Category Archives: Travel Guide

City Guide : Cartagena, Colombia (Part 2)

now that i got your stomach full of amazing colombian food, let’s talk about the best things to see and do in this coastal town.



Ciudad Amurallada – or in other words, the walled city located within is a protected part of the city so the buildings are the same style as they were many years ago. we roamed the city for hours.



San Felipe de Barajas Castle – castle = fortress. it was built by the spaniards and used to protect the people from attack. it was positioned on a hill so they could be defensive from the land or the sea. a deeper history of the fortress can be found here. admission fee is about $8 USD/person. bring water!


Plaza Santo Domingo – there are a number of darling plazas within the old city. they offer great people watching and dining options! the feeling of walking through these squares at night was one of the things i wish i could bottle up and save. the city was so was alive! the plazas are lit up and there are many street performers and artists lining the streets.

Cathedral de San Pedro Claver – we saw two weddings occur in this cathedral in one night so i guess it is a hot spot among locals as well. i enjoyed walking along the square and admiring this stunning church that was built over 400 years ago. it was named after pedro claver who dedicated his life to the protection of african slaves. this building embodies everything good. b and i not only went inside to see the alters but we attended a portion of one of the weekly services. i was in complete awe of the inside and outside of this cathedral. i get it locals, i would think about getting married here too.
oh and horse drawn carriages trotting around the premises? swoon.



Plaza de San Diego – oh just another plaza i enjoyed walking through. i recommend walking through all the plazas because they represent the feeling of the city so well.

Iglesia de la Trinidad - my second favorite church. cathedrals are sprinkled within old town and i enjoyed checking out each of them.


Convento la Popa de la Galera – what do you know — another church! this one is set on the highest hill in cartagena and is outside of old town so you will need to hire a taxi to get there. convento la popa de la galera offers the best views of the city! there is a fee of about $3USD/person to enter.

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Free walking tour of old town – there is a free walking tour of old town that covers most all the sites i recommended. it is a guided tour so it was fun to hear the city’s history from a colombian. sign up for your tour in advance!

Island hopping – salesmen hang out by the docks and entice you to book a trip to one of the surrounding islands. we are all for island getaways so we decided to try it out. we picked a package that included lunch and a stop over at the aquarium. the island was a little packed with tourists but we found a quaint spot we liked. there were some beach vendors offering to do massages so be sure to be firm if you are not interested. i thought it was a fun experience but not sure i need to do it again. unless we upgrade to the private island destination ;)

Oceanario Colombia (Aquarium) – we stopped over at this aquarium on the way to the island. it was a unique aquarium in that all the sea life was in the ocean and so they had more room to swim around. you could also “make out” (as b likes to say) with a dolphin for $10 USD. It was not seven minutes in heaven but it was at least four. i thought it was well worth it even though i was the only adult in the line hahaha.





so can we all go to cartagena now? i am telling you, it is bliss.


City Guide : Cartagena, Colombia (Part 1)

cartagena, colombia is not the most conventional place to vacation to. i received many puzzled looks and probing questions about what made us decide to spend christmas in colombia.

would you believe me if i told you that colombia has been on my travel list for quite some time? you see, i grew up listening to wonderful and frightening stories of the country. stories about the amazing and also stomach churning food, the welcoming people, the vibrant cities and the scary situations you can find yourself in. my dad lived all around colombia for 2 years in the 70s. he lived in bogota, barranquilla, ibague, bucaramanga and cartagena. colombia will always have a special place in his heart. it is the place he grew up and found himself. it is the place he lost a couple of toenails (long story). it is the place that helped him to see how much god loves him. and because of this my heart has always been curious about colombia.

b was a little apprehensive about traveling to colombia. i will admit it holds quite the reputation for violence and drugs (just watch narcos). we decided to compromise and start out by exploring one city in colombia–cartagena. i very much hope to explore more!

cartagena is the fifth largest city in colombia. it is a coastal town with a carribean feel. there are brightly colored buildings, street vendors selling everything from hats to fresh fruit, large historic churches and a plethora of mini city squares/parks to enjoy. it is a vibrant city and i loved the energy that  i felt every day we were there. it is more quiet during the day because it is so hot but it really becomes alive in the early evening and into the night.
i felt completely safe everywhere we went. yes, we got completely scammed by some taxi drivers so i will give you some tips in those circumstances but overall the people were welcoming and accepting of my poor spanish.

one of my absolute favorite parts of cartagena was the food. i had some of the best meals of my whole life there. the prices for food can’t be beat which added to the deliciousness.



Mila – we were walking one evening trying to find a spot for dinner. i saw that there was quite a crowd for this place which made me curious. we grabbed a menu and decided to wait it out for a table. mila offers colombian cafe food with an assortment of pasteries. we sat by a couple of college girls who went to school in the states. they spoke perfect english and helped us with the menu a bit. they strongly encouraged us to try milo ( a chocolate shake type drink)– well thank you, sweet girls. my life will never be the same! we also tried arepas (corn pancake with cheese) and tacos. all the food was amazing! we may or may not have come back after dinner a second night to satisfy my milo craving :) .
the pastries looked delectable so i decided to try the cinnamon rolls. i hate to say it but, they were a let down after all the other things we had. maybe there is another pastry they are more known for?

Restaurante El Coroncoro – we stayed in the gesthamane district of cartagena so this restaurant was just a hop away from our hotel. it was filled with locals and the prices were so cheap (like $3 for an entree) so we decided to try it. b couldn’t stop raving. restaurante el coroncoro offers traditional colombian style food – meat or fish with vegetables, rice and fried plantains. nothing fancy but so tasty!
there is a similar restaurant located right across the street that serves the same type of food and was also good.  we preferred el coroncoro though.

La Plaetteria - the days are hot but the plaeta options are endless. stop by here for a quick treat to cool you down!

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Peru Fusion Sushi – another place that we just happened upon one evening. they serve amazing sushi and ceviche. everything tasted so fresh and was seasoned to perfection. it is on the smaller side so i would recommend reservations (we were very lucky to get in).

Cuzco – shout out to the college girls we met at Mila! i had heard of this place through my research and then they said it was their parents’ favorite place in cartagena so i knew we couldn’t miss it. cuzco offers amazing peruvian style food. we ordered a number of things (sushi, fish, ceviche, ice cream dessert) and all of it blew my mind. not a single item was below 5 stars in my book. it is a fancier place so no shorts are allowed and the prices are a little higher but completely worth it. it is still far cheaper than a similar style restaurant in the states!



i researched restaurants heavily via trip advisor prior to coming to cartagena. i have to say that none of the research really paid off. we went to one restaurant recommended online and were disappointed. it was mostly american food and definitely not worth the hype. prices were high too. we didn’t want that one instance to shape our experience so we tried two other highly rated trip advisor restaurants and studied the menu when we got there. it looked like more losers with high prices so that is when we took a different approach and decided to find restaurants based on what we saw. best thing we ever did!

next up, best things to do and see!

5 Reasons to Visit Cartagena

b just asked me, “would cartagena be in your top 5 places you have visited?” and i immediately answered, “yes”.

here are 5 reasons why you should visit cartagena!


1. cartagena is vibrant and visually stunning. the old town is a protected part of the city so it looks just the same as it did many years ago. it has large cathedrals, brightly colored balconies, perfect doors and an abundance of bougainvillea.






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2. there is always a slight scent of fresh arepas con queso (corn cakes with cheese) in the air. i can say without a doubt that i have had some of the best meals of my life in cartagena.

3. the people are so kind and welcoming. b speaks spanish but i just know the basics. i figured people would still know some english so i could get around. wrong! what a stupid american i am. the majority knew no english so i learned spanish as i went and the colombian people encouraged me every step of the way.

4.  there are gorgeous islands just a short boat ride away when you feel the need to escape the city.

5. the atmosphere. i took many videos because i wanted to remember what it felt like to walk around the city (especially at night). there was music playing, people dancing, lights twinkling, horses trotting. i wish i could bottle up that feeling. i will be back for you, cartagena!




City Guide : South Beach, Miami

miami has been on my short list for quite some time.
the south american + cuban influence , picturesque beaches and art deco architecture are a few reasons why i knew this city would be great — just didn’t know how great!

let’s jump to it – a 36 hour city guide with the best things to do, eat and see in sobe.

City Guide to South Beach Miami

6:30pm – dinner at colette little french bistro 

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miami is full of immigrants. like we literally did not speak with a single person who was from the states. i think that may be one reason why their food is so amazing.
my favorite cuisine is french and colette’s did not disappoint. the flavors, preparation and presentation were all on point (including a waitress originally from the south of france!). oh and do save room for dessert as their chocolate souffle was heavenly!

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side note… my guilty pleasure is bravo’s real housewives. anyone with me? i kept my eyes peeled the whole trip for a miami housewife spotting and although i did not see one i did run into a husband. remember frederic  (adriana’s husband)? well there he is in the corner. i sneakily took his picture because i was so excited. also if you remember, he is french which made me that much happier that he picked colette’s for dinner.
and then we took a selfie.

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8pm: walk along lincoln road
lincoln road is filled with great shopping, street performers and people watching.
on another note, b forgot to bring a swimsuit this trip and so we thought it would be simple enough to find a cheap swimsuit in the area. NOT! we went to miami in september (so technically after summer season) and there was not one swimsuit for men anywhere. we searched up and down lincoln road without success. there was plenty of options for women but not men. can you believe that?

10pm: ice cream at frieze ice cream factory

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9:30am: breakfast at yardbird southern table
yes, there is also a yardbird in vegas but i had never eaten at that one so this southern style restaurant was all knew to me.
located near lincoln road, yardbird southern table is the perfect brunch spot for benedicts, grits, chicken+waffles, homemade donuts and flaky biscuits.
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why yes, that is a perfect maple donut topped with bacon and a side of extra glaze.

11am: beach & bikes
soak in the ocean views in south beach but don’t forget an umbrella because there is no shade and that sun is strong! you can also rent an umbrella on the beach like we did but they will charge you an arm and a leg.
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the water is crystal clear and so warm. and those clouds? perfect beach day.
there are also bikes to rent all over south beach (sobe). it is a fun way to see the city but prices are steep.
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2pm: lunch at las olas cafe
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olas is not trendy or cutesy but it is good cuban food and the prices can’t be beat. we tried a traditional cuban sandwich stuffed with french fries, empanadas (best i ever had) and key lime pie (all of which i would recommend). it is walking distance from the main beach.

3pm: paddle boarding with miami beach paddleboard
so i found an amazing deal through groupon that pushed me over the edge to try paddle boarding — $10 for one hour rental with instruction. it was a no brainer. another bonus — we got to paddle around the bay of miami beach so it is easier to find your balance and the homes lining the bay are drool worthy.
i brought an underwater disposable camera (yes like the 90’s) and still need to get the film developed but trust me, paddle boarding in miami was awesome not to mention a work out!

7pm: learn the art of flying trapeze at the flying trapeze school
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yes, my hands had blisters after and yes, my arms were sore for a week but learning the art of flying trapeze was one of the biggest thrills. it was an adrenaline rush. i felt so alive and the team at the flying trapeze school were amazing instructors. i felt completely safe and like i was learning the true technique that circus performers use. it was also an added bonus that we were the only 2 to sign up for the class that day so we got to fly a number of times and see the instructors practice. definitely an experience i will never forget!
thanks to my older sister for recommending!

9:30pm: dinner at shake shack
i like shake shack. i have been to the one in new york and was excited to introduce b to the franchise. the burgers are good and very similar to in-n-out. the fries are easily forgettable but that shark attack concrete? heavenly. i like how shake shack has more options than just hamburgers and i feel like the food is very quality but, in-n-out will always have my heart in a burger taste off. i am a west coast gal, what can i say?


9am: breakfast at sofi cafe
after all the rich and heavy food, all i needed was a good acai bowl. that’s all i was craving and sofi cafe is just the place. i absolutely could not get over how darling the furniture was. it was definitely a spot where i would become a regular if i ever live in miami.
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after breakfast, we walked around south pointe park. it offers scenic views and flat paths. then you can walk back to main beach and grab some of the most amazing tacos before you head out of the magic city.

12pm: lunch at my ceviche
there are a few different locations for this place but we went to the one on washington ave. my ceviche is literally a hole in the wall but it offers the best ceviche and tacos! i got an ahi taco and octopus taco. both were fresh, flavorful and packed with fish (you get your moneys worth).
there is no seating but the restaurant (or food stand) is located next door to a hostel that offers outdoor seating if you order a drink from them. so grab your tacos from my ceviche and a drink from the hostel and bask in your last moments under the miami sun.

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miami was one of my favorite adventures.

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in preparation for any trip, i research (especially restaurants) for hours upon hours. i like to have lots of different options and then choose based on our mood. below are a few places i heard good things about but did not have a chance to try.
true loaf – cookies, pastries
puerto sagua – cuban diner food (my sister highly recommended but it was closed due to fire when we were in town)
pubbelly – asian fusion
a la folie cafe – crepes
joe’s takeaways – crab, key lime pie
oliver’s bistro – breakfast / brunch
athen’s juice bar
the bazaar by jose andres – spanish cuisine, tapas style
michael’s genuine food & drink – new american eatery
cena by michy - new american eatery

on a personal note, you may be wondering why we went to miami (and i want to always remember for our own history). i was getting a little anxious of my upcoming birthday. i had talked about how fun it would be to travel on my birthday as to keep me excited for this milestone and less anxious. b sure listened because i opened his card on my birthday that said “put together the puzzle to find out where we will continue the celebration of your birthday”. i couldn’t put together the puzzle fast enough. i jumped up and down. he provided a way then he let me still do my favorite part of traveling (research and make an itinerary). so here we are a month after my birthday in miami continuing the celebration. it is a memory i will cherish forever.
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Guide to Mazatlan, Mexico

hello again.
b and i returned from mexico a couple weeks ago and i have been playing catch up ever since.

it was a trip with b’s family and it was a great one.
b’s family loves mexico and loves all inclusive hotels/experiences. b was the one who introduced me to both (i had been to cabo before meeting b but that was it for mexico).
we went to cancun for our honeymoon and i absolutely loved it. those white sand powder beaches were a dream. b would go back to cancun every year if i let him but i am always wanting to go somewhere i have never been before. i live for the feeling of exploring the unknown.

b’s family decided this year, they would stray a little bit from the known cancun and explore the beaches of mazatlan. i had not heard a lot about mazatlan so i quickly researched everything there was to know about this old mexican city.
let’s dive right in, shall we?

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pueblo bonito emerald bay resort –  stunning all inclusive resort located about 25 minutes outside of the city. the grounds are gorgeous, the water warm and there are a number of pools to choose from.
i am not a lover of all inclusive experiences. i am a lover of food so i may be a bit bias but if we were to do this experience again, i think we would still stay at the hotel but not pay for all inclusive. yes, it is great to get all the food you want all the time but when the food is just decent, i would rather pick and choose my meals. pueblo bonito has two restaurants onsite and a couple more restaurants at their city location that you are also able to eat at. all the restaurants taste the same though. very ordinary food.
i will say, i did not have this problem in cancun because there were far more restaurants at our hotel to choose from and the food was above average. so i am not throwing away the thought of all inclusives all together!

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the grounds of pubelo bonito are stunning though and i think all food tastes a bit better as you eat it ocean side :)


plaza machado - central plaza located in the heart of the city that has the best restaurants in mazatlan. it is a vibrant square with beautiful bright architecture.
*i was only able to drive by because we were traveling with such a big group but would have loved to dine at one of the restaurants in the square. it was definitely one of the cleanest parts of the city.

cathedral of the immaculate conception – absolutely stunning cathedral located in the center of the city. we were lucky enough to visit during mass.
fun fact: this is the only catholic church to have a star of david featured in it. apparently, a few jews donated a large sum of money for the church to be built so the church council agreed to put the star of david in the church as a symbol of their gratitude. look carefully to see if you can spot it!

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el faro lighthouse – “The lighthouse has the distinction of being settled in what was formerly an island and has a length of 641 meters by 321 meters wide and a height of 157 meters, making it the highest natural lighthouse in the Americas and one of the highest operating lighthouses in the world.” it is a steep hike to the top but i read that the views make it worth it. we, again, saw the light house from afar but i would have loved to walk to the top (usually takes 30-45 min).

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cliff divers – caution! this may be a tourist trap but while in mazatlan, right? there are divers hanging around the rocks and they offer to dive 40 feet for you for $20. we were suckered in. the diver had to time it just right with the tide as to not dive directly on the rocks. it was pretty intense.



mazatlan is a place to relax. i was hoping to do a couple excursions but when you are with a big group it is sometimes just easier to hang by the beach and pool and play some games. so enjoy the warm pacific ocean and sip on your pina colada because if you are lucky enough to be at the beach then you are lucky enough (and even more lucky to be surrounded by people i love).


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mazatlan, you were fun to explore but i think one visit is good enough for me.

Cody, Wyoming

this year’s family trip with my family was set in the beautiful town of cody, wyoming.
never heard of it? neither had i before traveling there over 10 years ago to visit my grandpa’s ranch. this is now the third time we have visited the town and it keeps getting better and better. i especially loved that i could now share this special place with b.

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cody, wyoming is east of yellowstone national park. there are about 10,000 residents of cody. the city of cody was named after william frederick cody (buffalo bill).
i don’t know if it gets any more small town feel than this. and that is maybe why i like it. it is such a change of pace.
my grandpa’s ranch is about 30 min away from the town so it felt like even more of a retreat from the hustle and bustle. not to mention there is no cell reception on the property and spotty wifi. but can i just say it was a little thrilling to be so disconnected from social media? it was a great way to be “technology free” and enjoy one another with no distractions. this was just the trip i needed.

let me preface this post by saying this will no way be a guide to cody because frankly we stayed up at the ranch 90% of the time. cody is not known for its’ food scene or elaborate city. it is known for its’ stunning mountains, sweeping valleys and long rivers. it is a place to forget yourself and be immersed in god’s beautiful earth. so think of this more like a travel diary.

we started off the trip by celebrating my brother in law and step grandma’s birthday. my sisters made their day extra special by bringing up a photo booth and making a cake. of course, we had to have zombie props for my brother in law.

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these family trips only get more fun as there become more nieces and nephews and as those nieces and nephews get older. i absolutely love bonding with them.

something not to be missed while out west is shooting guns! this was b’s favorite activity on the trip! it was my first time shooting a shotgun. i will be honest and say i was not great at it but it was something i was glad i did at least once. my oldest sister was a modern day annie oakley and this was her first time shooting a gun so you never know until you try!

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this trip was filled with many firsts as it was also my first time fishing (that i can remember). i am sorry to say i didn’t catch any fish but it was still fun. b caught one and my brother in law caught a few. we chose the catch and release method.

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fun fact! when i was young, i used to be obsessed with horses. i once won a trophy vaulting on a horse and took horseback riding lessons before entering high school. i still love it. i was so happy to be horseback riding again.

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we rode all the way to the very top of a mountain and looked down on this view. i seriously wanted to take a picture with every step we took but pictures don’t even do it justice. cody, you are completely stunning.

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one day we did head into town for the buffalo bill museum (must see!) , a tour of old trail town cody, dinner at wyoming’s rib and chop house, and the famous cody rodeo. all of which i highly recommend!
i will say my least favorite of all the activities was the cody rodeo because of how horribly the animals are treated but it is such a big event in cody so we felt like when in cody, right?

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dusk in cody made my heart swoon. and those clouds? wow cody!

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but mostly we just explored the mountains, ate a lot, played card games and snuggled on my newest nephew who is only 2 months old.

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these are my people. i am so happy i got to be with them for 3.5 days.
until we meet again, cody!


Guide to Phi Phi (Part Two)

now that we have the activity portion of phi phi covered, let’s move on to food and lodging!

Guide to Phi Phi, Thailand (2)


there are many hotels and hostels available on phi phi but i really think we lucked out with the hotel we chose — pp palm tree. it is in the hub bub of the island “city” but we never heard any noise and it made it convenient to explore. we were provided with complimentary beach towels for the pool / beach, in room air conditioning (thank the heavens. not sure how people survive with just a fan), breakfast served daily and a hot shower (it’s the little things when you are away from home you know). pricing was fairly reasonable for the island but i will say phi phi was the most expensive place to stay of the three cities.

below is a view from our patio. it was the perfect island escape.

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A lot of the restaurants are fairly similar — meaning a mix of thai and western food. i swear three of the restaurants we ate at were probably indistinguishable from each other so let’s just keep to the best of the best.

le grand bleu – we ate here on our last night on the island and i am so glad we saved the best for last. b’s scuba instructor actually recommended it to us. after living there for many months, he had decided it was the best food on the island and i would have to agree. it is a mix of thai and french food. we ordered a couple appetizers along with our entrees and each dish was delicious so i am sure you can’t go wrong. i especially loved the duck dish (on the french portion of the menu) and yellow curry (thai portion of the menu). le grand bleu is a complete step above the other restaurants available.
it is located fairly close to the dock where the ferries arrive / depart.

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anna’s restaurant - tucked away from the main road, this place is also a gem. again, it is another mix of thai and western food. i heard or read somewhere that the owner of the restaurant (a european man) married a thai woman and so that is why the mix of western and thai is so authentic. i did ask our waitress if anna was around so i could meet her but sadly, she was killed in the hurricane.

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b claims anna’s serves some of the best wiener schnitzel of his life! the food was all around tasty but i especially love the mocktails. i couldn’t get enough of the refresher, which was made up of orange juice mixed with another juice and topped with crushed cucumber. how refreshing right?

ps are you dying over b’s pants above? they are his “thai pants”. they were sold everywhere and b insisted he had to get a pair to fit in with the locals. b said they were the comfiest pants he owns. we bought them in chiang mai and tried to get another pair in phi phi but they were way more expensive. one will have to do.
and no i did not see any locals wearing them. insert crying emoji here.

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blue lagune - ready for some pure thai food? blue lagune is the place for you! it is a little bit aways from the hotel meaning you will have to take a water taxi to the other side of phi phi to get there but why not have a little adventure? the owners of the restaurant are so welcoming and help you find the best entree for your tastebuds!

amp cafe & restaurant – another great thai option but this time located a little closer to home base (for us pp palm tree). it is rustic and has a view of the ocean. what is not to love?

oh and i can’t vouch for the food but there is an amazing fire show attached to a restaurant right on the water. you will see signs for it as you walk around. you must attend! the performers are so skilled. it was definitely a highlight on our trip.

so long phi phi, you are one in a million.


Guide to Phi Phi Island (Part One)

last stop, phi phi island!

so we knew we wanted to see thailand from all facets of life hence why we started in the big city, worked our way north to the jungle and finally flew south for the island life.

there are many islands/peninsulas to choose from including koh samui, koh phi phi, railay, krabi, phuket… this list literally goes on and on. it made it quite difficult to choose where to have our home base. i had heard that it was easy to visit surrounding islands by water taxi but home base to me was crucial. i finally settled on koh phi phi (pronounced pee pee) but it really was on a whim after much frustration with weighing the pros and cons for all the islands.
i don’t regret my whim one bit.

koh phi phi is stunning although time consuming to travel to so be warned. we took a taxi from our chiang mai hotel to chiang mai airport then caught a flight to phuket (via air asia because one of the only direct flights — great airline). from phuket, we took a taxi to the ferry station (40 min+ taxi ride) then a ferry to koh phi phi (about 2 hour ferry ride — it is air conditioned!).

stepping off the ferry into the heat of koh phi phi was thrilling and overwhelming. there are so many people getting off with you and trying to find their hotel rep.
we were told by our hotel that there would be someone to greet us and take us to the hotel. little did we know that all the hotels provide the same service and so the long list of hotel reps can be daunting. we finally found our rep after countless questions to the other reps. i expected him to show us the way to the shuttle. wrong! there are no cars on the island. he took our bags and led us through a sea of people and dirt roads. ten minutes later, we had arrived (my whole body completely sweating ha — the heat and humidity are real).

but please don’t let all the traveling time get you down, it really is worth it. i just wanted to add a little background because i felt a little clueless when arriving.

now to the fun part.  i have put together a city guide of all the best things to do , eat and see on this picturesque island they call phi phi.

Guide to Phi Phi, Thailand (2)

snorkeling tour of surrounding islands – there are many companies on the island that provide similar snorkeling excursions. we chose to do the afternoon excursion with ibex climbing and tours. it was a great way to see the surrounding islands including monkey beach, maya bay (no sign of leo sadly) and pileh lagoon. i do recommend ibex because our tour guide, richard, was so fun to be around and knowledgeable. we actually booked the tour online before traveling to thailand but it was not necessary.

below is a picture of maya bay. it is a little overcrowded during the day because of all the different boating companies but it really took my breath away. some of our friends that we met in thailand actually camped on maya bay for a night and i think that would be a great option to beat the crowds.

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scuba diving - don’t have your scuba license ? no problem. most scuba companies on the island will allow you to dive down to 12 meters without a license. i was a little apprehensive so decided to sit this one out but b went and loved it. he claimed it was 1000x better than snorkeling. b was able to swim with eels, small sharks, schools of fish, etc. his two dives in phi phi are going towards his scuba certification! he is hooked.

hike to the viewpoint – completely exhausting yet completely worth it. please do this hike in the early morning or early evening and not as we did in the heat of the day because it is intense with the sun beating down on you and lots of humidity. and yes i am not the most physically fit person so you may say pish posh to my advice but it appeared everyone around us was winded by the end of the hike (besides the locals who climbed it speedily and with ease).

the hike to the viewpoint is about this steep the whole way up.

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then you see this view and it all seems worth it.

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how darling is the seating up at the viewpoint? makes me wish i would have brought a deck of cards or tea set.

hire a private long tail and escape to bamboo island – one of my favorite activities! there are many boats available for hire on the island that will take you anywhere you want to go. we were deciding between mosquito and bamboo island and in the end settled on bamboo island. bamboo island is a 40 min boat ride from phi phi. it is a small island with nothing on it but a small snack bar and gorgeous beaches–just the way i like it! the sand is white and soft. the water is crystal clear. i kept on pointing out how pretty the water color was to b on the boat ride. it was like nothing i had ever seen before.  be sure to lather up on sunscreen because the sun is strong and the white sand reflects back on you (or so we think because of our sunburns ha).
note! you may try to haggle with them about pricing to the nearby islands but it doesn’t do much good. it appears they are all in an alliance to have the same pricing. oh and you will have to pay a national park fee in addition to the taxi fee for bamboo island, maya bay and mosquito island.

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hike to long beach – we originally thought it would be a short walk to long beach from our hotel. news flash–it is a hike through the jungle. you may feel lost at times since there appears to be no clear path but never worry, the thais have you covered with their storybook style road signs. long beach is the best beach for swimming and lounging on the island. there are two restaurants close to the beach that provide decent food so i would recommend eating before or after. there are a few hotels on this side of the island and part of me thinks it would be dreamy to wake up with a view of long beach but it is fairly secluded from the city portion of the island.

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and now I am looking at what a long post this is turning out to be so what do you say we keep the best place to eat and stay for next time?

have i got you buying a ticket to thailand yet?



linked to: treat yo’ self

City Guide: Chiang Mai

it is safe to say that chiang mai was our favorite city that we visited during our trip.
heck, b even brought up the idea of living in this jungle city at some point in our life.

we enjoyed the less humid climate, easy navigation through the city (compared to bangkok) and the slower pace.
it is referred to as ” the rose of the north” for good reason.

so without further or do here is a list of our favorite things to do, eat and see!

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elephant nature park – are you tired of me talking about my love for elephants and this incredible experience that elephant nature park offers? hope not!
elephant nature park provides people the opportunity to walk, feed, bathe and love on asian elephants. it is a great humane option but on the pricier side!
check my previous post for more details.

rent a scooter – the best way to tour the city in my opinion! it is also very cost effective. we rented a scooter for a few dollars a day. do note they don’t drive on the same side of the road as we do in the states so that can get a little confusing.

shop at night bazaar – a bustling outdoor market with souvenirs, clothes and food galore. it has by far the best prices i have seen for merchandise in thailand!

exfoliate your feet – have you ever seen those tanks with the fish in them that supposedly eat your dead skin? well those tanks are available at the night bazaar. b loved it and kept putting his hand in the tank for the fish to eat the skin off. i, on the other hand, am way too ticklish. i am not even a fan of pedicures because they touch my feet too much.
i didn’t think i would be able to feel the fish as much as i did. i could literally feel every single fish sucking and i was not having it. you have to have a lot of self control to participate!

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get a massage at zabai thai massage – massages in thailand are cheeeap. like ben got a massage almost every night cheap. this place was on the pricier side when it came to massages but both b and i agreed it was well worth it with ambience of the spa and the professionalism / experience of the employees. b said it may have been the best massage he ever had.
i paid around $18 for a one hour aromatherapy message (thai massages are a little too rough for me but b prefers it).

take a tuk tuk – tuk tuks are more readily available than taxis in chiang mai so this was another way we would get around to dinner/massages. i love tuk tuks. i love the wind in my hair. i love bartering with the drivers before hand (you must decide on a price before entering or they will swindle you!). i love all the different smells you encounter on your drive through the city. it really is so thai.

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a lot of thai – another highlight of the trip for me was taking a half day cooking class with chef yui. the half day class includes three dishes and a tour of the local market (full day is 5 dishes + local market tour — wish we had that kind of time!). this is the perfect way to bring a piece of thailand home with you.
yui is an amazing teacher with a low key approach that makes you enjoy the dish you are creating. not to mention she is hilarious!

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the house restaurant – lovely atmosphere with vibrant thai dishes ; gingers restaurant located next door is also a great dinning option but a little pricier!

the riverside – a great mix of western and thai food ; moderate pricing ; live music ; eat on the patio by the water!

la fourchette –  confession. we did not eat thai food the whole time we were there. sometimes my body just wanted to mix it up and la fourchette is the place to do it. it is a french restaurant with exquisite dishes like duck and lamb.

la petite chiangmai - wonderful authentic northern thai cuisine with exceptional service!

mamory delicious for good memories – we actually did not eat here but it was recommended to us so i thought i would pass down the recommendation to you. please let me know what you think of it!

angel’s secrets – this is the kind of bakery / coffee shop that you could spend your whole day in and be content. the food is delicious. the restaurant is located in the center of the city and they have a garden. what more could you ask for?


wat chedi luang – to be honest, this was the only temple we were able to visit while in chiang mai. a lot of our time was eaten up by excursions and so we didn’t have as much time to explore as we would have liked.
this temple is 600 years old and used to house the emerald buddah, which is now at the grand palace in bangkok. i love the elephant statues and the steep staircases. i can only imagine what it would have looked like in its’ prime!

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do explore the other exquisite temples in chiang mai for me! here is a great guide.

we simply adored the city of chiang mai. our only wish was that we could have spent at the very least a couple more days. we were only there for 2 full days and one day was with the elephants. but we will take what we can get it!

oh chiang mai, you have a special piece of my heart.



linked to: treat yo’ self

Guide to Chiang Mai: Elephant Nature Park

the highlight of our trip to thailand was going to the elephant nature park located about an hour outside of chiang mai.
okay, maybe it is even a highlight of my life.

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b and i are very much animal people. we knew there would be many opportunities to interact with animals when traveling to thailand and we were very excited by this. but we also wanted to be cautious of what kind of interactions to have. we wanted to make sure that all the animals we were around were treated humanely.
there are many companies in thailand that use elephants just for the sake of tourism. the elephants are often beaten and taken away from their families in order to break the elephant’s spirit. these tactics help the owner to show the elephant who is boss.
this treatment of elephants breaks my heart and i knew i didn’t want anything to do with those type of companies. i didn’t want to ride an elephant. i wanted to love and nurture an elephant.

after much research, we came across elephant nature park.

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elephant nature park rescues abused elephants from tourism and provides them with a sanctuary inside their camp. all the elephants are treated with care and given free rein to roam the entirety of the estate. the elephant nature park has rescued baby elephants when they were stripped away from their mothers in tourism and provided them with adoptive parents and loving aunts. it is a wonderful oasis for these elephants who have lived rough lives. elephant nature park hopes to one day release these animals back into the wild.

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we signed up for “pamper a pachyderm” program through elephant nature park. i will be honest, it is a bit more expensive to have an experience like this. we paid about $185/person but it is a full day and after visiting the camp, i knew my money was completely well spent. the money was going to feeding the elephants (did you know an elephant eats about 3 tons of food a day?), employing nurturing guides/care takers and running a business.

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the tour included transportation to the park (approx. 1 hour outside of chiang mai), lunch (one of the best meals i had in thailand mind you) in a hut overlooking the river, white water rafting and loving on these gentle giants.

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b and i were able to feed, bathe, walk with and love on 4 adult female asian elephants and 1 four year old male asian elephant. it was a dream come true. not to mention the landscape surrounding the park was completely breath taking.

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this is one day i will treasure for many years to come.


tip! you do have to walk a lot with this tour so be prepared. i would also advise you to bring water shoes for crossing the river, bug spray and sunscreen.