An Introduction to Bangkok

An Introduction to Bangkok

Of all the cities in the world that I had yet to visit, I’d probably heard the most about Bangkok. Friends, family, and bloggers a plenty had told stories, shared photos, and broken down all the do’s and don’ts of visiting the Big Mango. Although I’d never set foot in Thailand before, I felt prepared.

  • I was ready for the suffocating humidity thanks to a previous trip to Vietnam.
  • I was armed with a pocketful of Thai currency.
  • Our accommodations were meticulously researched.

But, no amount of research or pre-trip planning can ever truly replace first-hand experience. Especially, since we were visiting during a very unique and tragic time. Just a few weeks prior, the highly beloved King Bhumibol passed away leaving the people of Thailand in a state of mourning. Grieving their king like a family member, the locals were clothed entirely in black, many even traveling far distances to pay their respects.

Upon arrival in Bangkok, my sister-in-law Faith and I queued for a taxi and soon afterwards arrived at our River District digs for the next two nights.

We loved our vantage point on the river because it meant we got to take longboats and ferries on our full day of temple touring. Similarly dressed in black, we set off to visit the newly re-opened Grand Palace.

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We showed up at the palace in a bit of confusion. Everyone was gathering on the sides of the street as if a parade was about to happen. We weren’t sure if we should wait around or not but ultimately we decided to just get our tickets because nobody seemed to know what was going on. And it was at that moment that the skies opened and we experienced a classic Southeast Asian downpour. The rain was so heavy that it bounced off the pavement. We opted to hide and wait, hoping that this would be a short storm. But, after about 45 minutes we gave in and joined the few brave souls slopping around in the puddles.

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We wandered the grounds in eerie solitude, getting a unique opportunity to experience the grandeur and cultural significance of the Grand Palace without the masses. And then as we rounded the corner, we saw hundreds of people huddled under cover in silence, paying their respects. We did our best to enjoy our time but after about an hour of trudging around like a couple of drowned rats, we gave up and high-tailed it into one of the only open buildings we could find – The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. It was actually really cool to see the queen’s wardrobe, which seemed like something you’d picture the British royals wearing. On our way out we almost missed the Activity Room, which would have been a tragedy because they let us play dress up!!

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That was definitely the turning point for the day because from there it just got better. We sought refuge in a restaurant serving up beautifully plated dishes. And I finally got to check eating Pad Thai in Thailand off my bucket list.

We relaxed by the riverfront for a little while longer so that I could enjoy a dessert popsicle inspired by the Thai flag – delicious and very instagrammable :)

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After refilling our tanks we set out for temple #2 and the one that I was most looking forward to seeing – Wat Arun.

We arrived just in time for magic hour and the dreamy light that travel photography dreams are made from. I was absolutely blown away by the immaculate grounds.

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We ended the day back at our hotel with free welcome cocktails by the pool while watching the sunset over the river… oh and an authentic thai massage. I could sure get used to this whole vacation thing. The affordable luxury is one of my favourite things about Bangkok.

Bangkok is a big, noisy, chaotic, exciting city, which is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But after one full day of barely scratching the surface, I knew that I wanted more. I could easily envision myself coming back again and again with all of the diverse experiences awaiting me.

And with that, we were off to Koh Chang for some much needed R&R but we’d be back again in a few days to take in a totally different neighbourhood, Sukhumvit. There’s nothing like a roof top pool to make you never want to go back to work.

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Our time in Bangkok was brief, but it was enough for me to know that this is my kind of city. I’ll be back… I couldn’t leave if I didn’t believe that.

Have you been to Bangkok? What cities have you visited where you needed more time?

 

 

Sweet Simplicity on Koh Chang

Sweet Simplicity on Koh Chang

When I chose Thailand for a weeklong vacation, my only goal was relaxation. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to see everything on my wish list so I didn’t even try. Someday when I have more time, I will return to the Land of Smiles to explore all the jungles, beaches, and temples that my heart desires.

In the meantime, I set my sights on Lonely Beach. After a couple of nights in bustling Bangkok, my sister-in-law Faith and I journeyed to the most Eastern edge of Thailand to its second biggest island, Koh Chang.

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Koh Chang is one of the lesser known tourist destinations in Thailand, which was exactly what appealed to me. Quiet. Beautiful. Secluded. The perfect spot for our “sistermoon” and perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Southeast Asia.

Upon arrival at the 3 star Warapura Resort we quickly fell into a blissfully relaxing daily routine. Each morning we woke at our leisure in our private waterfront villa and enjoyed breakfast by the ocean. After sipping on Americanos and lazying around in hammocks, we walked down to the white sand beach.

Once we got to the beach, we rented beach chairs and an umbrella and set up camp for the day. The aptly named Lonely beach was sparsely populated with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise water as warm as a bath. It was pure heaven and I never wanted to leave. We spent most of our time in the water, taking breaks to quench our thirst with the local Chang beer. It’s a tough life.

 

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After we had our daily fill of Vitamin D we walked back to our home away from home to shower off the salt water and catch up on wifi time. Our location on the western side of the island was ideal for coupling happy hour cocktails with sunset watching each evening. I’ll never tire of fiery skies.

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One of the best things about Thailand is the affordable luxury. Each evening we ordered authentic Thai dishes like pad thai, papaya salad and mango sticky rice for just a few dollars and pampered ourselves with pedicures and massages that would cost 5 times more at home.

I can’t say enough good things about this little slice of paradise and the opportunity to get a week of quality time with my sis. It was short and sweet and simply the best! I’m so glad that I opted for an untraditional vacation destination. It was definitely worth the long flight.

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 What’s the most relaxing vacation you’ve taken? Where should I go next?

Back to California: The San Diego Obsession

Back to California: The San Diego Obsession

Contrary to popular belief… I am not moving to San Diego, as much as I may wish otherwise. After my annual pilgrimage to America’s Finest City last month, I reflected once again on why I fall more in love with California living each time I visit.

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There are some very obvious advantages: Near constant sunshine, + 25 ºC weather in February, an abundance of delicious Mexican food (mmm… fish tacos!), palm trees and beaches as far as the eye can see… I could go on and on.

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I love the laid back lifestyle and I love that after six visits, I am still discovering (and re-discovering) favourite places, eateries, and activities.

Balboa Park

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I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to finally explore Balboa Park. If you want to get technical, I did visit the famous San Diego Zoo back in 2009 which is located in the area of Balboa Park. But, I have never spent time touring the park itself, which is gigantic and lovely. I could have easily spent the entire day marveling at the Spanish architecture, watching street performers, and admiring the manicured gardens. I’m already itching to return.

Pacific Beach Boardwalk

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There is something so lovely about returning to the same familiar spot year after year. My best friend Jennie just so happens to live in Pacific Beach, and the first thing we do every time I visit is take a walk down to the PB Boardwalk. This area is quintessential California. You’ve got surfers, roller skaters, cyclists, and everyone from retirees to families on vacation. I love the endless beach, the waves crashing on the outstretched pier, the palm tree lined sidewalks… This never gets old.

La Jolla

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No trip to San Diego would be complete without brunch and a stroll along the cliffs in La Jolla. There’s always a new place to sample or an angle that I haven’t photographed yet (although that seems impossible!). There’s just something soothing and revitalizing about this seaside community that instantly relaxes me. These are the moments that I store up and savour to keep me going long after I’ve returned home.

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 Do you have a favourite state?

Do you ever return to the same place again and again?

 

 

2015: A Year in Review

2015: A Year in Review

How do I even begin to describe the past year? Chaotic. Exhausting. Incredible. It was chock-a-block full of highs and lows. I rode the wave of awesome that was 2014 through the first few months until things took a turn in April when work stress started to take a toll on me. Then when an apartment flood hit in July – my life felt like it was spiraling out of control. The one constant in my roller coaster year was travel, in epic proportions. Travel is my source of inspiration, energy, excitement, and joy. So I squeezed more travel into 12 months than I thought was humanly possible. And you know what… it saved me. I closed out 2015 with a self-care trip to Australia and now as 2016 approaches… I feel rejuvenated and completely at peace. Here’s a look back at my crazy year!

1. Barcelona, Spain (January)

I couldn’t have been more delighted to kick off 2015 in one of my new favourite cities, Barcelona! This wasn’t my first time in the Catalonian capital but it was certainly my best. Gaudi, tapas, magical fountains… What’s not to love? My travel BFF Megan and I celebrated in true spanish style with Cava, a dozen grapes, and thousands of new friends at the Plaça d’Espanya! Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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Park Guell

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands (January)

On my way home from Spain I ended up with a 5-hour layover in Amsterdam… just enough time to get out of the airport and take a Sunday morning stroll through the quiet cobblestone streets and picturesque canals. It was the perfect way to stretch my legs and re-visit a city that I quite enjoy!

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3. San Diego, California (February)

One of my favourite winter haunts is Southern California. And the city that calls me back time and time again is San Diego. This visit took me back to some favourite spots like Coronado Island and introduced me to some new neighbourhoods like the Gaslamp District. I can’t wait to return again next winter!

Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

4. Portland, Oregon (March)

When my cousin Jordan and his wife Emily relocated to Portland last year, I knew that many trips were in my future. After all, it’s only a 6 hour drive from Vancouver. I had mixed feelings after my first visit in 2014 but my second trip convinced me that Portland really is worth the hype. I’m a firm believer in the weekend getaway and now I’ve got PDX fixed in my GPS. This trip was made even better by yet another reunion with my friend Megan. We just keep meeting up all over the world – and I love it!

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5. Maui, Hawaii (April)

This year I convinced my best friend Katie to do something a little bit crazy… Go to Maui for the weekend! The Easter long weekend to be more specific. I had both Good Friday and Easter Monday off work so we flew out Thursday evening and took the red-eye back on Monday night. I came straight to work from the airport and didn’t use even one vacation day for my island escape. Now, that’s how you travel the world with a full time job! I had been to Oahu before but this was my first time to Maui – a place that I have quickly dubbed PARADISE ON EARTH! I will be back, that I know for sure.

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6. Cultus Lake, BC (April)

This spring I spent a weekend revisiting one of my favourite childhood haunts. Cultus Lake was a frequent stomping ground for my family back in the day and also the spot where I attended summer camp as a kid. It holds so many wonderful memories of learning to canoe and building sand castles and playing capture the flag in the forest. And on a weekend retreat with friends, it was a calming and restorative respite from the city life.

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7. Halfmoon Bay, BC (May)

Our second annual girls weekend was a roaring success. Last year we visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Northwest Washington and had a really lovely time. This year we ventured to my new favourite local getaway – the Sunshine Coast. We rented a gorgeous cabin from Airbnb right on Secret Cove in Halfmoon Bay and spent a blissful spring weekend of tranquility and quality girl time. Everything about this weekend was perfection!

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8. Salt Spring Island, BC (May)

At the last minute I decided to join in on a surprise birthday trip to Salt Spring Island to celebrate my friend Sarah. Her husband rented a house for a group of friends and we had a very relaxing weekend visiting breweries, wineries, cheese farms, and beaches. I already had a second trip planned for later in the summer so it was really just a teaser of coming attractions. I just can’t get enough of the Gulf Islands!

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9. Greece (June)

Me and #TeamTravel kickstarted our European summer adventure in Athens, Greece before checking into a villa on Santorini for the island escape that dreams are made of. I could use every superlative in the dictionary and still fall short of describing how much I love Santorini. It’s ridiculous and y’all just need to go. Now.

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10. Turkey (June/July)

With just over a week in Turkey we were able to visit some of the most impressive natural wonders and ancient ruins I’ve ever seen from Ephesus to Pamukkale to my trip highlight – Riding a Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia! I sincerely hope I get to return someday because this country has so much more to offer.

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11. Whistler, BC (July)

This year, my annual summer retreat to beautiful Whistler village was a little different than usual. Instead of calm walks by the lake and shopping in the village, I joined a group of 11 ladies to celebrate my friend Crystal’s upcoming marriage. No matter the season or the occasion, Whistler never disappoints and this was no exception. Hands down, the best Bachelorette party I’ve ever attended.

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12. Oregon Coast (July)

In mid-July I ended up having a major personal crisis when an apartment leak forced me to temporary relocate for 3 months. I won’t get into the painful saga here but know that it was rough. Mere days after the initial destruction, I was fortunately able to escape the chaos with some of my favourite people (read: cousins) and hideaway in the sleepy town of Gearhart on the Oregon Coast… something that has been on my bucket list for far too long. It was exactly what I needed in that moment and I’m so glad I have such an amazing family that I get to call friends.

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13. Golden Ears Provincial Park, BC (August)

I’m a self-proclaimed city girl. I like civilization, amenities, and the hustle, bustle of crowded streets. It’s so exciting to me! That being said, I definitely enjoy nature A LOT. I’m just not going to win any outdoor woman of the year contests any time soon. Camping doesn’t sit near the top of my to-do list pretty much ever, but if it is well organized and with great people, then I do enjoy the experience. This year, I even agreed to camp on a rainy, chilly weekend so feel free to praise me in the comments. Really, it was just an excuse to play games, drink wine, and listen to all the Taylor Swift.

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14. Salt Spring Island, BC (August)

My second trip to Salt Spring Island (this year!) occurred on the very same weekend as a massive windstorm. Fortunately the Gulf islands didn’t get hit quite as bad as Metro Vancouver where over 500,000 people lost power. We rode out the storm by touring the local wineries, visiting a pretty fantastic farmer’s market, and even testing out some paddle boats (not to be confused with SUP – I’m talking old-school, peddle-with-your-feet boats). This weekend was so much more than the activities though. It was quality time with the most important women in my life: my mom, my sister-in-law, and my cousin/BFF who came all the way from Winnipeg to join in on our annual girls weekend. Thanks ladies – Let’s do it again next year!

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15. Alaska (September)

This was the most relaxing vacation of my entire life and couldn’t have come at a better time! I was completely mentally and physically burned out from a ridiculously stressful summer when my parents offered to take my siblings and I on an Alaskan cruise. YES PLEASE! While cruising isn’t exactly my preferred way of travel, in this situation, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. I wasn’t bothered by the higher than average age demographic or the less than stimulating onboard activities because all I wanted to do was eat good food and nap as much as humanly possible. And during the few hours each day that I could muster up the energy, we planned some awesome adventures in the incredible Alaskan wilderness: Dog sledding, helicopters, mountain biking, train riding, bear watching, glaciers, and so much more! Thanks Mom and Dad!

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16. Keats Island, BC (September)

I still wasn’t back to normal as September came to a close. And even though binge watching HGTV was the only activity of any interest to me; I knew that a dose of travel could be just the thing to snap me back to life. So I joined some lovely friends for a quiet and reflective weekend on the incredibly beautiful Keats Island just off the Sunshine Coast. There was nothing much to do and that was perfect. Just panoramic sea views and forest walks. Time slowed down and the important things came into focus.

IMG_469017. Greensboro, North Carolina (October)

I had no idea what to expect when I decided to spend a long weekend in North Carolina. Thanks to a couple of perfect weather days and peak autumn foliage, I was pleasantly surprised by just how beautiful this part of the world truly is. It didn’t hurt that I was once again reunited with my travel bestie Megan. She is always a fantastic host!

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18. Australia (December)

Australia… how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways! I still have so much to write about my time down under but for now just know that it was the BEST! This trip was somewhat spontaneous (for me) and came about after some soul searching. I realized that I was completely depleted and really needed to take a step back from my life. I requested a leave of absence from my 9-5 and booked a flight to the other side of the world. I split my time between visiting an old friend and embarking on my first true solo travel adventure and it was EVERYTHING! I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Australia. It is different enough to be interesting, yet similar enough to be comfortable. And those beaches… I mean… the rest of the world should just give up. Now that I’m back home and feeling like a new and improved version of myself, I have a brand new dilemma too… how do I return down under? And for longer?!!

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19. Seattle, Washington (December)

To cap off this crazy year, I am continuing with my goal of celebrating New Year’s in a new city each year: 2014 started in New Orleans, I kicked off 2015 in Barcelona, and now I am about to ring in the start of 2016 in Seattle. My friend Mindy and I are going all out with fancy party tickets and a couple nights in a boutique hotel. I can’t wait to get dressed up and be a tourist in a city that feels a lot like home to me. I hope you follow my adventures into the new year!

 

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2015 By the Numbers:

Countries Visited: 6 (2 new ones) –  Spain / Netherlands / USA / Greece / TurkeyAustralia

States Visited: 6 (2 new ones) – California / Oregon / Hawaii / Alaska / Washington / North Carolina

Plane Rides Taken: 15 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Other Modes of Transportation: 11 ferries, 1 cruise ship, and more vehicles than I care to count.

Airports Visited: 18 (YVR, BCN, AMS, SAN, LAX, ORD, GSO, OGG, ZRH, ATH, BJV, ASR, IST, YYZ, SYD, BNE, PPP, HTI)

Kilometres Flown in 2015: 71,324

Beds Slept In: 28. Of those, 7 were hotels, 6 were Airbnb apartment rentals, 5 were house rentals, 4 were crashing with family or friends, 2 were in a lodge, one was a cruise ship cabin, one was a tent, and one was my own bed!

Blog Posts: 51

Most Popular:

Packing Hacks: The 10 Items I Always Bring Traveling

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Everything you need to know about Packing Cubes

My Top 6 Favourite Travel Moments

What are your favourite moments of 2015? What are you looking forward to most in the new year?

Maui’s Famous Road to Hana

Maui’s Famous Road to Hana

When I was initially looking into this trip to Maui, there was only one thing that I HAD to do. Ok – maybe I had to go to a beach, and eat pancakes with coconut syrup, and eat fish tacos, and drink Mai Tai’s, and photograph palm trees but really the most important activity on my radar was the famous (and sometimes infamous) Road to Hana.

The Road to Hana is really just the Hana Highway, which is a 64.4-mile long stretch connecting Kahului with the town of Hana in east Maui. But don’t be mistaken, this is not your average highway. Although, Hana is less than 100km from Kahului, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive when no stops are made as the “highway” is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. You heard me – ONE lane! This means that every few minutes you may be required to pull off to the side to let a vehicle, that is coming straight towards you, pass.

This winding road is definitely not for the faint of heart. Many people experience extreme car sickness or anxiety due to the 620 curves along Route 360. Fortunately, I did not experience any of the negative side effects on my own trip to Hana. I was deliriously happy to be driving through lush, tropical, rain forest, snaking along the coast, and passing by beautiful waterfalls. Simply put, Maui is paradise!

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With so many potential stops and view points along the way, I enlisted my friend Natasha (a Maui expert) to help me nail down a kick-ass itinerary. With only one day, we needed to make it count.

These are the 5 main stops we recommend on a one day return trip to Hana:

Stop #1: Twin Falls Farm Stand

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The Road to Hana starts near the town of Paia. After following highway 36 for about 20 minutes you should come across this easy to spot Farmstand with a small parking lot. We got there bright and early (8:30am) so we easily found a spot to park. We spent an hour strolling along the path and enjoying the jungle-like atmosphere. This is also a great spot to buy fresh local fruit (although you will pass tons of vendors along the way) and sample some coconut candy on your way out.

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Stop #2: Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread in Ke’anae / Halfway to Hana

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We were eagerly anticipating our second stop because BANADA BREAD! Maui is famous for the stuff and I was told that Aunty Sandy makes the best. After another 45 minutes of driving we pulled off in Ke’anae and our jaws hit the floor. The view was so spectacular that we were barely phased by the unfortunate closed sign on the store front (it was Easter Sunday). We had a mini photo shoot and then continued on our way before quickly running into a giant Halfway to Hana sign. We pulled over and discovered that we could still purchase banana bread at this snack shack instead. And it even turned out to be home of “the original” banana bread. Our lucky day!

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Stop #3: Waianapanapa State Park

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Yet another 40 minutes down the road was Wai’anapanapa State Park where we were excited to see our very first black sand beach! While the hot sun beat down on us, we enjoyed photographing the blowholes and climbing over the volcanic rock. I especially loved the colour contrast of the black rock and the vibrant green plant life against the blue sea and sky.

The park is a great rest stop; It’s set up for camping, picnic lunches, or just a relaxing day at the beach. We could easily have spent the entire day here but we soldiered on.

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Stop #4: Hana & Red Sand Beach

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Following our leisurely stop at Wai’anapanapa, it was only another 10 minutes to our excursion’s namesake. We reached Hana Bay and found the town a bit small and underwhelming. Many people decide to stay in Hana overnight or camp nearby but we needed to get back to the other side of the island by nightfall. We originally planned to visit the Red Sand Beach here, but opted to skip it in order to spend more time at our final major stop of the day. We’d been warned that the best stops were past Hana.

Stop #5: Kipahulu Area of Haleakala National Park

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You can’t miss Kipahulu – It’s a very obvious stop and has something for everyone. Upon arrival, I quickly darted into the visitor’s center to seek shelter from the sudden rainstorm. The weather on the eastern side of the island is milder and wetter, prone to sudden heavy rains and winds. Unfortunately, the Seven Sacred Pools at the Oheo Gulch were not open for swimming during our visit. So instead I opted to hike the Pipiwai Trail in search of Waimoku Falls (pictured above), the great Banyan Tree (below) and the Bamboo Forest.

I began the hike knowing full well that I was going to be completely drenched by the end and that flip flops (the only footwear I had with me) would not be ideal. I was mildly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way when I saw everyone coming down decked out in proper hiking gear. But I surprised myself and managed the 2 mile trail and 800 ft elevation gain with relative ease, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Check out Go Visit Hawaii for detailed tips on hiking the Pipiwai Trail.

Even though I was soaking wet and covered in mud by the end of it, I felt elated. This is what it means to be alive! I loved how it felt to be alone in nature with the elements and nothing to think about but where to put my feet next. I returned to the car rejuvenated and thankful for a body that can move and for the opportunity to travel to places like Maui.

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The Way Back

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Most people return from Hana by going back the same way they came.

If you continue on past Kipahulu around the backside of Haleakala and around, the road gets really rough. Not only is it one lane for a major section but it is unpaved and rocky with blind turns and drop offs. We had been warned about the road conditions but were promised that the road does get better and that the view is worth it. And it was!

My photos do not do justice to the awe-inspiring landscape we drove through in near isolation for the 2 hour return trip. The road did get better and the landscape was completely different from the tropical rain forest we had passed through on the other side. We drove through rolling fields of long grass, seemingly untouched by civilization. We presume that tourists are told not to travel this way so that the locals can hoard this place to themselves.

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So in conclusion I leave you with a few words of advice if you plan to do the Road to Hana for yourself.

Top 8 Hana Survival Tips:

1. Pull over for faster vehicles

This one is more about etiquette and the aloha spirit. On one lane roads, it is just better for everyone if you let the speeders pass you by.

2. Plan for a full day and leave early

We left our condo just after 7am and returned just after 7pm (post-sunset). I’m not a fan of driving those roads in the dark and it really is a full day. Beat the crowds and start early.

3. Leave with a Full tank of Gas

There are no gas stations between Paia and Hana so do not make the mistake of expecting to find gas on the road.

4. Find good music

My favourite part about road trips is singing loudly and car dancing with friends. Katie and I fell madly in love with the station 99.9 Kiss FM – Maui’s Best Mix of Yesterday & Today. One minute you’re belting it out to Sam Smith and the next minute you’re dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun! What could be better than that?

5. Prepare for Rain

Hana is lush and tropical for good reason. It is one of the most rained on places on Earth, so be prepared with something to dry off with and some protection if you plan on walking around a lot.

6. Eat the Banana Bread

I don’t care if you don’t like bananas – eat the bread! Yes, I am bossy. You’ll thank me later.

7. Don’t Stop Everywhere, but do stop where you want

As I mentioned, the best stops are past Hana so if you stop at every bridge and shoulder with a view you are never going to make it in one day. We definitely made some unplanned stops because the view was just too good not to but we definitely passed on a lot of spots. Trust me, you will see amazing things no matter what!

8. Bring snacks and water

There are not a lot of restaurants between Paia and Hana (and basically nothing on the backside) so we packed a full day of snacks and water so that we would have enough energy to tackle all of the awesome sights on the way. Plus we never had to wait in lines to buy food. Efficiency is sexy people!

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Our little engine that could – 2014 Ford Focus

If you can stomach up the courage to rent a car and drive the Road to Hana, I highly recommend it. In this case it really is (as cliché as it sounds) all about the journey, not the destination.

What about you? Have you ever consider driving the Road to Hana?

Leisure vs. Adventure Travel

A great debate has been stirring within me these past few months.

I have had opportunities to travel in almost every conceivable way:

Cruise √ Backpacking √ Group Tour √ Luxury Resort √ Camping √ Mission Trip √ Bus Tour √ Road Trip √

And… on a full spectrum of budgets, all the way from shoestring to first class. I’ve travelled with friends, family, big groups, small groups, strangers, classmates, and I’m even going on my first solo trip this month.

So after all of my travel experiences… what is my favourite way to travel? On a cold, rainy, winter night… where do I dream of going? And maybe more importantly… how do I want to travel once I get there?

Most of the people I’ve spoken with would probably say something about a tropical beach where they could lay back and sip margaritas with not a care in the world… and up until now, I would probably have said the same thing. However, when I put my money where my mouth is that theory doesn’t exactly line up. Even though I love a good beach vacation… if I’m honest… (please don’t shoot me)… it gets boring after a couple days. I mean of course I’d prefer lying on a beach as opposed to going to work, but if I could do anything, what would energize me the most?

Before I go any further, I need to lay out a couple of definitions that will come into play here. Keep in mind that these are my interpretations of the words.

Leisure travel is travel in which the primary motivation is to take a vacation from everyday life. Leisure travel is often characterized by staying in nice hotels or resorts, relaxing on beaches, or going on guided tours and experiencing local tourist attractions.

Adventure travel is a type of tourism, involving exploration or travel with perceived (and possibly actual) risk, and potentially requiring specialized skills and physical exertion. According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel may be any tourist activity, including two of the following three components: (1) a physical activity, (2) a cultural exchange or interaction, and (3) engagement with nature.

My main interest in the distinction between these two travel styles came up after my recent trip to Las Vegas. There really wasn’t anything to complain about. The trip was perfectly planned, executed and exactly what I expected. But, I came home feeling kind of… meh (if that’s even a real feeling). It was a good time but could it have been great?

No, actually. I don’t think it could have been great. Well, at least not for me. And the reason is that although I enjoy leisure travel, I am wired for adventure. I still like to have a game plan (that is never going to change) but I love going to exotic places. I love seeing natural wonders. I love going somewhere that’s only accessible on foot. I love seeing the way that locals live – first hand! I love activities that are challenging or intricate. I love that I need to tag on a couple days at home at the end of my trip… just to recuperate. The destinations that send a chill down my spine and truly speak to my soul are rich with culture and adventure. If I’ve done it right… I will NEED a vacation at the end of my trip.

What is your favourite way to travel?

"Camels & Pyramids"

Riding Camels around the Pyramids at Giza

Top 10 Activities to do in Vegas

I managed to squeeze a lot of activity into three days in Las Vegas this past May. Here’s my summary of what not to miss in Sin City (in no particular order).

1. FREE Entertainment

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Bellagio Fountains

 

Vegas might be one of the most over-priced cities I’ve ever visited… and that’s saying a lot with my resume (I’m looking at you London). But, that being said, it does have a plethora of free activities to enjoy that are actually many of the most iconic. Let’s start with the infamous Welcome to Las Vegas sign at the beginning of the strip. Visitors can pull off Las Vegas Boulevard and snap a pic under the famous sign absolutely free. Now… the same can’t be said for photos with the countless street performers you will find dressed as everything from Spiderman to Minnie Mouse… but still the sign is free. Then you absolutely cannot miss the Bellagio Fountains! The choreographed music and fountain show is always a highlight – I just love pretending to be a part of the Ocean’s 11 gang! And to give you a top 3, I would also recommend checking out the evening Mirage Volcano eruption… that’s as close as I ever want to get to a real eruption… you could really feel the heat!

2. Thrill Rides

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View from the Top of the Stratosphere

I love heights. I love jumping from heights. I love the view from the top of tall buildings. I love roller coasters. So basically what I’m saying is that the Stratosphere was built with me in mind. If you are also a thrill seeker then I would definitely recommend checking out the rides atop the Stratosphere hotel. You can shoot into the air on the Big Shot (think Tower of Terror in reverse). You can launch off the edge of the building on X-Scream. Or you can spin in the air on a mechanical arm on Insanity (think Toy Story’s the Claw on steroids). And if you’ve got some extra cash then you can even Sky Jump off the building!

3. See a Show

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I want to go ahead and throw out a statistic that might be entirely false but I think is probably true. Vegas has to have more hotel rooms per capita than any other place on earth. And each of these monstrous hotels has a theatre with a show, which means that the toughest decision of your trip might be narrowing down which amazing show to see. On my most recent trip, I couldn’t choose just one and was able to see Cirque du Soleil’s O as well as Jersey Boys. Both were incredibly well done and worth every penny.

4. Pool Party!

One thing you learn tout de suite upon touching down in Vegas is that it’s a desert. And if you are visiting anytime between March and November that also means it is H O T! It was 100 + degrees every day of my last trip, which meant that the pools were packed and for good reason. There’s no better way to beat the heat then with a cold drink in hand while sitting in the pool. Some hotels even throw lavish and exclusive pool parties with DJs and celebrity guests. I prefer a more relaxing environment but that’s the beauty of Vegas, there really is something for everyone.

5. Shop Till you Drop

I don’t know why this surprised me but Vegas has gooooood shopping. Not only does it have high end designers and boutiques in every hotel, but it also has huge malls and outlets on either end of the strip. You will also find very unique shopping, such as the 4-story M&M store with it’s own 3D movie. If you need to escape the heat, then there is probably a mall a few steps away that can entertain you for as long as your credit limit allows.

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The Venetian

 

6. Cruise the Strip

Dealing with traffic jams and getting stuck at painfully long lights is not my idea of a vacation so my preferred way to cruise the strip is on foot. But, beware; Las Vegas Boulevard is deceptively long. It doesn’t look that far on the map but trust me; you will need comfortable walking shoes to make the trek. But, it is worth your while to take in the city from below. The streets are filled with street performers and it’s the best way to get your fill of people watching. If walking isn’t your cup of tea or the heat gets to be too much then try out the monorail or walk through the hotels instead.

7. Gamble

Whether you like to gamble or not… everyone should toss at least a few coins into a Vegas slot machine (or feed a few bills as it turns out). I didn’t end up a big winner but at least I could cross this one off my bucket list. Plus, if you catch a servers attention, you can get free drinks while you play! My advice… play slow. Drink Fast!

8. Eat somewhere famous!

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Vegas is known for so many things and food is definitely one of them. It seems like all the famous chefs have opened at least one, if not several, restaurants in Sin City. Do your research and fulfill your fantasy feast by splurging on a good meal.

9. Enjoy the Night Life

Most of my friends know that I’m not really into the club scene but if you are going to go out… Vegas is the place to do it. With many of the top night clubs in the world it’s no wonder that so many bachelor and bachelorette parties make their way to Sin City. Best of all – ladies can jump the line and get free cover (and often free drinks) by getting on a VIP list earlier that day. Promoters are everywhere! If you’re like me and don’t love the club scene then Vegas still has great bars, including some fun karaoke and dueling piano bars. We checked out the one at Harrah’s but I hear that the New York New York has a good one too.

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10. High Roller

Las Vegas’ newest attraction is the world’s largest ferris wheel at a staggering 550 feet tall. Take the 30 minute ride in an air conditioned capsule by day or night to see panoramic views of the strip. I prefer to ride at night to see the city lights. This is fun to do with groups or a special someone and of course, drinks are allowed!