Sunday, September 25, 2016

elephants. and more elephants.

We arrived in Chiang Mai mid morning. Our hotel wasn't able to let us into the room so soon so we set out exploring.

Once again the heat was overpowering. We browsed several of the towns temples and found some lunch.

small temple near our hotel

found this dog in a box at the ENP office

love this.

And then I basically collapsed.

I had some combination of jet lag and heat exhaustion.

It was not pretty.

I couldn't get out of the bed.

Caitlin had to find dinner on her own and bring me gatorade and crackers.

I was praying for a recovery that allowed the next day to happen without issue.

Because it was our day with the ELEPHANTS!

We did a lot of research before booking this adventure. We read several articles about the abuse inflicted on elephants by different companies and while we wanted to spend time with elephants while in Thailand we didn't want to contribute our tourism dollars to a company that encouraged any harmful behaviors.

So we chose to spend our day at the Elephant Nature Park. We booked the Care for Elephants package, which means that we would be able to feed the elephants, bathe the elephants and walk through the jungle with them.

All of the elephants at ENP have been rescued from mistreatment in other places.

We spent our day with four female elephants. They clearly are conditioned to know how this works. When we showed up they wandered up to us because our arrival indicates feeding time. We were given bags of food to carry and if you have food the elephants will follow you.

One of the elephants we spent the day with is featured here.



Anything in your hands is fair game in the minds of the elephants.

So mind your cell phones!



We wandered around for a bit, feeding the elephants as we went. We stopped for lunch and left the herd for awhile.

After lunch, we slogged our way through deep mud to get in the river with the elephants.



One of the elephants walked into the river, laid down and took a huge dump.

I proceeded to wait til that floated downstream before going any further.



The elephants were never forced to do anything. They were, of course, bribed with fruit all day long.

While in the river, we tossed some buckets of water on the elephants and inadvertently, ourselves.



All the while praying we weren't simultaneously contracting some weird disease or bacteria from the not so attractive water.



After walking back to our point of origin we were able to go to the actual ENP main park and see the baby elephant that was recently born. So adorable!

Our day at ENP was awesome. It was amazing to be up close (real close!) to such giant creatures.



If you choose to visit Thailand, I hope you'll consider ENP as the place to give your tourist dollars. It costs a little more, but you'll be able to leave knowing that your dollars are actually going to help give Asian elephants a better life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

1st stop: bangkok.

Caitlin and I arrived in Bangkok after two 6.5 hour flights. Being used to longer flights made these pretty easy to handle. We watched movies, read books and slept. #nbd

We spent our first two nights in Asia at the Aloft Bangkok in the Sukhumvit area. The street is very busy and we found it difficult to tackle the simple task of walking down the street. 

And Caitlin saw a rat. #urbanliving

The next day our jet lagged sightseeing included the temple, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace. 

#goldoverload


Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is one of the oldest temples, dating back to the 16th century.


The Grand Palace was long home to various Kings and houses the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The details of the temples was quite incredible, but after a bit, I found it all somewhat repetitive.

Perhaps it was the jet lag.

Or the heat.

Which was quite intense.

To put it mildly.


We were sweating each and every day of this trip.

You are sure to hear about this problem repeatedly.


I thought the grammatical mistake in this sign was quite amusing.


We found it quite manageable to get around Bangkok with the two train lines that run through the city. Both of our hotels were near a stop and that made things easier as well. Though I'm sure we overpaid on a tuk tuk or two, but seems like that was bound to happen a couple of times.


At the end of our trip we were back in Bangkok to round out our four weeks in Asia.

This time we stayed at the Four Points Bangkok Sukhumvit. Still in the same area as the previous hotel, but with a street that was walkable. I was a much happier camper.


We were able to walk to a breakfast place nearby that we loved.

So much so that we went twice.


We learned how to fold a lotus flower.


We also took a trip out to the famed Chatuchak Market.

Not pictured below.

It's one of the world's largest weekend markets.


I suspect you could find something one weekend and not find it again the next.

I bought some dresses for under $3 USD.

And a scarf, and a kimono style shirt and I don't even remember what else!

There was so much to see.


Bangkok has so much to offer I'm sure we only managed to see a small bit.


We did, of course, manage to get to Starbucks once. Or twice. 



We took a food tour when we were back in Bangkok, at the end of the trip. It was a Midnight Food Tour, so it was also a good opportunity to see Bangkok all lit up. 

We made several stops during the tour. The first stop had spicy papaya salad, fried catfish with peanuts and a green papaya dressing, and a soup that was far too spicy for my poor mouth. Our tour guide thought we were terribly wimpy. 


We also stopped here for some amazing pad thai. It is supposedly some of Bangkok's best and I would find it hard to disagree. It was pretty awesome IMHO, but there are varying opinions out there. 

I had never seen pad thai actually encased in an egg, but it was awesome!

A stop for fried noodles here was amazing. I have no idea what the name of this place is since I've only seen it in Thai, but I loved the bowl of noodles and egg I ate here. You could choose to have the egg scrambled or just sunny side up, which is what I went with. (The guide originally described this option as "raw", which did horrify me a bit until I saw the egg was actually cooked and just the yolk was runny. Phew!)

We watched as they cooked in the back alley and I feared the cooking conditions would convince me not to eat, but, nonetheless, the results bowl was delicious. 
















Ah, Bangkok, I hope to be back again. There's so much more to explore!

Have you been to Bangkok? What are your favorite parts of the city?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Asian Adventure 2.016

This summer Caitlin and I embarked on our biggest trip yet, conquering four countries over a four week span.

We'd been thinking about this trip for more than a year and a half and spent a ton of time planning.

So if you're planning a trip to SEAsia, maybe all of our hard work can help you out too.

I'm sharing many details here and in the posts yet to come.

This post contains a basic overview!

----------

We put all the stops on our trip on a Google map and included all the recommendations we had received from friends or from blogs that we read.




We also created a Google Doc to track all of our travel details and plans that we had made.



And read a zillion blogs and websites along the way.





http://cm-eat.blogspot.it/ places to eat in Chiang Mai..




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Norway.

My long weekend in Norway seems like a zillion travel days ago.

And, truthfully, it was. 

I've left the post about it looming since the beginning of June, so let's get to it!

Norway is a destination that's been on the "to do" list for awhile now. 

I've had the opportunity to visit many other major Scandinavian cities, but Oslo just hadn't made the destination list in the past few years. 

Our long weekend in June seemed like a prime time to head north, with the potential for great spring weather and the hope of avoiding the cold spells associated with cities at this northern latitude. 

Flights in and out of Oslo from Milan fly about once a day in one direction, so it's not easy to do a quick trip. Thankfully, we had a four day weekend, so we left late on a Wednesday night and flew back early Sunday morning. On our way there we were treated to a great view of the sunset from above the clouds.



In addition to the beautiful views during our flight, we lucked out with what has to have been one of Oslo's best weekends of weather. The skies were blue, the temperatures were just right...perfection!



We tried out the free walking tour during our first day in town. It didn't leave us with the best first impression of Oslo. The guide was difficult to understand, we were skipping things that we were interested to see and, at first glance, Oslo isn't outwardly beautiful.

Oslo's Opera House-
You can walk all around it and on its roof. Really cool!

The tour wasn't too long and we were able to explore on our own. We went back to the City Hall. This building was my favorite, for sure, and had the most impressive tapestries and details. This is the building where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held every year.







room where Nobel ceremony is held


We also wandered around the marina and then walked all the way out to the sculpture garden. It was actually so hot we took cat naps on benches before exploring around the park. I loved all the green space, but, quite frankly many of sculptures are super weird and not really interesting to me.



With the the Oslo Use-it map in hand, we walked through another part of the city the following day and found some handmade and vintage shops, along with some cool street art.






We took the metro out of the city to the end of the line and spent a couple hours wandering the Sognsvann Lake. So peaceful and clean! It was a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and easy to get to.



Lake water in Oslo. So clean!

That afternoon proved to be quite a fun day to explore Oslo. It was National Music Day so there were stages set up all over the city with varying types of live music being played. I thought it was really awesome and stopped to listen to several bands as I did a little shopping.

The first Saturday in June brings musicians out around the city!


We stayed here. This apartment was in a good location for us as tourists, so I'd definitely recommend it.

We ate here, herehere, and here. Two thumbs up for all four. The Indian place was probably the least exciting of all of them. And as you might expect, prices are high in Norway, so plan accordingly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dinner Around the City.

Recently some friends and I tried out the ATMosfera, the tram that serves dinner while driving around the city. 

Overall, we loved the experience and it was an awesome way to send Peggy off into retirement in style.

You meet the tram at Piazza Castello. Between the EXPO gates, facing the fountain, head to the right side to find this sign, the pickup point.


There are two trams that run most nights.


Inside the tram. There are seats for groups of two and four.


My dining partners.


Our waiter. He was super friendly and spoke both Italian and English.




Angela and I split the vegetarian and fish menus. There were things on both we wanted to try. This is a sampling of some of the courses.


Most of the food is prepared in advance and warmed or put together on the tram. I must admit, the food was not amazing, though it did look pretty good!


Us on the tram. It really is such a fun experience.


Want to dine on the tram while in Milan? Make online reservations here. You can find the menus here. I thought the online booking was pretty easy, but the menus were a bit hard to find. This would be a really nice experience while visiting Milan, so despite the average food, I highly recommend it!