Holiday Travel Plans

It’s official! I booked my trip to Asia for the holidays.  I have decided that since my family has left the states for the holidays, I am going to follow them to Asia rather than going completely solo this year. The plan right now is that I will get some time in Taiwan to spend with family and family friends.  As of right now, from what I can tell, my parents have planned out my short time in Taipei and it will be filled with seeing relatives that I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.  As much fun as that is, my Chinese is terrible so I am slightly dreading this because I’m not sure how great of a communicator I will be.  But it is what it is at this point.

Following the short stint in Taipei, I will make my way to Seoul, South Korea.  Yup.  I’m finally going to South Korea!  I’ve flown through the airport so many times but have never stopped, I’ve been to Asia so many times and have not been to Seoul so here it is. It’s finally happening.  I’m going to spend a few days in Seoul and check out the wonders of this giant city.  I am absolutely terrified of it because I am concerned that I won’t get to see as much as I should and I won’t fully live it up like I should but I am still going to try regardless.  If you have any recommendations for Seoul, let me know.

After that, I will head to Tokyo.  Tokyo is another place that I have flown through more times than I can count and I have never left the airport.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever flown through Narita and have never left it.  I am so excited to finally go to Tokyo and see what this place has to offer.  One of my bucket list items is to take a photo in Shibuya so that will happen while I’m there.  It has to happen.  When my few days in Tokyo are up, I head to Kyoto. I’ll be in Kyoto for a few days exploring and checking out what it has to offer and I cannot wait.

I’ll be gone for just under three weeks. It’s not going to be as long of a trip as it was last year but that’s okay.  I am still just as excited and cannot wait to be wandering the world again.  It’s been almost a full year since I last left for an international trip so I am definitely getting antsy.

If you have any recommendations on things to do or where to go, let me know!

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Booking holiday travel

I am officially getting ready to book my next major international trip. I actually haven’t left the country since I returned in January and I have been itching to get on a plane again for an international trip. Due to the fact that I travel so much for work, it’s hard for me to find time to do an international trip and luckily, I managed to make time for it over the holidays.

I actually didn’t really know where I wanted to go for my trip but I knew that I needed to book something.  My vacation was racking up and I needed to actually make use of it before I hit the point where I stop accruing vacation.

Usually my parents and I do this thing where I go to them for Thanksgiving and then I head somewhere international for Christmas and New Year’s. My parents actually decided that this was the year that they would leave the country for Thanksgiving and so rather than spending Thanksgiving with them, I’ve decided I’m going to follow them to Asia.

So now it’s time to start planning my trip to Asia.  I’m thinking that I’m going to spend some time in Taiwan and then check out Japan and Korea. To be honest, I have only ever flown through the airports in both those countries and it is finally time for me to actually go visit.  If everything goes as planned, I will get to my 33rd and 34th country on my list which is so exciting.

I am not sure what my plan is for the trip but I know that it is time to get the trip planned and ready.

Any suggestions for Korea or Japan?

Bangkok to Los Angeles

The next morning, we woke up and wandered downstairs for breakfast.  I cannot say that anyone was really in good shape but we were all still alive and that was all that really mattered at this point. We sat with our friends, reminisced about the evening and then decided that we wanted a brief moment alone with the bride.  Her husband had already made it downstairs for breakfast and so we knew that she was alone.  So we ran upstairs and bombarded her room to say hello and tell her how happy we were that she was married. It was one of the only moments we really had alone with her and it was  amazing.

Finally it was time to say our goodbyes to the group. It’s interesting because I do not see myself as an exceptionally emotional person but for whatever reason, having to say goodbye to the group this time was pretty rough.  I think part of it was because I wasn’t going back to Seattle where most of them would be going and the other part is that we all live in such different places that seeing each other isn’t a common thing anymore.  I cried slightly, partially because I am a contagious crier and the other reason was because I knew that I was saying good bye for the foreseeable future. We loaded into the vans and our group headed off to the Bangkok Airport.

We arrived and it ended up being too early to check into our flights so we sat on the floor of the airport and finally started to decompress from the trip.  It was one of those moments where we could finally just sit and relax which we hadn’t done for awhile.  Finally, it was time for us to check in and we made our way through the airport to the lounges.  We didn’t get a chance to use the lounges on the way to Asia and this time we could finally use it for our trip which was fantastic.  We got some food, hung out for a bit, charged all of our electronics and then boarded our flight to Taiwan.  The connecting time in Taipei was short and we ended up landing late so we ran through the Taoyuan Airport to our gate with just enough time to make a bathroom stop before boarding the plane again for the 14 hours home.

I was asleep for most of the flight home and that really helped passed the time.  When we finally landed in LA, made it through customs and made it home, I finally had time to reflect on the experiences over the duration of the trip. As I settled into my bed and sleep started to take over, I realized just how sad I was to be home.  This was by far one of the best trips I have ever had and one of the best experiences I have ever had.  I’m not sure if it was because I got to hang out with elephants and cross a few things off of my bucket list or if it had to do with the fact that I had just spent time with some of my favorite people. But whatever it was, I was more sad than normal to have landed back at home and go back to real life. Usually, I am ready for my bed and ready to go back to reality but this time, this was not the case. Even with that realization and being sad that the trip was finally over, I am so happy that I am left with the memories of the journey that I had and the experiences I had on this trip.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Dance parties in Sattahip, Thailand

One thing that I love about weddings would be the dance party and the fact that it is a pure celebration of happiness.  There is no part of it that is sad.  It is a few hours where nothing else in the world exists except for that pure bliss that you see radiating from the happy couple. This celebration was exactly that except that it wasn’t just a few hours but rather hours upon hours of celebrating.  We danced to all sorts of music that ranged from American music to French music, a little something for everyone.  We spent the evening and nighttime rolling around in the sand, wandering through the Gulf of Thailand, tracking sand into the infinity pool and celebrating the happy couple.

At midnight, we decided it was time to set off Chinese lanterns to celebrate the events of the evening.  It was the perfect way to end the evening, or at least pretend to end the evening.  We brought out boxes and boxes of the lanterns, lighters and set them up.  When you get them, you have to unfold them and take the flammable portion and attach it to the lantern with the wires and then find a way to light it.  It’s a difficult feat when you’re tired and hot and your arms start to get tired (like me.)  I got mine lit and then I stood at the edge of the water and waited patiently for the flame to generate enough heat to fill up the lantern and lift into the air. It definitely took quite some time to get to that point where it was ready to fly up into the area.  And while I stood there, I watched the people around me laughing and celebrating as we all tried to get our lanterns to light and fly up into the world.  It was a strangely peaceful moment.

Finally, my lantern had enough heat that it finally lifted out of my hands and floated off into the abyss of the night sky.  The sky above us and above the water became speckled with little orange lights as the lanterns floated away.  It was wonderful until… the cops came.  Apparently lighting lanterns during this time was a type of celebration that was against the law because the country was still in mourning.  So for those people who hadn’t lit their lanterns or let them go, we had to put them out and clean up all the left over lanterns to save for a later date.

We continued our dance party and around 2AM, I gave up.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  We hadn’t really had much sleep the entire trip and this was our last night in Thailand before heading back to the U.S.  I was at that point where I was too tired to fully function and I needed to go to bed.  My eyelids were heavy and we had been celebrating for so long that I needed to go to bed.  So I went back to the room, showered (which was the best feeling in the entire world) and then climbed into bed to read for a bit.  I read about a page and a half before I fell asleep with my Kindle on my chest.  I woke up a few hours later to the lights on so I put everything away and immediately fell back asleep. It was officially the end of our trip.

Bangkok – Wishbeer and Weddings

The next morning, we woke up early and repacked all of our belongings.  We had to get prepared for the long day we had ahead of us that would involve a lunch time reception, a wedding ceremony and an evening reception. We all met in the lobby of our hotel with everything we owned and made our way down the street to a local brewery called “Wishbeer” which is a local beer company in Sukhumvit, Bangkok.  Our friends were actually partnered with them and provide the food for the company.

It’s a great little location that is kind of hidden.  You can find signs for the company along the main road but you have to walk down a side road and there is a small sign that shows where the front door of the business.  When you walk in, there is a little hallway that opens up to a warehouse time location that is very modern and it was beautifully decorated for the reception.  We started off our morning with some freshly brewed coffee, beverages and short photo shoots with pictures of the couple.  Then they played the engagement video which was adorable.  Immediately following the engagement video, the lovely couple walked out of one of the hallways and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip at that moment.

I had met the groom two years ago in France for the first time and now I was seeing him celebrate his wedding to my friend in Bangkok.  And seeing my friend whom I’ve known for years standing in her wedding dress with the biggest smile on her face was by far one of the best things I could have ever seen.  She saw our friend group from school and walked over to say hello. It was at that moment that I knew that I was truly a very lucky person. Seeing my friend for the first time in two years and feeling like no time had passed was by far one of the most wonderful experiences.  There’s a lot to be said about the fact that I was surrounded by people from all over the world and we were all there to celebrate the same thing.  The union of two people that we loved immensely.

After all the hello’s we sat down at our tables and enjoyed our lunch.  It was a perfect opportunity to catch up with everyone because you can really only catch up so much at the bars.  Plus, we had added a few people to our group who had arrived the night before.  When we finished our lunches, it was time for everyone to find all of their belongings and begin our two hour journey to Sattahip.  We loaded into the various vans that were booked for our drive and after a bit of confusion, we finally were on our way to Satthip.

This was a relatively uneventful drive out there. If you’ve ever driving out to Pattaya or Sattahip from Bangkok, you know that it’s not the most entertaining or enthralling of drives out there so if you have a chance to take a nap, I would highly recommend it.  Once we arrived in Sattahip, we started driving down the coastline toward what we thought was the hotel only to realize that we were driving in the wrong direction and were going to be late getting to the hotel.  Our driver decided that he was going to make up for the time by flying down the main roads to get us back to our hotel.  It was terrifying because driving in a taller van makes you feel like you’re driving a lot faster than you would feel in a sedan.  After a relatively eventful 10 minute drive back toward the correct hotel, we arrived, unloaded our belongings and checked into our rooms.

Bangkok – Adult activities

We broke up into smaller groups to load into cabs so that we could all go to a place called Nana Plaza.  You would have thought that at this point, we would have separated into different groups who didn’t want to go to Nana Plaza and would go home but for whatever reason, all 14 of us went to this area together.  I’m not going to go into incredible detail about Nana but let’s just say that it is an adult area.  I remember the first time I went to Thailand, one of my friends had actually booked a hotel for us near her place and for a decent price which ended up being just down the street from Nana Plaza.  We didn’t visit there the first time I showed up in Bangkok but driving by there on a Friday night at 1AM in the morning after a long journey, it is definitely an eye opener.

We settled down at a bar in the very center of the area where it was an open bar that you could see everything around you from the walk ways to all the bar options all around us.  We sat here because then people could go off and explore and check things out while having a “homebase” and we would be able to keep an eye on everyone.  We would know where everyone went and for the most part, one of us had a view of the main walk way out at all times. We ordered our beverages and the night continued on from there.

Finally, it hit a point where we were no longer interested in being out and we had an early morning the next day.  The main reason we had all flown to Thailand was the wedding happening the next day.  So the girls split off and left to go grab a cab.

We had looked at Uber and found that we could grab an Uber for 100 Baht to get back to our hotel and so we knew that we could barter with the taxi cabs on the way home.  Grabbing a taxi instead of an Uber was preferred in this situation because the Uber’s were about 12 minutes away and there are taxi cabs that line the streets outside of the adult areas in Bangkok, especially during this time of night. So we crossed the street to the direction we needed to grab our taxi on and tried to find someone who would take us back down the street.  One thing to keep in mind when it comes to grab taxi’s in Bangkok is that it is recommended to be on the right side of the street if you’re heading down the main roads, especially if it’s the roads with the metro stations because if you catch it and have to make a U-turn, it can be rough.  Those lanes are about 3 to 4 lanes deep in one direction and can be a bit rough to make turns, especially when there is heavy traffic.

We started out trying to find a taxi and I have to preface this experience with a short note.  I have a friend who loves to barter and she’s fantastic at it.  In fact, I don’t think she’s ever paid full price for anything from a street vendor or a taxi cab. So we let her lead the charge to get us a cab. Rather than sticking with the 100 Baht, she started low, really low and asked for a cab ride for 50 Baht.  After about 5 cabs telling us no, we finally got a cab for 100 Baht and made our way back to the hotel. We went our separate ways to our rooms and settled in for the night.  The next day would be jam packed and the chances of getting any sleep would be slim to none.

Bangkok dinner and a roof top bar

There is nothing more satisfying than getting off of a metro train after being in the heat all day, being tired and realizing that you are just steps away from being able crawl into bed for a few short minutes.  Especially a bed in an air conditioned room.  When it was time, we got off the train at our metro stop and walked the three blocks to our hotel, took the elevators up to our rooms and crashed.  I think the sugar rush from everything we had consumed all day had finally hit us and we were crashing.  We needed to lay down, re-hydrate and change out of our excessively sweaty clothing.  Each of us relaxed in our rooms for about an hour and this consisted of showering, napping, doing some laundry and just staring blankly at the wall trying to process the day and process the sugar crash. Finally, it was time to regroup and go get dinner.  We were feeling a little lazy and our hotel had given us free drink tickets so we went downstairs to the restaurant and got ourselves some dinner.

I resorted to a nice bowl of noodles and my free drink which ended up being a green smoothie with mint. It was definitely delicious and incredibly refreshing even though when we first showed up, we thought that drinks meant something a little bit more adult but unfortunately not so much.  We ordered our food, sat and enjoyed some good conversation followed by dessert.  One of my friends had actually been keeping a thing of mango sticky rice in his room from the night before because one of our friends living in Bangkok had told him that this hawker stall had the best mango sticky rice in town. So the night before, they purchased some and had some left over to share with us at dinner that night which was amazing.  It came with multiple types of rice and fresh mangoes.  If you have never had mango sticky rice, go find some now. In fact, stop reading and go find some now.  It is one of my favorite dishes and I could eat it all day every day. It is one of those dishes that is the perfect blend of flavors with coconut milk, mangoes and rice.  I could have finished the entire portion to myself and I have to admit that I was sad that we had to share it.  But I am a good person and was not excessively selfish.

When we were finally full and done eating everything in front of us, we left the hotel and caught the train to the JW Marriott just a few stops down.  The JW Marriot has a rooftop bar called the Octave Bar which looks out over Bangkok.  We were going to meet up with all of our friends at the hotel and spend the evening catching up while overlooking the entire city. We arrived, found ourselves a table and sat down while taking in the view of the city.  Even though it was my third time in this city, this is the first time that I had a chance to see the city from this perspective and it is truly something to see. I’ve never really realized just how expansive the city is and how many people live there.  I always know that there’s going to be people everywhere and you can’t avoid that. There will always be traffic and you will always hit some form of congestion but standing at the roof top bar and looking out over Bangkok, it really put everything in perspective. I would highly recommend checking this bar out and plus the drinks are fairly decently priced.

As we sat at this table right by the entrance, we began to collect our friends and eventually our small group of 5 turned into a group of 14 people from all over the world. We had people from Seattle, Los Angeles, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Bangkok all meeting up at this bar. It was both eye opening and heart warming.  There’s something to be said about being able to meet up with people you adore halfway across the world and still be able to pick up right where you left off years ago.  The last time I had seen some of this group was 2 years ago in Thailand. I definitely had one of those moments where I became eternally grateful that I have met so many fantastic people in my life. When we had finally collected our entire group, we spent an hour or two more at the bar and then decided that since we had some Thailand newbies with us, it was time to go show them Bangkok nightlife. To be honest, this idea was instigated by the boys and for the boys but we decided to keep the entire group together. It was time for the second half of our nightlife adventure.

Hello Kitty House – Bangkok, Thailand

We arrived in the Siam neighborhood of Bangkok and walked to the large shopping mall in the center near the train station and went to the Hello Kitty House.  I’ve heard rumors that there’s a huge Hello Kitty Cafe in Malaysia that is supposed to be huge compared to the one in Bangkok but regardless, this was pretty impressive.  I have to admit that I’m not a huge Hello Kitty fan but one of our friends is and so we had to make sure we had a chance to stop by and check out the Hello Kitty themed cafe. You walk in and it is not as overwhelming as the Unicorn Cafe but it is still overwhelming.  The first floor is pink with a restaurant that you can sit at and get coffee, food, etc.  Then in the back of the first floor is a set of stairs that take you downstairs to the store which has everything you could image for Hello Kitty.  There’s even a giant car you can sit in and even some memorabilia for other characters such as Hello Kitty’s friends.

It was overwhelming and a little too much for me but we hung out there for a bit and then I started to go crazy. They were only playing one song the entire time we were there and I thought that my head was going to explode.  I don’t remember the song now and for that I am thankful. We ordered some food, took some pictures and hung out for a little bit before we were finally over it.

I would say that if you like Hello Kitty, this is definitely somewhere you should check out. If you don’t want to go there, just around the corner is a Dog Cafe.  Yes a dog cafe.  It is a cafe that you can pay about 150 Baht for two hours with some adorable dogs and a beverage.  When we were there, they had a golden retriever, a corgi and a beagle who seemed to not care about people was just laying on the floor.  It was by far one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.  We walked over there after the Hello Kitty House and stood outside for a bit just staring at the dogs trying to decide if we should go in and get some dog cuddles.  Unfortunately, since we were running low on time and needed to get some dinner and then get ready for the evening, we decided that we would grab the subway back to the hotel.

We went, purchased our tickets on the subway and then squeezed onto the trains to head back to the hotel.  One thing that’s great about the Bangkok public transportation is that the train is high above the city and so it does not need to worry about the main rules of traffic which is nice.  Granted, it is always very crowded there so be prepared for that.  In addition, make sure you keep your ticket so you can get through the gates when you arrive at the stations.  Otherwise, the metro system in Bangkok is super easy to navigate and I would recommend it if you know what stations you need to get to.

Bangkok – the Unicorn Cafe

Have you heard about the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand? It’s been all over social media from what I can find.  Granted this could have something to do with the fact that one of my best friends is obsessed with unicorns so everyone started posting anything that was related to it on her wall.  No matter what fancy algorithm was in place that resulted in this Unicorn Cafe taking over my social media, it was placed on the agenda for the group to go visit while we were in Bangkok.  In fact, since we most of had been to Bangkok before it was actually almost the number one priority.

After we had completed our temple adventures, we loaded into two separate Uber’s and made our way to the Unicorn Cafe.  It was about 15 minutes away without traffic which ended up being about 25 minutes total with the traffic.  The cafe is located down a side street off the main roads in Bangkok and is fairly subtle from the outside.  There are some signs outside that let you know you’ve reached the Unicorn Cafe but other than that, ti’s not some giant pink building with a unicorn painted on the outside.

But once you walk in, it’s a completely different story. Once you walk in the doors, it is like you’ve walked into a room that Lisa Frank threw up in.  It’s kind of crazy.  Walking into this cafe, I was brought back to elementary school where we were obsessed with Lisa Frank folders, and the pictures that she had all over the stuff.  The trademark animals, fantastical images and bright neon/pastel colors plastered over notebooks.  If you think of all the unicorn related items that come to mind, there is a high possibility that those items or some version of them can be found in this cafe.  The walls are covered with wall paper images of unicorns, there are unicorn onesies that you can put on, there are stuffed unicorns and My Little Ponies available to play with, and a menu full of things with unicorn type names. Everything is in some pastel color and it is everything you could hope for in a unicorn themed cafe.

We waited a few minutes for a table and were able to be seated on some pastel couches close to the front of the restaurant, given an excessively large menu and started to take in what we were seeing.  It was a very strange and overwhelming experience to have, especially after spending so much time in the sun before.  I ordered some cheesy fries because that seemed like a good idea to order when in Thailand.  I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to order them but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  We also ordered some unicorn ice cream with pastel colored waffles and a burger with a little horn on the top.  After ordering the food, we started the photo shoot.  I know that it sounds weird, but how can you not take a bunch of photos and snapchats when you’re hanging out in the Unicorn Cafe?  The unicorn onesies were in high demand and so we had to wait for someone to give it up for our group to try it one.  We spent a bit of time checking out our surroundings, taking photos and trying to absorb everything we were seeing in this brightly colored room.

I have to admit that this was a very interesting experience.  It was fascinating to see what people did when they first entered the cafe.  I think some people were thrilled, others were overwhelmed and no one seemed to know what to think when they walked in.  It was also a great place to people watch and see how people interacted with the props and the various unicorn themed items around the cafe. After our sugar overload and not so impressive food, we decided we had enough of the Unicorn Cafe and it was time to move on.  We still had one more place we needed to check out before we met up with the rest of the group.

We loaded back into two Uber’s and made our way to the Hello Kitty House.