Culture Through Cooking.

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I do not belong in a kitchen. I’ve tried to cook, but to be honest I’ve had no real interest in it, that is, until recently. Just a week or two ago, I attempted an Indian dish,chicken vindaloo, and for the first time, it was not only a success, but I actually had a lot of fun in the process. It was like a sudden breakthrough.

After this epiphany, I’ve been thinking about cooking in an entirely different light. Maybe it didn’t always have to be boring. Could cooking be an adventure just like travel?

Next Food TV Star??

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Jersey Shore: Travel Lessons to be Learned.

Picture from mtv.com

I know, what could one possibly learn from a reality show like Jersey Shore? The answer: not much, really. However, with this season in Florence, Italy, I actually found that it could be quite enlightening for travelers, especially someone who is new to international travel. Which is why, I’ve complied a list with some travel tips that can be learned through watching the first two episodes of this season.
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Saying Goodbye to Southeast Asia…For Now.

Today I am ending my trip to Southeast Asia. Even though we did not make it to Cambodia, it gave me a chance to get a better feel for Thailand and Vietnam.

In looking at my pictures, I realize just how much I’ve seen and done. Temples and Buddhas, tigers and elephants, white water rafting and shopping in Laos, visiting the Black Teeth and Long Neck tribes, the Golden Triangle and drinking coffee in the jungle, the mountains of Chang Mai and Chang Rai, the beaches of Mui Ne and Nha Trang, the bustling cities of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.  So much has been done.

I’m so grateful for having the opportunity to take this trip and for my experiences. I’ve made new friends, seen new places, and pushed myself to try new things.  And, I’m already trying to plan when I can come back.

Leaving Vietnam

I’m sitting in the airport drinking a coffee and waiting to fly back to Bangkok. From there, tomorrow morning, I will catch a plane to Hong Kong and then onto New York.

I don’t know what to say about this country. It has continued to surprise me over the time that I have been here, and while initially intimidating, this country and it’s people have so much to offer. Once you break past the surface, it’s hard not to fall in love with Vietnam.

HCMC Rush Hour

I think back to my first day here. I was completely overwhelmed; we all were. We vowed not to cross the street after seeing the massive amounts of motorbikes.  We were fearful when people would approach us.
I refused to tell anyone I was American. And, we were terrified of being robbed.

After a few days, and some time away from HCMC, we began to realize what a wonderful place this really was. We learned how to cross the road with ease and it became second nature.  We made friends with the locals at bars in Nha Trang at the Sailing Club. We began talking to the people who worked in the shops, discussing everyday things, like jobs and boyfriends. I began telling people that I was American and enjoyed the positive response I received. And, instead of being terrified, we stayed aware of our surroundings and were always cautious with our belongings.

We stopped worrying, and we started to enjoy where we were. We began to appreciate the people and their stories, the quirky way that things worked here, and the scenery and daily occurrences that can’t be described.

To be honest, there are no real words that do this country justice and no pictures that can tell it all. Vietnam is a country that must be seen to be understood, and it is a place that I think everyone needs to take a trip to. It’s truly life changing.

Both pictures were taken by my cousin Michelle.

Lost in Bangkok and The Sky Bar.

When your taxi driver doesn’t speak a word of English, you know you’re in trouble, except we didn’t know until it was too late.

The plan for the night should have been easy, head to the Lebua at State Tower Hotel to the Sky Bar, which was featured in Hangover 2.   Easier said than done.

From our hotel, down by Khao San Road, we looked for a taxi that knew where The Lebua was with no luck. We headed back to our hotel, where the receptionist at the desk was more than helpful. She didn’t know of the Lebua, but she found someone who did, and he wrote the name for us in Thai.  Then the receptionist took us outside and got us a taxi, all seemed to be going well.

This was, of course, until we were in the city.  Everything seemed fine, and the taxi man seemed to know where he was going.  But then, we started to notice the same shops and restaurants along the way; we were going around in circles.  It was then we asked him if we were near, and he spoke back to us in Thai.  There was no way for us to communicate with each other.  He drove a little further and asked a police officer, and we thought we were back on track. 

We continued down several more streets until we thought we were close, only to turn down one more street and find ourselves right in the center of Bangkok’s red light district.  It was more of a tour than we’d were expecting to see that night. 

We continued to let him drive until we saw the Sofitel, and we let him drop us off.  From there we asked for a cab to the Lebua, and they knew exactly what we were talking about.  Sixty Baht later we had arrived.

Compared to our small, simple hotel this was majestic, and we got star treatment.  After taking the elevator to the sixty-fourth floor, we were lead outside to the bar area. It is easily one of the most beautiful places in all of Bangkok.  Overlooking the sparkling city and the Chao Phraya river, it is also one of the most romantic.  We walked down a set of stairs to the sixty-third floor where the restaurant and hotel’s famous color-changing, circular bar seem to suspend over the city. It is breathtaking in every way.

Image from Agoda.com

We decided to order the Hangover martini, that was created while the movie was being filmed there.  While the ingredients weren’t listed, we took a chance and decided that anything Bradley Copper drank, we’d like too. And, we did. It was one of the best martinis I’ve ever had and it was garnished with a spring of rosemary. Delicious. 

All in all it was worth it for the incredible night out, but in the future, I’d make sure to get into a taxi with someone I could better communicate with. Lesson learned.