Day Trippin’ in the Rocky Mountains

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Looking sharp at a wedding

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of September! It feels like only yesterday we were getting ready to head to Calgary for a family wedding.

It was a whirlwind of a week!  I did not expect family weddings to be so ….. busy.  I naively thought I was just a guest … yet it makes total sense as I’m family and who else is going to help with all of the last-minute wedding details expect family?

But, this post isn’t about the wedding which was beautiful, full of special moments and memories. Lots of people cried, which should tell you a lot about this wedding.  This is about our Calgary Rocky mountain road-trip! A fairly standard, tourist trip for Calgary and yet not because, have you seen the mountains???

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I love Pai, Thailand

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The road to Pai

Pai is situated in mountains north of Chiang Mai. I took a minivan to Pai from Chiang Mai, which takes about four hours and only cost me $8.  It is quite a hair-raising, stomach turning ride!  With 726 bends for 3 hours, it is quite an experience.  You can’t read or watch anything, so charge your phone listen to some tunes and enjoy the view.

Some choose to rent a motorbike from Chiang Mai and ride the way to Pai.  It does seem adventurous and romantic, and if you know how to ride a bike go for it!  If you do not, consider if you can last for 3 hours on 726 bends – steep ones?  I saw a few casualties along the road, minor ones thankfully, and a good 60% of foreigners in Pai are accessorized in a bandage or two.

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Last Day in Chiang Mai

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Kao Soi Soup

You know I really did like Chiang Mai and I know that if I was staying in a different hostel I would have enjoyed my time more.  But, at the time I just wanted to go to Pai, where I hoped things would be better.

And even though I was starting to feel ill on my last day I still went out, as I really didn’t want to be at the hostel with my ever-present and obnoxious hostel mates.  They were quite terrible actually, they made fun of the new German guests who seemed like perfectly decent guys.  I couldn’t wait to get away!

After visiting all of the temples I just walked along the wall and  through the center, exploring parts of Chiang Mai I hadn’t seen yet.  I also ate the famous Kao Soi soup, the Curry Noodle soup that Chiang Mai is known for.  It was amazing, spicy, full of flavour and the crunchy noodles added a delicious texture!

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Saturday Night Market & Makha Bucha Day

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Memorial for King Bhumibol

I was temple hopping in Chiang Mai the last time I wrote about my epic Thailand adventure, but the best thing about my stay in Chiang Mai was it was Makha Bucha Day.

Makha Bucha Day is the second most important buddhist holiday in Thailand.  It is the day on which Buddhist honour Buddha and his teachings.  One of the ways that Buddhists celebrate is to attend a candle light procession around their temple.

Makha Bucha Day fell on a Saturday, which is the day on which Chiang Mai has its weekly night markets.  One of the largest takes place right outside my hostel on Wualai Road.  Which also happened to be the route you took to get to a good number of the Temples and I found myself on a journey through the Night market, with stops at temples, where I would stop to participate in the Makha Bucha celebration. Quite an experience!

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Usaquen Sunday Market, Bogotá

UBmarket-11My last day in Bogotá was a Sunday and as my flight didn’t leave until midnight, I had a full day to do whatever I wanted.  I choose to go to the Usaquen Sunday Market, a weekly fair and flea market, in the Usaquen neighbourhood.  A part of Bogotá I hadn’t yet been to and I wanted to buy some gifts.

The market is full of your standard tourist vendors which sell things that you can buy anywhere.  Usaquen Sunday Market also  featured many local artisans. I was tempted to buy some of the canned salsa and spices but, wasn’t sure if I could take them back so sadly did not.  Instead I bought some jewelry. I didn’t bother to haggle as the prices were very reasonable and I want to support these artists who spend their time creating things they love.

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Villa De Leiva, Colombia

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Plaza Mayor

Villa De Leiva is about 2 hours north-east of Bogotá.  It’s a lovely colonial town that gave me a peek into a different side of Colombia.

The town is known for its Plaza Mayor, which at 14,000 square meters is the largest square in Colombia and believed to be the largest entirely cobbled square in South America.

It is actually quite easy to get from Bogotá to Villa De Leiva using public transportation and its cheap! We left our Hostels at 6 am and where in Villa De Leiva by 11 am.  The journey took is 5 hours and cost 27,000 COP’s each which is $12!!!

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Museums of Bogotá

IMG_1339.jpgI was pleasantly surprised by the museums in Bogotá.   To ensure all Bogotáns have the opportunity for cultural enrichment, all of the musuems offer one admission free day.  Something I support! Free access to a museum or art gallery can really be an uplifting moment in your life.  When I was unemployed I would regularly go to the AGO on Wednesday night and it made a huge difference. It took my mind off my worries and took me to a place of wonder.

I did not go to all of the museums in Bogotá.  So this is not a comprehensive list all of the must-see museums and I’m sure I missed on some that others would say require a visit.   I visited about 6 museums in totally.  The most on my first day in Bogotá, which was a Monday and I had plenty of time after the Graffiti Tour!  But, this is the list of the I’d recommend.

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The Sunset of Monserrate

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View from the cable car

Monserrate is a MUST do when you are in Bogotá.  The views, the views, the views!  Did I mention the views?

We asked our Anti-Cliche tour guide Orland what time we should go to get the best views.  He recommended at night.  So we decided to go in the late afternoon, have a late lunch there and watch the sunset.  Which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to experience all of the views of Bogotá that Monserrate had to offer.

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Tours of Bogotá

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Bogotá Graffiti Tour Selfie

I use to think that organized, tour guided tours were boring, with mono-voiced tour guides taking you through every statue of a famous general in a city and filled with American seniors.  The pumpkin-spice late’s of travel.

There are tours like this but, there are also fun, not boring ones and when your travelling solo, a walking tour can be the best way to do a super touristy thing on your own and meet people.  Bogotá had a number of great free or affordable tours – everything from food tours to craft beer tours.   I did three tours in Bogotá – the Bogotá Graffiti Tour, Hero’s Anti-Cliché Walking Tour and the Bogotá Craft Beer Tour.

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Candelaria, Bogotá

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Calle del Embudo

Candelaria is the old, historic part of Bogotá and houses the majority of the things any traveler to Bogotá would want to see.  Plaza Bolívar, the Gold Museum, Monserrate, Botero Museum, Calle del Embudo, the less well-known La Candelaria Park and Journalist Park, which is the location of the TransMilenio station Jimenez.

There are a couple of ways you can see Candelaria.  You can just go there by yourself or you can join one of the many free walking tours.  I recommend taking a walk tour to orient yourself and get some tips from the tour guide! Unfortunately, Candelaria and in particular the famous Calle del Embudo, is known to be an area where tourists are at risk of being pick pocketed.  Not because the neighborhood itself is unsafe, although there is a lot of visible poverty, but as it is central and attracts tourists, it also attracts pick pockets.

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A Week in Bogotá

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At Monserrate

I was sitting in a meeting in April when I decided I needed a travel break. I needed to see something new, be in a new place and spend some time alone.  With that decision made I did a quick check on Google Flights to see where I could go in May for cheap.  There were a few options but, once I saw flights to Bogotá where cheap …. I decided that would be my destination.  I had never been to Colombia and the chance to see a less-traveled place appealed to me.

I wanted to rest so decided against a week-long travel whirlwind in Colombia and made the decision to just spend a week in Colombia.  It is not a decision I regret as a week is just enough time to not get bored with the city while seeing a lot of it, especially as I threw in a day trip out of Bogotá to get a small feel for Colombia outside the city.

I found people’s reaction to my trip was interesting.  Either people assumed I was going to Cartagena, or for a week-long coke binge (I was not), or they were just plain confused as why I would go to Bogotá of all places!  Before I share the amazing things I experienced and saw during my week-long trip, I’m going to answer some questions about Bogotá that I got.

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Photo of the day: Lines

 Track lines | Phone lines

-.-. — -. -. . -.-. – .. — -.

Plot lines | Love lies | Laugh lines

.. -.. . -. – .. – -.–

Life lines |

.-. . .- … — -. / .– …. -.–

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Inspired by the Daily Photo Post Challenge: Lines

Hint: Old School Text

 

Europe 2017: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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A photo of Bloggers in their natural habitat.

Amsterdam has been on my travel bucket-list for years. So when it came to planning our trip home, I felt it would be downright scandalous not to go through Amsterdam! Luckily the difference in cost between going directly from Warsaw vs. stopping over in Amsterdam was a few hundred dollars which basically was our accommodations in Amsterdam so we went for it.

Compared to other cities we’ve been to, Amsterdam is expensive. The hostels are expensive and there aren’t as many Airbnb’s available as there where in Portugal and Spain. Since we were in Amsterdam for only two days so we stayed at the centrally located Stayokay Amsterdam Vonderplark Hostel  in a mixed dorm room – which was the most affordable hostel we could find in the center of the city.  We knew we only needed a place to sleep & shower, so it was perfect.

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Europe 2017: Warsaw, Poland

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Stare Miasto

The motherland did not welcome us with fine weather.  It was rainy, windy and cloudy the day we arrived, and it stayed that way.  It was the type of weather that leant itself to lazy days or wandering in a museum or keeping warm at a cozy cafe.

When everyone asks me how Warsaw was, I struggle to answer.  I love my birth city but, it has changed a lot and I don’t feel that strong emotional connection any more.  It no longer feels like “home”.  The majority of my key life moments occurred in Toronto.  While the ones in Warsaw are a blur now.  I remember the exact corner where the man sold popcorn in a paper cone stood or sitting with my grandpa on his balcony in the sun.  But, everything is different now and I don’t feel that feeling you do when you are in a place which hits you with emotional memories. So how was Warsaw you ask?  Wonderful, strange, emotional.

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Europe 2017: Madrid, Spain 

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After two days in Seville it was time for us to head to Madrid.   We were taking the high-speed train because why not? I decided to throw in a few different modes of transportation into our trip for fun.

We took a bus from the Plaza de la Encarnación to Santa Justa train station and in 2 hours we were in Madrid!!

As we had a flight to Warsaw the next morning, I choose an Airbnb that was located near Pacificio Metro Station. Making it easier to get to the center but, also to get to the airport in the morning.

I found that Madrid did not have the same charm as Lisbon or Seville. Everything was larger, wider and busier, it was a cosmopolitan city and it showed.

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Europe 2017: Seville, Spain

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La Encarnación square at night

We initially talked about going to Barcelona after the Algarve.   We did want to include one expensive city on our trip.  But, when we found out Seville was a mere 3 hour bus ride from Portimao, we cut Barcelona from the itinerary.

We were not disappointed!

We actually couldn’t believe how beautiful and enchanting Seville was.  And the food .. the food just got better and better with each new stop.  What we loved the most is that people truly lived in Seville.  Everyone went out on the weekend, no one stayed home.  And even thought Spain’s been faced with some economic hardships, people looked happy.  It made we wonder why we are so miserable in North America.  Does weather really make that much of a difference?  I still don’t have an answer but, moving to Seville is on my list of crazy things I could do.

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Europe 2017: Algarve, Portugal

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Good bye Lisbon!

With our stay in Portugal’s beautiful capital, Lisbon completed, our next stop was the beaches of the Algarve.  After sharing a room and bunk beds at the hostel, we rented a Airbnb in Portimao, one with a rooftop terrace and a BBQ.  We were going to enjoy this part of the trip in comfort and privacy.  Our house was not on the beach but, in a quite neighbors  that was close enough to all of the major beaches by car.   The pace in Algarve was slower.  We would wake up each morning, drive to a beach or two, and return after sunset for a relaxing dinner on the terrace.

The slower pace meant I had time to think and reflect on the last year.  It had been a year since my father’s passing and going on this trip was a family moment of bonding and healing.  We wanted to celebrate life, to cry, to laugh, to live and worry less about what would happen tomorrow.

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Europe 2017: Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon was an unexpected and beautiful surprise.  It felt like summer in October, but it was the architecture, the friendliness of the people and the culture that really made Lisbon a special place.

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Walking in Bairro Alto

Lisbon is a city built on hills, very steep ones too.  We got a swift introduction the steep hills of Lisbon  as soon as we arrived.  Upon exiting the subway we realized that to get to our hostel we had to walk up hill – there was no none-hill option.   The shorter route was also the steepest and so our introduction to Lisbon’s hilly terrain was swift and true.

We stayed at the B.A. Hostel, right in the middle of Bairro Alto.  It was a lovely hostel, the staff was friendly and helpful.  The hostel is small and seems to attract families, older adults rather than British weekend partiers.  We arrived quite early in Lisbon and had to wait to check-in to our room, so we walked down to see Praça do Comércio.

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Soul Poop: My European Adventure

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Seville, Spain

I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the past year and it seems fitting to start the new one with a look back at the last trip of the year.

I can say that 2017 was a year in which I threw my normal perfectionist-driven caution to the wind and I did one thing I had always craved to do – travel.

I have a hard time categorizing my fall trip to Europe.  It was an adventure, a family trip, a discovery quest, a time to put things to rest, to let go and cleanse the emotional blockage – as a friend described it, “a Soul Poop.”

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When Your Horoscope Comes True

You can’t really look to a horoscope written for every person of that said sign, to provide you guidance in life or to give you all the answers.   Yet, sometimes you get one that just make sense and helps to clarify a situation that seemed unclear.

I recently re-read my July horoscope and was surprised by how much it reflected what was going on with me.   My July did have an overall feel of “nervous energy” but resulted in a “brilliant breakthrough” and I did undergo a “breakthrough on emotional issues” I’ve been working on.  And yes July ended as a time to re-build emotionally.

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Charlottesville: There is only one side

Seeing Nazi’s and White Supremacist marching down the streets of Charlottesville chanting straight from the Hitlerjugend handbook was terrifyingly sad, yet not that surprising.    Seeing the amount of “normal good people” who seem to be okay with the situation or who believe that the “alt-left” was just as bad (if not worse) was devastating.

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The Real New Years, Canada Day

I always find that January 1st lacks the real sense of renewal  that a new year requires. It might be the Canadian winter or the fact that Christmas can be an exhausting time, but January never feels like the start of it all.  A few years ago I started to feel as if my new year started on July 1st.  Canada Day marked a time of things coming to a close, change and new adventures.  The fact that it was the start of summer didn’t hurt either.

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IKEA Play Cafe

Excuse me for a moment as I geek out about how awesome IKEA’s Pop-up shop/ cafe in Toronto is as a branding concept.  In one word, brilliant.  To set-up a small pop-up shop in the heart of the city, let people play, shop and the while reminding them that a IKEA has all of the things you need for your small downtown space.

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Going Back In Time: Don Bosco High School Reunion

I went to my high school reunion this weekend.  It wasn’t your typical reunion because my old high school was closing its doors for good and all of the alumni from 1971 to 2017 attended.  It was fascinating to go back and to walk the halls of my old school, to run into my old classmates and still call my teachers sir and ma automatically,  even though I didn’t have to.

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Perspective

Sometimes you find yourself in a IRL deja vu moment – you are in a similar place, doing similar things, which are different, yet oddly similar. So oddly that you start to think you maybe undergoing some strange go back in time to fix your past mistakes moment.  Yet, things are not the same, things are very different and the biggest difference is you.

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Chiang Mai Temple Hopping: Wat Chedi Luang

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Me with Wat Chedi Luang in the background

Another major temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Chedi Luang.  The current temple is made up of three temples, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin.

The temple is known for the semi destroyed brick Wat Chedi Luang which use to house the Emerald Buddha and was at one point one of the tallest structures of the old Lanna kingdom.

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Chiang Mai Temple Hopping: Wat Phra Singh

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First selfie in Chiang Mai

It was impossible not to visit a temple while in Chiang Mai.  The city has a history as a Buddhist spiritual center and is compact, so you can’t walk very far without stumbling upon a temple.

Wat Phra Singh is one of the most well-known and prestigious temples in the city, and was part of itinerary for my first day in Chiang Mai.

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Continuing My Thailand Story with Chiang Mai

I last left off my Thailand story in  Ayutthaya where I biked around to visit the ruins of the ancient city, ate delicious food and made friends with fellow travelers.   I loved Ayutthaya and I couldn’t wait to get to Chiang Mai, a city that everyone I met spoke with reverence and excitement.  I was told I would LOVE it there.  That Chiang Mai was amazing and the best place in Thailand.

They were right, I did love Chiang Mai, I just hated my hostel.

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Music Moment: “I Wonder” by Rodriguez

I got sick with an early spring cold last week & it has taken a while to get over it.  It hit me hard & I’m still feeling a few effects.  Why is it that the first spring cold is the worst? While I was being sick I discovered the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” on Netflix, which tells the story of a failed American 70’s artists who becomes a huge hit in South Africa, but is an enigma. Nothing is known about him & two fans decide to change that.  That’s all I’m going to say about the documentary as you need to watch it yourself. Re-discover Rodriguez & buy his albums if you love him as much as I do.

Spring Is Here

It finally feels like spring.  It air is warm, the skies are blue & the jean jacket is out.  I love this time of year.  It makes we want to clean, de-clutter & run outside.

Which is what I did this weekend. After the required period of spring / easter weekend cleaning I joined others in Port Credit who sought the sun.

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A Day in Ayutthaya

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At the train station

I had always wanted to visit the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.  It has been on my bucket list for years & I was finally going to get to see it!

I took the 9 am train from Bangkok a journey that took 2 hours.  Once I got there I took a Tuk Tuk to my hostel as I had no idea where it was.  But, if you are staying within the city, I recommend you take the ferry across the river as its only 5 baht & the city is small enough that most things are within walking distances.

Seeing the small & charming city of Ayutthaya it was hard to imagine that in 1770, it was the largest city in the world with a population of 1 million people.

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Photo Diary: Bangkok at Night

Before I take you on the next stop on my Thailand adventure, I wanted to share some of the photos I took during my many evening walks in Bangkok.  The heat in Bangkok results in life picking up in the city in the evening hours when it becomes cool enough to be comfortably outdoors.

It is perfectly safe for a woman to be out alone at night in Bangkok.  I took the same precautions as I would at home & never felt in any sort of danger.  So even if you find yourself alone in Bangkok, don’t be afraid to venture out at night.
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Bangkok Temple Hopping: Wat Ratchanatdaram

On my first stay in Bangkok, one of the last temples I visited was Wat Ratchanatdaram. It was the first temple I saw when I got to Bangkok, the one I would see every morning & night from my hostel, yet it was the last one I visited before heading on my trip north.

It was lovely.   It felt like a real temple, rather than a tourist destination.

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Getting Lost in Bangkok’s Chinatown

TheKollektive_Bangkok_ChinaTown_02I planned most of my tourist wanderings in Bangkok based upon destinations I could walk to.  My Thai hosts found this very strange as Thai’s don’t walk much in Bangkok because it’s frankly too hot to do so.  But, I was on vacation so it didn’t matter to me if I was sweaty when I got to my destination & I like to walk to orient myself in a new city.

Bangkok’s Chinatown was within reasonable walking distance … if walking an hour one way is reasonable to you.  To me it was at the time, although it turned out to be decision I questioned on the way home.  “Why don’t you take a Tuk Tuk, Kinga?” You ask, well I would have if the driver’s hadn’t wanted to over charge me by 300%, because they could & another tourist will their price anyways.

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