Toronto’s TV Audience Member Tour 2014 (Part 3)

It was my last day of my TV Audience Member Tour and I was heading back to the CBC studio to see the Steven and Chris show.  Their studio is right next door to George’s Stroumboulopoulos‘s studio.  And unfortunately, Steven was at home sick that day so it was just Chris that was manning the show.

Steven and Chris set at the CBC studio.

Steven and Chris set at the CBC studio.

I have to be honest, after 3 shows under my belt in two days, I was starting to get a little tired of the sitting and smiling and being on my best behaviour with the cameras around, taping me at any possible moment.  Steven and Chris is pre-taped so there is down time between each set whereas a live show is finished within the hour.  So these pre-taped shows can drag out.  As audience members, we have to do a string of shots with all different types of emotion…from the standard light clapping with a smile to the all-out whoop-it-up-hollering-and-screaming-jumping-out-of-your-seat type clapping and cheering.

Selfie at the Steven and Chris show.

Selfie at the Steven and Chris show.

Me and Chris.  Yep, looks like an optional replacement if Steve were to ever leave ;)

Me and Chris. Yep, looks like an optional replacement if Steven were to ever leave ;)

My free gifts at the end of the show.

My free gifts at the end of the taping of Steven and Chris.

I’ll admit it, I’m a freebie whore.  So when they announced that because of the current snow storm outside there was not enough audience members to fill the studio for the taping of another episode of Steven and Chris, I offered up my body.  So, I again hurried back to the hotel, dropped off my gifts from the first show and hurried back to get in line for the second one with no time to grab a snack. Fortunately, it pays to stash away hotel and airline snacks in one’s purse.  It was my saving grace from a near fainting-due-to-hunger episode.

The chocolate bar that was one of my freebies from my attendance at The Social.

The chocolate bar that was one of my freebies from my attendance at The Social yesterday.

A Renaissance Hotel chocolate from my hotel room.

A Renaissance Hotel chocolate from my hotel room.

And of course, a package of butter-flavoured pretzels, courtesy of Air Canada.

And of course, a package of butter-flavoured pretzels, courtesy of Air Canada.

Another lineup.  More waiting.

Another lineup. More waiting.

The second taping entailed more clapping (my hands were sore by now), sitting and smiling with my attempted permanent smile starting to crack.  After five shows, my body was telling me ENOUGH!  But at the end of the second show, they announced that because of the snow storm, George Stroumboulopoulos was short audience members so if we wanted to, we could head over right next door for his TV show taping.  And believe it or not, there was a moment that I actually considered it until my weary, unfed body mustered up the energy to kick my butt out of the studio and into the falling snow.

Fun nail accessories that I got for attending the second taping of the Steven and Chris show that day.

Fun nail accessories that I got for attending the second taping of the Steven and Chris show that day.

Had to stop at Fresh on Spadina again.  Yes, it's that good!  This time I had their mushroom, onion burger, minus the bun.  Delish!

Had to stop at Fresh on Spadina again. Yes, it’s that good! This time I had their mushroom, onion burger, minus the bun. Delish!

The TV Audience Member 2014 Tour was fun.  I recommend if you can only attend one show, I would go for a live show. If you can attend five, well, you apparently love the freebies like I do!  But it’s a cheap, fun form of entertainment.  I actually joke that I increased our family asset value with all the gifts I got.  Fun times and I would do it again!

Related Articles:
Toronto TV Audience Member Tour 2014 (Part 1) (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

Toronto’s TV Audience Member Tour 2014 (Part 2)

Day Two of my TV Audience Member Tour took me to the CTV studio in downtown Toronto.  As mentioned, the Renaissance Hotel that we stayed at was the perfect location.  Both the CTV and CBC studios were within walking distance from the hotel.

Waiting at Starbucks across the street from CTV Studio for the doors to open at 9am.

Waiting at Starbucks across the street from CTV Studio for the doors to open at 9am.

Once checking in, they give you a ticket for your audience member gift that you collect at the end of the taping and direct you to the coat check and waiting area.

Once checking in, they give you a ticket for your audience member gift that you collect at the end of the taping and direct you to the coat check and waiting area.

Selfie at the Marilyn Denis Show.

Selfie at the Marilyn Denis Show.

With music pumping, the audience coordinator gets us hyped up as he goes through what to expect and what is required of us. After all, the Marilyn Denis Show is a live show and there is no room for errors or delays.

I still found time before we went live to "play host".

I still found time before we went live to “play host”.  I match the decor!

A screen shot of the show.  See me in front row!  They tell audience to wear bright, jewel-coloured clothing.  I think my bright yellow sweater helped me get this top spot because the coordinator hand-selects where everyone will sit.

A screen shot of the show. See me in the front row! They tell audience members to wear bright, jewel-coloured clothing. I think my bright yellow sweater helped me get this top spot because the coordinator hand-selects where everyone will sit.

Show was amazingly fun! You can watch the show by clicking here and selecting the February 4, 2014 episode  In comparing it with George Stoumboulopoulos’s show, a live show has this energy that a pre-taped show doesn’t.  And the show had interesting segments, including chef and judge from “MasterChef Canada”, Michael Bonacini.  But even more exciting was that the audience coordinator told us prior to the show that we were going to be attending a good one, with gifts during every segment.  Woohoo!  I love freebies!

And I was blown away with what I got…a digital slower cooker, remote-controlled heated insoles, ice wine, tickets for two for a tour at a local ice winery and a cute, locally made hockey stick toque!

They had a photo-op at the end of the show.  Doesn't it look like it's Marilyn's favourite part of her day :)

They had a photo-op at the end of the show. Doesn’t it look like it’s Marilyn’s favourite part of her day :)

I had a blast!  And when they announced that The Social (a CTV show similar to the American show The View) was needing a few audience members for their taping today as some people had cancelled, I jumped at the chance.  At the end of Marilyn’s taping, I grabbed by gifts and hailed a cab as my arms were too full to carry my loot back to the hotel.  Dropped everything off in my room and hurried back in my heeled boots through the snow that was continuing to fall.  I made a quick stop at a coffee shop and grabbed an energy bar seeing as my lunch was going to be delayed with this added show to my agenda.

The Social is also taped live but the cool thing about it is that they allow you take pictures and partake in social media DURING the show!  All other shows, phones, camera, etc had to be turned off.  So it was fun to tweet and photo-take throughout the show.

The Social's Audience Coordinator giving us the low down.

The Social’s Audience Coordinator giving us the low down.

Last minute opportunity to throw our gum in the garbage because no matter how good you think you can make chewing gum look good, you can't.

Last minute opportunity to throw our gum in the garbage because no matter how good you think you can make chewing gum look good, you can’t.

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Armando thinks that I look like the host and they are my guests...must be the whole height thing!  Why is everyone so short on TV?  I seem to hover over everyone.

Armando thinks that I look like the host and they are my fans..must be the whole height thing! Why is everyone so short on TV? I seem to hover over everyone.

This is my loot for the day from the Marilyn Show and I also got a drink tumbler, an ebook and a skinny cow chocolate bar from The Social.  Not bad!

This is my loot for the day from the Marilyn Show and I also got a drink tumbler, an ebook and a skinny cow chocolate bar from The Social. Not bad!

Starving, I finally got out of the studio around 2:30pm and heading for an amazing vegetarian restaurant that I would highly recommend called Fresh.  Well worth the wait!

Tangled Thai with Crispy Tofu Cubes at Fresh on Spadina in Toronto.

Tangled Thai with Crispy Tofu Cubes at Fresh on Spadina in Toronto.

Stay tuned for the last day of the my TV Audience Member Tour 2014…

Related Articles:
Toronto TV Audience Member Tour 2014 (Part 1) (westcoastprairiegirl.com)

 

Toronto’s TV Audience Member Tour 2014 (Part 1)

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend some time with family in Manitoba.  It was great to have a chunk of time to spend with them.  That has happened few and far between since I moved out west almost half a lifetime ago.  Unfortunately due to Armando’s new job that he had just started, he was only able to spend a weekend in Manitoba so we had gone a few weeks without seeing each other.  So at the end of my family visit, I hopped on a plane and met my hubby in Toronto where he was going to be working for a few days.

Armando surprising me with flowers when we arrived at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Toronto.

Armando surprised me with flowers when we arrived at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Toronto.

The Renaissance Hotel was the perfect location in downtown Toronto for me to explore the city while Armando was working.

The hotel is actually attached to the SkyDome, next to the CN Tower.

The hotel is actually attached to Rogers Centre (SkyDome for us old-schoolers), next to the CN Tower.

As you can see, the weather was not perfect while I was there.  I normally love exploring a city, wandering from street to street but a few days before arriving I knew the weather was not going to be cooperating so I did some research of what to do during the day while Armando was working.

Free Audience Member Tickets
I searched and searched and realized that there were no events or touristy attractions that I haven’t done already that I wanted to do there.  Then what?  Shopping?  I’m not a big shopper.  Spa?  A luxury I don’t often indulge in.  Be an audience member for a TV show?  Hmmm, tell me more.  Free tickets to see George Stroumboulopoulos? I’m in!

I started doing research of all the TV shows that are taped in Toronto.  I sent off emails, requesting tickets to the shows but prepared myself to not get lucky.  After all, they advertise to request tickets early and here I was requesting them less than a week before I was going to be there.  But I sent emails off for tickets to George, The Marilyn Denis Show and Steven and Chris.  Maybe one would bite.

To my surprise, within a day I had tickets to all three shows!  Monday through Wednesday, a show a day.  Perfect!

Day One of my Audience Member Tour
I was going to see my no-so-secret crush, George Stroumboulopoulos at the CBC Studio, or as I like to call him, my Georgie (insert Armando rolling his eyes here).

This was going to be my first ever experience of being at a taping of a TV show.  We had to sign in, fill out a questionnaire and then they lined us up to take us in groups up the elevator to Studio 43.

CBC Studio

Ticket Desk at CBC Studio where you check in.

The famous red chairs at Studio 43 for the George Stroumboulopoulos show.

The famous red chairs at Studio 43 for the George Stroumboulopoulos show.

The guest for that night was Robyn Doolittle, the author of Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story.  Unfortunately, Philip Seymour Hoffman had died the day before so George ended up taping two episodes that day, the first being a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman and then the regular scheduled episode with Robyn.  I got to see the taping of both, plus he did some pre-taping of introducing Jake Gyllenhaal as he was going to be interviewing him at a later date.

George discussing things with his people between takes.

George discussing things with his people between takes.

They don’t tape the show live so there were down times between segments where George sat and talked with the audience, allowing us to ask questions or just make flirty eye-contact with him.  Of course I did neither ;)

He was much shorter and tinier that I thought he would be. TV must add inches to people because I also remember seeing Charlie Sheen years ago and couldn’t believe how short he was in real life.  Anyways, George did not disappoint.  I was intrigued and entertained with his interviewing persona and skills, as always.  He is a great interviewer.  And it was fun to get a behind-the-scenes look of how a TV show is filmed.  Here’s a clip of the episode with Robyn Doolittle.  It’s hard to see me but I’m in the front row.

Day One of my TV Audience Member Tour was done.  Tomorrow, watch out as I head to the Marilyn Denis Show!

 

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!

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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.

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