Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chiang Mai (City)

Ah, Thailand. People who have been there love it and those who haven't been can't wait to go. I was fortunate enough to return to Thailand last week for a bit of exploration and relaxing in Chiang Mai. Lucky me!

Chiang Mai is the so-called "capital" of northern Thailand. It is a university town and the second largest city in the country behind Bangkok. Chiang Mai is home to Thailand's second most important Wat (buddhist temple) and the royal family's winter palace. Set below green mountains and jungle-y terrain, Chiang Mai possesses a certain kind of shabby-chic charm that tourists love and locals seem to be proud of.

The locals in Chiang Mai are extremely friendly and helpful. As a tourist, this really meant a lot. Everyone from tour guides to well-meaning pedestrians had something friendly to say to us or had a friendly tip to share. Granted, tuk-tuk drivers were out to rip us off but everyone else seemed honest and happy to have us as visitors in their city.

Perhaps it is because everyone in Chinag Mai is taking it easy but, whatever the reason, the traffic in Chiang Mai was totally manageable. This meant renting a motorbike and hitting the streets was possible (which was key since there is no public transportation system in Chiang Mai)! Motorbikes offer toursits a great way to cover lots of ground in a short time at a low price. We rented our bike for THB200 and had it for 24 hours. Not a bad deal considering most tuk-tuk drivers charge THB100 for a 10 minute ride. What's more, riding motorbikes is hilarious, especially if you ride two-to-a-bike like Justin and I.

The night markets and bazaars in Chiang Mai are fantastic. Locally made art, handwoven silks and colorful embroidery, amongst many other things, fill the market's stalls. The Sunday night market is particularly noteworthy (and gigantic) and has a great street food section well worth filling up at.

The food in Chinag Mai is spicy and packed with flavor. Koh Soi is the go-to food in Chiang Mai and can be found roadside and in restaurants. Koh Soi is a spicy, curry-based soup noodle dish that is fantastic if you like curry and noodles (duh). The traditional northern style sausages in Chiang Mai are also worth sampling.

If you are looking to spend a night out on the town I have two suggestions for you. First, visit a Muai Thai fight in the "old city" and load up on beer as you place bets on the fights. Second, stop in at the Good View. The Good View is a big, riverside restaurant/bar that plays host to locals looking to get loose and tourists vying for late-night grub. It's relatively expensive but the service is good, the food is decent and the live band is a riot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back In Asia

Well, I'm back in Hong Kong after a long and glorious trip to the mother land. My time at home was wonderful beyond words. Though living abroad and traveling throughout Asia is amazing, seeing and spending time with family and old friends is pretty much unbeatable.

My mood upon returning to Hong Kong was much different than that of when I first departed for the country two years ago. Back then I was excited for the new adventure ahead of me. This time, I felt more reflective. Hong Kong is no longer as shiny and new as it once was, which made me consider questions of why I was returning and whether or not I should be in the States with my family. After several weeks on the beaches of Cape Cod and a very long trip (over 30 hours plus lost baggage) back to Asia by myself I resolved that Hong Kong is where I should be.

Justin is obviously a major cause for why I live here and him being in Hong Kong is reason enough for me to stay. However, there is more to my living here than him. Hong Kong offers a window on a part of the world that is rapidly changing and developing by the day. Asia is such an incredibly exciting place with so much to offer. I couldn't stand to be away from it right now! I still have lots of traveling to do--Cambodia, Japan, the Koreas, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Laos, southern Vietnam, Nepal, India, Mongolia--and I'm just not ready to throw in the towel yet.

I've struggled a lot with questions about my "career" and when I should suck it up and get on the fast track to success. The more I think about it though, the more I realize world travel is what is most important to me. Hopefully, my experiences abroad will one day lead to my dream job and lots of money. If they don't at least I got to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and enjoyed every minute. Who knows if I'd be making loads of money in New York if I was there right now? Chances are I probably wouldn't be. I'll find time for making money later. Right now it is all about the experiences and continuing to learn.

Here's to Asia Round 2!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reunification Palace


Reunification was once ironically known as Independence Palace and was home to Southern Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem and his family. Diem, often a brutal and unfair leader, worked closely with the U.S. during his Presidency and the American War. In 1975, Northern Vietnamese troops stormed the building during the fall of Saigon and claimed it (and the city) as their own. Since that time, the building hasn't changed much. In fact, it seems as if nothing has been touched or moved out of place since 1975. A trip here is like traveling back to a time when thick carpeting, brocaded drapes, and gold and green color schemes were all the rage.

Shooting range in the basement.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life By the Sea

Having spent a lot of time on the beach growing up, I've developed a love for places by the sea. Luckily for me, Southeast Asia has a lot to offer when it comes to sandy shores and beautiful water. Vietnam is no exception.

I had the pleasure of exploring various parts of Vietnam's vast shoreline during my visit to the country. I sailed on a junk boat through Halong Bay, went snorkeling in the waters surrounding Cham Island, drove along the shores of Danang and had the pleasure of spending time in Mui Ne and it's incredible Sand Dunes. I skipped Nha Trang for my hatred of big partying groups of tourists.

 Mui Ne is Vietnam's unofficial water sports capital and up-and-coming beach destination. The sand here is clean and the water is warm. Strong winds come in off the sea, which makes Mui Ne perfect for wind and kite surfing. We didn't have time to kite surf so we lounged on the beach, ate seafood and had an effing blast on an ATV in Mui Ne's otherworldly sand dunes.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beach Discovery

I hate to say it, but nice beaches are hard to come by in Hong Kong. The city's dense population and disregard for the environment means most of Hong Kong's beaches are overcrowded and super polluted. These dirty beaches are great for socializing and catching a tan but if you really want to have a quality beach day (which in my opinion means peaceful relaxation and lots of swimming) you have to travel far from Central. 

Yesterday Justin and I made the journey to Sai Kung to find a nice beach. We left Central early in the morning and arrived in Sai Kung center an hour later. From there we took the number 94 bus to the edge of Sai Kung Country Park and walked the rest of the way to the beach. We arrived at Long Ke Wan after 2 hours of walking along the paved MacLehose Trail Stage 1 (we took a taxi home along the same trail we walked, which was very fast and only cost about HK$100). Long Ke Wan is a beautiful beach with clean water, big waves and no crowd. It was lovely and well worth the trip.

Walking there.

A shady area with grill pits and space to pitch a tent!

Clean sand and clear, inviting water!

Friday, June 1, 2012


A cool, dry climate, stunning views and delicious produce define Dalat. The French colonists built it and used the city as a summer retreat from Vietnam's hot and humid weather during the 20th century. 

We spent our time here walking around, checking out the old french architecture and eating incredibly fresh and delicious produce. The mangoes and avocados in Dalat are some of the best I've ever had. The fresh air and mountainous terrain make Dalat a prime location for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. Sadly, we didn't have enough time to do so. 

We stayed at Dreams Hotel, a must for anyone who visits Dalat. The location is perfect, the rooms and bathrooms are clean and comfortable, the staff is very friendly and the breakfast is outstanding.



Coffee Makers