Posts tagged Travel Advice
Thailand: Must Dos and Definitely Don'ts

Do ... eat street food. And eat it for breakfast.

There is something indescribably life fulfilling about putting down a bowl of spicy red curry at 9 am, and sweating out your head while sitting on a nearly uninhabited beach. 

Don't ... try to figure out what it is that you are eating.

This is not a place for the picky eaters or weak stomachs. You will most likely realize that those two balls floating in your soup were, in fact, testicles only after eating them. Try to leave that in the past. 

Don't .. expect the Thai street vendors to understand you.

When she hands you a spoon after you ask for your change, just take it with a smile. Then go visit your friendly 711, buy a large Leo beer, find a filthy Bangkok stoop to sit on and sweat your face off while eating this spicy deliciousness.

Don't ... stay in Bangkok any longer than necessary.

It is a foul, grey city infested and overpopulated. The steam of the sewers mixed with the steam of the air is just too much to bare. 

Do ... make the trip up north to Chiang Mai.

Southern Thailand is known for its exotic islands and they are intoxicatingly beautiful. But the north has a soul and charm of its own. Different food. Different people. Visit the long necked Karen tribes up in the mountains or immerse yourself in the abundant wildlife. 

Do ... learn to speak elephant.

Elephant riding is a popular tourist attraction in Thailand. Unfortunately, most of the parks and companies that provide it, treat these gorgeous creatures obscenely inhumane. Research. Find an elephant rescue and protection community to visit if you want to interact with these wondrous giants. You'll learn each elephant's story, history, and personality. And be able to speak their language too!

Baan Chang Elephant Park

Baan Chang Elephant Park

Do ... cuddle baby tigers. 

Ok. Yes, it's touristy. And yes, I know that there is a lot of controversy over places like Tiger Kingdom and the like who cage animals and charge people to pet them. These huge cats were meant for the wild and yes, there is something infinitely depressing about seeing those magnificent beasts all cooped up and seemingly drugged out, spending their days tolerating lines of people gawking and touching them. BUT ... those baby tigers. Oh, those sweet, innocent, wide-eyed, playful newborns. They will steal your heart and never give it back. 

Don't ... drink the water. 

If you're anything like me (and I'm assuming you're not), you will have disregarded all traveling precautions and by the time you get to Thailand, you will have drank the tap water in 6 different countries for the past 4 months and proclaim your immune system invincible. It's not. You will spend a week cradling a toilet in immense pain. (That being said, it could have been the testicle soup, or the sun cooked pork that did me in. Never could tell.)

Don't ... drink the Red Bull. Or the wine. 

The popular carbonated energy drink in America promising to give you wings is actually a syrupy concoction fueled with nitroglycerin in this country. You will have a heart attack. And die. 

Don't get me started on the wine.

Just don't. 

Don't ... book a hotel on a dead end street during Phuket's rainy season. 

You will walk through brown raging rivers to get back home. You will stub your toe on a brick. And you will fall under. 

Do ... travel by long tailed boat. 

It is now my life goal to become one of these Thai men - career boat drivers - with their shirts tied around their heads, standing cool and confident at the back of the boat, one leg pulled up by their side, steering this truly amazing piece of wooden handicraft with their foot atop the 6 foot motor rod like they've been doing it since they could walk. 

Sat with 5 strangers, the boat is in a constant state of capsizing every time somebody jumps off at the next island or beach. Turquoise sprays from the sea as you stare gape jawed through salty eyes at the towering stone eruptions that somehow emerged sporadically throughout the sea. 

Do ... go off the grid.

Go to Koh Chang - an under populated and under developed island. A rusty, decrepit ferry will take you from the port of Trat over to this island nature reserve at an impossibly slow pace, or hitch a ride with one of the local fishermen. Stay in a bungalow with no wifi, no air con, or working shower, at the edge of a beach that no one walks on.  There is nothing quite like waking up soaked in sweat, tangled in mosquito netting, with no way of communicating with anyone other than the few that wander here.

It may not sound glamorous and that's because it's not. There is no relief from the sweat or the heat because the crystal clear water is just as hot as the air and the food is hotter than the both combined. Throw the make up and the hair products off the boat because they are lost here (that goes for all of Thailand.) Remove yourself from the world. I dare you. 

15 Things I Learned in Spain

In no particular order ...

1.) The best thing about discovering Spanish was the literal translations. These people are so cute. To 'get sick' literally meant "I put on me the bad," and "to like something," translated to "it fell on me well." It just happened to fall on me and it did so well. 

2.) If you order in any restaurant that doesn't display the prices on their menu, you will get the "giddy" price, which is slang for "foreigner." A price that they will make up according to how giddy you appear to reap the the cost. Which is never too grievous because everything in Spain is cheap, but they will do it nevertheless. 

3.) America is cool in Spain. French people wouldn't be caught dead in anything that resmembles America, but you see more American flags in Spain almost than you do in America. Spanish girls are covered in them - jean shorts and USA flag t-shirts. They will wear anything that displays an American looking word (and I say American instead of English, because let's be honest, the Queen's English is anything but American.) They show off t-shirts with American words that literally mean nothing; like a green shirt that reads plainly "everything." 

4.) You can get your hair highlighted for 20 euros.

5.) Victoria isn't the only bitch with a secret. In Spain, the same store is called "Women's Secret," because we indeed, do all have them. 

6.) Gypsy has a severe negative connotation here. Do not, for any reason, declare yourself as one. 

7.) If Spanish people find out you used to be a professional American Cheerleader (or any type of cheerleader for that matter), you will watch them fall to pieces and lose their shit before your eyes. 

8.) In my next life, I better be a dude. Send me back as a lady bug and I will be suicidal. Everything about traveling as a man is easier and better. 

9.) The Portuguese are NOT Spanish. In fact, they would be hideously offended being lumped into this category, so let's hope that none of them are reading. Never have I met people so proud to be part of a country. They instantly list to you all the worldly things that they are responsible for that others took credit for - such as Tempora which they made up and Japan stole, and Christopher Columbus who most learn is Spanish but he is absolutely Portuguese. 

10.) In Germany, you have to pay for your radio and regular tv whether you use it or not. Forever trying to make up for their past mistakes, Germany is welcoming of all languages, tourists and cultures and the students study them all during their education. 

11.) People get paid to study in another country in Europe; and they visit each other on a whim. Denmark students have weekend trips in Spain. Germans drive to France for Lunch. And Spaniards take road trips to Portugal. You can travel such short distances and experience an entirely foreign culture and language. Ryan Air has flights cross borders for 20 euros and you can meet a vast array of international students in any European country from all over the world. Everyone speaks more than one language. In Portugal, they speak the most. You flip through menus by first picking out your language. 

12.) You can get a beer for 50 cents and a glass of wine for 80 and most every drink comes with food. Fresh fish or a selection of meats. The people in Spain drink Vermouth as if it's their job. Straight or on the rocks. By itself. 

13.) Hippies are referred to as "para floutas," literally translating to "dog flutes," because they are never without either. Also, the hippies are much different here. No flower power, prints, bright colors, flowing dresses, or head bands. No. Spanish hippies in Galicia dress in dark greens, browns, and blacks like anarchist grunge meets punk goth. Of course, the drugs and the music still bond them all together but it seems a much darker atmosphere. 

14.) Dogs are EVERYWHERE. Just roaming the streets, with no collars and mixing with the people, none of these dogs are spayed or neutered so the male genitalia drag on the floor and the new female mothers have swollen utters that do the same. No one seems to notice or mind - not the dogs or the people. 

15.) Children are also everywhere. Playing, laughing, screaming, climbing, throwing public temper tantrums and none of them seem to belong to anyone. Adults sit at outdoor cafes eating and drinking and paying them no mind. No one intervenes when the three year old gets rocked in the face with the soccer ball and topples over, or the seven year old girl is sitting in the middle of the square screaming in tears. They are just left to work things out amongst themselves. 

23 Things I learned in France

... in no particular order. 


#1. Probably plan out your entire journey before entering the country... i.e. where you are staying, what you want to visit, what times, etc. France is not one for improv.

#2. It has become strinkingly apparent to me that those who can only speak one language are inexcusably lacking. We are. Learn French. (or any other language at all). 

#3. Spoiler Alert: A "salted pancake" is dissappointingly, merely a lesser version of a quesadilla. 

#4. Heaven forbid you have a flat, car break down, or coronary heart failure, make sure it is either before or after lunch. Otherwise, don't hold your breath. 

#5. Don't pay for wine tastings. You can learn more in the cellar of a small family winery than you can in ten world renowned chateaus. (But, do call ahead. Refer to #4.)

#6. If Northern France is Miss Prim & Proper, turning her nose up at nude shoulders and thighs, than the South of France is her slutty little sister. (Topless grandmas everywhere.)

#7. I am almost positive that France will be the first country to go, if not solely due to lung cancer. Everyone smokes here. Every single person. It's like they haven't figured out it's not cool anymore. 

#8. People look at you like you have 5 heads when you tell them you are driving 7 hours to the other side of the country instead of flying. Your country is the size of Texas, people. We take 10 hour road trips across states without a second thought where I come from. 

#9. Eat at the right times. Walking into a restaurant asking to eat at 5pm is inconceivable. Of course they don't have food again until 7:00 ... what were you thinking? Also, don't ask for just a drink at a restaurant. That's what bars are for. You come to the restaurant, you eat. 

#10. Train stations are extremely diverse. One will have a pianist serenading you on a baby grande and your 3 hour lay over at the next station will not have any working bathrooms. 

#11. 100% set out to get lost in every new city you come to. Turn down street corners just because. Sit at outdoor cafes with no clue how far your place is from there or how to get back. It does wonders for the soul. 

#12. The mystery of French McDonalds'... 

a.) Certain ingredients that McDonalds cooks with in America are illegal to use in France, resulting in far less greasy and salty food. (Side note: two of my Parisian friends actually threw up the first time they had McDonalds in the States.) They have ... wait for it ... Deluxe Potatoes, which are in fact the most wonderous of things. They have weird sauces like "Creamy Chips Sauce", "Curry",  "Dressing oil Hazelnut", or "Saffron Maple."

b.) Contrary to one's plausible assumptions, they do not overwhelmingly love Americans here. Even though, WE invented McDonalds. 

c.) There is an abnormal amount of cute, young girls working in these places (as well as grocery stores). Haven't quite figured that one out yet. 

#13. No one knows where Maryland is so just tell them you are from New York. They will immediately treat you like you are a star. (Just tell them you are when they ask. No harm done. Their dreams come true; your dreams come true. Everybody wins.)

#14. Little kids are extremely entertaining to talk to. They will spill out a litany of, I'm sure, utterly cute things, to which you will not understand. When you attempt to answer them in English, their faces contort in incomprehensible horror like everything they knew was a lie. They will stand there for awhile, blinking violently at you as you watch them question their own sanity and then run away and never come back. 

#15. Check out is at 7 am and the maids come in at 8 am whether you are dressed or not.

#16. There is too much good wine in this country to comprehend. It is mind bendingly overwhelming and paralyzing.

#17. Don't assume someone understands you if they smile and nod at your yes or no question. They don't. The answer is not yes.

#18. Common misconception tells us that the French smell due to lack of hygiene. They do, in fact, smell, however, I believe the fault may lie in the deodorant companies because the stuff simply does not work.

#19. Serrano ham (Jambon) is everywhere which is needless to say, awesome! That being said, if it's on a menu and you can't physically see it, you might just get plain old, slimy ham. Oh, and bacon, is just ham. So before your morning is ruined, don't get your hopes up when you see it on the menu.

#20. Nothing is pronounced how it is spelled which makes sounding out the words utterly worthless. Not to mention, you look like a complete fool if you even try. If you do make friends in France (good luck with that one), you will never know their names because no matter how many times they repeat it, it just sounds like a beautiful river of flowing sounds. You will evidently butcher it repeadetly if you remember it at all. (Write it out for me man, now look at it... write it out again how it sounds. You tell me how I was supposed to know!) 

#21. The most culturally diverse town in France is, without a doubt, Lourdes. It is a very powerful thing to witness so many people who can't understand each other come together over the one Faith that unites them.  Every single language, every single country .... without any chaos at all. It might be the most peaceful place I have ever been. 

That being said, I must point out my regular strange observances: There is an overwhelming amount of Italians. So much so, that people say Lourdes is actually an Italian town and not a French one. No one thinks it is comically absurd to have a conversation with 3 Guiseppes at the same time except for you, so don't laugh in their faces when they introduce themselves. They will only stare back at you with blank faces. Every restaurant is Italian even if it is run by the French and there is an entire quater that only Italian pilgrims are allowed to stay in. And never will you see so many of the exact same stores back to back as in Lourdes. It's like 58 Sunsations for Mary in a row. 

#22. And this one I cannot stress enough .... these people CANNOT drive. And I CANNOT drive in their country. If you do decide to rent a car, and even if for only one day, get insurance!! Hence, Joffre's flat tire and the night rider who blew through Megane's (pronounced Meh-jah-nay, second car) side mirror while I was sleeping. 

#23. It's oui, not wi. Mind officialy blown. 

10 Things I learned in Paris

Things to know while traveling to Paris ...


#1.) I don't care how funny you were in your previous life, how witty or outrageous, but once your plane lands, your humor is no more. Your sarcasm will fall amiss on everyone you pass, even those who speak English. (Slayer is not a word taken lightly). If you are prone to telling elaborate stories with lots of hand gestures and facial expressions ... just don't. 

#2.) Cars will kill you. Whether on bike or foot, they will not stop. If you are in their way, you will die. 

#3.) Tennis shoes with glamorous outfits IS indeed a fasion these days in Paris. (Michele, you were right you little fashionista). Apparently wearing flashy tennis shoes with million doallar suits and designer label dresses says, "Look, I can afford to wear this, but I'm still chill." Looks pretty asinine to me but hey, I'm not French. Nor do I live in one of the fashion capitals of the world, so what do I know. 

#4.) Why May is the best month to be a Parisian: Every Thursday is a holiday and every day after a holiday, employees are not allowed to work. Four day weekends and three day work weeks for a month? Bring it on May. 

#5.) Forget the Louvre. If you go to only one museum, make sure it is the Musee de' L'Orangerie. Monet's rooms of Water Lillies will leave you breathless and dazed when you leave as if you awoke from a dream. Make sure you sit in there for at least 20 minutes. Time literally stops. 

#6.) If you don't understand the Metro and don't have a French guide, don't get on. Just don't. 

#7.) Do not go out the night before your train leaves. Going out in Paris means leaving your house at 1:30 am and getting back with the sun at 7 am. You will miss your train. Even if it is at 3:30 pm.

#8.) Keep friends who don't let you get on the back of mopeds at 5 am. 

#9.) Don't buy wine at restaurants. You will find out (most likely on your last day) that you can get really good bottles of wine at the store for 2 - 5 euros instead of 18. 

#10.) Bring proper shoes to France that will last longer than 5 days. Or a scrub brush to remove the black stains from your feet if you don't.