven’t used it book travel yet or the other  perks like TSA pre-check (which I already have) and Global Pass (which I already have), or the lounge access.