Thursday, June 6, 2013

Information Overload - Around Nichada

I have gotten quite a few emails from families who are moving to Nichada this summer and thought I would put together a post of local restaurants/shops/info that might be useful for when you first arrive. Please remember the following is based only my opinions, thoughts, experiences, etc. I am, by no means, an expert and there are many other restaurants, shops, etc. that are located near Nichada and might provide the same or better services. As we all know, different people have different preferences so what appeals to me might not even matter to you! 

As you will soon learn if you are moving to Thailand, things can and will change with no advance notice and for no logical nor apparent reason. So, be prepared to just roll with it! In general, a wealth of patience and the ability to find humor in the situations you are sure to find yourself in will make your time spent in Thailand so much more enjoyable. 

These are just a few things and places that I can think of off the top of my head and that I know something about or have frequented during our time here.

1. Your first order of business should be to make sure the home that you lease in Nichada includes membership to the Clarke Hatch gym. While the gym is certainly nice, the real benefit of this membership is that you get a card/sticker for your car that allows you the "shortcut" entry and exit from the "Expressway gate". Having this access to enter and exit Nichada will save you a minimum of 20 minutes each time you need to get on or off the Expressway. If the rental does not include this membership, negotiate it with the landlord (obviously before you sign the lease). It is that important. I believe all of the Embassy homes come with this membership so I am not sure what the initiation fee is but we pay about $200 per year to maintain it. 

2.  Restaurants. 
Unless otherwise noted, all of the restaurants I have listed below are easily reachable by golf cart from Nichada. In fact, for most of them, parking is on-street and/or very limited so driving a golf cart is recommended.
Almost all of these restaurants will deliver for free or for a nominal fee (30 baht or $1 USD). With the exception of Olive, I think they are all closed on Mondays. My plan was to take photos of each of the places I wrote about in this post but the list got too long and it has been raining (or threatening to rain) for the last few days so that idea went out the window.

Que Pasa (located outside the front gate of Nichada). Mexican. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Western and Thai foods. Great margaritas. Best guacamole and salsa although the chips could be a little less greasy. Great  tortilla soup and chili cheese fries!  
 
Milano's (located outside the front gate of Nichada at the Pro Golf Club). Italian restaurant. Live entertainment (music, comedy) on the weekends, nice outdoor seating area if you can stand the heat, mosquitoes or if it isn't raining. There is also indoor seating available. 

Slider Shack (located outside the front gate of Nichada - across from 7-11). Great sliders, burgers, quesadillas, etc. Small eat-in area so most people use delivery.

NY Diner (located next to the Slider Shack). Western food - pasta, burgers, and chicken. Serves American breakfasts (pancakes, waffles, etc.). I have only eaten there twice but I know several families in Nichada that are regulars.

Aubergine (outside the front gate - adjacent to the Phoenix Muay Thai boxing facility). This is a very new restaurant and I think the owner is still trying to find his vision as this is the third time he has changed course since he opened about 6 months ago. There is a lot of potential (the food I had was really good) but there are many details that need to be worked out. As of Wednesday evening, fresh fish and Doner tacos are served dressed with condiments you chose from the fresh salsa bar. Alcohol and drinks are available but it is a "serve yourself" arrangement (that you might or might not be told about!) from a dorm sized refrigerator. Ask for silverware or anything else that you might need to complete your dining experience. 

Le Bouchon (located outside Nichada via the Seechaitong gate). Nicer French-Italian restaurant. Good pasta, fresh seafood, soups and a great caesar salad. Wood fired pizza. Covered outdoor seating area near the pizza oven. Extensive wine collection (also sells retail). 

Sudathai (located outside Nichada via the Seechaitong gate). Local Thai restaurant. Very little English is spoken. If you want something not listed on the menu, communicate it to them (somehow) and they will make it.

Olive (located within Nichada at the entrance to Premier Place 1 near the expressway gate).  Mediterranean menu. Great hummus, tzatziki and baba ghanoush. Everything else though seems to be hit or miss. Portions are small for the prices. The restaurant is located adjacent to a 25 metre pool and there is poolside food/drink service. 

Breezes (located outside Nichada via the Seechaitong gate). British pub food. I think there is outdoor seating only. We have eaten here only a few times and haven't been thrilled but I know some friends who are very happy regulars. 

Paulaner's (located on the By-Pass road near Big C/Home Pro). German beer garden-type restaurant. Indoor and outdoor seating. Good food, good beer. Fun place to go with a large group. Not reachable by golf cart. 

The Boat House - (located next to Paulaner's). Relatively new restaurant. Good food but no one speaks English. It was an exercise in patience trying to get a bowl of rice one night! Not reachable by golf cart.

3. Home Improvement 
Home Pro located near Big C. Home Pro is the closest thing to Home Depot or Lowes that you will find in Thailand. Home improvement items (paint, tiles, carpets), tools, appliances, housewares, etc. Easy to get to from Nichada, covered parking. Although I have seen a few brave (?) Nichada residents drive their golf carts there, it is not advisable! 

4. Grocery stores
Villa - located within Nichada. There is also a larger Villa in The Avenue (shopping center East on Changwattana) and another on the road that runs parallel to Khlong Prapa (between Samakee and Changwattana). Villa has a good selection of Western (imported foods), wines and liquor but it is very expensive. You certainly pay for the convenience! Meat, fish and poultry are packaged (unusual in Thailand) and kept refrigerated - but look the package over carefully before you purchase. Be careful to check the expiration dates on the imported items before you buy. Beware of the fruits and vegetables here (especially those that are packaged). I have found that they are often on the verge of spoiling or rotten, infested with worms, etc. If I have to buy fruit or vegetables at Villa, my rule of thumb is to buy 3 more than what I need because there is guaranteed to be some that are spoiled or inedible. It is better to buy (or have your maid buy) fruits and veg at the market out the Seechaitong gate (near Changwattana) as they are fresher and better priced.

Tops - located in the bottom floor of the Central Mall. Full service grocery store - bakery, sushi counter, prepared foods, salad bar, etc. Small wine and liquor shop but you can't purchase until after 2 pm.

5. Central Mall - full service mall located a short distance from Nichada (via the Seechaitong gate). Golf cart parking is reserved for Nichada residents on the ground level of the parking garage. Ladies parking and Nichada residents' car parking are on the 2nd or 3rd floors (not exactly sure which one). I avoid the Mall like the plaque on the weekends. It is loud and too crowded and chaotic. The Mall does not open until 11 am during the week and 10 am on the weekends. Unlike in the U.S., you can't even enter the Mall until the opening time. 

6. Big C - the Thai version of Wal Mart. Groceries, home items, electronics, appliances, etc. Shares a parking garage/parking lot with Home Pro. Again, although I have seen a few brave (?) Nichada residents drive their golf carts there, it is not advisable! 

7. Makro (located east of Nichada on Changwattana). The Thai version of Costco. Kinda sort of. Definitely not reachable by golf cart.

8. Convenience 
7-11, Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Pizza Company, Swensons, etc. are all located around Nichada and most deliver to Nichada homes. Starbucks is within Nichada, near ISB and the Villa Market. 

There are two gas stations very convenient to Nichada. One (I think it might be BP) is on Samakee Road (outside the front gate of Nichada) and one (I believe it is Shell), is located on Changwattana (outside of Nichada via the Seechaitong gate). If you like to live life on the edge, you can drive your golf cart to the gas station on Samakee to refuel. Otherwise, I recommend buying a 5 gallon gas container and fill it up when you refuel your car. If possible, buy the gas container before you arrive because we had a very difficult time finding one here and ended up ordering through Amazon.

The gas station on Samakee also offers car wash services and they do an excellent job for only $3.00 - $6.00 USD. There is also a car wash service on the bottom level of the parking garage at Central Mall but it is very pricey.

9. Garden Supply 
The Thai Army runs a nursery on Changwattana near Nichada. 

The western side of the parking lot of Makro has a row of vendors selling all types of plants, trees, flowers, water garden supplies, pots, etc. 

There is also a plant stand on the By-Pass road on the way to Big C/Home Pro. 

A vendor at the Nichada market (held the first Saturday of every month) sells the most beautiful (and healthiest) orchids for great prices.

10. Dentist/Orthodontist - we used Denta-Joy located in The Avenue shopping center (east of Nichada on Changwattana) for Caitlynne's braces. Not reachable by golf cart. There is also a dentist located up near the Villa Market and I believe an orthodontist is there a few times a month for appointments. I used this dentist when Christopher needed emergency dental work. 

11. Doctors/Medical Services & Facilities 
Bumrungrad Hosptial has a satellite clinic located in the Villa Market area. There is an MD on-site and they provide very basic services/exams/tests (not x-rays). They will fill prescriptions from their offices or send you to the Rex Pharmacy (located directly across from the Villa market). 

The new World Medical Center just opened (located outside of Nichada via the Seechaitong gate on Changwattana). Excellent facilities and resources. Almost everyone on the staff speaks very good English. I have been very impressed with the services and treatment we have received there (Caitlynne's ankle, my stomach). There is plenty of parking in the garage on-site but, if need be, you can drive your golf cart almost to Changwattana, park and walk a very short distance to the hospital. 

Mongthongwattana Hospital is located east of Nichada on Changwattana.  It is very crowded,  there is limited parking (not reachable by golf cart), the facilities and resources aren't that great and there aren't many English-speaking staff. However, our treatments there (for Christopher's thumb) were fine. It is definitely a local hospital. 

In addition to the Rex Pharmcy across from the Villa Market, there is a pharmacy out the front gate of Nichada next to the 7-11. There is also a pharmacy outside of Nichada via the Seechaitong gate and there are several pharmacies in Central Mall. With the exception of narcotics, you can buy almost any medication over the counter here and at great prices. 

12. Banks/ATM.  
There is a bank up in the Villa Market area and there are ATMs outside of the Villa Market and RoseMarie Academy and inside ISB (near the cafeteria).

13. Vets.
I have used three vets while we have been here and have liked them all: Dr. Sayan (located immediately out the front gate of Nichada, across from 7-11 and next to Slider Shack/NY Diner), Thonglor Vet (located outside of Nichada via the Seechaitong gate on Changwattana just west of Central Mall) and Lively Pet Hospital (this is the one that is most inconvenient to Nichada - it is located on Tiawanon, north of its intersection with Changwattana). 

Dr. Sayan is assisted by his mother and it is a small set up but good for ear infections and the like. Thonglor is probably the most advanced facility as far as technology, treatments and resources are concerned. Lively is small facility owned by three women and, although small, they are quite capable and the facility is a good mix of the other two as far as resources and technology are concerned. Lively has done the best job of the three in treating Sonder's allergies. Unless it is an extreme emergency, I would recommend using a car to get to any of these vets (and a car is an absolute must if you are going to Lively). There are so many soi dogs outside of Nichada and they can be quite aggressive. In my opinion, it is just not safe to transport a pet outside of Nichada unless it is in the confines of a car. 

There are also a number of pet supply stores in the immediate area - at Central Mall, across from Sudathai restaurant and within the vets named above. 

14. Pet Care & Grooming 
We have only ever used 4 Legs (located within Nichada near the expressway gate) for both grooming and for boarding. Great service and inexpensive (compared to the US). They will do pick up and delivery of your pet from your home as well. 

15. Villa Market / Nichada Club Complex. In addition to Rex Pharmacy, Starbuck's and the Villa Market, there are other shops and services in that complex. 

I have never used the travel agent nor do I know anyone who has so I cannot comment. 

The drycleaner is quite pricey so we use a pick up and delivery service instead. They are a Japanese father & son who come to Nichada every Wednesday and Saturday, have good prices and are reliable. I use them so infrequently and need to schedule my pick ups but they will make regular stops at your home if you need them to. Ishito DryCleaning - 081 814 3128.

The florist is hit or miss as far as her selection of flowers is concerned. I usually just get cut flowers from her although I have heard she does nice arrangements. If you want a nice selection of flowers at great prices, go to the flower market in Chinatown. There is a florist out the Seechaitong gate as well but it can also be hit or miss with what she has available. 

The candle shop has a good selection of inventory but I have never purchased anything from her.

I have purchased several carpets from Pandit Carpet and have been very pleased. I think he has very good prices, his service is excellent and the quality is great. He does have semi-annual sales so if you see something you like, ask if it will be included in the sale. In fact, I was interested in one carpet about a month before the sale and he sold it to me then at the sale price. 

Panipa is a full service salon. Hair, nails, facials, waxing, etc. Great for last minute appointments but book ahead for special occasions - proms, galas, holidays, etc. If there is an event at ISB or an expat function, it is very busy! Very inexpensive manicures and pedicures (about $6.00 USD). I have had my hair cut and colored there and had no problems with the color. However, (and I think this is a common complaint), I find that the stylists do not listen to me when I explain how I want my hair cut and tend to do whatever they want. It is convenient though so I tend to go there more than I would like to. I have also used Sugar Salon (located on Soi 14, east of Nichada on Changwattana). Ask for Ladda who speaks excellent English and was trained in Canada. I was very happy with my cuts and colors but she tends to overbook/accept walk-ins and a few times her assistant (who spoke no English) ended up doing most of my service. There is also a nail salon on Samakee Road called Smile that does great manicures and pedicures. It is difficult to get an appointment there at the last minute though so book well ahead of any special events. 

Bamboo Spa (next to Starbucks) - I have never been but some of my friends are regulars and tell me that it is great for massages. A little pricier than the places outside of Nichada but a nice atmosphere. There are many options for massages out the front gate, the Seechaitong gate and at Central Mall - just a matter of what type of massage and atmosphere you are looking for. I have been to Healthland which is a very large massage facility across from Central Mall on Changwattana and have been quite happy with their services. It is very clean and professional. 

Cherry's Bakery - I have not used her at all but I have heard from several friends that she is very pricey. One of my friends told me that she paid almost $50.00 USD for 14 cupcakes! Yikes!

I have used the seamstress at Threads (next door to the dentist) a few times for minor alterations and repairs. Her prices are good but I think she tends to take a long time to turn the work around. I have used PaulJina (located outside the Seechaitong gate near Changwattana) for dressmaking services and she has been fine. Not the greatest work but inexpensive and quick. 

The Clarke Hatch gym and Nichada pool (50 metres) are on the western end of the complex. Both are very nice. The gym tends to be very busy in the mornings after school drop-off.

The Nichada Club restaurant is next door to the gym and, honestly, I don't know how they stay in business - it is always empty. They serve Thai and Western food and it is not all that bad. We often end up eating there on Mondays when every other place is closed. For some reason, I find the food is better "eat in" than "delivery". Be warned, the staff has no concept of "not spicy"!

Whew! I still have some more thoughts racing around my head but I will publish this now and then write another post for those. 

Have a great Friday!

5 comments:

Mom said...

I found your blog while searching for boarding options for our dog and two cats, who because of our Home Leave in the US in between, will be arriving in BKK 6 weeks before us (from Beijing - and if all goes as planned.... does it ever??!!?!?). Anyway - we'll be living in Nichada - new housing called The Prestige - and have emailed 4 Legs several times but have not received a response. Any suggestions as to how I can get this set up? This is one of the only loose ends left.... but it's a big one!

Kristen said...

If you PM me your information (keatingkc@aol.com), I will pass it on to 4 Legs for you. In fact, I am going over there this afternoon to drop supplies off for when our dog stays with them this weekend so I will mention to them that you are trying to reach them via email. I know that they do provide that type of service - a couple of my neighbors were in the same situation.

Mom said...

I sent an email - let me know if you didn't receive it :)

Amber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Hansen Family said...

I know you moved away quite awhile ago, but thank you for the helpful information here! We've been here about four months now, and need to board our dog for the fall break. I have spoken with 4 Legs, but it sounds like she just lets all the dogs run around her own home all day unsupervised. My dog is only six pounds, and would not be okay in such a situation should there be a fight. Since you've used them before, is that really how she runs it, or am I not understanding her correctly (which it totally possible!). Thank you, if you can respond!