Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

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She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

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Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

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On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

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Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

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Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

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Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

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Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

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What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

Destinations1

Charming Cinque Terre

This morning we headed south toward La Spezia and the Cinque Terre region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage sites famous for its coastal villages, scenic vistas, rugged cliffs and colorful villages.

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Today we had the whole day free to ourselves so it quickly became my favorite days of the trip. I hung out with two super fun guys. We had a great time drinking tons of wine, eating delicious food and exploring the quiet streets of the different Cinque Terre towns.

We started our food tour of the Cinque Terre with pesto focaccia pizza. We chowed down before exploring a breathtaking castle in La Spezia. At the top of the castle there was a harp player! 10906113_10152893621355813_7806844916176866695_n

Afterwards we checked into our tiny hotel.

Where did I stay? Hotel Firenze Continentale

Then we took the train to Monterosso al Mare where the boys and I decided to sit back, relax and treat ourselves to wine and aperitifs. 10407261_10152893619320813_8236156655788437128_n

Afterwards we traveled to Manarola. There we saw the Befana! The Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). It was so neat to see the old woman parading down the street with hoards of children following and singing. What a special time to be in Italy! After the celebration I grabbed gelato and strolled down to the coast where I watched the sunset. 10922616_10152893619450813_6628597561072186127_n

Then we traveled to Riomaggiore for dinner. Our group filled a tiny restaurant. I tried pesto pasta and we had two bottles of local wine! Feeling happy we caught the train back to La Spezia where we hung out at the hotel bar and chatted the night away.

I truly had an amazing, cinematic, life-affirming day today. I will cherish the Cinque Terre for the rest of my life.

Charming Hoi An

This morning we flew to Hoi An. Hoi An is a charming down that is rich in history and culture. It blends French and Chinese influences in its art, architecture and food. We rented bikes and were led on a great tour through the town where we saw UNESCO World Heritage sites, adorable shops and a beautiful Japanese covered bridge that is 400 years old!

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Adam and I pretending to be VIPs in the Airport and me in my new romper!

Then we went to Yaly Coture to have clothes made! I brought several pictures and designs that I wanted to have custom-made. I got two rompers and a stunning fringed purse made from genuine leather. Throughout the adventure of having measurements taken and picking fabrics I hung out with this great guy named Adam. We had a lot of laughs and enjoyed the experience immensely. It’s impressive what they can make in just 24 ours!

After finalizing our designs we rode bikes to our cooking class at Morning Glory Cooking School. Our teacher was friendly, entertaining and a great teacher. We learned how to roll spring rolls, make Vietnamese pancakes, screwers and afterwards devoured all of our yummy creations.

Later we had to navigate winding roads and pouring rain to figure out how to get back to the hotel! It was quite an adventure. But eventually we made it home safe and sound!

Where did I stay? Van Loi Hotel

Under the Vietnamese sun

Today was one of the best days of my life. Early in the morning we boarded a boat and sailed to an island of the coast of Nha Trang. On the way there we sang and basked in the beauty of the South China Sea.

Our first stopped was snorkeling off the island of Hon Mun.

The water was turquoise and clear. There were little reefs right off of the beach so it was very easy to see the corals and fish. There were tiny colorful fish and big strange-looking ones too. I snorkeled nearly the whole time while others sun bathed and started drinking.

After several hours on the beach we got back on the boat  and the party started! Everyone was drinking and singing. I started downing my personal bottle of vodka! The boat really started “rocking”. We had a party break and were provided a monstrous feast. After stuffing ourselves our ship pulled up beside two others and then we hopped the ship to have a group karaoke party and music show. Our local guides were hilarious. They sang cover songs and even made some of the guests get up and sing! It was a great time.

10420205_10152771305925813_4724614631742022969_nThen we stumbled back onto our own ship where we took shots before jumping into the water from the roof of the boat! They threw us tubes and then we hung out in the stunning bay. They even set up a floating bar for us to swim to!

Eventually it was time to head back to shore. So settled back into the boat. I put on my headphones, hung my feet off the side of the ship and reflected as we sailed back to Nha Trang. It was magical, beautiful and life-affirming.  10309170_10152771305880813_4727700327185685849_n

By the time we got back to Nha Trang most people (including myself) were extremely intoxicated. We didn’t want the party to stop so we headed to our hotel pool and continued hanging out. I fell asleep (okay passed out) and when I woke up it was night-time.

We went back to the Sailing Club for dinner where we reminisced about the adventures of the day. I loved every second of the day. It was truly amazing. I think it may be one of the best days of my life!

This is our bar not yours…Chiang Rai

Up early in the morning to head by bus to Chiang Rai “the old city” Thailand.

Where did I stay?

Wangcome Hotel

Accommodations: Very fancy hotel where I didn’t get much sleep because…well alcohol.

Our tour made a surprise pit stop at the Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). This stunning and unique temple is made to represent ascending from hell to heaven. It is truly a spectacle. The architecture, details and figurines all make you feel like you’re in a cartoon or fairy tale. Truly a must see in Northern Thailand.

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Once we reached Chiang Rai we headed further into the mountains to visit the Akah and Yao Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand. While the tour was very informative and interesting I did not enjoy being there. I felt like it was a zoo for humans. Everything seemed very staged and forced. I am glad the tribes can support themselves by selling and showing off to tourists but the dances and the souvenirs didn’t really seem authentic to me. I did however enjoy the hike through the jungle to get to the tribes. I loved seeing the countryside with all the water buffalo, chickens and fauna.

Cost:

  • $25
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10518710_10152725623270813_3099025716573680133_n After visiting the Hill Tribes we ventured into the night markets to sample local cuisine. I ordered a Hot Pot. Basically a create your own soup. They bring broth to your table in a clay pot with a heated stone underneath. You add what you want from a plate of selections and you have your own feast. It was very good and very hot! I also sampled some other local delicacies like crickets and worms!

Later we rushed back to the hotel to change for our themed party! The nights theme was “Shit Shirt”. I took a crappy Jack Daniels shirt bought in the market, tore it up and used red sharpey to make it look blood. Other people had tacky shirts, crappy shirts and just plain bad shirts. It was all in good fun. I don’t think many pictures were taken because there was a lot of drinking…but here’s one:

1901123_10152735719115813_606833988707091884_nWe had the tiny TINY bar all to ourselves so I was able to play DJ! We rocked out all night, had lots of cocktails and had a blast. I woke up in the morning not knowing what happened to that Jack Daniels shirt…

Meeting Monks in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Thailand

Where did I stay?

The Empress Hotel 

Accommodations: 5 star luxury hotel with amazing pool and free sauna. The free breakfast here was to die for.

Day 1:

We took a bus ride up a windy mountain road to the stunning temple WatPhra. We traversed hundreds of steps to get to the breath-taking mountain temple which overlooked the city of Chiang Mai. The temple is filled with hundreds of chiming bells, lotus flowers, buddhas and shrines. We received a blessing from a Buddhist Monk, had our fortunes told and learned which Buddha, animal and color was ours. I am a purple snake and have a protector Buddha.

I thought a lot about the passing of my mother at the temple. I bought her a bell, Lotus flower and candle. Then as the monks instructed I walked three times around the temple. I made a wish and prayed for her spirit. Then offered my Lotus flower and bell with her name written on it and lite my candle. It was very emotional and I cried. I don’t think anyone knew because I was wearing sunglasses. For me it was a very spiritual and impressive place. My mother had always loved Learning about and experiencing other cultures and religions. At that temple I could feel her there with me. Her bell hangs in the temple in Thailand now and whenever a passerby rings it they will send love her way.

Afterwards we had free time before meeting up again at night. So some of the girls and I decided to get Thai massages. We dressed in cotton outfits and laid down for a seriously painful group massages. At one point when my masseuse had my legs pulled behind my head my pants ripped. All of the masseuses busted out in laughter. It was pretty embarrassing but also hilarious so I don’t blame them for laughing.

Later I opted to take part in a traditional Thai cooking class.  We learned about Thai food and culture with a hilarious and informative local chef. Using his “same same but different” shopping method we learned how to buy key ingredients at Chiang Mai’s market. He taught us really simple cooking techniques and I actually learned a ton. All of the food we made was delicious and I can’t wait to try the recipes at home.

After the class we met up we our Tour Manager who brought me and some of my more open-minded tour mates to Ansuarn Market for a cabaret shows featuring lots of, um, ladies in sequins and short skirts. We got in free and got a free drink ticket. I paid two Lady Boy Drag Queens to harrass some of the boys in our group. Two of them even went on stage and danced! It was a great way to break barriers with some of my new friends and everyone was a little closer to each other afterwards. ;P

Cost: 

  • Thai Cooking Class $30
  • 1 Hour Thai Massage $15
  • Temple Offerings $3
  • Cabaret show: Free

Chicago Phil

1003761_10151783234985813_1380152617_nThe final stop on my Summer Tour was to visit my good friend Phil in Chicago! Phil was nice enough to let me and Jenny crash in his little tiny apartment.

Phil is a great friend who I met freshmen year of college. It’s been amazing to see him blossom into such a charismatic, kind and adventurous person. Cha-town really suits him. He was a very gracious host and even though he had to work some of my visit, we still found time to reminisce and laugh with and at each other. Chicago is massive and in two days I don’t think I saw much of it. But I had a blast.

While Phil was working we went to the free Chicago Zoo. Then used our student discounts to get into the Chicago Art Museum which was very impressive.

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Found this quaint and secluded pond right in the heart of the city.

Later we met up with Phil and his co-worker. She is Chinese and led us through China town and to the best local Chinese restaurant. While in China town we help Phil search for the perfect Chinese waving cat statue. To add luck to his new little apartment.

1174641_10151783235405813_883430192_nOur last day we slept in. Jenny was still recovering from her mysterious cold. But I convinced her to come to a baseball game with me since Phil had to work.1098387_10151783236845813_643020263_n

We went to a store and spent way to much on Cubs gear then headed to Wrigley Field to buy cheap seats. We got really lucky because our “cheap” seats were actually really good. We ate hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and I had lemonade with vodka while Jenny had beers.  I also got yelled at by a native for putting ketchup on my hotdog! The Cubs lost to the Cardinals. But it was really a great game. There’s something about going to a baseball game that feels truly “American”. It’s good to be home.

After the game Jenny needed to rest so she went to bed. Phil got off work and he and I went to an Improv Comedy show and then had traditional Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. We gossiped about love lives, work and life goals until very late at night. It was glorious and I’m glad I decided to end my trip with him and Chicago.

Colorado is for Food

My trip to Denver can be described with three of my favorite words: Food, Alcohol and Men.

I was lucky enough to travel to Denver with a great co-worker who I’ll call Parker. Parker is super charismatic and sweet. He’s older then me but we had a blast pub crawling and site seeing together. I also met some of his charming and um…handsome friends.

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I quickly discovered that if you’re a single lady you should visit Denver. The Male to Female ratio is about 10 to 1. So the odds are in your favors ladies!

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Then people in Denver are also all very happy and healthy. Which might be because of “green therapy”. But I think it’s really because the city is surrounded by glorious scenery, tons of outdoor adventures and hundreds of amazing bars and boutique restaurants. The great thing about business trips is per diem! Meaning you get paid extra for meals and expenses. So I ate like a queen for the whole week. I’ve featured some of my favorite morsels.

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Most of my time exploring the city was spent bar side or at a dinner table. The rest was spent working my booty off with the Air Force. But I had a blast and met a ton of really fun guys.