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Aug 162017
 

Fabio and I knew we wanted part of our honeymoon to be filled with lots of adventures – like hiking through the forests of Chiang Mai to get to secluded temples, swimming in waterfalls, and walking with gentle elephants – but it was also important for us to take some time to relax and remember that we are on our honeymoon and are supposed to be enjoying romantic time with one another as husband and wife. (Eek! Those words still seem unreal to me.)

We decided to end our trip with a stop in Ko Samui, one of the beautiful islands off the southeast coast of Thailand (FYI – we picked the east coast because we read it was supposed to be less rainy in June). And while I truly enjoyed every moment of learning about Thai culture and exploring new places, there is something so calming about plopping in a chair on the sand and just soaking up the sun to the sound of the waves.

And, in addition to spending some time relaxing in the sun, we enjoyed the most romantic dinner of our trip in Ko Samui. In fact, it might have been the most romantic dinner we’ve ever had!

When we arrived at Ozo, our Ko Samui hotel in Chaweng Beach, Fabio wasted no time in asking the concierge for dinner recommendations. Thankfully she recommended Six Senses’ Dining on the Rocks restaurant as one of the places we had to visit during sunset, and I’m so incredibly thankful that she did.

We took a cab from our hotel to the Six Senses luxury resort, and then took a golf cart up to their Dining on the Rocks restaurant. Before we headed up to the main part of the restaurant, we were whisked onto a patio just in time to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Our table was right along the edge of the patio so we were treated to an amazing view!

With the mountains in the distance and the beautiful ocean in front of us, this wound up being one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen! It didn’t hurt that I was so relaxed and happy about spending a romantic evening with my husband. And you can’t see our faces here because of the sun, but I promise you we are grinning ear to ear.

As soon as we sat down, we ordered two glasses of champagne. Cheers to a honeymoon in paradise!

After the sun had gone down, we headed up to the main part of the restaurant where we’d eat an amazing meal.

It was still beautiful up there, but we were facing slightly away from the sun so I’m glad we enjoyed happy hour on the smaller patio first.

Instead, we got to take in beautiful views of the ocean!

(With more champagne, obviously.)

The meal itself was also amazing! I started off with some prawn and sea bass ceviche with “sweet potato sheets” which was delicious and refreshing, especially since it was pretty hot out.

For my entree, I enjoyed the scallops! Fabio got a steak, and we also shared a few side dishes.

Dessert was probably my favorite dish – I got the mango yogurt roll which was a mix of the most perfectly ripe mango and frozen yogurt. Yum!!

This restaurant is not cheap by any means – in fact it was the most expensive meal we had during our trip – but it was so romantic and relaxing and so perfect for a honeymoon. I loved every second!

Question of the day: What’s the most romantic dinner you’ve ever had?

 Posted by on August 16, 2017
Aug 142017
 

This past weekend, Fabio, Jack, and I drove up to Aunt CC and Uncle Steve’s house in Otis, Massachusetts (in the Berkshires) for a weekend of fun in the sun! We were joined by my friends Hana and Britt, which made the trip extra amazing.

Here are some scenes from the weekend, with a few notes of commentary here and there. 🙂

We hit the road on Thursday evening after work!

After a long car ride, we arrived in Otis to quite the welcome spread!

We stayed up until around 4 a.m. before throwing in the towel. We were exhausted.

Friday

We slept in a bit on Friday and then had breakfast outside. I made this lemon blueberry “bread” (aka – cake) and it was fantastic!

My plate:

Then it was time for some fun!

Water activities are the best. 🙂

We recently bought this life vest for Jack so we don’t have to worry about him when he jumps off the kayak or paddle board in the middle of the lake. It worked perfectly!

Steve took Jack on his kayak, and the rest of us used the stand-up paddle boards. Poor Fabio had to work on Friday so he stayed at the house, and Britt didn’t arrive until Friday evening. (That pesky day job.)

But the rest of us had fun!

After paddle boarding, we hung out in the back yard enjoying the sunshine and playing lots of lawn games.

Jack wanted to join us in playing bocce. 🙂

Steve was on cocktail duty and made us some amazing concoctions!

Later in the afternoon, the sky began to look a little ominous so we moved our games inside. Steve showed us how to play Gobblet, and we were all instantly addicted.

Once Britt arrived, it was dinner time!

We called it a night around 1 a.m. after playing lots more board games. We were pooped!

Saturday

Saturday morning started off pretty gray and cold, so we huddled inside and went through our wedding pictures together! Then we made a stop at the farmer’s market.

Lunch featured wraps on the deck, and then we headed off for a four-mile hike!

Which of course, meant more swimming for Jack.

The sun was fully out by the time we got back to the house, so we put on our swimsuits and headed over to the lake.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at the house playing lots and lots more games.

The games didn’t stop when the sun went down – night time bocce, kan-jam, and badminton for the win!

We finished up the evening sitting around the fire pit and called it a night around 1:45 a.m. (Dinner was also in there somewhere, but I was too busy having fun to take any pics!)

Sunday

We stuck around for breakfast on Sunday before packing up to head home.

It was a long drive, but the fun weekend was worth it!

The end.

Question of the day: What’s your favorite game?

 Posted by on August 14, 2017
Aug 022017
 

Hey friends! I’m back today with another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand. If you missed any of my earlier posts, you can find those here:

I already told you about the main things we did in Chiang Mai, namely visiting wats and walking with elephants, so today I thought I would tell you about some of the other fun things we did in the city.

1. Drink pandan leaf (bai toey) tea. Fabio and I were greeted with this refreshing welcome drink at almost every nice establishment we visited (hotels, spas, etc.), and it was always served icy cold in cute little tin cups.

It’s hard to explain what this tea tasted like, but it was sweet, lemony, and so refreshing after being out in the hot and humid Thai climate.

Fabio and I actually found some of these tin cups at a local market in Chiang Mai and wound up buying them as souvenirs! We’re going to try to recreate this drink at home the next time we have guests over — it was such a nice way to be welcomed to a new place!

2. Get a massage. Massage places can be found all over Thailand and compared to massage places in the U.S., they are incredibly affordable. Fabio and I each got one-hour aromatherapy massages at Phurin Thai Spa in Chiang Mai for about $20!

There are also plenty of places that are cheaper than this one, but we wanted to pay a little more for an upscale spa experience. Plus, it was still just $20!! Take me back!

Note: When selecting a massage place, make sure the women out front look like real masseuses and aren’t wearing clothes that are too skimpy, or you might wind up in the wrong kind of establishment. 😉

3. Go to a fish spa. Being the tourists that we were, Fabio and I had to try out a fish spa, which is one of those places where you drop your feet into the water and little fish eat your dead skin.

Thank you to the nice lady from Chicago who offered to take this picture for us!

Fish spas are everywhere in Chiang Mai, and when selecting one, you’ll want to make sure it looks clean and is registered with the Thai government or else you could be at risk for a nasty infection. Yikes! The spa we picked looked clean and had official-looking signage on the door (it was in Thai so we couldn’t read it, but it looked ok), so we gave it a shot. It cost about 200 baht ($6) for a 20-minute session, so Fabio and I paid the fee and dunked our feet in the tank.

It was SUCH a weird experience and tickled like crazy. It was really hard not to pull my feet out and squirm away from the fish!

Even though it was a really weird feeling, I would definitely recommend this as something you must try when in Thailand.

4. Eat khao soi, preferably with a view of the river. Khao soi is a traditional northern Thai noodle soup that’s made with a coconut/curry broth. It is incredibly delicious and comes with crunchy noodles on top.

We first tried khao soi at the Riverside Bar & Restaurant outside the Old City in Chiang Mai, and we were treated to lovely views of the water in addition to our tasty soup.

Side note: Why do the Thai people like spicy soup when the climate is so hot??

I was lucky enough to have khao soi again at a no-frills, more traditional (read: less touristy) restaurant called Aroon Rai that I had read about online.

I really liked both versions of khao soi, and I am now on the hunt to find a place in the U.S. that serves it!

Note: iced coffee is also a huge thing in Thailand and is available everywhere, so we had a lot of iced coffee with our meals.

5. Check out the night bazaar. Fabio and I had read a lot about the night bazaar in Chiang Mai, and it did not disappoint! The streets are full of vendors selling everything under the sun, and the shops are open super late. We wound up buying some cool souvenirs for our family and friends, including some one-of-a-kind art!

Tip: If you see a painting you like at the bazaar but it’s too big or not the right size, you can ask the artist to make you a different size painting and pick it up a day or two later.

There’s also a really cool open area near the night bazaar with live music where you can grab a beer or a cocktail bucket and enjoy the evening outside.

Or if you’re not feeling a cocktail, you can get some rolled ice cream! I got a Kit-Kat, banana, and vanilla ice cream mixture, and it was as fun to watch them make it as it was to eat.

6. Check out the bars. The night life in Chiang Mai is pretty great, and there’s something for everyone!

If you want a rowdy, college-type of bar scene, check out Zoe in Yellow. There you’ll find blasting music, strobe lights, cheap cocktail buckets, and lots of drunk, young people. We went with two of our good friends who happened to be in Chiang Mai at the same time as us, Brian and Daria, so we had a good time, but I don’t think we would have enjoyed ourselves that much if it was just the two of us. We were feeling a little old for this crowd!

One place we did really enjoy going to though was the Jazz Bar by the North Gate of the Old City. We watched a couple of different bands play and had a good time sitting around and enjoying the live music.

7. Go to a cooking class. This was something that lots of people recommended that we do, and I’m so glad we did! After reading lots of reviews on Trip Advisor, I made a reservation with Asia Scenic Cooking School before we arrived in Thailand, and Fabio and I had a ton of fun cooking Thai dishes one night.

We got to make a stir fry, spring rolls, soup, and a curry dish, and each of us got to choose which ones we wanted to make.

We also got to put on silly hats and take a trip to the local Thai market (this is where we found our tin cups!).

I could have easily bought more at the market, and am now regretting that I didn’t purchase these soup packets. We had so much good Thai soup on our trip!

The market was really cool because there weren’t a lot of tourists there even though it was in the heart of the Old City. It was down a small road that wouldn’t have been easy to stumble upon, so I’m so glad we went with the cooking class!

Then it was cooking time!

Making the curries took a lot of work – we had to chop all the ingredients really finely and then pound them for while using a mortar and pistil.

Curries!

Eventually it was time to eat!

Yum!

All in all, we had a really fantastic time in Chiang Mai, and it was probably my favorite city that we visited during our trip. There’s just so much to do and see, but it still doesn’t feel like a crazy busy city. We loved it!

Question(s) of the day: What’s your favorite Thai food? Would you let fish eat dead skin off your feet?

 Posted by on August 2, 2017
Jul 312017
 

Every year, my college girlfriends plan a weekend trip to Fire Island, New York.

I wasn’t able to go last year because Fabio and I had a wedding that weekend, but you better believe I wasn’t missing it this time!

Fire Island is a small island off the coast of Long Island in New York and is only accessible by boat. It’s also a pain in the butt for me to get to since I have to get up to New York, out to Long Island, and then over to the ferry. There are also no cars allowed on the island, so we take public transportation to get there. It takes forever, but is so worth it!

My friends and I all shared our locations with one another on Snapchat, and I got a kick out of seeing our bitmojis hanging out together on the beach. 🙂

To get up and out to Fire Island, I began my journey after work on Thursday with a 6:00 p.m. Amtrak train. My friend Megan lives outside of Baltimore, so she hopped on the train from there. We treated ourselves to a seriously overpriced train dinner (I got a chicken wrap) and some wine. Vacation time!

When we arrived in New York City, we spent the night at our friends’ apartment and in the morning we all made our way out to Fire Island. Before we knew it, we were on the ferry!

There were 13 of us on this trip, including my friend Catrina who lives in California. It was so good to see her!

Hi, ladies!

After quickly stopping by the house to drop of four bags and unload groceries, we made our way to the beach! Friday was a great beach day, and we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun and catching up.

At one point, a deer made its way onto the beach! (Deer are pretty prevalent in Fire Island.)

Oh deer! 🙂

We stayed on the beach until the sun started to dip in the sky, at which point we headed back to the house to shower and start making dinner. Our house had an awesome rooftop with a big table and chairs, so we enjoyed our meal outside! We also got really lucky with a beautiful sunset.

Our chefs of the evening (Vic, Malena, and Layne, mostly) made us burgers, hot dogs, corn, pasta salad, and salad. Yum!!

We spent way too long sitting outside in the dark chatting before moving our party inside.

We thought briefly about getting ourselves dressed up and walking to the bars in town, but we decided sitting around and creating bitmojis for each other was more fun. 🙂

We clearly missed each other and enjoyed the chance to catch up!

Saturday

Sadly, we woke up to rainy skies on Saturday which pretty much killed any plans we had of going to the beach. We made ourselves a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon (mine was enjoyed on an English muffin) and sat around talking over coffee for a while.

Eventually the rain let up and we decided to walk into town for some shopping. I didn’t buy anything, but it was still nice to look around. The town in Fire Island where we were is called Ocean Beach, and it’s so cute!

Later in the afternoon, my friend Kristen told us that her parents would be stopping by for happy hour. They live in Long Island and were planning to be in Fire Island this weekend anyway (just a different part of the island), so we planned to meet up with them for drinks at around 3:30.

Our happy hour wound up turning into an epic dance-party/sing-along day drink at the bar, which was easily the highlight of the weekend for me. It was so fun!

The music at the bar we went to (called CJ’s) was spot-0n and we enjoyed popular songs from lots of different time periods. We were all singing and dancing loudly and definitely made a scene at the bar, but no one seemed to mind. 🙂 It’s the beach, after all!

I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend a rainy day at the beach!!

After the bar, we all headed back to the house for another rooftop dinner. We were treated to another gorgeous sunset!

On Saturday night we had chicken and steak with the most delicious glaze that my friend Vic made. Yum! I can’t wait for her to share the recipe.

We also had more salad and pasta salad. My plate:

After sitting around and having another sing-along/dance party in the living room after dinner, a group of us decided to head to the bars. We didn’t get too crazy since we were all tired from day drinking, so luckily I woke up on Sunday morning without a hangover at all. Woohoo! We are definitely getting older, haha!

Sunday

Sunday was the most beautiful day we’ve had in months, so we woke up early to pack up our bags and then head to the beach. Megan, Kristen, and I stayed on the beach until around 1:00, at which point we had to go back to the house to get ready to go home. Wahh!!

These weekends are always so much fun, and I hate when they’re over. I miss my friends so much and really appreciated having all this time to catch up with them. Can I do it over again, please?

Question of the day: Do you have annual trips with your friends? If so, where do you usually go?

 Posted by on July 31, 2017
Jul 272017
 

Hey friends! How was your week? I’m sorry I didn’t get my act together to get a real post up this week (other than my weekend recap). I started pulling together another honeymoon post that I wanted to schedule for Wednesday, but it took me a long time just to get the photos together, and by the time I was done with that I ran out of time and energy to write anything. Next week!

Work should also be much slower next week – two of the big projects that have been stressing me out and keeping me in the office late wrapped up this week – so I should have more time and energy to sit down and blog in the evenings. Woohoo!

As for today, I am heading off to Fire Island this evening for a weekend with my college girlfriends!

This is a trip my friends (aka, sloppytown) plan every year, but I haven’t been able to go for the last couple of years due to weddings and being out of town. I’m so excited to get out there again this year!

And even though I can’t wait to relax on the beach (and am praying for good weather — it looks kinda crappy right now…), what I’m most looking forward to is sitting around with my friends and just catching up. I feel like I barely got to talk to them during the wedding!

I’ll be arriving back into town late on Sunday night, so we’ll have to see how much energy I have for posting right away. You know I’ll get to it eventually, and I thank you for your patience! 🙂

Question of the day: Do you have any kind of annual trips with your friends?

 Posted by on July 27, 2017
Jul 192017
 

Hello there! Today I’m popping in with another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, this time with the details of our quick trip to Pai! If you missed my previous recaps, you might want to read those first.

After spending a few very fun days in Chiang Mai, Fabio and I checked out of our hotel (for now) and hopped on a van to Pai. Pai is a smaller town north of Chiang Mai and is known for its natural attractions like waterfalls and hot springs, and also for being a popular spot for backpacking tourists.

The ride from Chiang Mai took us only three hours, but unfortunately the winding roads were very hard on people who get car-sick easily, which is usually me. Luckily I bought some motion sickness medicine at a 7-11 in Chiang Mai and took some before we got into the van, but one passenger got sick on the way to Pai and then another (different) passenger got sick on our way back from Pai. One was outside the van after the driver pulled over, but one was…not. And she didn’t have a bag. Gross. But anyway, just a word of warning for anyone looking to travel to Pai!

Once we arrived, we saw cute little streets with lots of shops and restaurants.

We also saw lots of dogs in Pai, and most of them were really friendly. Fabio fell in love with this little lady, who followed us around during our whole time in Pai even though we never fed her any food. If she didn’t have a collar on we definitely would have looked into adopting her!

After getting our bearings, we walked over to our hotel, Pai River Corner. Although there are tons of incredibly cheap accommodations in Pai (you can find places for $6 per night), we decided to go with a nicer hotel option – it was our honeymoon, after all. We had the top floor of this bungalo all to ourselves!

(Please excuse the candidness of that one!)

The room was nice enough, with clean bathrooms and wifi. Plus it was still a steal compared to hotel prices in the U.S.!

And our balcony had a nice view of the lush greenery and the pool. Beautiful!

Pai River Corner is also located – you guessed it – right along the river. The restaurant and bar had a great view of the mountains and the river!

Once we dropped off our bags, Fabio and I decided to do a little exploring via scooter! We had read that Pai is a great place to rent scooters since it’s a lot smaller of a city than Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and the roads are pretty tourist-friendly. The scooters themselves are also really cheap, so you can rent them for 24 hours for just a few dollars.

Then again, I had also read about how dangerous the scooters could be, and we saw plenty of tourists walking around with bandages from scooter accidents. I do think most of these were from people driving the scooters after having too many drinks at the bar, but it made me nervous regardless. In fact, I was pretty much dreading climbing onto that thing, and was really regretting my decision at this point.

In the end, Fabio and I decided to take the scooter over to Pai Canyon, a cool lookout spot that was, most importantly, not too far away. I’m pretty sure I gripped Fabio and the scooter for dear life the entire way there, and I was so relieved when we arrived safely just about 15 minutes later.

Pai Canyon featured lots of narrow, winding peaks, and we could see other tourists who were climbing around on top of them. I walked to a relatively easy area of the canyon before realizing I’d have to get down on my hands and knees/crawl on my butt to go any farther, and I decided that was enough for me. There was a huge drop on the side of the peaks, and it seemed like one misstep could leave you very badly hurt. No thanks!

We did see some dare devils who rode motor bikes all along the cliffs, and Fabio and I agreed they were crazy. Again, no thanks!

Once we were done exploring Pai Canyon, Fabio and I scootered (safely) back to the hotel and then enjoyed some happy hour cocktails by the river. I think I earned it for facing my scooter fears!

There was also a cool bamboo bridge near the restaurant, so of course we had to check that out.

It was really rickety, but cool!

While we waited for our cocktails to arrive, it started drizzling and then we saw the most beautiful rainbow!

It was actually a double rainbow and if you look closely you can see the second one above the brighter one. It was so beautiful, and Fabio and I took it as a honeymoon gift from our grandparents who are no longer with us. 🙂

After happy hour, we walked into town for some dinner (we went to the Witching Well per some recommendations I had read online – it was pretty good but not amazing) and then waintod in to Boom Bar since it seemed like one of the more lively bars on the street.

Any place that serves up its cocktails with a slice of water melon is a-ok in my book!

Boom Bar had all kinds of lounge areas, a dance floor area, a pool table, and a couple of tables for beer pong! Fabio and I watched a couple of games of beer pong, but ultimately decided not to play. Instead, we hung out at the bar and made friends with some other travelers, two of whom were from Colombia!

They were so, so nice and we had a great time talking to them throughout the evening.

Oh and just a quick side note: When we got back from the trip I had a hard time explaining to my friends and family what the people in Pai were like, and would usually just say they were mostly Western hippies. Then I saw this drawing in the bathroom at the bar, and thought it described the average Westerner in Pai perfectly:

Precicely!

The next morning, Fabio and I set out for a full day of tours around the Pai area! We opted to do a private tour instead of one of the big group ones, mostly because we wanted to set our own schedule for the day. We had planned to see a water fall, a hot spring, and a cave, but we really wanted to go to the cave in the evening because I had read that’s when all the bats come out. None of the big tour groups went to the cave at that time of day, so we hired our own tour guide to take us. It was a little more expensive than the group tours, but still relatively cheap and definitely worth it.

Our first stop was Mo Paeng waterfall.

This was a really lovely waterfall for swimming in, and we slid down the wet rock next to the waterfall and splashed into the pool. We also met a couple of other nice tourists here, and spent some time talking to them while splashing in the chilly water.

Up next was Sai Ngam hot springs – aka Pai’s “secret” hot springs – which featured a couple of pools of warm water. It wasn’t as hot as hot tob water (and pretty different from the hot springs we swam in at Yellowstone) but it was the most perfect temperature for relaxing and I’m pretty sure we could have staying in the hot spring all day. Plus, our tourist friends from the waterfall joined us, so we got to talk to them some more!

Our last stop of the day was Lod Cave, which was probably the coolest thing we did in Pai.

When we arrived, we bought some food to feed the fish and were amazed at the swarm of them that jumped up to get the food. This water was teeming with them, and some of the fish were huge!

Then we wandered into the cave while following a woman who spoke no English and was carrying the cave’s only source of light, which came from a wind-up lantern. I’m pretty sure Fabio and I were sprinting to catch up with her at some points – if she walked away, we would have been completely in the dark.

We spent some time climbing up into the caves and observing all the interesting shapes in the stalactites and stalagmites.

Then when we had seen two of the caves, we climbed onto a narrow bamboo raft that would take us over to another cave.

It was so narrow and flimsy, and all I could think about was that all those giant fish that we had seen were swimming right below us. Eek!

While we were going down the stream, we kept noticing drops in the water. Fabio and I both assumed it was condensation dripping down until our guide shined her flashlight up to the huge ceiling of the cave, and we saw hundreds of thousands of bats above us. Ok then, those drops are clearly bat poop.

Soon we emerged near the mouth of the other cave, and we saw thousands and thousands of bats swarming around the entrance. It was just about sunset, so it was time for the bats to go eat their dinner, I suppose. It was really, really cool, and definitely worth hiring the private tour guide to see. It was incredible!

You can see our raft in the background here – it really was tiny!

All in all, it was a really fun day exploring the sites around Pai!

When we got back to our hotel, we cleaned ourselves up and then got some dinner from the street vendors. I started with a mango smoothie, and then got green curry and brown rice for my meal.

(Yes, I joined the crowds of tourists and bought myself a pair of elephant pants.)

This was probably my favorite Thai dish that I had during the whole trip, and it came from a food truck!

Fabio got stir fried noodles with hot basil and chicken, and his was equally delicious.

The street food in Pai did not disappoint!

After dinner we walked around for a while to do some shopping and then called it a night as we had to hop on the van back to Chiang Mai early the next morning.

All in all, I would recommend a visit to Pai for anyone who’s interested in seeing a smaller, unique Thai city with all the creature comforts that we tourists enjoy. It was wonderful!

Question(s) of the day: Have you ever been in a cave? Would you ride on a scooter?

 Posted by on July 19, 2017
Jul 122017
 

Well friends, it’s time for another recap of our amazing honeymoon in Thailand, and this time we’re talking about my favorite part of the whole trip: visiting Elephant Nature Park! If you missed my first two honeymoon recaps you can read about our day in Bangkok here and our Chiang Mai hike and wat tours here.

When Fabio and I first started researching where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go somewhere where we could see animals (we are huge animal lovers, if you couldn’t tell that by now). We thought about the Galapagos because of its amazing marine life (I’ve heard the sea lions are incredibly friendly!) and we thought about an African safari (how cool would it be to see lions and giraffes in the wild?). But after reading this review about Elephant Nature Park and hearing lots of other great things about Thailand, our decision was made and we booked our trip!

I did a lot of research before booking any activities for our vacation, and I learned that while riding elephants is an extremely common tourist attraction in Thailand, it’s actually really bad for the elephants. And the crazy thing is that everyone does it! In fact, there are so many tour companies offering elephant rides that most tourists have no idea that it’s not good for the animals. In the U.S. something like this would absolutely be regulated, but every country is not like the U.S., and Thailand relies heavily on its tourism industry so they let this practice continue. Tourists ride the elephants all the time (so don’t feel bad if you’re reading this and you’ve done it!), but more and more elephant sanctuaries are starting to pop up in Thailand to educate people about the right way to interact with elephants.

Elephant Nature Park is one of these places, and they rescue and rehabilitate elephants that have been abused through the tourism industry, kept as pets, or hurt during the nearby Burmese civil war. The park is housed on 250 lush, hilly acres (it looks a lot like Jurassic Park!) and serves as a home to elephants, dogs, cats, water buffalo, and other animals. It’s enormous!

On the morning we were scheduled to visit the park, we were picked up from our Chiang Mai hotel and then rode in a comfortable van for the 60-kilometer (37-mile) drive north to the park. (Warning: If you’re ever getting picked up from a Thailand hotel for an excursion, make sure it’s for the right excursion. We had a language mix-up that could have ended with us driving ATVs around instead of seeing the elephants, which I would not have been happy about. Luckily it worked out fine in the end.)

On the way to the park, we watched a horrifying video showing what trainers do to elephants who are used for things like trekking with tourists and performing in the circus. It was really terrible, and I had to look away at certain times. I understand why they make us watch this video though; it reaffirms our commitment to supporting elephant sanctuaries instead!

When we arrived, we entered a large, open-air building. And we instantly saw elephants!

Our first activity of the day was feeding the elephants some watermelon. Apparently this is just their appetizer, as they eat 10% of their body weight each day. That’s a lot of food! We stood behind some protective bars to feed the elephants since some of them can be unpredictable around food.

I watched a couple of other people from our group feed the elephant, and then it was my turn! The elephant gripped the watermelon in its trunk and then easily transferred it to its mouth.

Then it was Fabio’s turn!

We were both a little hesitant the first time around, but got more comfortable once we got to the second and third pieces of watermelon.

Here you go, big guy!

After the watermelon was gone, the elephant hung around for about 30 seconds to make sure he got all the food, and then he walked away. Clearly he wasn’t hanging around for our company! Ha!

Then we walked over to a hospital area where our guide explained the elephant rehabilitation process. When the owner of Elephant Nature Park hears about an elephant that’s injured, old, or just needs help, he will buy it off of other tour companies or owners.

The elephant then goes into the park’s vet center for all kinds of testing, and if needed they have a hospital where elephants can stay. Our guide told us about two elephants who stepped on land mines after their owners made them climb over the mountains from Burma to escape the civil war there. Those elephants had to be in the hospital for two years because they kept stepping on their injured legs and breaking their plaster casts. Poor things! It’s so nice to know there’s a place like Elephant Nature Park to take care of them.

Once the elephants are deemed healthy, they are matched with a trainer who will take care of them and help them find their herd. Some elephants match up with a herd right away, and others take years to find their new “family.” It has to be a mutual acceptance all around, and it was nice to realize that all of the elephant families we saw throughout our stay were really adoptive ones.

After learning about this process, we walked over to a female elephant with an injured foot. Sadly, her foot will never be able to heal fully and she will have to live in the enclosed vet area for the rest of her life so she doesn’t injure it more. She didn’t seem to mind though, as she was super friendly and got lots of food to herself.

This was the first elephant we got to interact with up close, and I think we were all a little nervous at first. These creatures are just so big!

Our guide reassured us that she was a gentle and friendly elephant, and encouraged us to get really close to her and pet her. Ok then!

Her skin had course prickly hairs all over it, which was surprising to me. She was really sweet and didn’t mind having us there at all!

FYI – those cement cylinders are there so the elephants can scratch up against them, like cats!

After we were done visiting the sweet injured lady, we walked over to another area of the park where an elephant family (remember, they’re not actually related) was enjoying another snack. This time we got to see an adorable baby!!

The family was really cute, and I loved hearing that there was a grandmother, mom, and big sister elephant that all stayed close to the baby. (Meanwhile the dad was way off in the distance…apparently they’re more like dogs and don’t stick around to take care of their offspring.) You can tell which ones are the older ones based on how deep their temples are – cool!

These elephants were also friendly, and we got to get up close to them.

We even got to pet the baby, which might have been the highlight of my whole trip.

Here’s a screenshot of the video Fabio took of the interaction. It was so amazing! The baby was small compared to the other elephants, but was still really big and strong next to me.

At one point when I was walking away from him, he decided he wasn’t quite done with me and reached out his trunk for me. He almost grabbed my leg and I would have gone flying! These creatures are pretty funny and I don’t think this little guy even knew his own strength.

Amazing!

As I mentioned, there were also tons of dogs at Elephant Nature Park–more than 400!–most of which were rescued after the 2004 Thailand tsunami. They get along with the elephants pretty well, and it was cool to see them hanging around together.

There were also lots of water buffalo, which was both cool and scary. I was happy keeping my distance from these guys. 🙂

After we were done petting the elephant family, we walked them down to the river to watch them swim and spray each other with water sucked up through their trunks.

And after they were clean from the river, they rolled around in the mud!

We learned that elephants have sensitive skin, and they use mud as both their sunscreen and insect repellent. Interesting!

After the mud bath it was time for us to eat lunch, and we headed back up to the building to enjoy a delicious vegetarian Thai buffet-style lunch. We got to know the rest of the people in our group much better during this time, and we had a nice time talking to them!

After lunch we spent some time with another elephant family, which had another baby.

Right when Fabio and I squatted down for a photo, the little guy turned around so we got more than just his butt in the picture. What a little ham!

At this point we could see another elephant tour group (a riding kind by the looks of it) making their way down to the nearby public river. As soon as the elephants near us smelled them, they got really nervous and protective. The mom elephant made the baby go with her into their enclosure where they knew they would be safe if anything were to happen. The elephants from the other group were still pretty far away, but it was amazing to see how protective this group got as soon as they smelled them.

Once everything settled down, we said goodbye to this group of elephants and then headed down to another section of the river. It was elephant bathing time!

Each elephant got another basket of fruit (watermelon and bananas this time) and they contentedly ate their snack while we splashed them with buckets of water from the river.

They seemed to really enjoy this, and used their ears as fans to blow cool air on their damp skin.

This was a perfect way for us to wrap up our amazing day with the elephants!

Soon it was time for us to say goodbye to the park, and we climbed back in the van for the drive back to our hotel in Chiang Mai. It was such an incredible experience that I will never forget, and I’m so glad we were able to support such an amazing organization. If you ever go to Chiang Mai, you absolutely have to visit Elephant Nature Park, and please don’t ride any elephants!

Question of the day: Would you enjoy this or be scared?

One guy in our group discovered that he was afraid of elephants (something he didn’t know until he got close to one!) and decided to skip out on most of the activities for the day. Poor guy!

 Posted by on July 12, 2017
Jul 072017
 

Hi friends! Today I’m back with part 2 of my honeymoon recap, which included visiting lots of beautiful wats (temples) in Chiang Mai! We even hiked up a really cool monk’s trail to get to two of the temples, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, if you missed my Bangkok recap you can find that here! And, just a warning, this is a looooong post, so get comfy. Here we go!

After spending just over a day in Bangkok, Fabio and I hopped on a flight north to the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai. We flew through Nok Air and it was very comfortable and quick!

When we arrived at around 10:30 a.m., we got in a cab to take us to our hotel which was inside the old city near the East Gate (Tha Phae Gate). We were staying at The 3 Sis, a boutique hotel/bed and breakfast right in the heart of the city. When we pulled up, we were in awe of the massive mango tree out front. Wow!

The lobby was peaceful and inviting, and we were greeted with the most amazing Thai iced tea. Ahh! I could use a glass of that right now.

Our room was comfortable and spacious (we stayed for four nights total), but my favorite part of the hotel was the view of Wat Phan Tao (one of the temples) right across the street. This was what we saw when we ate breakfast every day!

Amazing!

After we checked in and dropped off our bags (our room was ready early, thank goodness), we decided to walk around the old city of Chiang Mai. On our maps this part of the city had appeared to be pretty small, but we soon found out it was much bigger than we thought. We spent quite a while walking around the streets and still didn’t cover everything.

The first thing I saw that piqued my interest was all the monks! They were everywhere, much more so than in Bangkok. We knew there were lots of wats in Chiang Mai so this wasn’t surprising, but it was still really cool to see. There were even lots of monks shopping in our local 7-11!

After getting our bearings, Fabio and I decided it was time to see some of the wats! The dress code for these was definitely enforced more than in Bangkok, and I made sure to wear pants and a top with sleeves whenever we were exploring the temples. It was super hot, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful!

There were ornate decorations everywhere – on statues, walls, the roof, and even the ceiling – and everything had so many beautiful details.

Like with Christianity, Buddhists believe that making beautiful temples to worship God is a way to get into Heaven. It sure was beautiful!

It was cool seeing some of the older wats too – this one is part of Wat Phan Tao, which was the one that was just steps away from our hotel. Check out the monks! (Obsessed.)

As we were wandering around admiring the beautiful temples, we saw a sign in English that said “Come Meet a Monk.” We noticed a bunch of other Westerners sitting at tables talking to young monks, so we decided to see what it was all about.

When we sat down, we started talking to a 16-year-old monk who was interested in interviewing us for his English homework. Cool! He asked us where we were from, what our jobs were, and what we thought of Thailand so far, among other things.

In turn, we asked about his life and found out that he’s from a very small village in northern Thailand and that he decided to come to monk school to help out his family. He said his father passed away a few years ago, and he has many brothers and sisters. His mom works multiple jobs – all of which are about two hours from their home – and she can’t afford to pay for high school for all the kids (it’s not free in Thailand, apparently).

This monk (I forget his name!) was really dedicated to his studies and has a dream to go to college, so he decided to become a monk for a while so he can get his education for free. Though he doesn’t want to stay a monk forever, he said that once you learn the Buddhist monk values, you’re always a monk at heart. This was one of the highlights of our trip for me, and I loved hearing his story! Also, his English was great! What a smart kid.

Side note: He wasn’t allowed to sit or stand next to me since I’m a woman. Interesting. He also was amazed at how tall Fabio is. Ha!

After that, we checked out a few more wats inside the old city before calling it a day. (I’ll write another post highlighting all the other stuff we did in Chiang Mai like restaurants, bars, and massage places, but today’s post is about the wats!)

The next day, we had plans to hike up to see two more wats: the quiet, remote Wat Pha Lat and the busy, touristy Doi Suthep. This hike was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited to get to the two wats by climbing up an old monk trail instead of riding in a car or tuk-tuk.

We relied heavily on this blog post with step-by-step instructions for following the hike, so if this is ever something you’re interested in doing, definitely check out that post!

Anyway, after taking a tuk-tuk out of the old city one morning and walking uphill a ways from our drop-off point, we arrived at the entrance to the trail.

There we met a fellow American (who took this picture), who has been living in Thailand for a few years. She warned us that the hike was not easy at all and asked how much water we had with us. *Gulp* What did we just get ourselves into?

We aren’t quitters though, so we forged ahead with her word of warning swarming in our heads.

The trail itself was made by monks who needed to climb up the mountains to get to the different wats. They still use it today, and do the whole climb in sandals! The path is marked by pieces of their customary orange cloth, which served as reminders that we were in a serene and sacred place.

Some areas of the trail were absolutely covered in cloth, and other times we would walk for a while without seeing any.

One tip for this hike is to put on lots of bug spray! The hike takes you through some really dense woods and there were lots and lots of bugs. Sometimes the bugs would also be super loud, and all you could hear were bug noises and the rushing water of some small waterfalls along the way.

After hiking for about 45 minutes and seeing a couple of other hikers along our path, we crossed a somewhat rickety bridge and then arrived at Wat Pha Lat.

Wat Pha Lat is a very quiet temple that was built next to a waterfall. Apparently it used to be a resting point for travelers on their way to Doi Suthep, but when they built the road to Doi Suthep this place became a quiet retreat accessed only by monks and hikers.

The only real way to get to Wat Pha Lat is by hiking to it since it’s located deep in the forest. This, of course, limits the number of tourists who go there which allows you to really soak up the beauty and serenity of the place.

Since it was pretty hot and humid during our hike, I packed some light-weight pants and a shirt in our backpack and just put them on as we walked around the temple. Again, I wanted to be respectful, but it was too hot to wear those kinds of clothes during the whole hike.

Wat Pha Lat was beautiful and so peaceful! Fabio and I really enjoyed our time walking around and taking in the calm atmosphere. It felt like we were in a movie!

Then it was on to part two of our hike, which was the much steeper and much longer climb up to Doi Suthep!

This is the part of the hike we were most worried about and although we were fine, it definitely was a little challenging at times. At one point it started to drizzle and the clay trail got wet, making it super slippery to walk up. We were able to find some walking sticks though which really helped us keep our balance! Better hiking shoes would have been helpful here, but we only had our sneakers.

We also met a really nice Swiss girl at this point and spent lots of time getting to know her during the hike. It made the time fly by, and before we knew it we were close to the top! (Not before we made a wrong turn and Fabio had to climb a waterfall in search of the trail. Oops. Wrong way!)

We also spotted this crazy blue Lion King-esque bug when we were almost at the top. Gross! Its body was probably four inches long.

Right after the giant bug sighting, we arrived at the end of the trail! Woohoo! The second half of the climb took us about an hour and fifteen minutes and was definitely more challenging than the first half, but not as impossible as that other American woman had made it sound. Thank goodness!

At the top, we rewarded ourselves with fresh mango smoothies and then headed in to visit the famous Doi Suthep. (There were lots of tourists and carts selling things here. Very different from Wat Pha Lat!)

Doi Suthep is pretty famous for its dragon stairs, which are intricately decorated all the way up to the top.

It was a pretty long climb to the top, but nothing compared to the hike we had just done!

The view from the top was definitely beautiful, but it was pretty crowded and made me appreciate the peacefulness at Wat Pha Lat all the more.

Still, it’s worth a visit when you’re in Chiang Mai!

Once we were done at the temple, we hopped in a songthaew (a red pick-up truck that acts much like Thailand’s version of Uber pool) back to the old city. During our ride, we met some interesting tourists from Los Angeles and the UK, and it was nice to hear about their respective trips.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we took some much-needed showers since we were coated in bug spray and mud. Yuck!

All in all, I would absolutely recommend checking out the wats in Chiang Mai, and would especially recommend doing the hike and trying out the “Meet a Monk” program!

Question of the day: What would you ask a monk?

 Posted by on July 7, 2017
Jul 052017
 

Fabio and I spent an amazing weekend with my Aunt CC and Uncle Steve at their house in Otis, Massachusetts, but unfortunately we found out some sad news on Sunday night which definitely put a damper on the trip. Fabio’s grandfather, who we call Abuelo, passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.

Fabio’s grandfather lives in Bolivia, and I am so incredibly thankful that we were able to make a trip down there in 2014 to meet him. Though he’s lived in Bolivia for quite some time now, he lived with Fabio and his family for a while when Fabio was growing up, so they had a pretty close relationship.

I am so sad for Fabio and his family right now, but I know that Abuelo lived a long, happy life surrounded by people who love him. He wasn’t sick and didn’t suffer much – he was only in the hospital for two days before passing. Fabio is on his way down to Bolivia right now for the funeral (I wasn’t able to take more time off work since we just returned from the honeymoon), and I am sending all of my love down there with him. Rest in peace, Abuelo!

Despite the sad news about Abuelo, we still had a really nice weekend in Massachusetts. Here’s my recap!

Friday

Fabio and I drove up to Massachusetts after work on Friday evening. We had a few pit stops to make first, so we didn’t really get on the highway until around 8:30 p.m.

At that point, we had a scary driving incident about 10 minutes into our drive – we narrowly avoided hitting a small deer, only to have car next to us clip it and send it flying into my passenger door, which left a nice dent, made a loud boom, and scared the crap out of us. Thank goodness it didn’t have antlers or it would have shattered the window for sure. It was definitely scary!

After that, the rest of our 6.5-hour drive was uneventful, and we arrived at 3:00 in the morning. We spent a few minutes chatting with CC and Steve over wine and late-night snacks before crawling into bed. The birds were chirping and the sun was starting to rise when we fell asleep!

Saturday

We slept in until about 10 a.m. on Saturday, and then enjoyed a nice breakfast at CC and Steve’s house. I just love it here!

The weather wasn’t looking too great on Saturday and we had afternoon plans to attend a concert at Tanglewood, so we stayed close to home during the day. The boys played a bunch of lawn games (kan jam, horseshoes, and a golf chipping game they made up) while CC and I lounged on the deck enjoying the intermittent sunshine, and crossing our fingers that the rain would stay away for just a little longer.

Eventually, it was time to head out for the concert! We drove over to the town of Lenox, MA, for some dinner before the concert, and then headed to the venue, Tanglewood. This concert venue is super popular for the Berkshires, so we’d been dying to check it out ever since CC and Steve bought a house here a few years ago.

It was drizzling when we arrived, so we were glad we had tickets under the “shed” area, which is the covered section of the venue.

There were plenty of people with lawn seats who were stuck out in the elements, but most of them looked pretty prepared with lots of umbrellas! The good thing about Tanglewood is that you can bring in your own coolers with alcohol and snacks, so it was really cool to see some of the elaborate set-ups. Some people even had tables, chairs, and candelabras!

We didn’t bring a cooler ourselves because we knew you weren’t allowed to bring them into the shed area, so we enjoyed some beers in a designated area of the concert venue. Cheers!

We also walked over to see the beautiful Stockbridge Bowl, which is a big lake with some beautiful rolling hills around it. It was pretty hard to see through the mist, but you could tell it was beautiful!

Then it was concert time! We wound up seeing John Mellencamp on Saturday evening, and I really enjoyed hearing his classic hits like Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good, and Pink Houses.

He did an amazing job and was a really great performer! His band really killed it too, especially the female violinist. Wow!

When we got home, we had some late-night dessert of homemade peanut butter pie courtesy of CC.

Yum!!

Then the boys played a bunch of games downstairs (per usual) before we all called it a night.

Sunday

CC and Steve had two friends coming down on Sunday, so we went to the nearby diner for a quick breakfast and then spent some time getting the house ready for the day ahead.

When their friends arrived at a little past noon, we got the kayaks and paddleboards ready for an afternoon on the lake!

CC and Steve’s friends brought their adorable lab Ellie along for the trip (we sadly left Jack with my mom this time) and she even went on the kayak!

It was SUCH a beautiful afternoon on the lake with perfect temperatures and plenty of sunshine, and we wore ourselves out paddling around for a couple of hours.

When we got back to the house, we enjoyed a lovely happy hour on the deck!

It was around this time that Fabio got the call about his grandfather, so we stepped away from the festivities for a while so he could talk to his family members and coordinate his trip to Bolivia. It was a much more subdued night for us after that, but when we were ready to rejoin the group we enjoyed a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken, ribs, corn, and squash salad. Everyone was very understanding and sympathetic to Fabio, and I’m glad we had them there for extra support.

Monday

Monday morning was another beautiful day in Otis!

We all decided we wanted to go on an early morning bike ride, so we got ourselves ready to go and hit the road! I borrowed CC’s mountain bike, and though it was pretty challenging to keep up with the rest of the group who were all on road bikes, I think I did a pretty good job!

The views were gorgeous as well, and I enjoyed checking out all the lakes and ponds that we passed.

This was my first time riding a bike while being clipped in (other than on a stationary bike), so it took me some time to practice clipping out before stopping, but eventually I got the hang of it. I’m sure I’ll get better with practice too!

We wound up covering 20 miles (well, 19.9, which drove CC and me crazy) before heading back to the house.

At this point I did some work for a while, and then later in the afternoon we headed out for some more stand up paddle-boarding and kayaking!

We took it easier on Monday and spent more time relaxing and soaking up the sun on our boards compared to the more strenuous paddling from the day before. Ellie came again, and rode in the car with us on the way back.

In the afternoon, we had another concert at Tanglewood on the agenda (like I said, it’s a big summertime thing to do out in the Berkshires!), this time to see James Taylor. We stopped for dinner in Lenox again and enjoyed a nice meal outside at Firefly.

CC and I both ordered the white peach sangria, which was quite delicious.

And we got a bunch of appetizers to share for the table. Yum!

For my entree, I got a salad made with arugula, goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, pistachios, and lobster, with a side order of truffle fries for good measure. 🙂 It was such a fun way to kick off the evening!

Then it was concert time! The Stockbridge Bowl was looking much prettier than it did on Saturday, now that the skies were clear.

We also brought a cooler and a picnic blanket this time, which meant we could enjoy our beverages right on the lawn.

The whole group of us!

The vibe for this concert at Tanglewood was really fun with lots of families picnicking, drinking, and playing lawn games. James Taylor performs every July 4 weekend at Tanglewood, and, according to Steve, it’s basically a Berkshires right of passage to go see him. There were tons of families who clearly come to the concert every year, and Fabio and I thought this would make a really fun tradition. We hope we can go back next year!

When it was time for the concert, we moved our cooler over to a spot near our seats (which were under the shed again) and we picked a spot that was also close to the bathrooms and the exit. Excellent game plan!

Though we couldn’t take our cooler or our drinks into the shed, we chose a spot under a tree that was pretty inconspicuous, and no one wound up stealing it or anything while we were at our seats. During the intermission we all came out to enjoy another drink, which worked out perfectly!

Truthfully James Taylor is not my favorite performer – I think his music is a little slow – but we had such a fun time at the concert anyway! I would absolutely go back next year; the atmosphere is just so fun!!

Tuesday

On Tuesday morning we left Otis by 7:30 a.m. since we had a long drive ahead of us. We made it home in the early afternoon and then I dropped Fabio off at the airport. Now I’m working on this post and trying to decide if I feel like venturing out amidst the crowds to watch any fireworks. I’m thinking watching them at home on TV in my PJs is sounding like a better option after this busy weekend! 🙂

Question(s) of the day: How often do you go to concerts? Do you like watching fireworks?

 Posted by on July 5, 2017
Jun 282017
 

Hello there! Today I’m coming at you with the first recap of our amazing two-week honeymoon vacation in Thailand! Our first stop was Bangkok, where we only stayed for one day. We were told by friends who had visited Bangkok previously that we probably didn’t need to allocate more than a day or two to seeing Bangkok’s sights before moving on to the rest of the country, so we took that advice to heart!

Our trip began with a 9:50 p.m. flight out of Dulles the day after our wedding. That day was such a whirlwind – we woke up as husband and wife, enjoyed breakfast with our wedding guests, packed up everything at the hotel, came home to do some laundry and swap suitcases, and then headed to the airport. Phew!

When we arrived at Dulles airport, we realized we were able to access the airport lounges through a travel credit card that Fabio has (I think it’s Chase Sapphire Preferred, but I’m only like 80% sure about that). Anyway, we got into the lounge and took advantage of free champagne! Woohoo! Kicking off our honeymoon in style. 🙂

Cheers!

We then embarked on a 12.5-hour flight to Qatar via Qatar Airways. In case you’re wondering where Qatar is, it’s here:

The country is actually having some diplomatic issues right now so we weren’t sure if our flight would be affected, but luckily it wasn’t. By the way, Qatar Airways is very nice (it is usually ranked either the best or second-best airline) and we had a very comfortable flight. We were pretty tired from the wedding, so we slept the whole way!

As our flight was landing, the flight attendants came around serving breakfast to everyone (although it was early afternoon in Qatar and they called it lunch – it felt like breakfast to us). Fabio and I had read that the Doha airport in Qatar had tons of nice restaurants, so we decided to skip the airplane meal thinking that we’d get something to eat at the airport. Then of

Then of course we landed and the flight attendant made an announcement reminding us that since it was Ramadan, eating in public in Qatar is prohibited until 6:30 p.m. Um, what?? Noooo!!! We definitely were not planning for this, and I was wondering if I was going to have to smuggle one of the protein bars I had in my carry-on into a bathroom stall or something.

Once we got off the plane we asked more about Ramadan customs at the airport information desk, and we were told that while the restaurants remain open, it would be pretty disrespectful to eat at them, but ultimately the choice was up to us. I asked if drinking water at the gate was ok, and again was told that it was up to us. Well ok then.

Luckily we found another one of those airport lounges that we were allowed to access through Fabio’s credit card perks, and I was SO happy to see that everyone inside (who was also a tourist) was eating and drinking. THANK GOODNESS! I don’t know what we would have done otherwise, since we still had another 7-hour flight ahead of us to Bangkok. Phew.

There were some other interesting sights at the Doha airport, including this weird teddy bear art installation and some cool middle-Eastern/deserty things. 🙂

Then after a pretty uneventful flight, we arrived in Bangkok! We took the Bangkok airport skytrain (also called the Link) out to the very last stop on the red/blue line, Phaya Thai, and from there got in a taxi headed to our hotel near Khao San Road. Todo, we are not in Kansas anymore!

Quick note for anyone looking to book a stay in Bangkok: We chose to stay close to Khao San Road, which is a really fun/popular area with lots of night markets, clubs, bars, restaurants, etc., but we didn’t stay on Khao San Road because we’d read it can be kind of loud and noisy. Our hotel, Casa Nithra, was about a 10-minute walk to the really popular area, which wound up being perfect for us!

When we checked in to Casa Nithra, we were greeted with the most amazing chilled Thai tea drinks (something we found all throughout our Thailand travels!) and were thrilled to find out our room was ready early. Thank goodness, as we really needed to shower after all that time spent on planes! After freshening up, we headed up to the hotel roof to check out the view of Bangkok.

The area where we stayed is also much more “old city” compared to the neighborhoods with lots of modern high-rises, which I was ok with. I like seeing the old culture much more!

Then we headed out to begin our adventures! (BTW – Thailand is 11 hours ahead of D.C., so it was around 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning by this point. Mind-boggling for sure!)

Our planned agenda for the day was to walk to the Grand Palace to visit the Emerald Buddha and see our first temple, Wat Pho, to check out the reclining Buddha, but a super sweet pedestrian stopped us in the middle of the sidewalk to ask us where we were going, and told us that there was a special ceremony for the King happening at the Grand Palace that day and that if we wanted to go, we’d need to be dressed in black with long sleeves and pants, and would have to wait about four hours to get in. Ok then, back to the drawing board. She helpfully told us about a few other tourist stops we could see nearby, and even told us how much we should pay for a tuk-tuk (basically little open-air, three-wheeled taxis) to take us to all the places.

Fabio and I were both waiting for her to sell us a tour or something, but with a friendly wave, she went on her way. This was our very first insight into the Thai culture and gave us a preview for the kind of generosity and hospitality we’d discover throughout the rest of our two-week Thailand trip. The people here are just genuinely kind (I think the Buddhist religion is a big reason for this) and so helpful!

Here we are in our first tuk-tuk!

Our first stop was Wat Intharawihan, a temple with a huge standing Buddha. The temple itself was really lovely, with lots of gold, ornate details (which we came to find is typical for almost all temples, or wats, in Thailand).

Then we saw the big standing Buddha! It was…big. Lol.

Then we hopped back in our tuk-tuk (the driver waited for us outside of each stop) and headed off to the Golden Mount, or Wat Saket. You had to climb 344 steps to get to the top of the Golden Mount, but there were lots of interesting little sculptures along the way to keep you entertained.

And there was even some “wildlife.” Yuck.

Halfway to the top, there was a little coffee shop (we came to find out coffee shops are EVERYWHERE in Thailand), so we stopped for iced cappuccinos. Yes please! It was hot in Bangkok!

We made it to the top!

And we looked like total tourists once we got there. 🙂

The wat was really interesting because there were lots of people praying and making offerings to Buddha, so Fabio and I just kind of quietly walked around and tried to be respectful. You are also supposed to cover your shoulders and thighs in wats out of respect, but since our plans had changed in the morning I didn’t bring anything with me for this, and it didn’t seem to be a big deal in these particular wats (there were others, especially in Chiang Mai, where I definitely had to wear extra clothing to cover myself).

After the Golden Mount, our tuk-tuk driver took us to a suit-maker! The Thais make excellent custom suits, so it’s a popular stop for tourists. Fabio wound up getting a couple suits and shirts, and spent tons of time haggling down the price. I always think this is so awkward, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to get ripped off.

The suits actually should be arriving at our house this week – they are quick!

After this stop we decided we were hungry, so we asked our driver to take us somewhere for lunch. I have no idea where he took us, but it was a cute little spot right on the river and we had fun watching some big fish and lizards jumping around in the water. Note to all: Do not swim in that river. Ever.

For our meal, we got some Tom Yum soup (with chicken since Fabio is allergic to shrimp, which is more traditional in this soup) and Pad Thai. Everything was phenomenal!! Sigh. I miss Thai food already. The flavors are so unique!

And even though we were full, we had to get mango sticky rice for dessert. It’s our absolute favorite, and this one did not disappoint! YUM!

After lunch, it was time for our final stop of the day: a boat tour along the canals! Our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the docks, and we couldn’t believe how cheap our day with him had been. For the whole day’s worth of stops, he charged us just 70 baht per person. This comes out to $4 total!! All of the other tuk-tuk rides we took during our trip were slightly more expensive than this, so it goes to show how much they increase their prices for tourists versus when we had the helpful Thai lady tell us how much to pay. Our tuk-tuk driver had also been really friendly, so we gave him a nice tip before saying goodbye.

Then it was onto the boat!

This was such a cool way to explore Bangkok, especially since so much of it relies on the canals and waterways. We got to see lots of cool houses, shops, and wats!

At one point we slowed down so a woman on a small wooden boat could offer us souvenirs and snacks. Ice cold beers? Don’t mind if we do!

The local Thai beer brands – Chang and Singha – are both delicious too!

At one point we stopped along a little set of concrete steps that led down to the water (these are everywhere, and seem to be like docks for the locals to access the river) and saw a little boy throwing bread into the water. Remember how I said don’t swim in this water? Yeah. There’s about a million big fish in there, and even some alligator-sized lizards. Yeesh! Fabio and I were both wondering how safe we were in our wooden boat. LOL!

Soon enough, our tour concluded at the Grand Palace!

Once again we thought about visiting the palace, but were told by a few other helpful people that we’d have to be wearing all black and would have to wait a long time because of the King’s special ceremony. Darn. Next time, Bangkok!

After this, we strolled around for a while, looked into some shops, got quick 30-minute foot massages (this is very common in Thailand and massage places are everywhere), and then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. The jet-lag was catching up to us!

When we were ready to resurface, we got changed and ready for dinner at the famous Sky Bar! We had heard that Sky Bar was ridiculously overpriced (it was) but that the views were worth it (they were). Plus we received money from our wedding to use for the honeymoon, and we figured our friends and family would want us to have a nice, romantic dinner out!

We hopped in another tuk-tuk (about 100 baht this time) and made our way across town!

When we arrived around 9:00 p.m., we saw that it (thankfully) wasn’t too crowded and we were able to really enjoy the view!

Hello, Bangkok! You are beautiful!

A table was ready for us in no time, and we enjoyed some delicious cocktails while we waited for our food. We weren’t too hungry after the big lunch, and since the menu was pretty pricy we decided to share a steak dish. It was pretty tasty, but nothing crazy, especially considering the price. Clearly, you are paying for the atmosphere here.

Despite the relatively expensive bill, we had an amazing time! I’m so glad we decided to trust our gut and go to this beautiful spot.

Me and my husband!! <3

After Sky Bar, we took a tuk-tuk down to Khao San Road and walked around for a while ogling at the crazy bar scene. Most of the parties were in full swing when we arrived, so we had fun walking around and watching lots of rowdy and drunk tourists. We weren’t really in the mood to try to catch up with them, so we decided people-watching was good enough for us. We also passed a number of vendors selling all kinds of delicious-smelling street food, and even some trays of bugs for tourists to try! Eek! No thank you.

When we’d had enough, we walked back to our hotel and fell asleep instantly. What a fun day in Bangkok!

The next morning, we headed off to Chiang Mai! More adventures to come!

Question(s) of the day: Would you try eating a bug? Would you have gone to the expensive restaurant or skipped it?

 Posted by on June 28, 2017