Stockholm-Scotland by train: Stockholm to Copenhagen [part 1]

The first part of this year’s train trip (I think I might start doing this every year from now on because train travel is very fun) was, in contrast to our southern-bound trip to Malta a few years ago, going west. All the way from Stockholm, Sweden, to Scotland in the United Kingdom, via Copenhagen, Hamburg, Amsterdam and London.

X2000 in first class, Stockholm to Copenhagen

During a light snowfall in Stockholm, we jumped on the X2000, which is what we call our highspeed trains. They are not overly high speed, but reach about 200 kmph, and the trip to our first stop, Copenhagen in Denmark, takes around 5,5 hours. The train is quite comfortable and the fare isn’t that expensive if you book early. We paid 700 sek per person for first class tickets, which gives you a slightly better seat, free coffee and some small fika, eg. sweets or fruit, that you help yourself to in the carriage, as well as a breakfast box if your departure is before 09:00 (9 a.m.). You can also use the lounge in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg if open (opening hours aren’t great though).

The breakfast box was quite good. A very Swedish, which I like, selection of breakfast toppings such as cheese, vegetables, butter, an egg, locally made apple juice, yoghurt and muesli and a tiny Finnish Marianne mint chocolate sweet (nostalgia). They also served bread from a basket so you could pick your favourite out of a few options, as well as tea or coffee. After breakfast there is no service, so if you’d like something else you need to go to the bistro and pick it up (and pay for it).

After about 5,5 hours, the train rolled into Copenhagen’s Hovedbanegården main railway station, located next to Tivoli amusement park in the city center. We had a few minutes walk to our hotel, Comfort Hotel Vesterbro which was surprisingly nice, for labeling itself as a budget hotel.

For dinner we opted to go to Surt, a 25 minute walk from the hotel. Surt is sort of a trendy-yet-casual pizzeria and gastro restaurant in Carlsberg Byen, a historical fermentation site in Copenhagen, hence the name Surt, meaning sour.

We tried a bunch of different dishes paired with local craft beer and negronis. We had their steak tartare with salsify, coal emulsion and parmesan, as well as their amazingly tasty pizza (the dough!) with local Hindsholm pork sausage, ramson, ramson capers, mozzarella and pecorino. Both were outstanding. Among the best I’ve ever had. Especially the pizza dough and toppings were really something else. So light, fluffy and airy. Pizza perfection. We also had their foccacia with pork rillette & quince mustard, and charcuterie with pickled vegetables that were also great.

After the dinner we walked back to the hotel, and instead of going to nearby Mikkeller Bar, like we did last time, we opted to go to the hotel, and have a bath and a beer in the room instead.

The next morning we had a 11:30 (a.m.) departure to Hamburg, which gave us plenty of time for breakfast and post-breakfast lazying in the room. The breakfast was, as the hotel itself, again over expectations. Lots of different both hot and cold items. Fresh bread with cheeses and cold cuts, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, coffee and juices, and everything was of quite good standard too.

Two good restaurants and a bar in Costa Adeje, Tenerife

During our visit to Tenerife and Costa Adeje, we visited a few nice restaurants outside of Guayarmina Princess where we stayed on a halfboard package. Despite that the food there was really good, we wanted to sample some really local food as well.

Picamar tapas Bistro

Picamar is a small restaurant located up a few escalators in a sort of a shopping mall next to Playa de la Pinta. Service is super friendly and the food was mostly really good. We had local cheese and serrano ham with local honey, super crispy yet creamy croquettas with beef, octopus and cod; octopus potato and lemon salad bathing (in a good way) in grassy olive oil, we also tried the meatballs that were a bit *meh*, and finally their fusion-y tuna tartare with guacamole and soy sauce which was nice. Bread was like 50 cents each and came with a very tasty whipped garlic butter. Prices were decent and we paid approximately €50 for two for all the mentioned food, a bottle of wine and water.

Website with menu

El Makami

The name El Makami comes from the first letters in the three owner’s Matteo, Cassandra and Amir’s first names. El Makami serves up a varied menu of tapas dishes on the beach walk next to Playa Fañabe and hence also provides a nice sunset view of the ocean. We tried a little bit of everything such as their garlic prawns, their grilled octopus, wrinkly salt cooked papas arrugadas potatoes with the best mojo sauce I’ve had, crispy croquettas, padrónes with sea salt and palm honey as well as a baked goat’s cheese. Like Picamar, service was super friendly and prices very affordable with less than €50 for us both spent on all the food plus drinks.

Website (Facebook)

Café Steps

I had promised my mother’s husband to have a dry martini for him during the drip, a mission I of course worked hard to complete in the best possible way. After some researching we found Café Steps, and while not a mixology kind of place, a nice little bar with great friendly service, massive cocktails and free ”aperitivo-style” (the owner’s from Milan) snacks. With our approximately €8 drinks we had both crisps, olives and delicious mini Italian sandwiches with gorgonzola and ham. Mmm.

Website (Facebook)

One week at the Guayarmina Princess in a ’platinum room’

After two years of covid restrictions, cancelled trips and spending almost all of our time at home, we decided to try out how it was to travel in a changed world.

We decided that we wanted to stay in the EU for our first post-covid trip, and decided that Spain, and more precisely Tenerife, offered the weather, the travel rules (only covid passport when we went) and also the direct flights we were after.

Stocholm Arlanda – Tenerife South with Sunclass Airlines

Tour operator Ving’s airline Thomas Cook Nordics has changed their name to Sunclass Airlines (but why?!), but except for the new name I didn’t notice any difference. We booked their premium class onboard their A330, which to the Canary Islands just came with an extra 700 SEK price tag, for a 5 hour return flight! Super deal. When booking premium class you’ll get around 15 cm extra legroom, free checked in luggage, free headphones and a free meal. Not sure what these cost in regular class, but those 700 extra is probably just 3-400 extra after add-ons. We also decided to splurge and upgrade to their premium meal for the return leg for 195 SEK each, but that includes a drink which is ~70 SEK if you select wine. The meal which consisted of salmon mousse and smoked salmon, beef fillet with potato gratin, cheese and a tarte, was decent, but like many airplane meals, the meat had been cooked too long and was super dry. Last time I ordered the premium meal, on my way to Gambia, it was much better.

Entering Spain with our health control forms and Covid rules

After our flight had landed we showed our Health Control Forms that we had filled in online before the trip, these are currently mandatory for entering spain when travelling from a country at risk, but was quite easy (and free) to complete. We had printed our forms and just showed the QR-code which was then manually scanned.

While we visited in December 2021 there was an indoor mask mandate, meaning you’ll have your mask on basically everywhere when you have passed a doorway, doesn’t matter if the area has a roof or not. Shopping malls, inside the hotel, even in the outside pool area you wore a mask if moving around. Only time you took it off was when you sat down in a restaurant or on your sun lounger, or went for a swim. Apart from (almost) always wearing a mask the atmosphere was very relaxed, all stores, bars and restaurants seemed to be open and people both behaved and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Vacation time at the Guayarmina Princess in a Platinum room

When staying in a platinum room you have a separate check in desk that also works as concierge. It took a little time to go through all details, but you got a glass of complimentary cava (or orange juice) while waiting, which was nice.

Junior suite with side sea view

We didn’t really care for size of the room, but wanted the Platinum perks which starts from junior suite, and since the price was almost the same for a ”side sea view” junior suite compared to one without a view, we decided to go for that room category.

The room was quite cool with a free standing bath tub in the middle of it, almost next to the bed. The minibar was stocked with both beer, white and sparkling wine as well as soft drinks, and the first round was free when in a platinum room. The room was situated next to a slope, so despite being on the fourth floor people walking by outside were quite close. The sea view was angled but quite good and we could see both the ocean and the neighbouring island of La Gomera from our balcony. We did not spend a lot of time there however as views are everywhere in the hotel.

Cocktail hour with sunset and volcano eruption views (at least in December 2021)

One of the nicest perks with Guayarmina Princess’ platinum concept is the daily cocktail hour between 17 and 18 o’clock (5-6 p.m.). it is pretty much what it sounds like, each day you’ll be served a couple of different drinks (as many as you like) and snacks for an hour. There was beer, soft drinks, rosé, red, two kinds of white wine and bubbles the days we went. The snacks were usually olives, something deep-fried like croquettas, and small canapes with for instance tuna. The cocktail hour is held adjacent to the platinum restaurant which has a terrace with amazing view over the ocean, La Gomera, and the sunset. In December the sun went down a few minutes past six, so each day offered a great sunset paired with your drinks. And we got to see the last puff of the volcano eruption on La Palma while sipping on our drinks on one of our first nights, but probably not something to expect for the next 100 years or so.

The ”App”

Due to covid, Guayarmina Princess’ Restaurants are booked by a super convenient new service, they call it an app, on their website. You log in, pick a time slot and then you have your allocated time. This works (and is mandatory) for breakfast, dinner and the pool chairs. Me being a planner, and someone that also gets stressed by the constant ”hope it’s not too busy at breakfast” and ”hope we’ll be able to get a sun lounger before other guests claims all of them with their towels”, thought this was amazing. You could sleep until late breakfast at 10, then after finishing you’d go back to the room, relax for an hour and then rock up by the pool and your reserved lounger at noon. Like a holiday always should’ve been. Great concept indeed.

Restaurants in Guayarmina Princess (with platinum full board)

When we booked our stay, our plan was not to eat that much in the hotel. But the price for what we thought was daily buffet was about €10 each, so we thought we’ll book that and then we use it to eat in on some nights and go out on some. When we arrived however, we were told that we as Platinum guests could choose any restaurant we want when on half board. Meaning we could opt for full a la carte meals in both the Roast steak restaurant and the semi-fancy Platinum restaurant as many nights as we’d like.

The buffet ”Food market”

You can have both breakfast, lunch and dinner at Food Market, and while we only tried breakfast and dinner, I’m sure their lunch is good too. I’ve had quite a number of buffets in my life, eating the smörgåsbord on the ’Finland ferries’ from Stockholm to Helsinki crossing the Baltic Sea to visit relatives, more times than I can remember.

Despite not being a huge buffet fan, I can happily say that Food Market is really good. Maybe not ”a gastronomic dream for true foodies” as their website discretely states, but still very good for a hotel buffet. The selection is huge, the quality is of quite a high standard, food is replenished often, and there are several stations where they make a la carte stuff as you order it. Also extra marks for local Canarian dishes such as rabbit, the classic wrinkly papas arrugadas salt boiled potatoes with delicious mojo sauces and fresh sea food. It’s also nice that you can sit outside which makes the experience a little less busy. It’s not super tranquil inside.

Breakfast is also good and of the same quality. The amount of choice is borderline spectacular, and they have (nice) oddities like fries, which one headachy morning (damn you Café Steps dry martini) gave me the opportunity to make a BLT breakfast sandwich with a side of fries. There are two egg cooking stations for freshly made eggs and omelettes, there’s churros and a nutella pump, good bread, yoghurt, fresh fruit, and lots of other stuff.

The Roast

One night we decided to visit The Roast, the hotel’s ’modern’ take on a steakhouse. They have a semi-a la carte concept at The Roast, where starters and dessert are served at a buffet but mains are ordered a la carte. We tried a few starters which featured items for making your own salad, a bit surprisingly sushi (not great, but not terrible) and a few others. The roast also differs a little bit from the other restaurants as they have a couple of dishes that, like the other restaurants, are included, but they also have a few premium cuts that comes with an additional fee. We were a little bit tempted to try, but being cheapskates we went for the included-in-half board mixed grill instead, which featured a quite generous plate of grilled meats and sausages; pork, chicken, entrecôte/rib-eye, chorizo, morcilla blood sausage as well as a few fried pimientos de padrón. This came with chips, and we picked up a couple of sauces from the buffet since we like sauce. We really like sauce. Desserts? Can’t honestly remember, but they were probably alright.

The Platinum Restaurant

Like Food Market buffet restaurant, the Platinum restaurant serves both breakfast and dinner, both inside and outside on the amazing cocktail hour-terrace, mentioned earlier. Bookings for dinner are open from 6.30 by the way, so if you get a last order of drinks a few minutes before six, you might be able to stick around until dinner time if you ask nicely.

When in Tenerife, do as the British

The breakfast includes a small buffet with slightly fancier ingredients and items than in the ordinary buffet, such as freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries, and on some days sparkling wine. The selection is much, much smaller though if that is important to you. The main difference however is that you also can order a la carte breakfast dishes, as many as you like. We usually went for their delicious pan tomate; Spanish bread fried in olive oil topped with grated tomatoes and a slice of serrano ham. There is also a fresh fruit platter, full English breakfast since many (most?) of the guests are from the UK, Spanish tortilla omelette, eggs to your choice, pancakes, and a few other dishes.

Dinner is, as mentioned, served from 6.30 and is a la carte except for starter which, like at The Roast is served at the buffet. The Platinum restaurants starter buffet is much nicer than in The Roast though, some nights there was all you could eat shrimps and langoustines and while I still would’ve prefered starters a la carte too, the quality was very good and you always found something you liked.

Platinum starter.

Iberian pork.

There was about six or seven main courses to choose from each day, and on top of that they also had a few extras such as a daily pasta and special meat dish. The quality is not amazing, but good. Think cruise ship. Our favourite of our three visits was the Iberian pork. Super juicy grilled fillet with red wine sauce and roasted potatoes, that we changed to fries since we are heathens. As in Roast restaurant you are free to complement your main course with items from the buffet, we could, for instance, not have enough of their mojo sauces, and the aioli was decent too.

Like the mains, there was a decent selection of different ones to choose from. The quality was, again like the mains, quite good, and we particularly liked their homemade flan with cream. There is a Nespresso coffee machine which you can use (whenever during the day, but also at dinner) if you’d like coffee with your dessert. There is also cheese, crackers and jam in the buffet if you want something less sweet to finish. Or both, as our waiter advised us.

The Platinum swimming pool

The last one of the perks, and booked through the Guayarmina Princess web app, is the amazing Platinum pool. Amazing in terms of views, mostly, as the pool itself, while heated and pretty is quite small. The area around the pool with the bar and the incredibly views over the Atlantic Ocean and La Gomera is spectacular. A top tip is to check the numbers on the sun loungers your first day to see which one you prefer. You can only reserve chairs for one day at a time though. We usually picked one by the pool, but there are also cabanas/day beds that looked really nice. If you get thirsty there’s a bar and there are also bathrooms at the end of the area, away from the bar, close to the stairs/fire escape.

Recipe for my homemade Swedish meatballs

One of my favourite Swedish dishes, and probably one of the few Swedish dishes non-Swedes have even heard about, is the famous Swedish meatballs. I’ve seen a few crazy interpretations over the world, but these are quite genuine. 🙂 There’s a crazy twist with these meatballs, and that is that you make them in the oven before finishing them in the frying pan. I did not really believe this would work before trying it myself, but they turn out super juicy and perfect.

Ingredients for approximately two or three persons:

  • 250 grams minced beef
  • 250 grams minced pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 stock cube
  • ~ 1 deciliter of water
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Neutral cooking oil

1. Fry the finely chopped onion in butter on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Do not burn, but it’s okay if it’s a little golden. Set aside.

2. Heat the water in a microwave or on the stove. Add the half stock cube and use a spoon to stir until completely dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs to this and stir again. It will look like some weird savoury porridge (which it is) but trust me, this is an essential part of the process. Let the breadcrumb stock cube porridge sit for around 10 minutes.

3. Put the minced meat in a bowl and add a deliberate sprinkle of salt to this. It’s hard to say exactly how much, and the stock cube will be going in too, but trust your instincts. If you like it salty like I do, add more. If not feel free to add less. Let the salt marinate the meat a few minutes before adding the breadcrumb mix and the fried onion from earlier.

4. Wash your hands, nanananana, wash your hands nanananana, wash your hands nanananana, wash your hands. I’m sorry. But this is easier with your bare hands, and especially so with wet hands. So with your hands, combine everything together – you can use a fork if you really don’t want to do this by hand, but it’s harder to evenly mix the meatball mixture if so.

5. After everything is mixed thoroughly, it’s meatball rolling time. A top trick is to use an ice cream scoop to get even meatballs. Wet your hands again and roll between the palm of your hands until they are round. Put on an oven proof dish and set your oven to 175°C or ~ 350°F.

6. Put the meatballs into your oven and let them bake for 10 minutes.

7. Frying time. Add butter and neutral oil to a frying pan on quite high heat. I use 7/10. when the butter stops sizzling it’s time to add the meatballs. Fry until golden brown and cooked through, if you’re unsure pick one up and cut in two to check that it’s fully cooked. Watch out so they don’t get overcooked though, we want juicy, not dry, meatballs.

8. When meatballs are done, let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving. The Swedish way is to eat them like in the above picture with mashed or boiled potatoes, cream sauce, pickled cucumbers, and sugared lingonberries. Or just with macaronies and ketchup. We never use sour cream, at least I’ve never in my life heard of anyone doing that in Sweden. But maybe we should try?

If you read this and want a recipe for the cream sauce, drop a comment and I’ll add a recipe for that too. Smaklig måltid (enjoy your meal)!

Island hopping in the Stockholm archipelago

Just outside the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, where I live, there is an archipelago of somewhere around 24 000 islands, both inhabited and uninhabited.

I should admit I haven’t traveled much in the archipelago, but since this years coronavirus related travel restrictions made me stay at home, I thought why not give an old travel dream of mine a go: a summery island hopping trip in Stockholm’s archipelago, known in Swedish as Stockholms skärgård. We spent 72 hours in total, with 24 hours on the slightly posh ’party’ island of Sandhamn, and then 48 hours on the more relaxed and rural island of Lidö. We loved both and I think the combination of them was great, but both of course works well for a one stop trip.

Itinerary: Stockholm- Sandhamn-Lidö

We started off by booking the first leg of the trip: Stockholm to the island of Sandhamn, with the Cinderella fastferry with operator Strömma. You can book ahead online, and by doing this you’re guaranteed to get onboard, which you aren’t if you just show up to the ferry. During the pandemic, all operators have much harder restrictions for the maximum number of passengers allowed onboard to avoid crowdedness.

The Cinderella ferries (Cinderella 1 & 2) are quite large and there’s a combined bar, café and restaurant onboard that serve alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, Swedish necessities such as cinnamon buns, and also food such as shrimp sandwiches, toast skagen, and warm food like burgers. I only had a coffee though since it was early and the trip to Sandhamn is around 2 hours. There was a reasonable amount of seating onboard and it wasn’t crowded despite quite many passengers traveling. The views are stunning if the weather’s great and you’ll be passing a few islands on the way out to the final stop Sandhamn.

Sandhamn: food, beach, drinks and Scandi chic

Sandhamn has for long been a hub for sailors, sailing competitions, fishermen, and for the last century, a playground for the rich and famous, sort of. Sandhamn is not overly fancy, but it has a strong connection to sailing and with that apparently there is a craving for good food and drink, for which there is quite a decent offer considering Sandhamns size of only about one hundred year-round-inhabitants.

We opted to stay at Sandhamns seglarhotell which had a surprisingly good deal on a room only a few weeks before our intended trip in the middle of the high season. Included in the room was a surprisingly good and hearty breakfast considering the remote location. The room itself was nothing to write home about, but comfy enough with two single beds that could be made into a double, smallish tv, private shower and toilet, and wifi. Staff were super friendly and the restaurant where you also have breakfast is stunning.

On the island, there are a few beaches with the one named Trouville (after Trouville sur mer in France) being the prettiest. There are also a few other beaches, such as the small Fläskberget (chubby mountain), which is close to Sandhamn village.

Trouville beach is an easy 15-20 minute walk from Sandhamn village trough a pretty forest. There are actually three different beaches, with one calmer beach furthest to the left, a windier in ’the middle’ and a more private, secluded one to the right which you’ll reach by either take a small path through the forest or just walk over the cliffs. Water in mid-July was cold yet still swimable, but the place on a sunny day (or probably any day) is stunning and worth a visit regardless if you swim or not.

When in Sandhamn make you sure to visit Sandhamnsbagerier for a nice island fika. According to Sandhamn tradition you ’should’ have one of their seglarbulle buns, which is pictured above. It wasn’t that amazing to be honest, but their sockerkringla was amazing.

We had dinner at Sandhamns Värdshus, established in 1672. A massive shrimp sandwich and a Vålö island spicy lamb sausage on Swedish thin bread. Both were really tasty, and prices were good.

Two dishes, a shared bottle of rosé was approximately 800 sek, which is pretty good on a fancy island like Sandhamn.

Sandhamn-Lidö with Waxholmsbolaget

From Sandhamn, M/S Sunnan takes you to the ’northern archipelago’ with multiple stops on different islands on the way to the final destination of Arholma. Lidö, which we were headed to is almost as far, and the trip there was about 3,5 hours.

Fortunately there is a bar/café onboard and you can entertain yourself with a cold beer while watching the beautiful archipelago pass by outside. Price for a beer was approximately 75 sek for a 50 centiliter beer, which was quite a deal I’d say. Ticket for the Sandhamn-Lidö trip was about 130 sek per person. Not bad either for such a long trip.

Lidö Island: food, views and an old cannon

We arrived the island of Lidö around 7 pm. The jetty where the ferry arrives is right in front of Lidö Värdshus where we were staying. Lidö Värdshus owns pretty much all the accomodation options on the island, and as far as I understood it there is only one family living permanently on the island, which run Lidö Gård, a farm which for instance supply Lidö Värdshus with meat from the island. Very much farm to table.

Burger with beef from Lidö Gård, sauerkraut slaw, veggies and fries.

Grilled Pork, ramson butter, red wine sauce and a Västerbottens cheese flavoured potato cake.

We had our first dinner there immediately after arriving and found the quality quite good, especially considering the island location. Prices were a tiny bit high, but not horribly and food was delicious and service friendly and efficient. There are menus online but I think our check for a shared starter, two mains and a bottle of wine was around 1100 sek.

Our second night we took a short walk to the nearby guest harbour and ”Oasen” which is Lidö Värdshus’ casual café/restaurant/bar/mini market. They also happen to sell pizza, but they are only open until 18.00/6 pm so keep that in mind if you’re having dinner. We had two pizzas and a beer each which was about 400 sek in total. The pizzas were quite good to be honest, and had creative toppings such as creme fraiche and new potatoes. No gourmet experience, but tasty.

Our first night we stayed in a private room, with a shared bathroom. In our building there was four rooms per floor and one bathroom. In addition to this there are several bathrooms in the main building that you can use. I don’t love a shared bathroom, but both room and shared facilities were super clean and comfy, on the other hand you pay a price equivalent to an ordinary hotel room.

Our second night on the island we had booked ’Kärleksstugan’, in Swedish: “the love cottage”. It was a cosy little hut, approximately three meters from the water and with amazing views over the channel separating Lidö and the mainland. As with the other room, there is no bathroom and you have to walk the 100 meters or so to the main building to use one. The main problem for us however was that there is no indication to other guests that this is a guest room. Being close to the ferry pier, people constantly stroll past looking in through the windows, which gave us minor heart attacks several times when a face suddenly appeared in the window while we sat inside watching the water. Not super relaxing. At check out we told the staff about it and they sounded like they took it serious, so hopefully they’ll put up a sign or similar for future guests.

What you find on Lidö is calm. There is almost no other people and you can walk around easily on relatively good roads and paths. There is no car traffic on the island, but you might run into the odd tractor or staff golf cart. We walked around most places and for instance visited the WW2 coastal defence gun on the north-east side of the island which probably was the most worthwile trek since the views from there were quite amazing. Compared to Sandhamn you get a feeling of that you’re (almost) in your own island paradise.

Then, to emphasize that feeling after a day of walking, you can pay to rent a sauna or hot tub for an hour or two. We rented the sauna which was slightly expensive at 350 sek an hour, but in the end definitely worth it, as the feeling of sitting in a super hot private sauna and then (after a short sprint) throw yourself in an ice cold Baltic Sea was quite spectacular.

Lidö-Räfsnäs-Stockholm with Romina ”passbåt” ferry and bus

After two great days on Lidö we decided on getting back to Stockholm using public transport to save some time and money. You can catch the ferry back to Stockholm from Lidö, but that takes around five hours and requires a change on another island.

From Lidö there are several ”passbåtar” or commuter ferry crossings per day with m/s Romina to nearby Räfsnäs via island of Tjockö (cost for ferry around 55 sek per person), from where you can catch the SL bus to Norrtälje or Campus Roslagen, from where you can easily (same stop) change bus to one bound for Stockholm. This takes approximately two hours.

Great salsiccia pasta recipe

A few years ago, I made this salsiccia pasta for the first time, and since then we’ve had to have it at least every few months because it is so delicious – and – easy to make.

What you need for approximately four persons:

  • 600 grams of salsiccia sausages
  • 500 grams of good quality tomatoes (you can use crushed, but I usually don’t)
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 deciliter white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 deciliter full fat cream
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes (or less if you don’t want it spicy)
  • Pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Tagliatelle, mafaldine or pappardelle pasta (or any pasta you’d rather use)
  • Olive oil for frying

How to cook it

1. Chop garlic and onion finely. Remove and discard casings from the sausages, we’re using the filling as you would minced meat. Chop the tomatoes.

2. Heat olive oil in a pot. Fry the salsiccia and meanwhile try to chop it up to a ’crumble’ – again think minced meat. When salsiccia is starting to brown, lower heat a bit and add tomato puree. Make sure to fry the tomato puree for at least 30 seconds to it gets a little bit toasted. Then add garlic, onion and chilli flakes. Fry a bit more until it’s starting to soften.

3. Add chopped tomatoes, let fry a little bit together with the other ingredients. Stirr them in so everything mixes nicely.

4. Add white wine and water to it covers everyhing. Cover with a lid and slowly simmer for 1-3 hours. About 20 minutes before serving, add the cream and let reduce without lid on. I usually do not need any salt as salsiccias are salty, but taste and add some if needed.

5. Cook the pasta in salted water until ’al dente’, reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

6. Mix the salsiccia sauce with the cooked pasta in the pot. Add some cooking water to make it ’creamier’ while continuosly stirring, this should take around a minute.

7. Serve with grated pecorino cheese, finely chopped parsley and a glass of wine. I think rosé usually goes quite well with this.

Part 12: Where and what to eat in Bangkok

After arriving by train from Chiang Mai, we took the Bangkok MRT to our beautiful hotel, the Amara. We wanted to splurge on our six last days of vacation, so we upgraded to an executive floor room which apart from a better room also came with complimentary cocktails and canapees each night. And I’m very glad we did splurge, as just a month after our return, big parts of the world went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic which we at this stage of the trip was starting to hear more and more about.

Bonchon Korean fried chicken

Our first stop after checking in, and basically breakfast after spending a few hours walking around the area of our hotel.

We’d eaten only Thai food and before that Lao food for weeks and thought we felt okay to deviate a little bit from the South East Asian fare, while still remaining in Asia. Our first idea was to go for Japanese ramen at Ippudo, but then we saw that a place called Bonchon, a Korean fried chicken restaurant which we’d heard about but never tried was next door. We hadn’t eaten anything since the day before so the sound of famous KoFC for breakfast/early lunch sounded a bit too good to miss.

We tried both their garlic-soy and their spicy fried chicken which were both extremely tasty. For sides we chose rice, kimchi slaw, and we also had some complimentary pickled radishes. So good.

Suppaniga Eating Room

Five years ago I visited Bangkok and went to dinner with a local Bangkok resident. The restaurant was Suppaniga Eating Room, and I remember really loving the food. This time we by chance ran into another Suppaniga branch, close to where you catch the ferry to Wat Arun temple. The location is basically on the river, meaning great views, and the food was as delicious as I remembered. We had their incredibly tasty panang beef curry, the best version of this dish that I’ve ever had with sublime flavours of meat, spices and coconut combined. The crab omelette was also delicious and came with a nice sweet chilli sauce on the side. All this paired with a bowl of sticky rice made for a very tasty lunch.

Amara Bangkok’s sky bar AkaAza

Our hotel, the Amara Bangkok’s sky bar, AkaAza, deserves a mention. There wasn’t that many people and from 7 to 9 p.m. you can enjoy 2-for-1 selected beverages with amazing views over Bangkok. Above picture is taken sitting at the table where we had our drinks.

Din Tai Fung (Central Embassy)

Whenever I’m in a city with Din Tai Fung, I need to go there. They have several outlets around Bangkok and we visited their restaurant in the Central Embassy shopping mall.

DTF is a Taiwanese restaurant chain that has taken one of the tastiest dishes there is, the xiao long bao soup dumpling, to world fame. The 18-times folded little nugget of gold is a dumpling that contains minced pork and jellied broth. When it’s steamed, the broth melts and hence there is soup on the inside of the dumpling. When you bite into it the dumpling (after dipping it in a soy-black vinegar-chilli-ginger sauce) it bursts in your mouth combining all the delicate, delicious flavours in one perfect bite.

Din Tai Fung also serve some other great dishes such as their amazing egg fried rice with garlicky, super tender Taiwanese pork chops; a peanut-y and sesame-y bowl of dan dan noodles, and delicious wontons coated in spicy Sichuan-style chilli oil.

Just go.

Bo.Lan

When visiting Gaggan restaurant last time I was in Bangkok I had my best ever meal. That is until I stepped into the doors of Bo.Lan during one of our final nights of the trip. We started off with a yummy Thai whiskey cocktail and some snacks while selecting which menu we were going for.

We were then taken to the kitchen where the first dish, a little spoon of crispy deliciousness was served. Both Bo and (Dy)lan were there and said “hello”, which made me just a little bit starstruck.

After the kitchen we were taken to our table. The menu at Bo.lan is “Essentially Thai” meaning it is their interpretation of Thai food. We went for one of their middle of the road tasting menus paired with Thai craft beers. An excellent choice as the beers worked so well with the dishes.

Starters, round one. Caramelized crab on rice crackers, local squid salad, organic rice dumpling.

Thai rice whiskey with a green mango and tamarind skewer, and pandan leaf mouth spray. First a sip of the whiskey, then a bite of fruit, then a spray. Yummy things happen in your mouth.

Crispy minced pork with plum sauce and fermented tofu, steamed fish pudding, sticky rice, caramelized coconut, and chicken.

It was all incredible, but the best dish of the night was this: Thai gnocchi with coconut broth and prawns. Amazing.

A bit into the meal they’ll just bring you everything they’ve got. Fresh veggies with nam prik chilli dipping sauce, fried chicken, grilled seafood with eggs, Jay Fai (Michelin street food lady) style crab omelette, duck panang curry, and a beef soup so spicy it sort of ruined my experience a little. It was so spicy I had to take a 10 minute break from eating while mouth spraying and drinking beer. 😅

There were some desserts too. This was a coconut pudding/soup with little nuggets of slimey rice dough. Unusual, but tasty.

The dinner was finished in the lounge where some magic was applied to coffee snacks and different candies.

We left Bo.lan tired, full, slightly tipsy, and very happy.

Price, you may wonder? Well, compared to Thailand in general, this is super expensive, but sonsidering quality of food and the general experience it’s not that bad. We paid around $400 for two tasting menus with their Thai craft beer pairing, and a cocktail each upon arrival.

Kua Kling Pak Sod

I received a recommendation to visit Kua Kling Pak Sod on Instagram, and when i looked it up found that one of their outlets were in the building next to the Amara hotel where we were staying. In a gigantic city such as Bangkok that is quite lucky, and naturally we decided to go.

The food is from southern Thailand and hence it’s even spicier than the food in the north and central parts of the country – which still is quite fiery, if you ask me.

Upon ordering they asked us if we wanted spicy, and we replied “just a little bit” which they took as “yes”.

We ordered their curry with coconut milk, eggplant, green curry and tofu; stir fried long beans with red curry and pork belly, as well as southern style dry khua kling curry with minced pork. Everything was super delicious, and of course super spicy. We downed several plates of rice to handle the heat, but it was absolutely worth it as the food was so good. Be prepared however or tell them that you don’t want any chili at all if you’re sensitive. 🙂

Ink & Lion Café

One of the best cup of coffees we had in Bangkok was at Ink & Lion in hipster neighbourhood Ekkamai. A really perfect flat white with a deep toasty aroma. Mmm.

Chatramue

My all time best lemon ice tea is from Chatramue. We went to their outlet in Siam Paragon shopping mall’s food court. So, so good.

Ruen Urai

Close to Amara hotel is Ruen Urai, located partly in an old style traditional Thai house and partly in a nice little ‘secret garden style’ courtyard, next to the Le Meridien Surawong hotel.

The food is inspired by traditional herbal medicine, and we enjoyed it very much. We had woked flat noodles with shiitake mushrooms, pork coconut green curry, and woked lemongrass-cashew chicken. It was a tad expensive, but quite delicious.

Paris Mikki

If you’re craving high quality French style pastries, visit Paris Mikki, a nice little café next to the Terminal 21 shopping center. We went their for my partner’s birthday as she wanted something birthday cake-ish and we were very pleased. Coffee wasn’t great, but the pastries were.

Allegedly their croissants are the best in Bangkok, but we didn’t try them unfortunately. They looked very good though.

Ba Hao (Chinatown)

Despite having visited Bangkok two times prior to this visit, i hadn’t been to its Chinatown.

This visit it was time however, and we caught a Grab (like Uber) to Ba Hao, a fancy 1920s Shanghai style bar and restaurant in the midst of Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Ba Hao serve great cocktails and bar food-y takes on Chinese classics. We started with Opium, or ‘Chinese negronis’ with ginseng and herb liquor, and then ordered from their food menu. The dishes aren’t huge, so you’ll probably need at least two each to get full.

Dan dan noodles.

Duck wontons.

Chinese pancake stuffed with pork.

Great food, great drink and great ambiance. You can also rent a room above the bar if you’d like the full Chinatown experience.

Part 11: Taking Train number 10 from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in a VIP sleeper

After spending five days eating and touring Chiang Mai, the end of our quite extensive South East Asia trip approached. But first, one of my most anticipated events of the trip awaited us: catching the number 10 train to Bangkok.

How to book the train

Allegedly, you can book through Thailand State Railways’ website about two months/60 days in advance. As we were planning this trip far earlier than two months before, I couldn’t really wait and instead (again) opted to use 12go.asia for our tickets.

What you do is that you pick and pay your choice on their website, in our case for a private VIP/deluxe sleeper and then, when tickets are ready, 12go staff will go and purchase a ticket in your name. If the ticket you wanted has sold put immediately, you’ll get your money back (possibly excluding some kind of admin fee). Also, be wary that other train numbers than number 10 – or 9 if going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, means less modern trains which may not have the same standard as in this post. But you choose your specific departure on 12go, so it’s only on you to pick the right one.

Getting on the train

What you finally do before boarding the train is that you need to pick up your ticket(s). You can pay to have them delivered to your home country, a hotel in Thailand, or you can pick them up at the Bossotel just across the road from the train station, which is what we did. It was super easy with a sign and we just walked in, showed our passports and was handed our tickets and a surprise partial refund since we initially had overpaid. Nice!

You can also stock up on some snacks, drinks and food items from the seven eleven which is next door to the hotel to enjoy onboard. They also sell alcoholic drinks, but big signs on the train made it quite clear: no drinking (alcohol) onboard!

Right on time, together with a beautiful Thai sunset, the train rolled into Chiang Mai’s main railway station, and our trip to the Big Mango begun.

Deluxe sleeper on Train no 10

As mentioned, we had opted to go for the maximum comfort onbord, which is the deluxe sleeper or VIP compartment. It’s by no means super luxurious, but quite comfortable and for instance nicer than the night trains I’ve been on in my native Sweden (it does not beat my number one experience on the Nightjet to Zurich last year though🤓).

Anyways, when you board the train, the lower bed is in sofa mode as you can see from the picture above. After an hour or so a staff member came and turned it into two beds as can be seen on the picture below. The beds weren’t that comfortable, but not bad either.

There is also a tv-screen per bed which shows a map where you currently are positioned and the next station. You can also (theoretically) order food from it, and I have a vague memory that you also in theory might’ve been able to watch tv or some video too. Neither food service or any video content worked for us though. There was however a great function which allowed you to see when one of the three bathrooms in our carriage was available. Cell phone connection was spotty at best, but worked here and there.

The train bumped a bit, during the night and sleep quality was so-so, but who cares when you’re on a train going straight through South East Asian jungle.

One of my favourite moments during the ride was around midnight when the full moon came out and you could actually see what was outside of the window for the first time since the sun went down an hour or so into the trip. I probably spent an hour sitting in my bed looking out the window at tiny villages, hills and jungle. I crossed my fingers to see some wildlife, but no luck unfortunately. Imagine to see a rare Thai tiger from the train. But I’m guessing the few remaining ones stay well clear of loud moving trains.

After a slightly rocky, but still decent night of sleeping, we approached Bangkok. For the last hour before arriving we went through cityscape while the big red sun was going up. At approximately 6.30 a.m. we rolled into Hua Lamphong railway station. Leaving the train was a quick affair and just minutes after relaxing in our cosy compartment, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a crowded megapolis.

We went to the super long taxi queue to try to get a taxi to our hotel as we for once had opted out from a hotel pick up, as they charged something ridiculous for the five minute or so ride. But the queue was super slow and we had read that the railway station is connected to the subway, so we thought “why not”. Our hotel (Amara Bangkok) was just one stop away, and using Google Maps we managed to get ourselves there in about 20 minutes.

Part 10: eating in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi Islam

One of northern Thailand’s most famous dishes is the delicious khao soi noodle soup. In Chiang Mai, we had it twice; the first time was at restaurant Khao Soi Islam. The soup consists of a coconut-y broth (I chose chicken as protein) and then also both soft noodles in the soup as well as crunchy deep fried noodles on top. On the side there’s lime wedges, raw red onion and other condiments to add to your soup as you like. Very delicious

Price: low

Lemongrass restaurant

Lemomgrass is a quite touristy Thai restaurant situated close to the Chiang Mai night bazaar. With staff quite actively trying to persuade people passing by to get in, it felt more tourist trap than it actually is. We passed by most night and it was usually quite crowded past 7 pm.

During our visit we tried a few Thai classics such as paneng gai chicken curry, the local laab/larb spicy salad (it was very spicy), and a plate of springrolls. All very tasty, and with English menus and decently affordable beer. Just next to Lemongrass is also a very nice massage place that we visited one evening.

SP Chicken

One of the best meals in Chiang Mai, and probably during the entire trip was enjoyed at SP Chicken. It’s a small, almost hole in the wall, kind of restaurant located on a backstreet in the old town. Their specialty is roasted chicken, and they do it incredibly well.

We ordered a whole chicken to share, and it was really the perfect roasted chicken. Meat was moist, juicy and tender. Skin was crispy, and flavours were great with a hint of garlic, charcoal and salt. As recommended we ordered a few sides of super tasty, tangy and spicy som tam papaya salad with crunchy peanuts and rice. Included were also veggies and a couple of sauces. So, so good.

Price: affordable.

Khao Kaa Moo Chang Phueak (Cowboy Hat Lady)

Of foodie fame is this small but world famous food stall. Having been visited by food celebrities such as the great Anthony Bourdain, you probably could call Khao Kaa Moo Phueak a foodie institution in Chiang Mai, and the food is pretty good. We arrived just before the official opening time, navigating by using Google Maps. We were seated immediately, and just a short while after it was almost full. We ordered their classic pork rice which basically is pulled pork style slow roasted pork on top of rice with creamy yolk boiled eggs and cabbage. It’s quite simple, but delicious and affordable.

Price: Affordable

Nakwan Café (at Siripanna Resort)

While it might not be worth a detour if you’re staying far away, I still wanted to include one of our hotel restaurants since we had a very delicious bowl of Khao Soi noodle soup there before we jumped on the train to Bangkok.

I actually found it as good as Khao Soi Islam which is famous for the dish. So if you’re staying at or close to the Siripanna Resort it might be worth a visit. An added bonus is that you can walk around the beautiful hotel gardens, pools and rice field if visiting.

Price: Expensive-ish (for Thailand)

Coffee

Into the Woods

Into the Woods serve some great (and Instagram worthy) coffee. Situated in the old town, just next to the river. It is also close to where the Cowboy Hat Lady’s restaurant is located if you wan’t to tick off two worthwile places at once.

Ristr8to

Very tasty coffee in a cool venue in the hip Nimman area of Chiang Mai which serves great, very artsy coffee (as can be seem above). We visited on our way back from Doi Suthep mountain temple complex for an early afternoon coffee break and managed to snag seats almost directly, despite the place being quite full. We also shared their waffles with ice cream that were delicious.

Bonus: what to do while visiting Chiang Mai

A visit to Doi Suthep temple features both the beautiful temple itself as well as stunning views over Chiang Mai.

Visit an “ethical” elephant park, such as Elephant Nature Park.

Drink Chang beer while people watching at the night market area. And of course – shop away if you’re interested.

Homemade pesto recipe

A weekday favourite of mine that is way simpler too make than it may seem. If you’re lazy (like I usually am), use a blender. If a bit more ambitious use a mortar & pestle.

What you need (four approximately 3-4 persons)

Basil, about 5 deciliters of fresh leaves

2 Tablespoons of pine nuts

1 clove of garlic

1/2 deciliter of grated parmesan cheese

Salt & olive oil

How to make the pesto:

1. Toast the pine nuts until golden, but not burnt. Set aside.

2. Peel and roughly chop the garlic.

3. Put garlic, basil, parmesan and nuts in a blender. Mix to a paste.

4. Add olive oil, little by little while continuing to mix until the pesto reaches a thick, slightly runny texture. Season with salt.

Serve with pasta, on pizza, a sandwich or just eat it straight from the jar, it’s that good. ☺️