A Weekend in San Francisco!

FullSizeRender (93)

Join us in the gorgeous San Francisco! Below you will discover our favorite spots to snap pictures, eat, and several of our favorite activities to do throughout the city. The famous fog will swallow you up and make you fall in love before you even know what hit you. We promise there is something for everyone here and we cannot wait to share it with you!

Great Picture Spots

The Ferry Building: After checking out the shops on the first floor, take the elevator to the lobby of the second and admire the impressive architecture. Fun note – The second floor offices millionaires and the third floor offices billionaires. We decided it was a good idea to network in the elevator.

IMG_4261.JPG

Billy Goat Hill Park: There is usually a swing that over looks the city on this hill. We were told by the locals that it’s a hit or miss because somebody continues to cut the swing down (so sad!). Luckily, the view is incredible with or without it!

FullSizeRender (92)

CityScape Hilton San Francisco Union Square: This is the hotel we called home for the weekend. Take Tower 1 to the roof to enjoy a birds-eye-view of SF. Woah!

Golden Gate Bridge: This is an obvious must! Though finding that perfect spot may take some adventuring. We wanted a unique and up-close view, so we hopped a fence at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point and climbed down a hill to get here. We considered the rocky grounds well worth it. Tip: Park near Battery Spencer.

Sausalito: The harbors are what attracted us to this area! The drive to the beach is mystical with vibrant green grass and wooded areas. Find your cliff of choice to snap the perfect picture!

IMG_3933

Restaurants

Boccadillos: This wine and tapas bar left a lasting memory on our taste buds. They will make you fall in love with vegetables after one bite of their Brussel Sprouts! We also loved their empanadas. Of course we had their champagne… that’s just expected though, right?

Leo’s Oyster Bar: Their decorator gets a gold star, and their employees are one-of-a-kind! Such a great experience. If you like seafood, definitely make a trip to this restaurant! We had the Seafood Bisque with Lobster, King Crab and Rock Shrimp (so filling and so good!) and the Steelhead Trout. For drinks we ordered Betsy’s Buzz and the Garden Party (includes egg white – YUM!).

Activities

Baker Beach : Don’t miss this spot! It is right by the Golden Gate Bridge, in fact it has gorgeous views of the bridge. Make sure to bundle up, San Francisco does not offer your typical beach weather. We walked the beach in sweaters, of course barefoot though!

Golden Gate Park : We recommend checking this out right after the Golden Gate Bridge and Bakers Beach. It is a great spot for a walk, picnic, or to check out the two amazing museums inside the park!

Muir Woods : If you get worn out from the traffic downtown then escape to this redwood forest for a hike! San Francisco is full of hiking spots just a few miles away and Muir Woods is definitely one of our favorites when we need some fresh air.

If it is your first time in San Francisco then be sure to check out the famous tourist stops. We recommend the Painted Ladies, Dolores Park, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Warf and Ghirardelli Square!

Additional Tips

  • Fly into either San Francisco or Oakland. Both are about the same distance from the city and often very different flight costs. If you are not having luck then try San Jose airport.. it is an additional 30 minutes away from the city but worth it for a cheap flight!
  • If you rent a car, then be sure to stay off of your phone. California has a law against using your phone while driving.. even if it for directions (guilty!).
  • Stay patient and aware when driving in the city… traffic can be crazy! We walk anywhere we can.
  • If the weather wasn’t what you were expected and you need a warm escape then drive 45 minutes in any direction (except the ocean!) and it will be about 10-15 degrees warmer . We enjoy wine country to the North, Santa Clara and Big Sur to the South, and Berkeley to the East.

Next on our To-Eat List:

  • Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
  • Slanted Door
  • The Cavalier
  • Biergarden
  • Fog Harbor Fish House
  • Plow for brunch
  • Local Addition for a cocktail
  • Blue Barn for the spicy tuna salad
  • Park Tavern for brunch
  • Bouche for a romantic French meal
  •  Sol Food
  •  Southern Pacific Brew Co. for the funky atmosphere
  •  Burma Superstar for delicious Thai
  •  Bellato

Next on our To-See List:

  • Pace gallery in San Jose
  • De Young Museum located in golden gate park
  • Dolores Park to sun soak, lay out, and sip on some champagne
  • Lyon Street Steps for a morning workout
  • Kirby Cove to jump on the swing and take a pic with the Golden Gate

IMG_3615

Thanks for adventuring, San Francisco! On to the next city –

XX, 

 

 

 

8 Budget Travel Tips

Please enjoy our first guest post by one of our favorite travel experts, Swig Meets World! -XX

Budget travel is an art. When done properly, it can grant you a lifestyle of traveling 365 days a year. I have been working and traveling around the world for roughly 6 years now and my journey has taken me to over 60+ countries. My travels have ranged extensively; from budget to luxury travel and everything in between. I love all types of travel, and think that the only “correct” way to travel is the one that makes you happy. Once I made travel one of the top priorities in my life, everything else came together easily. While wandering around the world over the years, I have picked up quite a few budget travel tips.

Check out more of my Travel Photos on Instagram: @SwigMeetsWorld

#1 Watch Daily Expenses

The biggest concern for anybody who wants to budget travel is of course money. When you are living or traveling, it can be easy to succumb to wasteful spending.

The first thing that you will need to master to be a budget traveler are your daily expenses. If you can set a limit, whether that be $15 a day, or $50 a day, you can be sure that you will always be meeting your budget for the month. There are a lot of great free services that link up to your bank accounts and let you clearly see where your money is being wasted. One free service I use is called Mint, it is a great tool to help organize your budget.

#2 Quality Travel Gear

Not all travel gear is created equally, and just because something is expensive does not mean it is high quality. There are so many options for travel accessories out there, and it can be a bit overwhelming. I travel light, and only carry the bare essentials. This prevents me from buying unnecessary items on my trip, and I always put the extra savings towards experiences. My current bag is packed full for 1 year of travel, and weighs less than 10 KG (22 pounds). You can see my list of the best travel gear here.

#3 Save Money On Flights

This can be one of the biggest travel expenses. Thankfully, there are a ton of ways to save money on your flights. I highly recommend signing up for a cheap flight service like, Scott’s Cheap Flights. They send out massive flight deals and let you select which region you want to depart from. This is perfect for spontaneous travelers, and 100% free! For more information, check out my full review of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

If you have a more exact date for your travel, then I recommend using Skyscanner to help pick your destination. They have great feature that shows you the cheapest flights out of a city on your selected dates. Select your origin city, and then put “everywhere” for the “To City.” This will list the cheapest flights for your selected dates!

If you have a destination in mind, and your dates are not flexible, it is going to be hard to find a crazy deal. Try utilizing multiple search engines for the like Google Flights, Skyscanner and Momondo since they offer some of the best rates.

Multi-City

One other great tip I have is to book a “Multi-City” flight. A lot of times you can visit a new city or country for the same costs as your round trip ticket. I just recently booked an upcoming trip to Vietnam and decided to do a multi-city in Dubai. The ticket price is exactly the same, but now I get to visit Dubai for 3 days. I have used this trick to see a ton of amazing places like Fiji, Hawaii and Laos. Every major flight search engine has a multi city option that can be used to book a trip like this.

#4 Fly for Free

The majority of my flights are either free or extremely discounted since I book with frequent flier miles. There are many ways to accumulate miles, but one of the easiest ways is to open a credit card with a large sign-up bonus that includes a lot of frequent flier miles. Opening multiple credit cards can be scary, but if done correctly it can actually help your credit score. If you want to learn more about doing this, check out my 5 ways to fly for free.

#5 Stay For Free

There are a few great services out there that offer free accommodations. One of the most popular services is called Couchsurfing, and it is pretty amazing. Some of the nicest and most generous people I have met while traveling were through Couchsurfing. The main concept of Couchsurfing is focused more on sharing experiences with a stranger, than simply getting a free place to stay.

If you are looking for more privacy, then house-sitting might be an option for you. There are a few great services out there, but the best ones cost a small annual fee. The most well known site for house-sitting is called Trusted Housesitters.

Why not stay with a friend? You would be surprised at how many friends or acquaintances you might have around the world. One really cool tip I learned is to search on Facebook: “Friends living in city name here.” When you do this, it  creates a list of every one of your friends living in that specific city. This is great for meet ups, asking questions about what to do, or maybe even getting a free place to crash!

 

#6 Explore for Free

Practically every major city in the world has some type of free city tour offered. These tours are extremely popular in Europe. One of the big companies that offers free city tours is Sandemans. They provide free tours in over 18 cities worldwide, and they are simply incredible! The only catch is that you should tip your tour guide at the end if you enjoyed the tour.

#7 Location, Location, Location

Not every trip has to be an extravagant bucketlist adventure where you are skiing in the alps or on an African safari. There are so many places to see and do in your own backyard. Domestic travel or even local travel can sometimes be the most interesting. Consider taking a road trip, hopping a bus, or grabbing a train to somewhere not too far away. You might discover that these trips are some of the best that you can have.

#8 Don’t be TOO frugal

The travel community is full of some amazing people! Over the years I have met so many different types of travelers that come from all walks of life. Having the same common interests allows people to connect a lot easier and share their love of travel with one another. Budget travel is always a popular topic, but some people cross the line of frugality. I recommend having a budget, but there are some things that are worth breaking the budget on. I have witnessed many extreme budget travelers miss out on so many things, all because they didn’t want to pay for it.

Be smart with your money, but there is no point to traveling if you aren’t going to try the local food, explore the city, or experience what a new culture has to offer. There is a right and wrong way to budget travel. Like I said before, the only correct way to travel is the one that makes you happy!

Two Weeks in Thailand!

IMG_3154Thailand is filled with adventure awaiting you to experience. We loved it so much, we’ve created our suggested itinerary to make your travels effortless. Throughout this itinerary you will find cost breakdowns, tips to save money, and links to our four featured cities to give you the layout of the land (activities, lodging, restaurants, etc.). Who’s ready to board with us?!

Let’s do this!

COST BREAKDOWN

FullSizeRender (88)

TIPS TO SAVE

  • Save $1,300 by using credit card points to cover your international flight. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture are both great credit cards for travel benefits. For domestic flights we like the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.
  • Save $300 by staying in nice hostels for $25 a night on average.
  • Save $152 by giving yourself a food budget of $25 a day on average. Pick lodging that includes breakfast.
  • Save $50 by packing your own snacks prior to leaving the USA (we packed Lara Bars, RX Bars, Quest Bars).
  • Save $200 by being flexible in the orders of cities to save money on domestic flights while in Thailand. We had a 2 flights at $40, 1 at $80 and a more expensive one at $240 which increased our average flight cost to $100 between cities. We could of looked longer, booked earlier, or changed order for an average of $50 per flight. OR take a train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You can book a low train fare for around $10. It takes 10-12 hours with very beautiful views. For us, we preferred to pay extra for the flight and save time.
  • Save $35 on transportation by picking lodging close to everything and walking as much as you can. Make sure to barter costs for taxis and tuk tuks. Traveling with others will also bring transportation fees down.
  • We used our bigger activity budget for boats, elephant sanctuary, Thai boxing match, massages, etc. This is a budget that we usually do not cut because we like the experiences yet you could easily cut down this cost.
  • We forego on gifts and souvenirs to save money. Instead, we write thoughtful notes on postcards and share pictures.

Total Savings Using All Of Our Money Saving Tips: $2,037

$2,975 – $2,037 = 

 TWO WEEK Thailand trip for $938

IMG_3131

TRIP LAYOUT

BANGKOK – 3 nights. (2 at the front of the trip, 1 at the end)

CHIANG MAI – 3 nights

KOH SAMUI – 3 nights

KRABI  – 3 nights

 

CALENDAR SCHEDULE

Day 1

Leave the USA

Take Red eye from Tokyo to Bangkok

Day 2

Arrive in Bangkok

Day 3

Bangkok

Day 4

Bangkok

Flight to Chiang Mai

Day 5

Chiang Mai

Day 6

Chiang Mai

Day 7

Chiang Mai

Flight to Koh Samui

Day 8

Koh Samui

Day 9

Koh Samui

Day 10

Koh Samui

Flight to  Krabi

Day 11

Krabi

Day 12

Krabi

Day 13

Krabi

Flight to Bangkok

Day 14

Take Red Eye from Bangkok to Tokyo

 

 

IMG_3472IMG_2647 (1)IMG_3065FullSizeRender (87)

 

Thanks for adventuring, Thailand! On to our next city –

 

XX

Krabi, Thailand

IMG_3052Krabi may of been our top spot in Thailand. It was the perfect balance of outdoor activities and beach life with a city feel. Krabi is on the west coast of southern Thailand. Much of the province has been given over to national parks and includes over 80 islands, well known to adventurers, scuba-divers, and snorkelers. These majestic islands are covered with unbelievable angular limestone karsts..  truly breathtaking and what we picture as THAILAND!

IMG_3149

Lodging:

Poonsiri Resort : We stayed here the entire time in Krabi and were happy about the accommodations. Clean rooms in individual stand-alone houses. About $40-50 a person per night. 10 minute drive by tuk tuk to the main Ao Nang Beach

Activities:

Speed Boat to the Islands – This is the exact company we used and we were thrilled! They picked us up from our resort at 9 am and dropped us back off at 5 pm. We had a private speed boat that took us the Phi Phi islands and Bamboo. We had 6-8 stops at beaches, bays, inlets and lagoons where you can stop to swim and snorkel and have a picnic lunch on the beach or in the boat. The cost for 4 is 16,500B ( link: dollar to thai baht converter ) Monkey Bay was truly amazing. Hundreds of monkeys in their nature habitat running around us on the beach.

The best area for snorkeling is around Bamboo and Phi Phi Islands, where the water is clearest and there is a large range of marine life to see. The fish were fantastic and it was one of our best snorkeling experiences ever. Our host and boat captain, Sunny, prepared a home cooked Thai meal for us including several options of pad thai, beef curry, grilled veggies, fresh fruit and rice.

IMG_2978IMG_2995FullSizeRender (84)

Boat Day by Long Tail – Take a day trip to Hong Island by long boat. Since it is closer to Ao Nang, a speed boat is not required. Gorgeous seascape with 4 stops during the day, including the lagoon at Hong, which is a highlight of the area. You will have the chance to swim, snorkel, relax on island beaches and have a picnic lunch. The cost for a private trip for 4 is 9,000B. ( link: dollar to thai baht converter ) You can also add in kayaking around the island at an extra cost of 500B per person. If you prefer to save some money then do this with a group for very little.

IMG_3051 (1)IMG_2968

Railay Beach – One of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. A small peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang that is accessible by boat due to high limestone cliffs. We jumped on a long boat over there for a few dollars and spent the afternoon enjoying the beach. You could also stay in this area if you prefer a more relaxed and secluded spot.

FullSizeRender (83)FullSizeRender (82)FullSizeRender (85)

 

Other activities we are going to do next time:

Tiger Cave Temple

Krabi Rock Climbing

Restaurants

Lae Lay Grill – Gorgeous views overlooking Ao Nang Beach. A nice dinner spot yet not too pricey as everything is fairly cheap in Thailand! Good seafood and worth the visit during sunset.

 The Last Fisherman– Right on the beach. Fun spot, slow service. Good for burgers and corn on the cob!

Night life

The Beach Bar – Amazing live music, right by the beach. Very fun spot.

 

Thanks for adventuring, Krabi! On to the next city-

XX-

Koh Samui, Thailand

FullSizeRender (73)Koh Samui is the second biggest island in Thailand and it’s known for palm-studded beaches, coconut groves, luxurious spas and mountainous rain-forests. As course, with rain-forests comes some rain! We unfortunately didn’t experience a clear day while we were here, so make sure you always have a backup plan indoors! We were scheduled to boat two days and both were canceled due to storms. We took over some spas instead and still had a great time catching a few rays between the storms.

When you arrive to the island you immediately feel like you’re in the tropics because of their outdoor airport. The people are very welcoming. Middle school girls were performing dances in costumes at the baggage claim. We were very excited to be there and arriving was a breathe of fresh-air.

Must-Do

Nikki Beach: We consider this the best part of Koh Samui. It’s about 30-40 minutes away from Chaweng Beach and it’s well-worth the drive. It’s pretty scheduled, however they have some really entertaining parties during the day/night with live DJ’s. Get those dancing shoes on!

Quick story:There was a wedding on Nikki Beach Resort and we ended up crashing the reception! The groom was British and the groom was Thai. It didn’t take long to realize British people know how to party! Dancing in their boxers, skinny dipping in the pool, etc. It was definitely a memory we’ll never forget!

FullSizeRender (79)FullSizeRender (78)FullSizeRender (76)

Boat Rentals: We were really bummed we couldn’t adventure out on the water because of the brewing storms. We definitely suggest looking into speed boat rentals – We hear they’re a blast!

FullSizeRender (75)

Lodging

Our airBnB : We stayed here for three nights. We loved the views, the infinity pool and the rooms. Due to the steep incline and distance, we were unable to walk to the town yet it was not hard to get a ride. If you would like to be away from the main drag but still on the Chaweng Beach side of the island then this could be perfect for you!

FullSizeRender (74)

Four Seasons: The villas overlook the Gulf of Thailand – We consider them to be secluded getaways. They’ve got plenty of activities available right on the beach – Water Boarding, Table Tennis, Kayaking, Morning Yoga, etc. The sign-ups are easy and you don’t even have to leave your accommodations!

The Library: This luxury boutique hotel is known for its’ red pool and great dining experiences. If you don’t stay here, we suggest paying it a visit! It also has an incredible mod-looking library inside.

IMG_2803IMG_2802

Nikki Beach Resort – If you end up headed to the other side of the island, which we highly recommend as mentioned above, then definitely stay at Nikki Beach Resort! Our experience was first class and we were thrilled to make the last minute decision to head this way for the night. We were upgraded three different times at this hotel, thanks to an incredible connection, and ended up with the best spot in the resort! Our own villa – a private beach, pool and three different houses.  They even had a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut waiting for us. We were in awe.

FullSizeRender (78)

Lunch

The Page: This is The Library’s iconic restaraunt with a beachfront view. Thier menu offers Thai and international experiences they consider to be found nowhere elses. It’s very tasty and the atmosphere is lively and fun!

Spas

We didn’t go to either of these, though we wish we did! They’re rated as the top two spas in Koh Samui on TripAdvisor.

#1 Tamarind Springs Forest Spa

#2 Luxsa Spa

IMG_2867IMG_2993

Thanks for adventuring Koh Samui!

XX

Chiang Mai, Thailand

FullSizeRender (64)

If you’re ready to take a break from the hustle and bustle of fast-moving cities, Chiang Mai is perfect for you. We felt safe the entire time and the people were very relaxed and kind. It’s got a nature feel – We suggest finding a place to stay at an outdoorsy location with a jungle-like environment.

FullSizeRender (45)FullSizeRender (71)

Lodging:

You have several options in Chiang Mai yet it is not near as overwhelming as Bangkok. We’ve broken it down into three options for you:

1) Stay inside the square. This is the busiest and most fun spot to stay if you want to be in the action. Everyone goes to the square for shopping, the markets, activities, night-life. Plus you can walk to anything!

2) Stay right outside the square. Be walking distance from the square yet be in a bit more peace and quiet to be one with the jungle! Here stay at our airBnb.. We loved it!

Our host, Mo, and her mother were extremely helpful. Each day ladies came from a nearby mountain town to cook us breakfast. On their way they would stop at the market to pick up fresh food to cook and we would wake up to a surprise! We had chicken curry, pad thai, and fried chicken mixed with different fruits, tea, coffee and their dessert (sticky rice with  coconut served in a banana leaf). Chiang Mai in known for spicy food, sticky rice, and proteins. In Thailand, they do not have specific foods for breakfast like we do in American.

FullSizeRender (58)

3) Stay a little further away from the square for complete relaxation. You can come in whenever you would like or you can relax and spa the entire time. We suggest Veranda Resort and Spa

Make sure to embrace your wild, care-free hair while you’re there! If you’re a fan of live music you should spend an evening in Old Town. There are quality performances at every corner! As we like, we’re going to plan your trip for you so you can relax and enjoy the ride. Here are our suggestions to make your trip to Chang Mai off the charts:

Must-Do

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: This is absolutely worth it. Please put this on your list if it isn’t already on there! The sanctuary is 1.5 hours away so we chose to do the half day which costs $40. You read that right – $40 to make friends with elephants. We fed them, gave them a mud bathe, bathed and washed them in the local river. We also were served a Thai cooked meal complete with Chang beer. We thought a half-day was all the time needed to have a life-altering experience. The Sanctuary is an initiative to provide as many elephants as possible with health, freedom and happiness. It was created by locals who were concerned of the welfare of elephants in Thailand. Click here for directions.

Wat Chedi Luang: this Buddhist temple is inside the square which makes visiting very easy. The grounds are large with a lot of beautiful art to see. 40 baht entrance fee (a few US dollars). Warning: females are unable to go into one section due to old age ideas about female menstruation.

FullSizeRender (46)FullSizeRender (52)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple: We suggest renting a scooter and riding to this temple outside of town. The drive is very cool and it is one the most well-known temple in Chiang Mai.

Massages: Chiang Mai is no exception for the great Thai massages. They are a big deal here, and they’re so cheap compared to a massage in the states. We clearly had to say yes… several times. Funny experiences for sure – We suggest looking up what a Thai Massage is before you willfully agree. Imagine a tiny Thai woman standing on your back and contorting your body in positions you never knew were humanly possible. Slightly painful, slightly hilarious. We also did an oil massage which is pretty much the same as the states besides the lack of personal boundaries — No place is off limits, let’s just leave it at that. Definitely let them know beforehand if you have areas you don’t want them to touch (cough boob and nipple massage)!

Mountain Sports: You can kayak, hike, and mountain bike in a lot of different spots in Chiang Mai.

FullSizeRender (53)FullSizeRender (54)

Markets: You should also go to the square to check out the countless markets! Just make sure your stomach is prepared to see some rare things – pig nose, frogs, crickets – Even fried caterpillars (check out the picture below)! We stuck to curry, noodles and some fresh produce (still be cautious with your choices, though). Chiang Mai is well-known for these markets and it was very fun to walk around and attempt to talk to locals.

Lunch Spots

SP Chicken: We suggest getting the fish… KIDDING! Get the chicken, duh, and the sticky rice! They make little bowls with the stick rice and you dip the chicken in the sauces. Might sound strange, but it’s so good. Click here for directions.

Dinner Spots

Dash: We ate here twice. Fun atmosphere with a lot of outdoor seating built with traditional Lanna Style teak wood. You MUST get the tamarind chicken! It was amazing.

Krua Phech Doi Ngam: Along with some unique eats (crickets), this spot has some incredible, really filling salads! They’re also insta-worthy, if we do say so our-self. Click here for directions.

Coffee Joints

Cafe de L’Amour: Refuel that body with some tasty coffee! This place is super cute with a jungle-like patio. This could either be a quick grab-and-go or a stay and chat location! Click here for directions.

Akha Ama Coffee La Fattoria: This coffee joint is very Americanized and their coffee is amazing! It looks like your every-day hip coffee joint with exposed brick and and an urban feel. We’d consider this to be a grab-and-go location. Click here for directions.

Late Night

Cabaret Ladyboy Show: Whooaaa this was an experience! Great entertainment and quality dancing. We paid a bit extra for front row seats, and each ticket comes with a beer and peanuts. The show starts around 10 pm. If you go with guys, be warned, they might end up on stage especially if you are in the front row! The ladies were very beautiful and we applaud them for the amazing show they put on. If you do go then please go with open-mindedness to experience something you may not experience in other parts on the world. We don’t want to give too much away… but a little sneak peak…

Cowboy Hat Night Stall: When you get here you have ONE mission – Find the cowboy hat lady and get the pork leg with rice! Worry about the mess later. Click here for directions.

Midnight Chicken: This is a go-to if you’re out late. It opens at midnight and they don’t close until they run out. The locals rave about this chicken and we’ve gotta admit – It could entice vegitarians. Click here for directions.

Thanks for adventuring, Chiang Mai! Off to our next adventure…

XX,

 

A Southern Getaway to Birmingham, Alabama!

Vulcan Park: On a serious hunt to find an overlook of the city, we decided our best option was Vulcan Park. We didn’t have time to visit the top of the observation tower. However, we were lucky to be spotted by our new friend!

The tower is open from 10am to 10pm – We suggest visiting around sunset. The colors are vibrant and the patio is large enough to find a quiet spot to yourself.

This was actually our second choice at the time – We visited Ruffner Mountain first, yet we didn’t have much luck finding any overlooks! If you’re looking for educational hiking trails, though – Ruffner is for you!

Zyp Bike: You know that saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, that’s one phrase we consciously choose to ignore.

You will notice two Zyp Bikes making a cameo appearance in many of the locations listed below. This is due to our lack of knowledge and immense love for joy riding, as we refused to dock them throughout our long day of adventuring. In short, we were told by a local that the zyp bikes were “super cheap” and “partially solar powered”. So, when we saw a sign that read $6 for a 24 hour membership we didn’t even think to read the fine print as we went along our very merry way…

Good People Brewing Company: Arriving in style as we attempted to ride up the handicap sidewalk to the entrance, we were immediately amazed by the Good People Brewing Company. Whether it was our excitement to finally let loose after a long journey getting lost in construction zones or to simply relax and taste-test some local hops – We were happy to have made it. We sipped on quite a few different beers and our favorite was by far the Urban Farmer. It’s a Saison / Farmhouse Ale and has a very earthy taste. Or at least that’s what they told us. We liked it so much we drank a few more. Cheers!

The atmosphere was ideal. Large, open doors connecting the outdoor patio to the indoor bar. And the employees stood beside their “good people” name. We suggest playing life-size jenga on the side patio and taking a couple pics near the old-school truck.

We, of course, took our bikes with us everywhere. We weren’t comfortable docking them (clearly possessive) so we laid them in a little corner on the deck because we couldn’t figure out how to use the high-tech kick stands.

Winter Wonderland Ice-skating Rink: As we were riding our bikes from the brewery to dinner, we stumbled across an outdoor ice-skating rink. Let’s rephrase that – An outdoor ice-skating rink in the heat of Birmingham, AL. Yes, we stumbled across a large puddle. Yet, we couldn’t just pedal past without doing a few twirls before dinner. We parked our bikes as close as we could to the ice so we could keep an eye on them. At this point, people started to wonder why the heck we were taking our bikes everywhere and not docking them. And we thought they were crazy for not knowing about the $6/day deal happening.

El Barrio: We finally made it to dinner at El Barrio, a highly recommended Mexican-inspired restaurant by the locals. We asked a local store next door to keep watch on our bikes as we ate. He surprisingly said yes and we were luckily seated right by the window to keep a watchful eye on our beloved wheels. We soon noticed an employee taking two pieces of paper and taping them over our bike’s front lights so they didn’t bother guests. We’re sure that was a really normal task for him.

It was a packed house, so we knew it had to be good. We suggest starting off with the Chunky Guacamole and Elote Asado! Their margaritas were pretty good too – We got to know the bartender very well by the end of the night. As for entrees, we enjoyed the Pan Roasted Salmon and the Spicy Chicken Tostada. We loved the atmosphere so much we stayed for hours. We had three couples on each side – 12 people – come and go before we decided it was time to leave. Naturally, we had long, deep conversations with each of them. We also shamelessly plugged the great $6 deal happening with Zyp Bikes.

After taking a picture with what we thought was a palm tree, giving our leftovers to new friends on the street and doing drive-byes to entertain folks through the windows – We decided it was time to dock our trusty bikes before heading to bed. The next day we woke up to a collective $70 charge on our cards with an emailed invoice from Zyp Bike.

The Redmont: Our first two days at The Redmont were on point. Esthetically unreal. Clean, sharp, trendy – everything a couple travel bloggers could hope for! There’s an outdoor patio on the street level that sets the tone.

There’s also a rooftop bar and lounge area that has a great view of the city. Makes you feel like you’re in LA or NYC in the summer. We were impressed! It’s also centrally located so we could walk/ride bikes anywhere we needed to!

However, our last night there took a turn for the worst. We were excited to promote the hotel because we were feelin’ it – So we dedicated our evening to taking pictures. In short, we were cursed at by a fellow guest and received a noise complaint while in the hotel lobby. How is that even possible?! Rough! We’ll probably test out a different hotel that can handle our excitement next time.

Recommended by Locals:

Collin’s Bar

Bamboo Sushi

Urban Standard

Thank you for adventuring, Birmingham! On to the next city – 

XX,

Staycation at Hotel Sorella

FullSizeRender (25)Being KC natives, we had always heard great things about Hotel Sorella – the rooftop pool, cool bar, nice breakfast – and we were excited to have the opportunity to confirm or deny the tall tales. Well friends, sometimes you can believe everything you hear.

When you arrive, you’re greeted by a vaulted ceiling, an elaborate chandelier and the chicest white couches you wish you could package and take home with you. Checking in will be a breeze because the employees are so welcoming and accommodating.

IMG_2010

IMG_2064

We suggest dropping your stuff off in your room and taking a trip upstairs to Floor 7. This is where the magic happens. Enjoy some Mediterranean inspired dishes at Rosso, or grab some champagne at Bar Rosso just down an elegant stairway. Both upscale – We suggest whipping out your favorite cocktail dress or button-down to match the atmosphere.IMG_1959

 

TBB4.jpg

Connected by windowed doors is a terrace you’ll never want to leave. With a rooftop pool, vacation mode begins (our favorite way to live). We hear it’s the place to be in the summer and we plan to come back to see for ourselves!

TBB6Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Hotel Room: HELLO BATHROOM! Marble sinks, huge gorgeous shower with rainfall shower heads. We definitely took our time sipping champagne while putting on make-up. The room itself had a lot of lounging space- a cute, small L-shaped couch and an extra chair which complimented our pile of clothes. We slept like babies, it might have had to do with the cloud-like bedding.

FullSizeRender (24)

Francesca’s Greenhouse Lounge (Continental Breakfast): We scouted this area the night before and were very excited to try it as soon as our alarm rang. As you can see in the picture, it is a very airy, bright space with plenty of natural light. The greenery screams, ‘Come sit down and stay awhile’! Unlike many hotels that offer powdered eggs and boxed cereal, Francesca’s European breakfast makes you rethink “continental breakfast”. We were greeted by Simone and Veronica who quickly offered us specialty blended coffee, cappuccinos or espressos from their very expensive espresso machine (Kels just went to Barista School in Portland so she was very impressed by the quality of drink).We had a few espressos (one is never enough) and a cappuccino. For breakfast, you choose from lines of freshly made pastries, a variety of imported meats, and salmon!

IMG_2014

TBB5

Thanks for adventuring, Hotel Sorella fam! On to the next city-

IMG_1948

 

XX,

 

Malibu for the Weekend

FullSizeRender (1)

Malibu Winery: We consider this winery a must. It’s tucked away off Mulholland Highway – There is free parking on the week days and a valet option ($14) on the weekends. You’re greeted by a massive WINE sign, which is a super cute place to get some group photos.

There’s also an old school bus that’s a great photo option as well! We took advantage of both. Some we’re proud of, some we’re not. If you like to plan gatherings or parties – This is your place. You’re able to bring your own decorations and you can get as extravagant as you’d like. You have the option to sit on the ground, picnic style or reserve a table. If you’re going with a group, definitely reserve a table! However, if you’re going on a date with that special someone – The picnic style might be more private. Live music on Saturday and Sunday – They take requests and also encourage dancing. The later the day gets, the more social the entire winery becomes. You’ll leave with a lot of new friends! We made a friend who happened to supply us with three free bottles of Champagne because he enjoyed Becca’s “awkward hugs”. We also left with a new girlfriend because we spent 10 minutes taking photos of her in front of the WINE sign. Both treasured. *Warning – It’s very hard to get an uber in that area so we recommend designating a sober driver. (As seen below)

Malibu Safari: With our extremely outgoing personalities that are complimented by wine tasting, we stumbled upon the owner’s son. He was so kind and welcoming, and offered to take us to Malibu Cafe via golf cart. We accepted with much excitement because, hello, golf carts. To our surprise, he gave us a tour of the Malibu Safari! Our lives were quickly made. Zebras, Camels and the most kind Giraffe named Stanley. Oh, Stanley.

How we miss your unintentional kisses. Needless to say, it was a highlight of the trip. If you have time, we suggest taking a full tour! It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon – And the photo opportunities are endless.

Malibu Farm Pier Cafe: If you’re looking for a solid menu with an incredible view, this place is for you! It’s located on a pier so there is no bad table. When you enter the pier you’ll first come across the Malibu Farm Restaurant. Equally cozy, a little more expensive.

Make your way down the pier, maybe steal a fisherman’s pole for a go at it. At the end you’ll reach the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe.  You might find yourself in line to order on the bottom level, so entertain yourself by watching surfers wipe out. As for food, there is truly no bad choice. We couldn’t get enough of those broccoli mashed potatoes and all of the burger options!

The tables are first come first serve, so if you’re adventuring with a group definitely have someone grab a table while you are ordering! If you’re afraid of birds, you should probably eat downstairs and not on the upper deck. We broke bread with pelicans.

Los Liones Canyon: If you’re wanting a relaxing get-away from the big city and not feeling the heavy traffic on Runyon, then Los Liones Canyon should make your list! On the hike you will come across several overlooks of the ocean. It’s an easy to moderate, well marked trail with plenty of places to step off to take a breather. There are plenty of benches to claim if you want to munch on some snacks while enjoying the views! You’ll also come across a decent amount of bathrooms – However, we wouldn’t judge if you popped a squat. Do you.

Malibu Cafe: You will be welcomed by a bright “HOWDY” sign, which is the perfect start to this welcoming spot. Christmas lights, various life size games, a river and hundreds of tables cover this massive cafe. We recommend going before or after the winery – It’s about a mile away. There’s so much room for activities, you could easily make a day out of it. We traveled here after an afternoon full of wine and Giraffe kisses to get some mac & cheese (carbs needed) in our bellies. We decided to eat at the bar and the bartenders did not disappoint – Let’s just say they had some Southern Charm. Most of their employees have lived and worked right on the farm for years and have a contagious passion for their jobs and the family whom owns the acreage. When we revisit Malibu, we are hoping to spend more time in this enchanting restaurant.

Thanks for adventuring, Malibu! On to the next city –

XX, 

 

Bangkok, Thailand

FullSizeRender (27)FullSizeRender (28)FullSizeRender (29)FullSizeRender (32)

Recently we made our first trip to Asia and explored Thailand for 2 weeks! In order to show you all Thailand has to offer, we have decided to break down our 2 week trip by city. We want your future Thailand travels to be smooth, so we’re going to be as detailed as possible so you can have a successful trip! Here are the cities that will be featured: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Krabi. After giving you a tour of the excitement each city has to offer, we will do a final post with our suggestions on the trip layout; how many days to stay in each location, an overview of the country and tips and tricks to better understand the culture and get around Thailand with ease. Let’s do this!

*A special note- Traveling to Bangkok is at a unique time right now, as their beloved King recently passed away. You will notice monuments all over the city mourning him, as well as many people dressed in all black. To us, this was fascinating and heart wrenching to see how much love a place can have for their King. His passing has slowed tourism a bit yet we do not believe this should be an issue for you going. In fact, we believe it is a good time to be a witness.

Bangkok has a population of more than 8 million people, which makes it one of the largest and most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia. The energy of this city is contagious. People are hardworking, friendly and noticeably happy. Although, most do not speak English you can tell they still want to help and accommodate if you desire. Unlike some large European cities, we did not notice aggressive guys, rude comments towards us as ‘Americans’, or even side glances. It made us feel pretty safe the whole time. There is a wide range of markets, temples,long boat rides on the river, high class dining, street dining, and other crazy things to see on the streets of Bangkok.

link: dollar to thai baht converter

Lodging:

Bangkok is packed with hotels, hostels, and Airbnb’s to stay at all budgets.  The American dollar goes a long way right now.  We definitely felt like we were getting everything at a discount.

If you are on a budget, we would recommend the Khao San area. It is known as the backpacking universe of Bangkok. You will find many highly rated hostels, mid-range hotels and a young crowd that likes to party! This is also the neighborhood that houses many of Bangkok’s must-see spots (the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, etc ) that we will tell you more about below. If you are trying to keep costs very low then you can stay in this area for approximately $20 a night per bed, or for a bit more mid-range, $40-50. As a reminder, for hostels you are usually paying by bed and hotels you are paying by room.

Other areas we would suggest staying in are the Silon area. Silon has good shopping, the large green Lumphini Park, and it is close to two of our favorite rooftop bars! If you would like to stay in a more expensive 5-star hotel in a scenic area then choose Bangkok Riverside.

We stayed in two different hotels.

Eastin Grand Hotel Sathron: 4 star hotel, approximately $75-$100  a night per room. We were very happy with this hotel. Incredible infinity pool, great continental breakfast serving anything you could ever dream of, work-out facility, connected to the skytrain, and in the business district close to the Silon area.

VIE Hotel: 5 star hotel, approximately $100-125 a night per room near Siam and Silon area. This was another great hotel. The best work out facility we had all trip (Bangkok was the only city that we stayed in hotels). It was walking distance to a lot of great food options, bars and a tons of shopping. This hotel also had a good rooftop pool and good continental breakfast. We liked the modern, spacious rooms and great bathrooms!  If we went back to Bangkok, we’d stay here.

Our Favorite Day Activities:

The Grand PalaceThis is the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. It is approximately 220,000 square meters and the palace complex is surrounded by four walls. We were blown away by the beautifully done architecture with the amazing color designed on all of the buildings. The complex also has many open lawns and gardens. This is partially open to the public as a museum, yet also remains a working palace with several royal offices inside. We cannot imagine working here, as is was very crowded with tourists trying to snap pictures and selfies. We loved seeing this area and it was a great photo spot.  We recommend getting there early so you don’t get photo bombed.

Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining BuddhaThis is a Buddhist temple complex. We recommend going to see this, very pretty and good architecture.  We also found it much less crowded and touristy than the Grand Palace. Suggest going right after the Grand Palace, as it is just a few blocks away.  Enjoy lunch at Ess Deck after exploring The Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha. It is the perfect spot to relax on the water. We sat outside and enjoyed champagne, pad thai, chicken skewers, and sea bass. Jump on a boat for a ride around, or a ride to your next spot!

China Town: Wow! Very busy and cool streets to walk through with street-side food, market stalls and a lot of gold shops. It’s crazy to see what people are trying to sell.  This area is walking distance from Golden Buddha.

Golden BuddhaA solid gold statue weighing 5.5 tons! This is located in the temple of Wat Traimit. Go before or after China Town. We only spent 30 min- 1 hr here.

Night Activities:

Muay Thai Boxing Match: Head to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium to experience Muay Thai boxing. We were a little worried the fighting would be too extreme, yet it was pretty cool to see and cheer on. This sport is similar to kick boxing and the atmosphere is electric with people shouting and betting on fighters in the stands. The fighters are very proud to be there and surprisingly, it was very much a family sport, as the grandpas and little brothers were ringside screaming for their family members. You can tell these athletes train hard to prepare.  The sport is a unique part of the culture. Spend a few extra dollars and get ringside seats. Beer, water, and snacks can be purchased from your seats. The main event takes place usually in the 2nd or 3rd fight out of 10-15 so be sure to arrive on time. Many Americans showed up towards the end and missed a lot of the good action.

Patpong Night Market: This is a popular nightlife area. A lot of bars, food stands, night clubs and ‘ping pong’ shows (you have been warned!! Locals will try to get you to go down alleys to these shows with females doing very strange things).  We had mixed feelings about this area. Although it was good to see, it was also a bit sad. There were a lot of strip clubs that leave the door open so you can see inside when walking down the street. There were hundreds of girls hanging around the area who seemed pretty young.

Rooftop Bars!

FullSizeRender (31)

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Vertigo and Moon Bar: Rated one of the highest in Bangkok, so we had high expectations. We were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset and a dinner on the rooftop. It was pricier and a little stuffy compared to other spots in Bangkok, yet you get what you pay for… an amazing view over the city. We still recommend checking it out.
  • So Sofitel– Loved this one. Perfect location with dramatic panoramic views over Lumpini Park and the urban skyline.  Go for afternoon tea on the 9th floor or have dinner and drinks outside after 5 on the 29th floor at Park Society. Gorgeous, contemporary and elegant all mixed together served with chilled white wine. Spent our last few hours in Bangkok here before our red-eye flight and wow…. Hit our happy place!
  • Sky Bar – the scenic setting for the film Hangover 2. Suspended on a precipice over the city 820 feet in the air. Gorgeous views of the city skyline, live jazz music, not the most friendly staff as they are used to American Tourists.

Additional things to do:

Damnoen Floating Market Tour: This is a boat tour that shows you the hustle and bustle of the market life in Thailand. Much of the produce and day to day items are purchased by boat. Located is a bit outside of Bangkok, yet very much worth the travel to experience the culture of shopping by boat! If you would prefer a more local, less touristy way to explore the floating market then we recommend showing up and giving a local a bit of cash to take you around for an hour or two.

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya: This is a world heritage site north of Bangkok. The ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya Hisroical Park, an archaologicial site that contains palances, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues. We decided against this, as it is 80 km north of Bangkok.

Get a massage: Massage parlors are located all over, hundreds and hundreds! Check out some reviews and pick one that matches your needs near you. Approximately 50-70% cheaper than massages in the United States. Just wait until you hear about my first massage experience in Chiang Mai….

Thai Cooking Class: Several options and a very well-liked activity to do.

Tips for Bangkok

  • Make sure to pack maxi dresses or jeans. For the temples, no shorts of sleeveless tops are allowed. We made this mistake! Luckily had scarfs that worked to cover our arms.
  • No shoes are allowed in temples. No planning ahead needed, unless you would like to wear shoes that are easy to get on and off.
  • Uber! We were thrilled to find out Bangkok used Uber. The MRT/BTS train is also very easy to use. Additional options are taxis and tuk tuks (open air, colorful, usually three-wheeled small carriages driven by a moped). Be sure to haggle the cost, be confident and do not get scammed on transportation costs. They will try but if you hold strong then they will quickly back down.

FullSizeRender (30)

Next up will be Chiang Mai. Thanks for adventuring, Bangkok!

XX-