Jetsettin’: Back to Florida!

It’s been almost a month since we have gotten back from Florida and I’m just now writing about it. It’s a mixture of jet lag, a little bit of Ittybot sickness, and a lot of denial. I didn’t want the vacation to end!

As soon as we landed, we headed straight to Chipotle and Target. They were everything I had been dreaming of for the past 2 years. Ittybot was a big fan of Chipotle – I was a very proud mama at that moment. We spent about 1 hr to 1.5 hrs in Target and spent $200 on who knows what. The true Target experience!

We landed a day earlier than the family so we stayed with some close friends in Orlando. It was great to see familiar faces and it really felt like we never left. I feel so blessed that we have garnered such quality friendships in the short 2.5 years that we were there. Wish we could see them more often 😦

The next day, the family arrived at MCO and I couldn’t be more excited. We see our family quite often via Skype (thank goodness for modern technology) but it’s just not the same. I thought Ittybot would be a little startled by their overwhelming excitement to see him but he was probably just as excited as they were!

After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the sprawling 2 building beach house on Anna Maria Island. Per usual, the family chose an amazing home to spend the next 5 days of bonding together.

Pool between the two buildings where we gathered to play :)
Pool between the two buildings where we gathered to play 🙂

There was a little apprehension about the tropical storm that was heading towards the gulf but after living in Florida for a couple years we weren’t even phased. We knew there would be heavy storms for a couple hrs and the sun would soon shine again.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

We ended up having an amazing time on the beach, Siesta Key Beach, and we took a couple pontoons over to the Anclote sandbar. And I can’t forget the pool that was situated between the two buildings. That’s where we gathered most of the time – other than the kitchen of course!

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Speaking of food, the family basically stocked up for the end of days. Let me remind you that we were staying there for 5 days. I’m talking 7 bottles of fish sauce and 5-6 bottles of soy sauce. WHAT!? They like to go overboard on the grocery shopping but I really can’t complain. Amazing home cooked meals fo’ days! No matter where I have traditional Lao food, nothing beats mama’s home cooked meals. On the days we felt like getting out, we ventured out for some awesome food nearby.

All you can eat - Cooter's
All you can eat crab legs at Cooter’s in Clearwater Beach.
Midnight snack dim sum.
Midnight snack, dim sum.
Korea House in Orlando, FL
Korea House in Orlando, FL

We spent their remaining couple days in Orlando; where we did Downtown Disney, Outlet Malls, and even more pool time. We loved watching Ittybot interact with his cousins. He absolutely adores them. Makes me sad that he can’t see them more often.

Downtown Disney
We had such a large group they gave us our own boat. That’s how we roll.

After the family left, we had an extra week in Orlando to meet up with friends and do lots, I mean LOTS, of shopping. It is my favorite past time after all. We ended up having to pick up another luggage to bring all my new goodies home. And it was well worth it!

We stayed at the Marriott Vacation Club and I don’t know why we haven’t taken advantage of them sooner! There was a kitchen and laundry machines in the room for us to utilize and being a small family, it helped us out tremendously! There was a small grocery store on site where we could pick up milk, drinks, and snacks. The boys enjoyed the arcade and the many, many pools on the grounds. We definitely would stay with them again whenever possible!

Our friends brought us to King Cajun Crawfish and oh my goodness it was SO amazing. So good we had to go back again before we left. Spicy and messy is the only way to go and they delivered!

Could go back again and again!
Could go back again and again!

We had such a good time back in the states that we booked tickets back before we even left. It does help that there was an amazing deal that fell on our lap and we had to jump on it.

I tried to keep this blog post as brief as possible because the vlogs basically say it all. Check out the playlist below!!

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My 30th birthday getaway: French Riviera

frenchrivieravlog

We finished off our epic adventure in the French Riviera. We chose to stay at an AirBNB in Nice since it was right in between some of the other major cities.

Unfortunately, we started our stay with a little mishap of La getting stuck in the bathroom. It was just like the TV shows, the door handle came off and he was trapped for a good 45 minutes. But rest assured, he made it out safe and sound!

The pebble beaches in Nice was a surprise hit! Walking on them wasn’t pleasant but laying on the rocks after a dip in the water is like a broke hot stone massage. We liked it so much we skipped the beach in Cannes and rushed back to the pebble beach!

We chose to rent a car because we had several day trips planned to Eze, Monaco, and Cannes. And take my word for it, you don’t need that much time in any of these cities-unless you are growing some sort of money tree in the backyard. Which, if you are, I’d like a seed please.

Nice, France

French Riviera

Here’s the vlog. Sorry for the shaky quality. I was testing out a vlogging wand which proved to be a FAIL.

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My 30th Birthday Getaway: Lake Garda

One day, out of nowhere, I decided I wanted to do a headstand on top of a mountain. And what do you know, the cute town of Malcesine in Lake Garda has a cable car that takes you up to the top of Monte Baldo. And so the story begins…

I spent about 3.5 weeks getting my yoga on and worked towards my goal of a headstand. Let me remind you that I have this fear of heights AND falling so this outrageous goal is completely out of character for me. I practiced roughly 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks before I was able to hold my headstand for a full minute. I don’t know how long it normally takes people but I was SO proud of myself.

We decided to stay in Limone Sul Garda because most of the hotels in Malcesine were either a) booked up or b) crazy expensive. The train from Milan gave us a glimpse of the beauty of Lake Garda. Mountains, peaceful waters, quaint villages, and lush fields made it seem like we were in a whole new world! It took about 2.5 hrs before we arrived at Rovereto train station. Next, we had to try and catch a taxi to our hotel in Limone. We took this route, as it was the best option for that time of day/night.

As soon as we stepped out of the station we were greeted by the sun that was just beginning to set over the mountains, the air was incredibly fresh, and the temperature couldn’t be any more perfect. There wasn’t much activity around the station so we were a bit apprehensive we wouldn’t be able to find a taxi. Next thing you know, in just 3 minutes a taxi driver happened to drop off another couple. We waved him down and he was ready to take us on a wonderful drive of the area. The cab ride cost a hefty 70 euros but it was well worth it.

Driving through the towns and around the lake was breathtaking. About an hour later, we finally got to our hotel, Hotel San Pietro in Limone. The hotel itself was average but the view made it amazing. We were on the upper part of the mountain so our room overlooked the beautiful city and lake.

Beautiful Riva Del Garda on the way to Limone Sul Garda.
Beautiful Riva Del Garda on the way to Limone Sul Garda.

An added bonus to our hotel was that there was a cool pizzeria, called Tovo, right across the street. The hotel receptionist said it was “the best pizza you will get in Limone”. It was about 10PM by this time so we were starving. Luckily, they were still open! Granted they only serve pizza after 10 pm but we will take what we can get! We are happy to report that the restaurant lived up to its hype. Plus, they had some great beer! After eating, we were joking around about buying a few bottles of beer to take back to the hotel. Their response? “Sure, you want us to open them?!” This added to the amazing night we were having.

Pizza at Tovo
Pizza at Tovo

Next morning, we woke up early to have breakfast and make our hike out to Monte Baldo; which is the mountain across the lake in the cute town of Malcesine. We first took a ferry to Malcesine which cost us 6 euros per person round trip. It was a short walk through the lovely town of Malcesine to the cable car station. Malcesine was another beautiful town with a lot of character. We opted to purchase a combo ticket for 22 euros which included the cable car to the tip top + tickets to the Malcesine castle. Taking the cable car was intense! There were so many people packed into the car but it was worth it!

View from the Malcesine Cable Car
View from the Malcesine Cable Car

Being on top of the mountain and touching the clouds is a feeling like no other. After taking a few minutes to absorb, we hiked until we found the perfect area to do some headstands! It was a 10-minute hike before we found the nice and flat patch overlooking the mountains. It was all about waiting to get the right shot. It took numerous tries since the clouds kept on coming and going but we finally got them!

Lake Garda, Italy Lake Garda, Italy

Monte Baldo Malcesine Lake Garda Italy

On our way back down through Malcesine, we had to stop and get some gelato – the best mint and chocolate gelato we’ve had…EVER!!! We also explored some castles and such…no big deal.

Malcesine Castle
Malcesine Castle

Malcesine Castle

We didn’t hang around Malcesine too much longer because we wanted to head back to the hotel so we can enjoy our swimming pool. We ended our night at Tovo for dinner again for some more food and drinks! We didn’t feel the need to venture to a different restaurant when we already found our sweet spot.

Ferry back to Limone
Ferry back to Limone

The next day, we took the “speed” boat from Limone to Sirmione. I’ve heard that Sirmione is a “must-see” so I had to see it. The “speed” boat cost us 17 euros and it took 2 hours to get from Limone to Sirmione. It was probably a gorgeous ride, but I was passed out almost the entire time. I stayed up pretty late watching my Thai movies the night before. Whoops.

Once in Sirmione, we needed to drop off our luggage so we could explore the town without having to haul everything around with us. Now THAT was a hike! The heat didn’t help the situation either. Turns out the luggage storage in town was actually a petrol station about 7 minute walk OUTSIDE castle gates. The cost to store luggage was relatively cheap. We paid 1.50/hr per baggage.

In my honest opinion, I didn’t think Sirmione lived up to its hype. It was cute, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t hold a candle to the towns further north. We definitely preferred the mountainous backdrops of Limone and Malcesine. If you have the time to spare, definitely make the effort to venture the lesser known towns! You’ll avoid the crowds and get fantastic views (and pictures).

Unfortunately, I misplaced some footage form Lake Garda but here is what we have!

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My 30th Birthday Getaway: Marrakech

A few weeks ago we boarded a flight to kickoff my 30th birthday getaway. Our good friend, whom we shall call “Giggles” (because his laugh is so contagious), came to join us on this amazing journey. The first stop in our 3 country/8 city tour is Marrakech, Morocco!!

As soon as we stepped off the plane we immediately felt like we have stepped into an entirely different world. Morocco has this remarkable aura about it that I just can’t put into words.

The hustle out there is real. As soon as we got out of our airport shuttle, there were people waiting with wagons to help us with our luggage (for a price, of course). It didn’t take very long before we were lured into a scam. I have read about this scam but we were so hungry and didn’t want to spend anymore time waiting for The Mr to figure out the map. A man had approached us and asked where we were going and he said he could lead us to the restaurant. After a short 3 minute walk, he asked for a tip. Giggles pulled out 20 dirhams but he insisted on 40 dirhams (4 euros). Giggles is the biggest pushover you will ever meet so he gave it to him without any contest.

We had dinner at a restaurant called Latitude which heavily caters to tourists in the Medina. It was the first of the many, many amazing tajines that we devoured.

The next day, we spent hours upon hours wandering souks. The alluring ambiance made you want to drop some dirhams at all the stalls. The scents of the spices were intoxicating, the antique silver was enticing, and the colorful pottery was oh-so-charming! And the haggling!! The haggling was so fun. It definitely made the entire souk experience. I fell in love with the baby tajines that I had to bring a few home.

Them colors! Love!!
Them colors! Love!!
Lamps at the Souks
Lamps at the Souks
Of course I had to throw a picture of a door in here somewhere...
Of course I had to throw a picture of a door in here somewhere…

The next (and final) day, we went to see the Ben Youseff Medersa and the Saadian Tombs. The cost to enter each of the historic monuments was 10 dirhams (1 euro). It was well worth it because the architecture was breathtaking. The intricate designs in every square footage of Ben Youseff is mind boggling. The time and patience it must’ve taken to complete this undeniably phenomenal building! Each of the dormitories were a bit haunting though. There were a few that didn’t even have windows.

The Saadian Tombs was a bit anti-climatic compared to the Medersa. Beautiful nonetheless. It was quiet and peaceful if you can get past the tombs mere yards away from you.

Me raving about it just won’t do you any good. You have to go see them for yourself!

The amazing Ben Youseff Medersa
The amazing Ben Youseff Medersa
Wow. Just wow...
Wow. Just wow…

Here are the vlogs for your viewing pleasure 🙂

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Tips on visiting Big Buddha in Hong Kong!

big buddha hong kong

When planning our visit to Hong Kong, I was most excited about visiting the Tian Tan Buddha also known as Big Buddha. Big Buddha is 112 ft tall and made of bronze. It is located on the Lantau Island but don’t worry, it is very well connected by ferry and metro.

In my opinion, the best way to get to Big Buddha is the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars. The cable car ride offers unbelievable views of the world below. To go on the standard cable car it costs 165 HKD (21.30 USD) OR you can go on the crystal bottom cable cars for 255 HKD (32.90 USD). Because the line at the station can be quite long, you can also purchase tickets here.

If you’d rather not be suspended up in the air (I completely understand), you can always take the Central Pier 6 ferry to Mui Wo and then hop on the New Lantao Bus 2 to the Ngong Ping Village.

Up until the day we were departing to Hong Kong, we were back and forth about purchasing the cable car rides ahead of time. There is a lot of smog in Hong Kong and I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to see anything if we chose the wrong day. Nevertheless, we decided to go on our first day in Hong Kong to ensure that we didn’t miss out on it due to any unforeseen circumstances. Of course, we didn’t buy the tickets in advance so we had to wait in the long line. It took about 40 minutes to get through the line and worry took over me because the smog was slowly hiding the peaks as time passes by. It’s safe to say I was almost in panic mode because I had such high hopes for this attraction. I’d like to apologize to The Mr for almost biting off his head in line. My bad.

The ticket line for the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars
The ticket line for the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars

We opted for the crystal bottom cable cars so we could see everything going on beneath our feet. The glass bottom cable cars isn’t for the faint of heart. I, myself, am terrified of heights but I was too mesmerized to even notice that we were hundreds of feet up in the air and the possibility of it crashing to the ground was very real. In fact, a cable car did fall! Don’t worry, it was empty so no one was hurt. But don’t let that one little snafu stop you from going! LOL.

Ittybot was fearless
Ittybot was fearless

Just outside the cable car terminal is the Ngong Ping Village. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the village so you can spend several hours perusing the cute knick knacks and interesting art work.

Finally, we made it to the bottom of the Tian Tan Buddha and we were ready to scale the 268 steps to the top. I was so proud of Ittybot for climbing all those stairs! I feel like I was supposed to be at peace or somewhat of a meditative place while climbing those stairs but I was so focused to getting my butt up there without passing out, I just couldn’t focus.

268 steps to The Big Buddha
268 steps to The Big Buddha

Finally, we were facing the Tian Tan Buddha. The Buddha elegantly sits on top of a lotus flower and faces the beautiful nature below. Surrounding the statue are smaller statues with their offerings. The buddha is supposed to symbolize harmony between human and nature. They did a great job of preserving that ideology. There were trees as far as the eye could see mixed with aromas of burning incense. For a moment, I felt at peace. Then, as quickly as it happened, I was back to my shutterbug self.

Big Buddha Hong Kong

Big Buddha Hong Kong

The view from Big Buddha
The view from Big Buddha

We did a quick walk through the temples surrounding the area. It was so quick that I don’t even feel like I am experienced enough to talk about it.

Po Lin Monastary

Final thoughts: The Big Buddha should definitely be added in your “must see” column. It was such an incredible experience for us and we still talk about it to this day!

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Jetsettin’: The bots touch down in Hong Kong! + Vlog!

After Sanya, we took a short 1.5 hr flight over to Hong Kong. The Mr has a love for Hong Kong films so this was on his bucket list. Come time to plan what he wanted to do in Hong Kong, he drew a blank and made me put together a plan. Figures. I laid out several possible itineraries and he picked (and cut out plenty) our activities for the final leg of our trip to China.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile because of it’s location. The metro is literally outside and we were next door to iSquare Mall and we were able to grab our morning Starbucks. Of course, we asked for an upgrade. I figured our chances were slim because it was about 1am so most of them were probably already booked. But lucky us, we were bumped up to the executive suite! As soon as you open the door, there was a draft of the “brand spankin’ new apartment” scent. Ahh, I miss that scent – so clean, LOL. They must’ve just renovated it. The room was small for being an “executive” room but space is a hot commodity in Hong Kong so I wasn’t expecting much to begin with.

On our first day in Hong Kong, we did the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up to The Tian Tan Buddha or Big Buddha statue. We opted for the glass bottom cable car because, well, WHY NOT?! But I will write a more elaborate post about this later.

The Bots visit Big Buddha
The Bots visit Big Buddha

After we got back, we skipped over to Food Republic (next door to the outlet mall) which was a short walk from the Ngong Ping 360 entrance. The Mr’s favorite activity is eating so his expression as we stepped out of the elevator was adorable. You could tell he was in his happy place. We opted for the cantonese restaurant because they had roasted ducks hanging in the window. The food was Mmm mm delicious! The roasted pork and roasted duck packed a punch of flavor. We have lived in Europe for almost 2 years now and there is a lack of flavor in asian foods so this was a special treat!

After we recharged at the hotel, we headed out to the Avenue of Stars so The Mr could visit his favorite actors like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The Avenue of Stars is basically like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. There was a booth there called “Butter Cuttle” which is baked, buttered cuttle fish. Once you get past the scent of it, it is chewy goodness! At 30 hkd, I was a happy camper.

His childhood dreams are fulfilled
His childhood dreams are fulfilled and Ittybot is already over it.

We stuck around to watch the Symphony of Lights since Avenue of the Stars is supposedly one of the best places to view it. We posted up next to the butter cuttle booth and waited about 20 minutes to watch the light show. We were pretty disappointed about the “show”. It was maybe a few lasers, and some buildings lit up a little faster than normal. The narration was barely audible because the volume was so low, it made the show even less exciting. We actually left halfway into show with the other crowds. Don’t even bother with the Symphony of Lights unless you’re there for a holiday where there might be fireworks to spice it up a little. One good thing came out of this experience,  I was able to get a good shot of the Hong Kong skyline 🙂

Waiting for the Symphony of Lights
Waiting for the Symphony of Lights

Next up, Mong Kok to do some shopping! My first stop was Innisfree because I HAD to pick up more sheet masks. After Innisfree, we wandered the stalls of the Ladies Market. It’s called the Ladies Market because there is mainly clothing and accessories for women but there is so much more than that! There are toys and trinkets galore! There may be a haul post in the future!

Bustling shopping area of Mong Kok
Bustling shopping area of Mong Kok

We got (blissfully) lost looking for a quick bite to eat, but we ended up at McDonalds. I do like to try McDonalds in the different places we visit and Hong Kong is probably the best thus far! They like to season their fries, WHAT!? We got the seaweed seasoning, threw it in a bag with the fries and shake, shake, shake! We regret not going back for more, it was that good! Oh, and the spicy chicken sandwiches ACTUALLY had a little bit of spice to them. WIN in our books.

Check out the vlog below!

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Jetsettin’: Sanya, China

The next leg of our trip takes us to Sanya, China. Sanya is on the island of Hainan and what they would call the “Hawaii of China”. I had high hopes for this leg. Shanghai was cold and windy so I was looking forward to some heat, sun, and sand.

This time, we stayed at the Ramada hotel. As soon as you step foot into the hotel, you get the amazing breeze from the river. For this trip, I decided to ask for an upgrade. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Since we had a toddler we had to share the room with, I was sure they would understand the justification. And it worked! We were upgraded to a corner suite on the 25th floor. We felt like a million bucks.

About that “Hawaii of China” title…I would have to disagree. To me, it felt more like a “Phuket”. Sanya has some nice beaches but it’s a little rough around the edges. The public beaches weren’t as pristine as we had hoped. It was packed and kind of dirty. You couldn’t walk 10 feet without someone trying to convince you to do a water sport. Those google pictures are deceiving! I’m sure those pictures were taken at a private beach.

Of course, we had to dine out all the time and I was disgusted by the customer service in Sanya. People were so incredibly rude! I just about throat punched a waitress at a Thai restaurant. But we won’t rehash those memories, LOL.

Just when I thought the Sanya experience was down the toilet, one of the guys on the trip got us on a yacht for an afternoon. It basically was the highlight and the lifesaver on this leg of the trip. The yacht was so much more than we had anticipated. It had 2 bedrooms, a karaoke room, sauna, dining room, kitchenette, the works. Everyone but Ittybot got to take a dip in the water. My poor baby!

Sanya China

Sanya China

Sanya, China

The bright side is that we got to spend a lot of time at our hotel relaxing and catching up on much needed R&R. The pool was great for the balmy days. While we won’t miss Sanya anytime soon, we will miss that gorgeous weather!

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