Koh Tao, aka Turtle Island, was my favorite island and my favorite other place visited besides Chiang Mai. This island screams IM SUPER CHILL BRAH AND EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT. I loved Koh Tao because everything was pretty much walkable in the part where we stayed (Sairee Beach). It was like a beach town but there wasn’t really a beach to hang out at… at least no sand area. Koh Tao is known for scuba diving and snorkeling and there are many areas on the island to do just that.
Day 1 – Tuesday
Check in to Sairee Cottages
Lunch at Sairee Cottage Restaurant
Walked around the area
Dinner at Farango Pizzeria (dude…$90 baht/$3 USD magherita pizzas here for happy hour)
Day 2 – Wednesday
Breakfast at PermPoon Coffee Bar by the Pool (part of our hotel)
Hung out at the pool
Rained so we hung out at our balcony and read or played games
Went to go check out different snorkeling and scuba diving places
Dinner at 995 Roasted Duck (BEST FOOD OF THE TRIP)
Dessert at Butter I-cream (ice cream at our hotel)
Day 3 – Thursday
Breakfast at PermPoon Coffee Bar by the Pool
Oxygen2 Snorkeling Tour (Full Day)
Snorkeling at Nangyuan Island, Shark Bay, Mango Island, Lighthouse Bay and Aow Leuk. Lunch, snacks and beverages included.
BBQ dinner at Sairee Cottages Restaurant
Day 4 – Friday
Breakfast at PermPoon Coffee Bar by the Pool
Scuba Diving Lesson and Open Water Dive at Ban’s Diving Resort
Dinner at Roasted Duck (yeah this place was freaking awesome, we went twice)
Pronounced “Ko Pahng Yun”, this island is famous for its wild full moon parties or half moon parties (or any parties) at Haad Rin. We just missed the full moon party so we opted to explore the quieter sides of the island. It’s a bigger island, one where you even by motorbike, it may take you an hour to ride somewhere because of the roads. We only planned to stay for 1.5 days but we would’ve like to add on another day to check out more of the island. I’ll include a list of things recommended but we didn’t have time to do.
Day 1 – Sunday
Thai Smiles flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui
Ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan
Taxi to High Life Bungalow & Check In
Dinner at Zots Resto @ Tantawan Resort
Day 2 – Monday
Breakfast at Tantawan Resort
Motorbike rental at My Hut
Mae Haad Beach
Haad Khom Beach
Lunch at Haad Khom Bungalow Restaurant
Pool at High Life Bungalow
Dinner at High Life Bungalow
Day 3 – Tuesday
Breakfast at High Life
Check out and took their taxi to the pier for Koh Ta
When I first night we touched down in Bangkok, I was super overwhelmed. It’s a crazy city with tight sidewalks, heavy traffic in the streets, and aggressive vehicles. To be honest, even though I’ve lived in NYC all my life, I was uncomfortable. Thankfully, the very next morning, we flew to Chiang Mai because that was the scene I was ultimately looking for. Chiang Mai is a smaller city, north of Bangkok. When I was doing research, Chiang Mai was the most mentioned city besides Bangkok to visit so I knew I had to go. There are tons to do here – from cheap eats and massages to Temple hopping to seeing elephants to street markets to cooking classes. Chiang Mai to me was the chill, adventurous, spiritual sister of Bangkok.
Day 1 – Wednesday
Arrival at Hotel at 1:00pm
Walk around area
Lunch at Its Good Kitchen (actually pretty good)
1-hour Thai Massage at Lila Thai Massage
Wat Phra Singh Waramahavihan
Walk down Rachadamnoen Road to Old Gate, window shopped
Swasdi! We just got back a few weeks ago from our honeymoon in the land of smiles, Thailand. We went for about 19 days (the longest we have been out of the country) and it was nothing short of spectacular. We decided to do Thailand for our honeymoon because (1) it’s much more affordable for a long trip, (2) we wanted nice beaches, and (3) we wanted good food. We’ve only heard great things about Thailand from friends and knew it was the place to be.
We hit up 2 cities and 3 islands which I’ll make separate posts about. Overall, Thailand was beautiful and full of interesting and new things for us to try. I’d highly suggest it as a honeymoon destination for any couple… heck, I’d suggest it for anyone – there were a lot of backpackers and families. We got by just fine with only English and at no time did I feel unsafe (just be smart and aware of your surroundings). Thai people are usually very, very nice people and they don’t scam you. The people that are more likely to scam you are the foreigners living in Thailand. I was pretty anxious and worrisome about going to an Asian country just the two of us for the first time but it really was pretty easy.
We used Hopper to track flights from JFK to Bangkok (seemed to be the cheapest city for us to fly into) and ended up booking Korean Airlines with a layover in South Korea. I think it was around $850 round trip. There are no direct flights form JFK to BKK. Next time you need to do a layover in Asia, please do yourself a favor and do it in South Korea if you can. Incheon Airport in South Korea was the best airport I have ever been to – it looks gorgeous, is really clean and bright and has ton of activities for grumpy waiting passengers. Tons of shopping, food, rest areas with comfy lounge chairs, a “sleeping” area, “digital” gyms which I definitely played in, free showers, different exhibitions to check out, apparently a movie theatre, and more. All of this definitely made my 5 hour layover much better. There are also multiple FREE tours into Seoul depending on how long your layover is.
Things To Get Before the Trip
My best friends Mike & Matt backpacked across South East Asia (check out Backpack Bros for their experiences) and loved using their backpacking packs. I took note and put two Ospreys packs on my wedding registry and luckily got both of them. I used the Osprey Packs Fairview 55 Travel Backpack and the hubby used the guy version, Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack. Somehow I was able to channel whatever minimalism I had and pack for 3 weeks in one backpack. You’re darn right I was super proud of myself! Using these backpacks instead of suitcases made commuting around, hopping around cities/islands, just so much easier. We saw many families (including little kids) use them too. Plus laundry is cheap in Thailand.. we only had to do it once and it was like $6 for 2 pounds of laundry (came back neatly folded too!). Plus those Osprey packs come with detachable day packs, which were used very often.
Another new thing we got before our honeymoon that has definitely been a game changer for us during our trip is our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. There are a ton of websites that talk about the benefits of this card, despite its steep annual fee, so I won’t go into detail. NerdWallet does a great article with a spend calculator to see if it’s worth it (luckily my husband and my spend combined makes it worth it). We have used this card for booking our flights, ferries, and hotels (3x points and included insurance/piece of mind), restaurants and shops in Thailand that take CC (no foreign trans fee), and something that my husband is now loving – access to many airport lounges. Free food, drinks and wifi + quieter and comfier atmosphere to wait = happy Eileen (+ hubby). The Skyteam lounge in Incheon Airport also has massage chairs.
One old thing we used very frequently was my Charles Schwab debit card (no foreign ATM fees) (I talk about it more here). I was not comfortable carrying so much cash on me at once so this came quite handy, saving me ~$7 of ATM fees per transaction. At the end of the trip, I only had $9 USD in Thai baht left so I didn’t have to lose that much out on converting back to USD.
In Thailand, my most used apps were Google Maps for directions, TripAdvisor for food and activity searching on the spot, and Grab (in Bangkok & Chiang Mai). Grab is like the Uber of Thailand.
I enjoyed Munich slightly a little more than Berlin. While Berlin was much more history-rich, Munich was much more of the walkable, beautifully decorated, “loved-getting-lost” kind of city. It reminded me of Prague, where every street was just so lovely to look at. We absolutely did not realize we booked our trip in Munich over Good Friday weekend so we kind of limited ourselves to doing most things on Thursday and not being able to do some things, like go to the top of St. Peter’s Church. But everything worked out and I think we saw everything we wanted to- luckily because a lot of it was just visiting public grounds.
Wednesday, Day 1
Berlin Hauptbahnhof -> Munich Central Station
Dinner at Wirtshaus zum Straubinger
Thursday, Day 2
Dachau Concentration Camp
Lunch at saray imbiss
Snack at Der verrückte Eismacher und der Froschkönig (Ice Cream)
Hallo! On my day off from grad school and after a failed attempt at making Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream this morning, I’m finally getting around to writing about Germany. We flew from JFK to Frankfurt Airport but the first city we actually went to was Berlin. Berlin is awesome. It’s not “beautiful/scenic” (as it was destroyed during WWII) or a major foodie spot but it’s super filled with so much to see and embrace. Plus, as it was rebuilt, commuting around Berlin was pretty easy walking-wise and with its train system… once we figured out how ticketing worked. More details after the jump.
Sunday, Day 1
Arrived at 9:45AM at Frankfurt Airport
Took a train from Frankfurt am Main Flughafen Fernbahnhof (Frankfurt Airport Main Train Station) to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Train Station)
Dinner at Stadtklause
Monday, Day 2
Train to Flakturm Humboldthain (Flak Tower)
Underground Bunker Tour at Berliner Unterwelten e.V.
Train to & Lunch at Curry at the Wall
Berlin TV Tower
Bebelplatz (Memorial to the book burning of 1933)
Topography of Terror
Führerbunker (the location where Hitler’s bunker was (just a parking lot now))
Dinner at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap
Tuesday, Day 3
Reichstag Building Tour
Lunch at Cafe Bondi
Berlin Wall Memorial & Visitor Center
Train to Eastside Gallery
Train to Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
Dinner at Mabuhay (Indonesian)
Wednesday, Day 4
Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Train Station) -> München Hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Train Station)
Hallo! Exciting things have happened since my last blog post… I got engaged! It is both super exciting and weird at the same time even though 2 months have already past since the proposal. If you’re curious as to my true thoughts on how the proposal went (knowing that I am a surprise ruiner), it went perfectly; even though we have been together for almost 10 years, I was 100% surprised when he asked on a beautiful 65 degree day, on our favorite beach during sunset. Wedding planning games have begun since then, and I’m sure I’ll be writing (or venting haha) about some of those #CHENCHALLENGES in the near future. There already has been a few.
My fiance (weird calling him that.. okay, my partner? significant other? less weird) and I also took a 8 day trip to the beautiful, history-rich lands of Germany recently, specifically Berlin, Munich, and Rhineland area/Frankfurt. It was an awesome trip filled with many firsts including renting an AirBnB place instead of a hotel, navigating the German rail and local train systems, eating German food, and driving (or in my case, being a passenger) 125mph on the autobahn.
Why Germany? Honestly, it was just fate… thanks to the flight pricing gods. We used Google Flights‘ Discover Destinations to check out which places would be cheap to fly to during specific dates. We saw that a few European cities were fairly cheap like Zurich, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and used the app Hopper to track flight prices. One day, we saw Frankfurt have $450 direct round trip tickets from JFK and immediately booked it. So, that’s how we chose Germany.
Of course me being a planner, I planned out my itineraries for the trip beforehand. I used a bunch of different sources for “the best things to do in X city” but mainly from TripAdvisor and friend recommendations. I used Sygic Travel to plot all my points of interest on a map so I could group PoIs close in proximity together, then used TripHobo to plan out my day to day itinerary. I liked that Trip Hobo included suggestions on what’s in the area as well as included commute time (walking, car, train).
Before my trip, I also wanted to get a no-foreign-transaction-fee card to use abroad. I used to have the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (which had this and I miss dearly because it was awesome earning SPG points) but after the first free year, I couldn’t justify the $95 annual fee with my current spending habits – maybe we’ll meet again some day my friend.. Anyway, TLDR – I needed a free card that provided this benefit. There are a few no-annual-fee credit cards out there that include the no-foreign-trans-fee but I ended up going with the Charles Schwab Debit Card. I usually use cash abroad (many smaller shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards) and Schwab will reimburse any ATM fees. It is an online bank, so it is annoying that you can’t deposit cash directly and any money transfers from external bank accounts will take about 4 business days, but the customer service has been great so far, no annual fees, 1.0% interest for your checking account… it’s pretty sweet for an abroad card option. I do have to warn you that they do a hard pull on your credit (meaning their inquiry into your credit score will affect your score). So if you’re looking to get a loan in the near future, might not be a good idea to get it now. I didn’t have any problem using this card in the German ATMs BUT DO call them before your trip to notify them; I didn’t do this and I couldn’t charge anything to the card as they thought it was fraud.. ATM worked though.
I hope these few tips are helpful in planning your next trip! Stay tuned for more posts on what we did in Germany. Guten tag!
Konnichiwa! Hope everyone is well! Happy Lunar New Year to all who is celebrating. I am super excited for all the delish Chinese food my family is cooking up this weekend and spending time with my fam bam…… aaaaaand of course collecting the red envelopes (hong baos). Holidays has been a lil rough on my wallet, ya feel me?
Anyways, my friend Thanmayi is heading off to Japan next month and that reminded me I needed to dig up my Japan travel guide, as I promised in my Honolulu, Hawaii post. See? I come through…. eventually.
It was my second time in Japan in 2014 (although my first time was a blur as I was younger) and thankfully I made some kind of guide and remembered mostly where I went. I love love love the Japanese culture. Have always been obsessed with the food. Intrigued in their entertainment and technology – tons of gaming (yo I used to be a DDR master… for a 10 year old), anime (naruto in Japanese obviously… ok with english subtitles), cartoons (sailor moon FTW), makeup, and J-Pop. I even aced my New York State Global History Regents by writing my essay on the Japanese Industrial Revolution. So needless to say, when I found out I was going to Japan the first time.. and even the second time, I was LIT.
Actually going to Japan and experiencing first hand their culture, their people, the FOOD (!!!) was amazing.. and kawaii. Because literally everything in Japan is kawaii (cute). 24/7. I spent some time in Tokyo but also some limited time with some cities outside(hence my title being Tokyo-ish) but if I could sum up the country in a few words from my experiences, it would be: cleanliness, efficiency, respect, technologically advanced while staying true to their roots. Tokyo is one of my absolute favorite cities to vacation; I would love to go back and explore other cities. Fortunately, we had a family friend who lived in Japan and spoke English, Chinese, and Japanese — I’ll be honest, because we had her around, we didn’t really need to communicate that much but I know others who have gone to Japan without knowing the language and have been able to get around fine. In general, Japanese people are very generous and will help you to the best of their ability. Their customer service in the service industry is top notch in my opinion.
If you can recall, this was a joint trip with Hawaii in 2014 and I went with my family of 12. We try to get everyone’s input as to what they want to do, thus, it was a packed trip with activities. We only had a little more than 4 full days there and we wanted to do A LOT. More details after the jump.
Tuesday, Day 1
Arrived at 2:15PM at Narita International Airport
Took a bus shuttle to our hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel (in Shinjuku) and checked in
Dinner at Tempura Restaurant near hotel (don’t remember name)
Walked around Shinjuku area near our hotel
Wednesday, Day 2
Train to Tsukiji Fish Market (absolutely my favorite part of the trip. best meal of my life here)
Ate a sushi breakfast, walked the shops
Train to Ginza, shopping at Ginza
Bought toys at Hakuhinkan Toy Park
Geisha Show at Ginza
Train to Asakusa Shrine
Sukiyaki Dinner at Yonekyu
Thursday, Day 3
Train/bus/tram to Hakone Mountain (for a view of Mt. Fuji)
Eat a black egg!
Tram/bus to Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (Water Park with Hot Springs)
Got our feet nibbed on by fish
Train back to Shinjuku
Dinner at Ramen Restaurant near Hotel
Friday, Day 4
Train/bus to Diver City Tokyo Plaza
Gundam Front Tokyo
Train to Sanrio Puroland (aka Hello Kitty World)
Kawaii the f out
Hello Kitty lunch buffet
Saturday, Day 5
Train to Nissin Cupnoodle Museum (my 2nd favorite part of the trip)
Train to Shinyokohama Ramen Museum (food court of the best ramen)
Train back to Shinjuku
Shopping in Shinjuku
Dinner at Sushi Go Around Restaurant in Shinjuku (don’t remember the name)
I hope everyone had a beautiful and stuffed Thanksgiving yesterday! How does time pass so quickly? How the heck did Thanksgiving past already, and almost at the end of 2016? What? Didn’t 2016 just start? Ugh. What do you mean I went on vacation 4 months ago and still haven’t finished writing about it?
Sorry! Work has been busy and I have been traveling for work/personal lately… so many things to do, so little time. Adulting is hard (did I forget to take my gummy vitamins today again? I don’t remember). But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the magical world of Disney.
I think I’ve been to Disney World 5 times now. Twice as a baby/kid, three times as an adult. Ha! And I will not go back until my future kiddies want to go to Disney World. However, Disney World is such a well run machine. They do try to make it really the happiest place on earth. Yes, the rides are for kids but the overall theme, decor, staff, music, feels makes you feel like a kid again. Bless up.
Disney World is comprised of 4 theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom; and 2 water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
I went to Magic Kingdom a few years ago for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and it was the cutest thing. I heard the same about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If you could only go to Disney one day, I’d definitely recommend trying to go during these two events. And especially if you’ve never been to any Disney park before, Magic Kingdom is the OG classic… the heart of it all. Although the event itself usually starts at 7PM, but with your event ticket, you can enter the park as early as 4PM. Many rides are still open during the event. The event is so FRIGGIN cute, even if you are not a Disney fanatic (but enjoy watching children dressed in the cutest costumes trick or treat around the park).
Anyway, I was only in Disney for 2 days and chose Magic Kingdom and Epcot for my 2 days. The company I interned for closed down Animal Kingdom for a few hours on a summer evening so that was pretty cool; they only have one coaster I believe, yet I remember that being pretty fun. Hollywood Studios only had 2 rides that are for ‘bigger’ kids: Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror but other than that, I didn’t think I would’ve wanted to spend the whole day there. I never went to the water parks so I can’t talk about those.
In this post, I’ll go into:
Getting from Port Canaveral to Disney World via rental car
Hiya! Continuing my Orlando series, I’ll tell you what happened on Day 2, before I boarded onto the Cruise. We checked out of our hotel at Four Points, and drove to Cape Canaveral to drop off the car rental at the Avis near there. I’m almost certain that all the rental car places near Port Canaveral has a free shuttle to the Port for all the cruises. Since we had picked up the car around 9:30AM the day before, in order to stay within the “1 day” rate, we had to return it 9:30AM the day after. An important thing to know about rental car rates is that the time starts ticking once you get your car rental agreement/receipt. It doesn’t matter what your reservation time was. Each rental car place differs on the grace period, but I believe for Avis and Hertz, it is 30 minutes. So after the grace period, if you haven’t returned your car yet, they will start charging you at the disgusting hourly rate. So, we had to wake up earlier than planned and drive the 45 minutes (without traffic on Saturday morning) to Cape Canaveral. Luckily, the Avis manager working there was uber cool and when we asked him if Avis could store our luggage anywhere, he said he didn’t have space but he didn’t need our car yet so we could keep it for a few more hours at no additional charge. WOOT.
Yes, I was planned to drag my suit case around if need be. There are places to eat within walking distance around the Avis rental place so you could just wheel your stuff to one location and chill there.
Anyway, we were hungry (although a whole week of unlimited eating awaited us on the cruise) so we went to get breakfast. I yelped around of course and found Simply Delicious Cafe & Bakery with a 4.5 rating and 300+ reviews. Whaaaaaaat – pix looks good. Let’s go.
Simply Delicious Cafe & Bakery
125 N Orlando Ave
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
Street parking was easy. There was a wait of 15-20 minutes for two peeps. Damn that place was busy. The portions are huge and the prices aren’t bad for the portion. I would definitely suggest sharing one plate between 2 people, especially if you’re just trying to hold your stomach over for a few hours before hitting that lido buffet ya feel me?
We got a full order of the banana and nutella stuffed french toast and a nutella and banana crepe. LOL, we love nutella and banana. I think the food there is good, but not super amazing. Perhaps the other breakfast foods are good, but we both got chocolate filled dough SO that was way too overwhelmingly sweet. The amount of nutella they pump in there is just way too much. It was good for the first few bites but then I got so tired of it. Also, it’s super filling so if you’re going to try the stuffed french toast, maybe opt for the half portion (it’s $1 cheaper).
The wait for the food took a while but the waitress was friendly. You pay the bill at the counter.
After breakfast, we still had some time to kill so as my BF is a surf-enthusiast, we passed by Ron Jon Surf Shop and wanted to go in. This store is HUGE. Maybe killed about 25 minutes in there just walking around and looking at surfboards. Then, we went to Cocoa Beach for a few minutes to check out the beach. It was okay.
We wanted to head back to Avis by 12:00pm, since the Carnival cruise check in started at 12:30pm (the port is only less than 10 min away). Luckily, we got bored of the beach and just decided to go back to Avis around 11:45am. There were already cruising families lining up for the shuttle. We were the last two to fit on the shuttle that left around 12:00 and with major traffic build up around the port dropoffs, it took us like 40 minutes to actually get dropped off. My family, who arrived in Orlando that morning, had actually checked in around 12:15pm, so I’m guessing 12:30pm is a lie and you can check in earlier than that.
I’ll stop here and save all the cruise talk for another post. As always, let me know if you have any questions and thanks for reading!