Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai (Northern Thailand), Highlights:

-We experienced a traditional Thai Massage. This type of massage is a combination of acupressure and yoga stretching positions...or in my case, straight boney elbows digging in on my boney back. I can confidently say I walked out of there with more knots than I came in with. However, I know BOI loved it. 

-Visited Doi Sa Ngo and Doi Mae Salong Village set in the rolling fields and crops of Northern Thailand. One of the coolest crops to see were pineapple fields and tea fields--both unique in their own way. The pineapples grew in the ground (was not expecting that new fact) and the tea fields were perfectly groomed mini-bushes where they harvest only the top small baby leaves to use for tea. In the village, we were able to see how resourceful everyone was: using their roof to dry out chili peppers or coffee beans, collecting old glass bottles and cans to pack into their clay housing for structural support, and using large tree palms for not only roof hatching but also for brooms, custom jewelry, and baskets. And I thought tying grass pieces together to make a bracelet was ingenious....

-Visited Wat Tham Pla, also known as the Monkey Temple. And rightfully so. This temple is set at the base of the mountains with monkeys crawling all over it. You can go to visit and the monkey will be walking right by you or scampering down the steep mountain to reach the temple. 

-Tad Kwan Buggy Ride in the forests of Thailand. We left with 6 buggies and came back with 3...that's the result of a good time. We drove out through local towns and into the fields to ultimately end up in the middle of the forest to hike. We hiked deeper into the forest and landed upon an amazing waterfall where we immediately jumped in (freezing cold) while our guide started making a fire. After a good swim, we all roasted bananas, honey, and marshmallows on bamboo sticks and drank tea from bamboo cups that our guide made in that moment.  That concoction was one of the best treats ever.

-Elephant ride at our hotel, Anantara Elephant Camp, a sanctuary for rescued elephants. Quite possibly one of the best experiences of my life. For those who know me, elephants are my favorite animal. So to actually ride bareback (SOLO) and interact with these amazing creatures was a dream come true. My gal was named Bonza and she was the oldest in the pack at 48years. She was a beaut and the best part was that she was BFF's with BOI's elephant. We were dressed in Mahout outfits (head to toe denim basically) and barefoot. I would direct her where to go my gently tapping her with my foot to her ear. We walked through their forests, fields, and ended my getting in the water for them to play and take a bath. Bonza actually ended up dropping a load in the water and so BOI and his elephant were swimming behind in her dung (Bonza and I thought it was hilarious). It was a great ending to such a perfect time in Chiang Rai.

Golden Triangle

This was surreal just solely because the accessibility to 3 countries. Myanmar is where we spent most of our time during that day. We crossed the friendship bridge into the country and the traffic direction actually splits right before your eyes. One country driving on the left side and the other driving on the right. It's a miracle the cars just don't run into each other, but there's seems to be a good system when once you cross the border you automatically switch to the other side without a stop. It's fair to say we definitely looked like tourists for 15 minutes just watching with our mouths wide open. 

In Myanmar we walked through a lot of markets, including one meat market where we were graced with the every possible organ of a Water Buffalo. Definitely not a scene for those prone to nausea. There were flies everywhere and people were using plastic bags tied to a stick to swat them away. The cultural difference for meat sanitation was quite wide at this point. Surprisingly I was more interested than disgusted with the market; the only time I had to turn away was when I saw a whole chicken completely de-feathered and folded between it's feet (I guess they aren't pets there?). We also checked out a few temples and pagodas- a callout being the Tachileik Shwedagon Pagoda where you can worship your birthday Buddha.* It is determined by the day that you were born on.* As we walked around the pagoda, we were followed by children (dressed in PJs) carrying umbrellas to shade us from the sun. It was definitely the cutest part of the experience and a huge lifesaver as it was steaming hot. But don't get tricked by their cuteness, they know how to play the money game. They catch sparrows and sell them to you for you to set them free again. What a sneaky way to play to my animal love...

*You have to have your shoulders covered and knees covered

*If you were born on a Friday, you got the rat. Speaking from experience. 

Since we were already staying in Thailand, our last country to complete the Golden Triangle tour was Laos. We rented a small canoe-like boat to take us to Don Sao, an island of Laos. It's basically just a small market on an island but at least you can check off a country. The boat ride is the most amazing part since you are riding down a scenic river that separates all these three countries. The highlight of Don Sao was BOI's sis taking a shot of liquor that had a tiger penis and balls soaking in it.  No joke--the tour guide said it was "the best of the best...tiger dick". Cheers!

Philippine Diving

A must-do if you have your license. The pictures were shot with a GoPro so it looks more green in the water through these images. However, so blue and beautiful.

One of our favorite moments were with all the clown fish. There as an unbelievable amount of clown fish on these dives. And true to the Finding Nemo storyline, they kept swimming in and out of anemone as if playing hide and seek. I could've just stayed with them all day...if I didn't have to rely on a breathing tank...

There was so much coral and wildlife, we were actually able to swim with the fish and had many of them touching us or nibbling at our fingers. We saw sea turtles, blowfish, sandfish, and starfish as big and fat as beach ball (I swear, Patrick was chillin' down there that day). 

Awesome dive and even better walking out on White Sand Beach in between dives. Oh to be a mermaid or Philipino in another life...

Boracay

Our first big trip from Hong Kong: Boracay, Philippines. BOI (boy of interest) planned the whole trip as a surprise Christmas celebration. Talk about a surprise hard to beat. 

We flew into Manila (3 hours from HK) then a short domestic flight (1 hr) then a boat ride (30 min) to our destination: Shangri La Hotel at Boracay Island. Paradise in Asia. It felt like a second honeymoon. We had unbelievable weather (in the 80's), clear blue ocean to snorkel in, and an incredible room (jungle villa overlooking the ocean). 

Trip Highlights and Hotel Review:

-Shangri-La decorated their whole premise with an ocean Christmas theme. Kind of makes you forget about the whole "White Christmas" concept and get really into the "Sunny Christmas" idea. Shell ornaments and carols on the beach--hey, if I don't have to wear 15 layers I'm into it. 

-Fire dancer show every night at sundown at the resort. About five teens swinging fire around and doing juggling dances coordinated to Celine Dion: we were hooked. 

-We had a wedding every night that we were there on the resort. What was the benefit of that? Free firework show every night ;)

-Free snorkel gear provided by the hotel so we were able to jump in and explore the private beach whenever we wanted. With the clear ocean, we were able to swim with all the creatures up close. 

-We visited White Sand Beach (one of the top beaches in the world)...and I think the name pretty much sums it up for you. A tourist attraction for sure, we went to the main town of Boracay and walked around with the locals and chilled on the beach. BOI enjoyed a fresh coconut while I just sat in the ocean soaking in paradise. The water is so low for hundreds of feet out that you walk through calm, clear water one some of the softest sand your feet will ever touch. Only downside of going to this area is that if you're not Pilipino, then you will get swarmed by locals to buy gifts.

-Shangri La was amazing: the setting, staff, spa, food. If the beach wasn't so clear, I would've been at their pool 24/7. They had an infinity pool everywhere and so many places to nap in the sun or enjoy a nice drink (Boracay Lemonade was go-to). There was live music every night, movies on the beach, multiple dinner options, and a tranquil spa. Definitely more a splurge hotel, but it was nirvana.  

Travel Tips:

  • The lifestyle here is on a much slower pace. Be prepared for things to take awhile to get done and no rush on travel times. The flights are never on time. This doesn't mean they are delayed, it just means that the time listed is really more of a time "suggested". We thought we were going to miss our flight out because the staff was moving so slow to get us back on the boat. But when we got to the airport, it was snail pace and so lax. We ended up be there for an hour. Just go with the flow and know that their process isn't rigid. 
  • Lots of power outages in Philippines. Not an issue when you stay with a nice hotel, but you'll see why it happens so often when you visit the towns. Phone wires and cables hanging EVERYWHERE.
  • Take a tuk-tuk for a more authentic experience. Most hotels will provide car service but if you can take a tuk-tuk to and from places, do it. It's not expensive and it's so much more fun to explore the island on a little motorcycle car. 
  • Food, drinks, and souvenirs are cheap in town. Great place to get gifts for family + friends and the locals are very friendly. But you'll make up for that cost difference at your hotel. Take advantage of the town prices when you can!
  • If you have your diving license, plan a day trip to go diving. You'll see so many fish and turtles. 
  • Water isn't drinkable, but hotels will provide you with filtered water. 
  • If you have time, rent a junker boat and go island hopping. This is a must-do for our next time around!

Macau

24 hour trip? Done. 

Filled with both new and old–> Visit Senado Square to see St Paul’s Cathedral Ruins and grab a taste of the Portuguese heritage. Later, head to Cotai Central where you’ll get all the night life you need and spend all that dough in Vegas of Asia. But really, go to Macau just for the House of Dancing Water show. Our jaws were dropped the ENTIRE TIME. We both walked away daydreaming about being water acrobats.