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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Middle East & Southeast Asia Vacation: Part 2

We arrived in Phuket from Bangkok on Tuesday October 18, 2016 and took a taxi to our hotel.  

Phuket holds a special place in my heart as I visited for over 2 weeks in 2010 and it was such a healing time for me in my life!  You can see those posts HERE!   I was so excited to show Hendrik the island and I was excited to stay in the Marriott again.  When I booked our trip I specifically chose the JW Marriott Resort just so I could share some of my awesome memories of this place with Hendrik and hopefully make even more unforgettable memories. 

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived and we were a bit early so our room wasn't ready yet.  We headed down to the cafe to have lunch outside and then went ahead and booked our dinner reservations and snorkel adventure for the following days.  Once our room was ready we headed up and I no more dumped my bags and I was changed and ready to go to the beach and enjoy the sun and relaxation.  We were only able to lay out around an hour before the rain moved in.  Instead of going to our room we decided to book 90 minute massages at the spa.  We had our massages together and it was so nice!  After the spa we took a small nap in our room before getting ready and heading to dinner.

Our first night we ate at the hibachi restaurant in the resort and we weren't impressed but that is also the difference between American and another country's hibachi style.  When I came to the same resort before, this restaurant was strictly sushi and it was amazing.  It was actually the first time I had ever had sushi and fell in love with it then.  After dinner we headed back to our room to prepare for the next day of adventures. 

Wednesday October 19, 2016 started off with a workout in a very crowded gym but we got it done and then headed to breakfast.  I sort of had a mini breakdown at breakfast about work and stress in general and after that my whole outlook on our trip changed....for the better!  I guess I was just trying to deal with everything internally and wasn't doing a great job and it finally bubbled to the surface and overflowed all over my omelet and watermelon juice. LOL  After I felt relief and peace and was ready to conquer our day of adventures and activities.  

We got a taxi to Kata Beach to try out the surfing and Thai kickboxing.  The taxi ride is over an hour as it is on the opposite end of the island but worth the trip.  We found the surf shop and they recommended that we come back in the afternoon once the tide was at a different level as the surfing right then wasn't that great.  That was fine because the muay thai kickboxing gym that I wanted to train at was in the town nearby so we hopped a taxi to the Tiger Muay Thai gym and I did 2 hours of private training there.  I am going to do a separate post on this all together so stay tuned!  After my training I was done for so when we made it back to the surf shop only Hendrik went to surf.  I watched from the beach and enjoyed the wind and waves.  The water was SO rough from all the storms at the end of rainy season so it was really hard for Hendrik and he didn't catch many waves. The waves really never built up they just built and crashed down really quick resulting in a literally pounding LOL.  He still enjoyed himself and after around an hour he hung up his board and came to hang out with me on my mat. 

Once we had our fill of the beach it was close to 4 and we had a long ride back to the hotel.  On our way back to the taxi stand we stopped into a local grocery store to grab some snacks for the ride back and to hold us over until dinner.  We made it back to the hotel and showered and got ready for dinner at Lucina.  We hung out in the swing beds and had a cocktail or two waiting on our dinner reservations.  Dinner was really good and I put the carbs in my pizza to good use as I was really depleted from training in the Thai humidity and heat for 2 hours.  We had an appetizer of bruschetta, I had pizza, and Hendrik had a steak for dinner. 

After dinner we were drained from our sporting day and headed back to the room to relax and enjoy our bed. 

On Thursday October 20, 2016 we were supposed to go on a snorkeling adventure which we were both really looking forward to but at 5:15 am when we were supposed to get up we decided that the rough water that we experienced the previous day wasn't something we wanted to fight and new the visibility wouldn't be all that great so we decided to stay at the hotel all day and relax.  The decision to "stay in" so to speak was the best decision.  We had the most perfect, sunny day that I utilized from the time we finished breakfast until around 1:30 that afternoon. 

Seeing this was our last day in Thailand I soaked up all the sun... actually too much and when the rain rolled in that afternoon it was a welcome reprieve to baking myself. LOL Hendrik returned from wherever he had spent the most of his morning and we had lunch at the cafe before heading to the beach hut for hour long traditional Thai massages.  The beach massages, to me, were WAY better than the spa massages we had gotten two days prior and substantially cheaper.  After our massages we headed to the room to get ready for our travels the next day.  We were so beat from all our hard work that day we didn't even leave the room for dinner.  

Our time in Phuket was short and sweet and was equally relaxing and amazing with what we chose to experience.  I'm glad Hendrik was able to experience Thailand and in particular Phuket as it is such a special place not only to me but in general.  The people of Phuket are so courteous, polite, friendly, and all around helpful not to mention HAPPY!  

Next stop and the last leg of our vacation... Bali :) Stay tune... but first a post to highlight my kickboxing adventures at TMT!

Check out our layover shenanigans in Dubai HERE

Monday, March 27, 2017

Middle East & Southeast Asia Vacation: Part 1

We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday October 15, 2016 from our long layover in Dubai at 8 am and took a taxi to our hotel.  We stayed at the U Hotel Sukhumvit Bangkok a cute eco-friendly boutique hotel that was in the Terminal 21 neighborhood of Bangkok.  Unlike my travels with Caleb or when traveling alone Hendrik insists on naps and such and really because of this our Bangkok leg was messed up from the beginning LOL.  Especially our sleep patterns.  We got settled into our room around 10 that morning and Hendrik wasn't set on going out and exploring yet even though I had a HUGE list of must see and dos.  I agreed as I was sssooo tired as well, at this point we had been up for almost 48 hours!  I agreed to nap until 2pm and so I set my alarm.  Apparently 2 pm came and went and we ended up getting up at 8:30 that evening!  Overslept is an understatement LOL  We were still so tired and I was really disappointed as I felt we wasted an entire day! We opted to have dinner in the hotel restaurant which was very good.  We shared an order or spring rolls as an appetizer and for our main meal I had pad Thai and Hendrik had fried rice.  We finished off our meal with a shared chocolate pudding.  After dinner we unpacked and lounged around our room before going back to bed.  We were still really tired and since we had wasted today I wanted to be well rested for the remainder of our trip.  There was so much that I wanted to see and do.  

spring roll app

traditional pad Thai dish

Thai fried rice with salmon filet

chocolate pudding

Our first full day of exploring Bangkok was Sunday October 16, 2016 and we started it off with a bang!  Due to our sleep the day before as well as jet lag in general we were up at 5 am ready to hit the hotel gym.  We worked out all three mornings in Bangkok and given the minimum equipment in the small hotel gym we were very pleased and were able to keep up with our routine the majority of the trip!  Sunday was leg day of course and after that we enjoyed an awesome Asian breakfast before getting ready and heading out into the city.  The day or two before we left the States the Thai King had passed away and due to this we were being respectful and only wearing black, white, or grey for our time in Bangkok. This actually worked out well for us as we had a lot of dark colors packed.  

We took the hotel tuk tuk (a motorcycle cart that is used for the majority of short travel in Asia) to Terminal 21 and caught the metro to Chatuchak Market.  We arrived at the market right at opening time, 9 am, and enjoyed walking in the uncrowded alleyways enjoying all the different stalls.  We went ahead and knocked out our souvenir shopping here as well as getting me a couple pairs of cheap but cute sunglasses as I had left my Ray Bans in the car at home!  Chatuchak Market is like Canton- Asia style as it is the largest market in Thailand.  They have everything you could want or need or neither LOL. We roamed around and after we felt like we had seen the majority of what the market had to offer we headed out to our next stop.  On our way out Hendrik got a homemade coconut milk ice cream.  

Once we left the market we took the metro to the National Stadium exit and then got a tuk tuk to the river.  Bangkok is distinctly separated by old and new and you can see this clearly on the map.  The metro and train only runs on a portion of the city which you can hit a lot of the city this way but along  the river is where all the historic sights are and that is not accessible by train only by some sort of car transport like taxi or tuk tuk.  

Once we made it to the river we planned on buying tickets for a river tour of the floating market and around the Bangkok river ways and canals. On our way it started raining but we had already purchased the tickets and wanted to see the sights that this option had to offer so we bought some cheap trash bag like ponchos and were set to go.  It was quite miserable as it rained the majority of the time and given the awesomeness of our cheap ponchos were were soaked but it did quit raining near the end and we were able to get some good pictures.  Due to the rain the ancient and famous floating market was closed down but our boat driver showed us the area and we were ok with that. Going to Asia in October we knew it was the low season as well as the end of the rainy season so this was the trade we made.  

Our boat tour ended a ways down the river from where we started and we were able to see several temples.  We explored Way Pho, which is one of the oldest temple in Bangkok and also houses the lying Buddha.  

don't ask me where Hendrik's eyes are always looking during pictures :)
We saw some of the other old temple sights and the artwork and architecture of these ancient structures are amazing and so intricate.  It really makes you appreciate the history.  

We struck a deal with a tuk tuk driver to take us around to some other sights to just show us and let us explore for a set price.  Of course there was a small catch that right before he let us in on I was telling Hendrik about LOL  so funny but well worth it and we didn't mind one bit as it supports local businesses and the Thai people's way of living.  

He took us around the city by the Giant Swing, the standing Buddha, and to Eat Saket which is also referred to as Golden Mount.  We climbed the 344 steps and got some pretty awesome views of the city from the top. Although you don't feel that high the city is so flat you can really see for a ways in all directions.  

After our hike up and down the Golden Mount our driver took us by his sponsor....a local tailor.  Pretty much the tourists and people that this particular driver brings to this particular tailor..he gets a small cut of our purchases.  Thailand is the land of cheap but also good merchandise if you know where to go and what to ask for. Now you still can bargain and haggle with these legit businesses and Hendrik ended up getting a full suit and 4 shirts custom tailored for a fraction of the price that we would pay for a off the rack suit in the US.  The tailor measures and has it all delivered to your hotel before your departure.  

Once we were done with the tailor we took the train back to our hotel as we were soaking wet and had already accomplished so much today.  We got into a heated argument on which train to take as we had to make several switches and not keeping score but I WOULD have been right if Hendrik would have listened to me but he didn't and we ended up having to walk a good bit which really topped off his mood. LOL  Once back in the hotel it was around 4:30 in the afternoon and after being wet the majority of the day we both needed showers.  After showers we were starving since we had only had breakfast at the hotel that morning.  We ordered room service and ended up falling asleep pretty early in the night.  

Monday October 17, 2016 was kicked off by another awesome hotel gym workout which was shoulders and some triceps.  After our workout we headed downstairs for another yummy breakfast before getting ready for our day.  We headed out to the train around 9:30.  We took the train as far as the line ran and then found a tuk tuk to take us to see Wat Arun.  I misread the website and this particular temple was closed until noon so with our driver's help we mapped out a little route of things to see until the temple was open.  Our driver took us to a local Buddhist temple where he showed us all the customs of good luck and how to perform them.  These are the times that make me fall in love with travel all over again.  A local showing us local customs and giving us so much insight to the way of life of the people of this happy nation.  I really enjoyed this little side trip and it got me excited for the rest of our day.  

He took us to his "sponsor" where Hendrik ended up getting another suit tailored this time a black suit with 3 custom shirts.  The tuk tuk driver dropped us off at an area where we could take a local water taxi up river to see more sights.  We got off at a riverwalk area to look around and eat lunch.  We decided to have lunch at a Thai restaurant called the Mango Tree.

After lunch it was finally time to tour the famous Wat Arun and it was huge and BEAUTIFUL!

can you spot me!! this is how ginormous this temple is!

Once we saw the temple we hopped in another tuk tuk to go get fitted at Hendrik's first tailor to finalize any areas that need adjusted.  After this we went to yet ANOTHER sponsor but this time it was something I could and would actually partake in.  It was a hug gemstone warehouse/gallery.  I got a nice cubic zirconia and silver bracelet.  At this point I was getting tired of the sponsors only because it usually takes a lot of time.  Thankfully we didn't have any more the entire trip.  So far in this trip we had already bought more souvenirs in a few days then we had in years of vacations yet.  Guess that is the plus and minus of vacationing in Asia everything is so cheap it is really hard to pass up items that would otherwise be 3 or 4 times the purchase price at home.  

We took the train back to our neighborhood, Terminal 21.  Terminal 21 is just that....a train terminal but it is also WAY more than that.  Most train terminals around the world dump you out at some sort of center for shopping or the shopping is built around the terminal.  In Europe there are drug stores and grocery stores as well as other little shops.  The same principle is applied at Terminal 21 but on a grander scale....the terminal is a MALL and a sight to see in itself!  And not just any mall but each level is a different city of the world and has things on that level that you would find in that city.  Stores and items specific to each city were fun to browse through...cities like Rome, Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, Istanbul and London.  I was going for modesty when we left the states and I was able to pack everything into ONE suitcase.  I thought "hey this is the best option seeing we are going to be moving around so much" well it was the best option for the first THIRD of our trip but after all our spending in Bangkok we had to buy another suitcase.  As hard as it might be to believe it took a lot of searching to find a suitcase.  We finally found a little kiosk that was selling travel luggage for a price that was reasonable and we snatched it up.  We took our new purchase back to the hotel and changed clothes before heading back to Terminal 21 for dinner at Tony Romas, although it is a burger joint, Hendrik and I had never eaten there.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our departure the following day. 

Tuesday October 18, 2016 was Bangkok D day...departure day that is!  We were leaving Bangkok to head to Phuket today.  After our WORKOUT which got some attention from my mom on Instagram LOL we had our last breakfast in the hotel before checking out and heading to the airport.  One of the suits Hendrik had tailored was delivered but the second suit we commissioned was never delivered.  The hotel concierge talked to the tailor for us and we gave the address to the hotel in Phuket we were staying at and it was going to hopefully be sent there before we left the country.  Our hour long flight was delayed but we ended up making it just fine.  

as we were leaving to the airport we saw typical Thailand commuters!  Notice the lady reading her morning paper while traveling as a passenger on a motorcycle.  
Overall we loved our time in Bangkok.  We saw so many sights, experienced so much culture and ate some yummy food.  I had been to Bangkok before but never got to go out and experience it.  Although our sleep patterns were messed up we did and saw everything that we wanted to see and felt happy with our time spent here.  I always have hopes of Hendrik and I going out on the town and experiencing the nightlife of all the places we travel to but it never works out like that.  Although I know we would see the places from a whole other point of view we are never too worried about that aspect as we aren't much partiers even at home.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Asia vacation PHUKET, THAILAND! 

If you missed my post about our long layover in Dubai that kicked off and ended this trip go check it out HERE

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