Unfashion café – a cosy coffee shop in Ekamai, Bangkok

When you live in Bangkok, you realise how many places there are to visit and things to do. It was an ordinary day at work – no deadlines, no stress, no hassle. I wanted to keep the chilled-out mood for the rest of the day, so Auste and I decided to relax at some nice café in Bangkok. Where we live there are only Thai home-style eateries, so most people wear track pants and flip-flops. However, we felt like hanging out in western places, or just hip spots in the city centre which would give us an excuse to dress a bit smarter!

We got on the BTS and started surfing through BK Asia-city reviews. It’s an awesome site where you’ll find the latest reviews of bars, clubs, restaurants, places to visit, etc. Many foreigners follow either Coconuts Bangkok or BK Asia-city, and these are also two of my favourite social platforms for Bangkok news.

unfashion cafe ekamai bangkok

So we got off at Ekamai and went down Sukhumvit Soi 63. It was getting dark and all the lights and cars passing by were just pretty. We strolled along the main road investigating literally every single shop we walked past. There were plenty of nice cafés, massage places, restaurants, local shops, Big C, even an INDEX living shopping complex… but at around Soi 10 some vintage shoes on display caught my eye, and then I saw a coffee machine, and some cake stands, and that was it – our coffee shop. The shoes were from ‘Unfashion vintage’ shop, and the coffee shop is called ‘Unfashion café’.

unfashion cafe ekamai bangkok

The exterior reminded us of a huge American trailer car, or some kind of a converted barn. The red bricks and lightbulb display name did give a vintage feel to it. The interior was even more striking. Once we entered, it felt like we were in some kind of straw-bale house, or a cozy trailer home. The cake selection was very tempting, as was the coffee menu. We ordered a latte, some kind of Viennese coffee (dark coffee with whipped cream – this was just so so), and a strawberry latte, which was the best of all three. The prices were around 60-70 baht for hot coffee, and just over 100 baht for cakes, which is good for Bangkok. And, they were delicious! The mixed berry pie reminded us of stayovers at our friends’ eating home-made pies, and the cheesecake was quality too!

unfashion cafe ekamai bangkokunfashion cafe ekamai bangkok

The seats looked like converted beds with mattresses, and I think they were! It was very comfy with the pillows, not too cold, the music was modern and very suitable for work. All in all – an amazing café with a very relaxing atmosphere (it does feel like you’re at somebody’s home!) and they stay open until 20:30.

unfashion cafe ekamai bangkok

Nutritious peanut butter granola bars

Back in Leeds we were obsessed with peanut butter. At one point we had 5x1kg tubs of 100% full-skin peanut butter from Meridian.

Do you even lift, bro?
Do you even lift, bro?

I miss those weekends when we used to use the oven since early morning. We (at least I) used to get up around 8 AM, maybe go to the gym, get a free coffee from Waitrose, and head to the market on my way back. Then I would turn on the oven, mix up the granola mass and relax with Auste in the living room, on our cozy little carpet, enjoying the view through our huge floor-to-ceiling window. Then I would take out the granola, impatiently break off a tasty chunk and burn my fingers. Those were the days!

Three full trays of granola - some were for making bars, some for granola cereal
Three full trays of granola – some were for making bars, some for granola cereal

At that point I had been reading up loads of granola recipes online, and trying them almost daily. Then we started wrapping them up in nice paper with ribbons and packing them as snacks for our trips, only because we had loads left. The good thing about granola is that you can keep it for months and the taste stays the same. If the bars come out too hard or break up into uneven pieces, you can make them smaller and keep in a jar to use as a granola cereal!

Wrap them nicely, grab a coffee before the train - it looks as if you've bought them from a fancy coffee shop!
Wrap them nicely, grab a coffee before the train – it will look as if you’ve bought them from a fancy coffee shop!
A beautiful morning enjoying home-baking and a nice cup of tea
A beautiful morning enjoying home-baking and a nice cup of tea

PART 1/3

I call this the ‘sugar’ batch, because I replaced 50% honey with sugar – you can make it no sugar, all honey, or the opposite if you’re vegan.

Mix all of the below ingredients in a BIG bowl (this is a big batch):

500g peanut butter

100g sugar [if no sugar, read on]

and 100g wheatgerm

then add 400g oats

100g ground nuts (1 cup) (almonds and cashews)

50g dried nuts (hazels) – I just put them in a bag, and smash a few times with a jar or a strong bottle

pinch of salt

and a teaspoon baking powder

Mix everything.

No need for fancy equipment - after watching Jamie Oliver's shows a few times you pick up a lot of simple yet genius ideas!
No need for fancy equipment – after watching Jamie Oliver’s shows a few times you pick up a lot of simple yet genius ideas!

PART 2/3

Once you’ve got the dry’ish mixture, add 200g honey if using sugar (if no sugar, add 400g) – if your peanut butter is not 100% peanuts, reduce the amount of honey / sugar accordingly.

Add 100g soy milk. Mix well.

 

PART 3/3

Now this is UP TO YOU, but it worked very well for me, because the bars were solid but not too hard, plus I like the below ingredients due to their availability and nutrient content:

Add 25g ground chia seeds and 25g ground linseeds.

Bake in a preheated oven (160 C) for about 17 mins (keep checking!).

 

Because I literally made a bucket of granola mass, I separated it into different containers, and experimented with different flavours. Auste enjoyed batch #3, but I loved #4, because it was very chocolatey and after eating them I didn’t want to have any other snacks.

 

Variation 1: cranberry and coconut

Variation 2: cranberry and pumpkin seeds

Variation 3: cranberry, pumpkin seeds and raw cacao nibs

Variation 4: dark chocolate

Variation 5: goji berries and banana coins

Even though they're high in sugar and fat, they're vegan and the peanut butter adds some protein, and the seeds add some micro-nutrients. If they can replace a chocolate bar or a slice of cake, why not?
Even though they’re high in sugar and fat, they’re vegan and the peanut butter adds some protein, and the seeds add some micro-nutrients. If they can replace a chocolate bar or a slice of cake, why not?

The Green Lung of Bangkok

The Green Lung: not two lungs, but one. If it wasn’t for Sukhumvit road, there would probably be two. Joke! Most of Bangkok’s long-term tourists have heard about it, but actually only very few have been there. Since the hustle and bustle of the city happens on the east side of Chaophraya, there are very few reasons to cross it, apart from, perhaps, Wat Arun. However, there is word of mouth going about “The Green Lung” of Bangkok.

That's how green it is in Bang Krachao
That’s how green it is in Bang Krachao

It’s an experience. A small group of us took a quick taxi ride from Udom Suk BTS towards Chaophraya river. By quick I mean like 15 minutes. We got to a tiny pier, where you could catch a motorbike-friendly ferry to a larger pier with a temple, or a longtail-boat to a smaller one (which we took and paid 6 baht each). As soon as we stepped off the boat we could feel the serenity of the place – no cars, no people, just empty streets. Mind you, we were there in midday heat as usual. The motorcycle taxi drivers were almost starting their bikes when they saw us, as it’s normal to just pay the 10 baht and scoot from A to B within minutes, but instead we took a relaxing (nice and hot) stroll to the Bang Namphueng floating market.

Maybe this is the reason most businesses swap boats for concrete stands...
Maybe this is the reason most businesses swap boats for concrete stands…
Local 'shoppers' at the floating market. There are some temples to visit too.
Local ‘shoppers’ at the floating market. There are some temples to visit too.

Since I hadn’t been to such a market before, I had imagined them to be more ‘floating’ so to speak. We only saw a few women selling goods from little boats – the rest seemed to be set on the concrete walkways. There were many, many foods to choose from: meals and snacks, including vegetarian, local organic produce, good coffee, and many more options. Both the vendors and visitors seemed to be quite friendly and excited to see foreigners visiting, some of whom even wanted to take pictures with us! as you’d expect, there were also dogs everywhere, but they were friendly.

The cutest little fella shopping around the market with its owner.
The cutest little fella shopping around the market with its owner.
Feeding the friendly canines by the water
Feeding the friendly canines by the water

The whole area is a criss-cross of canals with plenty of tall trees, elevated concrete walkways, and very few roads. Just by the entrance to the floating market we rented bicycles for 80 baht/day, and as soon as we left Auste got a flat tyre! Luckily they were happy to exchange the bike at no extra charge. Just riding a bicycle felt like a form of meditation, probably because of all the green around us.

Getting ready for a sunny ride
Getting ready for a sunny ride
at the Bangkok Tree House - a modern spot surrounded by trees. A nice place to rest after a walk/ride
at the Bangkok Tree House – a modern spot surrounded by trees. A nice place to rest after a walk/ride

To be honest we also spent a fair bit of time enjoying drinks at Bangkok Tree House, which is also a hotel, and at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. Coffee addicts, huh? After navigating the narrow pathways for a while we went to the newly (Spring 2015) renovated pond area in the Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan park. We had been there last year (late 2014) but it was rather shabby compared to current paved paths and activity-friendly grassy fields.

park in Bang Krachao

Kids feeding fish and parents doing their job
Kids feeding fish and parents doing their job
It was a hot day, and Thai kids were playing about in the water
It was a hot day, and Thai kids were playing about in the water

Time flies when you’re having fun, and that was definitely evident when we returned the bikes at around 5 pm: everything was closed and we rushed to the pier to catch one of the few last boats (running until around 6 pm).

Little things

Exam. I’m looking at these little girls: all in exactly the same uniforms, their little feet, all with the same white socks, their little heads resting on the tables, all braded in the same way, all with identical little white ribbons… Some of them are sleeping on their desks, some are playing with their pencils or hair, or are trying to mouth something to their friend in another row, something “very important”, probably, similar to “Look, the teacher is drinking water!”. I can see some of the little feet mingling restlessly under the desks…
A couple of hours ago three of them were rehearsing some sort of a dance with their arms, reminding each other of the moves. One of them took out some plastic flower figures and started playing with them on the table with several other girls curiously peeking at her. Another was folding her jumper, then unfolding it, laying it neatly on her desk and then folding it back up. A few more were drawing on their desks with their pencils and then erasing everything.
It seems like they were doing every possible thing they could think of that doesn’t involve them moving around too much or making any kind of sound – both of which would attract the teacher’s attention and they would be told to go to sleep.

Apart from these little moments of “naughtiness”, sleeping is what most of them were doing anyway. And all I’ve been doing for the past six hours or so, was watching these girls taking one test after another with these compulsory “sleep” breaks in between. And even though I am almost falling asleep myself, inside I also feel just as restless as these girls.

Normally, I don’t have much time to think. There’s always so much to do and not enough time for everything. And now I’m forced to sit at the back of this classroom all day, mindlessly staring at the backs of these little heads. I’m not allowed to read, listen to music, or do anything that would occupy my mind. I can’t do anything productive. So I have plenty of time to think. To think about my life, why I am where I am and what I want to do next. And you know what? I don’t want to think! My mind, that’s usually buzzing with all sorts of random thoughts is pretty much empty today. All I want to do is sleep (I guess the girls nodding off around me have something to do with that…). Unfortunately, I can’t sleep either. So I’m just sitting here, looking at those little heads almost through the mist of my dreams…
And then I thought how quickly everything becomes normal. My current surroundings, and everything that puzzled or fascinated me the first time I encountered it. I remember talking to Vidmantas just after moving to Thailand and how there are so many strange things here, that nothing really surprises us anymore. I remember being frustrated with so many things that I now see as normal and have plenty of patience to deal with, because… this is Thailand.
Even though I came here with an open mind, expecting lots of things to be very different, there are some things you just can’t prepare yourself for. Like someone storming into your classroom, asking you to leave all the kids and whatever you’re doing, and go downstairs to see the management a.s.a.p. – all that mayhem just to find yourself and other staff receiving a glass of milk. It’s all the little everyday things that can be very frustrating or really fascinating. And it’s those same little things that you miss about home when you’re abroad. The little things that are different. Specific to each place on Earth and you can only experience them by spending enough time in one place. Getting to know that place well enough, becoming a part of it.
And really, these little moments, these tiny pieces of dust – good and bad, annoying and sweet – that’s what most of our lives consist of. There are not that many big events or changes in our average week, month or year. But there are thousands of these tiny moments which add up to make our days the way they are. And the more happy moments you collect during the day, the better your day is.
Average moments don’t really stay in our memory for long, as there’s no spark to them. And then all we’re left with are the little special moments that made us happy. We filter the events that are happening around us all the time. Anything that is “normal” or usual fails to catch our attention. Maybe that’s why we get used to a new environment so easily – when you stop reacting to things that look surprising or unusual (and most of the things in a new place are!), your brain quickly learns to filter these things out. And you don’t notice them anymore. They become normal.

But I don’t want everything around me to be “normal”! I want to notice the little things. And keep them.

I remember the last few weeks before leaving UK when suddenly all the places that we used to visit pretty much every day became so much more special. Although we always tried to notice everything around us and find joy in the little things, and that’s exactly the reason why we loved the place where we lived. But when you realize you may not come back to that place ever again, you suddenly start to cherish everything around you a lot more. You try to take in as much of what you see and feel around you, hoping to keep it somewhere in your memories. That’s why when exploring new places we often find ourselves reminiscing of where we lived, the experiences we had – glimpses of sunshine on cloudy days, orange streetlamp lights at night, stillness of streets when raining, watching passers-by through a coffee shop window and so on.
Notice the little things. Don’t wait until you have to leave to appreciate what’s around you. Create little moments of happiness. Collect them, and share them with those around you.

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