April 5, 2017

Travel Roundup: Thailand, Day One (Hello)

Posted in Go, Look tagged , at 10:03 am by onetinyacorn

Traveled for 10 days in Thailand, 5 days in Tokyo. Here’s my write-up.

Bangkok

  • What I heard about Bangkok: it’s dirty, loud, chaotic, and smelly. Get out of there as soon as possible.
  • What I thought: It didn’t seem any dirtier, louder, or more chaotic than any other city. I did encounter an unpleasant raw sewage smell at varying times (in the city and on the islands), but nothing terrible. Once I was in rural Ohio and the nose-searing smell of pig feces (a fertilizer) has haunted me ever since. That was way worse. Get over it.

Landed at 11 pm in Bangkok, after 22 uneventful hours of flying halfway around the Earth. Was able to buy a SIM card and exchange money at that time: score. Got a cab easily, showed him my poorly-translated-into-Thai address of hostel #1: Siri Poshtel. The Google Translated text didn’t help, but the Thai map did (I had read that cabbies often don’t know much/any English, so I came prepared). He dropped me off a block away from the hostel, insisting that this dimly-lit building was my hostel. I knew we were near the actual hostel, so I thanked him and got out. I proceeded to wander around in a confused, sleep-deprived daze until a prostitute helped me find the hostel. Nice! And who should happen to be checking in at the exact moment that I arrived but my friend Josh, who has been living in Thailand for the past two years! We got settled in, cracked a few beers, and reminisced while waiting for the third member of our traveling trio to arrive. An hour or two later she showed up with an irate cabbie (takeaway: don’t use Google Translate to transliterate addresses from English to Thai).

Despite the fact that it was now 1 or 2 am, we set off for nearby Khao San Road. This place has a reputation for being a wild destination for backpackers. By this time of  the night, it was mostly intoxicated Thais and street vendors. I had my first of many, many snacks on this trip: grilled chicken for about 30 cents. It was delicious. Sated, we wandered back to the hostel and fell asleep at about 4 am.

Ate breakfast on a beautiful, open-air patio with tropical plants overhead. Roosters crowing in the background, we had papaya, melon, tart and delicious orange juice, and rice with a chicken broth poured over it.

First thing that I noticed that Thailand does better than the U.S.: bathrooms. They have sprayers that you use to clean yourself, and sometimes toilet paper to dry off which goes in a trash receptacle. It’s all very sanitary and logical.

Stumbled across Wat Ratchabophit, a Buddhist temple meaning “Marble Temple” according to the internet.

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Orchids growing wild in the park between Wat Ratchabophit and Wat Pho:

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Wat Pho, with the massive Reclining Buddha:

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Then I had the best Tom Yum of my life. Thai iced coffee. Fried bananas. Wontons with an egg in the middle. If you go hungry in Bangkok, you are doing something wrong.

Took a tuk-tuk ride, with a fun bit where our driver made a u-turn into the path of oncoming traffic. Exciting!

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Watched the sunset from Sky Train Jazz Club, which was a delightful, mellow rooftop bar.

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Caught the train to the airport, and flew to Krabi Town. Arrived at the White Pearl Hotel around midnight or so and crashed.

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July 9, 2012

My Vacation, in a Nutshell:

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 4:33 pm by onetinyacorn

Went jet skiing, boating, attempted to wakeboard.

Learned how to shoot firearms (at tin cans) on a beautiful ranch, next to a log cabin that someone’s grandfather built.

Hiked around Vedauwoo.

Rocked out to Patti Fiasco in Centennial.

Went dancing at Tracks.

Camped near Glenwood Canyon, and hiked to Hanging Lake.

Wandered around the forest, watching birds and marveling at the beauty of nature (that stuff never gets old).

Ate delicious Thai pizza in Breckenridge.

Made new friends and met up with old ones.

Felt peaceful, relaxed, and zen for the first time in a long time.

January 26, 2011

Creepy Dolls

Posted in Look tagged , , , , at 6:05 am by onetinyacorn

Fun fact: Casper, with a population of ~53,500 people, is Wyoming’s second-biggest town. Cheyenne, with ~57,600 people is the state’s most populous location.

What Casper did have was unintentionally creepy-looking dolls, and a Superman car. To wit:




January 13, 2011

New Belgium Brewery Tour

Posted in Go, Look, Shop tagged , , , , at 3:54 am by onetinyacorn

I recently drove down to Fort Collins, Colorado to exchange Christmas gifts with one of my favorite people in the world. While down there, we also toured New Belgium brewery, sampled some brews by Odell, and took in a gallery crawl. These photos are from New Belgium (since I’ve migrated my blog, the quality of the thumbnails has diminished. Click on any for a better shot) :

I didn’t know much about beer until I moved within striking distance of New Belgium, having generally associated beer with that mass-produced, dirty-sock-water stuff. I’m still learning a lot, which has been fun.

Along our tour, we got to sample their Abbey, Dunkelweizen (a new one that will be released soon with limited distribution), La Folie, 2 Below, and…a few others. There were chocolates, and a ride down a curly slide. The building is adorned with lots of fun art, and their commitment to environmental causes is evident. In short, if you’re going to be in Fort Collins, make sure to reserve a spot for a tour.

January 10, 2011

Pittsburgh Wrap-Up

Posted in Look tagged , , , , at 8:20 pm by onetinyacorn

It was so wonderful to go back to the place that has always felt most like home to me–Pittsburgh. Aside from seeing great friends and enjoying a magical wedding, these were the highlights:

* Strawberry pancakes at Pamela’s diner

* Visiting the Strip District and witnessing the hustle and bustle

* Museums and galleries! I went to the Society for Contemporary Craft, Hunt Botanical Institute, and the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. My favorite this time was Hunt–there’s a botanical illustration exhibit up there that I found breathtaking.

October 22, 2010

Vegas for Cheap

Posted in Look tagged , , , , , at 11:32 am by onetinyacorn

Vegas has re-invented itself as a luxury destination, which is unfortunate for those of us without luxury budgets. Nevertheless, I found quite a few inexpensive options for the intrepid traveler:

Lodging

  • There are a handful of motels and hostels in the area between the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas, easily accessible by taking the Deuce (bus line). Rates seemed to average $30 a night, plus tax. Hostels can be a fun way to meet other travelers—as long as you don’t mind sharing a room with other people. Some hostels will also offer private rooms for a bit more money—ask about those if you’re worried.

This area is cheaper because it’s not in a “good area,” but we never saw or heard of any problems for the three nights that we    were there. Be cautious, though. Also: the bus lines run pretty infrequently at night, so it would take us 2-3 hours to get to our hostel from a venue just a little ways off the Strip. This allowed for plenty of high-quality people-watching, but if that’s not your cup of tea, consider staying on the Strip.

  • I’ve never been fussy about hotels, since I’m only there long enough to sleep and shower. If you’re not like me, you can find some really good deals on hotel rooms at Travelzoo, Travelocity, and the like. Travelzoo sent me some offers for nice hotel rooms on the strip for as little as $40. Often they’ll include free vouchers for buffets and the like, so inquire about that.

Transportation

  • From the airport, the city’s 109 and 108 buses run into town. Currently, a 24-hour pass is $7 (for both on- and off-Strip buses), and a 3-day pass is $20. You can buy passes for anything more than a 24-hour one at some bus stops and locations around town; ask your friendly bus driver where some locations are. We hopped on the 108, jumped off when we spied an In-N-Out Burger, then continued to walk towards Flamingo St., past the beautiful UNLV campus. At Flamingo, you can take the 202 to the heart of the Strip. Just hop off when you see the spectacle (you’ll be near Caesar’s Palace). RTC is your friend.

Food and Drink

Good food is something that I’m willing to splurge on. If you’re not, your best bet is to get off the Strip, a land of $9 hot dogs and $12 bottles of domestic beers.

  • In-N-Out Burger. This had been thoroughly hyped-up by my friends before my arrival. I found my burger (Double Double with grilled onions) to be of higher-quality than standard fast food restaurants, but at a lower price.
  • Residential neighborhoods. For part of our time, we stayed with locals who had a bounty of normally-priced restaurants at their disposal.
  • Buffets can be a good deal. We went to an excellent one (Le Village Buffet at Paris), had a leisurely brunch, and were scarcely hungry for the rest of the day.
  • Casinos give out free drinks, but only as long as you are gambling, and they tend to be more attentive to the high-rollers for obvious reasons. Don’t forget to tip your waitress. Cheaper drinks can be found along Fremont Street.
  • Those margaritas that everyone sells along the Strip are for suckers.

Gambling

  • Casinos that give out free credits usually advertise that fact in front of their building. I have no qualms about gambling with their money, and just stopped when I ran out. You get a Player’s Club Card—almost every casino will have one—with the credits on there. I’m told that the catch is that they send you mail to the address that’s listed on the driver’s license or photo ID that you show them, but my ID still has an old address on it, so I can’t verify that. I didn’t win any money with the free points, but my husband won $100 with one.
  • Fremont Street, again, is a cheaper place. As is Slots-A-Fun. We went to Western Hotel, which had hardwood floors, grizzled-looking locals, $2 cocktails from the bar, and really cheap blackjack. It was a fun, low-key change from the artificial world of the Strip.

Fun and Games

  • Looking at the spectacle is free, and a must-do. I loved the conservatory at the Bellagio, the fake Parisian streets at Paris, the ship at Treasure Island, and all of the crazy artifices. Embrace the ridiculousness.
  • You can find booths that sell very reduced-rate tickets for shows and buffets. For the shows, you’ll have to buy a day or two in advance. They had Cirque du Soleil tickets at 80% off!
  • Before we left, a friend told us that you can’t tell the difference between the prostitutes and the tourists in Las Vegas. I thought that she was joking, but a Saturday night proved otherwise. While waiting for a bus, we spent a good bit of time people-watching and playing “Tourist or Hooker?” Hint: hookers don’t walk around with 3-foot margaritas strapped to their bodies.
  • The Fremont Street Experience is fun. You get to see old neon signs, a light show, and some amazing artists out and about.

October 9, 2010

Matador at 21

Posted in Look tagged , , , , at 8:24 pm by onetinyacorn

Ah, it finally came. Months after my husband and I were lucky enough to nab 2 of the 2,500 tickets for Matador’s 21st birthday party (considering they sold out in 2 minutes), we landed in Las Vegas ready to rock. Matador did not disappoint—they put on a great show. Music videos from Matador artists played between sets, MCs of varying quality introduced each performer, and pre- and post-shows kept everyone busy for all of their waking hours. There’s plenty of coverage elsewhere, so I won’t go into exhaustive detail. I will just say that seeing Pavement live was totally worth my 13-year wait (yeah, I didn’t see them during the Terror Twilight tour, because that album sucks); I don’t care about their issues with sound or that Spiral threw a temper tantrum. It reminded me of seeing the Pixies in 2005: everyone so excited at this unlikely chance to see their favorite band perform, everyone shouting the lyrics in time because we have them all memorized. Also, Cat Power was amazing (and not showing any signs of stage fright), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion tore it up, Sonic Youth performed my dream set, and Belle and Sebastian were completely endearing (if not my favorite performers, I was completely won over by their behavior). Loved the ubiquitous Ted Leo, too.

The venue was kinda weird: an upscale casino that also houses the Playboy Club, which witnessed the odd clash of The Plaid versus The Scantily Clad as the concert let out. It did contain one anomaly to trendy Vegas spots: chain restaurants that have not doubled their prices to take advantage of people. Speaking of which, stay tuned for my next installment: Vegas for Cheapskates!

July 18, 2010

Oh, Hey There

Posted in Look tagged , at 10:11 pm by onetinyacorn

Yeah. Long time no see. Me? Oh, I’ve been busy doing things. Flying back home to see my brother get married, visiting friends in Pittsburgh over the holidays, learning how to snowshoe, backpacking, cross-country skiing, visiting Portland and Denver…I think those are the highlights. And of course, taking tons of photos.

October 22, 2009

Roadtrip, Part 3

Posted in Look tagged , , , , at 11:09 am by onetinyacorn

We came across this lovely little campground outside of Mitchell, SD. They have an antique store adjacent to the campground store, and have incorporated glass dishes into their benches and fences to create lovely little works of art. I felt the calmness and beauty of the prarie, admired the waving sheaths of Naples Yellow grain, the landscape dotted here and there by lonely houses and barns. I was looking forward to getting closer to home.

But first: the Badlands. Like an inverted Grand Canyon crossed with a lunar landscape. Breathtaking. Next time I’m doing some hiking there.

September 28, 2009

Roadtrip, Part 2

Posted in Look tagged , , , , , , at 10:36 pm by onetinyacorn

We followed the Mississippi River towards Minneapolis, and stopped at the sculpture garden outside of the Walker Art Center. My favorite work was Dan Graham’s Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth (fourth image): depending on which side you were looking at, you could see other viewers, a reflection of yourself, or a combination of the two in varying levels of translucence. Aside from being a technical marvel, I loved what I perceived to be the commentary on surveillance and self-absorption inherent in the work. Later, I ate the most amazing portobello mushrooms with toasted goat cheese and balsamic vinegar reduction…mmm….

We continued on to Pipestone National Monument, with a lovely walk around the area where Native Americans still quarry for the stone that they use to make pipes. There are offerings of tobacco tied to trees, gorgeous prarie grass, and gorgeous pinkish-red stone walls jutting towards the sky.

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