Know Before You Go: 10 Things to Know Before Visiting Thailand

If you’re from the states like me, visiting a foreign country as far away as Asia can feel a little overwhelming as you begin to plan. So if you’re planning on visiting Thailand soon, here are 10 quick tips to make your vacation easier.

1.Take cash out

Lucky for people from the states, the exchange rate for the dollar to the Thai baht is almost 1:33. That being said, many places in thailand only except cash (food stands, tuk tuks, bars etc.) so it’s important you keep cash on you at all times!

2. Tipping

Tipping isn’t necessary in most situations, nor is it expected unless we’re talking about a private tour guide or occasionally rounding up a taxi fair. If you do feel like tipping at restaurants and bars, leaving the change from your bill is totally acceptable.

3. Transportation

Depending on where you’re staying in Thailand, you will have a few different ways to get around. The most popular being renting scooters or taking Tuk Tuks. Other options might include ferries and speed boats in the islands, or busses if you are going long distances. From what I saw in Phuket, I would not reccomend renting a scooter unless you feel extremely comfortable driving one. There aren’t too many street signs or lights in southern Thailand and people drive kind of crazy. If you’re just trying to go short distances, tuk tuks are definitely the way to go.

4. People really ARE that nice!

Don’t be surprised if people come up to talk to you or ask if you need help finding something. The Thai people are genuinely some of the nicest people I have ever met, and they really do seem to love all the tourists their country brings in.

5. Try all the tropical fruits

Southeast Asia is not only home to some of the best Thai food and curries I’ve ever had in my life, but also some of the best tropical fruit. You can find dragon fruit, lychee, jackfruit, guava and passionfruit everywhere just to name a few of my favorites! Not only that, they don’t come with the expensive prices they have in the U.S. for being imported fruits.

6. Eat your vitamins

I never understood why my mom was so obsessed with making me take vitamins as a kid until now. Traveling is going to make you sick. You need to prepare for that, but if you can prevent it that’s even better. One way to keep from getting sick on vacations is to take plenty of vitamins. My go-to’s are Zinc, Elderberry and Charcoal pills. When I’m at home I try to take these whenever I feel like I might be getting sick, or when something’s in the air, but when I travel I take them every day meticulously.

7. Coverup when visiting Temples

The buddhist temples in Thailand are beautiful, and have become a very popular tourist attraction, but we need to remember that this is a sacred place for many Thai people, and visitors alike. It’s not uncommon to be turned away if you aren’t dressed appropriately when visiting the temples. It’s understandable to be wearing light clothing because of the heat, but if you don’t want to wear pants or a modest shirt all day, I suggest bringing a kimono for your shoulders and a light sarong to wrap around your waist if you are in shorts.

8. Book in advance

During peak season, it’s important to book certain activities in advance. Specifically ones such as elephant sanctuaries that may not be as common as boat tours, etc.

9. Do your research on animal “sanctuaries”

Speaking of elephant sanctuaries, make sure you do your research before you book one. Thailand is home to hundreds of animal tourism spots, but only a few are really considered to be ethical. Familiarize yourself with these, and make sure you aren’t giving your money to people who are only using it to abuse and neglect these animals more! In Phuket the only elephant sanctuary I could find that was truly ethical was Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. If you want to learn more about it you can click here to watch one of their videos. I’m focusing on elephants because this is the activity we chose to do, but the same goes for tiger encounters, monkey handlers you can find on the beach, and more.

10. Don’t drink the water (ice is fine)

This goes without saying in most foreign countries, but do not drink their tap water. Just because the people who live there drink it does not mean your stomach will be able to handle it. Apparently the ice is fine though, because there are plenty of ice factories that make ice with purified water. Businesses will buy from them rather than waste time making their own 99% of the time.

 

I hope you find some of these helpful before you visit this beautiful country! What are your best travel tips for visiting Thailand?

10 things to try at Pike Place Market in Seattle

 

Seattle has been one of my favorite layovers I’ve got to have on a work trip so far. Not only does it have great people, scenery and shopping, but it has the best food and drinks! Here’s my top 10 things to try when at Pike Place Market in Seattle:

1. Micks Peppourri Pepper Jelly

This might be my favorite food item I got to bring home from Pike Place. First off, Micks doesn’t just have one pepper jelly flavor, they have several. Best part? You’re able to try them all if you want to! I went with buying their red hot pepper jelly and it’s amazing. You can use it on sandwiches or crackers, make candied bacon or glazed pork chops, and so much more.  My personal favorite is ritz crackers and cream cheese topped with the jelly.

2. Tea from Market Spice

Market spice is a tea lovers dream. They have pretty much every tea flavor you can think of, so make sure you try more than just the original market spice flavor when you’re there! Not only do they have tea, but coffee and a huge variety of original blend spices. You can buy it by weight, or also in individual tea packets.

3. Seafood at City Fish Co

There are plenty of good places to get seafood in Seattle, but one that was recommended to me by tons of people for not only being the best but the oldest is City Fish Co. Some favorites to get there are the chowder, crab and oysters.

4. Bubble gum

This isn’t necessarily something you need to try food wise- because as far as I know there’s no special bubble gum from Seattle… but there is the famous gum wall you need to visit! Gross, but surprisingly photogenic. And make sure you get some bubble gum to stick on the wall along the way!

5. Elleno Greek Yogurt

My second favorite thing at Pike Place. I don’t care if you don’t like yogurt, you need to try this stuff! This yogurt company is family owned and serves their yogurt ice-cream parlor style. They let you try all the flavors, and you can take home different size containers of it to go, or eat it in a cup on the go while you walk around the market. Their most popular flavor is marion berry pie, 10/10 recommend.

6. Blueberry Basil Jam

Another great jam to buy at Pike Place. There are tons of good jam & jelly companies inside, but luckily they all let you try them before you buy, and I happened to become obsessed with this one. I love all these different fun flavor combos I was able to try!

7. Oyster shooter

Pretty much all of the seafood places at the market have oysters and oyster shooters, and if you’ve never tried one yet then Seattle is the place to do it. If you don’t know what it is, an Oyster shooter consists of a raw oyster, cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon, and occasionally vodka. Cheers!

8. Dried Honey Crisp Apple

Another great spot to taste test some great food! Simply the Best has tons of different dried fruits, veggies and mixed nuts to sample and buy. They’re known the most for their dried apple and I went with their best seller Dried Honey Crisp Apple.

9. Muscat Grapes 

Have you ever had Moscato? Probably, but have you tried the grapes they’re made from? Harder to come by than most, muscat grapes are sooo worth their hefty price tag (in comparison to most other grapes). If you don’t wanna dish out the $10 per bunch of grapes, you can always just grab a sample to say you tried one! (but I’m telling you, you’ll want to buy them).

10. Coffee 

Duh. You don’t want to be sleepless in Seattle do you? Seattle is home to the original Starbucks, just outside of Pike Place. If you don’t want to wait in line to say you’ve drank coffee at the first Starbucks, there’s plenty of other amazing coffee shops all around the market to pick from. We opted for Ghost Alley Espresso, which specializes in artisanal espresso drinks. YUM

 

 

That’s all I got for now! What’s your favorite food to try when you’re at Pike Place?

Bermuda in 24 Hours

Thinking about planning a trip to Bermuda? Well, you should. This island is a short flight from anywhere on the east coast, clocking in at less than 3 hours from either Miami or NYC. Bermuda’s pink beaches, blue waters, crystal caves and friendly people make the island a perfect spot to check out for your next vacation.

I’d like to first start by saying that Bermuda is not in the Caribbean, although it has that same Caribbean island vibe going on. It belongs to North America, is considered a British island territory, and is situated about 650 miles east of North Carolina’s coastline.

I recently had a 32 hour layover in Bermuda for work, giving me a full day and night to explore (this never happens!). Hopefully you have more time than I do when you visit Bermuda, but if you don’t you’ll still be able to see a lot of the island even in just one day!

8 Things to Do in Bermuda in 24 Hours

1. Rent a Scooter

The best way to see Bermuda is to rent a Scooter if you’re pressed on time. You’ll be able to see most the island in a small amount of time. We rented through Oleander Cycles where it was $90 per 24 hours for a 2 person scooter with 2 helmets. Keep in mind, Bermuda is a British territory so they drive on the left hand side of the road. Also, there are a lot of busses, cars, and scooters on the roads at all times so if you aren’t comfortable driving scooters you might want to look into taking the public bus, or taxis. This is also a good option if you’re trying to save money. Don’t bother trying to rent a car, car rental services do not exist in Bermuda AT ALL!

2. Visit the Pink Sand Beaches

One of the things Bermuda is known for are its pink sand beaches. While much of the coast has the pink sand, some beaches are more pink than others. The south shore between Horseshoe bay beachand Warwick long bay has the best pink sandy beaches. Warwick long bay was our personal favorite, while Horshoe bay is probably the most crowded (because it’s one of the only beaches with food, drink and beach chair vendors).

3. Climb the Lighthouse

If you want a great birds eye view of Bermuda, visiting the lighthouse in Southhampton parish is the way to go. Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is one of the oldest cast iron lighthouses in the world, built in 1846. After climbing 185 steps to the top, you’ll be able to see Bermuda from 300+ feet above sea level.

4. Go Snorkeling

Bermuda has some of the best shipwreck diving in the world… Hello, Bermuda Triangle. If you have time to go diving if you’re in Bermuda for more than 24 hours then that’s definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, with less than 24 hours I was unable to dive, so I opted for snorkeling around the shallow reefs close to the shore at Church Bay and Tobacco Bay. You’ll see a variety of fish and coral,  and the visibility is pretty good. This also makes for a pretty cheap activity as most hotels will rent out snorkeling gear for you at a reasonable price.

5. Relax at Tobacco Bay

Tobacco Bay is located at the very northern tip of Bermuda, in Old Town. There are some really cool rock formations here, along with good snorkeling. The bay also has a bar and cafe to grab lunch at. I recommend going here early in the day, or around sunset to avoid the huge crowds from the cruise ships coming into town. When we went around 4pm it was empty, maybe only 3-4 other families there.

6. Visit Old Town

A designated UNESCO world heritage site, St. George is where the founder of Bermuda Sir George Somers and his men landed in 1609 after their ship Sea Venture was wrecked at a nearby reef. The Bermuda Attractions website has a detailed description of the town, and what to do in Old Town if you want more information. Three things to see if you’re pressed for time would be the town hall, King’s Square, and the unfinished church.

7. Explore the underground caves

Bermuda is full of beautiful underground caves to visit, the most popular being Crystal Caves. It cost $22 to visit one cave, or $30 for both (Crystal & Fantasy). There are guided tours leaving every 20 minutes from 9am-5pm. If you’re lucky enough to be staying at Grotto Bay Resort, they actually have their own cave at the hotel that guests can visit free of charge! It’s much smaller than the others, but still a cool experience.

8. Try a Rum Swizzle

Bermuda’s signature drink! This fruity rum punch can be found at pretty much any restaurant or bar in Bermuda!

Best of Cairns: A Guide to Australia’s Northern Coast

Australia offers so much to see that its hard to pick just one or two areas to visit when looking at the map of this giant country. Since I’ve always had diving the Great Barrier Reef on my bucket list, Colton and I decided to head to Cairns first and foremost to cross that off the list. But Cairns and Queensland has so much more to offer besides the Reef! If you’re visiting Australia anytime soon, make sure you get a chance to do some of these while in town:

1. Dive Great Barrier Reef

2. Visit Daintree Rainforest

3. Get up close to the wallabies at Granite Gorge

4. Go fishing/Take a River Cruise

 

Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Most people’s only reason for visiting cairns on vacation is to be able to see the Great Barrier Reef. Although you can dive off of much of Australia’s eastern coast to see the reef, Cairns offers some of the best diving (and closest to shore). Snorkeling is also an option if you don’t want to dive or are pressed for time. To be honest, I think we were able to see more snorkeling than diving on our trip since most everything was 10 feet or less. Some of these boats have over 200 people onboard so I highly recommend booking a smaller group. We went on one that accommodated 80 guests and only about 50 were onboard so it wasn’t bad at all.

Visit Daintree Rainforest

There are a few ways to go about this, you can either rent a car and do a self driven tour (which I recommend) or you can pay a guide to do a private tour, or do a group tour. These run at a hundred dollars or so, while if you drive yourself you only pay a small entrance fee to get your car across the water on the ferry. Driving yourself was great for us as we made a lot of stops and wanted to fly our drone in different places. I’m going to do a separate post on what to visit when driving through the rainforest and you can find it linked here once it’s posted.

Granite Gorge

Before our trip to Australia all I knew was that I wanted to see a kangaroo in person. Unfortunately, the bigger kangaroos tend to live more central to Australia (in the outback) and like to come out at dawn or dusk more so than the middle of the day, so spotting a big kangaroo in Cairns is pretty much impossible. You will however see plenty of wallabies everywhere. You might not know it, but there are over 30 species in the kangaroo (marsupial) family, big and small. The ones at granite gorge are known as rock wallabies and are on the small side, but still fun to go visit!

Granite Gorge doesn’t cost anything to visit, it’s a free nature park that offers a few hiking trails and also overnight camping if you want to. Their most popular attraction though are the small wallabies that come out to eat from tourists hands. These little guys are definitely cute, but they can get super aggressive when they have food out in front of them! Especially at dusk or dawn when they eat the most. You don’t really have to worry about them biting you, but their long nails may leave you with a few scratches as they try and reach for your food.

Look at the little baby wallaby peeking out of the pouch!!

 

Go fishing/Take a River Cruise

Getting out on the water is the perfect way to see even more wildlife Australia has to offer. If you haven’t seen a crocodile before you have to take a river cruise or go on a fishing trip while here. We opted for a private fishing trip with a local who took us out in his boat through the river. We caught tarpon, mangrove snapper, and almost got a few barramundi.

While fishing we also saw a ton of crocs, and a few kangaroos on the river bank. Because we went on a private fishing trip we were able to do more of what we wanted (fish) but still get the scenic tour of one of Cairns’ river systems and wildlife.

 

Another great option if weather permits is to do an offshore fishing trip. Cairns has some of the best black marlin fishing in the world amongst other great sports fishing. If fishing isn’t your thing, taking a group river tour in the Daintree rainforest may be a better bet for you. You’ll see plenty of wildlife but won’t get as hands on with it. Last but not least, don’t forget to stop by downtown and grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. We recommend the Prawn Star at the marina! Great seafood and cheap beer!

Hopefully this list gives you an idea of what you want to do when visiting the Northeast coast of Australia. Cairns has a super cute downtown area as well, so make sure to stop by and walk around while you’re in town. The aquarium is supposed to be amazing too, we just didn’t have enough time to visit it.

 

 

48 Hours in Lisbon, Portugal

If you had asked me two years ago where Lisbon was on a map I probably would’ve had no idea it was even in Europe, let alone Portugal. But thanks to social media, Portugal has been on the rise lately as a new and trendy spot to take your next vacation. And come to find out, Portugal has a lot more to offer than I would’ve ever guessed!

Rua Augusta

In all honestly we probably spent less than 48 hours total in Lisbon- maybe more like 30- but I want to give you all a rundown of what we did see, and a few things we wish we could’ve spent more time at in Lisbon and the surrounding areas!

After you check into your hotel in Lisbon, a great spot to head to first and foremost is Martin Moniz, which is the perfect place to hop on tram 28 as you start your day. Even if you don’t decide to ride the tram (we didn’t due to the huge line formed outside) it’s still a great walking tour you can take to see some cute parts of the city. Not to mention, you can take some iconic yellow tram shots. One of the best spots to take the tram shot is at the Bica lift in Barrio Alto.

Famous tram shot at the Bica Lift

Speaking of which, one area we’ve heard a lot about that I wish we had gotten to explore more was Barrio Alto & Barrio Alfama. It’s the older historic part of town and has sooo many cute buildings I’ve seen photos of. If you have a chance try to stop by there!

The Praca do Comércio (city commerce square) is close by the tram, and you’re able to get a good picture of the Rua Augusta arch from there. You can also go sit by the water and snap some pictures of the lookalike Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a beer museum and restaurant in the square as well, but we only sat down for a few minutes to try a beer pastel de bacalhau (fish cake)… and just so you know yes it was as gross as it sounds. Let’s just say cod fish and cheese mixed into some kind of sponge cake bread and then deep fried is not for me. And I like almost any kind of food!!

To be honest though, that was probably the only food we ate in Portugal that we didn’t love. In Lisbon we ate almost nothing but seafood. Octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams, you name it. And the seafood only got better when we visited southern Portugal, but that’s for another blog post.

For our first dinner in Portugal we visited Portas Do Sol, a restaurant overlooking the city and the water that had a great view of the sunset. We decided to order a pitcher of Sangria which ended up being much bigger than either of us had expected, along with a custard pastry for me (once you try one of these you’ll be hooked).

We drank our sangria and once we got hungry for dinner headed across the street to Cerca Moura where we had the same server bring us our dinner that had served us at Portas. I guess the restaurant is owned by the same company so when they start serving dinner some of the staff goes to help over there. We got octopus and clams and it doesn’t seem like it would be that filling but it was and it was amazing!

Day two in Lisbon includes a visit to Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) along with a visit to Cascais beach and Sintra.

Belém is a cute little area in Lisbon about 30 minutes or so from the city center that is well known for two things: the tower and their pastries.

See, those creamy custard pastries I mentioned earlier originated from Belém and supposedly there’s a tiny pastry shop there (Pasteis de Belém) that claims to be not only the best, but first ones to make them. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop, but if you have the time to stop, DO IT! I heard it’s amazing.

What we did manage to see was the tower, an old fortress that’s been around for hundreds of years right on the edge of the water (and depending on the tides it sits IN the water. You can even go inside if you want, although we opted for taking photos from the outside.

After Belém we stopped at Cascais, one of the best beaches to surf close to Lisbon. When we went the waves were huge, and the wind was howling, although I’m not sure it’s always like that. Either way it seemed to be a good spot for surfing because they had a surf shop there that offered lessons along with plenty of merch. There also was two stunning hotels you could stay at although I can imagine they were very expensive.

From Cascais we traveled up to Sintra to view the Pena palace, but we didn’t realize they closed the doors at 5 so we weren’t able to go inside and therefore couldn’t see anything. The grounds are huge, and the palace sits on top of a hill so from where we were standing we couldn’t see it through all the trees. If we were to do it again I would recommend visiting Sintra as early in the morning as you can! Or at least make sure you get there before he doors close. Even though the doors closed at 5 to get in, there were still tons of people exiting the area and parked there still by 6pm. Still, the drive to get to Sintra was pretty and we did get one glimpse of the palace while driving, but we weren’t able to take a picture.

The only photo Colton managed to get of part of one of the gardens inside the palace grounds.

That night we headed back towards the center of Lisbon and decided to check out the docks everyone kept talking about. “Las docas” is a cute marina that is filled with sailboats, and great restaurants facing the water. There’s a series of seafood options, along with Cuban, Hawaiian, Italian, Mexican etc. they have it all! We loved having dinner here and even stayed afterwards to have some drinks there for the atmosphere.

Our view from dinner at Doca Piexe

Giant tiger shrimp which were the size of Florida lobsters!

Oysters, Octopus and Giant Tiger Shrimp

Overall we were really impressed with Lisbon, and I hope I get to make it back there sometime to check out some of the spots I missed!