[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.

[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.