[happy tourist] thailand

February was a busy travel month for Hubs and me. Thailand and then later Australia. Thailand first.

Our first time to Thailand I was about six months pregnant. That time we went north to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, this time we went south to Hua Hin before heading to Bangkok. So I guess, technically, we went north again.

After finding cheap flights and enjoying an incredible hotel deal at Aloft by W, we splurged a bit on the Hua Hin abode and stayed at the Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas. Right on the beach and a quick walk to town – it was a great location. The people of Hau Hin are incredibly nice, and the city has all the laid-back vibes of any beach town.

thailand-1Our villa was charming. White from ceiling to floorboard. Winked of colonial style, and raised about four feet above the ground in traditional Thai style architecture. We had our own private deck with a small pool, an outdoor bed, detached living room and outdoor (enclosed) bathroom. And it was right on the beach.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure we’ll be coming back.

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Bangkok seems to have grown incredibly in the nine years since our first visit. Like so many fast growing Asian cities, there is a head spinning mix of heritage and progress. Unfortunately, the heritage part seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

We start off at the big market, Chatuchak Weekend Market, in Bangkok. It’s a combination of pushcart food vendors, cheap items, tourist souvenirs, expensive boutique shops, and small food stalls.

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We taxi’d our way to a local area in the city – which loosely translates to “we didn’t know where we were going.” Typically this also ensures a lot of walking. We wandered around a fairly ordinary part of the city looking for a community that still hand-hammers and polishes copper bowls for the monks to use when asking for food. We found it. Moving right along.

From the taxi I had noticed a huge golden dome skimming the tree tops. Hey, let’s go in that direction. Next we found ourselves strolling up 300 steps, lined with buddha statues, bells of all sizes, that led us to the top of Wat Saket (The Golden Mount).

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I wished my stomach was large enough to sample everything from all the street vendors. It all looked and smelled so good! Wandering through the courtyards/alleys of a random temple, we saw this guy setting up shop. I’m sure he sold a lot of items afterwards. Probably to the monks.

As I mentioned before, we found a great deal at our hotel, which is located in tourist/expat central. During the day, you’d see many unsuspecting VW Vans parked along the street. Then the sun sets.

BAM! Instant club.

Unhinge the top – and I do mean top – and you’re welcomed by thumpin’ beats, strobe lights, tables and chairs, and top-shelf beverages.

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[happy tourist] furniture shopping

When packing for Hong Kong we intentionally left a few gaps in our furniture shipment, with the plan of filling those gaps with Chinese furniture awesomeness.

Well, believe it or not, not all Chinese furniture is awesome.

So the hunt continues. This time I joined a shopping group, hosted by Home Redesign HK, on a 70 minute ferry ride into Zhu Hai, China to go direct to the source – the factories. Five factories to be exact.

Our tour guide, Jeni, kept reminding us that the factories weren’t controlled environments. Basically meaning that almost everything is built, sanded, stained, lacquered, etc. in a raw space with natural ventilation, natural lighting, and lots of dust. These were not sweatshops. There were no child laborers. It was totally perfect for their needs, and the furniture is great (if you’re into Chinese style).

Although I didn’t buy anything, I still have my eye on a few pieces…and it was an amazing look into Chinese life/work. And furniture.

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[sweet girls] running on the roof

Built on mountains, Hong Kong is a city with few open, sprawling, forever expanses of flat greenness.

Public parks here are just different than in the States. Just different. This also means that hobby gardening is sporadic. So, when you find someone willing to dig their own dirt and haul it from the boarders of China up to the fifth floor roof-top garden of their studio’s building. You go see it.

Hello HK Farm.

It’s cute. It’s small. It’s organic. And it also hosts the Chinese bees associated with HK Honey. Remember the candle making workshop we enjoyed some months back? This visit to HK Farm included a blue print, or Cyanotype, art/bag making workshop, hosted by Martin Cheung of Shanghai Street Studios. (Love these guys.)

Using a non-toxic mix of special mumbo-jumbo crystals and the sun — we had fun among the bees.





[happy tourist] beijing the second time

Almost 12 years to the day, Hubs and I honeymooned in Beijing. This week we went back for more. Of course this time we had a few tag-a-longs.

In 2000, Beijing was a highly populated city (12.8M +/-), even more so now (20M +/-). And we could feel the population difference at every attraction. So. Many. People. Sight-seeing quickly became more about getting through the hoards (and I do mean hoards), and less about discovery and reflection. Not to mention that we actually had a “if you get lost” plan in place for the girls – because, you know, there are So. Many. People.

Part of Project Chinese History/Culture,  included going against every traveling instinct that Hubs has – and hire a guide. Turned out to be a solid plan. Frank, our guide, was/is well informed about the city and its history. He filled us in on Chinese symbolism, customs and more. We heart Frank.

Here’s a look at thousands of years of history, covered in four days in Beijing.


An art district called 798, this was a great place to walk around, see some art, finds some crafts, and enjoy a variety of foods.


The Great Wall of China
makes for a great workout with its multitude of steep steps and slopes.


About 150,000 tourists visit The Forbidden City each day. That’s about 1/4 the number of people that the ceremonial courtyard was built to host.


We enjoyed a very nice lunch at a traditional Chinese themed restaurant. It was a beautiful place that created an authentic dining experience. The iPad menus and Coke cans were the only clues that we weren’t in the Ming dynasty.


Manmade mountains surround this manmade lake which makes up the Summer Palace, used only a few days out the year by the emperors.


Before going to the airport, we went back to the hutong neighborhood that Hubby and I had visited twelve years ago. Although it’s still a genuine look into how the Chinese have lived for hundreds of years, it was certainly a less quiet and intimate peek into the past.


Just a little more.

[paris] day 3 highlights

Paris isn’t all fluffy macaroons and fashion-clad romantic types with perfect, tousled hair and pouty lips.

Charles de Gaulle airport leaves a ton to be desired. And the outskirts, or suburbs, are just like any other developed city anywhere in the world. Unattractive industrial buildings, overgrowth of weeds along the highways and empty lots. I like that there is this layer of ‘real-world’ before you get to the historic city.

So. Paris is normal too.

First. Our last day. One little girl states that she’s sick even before breakfast arrives to our table at Rose Bakery, which means the parents will have to take shifts at the hotel with her the rest of the day.

Second. After hubs went on a quick shoe hunt (came back empty-handed), Perry, Ava and I took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe. What a gorgeous day! We walked along the Champs Elysees (along with all the other tourists), and enjoyed a wonderful treat before heading back to the hotel.

Last. Dada took Perry and Ava to the Eiffel Tower in the early evening. Teddy wasn’t too bummed since he promised to bring her back little Eiffel Tower key rings as gifts for her friends back home.

Then the next morning we were off to the airport.

So long Paris – until next time.

Rose Bakery photos via: The Taste of Paris; Qype. Trouvez. Partagez.; Breakfast, Lunch, Tea – Rose Bakery, Phaidon Books