The must visit list: Leshan Giant Buddha in the Sichuan provence of China
(Photo Credit eastsidescene.com)
The hot “speakeasy” bar of Downtown Los Angeles, Edison takes their 1920s theme to the pinnacle of Luxe. The bartenders are dressed to the 9s in 1920s style hispters suspenders, and the waitresses are sporting flappers. The most unique character at Edison is the green absinthe fairy that occasionally makes an appearance urging you to take a ride with the green fairy.
(Photo Credit venuetastic.com)
The entrance is at street level, but once you’ve passed coat check is a very long stairway down into an almost cave-like open space with stone walls and sky-high ceilings. One end of the bar is more music and dancing focused, the middle is filled with standing bar patrons, and the opposite end is filled with luxurious lounges and seating. Edison is also downright civilized, as many of the table and lounge areas are open to general customers, without requiring them to pay exorbitant bottle service prices.
My favorite part of Edison is the 1920s-era dawn of electricity machinery and light bulbs. Not only does Edison embrace their speakeasy theme, they decorate with industrial equipment and dim glowing antique looking light bulbs. The only anachronistic thing to be found in this bar are the patrons who have come to enjoy it.
The most beautiful bar I have ever seen, with a nerdy authentically 1920s feel I’ve never experienced before or since. An amazing bar and a must-visit on any Los Angeles trip.
(Photo Credit chiangmaigrapevine.com)
Parami Guesthouse is located just outside the central city loop across a short walking bridge. A 15 minute walk from anything you may want to see in central Chiang Mai, the sweet demeanor of the owner/operators, and the convenience of offered daily activites and friendly social guests to explore with was well worth the location.
Here you can see just how close the hostel is to central Chiang Mai.
For just a few dollars a night, I had this guestroom all to myself. This guestroom included a full bed (not exactly hotel comfortable, but after a full day exploring Chiang Mai you will sleep quite well), an en suite full bathroom, and very critically an air conditioning unit. As with many oversees guesthouses this room came with a few particulars. The air conditioning unit could only be turned on while you are home, so you always come back to a rather sweltering room. You also can’t put toilet paper down the toilet. Human waste goes in the toilet, but toilet paper and everything else gets put in the trash. That being said, the water pressure and temperature were decent, and a little privacy is very appreciated after a long day sweating in the Thailand sun.
Above is a shot of my small seating area.
Another shot of the shower / bathroom facilities in my guestroom.
The guesthouse was happy to help you book your activities for the day. This includes my favorite activity in Chiang Mai, the Baan Thai Cooking Class (http://hollandlm.tumblr.com/post/35867479401/baan-thai-thai-cookery-school-chiang-mai-thailand), as well as trips to the Elephant Sanctuary, and trips up to the Doi Southep temple. The one tour I was unhappy with was the Cockfighting tour. While I hope the tour was one of the dark history of cockfighting in Thailand, it’s still a pretty popular sport in parts of Thailand, and is disappointing to see that tradition continues.
One of the hazards of traveling to Thailand in the off season is heat, humidity, and cloudy raining monsoon days. While traveling in the off-season shouldn’t scare you, there are lots of opportunities to save, my lack of planning ended in a beach vacation monsoon disaster. In Chiang Mai and Bangkok it’s easy enough to make your plans with rain in mind, allowing you to enjoy the vacation cost savings of off-season travel. That being said, Karon Beach is not the place to try off-season travel.
I arrived at Phuket Airport planning to catch one of the many ferries each day to Koh Phi Phi, and another ferry to Krabi Province where my hostel was booked. It was way to expensive to fly directly to Krabi, so this rather convoluted travel plan was meant to save some money. Unfortunately, when I landed at the Phuket Airport, I was greeted with some bad news. The Phuket Airport is full of hotel and tour vendors aggressively seeking your business, and those vendors informed me that the ferry to Koh Phi Phi and Krabi was cancelled that day. Apparently this is common in the off season.
Unsure what to do, I went to my default and booked a hotel room at the closest Hilton hotel with Hilton points. In this case, it was the Hilton Phuket Arcadia resort in Karon Beach. (http://hollandlm.tumblr.com/post/36359749767/hotel-review-hilton-phuket-arcadia-resort-karon) Sadly, it was almost an hour drive from the Phuket Airport, leaving me with not so many options to get back on my original Krabi travel plan.
Arriving in Karon Beach, the town seemed promising. Dozens of stores and restaurants along the beach boardwalk as well as the main street of town. While Chiang Mai had a healthy mix of tourist and local neighborhoods and markets, Karon Beach didn’t have that culture and history. The area was mostly new development built to cater to the tourism industry. The locals clearly don’t spend much time in Karon Beach unless they can satisfy all of their needs with screen printed t-shirts and novelty bikinis. Not even so much as a local produce market anywhere within walking distance of the Hilton resort.
Most of the restaurants in Karon Beach are hawking burgers and mac and cheese for the unadventurous tourists, so it was a real challenge to find a decent Thai restaurant. The off-season monsoons started to move it, so rather than exploring my options a little further from home, I ducked into the first decent Thai restaurant. Settling for a generic tourist option close to the Hilton, I got to experience a Phuket guitarist covering American classics right on the beach. The Thai food was tasty, but it certainly wasn’t the way they prepare Thai food for their families. Traditional sticky rice was substituted for easy to prepare jasmine. Asking the restaurant about the many traditional Thai dishes missing from the menu they told me that they travel several miles away from Karon Beach to find those traditional dishes.
On the walk back to the Hilton, there was a very popular food truck with a line of both locals from the taxi stand across the street, as well as tourists. The food truck was a one-women operation which specialized in crepes, giving you the option of dozens of fruits and toppings. I asked for their speciality which turned out to be a banana and nutella crepe. Creamy banana, smooth nutella, and a crepe dripping in cooking oil, it was exactly what I would expect from indulgent late-night snack food.
Final advice, plan ahead. Make sure your ferry tickets are booked ahead of time, and fly as directly to your destination as possible. The off-season doesn’t allow for as much spontaneity, so take the uncertainty out of the off-season to enjoy both everything Thailand has to offer, while saving money. The beach towns are not going to be as much fun during monsoon season since frequent rain showers don’t allow much time for lounging on a beach, and as always, avoid the mega resorts. If you are going to fly around the world for a vacation, go where the locals go and really get to know your destination.
(Photo Credit alierturk.deviantart.com)
No wonder so many of our friends keep traveling to Zion and Arches National Parks to pop the question to their soon-to-be fiancees. Striking beauty in the Utah desert.