Saturday, July 27, 2013

Quick and Nerdy - Pak Chong (Khao Yai)


Pak Chong (Khao Yai):
Thank you Meanwhile in Thailand for another Quick and Nerdy!

·       The gateway to Khao Yai, Thailand’s largest National Park, Pak Chong is a small, quaint tourist town.
·       There are numerous hotels, many of them boutique and reasonably priced since this area caters as much to Thais as to foreigners.
·       Khao Yai offers a number of adventure related options: cave tours, trekking and exploring.
·       The city itself is small and spread out, so don’t plan on walking anywhere.

Sights:

·       Khao Yai – the main attraction here offers jungle tours, treks, animals, cave exploration, waterfalls and springs; most people don’t come here for much else.
·       Animal tours – elephants are the real main attraction here, but there are also smaller tours that focus on bats and bugs, but I can’t promise they will interest most people.
·       Chok Chai Farms – Again, this is mostly for Thai people, but you can tour their farms for 300 baht and sample the ‘best burger in Thailand’. Most Westerners probably won’t find it interesting, though, so you’ve been warned.
·       Replica Spanish Village – Sort of an odd stand out, it’s about ten minutes away from the main city and not much else.

Get Around:

·       A taxi, motorbike or tour is a necessity here, though you can probably arrange one for cheaper than say, Phuket.

Tips:

·       Unless you plan on a three day jungle trek, don’t plan on staying long. It’s small and Khao Yai isn’t the most spectacular sight in Thailand.
·       If you aren’t Thai, you’ll probably want to go on the full day tour to see elephants, as the half day tour can focus almost exclusively on bats and bugs. Do see the bats exiting the caves at dusk, you will be amazed at how many there are, but don’t make it an all-day adventure to see them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hometown Adventures - Dublin's Chicago


I started a fun project for myself that involves alcohol and getting to know my neighborhood better. Since I walk home from work every day, I decided to stop in all the bars I can find between my work and apartment. My purpose is to grab one drink, then write a mini review on the place. I want to see how these bars/restaurants are for a woman just stopping in for a drink by herself.

In some ways it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. Even though I’ve traveled and dined out a lot on my own, it’s a little different stopping in places alone in my own neighborhood. I find in Chicago people are always in groups or coupled off, and sometimes I want to grab a drink alone and not feel uncomfortable doing so. To stay safe during this process, here are two few rules I will always follow:

-I will never leave my drink or belongings unattended.
-1-2 drinks maximum.

My first stop was Dublin’s Bar and Grill. I walked in around 4:30pm and found an empty seat at the bar next to two older men. I ordered a Hoegaarden beer for some reason and paid cash. It was so hot outside I welcomed the air conditioning and texted with a coworker who was meeting me in about an hour.

I was surrounded my drunk people and there were several people yelling at each other across the bar. As I was near to finishing my drink I was getting ready to head out, but the bartender refilled my glass and I decided to stay. The men next to me started talking to each other about Detroit, and other than a quick chat with the bartender, I kept to myself.

As I was about halfway through the second beer, the bartender offered me a shot, which I declined. Around this time, my coworkers arrived and I was given another free beer (I wasn’t alone by this time, so beer number 3 wasn’t breaking any rules!). Overall, Dublin’s is a great place to drink alone, but it could have easily gotten out of hand had I not stuck to my rules.

Find me:
1050 N State St  Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 266-6340

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hometown Adventures - InterContinental Chicago


I think 4th of July weekend in Chicago is one of the worst weekends to review a hotel. However, I found myself staying at the InterContinental Chicago on July 6th for my brother’s wedding. My family members stayed for several more nights, but with the $150+ a night price tag (even with the blocked room discount) I decided one night was enough.


The location of the InterContinental is clearly its top selling point. Located on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, the hotel is just steps from shopping, restaurants, the river, and other tourist attractions. However, this also makes the entrance the most congested area imaginable. The number of tourists in Chicago 4th of July weekend was astronomical, and I found myself dodging shopping bags and maneuvering myself around strollers just to get inside the hotel.

The InterContinental has two towers – the historic tower and the new tower. After spending time in both, I think the historic tower should be renamed the old tower. My room was in the new tower and was a good $50 cheaper and much more clean and modern. The historic tower has more suites, but the carpeting and fixtures were clearly more dated. The annoying thing about the two towers was the separate elevator bank. To go from my room in the new tower, to see my parents in the historic tower, it took at least 15 minutes and I had to cut through the lobby. The wait time for an elevator ranged from 5-15 minutes due to the overcrowding of the hotel with 2 weddings at the hotel each night.


Weddings at the InterContinental are classic and conservative. The ballrooms are elegantly decorated with crystal chandeliers and I can see why it’s such a popular location for weddings. I was worried the food was going to boring hotel fare, but I was pleasantly surprised. My dinner consisted of a mushroom consomm√©, beet salad, and bone marrow crusted filet served with multiple glasses of champagne. There was nothing bland about that!

The rooms at the InterContinental are nothing over the top. I was lucky to have a Michigan Avenue view and two Queen beds for my friends to sit on as the after party moved into my room later that evening. Most guests at the InterContinental won’t be spending much time in the room since there’s so much to do in this amazing city. If I had one suggestion for the InterContinental it would be to increase the level of accessibility for guests using wheelchairs and walkers. It was extremely difficult for one of our family members to get back to his room and enter the restaurant.

If you’re looking for a hotel in the best possible location that’s family-friendly and you don’t mind navigating a crowd, then look no further than Chicago’s InterContinental.

Find me:
Address: 505 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Phone:(312) 944-4100 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Random Memory


My roommate my first week in Thailand messed up her knee while receiving a Thai massage. I guess the masseuse applied too much pressure to her kneecap or something like that. That night we were all dancing and something tore in her knee and she went to the hospital. When she came back to our hotel room she had about six baggies worth of pain killers and was instructed to go to bed. While waiting for the muscle relaxers to kick in, I read The Teachings of Buddha to her out loud until she fell asleep (there was a free copy in the room). I love when memories like this come back to me. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dream Destination - Karolyi Ranch

I am a huge gymnastics fan. Gymnastics in the 90’s is still an obsession of mine. While I still keep up with today’s gymnasts, there was something so unique about the 1990’s gymnastics scene. It was the decade of the pixie gymnast, an 80-pound dynamo flying through the air or turning gracefully on the balance beam.
The 1996 Atlanta Games was the first time the women had ever won team gold and I remember staying up late to watch Kerri Strug’s heroic final vault.


 In the 90’s there was one coach that coached all the gymnastics superstars we still remember today – Bela Karolyi. His ranch, located outside of Houston, was where his gymnasts lived and trained together. Karolyi produced gymnastics legends like Betty Okino, Kerri Strug, Dominique Moceanu and Kim Zmeskal. Today, his wife Marta has taken over the gymnastics program and Team USA still meets at the Karolyi Ranch once a month to train together. There are summer camps held at the ranch ever summer, but I’m afraid I’m a wee bit too old and I don’t do gymnastics anymore. My dream is just to tour the ranch, to see where my gymnastics idols lived and trained during my favorite era of gymnastics. 


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Planning my next Adventure...


Quick and Nerdy - Ayutthaya


 Thank you Meanwhile in Thailand for another great Quick & Nerdy! 
Ayutthaya:
·       Famous for being the center of a thirteenth (through seventeenth) century kingdom, Ayutthaya holds numerous ruins and ancient temples in its archaeological park.
·       Located only two hours from Bangkok by bus or four by train, it’s a popular destination to explore some of Thailand’s history.
·       It’s also home to the Chang Beer Brewery, if that means anything to you.
·       Hot, dusty and surrounded by dirty civilization, Ayutthaya isn’t easy to love as a tourist destination.




Sights:

·       The Three Pagodas of the Archaeological Park are what you will see on the postcard, always illuminated at night. What you don’t see is that the gold was stripped away years ago and the remaining concrete chedhis are less than inspiring during daylight.
·       Wat Pra Ram – The remains of a more Khmer styled prang, the ancient bricks stands high above the rest of the rubble.
·       Wat Pra Sri Sanphet and Wat Manhat – two of the other more famous ruins, and Wat Manhat is where the semi famous ruined Buddha statue resides.

Getting Around:

·       Once again, you are in Thailand. There are no taxis and very few songtaos here, so tuk tuks tend to be your only regrettable option.
·       Bicycles and scooters are also available for rent but much of the city has sprung up and around the remains so getting around is far from a country stroll.
·       The last and most creative option is to ride an elephant, though it would hardly be the most comfortable.

Tips:

·       If you must go, a morning or afternoon is more than enough. If you plan on staying, stay at Tony’s Guesthouse. Affordable but it will book up, leaving you with one of the less palatable options.
·       The longer the stay, the less inspiring it becomes.