Author: sshapiro629

Chiang Mai Coffee Shops and Street Food 

On our arrival at the train station in Chiang Mai, we were to no surprise immediately approached by several tuk tuk and taxi drivers. As obvious tourists, the price we were quoted for a short ride to the hotel was exorbitantly inflated. Don’t be afraid to bargain and/or walk away. Taxis and tuk tuks are easy to find. In Chiang Mai, there are songthaews, also known as red trucks. For about 30-50 bhat per person depending on the distance you can catch a ride just about anywhere in the city. Tuk tuks tend to be a bit more expensive but you can always try to haggle your price down. After a bit of bargaining we came to agree on a reasonable price for a red truck to lie hotel. During the ride, we spoke with an Australian ex-pat who recommended we check out Nimmanheminda road. We dropped off our bags and caught another red truck to Nimmanheminda and found ourselves drinking Thai milk tea at the Dulcetto cafe. While there we spoke with a man from …

Track 2, Car 5, Seats 39 and 40. Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  

Just that morning we had booked an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We were on a second class sleeper with air condition, and had one upper and one lower bunk. When we boarded the train, the seats he not been configured into the beds. We left the station about twenty minutes behind schedule. As our journey began, and we heard the clanking of metal as the train travelled down the tracks we both wondered how in the world we would be able to sleep through this. At around eight o’clock, the train attendants came by and signaled that it was time to convert the seats into their sleeping position. In a matter of seconds, the seats were pulled together and later flat. Next, the upper bunk was released from its stored position. A thin mattress was placed on each bed, with a pillow and fresh linens. Curtains were hung for privacy and we were all set for bed! Jess and I both sat on the lower bunk, facing each other with a flashlight …

An Elephant Never Forgets

If you ask almost anybody what do in Chiang Mai, your bound to hear about elephant riding. How could you not! I mean, how cool does it sound to ride an elephant through the jungle for a day! Sounds pretty *%#*ing cool! But it’s not! It’s cruel. Elephants are very intelligent animals, and while they are used by humans, they are not domesticated. A domesticated animal has different DNA from its wild ancestors. The Asian elephants used for tourism, which were previously used for logging before the ban of logging in Thailand, have DNA that is identical to wild Asian elephants. As such, to ride an Asian elephant, they must be controlled. They are taught to submit to humans during a process called Phajaan, which roughly translates to “crushing”. Phajaan is an ancient ritual that typically lasts six days, during which a young elephant calf is separated from its mother, caged, and tied down to prevent movement. During this time, the elephant is subjected to sleep deprivation and beatings. While not all elephants are crushed …

Adventures in Saigon and the BEST Banh Mi

After a delicious breakfast at The Pullman Resort we headed off to Da Nang Airport to catch our 8:45 flight. For domestic flights in Vietnam, you should arrive at least an hour early, as check in closes forty minutes prior to departure. We had checked in online the night before, so we only needed to check our bags. After checking our bags and going through security, we headed towards our gate, which was changed last minute. So, be sure to listen to the announcements overhead when walking through the airport! When Jess booked this early morning flight, she didn’t consider that by selecting seat 7A she would be obligated to get drunk on a plane. Yet again, Vietjet only stocks 6 beers per flight so she was in luck, and ordered one (which we shared). When we arrived at the Ho Chi Minh City Airport we deplaned and were driven by bus to the baggage claim. This time, both our bags came quickly and even came out at the same time! After grabbing our packs, …

Tuk Tuk for the day $30,Visiting ALL of the Sites in 16 Hours $50, Lunch and Dinner $10, New City and Great New Friends…PRICELESS!

Our one full day in Phnom Penh started out with an early wakeup around 6:30am.  We walked out of the Kabiki hotel and were able to find a Tuk Tuk driver waiting right outside on the street.  We were planning to spend the day with our new friends Gillian and Gavin from Scotland and decided it would be cheaper for the four of us to hire a Tuk Tuk for the day than pay for individual rides to all of our destinations throughout the day.  So, a guy drove up to us in a royal blue t-shirt and asked if we needed a Tuk Tuk.  We said yes and he told us it would be $30 for the day.  We asked if he would do it for $20 and he said no, but $25 would be ok and we agreed.  Sony was our driver for the day and he was awesome!!  We have his contact information at the end of this article for anyone traveling to Phnom Penh.  You can contact him directly and he …

From Hanoi: The Capital of Vietnam to Hoi An: Tailor Shops by Day, City of Lanterns by Night

Our last day in Hanoi was really just the morning, which we decided to spend enjoying what the hotel restaurant had to offer as we had breakfast included with our room.  We stayed at La Siesta Hotel Trendy, the new sister hotel to La Siesta Hanoi Resort and Spa.  The restaurant in the hotel is the Red Bean Restaurant and has been rated as one of the top five restaurants in Hanoi. The included breakfast spread was a mix between a western style breakfast and a Vietnamese style breakfast, though other items could be ordered off the menu. Fresh fruit, home made yogurt, and an order of beef Pho made for for a great start to the day. We finished breakfast with a vietnamese egg coffee and a vietnamese coffee, checked out and ordered an uber. They also offer cooking classes, but we did not have time to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. We highly recommend staying at this brand new hotel!  The service was impeccable and they made sure everything was perfect from …

New City, New Friends, New Memories in Hanoi, Vietnam

About a week before our journey to Southeast Asia began, Jess overheard another nanny talking about how she was moving to Hanoi in a few days while waiting for school pickup. Jess couldn’t help but introduce herself to ask for some tips about the city. They ended up exchanging emails and after a few quick messages back and forth, planned to meet in Hanoi. As a pleasant surprise, Morgan and her husband Nick offered to show us around for the day, as it had been almost eight years since they first met while studying abroad in Vietnam and wanted to do some touristy things as well. We began our day meeting our new friends at Cafe Phố Cũ, a well hidden gem of a coffee shop located behind two souveneer shops. Had we not met Morgan and Nick out front, we never would have found the place! After a brief conversation on the sidewalk, Morgan drove her motor bike straight through the souveneer shop, down an alley in the back of the store and into …

Oh the Rain in Ha Long Bay

At 630am, the phone in our hotel room rang. As a last minute request the night before, the front desk staff was able to get us two seats on a one day tour to Ha Long Bay. We were told to be downstairs in the lobby by 7:30am. After quickly tossing our belongings in our packs, we ran down to check out and grab a quick breakfast of Vietnamese sticky rice, roasted tomato, and fresh yogurt. By 8 o’clock, a car, sent by the tour company, Vietnam Open Tours, had arrived to bring us to meet the tour bus in the Old Quarter. We were dropped off in an alley way and became slightly skeptical about the whole thing. We walked up and down and couldn’t figure out where we were suppose to go. Finally we found the storefront and when we walked in, we were greeted by name. They were expecting us, as we had paid for the tour at the hotel in advance. We were told the bus would be arriving in approximately 10 …

Tim Ho Wan: Dim Sum

The moment we heard about an inexpensive, Michelin Star rated Dim Sum restaurant, we knew we had to try it. Tim Ho Wan, which actually lost its Michelin Star this year, definitely did not dissapoint! We had originally planned to go to Tim Ho Wan for dinner, as a friend advised they would be packed during the lunch hours. Tucked away in the lower level of the IFC mall in the MTR Central Station, Tim Ho Wan was not easy to find. By the time we found it, after walking in circles for an hour and a half, the lunch rush was nearing its end and we only had to wait in line for ten minutes. Even though there was a short wait, the restaurant was still very crowded.  As people got up, seats were immediately filled and many of the tables were communal. As we waited to be seated, we were handed a pencil and a yellow card to place our order. We didn’t realize we were suppose to fill this out while we were waiting, …