A Shoestring Dining in Nyhavn: ThaiAsien

Some of you who have read my post “It’s Always Sunny in Copenhagen“, perhaps you notice that in one of its chapter called “Nyhavn in a Shoestring”, I mentioned that,  “…..There’s a Thai restaurant near the end of the row suppose you miss rice and spicy flavour…”

Somehow, I feel responsible for giving you more information about the place. For the first time ever, I invited a guest writer, DKLo (dklomakan.wordpress.com, twitter:@therealDKLo) – an Indonesian-born, Canadian-residing food blogger that happens to be my cousin, to share his insights about food and dining atmosphere at ThaiAsien, the only Thai restaurant in Nyhavn we visited. I can’t agree more about his side of the story:

still away from ThaiAsien, but I’m not lying to you. walk further and further and keep positive, you’ll be there!

Like many people, I’ve always thought that the concept of dining out anywhere in Scandinavia is a very costly affair. I’ve actually pretty much resigned myself that, if I go visit a city like Copenhagen, I better be well-satisfied with a few buns from the local McDonald’s or hot dog vendor (though thankfully, I love Danish hot dogs, but that’s another story altogether).

Nyhavn is a wonderful place, a little harbor, dotted with lots of small-to-medium sized bars and cafes, where tourists, locals, and people who look like half-drunk hippies can all hang around and have a good time. It’s basically a place to relax, enjoy the views of small boats and the water, while drinking overpriced beer and chatting the night away.

But if you keep on walking (no, seriously, like KEEP ON WALKING) towards almost the back end of this pleasant but overpriced tourist trap, you will see a nondescript building with a continuous line of people going in and out of its basement. This is the place of ThaiAsien. Though perhaps extremely generic and uncreative in its naming, this little hole in the wall is one of the most popular, yet almost paradoxically well-hidden, spots in the Nyhavn area where you can get delicious hot food for the price of two hot dogs (there or thereabouts).

if McJoy’s is not your choice, go to the other building across the street to get another choice….ThaiAsien!

The place is almost literally a basement hole converted into a little takeout spot. There are two small tables with bench seats, and we were extremely lucky to be able to get them, but they were nothing more than just half-hearted attempts at providing the patrons with the notion that they may eat inside the establishment. Make no mistake, this is 100% a takeout place, and the endless lines of people waiting to walk in the restaurant seem to be already very aware of this.

The place is extremely hot and uncomfortable, as the cooking is done in the back half of the unit, and there are no fans or ACs in sight. All they do is open some windows, presumably to prevent a dozen sweaty Danish people from simultaneously collapsing due to the stuffiness. Still, judging from the pace of the line, the service is extremely efficient and quick, almost like a conveyor belt of ordering. My family and myself ordered what I believe to be their green chicken curry (my Danish language skills being somewhat nonexistent) and was given a heaping, steaming serving of curry in a plastic see-through box. Even when we were eating in the restaurant, we were practically eating out of a Tupperware.

thaiasien-building
front side Thai Asien

picture credit: http://eatincopenhagen.com/profil/15835

So with all this discomfort, why is the place so full? Because the food is really good, that’s why. Green curry is generally the richest in flavour out of all the mainstream Thai coloured curries (the others being red and yellow), and this place did not disappoint. The curry sauce was thick, rich, and velvety smooth. It had a consistency that was creamy, punctuated at regular intervals with chopped peanuts which gave it a nice contrast. The amount of vegetables tossed in was so generous you’d think the Green Giant cried all over it.

The overall portion was actually large enough that two of us could’ve shared one serving (though it must be said that there are lots of people with bigger appetites than ours) while the chicken meat was very tender. I had originally feared that the production line-style of the kitchen would result in overcooked chicken meat, and I’m glad to report that no such problems were found on my plate (or box, rather). And all of this for around DKK 69 to DKK 79 max per portion (US$ 12 to US$ 14).

thaiasien
Thai Asien to-go. 

picture credit: http://eatincopenhagen.com/becksbistro

So while the ambience was non-existent, the seats uncomfortable and the heat almost unbearable, I can confidently say that this was (and is) a great place to pick up some authentic tasty Asian goodness in the midst of Copenhagen’s pricier tourist spots. I would definitely come back here if I’m fortunate enough to return to this city and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend ThaiAsien to everyone.

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It’s Always Sunny in Copenhagen

All right, folks. The title of my post is a contradiction to what happens every December in Copenhagen and the rest of Europe. I would like to clarify that it is neither about the next season nor the Scandinavian version of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“. Moreover, I don’t know what the popular American sitcom is all about since I haven’t watched it, but at least I know what my post is all about.

I had a wonderful time in Copenhagen back in summer 2007 and the recent Eurotrip three months ago. “Sunny” is a metaphor to express joy and happiness of summer sunshine without rain interruptions made my fun days longer to mingle with crowds. Observing various outdoor activities to celebrate the weather that only comes about two to three months in a year has expanded my horizon about the Danish capital, more than merely finding interesting stuff to see.

I believe a story in pictures is the most suitable way to share my travel experiences, mostly taken in my recent visit and a few from year 2007.

PROVOCATIVE

Pussy Riot supporters greeted me on the first day of my visit with a banner “BEFRI PUSSY RIOT” (Free Pussy Riot). A provocative day to start my activity in the city! They protested on a verdict of the two-year imprisonment of each band member. I spotted them from Amelienborg entrance courtyard.

My initial intention was to capture a beautiful dragon sculpture on top of the gate that reminds me of great European fairy tales and Hollywood movies: Eragon, How to Train a Dragon, Lord of the Rings…oh, you name it. But then, I read the inscription on the door: “Fashion is for Idiots”. As a fashion school graduate, i find it provocative. And I love it! I regret not having a chance to see its t-shirt collections.

The Danes seems effortlessly talented in design. Browse the shopping street areas and you will notice it doesn’t take a genius to notice design stores in Copenhagen, from furniture, hair accessories, home decorations, etc. If you have heard or seen Pandora, Pilgrim, Malene Birger, Georg Jensen or Bestseller’s fashion group flagship stores in your country, remember: they are from Denmark!

Suppose you want to know more about Danish design, which is well-known for its simplicity and functionality, you are welcome to visit the Danish Design Museum situated in the downtown area of Copenhagen. Let me know how it is, cause I haven’t been there….

SERVING THE COUNTRY

My dad came inside one of the wooden red huts in Amalienborg, the winter palace and official residence of the Danish royal family, to fulfill his curiosity. Suddenly, one of the Danish royal guards urged him to step aside. “The maximum distance you can stand is 1.5 meters from here!” He pointed the imaginary border line to define how far people are allowed to approach the royal guard area, from which the starting point is the red huts. I peeped from the distance what was inside the tube’s back door: the guard’s hanging black jacket. I almost did the same as what my dad did, but I put in on hold after the warning.

The heart-shaped peep hole is part of the royal guard’s red hut. I took the picture at the Kastellet, the old fortification district built in 1626 by King Christian IV to protect against Swedish invasion. Nowadays, it is a public park. All the guards’ tubes have that tiny heart, including the ones in Amalienborg. Coincidentally, there was no guard around the area, so I felt free to capture it. I think it’s cute. Why heart shape? I don’t know. Well, let’s put it this way: it signifies the Danes’ deep love for their country and kingdom.

On the way back to the hotel, I decided to take a different path that ended up at the Kastellet rear entrance. From the distance, I saw a green-uniformed guard on the left side, as green as the tree behind him, pointing at the guys fishing in the river. I don’t know what he shouted and it was too far to read his lips. Right after that, those guys stopped doing what they were doing. Most probably the guard shouted, “No fishing!” in Danish.

I found something very Danish here: a Danish Royal Guard made of Lego bricks at a Lego store in Strøget.

EXPRESS YOURSELF

Copenhagen highly respects one’s faith and identity. There’s no taboo to show it in public.

These 2 girls offered themselves as models free of charge in a gay pride festival and many viewers queued up just to be photographed with them.

A drag queen and her guardian angels in a Thai restaurant on a gay pride festival. Where are the wings?

Hare Krishna devotees chanted religious songs on the same day as a gay pride festival.

If not revealing your identity, simply do what you love to do. Getting some changes is an advantage.

NYHAVN IN A SHOESTRING

Nyhavn is famous for its canal cruise, rows of cafés and restaurants and Hans Christian Andersen’s residence on Nyhavn no. 20 and no. 67. And one more thing, a tourist trap price lists! No worries, there are other ways to hang out for $5 or less or….free.

Sitting by the canal banks is a very relaxing way to enjoy summer in Copenhagen. Get your Carlsberg from home or supermarket and drink it there!

Crêpes filled with banana and Nutella and sandwich with Danish sausage are options to eat cheap. I have a good news for Asian tourists. There’s a Thai restaurant near the end of the row suppose you miss rice and spicy flavour. The price? I can guarantee it’s affordable and has a big portion!

The entrance fee for watching a street performance is just a small amount of gratuity for the artist. Don’t have one? Just run away after the show!

DON’T TELL ME YOU’VE BEEN TO COPENHAGEN WITHOUT…..

Tivoli Garden and Hans Christian Andersen beat the fame of the Vikings who once expanded their territory in Denmark. Suppose you’re not a fan of amusement park, at least take a picture of yourself with Tivoli entrance gate as a background. And pose with HC Andersen’s statue as well!

Don’t get disappointed, the iconic Little Mermaid statue is smaller than it appears in postcards and travel magazines. It was sculpted by Edvard Ericsen, donated by Carl Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg beer, to the city of Copenhagen in 1913.

Carl Jacobsen has its replica made of bronze in his private garden in Carlsberg Brewery, sculpted by Paul Louritz Rasmussen.

A nomad souvenir shop selling Little Mermaid merchandise

BATTLE OF THE SEXES BIRDS

Another amusing scenes to see during summer time free of charge and no tips needed: battle of the birds!

Fuck off birdie, the food is MINE!!

Two things wild animals love the most in summer: food and people who feed them. How can I forget the way the hungry ducks stared at my mom? Nope! To be exact, staring at a small piece of bread in my mom’s hand, waiting to be thrown. I really laughed out loud watching them. I guess they are more greedy rather than hungry. Nonetheless, ducks are not selfish, you know! Once they see the sign of food giveaway, they quacked their peers to swim from the other side of the lake or river to get it. Distance doesn’t matter. And doves hardly get their turn.

I don’t think I need to tell who the winner of summer 2012 bird’s battle was: DUCKS!

Copenhagen has been my favourite meeting point to see my best friend living in Helsingborg, Sweden. She said I’m a lucky gal that it always greets me with sunshine every time I come. I guess she’s right. Or may be it’s just because I’ve never been to the city in winter. Whatever the reason is, I have found an ideal place for short breaks (if not too far from Asia). What a sunny summer holiday!

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!

Happy-Go-Lucky in Aarhus

Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, was the next destination of Princess Cruise excursion after Oslo. Aarhus is as compact as Copenhagen where you can reach anywhere on foot. Even so, you need to know that another implicit meaning of traveling by cruise ship is you can’t have it all. What do you expect to know everything about a place in less than 24 hours? You might need to choose between visiting a royal palace, a viking museum, or just skimming all landmarks without reaching particular places.

We only had 7 hours to explore the city. We didn’t lock specific “targets” as long as we managed to see Aarhus Cathedral and Den Gamle By.  Hey, did I say we didn’t lock our  “targets”? Whatever. The Aarhus Cathedral is just 5 minutes walking distance from the harbour. So yeah, there was no need to chase it at all.

the wooden door and fresco gate
fresco ceiling

The church looks plain at a glance with less sculptures and much more painted white walls than frescoes. Taking a better look at the frescoes, I said to myself, “Man, this cathedral must be really old.” The colours are not as bright and contrast as those in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.

the altar
war ship model made for Peter the Great

Aarhus Cathedral was built after year 1190 and finished in 1350, dedicated to St. Clements, the patron saint of sailors. It is one of the few preserved Romanesque churches in history and the longest church in Denmark with 93 meters length. The frescoes, created between 1470 and 1520, once covered most parts of the wall. Nonetheless, they are only a few remains nowadays. I can imagine how beautiful the interior supposed to be, and it still is despite the fading colours of the frescoes. I guess the sculptures are just complementary of the design, otherwise it looks too chaotic.

Besides, it also stores a model war ship, hanged on the ceiling and failed to ship to Peter the Great in Russia because of the shipwreck in Skagen. Local fishermen bought the model and donated to the church. Don’t forget to listen the beautiful sound of religious music from the largest organ pipe in the country inside the cathedral!

even a wooden sculpture knows how to use iPhone!

On the way to Den Gamle By, the famous old town of Aarhus, we walked through the main shopping street, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum until an empty gloomy shop window and a tacky Vietnamese wedding gown shop. So where was it?

the bird statue marking our way back to the ship
ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum and “Your Rainbow Panorama” by Olafur Eliasson. It permits visitors to walk in circular motion to view Aarhus in different colours depending on the angle

“Just walk straight there, we’re on the right direction.” said my cousin, our co-pilot of the day. He tried to convince everyone after one of us popped up a question, “Are we there yet?” . “Don’t say that it’s under construction when we arrive!” We laughed out loud.

From the other side of the street, we saw some groups of people heading to the left side. Also the back row of old houses with workers hammering nails and drilling bricks. The whole area was surrounded by wall to seclude itself from the rest of the city. We believed that was our Den Gamle By and we hoped it wasn’t under construction! Surprisingly, it requires an entrance fee to go inside. To be honest, we haven’t  visited any old town with a fee. Moreover, the queue to the ticket counters was freaking long, implying that it was still open for public. Finally my parents, aunt and uncle didn’t feel like going in.

Den Gamle By is a man-made open air museum, founded in 1909, to exhibit the lifestyle of the old Danish settlement, from traditional houses coming from all cities in Denmark, museums, shops, streets and yards. No wonder why we need a ticket!

Since there was no ticket controller right in front the old town entrance, some other tourists, including some Chinese couples, managed to sneak in without being noticed. An inspiring act, haha! My cousin and I decided to do the same!

old bed
old house interior
Strike a pose before escaping!

We didn’t know how things work there and we could get caught anytime. I took pictures quickly and my cousin  the co-pilot struck a pose in front of the camera just before we escaped. We succeed fulfilling our curiosity without spending a dime in less than 5 minutes and didn’t get caught!

hip hip hurra!

Our 2 favourite Danish words: tilbud and hip hip hurra. Everytime we saw the word tilbud, items sold in stores are on sale. And Hip Hip Hurra is what? The Dutch calls it Hip Hip Hoera, with exactly the same pronunciation as the Danish one, the English calls it Hooray (do I still need to translate this?). Eventually my family and my cousin’s bought same items: discounted placemats, as the only souvenir we think is useful, cheap and light to bring.

modified rooftop

While heading back to the harbour, we passed by an old house with an additional glass attic on its modified rooftop. I could see chairs and a table inside from the distance, assuming that it’s an extended meeting room. I found it a breaking through design, sort of like IM Pei‘s glass pyramid in the middle of the iconic Louvre courtyard. Nonetheless, my mom called it destruction of an antique design.

Aarhus embraces a slow pace of life and happy-go-lucky kind of atmosphere, one of the perfect places to visit where you don’t need to think too much about almost everything without being isolated from a modern city life. Sometimes, chasing tourist attractions doesn’t mean much compared to spending quality time with your family. Just go with the flow and it will be very relaxing. Aren’t they the reasons why you need a holiday(s)?

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!