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Lindsay

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Entries in Travel (47)

Tuesday
Jan152013

What happens in Vegas...

"What happens in Vegas" doesn't necessarily have to stay in Vegas.  In fact, I'm going to share my recent jaunt that included: An incredibly delicious brunch in Paris - a steal of a haute hotel room - a walk down the isle - and a couple of other shenanigans.

...

Did you know, if you go to Vegas around Christmas time, that hotel rooms are incredibly affordable and restaurant/lounge reservations are a breeze to snag?  It's the low season and, in laymen's terms, all that really means is that you can't swim outdoors.  Now, while that may be a total bust to you sun goddesses, I can't imagine a more miserable situation than roasting in 115-degree dry, summer heat.  I'll take the winter, thank you very much.

One of my best friends from college, Erin, decided that she wanted to get married on the weekend before Christmas.  In Vegas.  With scheduled plans to visit my family in California for the holidays, Vegas was all too conveniently on my way.  While most of the guests had plans to stay at the Wynn, I chose The Four Seasons.  Why?  Because I had Lucy, my lil' pup, in tow.  And the Wynn is not dog-friendly.   And neither are too many other properties.

Lucy gets some fresh air on our way to JFK...and passed out like a log in-flight.The Four Seasons is connected-ish to Mandalay Bay which, aside from being inconvenient to most of the other casinos, is located alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way at the beginning of the Strip.  However, if it's tranquility (there is not a casino in the hotel), outstanding service, updated guest rooms, and a pet-friendly environment you're after, look no further than The Four Seasons

Looking up from the pool at The Four SeasonsSince checkin wasn't until 3pm, I began to panic.  What would I do with Lucy while I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at 10:30am?  Luckily, the hotel's concierge was quick to reassure me and arranged for a pet sitter to watch my lil' girl while I was entertaining.

I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at Mon Ami Gabi, a French brasserie, in the Paris Hotel.  This particular venue was chosen because: 

  • French food is romantic.  So is getting married.
  • It received very high rankings on Zagat.
  • They offer a $25, 2-course, prix-fixe menu.
  • Working with onsite event planner, Rebecca, was seamless.

In order to sass things up a bit, I quickly decorated the table with plastic "gems" (from Party City) and placed a salted-caramel macaron at each lady's coffee saucer (I purchased a dozen from Macaron Parlour here in NYC.  Transporting them was simple, as Macaron Parlour has indestructible packaging!).

Erin and, on her left, the maid of honor and, to her right, the flower girl.

Le menu

First course:  Fruit salad and fresh croissant

Second course:  Entree.  I chose the traditional Eggs Benedict.

After brunch, I went back to The Four Seasons to fetch Lucy and check in.  

I scored a room with two double beds and a killer view for only $179/night.  Beat that, bitches! 

The hotel gifted Lucy with an adorable stuffed animal that looked just like her!

The Four Seasons provided a doggie bed, a place mat topped with a food and water bowl, and homemade doggie treats!  FYI:  Those two green cups in the center of the mat were ones that I brought from home.

After relaxing for a few hours, it was already time to head to the Wynn for Erin's ceremony.

My sweet friend made the most beautiful bride.

Post nuptials, we clinked glasses of bubbly and enjoyed some outstanding hors d'oeuvre at the property's stunning Lakeside Restaurant.  

...

On Sunday, Lucy and I spent the day shopping at The Forum Shoppes and Barney's, where I did some serious retail damage on the sale racks.  Ultimately, with the dough that I saved on marked-down items, I caved and bought this lil' number:

For dinner, I met Erin and her husband for a 'meat and potatoes' fix at Gallagher's Steakhouse in New York, New York (...obviously not my choice of venue, since I live in "New York, New York"). 

For a night cap, we decided to grab another round at Bar at Times Square, where we caught an unbelievably entertaining "dueling pianos" performance...

...and the fans go wild!

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!"

"We're half way theeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!"

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!  Livin' on a praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayer!" 

 

I don't know who that woman was, but what a total bad ass for rocking out like "no one was watching!" 

On Christmas Eve, Lucy and I bid Vegas adieu and caught a 1pm flight to San Diego. 

 

Do you have any favorite Las Vegas venues or money-saving tips? 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Jan102013

(Asia 2012) Fourth - and final - stop: Hong Kong!

11/27:  My sister and I awoke early for our mid-morning flight to Hong Kong, out of Bangkok's other airport.  And, yes, thanks for asking, I was finally beginning to feel a bit better, though I noticed a couple of, what appeared to be, bites on my fingers and forearms.  I just brushed them off as heat rash...

Prior to leaving our hotel room, I was able to snap a few photos of the view from our 47th floor abode.  And, whether that's smog or just plain ol' fog hugging the tips of those skyscrapers in the distance, I thought that these were some pretty sweet shots.

Luckily, my sister and I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport with plenty of time to spare.  Aside from loading up on silk goods at Jim Thompson, we window-shopped at Chanel (we all know what a 'Chanel whore' I am) and indulged in a final Thai massage.  #heavenly 

Yet another AWESOME Asian airport!After a two-hour flight, we arrived in a rainy Hong Kong around 1pm. 

If you've never been to Asia, let me just say that many of their airports make ours look like dog shit, especially in terms of technology and logic.  I could spend hours on end at HKG, BKK, or SIN just shopping, eating, and people-watching.      

Now there's a concept: Let passengers know *when* bags are and have finished arriving.After we got our bags and went through immigration, my sister and I hopped on the Airport Express.  From Kowloon Station, we caught the free shuttle bus that transported us to our hotel, the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers.

This ain't your typical, shitty 'NYC Transit' train, baby. Airport Express has comfy seats, huge windows, and television.

I chose this hotel property because:

  • The location:  It is on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong Island, which I did not get to explore very much during my previous visit. 
    • The hotel is *on* Nathan Road (aka Kowloon's "Gold Mile"), situated next door to The Peninsula Hong Kong and right across the street from Victoria Harbour. 
  • I wanted a room with a harbour view, namely for the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show.
  • I did not want to spend an arm and a leg at the neighboring Peninsula or Intercontinental (hotels).

Although smaller, our room had a fantastic view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island.  My sister and I could *not* have been happier...

Pretty damn good, no?

We took our time unpacking before heading outside to walk around.  Just before 8pm, we returned to our hotel room to watch the light show from our front-and-center window.

For dinner, we decided to stay within the hotel and eat at Celestial Court, an upscale Chinese restaurant.

Crispy, golden spring rollsBeef filetsPrawns with mushroomsFried rice with pork and scallions...

11/28:  This morning, we chose to sleep in.  Thank god.  But, don't you worry, I made it to the breakfast buffet prior to its 10:30am closing-time.  Hey, the meal was included with our room!  Though not as delicious as the spread at the Le Meridien Phuket or Shangri-La Chiang Mai, I still managed to fill myself up on an array of a.m. goodies.

Since my sis had never been to Hong Kong, I thought it would be a great idea to take her to the Tian Tan Buddha (aka Big Buddha).  After all, Ceci and I loved visiting this site during our trip here 2010.  From the cable car ride to the exhilarating climb up to the statue, this is a *must see* for any tourist.

Half of the excitement of visiting the "Big Buddha" is the 45-ish minute scenic cable car ride to the site.  On a super clear day, you can see planes landing and departing from the airport!  Here are a few pics from my previous visit:

Top: Cable car view. Middle: Strolling through village to reach statue. Bottom: Big Buddha/Tian Tan "I'm just a bit concerned about the weather, dude," I remarked, while standing under my umbrella.  "It's looking pretty foggy out there."

 And here are some pictures from this *very* wet, rainy visit.  As you can see (or not), visibility was a fcuking joke.

Best, most clear view from our cable car ride. And, yes, that black dot is a cable car.Strolling through the village to reach the statue.A very blurry shot of Big Buddha/Tian TanThe weather was really pissing me off.  Luckily, by the time we climbed all the way up to the top of the statue, I was able to snap *one* decent shot. 

We paid for an inside tour of the statue and a snack, but I was in such a sour mood that I barely remember anything of substance besides the vegetarian "Singapore noodles" that I ate at the monastery.

MonasteryCold and wet, we headed back towards the cable car station and returned to the city.  I wanted to visit Milan Station and my sister was looking forward to checking out the Central-Mid-levels escalators and area boutiques.

Central-Mid-levels escalatorsOutdoor produce marketUm, ok."I need a drink," I exclaimed, before my sister and I bumped in to this age-appropriate Australian business man.  He introduced himself as "Clancy," and asked if he could join us.  We grabbed seats at La Piola, an Italian restaurant/wine bar and were surprised to receive a free platter of Italian tapas with our wine.  "Now this," I said, "is my kinda' place!"  When Clancy excused himself to the restroom, I told my sister that I did NOT want to get stuck with his red-headed ass all night.  "One more drink," I said, "and then we peace the fcuk out."

Well, one drink turned in to two, as it so often does, and we got talked in to grabbing another at some dumpy hookah lounge.  After announcing that I was "over drinking beer," we found a fantabulous tiki lounge, Honi Honi, where we knocked back a couple of tropical drinks served in coconuts. 

Pina Colada at Honi HoniFor a late-night dinner, we grabbed dim sum at Loyal Dining.

...

11/29:  We slept in.  Again.  But, just like any other occasion where there's a *free* meal, I made it downstairs in time for the breakfast buffet.  Despite the shiteous, wet forecast, my sister and I decided to pound the pavement and figure out our day as we went.  Not having an agenda is sometimes the best plan.

Instead of the subway, we took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island and, while snapping some scenic photos, thought that it could be fun/funny/cool to pay my local colleagues at the bank a visit.

The fellas were pleasantly surprised to see me and my sister and suggested that we go to Victoria Peak.  "But, if the visibility is anything like how it was at Big Buddha," I said, "it could just be a huge waste of our time."  My sister wanted to go, regardless.  So, we went.

Unfortunately, we were met with similar weather and visibility conditions from the top of the Peak.  "Well, we can always eat," I suggested.  We grabbed a table (that would have been a fabulous on a lovely day) at The Peak Lookout, a restaurant overlooking the island.

Gorgeous, almost medieval, space

SamosasAfter a leisurely lunch, my sis and I headed back down the mountain and returned to the Mid-Levels area.  We chose to split up so that she could continue browsing local boutiques, and my snobby ass could price Birkin bags at Milan Station

Alas, I found myself back in Kowloon, licking a ridiculously delicious XTC Gelato cone - topped with a scoop each of salted caramel and black sesame - all while gazing at the harbour.

Just before I returned to the room to meet my sister at 8pm, I walked over to Van Cleef & Arpels to price and try on the necklace that I have dreamt about since 2006:  Lucky Alhambra Butterfly Pendant.  

While beginning to pack our bags for our long journey home, and reminiscing about our incredible journey, my sister and I ordered room service for our final dinner in Hong Kong.  #fail

...

11/30:  After we completely finished packing, my sis and I went downstairs to enjoy our last breakfast buffet, then headed back to Van Cleef & Arpels.  I bought my necklace!!

Ain't she a beauty?Did you know that, if you take the Airport Express to the airport, you can *check in to your flight* and *check your luggage* from Kowloon or Central Station 90-minutes to one day in advance?  How fcuking cool is that?  

After we cleared security, my sis and I shopped for a bit before having our final meal of the trip together:  Lunch at Cafe Deco where, believe it or not, I had an awesome version of Malaysian Nasi Goreng.

Since she was headed back to LA and I was NYC-bound, we were on different flights.  Saying goodbye to each other was hard, but I felt better once I realized that I'd see her again in less than 4-weeks in California. 

...

To conclude:  Whenever I travel, especially somewhere so distant, I always return home a different person.  I mean, how can I not?  For two-weeks, I immersed myself in various cultures, three different countries, two different time zones, and at least three different languages.  Dialects?  Well, that's a whole other story.  Travel makes you realize that there is a world beyond what you call your own.  And a very big one, at that. 

For those of you who think that you cannot afford to travel out of the country, I challenge you.  Did you know that you can buy a round trip ticket to Hong Kong or Thailand for under $1000?  Or that, once you're in Asia, you can country-hop on "cheapo" airlines for less than $100/ticket?  Four Seasons out of your league?  There are hotels, motels, rental apartments, villas, and hostels for every budget under the rainbow.  All you have to do is a little bit of research.  Besides yourself, all you need is a passport and an open mind.

From this trip, I took away the following:

  • I would move to Hong Kong in a New York minute.
  • *If* I ever get married, I'd like to do it on a beach in Thailand.
  • It's a nice break not to be surrounded by a bunch of fellow American tourists.  The other countries are right:  We are loud, obnoxious, fat, and rude.
  • I've caught the travel bug and want to plan my next far-away excursion ASAP.
  • I revel in "me" time while traveling with others.
  • The people who think I'm some kind of baller because I travel to kick ass places are, typically, the ones who are married with kids.  If y'all didn't have responsibilities other than yourselves, you'd be traveling, too!  So shut the fcuk up.
  • The economy "accordion" seats on Cathay Pacific SUCK ASS.  Horrible.  Uncomfortable.  Ridiculous.
  • Asian hospitality is second to none.  Period.
  • US-based airlines SUCK.  Many Asian airlines *still serve* free snacks/drinks.
  • More cocktails should be served in coconuts.
  • Gangnam Style unites all and has the power to end world wars.

Oh, and more thing:  Curious as to what illness I came down with with traveling?  Well, to be honest, I didn't think twice of it until my sister called me about a week after we returned home and said that she had contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease.  "What the fcuk is that?"  I asked.   

"Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth (herpangina). They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers. The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters."

"Oh, sweet Jesus!" I gasped, "That's what I had, too!!"  While my "flu like" symptoms were worse than my sister's, her rash was worse than mine.  She had blisters all over the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.  We can only conclude that I contracted this illness from the "fish spa" in Thailand, before passing it on to her.  ***Blech*** 

On that note...

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Jan082013

(Asia 2012) Fourth stop: One night in Bangkok!t

For those of you who have followed my previous posts from this vacation, you many recall that my last night in Chiang-Mai was less than ideal...

"And then, the weirdest thing, I suddenly started to feel really exhausted and weak.  My throat began to tickle, and I had no choice but to excuse myself and go back up to the room.  I took a hot shower, in the hopes that the warm water would alleviate my aching muscles.  Alas, it was no resolve.  I laid in bed and fell asleep for a bit, only to wake to my cousin and sister asking if I was ready for dinner.  "Guys, I hate to stay behind, but I just feel too awful to move.  And you know something's wrong when I decline a meal."  

After they headed out for the evening, I phoned room service and ordered two glasses of orange juice before passing out around 8pm.  What the hell was happening to me?"

...

11/26:  Luckily, since I was living out of my suitcase, there wasn't a whole lot of packing to be done.  So, I crawled in to bed at 8pm and, after a solid 9-hours of sleep, I awoke to my obnoxious alarm "ding" at 5am.  Hey, I was feeling a bit better and wasn't about to miss the breakfast buffet before our 9:30am flight to Bangkok.  Especially after learning that service began on weekdays at 6am!  I figured, with a 5am wakeup call, I could finish packing *and* get ready for the day before the breakfast bell rang

My sister and cousin took turns sighing when my alarm went off.  "Listen up," I blurted in a loud whisper.  "I may be sick, but I'm not about to miss another great meal.  Did you know that I drank orange juice for dinner last night?  Y'all are just gonna have to deal with me rummaging around the room until 6am."

After stuffing myself like a goddamn sausage, my sister and I grabbed our bags and bid Cousin Eric adieu.  "Mr. P," our adorable/awesome driver from the previous day, picked us up in front of the hotel and drove us to the airport.  We were capital-bound and quite eager to spend "one night in Bangkok."  And to annoy the crap out of everyone whilst singing that one verse over.  And over.  And over again.

Go ahead and watch the video.  Sing along, why don't you?  You know you want to...

After a quick Air Asia flight (think 45-minutes), we landed in the capital city...

Cool! (No, this was not our plane.)Bangkok has two airports. We landed at the smaller of the two.Like suckers, we paid extra to a) be driven to our hotel in a black Mercedes sedan, sans other passengers, and b) opt for the tollway.  Time is money, honeyApparently, traffic off the tollway is no joke and a total nightmare And I just don't have time for that shit. 

After approximately 30-minutes in the car, my sister and I finally arrived at our hotel, the Banyan Tree Bangkok.  "Dude, I'm starting to feel like crap again," I mumbled whilst checking-in at the front desk.  "I'm sorry, but your room is not yet ready."  From the dramatic gasp I exhaled, the desk agent must have sensed that I was about to burst out crying.  When what I really was about to do was curl up on the floor in the lobby and pass out hobo-style.  Not a minute later, she exclaimed, "My apologies, your room is ready!"  While I was going in for a bear hug, the desk agent quickly backed up and handed me the room keys.  "You're welcome," she said, with an uneasy smile.

"Premier?  This sure seems like a high floor for a 'standard' guest room," my sister quipped.  Sure enough, as we opened the door to our room, we were shocked by what we saw...

"Where's the bed?" I asked.  After walking inside, we quickly realized that we had been upgraded to a suite!  That's right, folks, adjacent to the living area - complete with seating, a bar, a desk, and another television - was our bedroom.  My sister and I jumped in the air - strummed the air guitar - and high-fived each other.      

The bathroom contained a separate shower and tub and, perhaps my favorite detail of all, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel in pump bottles!  Now there's a green concept, America!  #asiansdoitbetter

While my sister went out to explore Bangkok solo, I stayed behind to nurse my sick ass back to health.  I decided that lounging in the sun could be relaxing and 'just what the doctor ordered.'

Next to each chaise lounge was a "service bell" that guests could ring if they needed anything from the staff.  I so wanted to last longer than the 5-minutes I actually did so that I could have rang the bell and ordered a tropical beverage.  Alas, my sickness got the best of me and I quickly retired to the room.

After a hot shower, I ordered a delicious room service lunch.  Sick or not, a girl has to eat!

Papaya juice and shrimp noodlesFeeling incredibly weak and coming to the realization that I would only experience Bangkok from my hotel room, I cried myself to sleep and awoke at 6pm.  When my sister finally returned at 7pm, we walked down to the lobby to grab a drink (Oh, calm down.  It was a "virgin" lime daiquiri, for god's sake.), snap photos, and take a quick walk outside, since I had not left the room all day. 

My "virgin" lime daiquiriLobby shotsIt was upon seeing this sign that we turned around and walked back to the hotel.For dinner, we decided to stay in and order room service so that we could pack for tomorrow's journey:  Hong Kong!

Sea bass filets prepared Thai-styleSticky rice spring rolls with mango and coconut ice cream...

"One Night in Bangkok" and the world's *not* my oyster...

Well, there you have it, folks.  My "one night in Bangkok" absolutely sucked because I was not healthy enough to enjoy anything beyond my hotel room.  I will say that I hope to return to Bangkok some day and make up for all that I missed.

Don't worry, I promise that my Hong Kong recap will be way more exciting!

~~~

Until Hong Kong,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Dec212012

(Asia 2012) Third stop: Chiang Mai (Thailand)

11/24:  We hired one of the hotel's cars to take us to the airport.  As crushing as it was to be leaving Phuket, I was pleasantly surprised to find three bottles of water and three chilled hand towels in the back seat of the sedan.  With an orchid on top!  What a pleasant way to depart.

Hospitality in Thailand cannot be beat...

The long ride to the airport was silent.  Yet again.  Just like the one after last night's meal.  The three of us had such a perfect time in Phuket, we just couldn't come to grips with the fact that our time in paradise had come to an end.

However, our spirits were lifted upon arriving at the airport.  For one, we were flying Air Asia to Chiang Mai, which proved to be a much better carrier than Tiger.  Then, we ended up gawking/laughing all of our blues away at some of the crazy signs posted throughout the terminal.  It was too much...But in the best way possible!

(FYI:  Durian, shown in the picture, below, is a fruit whose "...edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as pleasantly fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine, and gym socks. The odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia.")

WWAZD? "What would Andrew Zimmern Do?"

For reals?

...

Flying in to Chiang MaiBy the grace of god, we found ourselves with the coolest cab driver.  Ever.  While en-route from the airport to our hotel, "Mr. Thip" explained that he would chauffer the three of us on a 1/2-day excursion - to as many sites as we wanted - for about $8 (USD) per person.  Sha-wing! 

We told Mr. Thip that we would reach out to him after we were settled in our room.  After all, it wasn't yet noon.  We had 1/2 day to explore Chiang Mai!

Another gracious Thai welcome:  Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai

"I do not want to waste too much time here," Cousin Eric said to me and my sister as we were unpacking.  "We only have 1 1/2 days in Chiang Mai.  Let's make the most of it and get going!"  We called Mr. Thip, who came to fetch us within minutes.

We asked Mr. Thip to take us to "the most authentic Thai restaurant you know.  Somewhere with no white people."  Well, since all he saw in his rear view mirror were three white, American faces speaking English, we ended up at a place accessible through a parking lot filled with tour busses.  Ugh.  I suppose all of the other tourists at the restaurant asked their guides the same thing...

Dining al-fresco. With fellow tourists. #boringKhao soi soup with porkLuckily, the food was solid.  All three of us really enjoyed our hearty bowls of khao soi.

After lunch, we headed to Thai Silk Village, where they manufacture and export pure, hand-woven Thai silk.  Oh, and there's a huge onsite shop, too...

Thai Silk VillageFrom silk worm...

To silk manufacturing on-site!

After doing some "silk retail therapy," we ventured down the road to some random, ginormous jewelry store before heading to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Buddhist temple, named for the mountain in which it is located.  It also happens to be the oldest temple in the city, founded in - are you ready for this - 1383!

The temple stood 309 steps above the road...!

After what seemed like a never-ending climb, this was the first thing I saw as I approached the holy site...

But she was the second... :)

People removing their shoes prior to entering the templeShoes at the bottom of the temple steps"Proof we were here"

Intricate architecturePaying their respects...

Religious symbolismWatching the sun set over Chiang Mai from the temple's expansive overlook...

After a very productive afternoon, Mr. Thip returned us to our hotel around 7pm.  "I'll see you tomorrow morning at 9," he said while waving us goodbye. 

For dinner, the concierge recommended a restaurant near the hotel called The Whole Earth, specializing in both Indian and Thai cuisine.

Clearly, dining al-fresco at the restaurant was the right option...

Mango lassiAloo paratha: I've had better...A deliciously spicy, creamy shrimp curryAfter dinner, the three of us briefly strolled through the night bazaar before calling "lights out."  Later that evening, the rain began pouring so hard that there was a brief power outage!  Thank goodness we made it inside before the storm.

...

11/25:  If you're fortunate enough to get to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai, then make sure to snag a room package that includes the breakfast buffet.  Or, if you're a real baller, just pay full-price for it each morning.  From assorted tropical and exotic fruits - international cheeses and sliced meats - a massive selection of Asian options - an egg station - freshly-baked breads and pastries - waffles and pancakes - and so on, and so on, this is probably the most outstanding spread that I've ever experienced. 

After breakfast, the three of us went to the front driveway of the hotel in anticipation of Mr. Thip.  So, you can imagine our confusion when a strange man approached and introduced himself as Mr. P.  "Mr. Thip's car was damaged by last night's storm, so he sent me to take you out today."  Alrighty then.

First stopMaetaman Elephant Camp

Located about an hour's drive from Chiang Mai, the three of us could hardly wait to experience a 1/2 day filled with various elephant activities at the Camp

First, there was a show, which featured the Camp's star elephants doing a handful of amazing tricks.  Guests were able to purchase rods of sugarcane and banana clusters to treat/praise the elephants. 

But the coolest stunt, in my opinion/most worthy of the sugarcane and bananas, was when the animals were presented with a canvas and colored paints.  We got to watch as they created lovely paintings with their trunks!  One of which I purchased...

After the show, we got to take pictures with the elephants...

Finally, we got to go for an elephant trek/ride through the jungle!  Leave it up to my sister and I to have the quirkiest "driver" at the Camp.  He was funny as hell and kept yelling, in an American ditzy girl's voice, "Oh my Buddha!"  (Instead of "OMG," since his god is Buddha).  Then, when my sister and I started singing "Gangnam Style," he squealed and started dancing.  It was a shit show, but in the very best way possible!

I'm telling you, if it weren't for "Gangnam Style"...

A view from the top (of an elephant)...

We also got to enjoy an ox-cart ride...

By noon, we were hungry.  And ready to move on.  We asked Mr. P if he would *please* take us to "the most authentic Thai restaurant you know.  Somewhere with no white people."  I had to speak very slowly and point to my pasty-white skin multiple times.  I'd be damned if we were taken to another tourist trap.  He smiled, nodded and, 30-minutes in to our drive back to Chiang Mai, he pulled over on the side of the highway.  "Lunch," he said.

Good to know!"I come here a lot," Mr. P said.  "See, they have a table with all of their offerings.  You pick out what you want, and they bring it to where you're sitting."

Pork offal, fish, and other delights on the grillTableclothPork larbA variety of stewsGrilled whole fishEnjoying the authentic spreadAnd for dessert...the best coconut ice milk that I've ever had.After lunch, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at our hotel's pool.  I, for one, wanted to lounge, swim a bit, and just relax.

Before we bid Mr. P adieu, my sister and I asked if he would be able to fetch us the next morning for our early flight to Bangkok.  "Of course," he said, "enjoy the rest of your day and see you tomorrow."

A cool sculpture I spotted on our way to the pool...Under the cabana lies a massage table!Hahhahha!After toweling off from my swim, I noticed that an outdoor wedding was about to start.  Like, feet away from our chaise lounges!  "Guys, I'm going to grab a drink before the ceremony begins!  This is going to be like watching a movie.  And a cocktail will serve as my 'popcorn!'" 

Thai mojito (lemongrass and sugarcane)A traditional Thai wedding, happening right before our very eyes!And then, the weirdest thing, I suddenly started to feel really exhausted and weak.  My throat began to tickle, and I had no choice but to exuse myself and go back up to the room.  I took a hot shower, in the hopes that the warm water would alleviate my aching muscles.  Alas, it was no resolve.  I laid in bed and fell asleep for a bit, only to wake to my cousin and sister asking if I was ready for dinner.  "Guys, I hate to stay behind, but I just feel too awful to move.  And you know something's wrong when I decline a meal."  

After they headed out for the evening, I phoned room service and ordered two glasses of orange juice before passing out around 8pm.  What the hell was happening to me? 

To be continued from Bangkok.... 

 

...   

 

To conclude:  Chiang Mai is the kind of place where, even if you didn't believe in God/Jesus/Allah/Buddha before, you constantly feel the mysterious, yet comforting, embrace of a higher power.  From its emerald green mountains dotted with lush jungle foliage - golden Buddhist temples - remnants of the wall from the "old city" - affordable lodging, dining, and shopping - clean streets and public areas - friendly people - and opportunites/experiences rarely offered elsewhere, Chiang Mai is a winner all-around.  I fell in love with this magical, spiritual city.

~~~

Until Bangkok,

The Lunch Belle

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