food

Switzerland: Skydiving The Alps & Plates of Lies

Continuing our journey, our next step was in Zurich, Switzerland. We took a 4 hour or so train from Munich to Zurich. Getting around Zurich is really easy as long as you can get to the main station. Everything feeds out of there and made getting to and from our hotel and the city center a breeze. We set up shop at the Hotel Allegra which was about 15 minutes by train from the main station.  Overall, I found Zurich to be a really nice, clean and accessible city. People spoke english just about every where you would need them to and it made getting around really easy. The one thing I was looking forward to most on this entire trip (along with Oktoberfest) was skydiving over the swiss alps.

switzerland-skydive-me-upside-down-vid

For our first day we didn’t have anything planned and instead just grabbed dinner in the city. Our ‘group leaders’ are vegan and found a place (Hiltl) that worked for them which actually ended up being the oldest vegan restaurant in Switzerland (or maybe just Zurich). I don’t think everyone knew that it was a fully vegan place and seeing things at the buffet like calzones with ham and cheese, or chicken nuggets, was misleading. As my buddy Kevin said after learning of the full vegan menu… “this is a plate of lies”. I don’t mind eating vegan foods, I can eat veggies and fruits… it’s when they try to pass things off for meat that I get sad :(. (more…)


Germany: Oktoberfest, Pork Knuckles and… Oktoberfest

After arriving by plane into Germany’s Munich airport I rushed to try and find a sim card while the rest of the group was pulling their bags. I found out that all the sim card stores had closed just 5 minutes ago. We were met by a very cheery Johannes (our airbnb host) and his father. They had a sign made up for us and quickly took us to their vehicles which were waiting outside. They had a large 9 person van and a 5 person car waiting for our group.germany-oktoberfest-me-britt-aussies

After a 45 minute or so car ride we arrived to the airbnb which is about 35 minutes from Munich city center where Oktoberfest is. We had the top floor of a 3 story house and the 12 of us slept in 4 different rooms. The place was spacious and our hosts were really friendly. The spoke english really well which made making plans throughout our stay much easier. They had a traditional German meal prepared for us and kept the beer flowing. (more…)


London Town: Mates, Markets and The Return of the Mexican

While my trip to London wasn’t what I had originally planned it to be, I made the most out of my few days there. The original plan was to meet the writer for my book there for a few days of research. He had to change plans and instead of losing about $800 in airfare and lodging, I decided to play the tourist for a few days.

london thymes river london eye from far

I arrived to Heathrow around 4pm and walked to the underground, stopping along the way for some SIM cards. I  broke my own rule by not making sure the cards worked before leaving the store and, sure enough, the cards I got for my MIFI didn’t work. In a place like Asia it would not have been that big of a deal, but in London those cards cost me around 30 Euros. With no way of getting in touch with this little bodega, I’ve already disputed the charge thru my CC company.

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Bordeaux… Each Trip, Better Than The Last

I detailed my last trip to Bordeaux so I am not going to spend too much time going into a lot of detail here. The trip was really interesting and it was a lot of family time and a lot of time spent learning more details about my grandfather (www.morhangenetwork.com) and the people who helped him during WWII. This trip was unique, though, in that it was with much of my family. My sister and brother in law, my mother and father, 2 of my cousins and my aunt all joined me on the journey and, seeing as it was there first time meeting all these great french individuals, it was quite special to be able to share that all with them.

bordeaux-pit-stop-shack-warmer-temp-1

A bunch of these photos are from my sister as I just didn’t carry my camera around all the much. So photo cred to Rachel Meyerowitz.

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Lions, Tigers and Lady Boys… O My!

I love me some Chiang Mai. What a cool place to visit and a fun place to hang around for a week. Marina and me were only supposed to be in chiang mai for a couple of days, but after checking the weather down in the islands, we decided to stay longer. The weather was supposed to be pretty ugly and considering the only real things to do in the islands is water related, I decided I would hang in Chiang Mai.

thailand-chiang-mai-tigers-baby-payI have a friend living in CM who I met last december when I was here last so I was looking forward to seeing him and also just looking forward to staying in one place for a little while. We’ve been constantly moving and only spending a few days in any given city. I was really happy to just hang in CM and spend some time with my friend, Phil, and just relax for the last part of my trip. (more…)


Hoi An: Cooking Classes and New Friends

Our trip to the quant little town of Hoi An was a pleasant one. We stayed at the Hoi An Ancient House Village Resort and Spa, which was beautiful. It is surrounded by rice paddies and our villa (we got upgraded on arrival) overlooked the fields. It was excellent.

vietnam-hoi-an-rice-fields-sunset-blue

Trip advisor was a great resource all throughout our trip. If you haven’t used it for travel, you really should. A lot of the restaurants and group tours that we found throughout the month of traveling came off of TA. (more…)


Vespas, Wine Bars, Wind Chimes & Fancy Hats

Saigon

So I made a bit of a booboo when booking our first stop in Vietnam. I honestly had no idea that Saigon and Ho Chi Minh were the same place. I had heard not so great things about Saigon but good things about HCM (in conversations with different people who referred to the city by different names). So after I booked our trip to HCM and realized later that it was Saigon, I was a bit hesitant. However, after spending a few days there, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

We got to HCM around 4pm, checked into our hotel (Pullman Saigon Centre) and got up to the room. The hotel is really beautiful and modern looking with funky light fixtures, couches and tables in the rooms. There is also a beautiful pool overlooking the city and the hotel staff (namely the concierge) were excellent.  I was waiting for a replacement debit card and they kept an eye out for it and made arrangements with me incase it didn’t arrive in time. They also had plenty of suggestions for restaurants and helped set us up several times with taxis and transportation to and from the airport. A+ service.

vietnam-saigon-locksmith

We booked a Vespa tour of the city while still in cambodia and we got picked up right around 6pm. It was raining but after confirmation from the tour operator that the trip was, indeed, on, we met the guys on the vespa’s outside the hotel. They had super fancy ponchos ready for us and in a few minutes we were on our way.

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Pig Roasts, Scuba and Bday Parties in Sanur

Our last stop in Bali was in Sanur. We were able to get hooked up with two villas in the same complex, about 200 feet from each other. Our first night there we had a suckling pig on a spit cookout. We made a feast. It was the 15 of us and also some friends of one of the girls parents. It was Sue (julia’s mom) birthday week and we had a great time celebrating with Sue, Allan and their friends.

bali-sanur-pig-on-spit

The next day was an early one as we got picked up for scuba around 730. The whole group was going this time which was great. Some would be snorkeling and some would scuba. We got to the boat dock and headed out for Manta Point (where we’d swim with big manta rays) and Crystal Bay. It was a great day of diving and it was nice to have everyone together.  (more…)


Ubud: Monkeys, Cock Fights & The MOST INSANE VILLA EVER

We left our awesome villas down in seminyak and headed into the mountains. Not knowing what to expect I was about to be pleasantly surprised. We split into 3 vehicles for the approx 2hour ride up to the villa ‘compound’ in Ubud. We stop along the way at Indus, a beautifully situated mountain side restaurant. The view overlooked a deep valley and the mountains on the other side were striking. The food was excellent and we all proceeded on towards the villa.

When I pulled up to the villa and walked around the wall obstructing the view, my jaw dropped. I tried my hardest to get a good shot on my camera, but the angles just weren’t working out. I’ve included a shot from vrbo below. The places was SICK!!! 2 huge villas connected by a tremendous infinity pool all with a view out across to a mountain in the distance. The staff working at the compound was superb and they made us dinner 2 nights and breakfast both mornings. All the food was superb and the large 20 person table was well displayed/presented with food and table settings.

ubud bali whole crew from below

Dinner the first night was chicken satay, rice, veggies, fruit and some kind of curry. All excellent. Breakfast the next morning was american style with eggs, bacon, fruit, sausage, etc.

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Cambodia: Not For Human Consumption

Visa Schmeeza

So here we sit. We are in the airport in Cambodia (siem reap), where we’ve been stranded for a few hours. Poor planning on our part, but apparently you need a visa prior to arrival for vietnam. We thought we could grab one on arrival as we did in cambodia and as you can in many places. Once we were denied checkin, we jumped online to myvietnamvisa.com to try and get our visas arranged. they have an expedited option for 79.00 for two people. After 2 hours, and having not received our email yet with our visa letter, I asked one of the agents at the desk if they could recommend another site. They said to try govietnamvisa.com. I chatted with a support rep there and they assured me we could get a visa within the hour. I canceled the request with myvietnamvisa and paid the $140 for a guaranteed 1 hr turn around. We got our new visa and, having missed our flight, rebooked for a 20$ fee for the new flight. It was an adventure and a lesson learned for sure. Just one more thing in the list of things that cambodia kicked our asses on. More to follow.angkor wat temple in cambodia at sunrise from the front hdr

Back to the start

We had two flights to take to get from Bali to Cambodia. The first was a 4+ hour flight from bali to bangkok and then about 1+ hour flight from bangkok to cambodia. The flights were pretty standard although neither had any entertainment. Getting into cambodia we needed a headshot (again, didnt know this). I happened to have a copy of my passport so they used that. After, I realized I could have just paid a $1 and they would have made a copy of my passport photo.

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Bali Butt, Roosters, BBQ, Sushi and Submarines

Our first stop in Bali was over in Seminyak. Once I got through immigration I was greeted by the driver from our villa. We made a stop to pick up sim cards for my phone (unlocked iphone) and mifi unit (this one). It took about 30 minutes and cost about $40 for everything. There is just something very reassuring and comforting knowing that you have cell service wherever you are. Lots of the other people on the trip relied on wifi at restaurants or bars, but I prefer to have the constant connection. It gives me a bit of peace of mind to know that if I get separated or lost, I can just pull out my phone and make a call or pull up google maps.. It’s also important for me to have ‘reliable’ (this is said with a grain of salt in asia) wifi seeing as most hotels or in this case villas have TERRIBLE wifi connections and I would need to be doing some work during the trip.

Seminyak is pretty accessible although it is a complete free-for-all when it comes to driving on the road. Between the scooters and taxis, you really have to pay attention to whats going on. The area we stayed in was pretty well populated and our villa was located just a few short turns off the main strip. The beach was about a 10 minute walk and all the shops and restaurants we need were between us and there. If you are interested in getting a villa here in bali, you should check out Villa Zara in seminyak.

our villa and cabana in seminyak, bali indonesia

I arrived at the villa and was greeted by everyone with a big “happy birthday” (it was my 30th on the day of my arrival).We had secured two villas right next to each other which made making plans and partying super easy. We divided up the rooms and starting boozing. Each villa had 4 bedrooms surrounding a large pool area.

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Off To Asia, Again.

If you are connected to me at all on social media you know that I am currently in Asia (first stop Bali) for a month long excursion. The more I travel, the more I want to travel. I thought that a 7.5 week trip (last nov-dec) would help subdue my travel bug, but alas, it has not. This trip all came together when a buddy of mine invited me to join a group of his friends in Bali for 10 days. I looked up some flight options, checked my points balances over on AwardWallet.com and the next day made my commitment. Ill try to give a brief explanation here about the flights I took with the costs. There are a LOT of flights this month and a lot of moving parts.

The Trip

If you’ve read any of this blog you know I am a miles and points junky and never pass up a good opportunity for a big win. So, now I am in Bali. How did I get here, you might ask. How much did it cost? Did I fly with miles or pay out of pocket?

The plan is to stay with my buddy and his friends here in Bali (Seminyak, Ubud, Sanur) for about 9-10 nights and then travel on with my new friend, Marina (who I met through this trips facebook group), to Cambodia for 3 days then Vietnam for about 8 nights and then spend 6 nights in Thailand. When I threw it out to the group to see if anyone wanted to continue traveling beyond the bali portion, Marina jumped right on board. She is traveling for more than 6 months after quitting her job and getting rid of her house. I was more than happy to have a travel buddy as I tend to travel alone a lot and was looking forward to having someone to share my experiences with. We met when I moved to san diego and realized very quickly that we would mesh well as travel companions.

The round trip flight cost me exactly…. wait for it…. $45. Total Freaking Score. I was able to book the flight with the help of Trav over at extrapackofpeanuts.com. I would normally book this myself, but it was a complicated routing (explained below) so I thought I would secure the help of a real award flight booking pro.

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First Few Weeks In SD

So I’m on a flight back to NY for about 10 days for some weddings and to be with my dad for a surgery. My first 2.5 weeks in San Diego have been GREAT! It has been exactly what I wanted/needed and I feel like I am on a good path to success out here. My days have been filled with activities (and tacos) and I’ve been meeting some great people.

 My roommates are pretty cool and we have a couple of dogs wandering around the place which is cool. The weather has been mostly excellent and I’ve been getting into the cali lifestyle. The only time I’ve worn sneakers has been to go to the gym (otherwise im wearing sandals) and I think I’ve worn jeans twice. I’ve been doing my best to get acclimated to the lifestyle and think its going ok. There has been a couple of times at restaurants where I had to stop my self from the typical NY’er reaction when things where taking to long. But I’m working on my patience.

One of the best things I had the pleasure of doing since I got to SD was learning to Scuba. I signed up for a NAUI course (similar to PADI) and have done my coursework and 2 pool dives. It has gone great and I am looking forward to doing my ocean dives when I get back to SD in late April. The timing should work out great as I am going to Asia again in May-June.

[below, the Flower Fields, in Carlsbad, Ca]

Carlsbad, California - Flower Fields

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Japan: Food Poisoning & Saki Bombs

I apologize in advance for the lack of detail on this post. I really slacked and waited a month to write it… oops.

So I arrived in tokyo after a very long day of traveling between phuket and kuala lumpur and then on to Tokyo. We deplaned and went through immigration where they absolute TORE apart my bag. I really think these guys get a kick out of this. They rip your bag apart and leave it up to you to put everything back together. I understand WHY they look through the bag, just think they could be ‘nicer’ about. 

japan-shibuya-two-girls-walking

After getting through immigration I exchanged some money that I had brought with me from thailand. My hopes of getting a sim card (i knew the chances were low seeing as it was 1130pm) were squashed pretty quickly. There was really NOTHING open in the airport between leaving security and leaving the airport. 

I was nervous as I didn’t have any way of getting in touch with my airbnb host or knowing if the driver was going the right way without internet or phone service. I knew that taxis were EXTREMELY expensive (about $75 to drive less then 5 miles and less then a 15 minute trip) but at that point of the day I didn’t want to have to try and figure out the local subway. I made it to the airbnb without any troubles though and checked in with my hosts who were super nice and had a really sweet spot overlooking tokyo tower.

The plan for my 4 full days in Japan was to spend my first half day around tokyo and then head to kyoto on the bullet train for two nights. After a good nights sleep I ran around tokyo and got as much done as possible. I hit Harajuku (this crazy busy block with so many people walking down it that you could barely move). I got over to the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park. I got more street/people photography done in a half a day then almost the entire rest of the trip. Tokyo was a cool place and was pretty easy to get around via the subway. I only had about 5 hours to roam around town before getting to the bullet train station to head to kyoto. 

So this was a pain in the ass. I bought my bullet train ticket (i thought) all through a website i found online. Essentially i only paid for the ticket but still had to go pick it up. One thing to note about Japan, they LOVE heat. They love it on the subways, they love it in restaurants, they love it in stores and shops. They blast the heat in some places at like 85 degrees. It was so hot in the bullet train ticket office that i literally gasped when I walked in. Spending an hour in there to get my ticket actually printed was no fun. Suggestion to anyone looking to take that train, I’m sure there is an easier way of getting your ticket… figure out what it is and do it. 

The bullet train itself was actually really nice. I don’t spend much time on trains here in the states other than back and forth to manhattan, but these trains were pretty upscale. They had power outlets at every seat, wifi, beverage and food service, etc. The seats were really spacious and the overall experience was great. It didn’t really feel like it was going any faster then a normal train, but it sure did look cool when it pulled into the station. 

Kyoto

I am going to talk about 2 things in regards to my trip to kyoto. First, I had one of the coolest experiences at dinner while at my airbnb. Second, that great experience was followed by one of the worst nights of being sick in my life. 

I got to my airbnb which was an old 2 story home which featured a “samurai” style japanese restaurant on the first floor and a small 3 bedroom apartment on the second floor.  It was by far the least modern place I had stayed at throughout the whole trip but did have a bit of ‘charm’ to it. The rooms were all small, the ceilings were low, and the bathroom was just barely big enough to were I could close the door while sitting on the toilet (this would be important later as I spent much of the night cramped in this little hole of a room). 

The host was nice, spoke english and showed me around. I figured the place would suffice as I didn’t plan on spending much time there other then to sleep. I had a lot of places to visit and sites to see. Kyoto features some of the oldest temples still standing in Japan after WWII so I was looking forward to getting some great shots.  It has features Geishas in certain neighborhoods and I was looking forward to trying to get some photography done for that as well. 

I went down to the restaurant to grab some dinner and figured I’d just pass out early and get an early start to the day. The whole restaurant seated maybe 20 people and I was put at a table next to a group of 10 japanese young adults. I don’t really remember how it happened but we engaged each other in conversation and started chatting. About an hour later we were all laughing and sharing drinks and talking about our respective cultures and ways of life. They were all extremely interested in what it was like to live in the US and what I wanted to do with my life and what I believed in, etc. It was kind of flattering that they took such an interest but I think it was a matter of respect for them as well. They had welcomed a new friend into their group and really made me feel like a part of their crowd.

We sat on the floor for 2 hours and shared stories. Ikumi , the 26yr old girl I was sitting next to, refilled my glass when I finished each drink. It is bad form to fill your own glass as I would learn so I was more than happy to oblige. They each shared their business cards with me and they presented them to me like a gift, with the utmost respect. It was just a very interesting experience. 

I brought my own “flare” to the exchange as well. I couldn’t believe it, but they had never heard of saki bombs (dropping a shot of saki into a beer and drinking it all at once). So that lead to about a dozen saki bombs which they really got a kick out of. They told me about their favorite comic, “One Piece”, and Nobu (one of the guys) shared his love of “Bushido” (the samurai way/lifestyle) and recommended a great book to read (which I am currently reading now). We all did some laughter yoga at the table (which is essentially just belting out some great big laughs.. its invigorating).

The whole dinner experience was just one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences during the whole entire 7 week trip. It was, unfortunately, followed by the worst experiences of the trip. As we neared the end of dinner I started feeling some stomach cramps. I didn’t think much of it though and we all said our goodbyes,  expressing our gratitudes and pleasures to meet each other and went on our way.  I retired back to the apartment upstairs and got some photo editing done. 

The next 7 hours was filled with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced. I could not keep anything in my system. My body rejected anything that came in. Without getting to graphic, I don’t think that little 4 foot by 3 foot bathroom will ever recover. It got to the point, around 3:30am, that I decided I had to go to the hospital. I was completely dehydrated and had no nutrients in my system what-so-ever. I was cramping up and could barely move from exhaustion. 

I will have to give some major credit to my airbnb host who drove me to the hospital and translated for me for 2 hours. Thank god he was there because I don’t know how i would have gotten the medical attention I needed without him. The whole hospital visit including an IV drip and other medications cost me a grand total of …. wait for it…. $190. A trip like that would have cost easily several thousand dollars here in the states. By the time we left I was feeling a bit better and at least got some electrolytes in my system via the IV.

That was my whole kyoto experience. What was supposed to be a big highlight of my trip with views of old temples and geishas and the real “old japan” was summed up to a great meal in a restaurant and a hospital visit. I had no energy to do anything the next day and while I was supposed to stay another night, I really just wanted to get back to the much more comfortable airbnb in Tokyo. I got back on the bullet train and headed back where my hosts there was nice enough to open their place to me a day early.

The next day and a half I spent trying to keep some food down and doing a bit more touring around and grabbing some photos. 

I did not get to eat all the food I had planned on eating while in Japan and certainly am planning on going back and doing it right. Overall, thought, it was a great experience to add to the entire journey. The japanese 20 somethings that I met gave me some really cool perspective of japanese culture and left me wanting more for sure. 

japan-yoyogi-park-tree-on-top japan-minato-statue-and-pinwheel japan-minato-water-dripping japan-shibuya-girl-cryingjapan-shinjuku-women-with-statue


Phuket, Thailand

I had been looking forward to Phuket since the very start of my trip planning. I had seen pictures of islands like Koh Phi Phi and just couldn’t wait to get there for all the great photography potential. I was also looking forward to doing some fishing (I’ve been fishing my whole life and love to do it in foreign places).

So I left Chiang Mai and took the short flight down to Phuket. The airport was about an hour from the hotel and I had arranged a pickup through the hotel (Le Meridian Phuket). It was around 230 by the time I got there so I just hit the beach for an hour or two and grabbed some dinner at the hotel buffet. I was in Phuket for 3 nights and had excursions planned for both days. I had to be up bright and early for a fishing trip the next day so I had an early night.

Koh Phi Phi Island near Phuket (more details below)koh phi phi phuket thailand boats in the waterThe pick up for fishing was around 8:15 and we picked up the rest of the guests and arrived at the pier about an hour later. Two my ‘dismay’ none of my fellow fisherman (and women) spoke english. Instead I had been teamed up with 8 burley russians. I had been in touch with the company prior to the trip and was pretty clear that I was hoping for some english speaking guests and also a good day of catching BIG fish. While the trip was fun, neither of these things happened. I wanted to catch big marlin and tunas and instead we caught little 3-5lb blue fin tunas. (more…)


Lady Boys, Elephants, Muy Thai and more

Thailand continues to get better. My next stop on my trek was Chiang Mai, which is south of Chiang Rai but still north of Bangkok. I had my friend Elyse from Chiang Rai set me up with a friend of hers in Chiang Mai which ended up being a really great connection. 

I took a 3 hour taxi ride from the hotel in CR down to my hotel in CM. I had a few other options but this seemed best. Considering all the gear that I had with me, this felt like the best bet. A bus would have cost me $5-$10 and the taxi ended up costing me about $85. It was a pleasant ride, with water provided and the ability to stop when I needed to. 

I arrived to my hotel around 7pm and got checked in. I was hoping for a better experience than I had up in CR and seeing as it was the same hotel brand, I was a bit nervous. I quickly realized that the staff here spoke much better English and they seemed to understand some of the more “complex” questions that I had. I was able to convince them to get me free Internet (the fact that hotels (especially expensive) ones still charge for Internet is a joke) and get an Ethernet cable sent to my room as well. 

street art in chiang mai thailand

A front desk agent took me to my room and showed me around a bit. It was nice, well laid out had a nice big bathroom and that same comfy bed and pillows I had in CR. The view from my room faced the mountains outside the city. The hotel food options were the same as in CR so I was really motivated to get out of the hotel. We were more centrally located this time so I figured it wouldn’t be as difficult. The hotel is about 20 minutes by foot to either the south gate or west gate. The old city is surrounded by a moat with “gates” on all 4 sides. The hotel is also locate literally one minute from the very famous night bazaar (more on this later). There were plenty of restaurants to go to during the day and plenty of street food stalls to try at night when the markets were going.  (more…)


Thailand Food

This post is going to be a bit rough as I am throwing it together pretty quickly.

My experience in Thailand with food has been GREAT! It has opened up a whole new world of food options for me. Whereas before I was afraid and didn’t understand Thai food, know I know what to eat, what things are, and what I like.

My first night in Chiang Mai I went to South Gate and tried a bunch of different things like chopped up pork leg w/ rice ($1), sticky rice and mango ($1), a pork skewer (5thb [1 usd=30thb]), spicy squid skewer (25thb). All this food cost me about $3 and it was all delicious.

I ate at “the kitchen” right next to my hotel for a couple of meals
Lunch – Phad grapao gai – fried basil leaves with chicken, spicy get it with a fried egg
Breakfast –  Tung tong (minced shrimp in wrap) – Noodle soup Chicken –
Lunch –  Nam (assortment of pork sausage), chiang Mai noodles, tung tong

Then I went over to Tha Phea Gate for breakfast another day and found some small fried eggs and some kind of spinach wrapped in noodle I got a few other skewers as well. The whole meal cost me about $2.

Phuket:

Street stall at BanZaan Marketing in Patong which is about 10 minutes away from my hotel. banzaan fresh market in phuket thailandPhad grapao gai – fried basil leaves with chicken, spicy get it with a fried egg IMG_1498Tung Tong – Minced shrimp in side an spring roll type shellIMG_1502 Noodle Soup with chickenIMG_1503Phil eating chicken intestines or maybe hearts, I don’t rememberIMG_1508

A sushi assortment at BanZaan Fresh Market in Patong in Phuket, ThailandIMG_1532Silkworm in Phuket (BanZaan)IMG_1533Grasshopper in Phuket (BanZaan)IMG_1534


Chiang Rai… Now HERE is Asia….

So I cancelled my plan of going to Bangkok because of the protests that are going on there currently. I decided instead to head to Chiang Rai. It came highly recommended by several friends and I had a friend of the family living there (teaching abroad) so it seemed like a good option. It turns out it was!

My friend Elyse is teaching in Mae Chan (?) and her friend Katelyn is teaching in Chiang Rai city center. They also had a few friends from their program (who are teaching south of bangkok) come up for the weekend. It was great to meet everyone and catch a glimpse of what these youngster are doing in there lives (early twenties). I wish I had the balls or the foresight to do this when I was there age. It seems incredible. They work during the week and travel around Thailand a lot on weekends. They have plans to go to Phuket and Malaysia for new years and once they are done with their 6months-1year of teaching they are going to continue to travel. It just seems like an awesome way to travel through Asia on the cheap and being able to take your time while doing it. Super jealous!

So, I arrived in Chiang Rai after a travel day from Singapore to Bangkok to Chiang Rai. I got to the airport here around 6pm. I had to buy a taxi ticket in the airport and unfortunately all the sim card stands were closed. So I was hoping for the best that my driver knew where he was going and that he wouldn’t veer off course. The taxi cost me about 200 Bhat (1USD=30bhat).. Everything in Thailand is SUPER CHEAP!!! (more on that later). I had forgotten what the exchange rate was when I went to the ATM at the airport so I had only taken out 1,000 Bhat (about $35) lol. I made another trip the next day after meeting my friends.

marionette horses at the night market in chiang rai

I have an entire post about the hotel so I won’t get into any detail about that here.

Getting around town is pretty easy. Chiang Rai “central” is pretty small and you could probably walk the whole thing in about 20 minutes. My hotel was a 10-15 minute cab ride (20 or so by tuk tuk). The people in town are all really friendly and they’ll often exchange a head bow or smile. The town is pretty touristy too with lots of white folk wondering around. There are backpackers and also lots of non locals that appear to be living here as well.

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First stop in “Asia”, Singapore

So my visit to singapore was short lived. I was only in town for a few days. I was excited to visit Asia for the first time and seeing as my friend just moved here a few months ago, I figured this was a good place to start. He works in the film industry in a managerial role for a visual effects studio.

I came into singapore with really no idea of what to expect. I had seen some pictures but really have spent more time focused on other parts of the trip like Europe and Thailand. So, with no expectations I arrived in Sinagpore around 5pm, picked up some sim cards for my cell phone and mifi and headed to my buddies place. It was about 25-30 minutes from the airport and the cab cost around 35 singapore dollars (.80 USD = 1 Singapore Dollar). I was pleasantly surprised by how many people in my initial interactions spoke pretty good english. It turns out that english is the official language in Singapore.

girl in broken tooth buddha temple in singapore

I immediately noticed that Singapore looked a lot like a western city. Big buildings, lots of familiar car brands, etc. The skyline is beautiful for sure and the new installations of the Marina Bay Sands and the Art and Science Center and the Gardens by the Bay are really nice standouts against an already well developed skyline. The city just looks very modern. (more…)


Food in France

The food throughout France was really good. I got spoiled down in Bordeaux and my hosts brought me to a couple really nice places. Le Entree Jardin and Cafe Lavinal (at the Lynch Bages Chateau) were both delicious.

My host (claudine) in bordeaux also cooked at least one meal for me just about everyday. We at everything (and drank a lot too). Between the saussison, and veal dishes, and soups… everything was GREAT!

My hosts in Paris cooked me homemade rabbit as well as sushi (one of my hosts was japanese). I also went to a place by the louvre and get a big hunk of steak tartar which was excellent (even though the waitress asked me three times if I was sure and if I understood that it was raw)

I went to Allen’s Market in Paris for thanksgiving dinner (read more in Paris Part 1)

Lastly, I got to eggs breakfast at the Park Hyatt (both of which ended up getting comped [good thing because the two added up to 75ish euros ($100 for two egg breakfasts lol) and they were OK. Not worth the cost.

Overall, french food (or the foods that I ate) was really good!! See some pictures below (they follow the descriptions above)

france-food-allens-market-scallops (more…)


Paris Part 1

So there I was in Paris. Fresh off my visit with my great friends in Bordeaux, I was looking forward to the city of lights. I’d heard great things and was also getting more excited to wrap up my European part of the trip. I was also extremely excited to get to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome. This is a super high class hotel that I was staying at for free (rooms start at around $1,000/night) because of a signup/spending bonus on my Hyatt card from Chase (2 free nights at any hyatt in the world after reaching the required spend)

Anyway, I’ve detailed my stay at the Vendome in THIS POST so I won’t describe the stay in this one.

After landing at ORY airport, south of Paris, I headed to the metro/shuttle that would take me right into the heart of town. I was advise prior to arrival that taxi’s from the airport can run as much as 60-70 euros (almost $100) so I figured I’d find another option. The orlyval (think thats what it’s called) runs a shuttle from the airport to a local metro stop. Then, switch to the metro and get off about a 10 minute walk from my friends place. Easy as pie.

street musicians in paris along the river seine

I met with friends and we toured around town a bit. We picked up some rabbit to cook at home and other then the weather being a bit crappy, it was a nice ‘welcome’ to the city. We got into the subway and on a bus so it helped me get acclimated for the rest of the trip.

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Uneventful Barcelona…

Perhaps I was overhyped for this leg of the trip. I was looking forward to Barcelona because most of my friends and people I’ve met so far have told me that Barcelona is great and I would really enjoy it. Perhaps is was the poor weather for the first 36 hours of my visit. Or perhaps it was the fact that my airbnb on my first night was shit and both of my hosts had the flu. Perhaps is was the fact that it was considerably more expensive then the rest of spain which I felt was all very reasonably priced.

Whatever the reason, I did not really enjoy my time in Barcelona. I found that while the Gaudi buildings were interesting and nice to look at, they were quite expensive and even the park was more than $10 for entrance… I mean its a park, come on guys…. (more info HERE)

main ceiling in la segrada familia in barcelona. a gaudi building

Some good things:

The metro was super easy to use and I was able to figure out which lines to take and where to enter etc pretty quickly.

My second airbnb was excellent. I was with a very nice couple around 30-35 years old. The girl spoke english while the guy did not. He was a chef and I don’t think she worked much (beyond managing the airbnb room and guests. I was able to have a couple of really nice and interesting conversations with her and learned that they will be flying to Mexico in january to prospect on buying some land there. The plan is to build a green home and bungalows and rent them. She was really sweet and made me feel very much at home even leaving breakfast for me each morning.

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Seville, Spain… Getting a little lonely

After 3 days in Seville I am starting to feel a little lonely. I have an airbnb here (when people have extra rooms they put them on airbnb and you can rent them) and my host is nice enough. However, he certainly is not a friend. He is not someone to share my experience with. And from such a great time with my hosts and friends in Madrid, this is a change for sure.

I think I’ve done a good job planning for the month of November though. I have a week with friends in Madrid. Then 4 days alone in Seville. Then 4 days with friends in Cadiz and then 4 days alone in Barcelona and about 2 weeks with friends in Bordeaux, Paris and Singapore.

Being alone isn’t all bad. I have as much time as I want to shoot my pics, visit the places I want, and spend as much time in whatever place I choose.

A girl sitting at a bar in Seville on the river:

girl sitting at a bar on the river in seville

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Last Stop in Madrid Area: Toledo, Spain!

My last stop in the Madrid area was to the south of Aranjuez in Toledo. It is called “the ‘City of the Three Cultures’ having been influenced by a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews” (according to my amazing research ability, aka wikipedia). The city is super old (no, I don’t know HOW old) and its coblestone streets and beautiful architecture really stand out.

We arrived around 3:00pm which worked out just fine as far as having enough time to see all the sites we needed to see. I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t be long enough, but the city is walkable in a couple of hours.

Just a sneak peak of photos from deeper in this post…

The big spectacle (as I like to call it) in the Church. This is a beautiful place with tons of great views.

the San Juan de los Reyes church in Toledo Spain

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