[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.


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.

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).

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.



[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.


[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

[paris] day 1+2 highlights

News flash. Parisans are not snobby. And are you sitting? The food is great.

Eight years ago I wouldn’t have said that about the food. Back then Hubs and I had such horrible luck finding food that didn’t consist of goose liver or bone marrow. But my how things have changed – and it’s easy.

I love Paris.

From the wide sidewalks of Barcelona, to the narrow ones of Paris, we’ve been walking a ton. Just ask the girls. They are tired of it. But they’ve been excited about Paris since the start of the trip. We arrived early evening, checked into the hotel, Jules + Jim (what an amazing little hotel, with the friendliest staff), and then got movin’.

Day 1. Crepes, Notre Dame, BAM (the duck + steak tartare were amazing – even the girls liked it!), and Seine river ride.

In that order.

Day 2. First. It was pretty easy to just walk about and find a café for breakfast. Petit dejeuner for us all at Café Crème. Being a tourist in almost any city can be frustrating when shops/things to do don’t get started until 11ish. Note: we are not a jogging/running family. So we walked. Slowly. And the Parisian gods of ‘non-touristy-events’ shined down on us as we stumbled upon a local park hosting a school/community carnival fundraiser.

At first the girls were worried they might not understand what people were saying. But it didn’t take long for them to feel comfortable knocking over tin-cans, and selecting their cheap toy winnings.

Day 2. Second. Versailles vs. Louvre. We struggled, and thought it best to stay in town – so Louvre here we come. Perry and Ava fell in love with the Egyptian wing – Perry trying to sketch as fast as she could, Ava begging me to tell her everything about Egyptian people/culture “stories.” Paris was just on our side for this trip – there was little to no line to get into the Louvre, and no big crowds at the Mona Lisa, and the weather was superb!

Day 2. Third. Edible stuff time. You’ve never seen three girls happier when Dad told them there was a Chipotle in Paris. And boy did we all enjoy it! And at the Hotel Jules et Jim, there were the best little caramels greeting us on our pillows. They come from Jacques Genin (photo: Paris-Lifestyle), they have a dessert café – yay! Then for dinner we enjoyed empanadas. That’s right. From Clasico Argentino – and they were sooo-soooo yummy!

[barcelona] day 4 highlights

Last day scramble to create fond family/Barcelona memories.

…and try to do something the girls will like as well.

First. So Goudi it is, but this time his foray into landscaping at Parc Guell.

Atop a hill, from Parc Guell you can see most of Barcelona including the occasional steeple or monument top. But this park is more than just a great view, it’s another amazing vision transformed to reality. If Goudi had a Facebook page, I’d be friends with him.

Second. Promise not to laugh. Artesian donuts. These were the best – hands down – I’ve ever had. And I’ve known a few donuts in my day.

Third. So we hired the Russian, Spanish speaking sitter again. And with the girls happily chillin’ at the apartment, Hubs and I were off again. La Manual Alpargatera has been making espadrilles for a super long time. And we missed it by four minutes – curse you siesta! These photos are from “the net.” I didn’t notice many Spaniards wearing espadrilles around Barcelona.

Third-and-a-half. So after missing the espadrille store, Hubs and I walked and walked. Enjoyed lobster paella and sangria, and then walked some more. And, like so many great finds, down a quiet side street, we found a great design book store, serving cold brews.

[barcelona] day 3 highlights

We are traveling with kids after all.

Our rented apartment is in the perfect neighborhood (more later). We’re a healthy walk to the beaches, one block away from a ginormous park and zoo, just around the corner from a public swimming pool, and steps away from a slightly gritty, but very cool/hip shopping and dining area. And the apartment has a washer! This day was mostly about the zoo.

First. Parc de la Ciutadella makes for a nice walk (or jog) in the mornings. Dirt paths, orange trees and plenty of old buildings makes it interesting. During siesta, there are people chillin’ everywhere. It is also home to the Zoo de Barcelona. The zip-line in the zoo’s park was by far the girl’s fav.

Second. Walking around Barcelona (and we’ve done a lot of that) you begin to appreciate the city’s support of biking and recycling. You can rent bikes all over the city, the easiest are from biking stations where you pick up a bike at one location, and return it at another.

It seems that everyone here is really into recycling. We’ve seen so many people taking care to sort their garbage into the proper bins. I wish it were this easy in Hong Kong and the States.

Third. To end the night, Hubs and I hired a sitter. A nice Russian girl. Who only speaks Russian (of course), and Spanish. We used Google Translator. So did we go clubbing on our free night? Long, leisurely dinner with a bottle of wine between us? No. We went to a local movie theater to see Moonrise Kingdom. Hubby fell asleep.

[barcelona] day 2 highlights

The girls barely noticed.

First. The Mediterranean. I’m sure there are more glamourous points along this body of water, but the girls love any combination of water and sand, sand and water.

As we were leaving the beach, Perry finally asked why some of the ladies didn’t cover their “you know.” I, of course, was not phased by the toplessness. When living in LA I had the luck of being great friends with some Swedes. Actually, it’s not as scandalous as one might think. We Americans, can be such prudes.

Second. Cubism here we come – hola Picasso.

The audio guides were helpful in keeping the girls engaged. Ava had just completed cubism painting projects at school and at her art class, so she was well informed. Perry claimed that not only did she not like making art, but listening about it and looking at it wasn’t her cup of tea. Why don’t you just stab me in the heart little girl. Note to self: music will be Perry’s creative outlet.

Although not a huge display of Picasso’s cubist work, the museum actually showcases his beginning and growth to what Picasso’s most known for. Loved it.

Third. Stocking the fridge at La Boqueria Market. Crazy packed, but a great place to find all sorts of food stuffs. And tapas bars were a-plenty.