Anyone else out there who thinks that finding unique hotels in amazing locations is one of the best aspects of trip planning? We just got back from a trip to Indonesia and our hotel in Uluwatu, The Temple Lodge, really took the cake. In fact, I think it’s my favorite place I’ve ever stayed. Yes, I’ve stayed at places with access to nicer beaches (or right on the beach), a great variety of amenities, and more attentive staff, but the combination of amazing views + incredibly unique rooms won me over.
I don't usually mind long layovers if I have someone to hang out with, but knowing I'd be alone in Seoul/Incheon (ICN) for 12 hours on my way back from Thailand was making me dread my time there. That is, until I did some research and discovered that I'd hit the jackpot having my longest layover be at ICN. It's an amazing airport, and if you have to have a long layover somewhere in Asia, ICN would be an excellent pick.
This summer my sister Bri and I decided to meet in Thailand for our annual visit (she lives in Australia) and since I'd never been to the northern part of the country, we decided to visit Chiang Mai. As we learned more about the area and the city, we stumbled across a museum called Art in Paradise in which visitors can immerse themselves in illusion art by taking photos with large 3D murals. Having never been to anything similar, we were immediately sold and hiked to the museum from our hotel a couple days after our arrival.
When Bri and I planned our trip to Thailand, we decided to spend the first part of the trip in hostels and budget hotels and end with something splurgy. Well, two somethings splurgy as it turned out (see Glamping in Thailand post). However, since every fiber of my body rebels against paying exorbitant prices for lodging, we scoured the internet for something that would give us a taste of luxury without the usual painful price tag. Fortunately, most of Asia is a great place to do just that, and when we stumbled upon the Renaissance and saw that it was a great price split two ways, we decided to give it a go and ended up having an incredible experience.
My sister and I arrived in Chiang Mai without any concrete plans, so when a staff member at our hotel suggested attending a cooking class, we didn't need much convincing. Who wouldn't want to learn to cook Thai food in Thailand? The next day we were on a bus headed out of the city to Smile Organic Farm Cooking School for a half day class that quickly became one of the highlights of our trip. If you're headed to Chiang Mai and haven't considered taking a cooking class, give me a chance to convince you...
As some of you know, my sister, Bri, lives in Australia, and this year we decided to have our annual get together in Asia. After a lot of research and indecision, we settled on Thailand and decided to spend some time up north in Chiang Mai, followed by a couple of weeks on the island of Koh Samui. While researching where to stay on Koh Samui, we stumbled across a place called Khwan Beach Resort and were immediately obsessed with the fact that they offer glamping, which is basically super posh camping.
I don't think there are enough descriptors to adequately tell you how incredible the island of Redang is. White sand, clear water - so picture perfect everywhere you look that you get overwhelmed trying to decide what to photograph next.
We were totally intrigued by Singapore. Yes, we're usually into remote places and outdoorsy adventures, but Singapore won us over. Sadly, our stay there was cut short due to our decision to give up our seats on the Japan leg of our flight to Singapore (but yay for earning a ton of mileage points!), so this is definitely not a comprehensive overview of Singapore! Regardless, we want to share ten reasons to visit Singapore, based on what we experienced.
"I can't print your boarding passes, because the flight you booked is not scheduled for another month" the check in attendant announced gravely. It was almost midnight, and we were in the airport in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) waiting for our flight to Cambodia. Prior to this, we'd been trying to print our boarding passes at a self check-in kiosk to no avail. It kept saying, "Invalid check-in time."
I know I've already written about rafting the Marshyangi river for a couple of days while in Nepal last April, but I didn't include any video footage. So here's a taste of our time on the river! Unfortunately, we can't seem to find the footage from when Justin flew out of the raft and got sucked into a "keeper" - it would have been an exciting addition to this compilation, although it was more frightening than exciting at the time!
I know I already wrote about our time in India and included lots of photographs, many of which were architectural in nature, but I couldn't help but post a full collection. India really has some of the most amazing buildings! There are so many beautiful structures that they almost start to strike you as common place. Almost. I didn't feel like including captions describing where each photo was taken (I'm pretty lazy sometimes), but would be happy to tell you if you ask. I will say that these photos were taken at the Taj Mahal, Jaigarh Fort, Jal Mahal, Amer Fort, City Palace, Hawa Mahal, and the Red Fort. Ready to feast your eyes?
Up until India, the fanciest place we'd stayed was a three and a half star hotel in Thailand. However, when I planned our trip to Nepal and India I decided for once we were going to splurge with two days at a luxurious boutique hotel in Delhi called the The Manor. I think some sort of premonition guided me to this decision, because after two weeks of trekking, rafting, a major earthquake, and the chaos of driving around India trying to get in as many sights as possible, The Manor was an extremely welcome end to our trip. This experience was not only relaxing, but also a slightly nerve racking adventure at times because heck - we don't know much about the protocols and expectations of fancy people in fancy places!
Riotous colors, sweeping architecture with an intricacy that has been lost by the modern world, sleek displays of wealth and burgeoning technology. And yet in the same day, images of desperate poverty, a constant scent of manure and sweat, piles of garbage getting trampled down in the street. This extreme juxtaposition will remain my greatest impression of India. What a country. It has it all - both good and bad - and managed to flood me with almost every emotion. Wonder, fear, sadness, helplessness, anger, excitement.
Let me preface this by saying that neither of us can even pretend to be food experts. But we do like to eat (a lot) and we loved the food in India. Here are some things that we learned to decode the menus.
We headed to India with only one solid plan: to see the Taj Mahal. India is a vast and incredible place that we could probably spend months exploring, but the real focus of this trip was Nepal and as such, concrete plans for India fell by the wayside. Either by way of providence or disaster (depending on if you're a glass half full or half empty kind of person), we ended up not being able to get to our hotel in Delhi and so at one o'clock in the morning ended up embarking on a three day tour of the "golden triangle" with a personal driver.
I've shopped in a lot of places but India has to take the cake for overall craziness. I was stoked to head to the markets when we got to India. I'd been dreaming of lavish textiles, jewelry, and knick knacks for the house long before the trip started. Sadly, after my first foray into the markets in Jaipur, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to bring myself to go back to the markets again. I'm used to being hassled to come into shops and bargaining for things without fixed items. But being grabbed by the arm and pulled into stores was new to me, as was being followed around the market by a swarm of venders who didn't stop peddling their items to you no matter how many times you stated you weren't interested.
When we went to India this year we were faced with the dilemma of transport. And I say dilemma because there are so many methods to the madness, all with pros and cons. According to a report from the United Nations, Delhi is now the second most populous city in the world with 25 million inhabitants. Traveling from a metropolitan area of 10 million, we thought we knew what insane traffic looked like, but we were mistaken. Faced with that the choice to tackle the metro was obvious.
With its staggering elevation changes and snow melt coming straight from the Himalayas and Annapurnas its no wonder that Nepal is a white water rafter's paradise. As we brainstormed our upcoming trip to Nepal we decided it would be a shame to leave without rafting. After a bit of research I discovered a Lonely Planet recommended company called Paddle Nepal who offered a two day trip on the Marshyangdi River. I was totally enthused until I read that it would be two days of "intense, challenging, and continuous rapids... This river demands 100% commitment from both crew and guides - It is not for the faint hearted!".
In 2013 we decided to travel to Asia. We had heard that it is a fantastic location for budget travel and until then, we'd never been to Asia accept for flight layovers. Unfortunately, things weren't quite as budget as we'd hoped as we had no choice but to travel during a peak season - Christmas - due to Justin's school schedule. This also wasn't helped by the fact that we chose to go to Thailand, which isn't as affordable as some Asian countries such as Vietnam. Despite this, we had a fantastic time traveling between islands and the Railay Peninsula.
April 25th found us in Pokhara, Nepal as part of a trekking + rafting trip that we planned to end with a jaunt through India. It was 11:56 AM local time and we and our travel companion, Sarah, were on the second floor of a shop when we heard that disquieting rattle of windows and objects that comes with the start of an earthquake tremor.
I've always known that someday I would end up in Nepal. Bordered by India and China, this little country is only approximately the size of the state of Tennessee and yet it contains eight of the ten tallest peaks in the world. How could anyone not feel the allure?