About westcoastprairiegirl

I'm a prairie girl at heart, born and raised in Manitoba. I am currently living on the west coast with my Mexican hubby. Our cultural differences make the days interesting and his energy and love of life, food and travel makes this adventure with him a great one! I try to LIVE life to it's fullest, LOVE as much as I can, LAUGH always, EAT with enjoyment and TRAVEL to experience what this crazy world has to offer.

Rain and Relaxation at the Renaissance in Phuket

We were down to our last days in Thailand and in two more sleeps, would be heading home.  We had decided in advance to not do much exploring in Phuket.  Our focus was on Krabi and Phuket was just going to be our resting place before our long trek home.  We couldn’t have planned a more perfect idea as things played out in our last two days in Thailand.

We took a speed boat from Krabi to Phuket.  The best advice I can give if travelling to southern Thailand is to backpack it.  We were so glad we did.  Throughout our stay, we saw people struggling on and off boats with their suitcases, sometimes having to wade in knee-deep water as they carried their luggage to shore.  Backpacks just make moving around so much easier and quicker.

I saw my very wild monkey as we travelled from the pier to our hotel on Phuket Island.

I saw my very first wild monkey as we travelled from the pier to our hotel on Phuket Island.

When we arrived at our hotel, the Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa, we never left until we had to catch a taxi two days later for our flight home.  Very unlike us but a few factors came into play that resulted in the lack of get-up-and-see-as-much-as-we-can-in-one-day approach that we normally take when we are experiencing a new place:

First, the hotel is located at the far north end of the island.  We chose that location because it is close to the airport and we knew by the end of our trip, we would probably want the shortest distance to travel to the airport for our flight home.  But, it was a good distance away from everything else and we would have to take a taxi to get anywhere.  So far, we had been on 7 flights, 3 boat trips, 1 train ride, a tuk-tuk ride, endless subways, countless taxis and miles upon miles of foot mileage in under 2 weeks so we did not want to move.

Second, the weather was unfortunately not cooperative.  There were brief storms and heavy rains that kept us indoors for a good part of our stay.  But, we could not have been holed up in better place; the Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Of course, it helped that Armando is a Platinum member with the Marriott, which Renaissance is a part of.  Because he travels and stays with the Marriott on a weekly basis, we used some of his accumulated Marriott points to stay at the Renaissance.  We wanted to end our trip on a high note, for free!

When we arrived, the front desk lady asked us to follow her for our private check-in.  Private check-in?  Uh, Okay.  She then took us on a golf cart, through the property and stopped in front of a private pool villa.  She advised us that we were upgraded and took us inside to do our check-in in the privacy of our, in case you didn’t hear it the first time, Private Pool Villa!  Eeeeee!!  For real?!  The perks of having a husband who travels.  Jumping up and down like a child, I could not contain my excitement. Oh, but I can give the air of being classy and of course waited until the lady left before I started bouncing off the walls and exploring our near 1300sq.ft. digs.

Our villa had our own private pool and patio.  It even had an outdoor shower and our indoor shower was fully surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows  With high fences surrounding the villa for privacy.

Our villa included a private pool and patio.  No sun?  We still had to hop in and enjoy the pool.  After all, how often do you have your own private pool?

There was even an outdoor shower as well as an indoor shower that was fully surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows with high fences surrounding the villa for privacy.  

There was even an outdoor shower as well as an indoor shower that was fully surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows with high fences surrounding the villa for privacy.  And don’t get me started on the largest bathtub I have ever seen in my entire life!

Who needs sun when you have a place like this to relax in?

Who needs sun when you have a place like this to relax in?

The fridge was stocked with some unique options.

The fridge was stocked with some unique options.

Complimentary wine, beer and chocolate truffles...Woohoo!!  (Again, visualize me bouncing off the walls)

Complimentary wine, beer and chocolate truffles…Woohoo!! (Again, visualize me bouncing off the walls)

Stormy clouds didn't prevent us from getting out and enjoying the beautiful Mai Khao Beach at the resort.  We even swam in the waves with those clouds above us as it started to downpour.  Was scary and fun, all at the same time.

Stormy clouds didn’t prevent us from getting out and enjoying the beautiful Mai Khao Beach at the resort. We even swam in the waves with those clouds above us as it started to downpour. Was scary and fun, all at the same time.

Enjoying mojitos at the beachside bar.  And yes, that is some sun that was peeking through the clouds.

Enjoying mojitos at the beachside bar. And yes, that is some sun that was peeking through the clouds.

But weather seems to change at the drop of a hat here and as soon as that sun came, stormy weather rolled in within minutes.  The video below shows Armando’s constant curiosity as it dragged him out to take a closer look at what had just happened and where the sun disappeared to.  

So our last two days were not the beach-filled, sun-drenched days we were expecting but a bit of luxury sure made our time enjoyable, memorable and more relaxing than we could have hoped for to prep us for our long three-flight trip home and back to reality.

But, let me stay in paradise just a moment longer...

But, let me stay in paradise just a moment longer…

Related Articles:
- Clouds, Drinks and Beaches in Krabi, Thailand (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
A Weekend in Bangkok  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Touring Inle Lake, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Adventures in Yangon, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore Food  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

Clouds, Drinks and Beaches in Krabi, Thailand

We wanted to end our trip on the beaches of Thailand, spending most of our time in Krabi.  Unfortunately, the weather did not get the memo.  But heck, I would take a cloudy, rainy day on vacation over not being on vacation any day.  Here’s some pics of our time spent in Krabi, Thailand:

First lesson...clouds do not mean that it's cold.  It was a lovely temperature and we didn't wait any time before we headed out exploring.  Walking in the water at Nopparat Thara Beach people were collecting the live creatures that lived in shells that covered the ocean floor.  Crunch.  Crunch.  It was impossible not to step on the poor little guys :(

First lesson…clouds do not mean that it’s cold. It was a lovely temperature and we didn’t waste any time before we headed out exploring. Walking in the water at Nopparat Thara Beach people were collecting the live creatures that lived in shells that covered the ocean floor. Crunch. Crunch. It was impossible not to step on the poor little guys :(

We stayed at the Centara And a Dhevi Resort.  Perfect location.  Close to the ferry terminal, the city centre and the beach.  And they had the best Happy Hour from 5-7pm.  We  enjoyed the great live music, the delicious free snacks and the 2 for 1 drinks.  We could not find a better Happy Hour and started our evenings there every night.

We stayed at the Centara Anda Dhevi Resort. Perfect location. Close to the ferry terminal, the city centre and the beach. And they had the best Happy Hour from 5-7pm. We enjoyed the great live music, the delicious free snacks and the 2 for 1 drinks. We could not find a better Happy Hour and started our evenings there every night.

We were actually fortunate to have one day with sun where we spent it at Rai Lei (Railay) Beach.  We took a long boat there for 400 Bhats return for the 2 of us.  These long boats are definitely less stable than the ones in Myanmar.  On these ones, the weight had to be evenly distributed and if anyone moved, it was a near topple-over.

We were actually fortunate to have one day with sun where we spent it at Rai Lei (Railay) Beach. We took a long-boat there for 400 Bhats return for the 2 of us. These long boats are definitely less stable than the ones in Myanmar. On these, the weight had to be evenly distributed and if anyone moved, it was a near topple-over.

After swimming, tanning, walking to the other side of the peninsula, renting kayaks and touring around, it was time for a drink.

After swimming, tanning, walking to the other side of the peninsula, renting kayaks and touring around, it was time for a drink.

Ahh, yes.  This is the life.

Ahh, yes. This is the life.

Walking the streets of Au Nang, Krabi, Thailand.

Walking the streets of Au Nang, Krabi, Thailand. It is a lovely town, although a bit westernized (can you say McDonald’s and Starbucks?).

Au Nang is a lovely town.  Although it is a bit westernized (can you say McDonald's and Starbucks?) it still has it's own charm and a definite Scandinavian influence.  Many tourists from there and from Russia seem to favour this location.  We did not meet one Canadian here.

Au Nang still has its own charm and a definite Scandinavian influence. Many tourists from Scandinavia and Russia seem to favour this location. We did not meet one Canadian here which we found a bit surprising.

They get points for the fancy presentation of my pineapple fried rice.

They get points for the fancy presentation of my pineapple fried rice.

Armando's favourite chocolate bar is Kit-Kat so we couldn't resist trying this impostor.

Armando’s favourite chocolate bar is Kit-Kat so we couldn’t resist trying this impostor.

Took an island-hopping trip  one day.  First stop...Ko Mail Phai (Bamboo Island).

Took an island-hopping trip one day. First stop…Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island).

Next stop...Maya Beach on Ko Phi Phi Don Island.  In the distance is the beach where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed the movie, "The Beach".

Next stop…Maya Beach on Ko Phi Phi Don Island. In the distance is the beach where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed the movie, “The Beach”.

And this is the view up close. I guess every other tour boat had this stop as well. This is definitely not what the beach looked like in the brochure?!

And look at some of the tour boats!  Thank goodness we were on a small speed boat with  maybe only 20 of us or so.

And look at some of the tour boats! Thank goodness we were on a small speed boat with maybe only 20 of us or so.

Smile for the camera!

Smile for the camera!  Maya Beach.  Check.  Next stop….snorkelling.

Feeding the fish.  On the tour we stopped at a couple different places to snorkel.  It was just amazing at how many fish there were.  I guess the bread the tour guides kept throwing in the water helped.

Feeding the fish. On the tour we stopped at a couple different places to snorkel. It was just amazing at how many fish there were. I guess the bread the tour guides kept throwing in the water helped.

We could see fish at the surface but when you go underwater...wow!  One of the most amazing things I saw that I never saw to this scale on past snorkelling adventures is the large schools of fish that swarmed from one direction to the next.  Very cool.

We could see fish at the surface but when you go underwater…wow! One of the most amazing things I saw that I never saw to this scale on past snorkelling adventures is the large schools of fish that swarmed from one direction to the next. Very cool.

We discovered our favourite late night street food snack in Krabi.  It’s the Thai pancake.  It’s kind of like a crêpe but crispier.  Watch the video to see how it’s made and notice how the street vendor carts are attached to their motorcycles.

Our last day in Krabi was a rainy one. But the rainy days we made the best of it and took in a fish spa (where tiny fish ate the dead skin off your feet). And then we enjoyed our spa at the hotel. What else to do in a resort town on a rainy day?  Relaxed and refreshed.

And we still had two days left that we were going to spend in Phuket, Thailand.  Who knew that we were going to get even more pampered than we did on our spa day?  We were in for a surprise!

Related Articles:
- A Weekend in Bangkok  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Touring Inle Lake, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Adventures in Yangon, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore Food  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

 

A Weekend in Bangkok

We often like to tour cities and just do normal things like the locals do and Bangkok was no exception.  In fact, we were itching to feel a bit of normal life after our adventures in Myanmar but of course we couldn’t go without making some tourist stops along the way.  Here is a mishmash of our weekend in Bangkok….

TEMPLES
Visiting temples, your shoulders and knees have to be covered if you want access inside.  Knowing we could rent coverings, we opted to do that because Bangkok was sweltering hot and we wanted to wear as little as our modesty would allow, when not in the temples.

This is the Grand Palace where I am sporting a lovely blue shirt and green sarong that complements Armando's khaki pants, all clothing wear courtesy of the Grand Palace.

This is the Grand Palace where I am sporting a lovely blue shirt and green sarong that complements Armando’s khaki pants, all clothing wear courtesy of the Grand Palace.

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand.

SHOPPING
We met a couple from Santa Barbara, California in Myanmar.  They were heading to Bangkok for the same weekend as we were.  They had planned specifically to be in Bangkok on the weekend, just so they could attend the Chatuchak Weekend Market.  They had been there before and highly recommended that we check it out.  I can’t find an exact count on the number of vendors at this market but it ranges form 8,000 to 15,000.  I somehow managed to convince Armando that we go.  I love markets and have been to a good few in my travels but this one is hands down the best one ever!  So many unique items and for so cheap!  If only Armando wasn’t with me, I would have spent more than the 3 1/2 hours that we were there.  A must see!

The market is sectioned into different areas such as clothing, local items, house ware, pets, craft supplies and the list goes on.  We learned the hard way that if you find something you like, buy it because you won't be able to find it again in the maze of vendors, even with a map.

The market is sectioned into different areas such as clothing, local items, house ware, pets, craft supplies and the list goes on. We learned the hard way that if you find something you like, buy it because you won’t be able to find it again in the maze of vendors, even with a map.

There is also big city shopping that we don’t usually do but I really enjoyed wandering through Terminal 21 shopping centre.  It is themed after an airport with each floor taking you to another area of the world.  Was pretty neat for a mall.

Terminal 21 Shopping Centre in Bangkok, Thailand

Terminal 21 Shopping Centre in Bangkok, Thailand

LIVING LIKE THE LOCALS
We love movies and after a hectic first week of our travels, we just wanted to relax one night and watch a movie.  We bought tickets to a VIP theatre where we had our own leather love seat with cushions and all…so nice!  And, we also got to experience a bit of Thai culture in the process.  Before the movies in Thailand, they play the national anthem with a video of their king projected onto the screen.  Everyone stands up in the theatre, sings and then bows at the end showing respect for their royalty.

The movie theatres in Bangkok have way more elaborate Coming Soon movie "posters" such as this Hobbit display with throne and all.

The movie theatres in Bangkok have way more elaborate Coming Soon movie “posters” such as this Hobbit display with throne and all.

One of our vices while travelling is stopping at a McDonalds to try the local item that they have there. FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
We were lucky enough to be in Bangkok during their Festival of Lights, Loi Krathong.  Groups of people were everywhere water was…ponds, rivers, lakes.  People float krathongs on the water made of flowers and banana leaves among other things.  This tradition represents letting the bad luck go and welcoming a new start.  It was unfortunately a windy night and most candles blew out on the krathongs but I still wanted to be a part of it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end up the way I planned it to go, as you read the following slide show (click on it if you need to pause it to read the captions):

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SIGNS THAT MAKE YOU GO “HMM” IN BANGKOK

A welcoming sign at the temple.

A welcoming sign at the temple.

Apparently people standing on toilets are a problem in Bangkok.

Apparently people standing on toilets are a problem in Bangkok.

#1 ATTRACTION IN BANGKOK
According to Tripadvisor, The Escape Hunt Experience in Bangkok is the #1 thing to do there.  Of course many would argue this but with sweat dripping from our bodies from the heat, it wasn’t hard to convince Armando to give this indoor event a try.

 If you know what escape room video/app games are, this is the human version of it.  Basically you are locked in a room and have to escape it, figuring out clues, finding items and figuring out puzzles to find the key and escape before time runs out.  We narrowly escaped but not without one crucial hint our game master gave us.  I loved it, but I was a fan of escape rooms before trying this live version.

If you know what escape room video/app games are, this is the human version of it. Basically you are locked in a room and have to escape it, figuring out clues, finding items and figuring out puzzles to find the key and escape before time runs out. We narrowly escaped but not without one crucial hint our game master gave us. I loved it, but I was a fan of escape rooms before trying this live version.

THE DARK SIDE OF BANGKOK
You haven’t fully taken in Bangkok unless you’ve experienced its dark side although, it’s next to impossible to avoid.  There are streets lined with vendors and as you walk down the streets checking out the souvenirs being sold by one vendor, the very next one is selling sex toys.  It’s hard not to see at some point, foreigners with local Thai girls as you walk the streets or sit in a restaurant.  It was a bit unsettling.

One of the Red Light Districts in Bangkok, Thailand.

One of the Red Light Districts in Bangkok, Thailand.

Besides Bangkok’s seedy side and challenging logistics of moving in the city, it definitely had some lovely moments but we were ready to get away from the craziness of it all and head for our last few days of our trip to southern Thailand…the beaches!

Related Articles:
- Touring Inle Lake, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Adventures in Yangon, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
Exploring Singapore Food  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

An Open Letter to the National Post Condemning Its Bullying Platform

Gallery

UPDATE (March 20, 2014):  My desire to stop the internet bullying that I was witnessing ended up throwing me into this vaccination debate.  Check out my solution to all this vaccination debating. Dear National Post, To vaccinate or to not … Continue reading

Touring Inle Lake, Myanmar

After a one hour flight from Yangon to Heho on the local airline, Yangon Airways (who served food on a one hour flight!), and then a one hour drive, we arrived to the town of Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar.  It is a laid back, small town filled with endless motorbikes that locals use as their main form of transportation.  Our 2-night stay there was aimed at experiencing life on Inle lake where locals live, trade and farm right on the water.

The town of Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar.

The town of Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar.

Twenty-five dollars got us a private, full-day long-boat tour on the lake.  Our “tour guide” was more of a driver due to his very limited English.  But what he lacked in words, he made up for in politeness, smiles and a thorough ground-covering of the lake itself.  And, he took us to a restaurant that had one of THE BEST fried rice dishes I ever tasted!

Spending the day on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Spending the day on Inle Lake, Myanmar.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

This long-boat filled with locals must have had food they were taking into town to sell (perhaps fish?) because the birds followed the boat like they were attached to it.

We visited all the tourist spots such as the long-neck women and the silversmith and blacksmith workshops.   There were floating markets and pagodas to visit that helped fill our day.  Shopping tip:  buy jade in Myanmar because that is where it is mined and you can buy it for a decent price.

Long neck ladies, Inle Lake, Myanmar

These long neck ladies weaved beautifully bright scarves that they sold in their workshop.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

As you can see, I was not allowed into some areas of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda (Inle Lake, Myanmar).

You haven’t experienced Myanmar if you haven’t stepped into a monastery to catch a glimpse of the minimalist lives of monks.Monestary on Inle Lake, MyanmarA monastery outside Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar Our driver also took us off the tourist trails as we cruised the water streets where locals lived in homes on stilts above the water. We toured through the floating garden beds that grew above the water, the livelihood of many of the locals.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Homes on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Floating gardens on Inle Lake, Myanmar

We felt like we were in a National Geographic magazine as we watched the fishermen with their unusual rowing style of wrapping their leg around the oar as they rowed; unique and only found at Inle Lake.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake is known for its weaving industry of silk and the rare lotus fabric that is only produced there.  We toured a shop where I taped this very cool video of a girl extracting the lotus plant fibres from the stems of the lotus plant that will be weaved into fabric… As in Yangon, Inle Lake is behind the times but as we toured the area we could see hotels being built all around and although still rare, we did see a couple new restaurants in the area.  They know the tourists are coming and they are trying to catch up to accommodate.  I feel so lucky that I experienced this simple town that is so rich in unique traditions before all that changes.  It is the polar opposite of where our travels were going to take us to next…Bangkok, Thailand.

Myanmar from the air

The beautiful patchwork land of Myanmar viewed from the plane.

Related Articles:
- Adventures in Yangon, Myanmar  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
- Exploring Singapore  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)
- Exploring Singapore Food  (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

How Ugly Cupcakes Taught Me About Data Plans

Who knew that some ugly cupcakes would give me a lesson on cell phone data plans.

Cupcake MixIt all started with a box of cupcake mix.  I know, I hate to even admit I used a mix but for whatever reason, I had this box sitting in my cupboard so I decided to make them last night while Armando was in Veracruz, Mexico for a quick weekend trip to visit family.  My girlfriends were coming over for a girls-night-in on Saturday so it seemed like the perfect time to make them so I would have help eating them.

They turned out to be ugly cupcakes.  My ability to pipe the icing on the cupcakes was not at the same level as the contestants on the Food Network‘s Cupcake Wars (Love that channel!).  How do they make it look so easy?!  Mine looked like, well, a place where a dog came along and thought it was a perfect place to do his business.  I know, gross.  But that is truly what they looked like.  They tasted okay though.  I think I would get points lost for presentation but for taste…oh, who am I kidding…they tasted like cupcakes that came from a box. But, I must say that my homemade icing wasn’t half bad.

Anyways, I decided to share my Friday night activity with Armando.  Baking on a Friday night…living on the wild side!  *sigh*  I snapped a picture of the cupcakes and sent it in a text to him.

A while later, I received an emoticon of an angry red face and a red face of the devil.  Whoa Nelly!!  I thought Armando didn’t like cupcakes.  Was he actually mad that I made cupcakes while he was away?  Nope, it was worse.

Armando added a package to his cell phone plan this weekend so we could talk and text a bit more than we are normally able to on his regular plan when he is in Mexico.  Sweet gesture, I know.  But apparently sending a photo via text when one is not on wifi, will use up a lot of their data trying to download the photo.  We just have to ignore the simple question of why one had his data plan on in the first place.  First rule of travelling out-of-country, never have your data plan on unless needed for an emergency.  And we have to ignore the fact that one sent photos via text earlier which would have me assume that it was okay for me to send photos via text as well.  But assumptions never end well.

Long story short, the attempted download of the photo used up all the data plan Armando had and was starting to charge him $10 for every MB needed to download the picture of the ugly cupcakes.  Thankfully, the phone company stopped the transmission so it wouldn’t go over $90.

So, we are now $90 poorer and the photo never did completely download for Armando to see it.  And the plan is used up so we can’t talk nor text for the rest of the weekend, unless he’s on wifi.

Lesson learned from all of this?  Buy cupcakes from the professionals.

The picture of my ugly cupcakes that cost us $90.

The picture of my ugly cupcakes that cost us $90.