Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon

Tuesday morning, we woke up and we were ready to start our first full day exploring Saigon. It began with breakfast at the Intercontinental where they had coconuts at the buffet that they cut open for guests to drink the juice out of. I love coconut so I decided to have one. It was a very sweet way to start off the last day of 2013.

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After breakfast, we met our tour guide, Phong, and started our drive to the Mekong Delta, just South of Saigon. Since we got on an earlier flight to Ho Chi Min City, Phong did not come to the airport to get us the night before like most guides do. Auntie Missy did talk to him on the phone and thought he was a girl! It was certainly a surprise when a man came to get us in the morning. The two-hour drive to the Mekong Delta was greener and lusher than any area we have been thus far. The Mekong Delta was very rural and tropical. We were finally able to wear shorts since it is much warmer in Ho Chi Minh City than in Hanoi. We then got onto a large gondola type boat and went down the river. There were actually people living on the river in boats and in tiny shacks along the riverbank. It was beautiful and heartbreaking to see all the same time.

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We then got off the boat to go see some local shops where the locals produced rice paper, coconut candy (similar to taffy), coconut crackers, rice whiskey and puffed rice. This was like a food tour of the Mekong Delta because I got to try everything! I was obsessed with all the coconut crackers and coconut candy. It was so delicious. For the first time, it really felt like the goods were made completely from local products and that they actually made the goods right there in the shop. It was a very fun and filling day! They served us tea and let us try all of the food as well as test the Queen honeybee lotion they use on their skin.

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After my filling tour of the food of the Mekong Delta, we got to explore some local art galleries. The art was beautiful; I wish we could take home some of the large pieces! One part that really touched me were these adorable little girls that were selling postcards as their mothers picked fruit to make raisins. It was so sad seeing such little girls trying to sell the cards. It really reminds me of my time in Guatemala and makes me realize that I should spend my vacation time and do something similar to that again because it is truly such a rewarding experience.

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After the shops, we loaded back onto the boat to head to another part of the Delta. On the boat, I was able to taste a ton of different local fruit. My favorite was this pink prickly looking fruit that was very similar to lychee. I was certainly full after this trip and we hadn’t even had lunch yet!

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The next part of our tour, we walked through this little town in the Mekong Delta. The area seemed very local with few tourists. We were walking along a riverbank and were able to see the actual houses of many local Vietnamese farmers.

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Eventually, we got to an antique Vietnamese house called Mr. Kiet’s that they preserved as a museum. The home still featured old antique furniture that had gorgeous detail. The back of the house had a restaurant where we ate for lunch. We were told we were going to have elephant ear fish. When they told us that, I was excited until they brought the entire fish out to the table! Luckily, the waitress showed us how to get the meat from the fish, prepare the rice paper and roll our own spring rolls. Of course, I was already a pro from my cooking demonstration on the cruise in Ha Long Bay. The meal was so delicious! We then got back in the car to head back to Saigon for our city tour.

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Next, we went to the American War Remnants Museum. I was very excited about this part of the trip since I am very interested in the history of the Vietnam War. (Maybe I should listened more attentively in my American War in Vietnam class at USC, because I don’t remember much about it!) The museum made me feel horrible about the atrocities of the war, even though I wasn’t even alive at the time. One standout part of the museum was this photo of a young boy protecting his younger brother from being shot by an American solider. It was horrible that even children lost their lives during the war. They showed horrible images of people after the Americans dropped napalm and phosphorus bombs. The photos showed their skin literally rotting away from the bombs. By far the most horrifying part of the entire museum was the portion on Agent Orange. Agent Orange is still affecting generations being born today with horrible birth defects due to the chemicals in the bombs the United States dropped on Vietnam. One young girl without some of her limbs wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to help the people of Vietnam who are still suffering from the effects of the war. It was heartbreaking to see.

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After the museum, we saw the Reunification Palace where the government holds meetings as well as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the post office building that were built by the French when they occupied Vietnam. These are some of the main highlights of the city but was definitely nothing to write home about!

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That evening was New Years Eve and Auntie Missy was not feeling well enough to go out. Luckily, my good friend Nathalia has introduced me to her boyfriend’s cousin, Danielle, who lives in Saigon. She invited me to go out with her friends and to dinner. We went to his amazing restaurant for authentic Vietnamese and enjoyed guava juice and soft shell crab. It was delicious! It was so great being able to talk to her about her country and her life. She is currently finishing her masters in fashion design from a school in Taiwan and hopes to spend a year or two in America working in fashion. She helped explain a lot about the reasons why our tour guides said certain things about the country, such as pollution. She said that they probably all lie about the reasons why Vietnamese wear the masks on the bikes so they do not get in trouble with the communist government. Any opposition against the government or any protests is not allowed so tour guides tend to bend the truth to prevent any negative feelings towards the nation. It is so sad how poorly the government treats its citizens here. It seems like they rarely do anything for the good of the people. Even Phong mentioned today that he and many others look at South Korea and wish that South Vietnam had just split from the North to form the same great relationship with the United States that South Korea has, instead of becoming the unified socialist, communist republic of Vietnam.

After dinner, we met some of Danielle’s friends at her house. She lives in the city and her house is pretty modern but had a traditional Vietnamese style. Her parents own an apartment building next door that has 10 rooms for foreigners coming to live in Vietnam for an extended period of time. Since her family lives in both America and Australia, they have many guests from both countries come and stay with her family while they work or study in Saigon. Danielle’s friends were very sweet. They did not speak English fluently like Danielle but they tried their best to communicate with me and make me feel welcome. Then I got to do the one of the most exciting, cultural things I have done thus far, put on a mask and get on the back of a motorbike! It was scary at first but then it was kind of fun and clearly the easiest way to travel around the country.

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After a thirty-minute journey on the back of the motorbike, we arrived in New Saigon, an area just outside the city that the government recently created to try and spread people out from the city center. The New Year’s celebration looked similar to one in America, except I was the only white person! Heineken sponsored a big show with the biggest Vietnamese pop star and a few DJ’s. Luckily, I knew all the songs since they listen to a lot of American music. At one point, a DJ was talking in Vietnamese and I asked Danielle what he said and he said, “I am the best DJ in the world.” Then, Danielle turned to me and said, “What world? The Third World?!” I thought that was pretty hilarious but definitely wouldn’t have been funny if I said it! Shortly after the countdown party was over, Danielle’s friend took me back to the hotel on the back of his motorbike. I did not get home until 2:30am because of traffic so I was pretty exhausted. The evening was pretty amazing. I am so lucky to have met Danielle and have an experience like that. I can’t wait to see all the new adventures that 2014 has to bring!

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This morning, I was exhausted when our alarms went off but we had to pack up to leave Saigon. Before we left the city, we headed to the Cho Ben Thanh Market to go look at more crap in a new city! We only spent 30 minutes there before heading to Cu Chi.

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Originally, the Cu Chi Tunnels were not a part of our itinerary but I was very interested in seeing the network of tunnels that were used during the American War so we were able to fit it into our schedule. It was fascinating to see the tiny holes the soldiers hid in and the intricate maze of rooms and traps they had set up to trick Americans. We were able to get into some of the tunnels but it was so small I got a little scared and opted out of crawling through the tunnels. I can’t imagine how soldiers lived in those tunnels during the war.

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After we saw the tunnels, they had a shooting range available to allow people to shoot AK-47s and other weapons. Auntie Missy and I both wanted to cross shooting a gun off our bucket list so we purchased 10 bullets, 5 each, and got to shoot the guns! We had no idea we were going to be shooting guns during our time in Vietnam, that’s for sure. They were so much louder than I expected and also way harder to shoot. I was WAY off target. What an exciting way to end our trip to Vietnam! Please excuse the awkward stance I have while shooting the gun below. Clearly I need to learn some proper form and how to actually look intimidating while shooting a gun. Perhaps putting my Marc by Marc Jacobs bag down beforehand would be a good start.

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After another fun 3-hour wait time at the airport in Saigon, we finally landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The airport was gorgeous and the hotel is even more beautiful. Looking forward to explore the final stop on our itinerary. Happy New Year to everyone!

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Our trip to Ha Long Bay began with a 4-hour long car ride. Vin made the car ride enjoyable at first by telling us many riddles. He also taught us a bit about the Vietnamese language and explained that it was very difficult to learn, like English. Vietnamese has words that are the same but have different vowels and pronunciations. Be careful when you order Pho to be sure you are getting the noodle soup and not a hooker!

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He was a very fun tour guide to have around. Half way through our trip, we stopped by this store where women were sewing these woven art pieces. Auntie Missy and I loved them and got some to bring home with us. It will be a great memory of our trip!

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We finally got to the cruise and checked into our room, which was very nice. We had a balcony and a bathroom that was way nicer than I expected. I couldn’t wait to set sail and explore the beautiful bay.

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The rest of our trip to Ha Long Bay did not go so well for Auntie Missy. The bumpy car ride made her very sick so she didn’t get to enjoy the overnight cruise at all. It was a huge bummer and I felt very badly for her. I had to go along to all the stops on the cruise and enjoy dinner and happy hour by myself.

Our first stop on the boat was the Surprise Cave or Hang Sung Sot. This trip, Auntie Missy probably would not have joined in on even if she were feeling well! We got to walk up and mountain and through these massive caves on one of the islands in Ha Long Bay. The cave was not as tiny and scary as I had imagined as some of the parts could have fit hundreds of people they were so wide. I did freak out walking alone a bit when I saw a bat, yuck! I made friends with two people on our cruise that were both originally from Vancouver, went to Harvard Business School and now work in finance in Hong Kong. They were very sweet to me the rest of the day and were very interesting to talk to.

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After the cave, we took the cruise back to another island, Ti Top Island, for a spectacular view of the sunset over the bay. I climbed up around 400 steps all the way to the top of the mountain to see amazing 360-degree views of all of Ha Long Bay. It was worth the trek even though I was huffing and puffing and trying to hide it from my fellow cruise mates!

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Next, we went back onboard the boat for happy hour and a Vietnamese spring roll cooking demonstration. I learned how to make my own spring roll with rice paper. The trick is using egg and painting it all over the paper so it doesn’t break when you roll it up. I got to eat the spring roll I made after and it was delicious!

Auntie Missy still was not feeling well for dinner so I was a bit nervous I was going to have to eat alone. My nice friends from Hong Kong invited me to join them, which was very sweet. We talked about American television shows and movies they wanted to catch up on. It was a great time. After dinner, I didn’t have much else to do since everyone went off to do their own thing so I got another massage at the spa on the ship. This made me sleepy and helped me fall asleep.

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The next morning after not great boat sleep, I woke up and got ready for the last Ha Long Bay excursion. Auntie Missy wanted to still rest and shower even though she was feeling a bit better. This trip was to Luon Cave. We boarded a rowboat and were taken under a natural rock passage to this opening among the mountains. It was gorgeous especially so early in the morning.

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After the cave, we had a buffet breakfast and got on our way back to Hanoi to the airport. We ended up being very early for our flight so we got on an earlier flight to Ho Chi Minh City. It was very nice not to have to wait for three hours at the airport!

Once we arrived at our amazing hotel in Saigon, the Intercontinental, we decided to eat something familiar that would settle well in our stomachs. We went for Italian and I ordered pizza and Auntie Missy ordered spaghetti. I have never been so happy to eat crappy pizza in my life!

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Tomorrow is New Years Eve and we are off to the Mekong Delta before a city tour. Goodnight Saigon!

Ha Noi, Vietnam (with a not-so-quick stop in Laos)

En route to Hanoi, Vietnam, we had a layover in Laos. Well, the Luang Prabang Airport is basically one tiny room that doesn’t even sell bottled water! During our three hour layover which turned into four hours, we decided to drink some Laotian beer and eat an entire can of Salt and Seaweed Pringles instead (yes, those exist and they are delicious!) I watched a movie and endured the foreign country airport boredom until we finally got on our airplane  to Hanoi.

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I ended up sitting next to a woman from Los Angeles on the flight who had been traveling alone for over 3 weeks. I could not imagine doing that but it was very interesting hearing about her life story. I am jealous that I am not brave enough to do something like that!

Finally, we arrived in Hanoi late at night and were greeted by our Hanoi tour guide, Vin. Vin spoke great English and told us what to expect of our time in Vietnam. One of the craziest parts of Vietnam is the driving. There is one motorized bike for every two people in Vietnam, causing a ton of air pollution. Everyone over the age of 18 drives a bike and there are NO stoplights, NO cross walks and NO lanes. Driving is a free for all where you just honk when you want to warn someone to move over. It is so scary. He warned us that when we cross the street, to just keep going at a slow and steady pace and the drivers will navigate around you. The ride to the hotel was a bit scary but once you realize that is just the way people drive around Vietnam, we got more used to it.

This morning (Saturday), we met our tour guide early so we could be the first in line at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The Mausoleum is a memorial of the great communist leader and actually houses his embalmed body. Every year between September and November, his body is sent to Russia to be restored. Luckily, we were able to actually see his body which was a very special experience. Here is a photograph of the outside of building that we went into since we are unable to take photographs inside:

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We continued to walk around the beautiful grounds to view the government offices as well as the home Ho Chi Minh lived in while he was alive.

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In the park, we visited the famous One Pillar Pagoda. The buddhist temple is from the Emperor of Indochina, Ly Thai Tong, who had wished for a son and prayed to buddha to one. Eventually, he met a woman who bore him a son and because of that, he made a temple dedicated to him. Many Buddhist women come here in hopes of being able to become pregnant. I made sure to ask Vin that visiting the temple didn’t mean that we would become pregnant!! He assured us that is was ok.

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After we were done with this portion of the walking tour, we took the car over to the Temple of Literature. The grounds here were beautiful and the inside of the temple had a large status of Confucius. There was actually a University graduation going on while we were there which was very cool to see. All of the top students in Vietnam are honored there so they hold many graduations and photographs for school children to inspire them to become better students.

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Next, we headed to the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Here is where we first endured our street crossing abilities. We were naturals! At first, I thought I was going to die but you eventually get the hang of it and become more confident when you walk. We went with Vin to the top of a cafe called City View that had a beautiful view of the all of Hanoi. Here is a view of a busy intersection from the cafe. This does not do the traffic justice but you can see the lack of traffic signs and the free for all of traffic. You can also see how foggy the sky is from all the pollution.

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Afterwards, we separated from Vin and went off shopping around the Old Quarter. Since I did not prepare for the cold of Hanoi, I purchased a fake North Face jacket, a scarf and gloves to be sure I was prepared for the cold on our Halong Bay cruise tomorrow. I can’t believe I actually bought a knock-off North Face jacket but it is actually decent quality and you can’t even tell!

Next, we visited the Hoa Lo Prison a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton from the Vietnam War. Well, here they actually call the war the American War. The prison museum had actual cells to view that the inmates during the French occupation were kept in. The museum was mostly about the French colonialism in Vietnam prior to the American War, but there was a small section of the museum that featured information about when the Vietnamese captured American Soldiers and held them there. The most fascinating part about the museum was the video they showed of the American POWs at the Hanoi Hilton. They made it sound like they allowed them to play basketball, learn about Vietnamese culture and treated them very well while they were in the prison. It really makes you realize how different countries interpret and tell their sides of history differently. Of course, I don’t blame them for capturing American soldiers after we bombed their cities and killed innocent people during the war, but to say the American prisoners were treated very well during their entire stay at the Hanoi Hilton seems a little off to me! I am looking forward to learning more about their side of the American War in Saigon at the War Remnants Museum.

Here are the current and original entrances to the “Hanoi Hilton”:

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After the museum, we went to Cafe Pho Co per a recommendation from my friend, Nathalia. This cafe was literally down an alley in the back of a shop in the Old Quarter. You actually enter through someone’s house and climb up a twisted staircase to a cafe that looks over the Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the city. I ordered their famous Egg Coffee which was delicious!

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After our coffee break, we realized we had pretty much seen everything we wanted to in Hanoi. It was so hard to believe but I guess us ADD, warp-speed travelers really could do it in one day! In typical Missy and Lindsey fashion, we got another foot massage at a random place in the Old Quarter. I don’t know what I am going to do when I am back in America and have to pay more than $10 for an hour long massage!

Finally it was time for drinks so we walked past a beautiful park along the river to the famous Sofitel Metropole Hotel.

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We decided to spoil ourselves (or should I say for Auntie Missy to keep spoiling me!) and order a flight of wine which included champagne, white and red wine. It was delicious and complimented the bread and tuna tartar we also ordered. The hotel was very beautiful, especially when adorned with christmas lights.

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After our flight, we headed to famous Quan An Ngon for dinner. The restaurant features communal tables and several mini-kitchens that each cook a different type of Vietnamese cuisine. It was delicious and definitely a must if you are ever in Hanoi!

Now we are off to bed since we have to be up at 6:30am to drive five hours to get on our overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay. Can’t wait to finally see the beautiful water and UNESCO World Heritage Site in person!

Chiang Mai: Tigers, Temples & Thai Food

We began our day in Chiang Mai by heading out to the Tiger kingdom. As most of you probably know, I have been looking forward to this for a while now. We were able to get into the cage and play with tigers thay were two months to two years old in 4 different sizes.  It was amazing and they were so adorable. Even Auntie Missy went into the cage and took photos with the largest and the baby tigers! What an awesome experience. A stand out moment was this one kid,  probably a few years younger than me that was so ridiculously loud and obnoxious.  Of course I thought he was American but then when I saw his backwards Vanderbilt hat I knew he was a douchey frat boy.  Seriously it is people like that that are screaming while they talk and asking the dumbest questions that make Americans look bad.

I am still having serious first world problems or as Auntie Missy likes to say “high class problems” because I can’t decide which one to make my Facebook profile pictures.  Such a tough life I have!!

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Next we drove up a very twisty,  windy path all the way up to the main Chiang Mai attraction,  the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.  This is the main Buddhist temple on top of the Doi Suthep mountain.  This trip alone made coming to Chiang Mai worth it.  It was spectacular to see and overlooked the entire city.

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The temple was lined with a variety of Buddhas in different positions.  Koung taught us that each stance meant a different day of the week.  Depending on what day of the week you were born on,  that Buddha was your stance. Both of us were born on Fridays in September so our Buddha is the one below. I even bought a little one to put on my desk at work!

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We even got blessed by the Holy water of a Buddhist monk and were given white string bracelets to give us good luck and happiness in the new year.  Looks like 2014 is going to be even better than this year,  although that will be tough to match.

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After we drove down the mountain we got lunch at what our guide said was a traditional Thai restaurant.  Once again,  the food tasted pretty American Thai,  so we were a bit disappointed. See,  it looks exactly like the American Thai food we would order at home!

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Atleast we finished our meal with Thai Iced tea (my favorite!) and some little cookies. After,  we said goodbye to our guide and went to relax by the pool at the hotel.

That evening,  we went to the Chiang Mai night Bazaar. The night markets are essentially just carts all down a major Street for tourists to buy lots of junk! Well,  it sure felt like I spent a ton of money but because the Thai Bhat is so cheap I didn’t end up spending nearly as much as I had imagined.

After the night markets,  we went to a restaurant we read about called Antique House. The restaurant was literally part of an antique shop on the river.  We sat down on the patio which was actually floating on the water! We had a good feeling about the food since the place was massive and packed with locals.

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After a bit of language struggle we ordered Singha beer, Shrimp Tom Yum soup,  shrimp glass noodles, Thai fried rice and an octopus dish. The food was AMAZING! Finally on our last night we found a gem! The best part of it all was our 4 course meal and 4 beers came to a whopping $33 American dollars. Cannot even believe it!

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Today (Friday)  we woke up and had the morning to relax at the hotel.  We had to leave for the airport at an awkward time so we decided to get another foot massage instead.  It felt amazing and it was a great way to start the day.

Our time in Chiang Mai has come to an end. I really loved it here. The city was quaint yet you could tell how much it was growing and changing with the times. I will take Chiang Mai over Bangkok any day!

Now we are in the airport on our way to Hanoi,  Vietnam, but first we have a layover in Luang Prabang, Laos. Our first flight is on Lao Airlines and our second is on Vietnam Airlines so they gave us these bizarre Transfer stickers to wear on our clothing as if we are unaccompanied minors.  So bizarre!!!

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Farewell Thailand (for now!)

Chiang Mai: Christmas Eve & Christmas

We arrived in Chiang Mai after our day of the floating markets and what felt like an extremely long travel day.  I think the time change and the travel was catching up to me because I just didn’t feel well but couldn’t put a finger on why.

Immediately when we were greeted by our driver, I knew I was going to love Chiang Mai.  Mainly because our driver wasn’t even our main tour guide and even he spoke better English than Jeed did! Driving from the airport to the hotel,  you could tell how much cleaner the second largest city in Thailand was than Bangkok.  The ride was also much quicker due to the distance and the lack of traffic in the area.

Once we arrived at Siripanna Resort,  they gave us this delicious rice juice.  The hotel is a smaller resort that has an amazing tropical feel.  The hotel staff was so nice and welcoming.  The grounds of the hotel actually reminded us alot of our hotel in Caines, Australia.

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Although Thailand is a Buddhist country and most people travelling were from other parts of Asia,  there was an odd obsession with the fact that it was Christmas.  Every single Thai person walking around had on a Santa hat and our hotel even had a funny Thai style Christmas tree.  We enjoyed a Christmas eve buffet at our hotel with crabs and way too much dessert before going to bed early so we could feel well rested for our first day of adventure in Chiang Mai.

We met our new tour guide at 8am in the lobby of our hotel.  Her name is Koung which means shrimp in Thai.  Her English was amazing and we already understood her much more than Jeed. We were also pretty certain she would not take creepy photos of me also!!

Our first stop was to the Thai Orchid farm. I was excited since orchids are some of my favorite flowers.  They had amazingly beautiful flowers and a ton of them were purple so of course we both loved them!

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After the Orchid farm,  we headed to the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp. This was one of the things I was looking forward to most on our trip.  In order to get to the camp,  we had to cross a very crickety bridge over a river.  Of course Auntie Missy was nervous but we managed to get a cute photo nonetheless.

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We began with feeding the elephants,  then watched an amazing elephant show then actually got to ride an elephant.  They are such amazing and beautiful animals. We were able to actually feed the elephant bananas. I was surprisingly a bit nervous but they were very cute and grabbed the bananas with their trunks and curled them up to their mouths.

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After the elephant feeding,  we watched the trainers bathe the elephants then make the elephants bow,  pick up heavy logs and even paint a picture!  It was very neat to see.

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Eventually,  we got to actually get onto the elephant and ride it.  I loved every minute of it but Auntie Missy did not enjoy the part where the elephant was walking of the side of a steep river bank! It was still such beautiful scenery even with a minor panic attack and being up close with the majestic animals was unforgettable.

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After our time with the elephants,  we took a bamboo raft down the river.  The ride was very peaceful and relaxing.

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Once we got off the raft we ate a “thai” lunch thay was once again very Americanized. Our hunt for authentic Thai continues.  I think there may be a conspiracy among the guides that they hide all their favorite spots to keep out the tourists!

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After lunch,  we went to a Thai silk factory to watch how the Silk is made. The whole work thing grossed me out quite a bit but it is fascinating how much work goes into making silk!

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Once we got back to the hotel,  we changed and headed out to Nimmanhaeminda, a main street in Chiang Mai in the Western part of the city to go check out some shops and bars.  We wandered around and found ourselves at another Thai massage place and got another foot massage for an hour for $6! I can certainly get used to this!!

It is now almost midnight so we are off to bed before starting another day in Chiang Mai.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Floating Markets: Last stop in Bangkok

Yesterday,  December 24th, was our final day in Bangkok. After a bit of delay due to travel illness,  we drove for around two hours to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We hopped into a long boat and got to see the village and all the local homes. The boat took us to an area where many locals were selling Thai food, authentic Thai goods and also lots of tourist junk from their boats. I got an awesome pair of purple PJs that I am obviously obsessed with and can’t wait to wear to bed at home!

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Our tour guide Jeed, throughout our time in Bangkok, kept talking about this amazing noodle soup at the floating markets so I finally got try some authentic Thai tom yum spicy shrimp soup and it was incredible.  I also had some vegetarian spring rolls to top it off.  I felt badly for Auntie Missy who didn’t feel well enough to try the street food but it has been my favorite Thai food thus far.

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After the floating market,  we had to endure a long car ride and tons of traffic before heading to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai..

Bangkok as a whole is honestly like an uglier,  more polluted Los Angeles.  The traffic was similar to LA but the smog was worse and the condition of the city overall was worse than New York.  Although the floating markets and temples were beautiful,  I knew I had a lot to look forward to in Chiang Mai and the rest of our journey.

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Once we arrived in Bangkok after a lovely 3 hour nap/flight, we were greeted by two Thai greeters right at our gate.  They escorted us to our cart that took us directly to the premium customs line,  where we didn’t have to wait at all.  Talk about royal treatment! 
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After customs we met our Bangkok tour guide,  Jeed.  Luckily, he spelled it out for us because we thought it was Deet, like the bug spray, for the majority of the ride to the hotel.  He seemed very nice and are excited to spend the day on Monday seeing Bangkok with him!

We finally got to the hotel around 2:30am last night and were both pretty wired and also astonished by the fact that we just had a 24 hour travel day and felt completely fine!

Our hotel was great,  but since it was pitch black we might as well have been in America minus the Thai condoms that they graciously left in our room.  I don’t think we will be using those LOL!

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We finally got to sleep around 3:30am.  Surprisingly,  I naturally woke up at 9:15am before Auntie Missy.  We took our time getting ready for the day and went downstairs for breakfast around 10:30am. Clearly we misunderstood the Thai-English at the hotel since breakfast was done at 10:30am, oops! We ordered some omlettes from the hotel Cafe,  ate very quickly and started our day with Jeed!

Our first journey began with a river boat ride around Bangkok. It was crazy to see shacks lined up on the river bank along with huge fancy hotels.  Even the shacks, Jeed told us, were expensive for Bangkok.
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Our first main stop was the Wat Arun temple.  The trek up the stairs was steep but it was so worth it.  The architecture of the building and the landscape was incredible. 
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It was also becoming quite clear that our tour guide may be in love with me.  We quickly learned the word “sway” which means beautiful.  Jeed,  the Samsung user (woo hoo go Samsung!) sent me some photos from his own phone…
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We then took a ferry boat across the river.
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Once we crossed the river we made it to the ultimate Bangkok attraction,  the Grand Palace. I really had no idea what to expect but the amazing detail and architecture of every building within the grounds was breathtaking. Jeed was a Buddhist so we really got a feel for how truly sacred the palace was.  He then showed us a celebration hall where kings would have parties and I asked if I could have my next birthday party there.  You would have thought I told the most hysterical joke in the world since Jeed nearly cried of laughter. 

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At the Grand Palace,  there is a special part that is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Inside,  you must take off your shoes as you look up at the emerald Buddha.  He is dressed based on the season and the entire building was gorgeous and the inside was filled with gold with the Buddha on the top in his winter outfit. You are not allowed to take photos inside so here are a few from outside. I am holding a special flower that I dipped in water then tapped onto my head to cleanse before going in to see the Buddha.

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After the Grand Palace the true sightseeing of the day came to an end. Jeed took us to some scam of a Gem Factory that talked about ruby and sapphire exports and then brought us to a massive jewelry store that was filled with jewelry that a grandma in the 70’s would wear. Needless to say,  this was not our highlight of the day.

Side note –  they have pink cabs in Bangkok.  So awesome!
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After our trip to the Gem place,  we went over to a massive spa called Health Land for a 2 hour Thai massage.  For two 2-hour Thai massages it was 1,000 bhat. A total of $30… Can you believe it?! I would get my own personal massage therapist if I lived here!!

Afterwards, we head back to the hotel to change for the evening.  We ended up walking from our hotel to the Dome to have a drink overlooking all of Bangkok.  Taking a sip of the Singha beer was probably the tastiest thing ever.  We were both dying for a drink,  and some food!
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Then we went to this restaurant Eat Me that honestly could have been in LA or Chicago.  It was super trendy and hip and the food was amazing,  but we were still dying for some straight up Thai food.  Hopefully we will have some today!

It is now the morning here and we are off to see more of Bangkok before our flight to Chang Mai!